Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't let your kids lick their books

Don't let your kids lick their books.
Or even touch them if the books are printed in China.

Among the huge Mattel toy recalls recently are the SpongeBob Square Pants journals. These may be the ones I saw mentioned on television that had spiral bindings coated with lead paint.

But what about all children's books printed in China? If the Chinese contractors and subcontractors are using lead in paint products to save money, are Chinese printers using cheaper printing inks with lead in them to print the huge amount of children's books printed in China for household name American book publishers?

I've been thinking more about this lately as I'm due to be a first-time grandfather in March 2008. When at a bookstore to buy books for children, parents and grandparents should examine each book's copyright page or back cover. If you read "Printed in China," put it back. Especially if it has a spiral binding. Then wash your hands.

Many years ago, for an American book to be eligible to be copyrighted in this country, it had to be printed in the USA. It costs publishers more to print their books, especially full color children's books, in this country than overseas. That is why American book publishers outsource to China. When we published The Macaroon Moon: A Book of Poems and Rhymes for Children in 2004 (ISBN: 978-0-913337-51-6), competing bids from a printer with plants in both New Jersey and China showed that we could print the book in China for $3,700 less than in New Jersey. We still chose the New Jersey plant.

The following statement appears on The Macaroon Moon's copyright page:

"Printed in the United States of America by American Printing craftsmen and craftswomen, as per the policy of Southfarm Press, Publisher to support American vendors and workers."

Considering the risks of outsourcing the manufacture of toys and books overseas, especially China, don't you wish that statement appeared in all children's books manufactured for American children?--Walter Haan,

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

O. J. Simpson, Laura Bush and Patty Rowland

You're probably wondering what O. J. Simpson, Laura Bush and Patty Rowland could have in common. First, for all of you who don't live in Connecticut, let me explain that Patty Rowland is the former first lady of Connecticut. Her husband was forced to resign some years ago as Governor of Connecticut and he spent a year in prison on corruption charges.

What they have in common is that the first two have written books to be published and Rowland has already had her book published. All three are celebrities and are horning their way into or have already horned their way into book publishing. Rowland's book is a children's book as is the proposed book by Laura Bush and her soon to be married daughter, Jenna. O. J. Simpson's book, If I Did It is not for children. It may not be for anyone.

Beaufort Books picked up the O. J. Simpson book after it was rejected by Regan Books and its owner, Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch also owns the Fox Television Network, The New York Post and a bunch of other media properties. Murdoch thought the book to be unsuitable for publication as some believe the book is Simpson's confession of the murder of his wife and Ron Goldman. You remember all of this.

Now Barnes & Noble says they won't stock the Beaufort edition in its traditional stores if published. Borders stores, and will carry the book. However you will be able to special order the Simpson book at a Barnes & Noble traditional store. Good luck, Beaufort Books, in marketing what many consider offensive and trashy.

When Patty Rowland was first lady of Connecticut, she published a children's book. But in the scandals that ended her husband John's administration and put him behind bars, it came out that one of the Governor's supporters had paid Patty over $40,000 to have her book published. The book sank like a stone. And by the way, it doesn't cost that much to publish a children's book. It can be done for $20,000, including paying the illustrator and paying for full color printing. I know because I've published a hardcover children's book.

Then we come to the Bush family. On August 9th, Harper Collins said that it had acquired the rights to a children's book, untitled as of this writing, by First Lady Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna.

The Bush book is supposedly set in a school and depicts a mischievous boy who likes to do anything except read. The story is supposedly based on Laura's and Jenna's experiences as teachers.

On the same day of the HC announcement of the Bush book, Truthout published a report titled, "New Orleans Children Fighting for the Right to Learn." The article is by Bill Quigley. It seems that about half of the nearly 30,000 children enrolling in New Orleans schools this fall have been enrolled in special public schools. Most are called Charter Schools. These schools have been given tens of millions of our dollars by the Federal government in extra money, over and above state and city money, to set up and operate.

These special public charter schools are not open to all students and are very selective about who they let in. Laura's husband may have been slow to react to Hurricane Katrina and the suffering of New Orleans, but he moved like Katrina's winds after Katrina to convert New Orleans public schools to public charter schools that have the power to discriminate in selecting their students.

So what has happened to the other half of the New Orleans student population? Over 10,000 children have been assigned to a one-year-experiment in public education by Louisiana called the "Recovery School District" (RSD) program. This program is way underfunded resulting in not enough teachers and books. One RSD school has more guards signed up for the children than teachers!

So, on the same day, August 9th, we learned the Bush administration has set up a two tier discriminatory educational system in New Orleans and that Laura Bush, so concerned about education, is publishing a children's book! The hypocracy of the Bush Family is on display.

As I reported in an earlier blog posting, less books are being published in this country. And it seems that a greater proportion of those books being published are being authored by celebrities, such as O. J., Patty, and Laura.

Now all we need is for Barbara Bush (the President's white haired, empty-headed mom) to show up at an RSD school in New Orleans and declare, "See. They're better off now." Like she did in Houston talking about the Katrina refugees.

Everyone should read Bill Quigley's August 9th Truthout Report. I've barely broken the surface here. And no one should buy Laura and Jenna's book. It'll probably be printed in China anyway, helping to put American book printers out of business.--Walter Haan,

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bull from President Bush supports more sales of Red Bull to our troops

The past eight days have been bad for our armed forces and veterans. It also brought more bad news for the publishing industry.

General David Petraeus told a congressional delegation visiting the Middle East that success in Iraq will require an American military presence there for about ten years. Ten years!

The Observer newspaper in Britain ran an article some days ago about how fatique is crippling the US Army in Iraq: "Exhaustion and combat stress are besieging US troops in Iraq as they battle with a new type of warfare. Some even rely on Red Bull to get through the day. As desertions and absences increase, the military is struggling to cope with the crisis."

Meanwhile the US Army has reported that it made its recruitment goal for June. But then on August 10th a Bush war advisor says the draft is worth a look. In other words, though they met a recent recruitment goal, they still want more cannon fodder from the American Heartland to keep the Iraq War going.

Reports indicate that the war in Afghanistan is going badly because we diverted our military resources from that country to Iraq. The British have complained that our bully tactics in Afghanistan are making it difficult to win the minds of the people there. And don't forget that Afghanistan is where Bin Laden, the mass murderer of 9/11 is headquartered. Not in Iraq, never in Iraq.

And then our beloved President's administration fights a democratic party plan led by Senator Jim Webb of Virginia to boost school aid for our veterans. Those who used Red Bull to get through the day in Baghdad need shovels to get through more "Bush Shit" when discharged from active duty.

During World War II the historic 1944 G.I. Bill was devised and it put eight million US soldiers through college after the war. Historians now credit the bill as fueling the expansion of America's middle class in the post-war era. World War II and Korean veterans benefited from having the government pay every penny of veterans' educational costs, from tuition at a public university to books, housing and a monthly stipend.

Under current law, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan can expect to receive only enough to pay 75 percent of their tuition costs. To pay our veterans more, the proposal to increase benefits would make "administration of this program cumbersome," according to Keith Wilson, the VA official who is in charge of VA education benefits. Funny, we did it in the forties and fifties and it wasn't too cumbersome.

Regarding news in the publishing industry, book sales fell over 6% in June, continuing a downward spiral in overall book sales. And Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna are going to publish a children's book!!! This absurb fact requires a separate blog posting devoted to it alone. Look for it shortly here.--Walter Haan,

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Pretend soldiers

I get a lot of things military in the mail. In a military magazine that was sent me recently I saw an ad for "Custom Engraved Dog Tags." The ad also offered stainless or anodized aluminum military license plates. A catalog from Medals of America boasts, "Your Catalog for All U.S. Military Awards." Gee, I thought dog tags and medals earned were only issued by the branches of our military. But it seems anyone can purchase these things, and as the military awards catalog says, "W Haan: You are Pre-Approved for a Medals of America 3 months to pay. See page 31 to learn more." I turned to page 31 and noticed that anyone can buy any medal he wants, whether earned or not.

In my own case, though I made Sergeant E-5 in less than two years in the US Army, 1965-66, I don't remember receiving any medals. But the catalog says I can award myself any medal I want. I didn't do anything really extraordinary to earn any. I was a terrible shot with my M-14 so no sharpshooter medal for me. I was commended for choking and strangling enemy soldiers however, which was useful because I obviously couldn't stop them with my rifle while they were charging me. I don't believe the US Army issues a choking and strangling medal. But maybe the catalog does?

Should just anybody be allowed to buy military medals without documentation showing they earned the medals? Should anybody be allowed to buy military type dog tags whether they were in the military or not? I still have my original dog tags and am proud of how I earned them. I served. Should just anyone be allowed to buy a stainless steel license plate for his car or truck that indicates the occupant was a soldier? Did anyone check for the buyer's Department of Defense records first? There are a lot of people out there that buy this stuff so they can pretend they were soldiers or are veterans.

We've always had a wonderful military because of the men and women that were and are members of it. Do soldiers and veterans really want to see what they earned hawked in the marketplace for any jerk to buy? This veteran doesn't like it.

A note about my post from last week that mentioned book store sales lagging. Not only that, but US publishers are publishing fewer books. The last statistic I saw indicated that we (all US book publishers, big and small) published 190,078 books in 2004 and 172,000 books in 2005. That's a decrease of almost 10%. Southfarm Press ( published two books in 2004 and one in 2005. However, we published seven titles in 2006 and will publish a total of five in 2007.--Walter Haan,