Archive for March, 2012

“Strange Days”

March 22, 2012

As the Republican Presidential Primary Season bumbles along without clear conclusion and we witness a Romney uncrowned, a Gingrich unbowed, a Santorum unhinged and a Paul — the strangest of all — it is tempting to prematurely rejoice at an internecine slugfest which would, under normal circumstances, eventually churn up a winning loser. But these are strange days.

Perhaps we should expect no more in November than an honest roll of the dice.

It seems convincingly clear that a majority of eligible American voters remain functionally uninformed and politically illiterate. Two out of five don’t vote at all.

Bill O’ Reilly on Fox is a solid #1 in weekly Cable News Ratings, even as MSNBC is now a consistent #2 with Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Lawrence O’Brien combining for an impressive win over #3 CNN. With this in mind, let’s reflect on the fact that O’Reilly’s comparatively “vast daily audience” represents only a slender one percent of our nation’s population. MSNBC scores but half of that with CNN significantly less.

Combined nightly news ratings of “the big networks” — NBC (6.2% of households), ABC (5.4%) and CBS (4.5%) — equal but 16.1% of the electorate. Just 30% of Americans say they read a print version of their local newspaper nearly every day, but under the age of 40, only half as many (15%) report the same.

Millions of aging “Ditto Heads” still rely on Rush Limbaugh as their exclusive analyst of contemporary thought, such as on Tuesday, November 1, 2011, when Rush pontificated with these words on Fresno’s 50,000 watt KMJ:

“The whole subprime mortgage thing can and has been without doubt traced to government policy, which was rooted in the theory that the financial institutions were discriminating against minorities by not giving them loans. So the lending institutions created these loans that nobody could ever pay back.”

Talk Radio continues to bleat similarly contrived Conservative commentary to a faithful flock around the clock, supported and funded by banks now enjoying their highest profits in history — financial institutions far too big to fail — like General Electric Capital Corporation — recipients of a 126 billion dollar credit line bail out from TARP in 2008. That helped cover a loan which had been made to Peak Broadcasting in 2007 when Peak paid 90 million dollars purchasing KMJ and other Fresno holdings from CBS Radio, a transaction in which GE Capital was a primary senior lender.

So — look at what just slid under local radar virtually unnoticed —

Peak filed a prepackaged plan of reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware on Tuesday, January 10th of this year under Chapter Eleven, an agreement which was approved, signed, sealed and delivered on Friday, February 24th, barely six short weeks later. Talk about “Super Train Fast Track Refinancing!” The “New Peak”, owing 93 million dollars going into the exercise, was able to shave more than 50 million tax payer guaranteed dollars from this amount with General Electric Capital even receiving a equity position in the new entity. Slick!

Todd Lawley, Chief Executive Officer of Peak and primary architect of the 90 million dollar Fresno buy/ 50 million dollar loss, told the Fresno Bee, “I am confident that Peak will emerge from the restructuring with a stronger financial foundation which complements our market-leading radio positions.” And he kept his job. Sweet! And he’s still carrying Rush moaning about dead beat minorities. Neat!

Mega money is boss bully with big wheels scoring backroom deals.

And so it is the dark significance of “Citizens United” becomes more evident with every passing day as corporations are now “persons” and unrestricted campaign contributions, clandestinely donated, must be functionally regarded and unconditionally honored as “free speech.”

And in messaging, protected by Federal Law, these new personages can say whatever they want — any way they want — as often as they wish — with guaranteed anonymity.

Secret has become sacred.

There is a certain measure of irony bemusedly evident when we have seen “Citizens United” — created by the most conservative U.S. Supreme Court in living memory, first impacting with devastating consequence on “righties” Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as Romney-supporting millions dramatically reversed initial polling in state after state with sinister efficiency and terminal effect.

Yet, echoing through my mind and rumbling like thunder, come the immortal words of John “Bluto” Blutarsky in “Animal House” (1978). Blutarski spoke as any “average American” might.

“What? Over? Did you say “over”? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”

If there ever was a moment for inspired, intrepid, even blessedly insane commitment to a critical cause — here we are.

Jack Uppal, Congressional Candidate for California’s new 4th District, can use all the help you might offer, as can Marc Boyd, running for State Assembly.

The horrid consequences of Election 2010 can be completely reversed in a powerful backlash come this November with ensuing Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, a second term for President Obama, and a long overdue return to the evolution of a truly progressive nation.

Anything less is unworthy of our efforts and unthinkable in our times.

“We Take Care of Our Own!”

March 2, 2012

Donald J. Cavanaugh and Peter Cavanaugh. Niagara Falls, New York. Summer 1947

From my earliest memories, I had always wanted to be “on the air”. That was all I ever had in mind. This was true even before my father died on the radio when I was six years old.

Donald J. Cavanaugh was working for the Veteran’s Administration as Assistant Chief in Syracuse by the summer of 1948. He had seen infantry service in World War One and, at the time of his passing, was in charge of all Veteran Rehabilitation in Central New York, an assignment filled with many sad challenges as hundreds of wounded warriors finally returned home in the aftermath of World War Two.

On July 29th of that year, he entered WNDR’s studios to narrate a public affairs program called “News For Veterans.” It was a long, thirty minute script. Halfway through, he gasped for breath. It was a massive coronary. He was dead at the age of 52, a chronological distinction I have amazingly surpassed.

Earlier that month, I clearly recall us heading “downtown” in our ‘36 Chevy, Daddy outlining to me with great detail what he “did at work.” He was bringing me to “the office” on an early Saturday morning to “get things caught up”. I was enthralled. He said that he worked for “the government” and “helped soldiers from the war.” Even then, I pretty much knew what “soldiers” and “war” meant, but “government” seemed a strange, elusive proposition.

Two days ago, Columbia Records released, “Wrecking Ball”, Bruce Springsteen’s first album in years. If you were watching The 54th Grammy Awards On February 12th, you saw Bruce offer a preview — a “sneak peak” which instantly swept me back in time to that last ride alone with my Dad. What he explained to me at length in no uncertain terms and the title of Bruce’s debut single from “Wrecking Ball” are one and the same — “We Take Care of Our Own.”

“I’ve been knockin’ on the door that holds the throne –
I’ve been lookin’ for the map that leads me home –
I’ve been stumblin’ on good hearts — turned to stone.
The road of good intentions– has gone dry as bone”

The front wall of my brother, Paul’s, living room in Syracuse still proudly displays an autographed picture formally presented to “Donald J. Cavanaugh” expressing appreciation for his work with veterans, personally signed by the 32rd President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

With one in four of our children unfed each night — with 45 million countrymen lacking basic health insurance — with social services being savaged and slashed — with higher education publicly scorned by a national candidate for highest office –with a trillion spent and thousands dead from needless wars — with issues resolved decades ago again subject to distractive debate — with unions which brought about the rise of the American Middle Class under relentless and vicious attack– with oligarchy replacing democracy and need swallowed by greed — this is not my father’s America.

Or Bruce Springsteen’s.

“We take care of our own –
We take care of our own –
Wherever this flag’s flown –
We take care of our own.”

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic State itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group or by any other controlling private power. “

Franklin D. Roosevelt — Message to Congress — April 29, 1938.