FCC Vote Ignites Firestorm of Protest

Tuesday, when FCC Chairman Kevin Martin rammed through his plans to allow one company to own the major newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same city, he lit a fire under Congress and sparked outrage across the country. The response to the FCC’s decision to lift the 30-year-old newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban has been swift and promises to escalate in 2008.

In just 48 hours, more than 165,000 people have signed an open letter to Congress calling for Martin’s new rules to be overturned. Continue reading


Kevin Martin Picks a Fight With America

Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted to remove the longstanding “newspaper/broadcast cross-ownership” ban that prohibits a local newspaper from owning a broadcast station in the same market. When the Commission voted today, 3-to-2 along party lines, they did so in spite of enormous public pressure and stern warnings from Congress.

But that’s not all. In a series of late night revisions to his rule, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin fattened his holiday gift to Big Media by granting permanent waivers to companies across the country who have been in breach of the cross-ownership ban for years. Already ignoring the millions who have spoken up against media consolidation, this last-minute immunity for Big Media is a slap in the face to the American people. Continue reading

Making Eating Public

I first heard the term “guerrilla gardening” when I was living in Providence, Rhode Island. A good friend of mine was working for the Southside Community Land Trust there, helping on their various farms and running their weekly farmers market. He used to make seed balls with sunflower seeds and top soil, packing them into tight dark little knots. Then he would ride around the city tossing the balls of dirt into abandoned lots.
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Remaking Northampton

The truth is, I don’t know much about Northampton’s sustainability plan. I should, but I just don’t. This plan addresses so many aspects of what I care about: community, conservation, sense of place, development. It is going to have a huge impact on the town that my wife and I plan to call home for quite some time. I should have read it, I should get myself a copy.

However, even without reading it, I have been exposed to some of the controversy surrounding it through the editorial pages of the local newspaper. An editorial in the Hampshire Gazette this week caught my attention. In it, Joel Russell a local land use attorney and planner asserted that the “Sustainable Northampton Plan” lacks one vital component. This one thing was not a particular policy or regulation. Nor was it was a certain goal or a target. Instead, Mr. Russell asserts that that the plan lacks a “compelling vision to help create the future we want and deserve as a community.” He continues, “The plan should be a call to action… it should be exciting and have a sense of urgency. After all, this is about our future and the lives of future generations.”

However, this is the line that really caught my attention, “The Sustainable Northampton Plan needs to be more inspirational.” Russell suggests that all the measures, all the metrics, all the bureaucratic details be put in an appendix. These should all be translated into a compelling vision designed not to tell people where to go, but to inspire them to get there. When was the last time someone suggested that a government document be inspiring? When was the last time an official plan gave us a vision of who we are and who we could be? Continue reading


There are lots of times when the nightly news leaves me shaking my head in awe, in anger, or in anguish. But there are other times when some combination of news items creates such a profound sense of dissonance that it sticks with me for days or weeks, haunting my thoughts.

Recently I read two reports that individually were troubling, but together presented an odd and uncomfortable sense that something is utterly and terribly wrong with our society. Something at the core of who we are as people, or at least who we have become.

I’ll summarize both here. Continue reading