Friday, February 27, 2009
Economist Robert Johnson laid it on the line tonight, Friday Feb. 27, on Bill Moyers. He described Citibank as a “zombie bank” as having essentially no asset value, with Wells Fargo and Bank of America only slightly better off. The link is here.
Johnson suggests taking these large banks, calling for the resignation letters of the CEO’s and upper management, doing the stress tests, and also removing the current shareholders, and recapitalizing. That does sound like another term for nationalization. He says that from a moral viewpoint, you say to shareholders, “you bet wrong.” That’s how capitalism works. Eventually you sell back to new shareholders (or maybe the same ones) once you get lending going.
He talked of “administrative socialism” as the counterlever to what has become extreme capitalism and market fundamentalism. We simply had a total breakdown of any meaningful regulation.
He said that the national security implications could be grave. Many of the countries in eastern Europe could be driven back toward communism, as is Russia. Foreign creditors, without enough consumers to export to, could force us further into deflation.
On PBS Now, Ami Domini and Dan Gross (Slate, “Dumb Money”) discussed the problem of the baby boomers, who find that the 401K experiment has left them in peril, more dependent on family members and future government safety nets. You may see more people in their 70s working as greeters at Wal-Mart.
ABC 20-20 tonight had a segment where American plane crash victims are captured by teenage Colombian drug soldiers, who think that Americans are “supermen” who can dodge bullets as in the Matrix movies. The news story, “Held Colombian Hostage: 'When Am I Going to Die Here?’; Prisoners of Colombia's Jungle Share Stories of Survival, Rescue, Return to Life” by Miguel Sanco, Justin Sturken and Michael Mendelsohn, is here. There is some recollection here of the 2001 movie "Collateral Damage" which was held because of 9/11.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
On Feb. 25, 2009 the History Channel aired “Area 51 Revealed” on UFO Hunters, this time (according to television guides) a new episode. The HC link is here.
“Dreamland Area 51” (website “Black Projects Declassified”) is a desert area, larger than Connecticut, in the Nevada desert, north of Las Vegas, in a dried out bed of “Groom Lake”. The closest town is Rachel, and it can be reached only by a dirt road.
The show starts with television producers, on a cold March day, finding they are being watched by agents (“Camel Dudes”) with binoculars and choppers as they approach the restricted area.
The show centers around a particular physicist, Bob Lazar (website here), who says he was employed at Area 51 to “reverse engineer” an alien spacecraft. The craft supposedly used a nuclear energy source created by bombarding element 115 (ununpentium) with protons to create element 116 (ununhexium) which is unstable enough to create an unusually focused energy source that can warp space time, as in a warp drive. (This concept was covered in the History Channel’s “Light Speed” (from "The Universe") which maintains that space-time can be modified at a speed faster than light, whereas light within it cannot exceed “c” and is modified by the medium it travels through). (A good Periodic Chart website is “Webelements” here).
Fillmakers gathered HD camera equipment and hiked up Peekaboo mountain, 6900 feet, at night to be able to view the entire base both at night and in the following day, 26 miles away. There were an enormous number of hangars and even dormitories for employees, as well as runways. They went on a bizarre late winter “Night Hike” and filmed it in Army green night vision.
The program reports that, while Area 51 may have been set up in the 1940s, it underwent enormous expansion in the 1980s, supposedly to meet the Soviet threats.
I remember finding an Area 51 exhibit in one of the major strip casinos (I think it was the Luxor, where I stayed) in 1997. The show demonstrated people watching the departure of certain government-owned red-striped airplanes from McCarran airport for Area 15.
You can go to “Rachel NV” on Google Maps (on Highway 375, the Extraterrestrial Highway, which I visited in May 2000), switch to satellite view, and navigate to the southwest and find what looks like Area 51, but some of it looks blocked out, to me at least.
If the government really does have credible information of alien visits, the aliens, depending on what there civilization is like, could pose a grave and unanswerable threat. Maybe an alien civilization 40 light years away based on artificial intelligence and immortality and almost infinite time wants to wipe us out with an upper atmosphere EMP blast. Could we stop anything like that? Sounds like another Sci-Fi channel scenario.
(Picture: Lakes on Titan, from NASA JPL, public domain, source here.)
Update: April 16, 2009
Check out the story by Annie Jacobsen "The Road to Area 51: After decades of denying the facility's existence, five former insiders speak out" in the Los Angeles Times today (as a "Backstory") here. The story was introduced on AOL.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
CNBC (Wednesday Feb 25) aired a roundtable “Who’s Protecting Our Money” with Erin Burnett and Jim Cramer. Sheila Bair, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, fielded the detailed questions, largely on how the mortgage assistance plan from Obama works. The plan begins March 4, 2009. The link for the show is here.
She discussed how “prompt corrective action” works for banks in trouble. She also discussed a bank’s being “well capitalized.”
She mentioned Myfdicinsurance.gov, with its picture of Oprah’s pal Suze Orman on the web page.
Cramer asked a dirty question about “Wachovia.”
A viewer asked if there was any possibility that banks would pass the premiums for deposit insurance on to consumers.
Jim Cramer did a mockup of Rick Santelli’s rant. She said that Cramer was prophetic about many financial institutions going down.
Bair was quite measured in answering questions as she cannot comment on a lot of specifics.
There are 83000 FDIC-insured institutions.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
All the major networks (CBS NBC ABC Fox), and cable networks including CNN aired President Barack Obama’s address to the nation tonight, that ran 52 minutes.
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal gave the rebuttal on CNN.
CNN has a transcript of Obama’s address here. Jindal’s response is here.
“We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before,” Obama promised. The president said that our problems did not explode overnight, but had built up over years. He said that people bought homes that they knew they could not afford from banks who pushed unsound loans. He said that the economic stimulus "was not about helping banks, it was about helping people."
Obama, toward the end of the speech, talked about education in general terms, but urged every young adult to go to school at least one year beyond high school graduation. He also said that a major responsibility for education remains in the home, and that parents would have to know when to turn off the television, the video game or computer for reading and for real world activities.
He also promised tuition reimbursement for national service (that is, he urged Congress to pass a bipartisan bill doing so), with many other opportunities besides military service.
He talked about halving the deficit, but did not go into any specifics about rumored future cuts in earned entitlements.
He did not specifically address LGBT issues.
Jindal made a whimsical criticism about economic stimulus plans for a bullet train from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and about volcano monitoring. (I guess Jindal doesn’t watch the History Channel’s “Mega-disasters” series.)
CNN’s AC 360 (Anderson Cooper) “took a Facebook pulse” on Obama’s speech. Cooper said that Obama used the word “recovery” 22 times tonight. David Gergen thought that Obama’s speech did not have the specificity that investors would want. Ali Velshi said that we are still where we were in September with the credit mess.
Cooper’s blog is now called “President Obama, Facebook and You” and is here. CNN had received several hundred thousand responses from Facebook members by 10:30 PM EST. There is no mention of the flap over Facebook’s TOS last week and about Mark Zuckerberg’s turnabout. Shouldn’t Zuckerberg be invited to AC360 soon?
AC360 showed that oil imports peaked in 2006 and have declined since, but were at the max about the same as the highest in the 1970s.
Monday, February 23, 2009
"A Class Apart": PBS "American Experience" documentary about Latino discrimination in Texas in the 1950s
On Monday, February 23, 2009 PBS “American Experience” aired “A Class Apart,” directed by Carlos Sandoval and Peter Miller. The show’s website is here. This is story of the early 1950s case Hernandez v. Texas, where the Supreme Court decided that Mexican-Americans (or Latinos) and all other similarly constructed ethnic or racial groups (besides African Americans) enjoyed affirmative equal protection of the law under the 14th Amendment. The opinion is on Findlaw here.
The case came up when an all white jury was seated in central Texas to convict Pete Hernandez for the bar murder of Joe Espinosa. Eventually he got a retrial with the same result, but the Supreme Court held that barring Mexican Americans from the jury had been unconstitutional.
There was a catch-22 in the case: Texas law had defined Mexican-Americans as “white”, in order to prevent the anti-segregation logic from applying. Mexican Americans, ironically, had sometimes felt protected by the laws and felt fearful of being classified as black. Lawyers had to invent a new argument that Mexican Americans constituted "a class apart."
Nevertheless, Mexican Americans had suffered systematic discrimination since the Mexican wars, with generational accumulation of legacy losses. After World War II, getting Latinos buried in Arlington National Cemetery was at first a big deal, and Latinos expected their fighting in WWII to translate to social gains but, as with blacks, this was often resisted in many areas of the country. “Sundown towns” in Texas would harass Mexican Americans found in town after dark. In fact, the defense attorney Gustavo C. Garcia had to travel to Houston every night for that reason. The racial classifications are arbitrary. Some people in the southwest (and in Mexico and Latin America) with Latino names are completely Caucasian (without native American ancestry or appearance) and direct descendants from the Spaniards. This is very common in Texas.
Garcia had to raise his own money for the Supreme Court appeal. The film shows a lot of on location historical footage of both Texas and Washington DC from the early 50s, especially after a snowstorm. A typical passenger train of the era is shown.
The case does not seem to be nearly as well known as Brown v. Board of Education, and I don't think it is commonly covered much in high school American history classes. It should be.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
PBS Frontline offers a DVD of its important one hour documentary “The Meth Epidemic,” link here. The site allows online viewing and the film was produced with the help of the Oregonian. The documentary was first aired in February 2006.
Curiously, I rented this because Netflix showed it as an interest match to other documentary DVD’s that I had rented.
The substance causes release of large quantities of dopamine and serotonins, and use becomes very destructive quickly. Users often deteriorate physically with shocking speed (including loss of teeth).
The main problem of control has been the relative “ease” with which underground labs make the substance from ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, which is found in some over the counter patent medications like Sudafed. (It is not found in neo-synephrine.) The FDA had encountered practical problems in processing applications for manufacturing quotas, which sometimes led to widespread abuse.
The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (CMEA) was signed into law in 2005, to allow regulation or purchase of otherwise legal substances and over the counter medications. The US Department of Justice link is here. Many states have passed laws requiring people to sign for purchases of certain over-the-counter medications to prevent the possibility of large scale purchases for reduction for illegal manufacturing.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
On Friday, February 20, 2009 the History Channel aired “The Lincoln Assassination” from Greystone Films, narrated by Tom Berenger. The Channel's link is here.
About the first half of the film covers the Lincoln presidency and the “resentment” it built up in southern or confederate activists, including John Wilkes Booth. There was very little security for the president in the mid 19th Century; there was no “Secret Service” as we know it today. People could actually walk into the White House. Lincoln received an enormous amount of hate mail.
The film covers the conspiracy to kidnap Lincoln, especially with the surgeon Mudd and activist Mary Surratt, in southern Maryland (Charles County, south of the DC area). At one time, there was a plan to use Lincoln as a hostage to get Confederate prisoners released, a tactic that has been used in the Middle East in modern times. Then the film gives the details of his second inauguration, and then the plot which might have been a kidnapping plot, when Lincoln attended Tom Taylor’s play “Our American Cousin,” on Good Friday, April 14, 1865. (Wikipedia gives an amusing characterization of the play as “introduction of an awkward, boorish American to his aristocratic English relatives” here.) I’ve never heard of this play being assigned as reading in high school or college English; I don’t know how good it is. However Wilkes planned his act to be hidden by the audience laughter at this line "Don't know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal—you sockdologizing old man-trap..." which would sound like a private joke to today’s audiences.
The film makes a lot of Booth’s acting career, but he was not in the cast for this play, but he knew “the parts of the theater” (as if for a literature test!). Booth had performed in a number of violent, swashbuckling plays and had even been lightly wounded in the plays. There is some suggestion that he was influenced by the content of his work, and that acting and real life comingle in dangerous ways (sort of the “fiction” problem in today’s libel law). Of course, today actors often take up political causes, but usually for socially acceptable results.
The film describes Lincoln’s wounds and his death, and even his accidental “mummification”. It also traces Booth’s escape, the setting of his broken leg by Mudd in Maryland, and his eventual shooting and death at Garrett’s farmhouse in Virginia.
The end of the film describes the military tribunal of the conspirators, and the varied sentences. Four got death by hanging, including Mary Surratt, the first woman to be hanged. She actually said, “Please don’t let me fall.” For a while, some of Booth’s family members were suspect, a consequence quite common at the time.
The Lincoln assassination was the first time that such activity came to be perceived as a potential political “threat”.
Friday, February 20, 2009
ABC "Nightline" tonight (Terry Moran hosting, with Vicki Mayberry reporting) covered the foreclosure crisis in Fort Myers FL, on the Gulf Coast. It showed a woman who had taken out a $200000 mortgage for an average tract house in 2005, and it was now worth just $50000, a decline of 75%. It also showed a judge who was rolling off foreclosures on an assembly line. The judge gave this homeowner 60 days to arrange a short sale. Many states, like Texas, have non-judicial procedures for this.
CNN News Room has also covered the "Rocket Docket" in Fort Myers. Some of the homeowners had been mortgage brokers themselves, but some (or even all) should find work again in refinance once Obama's aid program gets rolling.
The Nightline show also presented a lawyer who claimed that many homes had been stripped, and that many homeowners had lived “rent free” for over a year before eviction.
The link for this segment was not yet available.
However Nightline does have a link for its report tonight on Georgio Armani. The story by Cynthia McFadden and Steve Baker is “With New Store, Armani Takes on the Recession: Georgio Armani on His Newest Venture, Fabulous Clothes and Late-Night Partying at Age 74”. The link is here. Armani is expanding, despite economists’ forecasts that luxury spending will be done $13 billion this year. Armani has not laid off any employees, according to the report. This may be the time to make more designer clothes in the United States, and that actually could make real business sense now, with Europe and Asia in such disarray.
Nightline also had a brief story on the “lean” Academy Awards party planned for Sunday night. Nightline says it has just launched Twitter and Facebook pages (yes, right in the wake of the Facebook “aboutface”).
Later, Jimmy Kimmel presented “Slumdog Millionaire” star Dev Patel, one of Britain’s most impressive “very young” actors. Kimmel opens by saying that his only reason to be on television is "to sell advertising." I love the joke that "Milk" and "Benjamin Button" or on the Oscar best picture nominee list because milk is used to make butter, and the word "button" sounds like "butter" (just as "Coraline").
Thursday, February 19, 2009
My first introduction to Needles, CA came over Thanksgiving in 1967 at a bus stop. It seemed like a hot, low desert place. Last night (Feb. 18, 2009), the History Channel’s “UFO Hunters” series aired “Alien Crashes” (link) and focused on the May 2008 “UFO crash” near Needles. The show got into the “red-banded” airliners which is says the government sends in, as well as the “Men in Black” (minus Tommy Lee Jones) that come in on helicopters. The show mentions the other government installations in the area
There’s a pretty detailed “A Different Perspective” blog entry on it (not mine) here.
The show went into a detailed comparison of this incident with a December 1965 “crash” of a cylindrical object near Kecksburg, PA., typical "UFO Casebook" story here. Many people believe that this event could have come from a downed Soviet satellite. The UFO investigators test the ground near the supposed crash and find metal, which may be naturally occurring iron.
I last visited the area myself in May 2007 (the picture above is from the countryside near the Kecksburg incident; it is in the Laurel Hill area).
All in all, the case for the Needles or Kecksburg objects being of alien intelligence seems weak. How about iron meteorites?
Let me suggest a future segment for the History Channel: "Alien economies". Any alien civilization that has money will have business depressions, just like ours.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Tonight, PBS Nature aired “Why We Love Cats and Dogs.” The author’s site on “PBS Remotely Connected” is here.
There was a proverb, “dogs have a family, cats have a staff.”
Nevertheless, the families with cats (including a male couple) seemed to find them as loyal with “unconditional love” as dogs. Dogs do seem to show much more social “automaticity.” Cats do form relationships with other individual cats, and tend to regard territory as spliced up with a “time share” concept. Cats raised with dogs will also bond to dogs and will groom them.
There was one segment filmed at a cat show and showed how a cat had been “trained.”
A major part of the show concerned a California couple with a dog with bone cancer. One leg was removed, and the dog lived much longer than expected. The show depicts another visit to the veterinarian, and the dog sits in the room looking at everyone as if he understood.
The show explained how pets teach humans about "empathy" and how dogs and cats, when playing together, exhibit "wild justice."
About ten years ago, ABC 20/20 showed “equal time for cats”, and earlier this year showed a British couple that lives with wolves and becomes part of the “pack.”
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Tonight, Tuesday February 17, 2009, PBS Frontline presented one of its most graphic financial documentaries, “Inside the Meltdown”, narrated by Jim Gilmore, directed by Michael Kirk. The link is here and right now allows the visitor to watch the program online with broadband.
The introduction starts on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008 when Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson told Congressional leaders that the nation’s and in fact world’s financial system could melt down within days and cease functioning.
It then goes back to March 2008 when rumors surfaced that Bear Stearns was running out of cash. “Reputation” means everything on finance, and rumor can destroy a company. Alan Greenberg, head of the company, told CNBC that the rumors were unfounded, but by Thursday night the company was almost out of cash. The New York Fed (Geithner) and then Washington Fed (Bernanke) got red eye phone calls, and to make things legal, had to use another company, Chase, to buy Bear Stearns. Employees were distressed to learn that they got only $2 a share. Paulson wanted to make it painful to heed the principle of moral hazard.
Then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to be taken over in early September, and then Lehman Brothers got into trouble similar to Bear Stearns. Paulson had once been a rival of Fuld and had warned Fuld (or Lehman) to sell out. He still stuck by moral hazard and let Lehman fail. But almost immediately AIG was in deep trouble (at first with the rating agencies, normally in collusion with Wall Street) because of its credit default swaps.
The rest of the film traces how Paulson had to make an about-face on his own philosophy and not only urge TARP and the bailout, but actually make capital infusions into the banks (snuck in by Congress in the fine print). He actually called the CEO’s of the nine largest banks in the country to an emergency meeting at the Treasury Department in Washington in October 2008.
ABC Nightline on 2/17/2009 did a short segment on the auto "repo man" from "Central Ohio Recovery", oh yes, in mid winter.
Remember, the credit freeze is a crisis in confidence. The primary cause of business depression is loss of confidence by individuals in the system. The word "credit" comes from the Latin word for creed or belief.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Tonight, Monday Feb. 16, CNN's Larry King Live interviewed two controversial guests, and I’ll start with home finance Suze Orman. She said that the stock market did great today because it did nothing, being closed. She suggested that we well may not be at bottom yet, we could go down another 20%. But, in baby steps, we are starting to crawl out of this crisis. We’re sort of like a hip replacement patient taking his first steps and being told he needs acute care rehab.
She said the average American has less net worth now than at the end of 2001, after 9/11.
Kristen Wiig did an impression of Suze on SNL, and it was replayed in front of the real Suze.
Suze Orman took some pleasure in the latest rumors that Obama will “force” the banks to help the people in trouble with upsidedown mortgages, which she says the banks caused.
She also recommended that people (gay or straight) do prenups before marriage. (Sorry, not good for the “institution” of marriage.)
She was big on baseline self-interest. Pay off all debts if possible, so you don’t have them, so you need less income. Of course, the self-interest she describes won’t help the “consumer” get the economy going, but it can’t. We need to restructure ourselves into sustainability.
Earlier, public relations professional Joann Killeen appeared, after having stopped working pro bono for Nadya Suleman, having been bullied out of the effort. That in itself sets a terrifying precedent. She says her company website got 50000 hits in half an hour at the height of the controversy. He motive, she says, comes from being a mother herself and a desire to help the octuplets.
On Thursday, Feb. 19, Dr. Phil would present Joann Killeen, along with Nancy Grace. Killeen said she got 60000 emails in a day. Grace said that some of the callers and emailers could be prosecuted for making threats, and that she had never heard of a public relations agent being threatened this way.
Note on Kyle XY:
Tonight (back to Feb. 16), "Kyle XY" on ABC Family had a wonderful “morality play.” Kyle is asked why he keeps helping people when they do wrong and Kyle says, “that’s what we do.” But the main thrust was his paying for his foster mother’s care after an accident that he thinks he caused, by getting other people to help him with a levitation science project which he knows he will win, and does. Josh, at one point, talks about “the promised land.”
Sunday, February 15, 2009
CBS 60 Minutes tonight (Feb. 15, 2009) presented your typical “shoot the messenger” story about World Savings bank and the sacking of Paul Bishop, who told the company that it would collapse if it kept offering mortgages to people way underqualified. The link for the story and interview (“World of Trouble”) with Scott Pelley is here. The story also covers homeowners who wound up with escalated mortgage payments more than what they made, after starting out with loans that offered “multiple choice” initial payments that simply added unpaid interest onto the principle.
Lesley Stahl also reported on the efforts of Nucor Steel to avoid layoffs when demand went way down (even into negative territory with cancellations) by part-time schedules and paying for “productivity”. This is what Lincoln Electric in Cleveland did in the early 1990s, “piecework” pay. The workers say that in a real world, free trade can’t work and does not exist. The story (“Could "Buy American" Rule Spark Trade War? Some Businesses Fear Clause In Economic Stimulus Package Could Hurt Their Exports”) is here.
“60 Minutes” has always seemed like “Three 20-20’s in One.”
Tonight, at 10 PM EST, MSNBC re-aired a disturbing hour-long documentary about the use of Craigslist ads in “code” for ads for underage sex trade. There is no link for the show yet. The episode specifically showed sting operations at motels by Oakland CA police, reminding one of Chris Hansen's notorious Dateline series. The most recent story available on MSNBC now dates to Nov. 2008, in an AP story, about an agreement by Craigslist with attorneys general in 40 states to police ads. The legal problem seems to have to do with the fact that Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act would seem to protect Craigslist, since it is a communications provider, not a “publisher” or distributor. Some people want to weaken Section 230 because of abuse like this. However, some observers said that the solution to the problem is to go after the male customers (just as in Datelines).
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Tonight, Friday Feb. 14, Larry King Live re-aired a Feb. 12 interview with Bill Maher, “star” of the Lions Gate documentary “Religulous.” The URL for the transcript is here.
Maher indicated that his movie is now out on DVD, and that theaters in many towns would not show it (especially in the South).
He said that he did not believe that there is really a credible debate on whether we need an economic stimulus. We need it. All credible economists say that. He said that this is like saying that there is a debate on whether evolution is real. (That is not to say that Ben Stein’s film (“Expelled”) on intelligent design couldn’t be valid.) All scientists accept it. I think we could get into the same kind of polemic about climate change or global warming. He also made a comment about whether people are smart, that some viewers would take exception to. As far as the economy goes, Larry could have gotten into Barrons’ proposal that banks be required to use their money to give homeowners relief. I think Maher would go along with that.
They talked about the Michael Phelps “bong hits scandal” and A-rod’s steroids. Maher said that Phelps has marianated his body in chlorine for most of his life, and is entitled to a hit. A-Rod, well that doesn’t matter. He thinks baseball is slow. Larry disagreed. He said that we all get steroids when we eat domestically grown livestock.
Maher also said that government has no place in funding the arts, or in building sports stadiums (including the two that open in New York City this spring, as well as Washington DC’s last year). In that portion, he sounded more like a libertarian.
In the second hour (“Oscar Preview Night”) Saturday King interviewed Penelope Cruz (“Vicki Cristina Barcelona”), and then Mickey Rourke (“The Wrestler” said to be “very low budget”) and later Marisa Tomei. Then he interviewed Cleve Jones, the original activist played by Emile Hirsch in “Milk”, as well as Josh Brolin, who plays Supervisor Dan White. Brolin said that Matt Damon was considered for the part of White, but could not because of another assignment. (I hadn’t heard that.) Cleve Jones was a major player in Randy Shilts’s book “And the Band Played On.” Jones now works for a garment worker’s union. King followed with an interview of Ron Howard, director of “Frost / Nixon”. They aired the “not illegal” clip, with Frank Langella, from that film. Finally, King presented Dev Patel, Freida Pinto and director Danny Boyle from “Slumdog Millionaire.” Patel (18) as a teen played the part with unbelievable charisma. Boyle said that the prize on the show in India is the biggest for the show anywhere in the world. Patel said he is ready to read another script for his next role.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Tonight, Feb. 13, 2009, ABC 20-20 presented a one hour “A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains”, a show about poverty and young people in eastern Kentucky. The official news story is “Diane Sawyer Reports on America's Children Living in Poverty in Appalachia”, link here (dated Feb. 10).
The report starts with an image of a cliff in the mountains, and we can’t tell if its natural or a strip mine cut. The highest mountains, up to about 4000 feet, run along the Virginia border, and the land rapidly descends to a dissected plateau less than 2000 feet for the eastern third of the state, where most of the coal is mined (and the toll Mountain Parkway runs). The show then showed a short, scrappy high school football player, Shawn Grimm, and his home life in dilapidated trailers. The film shows an 18 year old, already with wife and baby, going to work in an underground mine for $60000 a year, and Diane Sawyer (from this region) goes along for the report, which resembles an earlier show by Morgan Spurlock on “dirty jobs” for the Discovery Channel. The coal company is Booth, which has a better safety record than most, but even so miners felt uncomfortable talking to reporters in front of company officials.
The report covers the problems with prescription drugs, and the severe dental problems un the region, partly caused by overconsumption of Mountain Dew sodas. Dentists do not like carbonated beverages, even diet ones, because the carbonic acid gradually dissolves enamel of teeth. Sometimes people have lost most of their teeth even as teenager.
The show asks why broadband and service jobs (like call centers) could not be brought to Appalachia, since they go to India now. It covered Bobby Kennedy’s visit to the region in the 1960s and suggests that Obama could give similar attention. It’s noteworthy that most of the people here are white, so poverty here is not race-dependent.
In 1972, I did a weekend trip with an ex grad school roommate through the region, looking at the stripmine problem, which is actually much more visible on the Virginia side (around Norton). I recall a stripmine near Inez. I visited the area again in 2005.
Visitors will want to look at Bill Moyers’s blog today with his PBS interview of Simon Johnson about the “oligarchy” of bank executives and the bailouts, here.
Also, on ABC Nightline, John Nance explained the icing that led to the Buffalo Continental Airlines commuter plane crash as simply accidentally flying into the wrong cloud, very much as unpredictable as “the birds.”
Update: Feb. 15
A story related to our dependence on coal (both underground mining, with its safety issues, and strip mining) appears Feb. 14 online and Feb. 15 Business Section at the New York Times, by Melanie Warner, "Is America Ready to Quit Coal?" link here.
I visited the underground mine in Beckley, W Va in May 1991.
Picture: along VA-KY border on US 421, July 2005.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Tonight, Thursday Feb. 12, CNBC aired the two hour documentary “House of Cards”, written and directed by James Jacoby, tracing in gruesome detail, step by step, the financial collapse of 2008. The link is here. The site includes a preview and slide show. Believe it or not, Jim Cramer (who gave Obama’s stimulus package an F) didn’t appear in this film, but he did show his own video today.
The early part of the film shows a female sheriff driving around Orange County, CA evicting people from foreclosed homes. The film shows a chopper identifying festering swimming pools in foreclosed homes, attractive nuisances; the scene reminds one of the opening of Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts.”
The film then traces the history. A few days after 9/11, Alan Greenspan addressed Congress and indicated that he would lower interest rates to keep the economy going. President Bush wanted Americans to act normally, and that meant going shopping. Pretty soon Bush was buying the big government, Democrat idea of getting as many low income people into home ownership as possible.
The film explains how mortgage banking used to be a labor intensive business, with investigative consumer reporting and strict requirements. Somewhere around 2002 or so, Fannie Mae had an accounting shakeup, and when restructured it started getting looser with how it packaged loans. People entered the business of offering loans to “unverified income” and then subprime borrowers. Daniel Sadek made enough money selling these loans to fund his car-crash film “Redline” (which I saw). Eventually, negative amortization, where the principal owed could continue to increase, was recklessly introduced. The butcher's bill would come due in five years, with refinancing, when everyone assume that housing would keep going up.
One basic problem was that if mortgagers sold the loans, they no longer directly cared if customers paid or even qualified. Wall Street developed the "opportunistic" CDO’s, or collateralized debt obligations. These were sold all over the world, including to the town of Narvik, Norway, shown in the film (I visited it in August 1972 and took the train from it to Kiruna, Sweden, as far north as I’ve ever been). Actually, the Narvik CDO's contained "ordinary" bonds instead of subprimes, but they all tanked because confidence was lost.
The film traces the herd mentality, with few executives willing to buck the trend. But one such entrepreneur was Kyle Bass, in Dallas, who set up a hedge fund based on credit default swaps. He was, in a sense, shorting the whole pyramid, guessing that housing prices could not keep rising because wages were not rising. (The housing prices started to fall after the first bunch of subprimes reset and homeowners couldn't pay.) He was right. The basic flaw was assuming that housing prices could rise forever, which they could not. But no one, whether home borrowers or bankers, would question the “sustainability” to the whole pyramid. There seemed to be a lack of moral sense that would lead to anyone's appreciation of his own part in "sustainability." Alan Greenspan, when interviewed (several times in the film) says toward the end that in a market economy this sort of thing can happen, though rarely; you can't change human nature, he says. This sort of behavior had been outlined by Princeton professor David Callahan's 2004 book "The Cheating Culture." Lou Dobbs, on CNN, also often warned the public about the recklessness of everyone's behavior. At one point, the film showed a manual for a software project called "Ocelot", a slang term that, when I was in the Army, meant "an apparent hero who actually has clay feet."
I think CNN's Anderson Cooper should try his hand at making a theatrical film "Culprits of the Collapse" and go ahead and "name names" (a favorite phrase of the late journalist Randy Shilts). They say Timothy Geithner was hired as Secretary of the Treasury because he knows "where the bodies are."
A couple of the "culprits" deny personal individual responsibility to the "tough question", appealing to herd mentality and "pressures".
A quote from CNBC of a Wall Street email in 2006: "Let's hope we are all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters." The Cheating Culture, indeed.
At the end, Alan Greenspan says that capitalism has brought us our standard of living, but human nature is such that on occasion it can fail, but only after a very long time.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
On Wednesday, Feb 11 (to celebrate Lincoln's 200th Birthday) many PBS stations aired the documentary “Looking for Lincoln”, written and narrated by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The PBS press release is here. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both appear, with Bush showing the Lincoln room in the White House. The film has a tagline, “Let us have faith, that Right Makes Might!” (Also, “with malice toward none and charity toward all.”) Doris Goodwin also appears frequently.
Gates visits the geographical landmarks of Abraham Lincoln’s life, and goes into many of the details of Lincoln’s views. The film follows somewhat the narrative style of Ken Burns.
For example, Lincoln actually believed that it might be necessary to regard whites as superior, when confronted by Stephen Douglas. But he saw slavery as economically damaging in the long run, and he did not regard the Confederacy as a legitimate political entity or enemy; he saw it as “rebels.” The Emancipation Proclamation (which never mentions the word “slavery”) became a military and economic necessity to defuse the south, by removing the South’s greatest “asset.” At one time, Lincoln had wanted freed slaves to leave the country for overseas. The film shows some of Gettysburg, including the Cyclorama.
The War was always about preserving the Union. Lincoln (the 16th President) kept construction of the Capitol going during the war. The film shows a group of “descendants of retired Confederate veterans” having a convention in North Carolina.
The film compares the cultural contributions of Abraham Lincoln to almost exact contemporary Charles Darwin.
Many African Americans were present at his second inaugural in 1865.
John Wilkes Booth was himself an actor, and the shot was supposed to be perceived as part of the play (“Our American Cousin”). The film shows the renovated Ford’s Theater.
Gates takes the position that Reconstruction stalled into a kind of limbo, with African Americans not making progress until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. But progress might have occurred more rapidly had he lived. (Does that generate a good essay question?)
The film ends with Barack Obama’s election victory speech in Chicago in 2008.
Lincoln was very tall, and may have had Marfan syndrome. I have known several extremely tall men, but not necessarily with Marfan.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
NBC’s ANN Curry gave Nadya Suleman, mother of octuplets delivered by Caesarian, on a one hour Dateline segment at 10 PM EST on Tuesday Feb. 10. The transcript of the interview is here.
Nadya says, “everything I do is for my children”, who now total 14. She talked about being an only child, and now wanting to have the experience of manipulating (note the polarity) the connections between multiple siblings that she never had herself.
She had married in 1996 and been unable to conceive, particularly after being struck by someone else, and then eventually divorced.
The interview described the birth event, with nurses stationed as “baby catchers.”
Curry asked about a public relations person hired to help Suleman, when the public relations person herself received unfavorable (to say the least) communications, as did Dateline itself about the show.
She was, of course, quizzed about being able to support her children. She said she had never taken welfare, but quibbled about the use of student loans, which she said she could repay when she started working.
She certainly has helped the United States with its “replacement rate”. But are others around ready to help her raise the children?
Teenager time online report:
Another story on NBC-Washington tonight reported a British study saying that American teenagers spend 31 hours a week online, with only three of those hours for homework. Yes, AP kids spend a lot more on homework; in one AP class in which I subbed in 2005, the chemistry students actually made a film, complete with Final Cut, with students playing the roles of individual atoms. There is constructive use of the media.
Update: Feb. 11
Dr. Phil covered the Nadya Suleman story today, interviewing experts like Dr. Sara Rosenthal, a bioethicist, and Dr. Richard Paulson, a fertility specialist. The link is here.. His coverage continues Feb. 12.
The visitor should read Dr. Phil's "Final Thought" at the end of the web page.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Tonight. Barack Obama gave his first prime-time news conference on all major stations. He paid particular attention to the ideological issue that many people do not like the idea of government intervention in the economy at any level. He mentioned that some sincere people say that FDR should not have intervened during the Great Depression the way he did, but that earlier in his life he had assumed that the New Deal was accepted history. It almost sounded like he was talking about the Cato Institute, the Libertarian Party, maybe even GLIL.
He went on, in answering questions, to say that the current financial crisis was unlike any other since the Great Depression, and that it had not been caused directly by excessive consumerism, but by overleveraging in the financial markets. But he said that Americans would have to make more things at home or else foreign countries would stop lending us money. He also said that what was alarming was that so much of the jump in unemployment had occurred in the past three months, so it was a geometrically exploding epidemic that fed on itself.
Actually, he started the East Room event with a reference to his first “day trip” on Air Force One (minus Harrison Ford) to Elkhart, Indiana, which has seen the largest increase in unemployment in the country. It was also where he ended his campaign. (Tonight, ABC has shown a solar powered fan factory in Warsaw, Indiana that has strong exports.)
Reporters from CBS, NBC, Bloomberg and Huffington all asked questions, but the last question, on national security, came from Helen Thomas, which prompted Obama to say something like he had been initiated.
MSNBC is carrying the AP story here.
Sunday night, Feb. 9, the Discovery Channel aired the documentary “The Science of Sex Appeal” (video link) and there is a TVNext review by Anubhav Goyal here.
The underlying idea is that men and women prefer attractive partners on the belief, more or less correct, that attractive partners are reproductively healthy and will give them a healthier lineage of children. But there are major differences in incentives for men and women. Men can afford many “$5 lunches” whereas women take enormous risk – pregnancy – and need to find a partner who can provide for her and the children, so that women’s ideas of attractiveness change during the courtship experience.
The film starts out discussion the geometry of facial features (and the presence of the “Golden Ratio”) as indicative of attractiveness. There is an experiment where men and women are scored 1-10 on attractiveness and paired off voluntarily. People tend to wind up with dates with about the same score for attractiveness. Later, in the film, there is a “speed dating” experiment where the dynamics are more complicated, as women are more likely to be aware of the idea that the partner could have to become a potential father.
The film discusses voice pitch. In most cultures, men with deeper voices have more children. Women’s voices rise during ovulation, a subtle signal to men that they are prepared to have children.
The film mentions the paradox that in human culture, females are often the subject of attention to the issue of physical attractiveness. In nature, the opposite is often true: often, the male has secondary sexual characteristics (such as bright plumage in many birds, antlers, or manes) that set them apart from one another. Visible characteristics in males may be more common in social animals (for example, male lions have manes, but tigers, very close biologically, do not). The film did not cover body hair in men, which varies noticeably among Caucasians and tends to distinguish men but not in other races. Could this have been related to climate, or to differences in social organization in the prehistoric past?
The film does maintain, however, that men tend to use “toys” to represent their power visually. Women are often influenced by the kind of car that a man drives (even its color – more aggressive men supposedly like fire engine red cars). In my own brief heterosexual dating days in the fall of 1971, I drove a blue Ford Maverick. I did have to clean it out.
The film also discusses body odor, which changes during various phases. Every person has a distinct “B.O.” and in women it also changes during ovulation. Primitive cultures (as do practically all mammals) unconsciously used “B.O.” as a way to determine that potential mates are not too closely related biologically, raising the risk of birth defects.
The film presumes that all men and all women want to reproduce, but that is obviously not the case. In higher income cultures, especially in Europe, birth rates are lower, and many adults never have children, to the point that the population does not replace itself. Human culture offers other opportunities for fulfillment and expression (and even a sense of “vicarious immortality”), particularly in a technological age. It would be interesting to make a film about attractiveness and corresponding values among gay men, and try to look for biological as well as cultural explanations.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
Last night (Feb. 7), SNL was hosted by the lanky, thirtyish Bradley Cooper (“He’s Just Not That Into You”), but the highlight of the evening was, as so often, the middle section: Seth Meyers. This time, he interviewed Mark Spitz, played by Andy Samberg, and noted that today his hairy chest, decorated by medals, would slow down his time in the pool. Was this real or makeup? With Samberg, we’re not sure. Then, Meyers turned around and gave the audience it’s moral lesson: It’s OK to smoke bong hits if you’ve won twelve gold medals in the Olympics. (That's logical thinking taken to the root, isn't it.) Remember, Michael Phelps had hosted SNL himself, but had to be coached all the time during the broadcast, especially by Samberg .Michael is no professional actor; we didn’t expect him to be. But Michael’s “makeup” (or dearth thereof) changes, too.
Meyers was on ABC’s The View recently and it sounds like he writes all this himself. He has to be one of the most brilliant comedy writers in the business.
The first act of SNL was a tiny drag show – I couldn’t tell the man in the tights and skivvy was Cooper or not. That means, good actor? Then, later, Samberg, Cooper and Forte did a mock intervention. Phelps became “the man who wasn’t there”.
Friday, February 06, 2009
ABC 20/20 tonight reported further on “culprits of the collapse” (excuse me – I’m borrowing from Anderson Cooper), specifically on one of the most notorious of New York’s Wall Street madams, Kristin Davis. She was arrested and convicted for running a prostitution ring, while so far, none of the Wall Street execs who used her service (billed on corporate credit cards to “Davis Investments”) have been prosecuted. There are a number of criminal charges, related to fraud, that both New York State and fibbies could pursue.
The story is by Anna Schecter, Rhonda Schwartz, (also Kate McCarthy and Andrew Sullivan), and Brian Ross, who did the television report. The title is “CEOs, Bankers Used Corporate Credit Cards for Sex, Says New York Madam: Wall Street Exposed as Convicted Escort Boss Reveals Client List of 9,800”.
Somehow I am reminded of the character Belle Watling from Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind,” characterized as “the most notorious of the madams” in the novel and pictured (Ona Munson) in the Motion Picture Edition of the book. It sounds like there were plenty of Rhett Butlers on Wall Street. The "Wall Street madam story" link is here. It is true that the prosecution of the prostitute occurred before the total investment banking meltdown in September 2008.
ABC News has seen the list of 9800 but it does not appear to have been published on the web, yet.
An earlier and longer 20/20 segment reported a bizarre crime story that echoes Brian De Palma’s “Dressed to Kill”. A man who wanted to become a woman and also sociopathic (these two ordinarily are not connected) and his wife (yes, he was “straight”) orchestrated a high seas murder of an older couple to get their boat. The story sounds like a combination of De Palma, Lifetime, film noir such as “Double Indemnity”, and of course Dateline.
Earlier (9 OM EST), ABC’s “SuperNanny” presented a wonderful British nanny who helps a family with ten children get its priorities right. The oldest boy and girl had been expected to give up their childhood to raise their younger siblings. The boy wanted to run away and said, “they’re not my children.” But the parents had insisted that oldest children have this responsibility and that expecting that is one of the perks of marriage for parents. The nanny got them to change their attitude and face other problems, such as the mother’s need for a dozen children to fill a hunger, and the father’s problem with alcohol. Needless to say, when the boy is in his twenties, he'll have no competition in his ability to supervise and lead people. That will come in handy with a career in the military, for example.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
CNN: AC360 airs Cheney's dire warning about Obama's "national security" decision; also, more on TARP exec compensation caps
Anderson Cooper 360 tonight aired an alarming story about the outspokenness of former Vice President Dick Cheney. The former Vice President was very critical of President Obama’s summary decision to close down Guantanamo, and clamp down on interrogation techniques (to conform with the Army Field Manual and Geneva Convention, familiar to those of us who actually underwent Basic Combat Training at some point). Cheney claims that when the book is open, the public will believe that the renditions (minus Jake Gyllenhaal’s pie charts!) were necessary. Cheney said that Bush policies prevented a much worse attack than 9/11 from happening during the rest of the administration, and that now the danger is re-opened.
Anderson interviewed both David Gergen, who pointed out that Obama will take a year to close Guantanamo, and Peter Bergen, who was a bit skeptical of the former vice president’s claims.
Robert Schlesinger’s blog entry (at US News) on Cheney’s comments is here (“former vice-president shows his farcical side”).
I tend to feel we can’t dismiss his comments so easily. I’m dependent on law and order and on civilization.
Cooper also covered some other topics. One is the strings on TARP money: CEO’s can’t make more than $500000 a year (they could have subordinates who make more) and can only receive “bonuses” in stock that cannot be redeemed until the government is paid back with interest, a measure which gives CEO’s real incentive to perform honestly.
Anderson Cooper's live blog (now for 2/4/2009) is here. The public comments supposedly run 99% in favor of CEO pay limits.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
ABC Primetime Live tonight (Tuesday, Feb. 3) aired a series of social experiments called “What Would You Do?”, link here. I'll add up front: here is an "About.com" reference on "Good Samaritan laws".
The most crucial experiment started at the beginning of the show. The producers rig a doll to look and sound like a baby, and put it in a locked car with windows rolled up on Church St. in lower Manhattan on a sunny day with temperature 80 degrees. Many people walk past without acting, but some people try to call 911 or scold the mother when they find her. “You really shouldn’t have this baby.” Well, if it were real, she shouldn’t. John Quionones then appears. He told “Good Morning America” today that about 10% of passers-by responded. One authority said that it is appropriate to break a car window to rescue the baby; by the time police arrive it may be too late. Inside the car the temperature can rise to over 120 degrees F and especially in babies heat stroke can come on very suddenly.
In some cities, parents have been prosecuted for leaving babies or young children alone in cars even momentarily. In a few tragic cases, people have gone to work and “forgotten” that they left small children in their cars (even at commuter parking lots), thinking they had left the kids at day care when they hadn’t. I can just imagine the outright horror of suddenly remembering after a few hours at work. A few deaths have resulted this way.
A similar experiment was performed with a dog (Ryder, a professional Labrador retriever “actress”) locked inside a car which, in fact, was air conditioned.
Then, there was an interesting experiment at a New Jersey beach side bar. A man “moves in” on a woman in an unwelcome way, and in some cases bystanders (both men and women) would try to chase the man away, or even try to get the bartender to call the bouncer or security. Women would draw the “victim” into their fold. Sometimes in dance or disco bars, people are disturbed even if they are stared at on the floor, particularly when the crowd is relatively light; that could make for another experiment. I can also suggest another experiment: when do bartenders or even bar security decide that a patron is impaired and should leave?
Then there was an experiment with a nanny being balled out in a public café by her boss in front of kids, or even by the kid herself. There were some experiments with race.
Over four decades of adult life, mostly in cities, I have witnessed a few bizarre situations myself, and party to them once or twice. Once in a gay bar when I paid some attention to someone, about fifteen minutes later a woman approached me an asked me my birthday.
Update: Feb. 17
Further episodes add situations like a sensitive immigration matter abusing marriage. The ABC link now has a quiz.
Monday, February 02, 2009
Well, the NBC show “Chuck” seems to be experiencing “3D glasses gate” tonight. NBC has been heavily promoting the novelty of a 3D broadcast as well as HD (I don't think it's limited to HD sets) in a way that works as regular broadcast without glasses. The "Chuck" show site is here.
Actually, the show aired tonight at 8 PM EST and it looked fine without glasses. A preview segment had aired at halftime, just before Springsteen’s half-time concert at the Super Bowl.
In the show, Chuck has to protect a rock star, Tyler, from the goons, and there’s actually an interesting idea: steganography, ancient style. On his back there is a tattoo of a message as to the location of some highly enriched uranium (so I could have put this entry on my “disaster films” blog). Most viewers know that in this techno-comedy, Chuck (Zachary Levi) was “drafted” into government service by a bizarre email that imprinted his brain with secrets (that makes a lot less sense than the nano-bots of the defunct “Jake 2.0” from UPN a few years back).
Levi has the physical presence of an athlete like Michael Phelps, so his “comedy” of looking flustered is a bit silly. Chuck, after all, is a "virtuous" person. (His “official job” is the sales geek at “Buy More” (= “Best Buy”?? well, the colors are different; Buy More goes green.) His retail sidekick is Morgan (Joshua Gomez), and his sister is played by Sarah Lancaster, who played Madison in Everwood. Yes, Zachary Levi Pugh should be invited to host SNL.
But let’s get back to the 3D business. Sunday I tried CVS, Safeway, Radio Shack, Fye, 7-11 to find them and store personnel had hardly heard of them (see my entry Sunday). So I emailed Liz Crenshaw, consumer reporter at NBC4 in Washington. Today I got back an email from NBC Corporate saying that the glasses distribution was supposed to be the responsibility of Dreamworks and Pepsi Cola. It admitted that there had been many consumer inquiries, and NBC didn’t want the individual stations to get involved. The participating retail outlets are supposed to be Kroger - Ralphs - Frys - Safeway / Vons - SuperValu - Food Lion - A&P - Pathmark - Coburns - Fairway - Fresh Brands - Hy Vee - Nash Finch - Roundy’s - Winn-Dixie - K-mart - Dollar General - Hess (select stores) - CVS (select stores) - Meijer – Target.
I admit that I did not try today, but I found some old 3-D glasses (pic. above) from the Disney “Chicken Little” movie. (Remember “the sky is falling” – that movie had a subtle lesson about Chicken Little’s “online reputation”). I tried them and seemed to get minimal 3D effect in the scenes with the food (Morgan’s eating contest was a gross out) and the elevator escape scene.
NBC says it reairs Chuck Tuesday, but I couldn’t find it on the TV schedule. Just keep looking.
Also, ABC Family tonight, heaven forbid, on its episode of “Kyle XY” showed Kyle in a bar not only showing off his Clark-like “powers” but also engaging in underage drinking, as he grieves the loss of Amanda. Yup, he’ll wind up on someone else’s Myspace, and get aired on Dr. Phil, and wind up needing a cleanup from “Reputation Defender.” Kyle (the synthetic "superman" aka Aldous Huxley, albeit, again, a "good person") says "I finally understood male bonding; you don't use friends to forget, you need friends to stand behind you.:
I do recall about fifteen years ago seeing an experiment from a South Carolina inventor with a televised 3D broadcast that required no glasses at all. According to Engadget, Mitshubishi is advertising this technology on the web, for example here. I don't know why this isn't more widely reported. Maybe some visitor can comment on this.
(I worked for NBC as a computer programmer in New York in the 1970s, right at Rockefeller Center in midtown. I’ve corresponded with the TV station here about other issues. I think they know me.)
Sunday, February 01, 2009
ABC ("This Week") and NBC ("Meet the Press") ask panelists critical economic questions on Sunday morning shows
This morning, Sunday February 1, 2009 (OK, January 32), “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” aired a spirited and critical discussion of the economy, with the transcript here.
The panel consisted of Senator Jim De Mint (R-DC) (head of the Joint Economic Committee), Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), Fred Smith (CEO, FedEx), and Eric Schmidt (CEO, Google).
While De Mint started by talking about tax cuts, Frank emphasized that tax cuts don’t put teachers in schools or rebuild interstate highways or bridges. Fed Smith emphasized that tax cuts need to be targeted: capital gains tax cuts will put people back to work, he impled. Schmidt said that we need to help the American consumer and homeowner, and that this is much easier to do in the United States than in Europe.
The forty minute session was followed by a briefer Economic Roundtable, with George Will (the “Baseball Fan”), Bob Woodward “(All the President’s Men”), David Sanger (the New York Times), and Martha Raddatz. Woodward talked about the inability of Wall Street to price assets. George Will talked about the danger of receding into protectionism (the “buy America” provisions) which could lead us into depression, he thought.
NBC "Meet the Press" featured K. Bailey Hutchison (R-KS) and John Kerry (D-MA). Kerry noted that we have gone from 4th in broadband efficiency to 17th. Later the program interviewed Steve Forbes, who suggested that we pay much more attention to easing mark-to-mark accounting rules, which force banks to write down losses even from non-delinquent assets that have nevertheless lost book value. (Forbes is saying, you don’t lose money until you really have to sell!) Steve Ballmer from Microsoft was quoted as having said that the economy will permanently readjust to a different level of growth and consumption (partly because of sustainability concerns, perhaps). Erin Burnett (CNBC “Street Signs”) Mark Zandi from Moody’s also appeared. The link is here.
The NBC show said that the US has a (shrinking) $14 trillion GDP but could face debt as high as $9.9 trillion by 2010, with additional bailouts. That’s 67% of GDP (sounds like it’s more to me), whereas after WWII we had a debt of 122% of GDP.
Matt Lauer will talk to President Barack Obama from the White House during the pre-game show on NBC. Obama is having a “Super Bowl Party” at the White House with Congressional leaders and is said to want the Steelers to win (from a Democratic city). But so does Rush Limbaugh.
Extra: 3-D Glasses for "Chuck":
Here's a "TV by the numbers" link for where to get 3-D glasses needed to watch "Chuck" on NBC Monday Feb. 2. As we say, Zachary Levi's character is a "good person."
P.S.: what a thriller SuperBowl (Steelers/Democrats over Cardinals/Republicans 27-23, rubbing it in). We saw the longest interception return in Super Bowl history to close the first half, a rare safety (because of a penalty), and an unbelievable catch at the end. The camera technology really does show the replays on the two contested Steeler touchdowns with precision. I wonder if anyone disagreed with the officials.