Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Is It Still Obama’s Economy?

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but the stock market is actually doing pretty well:
Wall Street has ended a tumultuous March on a high note, managing its first winning month this year and its best monthly performance in nearly seven years.

Stocks finished off their earlier highs on Tuesday but resumed a three-week rally that has brought the Dow Jones industrials up a total of 16 percent since hitting their lowest level in 12 years on March 9.

The Dow rose 7.7 percent overall in March, its biggest monthly gain since October 2002.

Wow. Hey wingnuts, does that mean it’s still "Obama’s economy?” Or are we now going to hear about how Bush’s tax cuts are finally showing results?

I’m just curious as to which talking point now applies, that’s all.

Of course, roller coaster rides in the stock market never portend good economic news. It’s a sign of instability. We’ll still have some big up days and we’ll have some big downers. But as any good FA knows, the stock market looks forward. A strong month is a positive statement about the future.

We’ll be pulling out of this thing a lot sooner than many expected, I think. Great Depression? Nah.

Lamar Alexander: Wanker of the Day

Wow, I always thought Lamar Alexander was supposed to be some kind of moderate. But in yesterday’s Nashville City Paper, he attacked President Obama with the emptiest of partisan rhetoric, telling him to focus on the economy instead of his NCAA bracket, and telling him not to do too much in these first few months because ... well, he didn’t explain that part. He just said the economy was important, so quit worrying about all that other stuff like healthcare and energy independence and education.

For the record, the commentary was basically a repeat of a statement Alexander made on the senate floor at the beginning of March.

So let’s see, where have we heard this one before? Oh, yeah. Never mind, it’s just another wingnut talking point. I thought Lamar! was supposed to be above that sort of stuff, but apparently not.

Welcome to the wingnut party, Senator. Hope you enjoy the Kool-Aid and please don’t hog the Cheetos at the refreshment table.

I know it’s really a shock to finally have a president who can walk and chew gum at the same time. A leader who doesn’t run off to presidential retreats at Camp David, Crawford, or Kennebunkport, in between afternoons spent mountain biking. That was our last president, who took more vacations than any of his predecessors, including during times of economic crisis, war, and natural disasters. I don’t recall Sen. Alexander scolding President Bush to get back to work.

Thankfully during this time of crisis we have a president who understands that fixing the economy requires addressing a broad range of interrelated issues, and the flow of credit is just one component of that. Fixing the economy involves addressing a lot of things that were ignored over the past eight years, things that are drains on our economy and threaten our economic future.

You know, things like healthcare, energy independence, and education. Anyone out there think Sen. Alexander doesn’t get that?

Of course he does. I don’t for a moment think Lamar! is that clueless. I think the Republican’ts are simply at a loss as to how to effectively put the brakes on Obama’s agenda--the agenda which the American people elected him, overwhelmingly, to implement. So by peddling this false “ooooh he’s doing too much, he’s not focused on the crisis at hand” meme, they’re hoping to hit upon a winning talking point that will derail the Obama Administration.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Here’s a thought for Sen. Alexander. Instead of wasting your time recycling wingnut talking points in the local newspaper, why don’t you and your colleagues roll up your sleeves and offer some ideas of your own to fix the economy? Something besides, you know, tax cuts for the wealthy. We’ve seen how well that works.

I'd like Senator Alexander to stop playing partisan games. People don't have time for this nonsense. We're not stupid, and we know President Obama inherited a huge mess which was made on Sen. Alexander's watch.

And I invite you to give Sen. Alexander a call and let him know what you think of his little commentary: 202-224-4944

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pictures From Earth Hour

How cool is this? Check out these pictures from cities around the world that participated in Earth Hour. Click on the pics to watch the lights fade.

Although we know that Al Gore is still fat, I think it’s way cool that Nashville participated in an event along with cities like Las Vegas, Nev.; Stockholm, Sweden; Jakarta, Indonesia; Beijing and Hong Kong, China; Athens, Greece; etc. etc.

Ben Stein Is An Idiot

It shouldn’t take a little ol’ blogger from Nashville, Tennessee to explain the obvious to a great, big, important person like Ben Stein. But in yesterday’s New York Times column, Stein said something about the Jon Stewart-Jim Cramer contretemps that was so stunningly stupid, so obviously missing the point, and that same stupidity was repeated by Chris at TV Newser, so I guess I'll have to point out the obvious.

Stein wrote this:
During the colloquy, Mr. Stewart lambasted Mr. Cramer as failing to anticipate events and inform his audience about those events.


No, no no. Jon Stewart was not criticizing Jim Cramer for failing to anticipate events. He was criticizing Jim Cramer and the rest of the business press for knowing the system is gamed, and not informing the public. For being willing participants in a fraudulent scheme that stacks the deck against average investors--people who have far more at stake and far more to lose than Wall Street bigwigs who basically gamble with other people’s money.

I shouldn’t be shocked that Ben Stein doesn’t get that. He’s part of that gamed system, after all.

Still, we aren’t stupid, Mr. Stein. You, on the other hand, obviously think we are.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

China Syndrome

My Congress Critter, Jim Cooper, and Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas have concocted a new carbon cap-and-trade scheme called The Safe Markets Development Act:
 The Safe Markets Development Act provides an innovative auction mechanism for cap-and-trade legislation that guarantees science-based reductions of carbon pollution while ensuring market stability.  The bill would rely upon an independent Board to determine the annual allowance prices necessary to meet emissions targets from 2012 to 2020. The U.S. Treasury Department would conduct quarterly allowance auctions designed to maintain prices determined by the Board. The Board must conduct an annual review of its success in meeting the emissions goals and adjust the forecasted prices to ensure we stay on track to meet the 2020 emissions goal.

Let me be the first to say: huh?

Here’s a thought: how about instead of all of this cap-and-trade crap, we just resolve to cut greenhouse gas emissions across the board? I know, that would be far too easy. I just don’t understand all of this cap-and-trade sleight of hand. It seems like the more complicated we make it, the easier it will be for corporations to avoid cutting their carbon emissions.

A couple of weeks ago, China's Department of Climate Change said countries that import goods made in polluting Chinese factories are responsible for China’s pollution:

Beijing argues that rich nations buying Chinese goods bear responsibility for the estimated 15-25% of China's carbon emissions that are created by its production of exports.

He argued that it was unfair to put the highest burden on China.

"We are at the low end of the production line for the global economy," he said.

"We produce products and these products are consumed by other countries, especially the developed countries. This share of emissions should be taken by the consumers but not the producers," he said.

So, it’s all our fault that China pollutes its corner of the globe? I don’t think so.

Here’s an idea. If the Chinese don’t want to manufacture goods without poisoning their air, water and soil, there are a lot of shuttered American factories that would love to show those folks how it’s done.

Folks like these companies.

Is this protectionism? Maybe. I never understood why a little protectionism is supposed to be such a bad thing. What’s wrong with protecting jobs in America? Maybe if we’d been more worried about protecting American jobs these past 10 years, and less worried about protecting the profit margin of multinational corporations, we wouldn’t be in this huge mess right now.

This Geography of Recession map is startling. Perry County, TN, has 27.3% unemployment; there’s 18.6% in Lauderdale County. Multinational corporations paid no price for shuttering their American factories in communities like these, shipping production to China, and taking advantage of China’s lax environmental, workplace, and human rights standards.

Free marketers say this is why environmental laws and unions are a bad thing for American manufacturing. I say, hell no. The solution is not for America to become more like China, where workers are treated like slaves and factories pollute with impunity. We’ve already been down that road and learned those lessons.

China needs to get a clue. I have no problem with the idea of a "pollution tax" on imported goods. If China doesn't like it, they can stop polluting at their factories. If they can't do it, or are unwilling to do it, then we can manufacture those goods right here and show them how. As the price of oil rises, we'll be doing more of it closer to home anyway.

Does this mean prices will go up? Sure it does. But you're going to pay anyway, one way or the other. You'll pay with unpredictable weather, flooding, drought, pollution-related health issues, etc. Or you can pay a little more for piece of furniture or a T-shirt.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

No Shit, Sherlock! Award

The No Shit, Sherlock! Award goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who lamented confirming Chief Justice John Roberts:
"Roberts didn't tell us the truth. At least Alito told us who he was," Reid said. [...]

Reid's comments reflect Democratic concerns that Roberts presented himself as a neutral arbiter of the law but has wielded a relentlessly conservative agenda. Republicans reject the attacks, saying Roberts has been a fair judge and has been consistent in his opinions.

Reid said three and a half years ago that Roberts had left "too many unanswered questions," and was concerned about his views on civil rights, immigration and other matters. Roberts was confirmed by a 78 to 22 vote.

Of course, I remember Howard Dean lamenting Roberts’ lack of candor at the time, and all of us DFH’s saying Dems should filibuster and take then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist up on his “nuclear option” threats (wouldn’t Reid love to have that precedent now?), and those same damn moderates like Leiberloser saying Roberts wasn’t “extremist” so it would all be okay.

From the memory hole:

"This is a credible nominee, and not one that - as far as we know now - has a record that in any sense could be described as extremist," said Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, after a breakfast session with the Gang of 14, a bipartisan group that helped broker a deal in May to avert a Senate showdown over judicial nominees.


"At the end of the hearings we do not anticipate anything that would be a stickler, that would rise to the level of extraordinary circumstances," said another Democrat, Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska, invoking the criteria that the group had agreed would warrant a filibuster. "But you can't come to that conclusion until the end of the entire process."

Yeah, well, how do you like him now? Not so much.

Of course Roberts is an extremist, we all knew it at the time, we all tried to call attention to his extremist view that equal pay for women was “radical” not to mention his documented, radical views on abortion.

But you didn’t listen to us, Sen. Reid. You didn’t listen then and you aren’t listening now as you coddle your DINO-dogs like Lieberman, especially after he kicked the Democratic Party in the face and campaigned against our current president.

And now you’re surprised that a conservative ideologue who was nominated for a lifetime position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a post the conservatives have been salivating over for 20 years or more, lied about how extremist his views truly are?

Pffft. Harry Reid, you’re an idiot. Kick these DINO-dogs to the curb, already.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Party Pooper

Via Sean Braisted, Bill Freeman is no longer TNDP chair:
"As I've made fund-raising calls in the last month, several long-time donors have expressed their concern to me that Governor Bredesen was not as supportive of me as I had hoped," Freeman said. "By resigning now, I hope I can take away some of the criticism the Party has faced recently and give Chip Forrester a better shot at rebuilding a relationship with the Governor and taking the Party in the direction that it needs to go."

If you’re late to the game, my previous posts on Freeman are here.

Freeman donated to Republicans and voted for Republicans. He shouldn’t have been TNDP treasurer to begin with. If he’d like to help out the TN Democrats because he now believes in Democratic Party principles, I hope he holds a nice, expensive fundraiser like all of those ones he attended for the TNGOP.

Resigning was the right call. Now let's work to rebuild the TNDP. Chip: my check is in the mail.

I Guess The Military Isn’t Big Government

Sarah Palin confuses the hell out of me. How does she take so many different positions on the same issue and not get whiplash?

It’s a neat trick to earn kudos among the conservative base for refusing federal stimulus money, then take the money anyway, all while blaming the media for “mischaracterizing” her position. It’s all so confusing.

Meanwhile, I noticed this little gem from a couple of weeks ago:
3/16/2009 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --Personnel from Eielson were part of a team that participated in a joint Air Force, Army and Navy medical and dental exercise in 11 of Western Alaska's most remote villages March 6 through 15, bringing no-cost health care and veterinary support to underserved populations in the Yukon-Kuskokwin Delta region as part of the 15th annual Operation Arctic Care. 

I’m thrilled our military is providing this kind of care to remote villages in Alaska, which desperately need it. I’m just curious if Gov. Palin considers this super-scary Canadian-style DFH socialized/commie bastard red healthcare.

Isn’t this a government giveaway? An “experiment in socialism”?

I guess not. If it comes with a military escort, I guess it’s OK.

Good to know.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Still Embarrassed By My Fellow Tennesseeans

I honestly don’t understand what is wrong with Rep. Brenda Gilmore's resolution expressing regret for slavery and segregation in Tennessee. Dumbass Republicans, on the other hand, do.

Here’s the meat of the resolution:
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ONE HUNDRED SIXTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, THE SENATE CONCURRING, that the General Assembly acknowledges with profound regret the fundamental injustice, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and the discrimination that was slavery's legacy.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this body expresses our deepest sympathies and solemn apology for the official acts that sanctioned and perpetuated the denial of basic human rights and dignity to fellow human beings.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage all Tennesseans to reflect upon the shameful past that was slavery, so that such human tragedies will neither be forgotten nor repeated.

Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga made a point of casting the sole “no” vote moving this resolution out of subcommittee:

McCormick: I voted no because it's something that happened 160 years ago. I wasn't alive when we had slavery so I didn't feel like I should apologize on behalf of the people of Tennessee. I do regret that it happened. It was a horrible, horrible thing. But I didn't have anything to do with it, so that's why I voted against it.

Q: Do you anticipate other lawmakers having the same reservations?

McCormick: Sure, I think so. In no way do I think it was right that we did that thing, I say we, but our ancestors did that thing. I don't know that mine in particular did. So it's kinda hard for me to apologize on behalf of people who have been dead for 100 years.

Wow, what a cornucopia of stupid. You’re not “apologizing on behalf” of people who lived 100 years ago. You’re apologizing on behalf of yourself, alive today, in 2009.

McCormick says, “In no way do I think it was right that we did that thing.” So, you know, if you’re in agreement that slavery was a bad thing, then what’s the problem?

Furthermore, the resolution doesn’t apologize just for slavery but also for racial segregation. That is certainly a modern phenomenon. I remember that, and we’re still living with the effects of that.

We always hear the “I wasn’t alive then/my ancestors didn’t own slaves/my people were still in Germany then/yada yada” excuse from wingnuts when issues like apologizing for slavery comes up. That attitude just proves exactly why we need a resolution of this kind. Can you understand: it’s not about you, it’s about we.

Here’s a news flash: this country was built on the backs of cheap labor, and that includes slavery. It’s how we developed our economy. It’s how we became who we are. If you’re living in America in 2009 then you are reaping the rewards of slavery. That’s just American history. Acknowledging that debt, professing regret and apologizing for it and the abuses that were a result of that system, makes sense.

We live our history every day, people. What happened before laid the groundwork for where we are now.

Meanwhile, go vote in WSMV’s online poll (scroll to the bottom of the page). Last time I checked, 84% agreed with the racists. How embarrassing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Political Ill Will

Digby had one of her amazingly prescient posts up yesterday about the bank bailout plan. And folks, if Digby says we’re screwed, believe it.

The part that resonated with me is here at the very end:
I don't believe the congress is the problem. And let's just say that if it is, if the majorities the Democrats have, the amount of popular outrage and the magnitude of the crisis we face aren't enough to push through real reform of the financial sector in the face of Wall Street screeching, then let's kiss health care and everything else goodbye. If the political will isn't there for something this vital, it's not there for anything and we are simply screwed.

And voila, today we have the Blue Dogs stamping their feet and gnashing their teeth at key provisions of the Obama budget. They are ready to scrap domestic spending and Obama’s signature tax cut and are giving ammo to Republicans like Eric Cantor, who now claims the Obama budget

"is so far out of the mainstream" that even members of Obama's own party are reluctant to support it.

Wait, last I checked Republicans loved loved loved tax cuts. Do they only like the kind that aren’t paid for in the budget? WTF?

So let’s head back over to Hullabaloo, where dday explains it for us:

But Obama paid for that tax cut in his budget. It was tied to revenue from a cap and trade plan. The reason the tax cut is out has nothing to do with expense, but because cap and trade has been excised. Kent Conrad and the Axis of Centrism just don't want to deal with climate change in a meaningful and substantive way, which will lead to more extreme weather, loss of snowpack, more hardship for farming, the loss of a great deal of the American coastline, and untold disaster funding needs.

This is how the government spends money in the name of saving it. And this is how "fiscal responsibility" is used as a cover to block progress.

So it appears there is no political will after all. And Digby is right: we’re screwed.

Hey, Blue Dogs: thanks for nothing. Don’t think we won’t remember this when you’re up for re-election.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Looking For Rage In All The Wrong Places


Hilarious. One of the jokers at Clownhall can't muster any populist rage, either.


Over at Swampland, both Amy Sullivan and Joe Klein question just how “angry” people really are at Wall Street. Sure, they’re angry ... but are they really, super duper angry?

Klein writes:
So, yes, people are "angry" at Wall Street. They are also "angry" at Octomom. I wonder if the depth and quality of those two rages differ--or is this all just a television show? I mean, how many demonstrations, how many economic riots, have there been? There have been real free-for-alls, featuring real violence and bloodshed, in places like China, where the level of societal unfairness and desperation makes our own not-insignificant inequities seem like a workers' paradise. There used to be economic riots and marches here--back in the Great Depression, and further back in the populist era of the late 19th century. But none lately. There doesn't even seem to be significant movement in the polls, which are our own, latter-day way of marching on Washington.


But most of the anger we see and hear comes from people who are paid to be angry, on cue, on cable television--as opposed to people with actual grievances.

Hmmm. I have a couple of thoughts on this. For one thing, to say people don't have real grievances because they aren't rioting in the streets is bizarre. People have lost jobs, can't afford their kids' college education, and have seen their retirement funds evaporate. That stuff is real.

Here's another thing, polls are not the modern day way to march on Washington, and only the most deluded Villager would think they are. Polls are tools used by PR firms to manipulate the media about public opinion and push an agenda. I thought Klein was smart enough to know that.

Guess not.

Second of all: Judging the depth of the peoples’ anger by the size and number (and violence) of demonstrations strikes me as rather odd. We’ve had some big demonstrations over the past 10 years: against the war in Iraq, against the Bush Administration, against anti-immigration bigotry, and against globalization. Half the time the media didn’t even bother to cover these demonstrations. When they did, I don’t recall Joe Klein or anyone else saying they indicated the American people were “angry.” In fact, most of the participants were written off as liberal crackpots and terrorists.

Thirdly: America is not China. We do not live under a repressive regime that is anything close to what the people of China endure. How people in Communist China react is really not pertinent to a discussion about how Americans react.

Finally: America in 2009 is in a far different place from the America of the 1930s or even the 1960s and 1970s. We’re different demographically, socially and economically. We are older. We are wealthier and enjoy a more comfortable standard of living. We’re busier. And we are more insulated and isolated from one another.

We have become insulated by our technology. We twitter and e-mail and blog, and it’s easy to feel like we’re in communication with the outside world, but that technological filter keeps us from having real interactions with people. We form virtual communities, not real ones.

How we live isolates us. We don’t stay at the same job for 40 years, nor do we live in the same house or even the same town for that amount of time. We don’t stay with the same life partner for that amount of time. The bonds of church, family, and community that joined us back in the 1930s no longer apply.

I’m not saying this is good or bad, I’m just saying that the threads that hold us together are more tenuous, and this has changed how we interract in the world.

And this is why I believe few of us march in the streets anymore. I think those days are pretty much over. Sure, certain segments of the population will stage demonstrations, some of them might be quite large and you might even catch one on the evening news, but these are usually highly structured affairs involving a lot of networking, planning, and organizing. You know, the last expression of “populist rage” we saw required the involvement of a GOP public relations company, a well-monied financier, a network of bloggers and talk radio hosts, etc. etc.

Not exactly the embodiment of "populist rage" in my opinion. We're too isolated to spontaneously take to the streets except under the most extraordinary circumstances.

I think in general “populist rage” today takes a different form. It takes place virtually, like on blogs--the kind of display that Klein once dismissed as “free-range lunacy.”

I think it's kinda funny that someone like Joe Klein would expect to see "populist rage" expressed in the exact same way it's always been expressed. And I also think it shows that the media are just as isolated and insulated as the rest of us.

Ditch Cheney

GOP congress critters, including at least one from here in Tennessee, want Dick Cheney to go back to his secret, undisclosed location:
Rep. John Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.) said, “He became so unpopular while he was in the White House that it would probably be better for us politically if he wouldn’t be so public...But he has the right to speak out since he’s a private citizen.”

Another House Republican lawmaker who requested anonymity said he wasn’t surprised that Cheney has strongly criticized Obama early in his term, but argued that it’s not helping the GOP cause.

The legislator said Cheney, whose approval ratings were lower than President Bush’s during the last Congress, didn’t think through the political implications of going after Obama.

Cheney did “House Republicans no favors,” the lawmaker said, adding, “I could never understand him anyway.”

I have given some thought to this “he has a right to speak out” stuff. Since Cheney is now a private citizen, it’s curious that this “right to speak out” includes the massive megaphone that is an appearance on CNN. Private citizens aren’t usually given that kind of platform.

So far it doesn’t appear CNN’s attempt to out-Fox Fox News has paid off in the ratings.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Land Of Confusion

I’ve said this before . I think my exact words were “I don’t know what to believe about this AIG mess.” And today, I’m even more confused.

Last time I checked, the Dow Jones had jumped over 300 points on news of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s plan to unfreeze the credit markets. Meanwhile, folks with a lot more knowledge of economics than me are calling this the worst plan since Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

To be more precise: Paul Krugman despairs that the whole thing is “recycled Bush Administration policy,” while Atrios says the whole thing reminds him “of the Bush Administration.”


Meanwhile, Salon’s War Room blog summarizes the solution as "some wildly speculative trading” to cure a problem caused by wildly speculative trading.


Thankfully, Andrew Leonard at Salon looks at this strange scenario and concludes the only thing worse than being an AIG executive right now would be to have Tim Geithner’s job.

Leonard writes:
If the stock market goes down, right-wing critics declare that Geithner (and by extension, the Obama presidency) is a failure because "the market" has lost confidence in the administration. But if the stock market goes up, the left-wing suspects that's only due to the unfair funneling of taxpayer money to Wall Street. If one constituency is satisfied, the other is bound to be distraught.

Geithner can’t win for losing.

Meanwhile, what is an average schlub such as myself to think about all of this? I’m thrilled that the stock market is soaring; if the rally is sustained, consumer confidence will also soar, prompting people to dig a little cash out of the mattress cushions and maybe splurge on a dinner out or a new coat of paint for the old house.

Then again, why would anyone want to buy “toxic assets” -- they’re, you know, toxic. And if they’re really all that toxic, why would the government want to give people the money to buy them? How are taxpayers supposed to get their money back? How is this not just pushing the problem off down the road?

One thing we’ve learned: Obama isn't dumb. He’s also been president for all of three months. It took me a lot longer than three months to give up on George W. Bush, so I’m going to ask everyone on the left to take a big honkin’ chill pill and relax. Let’s give the president a little more time to prove he knows what he’s doing.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring In Nashville

It's here!!

Media Whores

Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist cult Church will protest the funeral of actress Natasha Richardson:
On its Web site, Westboro Baptist Church said it plans to protest at St. Joseph's Church because Richardson supported research for a cure for AIDS.

No. They are protesting because the media will be there. End of discussion.

Here’s something I’ve never understood: where does Fred Phelps’ money come from? His “congregation” has fewer than 100 people, made up primarily of family and extended family members.

Church members fly all around the world staging their protests, claiming 22,000 such protests since 1991. That’s over 1,200 events a year. That number is certainly wildly inflated but still, they appear at enough events around the country to rack up the frequent flier miles.

And finally, the group’s actions have made them a target of expensive lawsuits, which they’ve appealed ad nauseum. In November 2007, Phelps was ordered to pay $11 million to the family of a solider whose funeral the church had picketed. A judge placed a lien on Phelps’ Topeka, Kan., church building and law offices.

So I’d just like to know who is paying for the Phelps cult to travel around the world spreading their hate, paying all of their court costs and related expenses (though several members of the family are lawyers, they still need to pay for things like posting $225,000 in bond ordered by a judge last spring). And that doesn’t even mention stuff like keeping the lights on and food on the table at the Topeka compound where they all live.

So who is keeping this mission of hate afloat? And why isn’t someone in our media doing some digging to find this stuff out, instead of doing the hate crew’s biding by reporting every time a Phelps family member shows up to picket someone’s funeral?

Come on, doesn’t anyone do investigative work anymore? Anyone?


I suspect learning the identity of Phelps' backers will do wonders for promoting gay rights in this country.

Friday, March 20, 2009

That Pesky Liberal Media

Wow, NBC News sure picked the perfect person to cover the McCain campaign in the last election:
Former NBC Producer Joins GOP Media Firm

In December producer Bethany Thomas Jordan lost her job in the NBC News Dallas bureau. She was among several NBC News staffers cut in a round of layoffs.

In May, Thomas Jordan will start a new job with republican media firm Scott Howell and Company. The company produces campaign commercials for GOP candidates.

Thomas Jordan covered the McCain campaign alongside correspondent Kelly O'Donnell.

Indeed she did. Thomas Jordan distinguished herself in the last campaign with such heavy-hitting stenography as McCain’s endorsement from Sylvester Stallone, his appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, downplaying McCain’s age by pointing out the robust health of his mother (who was not running for president) and, of course, his empty threat to follow Osama bin Laden ”to the gates of hell,” -- supposedly a demonstration of foreign policy experience.

Yes, I’d say a GOP advertising firm is the perfect place for Bethany Thomas Jordan to land.

Do You Know What Today Is?

It’s not just Feel Good Friday.

It’s not just the first day of spring. It’s not just the birthdays of Rosie O’Donnell, Matthew Broderick or Kevin Federline.

It is the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, an event which has gone unrecognized by pretty much everybody save lefty bloggers. Even the New York Times has let the day go unmentioned (though to be fair they published a picture from an anti-war protest yesterday).

For those who have forgotten:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. and coalition forces launched missiles and bombs at targets in Iraq as Thursday morning dawned in Baghdad, including a "decapitation attack" aimed at Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and other top members of the country's leadership.

President Bush announced the start of the military campaign against Iraq shortly afterward in a televised address from the White House.

"American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger," Bush said.

Administration sources said the decision to strike came after a nearly four-hour meeting in the Oval Office in which CIA Director George Tenet and Pentagon officials told Bush they could lose the "target of opportunity" if they didn't act quickly; Bush then gave the green light.

That’s not all he gave them. He also gave them Medals of Freedom--about as obscene as AIG executives giving themselves $165 million in bonuses today.

I think back to this day six years ago and all I can feel is a deep shame--and I was one of the ones stridently opposed to the war. I remember seeing “shock and awe” on the television, the Baghdad night sky illuminated by bombs and rockets. I felt sick, because I knew it was all wrong. For one thing, the media was enjoying it far too much.

I remember the breathless excitement of embedded reporters covering the invasion as if it were a trip to Disney World. They had fancy new lingo like “decapitation attack” to go with their fancy new flak jackets and helmets.

Stuff like this:

In fact, I'm afraid that whatever I cover as a reporter in the future will never match the adrenaline-induced, heart-in-my-throat sense of anticipation that I felt while embedded with the U.S. Marines on their march from Kuwait to Baghdad. And I suspect it will be very rare that I feel so close to the center of a story of this magnitude.

Of course, it’s hard to have perspective when you’re so close to the center. Maybe we'd have had less fawning news coverage had the embeds not been living out little boy fantasies of being the romantic war correspondent.

And I realize this isn't entirely fair. Plenty of journalists did their jobs courageously and admirably, despite extraordinarily difficult circumstances.

Yesterday, Editor & Publisher dug into the pre-war memory hole and came up with some interesting nuggets of their own:

It was fascinating to re-read Judith Miller previewing how we would go about locating those WMDs she was so sure Saddam possessed. And Thomas Friedman stating again that he backed the war but (I did not recall this) also hitting Bush hard for not gaining enough allies or doing the right diplomatic work. The Times' editorial also criticized Bush on this but, unlike Friedman, opposed war at that time. Plus: the complete text of Bush's final pre-war speech to the nation, where he gave Saddam and his kids 48 hours to get out of Dodge -- and repeated the false claims that the Iraqi ruler had WMD and helped al-Qaeda.

You may find this amusing, from the Times' Jim Rutenberg: "Yesterday, the Media Research Center, a conservative group, released a report criticizing ABC News for what it called liberal bias. The group said ABC News was the worst 'offender' among the networks for 'channeling Iraqi propaganda,' 'sanitizing radical protesters' and 'championing France and the U.N. over the U.S.'''

On the other hand: There was Paul Krugman.

In his regular column, he hit nearly every nail on the head in predicting what would follow. Yet consider the scorn he has had to endure from so many in the years since, who got it nearly 100% wrong.

Interestingly, those who got it nearly 100% wrong are still, for the most part, writing columns and appearing on television.

There are a few exceptions. Judith Miller, who single-handedly did more to drive America to war than any journalist this side of Fox News, was last seen on television fighting construction of a CVS drugstore in Sag Habor. But all of the rest of the pundits, columnists and opinion makers who applauded the war still have their jobs, some of them even got promotions.

Those who criticized the media’s enthusiastic war boosterism--folks like Ashleigh Banfield and Phil Donohue--have disappeared from our TV screens.

And six years later, we’re still at war. I know it’s kinda hard to tell and all, since news bureaus packed up their gear and left Iraq once the news started turning bad. I’m sure everyone would just as soon we forget all about it, but see, there’s still a large number of troops over there, six years down the pike. Only yesterday the Army announced it would stop its "stop-loss” program, but all anyone on the TV news could talk about was AIG. I know, it’s hard to walk and chew gum at the same time, it really is. You folks at MSNBC and CNN have my sympathies.

So here we are, six years later, still embroiled in a war that was supposed to be over in months.

I just thought it was worth mentioning.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

War On St. Patrick’s Day

Oh, fer crissakes. Stop the insanity!!

Granted, the original is from the Waco Tribune, not exactly a bastion of journalistic integrity. But holy shamrock, Batman. I’m with Thers: this is the laziest excuse for reporting this side of a wingnut wank-fest like WorldNutzDaily:
"Some folks"...? "Card shops"...? "The Disney Channel"...? "Some Places"...?

Who? Where? No specific card shops advertising "Shamrock Day" are mentioned in the article, and I haven't seen any, though perhaps I only hang out in the more disreputable card shops.

Turns out one children’s museum in Berkeley is all it takes to spawn an eeeevil librul “trend” that threatens this Christian nation. You have to dig pretty deep into the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to find any mention of “Shamrock Day” over at House of Mouse. Looks like the story was mostly pulled out of reporter Terri Jo Ryan’s ass.

Onward Christian soldiers. Isn’t there a war on poverty you people could be fighting?

Memory Hole: Bonus Edition


According to ACK, Marsha Blackburn was the only Tennessee Congress Critter to vote against the bonus tax.


I’m really glad people are pissed off at those greedy AIG executives, and I have no problem with the House slapping a big fat tax on their bonuses (though I’d love to know who the 93 holdouts were). I did find this interesting:
In all, 243 Democrats and 85 Republicans voted "yes" on the bill. It was opposed by six Democrats and 87 Republicans.


Meanwhile, Republicans take petty to new heights:

"He flies off to Los Angeles to be on the Jay Leno show," Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said this morning, referencing the president's appearance tonight on NBC's "Tonight Show."

"He's even found time to fill out his NCAA bracket," added  Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), the No. 3 Republican leader.

Oh, please. It’s not like he was on vacation for a whole week while an entire U.S. city drowned.

Indeed, this seems like a great opportunity to remind everyone of the fat bonuses TVA’s CEO and board received despite the coal ash spill that will cost hundreds of millions to clean up, and which ratepayers will pay for, even though it was the fault of TVA bean counters who opted for the cheap fix, as their “business model“ mandated. Remember, it’s always about profits.

I realize a $1 million bonus isn’t the same as $165 million in bonuses, and sinking a little town in east Tennessee in toxic sludge isn’t the same as flushing the entire U.S. economy down the toilet. Still, it’s helpful to remember that quite a few people have had their lives ruined while a select few were rewarded, taking home big bonuses which you and I are paying for.

And that happened right here at home. No one ever threatened to tax that money. Not even Lamar Alexander.

Just sayin' ...

Tele Flubbies

Have you heard the latest meme in the wankosphere? It’s that President Obama--gasp!--uses a teleprompter. Wow, I’m totally regretting my vote for him now!

You know the media is having a hard time figuring out how to cover this new president when even Maureen Dowd has to weigh in on the issue.

Seriously, every president since the gadget was invented has used one of these things. Why, not too long ago the wankosphere gleefully spread a myth that Sarah Palin was able to give a speech without one, which they used as proof of her overwhelming awesomeness. Except it never happened. Hey, it’s a good story anyway.

So what’s the big deal about the Obama-teleprompter story? Cripes, I wish President Bush had used one more often, it might have kept him from sounding like such an illiterate pondering “is our children learning” and how to “make the pie higher” and all.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

An Arizona fireworks bill would legalize consumer-grade fireworks, which can be as powerful as commercial fireworks. The best part is the reason from the bill’s sponsor:
During a recent legislative session, Biggs said, "it is time to get rid of the 'nanny state' and allow consumer fireworks, as defined in federal code.
Here’s where I make a tasteless joke about a Roman candle blowing away the free hand of the market.

Republicans are very, very silly people and they don’t give a crap about you or your children.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Outraged By The Outrage

That would be CNBC, our favorite non-source for non-financial news:
On Tuesday morning, it was Rick Santelli's turn to downplay the outrage. The CNBC host of 'rewarding-the-housing-market-losers' fame, urged the masses to show some perspective. After all, this was mere "millions" of dollars engendering the bonus-driven anger, as opposed to the "billions" that AIG has received in bailout bucks.

From CNBC's Squawk Box:
SANTELLI: Now, think about it this way. Maybe I'm missing something. But the outrage seems to be about M's, millions of dollars, right? $165 million, OK?

But I would think that it should be looked at as a pretty big positive, because when you go from the M, maybe you should try to go to the B's, which is the billions of dollars, and maybe that's going to even enlighten it for the T, trillions of dollars. You know, $165 million is like worrying about 16.5 cents, while $165 maybe necessitates a little more outrage. What do you guys think?

Hey, Rick Santelli: I think you’re an idiot. Since you’re busy “going Galt” and all, I’ll take that $165 million, seeing as how it doesn't matter and all. Just sayin’ ...

It’s completely idiotic to say outrage should be proportional to the number of zeroes involved. Hey, conservatives have no problem feigning outrage over “earmarks,” which amount to a tiny percent of the entire federal budget. So excuse me while I get pissed off over $165 million in bonuses to people who need it the least. Mwah.

However, I would like to have a reality-based conversation about this AIG mess. So put down the torches and pitchforks, people. It should come as no surprise that a bunch of greedy Wall Street people acted like, well, greedy Wall Street people. This is why we need strict oversight and lots of strings. Not “free hands of the market” groping taxpayers in unpleasant ways. Remember: “Atlas Shrugged” is fiction, people. Just like “24.”

Look, I’ll be the first to admit: I don’t know what to believe about this AIG mess. There are plenty of folks who think AIG should have been allowed to fail--Atrios over at Eschaton has been preaching that message the loudest. File bankruptcy, reorganize, yada yada.

Others say if AIG had gone the way of Lehman Brothers, it would have taken the entire banking system down with it. And I guess I’m just not smart or savvy enough to know whether these arguments for why the AIG bailout was a good thing hold merit.

I do know that stoking the public’s ire is a pretty useless exercise, but that’s all I’m seeing in the media today. I’m just jaded enough to think that some might be stoking public outrage to boost ratings.

We’ve got some real problems, people, and we need to be clear-headed about fixing them. I’m just starting to doubt if that will ever happen.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Republican Incompetence

This is rich:
Mar 16th, 2009 | COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford is calling on President Barack Obama to get the Democratic National Committee to pull an ad criticizing the Republican's opposition to federal stimulus money.

In a statement Monday, Sanford said the ad is at odds with Obama's campaign promises of ending politics as usual.

The DNC is airing an ad that says Sanford is playing politics with $700 million in stimulus cash instead of using it for health care, jobs and schools. Sanford last week asked Obama to allow the state to use some of the stimulus money to pay down state debt.

Oh, whaah. Politics as usual, huh? South Carolina has the second highest unemployment in the nation at 10.4%, right behind Michigan:

The commission said the number of people without jobs in South Carolina climbed to a record high of 227,986 in January and its data also indicated that for the first time in almost a year the labor force contracted.

I'm just curious how paying down the state debt at a time of high unemployment will help unemployed families. How is this going to put food on the table, pay the rent, or help someone find a job?

It gets worse:

Amid forecasts of a feeble summer of tourism, the state's largest industry, some economists are predicting South Carolina's unemployment rate will hit 14 percent.

Before federal bailout money, the state had to cut $1 billion from a $7 billion budget because of a drop-off in tax revenue. Government workers have been ordered to take unpaid days off. About 135,000 people are collecting some $20 million a week in unemployment benefits, and the state is borrowing federal cash to foot the bill.
Job fairs draw hundreds more applicants than the number of positions available. Food pantries run short of food.

Republican Gov. Mark Sanford is a leading critic of federal stimulus money and is pushing to use the cash over which he has some say to pay off debt. State lawmakers plan to fight him on that. Sanford instead has called for tax cuts to help the economy.

I’m trying to wrap my head around this. The state has been forced to cut its budget because of decreased tax revenue, and must therefore borrow money from the Federal government to pay for unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, unemployment is rising.

So I’m trying to see how tax cuts will further help people in South Carolina. It will certainly create an even bigger budget shortfall for the state. And the governor wants to take a couple of hundred million dollars in federal money and instead of giving it to the people of the state, its intended use, he wants the state to keep it to pay down debt.

Dear friends in South Carolina, I'm sorry you are suffering under this idiocy. Just remember: if the Christian Exodus movement has its way, things will only get worse.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

There's A Cult In The Quiver

Whew. This is gonna be a long one, folks.

Over at Salon I just read about Vyckie Garrison Bennett, a former member of the Quiverfull movement.

Surely by now everyone has heard of Quiverfull, but if not, here’s some background from the Salon piece:
In 1985, homeschooling leader Mary Pride wrote a foundational text for Quiverfull, "The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality." The book argued that family planning is a slippery slope, creating a “contraceptive mentality” that leads to abortion, and that feminism is incompatible with Christianity. As an antidote, Pride told Christians to reject women's liberation in exchange for the principles of submissive wifehood and prolific stay-at-home motherhood. The core ideology was a direct contradiction of Roe v. Wade: Women's bodies and lives did not belong to them, but to God and his plans for Christian revival.

For those women who have left the movement--and some still in it--the Quiverfull lifestyle is grueling,

one of unceasing labor and exhaustion -- a near-constant cycle of pregnancy, childbirth and the care of small children -- for the women at its center.

I never thought God meant us to have families of eight or 10 or 12, otherwise we’d have litters, like Newscoma’s puppies. God wouldn’t have intelligently designed the human female body to do things like suppress ovulation while breastfeeding. And the notion that Christians can “out-breed” the enemy just doesn’t make any sense; if God gave everyone free will, then square parents are just as likely to have round children as square ones. You just can’t assume your kids are going to grow up to be Fundie true believers.

But that’s just me.

Garrison’s story is compelling because she was one of the leading voices in Quiverfull; under her married name Bennett she wrote articles in movement publications (you can read some here at the Nebraska Family Times). Her family was even named the Nebraska Family Council’s “Family of the Year” in 2003. But behind the facade, the “Godly family” and perfect “Proverbs 31 wife” was crumbling.

Garrison finally left the movement (and her husband) when her eldest daughter attempted suicide. As she observed acidly on her blog:

“I could have kids in the psych ward for a lot less effort.”


Equally tragic is the story of Garrison’s fellow Quiverfull apostate, Laura, who blogged her story of being the daughter of a lesbian-feminist couple turned “Proverbs 31 wife." This strong-willed and independent-minded woman found her way into the movement through a boyfriend who eventually became her husband. Because her parents were lebsians, Laura was instructed to shun them, to “protect her children from them” -- their own grandparents.

These stories are not just tragic, they are huge red flags to me. Removing individuals from their support structure -- family and friends -- and replacing that support with a new one; separating the world into those who have privileged access to an exclusive truth and those who do not; placing a group’s doctrine over and above an individual’s experience; use of overly-simplified, cliche-ridden language and slogans; use of “sacred science” -- the idea that if something works for so many in the group it has the authority of “science”; and a cult of confession where one’s testimony is told so often it becomes a well-rehearsed script outlining how lost and sinful the individual was before finding salvation in the group: these are all classic hallmarks of a cult. For those interested, noted researcher Robert J. Lifton warned of this way back in 1981.

I was raised in Los Angeles in the ‘70s and well remember the stories of abusive cults and equally abusive cult “deprogrammers.” When I was a kid you couldn’t walk through Westwood Village (our version of the shopping mall back then) without being accosted by Moonies, Jews for Jesus, Hare Krishnas (we called them “hairless Krishnas” because of their shaved heads), Synanon and est adherents, you name it.

I well remember front-page stories about Scientologists infiltrating the FBI and members of Synanon placing a rattlesnake in the mailbox of an attorney representing an ex-member of the group.

Since then we’ve stopped talking about cults and thought-control techniques in this country. It’s almost become a quaint vestige of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, as if the cult movement is something we don’t need to worry about anymore. And cults thrive under this kind of ignorance.

Cults are everywhere around us, disguised as religions, self-help groups, economic groups and even political groups. Anyone is susceptible to the lure of a cult--anyone. You don't have to be from a "certain kind of family" or a typical "lost soul" to be susceptible. You don't have to live on a compound in the countryside to be in a cult. Any group that demands the subjection of individual will and personal identity to group will and group identity is a cult. Any group that does not allow followers to question the group's belief system should be approached with caution.

Let's quit pretending that cults are something from our past. Our country is going through hard times, people are searching for answers to questions which may have none. Absolutism and certainty are seductive, but most of the time they are false concepts. It goes against human nature to be comfortable with the gray, to be content with flux and instability, and this is why cults thrive. But cults destroy families; left to their own devices, they can give rise to massive totalitarian movements. History proves this.

It's time we got comfortable with the words "cult" and "thought control" again. We live in a mass-media age, and the tools of exploitation have expanded beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

I'm not meaning to knock religion here, and not all religions are cults. Stories like Vyckie Garrison's are warnings of a larger problem at play. As the country splinters ever further into ideological sub-groups, isolated and insulated through technology, we put ourselves at risk.

Make of that what you will.

Friday, March 13, 2009

No Cramer v. Stewart On MSNBC


The CEO of TheStreet.com has abruptly quit. This is the online outlet which two years ago aired webcasts of Jim Cramer explaining how he manipulated the markets when he was a hedge fund manager.

Methinks someone is nervous, which explains Cramer’s bizarre appearance on TDS last night.


It appears I was not the only one speculating that Jim Cramer’s appearance on Jon Stewart’s show last night was being ignored:
MSNBC Producers Asked Not To Highlight Cramer/Stewart

A TVNewser tipster tells us MSNBC producers were asked not to incorporate the Jim Cramer/Jon Stewart interview into their shows today. In fact, the only time it came up on MSNBC was during the White House briefing, when a member of the press corps asked Press Secretary Robert Gibbs if Pres. Obama watched. Gibbs wasn't sure if the president had, but Gibbs did. "I enjoyed it thoroughly," the Press Secretary said.

I haven’t been around the TV much today but I didn’t see the story come up at all on MSNBC this morning.

This just proves what we’ve been saying all along: it’s not that the news media is too liberal or too conservative. It’s that you’re incompetent. Last night someone said the emperor has no clothes, and today the emperor is refusing to talk about it. And it's, you know, his job to talk about it.


Dear American Media: Stop Hurting America

It speaks volumes about the sad state of current affairs that we’ve looked to a comedian/satirist not once, not twice, but three times now to speak the truth about the failure of the American news media.

Jon Stewart first started this with his 2004 appearance on the now-defunct “Crossfire,” when he told Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala to “stop hurting America.”

Stephen Colbert’s appearance at the 2006 White House Correspondents Assn. dinner was a biting scold to the journalists who should have protected us from a rush to war, the loss of civil liberties, and stolen elections. Those people chose to simply play along, instead of doing their jobs. For shame.

And last night Jon Stewart again stepped into his advocate’s role. His interview with CNBC’s Jim Cramer was painful to watch. Stewart tried to get Cramer to admit that the financial news media knowingly sold snake oil to boost ratings and profits, instead of giving actual news that Americans needed to make informed decisions about their finances.

Stewart got angrier and angrier as Cramer offered lame “no one could have anticipated this” and “they all lied to me” excuses, completely dodging any responsibility he and his network had in creating a false picture of the financial world. Said a visibly angry Stewart:
"I understand you want to make finance entertaining. But it's not a fucking game," he told Cramer. Then, referring to that video, he continued:

And I -- when I watch that, I get, I can't tell you how angry that makes me. Because what it says to me is that you all know. You all know what's going on. You can draw a straight line from those shenanigans to the stuff that was being pulled at Bear and at AIG and all this derivative market stuff that is this weird Wall Street side bet... Listen, you knew what the banks were doing and yet were touting it for months and months. The entire network was. And so now to pretend this was some crazy once-in-a-lifetime tsunami that no one could have seen coming is disingenuous at best and criminal at worst.

It took 20 minutes for Cramer to finally admit, “I’m a commentator. [...] I’m a guy trying to do an entertainment show about business for people to watch.”

Yeah. An entertainment show. Nice of you to finally admit it. I wonder if CNBC ever will?

One of the reasons I’ve said I hate those E*Trade commercials with the talking babies and the Asian immigrant family urged to “push the button, Mr. Lee!” is that the financial markets are not child’s play. It’s serious business with serious consequences, yet over the past 10 years we’ve been fed this lie that the markets are a fun little sandbox that everyone should play in. And that general attitude has spread from the Washington politicians trying to privatize your Social Security to the financial news outlets who peddle “entertainment shows” as serious information. What they don't tell you is that behind the scenes some Oz-like character is manipulating the rules of the game.

I close with this exhortation to America’s news media -- financial, political, and every other kind. It’s the words of Jon Stewart from his 2004 “Crossfire” appearance:

“Come work for us .... we need your help. Right now you’re helping the politicians and the corporations. You’re part of their strategies.”

America needs a robust news media. Not Kabuki theater and “entertainment.” Come work for the American people. We may not pay as well as the other guys but at least you’d have your integrity.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It’s Not Pelosi, Stupid

It’s the economy.

So Patrick McHenry and other Republicans focused solely on bringing down Nancy Pelosi’s poll numbers are not helping the Republican Party or the country one bit. No one is buying it, not even ABC News:
The treasure trove of documents obtained by Judicial Watch from the Department of Defense regarding Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's use of military aircraft doesn't seem to prove the organization's allegation that Pelosi has made "unprecedented demands" for the flights.

In fact, it appears that Pelosi uses military aircraft less often than her predecessor, former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

The documents cover the period from January 2007 to November 2008 and show that Pelosi made the equivalent of 20 round-trips between Washington (Andrews Air Force Base) and San Francisco. That's an average of less than one round-trip per month. In contrast, former Speaker Hastert traveled home to his Illinois district virtually every weekend and, his former aides tell ABC News, he would almost always travel on military aircraft. Like Hastert, Pelosi also occasionally leads Congressional delegations on foreign trips (the documents show six foreign trips: one to Asia, three to the Middle East and two to Europe).

Look, their partnering with the Sierra Club over Dick Cheney’s energy task force notwithstanding, we all know that Judicial Watch is a partisan conservative group first formed to target President Clinton. So anything that comes in the mailbox with the Judicial Watch name attached needs to be looked at especially carefully. And it seems ABC News did its homework this time.

For the life of me I can’t understand why conservatives are wasting their time trying to attack their Democratic counterparts, instead of crafting their own alternatives to Democratic policy solutions. It’s really bizarre.

Cramer v. Cramer

The Huffington Post dug through the memory hole and found this damaging 2006 interview CNBC’s Jim Cramer gave to TheStreet.com's Aaron Task. In it, Cramer brags about manipulating the market, shorting stocks and other malfeasance when he ran a hedge fund:
-On manipulating the market: "A lot of times when I was short at my hedge fund, and I was positioned short, meaning I needed it down, I would create a level of activity before hand that could drive the futures."

-On falsely creating the impression a stock is down (what he calls "fomenting"): "You can't foment. That's a violation... But you do it anyway because the SEC doesn't understand it." He adds, "When you have six days and your company may be in doubt because you are down, I think it is really important to foment."

-On the truth: "What's important when you are in that hedge fund mode is to not be doing anything that is remotely truthful, because the truth is so against your view - it is important to create a new truth to develop a fiction," Cramer advises. "You can't take any chances."

Did Jim Cramer really indict himself in the heat of an interview?

The only thing bigger than Cramer’s loud mouth is his ego. Why he’d admit to illegal activities as a hedge fund manager is beyond me. Why CNBC continues to employ this charlatan is even more puzzling.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No One Could Have Anticipated This

Aw, who am I kidding. We all saw this one coming.

Bristol Palin dumps her baby daddy. Probably the smartest move this kid has made.

Tennessee Loses 13,000 Jobs In January While Bankers Feel Persecuted

The job loss is according to this report, released today.

But do a Google search for "plant closing, Tennessee” and you get the same general idea.

Meanwhile, someone in the banking world is feeling a little pissy:
March 11 (Bloomberg) -- Jamie Dimon, chief executive officer of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said the U.S. can rescue its banking system by year-end if U.S. officials start cooperating and refrain from the "vilification" of corporate America.

"If we act like a dysfunctional family and we don't finish these things and we're forever debating them, I think this will go on for several years," Dimon, 52, said at a conference hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. "It's completely up to us at this point."

Congress called eight bank CEOs to Washington last month to face criticism for outsized pay packages and executive perks at a time when losses were rising and the U.S. was pumping billions of dollars into their companies. U.S. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd led an effort to put new restrictions on banks that receive government support.

“When I hear the constant vilification of corporate America, I personally don’t understand it,” Dimon said in his speech. “I would ask a lot of our folks in government to stop doing it because I think it’s hurting our country.”

Gosh, I’m sorry. You don’t understand why people are pissed that you’re hopscotching around the country on corporate jets, doling out $3.6 billion in executive bonuses, and enjoying lavish luxury retreats while the American people foot the bill?

You don’t get that? Really?

You don't know why we're pissed off that taxpayer money which was supposed to go toward investment in America instead went to fund projects in Dubai, India and China?


All I can say to that is, “Fuck you.”

Look, you were given money so you’d start making loans to small businesses and families. We can debate the wisdom of that, but that was the idea. You were not supposed to hoard the largesse while enjoying fancy retreats at California resorts. Or send it to spur the economies of Dubai, India, and China.

And saying Congress Critters wanting to hold you to account for your fiscal malfeasance is what’s wrong with the economy is just delusional.

Michael Steele Pink Slip Watch, Week 2

Uh-oh. This can’t be good news:
Steele May Face No Confidence Vote

Republican insiders tell Political Wire that a no confidence vote on RNC Chairman Michael Steele is likely to be called after the NY-20 special election on March 31 -- regardless of whether Republicans win the seat or not.

Katon Dawson, who came in second in the January RNC vote, is said to be quietly organizing a vote and is getting the support of several state party chairmen who want to dump Steele.

Tick tock.

(h/t, Kleinheider.)

Great Pretenders

This piece from Salon.com about the Kabuki theater that is CNBC was interesting. But this statement all the way at the end pretty much explains why we’re all so fucked:
I'm not going to argue that the Dow Jones is irrelevant to the economy, but the fundamental problem of the bubble years was that the Dow Jones was growing and our actual assets were not. We weren't really getting richer. We were just pretending to get richer.

In mistaking themselves for the country at large, and the bouncing of the market for the health of the economy as a whole, Cramer, Kudlow and the whole talking-head crew give the lie to Rick Santelli's assertion about a "silent majority." CNBC feels like bizarro world because, in an important sense, it is.

”Pretending” pretty much describes the entire Bush years. Pretending there were WMDs in Iraq, pretending the economy was stronger than it really was, pretending the media was doing its job, pretending that if it’s good for the top 2% then it’s good for everyone else.

At a certain point, though, you can’t keep pretending. Time to put away the childish things and face reality.

Hooray for the pendejos:

Maryland Learns The Truth About Clean Coal

So much for "clean coal": a 4,000-gallon coal ash spill at a Maryland paper mill narrowly avoided disaster by, luckily, being only 4,000 gallons (Tennessee’s was over a billion gallons).

In other news: paper mills create coal ash sludge? Apparently, yes:
The ash comes from coal the company burns to power the mill. Three 800-foot pipelines carry the ash to a 1.2 million gallon storage lagoon across the river.

Wow, that’s alarming news. How many smaller coal sludge lagoons dot the landscape across the country, I wonder? Who’s regulating them? Who's monitoring them? Who's watching the pipelines to make sure there aren't any leaks, which is what happened here?

These coal ash ponds contains arsenic, radioactive elements, and other toxins. And apparently they’re as common as swimming pools in Southern California.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In Which I Apologize To Glen Dean.


Glen says it wasn't him. So, never mind.


A couple of weeks ago I made a snarky comment about Glen Dean at his blog TennesseeFree, about him investing in gold and how he forgot the mantra was “buy low, sell high” and gold was high now so, you know, nyah nyah.

That was out of line. Glen, I’m sorry. Gold took a neat little tumble today, but I’ve been told it’s expected to double in price over the next couple of years. So, buy buy buy.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Some Good Ol’ Straight Talk

With the nation’s economy in flames, we finally have someone in the GOP who will be frank with us about the Republican Party’s priorities.

That person is Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry of North Carolina:
"We will lose on legislation. But we will win the message war every day, and every week, until November 2010," said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., an outspoken conservative who has participated on the GOP message teams. "Our goal is to bring down approval numbers for [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and for House Democrats. That will take repetition. This is a marathon, not a sprint."

Glad to know you guys have your priorities straight.

What did I just say yesterday about politicians worried more about the midterm elections than they worry about their constituents who are suffering?

You folks just don’t get it, do you?

I have friends--hard working people--who are calling the electric company begging them not to disconnect the power. These are people who do not have time for your games, Congressman. They need their elected representatives to work 24-seven on their behalf, trying to fix our economic mess. They are not interested in partisan poo-flinging.

No, they just don't get it.

McHenry and the other Congressional Republicans might live in a bubble but out here in the real world it's like someone has flipped a switch. Restaurants are suddenly empty; on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the movie theater in Nashville was dead. CostCo was a ghost town. People are staying home -- there’s a real fear out there, and it’s contagious. And all politicians want to do is bring down Nancy Pelosi’s poll numbers?

Meanwhile, here’s Chris Matthews on my TeeVee just now:

My problem with this administration is not its ideology but its inability to speak clearly. The inability of Geithner to say anything I can understand. The inability of Larry Summers to get out front and make it clear.

I think we need something on the order of Japanese painting. Strokes. Clear strokes that we can get. We can figure out. Not this weird kind of impressionism we’re supposed to figure out. I mean, tell me what you’re doing. You guys have been trying to explain what your positions are, they’re not exactly stark and clear. Roosevelt explained himself, Reagan explained himself, Kennedy did. "I’m gonna put a man on the moon," I get it! What are these guys doing?

Excuse me, who isn’t speaking clearly here? You want what kind of strokes?

I remember trying to discern the meaning behind some of Alan Greenspan’s oblique speeches. I think a Ouji board and crystal ball were required.

I don’t want strokes. I don’t want to be told that the fundamentals of the economy are strong or that everything will be okay if only we’d go shopping more. I don't want lies.

I don't want the national media to get engaged in some kind of weird kabuki theater designed to entertain, not inform. Today on NPR I heard a story about the sorry state of the National Mall, America’s “front yard.” The unspoken message was that the National Mall was so neglected, repair would involve far more than just “grass seed,” but would actually be a rather massive infrastructure project.

Wow. Because I could swear I just heard NPR talking about all of the “pork” in the stimulus bill, like $200 million for grass seed on the National Mall. Way to go, NPR.

Here’s what I want. I want President Obama to get on national television and reassure the American people that we’re not all gonna die of starvation with radishes clutched in our dirty palms. I want our hopey-changey president to tell us that he sees the light at the end of the tunnel, and I want him to rebuke those on the public stage who do not take our situation seriously.

I want him to tell us that he has a vision for America’s future, that he believes we’re going to make it through, that he has faith in us, and he's not going to stand by while a bunch of idiots in Congress and the media play games. I want him to remind us that America’s best trait is that her people can put aside their petty differences and work together when they need to, neighbor helping neighbor.

I think that would help, I really do.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fear & Penny Pinching

John Aravosis had an interesting post up about the constant comparisons of our economic crisis to the Great Depression, and how maybe we need to dial it back a notch when hitting the panic button:
Initially I thought Depression comparisons were necessary and relevant in order to impress the gravity of the current situation on the American people. Things have changed. The people now get it.

It's time to call off the four horses.

By “four horses,” I assume John is making a reference to this David Sirota piece which dares utter the “A” word:

Apocalypse ... it seems so biblical, but suddenly feels so now. And if we don't quickly wake up and turn things around, we will be left to mutter Col. Kurtz's despondent whisper: "The horror ... the horror."

I admit, the media is starting to scare the crap out of me. I’m starting to rethink things big and small, questioning whether now is the right time to begin a long-planned home construction project, or even something as small as a trip to the nail salon. I’m worried, and I can see how worry leads to fear, and fear paralyzes.

This isn’t healthy, and while it’s all very well and good for President Obama to say we shouldn’t stuff our cash in the mattress, good luck convincing any sane person otherwise when one hears words like “apocalypse” and “Great Depression” every time the TV is on.

The irony of writing that last paragraph is that I sound an awful lot like conservatives over the past two years--you know, those folks who were in deep denial about the sickly state of our economy, and wrote it all off as the “liberal media” and Democratic fear-mongering.

From the TennViews memory hole comes this compilation of TN GOP press releases talking about how wooooonderful our economy was under Bush and overlooking such benchmarks as rising unemployment and decreasing income.

Here’s a good one from last March:

"The Doom and Gloom Democrats are at it again, taking a small dip in the economy and pretending it's the Second Great Depression, in order to convince voters to buy the "hope" they're selling that's really just the same ol' liberal recipe of higher taxes, more government spending and more government regulation. But the truth is that while the economy has taken some hits recently, it's not as bad as the Democrats will claim between now and election day. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, 2008 is nothing like 1929.

Here’s another one from last February:

Bill Hobbs, Feb. 2008: "The "mortgage crisis" is really just a shakeout of some bad deals in one very small corner of the overall mortgage market. A tax credit would make those homes more attractive to buyers. But, then, so will their falling prices. That's the way it always works."

Heh. Well, turns out we were in fact seeing the beginning of the great implosion, which they’re now trying to call the “Obama Recession.”

Words are funny things.

I wonder what might have happened if the Republicans and Democrats in power had acted sooner. They didn’t; instead, they were too worried about grabbing power in the upcoming election. Now I worry that partisan obstructionism will slow the recovery. Somehow I suspect the Republicans and some Democrats are more worried about the midterm elections in 2010 than helping the country get back on the road to recovery. A lot of folks don’t have that kind of time to waste. We need to act now, and we need to quit quibbling over stupid partisan stunts like tea parties and Rush Limbaugh.

I wonder if there’s any chance that we could put all of that aside for the good of the country?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Now I’ve Seen Everything

Snuggie Pub Crawls??

Even in NASHVILLE????

Okay, when I said I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing one of these, I was talking about in my living room. I never imagined you wacky kids today would turn this into some kind of uniform for drunken frat boys. Y’all look like you’re members of a cult.

When you start handing out tracts about Snuggieism I’m gonna head for the hills.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Obama Derangement Syndrome

I guess some folks have been listening to a tad too much conservative talk radio:
Hunter safety instructor removed after ordering 'liberals' from class


But when father and son arrived at the lesson, the volunteer instructor, Kell Wolf, asked if any of the students voted for President Obama.

Reddy, a transplanted Californian - and ex-Marine - raised his hand.

According to Reddy and others in the room, Wolf called Obama “the next thing to the Anti-Christ” and ordered Reddy and Dunkley from the room. When Reddy refused, Wolf said he would not teach “liberals” and would cancel the course if Reddy didn’t leave.

So Reddy and Dunkley left, as did a few others.

Lance Meek, hunter education coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said Wolf had been a volunteer instructor for “a long time, probably 15 years or more” and “from what we’ve heard and observed, had always done a great job. He worked with the kids really well.”

Hmmm. Might be a case of Obama Derangement Syndrome?

Radio Daze

Talk radio’s number one ego challenging the president of the United States to a duel was bad enough, but it appears radio in general is having a tough time weathering the economic meltdown. Some recent headlines:

• CC Media, parent of Clear Channel, posts massive $5 billion fourth quarter loss. The company is owned by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

• Citadel Broadcasting was delisted from the NYSE, effective today, after their stock price plummeted to 14-cents a share. Citadel is parent to ABC Radio, which syndicates such conservative talkers as Sean Hannity, Focus On The Family, and Mark Levin.

It is, of course, purely coincidental that Clear Channel and Citadel entered into "an unprecedented syndication arrangement for The Sean Hannity Show” last December. I have to wonder if anyone regrets the massive contracts some of these radio yakkers have received, i.e., Limbaugh's $38 million contract signed last summer. By the way: neat trick to juggle a $38 million paycheck with an anti-tax message. Of course he doesn't support Obama's tax on the rich -- he's going to have to pay it!

• Cumulus Media announced it will cut its workforce by 7%. Cumulus became famous for banning the Dixie Chicks in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Standard & Poors has lowered the credit rating for Radio One Inc., which operates 53 radio stations around the country.

•  Westwood One, which syndicates Larry King as well as Fred Thompson’s new talk show, is trying to restructure its massive debt with the help of the Gores Group, which has increased its stake in the company to 72.5%.

* Revenues at Cox Radio fell 13% in the fourth quarter, and it took a $601.6 million write-down on assets. Cox owns 86 radio stations around the country.

I’m thinking of all of this because I understand the Country Radio Broadcasters are meeting in Nashville for their annual confab. CRS used to be the most over the top of all of the meetings we music business people would attend. The parties were lavish, the booze flowed freely, there was--to quote Michael Steele--bling bling on the bling bling.

I’m not in that world anymore, but I have to think the mood might be somewhat subdued this year. As to whether there's any soul-searching going on in the corporate offices of these media conglomerates, I doubt it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Why Does Zach Wamp Hate Tennesseans

While reading this it would be helpful to remember that Rep. Zach Wamp has available to him and his family the same health insurance benefits available to other Congress Critters.

Zach Wamp says healthcare is a privilege, not a right -- except for some people:
WAMP: Listen, health care a privilege. […]

MSNBC: Well, it’s a privilege? Health care? I mean if you have cancer right now, do you see it as a privilege to get treatment?

WAMP: I was just about to say, for some people it’s a right. But for everyone, frankly, it’s not necessarily a right.

So it’s a privilege until you get really really sick, and then it’s a right?
He also seems to be saying that half of the country’s 46.6 million uninsured are that way by choice, not necessity:

WAMP: Some people choose not to pay.

MSNBC: Let’s break down the categories, who is it not a right for, to get healthcare?

WAMP: An employee that rejects the healthcare provided by their employer because they don’t want any of the money deducted from their ...

MSNBC: What number of people do that?

WAMP: Half the people that are uninsured today choose to remain uninsured. Half of ‘em don’t have any choice but half of ‘em choose to “go naked” and just take a risk of getting sick. They end up in the emergency room costing you and me more money.

If true, this sure sounds like an excellent justification for mandatory healthcare -- something the Republicans have always been against. But unfortunately it’s not true, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation:

Across all three surveys, more than half of the uninsured are in low-income families and about half are ethnic or racial minorities. The majority of uninsured adults are working, but their lack of education makes it more difficult for them to get jobs that offer employer-sponsored coverage.

So most uninsured people work in jobs that don’t provide healthcare. The rest are unable to afford it.

Here’s a dirty little secret which people like Zach Wamp don’t want to know, but any social worker or social justice advocate knows all too well: There are a lot of employers in this country (*cough*cough*WAL-MART*cough*cough*) who say they provide healthcare benefits, but never give people enough hours to become eligible. Other employers (*cough*cough*DELL*cough*cough*) fire employees just as they’re approaching the number of hours where they might become eligible for these benefits.

Being the kind of person who likes to think the best of everyone, I can’t imagine any employer enjoys playing these kinds of games with their workforce. I have to think it's out of necessity.

So why don’t we all band together and work out a healthcare solution that works for employers and employees? And not make the same mistake American auto manufacturers made 30 years ago which has left them in a fine pickle today. Chickens coming home to roost shit all over the front porch, peeps.