Ripped from the headlines

Berkshire Radio Pioneer Dies. I thought the world of Don Thurston [who died this week at the age of 79]. He was a good man who had a tremendous love of family and a deep understanding of the radio business where he was a member of the Massachusetts and Vermont Radio Hall of Fame.

He came from an era when local radio stations really covered the local (and I mean local) news. I have a personal debt of gratitude to the man because he sold WAMC Public Radio his WSBS-FM signal on top of Catamount. It became WAMQ. When we bought the FM signal that can be heard at 105.1, he was courteous and decent with us.

It seemed clear that it was a bit of a reversal for him. I could never really understand why he chose to sell the FM that had a pristine signal and could be heard 24 hours a day as opposed to much lower power AM that could not really be heard at night. I am sure it had to do with money.

A few years back, Roselle and I were at an MCLA event where we saw him sitting at a table of luminaries. I went over, kneeled down beside him and introduced myself. He was very kind but he did allow that the sale of the station was not something he remembered fondly.

In any case, when we bought the station, you seldom saw commercial radio stations being turned into public stations. In that sense, this guy was a real pioneer. Maybe he saw the handwriting on the wall; maybe he sold it to us to keep it out of the hands of other competitive commercial operators. Whatever the case, he had the guts to do it and, for me, that made him a visionary. Too bad there are so few like him.

Haddad: It Was The Principle. Cindy Haddad sued the giant Wal-Mart and won. She sued on a simple proposition. She was a pharmacist but was paid less money than men sharing her job title.

For various reasons, these things sometimes happen but if you can prove that a disparity is systematic and purposeful, it is entirely appropriate to bring a lawsuit.

My mother was the major bread winner for our family. I have always been guided by that simple fact. It comes down to this: Would you want your mother, your sister or your daughter treated as a second-class citizen?

It is not easy to go through an experience like the one Cindy Haddad went through. You’ve got to deal with lawyers and go through extraordinary drudgery and pain, but sometimes you just have to do what’s right. She won a couple million dollars but a lot of that will go to pay the lawyers and for other costs.

The point is that when you do something like this, there will always be others who will benefit. A lot of other women will owe her a great deal. There are lessons to be learned here. One wonders whether, after Haddad blew the whistle, Wal-Mart shouldn’t have thought twice about firing her for demanding her rights. That was despicable.

Afghanistan: Obama Pledges Careful Review. Presidents often find it easier to get into a war than out of one. Three Democrats — Woodrow Wilson, Lyndon Johnson and Harry Truman — all saw their popularity fall into the toilet as a result of the rush to war. The right-wing zealots are all over the place, damning President Obama for not moving more and more troops into Afghanistan. Now he has won the Nobel Peace Prize, and his job is even more difficult. In the end, he may send more troops, but some of his most trusted advisers, like Vice President Joe Biden, think it is an inadvisable idea.

It’s sort of like the signs we see in the antique stores: “You break it; you own it.” George Bush was ill-advised and rather stupid for committing us to the Iraq adventure. That was a much harder one than the issues in Afghanistan. Obama has to decide whether the Taliban and Al Qaida are one and the same. He has to decide whether there is another way to stop the Taliban surgically instead of with soldier power. He has to prioritize the needs of his country.

To put it mildly, he’s smarter than I am. I do suspect that it is always easy to let the military industrial complex lead you into adventures and if they are unwinnable, so what? They figure that our kids will die but profits will be made. “The drums go bang and the symbols clang” and nothing changes.

The crowds will always cheer as the kids go marching off to war but it isn’t long before the tide turns. I think that people want Obama to take his time and make a considered decision.

Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 10-10-09

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