Archive for March, 2009

Earth hour: A false choice at best

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Tonight’s “Earth Hour” asks people to spend 60 minutes in darkness as a way of showing support for the environment. No electricity on a mass scale supposedly reduces pollution from generating plants by cutting back on power demand, if only temporarily.

Is this truly the best approach to raising environmental awareness? After all, it sends the same negative message floated for decades by those who have always opposed anything to help curb pollution. Saving the planet means we all have to sacrifice and go without. We can’t have the benefits of electric power without pollution, or a clean environment and plentiful electricity.

Who says this is the case? This is a false choice. We have never really thrown our creative and financial resources behind developing non-polluting ways of generating power. We have given it lip-service for decades but little else.

So cut the lights for an hour tonight and feel ever so virtuous. But it won’t really do anything substantial to solve the problem and it will reinforce the false belief that the only way to aid the environment is through deprivation and sacrifice in lieu of investment and innovation.

Welcome to the unhappy club, Congressman

Friday, March 27th, 2009

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles against the publisher of his autobiography, The Courage to Survive.

The suit alleges Phoenix Books and Audio, Inc., failed to live up to its part of the contract signed in 2007.

That kind of thing happens. The small publisher that acquired rights to the first four books in the Green Stone of Healing(R) series folded in 2007 without ever having published more than the first book and without having paid the author any of the royalties or accounted for any book sales.

Let’s hope Rep. Kucinich takes his book to a different publisher that does it justice. He may well win his case, but never see a penny in compensation. Winning in civil court doesn’t always amount to a big payday for plaintiffs.

Jon Stewart and the sorry state of today’s journalism

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Cable comic Jon Stewart’s smackdown of CNBC money show host Jim Cramer is now the stuff of legends.

But as Stewart was at pains to point out, he wasn’t singling out Cramer for his wrath. Stewart wanted to know why the entire business-financial news media were MIA during the decade-long run-up to this financial implosion.

Here’s part of the answer. Most journalists have forgotten, or never learned, how to do real investigative legwork. They don’t know how to dig up a paper trail. In addition, they are mesmerized by access to the top officials or top executives and don’t want to bother with those they consider low-level “nobodies.”

It’s those so-called nobodies and those documents, however, that can bring mischief to light and provide reporters/television show hosts with the questions they should be asking.

This point is well illustrated by the film The Pelican Brief. The reporter who covers the Supreme Court, Gray Grantham, did not rely exclusively on interviews with bigwigs. One of his best White House sources was a man who shined the floors and cleaned the carpets. Grantham was also willing to meet with and listen to an unknown law school student in pursuit of what turns out to be the story of the year.

Not many DC journalists today would be so open-minded or resourceful. To be fair, they are being squeezed ever tighter by layoffs and cutbacks in resources to do their jobs.

So they stick to pursuing the trivial and inane to fill airtime or newshole and make their deadlines. And more and more their audiences tune them out or stop subscribing because what they’re getting is worthless trash. Without the audiences, advertisers leave, leading to more newsroom cutbacks.

The only way to stop the vicious cycle is to start doing real journalism, covering stories that are so important people can’t wait to get to the news.

Don’t expect the media conglomerate bean counters to get that message any time before their empires crumble from total irrelevance. It’s really bad when a cable comedy show host is the one taking journalists to task.