Layoffs At ABC While Local TV Profits Rise

The ax falls at ABC, with 22 layoffs.  That’s fewer than expected, only because so many now former ABC employees accepted buyouts.  Matea Gold reports in the Los Angeles Times-

 “The final tally was less than anticipated because more than 300 staff and contract employees agreed to take a voluntary buyout, according to a source familiar with the process. The larger-than-expected response to the buyout offer provided a small measure of relief at ABC, which is undergoing a radical makeover in its approach to news gathering and production in an effort to pare down costs. In all, the news division is losing 350 to 400 employees, at least a quarter of its 1,400-person staff.” –LA Times

At the same time, MediaDailyNews reports that local tv ad money is expected to climb an average of 7.5% in 2010.

“The new report, by BIA/Kelsey, a television station consultant and researcher, says most growth will be fueled by an improving economy and political advertising. The fierce midterm elections should prove lucrative for stations, particularly in key battleground states. MediaDailyNews

A Double Standard For Immigration

   You can tell people to stay where they are or you can send the message that it’s okay to come on in.  Doing both at the same time and then complaining about the system being dysfunctional when things fall apart is hypocritical.

For decades that’s exactly what the United States has been doing.   And that’s precisely what’s happening now.

For decades our leaders have been speaking out against the evils of illegal immigration, while at the same time, millions of illegal immigrants have been given the green light to come on in and take advantage of  low-paying jobs, emergency room healthcare and the public school system.

Don’t kid yourself.  All the while our public officials at the local, state and federal levels knew exactly what was going on.  But America needed and wanted cheap labor.  People who would work for endless hours in the fields without complaining, doing the back-breaking work Americans wanted no part of.   People who couldn’t afford decent housing, so they would pack two or three families in one small apartment and sleep in shifts.

Produce prices were kept low while agribusiness contributed to political campaigns to insure the system would remain unchanged.  And they all knew what was happening.

“Despite heated political debate in Washington over illegal immigration in the United States, an increasing number of banks are seeing an untapped resource for growing their own revenue stream and contend that providing undocumented residents with mortgages will help revitalize local communities.”-CNN

In the early 80’s I went along with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the “INS,” on a raid of illegal immigrants working the onion fields up in Ventura County.   My photographer and I were in a government SUV.    As we approached a field filled with workers, a siren started to wail.  The siren had been put in place by the farm’s owner to alert his illegal immigrant employees that the INS was approaching and that they should run for their lives.  Which is what they did.  Like antelope running across the Serengeti Plain on some tv show.  But these weren’t wild animals, these were human beings. I had recently arrived from the east coast and saw the whole thing as being nothing short of surreal.  People being rounded up like a bunch of animals here in the United States?   What the hell?

The INS had the field surrounded, so pretty much everybody was “captured” and put on buses to be deported back to one nation or another south of the border.  The INS agent I was with told me they’d all be back in a matter of weeks because “this is where the jobs are.”   That being the case, I told him the whole thing seemed like a massive waste of time.  ‘Do you speak Spanish?” he asked me.  “No” I said.  “Better learn it,”  he said.

Now, nearly 30 years later, Arizona has a problem?

The border with Mexico is nearly 2 thousand miles long. It spans four states.   Do you seriously think it can be sealed off without the full cooperation of the Mexican government?   Thing is, there’s a war for survival going on between government officials and the wealthy and powerful Mexican drug cartels.

The cartels are being funded by America’s habit for illegal narcotics.

There’s also the fact that in the past, the Mexican government has openly encouraged its citizens to go ahead and cross over into the U.S. by any means necessary.

Then there’s the whole question of corn.  Corn?  Yes, corn.  A product, which, for centuries, has been central to Mexico’s culture and economy.   What did the U.S. do?  Following the passage of “NAFTA,” under the banner of “free trade trumps all,” our agribusiness conglomerates started dumping genetically engineered corn on the Mexican market.  Japan and Europe have restrictions on genetically engineered foods.  Mexico did not.   Mexico, now gets most of its corn from the U.S.   Activists say the result is that thousands of Mexicans have been driven from their small family farms.  Forced to look for work elsewhere, many hooked up with “coyotes” and crossed over into the U.S. while the Mexican government looked the other way.

Now, decades later, with millions of undocumented workers having been encouraged to enter the country illegally, Arizona is telling its law enforcement personnel to fix the problem by demanding that people with brown skin present proof of citizenship?

Yes, there are laws.  Yes, the laws must be upheld.   However, following decades of government negligence and hypocrisy the situation isn’t all that simple.  Dumping it on the cops by turning them into “race police”  is just plain wrong.

What’s needed is a workable solution.  But that will require a reasonable approach to undocumented workers who are already here, and the full cooperation of the Mexican government, a political body currently locked in a war for its life with drug cartels.

It would appear we must help Mexico to help ourselves.  This isn’t optional.  It’s mandatory.  Perhaps recognizing that the “war on drugs” is over, that it’s been over for years, and looking for a more realistic way to handle drug abuse would be a rational place to start?

We Should All Be Ashamed

   A new survey by Thomson Reuters, indicates Americans continue to lose confidence in their ability to get healthcare and pay for it-

“The Thomson Reuters Consumer Healthcare Sentiment Index found that confidence lost three percentage points from a baseline of 100 in December to 97 in March.

“Strikingly, Americans expect the situation to worsen significantly in the next three months,” said Gary Pickens, chief research officer at Thomson Reuters.” -Reuters

So much for Mr. Obama’s healthcare reform package helping democrats at the polls.    Not that anyone should be concerned about a plan that forces Americans to buy health insurance, with no new effective regulations controlling a health insurance industry that continues to reap huge profits while doing all they can to cancel claims of the seriously ill.

Can you spell W-e-l-l-P-o-i-n-t?

Once again people, we are the only industrialized nation in the world, that does not guarantee access to health care.  The only one.

Then I pick up the Los Angeles Times this morning to read the headline,  “Need for dental care overwhelms free clinic in Los Angeles.”

Molly Hennessy-Fiske reports that “The need for dental work was nearly double what organizers saw on the first day of a similar free clinic held in August.”

In one day, volunteer dentists, MD’s and others saw more than 1,100 patients.  More than 100 dental patients were asked to return on Monday, the last day of the free clinic.

Oh but wait.  There was no mention of dental care in all those months of angry debate about healthcare reform, was there?   So that means it doesn’t count, right?  What’s a little toothache?  It can’t be all that important or our wonderful Senators and members of Congress, with only our best interests at heart,  would surely have included it in their ” it’s not what we wanted but it’s better than nothing at all” healthcare reform package?

Maybe all those studies linking dental problems with heart disease are bogus?  Maybe that’s why they left it out?

Kudos to all the docs, dentists, nurses, nurse practitioners and others who continue to volunteer their time at the free clinic currently underway in Los Angeles.  According to the paper, “Nurse practitioners and doctors, especially specialists such as dermatologists, ophthalmologists, obstetricians, gynecologists and family practice doctors, are still needed.”

In the final analysis, this may be the only way America will be able to overcome the greed of its system and provide healthcare to all its citizens.  Just think about it.  This is third world stuff.  American children are going without dental care because their parents can’t afford it.

You can be sure the rest of the world is watching.

And thousands more are expected, as the free clinic continues.

Here’s an idea:  The Republicans and “Blue Dog” Democrats that made real healthcare reform impossible should go down to the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena and explain to all these suffering people, including the kids, why they don’t deserve the help they need.  They could do it in shifts,  leaving enough “party of no”  people on capitol hill to continue filibustering any meaningful legislation that might come along.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world, right?   Sure it is.  Unless we decide to stop acting like dogs.

It’s shameful that we don’t have a healthcare plan for our citizens that includes dental care.   More than that, it’s shameful we still don’t have a national plan that guarantees healthcare regardless of ability to pay.

Oh wait, we will have that thing that kicks in in 2014, right?  But that still won’t cover everybody, will it?  And what do I do between now and then?

You wonder why Americans continue to lose confidence in the system?   Take a trip down to the Los Angeles Sports Arena and open your eyes.

We should all be ashamed.

A World Gone Completely Nuts

  A quick look at the front page of the NY Times website this morning leaves you wondering if the world hasn’t finally gone completely nuts.

In Sudan ,Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a man who is wanted for war crimes has been re-elected president.   He got 68% of the vote.  Or so they say.

In Iraq, a court has disqualified 52 candidates, one of them a winner in last month’s election, on the grounds that he was once member’s of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.   The court has been asked to bar another 9 winning candidates.

Mr. Obama has set a September deadline for the U.S. to withdraw combat troops from Iraq.   Well, it isn’t a withdrawal, exactly.  He’s going to leave 50,000 troops in-country while the Iraqi government gets its act together and assumes full responsibility for national security.   If they ever can without a dictator or king at the helm.  Which is the way the Sumarians have handled things for thousands of years.  All of it kinda makes you wonder how long our troops will remain following the “withdrawal?”

In other good news here at home, it looks like Republicans in the Senate may block a move to recapture control of our government from Wall Street.

What’s that old parable about not messing around in someone else’s garden, until yours is free of weeds?  Maybe we should get our people out of Iraq and focus on reclaiming the United States from the banking industry?   Fully re-regulating the banks, providing a public option for health care and then banning all corporate donations to politicians as we move toward full public funding of political campaigns would be a good place to start.  We could probably accomplish a big chunk of that with money saved by bringing our people home from Iraq.

Take a look at this-

“As of February 2010, around $704 billion has been spent based on estimates of current expenditure rates[1], which range from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimate of $2 billion per week to $12 billion a month, an estimate by economist Joseph Stiglitz.[2]”-Wikipedia

$12 billion a month in Iraq while many Americans can’t afford a trip to the dentist.  And it’s not just Iraq.   The U.S. has troops stationed in more than 150 countries.

If more money is needed, the Congress, no longer tied down by a need to accept funding from corporations or war profiteers, could impose a windfall profits tax aimed at the banking, health insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

Public funding of political campaigns is the only way to go.   Reality-based thinking dictates that sooner or later we’ll need to get there if we want to keep what we have.

In a world gone completely nuts, sooner would be better than later.

Getting At The Truth

 Pat Tillman An excellent piece from Los Angeles Times columnist and former Sports Editor Bill Dwyre,  who writes that he went to a screening of “The Tillman Story” the other night.  A film about linebacker Pat Tillman’s mother and what she went through to try and get at the truth about her son’s death by friendly fire in Afghanistan.

Dwyre came away with some interesting thoughts, particularly if you happen to be a journalist.   Click on Bill’s name at the end of the quote to read the entire column.

“Dannie Tillman did what a nation full of high-paid, overblown journalists should have done. She went after the real story while the beautiful people on TV and the nerds with notepads broadcast and wrote morality plays. She got in the military’s face, in the government’s face. She didn’t let up. She was doing journalism while journalists were doing what we mostly do now — chase Web hits and take short cuts to higher profits.

A housewife got the real story, or as much of it as anybody probably will. Professionals trained to do so gathered moss and wrote slop.” –Bill Dwyre in the Los Angeles Times

Something To Believe In

We all need something to believe in.     God and country have always been a couple of biggies.   Thing is, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to believe in either one, what with the nearly daily expose’s on the predilection of the Roman Church for being an international club for pedophiles and the Senate and House acting like a pack of lap dogs for Wall Street and the insurance industry.   Nothing but a bunch of Pavlovian dogs, waiting with drool running from their mouths in anticipation of the next big money drop from lobbyists representing their corporate masters.

First we were handed a healthcare reform package without much reform.   We were left with Mr. Obama’s “it’s better than nothing at all” plan with no real regulatory teeth.  What we needed was a plan that would have eliminated death and illness as the only viable option for some who can’t afford to pay.  Something putting us on a parallel track with the rest of the industrialized world.   Something worthy of a civilized state.

We didn’t get it because members of the Senate and the House have been bought off by the health insurance industry.

If you think that’s an exaggeration, you really need to get out more.  Or at least read more.

And now comes word that our fine representatives in the U.S. Senate doubt they’ll be able to agree on a new package of regulations for the robber barons of Wall Street, before hitting a deadline for a “showdown vote” on Monday.

This is happening because not one Republican in the Senate is willing to vote for it.  Not one.

In an absolutely Orwellian move that would make Karl Rove bristle with pride,  the Republican’s are blaming the Democrats.

“We want to make sure that they don’t have the same kind of approach on financial services that they did on health care.” – Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Really?  Who was it that blocked significant reform on the healthcare package?  Was it…….the Republicans?  Yes!  It was!  So they now do an about-face and blame the Democrats for something they did.

Clever.

But where does this leave us?  The guys who put up the billions to bail out the banks that were deemed “too big to fail?”

Let’s review:  It’s been more than a year since we bailed out a visibly corrupt financial industry, initially providing $700 billion through the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008,  and still they can’t get it done.    The U.S. has filed a  case against Goldman Sachs, and there’s evidence that many or most or maybe all of the big financial players were conducting business in an unlawful fashion, putting us on the brink of a second Great Depression, and still they can’t get it done.

A piece in the Los Angeles Times yesterday, indicates that executives at Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s were pressured to dummy up ratings  on questionable and foul smelling “financial instruments” to give Wall Street what it wanted as we headed for a crash.  There is evidence that Wall Street continues to blindly conduct business as it was being conducted before the crash, that the high risk investing continues, putting us on a collision course with another another economic meltdown.

According to Simon Johnson, co-author of “13 Bankers:  The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown,” executive compensation at the nation’s largest banks hit record levels following the bailout in 2009 as the big bankers rewarded themselves for wrecking the economy.  And they did it with our money.  However,  Johnson says, “We have not fixed the financial system and its ability to take on financial risk.”

Prof. Johnson, the Ronald A. Kurtz Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, says deregulation in the financial industry has “led to great danger.”   The idea that completely unfettered mega-banks are good “is dangerous” and “must be stopped” he says.  “You must fear the arrival and entrenchment of a financial aristocracy.”

And still the United States Senate can’t get it done.   Or is it simply that they have been ordered not to get it done?

Of course it is.  But their orders aren’t coming from the great majority of Americans that voted them into office.  They are coming from those privileged few game players representing special interests out to drain off every last drop of blood flowing through the country’s economic veins.

First, they voted  to allow millions of Americans to continue to fall ill and in some cases die for lack of health care, while, at the same time, we will all be forced to give our money to an insurance industry which remains largely unregulated.

And they were just barely able to get that done.  The Republican Party and so called “Blue Dog” Democrats (Democrats that have been bought off), stood in the way.

And now it’s happening again.  This time they can’t reach agreement even though the country is again sliding toward the gaping yaw of economic disaster.

Wonder why so many people seem to be so angry as they form up in tea parties, coffee parties and other assorted protests?

Government by greed-driven insanity could be one reason.   The largest Christian church in the world having been shown to be morally and ethically corrupt could be another.

L.A. Press Club’s Nat’l Entertainment Journalism Awards

HOLLYWOOD, CA.  The Detroit Free Press and Freep.com’s “Motown at 50” online entertainment project won “Best of Show” and a $500 check at the Los Angeles Press Club’s 3rd Annual National Entertainment Journalism Awards Thursday night in Hollywood.

 

The best entertainment website beat out first place winners in 15 other categories, from show business reporters and media organizations across the nation–from Alaska to Kansas City.

The LA Weekly’s chief film critic Scott Foundas, now with the New York Film Festival, walked away with two awards, including Print Critic of the Year.  KABC Channel 7’s George Pennacchio also scored two wins in the TV news and feature categories.  

MDA Pix 1KTLA entertainment reporter Sam Rubin was “roasted” by screenwriter Stephen Mazur and KTLA anchor Jessica Holmes and received the top individual award for career achievement.  Last year’s award went to Joe Morgenstern, KCRW and Wall Street Journal film critic.

KABC radio reporter and TV producer Michael Linder emceed the annual event at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood.

Below are the NEJ 2010 Winners presented by Los Angeles Press Club.  Click here to view the Judges’ Comment for each category.

A.  PRINT

 

A1.  Print News 

Winner:  Kyle Hopkins, Anchorage Daily News, “E.T. go Nome?”

 

A2a. Print Feature or Series over 1,000 Words

 

Winner:  Richard Siklos, Fortune, “The Fight Over Michael’s Millions”

Second Place: Anthony Effinger and Daniel Taub, Bloomberg Markets, “All Shook Up”

Honorable Mention: Martha Sarabia, La Opinion, “Telenovelas”

 

A2b. Print Feature–Personality Profile Over 1,000 words

Winner:  Scott Foundas, L.A. Weekly, “Boxing, Sex and Madness: Mike Tyson, James Toback and the Ties that Bind.”

Second Place: Robert Gordon, Playboy, “Soul Man”

Honorable Mention: Eric Spitznagel, Playboy, “Andy Richter Grows Up”

 

A3. Print Feature under 1,000 Words

Winner:  Lisa Ingrassia, People, “Kelly Osbourne: I knew if I didn’t get help, I would die”

Second Place: Martha Sarabia, La Opinion, “The Venezuelan Export Gustavo Dudamel”

Honorable Mention: Jeanne Wolf, Parade, “Have Faith in Something Big”

 

A4.  Print Critic of the Year

 

Winner:   Scott Foundas, L.A. Weekly, body of work

Honorable Mention:  Lavender Vroman, Antelope Valley Press

 

A5.  Best Entertainment Publication

 Winner:  Lavender Vroman, Julie Jane Rios, Steve Galbreath, Antelope Valley Press’ “Showcase”

Second Place:  Drex Heikes, Tom Christie, Scott Foundas, L.A. Weekly Film Issue

 

B. TV

 

B1. TV News

Winner:  George Pennacchio, KABC/7, “Oscar Pre-Show”George Pannacchio 1

 

B2.  TV Feature/Series

Winner:  George Pennacchio, KABC/7, “Crips and Bloods”

Second Place:  George Pennacchio, KABC, “Misty Upham’

Honorable Mention:  Shawn Edwards, Fox 4 News, Kansas City, “Chat with the Stars”

 

B3.  TV Critic of the Year

The judges awarded no winner and encouraged TV entertainment critics to submit their most thoughtful commentary in 2011

 

C.  RADIO

 

C1.  Radio News

Winner:  Barbara Gasser, KroneHit, Austria, “Court decision on Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna”

 

C2.  Radio Feature/Series

 

Winner:  John DeSando and Kristin Dreyer Kramer, WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio, “It’s Movie Time’s Year in Review”

Second Place:  Brian Lauritzen and Gail Eichenthal, KUSC Los Angeles’ Arts Alive, “Nancy Bea Hefley”

Honorable Mention:  Scott Immergut and Matt Holzman, KCRW Los Angeles’ The Business, “Disney Convention”

 

C3.  Radio Critic of the Year

 

Winner:  Joe Morgenstern, KCRW, Los Angeles

Second Place:  Matt Holzman, KCRW, Los Angeles

Honorable Mention:  John DeSando and Kristin Dreyer, WCBE 90.5 FM, Columbus, Ohio

 

D.  ONLINE

 

D1.  Online News

Winner:  Andrew Gumbel, TheWrap.com, “The Wrap Investigates the Closure of the Motion Picture & Television Fund Long-term Care Center”

Second Place:  Sharon Waxman, TheWrap.com, “Exclusive: Comcast in Talks to Buy Universal”

Honorable Mention:  Jeanne Wolf, Parade.com, “Saying Goodbye Isn’t Easy”

 

D2.  Online Feature/Series

Winner:  Zachary Pincus-Roth, Slate.com, “Best Weekend Never”

Second Place:  Steven Mikulan, TheWrap.com

Honorable Mention:  Brad Schreiber, HuffingtonPost.com, “Athol Fugard: Art Battling Apartheid and Aids”

 

D3.  Online Entertainment Critic of the Year

Winner:  Peter Rainer, CSMonitor.com, 2009 body of work

Second Place:  Rick Warner, Bloomberg News

Honorable Mention:  Desson Thomson, TheWrap.com 

D4.  Entertainment Website

Winner:  Detroit Free Press and Freep.com, “Motown at 50”

Second Place:  The Wrap, TheWrap.com
Honorable Mention:  Shawn Edwards and Valerie Freeman, ILoveBlackMovies.com

 

D5.  Entertainment Blog by an Individual

Winner:  Tom Tangney, MyNorthwest.com

Second Place:  Shawn Edwards, ILoveBlackMovies.com

 

BEST IN SHOW, $500 Prize:

Detroit Free Press, Freep.com, “Motown at 50.”

What Passes For TV News In Los Angeles

 Attempted to watch one of the local tv news shows last night.  That was a mistake.   From one of the usual meaningless crime stories they segued into an almost giddy happy time segment where they were so chatty and happy and oh so exited and jbber-jabbery about the chilly weather!

“Oh my word Biff, Buffy is freezing her poor little starlet too-toos off out there in the cold, while we sit here in the warm studio!”   “Right you are Muffy!  Buuurrrrrrr! Sure glad we’re in here and she’s out there…cackle, chuckle, hee, hee, hee.”

It’s not like there was any news.  Just the Prez lambasting Wall Street while much of the country goes broke while facing foreclosure notices and the Congress sits on its backside, doing way too little to assist the common folk with a banking industry that took our money in the bailout and now continues putting the screws to all of us as the mid-term election approaches in a city where unemployment is running around 15% and they Mayor wants to lay off thousands of city workers while a whole new batch of millionaires (and one billionaire) run for the governor’s office as Wellpoint comes under fire with allegations the insurance carrier is systematically eliminating health insurance coverage for women with breast cancer.

There’s also the small matter of the cost in lives and dollars of those two wars we’re still in…..

Sorry, there I go again, falling through the rabbit hole.   Anyway, all that political stuff is simply too difficult to understand.

There is of course the possibility they got to it later in the show, after the really important news like Buffy being really cold and all, but I doubt it.

Know why so many of the starlet tv “reporters” here in L.A. look like their lives revolve around hair and makeup?  Because their lives revolve around hair and makeup.  They should just get it over with and take acting lessons, get an agent and start auditioning.

Even Michael Moore appears to be going Hollywood.  He was on the Olbermann show last night sans the baseball cap, his hair appearing freshly cut and carefully quaffed.  He even looks like he’s lost a few pounds.

Somebody got to Michael Moore.   Just wait.  Before long he’ll be wearing eye liner, getting veneers and smiling way too much like Lou Dobbs.

A news junkie, I still turn on one of the local shows occasionally, hoping to catch one of the few real reporters still standing, like Conan Nolan or Mark Coogan.

No such luck last night.  Feeling mildly nauseated I switched off the tv, commenting to my wife that it was like watching “The View.”  “No” she said, “the view has better content.”  She’s right.

You know, now that I think of it, Whoopi Goldberg would make one hell of a tv reporter.

Another “Elite” Fighting Force

It’s being reported this morning that Iran’s “elite” Revolutionary Guard is now conducting large-scale war games in the Persian Gulf.  I wonder.  Are these guys “elite” like Saddam’s Republican Guard was “elite?”     Their reaction to our military was to go into full retreat,  nearly tripping over one another in a rush back to Baghdad.  I certainly wouldn’t take the hyperbole-prone Iranian leadership’s word for any skill its military might claim to have.

Let’s see, who else had a tendency to overstate things to try and make the west feel as though he was stronger than he really was?  Oh yes!  Saddam Hussein!  I wonder how that’s working out for him?

Gotta be careful about word usage. Particularly when dealing with George W.  He’ll believe almost anything and he’s liable to attack.  He’ll invade and stick around for years.  Above all else, don’t say anything bad about his dad.  Could be a Texas thing, I’m not sure.

Gotta be careful about cartoons too, apparently.  In the Muslim world, at least.

A radical Muslim group is threatening the creators of “South Park” with violent retribution for their show’s portrayal of the prophet Muhammad  in a bear suit.

So let’s see,  what do we know about the guys who are leveling terrorist threats at Stan Marsh and Kyle Broflovski?   That their heads are stuck in the 13th century?   That they treat women like cattle?   That their culture carries out  public beheadings?  That they see freedom of speech and a free press as their enemy?  But here they are in the U.S. (the author of the article making the threat is apparently in New York) taking full advantage of the free speech and other constitutional rights our ancestors fought and died to preserve.  Rights which our military continues to fight and die for.  Rights they don’t have in their homeland.    And they think we’re the “infidels?

Ignorance is a terrible and frightening thing.   It’s almost enough to make you believe in rendition.  Almost.

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Interesting and possibly prophetic (oh my, am I allowed to say that?) front page on the NY Times website.  On the left is the headline, “Obama Issues Sharp Call For Reforms On Wall Street.”   On the right is a photo of Greek civil servants out in the street,  doing battle with police over expected job cuts and other austerity moves their government is carrying out due to a debt crisis.

Same thing could happen here, if Congress doesn’t get up off it’s big, fat, slow as molasses, bought-off by the lobbyists duff and pass meaningful reform to regulate the banking industry.

Antonio, Hugo and the Holy Father

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has just released the new city budget with some shocking news.  “This is a tough time for everyone,  as we experience an historic economic collapse” he said.

Not everyone.   Like giant belching hogs in that big Wall Street slop trough, Goldman Sachs and those other bankers “we the people” bailed out, are rolling in profits.

If Wall Street had its own flag (and it probably should, because it can’t claim to represent the best interests of the stars and stripes), it would be the image of a bottle of Dom, a tin of Beluga and a Cuban cigar, positioned gracefully over a hand with its middle finger raised.  Beneath the crest, would be the words that best represent the big bankers.  “F__k  You!”   Or words to that effect.

We all need to recognize the care, concern, patriotism and appreciation our banking industry has shown for the country following the big bailout.

In other electrifying news, I was amazed to hear that Kate Gosselin (who?) has been eliminated from “Dancing With the Stars.”  I have no idea who this woman is, or why this is news.   Either my thinking is irrelevant, or what now passes for news has become a celebration of mediocrity.  It’s as though there’s a whole new batch of “stars” popping onto the scene every couple of months, and it’s difficult to keep up.   “Look Marge!  Another truckload of beautiful people has arrived from Iowa!”  How many so-called “stars” are we supposed to be able to handle?    With a new batch coming on the scene every couple of months, the idea of actually being a “star” becomes increasingly meaningless.   It’s kinda like being a “diva.”  The term used to be limited to female opera singers who could really belt.  Now we have dozens of “divas.”  There are”divas” all over the place.

Anyway, you have to feel bad for Ms. Gosselin, and I’m sorry I don’t know who she is.  Maybe she’ll be able to re-invent herself as a diva?

I can’t wait for a new report on what Hugo’s been up  to on “Lost.”   Hopefully, some entertainment reporter will dig a little deeper this time, and explain why people continue to watch a show with writers who must be doubling over with laughter as they produce yet another meaningless episode, designed only to further confuse an already befuddled audience.  Good going, guys.  You’re really pulling it off.  Sad thing is, this was a pretty good show before you lost your way.   See, “Lost” is only the title of the show.  It’s not what you’re supposed to be.  You might try staying off the weed until after the script has been completed.   Maybe you could get stoned in shifts?  That would leave one shift that isn’t completely loaded to finish the script each week.  You wouldn’t have to tell anybody.

Just trying to be helpful.

Over at Vatican City, Good Pope Ben is promising action on that little  pedophile problem they’ve been having for the past several hundred years.  Or at least the past several decades.   Since Pope Benedict VIII, banned marriage and mistresses for priests back in 1022 (because they didn’t want clerical offspring inheriting church property),  it’s probably safe to assume the problem has been around for quite some time.  Are you really going to continue trusting these guys with your children?

Time to grow up, people.

I think, therefore I am.  Don’t hate me for it.

It’s possible none of it will matter much anyway.  ABC News reports that 18-30 year old women are losing their sex drives.  “Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder or “HSDD” is apparently being caused by our over-medicated society.    So we will slide into negative population growth and that will be that.  Rats and roaches running the planet.   No change.

On Cronkite, Colonoscopies And Con Jobs

 A couple of thoughts after hearing our network news anchors reporting on record profits being hauled in by Goldman Sachs.

The big investment bank nearly doubled its first-quarter earnings to $3.3 billion, its “second most profitable quarter since going public in 1999.”  The AP reports that a lawyer for the firm, which faces civil fraud charges, said Goldman would  “never intentionally mislead anyone.”

Of course, urging others to invest in bundled securities that were sure to crash and then putting your money down on a bet that they would crash and then selling short…….it was all just a mistake.  Or maybe none of that really happened and the government’s got it all wrong.  Or I’ve got it all wrong.   It’s gotten to be so convoluted, confusing and contrived.  And listening to all those pundits and economists just makes your head hurt.

But hey, back to the network news, which has to make things simple enough for us non-economists to understand.  Understanding.  Therein lies the rub, and the big guys on Wall Street know it.  They’ve put together  a system that’s so complex, with “derivatives” and whose-its and what-nots, that very few people can figure out what’s going on.

Suppose that’s by design?

Top that off with spending more than $1 million a day to convince the Congress to leave them alone (no meaningful regulations have been put in place to control the financial industry since the crash)  and there you have it.  Our current system  of non-regulation, which, experts say, may very well push us into another greed-driven economic meltdown.

Yes, Mr. Obama is pushing for reform.  Is he going to get it?  Or will it be the same kind of sugar-coated, softball legislation that was sold to the public as “better than nothing”  healthcare reform?   I’m not saying it wasn’t better than nothing, because it was.  It just wasn’t enough.  And doing the same thing with the financial industry won’t be enough, either.

What do the networks report?  They dutifully tell us about the increase in profits.  That’s good.  They see that as a sign that the economic recovery is working.  That’s good too.  Then, just when you’re starting to feel a little better about the whole thing, they report that the government is taking Goldman Sachs to court, charging them with fraud.

Uh…..okay.  And all of that means, what?

People have stopped reading the papers, but a big chunk of America still watches the network news.  It’s time for the network news operations to take off the gloves and get back in the business of using plain language to tell people how badly they are being screwed by Wall Street.   It’s that simple.  Beyond facing the very real possibility that neither Katie nor Diane have the adequate weight of credibility to pick up an audience, the network news operations have to try and return to what they once were.  Relevant.

When Cronkite came back from Vietnam and  told the truth in plain language about the futility of continuing the war,  the American people listened.  Walter Cronkite, was the most trusted man in America.  He wasn’t pretty or perky but he had done a couple of things that added some weight to his credibility as a journalist, like serving as a correspondent during World War II and working to uphold standards established by Ed Murrow.

What do we have now?  Let’s see, Katie did that groundbreaking colonoscopy thing followed by the big interview with Sarah Palin, and Diane worked for the White House, so she’s really one of “them” and not one of “us.”   No, no, terrible to think that way.  People will call me a chauvinist.  I’ll have to go back to Minnesota and put in a vegetable garden.

Back on point:  The big bankers got big government to repeal some really big regulations put in place by FDR in the 1930’s to prevent another Great Depression from happening.  Then, following the Clinton Administration (yes folks, Bill Clinton, repealed much of the Glass Steagall Act) and with the assistance of the Bush Administration, our wonderful financial institutions (big greed) were free to put together the convoluted, underhanded and un-American process that resulted in the whole sub-prime lending mess which led us to the brink of Great Depression II.

With no new meaningful regulations, we are still right there, on that brink, while Wall Street continues to pay off the Congress with mountains of bribe money.  It’s one big con job and many of our elected representatives are on the inside looking out.

At least that’s what the economists that don’t work for Wall Street are saying.

You wonder why the Tea Party folks are so upset?    You wonder why long time shoe-in politicians like Barbara Boxer are worried about being re-elected in the mid-terms?

Wall Street is screwing America and the Congress is being bought off to look the other way.   They are using the nation’s wealth for government sanctioned casino gambling.  With all that money being thrown around, and all those people being paid off, chances are Mr. Obama won’t be able to do all that much about it unless the American public gets even angrier than they already are.   I mean 1960’s style, march on Washington and vote all the bums out angry.  The kind of anger that will be generated only after everybody understands exactly what’s going on.  The kind of angry that will make the Tea Party look tame.   People need to know the unvarnished truth.

Time to take the gloves off and make it relevant.  Time to connect all the dots, hold the bastard’s feet to the fire and tell the truth in clear and simple language.  Do that, network bosses, go back to doing the job you used to do standing post as the nation’s watchdog, and some of your lost audience may come back.

If it doesn’t work  you can always revert to Katie’s colonoscopy and Diane Sawyer’s pleasing smile and loving demeanor.

A Dog Story

 

It was a shiny new jet-black pickup truck with a dog in the back.  A big Pit Bull.  Judging by it’s size, it must have been a male.  The pickup was stopped at a light on Ventura Boulevard.  There was another car between my car and the truck.   I watched as the dog, with its head hanging out over the bed, moved from the front of the truck to the rear.  I wondered how it could do that, as the dog’s owner couldn’t possibly be stupid enough to give an animal that much leash in the bed of a pickup truck.  Or maybe, I thought, the dog isn’t restrained at all?  Is that possible?

Not a good idea.  Particularly with a big Pit Bull.  It was trouble waiting to happen.

The light turned green, the truck pulled away, and that was that.  Or so I thought.  A couple of blocks up the road I made a right to find the path was blocked by a car that had stopped out in the roadway.  Ahead of the car was the black truck.  The dog, partially under the left rear tire, was choking as it dangled from a long chain attached to something up in the bed of the truck.  Two men had exited the truck and were assisting the animal.  I can’t imagine that it wasn’t injured but I do know it was alive, as it was pathetically wagging its tail in appreciation for the rescue.

I don’t know how far they dragged the dog before realizing it had jumped out of the truck.  They got the animal back inside, in the cab this time, and drove away in no apparent hurry.

I must admit to having let loose with a couple of expletives attached to statements about dog ownership and ignorance as I continued on my way home, thinking that the two men in the tuck didn’t have the common sense to rush the dog to a vet.

Some people should not be allowed to own dogs.

Daryl Gates – Love Him Or Hate Him, He Was Great Copy

 

The weekly “Gates must go!” rallies were held on the lawn in front of Parker Center.  People who wanted Daryl Gates removed as Chief of Police would gather with their signs and slogans to express their anger over the outspoken and highly controversial Chief.   The rallies continued for weeks and would conclude only with the outbreak of the Los Angeles Riots.

I covered Gates for 10 of his 14 years as Chief, and was always amazed at the way thoughts seemed to go directly from his brain to his mouth, with little or no consideration for the impact they might have on the LAPD or the City of Los Angeles.   In a style reminiscent of John Wayne, if Daryl Gates thought something was true he’d hit you with it.   It may have been his tragic flaw.  It also made for great copy.

“If you don’t like the police department….the next time you’ve got a problem call the ACLU!” -Daryl Gates

I was there when he said it.  He was responding to criticism directed at the LAPD from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.   His skirmishes with the ACLU and its director Ramona Ripston, became the stuff of local legend.  One of the more interesting involved charges that the LAPD was keeping “secret files” on politicians and other public officials.

I don’t think it’s that he didn’t understand public relations.  It seemed as though he just didn’t care.  It was taken as arrogance, and that made a lot of people despise the man.  Gates, I think, felt he was just telling the truth.

“Casual drug users should be taken out and shot.”-Daryl Gates

If he thought it was true, he said it.  If he thought something needed to be done, he did it.  Like the LAPD  ram.  An armored vehicle with a big iron ram attached to the front end.  Gates put it together to go after drug dealers.   Once again, the Chief was great copy. This was a reporter’s dream.  The whole thing fell to pieces though,  the night Gates rammed it into a house in the Valley to reveal not drug dealers but a child’s  bedroom.   That was the end of the LAPD ram.  Many of us in the media were sorry to see it go.  I have to wonder if it isn’t still sitting around somewhere, maybe over at Piper Tech,  just waiting to be called back into action.

There’s never a ram around when you really need one.

If you read his book then you know that Gates requested a grenade launcher from Camp Pendleton during a standoff with the Black Panthers, barricaded in a building just south of downtown. When the Marines at Pendleton refused the request, Gates went through official channels in Washington D.C., and eventually gained approval for the launcher.   The standoff ended before the military hardware could be put into use.

He also created “SWAT” and was at the helm when the LAPD initiated the “DARE” program.

All of it was great copy.

There was nothing great about the Rodney King beating, or the riots that followed.  It was all just sad.  One big ongoing tragedy.  Some of the wounds have yet to heal.  Later we would learn that the Chief and Mayor Tom Bradley, a former LAPD lieutenant, hadn’t talked to one another for nearly a year prior to the riots.

Two big egos contributing to one major administrative problem.

The rioting left 53 dead, thousands injured and roughly $1 billion in damages.

With the City going up in smoke and troops in the streets, Gates remained true to who he was, refusing to back off despite political and public pressure.  In the middle of the maelstrom, always the “cop’s cop,” Gates refused to do anything but support his troops.  The officer’s conduct, he insisted, was an “aberration.”  Much later, when he testified in federal court that the officers charged with beating Rodney King acted improperly and should have used a “swarm” technique to subdue their subject, nobody paid all that much attention.  By then, people’s opinions of Daryl Gates were pretty much set in stone.

The last time I talked to the former chief, he was seated at a bar in Pasadena.  I was struck by how little the man had changed.  He was still “The Chief.”  It wasn’t a lengthy conversation, just an exchange of pleasantries between a reporter and a former city official.  I left the encounter with the feeling that Mr. Gates was very much a product of the time in which he lived.   He was also great copy.

Daryl Gates, dead at the age of 83.