EDITORIAL: Where does the money go?

FIFTY YEARS AGO this week I was racing around a makeshift TV studio on the fifth floor of a loft in lower Manhattan. A small group of us had caught the attention of a CBS TV executive. He thought there might be an TV audience for the music and politics of baby boomers. We thought we’d break the mold of timid TV.

It didn’t work out that way. Three network big shots showed up to observe our pre-pilot show—live musicians, brief documentaries and no host. They sat by themselves in an adjacent loft, watching it like it was a traditional TV show. It wasn’t. It was a messy, confusing, mostly joyful glimpse of The Sixties.

What kind of advertiser would be crazy enough to buy ads on a program like this? It didn’t matter. CBS and our group were done with each other. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Did Scrooge have the answer?

“ARE THERE NO PRISONS?” asks Scrooge, annoyed that the local do-gooders have dared asked him for a contribution to assist the poor. He’s a self-made man who earned what he has by his labor and a little extra by underpaying and overworking his clerk.

For anyone who doesn’t know Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” here’s a spoiler alert: It has a happy ending, though this required wishful thinking by Dickens. A century-and-a-half later there are still heartwarming stories of generosity and good deeds by rich people. But the poor, well, some will get lucky and find work that gives them a better, more stable lifestyle. The rest will have to depend on help from the government in one form or another, or go without.

Last week, just in time for the holidays, we got another look at what that means in practical terms when the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture announced a change in the federal food stamp program that the government says will cut off benefits to as many as 700,000 Americans. Read more…

EDITORIAL: What’s the weather like?

THE TIME-LAPSE radar images of this week’s snowstorm, courtesy of the National Weather Service in Albany, looked a lot like one of those clear plastic winter-scene trinkets that produces a flurry every time you shake it, over and over and….

On the computer screen waves of snowfall rolled off the Atlantic and made their way across the Berkshires to Columbia County in a generally eastward flow, while out at sea the storm center lumbered northward. It reminds you why they call these storms nor’easters.

This one was noteworthy not only for the amount of snow it dropped on these parts but for its duration—Sunday afternoon until early Tuesday morning. It also seemed a little different because the disturbances that shaped it were apparent off the coast of California a week ahead of the storm’s arrival here. That left time to prepare and an opportunity for TV news to obsess about the storm’s track, feeding the anxiety of holiday travelers during a quiet period traditionally considered a “news drought.” Read more…

EDITORIAL: Where will you shop?

YOU KNOW THE TUNE, whether it brings warm memories or summons a feeling of dread from endless loops of holiday music frozen in time. So let’s try some new lyrics:

Making a list

Clicking it twice

Gonna buy lots

On my mobile device,

Cause Am-a-zon is coming

To town….

If you buy much of anything, you know that Amazon is already here. Some Postal Service letter carriers spend the first part of their day dropping off packages all over the county, each parcel prominently marked with the Amazon logo. But that’s just the final leg of the company’s reach. Read more…

EDITORIAL: ¿Como estas?

WE ALL HAD TO HAVE Spanish names in eighth grade Spanish class. My name was “Pedro.” It is purely coincidence that I now have a son-in-law with that name. Neither of us had a choice. In my case, my mother was the only Spanish teacher in my junior high school.

This was in the early 1960s. The Space Race had erupted. American political leaders were determined to improve public education as a key part of their strategy to win the race. It wasn’t just more science and math. Languages were important too. So the smart kids were taught Russian. The rest of us, well, Buenos dias.

Our teacher, my mother, was very patient, very fair. I was very bad. This led to awkward moments at the family dinner table, as in, “Guess who was sent to the principal’s office today?” I had no defense. No dessert either. Read more…