Media & Politics (one section only today)
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Obama’s econ failure: Still no plan to fix the banks (McClatchy)
The Treasury Department has failed to persuade the world that it has a viable plan to stabilize big U.S. banks, and unless and until it does so, the economic downturn at home and abroad is unlikely to bottom out. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said as much, telling Congress last week that “restoring a reasonable degree of financial stability will be critical determinants of the timing and strength of the recovery.” Yet experts warn that each week that goes by without a credible bank plan puts an economic recovery and public confidence in President Barack Obama at risk.
I’m surprised to see McClatchy so down on Obama. They gave him a lot of help last year.
Half of Americans Are Two Paychecks Away from Hardship (Money & Business, U.S. News & World Report)
The eroding labor market is expected to trigger additional pain for banks as job losses undercut consumers’ ability to make their mortgage payments. With unemployment on the march, Julia Rodgers, a mortgage advisor with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, told me last week that homeowners should have at least three months of mortgage payments saved up to protect themselves from a job loss. But a recent study by MetLife indicates that consumers don’t have nearly enough of a financial cushion to keep them afloat should a job loss occur.
U.S. Household Wealth Falls by Trillions (New York Times)
In the last few months, most Americans have felt poorer. Now they have the numbers to prove it. The Federal Reserve reported Thursday that households lost $5.1 trillion, or 9 percent, of their wealth in the last three months of 2008, the most ever in a single quarter in the 57-year history of recordkeeping by the central bank. For the full year, household wealth dropped $11.1 trillion, or about 18 percent. Though the numbers do not yet reflect it, the decline in the stock market so far this year has probably erased trillions more in the country’s collective net worth.
I’ll make the same comment to this that I made yesterday in regard to the decrease in billionaires—THAT WEALTH WAS NEVER THERE. It never existed. It was all imaginary.
Delicious Cake Futures (Planet Money, NPR)
When Joshua Bearman was a third grader, he got locked out of the lunchroom economy. His classmates piled their jazzed-up, sugarfied, food/not food snacks on the table and traded until the best junk won, while Joshua sat on the sidelines with the sardines and raisins his family sent. Then, one magical day, he dreamed up the delicious cake futures.
For most of my adult life, I’ve been the one who questioned people like Joshua. When will that cake arrive? What kind will it be, and how big? Will it be big enough to pay for all of the snacks you’ve received? And during all that time, the people snookered by the schemes have become angry with *ME* because *I* was the reason their dreams would not come true—for telling them that their dreams were only dreams, and not reality. But it was only last year that the full reality of human nature came home to me. As I’ve said before and will keep saying: Most of the people WANT TO BE FOOLED most of the time. Click through to listen to the audio.
“The Bezzle” Defined (by Karl Denninger at The Market Ticker, thanks to katiebird at The Confluence)
Here are some examples of “The Bezzle”: Liar loans… Overly-rosy projections about growth in property values… Overly-rosy projections about the stock market… “The Internet is doubling every three months!”: It was – for about six months… In short The Bezzle is ”the lie” that is always present in business… But when The Bezzle becomes the underlying premise and basis for business transactions that entire segment of the market is doomed.
When to Take Cover (by Mark Thoma at Economist’s View)
In 1999, John Kenneth Galbraith explained how to spot speculative excess:… “[W]hen you hear it being said that we have entered a new economy of permanent prosperity with prices of financial instruments reflecting that happy fact, you should take cover. This has been the standard justification of speculative excess for several centuries — for a good part of the millennium. My one-time Harvard colleague Joseph Schumpeter thought inevitable and even beneficial what he called ‘creative destruction’ — the cyclical process by which the system eliminates the people and institutions which are mentally too vulnerable for useful economic service. Unfortunately the process has larger and less benign effects, including the possibility of painful recession or depression.”
No Pay to Play at this Meeting (Political Wire)
Heard in the CQ newsroom: Apparently campaign contributions didn’t get you a ticket to today’s Business Roundtable meeting with President Obama. Of those executives attending who gave to a presidential campaign last year, $141,790 went to Sen. John McCain while just $59,300 went to Obama.
The “Object-in-Chief” Defends Spending to Nation’s CEOs (by Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller at Political Punch, ABC News)
Before the Business Roundtable Thursday afternoon, President Obama told the assembled CEOs that the nation “cannot go back to endless cycles of bubble and bust. We can’t continue to base our economy on reckless speculation and spending beyond our means; on bad credit and inflated home prices and overleveraged banks. This crisis teaches us that such activity is not the creation of lasting wealth. It is the illusion of prosperity, and it hurts us all in the end.”… “Little bit of bad news, ‘oooh, we’re — we’re down in the dumps’. And I am obviously an object of this constantly varying assessment. I’m the object-in-chief —- of this varying assessment,” he said laughing.
The self described Object-in-Chief was also said to be the “Confidence-Builder-in Chief” by a participants in the room. His response about his confidence also revealed that he does not think things are as bad as people think with the economy.
Stocks open higher, extend gains for 4th day (AP)
Stocks are mostly higher as investors try to extend Wall Street’s advance into a fourth straight day, following more encouraging news about banks and better-than-expected trade data. Reports that Citigroup’s chairman Richard Parsons said the bank doesn’t need additional government support after receiving three rounds of emergency funding is helping to sustain market optimism. Also, a government report showing that the U.S. trade gap narrowed in January helped lift stocks.
Obama to get report on stimulus plan from Volcker (AP)
President Barack Obama is getting an update on the nation’s economy from former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker.
Ouch! (by lambert at Corrente)
Condor Options on the banking miasma: “Paulson-Geithner gradualism is an attempt to do two mutually exclusive things: to retain the potency of privately held shares while drenching them in a soup of federal participation. In other words, the policy of the Bush and Obama administrations is a failed experiment in financial homeopathy. Pseudofinance is evidently no more helpful than pseudoscience.” [Emphasis added.] Nice metaphor. Well, we’ll see how it all works out, in a world where the Geithner’s Treasury doesn’t answer the phone.
A Simple Guide to the Banking Crisis (by: Michael Mandel, Business Week, thanks to Economist’s View)
Why is the banking crisis so hard to solve? We stood and watched while Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke fumbled with their response in the fall. Now we are being treated to the distressing spectacle of Tim Geithner struggling as well to articulate a clear policy for dealing with zombie banks. How come these smart and powerful men can’t get a handle on the problem?
Mandel believes the problem is that our debt is owned by foreigners. If we suddenly revalued all the toxic assets, those foreigners would take a huge haircut. Click through for details, and for his guess as to what will happen in an attempt to solve the problem.
Why letting Lehman go did crush the financial markets (Alphaville, Financial Times, thanks to Economist’s View)
A Lehman failure didn’t have to spell disaster- it could, perhaps should, have occurred alongside an announcement of a generalised guarantee on money market funds – as well as a broad commitment from the Fed to extend its liquidity facilities. That such announcements in reality, came a week later was no good… [A] bailout of Lehman would have led to much more protracted, if less severe, financial malaise.
Click through for the details.
The Next Big Bailout Decision: Insurers (Wall Street Journal, thanks to Economist’s View))
The tumbling financial markets are dragging down the life-insurance industry, an important cog in the U.S. economy, as mounting losses weaken the companies’ capital and erode investor confidence. A dozen life insurers have pending applications for aid from the government’s $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, and the industry is expecting an answer to its request for a bank-style bailout in the coming weeks. The government so far hasn’t said whether insurers will be eligible for the program.
NAACP says bank giants steered blacks to bad loans (AP, thanks to Lambert at Corrente)
The NAACP is accusing Wells Fargo and HSBC of forcing blacks into subprime mortgages while whites with identical qualifications got lower rates. Class-action lawsuits will be filed against the banks Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, Austin Tighe, co-lead counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, told The Associated Press.
Look! Over there! Bernie Madoff! (by lambert at Corrente)
[A] Bloomberg headline explains it all: “Madoff Life Prison Term Means Inmate Blame for Crash” Which is just what the rest of us inmates, er, citizens are meant to think. Which is so obviously not true. At least to the Cassandras of this world. Look! Over there! Bernie Madoff!
Clinton honors women’s rights, calls for equality (AFP)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored International Women’s Day on Sunday, celebrating untapped potential but lamenting how “no nation in the world has yet achieved full equality for women.”
Hillary Celebrates Women’s History Month (by Alegre)
[T]oward the end, where the women organizing the event presented Hillary with a small gift – they read the following poem to her, and closed by saying she exemplifies the words… “Leaders – leaders are called to stand in that lonely place between the no longer and the not yet, and intentionally make decisions that will bind, forge, move, and create history. We are not called to be popular. We are not called to be safe. We are not called to follow. We are the ones called to take risks. We are the ones called to change attitudes, to risk displeasures. We are the ones called to gamble our lives for a better world.”
New York Daily News concocts Michelle Obama/Hillary Clinton feud (by Eric Boehlert at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
“First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bury hatchet with hugs, air kisses.. It wasn’t that long ago that party insiders were telling the political world that Michelle Obama and Clinton simply couldn’t abide one another…” Typically in journalism if party insiders are “telling the political world” something, and if both sides in a feud are “openly” accusing the other of something, journalists quote those people to substantiate the claims. But not theDaily News. It loved the cat fight angle, even if it provided no evidence whatsoever to back it up.
Obama family looms large at women’s panel launch (AFP)
President Barack Obama Wednesday paid poignant tributes to the grandmother who raised him and his mother who died of cancer, at the launch of a high-level forum to advise him on women’s issues. Obama also held up the life story of his wife and “rock” Michelle and the example of his foe turned ally, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as he signed an executive order creating the White House Council on Women and Girls. “The purpose of this Council is to ensure that American women and girls are treated fairly in all matters of public policy,” Obama said.
The council will meet regularly, he said, and will include Clinton, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Attorney General Eric Holder among other members, Obama said. “I sign this order not just as a president, but as a son, a grandson, a husband and a father,” Obama said.
I wish he’d thought of those roles when he so eagerly used misogyny against Hillary during the primary last year.
Some women wanted more from W.H. (Politico)
After Barack Obama’s election, some in the women’s movement thought big – pushing for a Cabinet-level office, or even a blue-ribbon Presidential Commission on Women. But when Obama announced his plans Wednesday, he brushed aside those requests. Instead, he started the White House Council on Women and Girls — a sort of inter-agency task force with no full-time staff, no Cabinet-level leader and no set meeting schedule. ..
Obama’s move left [some] in the women’s movement questioning why he simply wouldn’t give the panel the prestige and heft they feel it deserves. Some activists already are strategizing about new ways to elevate women’s issues, beyond what Obama did.
White House Slaps UN Secretary-General on ‘Deadbeat’ Comments (by Jake Tapper at Political Punch, ABC News)
The White House expressed disapproval Thursday with comments United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made to members of Congress that the U.S. is a “deadbeat” nation for being behind on its U.N. dues. “I would note for the Secretary-General that his word choice was unfortunate, given the fact that the American taxpayer is the largest contributor to the United Nations,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs at his daily briefing.
On Wednesday, Ban pointed out to members of the House Foreign Relations Committee that although the United States pays 22 percent of the U.N.’s $4.86 billion operating budget, the country is always late with its dues. The U.S. is now is approximately $1 billion behind, a figure that will soon increase to $1.6 billion. In the private meeting, he referred to the U.S. as a “deadbeat” nation, angering members of the committee including ranking Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.
Why Would the Obama Administration Want to Make Vets Buy Private Insurance for Their Health Care? (Washington Independent, thanks to katiebird at The Confluence)
I am not a health care wonk but some of my good friends are, so I’ll refrain from pretending I can construct a health care argument whereby this makes sense (or doesn’t, for that matter). Instead, as a moral matter, veterans deserve free, government-provided health care. As a political matter, why the Obama administration would want to squander its good will in the military community is completely beyond me. Murray calls the plan DOA, as she should. But why should it be considered seriously in the first place?
Army discharged 11 soldiers in January because of DADT. (Think Progress)
Last week, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) proposed repealing the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning gay men and women from serving openly. Since its enactment in 1994, the policy has “cost the country hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of service men and women…including approximately 800 with skills deemed ‘mission critical.” Today, in “the first in a series of monthly releases” highlighting the impact of the policy, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) revealed that 11 soldiers were discharged for being gay in January.
Obama on spot as rulings aid gay partners ( New York Times)
Just seven weeks into office, President Obama is being forced to confront one of the most sensitive social and political issues of the day: whether the government must provide health insurance benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. In separate, strongly worded orders, two judges of the federal appeals court in California said that employees of their court were entitled to health benefits for their same-sex partners under the program that insures millions of federal workers. But the federal Office of Personnel Management has instructed insurers not to provide the benefits ordered by the judges, citing a 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act.
As a presidential candidate, Mr. Obama said he would “fight hard” for the rights of gay couples. As a senator, he sponsored legislation that would have provided health benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. Now, Mr. Obama is in a tough spot. If he supports the personnel office on denying benefits to the San Francisco court employees, he risks agitating liberal groups that helped him win election. If he supports the judges and challenges the marriage act, he risks alienating Republicans with whom he is seeking to work on economic, health care and numerous other matters.
Science You Can Believe In (by Joe Trippi)
“I couldn’t see a thing. Everything was black. I slumped against the wall and steadied myself until slowly my vision started to come back, blurry and plotchy, but at least it wasn’t total darkness anymore. This time, I didn’t need a doctor to tell me what was happening. When you’re battling diabetes, after your fingers and toes, your eyes are the next to go. For the first time I was scared.” – Joe Trippi, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
I’m not alone. 23.6 million Americans suffer from diabetes. And, for all of us, Monday was an important–and emotional–day. President Barack Obama signed an executive order lifting the nation’s ban on funding research on new embryonic stem cell lines. With it, there is new hope for millions of diabetes sufferers, including me, as well as millions more suffering from other debilitating diseases. This isn’t just a symbolic gesture – it’s a move that actually enables the greatest scientists in our country to get back to work on finding cures.
Commentary: Obama should not tamper with Social Security (by Brian Gilmore at The Progressive Media Project)
President Barack Obama must not tamper with Social Security. In his recent speech before a joint session of Congress, the president suggested he might fiddle with the program… All Americans should be concerned with this chatter. Social Security is the government’s guarantee to us that we will have a decent retirement and that our children will be covered in case we get disabled or die. Every working American has been paying into the system already. To reduce Social Security would be to cheat us out of what we’re owed and betray the promise of a caring country.
For Cuban Americans, travel to visit relatives just got easier (McClatchy)
Cuban Americans are now free to visit relatives on the island once a year and stay as long as they like, using a new license issued by the Obama administration.
Top Historian Warns Obama: Avoid Lyndon Johnson Trap On Afghanistan (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
[P]residential historian Robert Dalleck has weighed in with a warning to Obama about the Johnson trap: “With the country’s economy in such poor shape and his eagerness to enact bold health insurance, education and environmental reforms, he will need to recall that wars are the enemy of far reaching change. World War I stopped Progressivism; in the 1940’s ‘Dr. Win the War replaced Dr. New Deal,’ as Franklin D. Roosevelt said; the Korean War sidetracked Harry Truman’s Fair Deal; and Vietnam frustrated Johnson’s hopes of additional Great Society measures…”
This possibility hasn’t really been on people’s radar, I’d argue, because the debate over whether to leave Iraq has sucked up all the oxygen and turned the Afghan conflict into a kind of forgotten war. But now Obama is escalating there, and tens of thousands of troops are temporarily staying in Iraq, at a time when he’s spending political capital on hugely ambitious domestic initiatives. Worth keeping in mind.
I haven’t seen any evidence that Obama cares about progressivism.
Source: Obama Aide on Leave After FBI Raid (AP)
An aide to President Barack Obama is on leave from his White House job after the FBI raided his old District of Columbia government office Thursday, arresting a city employee and a technology consultant on corruption charges, a White House official said. The charges were lodged against the two men at a federal court hearing as the FBI finished searching the city’s technology office, which was led until recently by Obama’s new computer chief, Vivek Kundra. Kundra is on leave from his White House job until further details of the case become known, according to a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity because the official did not want to publicly discuss personnel matters.
Push From The Right Fails To Derail Obama Justice Department Picks (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
As you faithful readers know, we reported here the other day that the conservative Family Research Council was threatening a new form of bureaucratic retribution against GOP Senators who failed to vote against key picks for the Obama Justice Department that the group found intolerable. But it doesn’t look like it’s working: Today the Senate voted to confirm two of them, both by lopsided majorities.
The Harping Gets Louder (by Deacon Blues at The Left Coaster)
Not even two months into his administration, and President Obama is encountering mumbling from the Beltway elites. Some of it is spurred by their concerns that his tax plan will hit them, some of it is plain elitism and conservative Kool Aid, and some of it is other things we dare not name. Yet it is also true that a lot of these elites have seen their fortunes vanish, are staring into the abyss like the rest of us, and want to see concerted action from Obama to allow them to keep their standard of living…
[T]hey’ll say he isn’t focused enough, too easily rolled, and not a hard-charging, lay-it-on-the-line, here’s-my-specific-plan-for-the-economy progressive leader (Howard Fineman). But what if there is a kernel of truth in the concern from the Beltway elites and Wall Street that the administration isn’t seizing the reins firmly enough and demonstrating some confidence and certainty in addressing the economy?… I almost get the sense from reading Fineman’s piece that he’s advocating for Obama to step out from being a too-judicious and cautious centrist and step into being a progressive man of certainty with a plan, eager to educate and challenge his opponents. I’d love that myself, but that isn’t the guy who was elected last year.
Reid’s Balancing Act (Political Wire)
CQ Politics: “Harry Reid is in a difficult spot. As Senate majority leader, he juggles myriad competing political interests. He also has to balance those against his own best interest as he gears up for a potentially tough re-election battle in 2010.”
And that’s exactly why no one in the Democratic leadership should ever comefrom conservative areas.
Big Union Vows To Back Arlen Specter In 2010 If He Supports Employee Free Choice (by Greg Sargent at The Plum Line)
This is big: Senior officials with the powerful AFL-CIO have privately assured GOP Senator Arlen Specter that they’ll throw their full support behind him in the 2010 Senate race if he votes for the Employee Free Choice Act, a senior labor strategist working closely with the AFL on the issue tells me. This is significant, because it represents a big incentive for Specter to switch parties — and to support Employee Free Choice. Specter may be facing a serious GOP primary challenge from Club for Growth head Pat Toomey… AFL-CIO spokesperson Eddie Vale declined comment.
Go Away Maxine (by Deacon Blues at The Left Coaster)
Representative Maxine Waters, I think we’ve all heard enough from you on the banking and mortgage crisis, thank you. If it’s bad when the GOP uses its connections to help family and friends, then it’s just as bad when Democrats do it.
Bobby Shriver mulling run for California attorney general (McClatchy)
Bobby Shriver, the nephew of President John F. Kennedy and the brother of California first lady Maria Shriver, is mulling a run for state attorney general next year, according to his political adviser.
Obama Approval Dropping? (Political Wire)
Pollsters Doug Schoen and Scott Rasmussen argue in the Wall Street Journal that it’s wrong to compare President Obama’s approval rates to those of former President Bush just six or twelve months ago. They say the better comparison is to other presidents early in their terms. “A detailed examination of presidential popularity after 50 days on the job similarly demonstrates a substantial drop in presidential approval relative to other elected presidents in the 20th and 21st centuries. The reason for this decline most likely has to do with doubts about the administration’s policies and their impact on peoples’ lives.” Karl Rove and pollster Charles Franklin have made similar points.
Canadian Lawyers Seek To Ban (Or Prosecute) Bush For His Role In Authorizing Torture (Think Progress)
Former President George W. Bush’s first post-presidency speech will take place on St. Patrick’s Day — March 17 — in Calgary, Alberta. Although organizers have declined to say if Bush will be paid, he once boasted that he hoped to make “ridiculous” money on the lecture circuit once he leaves office. But instead of greeting Bush with open arms and (potentially) wads of cash, activists and human rights lawyers in Canada are hoping their government will greet him with handcuffs — or at the very least — bar him entry in to the country. In fact, Vancouver Lawyer Gail Davidson said the government has an obligation under the law to ban Bush from entering Canada because of his role in supporting torture.
That’s more than we in the U.S. are doing.
From Frozen Minds, A ‘Spending Freeze’ (by Joe Conason)
If President Barack Obama’s response to the economic crisis is imperfect, as he acknowledges, and if the Congressional Democrats leave much to be desired as well, then Americans can at least be thankful that the nation’s fate has not been consigned to the frozen minds on the other side of the aisle. Things are bad, and seem very likely to get worse — but the Republicans seem determined to plunge us into a real depression, gambling that catastrophe would return them to power…
Public spending, even unto additional trillions, is the only instrument available to prevent a global depression, assuming that we have not already forfeited that chance. The stimulus bill and the Obama budget are only first steps. We will need another strong shot of stimulus before the summer — not a spending freeze — and we can only pray that the president and the Congressional Democrats will have the guts to push the Republicans out of the way.
Random House Signs Up a Little Sam Tanenhaus Book on the Future of Conservatism
Sam Tanenhaus, editor of The New York Times Book Review and the Week in Review section of the Sunday edition, is turning his recent New Republic cover story, “Conservatism is Dead: An Intellectual Autopsy of the Movement,” into a book-length manifesto for Random House.
Ken Blackwell smacks down Steele: ‘Get to work — or get out of the way.’ (Think Progress)
During the campaign for chairmanship of the RNC, the candidate with the backing of far right conservatives wasn’t Michael Steele — it was former Ohio secretary of state Ken Blackwell. In response to Steele’s flip-flopping on abortion, Blackwell told conservative blogger Matt Lewis: “Chairman Steele, as the leader of America’s Pro-Life conservative party, needs to re-read the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the 2008 GOP Platform. He then needs to get to work — or get out of the way.” When Blackwell dropped out of the RNC race, he threw his support behind Steele. However, will he now instead be part of the Steele recall effort?
Perry will block unemployment funds (The Statesman)
Gov. Rick Perry will announce today that he is blocking the state from accepting $550 million for expanded unemployment benefits as part of the federal stimulus package.
Texas Democrats aim to overturn Perry’s stimulus fund rejection (McClatchy)
Gov. Rick Perry’s decision on Thursday to turn down $555 million for expanded unemployment benefits from the federal stimulus package became an instant issue in his re-election campaign and provoked a confrontation with Democratic lawmakers who vowed to try to overturn the decision.
Kansas lawmaker’s plan would use stimulus money for unemployed (McClatchy)
In the face of mass layoffs and rising unemployment, a Wichita legislator has introduced a bill to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits and qualify Kansas for about $68 million in federal stimulus money.
SC student Ty’Sheoma Bethea’s hopes dashed by Sanford’s decision to reject $500m in education funds. (Think Progress)
Yesterday, ThinkProgress reported that Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R-SC) decision to reject $700 million of stimulus funds could result in the firing of up to 7,500 teachers across the state, more than $500 million of which was slated to fill in the massive education budget deficit. Last night, CNN’s Jessica Yellin visited Ty’Sheoma Bethea, the South Carolina student who pleaded with Congress to save her crumbling school. Sanford’s decision, Yellin pointed out, means Bethea’s school will remain in disrepair.
Click through to watch the video.
South Carolina’s Sanford escalates critique of Obama economics (On Politics, USA Today)
Over at The Oval, I’ve posted on South Carolina Mark Sanford’s growing role as resister-in-chief to President Obama’s stimulus package and economic plans. The latest: He said the U.S. economy could collapse like Zimbabwe’s if we continue to spend money we don’t have… Sanford is chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a potential 2012 presidential candidate. His state has 10.4% unemployment — the second highest in the country.
Nevertheless, the South Carolina legislature is tackling some difficult issues, per McClatchy:
Judge rules Schwarzenegger has right to furlough workers (McClatchy)
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger can furlough about 15,000 state workers employed by constitutional officers and the Board of Equalization, according to a tentative ruling issued this morning by a Sacramento Superior Court judge.
FL Republicans Use Obama for Cover, Move to Cancel Public Campaign Financing (by campskunk at Alegre’s Corner)
“He did it first” – it’s a poor excuse, but effective. Republicans in the Florida Senate moved to eliminate the Florida public campaign financing provision – and Democratic senators couldn’t oppose them, because after the 2008 presidential election, they can’t even argue with them. The moral high ground is gone. “…Republican members of the Senate Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Committee criticized President Barack Obama for pulling out of federal public-campaign finance and its spending limits…”
We used to be the party of the people, and strongly supported public campaign financing because popularly supported candidates were at a disadvantage if the moneyed interests could flood the opposing candidate’s campaign with cash. Now we’re the party that’s playing the Republican’s game. All the Florida Democrats on that committee could do was talk ugly. They ended up actually voting for the ballot initiative to eliminate public campaign financing – after all, they had to support our president, being Democrats and all. Welcome to the wonderful world of 21st century Democratic politics.
Court Issues Preliminary Injunction Forcing Fla. High School To Recognize Gay Rights Club (American Constitution Society)
A federal judge has ordered a Florida high school to officially recognize a student Gay rights club and treat it like other student organized groups. U.S. District Judge Henry Adams issued the order, a preliminary injunction, in a case involving a legal challenge to a decision by Yule High School officials to ban a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) student group from meeting on school grounds.
Did Newsmax columnist invent Obama quote? (by Jamison Foser & Terry Krepel at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
James Humes writes in a March 11 Newsmax column regarding a bust of Winston Churchill loaned to the U.S. government by Great Britain that was returned to the British Embassy after President Obama took office: “That offensive act without explanation gave substance to the reported story that when President Obama walked into the Oval Office for the first time and saw the Churchill piece, he said, ‘Get that goddam thing out of here.’” Humes doesn’t say where that quote of Obama was supposedly “reported”; searches of Google and Nexis turn up no evidence of it. A Google search for the phrase “Get that goddam thing out of here” yields exactly two results: Humes’ own article, and a Time magazine article – from 1946.
As if citing an apparently nonexistent quote wasn’t enough, Humes also accuses Obama of exacting tribal revenge: “Perhaps Obama, who grew up in Kenya, took umbrage at Prime Minister Churchill’s actions in 1953 of wiping out the Mau-Mau, the Kenyan terrorists who made a specialty of slitting throats of sleeping white and Black Kenyans.” For the record, Barack Obama did not grow up in Kenya — unless by “Kenya,” Humes means “Hawaii.”
Or “Indonesia.” He spent some of his growing up years there.
After airing Mitchell/Frank segment, Limbaugh said Mitchell “does come off like a ‘butt boy’ there” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Discussing global warming, Imus producer McGuirk says, “These tree-huggers, they’re basically America haters” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Hannity declares today “Day number 52 of the socialism that you’ve been waiting for” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Following O’Reilly’s assertion that Hitler is “all time biggest pinhead,” Beck asks “Over Jimmy Carter?” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Gaffney defies 9/11 commission report, claims there is “evidence” Iraq and al Qaeda “were collaborating on all kinds of things” (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Gaffney claims “compelling circumstantial evidence” of Iraqi involvement with “the people that perpetrated” 1993 WTC attack, Oklahoma City bombing (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Beck: People ‘Pushed To The Wall’ By ‘Political Correctness’ May Turn Into Psycho Killers (Think Progress)
On Tuesday, an Alabama man named Michael McLendon killed 10 people in a shooting spree before committing suicide in what has been called “the worst rampage in Alabama’s history.”… During a conversation with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News today, Glenn Beck offered up his own theory about McLendon. “First of all, this guy’s a psycho,” said Beck. Beck added that listening to the description of him, he was reminded of “the American people that feel disenfranchised right now” and “that feel like nobody’s hearing their voice.” He then questioned whether these people who feel silenced by “political correctness” are likely to “turn into that guy” when “pushed to the wall”.
Forget Britney; Media Outrage Hits Big Spenders (New York Times)
Tabloid media have always peered into the excesses of the rich and famous with a mix of puritan disapproval and voyeurism. But these outlets are now recording troubling uses of taxpayer money and explicitly tapping into a fierce populist anger at corporate America.
When the press plays dumb about itself (by Eric Boehlert at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Buried deep down in a recent Politico article about budget wrangling, was this passage, which attempted to put the current omnibus bill in context… For some reason this spending bill was dominated by the issue of earmarks–it “dwarfed most other issues”– as compared to Bush’s 2003 spending bill. Politico got that point right. But it played dumb about the role the press played in making that a fact. It played dumb about the fact that earmarks dominated the debate because the GOP wanted them to, and the press eagerly complied.
And this is the interview where the Times asked Obama if he was a socialist (by lambert at Corrente)
I think, at this point, these clowns don’t even know how stupid they sound. Helene Cooper: “A flight attendant welcomed us on board and ushered us to our special cabin, outfitted with two big tables, each surrounded by four luxe leather chairs… As we took off, the flight attendant motioned to the white telephone between one of my colleagues and me. ‘You can use the phone to make a call anywhere you want,’ he said. I snatched up the phone, excitedly. ‘I’m going to call my sister from Air Force One!’ I said. … The bathroom is huge. There’s a cover that goes over the toilet that seemed to transform it into a long cot on one side of the wall. Seriously, a short person could actually lie down on the toilet cover.”
Stewart hammers Cramer on `The Daily Show’ (AP)
Jon Stewart hammered Jim Cramer and his network, CNBC, in their anticipated face-off on “The Daily Show,” repeatedly chastising the “Mad Money” host for putting entertainment above journalism. “I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it’s not a … game,” Stewart told Cramer, adding in an expletive during the show’s Thursday taping.
YouTube: Video of Cramer’s Daily Show appearance.
Stewart calls out Cramer and CNBC as a “snake oil” salesman; Cramer agrees (video at County Fair, Media Matters for America)
Anna Nicole Smith’s boyfriend, doctors charged (AP)
Anna Nicole Smith’s lawyer-turned-boyfriend and a doctor surrendered to face charges that they conspired to provide the Playboy Playmate with thousands of prescription pills before her 2007 fatal overdose. A second doctor also is accused. Howard K. Stern and Dr. Sandeep Kapoor were released late Thursday after posting $20,000 bond. Charges include conspiracy, unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance and prescribing, administering or dispensing a controlled substance to an addict, authorities said. Dr. Khristine Eroshevich was expected to surrender Monday.
I don’t normally post celebrity stories, but I think it’s important that these kinds of enablers be brought to justice.
Media Matters for America headlines
Bangladesh lifts YouTube ban over mutiny row
Bangladesh has lifted a ban on the video-sharing site YouTube after it hosted a recording of an angry dispute between the premier and army officers over a mutiny, an official said Thursday.
Model to NY judge: Make Google ID blogger
A New York lawyer says a magazine model has no justification for trying to unmask the anonymous blogger who called her offensive names.
Many Americans Wouldn’t Care Much If Local Papers Folded (Pew)
As many newspapers struggle to stay economically viable, fewer than half of Americans (43%) say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community “a lot.” Even fewer (33%) say they would personally miss reading the local newspaper a lot if it were no longer available.
NPR Canceling Staff Newspaper Subscriptions
Memo: “As of April 1 NPR is cancelling all newspaper subscriptions. We are making some arrangments to get the Wall Street Journal either on line or hard copy. You have until tomorrow to appeal this if there is a solid reason why you should be exempt. This is a cost saving measure company wide.”
World Wide Web feels its growing pains
The World Wide Web (WWW) on Friday marked its 20th anniversary and one of its founders admitted there are bits of the phenomenon he does not like. The creation of the web by British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee and colleagues at the European particle physics laboratory (CERN) paved the way for the Internet explosion which has changed our daily lives. Berners-Lee and CERN collaborators such as Robert Cailliau, who originally set up the system to allow thousands of scientists around the world to stay in touch, took part in commemorations on Friday at the laboratory…
“There are some things I don’t like at all, such as the fact that people have to live off advertising,” said Caillau, who preferred the idea of direct “micro payments” to information providers. “And there’s the big problem of identity, of course, the trust between the person who is consulting and the person who provides the page, as well as the protection of children,” he added.
Peter Rice in Line To Be Murdoch’s No. 2
Peter Rice, the low-key Fox movie executive who shepherded the offbeat Oscar winners Slumdog Millionaire and Juno was put in line Thursday to become Rupert Murdoch’s No. 2, spearheading his News Corp. media empire in Hollywood and on Wall Street.
Well, if Sam Zell can hire radio programming execs to run the Tribune, why can’t Murdoch have a movie exec running HIS empire?
Conde Nast Inks Distribution Deal With Hulu
Looking to get more exposure for its online video content, Conde Nast has signed a distribution deal with Hulu, becoming the first magazine company to link up with the free online video service. Under the pact, Conde Nast will distribute its video on Hulu as well as its partners like AOL, MSN and Yahoo.
Condé Nast Tells Staffers More Cuts Are Coming (Paid Content)
Despite the positive stirrings the past few days in the stock market, the economy is looking as bad as ever, so Condé Nast CEO Charles Townsend said that despite the magazine closings and layoffs since last fall, more cuts were coming… Since the company brought its digital and print ad sales operations closer together in January with the formation of Condé Nast Digital, the online side will surely be affected by any further cuts. What is unclear is how deeply the online side will be sliced into.
‘Doom and Gloom’ Hurt Sirius, CEO Says
Sirius XM Satellite Radio Inc. Chief Executive Mel Karmazin blamed the company’s poor fourth-quarter subscriber numbers in part on reports of the possibility, since averted, of the company’s filing for bankruptcy and outlined plans for expanding its business despite the poor economy.
Hollywood Exec: Nintendo Will Soon Offer Movies, TV Shows On Wii (Paid Content)
The Wii may lead the console wars in terms of units sold, but its lack of downloadable video content is a big disadvantage in the long-term—Microsoft and Sony continue to add titles to Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network. But the Wii may get streaming video capabilities soon, according to Curt Marvis, Lionsgate Entertainment’s president of digital media. He told Variety that the Wii would be a “big marketplace for digital distribution,” and that the platform could launch “as soon as this year.”
IMAX Accelerates Transition To Digital (Paid Content)
Theaters have been slow to move to digital (only about 20 percent of U.S. theaters are digitally equipped), and that’s been a drag on their costs, as it’s more expensive to show analogue films. One sticking point has been an inability by the theaters and studios to figure out how to share the expense of the upgrade. IMAX, though, appears to be starting to take a more aggressive approach. In its earnings announcement today IMAX Corporation said it deployed 32 digital systems during the fourth quarter to bring its total to 46.
NBC Juggles Lineup to Boost Conan’s Tonight Debut
Nearly a year after NBC’s new high-concept dramas The Philanthropist and Merlin were said to debut in early 2009, NBC announced that the two shows will debut in June — part of a plan to nestle Conan O’Brien in the ample bosom of original programming as he takes over The Tonight Show.
Latenight High for Jimmy Fallon
Jimmy Fallon finished his first week as host of NBC’s Late Night franchise on top, beating all cable and broadcast competition while also besting incumbent Conan O’Brien’s season average. In addition, Fallon’s was the most watched premiere week for a latenight yakker in the last decade.
Google Executive Takes Over AOL
AOL is getting new leadership again. Google Senior Vice President Tim Armstrong will take over as chairman and chief executive, replacing Randy Falco, said Time Warner. Ron Grant, AOL’s president and chief operating officer, will leave with Falco after a transitional period of a few weeks.
Interview: Tim Armstrong, Chairman And CEO, AOL: ‘Job #1 Is To Focus On The Core Business’ (Paid Content)
paidContent spoke with Tim Armstrong… One of the biggest questions: how will he accomplish finding the optimal structure for AOL that is part of his mandate from Time Warner Chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes and optimizing AOL itself at the same time? “I think job #1 is focus on the core business and make the core business stronger.” That will bring shareholder value. As for that optimal structure, Armstrong said, “AOL can certainly stand on its own” but he didn’t open or shut any particular doors.
And what is that core business? I haven’t been able to figure it out.
Why YouTube’s PRS Spat Is Just One Battle In The Coming Online Music War (Paid Content)
Google’s opposition to proposed new UK music rates may look like just public posturing, as private negotiations continue. But it’s only one instance of what may become an increasingly fractious tug ‘o war between online services and the music business in the next few months. Almost uniquely, YouTube’s 2007 blanket deal with PRS For Music was inked outside of the “joint online license” framework (JOL), through which the royalty society mandates most digital services. But, just as YouTube’s special deal has ended, so, too, the JOL, which was also implemented in 2007, is due to expire June 30. PRS wouldn’t say what will happen after that date—but, behind the scenes, many more services than YouTube alone have been lobbying hard for a new deal.
Hulu Now No. 2 Online-Video Site, Behind YouTube
One year after coming out of private beta, Hulu crossed a significant milestone: By one measure it’s now the No. 2 video site in the U.S. behind YouTube, and the biggest purveyor of professional video on the web.
Facebook Apparently Wants To Be More Like Twitter (Paid Content)
Facebook’s director of product Chris Cox said the primary goal when the network announced its redesign last week was putting “the stream” of members’ thoughts, actions and interactions with content front-and-center. Well, perhaps not surprisingly, the result looks very much like a Twitter stream with extra functionality. But if Twitter plans to make advertising a revenue stream, it can learn something from Facebook; the social net also engineered its new look with better ads in mind. Getting users to expect that useful content will show up in the stream—be it a photo, a friend’s status update, or an app request—also makes it easier for Facebook to slip ads in, and increases the likelihood that members will interact with them.
The New Virtual Red-Light District: Second Life Tackles Its Sex Problem (Paid Content)
A major part of Second Life’s appeal is that people can make their avatars into anything they want: vampires, steampunks, fashion models and, of course, strippers and escorts. Sex sells in Second Life, just like it does in the real world; though there aren’t any hard stats, adult and sex-related transactions make up a significant portion of the $35 million in real money that Linden Lab says filters through its virtual economy each month. But adult activities are also what has kept certain brands and companies from setting up shop in-world, so Linden Lab announced that it will be restricting such activities to an “Adult Continent.”
The Artist’s Guide to YouTube (by Natasha Wescoat, an artist and illustrator with “a passion for community and social media,” at Mashable)
Videoblogging isn’t just for teenyboppers with Flips. It’s a simple way professional creatives can make use of high traffic sites like Youtube to showcase their work and communicate with their audience in a fun and effective way. Videos are a great way to offer your audience a window into your world. Artists can create their own YouTube channel and embed videos on their own website or blog. Viewers can see the artist at work, listen to their thoughts, and watch them create, establishing a more tangible experience with the art.
Microsoft Winds Down adCenter Analytics Program (Paid Content)
Microsoft plans to close the adCenter AnalyticsBeta program, the company said in a post on the adCenter blog. Microsoft said it will still offer technical support to existing testers through Dec. 31, but it will not accept new participants. It didn’t offer a reason why it was winding down the program, saying only that it hoped to understand the needs of small and mid-size self-service customers as well as better develop its analytics strategy.
Google Adds Image Search to Android, iPhone
According to the Official Google Mobile Blog, the search engine giant has unveiled a new Image Search feature for the Android and iPhone platforms. Now, when Android or iPhone users search for images, they’ll see up to 20 images on a single results page. From there, users can visit the Web page that hosts the image or get a full-screen view of the image itself.
Apple to preview new iPhone software next week
Apple will hold an event next Tuesday to preview new software for the iPhone, the company said.
What the iPhone OS 3.0 Update Might Really Mean
File this under random musings du jour. All the fuss about Apple’s forthcoming iPhone OS 3.0 got me thinking. And in so thinking, I began to extrapolate. What if Apple is trying to beat Android to market with a mobile companion/Internet device/mini-notebook-like gadget?
Apple orders 10-inch touchscreens for third quarter: source
Apple will take third-quarter delivery of newly developed 10-inch touchscreens from Taiwan, a source said on Wednesday, amid talk the U.S. firm is developing a touchscreen PC.
SAP and Sybase To Bring Enterprise To Smartphones
Sybase and SAP AG are teaming up again, this time to bring smartphone users more data. The companies announced a partnership Wednesday in New York City to bring Germany-based SAP’s software to Apple’s iPhone, Microsoft’s Windows Mobile devices, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, and other smartphone devices.
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