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Midday open thread

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments
  • Baby, it is cold outside:

    By the end of the weekend, 180 million Americans may shiver through record-setting cold. Sixty percent of Americans will see and feel temperatures 15 to 30 degrees below normal.

  • Let’s talk creative gerrymandering.
  • Ken Burns is going to update his classic baseball documentary.
  • Motor City socialist activists mobilize inside the party to change it:

    Democratic socialists in southeastern Michigan can do something most of their counterparts across the nation cannot: they can boast of electoral victories. Moreover, they possess a level of influence within the Michigan Democratic Party of which many American leftists dream. And they’ve done it all without compromising their beliefs or values.

    Their success has come from working with, instead of against, local Democrats. …

    “As a small organization, how can we make a difference? We leverage our forces. We put our efforts towards a progressive Democrat challenging a Republican, or a progressive Democrat challenging a centrist Democrat [in a primary]. “

    “We don’t pick symbolic victories,” Green says, “We pick things we can win.”

    — Meteor Blades

  • Here’s a story you don’t see every day: Cops are ordered to return marijuana to rightful owner.
  • Color me unconvinced:

    Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) — Timothy Geithner, the former Federal Reserve Bank of New York president, wasn’t aware of efforts to limit American International Group Inc.’s bailout disclosures because the regulator’s top lawyer didn’t think the issue merited his attention, according to a letter sent to lawmakers.

  • Business Week looks at the new importance of IMAX to contributing to Hollywood blockbuster status.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has announced its Top Ten Science Stories of 2009, including:

    The changing conditions in the ocean due to increased acidity from increased CO2 is one of the unknowns in future climate change projections.  LANL’s Climate, Ocean, and Sea Ice Modeling effort for DOE and the National Science Foundation develops the highest-resolution dynamic models of the world’s oceans and polar icecaps.

    – Plutonium Page

  • The New York Times looks at how spending habits are changing due to the recession, and Newsweek looks at just how long those habits might last:

    The Recession Generation: Those entering the workforce now will likely make less and save more—not just in the short term but for the rest of their lives.

  • CBS polls Americans about their weekends:

    Sixty-three percent of those surveyed say they ask themselves “Where did the weekend go?” while only 34 percent say they feel relaxed and ready for Monday morning. Working Americans and parents of children under age 18 are even less likely to feel rested and relaxed at the end of a weekend.

    While the weekends fly by for many, fewer than half (42 percent) of working Americans say they would give up a day’s pay per week in exchange for a longer weekend to spend more time with family and friends. Fifty-three percent of Americans said they would rather keep their current hours and pay even it means less time with family.

  • Proof that not all big elections this year are legislative in nature–social conservatives are gunning to claim a bigger stake of the Texas State Board of Education. Their success or failure could say a great deal about the quality of education for a generation of kids in the second-largest state in the Union. What are the goals of the cons?

    Another far-reaching decision will come next week, when board members decide what students must learn in U.S. history, government and other social studies courses. The board is sharply divided on the topic; social conservatives, for example, want a greater role for religion in U.S. history classes and textbooks.

    “I see [the elections] as a referendum on what we’ve done the last few years,” said Republican board member Don McLeroy, an outspoken social conservative who served as chairman until last summer.

    The seven Republicans who make up the conservative bloc have made their influence felt in new curriculum standards for English and science – including much debated language that requires students to examine “all sides” of scientific evidence for evolution in biology classes.

    In a real way, this matters every bit as much as any singular House or Senate campaign. Worth keeping an eye on. –Steve Singiser

  • Katha Pollitt examines The Decade for Women: Forward, Backward, Sideways?:

    Women are still drastically underrepresented on op-ed pages, on Sunday chat-shows, as experts in news stories, and are scanted in literary prizes, awards and Best of the Year lists, as actresses and directors and playwrights. It seemed like 20,248 articles and 1,507 books were published explaining why women’s inequality is their own fault.

    — Meteor Blades


Casey Johnson 911 Call Released

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

LOS ANGELES — Socialite Casey Johnson was already dead when an ambulance was called to her Los Angeles home, according to the woman who made the 911 call.

A recording of the call was posted on TMZ.com on Saturday.

The woman, who was not identified, described the Johnson & Johnson heiress as “ice cold” and says Johnson’s hands were turning blue. The woman also said there are two other people at the home, and they all believed that Johnson was dead.

Johnson, 30, whose father is New York Jets owner Robert “Woody” Johnson, was found dead in her Los Angeles home on Monday.

A dispatcher asked the woman if she thought the death was a suicide.

“I don’t know if it’s a suicide,” the caller said. “Very often, her medication gets all screwed up. It’s probably because of that.”

Johnson had been an insulin-dependent diabetic since childhood but it was not immediately clear whether that contributed to her death. An autopsy Tuesday was inconclusive and the results of toxicology tests weren’t expected for weeks.

A memorial fund in Johnson’s name was set up with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Johnson, dubbed the “baby-oil heiress” by the New York Post, lived her life on the tabloid pages. She partied with high school friend and fellow heiress Paris Hilton and announced last month that she was “engaged” to bisexual reality TV star Tila Tequila.

Johnson was charged last month with burglary and receiving stolen property for allegedly taking $22,000 in clothing, jewelry and other items from a friend’s home. She pleaded not guilty and faced a February hearing.

Johnson’s body was flown east for a private funeral.


Categories: World Tags: , ,

Jets Beat Bengals For Playoff Win, 24-14

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

CINCINNATI — With their rookie quarterback playing mistake-free, the New York Jets turned their surprising playoff appearance into a long-running production.

Mark Sanchez handled single-degree wind chills and the playoff pressure with no problems Saturday, throwing a touchdown pass on a rollout play, and the NFL’s top running game took it from there, setting up a 24-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Sanchez went 12 of 15 for 182 yards, becoming the fourth rookie quarterback since 1950 to start and win a playoff game. Considered the Jets’ weakest link heading into the playoffs, he became their focal point.

“He just kept getting better as the season went along,” coach Rex Ryan said. “I told him this was his second season now. His first season is over. This is the playoffs.”

Third-round pick Shonn Greene ran for 135 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown, as the Jets’ rookies made the pivotal plays under the biggest pressure.

The Jets (10-7) got their first playoff victory since 2004 and pulled off a rare back-to-back sweep of the Bengals (10-7), who got a team playoff-record 169 yards from Cedric Benson but little else. Cincinnati’s streak without a playoff win reached 19 years and counting.

The Jets?

“They might have a chance to make a move,” Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer said. “Their defense is that good.”

Cincinnati went to the Meadowlands six days earlier and got turned into road kill. The Jets ran for 257 yards, and the Bengals managed a total of 72 yards, with Chad Ochocinco getting shut out.

Little changed the second time around.

“This was a great team effort,” said Ryan, who won in his playoff debut as a head coach. “We’re a good football team. If people don’t believe that, they soon will.”

No one should count the Jets out now, not the way their coach did two weeks ago. Ryan thought the Jets were out of contention following a 10-7 loss to the Falcons that was set up by Sanchez’s three interceptions. Then, everything lined up in their favor.

The Colts pulled their starters a week later, allowing the Jets to rally for a win, while four other playoff contenders lost. Then, the AFC North champs showed up at the Meadowlands last week and lost 37-0 with little at stake.

Ryan’s father, Buddy, was the defensive line coach for the ‘69 Jets, who won the Super Bowl title that Broadway Joe Namath had guaranteed. These Jets came into the playoffs as an off-Broadway show, lacking a star quarterback who could deliver a win.

Until Saturday.

Sanchez looked like a playoff pro, joining Shaun King, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger as rookie quarterbacks to win postseason starts. His passer rating was a stratospheric 139.4.

At times, Sanchez found himself on the sideline soaking it all in.

“It just blows your mind,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. I hope I have this feeling next week.”

Sanchez was by far the lowest-ranked passer in the playoffs, throwing 20 interceptions in his rookie season – second-most in the league. The Bengals wanted to put the game in his hands. Playing without a glove on his passing hand in an 8-degree wind chill, the kid from Southern California handled it without a bobble.

Afterward, the team present a game ball to owner Woody Johnson, whose daughter, Casey, was found dead in her Los Angeles home on Monday.

The Jets had a scare at the outset when punter Steve Weatherford was ruled out because of dizziness and an elevated heartbeat. Kicker Jay Feely punted for the first time in his NFL career, averaging 31 yards on seven kicks. He also made 20-yard field goal with 5:47 to go that put Cincinnati too far behind.

“I was so happy that I was kicking a field goal (then) instead of punting,” Feely said. “That was great.”

The Jets pulled ahead 14-7 by halftime with two big plays off Sanchez’s hand. He faked a handoff and made a perfect pitchout to Greene, who needed only one block to find open space for a 39-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career.

In the second quarter, Sanchez caught the Bengals off-guard. He rolled to his right and found tight end Dustin Keller running uncovered beyond the secondary. The throw was perfect, and Keller kept his balance for the last 15 yards while safety Chinedum Ndukwe vainly tried to knock him out of bounds.

At halftime, Sanchez was 7 of 10 for 94 yards with a passer rating of 132.9. It could have been even better – Braylon Edwards let a pass slip through his hands in the end zone.

Sanchez led an eight-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Thomas Jones’ 9-yard run for a 21-7 lead late in the third quarter. Benson broke a 47-yard touchdown run – the longest in Bengals playoff history – that got Cincinnati within a touchdown, but Sanchez and Greene turned it on again.

The game ended with a little more Jets serendipity. Shayne Graham, the Bengals’ franchise-tagged player, missed two field goals in the second half, including a 28-yarder with 3:49 to go that essentially sealed it.

More on NFL


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Casey Johnson’s Family Rallying Around Football

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

Filed under: ,

Casey Johnson’s family is headed to Cincinnati today to gather around patriarch Woody Johnson and root on the New York Jets in their playoff game. The Jets play the Cincinnati Bengals at 4:30 PM ET. The Johnson family bought the Jets from former …

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NY-SEN: Horald Ford to seek GOP nomination

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Braking newz:

Focksnews.com — At a press conference in Washington, DC today, former Tennessee Rep. Horald Ford today announced he would seek the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the 2010 election.

“I’m a life-long conservative who has dedicated his political capital to weakening the Democratic Party,” Ford said.

Ford said teabaggers would just love him.

“For starters, I’m to the right of most New York Republicans,” Ford said. “Dede Scozzafava? HA! I’m to the right of that Doug Hoffman dude, and he didn’t even run as  Republican.”

Asked for specific examples of his conservative record, Ford rattled off a comprehensive list.

“Well, I’m pro-life,” he said. “I want to outlaw abortion. I said so in 2006 — live, on national TV. It’s up there on YouTube if you want to see it.

“But that’s not all, folks. I am for the Iraq War. I’m against immigration. I thought Congress should have intervened in the Terri Schiavo case to stop her socialist husband. And I’m for permanent repeal of the Nazi estate tax.

“I’m the teabaggers’ sweetest dream and the Democrats’ worst nightmare.”

Asked about whether his support for the bailouts and his career as a Wall Street consultant might hurt his reputation amongst teabaggers, Ford muttered something about the looming Communist menace and stormed out of the press conference.

Rumor has it Glenn Beck is looking to serve as the Ford campaign’s spokesbagger.


Categories: Politics Tags: , , , , ,

Christina Gagnier: CES–The Answer to Publishing Industry Woes: Mobility

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

CES’ Super Session 7: Big Thinkers and Disruptive Technologies- Today’s Thought Leaders, Tomorrow’s Technologies presented a panel of big thinkers who addressed issues ranging from the impact of the explosion of E-Reader options all the way to technologies that will revolutionize healthcare. In the middle of the E-Reader discussion, an important segue was taken, a discussion of the publishing world and its transition into the digital world.

Decentralized media needs to react to the creation of the decentralized sources upon which users can access it. This was the core message of comments panelist Colin Crawford, Founder and CEO of Media7, made as he discussed how the publishing industry could accomplish its transition from print to new media. Crawford noted that the time is now for content producers, specifically the publishing industry, to seize this unique moment where no one seems to have determined how the mobile market will be tapped into.

When commenting on whether publishers should look to technologists to solve their own problems, Crawford remarked, “Publishers need to solve their own problems.” While many in the publishers industry are hanging their future on technology, there is a need for the industry to recognize that have to create different forms of content for different devices. The desktop reader of the New York Times and the iPhone application user are not one in the same. Content for those on the go needs to be quick to access and effectively communicated. As Colin Crawford puts it, “The right content needs to be with you at the right time.”

Mobile devices have yet to see their full potential realized, whether its publishers trying to share content or government agencies reacting to the needs of their constituents. Mobile penetration worldwide speaks to the need for content to be developed that is user-friendly on these devices. Yet, as more people look towards mobile as a source for information delivery, new challenges are presented: mobile phones demand that content is personal.

The decentralization of news delivery also demand that content providers catch up in a world of search and social networking, two obstacles that seem to stand in the way of online success for publishers. Users today are able to zone in on precisely what information they need, and communities of interest grow increasingly smaller. For the publishing industry to keep pace with technology, the publishers that will be most likely to succeed are those who excel at information delivery in a particular niche.

The continuing problem for the giants of print media is that content is becoming more personal, and everyman can be a content producer. Panelist Dr. Levy Gertzberg, President of the Zoran Corporation, pulled out his Flip Mino HD video camera to illustrate to the audience how personal content creation can be these days. Easy-to-use and fairly inexpensive (around $200 for the MinoHD), Flip illustrates the virtues of mobility: shoot a video, plug the camera into your laptop’s USB drive and upload it instantly. It is mentality that publishers must adopt.

As Colin Crawford reminded the audience, the print model used to work well both in terms of user experience and as a business model. The new model, the mobile model, also has this potential. Between branded applications and microtargeting with mobile ads, the industry has the opportunity to remain viable through this second decade of the 21st century.


Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points [106] — Election Season Begins

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Before we begin our weekly talking points, we must sadly offer our condolences to Vice President Joe Biden, whose mother just passed away. No matter what side of the political divide you come from, or what you think of our Vice President, losing your mother is something everyone can sympathize with, so we offer our thoughts to the Biden family in this sad time for them.

Of course, in Washington, the craziness goes on as usual, forcing us once again to pay attention to various bits of lunacy. Topping the list of lunatics this week was a man arrested for jogging naked near the White House. Now, I’ve got to admit, although “streaking” is a fad we all wish would make a comeback, you’ve got to hand it to this guy for pulling such a stunt in January in Washington, rather than waiting until at least the cherry blossoms had peeked out. Jogging around The Ellipse naked in January? Brrr!

The media continues its ongoing lunacy, this week hitting their well-used chorus of: “everything is bad news for Democrats, all the time.” But we’ll get to that a bit later, in the actual talking points.

The final bit of lunacy is the breathlessness which awaits the decision of when to hold the State Of The Union speech, which was earlier rumored to possibly pre-empt the season-opening episode of Lost. This will likely go down in history as the first time the biggest speech the president makes each year had to worry about enraging fans of a television show. This is mostly due to the fact that previous presidents didn’t have to worry about such lunacy, and the fact that television used to actually have “seasons,” and the “season” started in the fall and went through uninterrupted to spring, after which time re-runs would air until the “season” started again. Nowadays, television has mini-seasons which start and end for no particular reason, at random times during the year, resulting in fewer actual new episodes for viewers. Don’t even get me started on that particular lunacy, please.

But we can all breathe a sigh of relief, as the White House is now reassuring everyone that Obama will not pre-empt Lost, but will instead pre-empt the last ten minutes of the Super Bowl.

Heh. Just kidding. Because that really would get some folks annoyed at the president. Hoo boy.

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was an easy choice. Senator Chris Dodd made an impressive announcement this week, that he would not be seeking re-election this year.

This is good news, because Dodd’s chances of winning weren’t good, and instead this virtually guarantees Democrats will hold this seat. Dodd, quite plainly, put his party’s interests ahead of his own self-interest. And that is a rare thing indeed in politics, even when you are faced with poll numbers which say you’re going to lose.

Senator Byron Dorgan decided to step down as well, but Democrats don’t have as good a chance in North Dakota of holding on to his seat. Dorgan was faced with the same bad polling news as Dodd, and decided one more run wasn’t worth it. To be fair, we’ll give him a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week as well.

Because politicians who step down early from a losing race at least give some up-and-comer a shot at winning back the seat. The alternative is to run a campaign everyone knows you are going to lose, and by doing so, give the other party an easy pickup. At least this way, even if Democrats lose, they’ll at least have a better shot at winning than if Dorgan had tried to run again. The betting is that Republicans will pick up North Dakota anyway, I have to admit.

But for putting party ahead of ego, we congratulate Senators Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd for winning Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. The award is Dodd’s ninth, putting him in third place on the all-time rankings, and Dorgan’s third, putting him in a nine-way tie for eighth place.

[Congratulate Senator Chris Dodd on his Senate contact page and Senator Byron Dorgan on his Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

I almost couldn’t think of a Democrat who disappointed me, which is remarkable since we’re really covering a three-week period this week (due to ourselves being pre-empted by our own annual McLaughlin Awards columns, of course).

But then Tim Geithner’s scandal sprang to mind.

Now, Geithner hasn’t been actually convicted of anything, but what leaked out this week was pretty damaging. Geithner, at the New York Federal Reserve, apparently was in the center of some hanky-panky involving AIG and the whole financial collapse last year (before Geithner was named Secretary of the Treasury). Geithner may have told AIG executives to keep quiet about some payments made (after AIG got billions of taxpayer bailout money), so the Securities and Exchange Commission wouldn’t find out about them.

This could be a big enough scandal to force Geithner to resign, although for now it seems he (and the White House) is hunkering down and hoping it will blow over.

Whatever comes of it, though, for telling a bailed-out company to essentially lie to a government regulatory agency, Geithner has more than earned Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Secretary Timothy Geithner has no contact info on the Treasury Department webpage, but you can always let the White House know what you think of his actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 106 (1/8/10)

The usual talking point from the media, no matter the subject or circumstance, is how bad things are for Democrats, as I mentioned previously. This week, it reached a crescendo of fantastical proportions, as news headline after news headline screamed: “Democrats retiring — midterms will be Republican blowout!”

Democrats, as usual, appear befuddled by the whole thing. Democrats need to wake up, and start sounding a little more confident about their chances in the upcoming election. Not to the extent of appearing Pollyannaish, but still, they need to realize that doom-and-gloom can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the political world.

Democrats face the same conundrum that faces teenage boys everywhere — girls aren’t interested in guys who exude self-doubt, they are drawn instead to those who appear self-confident. The electorate, in this twisted metaphor, are the teenage girls (which actually isn’t that bad a comparison, considering the fickle nature of both).

So instead of individual talking points this week, I offer up instead one big talking point — how to talk about the upcoming elections, and Democrats’ prospects. This may be seen by some as sheer laziness on my part, which is probably a fair criticism, but in my defense, I am in the process of preparing to upgrade my ChrisWeigant.com website this weekend, and have been swamped with lots of details on this front. Next week, I promise, we’ll get back to a regular format here.

So, for Democrats everywhere, especially those about to be interviewed, let’s have a little rah-rah go-team talk for a change, because the Republican spin is solidifying in the media’s myopic eye, and will soon set as hard as concrete. Democrats need to counter this — soon — with some of their own spin. To wit:

 

“I see the media is obsessed over two Democratic senators announcing their retirement. But what goes completely unmentioned in these stories is the fact that six Republican senators have also announced they’re not running.

“Let’s do a little math, shall we? Two Democrats out of 58 is a little over three percent. Six Republicans out of forty is fifteen percent. So, the media’s focus on three percent of Democrats retiring, while completely ignoring the fifteen percent of Republicans retiring strikes me as a little one-sided in its reporting.

“Over in the House, much has been made over Democratic retirements as well, while ignoring the fact that more Republicans are retiring from House seats than Democrats. This is not exactly ‘fair and balanced’ reporting, guys.

“In actual fact, the two retirement announcements by Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd were actually good news for Democrats. Before the retirement announcement, people were betting that both of them would lose their seats to Republicans. Net loss to Democrats, two seats, in other words. After the announcement, the smart money is that Democrats will hold onto the Connecticut seat. Net Democratic loss, one seat. By these announcements, Democrats’ chances in the Senate actually improved — but I must have missed all those news stories which examined this fact.

“History shows that a new president’s party will lose some seats in Congress in the midterm elections. But we Democrats do not see this as any sort of ‘landslide’ election, because we fully expect to start 2011 with a majority in both the House and Senate. We simply do not think that it is in the cards for Republicans to take control of either house of Congress this year.

“We’ve got some mighty good candidates running in some very competitive races, and if we ran the table, we even have an outside chance of picking up a few seats in the Senate. We do face some tough races to hold onto a few of our seats, it is true, but we also have some opportunities in other states of picking up a few seats as well. So I wouldn’t be writing the obituary of Democratic control of Congress quite yet, if I were you.

“Democrats have shown in the past year that we are willing to tackle the enormous challenges our country faces at the moment, and offer solid solutions for how to improve America in the future. Republicans have shown that they know how to say the word ‘no.’ Over and over and over again. It seems to be their entire party platform — stand in the way of progress, and obstruct everything rational adults know needs doing.

“We don’t think voters are ready to go back to the way Republicans ran things when they were in charge. We don’t think voters trust Republicans to be fiscally responsible, because when they were in power they refused to even pretend to pay for anything. Democrats have taken the lead in what is called ‘pay as you go’ legislation — making sure that things are paid for, and not just heaping on more spending.

“The voters are understandably annoyed over all the bailout money which President Bush had to ask Congress for, after the economy collapsed on his watch due to deregulation. But that money is starting to be paid back, and the taxpayers may even eventually turn a profit on the money, as the economy enters full recovery.

“Democrats are proud to run on our record, and will be making this case to voters everywhere this election season. And we are fairly confident that the voters are going to take a good hard look at both parties, and they’re going to see Democrats as the party that gets things done, and Republicans as the party of ‘no.’

“If the voters can even figure out who is a Republican and who is not, that is. It seems there is a gigantic intra-party struggle between Republicans and the insurgent Tea Party folks. The Republican Party is moving to a very radical, hard-right fringe position, and we don’t see that as a recipe for success in getting elected.

“Americans want to see their government work. Most of them aren’t interested in destroying government for some ideologically narrow viewpoint. But that, it seems, is what the Republican Party is offering them this year.

“Which is why I’m actually feeling pretty good about Democrats’ chances in the upcoming election. We think we can energize our base, and convince swing voters that we are the ones offering good ideas for moving the country forward. And, with Republicans offering nothing more than a vision of moving this country backwards, we think our chances are actually pretty good this year — especially since it looks like Republicans will be defending more open seats than Democrats.”

 

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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Gina Glantz: Congress: Take the "Hanging Out" Challenge

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Driving across the country the last three weeks meant rarely hearing punditry. On occasion I scanned the New York Times and Washington Post on line. Small town papers became my news staple. Conversations along the way opened doors into lives outside the Beltway. Home now, I discover that pundit focus, beyond terrorism, is on how many Congressional seats the Democrats will lose. Clearly that also consumes Members of Congress.

Party changing and retirements signal re-election nervousness and job dissatisfaction. Not surprising since Congress seems to be all about who is doing what to whom in Washington and little about what is really happening back home.

It is time for Members to put aside pouring over poll results and resist town hall meetings that attract the most enraged constituents. It is time they sat down and read small town or city neighborhood papers and visit — unannounced – locally owned diners and the like. Members need to see first hand that decisions made in Washington are played out daily in difficult decisions made around kitchen tables. They need to be reminded that national statistics distort and what we all think about, we don’t necessarily know about.

Over the last three weeks, at locally owned establishments, we dined with a giant stuffed moose and a taxidermied buffalo that had appeared in “Dancing with Wolves.” (Sadly, we arrived at four diners with CLOSED signs in towns with as many closed stores as open ones.) We asked folks how they felt about health care reform. Almost everyone had a story to tell about someone they knew not having health care or about being so lucky that they had health care. Almost everyone said they couldn’t figure out what was going on but felt “something had to be done but Washington will probably get it wrong.”

We met a young family that had moved to a small town in fear that a potential economic collapse would happen in big cities first. They searched for a small town where there was good hunting, good schools and good neighbors. The father, a pig farmer, and his wife, a doctor, investigated Illinois but rejected it because “it has the highest rate of malpractice suits and therefore the highest malpractice insurance costs.” After four months in their new home, they decided to take their oldest out of public school because “No Child Left Behind really means every child left behind.” Hearing we were from San Francisco, the farmer said that we were probably ideological opposites. It didn’t matter because, in fact, his family concerns matched mine of years ago except I felt guilty about moving my oldest child out of public school while the farmer felt frustrated and vindicated in his view of government-run anything. If his two year old hadn’t gotten antsy, our engaging, civil conversation could have gone on and on.

Conversations become good anecdotes. The mainstream media often pick up on local stories as anecdotes. Reading about events where they happen transcends anecdotes. A county report indicated that town-by-town unemployment ranged from 9% to 25%. So much for national down ticks. A ninth grade class was featured because it collected 13,000 pencils to be sent to students in Appalachia. When was the last time a bi-partisan group in Congress thought about children in America without pencils? I learned about the Bennett Freeze, which fortunately the Obama administration reversed. Nevertheless, only 3% of Native Americans affected by the Bennett Freeze have electricity. When was the last time a bi-partisan group in Congress became enraged over Americans without electricity?

Over 30 years ago I was a District Administrator for a congressman who came home every weekend and went door to door. I am sure there are still Members of Congress who do some version of that. I suspect there are a lot more who don’t. Today, polls and demonstrations seem to drive Members’ impressions and that does a disservice to those they serve because the result is policy driven by partisanship not people.

I am not suggesting legislation by anecdote, though I prefer it to what we have now — legislation by angry mob and high profile lobbyists. I am suggesting “hanging out”, without fanfare, with constituents where they spend their time. And to do it right means to go without a trailing media. And why not have a district office staffer assigned to “hanging out” every week and reporting back to the Member. Maybe if Members shared stories, they would discover that a conservative family in Kentucky has the same desires and values as a liberal family in NY.

President Obama gets it. He obviously can’t “hang out” so from the start of his Presidency he insisted on reading ten letters a day from around the country. Maybe the White House should create a job for someone who travels around the country without fanfare and has conversations like I did. Someone who reports back to the 7:30 morning meeting to remind those in the middle of chaos that what they decide connects palpably to ordinary Americans. Such a job should be time limited because hanging out in the White House or in the halls of Congress for too long makes one beholden to the institution rather than to the people.

Who knows, maybe “hanging out” would result in civil conversations and legislative deliberations about people’s lives rather than all-consuming ideological screeching.


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Economic Outrage du Jour: Emails Exposed

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

Hugh Son at Bloomberg reports that e-mails forced into the light show that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, parts of whose job is supposedly to be curtailing bankers’ riskiest impulses, told American International Group to conceal information about its payments to banks while the financial crisis was unfolding:

AIG said in a draft of a regulatory filing that the insurer paid banks, which included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA, 100 cents on the dollar for credit-default swaps they bought from the firm. The New York Fed crossed out the reference, according to the e-mails, and AIG excluded the language when the filing was made public on Dec. 24, 2008. The e-mails were obtained by Representative Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. …

“It appears that the New York Fed deliberately pressured AIG to restrict and delay the disclosure of important information,” said Issa, a California Republican. Taxpayers “deserve full and complete disclosure under our nation’s securities laws, not the withholding of politically inconvenient information.”

You won’t hear any applause in this corner for the obstructionist, ultra-wealthy Darrell Issa. His self-funded recall petition encumbered us Californians with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the governorship, a position Issa himself hoped to capture. His support for English-Only laws, right-wing attacks on ACORN, dissing of the 9/11 widows and other antics since his self-funded campaign put him in Congress epitomize the politics progressives are duty-bound to grind into dust.

But, frankly, if the disclosures in those emails are what Bloomberg and Reuters and others are saying, congressional Democrats ought to be on top of this issue. Must we depend on the richest man in Congress to engage in an oligarch vs. oligarch battle to give us the skinny about what’s going on?

Edward Harrison at Credit Writedowns says, quite correctly:

At issue is whether the 100 cents on the dollar payments by AIG to its credit default swap counterparties were a backdoor bailout.  Most market watchers believe that AIG counterparties would have received significantly less on the free market, exposing them to tens of billions in losses instead of taxpayers (see CW story from March 2009 on this issue). So, in a very real sense, many believe taxpayers were defrauded by the government’s handling of the AIG affair.  This latest revelation only adds to that belief.

Moreover, in regards to Tim Geithner personally, this revelation is extremely damaging. Not only did he, Paulson and Bernanke mishandle the Lehman bankruptcy which triggered the panic central to the financial crisis, but he has now been personally implicated in withholding – covering up, if you will – vital evidence on the looting of taxpayers to the benefit of financial companies, some of whom are not even domestic institutions. You have to see this in a negative light.

With the economy continuing to show signs of at least short-term improvement, many Democrats and some progressives in and out of the party, seem unwilling to second-guess what was done on the fly at the height of the financial crisis. And, with an election year already under way, there may be a tendency to stand publicly and firmly behind Geithner. Hoping for what? That even more damaging revelations don’t come to light before November? How much that was unknown when this was written might become known by then?

Next week, Chairman Phil Angelides will hold the first hearings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that was approved in May. Some people hope this will operate with the same spirit as the 1930s investigation that came to be known by the name of its last and toughest chairman, the Pecora Commission. If Tim Geithner’s name doesn’t come up a few times during those hearings, it will be a very big surprise.

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The emails are here. (h/t to fladem)


Categories: Politics Tags: , , , ,

Garrett Gilbert, Texas Longhorns QB (PHOTOS, INFO)

January 8th, 2010 admin No comments

Garrett Gilbert is playing quarterback for Texas in tonight’s BCS National Championship game due to an injury suffered by QB Colt McCoy in the first quarter. Gilbert, a freshman from Buffalo, New York, was born in 1991 and was a USA Today All-USA player last year. Scroll down for photos.

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Categories: World Tags: ,