Try out several marketplaces to get a feel.
Sell products that interest you but carve a niche.
Write detailed, professional listings and titles with key search terms for your products.
Communicate frequently and openly with buyers to maintain a good reputation.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Our failure at Copenhagen represents a turning point for activism.
Micah White | 18 Dec 2009 | 8 comments
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Our failure at Copenhagen represents a turning point for activism. It was, after all, a nostalgic gesture – a last attempt to revive those heady days when swarms of people locked down Seattle streets in ’99. But the past decade has seen the alterglobalization movement become increasingly predictable and pacified. And while we’ve been considering our weakness to be born of organizational deficiencies or the failure to keep on top of the newest activist technologies, we’ve been oblivious to the shifting ground beneath our feet. The fact is that the green movement has been appropriated by the elites. If activism wishes to maintain its edge of resistance, it must turn blue.
Ever since the ex-vice president of the US became the poster child of the climate change movement, the environmental movement has lost the momentum of history. Old enemies – bureaucrats and technocrats, capitalists and industrialists – have taken our rebellion and turned it into their pet project: a managed capitalist world. The goals at the Battle in Seattle were to disrupt the flows of capital and to show the big bankers that we knew about their posh meetings and were pissed. By Copenhagen, however, we’d become some sort of cheerleading force. Everyone’s talking points agreed: climate change is a major threat and we must do something about it. Hearing bigwigs mouth platitudes about the urgency of the situation, we let our movement fall into their hands. They played as if they were still scared of our signs and shouts, even arrested a few of us for fun, but the joke was on us.
With the capitalists in control of the green movement, dictating global agreements and defining what constitutes a legitimate projection of the future, the future looks bleaker than ever. Some have voiced the valid concern that climate change will be used to justify increasingly authoritarian means of guaranteeing consumerism continues. Others have suggested that ecology is the new opiate of the masses: a unifying narrative that, if spun correctly, can justify any totalitarian corporate behavior. The very forces that brought us to the brink of catastrophe have opportunistically appropriated climate change. The capitalists love it because it has opened up a new market: “green” products. The state loves climate change because a schizophrenic nature is the ultimate terrorist and – as became apparent in New Orleans – militarized police will be needed.
Instead of trying to resuscitate the green movement, it is time to move on. Let’s remember that our concern was never about the physical environment alone. Take Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, for example. The book, which many consider the seminal text of the environmental movement, began with a short story called “A Fable for Tomorrow” in which an idealized, pastoral town succumbs to an evil curse. The rich biodiversity of the imagined Eden disappears and the silence of death reigns. Carson’s prose suggests that trickster spirits or malevolent gods are to be blame. But she ends the story by pulling back from fantasy and pushing toward science: “No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new life on this stricken world.” She concludes that, “The people had done it to themselves.”
Carson goes on to talk about the accumulation of pollutants in our physical environment, positioning environmentalism within the domain of science alone, but one must also wonder whether a different path could have been possible. What if Carson had spoken about how the disappearance of birds was accompanied by the appearance of flickering screens in every home? What if she had drawn a connection between the lack of biodiversity and the wealth of infodiversity? Or the decrease in plant life and the increase in advertised life? To do so would necessitate a new worldview: a blue worldview that acknowledges the interconnection between mental pollution and environmental degradation, spiritual desecration and real-world extinctions.
The green movement failed because of its overemphasis on a secularized, materialist conception of activism. It tried to change the world without confronting the multi-billion dollar advertising industry that skews our desire and distorts our imagination. It is time to shift the green movement toward blue, to throw ourselves into the work of building an insurrection of the mental environment. Ending consumerism, and having the courage to clean up our mental environment by taking control of our public spaces, is the only way to avert imminent catastrophe.
Micah White is a contributing editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. This article is excerpted from a book he is writing about the future of activism. He lives in Berkeley, CA. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org
Sunday, December 20, 2009
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From The Sunday Times December 20, 2009
The Copenhagen farce is glad tidings for all
Dominic Lawson After two weeks of increasingly ill-tempered negotiations, one of the European delegates at the Copenhagen summit “to save the planet” had clearly reached breaking point; or perhaps it was the ingratitude of the people he was trying to save that caused this negotiator to tell the BBC’s science correspondent, Susan Watts, that millions of Africans now “deserve” to be incinerated.
Watts was reporting a conversation she had had with an unnamed “European negotiator” after South Africa decided to join the quartet of America, India, China and Brazil in putting its name to a statement rejecting any binding emissions targets, and thus comprehensively sabotaging the entire conference. “South Africa has signed up to this!” the delegate told Watts. “They’re going to fry — and they’ll deserve it.”
One’s heart does not warm to anyone expressing such sentiments, but it’s easy to understand the fury that must have overcome this delegate. Here was Europe offering to impose vast costs on its own industries and peoples to save Africa from the alleged perils of runaway CO2 emissions — and that continent’s most powerful international voice says, thanks very much for the offer, but we think we can best provide health and prosperity to our people by being free to expand our economy exactly as you did in the industrial revolution, by using the wonderfully cheap forms of energy that nature affords: fossil fuels. After all, why is it that in the US many fewer people die as a result of very high temperatures than used to be the case a hundred years ago? Air-conditioning.
I know that for those thousands of “climate activists” who descended on Copenhagen, the idea of air-conditioning in African homes is something almost too revolting to contemplate; but then they have never understood that, for the real inhabitants of the developing world, the American example of achieving health and comfort through technology and subverting harsh nature for human ends is something to be emulated, not shunned.
The climate catastrophists naturally insist that if the developing countries — notably China and India — follow the American path, the planet will become uninhabitable. The most quoted expression of this came in 2004 from Britain’s chief government scientist then, Sir David King, when he said that if we did not act to reduce our carbon emissions, by the end of the century Antarctica would be the world’s only habitable continent.
Even if you share King’s view of what some of the climate models project in terms of anthropogenic CO2’s effect on global temperatures, his apparent belief that man is completely unable to adapt to a changing environment suggests that, whatever his claims as a scientist, he knows next to nothing about either human nature or history.
Unfortunately for those in the same camp as King, the leak of lethally embarrassing emails from the world’s foremost academic climate research unit, at the University of East Anglia, confirmed the suspicions of roughly half the British population, that too much political faith had been placed in the omniscience of a small group of scientists.
The most interesting of those leaked emails came from Kevin Trenberth, head of the climate analysis section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. After observing — this was an email dated October 12, 2009 — that in freezing Boulder, “We have broken records the past two days for the coldest days on record ... it smashed the previous records for these days by 10F”, Trenberth turned to the fact that the planet’s average temperature over the past 10 years seemed to have been static and wrote: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of global warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” Two days later he reiterated: “We cannot account for what is happening in the climate system.”
Asked last week by the BBC about these emails, King would say only that their leak and publication in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit had to be the work of some malign national agency (the CIA? The Russians?). Since we know that a Briton with Asperger’s syndrome, working on a domestic dial-up internet connection, managed to hack into the Pentagon’s most secret codes, King’s insistence that only a national agency could have hacked into a non-secure academic research unit’s emails seems as sensible as the assertion that we must all plan to settle in Antarctica. Even if he is right that UEA’s emails were put in the public domain as a result of theft, he deserves as much respect for his reaction as any MP whose only response to the leak of Commons expenses claims had been that the newspaper that bought the disc with all the information had broken the law. As a matter of fact, no MP was quite so arrogant.
King’s old boss, Tony Blair, turned up in Copenhagen to give his take on the leaked emails. The former prime minister declared that they did not lessen by one jot what he called “the need for action” and added: “It is said that the science around climate change is not as certain as its proponents allege. It doesn’t need to be.” Blair is clearly not troubled by irony, since this approach is exactly the one that got us into such a mess over Saddam Hussein’s suppositious biological threat. The actual evidence was tenuous at the time — but to persuade the public of the need for action, Blair was prepared to say that it was watertight. For weapons of mass destruction, read weather of mass destruction.
Blair now argues that even if the science is less clear than is claimed by the climate catastrophists, we have to act because of the risks to humanity if their worst fears turn out to be well founded. This would make perfect sense if there were no risks attached to what he calls “action”, just as it would if there had been no lives put at risk by attacking Iraq. In fact, there are vast costs involved in the war against weather, which could actually cost lives. The highly respected climate economist Professor Richard Tol, a senior member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has said that the CO2 tax required to bring emissions down to the levels demanded by the IPCC would reduce global GDP by an amount that would equate — in 2100 — to $40 trillion (£25 trillion) a year. It’s pretty obvious, really: just as cheap energy has transformed the lives of millions for the better, it follows that reversing the process would have an opposite effect.
Carbon cap and trade, recommended by the EU as an alternative to tax, has its own malign effect. Just ask the 1,700 employees being made redundant at Corus’s steel plant in Redcar. The owners of Corus could receive up to $375m (£230m) in carbon credits for laying off those British workers. Then, if they switch production to a so-called clean Indian steel plant, Corus could also receive millions of dollars annually from the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism fund. The net effect of all that on the environment could be safely estimated as zero.
Gordon Brown, who seems to be embarking on a scorched earth economic policy in his final months in power, evidently regards this as worth it — he wants to go down in history as the man who saved the climate. Yet this government — or the next one — has been given a golden opportunity by the farce in Copenhagen: to abandon the carbon witch hunt altogether. If India, China, America, Brazil (and Uncle Tom Cobley and all) carry on with “business as usual”, then anything Europe does to cut its emissions is irrelevant, at best: it will cause pain and hardship for its own citizens to no purpose whatever.
So let’s toast the negotiators of Copenhagen. By failing so spectacularly, they have presented us with a wonderful Christmas present. All we have to do is open it.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
December 13, 2009
Untouchable: Blair to give Iraq War evidence in secret
By Jane Merrick and Brian Brady
Former PM was happy to discuss invasion with Fern Britton on TV show - but the Chilcot inquiry will hear his crucial testimony behind closed doors
Key parts of Tony Blair's evidence to the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War will be held in secret, sources close to the hearings revealed last night.
His conversations with President George Bush when he was prime minister, and crucial details of the decision-making process that led Britain into war, will fall under the scope of national security and the protection of Britain's relations with the US.
But there are also suggestions by well-placed sources that anything "interesting" will also be shrouded in secrecy, leaving his public appearance containing little more than is already known.
The revelation will dash hopes that Mr Blair will finally detail in public why he committed British troops to the disastrous military invasion on the basis of flimsy intelligence.
The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg last night condemned the move, saying if a significant proportion of Mr Blair's evidence were held in private then the public would "rightly conclude that the inquiry is simply too weak to give us the truth".
It followed Mr Blair's extraordinary admission to the TV presenter Fern Britton this weekend that he would have gone to war even if he had known Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.
He would have deployed "different arguments" to remove Saddam, Mr Blair said - undermining his long-held case that Saddam needed to be toppled because of the threat of WMD.
It will be seen as supremely ironic that Mr Blair made the confession in the cosy surroundings of a documentary about his religious beliefs, in Fern Britton Meets... to be broadcast on BBC1 today, yet the public will be denied the chance to see any difficult questioning of how he has changed his justification for war over the past seven years.
All of the evidence held behind closed doors is expected to be redacted from the Chilcot panel's final report on the war.
There are already concerns that Sir John Chilcot and his four fellow panellists have given the 27 witnesses who have so far appeared - mainly senior Foreign Office mandarins - an easy ride over their role in the war.
The former MI6 chief Sir John Scarlett, in evidence last week, distanced himself from the "overtly political" foreword to the September 2002 Downing Street dossier. Yet the panel failed to ask why it was that Mr Blair and Alastair Campbell were able to amend the document he was in charge of. Sir John will also give evidence in private.
The inquiry adjourns for the Christmas break this week. Mr Blair will appear in public in the new year, followed by a private session.
The IoS revealed earlier this year that Mr Blair lobbied Gordon Brown, through the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, for the inquiry to be held in private to prevent it turning into a "show trial".
After widespread uproar, the move was blocked and it was announced that all evidence would be public and televised. Yet a source close to the inquiry said yesterday that the "interesting" aspects of Mr Blair's evidence will still be heard behind closed doors.
The source said: "Anyone who thinks the public will have their day in court with Blair is wrong."
It is thought the move arose from a mutual agreement. Whitehall frequently uses national security as a reason to withhold documents from the public. The Freedom of Information Act also blocks the release of details where the effects of disclosure could damage the UK's relations with any other state or international organisation.
A spokesman for the inquiry said: Mr Blair would be appearing "very much in public". He added: "We have said right from the start that he will be a key figure in the inquiry. Mr Blair has said that he is ready and willing to give evidence in public."
Mr Clegg said last night: "It would be wholly unacceptable for any of Blair's testimony to be held in private, except that which could directly compromise national security. Tony Blair's breathtaking cynicism in stating that he would have found any old excuse to go to war simply underlines how vital it is that we hear his testimony in public.
"It is highly ironic that he is willing to speak publicly to Fern Britton but not to the inquiry set up to investigate the Iraq War."
Another source with knowledge of the inquiry said it was clear the "heavy stuff" was being saved for behind closed doors.
Hans Blix, head of the UN weapons inspectorate in 2003, said that Mr Blair's confession to Fern Britton had left a "strong impression of a lack of sincerity", adding that the WMD argument was a "figleaf".
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By H1NG0 ⋅ December 9, 2009 ⋅ Email This Post Email This Post ⋅ Print This Post Print This Post ⋅ Post a comment
Tagged ACT Police, crime, kambah, motor vehicle theft, theft
From the ACT Policing media release site:
ACT Policing is investigating an incident which occurred in Kambah yesterday (Thursday 3 December) at about 10.30pm.
A 28-year-old female was driving southbound along Namitjira Drive when she saw flashing red and blue lights coming from the vehicle behind her. She pulled her vehicle over near the intersection of Kambah Pool Road, believing it to be an unmarked police car.
A male approached the victim’s front window and asked her to exit and move to the rear of her vehicle. As the victim complied with the request, the male got into her vehicle and drove off in the direction of Drakeford Drive, followed by the vehicle from which he had originally exited.
The male offender is described as Caucasian, aged in his mid-20s, about 180cms (5’11”) tall, with a slim build and short light brown hair. He was wearing a black long sleeve collared shirt and black pants. The vehicle from which he initially exited is described as either a dark green Holden Commodore or Ford Falcon.
The victim’s stolen vehicle is a 2001 charcoal coloured Holden Commodore with ACT registration YDF15Q.
Anyone who is approached by a plain clothes police officer may request to see police identification or badge and warrant card to confirm their identity.
Police are appealing for anyone who may have seen a male or vehicle matching the above descriptions, or who knows the whereabouts of the stolen vehicle are asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or via the Crime Stoppers website at www.act.crimestoppers.com.au.
Media and Public Relations Ph: 02 6256 7460
Here is a fascinating lecture by Manly Palmer Hall. Watch, enjoy and learn!
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Yahoo!7 December 10, 2009, 12:11 pm
Experts in Norway have been left baffled by a mysterious spiral of light that has drawn excitement from UFO enthusiasts.
The giant pattern appeared in the pre-dawn sky in the country's north, and could be seen from hundreds of kilometres away.
The flash lasted for about two minutes.
A video was filmed by a worker at an army base. He said it started out as a small light in the sky, but grew into a light show that seemed to disappear into a black hole.
Kristoffer Rakoczy's video was closely examined by Norwegian Space and defence officials.
Witnesses described the light as a spinning spiral of bluish light, centred around a star.
Scientists believe it might be a rocket launch from Russia, but the Russians have denied it.
UFO fans insist it's the strongest proof yet that there is life in outer space.
Another theory is that the light came from a laser show, but reports suggest that the time of day, 8.45am local time, makes that unlikely.
Norwegian Space Centre Chief Scientist Erik Tandberg is quoted as saying,
"I agree with everyone in the science community that this light was the weirdest thing. I have never seen anything like this ever."
Friday, December 4, 2009
EVERYBODY needs to watch this short little documentary, so that they become aware of Codex Alimentarius and what to do about it.
How to Sell on Amazon and eBay
The sites are crowded with sellers, and new third-party marketplaces are cropping up all of the time. And the rules change frequently. EBay angered many longtime sellers in recent years by restricting payment options, changing seller feedback procedures and promoting fixed-price items over its original auction-style listings. Amazon’s Marketplace stopped accepting new sellers in some product categories and requires preapproval in others.
“Merely being listed on eBay or Amazon isn’t a sustainable business,” said Dennis Ceru, an entrepreneurship professor at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass. “There are a lot of people going down this path that are making little or no money.”
Building viable enterprises off these marketplaces requires sourcing inventory cost-effectively, researching each marketplace’s procedures and commissions, polishing customer-service practices and managing your online reputation.
Here’s how to get started:
Figure Out the Basics
Familiarize yourself with the various marketplaces, particularly the giants, eBay and Amazon.
Try listing a few items on each site, which usually costs less than a dollar. You will also have to pay a commission ranging anywhere from 6 percent to 20 percent of the final sales price of any items you sell. Trying out the marketplaces and their various sales methods will help you spot the differences quickly.
Figure out what to sell. For start-up sellers, new goods are typically more lucrative than used items because they are easier to price and list, according to Scot Wingo, chief executive of ChannelAdvisor, a company that helps small businesses sell on the Internet. Collectibles are more difficult to price and are better suited to being sold in auctions.
Identify product areas that interest you, and seek a niche. Rather than sell, say, digital cameras, you might sell a specialty tripod or other accessories that aren’t already sold abundantly online. Skip McGrath, an eBay Powerseller,, started with automatic pepper mills. Based in Anacortes, Wash., he decided to sell specialty kitchen gadgets on eBay. “They’re light, easy to ship and I’m one of the few sellers selling them,” he said. “If I had pots and pans, I’d have 200 competitors.”
Find a reliable wholesaler who offers low enough prices to generate high enough profit margins on resale. Mr. McGrath, who said he generated roughly $150,000 in annual revenue with his eBay store, buys his pepper mills from a Seattle-based wholesale dealer. Finding the right wholesaler can require an extensive search. Many sellers, Mr. McGrath said, source their products offline, through local wholesalers or flea markets. Comparison shopping can still be done online, using sites like Liquidation.com and eBay, which offer wholesale items in bulk.
Choose Your Marketplace
One key to success is identifying the marketplace where the buyers of your products shop. Experts say it’s better to master one site before expanding.
The fast-growing number of choices include Bonanzle.com, Overstock.com, and Etsy.com, a marketplace for handmade crafts. Even social-networking sites like Facebook offer their own marketplaces, although they tend to be geared more toward online classifieds than retail businesses.
In late August, Wal-Mart introduced Wal-Mart Marketplace, which works with other retailers to sell goods on Walmart.com. So far, however, only a few established retailers, including eBags, have been admitted to the program. Alibaba.com, operated by the Alibaba Group of China, is the largest online marketplace in the world but primarily serves audiences outside the United States. It’s a growing option, though, for American retailers looking to generate international business.
EBay and Amazon remain the primary choices for most American-based sellers because they offer far more shopper traffic, said Mr. Wingo of ChannelAdvisor. Amazon had about 54.5 million unique visitors in October, according to Nielsen Online, while eBay had about 51 million.
Still, comparing the big marketplaces can be tricky. Amazon has lured away many eBay sellers in recent years because it doesn’t charge listing fees, meaning sellers have no upfront risk. Overall seller fees on Amazon, however, are often comparable or even slightly higher than those on eBay.
Selling on Amazon is more automated and requires less buyer interaction. The site collects money from customers and deposits it in seller accounts. In most categories of goods, eBay requires that sellers accept payment only through electronic systems, including its own PayPal system. Amazon has no auctions — all items are sold at fixed prices — and automatically sets the shipping fees depending on the item being sold. EBay sellers can choose their own shipping fees and have more control over the look and timing of listings.
Mr. McGrath said that eBay was still the better option for selling clothes, toys and household goods. Books, music and other electronic media, he said, tend to do better on Amazon.
Write Clear, Detailed Listings
Once you have your product and your marketplace, you have to figure out how to stand out from the pack.
One way is to write listings and titles that lure prospective buyers by providing detailed, reliable information about the product and customer service. When possible, include at least one high-quality, attractive photo of every item being sold — more if the item is used or a collectible. Using keywords — words shoppers are likely to enter when searching for the product online — in the item headline and listing is also crucial.
Listings should fully and accurately describe the item’s condition, especially any defects, said Steve Lindhorst, an e-commerce consultant in Atascadero, Calif., and a former eBay University instructor. Include shipping fees and procedures, so buyers know what to expect. Sellers who offer next-day shipping or money-back guarantees, he added, can get a leg up.
Make sure the listing looks reliable. Proofread it carefully and don’t use too many exclamation points or language that suggests you’re inexperienced or unprofessional. “Stay positive, clear and concise — that’s really important,” Mr. Lindhorst said. “It’s all about making the buyer feel comfortable.”
Note that each marketplace displays listings in its search results differently. EBay’s “Best Match” search results, for instance, give higher placement to listings offering free shipping and sellers with high feedback ratings. That’s why many eBay sellers now wrap their shipping fees into the asking price on fixed-price items. Amazon, on the other hand, generally lists the lowest-priced products first. EBay lets sellers pay for “featured” listings that get better placement in search results.
Selling through auction requires more strategy. Sellers generally want their auction listings to expire at the time of week when the listed item tends to sell best. Mr. McGrath, for instance, found his pepper mills and other kitchen gadgets sold best on Sunday and Monday evenings.
Some third-party services like Terapeak.com and HammerTap.com give eBay sellers and other online auctioneers access to marketplace analytics that help them time and write their product listings. The sites show, for instance, the time of day certain products sell best on eBay and identify keywords to include in listings and titles. Monthly subscriptions start around $20 (HammerTap offers a 10-day free trial).
Watch Your Ratings
Maintaining a high seller rating is essential. Most marketplaces ask buyers to rate sellers on a five-star scale. One or two bad reviews can ruin a small seller’s rating, and some sites boot sellers whose positive ratings fall below a certain level.
Detailed and clear product listings can avert miscommunication between buyer and seller. Including contact information also encourages sellers to contact you directly with problems — rather than posting negative comments or ratings.
Belinda North, founder of SophiasStyle.com, began her children’s clothes business on eBay and now sells about 30 percent of her inventory on eBay and Amazon, while the rest is sold mostly from her own site.
Ms. North, based in Omaha, sends all of her buyers an e-mail message immediately after a purchase to let them know the order was received and when it will ship. She follows up by e-mail once the item is shipped and provides her contact information in case of questions or problems.
The e-mail messages, Ms. North said, reassure buyers and show that she’s committed to customer service. They also allow her to continue marketing to new customers and to direct them to her own Web site. “This is your chance to create a customer for life,” Ms. North added.
That kind of branding, experts say, is what separates people who sell online from people who build retail businesses online.
In Secret Meetings, Comcast Wooed G.E. and Won NBC
By ANDREW ROSS SORKIN and TIM ARANGO
The secret meeting was set for an early July afternoon in a condominium along the ninth hole of a golf course in Sun Valley, Idaho. Jeffrey R. Immelt, General Electric’s chief executive, arrived first, taking care to avoid being spotted by his own employee, Jeff Zucker, the chief executive of NBC Universal, who was mingling with other executives nearby.
Ralph J. Roberts, the 89-year-old co-founder of the cable giant Comcast, and its chief operating officer, Steve Burke, arrived 15 minutes later.
The gathering, which had been brokered by James B. Lee Jr., a vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase, was set up for one purpose: Mr. Immelt, who had resisted the urge to sell NBC for years, was finally ready to sell. For months, he had been in discussions with Mr. Roberts’s son, Brian, Comcast’s chief executive. But now, at the investment bank Allen & Company’s annual media conference — known for big deal-making — he wanted to hear it from the mouth of the company’s patriarch.
“Do you want to do this?” Mr. Immelt, dressed informally in a polo shirt, asked Mr. Roberts, who was wearing his trademark bow tie, and Mr. Burke, who was Mr. Immelt’s classmate at Harvard Business School.
“Yes,” Mr. Burke said.
Mr. Roberts, who founded Comcast in Tupelo, Miss., in 1963, said: “I’ve done a lot of deals in my life. Every deal has its time. This is the right time.”
On Thursday, G.E. is planning to finally announce what had leaked more than a month ago: it is selling a controlling stake in NBC Universal to Comcast, a deal that will once again reshape the media landscape.
The transaction, the largest during Mr. Immelt’s tenure as chief executive, will also reshape G.E., refocusing it into an industrial and financial conglomerate without the flash — and financial instability — of a television and film business. And in the process, he has been undoing much of the legacy of his predecessor, John F. Welch Jr.
The deal was a long time in the making and was filled with meetings at the Four Seasons hotel in Philadelphia, in New York City apartments and on helicopter rides. It also featured code names: G.E. was Green, NBC was Navy, Vivendi was Violet and Comcast was Crimson (because of the Harvard link).
More than a half-dozen executives involved in those discussions, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the deal had yet to be formally announced and because the negotiations were considered confidential, helped reconstruct a nearly yearlong dance between G.E. and Comcast.
Mr. Roberts had long wanted to control not just the pipes into people’s homes, but the television shows and movies that flow over them. But since 2004, when he sought and failed to buy the Walt Disney Company, the media industry’s economics had cratered. Broadcast television was suffering through ratings declines, and a falloff in DVD sales had dented profits in Hollywood. But cable channels, of which NBC Universal has many, were flourishing.
The prospect of a deal with G.E. began in earnest in the late afternoon on March 3 on the 48th floor of JPMorgan, when Mr. Roberts and Mr. Burke came to meet with that firm’s chief executive, Jamie Dimon, at the behest of Mr. Lee.
The meeting began with a general discussion of Comcast’s finances, but Mr. Roberts said the company did not need a bank to raise money. Instead, he changed direction by saying he had been pursuing Mr. Immelt about NBC but felt like he was getting nowhere. He felt that G.E. was in a vulnerable position and highlighted the fact that when NBC acquired the Weather Channel earlier in the year, it partnered with private equity instead of buying the network on its own. It was a sign, Mr. Roberts believed, that Mr. Immelt might not be fully committed to the television business. Mr. Lee said he was having breakfast the next morning with Mr. Immelt and agreed to mention Comcast’s interest.
A day later, Mr. Roberts was standing in the lobby of a Marriott hotel in Baltimore, where his daughter was playing in a squash tournament, when Mr. Immelt called his cellphone.
“I want you to know that I’m going to study this,” Mr. Immelt told Mr. Roberts. The two agreed that measures should be taken to ensure secrecy and that only a handful of executives should be informed. Mr. Roberts, who had the failed hostile takeover bid for Disney behind him, had one requirement: he said he would not participate in an auction.
“We’ve got to be monogamous,” he said.
Mr. Immelt’s evolution in thinking about NBC had come over the last year as his company’s fortunes were battered during the financial crisis. In the weeks after Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, Mr. Immelt had spent many hours on the phone with the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., worrying about the conglomerate’s fate.
In the beginning of 2009, as the stock market continued to plunge and G.E. hovered as low as $5.87 a share, Mr. Immelt listened to presentations about its assets at a management retreat, where his thoughts began to crystallize. NBC Universal, whose cable channels continued to do well but whose flagship broadcast network was deteriorating, no longer appeared to be core to the business and he thought his capital could be redeployed better elsewhere.
Comcast had also undertaken an internal review to consider where the company could grow by acquisition. It considered buying another cable company, a mobile phone company or even Facebook. At one point, it considered acquiring Viacom, which owns several cable networks but is unencumbered by a broadcast network, but Sumner M. Redstone, the controlling shareholder in Viacom, was not interested in selling.
As the spring wore on, G.E. and Comcast met repeatedly, trying to come up with a structure for the deal. By August, the broad points, in which Comcast would acquire 51 percent of the company, with G.E. holding 49 percent, were agreed upon. G.E. can begin selling its remaining stake back to NBC three and a half years after the deal closes at a 20 percent premium to the market value. However, it would have to share 50 percent of any increase in the value of NBC with Comcast.
The deal nearly fell apart several times. Once, when it seemed that it had been derailed over price and structure, Michael J. Angelakis, Comcast’s chief financial officer, flew to the summer home of Keith S. Sherin, G.E.’s chief financial officer, in Cape Cod and took him and his wife out to dinner to put the deal back on track. By the end of dinner, they had shaken hands.
The largest complication was that Vivendi, the French conglomerate that owned 20 percent of the company, could force G.E. to pursue an initial public offering if they could not come to terms on a deal.
Even within the last two weeks amid a constant stream of leaks, it appeared the deal could collapse. Vivendi wanted to value the business at $6.1 billion; G.E. wanted to value it at $5.5 billion. They ended up at $5.8 billion, but there was still a worry about what would happen if G.E.’s deal with Comcast were blocked by regulators.
Mr. Immelt, after attending the state dinner last month at the White House, flew to Paris to persuade Vivendi to complete the deal. An agreement was reached over the weekend after he offered to pay Vivendi $2 billion even if the Comcast deal collapsed.
For nearly six months, only a small cadre of G.E. and Comcast executives knew about the deal — nobody at NBC was ever told — and it had not leaked. On Sept. 30, several hours after the talks were disclosed to a tiny group of executives at NBC, the blockbuster talks appeared on TheWrap.com, a Hollywood news site.
“I’m telling you to be prepared for this to leak,” Mr. Sherin had told Mr. Angelakis earlier that day.
Comcast Gets NBC From G.E. in Deal That Reshapes TV
By TIM ARANGO
After nearly nine months of negotiations, Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, finally reached an agreement on Thursday to acquire NBC Universal from the General Electric Company.
The deal valued NBC Universal at about $30 billion.
The agreement will create a joint venture, with Comcast owning 51 percent and G.E. owning 49 percent. Comcast will contribute to the joint venture its stable of cable channels, which includes Versus, the Golf Channel and E Entertainment, worth about $7.25 billion, and will pay G.E. about $6.5 billion in cash, for a total of $13.75 billion. For now, the network will remain NBC Universal, but ultimately Comcast could decide to change the name.
Almost immediately, the transaction reshapes the nation’s entertainment industry, giving a cable provider a huge portfolio of new content, even as it raises the sector’s anxieties about the future.
In a joint statement announcing the agreement, Brian L. Roberts, the chief executive of Comcast, said the deal was “a perfect fit for Comcast and will allow us to become a leader in the development and distribution of multiplatform ‘anytime, anywhere’ media that American consumers are demanding.” The deal’s genesis lies in frequent flirtations over the last several years between Comcast and General Electric, although serious talks began in March. For Comcast, the purchase is the realization of its long-held ambition to be a major producer of television shows and movies.
News of the negotiations broke in late September, and in the ensuing weeks G.E. worked to resolve details with Comcast, while simultaneously negotiating to buy out a 20 percent stake in NBC Universal held by Vivendi, the French telecommunications conglomerate. It was this last part that proved difficult.
G.E. and Comcast’s part of the transaction has essentially been complete for weeks, but the final step was held up by the negotiations between G.E. and Vivendi. Vivendi will receive about $5.8 billion for its stake.
Jeff Zucker, the current head of NBC Universal, will stay on as chief executive and would report to the chief operating officer of Comcast, Stephen B. Burke. In a statement released by the companies Thursday morning, Mr. Zucker called the deal the “start of a new era” for NBC.
The deal could take up to 18 months to pass regulatory muster. Although Comcast is based in Philadelphia, NBC’s headquarters will remain in New York, the joint release said.
Most of NBC’s value is in its lucrative cable channels — USA, Bravo, SyFy, CNBC and MSNBC. The NBC network and Universal Studios will comprise only a small portion of the joint venture’s cash flow.
In some respects, G.E.’s decision to sell reflects the deteriorating state of the broadcast television industry, and a desire to exit a business that never quite fit well with its industrial side.
NBC has been mired in fourth place among the major broadcast networks, and the economics of the broadcast television business has deteriorated in recent years amid declining overall ratings and a decline in advertising. By contrast, cable channels have continued to thrive because they rely on a steady stream of subscriber fees from cable companies, such as Comcast.
Mr. Roberts, the Comcast chief executive, failed in 2004 with a hostile takeover bid for the Walt Disney Company. Since then, the company has taken a less ambitious approach to content, buying a stake in MGM and building up smaller cable channels and regional sports networks.
Shortly after news of the deal leaked in September, G.E. and Comcast signed a standstill agreement, which effectively blocked other bidders from entering the fray. Previously, G.E. had sought to entice Time Warner. More recently Rupert Murdoch, who controls the News Corporation, considered making an offer for NBC Universal.
An earlier version of this article mischaracterized a financial aspect of the deal. The agreement valued NBC Universal at $30 billion, that was not the value of deal itself.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
BREAKING: SCOTT FENSTERMAKER, THE 9/11 LAWYER, SPEAKS OUT: JUDGES ARE BREAKING THE LAW, DETAINEES NOT GETTING LAWYERS THEY WANT
Scott Fenstermaker has become the lightning rod for 9/11. He is the only defense lawyer mentioned in the upcoming trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-conspirators. Although he won’t be defending them in court, he’s been pilloried by the press for daring to suggest that these detainees have any legal rights.
I called him this weekend, and asked him why.
Scott Fenstermaker has represented Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali in various legal proceedings at Guantanamo Bay. Mr. Ali stands accused of conspiracy, murder, destruction of property, hijacking, and terrorism for his part in the September 11th attacks. I could not understand why Mr. Fenstermaker would not defend his client in court, so I began the interview by asking him to clarify this:
TP: Why won’t you represent Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali when he stands trial in New York for the September 11th attacks?
SF: The government would not let me represent him.
TP: Why not?
SF: Well, that’s a good question. The government goes crazy every time the detainees want me to represent them, and the government doesn’t like it.
TP: How does the government prevent you from representing the detainees?
SF: The government wants to control who represents the detainees. The government not only wants to, but it is. The government does this by controlling the judges. The judges are doing exactly what the government wants them to do in these cases. The judges ask what the government wants them to do, and then they do it.
Mr. Fenstermaker flew to Guantanamo Bay when he found out that Ali and four other detainees would stand trial in Federal Court for the 9/11 attacks. On November 21st he told the New York Times that Mr. Ali and his co-defendants will plead not guilty “so they can have a trial and try to get their message out”. Thus began last week’s media circus.
Bill O’Reilly called him “a weasel” on national television. David Horowitz anointed him a member of the “traitor class”. Even the highbrow Huffington Post accused Mr. Fenstermaker of “bringing his own politics to the case”.
Sam Stein wrote the hit piece for the Huffington Post. He quoted “an employee with an NGO working on national security issues”. But he did not name this mysterious employee, or the Non-Government Organization.
Stein’s source said that “Fenstermaker was causing a lot of trouble and was in no way qualified to be representing these guys but had managed to set up a relationship with these detainees”. I read parts of Stein’s essay to Mr. Fenstermaker, and he had no doubt about the NGO.
TP: Who is the Non Government Organization?
SF: The American Civil Liberties Union. They’re working with the government and the judges involved in the cases. The detainees know that the government appointed counsel is working to prosecute.
TP: You mean their Government appointed legal defenders would be working to convict them?
SF: Yes, that’s why they’ve rejected assigned counsel.
TP: Is that why they are going to represent themselves at trial?
In my opinion, this is why the Obama administration is so confident these alleged 9/11 conspirators will be convicted and sentenced to death. Since they will be representing themselves, the trial will be a sham, a show for the American People.
I asked Scott Fenstermaker a final series of questions to clarify his legal representation of Mr. Ali and the other defendants at the upcoming trial.
TP: Did you ask Mr Ali if you could represent him at the trial in New York?
TP: Do you plan to ask Mr Ali if you could represent him?
TP: What if Mr. Ali or one of the other defendants asks you to defend them in court?
SF: I would refuse to do it.
SF: Because I think the international community may one day open up a war crimes investigation into the war on terror, and a lot of these judges and lawyers may be prosecuted themselves.
SF: It’s illegal, what we’re doing with these detainees.