Looking back at the week in news

An icon of the vinyl era
succumbs to inevitable

It finally happened. We killed off Columbia House, which filed for bankruptcy protection this week.

For decades starting in the 1950s, Columbia House was the go-to place for music lovers to start or augment their record collections through a ridiculous offer by which consumers could purchase 12 albums for just a penny via something called "the mail."

You didn’t even need to be 18 or have a credit card. That made it the perfect vehicle for discerning young people to pick up that Iron Butterfly or Bill Cosby album in the days when the latter was known as the nation’s funnyman rather than the nation’s pervert.

It was the original too-good-to-be true deal, except it was true, and Columbia House persevered through the era of vinyl, eight-track, cassette, CDs, VHS and DVDs.

When we say "we" killed off Columbia House, we mean everybody who famously failed to live up to the back end of the deal – the catch, if you will – which required club "members" to buy a set number of albums at the regular price after the freebies arrived.

There is a rumor – you might have heard it as a "friend of a friend of a friend" story – that somebody once bought all of the albums that were required.

That’s probably just an urban legend, even if it does seem more credible than the notion that a company would deliver a dozen albums to your house for just a penny.

We keep hoping that deal might one day show up on one of those streaming music sites – you know, the ones that really killed off Columbia House.

More than five decades later, Old Glory flies in Cuba again

It doesn’t quite rank up there with the collapse of the former Soviet Union or the razing of the Berlin Wall, but it’s in the same conversation when discussing things people of a certain age never thought they’d see in their lifetimes.

They raised an American flag over a U.S. Embassy in Cuba this week for the first time in 54 years.

President Dwight Eisenhower shut down the embassy in 1961 after Cuba’s dictator, Fidel Castro, opted to hitch his country’s economic and political wagon to the Soviet Union after flirting with the U.S.

That was an era when the Cold War was heating up and only five years after Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev famously warned western ambassadors that, "We will bury you."

Despite what some saber-rattlers would like to think, there was nothing to be gained by continuing a campaign of ill will between the countries that was rooted in a different era.

Bootstraps, cement shoes and the cost of college

Nobody disagrees that the degree of debt facing graduating college students is unhealthy. It’s a drag on the economy when young people leave school burdened by college loan payments that are, in reality, tantamount to having all the drawbacks of a mortgage with none of the benefits of a house.

College graduates from New Hampshire carry the highest average student debt in the country, which is why it made sense for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to come to the state to announce her plan to make college more affordable.

By contrast, the topic never came up when Republicans debated in Cleveland last week.

It should have.

Having more of the nation’s young people continue their education after high school is good business and good for business.

Think of it this way: If we want people to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, we should at least give them boots.

Forcing people to graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in debt is like making them jump into the employment pool wearing cement shoes.