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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Could ‘Failure to Communicate’ Be One Cause of Big Three Automakers’ Disastrous 2006?

Posted by kinchendavid on January 29, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV   – When the numbers come out in a day or so, we’ll find that GM and Chrysler will join Ford in the horrendous loss category of American motor vehicle manufacturers. Ford’s $12.7 billion loss for 2006 (web link: http://money.cnn.com/2007/01/25/news/companies/ford_2006_loss/index.htm?eref=rss_topstories) won’t be topped by the other two of the so-called “Big Three” automakers, but their losses are expected to be substantial.

I was mulling over this situation – the first time since 1991 that all the Big Three are reporting losses in the same year — about the same time as I received a wonderful commentary by HNN contributor Rene Henry on American bosses who don’t want to hear from their customers. This struck me as a truly amazing situation, but Rene is one of the nation’s most experienced public relations consultants, so I take his view as gospel. I knew and respected him when I worked as a reporter at the L.A. Times from 1976 to 1990 and my admiration has only increased since then.

For the full column, click on : http://www.huntingtonnews.net/columns/070127-henry-comment.html

Wanting to get the biggest possible impact, I ran my headline — COMMENTARY: Corporate America: It’s Time to Listen; ‘What We Have Here is Failure to Communicate’ – by Rene Henry – something I don’t usually do – and he approved. The quote, of course, is a reference to the Strother Martin line to Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke,” one of my all-time favorite movies. For those unfortunates who haven’t seen the flick, the Martin character, the road prison warden, is talking to Newman after he’s been returned to the chain gang after escaping.

We do indeed have “failure to communicate” when American CEOs – in contrast to the late Lord Taylor of Britain’s Taylor Woodrow – simply don’t want to be bothered with input from customers. Some examples from Henry’s commentary about that:

“Stanley T. Sigman, president and CEO of Cingular, refuses to respond to mail from customers and never answers the question about why someone should buy his wireless service. The response comes from someone saying ‘I am in the office of the president.’ But what can you believe when the woman responding is three time zones away in California and Sigman’s office is in Atlanta? Who’s kidding who about physically being located in the office of the president? Why not just tell the truth?

”If you write Edward C. Whitacre, Jr., chairman and CEO of AT&T in San Antonio, chances are someone also miles away will respond. Why wouldn’t Whitacre at least want to see some of the mail addressed to him and hear what customers are saying? Or encourage a customer to continue using AT&T?”

In sharp contrast, the late Lord Taylor – “He headed Taylor Woodrow, a British conglomerate involved in everything from building nuclear power plants and the English Channel tunnel to land and housing developments in the U.K., U.S., Canada and Spain ” — according to Henry’s commentary, was a hands-on manager who wanted input.

Henry: “Following a reception where a friend confronted him about a problem, he sent an edict to all employees that he be sent any complaint and failure to do so would result in immediate termination whether the employee was a secretary or division president. Because of his hands-on management style, within months complaints virtually disappeared.”

I wonder if the automaking CEOs and the managers reporting to them – people who typically are paid 400 times as much as the people who build their cars and trucks – are anywhere close to Lord Taylor! On a trip to London in 1979, Liz and I stayed overnight in a Taylor Woodrow project converting Ivory House in St. Katharine’s Docks, a short walk from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, to offices, shops, restaurants and hotel rooms. It was a magnificent reuse of a building that was constructed in the 19th Century to store tusks from elephants and T-W was an adaptive reuse pioneer in the area.

This was in the pioneering stage of what has transformed cities like Chicago, New York, Dallas, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco and even suburb-happy Los Angeles into what I call downtown-centric metropolises. I can’t help but believe that Lord Taylor was a visionary par excellence who listened and learned. Too bad the British car industry didn’t have visionaries like Lord Taylor. Let’s hope the men – and they’re all men (Could that be a problem? Men not stopping and asking for directions?) at the top in the Big Three will learn from the wisdom of Lord Taylor – and Charleston, WV native Rene Henry – and spend most of their days listening to what their customers really want. A final word from PR master Rene Henry, part of his commentary that I urge all HNN readers to memorize: “Understandably, CEOs of “Fortune 100” companies don’t have time to read every letter sent to them. But to stay in touch with reality, some time each week should be set aside to read a few letters and then personally answer them and tell a customer why s/he should buy the company’s products or services. In the long run, listening carefully to what the public wants could avert a crisis.”


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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Del. Thompson, Where Are You? Having Lunch with Judge Crater?

Posted by kinchendavid on January 19, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Ron Thompson

Hinton, WV  – The Ron Thompson watch continues in Charleston, as well as in the 27th House of Delegates District of Raleigh and Summers Counties. As a person who voted for the Phantom of the Capitol (cue to overture of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”), I want to know where the Beckley resident is.

Along with virtually every journalist in the state, I’ve tried contacting Thompson and got no response. Fellow delegates Linda Sumner, Mel Kessler and Virginia Mahan say they haven’t seen the missing delegate. He didn’t show up to take his oath of office. His personal belongings are packed up and reside in the office he shares with Kessler.

For those who haven’t been following this story, Thompson, a member of the House of Delegates since 1994, hasn’t been seen in the Capitol since last March. He missed the interims and special sessions and didn’t show up during the campaign that culminated in his placing third in the voting and being re-elected. He wasn’t at last fall’s candidate forum in Hinton, which I covered.

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne – no relation to the missing delegate – has promised a “course of action” to deal with his AWOL fellow Democrat, according to Mannix Porterfield, writing in the Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 Register-Herald. Porterfield’s stories about Thompson would – if collected – make a fair sized book.

Joseph F. Crater

I suggested to several people that he’s the West Virginia equivalent of Judge Crater – and got blank looks from non-trivia fans. For more about New York Supreme Court Judge Joseph F. Crater, who disappeared on Aug. 6, 1930, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Crater

Judge Crater’s disappearance, when he was last seen leaving a restaurant and entering a taxi on his way to a Broadway show, became part of Americana. Comedians for years used the line “Judge Crater, call your office” and got plenty of laughs. Not so much anymore, because later disappearances took precedence.

Born in 1889 and appointed to the bench by Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Crater was presumed dead in 1939, allowing his widow to collect on his insurance policy. His disappearance, similar to that of Jimmy Hoffa later in the 20th Century, may have been a mob hit. There was, as readers of the Wikipedia entry will quickly discover, a mysterious trip to Atlantic City, N.J. with a showgirl about a month before the judge vanished. Maybe his wife found out about the showgirl and called for a hit on her wayward hubby.

Thompson’s absent status has prompted a threat of a lawsuit from the Affliliated Construction Trades Foundation in an effort to keep Thompson from collecting his annual $15,000 salary for not taking the oath.

Foundation Director Steve White is concerned about the lack of representation in the five-member 27th District, where the candidate who placed sixth — Kevin Maynus — is interested in Thompson’s seat should the missing delegate not claim it. Maynus, a Democratic candidate, says he has contacted party officials in both Raleigh and Summers counties to let them know he wants the seat if Thompson vacates it, according to Porterfield.

There have been sightings of Thompson, brief though they may be. One source, who requested total anonymity, told me Thompson’s appearance has changed radically. I’m guessing that he looks like the Jack Bauer character when he was first seen on the 6th season premiere of the TV show “24,” with a long scraggly beard. Maybe we could add a rodeo clown red fright wig.

I hesitate to make light of Thompson’s lack of visibility, but he did run for re-election and – as I said above — I did vote for him, so I have a stake in his re-appearance.

Ron Thompson, call your office! Or, better yet, call me: I’m in the book.

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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: ‘Small Street Journal’ Redesign of Venerable Wall Street Journal Works for Me, Other Critics

Posted by kinchendavid on January 5, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV – When The Wall Street Journal announced its redesign last year – including a reduction in the web size to match that of most other broadsheet newspapers – it acquired the instant moniker “The Small Street Journal.”

Other smart-aleck phrases describing the remake included: “Now, the complete skinny,” “We reduced. You deride,” and “All the news that’s fi to print,” according to Jonah Bloom, writing in the Jan. 3, 2007 Advertising Age.

Bloom points out that these slogans “… were Slate readers’ slogan suggestions for the new-look Wall Street Journal; you can find them at the end of Jack Shafer’s piece on the topic [here’s a link: http://www.slate.com/id/2154880%5D. “Referring to the Journal’s 3-inch downsizing, Shafer opens by noting that, ‘It’s the rare amputee who describes himself as better off without his two big toes than with them.’ He goes on to decide that the Journal’s redesign is part of a greater Dow Jones ‘retreat.’ In other words, in Shafer’s view, the redesign is about cost cutting.”

Katherine Q. Seelye, writing in The New York Times, said the changes were “primarily driven by economics,” including $18 million worth of savings in newsprint and distribution costs.

All in all, Bloom likes the new look WSJ, which debuted Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007: “… overall, it’s a more comfortable, better-illustrated read, with jumps that are easier to follow. It’s a read that accepts that not all of us have two hours to thumb through the pages. And, most importantly for advertisers, it’s still the Journal, which translates roughly as ‘a-must-read-for-anyone-in-business,’ delivering a couple of million walking wallets every day. Surely that fact, along with this smart redesign, will make the Journal a properly profitable business in ’07. If it doesn’t, then I don’t hold out much hope for any of us in the business of business news.”

Bloom goes on to cite other critics who like the redesign, including Jon Fine, a former colleague at Ad Age, now writing for BusinessWeek; Jonathan Berr at Blogging Stocks and Keith Ferrell at the TechWebblog.

This month marks the 41st anniversary of my entry into the wonderful world of journalism; Since that momentous day in January 1966 when I walked into the lobby of the Hammond (Ind.) Times, I’ve worked for five daily newspapers in four states, including more than 14 years at one of the biggest – the Los Angeles Times – so I have some perspective about the changing face of newspaper design.

I like the policy of fewer jumps – newsroom lingo for continuing a story to another page. Jumps now follow a pattern that makes more sense than in the old design, asserts managing editor Paul E. Steiger, whose tenure at the Los Angeles Times overlapped mine.

The Jan. 2, 2007 issue included a reader’s guide to the new paper – something I hope the paper will include in each issue for a week or so. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to put aside a copy of this reader’s guide for future reference. I’m doing that…just have to remember which of 10,000 drawers it’s in!

When USA Today appeared in 1982, I thought Gannett made the right decision. It was a smart move, emulating TV in all its vivid color in a national newspaper. Along with The Wall Street Journal, USA Today is one of the few major newspapers either holding onto its circulation or gaining. The Wall Street Journal has more than 2 million circulation, while USA Today leads the nation with more than 2.3 million, according to the World Almanac. Both papers must be doing something right at a time when prestigious papers are losing circulation, including but not limited to the Los Angeles Times and the flagship of its owner, the Chicago Tribune.

Design has certainly played a role in the success of what was once derided as “McPaper,” but giving the public outstanding sports coverage, a weather page that’s unexcelled and short takes on the news have played an even more important role, in my opinion. Don’t give the people what they want, “give them more,” stated legendary showman Samuel Lionel “Roxy” Rothafel (1882-1936). It’s great advice.

Getting back to The Wall Street Journal: The paper is 6 inches narrower – 24 inches compared to 30 inches — when opened to full double-truck position than the last issue of 2006. The approximate 23-inch length is the same as the old design. If you’re reading the paper on public transportation, on a train or plane, you’re less likely to cause severe eye damage to your seatmates. It’s only a foot wide in the single page position, about an inch wider than a tabloid. I call this format a “broadsheet tabloid” because it combines features of traditional broadsheets with the ease of handling common to tabloids.

Where the previous paper had six columns on a typical page, the new one has five narrower ones on some pages, with six narrower ones on others. As an editor who has designed pages for both broadsheet newspapers and tabloid special sections, I believe the variation in the number of columns shouldn’t confuse most readers. If it does, they’ll get used to it! For more on the changes – which I believe improve an already outstanding newspaper, the paper I turn to for news and comment because I trust it –

click on:

As a long-time fan of The Wall Street Journal, I applaud the changes. Of course the narrower web will save Dow Jones & Co. money on newsprint, but the big step forward is user convenience. It’s a far more usable newspaper than the wide-web version. That’s what counts in a world where the print edition competes with online news sites. And yes, the period is still there in the nameplate, just as it was in the first issue of the paper in 1889. Some things should never change!

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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Manufacturing an Endangered Species in U.S.; We’re Going to Pay in Long Run

Posted by kinchendavid on January 3, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV  – I celebrated the new year by buying a new back saw – the kind of hand saw designed for use in a miter box. I use it for general woodworking and for my hobby of crafting wooden pens on my lathe. It’s a lot safer – and more precise – than using power tools.

Purchased at Hinton Hardware, the 14-inch saw was – to my surprise – made in the U.S.A. “with domestic and imported components.” I’m guessing that the steel business end of the saw was imported, with maybe the hardwood handle made in this country!

A week or so ago, New York Times reporter Louis Uchitelle wrote about the decline and disappearance of manufacturing in the U.S. All of my power tools – lathe, drill press, band saw, etc., etc. – are imported. When I was a high school shop rat back in the 1950s in Illinois – I was such an avid one that I ended up with a college major in English and a 40-semester-hour minor in industrial arts – everything was proudly stamped “Made in the U.S.A.”

Uchitelle writes: “American manufacturers no longer make subway cars. They are imported now, and the skills required to make them are disappearing in the United States. Similarly, imports are an ever-bigger source of refrigerators, household furnishings, auto and aircraft parts, machine tools and a host of everyday consumer products much in demand in America, but increasingly not made here.”

He adds: “Import penetration, as it is called, worried economists and policymakers when it first became noticeable 20 years ago. Many considered factory production a crucial component of the nation’s wealth and power. As imports gained ground, however, that view changed; the experts shifted the emphasis from production to design and innovation. Let others produce what Americans think up.”

The New Jersey city of Trenton was so proud of its manufacturing base that in 1935 it erected a sign on the bridge over the Delaware River connecting the city with Morrisville, PA (pictured): “TRENTON MAKES … THE WORLD TAKES” reads the sign — which Amtrak travelers to New York City can see if they’re looking carefully. (I bet some of those Amtrak passenger cars are made in Canada or elsewhere).

After quoting economists about the importance of design over actually producing the necessary widgets, Uchitelle asks the billion-dollar question: “…over the long run, can invention and design be separated from production?”

He goes on to say that that question is rarely asked these days. Instead, he notes, “the debate instead centers on the loss of well-paying factory jobs and on the swelling trade deficit in manufactured goods. When the linkage does come up, the answer is surprisingly affirmative: Yes, invention and production are intertwined.”

Of course they are! I was surprised to learn the other day that the local high school no longer has industrial arts classes. I learned this from the former-shop-teacher- owner of Hinton Hardware, itself an endangered breed in this era of big box home centers. We’re blessed with experts at this store: The owner sells hardware items, but he also knows enough to suggest solutions to me. Kids grow up today not knowing the joys of creating objects from raw materials. It’s one of the things that keeps me mentally healthy and young for my chronological age, or so people tell me.

Uchitelle, whose book “The Disposable American: Layoffs and Their Consequences” I reviewed favorably in May 2006 — here’s a link: http://www.huntingtonnews.net/columns/060521-kinchen-review.html — quotes two experts on manufacturing, Stephen S. Cohen and Franklin J. Vargo, who respectfully disagree with those who say it doesn’t matter if we don’t make things any more: “’Most innovation does not come from some disembodied laboratory,’” said … Cohen, co-director of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy at the University of California, Berkeley. “’In order to innovate in what you make, you have to be pretty good at making it — and we are losing that ability.’”

Cohen, Uchitelle says, was a co-author of a1987 book “Manufacturing Matters” that was an early warning about our disappearing manufacturing base. This is something that means a lot to me, since I grew up in two once mighty manufacturing states: Michigan (until the age of 10) and Illinois.

Uchitelle: “… even the National Association of Manufacturers, which is supportive of members like Whirlpool [based in Benton Harbor, MI, about 40 miles from where I lived] and General Electric who shift production abroad, agrees that sooner or later innovation and production must go hand in hand.

“Franklin J. Vargo, the association’s vice president for international economic affairs, sounds even more concerned than Mr. Cohen. ‘If manufacturing production declines in the United States at some point we will go below critical mass and then the center of innovation will shift outside the country and that will really begin a decline in our living standards.’”

We’ve already seen this decline as the relatively high paying manufacturing jobs have been sent overseas – or south of the border – replaced by service jobs that pay a fraction of what manufacturing jobs contribute to the domestic economy.

Economists and other defenders of outsourcing don’t think it matters if we still make widgets on our home territory, but Uchitelle says that people like “Alan Tonelson, a research fellow at the United States Business and Industry Council, argues that in this country, import penetration is rising faster in core industries like machine-tool building than it is in other countries. And these are the industries that are, or should be, centers of innovation and invention.”

Tonelson’s efforts to document the disappearing jobs are part of his job, Uchitelle reports: “His organization represents small manufacturers who keep production at home much more than a General Electric or a Whirlpool. They suffer from import penetration more than the multinationals. The Business and Industry Council even favors tariffs as a protective measure — a red flag for many mainstream Democrats and Republicans, who shun any suggestion that they might be protectionist.”

Exploring individual industries, Tonelson finds that the U.S. is importing more than 50 percent “and in some cases close to 90 percent – of the machine tools used in this country, the aircraft engines and engine parts, the parts that go into cars and trucks, the industrial valves, the printed circuits, the optical instruments and lenses, the telephone switching apparatus, the machines that mold plastics, the broadcasting equipment used for radio, television and wireless transmissions. The list goes on.”

The clincher, in my opinion: Tonelson argues that “It is hard to imagine how an international economy can remain successful if it jettisons its most technologically advanced components.”

Exactly! Without domestic manufacturing, we up the proverbial creek without a paddle – because the paddle is probably imported.

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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Oklahoma City Businessman Invented Shopping Cart 70 years ago This Year; First Parking Meter Was Installed in the City in 1935

Posted by kinchendavid on January 2, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV – The year 2007 marks the 70th anniversary of one of the greatest inventions of all time, courtesy of an Oklahoma City, OK supermarket owner named Sylvan Nathan Goldman (1898-1984), who came up with the idea from looking at a folding chair in his office.

As a guy who’s been around supermarkets for a long time – as a customer and as an employee — I’d say Mr. Goldman had too much time on his hands – but shoppers – and supermarket chains – should be glad that he did. He was born in Indian Territory, one of the parts of Oklahoma (the other part was Oklahoma Territory) before it became a state in 1907 – another anniversary that’s going to be celebrated in the Sooner State this year.

From Wikipedia (where else?): “[Goldman] introduced the device on June 4, 1937, in the Humpty Dumpty supermarket chain in Oklahoma City, of which he was the owner. With the assistance of a mechanic named Fred Young, Goldman constructed the first shopping cart, basing his design on that of a wooden folding chair. They built it with a metal frame and added wheels and wire baskets. Another mechanic, Arthur Kosted, developed a method to mass produce the carts by inventing an assembly line capable of forming and welding the wire. The cart was awarded patent number 2,196,914 on April 9, 1940 (Filing date: March 14, 1938), titled, “Folding Basket Carriage for Self-Service Stores”. They advertised the invention as part of a new “No Basket Carrying Plan.”

“The invention did not catch on immediately. Men found them effeminate; women found them suggestive of a baby carriage. ‘I’ve pushed my last baby buggy,’ offended women informed him. After hiring several male and female models to push his new invention around his store and demonstrate their utility, as well as greeters to explain their use, shopping carts became extremely popular and Goldman became a multimillionaire by collecting a royalty on every shopping cart in the United States until his patents ran out.”

And you thought Sam Walton of Wal-Mart fame invented greeters!

* * *

Oklahoma City had about 150,000 residents in 1935, so it was big enough for the first parking meter in the U.S. Yes, the parking timing device famous for putting the Luke character (Paul Newman) on the road gang in the classic 1967 flick “Cool Hand Luke” was invented in the largest city and capital of the state. The movie opens with Luke using a pipe cutter to decapitate parking meters. (Two other memorable scenes in the Stuart Rosenberg-helmed film: The Egg-Eating Contest and the Car-Washing Scene).

The parking meter came from the fertile mind of Carl C. Magee, who filed for a patent on the invention May 13, 1935. The patent was issued May 24, 1938 as patent number 2,118,318. The world’s first parking meter was installed in Oklahoma City in July 1935 and the infernal device spread like farmers fleeing to California from an Oklahoma dust storm (sorry about that, Oklahoma!).

Believe it or not, a Google search of Oklahoma City not only brings up the federal building bombing of 1995, it also references the parking meter. For some reason, the sprawling city is proud of its no-armed bandits. Hinton, WV (there are only two other Hintons in North America and one of them is in Oklahoma; the other is in Alberta, Canada) has parking meters (pictured) but Lewisburg doesn’t, for some reason. Just had to mention that!

For more information, check out The Parking Meter page http://www.ionet.net/~luttrell/index2.html created and maintained by Ron Luttrell II of Oklahoma City — naturally. He died at the age of 44 in 2000, but somebody is presumably maintaining the site, sort of, although it hasn’t been updated since Sept. 20, 2001. His dad, Ron Luttrell was a parking meter technician for the original company.

That first meter was manufactured by the Magee-Hale Park-O-Meter Company, the predecessor of one of the current parking meter makers, POM Incorporated, whose web site (www.pom.com) contains some fascinating (to me, at least) historical photos. One of them shows a cop placing the first parking ticket on the windshield of an early 1930s sedan.

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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Christians Suffer Under Muslim Rule in West Bank, Gaza, But Christian Mayor of Bethlehem Blames Israel!

Posted by kinchendavid on December 24, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV  – A question on this Christmas Eve for Arab Christians: Where would you rather live, in Israel or in Gaza or the West Bank — including Bethlehem?

Before you turn to http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=26147 for the answer, ponder these points.

Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh, meet Jimmy Carter. The 71-year-old Roman Catholic Marxist (now there’s a unique combination!) blames Israel’s security fence for the decline in tourism and the 65 percent unemployment rate in the birthplace of Jesus. He’s on the same page with the sage of Plains, GA, who calls Israel an apartheid nation in his latest book.

Neither one blames the Muslim Palestinians, according to Michael I. Krauss and J. Peter Pham writing about “The Dark Fate of Christians Under Palestinian Rule” in FrontPageMagazine.com on Dec. 22, 2006 (click on the link above to read the complete article).

Krauss and Pham: “In mid-September, after Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about medieval Islam, Palestinian Islamic militants waged the most violent attacks against Christian holy sites in the PA territories in recent years. On September 15, 2006, grenades were thrown at the oldest church in Gaza. On September 16, firebombs were hurled at five different churches throughout the PA. On September 17, in Tulkarm, a 170-year-old church was burned to the ground.”

To accommodate tourists who might be deterred by the security fence – which has drastically reduced suicide attacks against Israelis of all religions – Krauss and Pham write that “Israel’s Ministry of Tourism is operating complimentary shuttles running every half hour from Mar Elias Monastery in southern Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. To help ease pilgrims’ travels, Israeli security has arranged to check passports before travelers disembark from the shuttles. The measures were implemented this year to prevent traffic jams at the Rachel border crossing between Jerusalem and Bethlehem as 15,000 to 18,000 pilgrims are expected to travel between the two cities this Christmas. As in years past, the Municipality of Jerusalem and the Jewish National Fund distributed free Christmas trees on December 21 at Jaffa Gate Square in Jerusalem. Additionally, [Christian] Israelis will be allowed to drive in and out of Bethlehem with their private cars to attend holiday festivities in the West Bank.”

Sounds pretty friendly to this observer, especially when you consider that Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow any Christian worship of any kind within its vast expanses, let alone Jewish worship!

Again, Krauss and Pham: “Statistics indicate that last Christmas, nearly 146,000 Christians lived in Israel, 2.1 percent of her population. Meanwhile, in the PA, the Christian population has been on the decline for years. Currently, Palestinian Christians from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem comprise less than two percent of the total Palestinian population, less than in Israel! Christians living under the Palestinian Authority have fled in recent years due to economic deterioration and the second intifada. Islamic violence aimed at the dwindling Christian population in the last few months has led to a further population decline.”

So, Mayor Batarseh, in the words of Jose Feliciano, whom I saw perform in the Chicago area 41 years ago, “Feliz Navidad.” To be precise, Feliciano performed in a club on Dempster Avenue in the suburb of Skokie, home to many holocaust survivors, as well as Christian and Muslim Arabs, all of whom live in peace. That’s the true meaning of Christmas, as I see it.

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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Intellectual Diversity? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Intellectual Diversity!

Posted by kinchendavid on December 22, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV  – I’m at the point where I hesitate to open my bookmarked FrontpageMag.com site, for fear of what fresh hell (apologies to Dorothy Parker) awaits me on the P.C. front.

Sure enough, Roger Kimball has an essay on the Dec. 20, 2006 site about radical professors fighting back as conservative/libertarian ones – a tiny minority – try to establish beachheads of thought at their academic homes.

We’re talking about prestigious and very expensive private colleges and universities like Hamilton College in Clinton, NY or Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where the $33,000 annual tuition is on a level with a similar amount at Harvard. Room and board extra, of course! Hamilton is also in the $33,000 range, according to my new 2007 “World Almanac.”

A Midwest equivalent would be Antioch University in Yellow Springs, OH. On the Left Coast, Occidental College in the Eagle Rock district of Los Angeles is in the same league. Reed College in Portland, OR is a good example in the Pacific Northwest. Wonder of wonders: Both Reed and Oxy are in the $33,000 tuition and fees club!

Kimball, co-Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books, says that “intellectual diversity is unwelcome at American universities” with the predominantly left-wing faculty and administration running what are effectively one-party states: “bastions of what the literary critic Frederick Crews called ‘Left Eclecticism.”

Kimball: “At many institutions, you’ll find 57 varieties of Marxist, feminist, post-colonial, deconstructionist, new-historicist animus, united by reader-proof prose and a thoroughgoing hostility to traditional American values. But you have to look long and hard to find more than token representation of conservative ideas.” This point was emphasized this year with my reading and reviewing books like David Horowitz’s “The Professors” and – most recently – Elizabeth Kantor’s “The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature.” There are outposts of conservative/libertarian thought at many elite universities, Kimball states: “The imbalance is so great that at some institutions, dissident — i.e., conservative–faculty members have created centers where students and faculty can encounter alternative points of view. The James Madison Center at Princeton is one conspicuous example, as is the Political Theory Project at Brown and the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization at Colgate. Such centers do not alter the fundamental chemistry on campus — nearly all colleges remain reliably left-of-center–but they do at least provide a smidgen of reality to all the rhetoric about diversity.” Apparently, such centers are too much for the overwhelmingly left-wing faculty member, he says, pointing to Amherst College, where “ the political philosopher Hadley Arkes wanted to start a center for the American Founding. He lined up a donor willing to invest $10 million to establish then Center. The administration turned down the money. Why? Good question. They had just accepted $13 million to establish a Center for Community Engagement, but that initiative did not threaten the ideological status quo at what many now call the People’s Republic of Amherst.”

For the complete article by Kimball, click on


I, for one, hope that as the current Baby Boomer generation of hard left-wing ideologues retires and/or dies off, a younger generation of academics more tolerant of true intellectual diversity will shift the balance. I don’t want a dictatorship of either left-wingers or right-wingers. This is my hope and dream and I thank Kimball, Horowitz, Kantor and many others this year for pointing out the problem in academe.

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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Reassessing Woodrow Wilson on the 150th Anniversary of His Birth

Posted by kinchendavid on December 19, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh. Ecclesiastes 12:12

Hinton, WV – The biblical saying about books also applies to the ranking of U.S. presidents — of which there is no end.

The other day, I read a review of a new biography of Calvin Coolidge in which the reviewer said “Silent Cal” is moving up in class among the professoriate that does such things: professional, academic historians. Here’s a good source for presidential rankings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_rankings_of_United_States_Presidents

Thomas Woodrow Wilson has always fared well in these rankings — ranking in the top 10 — partly I think because he’s our only president with an earned doctorate, which he obtained at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in the early 1880s. In a 1982 poll, academics ranking him sixth out of 36 presidents and in a 2000 poll, Wilson again ranked sixth out of 41 presidents, according to the Wikipedia entry on Wilson

He earned the doctorate after being admitted to the bar in Georgia, after only a year of law school at the University of Virginia. Pretty good for a fellow who didn’t learn to read until he was 12 years old!

Maybe this is one reason why Ph D historians have always looked kindly on their fellow dyed-in-the-wool academic, who was president of Princeton University and, briefly, governor of New Jersey, before he was elected president in 1912. “

Why talk about Wilson now? For one thing, the 150th anniversary of his birth is on Dec. 28; he was born in Staunton, VA on Dec. 28, 1856. He died in Washington, DC on Feb. 3, 1924 and is the only president buried in Washington.

For another, I’ve been troubled by the high ranking of Woodrow Wilson for many years. A professor at Concord University in Mercer County, the late Sidney Bell, was one of the first historians to cast a critical eye on Wilson’s place in history. Bell, who came recommended to me by two of his students, wrote an outstanding 1972 book examining Wilson’s diplomatic efforts.

Bell’s very readable and solidly documented book, “Righteous Conquest: Woodrow Wilson and the Evolution of the New Diplomacy” (Kennikat Press, Port Washington, NY, London, 1972) is worth looking up. As the title indicates, Bell deals largely with Wilson’s diplomatic efforts, including his gunboat diplomacy south of the border. Bell states that “Wilson defined himself as right, and America as right whenever it was going his way. ….Whatever served his conception of justice became right.” (Page 8).

Bell glosses over Wilson’s racial beliefs by saying Wilson he was responsible “for the introduction of a greater degree of segregation of Negro employees of the Federal Government ‘for their own good.’” (Pages 39-40). Odd that these “Negro” (the accepted word in 1972) employees didn’t need this protection under the previous Taft and T.R. Roosevelt administrations!

And I’ve just made the acquaintance of a man with a Harvard master’s degree in political science, Nicholas Patler, who expanded his master’s thesis into a 2004 book detailing the resegregation of federal jobs under Wilson’s administration – an the massive civil rights protests that followed. Patler’s book, “Jim Crow and the Wilson Administration: Protesting Federal Segregation in the Early Twentieth Century” (University of Colorado Press, 2004), will be published in a paperback edition early in 2007 and I plan to review it.

To borrow a phrase from a conservative/libertarian talk show host on CNN, as a historian I’m a rodeo clown, but I’ve read widely and absorbed much material in 40 years of book reviewing and I tend to agree with the revisionist historians that Woodrow Wilson was a deeply flawed president who is the real inspiration – not the fabled “neocons” – for our current failed foreign policy messes in Iraq.

Yes, Wilson was an interventionist in the mold of George W. Bush – and many other presidents, even though he presented the facade of a man who didn’t want to bring the U.S. into the bloodletting in Europe. Before he took us into a war that his first secretary of state, William Jennings Bryan, opposed – the Great War (later renamed World War I) — Wilson sent troops south of the border. We even occupied cities in Mexico in the wake of guerilla raids into the U.S. by Pancho Villa and others.

From the Wikipedia entry on Wilson: “Between 1914 and 1918, the United States intervened in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, and Panama. The U.S. maintained troops in Nicaragua throughout his administration and used them to select the president of Nicaragua and then to force Nicaragua to pass the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty. American troops in Haiti forced the Haitian legislature to choose the candidate Wilson selected as Haitian president. American troops occupied Haiti between 1915 and 1934.”

Just as Colin Powell resigned as Secretary of State in apparent disagreement over Bush’s policies, so did Bryan resign in 1915 over Wilson’s interventionist ways. Bryan was replaced by a more compliant Robert Lansing (sound familiar?) and after the 1916 Presidential campaign, during which Wilson campaigned against Republican Charles Evans Hughes with the slogan “He Kept us Out of War,” we entered a war that I believe – and more and more historians are coming round to the position – we had no business in.

The 1916 election sounds eerily like the 2000 one; from Wikipedia: “The final result was exceptionally close and the result was in doubt for several days. The vote came down to several close states. Wilson won California by 3,773 votes out of almost a million votes cast and New Hampshire by 54 votes. Hughes won Minnesota by 393 votes out of over 358,000. In the final count, Wilson had 277 electoral votes vs. Hughes 254.”

Our entry into another of Europe’s endless wars created much of the mess we’re in now, not to mention leading to the rise of Nazism and fascism and the Second World War. Many historians believe that absent the U.S., the war would have petered out by 1919 or 1920, with none of the poisonous after effects of the Treaty of Versailles. It’s important to remember that the Germans and their allies, Austria-Hungary and Turkey, were not the same countries they were a few years later. Sigmund Freud’s sons fought for Austria and Hitler’s commanding officer – the lieutenant who recommended the future Fuehrer for an Iron Cross — was a Jew.

Too, Wilson’s disregard of the Bill of Rights and the right to protest, led to the creation of the American Civil Liberties Union by Roger N. Baldwin in 1920, three years after Baldwin and others who opposed the entry of the U.S. into the European conflict were deprived of their constitutional free speech rights. That alone will cause many conservatives to despite Wilson! Historians gloss over Wilson’s trampling of the protests, blaming it on his notorious attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, but Wilson, his second wife Edith Galt Wilson and his equivalent of Karl Rove, Col. Edwin House, knew what they were doing.

I’ll grant many good things to Wilson: Elected as a Democrat after Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft divided the GOP vote, Wilson and the Democratic congress:

* Created the Federal Reserve system

* Created the Federal Trade Commission

* Enacted the Clayton Antitrust Act

* Passed the Federal Farm Loan Act.

* Supported measures that eventually led to women getting the vote in 1920, something France didn’t do until 1945.

If you’re looking to blame the federal income tax – which became law in 1913 – on Wilson, forget about it: It was pushed by previous Republican administrations to replace monies lost by tariff reform.

In many ways, the two Wilson terms were precursors to the New Deal under Franklin D. Roosevelt. In fact, one of Wilson’s advisers at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, William C. Bullitt, was an early supporter of FDR’s run for the Presidency in 1932 and was rewarded by being named the first ambassador to the Soviet Union when we recognized the regime in 1933. Bullitt has a further connection with Wilson: He collaborated with Sigmund Freud, also born in 1856, on a psychobiography of Woodrow Wilson that was almost universally attacked when it was published four decades ago. Bullitt and a fellow Freud patient, Princess Marie Bonaparte, were instrumental in rescuing Freud in 1938 when the Nazis took over Austria.

Nick Patler, from Wilson’s birthplace of Staunton, Augusta County, VA, earlier this year gave a speech discussing aspects of Wilson that are glossed over in most biographies. He promised African-American voters, the vast majority of whom were Republicans, a better deal, but he reneged on that promise once in office. His administration, Patler writes, resegregated the federal government and replaced most of the black postmasters, for instance, with white Democrats.

To read Patler’s speech, delivered at Princeton, N.J., last April, click here for a pdf.

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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: R.I.P. Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick 1926-2006: One of My Heroines

Posted by kinchendavid on December 12, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV   – Let’s pause for a minute to remember a woman the Wall Street Journal says makes outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton look like Little Bo-Peep by comparison, Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick, who died at the age of 80 of congestive heart disease on Dec. 7, 2006.

Jeane Kirkpatrick was still a Democrat – a Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy Democrat – when President Reagan nominated her as the U.S. ambassador to the UN, the first woman to serve in this position. She served from 1981 to 1985 and definitely was no Little Bo-Peep! Jeane Kirkpatrick is one of the people responsible for me rejecting Jimmy Carter in 1980 – I voted for Carter in 1976, to my eternal regret – in favor of Reagan. I never told my mother, who died in 1984, about my Reagan vote. It would have led to an earlier demise! I returned to the fold in 1988, but strayed to third party candidates like Ross Perot and various Libertarians until voting for Kerry-Edwards in 2004.

Why the explanation of one guy’s voting pattern? Because I didn’t leave the Democratic Party – it left me. For the record, I’m still a registered Democrat, with libertarian leanings, rather than neocon ones. I don’t have the faith in the human spirit that true neocons possess. A birthright Democrat from Duncan, OK, Jeane Kirkpatrick finally left the party in 1985, becoming a Republican.

Kirkpatrick was a brainy – she earned a doctorate in political science from Columbia University in 1968 – outspoken, strong figure who inspired many disillusioned Democrats who were dismayed at the hard left turn of their big tent party – including the present writer.

Like many neoconservatives, Kirkpatrick started out as a lefty: As a freshman at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri in 1945 she joined the Young People’s Socialist League of the Socialist Party of America. She was influenced, she wrote, by one of her grandfathers, who was a founder of the populist and socialist parties in Oklahoma. It must have taken guts of steel on the part of the young Oklahoman to join the YPSL in deepest conservative Missouri.

At Columbia University, her principal adviser was Franz Neumann, a revisionist Marxist. In 1967, before earning her Ph.D, she joined the faculty of Georgetown University. She became a full professor of political science in 1973.

Sad to say, the hard left wing of my beloved party is still focused on the “Blame America First” position Kirkpatrick described in the mid-1980s. Her comments about “San Francisco Democrats” at the 1984 GOP Convention ring loud and clear with the upcoming coronation of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA as Speaker of the House. Baltimore native Pelosi is from San Francisco.

For an appreciation of Kirkpatrick, see this link:


For the Wall Street Journal Editorial, see:


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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Relax, Marshall Field’s Fans: Macy’s Didn’t Ruin Your Favorite Store!

Posted by kinchendavid on December 12, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Chicago, IL  – It’s been a Holiday tradition for many decades, traveling to Chicago’s Loop and viewing the gigantic Christmas tree at Marshall Field’s State Street flagship department store. Most people make a day out of it, shopping at Field’s and other stores on State Street and enjoying a meal at one of the restaurants in the store or nearby.

Given the relatively compact dimensions of the Loop, it’s possible to see a musical, stage play or opera, have lunch or dinner and shop, all in the same day during the holiday season. When I was there in early December, an unseasonable cold wave made that experience something only Mumble the penguin (the star of the hit film “Happy Feet”) would enjoy, but I have that extra native-Midwesterner cold weather gene that permits people like us to venture out when the weather is life-threatening.

Now that Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores has rebranded the Field’s stores as Macy’s, many people familiar with Chicago are wondering what’s in store (couldn’t resist that one!) for a really Big Box institution that occupies an entire city block (Wabash Avenue to the east, State Street to the west, Randolph Street to the north and Washington Street to the south) in the Loop.

Relax, fans of FrangoLand: The store and overall chain, acquired by Federated in 2005, appears to be in good hands after several years of ownership by Minneapolis-based Target. The Marshall Field’s “As Chicago as it gets” slogan has been replaced with Macy’s “Way to Shop” and the famous dark green Marshall Field’s awnings are now Macy’s black. Those Macy’s red stars are also present in abundance. (By the way, Frango was not originally part of Marshall Field’s: It was acquired when the chain purchased the Frederick & Nelson department store chain in Seattle many decades ago).

The tree is a wonder to behold. On my recent visit, I took the elevator to the 8th floor to view the tree and the diners around it in the Walnut Room. Speaking of Frango candies, they have a favored spot in the basement level, where they share space with the Marketplace food court, an excellent dining place that’s much less formal than the Walnut Room.

My sister Natasha Yuhas, who – until her retirement a few years ago — worked in the furniture department at Field’s, concurs in my assessment, saying the store is much cleaner than it was during the heyday of Target, formerly known as Dayton Hudson. Prior to that chain, Field’s was owned by Batus, British American Tobacco; it really hasn’t been owned by the descendants of the original Marshall Field for many years. My sister advises the few people still protesting the name change to get over it – the store is in good hands, she says.

The building is an historic landmark, so the Marshall Field & Co. plaques are still in place around the building’s exterior. The two signature State Street clocks — at Randolph and at Washington — are there and are favored meeting spots for Chicagoans.

State Street is looking better than ever, with many new shops, including one from the very trendy and affordable Swedish H&M chain and the spruced up Sear’s store. A few years ago, the Daniel Burnham designed Reliance Building – one of the best Chicago landmarks that survived the wrecking ball – was renovated into the Hotel Burnham.

The Block 37 development – directly to the west of the Macy’s/Field’s store – is apparently on track. Ground was broken in November 2005 by the Mills Corp. of Arlington, VA for a mixed-used development on the long-vacant site, now called 108 N. State. This past August, the respected Chicago-based developer Golub & Co. bought the residential and office portions of the massive development, expected to be finished in 2008.

One sad note: Carson Pirie Scott & Co., another Chicago landmark, is closing its State Street store in March of 2007. Carson’s, occupying since 1904 one of the most distinguished buildings on the street, the landmark Louis Sullivan-Dankmar Adler designed building, is owned by Bon-Ton Stores. It was formerly owned by Saks Fifth Avenue. The State Street store will house a collection of boutique shops, according to news accounts.

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