Category Archives: Blog

The Nice Side Of Nasty Simon

 Simon Cowell

    photo: wiki commons

American Idol judge Simon Cowell, says he’ll be putting out a single in the next seven to ten days with proceeds going to Haitian relief.  The goal, according to Cowell, is to raise as much money as possible as quickly as possible.

“Performers have yet to be chosen, but may include British singers Susan Boyle, Leona Lewis and Cheryl Cole, Cowell said.”  -AP

Supreme Court Sanctions Corporate Control Of America’s Political System

 Supreme Court Of The United States

                           U.S. Supreme Court

There appear to be two realities on the question of campaign finance reform.  One, is the world of what politicians do and say when they’re in front of  tv cameras or talking to a reporter.  They fall all over one another in an effort to explain that they’re all for it.  The other, the real world, is how they feel about accepting large sums of money.   It’s what they live for.   They live to get elected and money is the grease that makes the wheels go ’round, particularly in this age of electronic journalism.    This was first made apparent by the Nixon-Kennedy debates.  JFK was tanned, rested, in makeup for tv and looking like he’d just stepped off the front page of GQ.  Dick Nixon was sweating bullets and sporting a beard that made him look like he was badly in need of a shave.  Some have argued that Kennedy won the debates on image alone.

It’s largely image that gets people elected in America and it’s no secret that it takes big money to present an image to the American people while fending off attacks from the opposition.   When people give you money to run for office they expect a return on their investment.   And so, those who have the most to “invest” in the Presidency and the Congress, are in effect, running the country.  This is why we have no anti-trust laws preventing monopolies in the health insurance industry.   It’s why the cost of prescription drugs doubles when you cross the border from Canada to the U.S.   He who contributes the most, gains the most favor in the nation’s capitol.  The insurance industry and big pharma have contributed heavily for years.

And so friends, finance reform has been a hot-button topic since 1833.   Yes, 1883.  For more than 100 years, our political leaders have failed to pass meaningful campaign finance reform legislation.  Oh, bills do get passed, but lobbyists just bring the money in through a different door and nothing really changes.

Until we come to the court of last resort.  The mighty Supreme Court of the United States.  If the buck(s) is going to stop anywhere, this is where it will have to happen.  But what has the high court just done?  On a totally partisan vote, the dignified and noble Supreme Court of the United States has overturned precedents from 1990 and 2003 that upheld limits on what companies could spend independently,  from their own treasuries,  to support or oppose federal candidates.

The Supremes also struck down the part of McCain/Feingold that placed restrictions on broadcast ads for or against candidates just before an election takes place if the ads are paid for by labor unions, advocacy groups or corporations.

Common Cause President Bob Edgar responded to the ruling by saying,  “This decision allows Wall Street to tap its vast corporate profits to drown out the voice of the public in our democracy.” 

The five conservatives on the high court obviously do not agree.  They seem to feel that opening the doors on a flood of new corporate spending to further influence the political process is an issue of free speech.

The thinking of the majority according to Justice Anthony Kennedy is:  “We find no basis for the proposition that, in the context of political speech, the government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers.”

And so, the political process in America becomes increasingly separate and unequal, favoring the wealthy over the poor, the middle class and even a number of Republicans who have been duped into believing that what’s left of their hijacked party continues to represent their best interest.

The Blast From Mass

So the people of Massachusetts have chosen Mr. Brown over Martha Coakley.    They have chosen a man who has pledged to vote against health care reform.

A study out of Wisconsin, indicates a jump of 83% in the cost of family health insurance premiums by 2016 if there is no reform.   The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that nationally, premiums will jump 70% by 2018 without reform.

And the people of Massachusetts, the state that gave us Teddy Kennedy,  have just voted against health care reform?  Oh wait, silly me, Massachusetts already has a health care plan for its residents.   Why should they care about the rest of the country?   Let the folks in Wisconsin and California go broke paying for health care, so long as everything is fine back in Massachusetts.  Never mind that they have just shot down the Democrats “supermajority” in the Senate, which means the Republicans will now be able to filibuster every progressive move the Democrats try to make, including legislation that might increase the number of new jobs rather than backing the multi-national corporations with their millions in campaign contributions (bribes) and continued outsourcing.  No, far better to go with the “party of no” and maintain the status quo.   The horror…..the horror……

Note to Mr. Obama:  The time has come to summon up the ghost of FDR, sir.  It’s time to grab Wall Street and its corporate wonks by the throat.   This attempt at getting along with everybody isn’t working.  The Republicans don’t want to get along.  They want to destroy you and your party.   They just might destroy the country in the process by eliminating the middle class.  Either start fighting back and make those changes you promised, or risk forfeiting the upcoming election.  John McCain says he wants to bring back the Glass Steagall Act.  Call his bluff and back his move.  And make a lot of noise about it.

The following from “Calbuzz” may be informative for Sen. Barbara Boxer and her fellow Democratic incumbents-

“While no one expects U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer to make the kind of rookie, dumbass, arrogant mistakes that Massachusetts Attorney Gen. Martha Coakley made (she’d better not suggest, for example, that Willie Mays played for the Dodgers)*, the election of Republican state legislator Scott Brown in a true-blue state like Massachusetts, suggests that anyone who looks or smells like an incumbent could be in trouble in 2010.”  -Calbuzz

Earthquake Relief Scams

The tragedy in Haiti is bringing out the best in people as millions donate what they can to aid Haitian relief efforts.   Unfortunately, the human equivalent of roaches and rats is also making an appearance with scams designed to try and take advantage of most people’s heartfelt generosity.

The FBI has issued a warning about unsolicited appeals over the Internet.    Web scams were common following Hurricane Katrina and the attack on the World Trade Center.    The FBI was suspicious of most of the 4,600 websites that appeared following the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

A list of valid relief organizations and ratings on the job they are doing can be found at charitynavigator.org.

Or, you can click here for a list of legitimate relief organizations compiled by the Los Angeles Times.

High Water In L.A.

los angeles river

2:20PM Monday.  Rain rolls into Los Angeles and the L.A. River rises.   This shot was taken from Kester Avenue in Sherman Oaks.

willis ave

                       photos:  ron olsen/workingreporter.com

In neighborhoods nearby,  intersections totally flooded out.  This has been happening every time the area gets a heavy rainfall for at least the past 20 years.    Could it be another case of the L.A. City Council turning a blind eye to the San Fernando Valley?  Naw, they’d never do that.   That’s nothing but…..a myth?

Out And About

Raining here in Los Angeles, with 54 degrees at 8:12 AM.   Local tv news went into weather hyperdrive last night (that’s what they do here in L.A.), with live reports from the scene of drenching rain that has not yet fallen and  mudslides that have yet to occur.  Oh, but it could be bad.  Really bad.  Oh my!  Yes Virginia, we know it could.  And thanks for scaring the bejesus out of us so many times that we’ve all grown numb to your incessant alerts.

(“context”   noun:  discourse that surrounds a language unit and helps to determine its interpretation)

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Ken Auletta, has written what appears to be an interesting piece on “Story Control”  in The New Yorker, but you’ll have to subscribe to get at it.

‘Auletta writes, “The news cycle is getting shorter—to the point that there is no pause, only the constancy of the Web and the endless argument of cable. This creates pressure to entertain or perish, which has fed the press’s dominant bias: not pro-liberal or pro-conservative but pro-conflict.”

  • Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, tells Auletta, “What used to drive one or two days of coverage and questions is now readily subsumed every few hours.”
  • David Axelrod tells Auletta, “There are some really good journalists there, really superb ones. But the volume of material they have to produce just doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for reflection.”’  -The New Yorker

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Looks like the New York Times is set to begin charging for access to its website.

“New York Times Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. appears close to announcing that the paper will begin charging for access to its website, according to people familiar with internal deliberations. After a year of sometimes fraught debate inside the paper, the choice for some time has been between a Wall Street Journal-type pay wall and the metered system adopted by the Financial Times, in which readers can sample a certain number of free articles before being asked to subscribe. The Times seems to have settled on the metered system.” NY Magazine

“He’s about 20 pounds lighter, dabbles in yoga and has declared Mondays “meatless.”

Six months into his second and last term as mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa appears noticeably more at ease both at City Hall and personally.

Villaraigosa credits the change in part to his decision to forgo a run for governor this year, shedding the incessant political speculation that he acknowledges was a major distraction.

The personal fallout from his extramarital affair in 2007, which led to salacious national headlines and the breakup of his 20-year marriage, has also had time to settle both for him and for his children.” -LA Times

The newspaper reports that the Mayor “shied away” from saying much about his relationship with former Miss. USA and tv reporter Lu Parker.

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Ricky Gervais, got off a couple of pretty good shots while hosting the Golden Globes last night.  One involved ribbing Paul McCartney about what is sometimes the high cost of ending relationships.  Sir Paul, was not smiling.  The other had to do with an incident in Malibu involving Mel Gibson.

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We are now experiencing moderate rainfall here in the San Fernando Valley as the STORMWATCH! continues. Must leave you now and get back to work on my ark.

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Video From Haiti

Help continues arriving in Haiti while thousands of earthquake victims struggle to find water and food. European nations have pledged more than a half-billion dollars and the U.S. says more troops and U.N. peacekeepers are on the way. Still, problems remain in getting aid workers and supplies out to where they are needed.

“….help was still not reaching many victims of Tuesday’s quake — choked back by transportation bottlenecks, bureaucratic confusion, fear of attacks on aid convoys, the collapse of local authority and the sheer scale of the need.” -AP

From euronews”

Updated Info On Haiti

You can pick up on some of the latest info from Twitter messages by clicking here.

Also, former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have joined President Obama in support for Haitian relief.   Here’s a clip from a joint news conference the three men held at the White House this morning.

“The two former presidents announced the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund to help raise money for Haitians suffering from the devastating earthquake that struck Jan. 12.  A Web site to collect donations is at www.clintonbushhaitifund.org.” –Bloomberg

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Donate to the Hatai Relief Fund of the American Red Cross by clicking here-

Healthcare Reform Is Just The Beginning

It must be out-and-out arrogance.  It’s the only thing that explains the banking industry’s short-sightedness in continuing to award huge bonuses to their execs as the country struggles to get out from under what is being called a major recession but what feels like the second great depression.

The BBC has issued the following on JP Morgan/Chase, which is reporting profits of $3.3. billion in the last 3 months of 2009-

“JP Morgan’s 200,000 employees were paid a total of $27bn in salaries and bonuses over the year – an 18% increase on 2008 – though a figure for bonus payments alone was not given.

The $9.3bn earned by investment bankers was a 21% increase on the previous year.”

Back in the real world, the nation’s employers cut another 85,000 jobs in December.  Here in Los Angeles, unemployment continues to run at something above 12%.

The homeless are on our streets in places homeless haven’t been seen before.    At the same time, bankers seem determined to pass along huge rewards to their executives, even while the people who bailed them out continue to suffer.   Are they beyond all reason?   Do they have anyone left in their corporate ranks that understands the power of public opinion and the need for a public relations plan?   Can’t they see that they’re setting themselves up to be hammered by a truckload of new federal regulations, a move the Democrats will be forced to take if they want to keep their hands on the reigns of power?   Or has Wall Street pumped so much bribe money into the Congress, that we now have government of, by and for the corporations and a relative few very wealthy individuals sitting comfortably at the top of the economic ladder?   A Congress that eagerly sends out our troop to protect corporate interests abroad while financial giants drain the income from taxpayers here at home with credit card usury and constantly changing fee schedules that would baffle even the most skilled flim-flam artist.  A Congress and an FCC that turn a blind eye to the impact of media  consolidation (80% of the tv market in the U.S. is now controlled by just 5 companies) while an increasingly weakened press fails to inform the American public that their elected representatives have been bought off?

There may be hope.

Eventually the debate over healthcare will end and the Congress will return to issues they were forced to set aside.  The economy and jobs will be at the top of the list.  Fixing the economy takes money.  The banks have it and the question will be how it’s being used.  Are they using it to help restore the economy, or are they playing scrooge and hoarding it away?

Here’s what Forbes has to say-

“Bankers have done the equivalent of stuffing the mattress in the last few months, despite being prodded by the government to lend the hundreds of billions in cash being pumped into the banking system by the Federal Reserve and other regulators.”

It feels as though we are heading for two societies.  One, the safe and comfortable folk, consists of bankers, Wall Street execs, the health insurance and big pharma companies the agricultural conglomerates and a few other big-time players with big money to pump into Washington.   For now, consider agriculture.   There hasn’t been all that much talk about food, even though one of the first indicators that prices were about to shoot up was the global price of rice.  Even before gasoline prices took off, the price of rice was shooting up, and no one went looking for an explanation as to why.  Since then, food prices have continued jumping by double-digits.  The numbers are shocking.

“Between March 2007 and March 2008, global food prices increased an average of 43 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. During that time period, wheat, soybean, corn, and rice prices increased by 146 percent, 71 percent, 41 percent, and 29 percent, respectively, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”-USAID

If you work for an agriculture conglomerate or a health insurance company or one of the big banks, chances are you are cash fat, warm and comfortable.   However, if you’re on the other side of the equation, left out of the corporate prosperity bubble, you are undoubtedly struggling daily to pay for gas, food, education and healthcare, while attempting to keep a roof over your head.

We are becoming two societies, the “haves” and the “have-nots,” and God help the “have-nots” because the “haves” like the big bankers, are increasingly showing that they do not care about people.  They care only for the bottom line.    Their arrogance and blindness are beyond belief and their stupidity is unbelievable because it has all happened before.   Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, was the great “trust-buster” of the early 1900’s.  FDR was forced to come back and hammer many of these same interests in the 30’s, and now somebody is going to have to do it again.    The survival of America as we know it, as a place with a quality of life and a sense of decency and fairness that is the envy of much of the world, will depend upon it.

Healthcare reform is just the beginning.