Monthly Archives: September 2013

Ted Cruz, meet Ted Geisel (aka, Dr. Seuss)

By Christopher B. Daly 


When Sen. Ted Cruz conducted his semi-filibuster in the Senate the other day, I wondered if he had any idea who he was quoting when he read from Green Eggs and Ham. Cruz, the conservative Republican from Texas who holds two Ivy League degrees (Princeton and Harvard Law), chose an unexpected author — not because Dr. Seuss wrote what are ostensibly children’s books. But because Dr. Seuss was actually Theodore Geisel, a staunch left-winger.

In the early years of his career, Geisel drew political cartoons for the left-wing daily newspaper PM, which I have written about here. He attacked not only Hitler but also those Americans who wanted to downplay the threat posed by the Nazi dictator.


As Dr. Seuss, the cartoonist went on to write dozens of books that, like the best children’s books, speak to many audiences on several levels. In most of his books, the recurring themes are hardly those favored by the Tea Party, whose support Cruz is seeking. Dr. Seuss emphasized such subversive and radical ideas as tolerance, mutual respect, sharing, not judging people by their appearance, nuclear disarmament, and open-mindedness.

When Cruz was speaking, I hope his followers were listening.




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Stop the presses: The rich head to court

By Christopher B. Daly 

It is heartwarming, I suppose, to think that the legacy media created fortunes that were big enough to fight over. Today’s Times brings word of a classic intergenerational brawl among the well-to-do, involving how to spread the wealth created by the Hudson News empire. Who knew that there was so much money to be made selling Vogue and Esquire in airport terminals?

In this case, I’m not actually sure whom to root for. (The news coverage would benefit from an infographic or two, beginning with a family tree.) It is a bench trial in New Jersey Superior Court, so pretty much anything goes. I guess I’ll side with Samantha Perelman, on the grounds that youth must be served. Besides, one of her attorneys is a former college classmate — Paul K. Rowe. Now a super-litigator, Rowe comes by his media credentials honestly: he was an editor of the Harvard Crimson.


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Most important media story of the year?

By Christopher B. Daly

this oneIt may well turn out to be , announced with little fanfare a few days ago:

New York Times Company to Pay a 4-Cent Dividend

What that means is that the NYTimes newspaper has become profitable again — so profitable that the folks who run the company feel they have enough cash to pay their stockholders again. Most importantly, that means that the cousins of the current publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., will once again benefit financially from owning the NYT Company. For the past five years, that has been a losing proposition for them. The value of their shares of stock crashed, and the stock stopped paying a dividend.

Cousin Arthur has been in the same boat. But in his case, he at least has the fun and challenge of trying to run the world’s greatest news operation every day. The others, who are mostly not involved with the paper, had to just sit and wait. How long they would be content to do so was a question of some urgency for those who care about the Times.  


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Textile production returns (sort of) to the US South

By Christopher B. Daly

According to a story in today’s NYTimes, the management of the big textile companies have finally achieved a long-sought goal: production without workers. In the book Like A Family, my co-authors and I tell the story of what happened when the U.S. textile industry moved in the early 20th century from its first home in New England to the Piedmont region of Southern states like Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.

From the get-go, owners and managers sought to replace labor with capital whenever they could. Here’s an example of advertising we found in the trade press of the 1920s.

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 10.46.37 AM

Now, it appears the industry has reached rock-bottom in terms of employment and is actually able to compete with low-wage competition from India, China, and elsewhere.



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Hitting “Like” on Facebook gets free-speech protection

By Christopher B. Daly 


History keeps happening. Now, a U.S. appeals court has ruled that the activity of hitting “Like” on a Facebook is a form of expression that deserves free-speech protections under the First Amendment.

An earlier ruling in a lower federal court went the other way. But on Wednesday (9/18), the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond reversed and said an employee who “liked” a political candidate was engaging in political speech and therefore cannot be punished by his employer.

From the AP story in today’s Boston Globe:

Facebook and the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed friend of court briefs in the case, applauded Wednesday’s ruling.

‘‘The Constitution doesn’t distinguish between ‘liking’ a candidate on Facebook and supporting him in a town meeting or public rally,’’ said Ben Wizner of the ACLU .

This ruling seems not only common-sensical, but it also seems to right a terrible wrong: when the Supreme Court said that spending equals speaking, that gave rich Americans a tremendous advantage in the competition to make points in the public sphere. This ruling says that using Facebook is a form of speaking, too, so it deserves protection.

The First Amendment lives. Let’s keep it going.

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Digital news expanding

By Christopher B. Daly

That’s one message to take from the decision by Politico (which is virtually online-only) to expand its brand of political coverage to Albany and the state government of New York.

It’s interesting to note in today’s story, that the publisher of Politico, Robert Allbritton, recently divested himself of his family’s longstanding involvement in one form of “legacy media” — television broadcasting. He recently sold the Allbritton family’s stake in seven TV stations for something like $1 billion. Rather than sit on it, he is investing in the future by branching out from Politico’s base in Washington to New York City, where Capital New York is based. From there, the online news operation covers one of the biggest state capitals in the country. Now, just 49 to go!

Here’s the Politico version.


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Should the Internet be regulated?

By Christopher B. Daly 

And, if so, for whose benefit?

Those were some of the issues swirling in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington as lawyers argued over a case that could have far-reaching impacts on the future of Internet access and the Web.

On one side is the FCC, which is asserting that it has the power to regulate the Internet just as it regulates over forms of electronic communication like radio, TV, and telephone.

On the other side is Verizon, a major internet service provider (ISP), which says the FCC has never been granted that power by Congress and cannot just assert it because it wants to.

A major point of conflict: can ISPs be forced to treat all their customers the same when it comes to upload/download speeds, pricing, and the like? Or, are they free to devise their own pricing structures that penalize heavy users of bandwidth?

If the ISPs have that right, how would they use that power? Would they impose high rates on start-ups like Zipcar and end up thwarting innovation?

Here’s today’s version in the Times.

The takeaway:

Consumers could experience a significant change in the Internet if the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit strikes down the F.C.C.’s requirement, called the Open Internet Order.

Currently, companies that offer goods or services online do not have to pay anything to get their content to consumers. If Internet service providers started charging fees to reach customers more quickly, large, wealthy companies like Google and Facebook would have an edge, the F.C.C. says. The government argued that such a tiered service could cause small, start-up companies with little money to pay for their access — the next Google orFacebook, perhaps — to wither on the vine.

In any case, the added costs would be likely to be passed on to consumers.

The case, which is expected to be decided late this year or early next year, has attracted enormous interest. On Monday, telecommunications lawyers began lining up to get into the courtroom two and a half hours before the session was scheduled to start. The session was standing room only, with many others left to listen in an adjacent overflow room.

To be continued. . .

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Fun with maps

By Christopher B. Daly 

Here are two maps that don’t just sit there. Both are interactive, so have a great time with them.

Here’s a gorgeous medieval map from “Future Tense,” via Slate. It shows the North Atlantic as envisioned by Scandinavian navigators who had to venture out there in small wooden boats. No wonder they saw monsters.

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Here’s one from the Smithsonian that lets you superimpose a map of New York City from 1836 over one from today (or vice-versa).

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The Surveillance State, cont.


By Christopher B. Daly

imgres3Although most of the stories about the NSA and the rise of the Surveillance State are individually demoralizing, I guess it is a good thing that there are so many of them. Many thanks to the NYTimes, the Guardian, WaPo, ProPublica, and everyone else who is helping to move the ball down the field.

Some recent coverage and comments:

–The Guardian calls on private engineers to “take back the Internet.” Can that even be done?

ProPublica and the Times drop the latest bomb from Edward Snowden.

–A physicist serving in the House (how often do you get to type a phrase like that?) proposes a bill to ban the practice.

–Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper turns media critic, telling us that all these revelations are “not news.” (Nothing to see here. Move along, folks.)

Plus, more:



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New AP book of Vietnam War photos

By Christopher B. Daly

Thanks to The Associated Press, there’s a new book of news photographs from the American war in Vietnam that will remind us of all the chaos, confusion, heroism, beauty, and tragedy of those years — as seen through the eyes of AP photographers and correspondents.

From today’s preview in the NYTimes:

Now, amid a flurry of anniversary commemorations of that tumultuous era and a surge of interest in war photography, The A.P. has, for the first time, culled its estimated 25,000 Vietnam photographs and reprinted some 250 in a book, “Vietnam: The Real War,” with an introduction by Pete Hamill, to be published by Abrams on Oct. 1.

Chuck Zoeller, the agency’s manager of special projects, said the dozens of rarely seen photographs in this collection include color plates of United States prisoners of war in a Hanoi prison in 1972 and historical images from the French colonial period. There is a photo of President John F. Kennedy in Florida, reviewing a commando unit back from action as early as 1962. And there are troubling scenes: Vietcong prisoners being kicked and subjected to water torture by South Vietnamese troops. A Vietnamese family of four, dead on a blanket, killed in a stampede as panicked refugees fled the advancing North Vietnamese in 1975.

Several of the most powerful photos from the era appear in my 2012 book, Covering America, because they not only documented the news but in several cases they also made news. They were that powerful. I am thinking of Mal Browne’s photo of a Buddhist monk burning himself to death in 1963 or the photo of the “napalm girl” in 1972 by Nick Ut. 

Here’s another heart-breaking photo from the new compilation, taken by the AP’s photo editor in Vietnam, Horst Faas (who died last year, as did Browne):

A Vietnamese farmer holds the body of his dead child while a group of South Vietnamese soldiers looks on.  Photo: Horst Faas.

A Vietnamese farmer holds the body of his dead child while a group of South Vietnamese soldiers looks on.
Photo: Horst Faas.


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