The Great Federal Legislative Joke

It’s health care PR madness on television.  Nancy Pelosi, is touting the “massive whip operation” they have going in the House.   It’s taken you 14 months to build up a whip operation in the House?  Rock on!

John  Boehner, the new “hammer” of the right, is blasting the Democrats for trying to pull tricks.  “I don’t care what trick” they are going to try, Boehner said.  Tricks?  You’re complaining about tricks?  This, from the party of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice?  The party that did almost nothing in 8 years, other than going to war (s).  The party of mushroom clouds over U.S. cities?  The party of WMD’s in Iraq and “listen to what  Ahmad Chalabi is saying, because he has inside information.”   You’re talking about the other guys pulling “tricks?”

Nearly unheard in the self-serving legislative mess is the voice of a lone Democratic Congresswoman from Ohio, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, calling the Administration “out of touch” as she pleads with her colleagues to get serious as unemployment has pushed its way up to 15% in the Buckeye State.

‘”People are becoming desperate,” she said. “I am their representative. I cannot politely sit and listen to this and not feel compassion for them and expecting some from you.”

Kaptur blasted the administration’s foreclosure prevention plan, which to date has helped only 168,000 homeowners permanently modify their mortgages.”‘ -ABC News

Hey kids, I think we’re at 15% here in Los Angeles too, and while Nancy Pelosi is “whipping” the House into a health care reform package with no public option (you go girl!) which will mean no real competition for the health insurance industry, another fine Democrat, Chris Dodd, is trying to push through a new set of regulations for the financial industry, which will do little or nothing to control the runaway greed on Wall Street.    By all accounts, the new regulations have been proofed by the Wall Street “too big to fail” greed freaks that led us into this financial swamp.

We have a Treasury Secretary who was in charge of the New York Fed, when the economy crashed.  Timothy Geithner, was one of the people in the wheelhouse when the ship hit the iceberg, so we put him in charge of an even bigger ship?   Make sense to you?

The fox isn’t guarding the hen house, the wolves are.   They are our bought off and paid for Senate and House members.  Pretty much all of the Senate needs to be thrown out and replaced.   A big chunk of the House needs to be given the boot as well.   Then, something FINALLY will need to be done about campaign finance reform, provided the right wing U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t legislate against it from the bench which could make any real progress impossible.

It is time for our legislators to at least start balancing out the good of the many with the good of the few.   Or maybe the “New World Order” Bush family will sell some of its holdings and float us a loan?  Oh wait, the Washington Post reports  Dubya’s net worth dropped to around $6.5 million in 08.   Poor Dubya.   Hope he’s bouncing back some.

Poor Chris Dodd’s net worth was reported to be running somewhere between $1.5 and $3.5 million, including a cottage in Ireland.  Practically a pauper compared to some of his colleagues.  Consider Darrelll Issa’s net work of  $251 million or Jane Harmon at $244 million or Herb Kohl at $214 million or Bob Corker at $52 million.  (source: opensecrets.org)  These people are supposed to represent middle Americans living from paycheck to paycheck and some with no paycheck at all?

I’m reminded of an episode some years ago when George H.W. Bush, had to be told what a bar code is.

According to a new ABC News Poll,  40% of America’s middle class is barely hanging on while 94% no longer believe they will be able to move up the economic ladder.    ABC reports that in the last two decades incomes rose 20%, while the cost of housing was up 56% and health insurance was up 155%.

The experts tell us that every systemic failure has its winners and losers.   At this point we should all be wondering whether some of our elected representatives aren’t intentionally moving the country towards a crash.  I hate to harbor those thoughts but the situation is just that bad.

Here’s a piece from ABC on “America’s backbone.”  The people who got us through the Industrial Revolution, World War I, the Great Depression and World War II.  It truly is our nation’s backbone, and it’s not made up of the House or the Senate.  It’s not Wall Street.  It’s main street.  It’s America’s middle class.  And the question is whether we the people, living from paycheck to paycheck and threatened with the loss of our health care, will be able to fix this horrible mess Wall Street and Capitol Hill have gotten us into.

More Than 8 Million Californians Lack Health Insurance

As the President struggles with health care reform, Duke Helfand reports in the Los Angeles Times that 8.2 million Californians were without health insurance n 2009.   That’s nearly 1 in 4 Californians under the age of 65.

“The state’s uninsured population jumped to 8.2 million in 2009, up from 6.4 million in 2007, marking the highest number over the last decade, investigators from UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research said.

People who were uninsured for part or all of 2009 accounted for 24.3% of California’s population under age 65 — a dramatic increase from 2007 driven largely by Californians who lost employer-sponsored health insurance, particularly over the last year. ” – LA Times

Helfand points out in his story that many of the uninsured put off health care issues until things get so bad that they end up in an overcrowded emergency room which passes along its increased costs to the insured.   The fact that insured Americans already subsidize health care for the uninsured seems to have gotten lost in the current debate.

Sam Rubin To Receive Top Honor

 Sam Rubin

HOLLYWOOD, CA – One of the top television journalists in the nation’s entertainment capital will be honored with this year’s outstanding achievement award as the Los Angeles Press Club recognizes the winners of the 2010 National Entertainment Journalism awards at a reception and ceremony on Thursday evening April 22 at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood.

Sam Rubin, entertainment reporter for KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles, will be given the top honor for his smart, often tough coverage of stars, movies, glitz and glamour.

Finalists in print, radio, TV and online will be posted shortly at http://lapressclub.org.

Sam Rubin is only the second journalist to receive this honor. Last year, Wall Street Journal and KCRW film critic Joe Morgenstern accepted the award.

“Sam is one of the busiest entertainment reporters around,” says Los Angeles Press Club President Will Lewis. “His reports reflect an informed insight and carry great weight inside show business, as well as to the general public.”
In addition to his regular reports for the “KTLA Morning News,” Rubin hosts the Emmy-nominated “Live From The Academy Awards,” syndicated nationally by Tribune Entertainment, and “Sneaks,” a series of movie preview shows produced with the LA Times. He also reports for KNX-AM.- LA Press Club

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Congrats Sammy!

Millions Spent To Influence Healthcare Reform

The New York Times reports $11 million this month going to 27 Democrats from groups that oppose the legislation.

“The Chamber of Commerce is leading the opposition to the health care bill with a coalition called Employers for a Healthy Economy. In two weeks, the group has bought more than $7 million in television advertising and plans to spend up to $3 million more. Americans for Prosperity, a group financed by David Koch, the oilman, is also jumping into the fray with an advertising campaign of nearly $1 million.”

The other side is writing some big checks as well-

“An alliance of groups supporting the health care plan, which works closely with the White House and Democratic leaders, had been spending far less and focusing on fewer districts. But after pharmaceutical companies made a $12 million investment for a final advertising push, spending by both sides for the first time is now nearly the same.” –NY Times

TV Station For Sale On ebay

No kidding.    I just checked and the starting bid for WMKG-TV on ebay now stands at $550,000,00.  It’s a tv station “on channel 38 with property” in Muskegon, Michigan.

‘”A UHF station in western Michigan – WMKG-LP, Channel 38 – that airs a mix of live talk shows and outdoor sports programming, is “priced to sell” at $700,000, according to its listing on eBay. And the owner, Bud Kelley, says he’ll go even lower.

Mr. Kelley had originally listed the station – including property, license and equipment – on the online auction site for $1 million before dropping the price to $700,000, and said on Thursday that he’d be happy with a $500,000 cash sale. Most of the people who have inquired so far were “tire-kickers,” he said, though serious offers have come his way.

“It’s a real station, not a toy,” said Mr. Kelley, 67, who has run the 24-hour station since it went live in April 1990. “It’s just retirement time for me.”’ –NY Times

Wanna get into the tv biz? (local pickup only)

State Of The News Media

The Project For Excellence In Journalism’s annual “State Of The News Media” report is out.  Highlights include:

“For the third consecutive year, only digital and cable news saw audiences grow among the key sectors that deliver news.  In cable in 2009, those gains were largely captured by one network, Fox, though during the day, a breaking-news time, CNN also gained viewers.”

The study also points to online news consumers being adverse to paying for content on the Web, with about 35% saying they go to a favorite site each day and only 19% saying they would be willing to pay for news online.

The report indicates a 27% drop in ad revenue for local television and a bleak picture for network news.

“Network news economics are harder to divine, but PEJ estimates that the three news divisions saw revenue declines in 2009, probably in double digits. Network ad revenue fell 10% over all. NBC now derives more than half of its news revenues from cable, and its single most important financial contributor is its financial cable news channel CNBC. PEJ estimates that CBS News did not turn a profit, and ABC managed to do so with cutbacks in 2009 and again in early 2010.”

The report shows Gannett and MediaNews Group to be the nation’s biggest newspaper companies, with GE and Walt Disney leading the pack for network tv.

Yahoo! and GE are in first and second place for online news.

Despite its current difficulties, the Tribune Company continues to be the 4th largest local tv and 5th largest newspaper company in the country.

 

The U.S. Supreme Court And Tea Party Politics

clarence thomas sworn in while wife virginia looks on

Kathleen Hennessey reports in the Los Angeles Times, that the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence (can you get me a coke?) Thomas, has created her very own Tea Party group.

 “In January, Virginia Thomas created Liberty Central Inc., a nonprofit lobbying group whose website will organize activism around a set of conservative “core principles,” she said.

The group plans to issue score cards for Congress members and be involved in the November election, although Thomas would not specify how. She said it would accept donations from various sources — including corporations — as allowed under campaign finance rules recently loosened by the Supreme Court.” -LA Times

According to her bio on the “Liberty Central” website:  “Ginni is committed to serving as a clearinghouse for new and more effective online activism. Ginni, the ‘proud’ Nebraskan, is a fan of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham and other talk radio hosts. She is intrigued by Glenn Beck and listening carefully. She also enjoys motor homing and watching “24”.”

Rewriting History – Indecent And Indefensible

A must read by Frank Rich in the New York Times, on how history is being rewritten in an effort to justify political missteps.

“Now the revisionist floodgates have opened with the simultaneous arrival of Karl Rove’s memoir and Keep America Safe, a new right-wing noise machine invented by Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz and the inevitable William Kristol. This gang’s rewriting of history knows few bounds. To hear them tell it, 9/11 was so completely Bill Clinton’s fault that it retroactively happened while he was still in office. The Bush White House is equally blameless for the post-9/11 resurgence of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Iran. Instead it’s President Obama who is endangering America by coddling terrorists and stopping torture.” -NY Times

Wall Street’s Risk Addiction?

A revealing interview with MIT finance professor Andrew Lo on the PBS Newshour.   The area of the brain that is stimulated by high risk investment he says,  is the same area stimulated by cocaine.    He also points out that any systemic failure has both winners and losers.  Explains a great deal, doesn’t it?

Jogger KIlled By Wolves In Alaska

The LA Times reports that a 32-year-old special education teacher was killed and partially eaten by a pack of wolves in Chignik, Alaska.   The paper reports that Candice Berner, was listening to an ipod while jogging on a deserted road.

A native of Slippery Rock, PA, Berner was a relative newcomer, arriving in Alaska in August.  According to a report in the  Telegraph.co.uk, Ms. Berner was 4 feet 11 inches tall.

I’m writing about this here because of the rarity of people being attacked by wolves (my initial reaction was that the story might be a mistake) and because this is sure to open the floodgates for Sarah Palin supporters, saying she was right in promoting the hunting of wolves from aircraft.

Another Whitman Campaign Misstep?

Evan Halper and Michael Rothfeld are reporting in the Los Angeles Times that some of Meg Whitman’s investments (she’s said to be worth around 1.2 billion) could pose a conflict of interest should she win the election for governor.  Beyond that, she appears to be taking advantage of the current “credit crisis,” something the opposition could spin as an attempt to profit from the hard times non-wealthy regular folk are going through.

“Billionaire GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has invested her vast wealth in firms that sought to profit from the country’s credit crisis, in venture capital and hedge funds open only to the wealthy, and in oil, gas, healthcare and other concerns seeking to influence state policy.”  -LA Times

That being the case, you would expect a peremptory strike from the Whitman campaign, by way of an announcement that she will be putting her money in a blind trust to eliminate any potential conflict of interest problem.    But that’s not what they are saying.

‘”Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said the candidate would “likely” move her holdings into a blind trust if she is victorious “and will scrupulously avoid any conflicts of interest.”‘-LA Times

Why is it just “likely?”  Isn’t she sure?  First they build a reputation for slamming the door on the press and now this.  And Whitman is billing herself as a super-exec?

At the same time, the Whitman campaign appears to be spending a ton of money on  attack ads, with only a few coming back at her from the  Poizner Campaign.

Meantime, old political dog Jerry Brown seems to be lying back, probably with a smile on his face, while his Republican opponents spend their money tearing into one another. It could be progressing differently in different media markets, but that’s the way it looks here in L.A.

 

Senate Puts Another Band Aid On The Problem

The Senate has passed an emergency relief package.  According to a release from Senator Dianne Feinstein-

“The bill will offer much needed relief to the 2.26 million out of work Californians who are relying on unemployment insurance and COBRA health benefits to tide them over until they can find a good paying  job – by extending those vital safety net programs through the end of the year.

This provision could assist an estimated 200,000 Californians who could become ineligible to receive benefits once the current 30-day extension expires.  For unemployed California families, the average monthly COBRA premium is $1,107.  The COBRA premium assistance reduced this cost to $388 per month, and without this benefit, unemployed Californians could lose $720 a month.”  –Sen. Dianne Feinstein

This is great news for the unemployed.   Still, you have to wonder if the good folks inside the beltway understand how much $388 a month is to a family with no regular income.

It also remains painfully obvious that the august and honorable body that just passed this emergency legislation is the same millionaire’s club that’s so cozy with the insurance industry that meaningful  healthcare reform will be nearly impossible to achieve.   Unless that’s done, we will all eventually go broke paying for the ever-escalating cost of healthcare, with or without a “good paying job.”

Question:  Is that 39% rate hike by Anthem/Blue Cross still going to take place here in California?  The one that’s gonna jack up rates to around 800,000 of us here in the Golden State?  Can you guys take a reality check break and get a public option back on the table?

I almost never agree with Glenn Beck, but I am in total agreement with him when he says our house is on fire.   The Senate will have to do more than hit it with a squirt gun.