Dada Massa and the Slate Political Gabfest

David Plotz made this great [paraphrased] comment (aside: I’m not Plotz’s biggest fan) on Slate’s Political Gabfest about the sad tale of Eric Massa especially as concerns his interviews with Glenn Beck and Larry King.

Large electoral sweeps [Democrats in 1974, Republicans in 1994, Democrats again in 2008] tend to bring a lot of lunatics along with others. [Eric] Massa is ‘the weirdest of the weird’ from the 2008 Democratic Sweep.

Heh. Too true.

BTW, IMNSHO, their podcast is well worth following

Disclosure of My Commercial Freebies As a Blogger

You’ve all heard about the FTC ruling concerning disclosure about commercial relationships and quid quo pro relationships and the ‘blogging’ community.

My disclosure is: I have nothing to disclose.

I will happy to disclose that my positive impressions of goods and services are the result of my commercial relationships of receiving goods and services with the tacit understanding that I would write about them in a favorable light. I want to disclose these things.

Now this is the important point:

I can not disclose relationships I DO NOT HAVE. So, advertisers, the ball is in your court. I can be reached in the usual ways and I *eagerly* await your responses.

[update:] I may have some strongly positive views on high-end consumer electronics, motorcycles, books, and computers. Probably medium-priced consumer electronic electronics. too. And green products. And houses. Clothes too. Did I mention that kid’s products (almost 8-year old boy!) are cool, too? Like I said, I await your calls…

The Scariest Jobs Chart Ever –

Personally, from what I read and hear from folks I have chosen to believe ‘know things’ I think the shape of the recession/recovery is not a ‘V,’ but a ‘W.’ And the second part of the ‘W’ will be steeper. /deerinheadlightsstare

The Scariest Jobs Chart Ever
Calculated Risk has updated his chart showing job losses as a percent of peak employment since WW2. Needless to say, it’s not encouraging.

The last time employment fell this much, in 1948, it recovered quickly. The recent recoveries, however, have been much more gradual. Unless employment rebounds rapidly (it’s still falling), it’s hard to see how we’re going to get the v-shaped recovery that the bulls are now expecting.

I first saw this over at Doug’s.

Thom Hartmann on “Sociopathic Paychecks”

This is from Thom Hartmann‘s daily email newsletter

Sociopathic Paychecks
The Wall Street Journal reported last week that “Executives and other highly compensated employees now receive more than one-third of all pay in the US…  Highly paid employees received nearly $2.1 trillion of the $6.4 trillion in total US pay in 2007, the latest figures available.”
This article is largely excerpted from Thom Hartmann’s new book “Threshold: The Crisis of Western Culture.”

One of the questions often asked when the subject of CEO pay comes up is, “What could a person such as William McGuire or Lee Raymond (the former CEOs of UnitedHealth and ExxonMobil, respectively) possibly do to justify a $1.7 billion paycheck or a $400 million retirement bonus?”

It’s an interesting question. If there is a “free market” of labor for CEOs, then you’d think there would be a lot of competition for the jobs. And a lot of people competing for the positions would drive down the pay. All UnitedHealth’s stockholders would have to do to avoid paying more than $1 billion to McGuire is find somebody to do the same CEO job for half a billion. And all they’d have to do to save even more is find somebody to do the job for a mere $100 million. Or maybe even somebody who’d work the necessary sixty-hour weeks for only $1 million.

So why is executive pay so high?

I’ve examined this with both my psychotherapist hat on and my amateur economist hat on, and only one rational answer presents itself: CEOs in America make as much money as they do because there really is a shortage of people with their skill set. And it’s such a serious shortage that some companies have to pay as much as $1 million a day to have somebody successfully do the job.

But what part of being a CEO could be so difficult-so impossible for mere mortals-that it would mean that there are only a few hundred individuals in the United States capable of performing it?

In my humble opinion, it’s the sociopath part.

CEOs of community-based businesses are typically responsive to their communities and decent people. But the CEOs of most of the world’s largest corporations daily make decisions that destroy the lives of many other human beings.

Only about 1 to 3 percent of us are sociopaths-people who don’t have normal human feelings and can easily go to sleep at night after having done horrific things. And of that 1 percent of sociopaths, there’s probably only a fraction of a percent with a college education. And of that tiny fraction, there’s an even tinier fraction that understands how business works, particularly within any specific industry.

Thus there is such a shortage of people who can run modern monopolistic, destructive corporations that stockholders have to pay millions to get them to work. And being sociopaths, they gladly take the money without any thought to its social consequences.

Today’s modern transnational corporate CEOs-who live in a private-jet-and-limousine world entirely apart from the rest of us-are remnants from the times of kings, queens, and lords. They reflect the dysfunctional cultural (and Calvinist/Darwinian) belief that wealth is proof of goodness, and that that goodness then justifies taking more of the wealth.

Democracy in the workplace is known as a union. The most democratic workplaces are the least exploitative, because labor has a power to balance capital and management. And looking around the world, we can clearly see that those cultures that most embrace the largest number of their people in an egalitarian and democratic way (in and out of the workplace) are the ones that have the highest quality of life. Those that are the most despotic, from the workplace to the government, are those with the poorest quality of life.

Over time, balance and democratic oversight will always produce the best results.  An “unregulated” marketplace is like an “unregulated” football game – chaos.  And chaos is a state perfectly exploited by sociopaths, be they serial killers, warlords, or CEOs.

By changing the rules of the game of business so that sociopathic business behavior is no longer rewarded (and, indeed, is punished – as Teddy Roosevelt famously did as the “trustbuster” and FDR did when he threatened to send “war profiteers” to jail), we can create a less dysfunctional and more egalitarian society.  And that’s an important first step back from the thresholds to environmental and economic disaster we’re now facing.

I would link to it directly if I could find the newsletter on the web.

Professor Gates v. Sgt. Crowley

[Update I:]

Gatesgate. Digby expresses herself on this much better than I can.

This is all in my ‘not so humble opinion.’
I just posted this on Facebook:

Sgt. James Crowley refuses to apologize to distinguished Professor Henry Louis Gates for arresting him at his home without probable cause. The Mayor has issued an apology, but the arresting officer and instigator refuses to recognize his fault.

Some background: I have lived in Las Vegas, NV since 1985. My first ‘big city.’ Prior to that, I went to college in Kansas and lived in rural Oregon and Arizona while working as an archaeologist.

I do not know how may of you have ever been ‘abused’ by the police, but I have had my wrist forced up between my shoulder blades, multiple times, had my day pack emptied on the ground, had my briefcase contents unceremoniously dumped onto a parking lot, had 2-liter bottles of soda poured out – though I have never been charged, never been told what I was suspected of
, and never been given an apology afterwards. Even an, “Oops, we made a mistake.” This is while I was thin, not so thin, with a shaved head, while very hairy, on the UNLV campus, on the DRI campus, riding a bicycle on campus, while driving a white pick-up truck in the suburbs.

One thing we forget is that our Police Departments have been given a mandate to fight an undeclared war against an enemy that only they can see. Because of the ‘War on Drugs’ and now the ‘War on Terrorism,’ the mandate to ‘protect’ us, – and lacking an exterior adversary, apparently from ourselves – is fully operational.

You *are* guilty until proven innocent. To pretend otherwise is to be, …, naive. Their mandate is to uncover the hidden menace. I am unsure how to pass this along to my 7 year old who I have taught to think, “policemen are my friends!” Until you’re about 11, buddy. (This breaks my heart.)

I know that Sgt.Crowley has been trained to *diffuse* antagonistic situations, Even if the perp is *wrong* and the officer has chosen to not follow that procedure, even after proper ID was provided and the situation was diffused. He chose to be aggrieved and offended. He let his ego get in the way.

I know we recruit from the human race, but we ask for a higher calling and Sgt. Crowley accepted that.

In my opinion, you *do* have a problem, Sgt, Crowley. “”That apology will never come from me as Jim Crowley, it won’t come from me as sergeant in the Cambridge Police Department,” Sgt. James Crowley told Boston radio station WEEI. “Whatever anybody else chooses to do in the name of the city of Cambridge or the Cambridge Police Department which are beyond my control, I don’t worry about that. I know what I did was right. I have nothing to apologize for.””

In my opinion and experience, Sgt. Crowley, yes you do have something to apologize for. This is not a case of ‘if the public would just straighten up, we would be fine…’

Just an aside – why did they take the word of someone who obviously did not know who lived in that house that it was being broken into?
In this case, the police (or at least this officer) are part of the problem.

Yes, I support the police and their mission. Just quit dealing in dualistic thinking.

I have been told (recently, by multiple conservative friends, relatives, and in-laws) that there are ‘plenty of people who want to work’ if I don’t want to ‘do the job.’ Sgt. Crowley, the door is over there.

Senator Bernie Sanders on Harry Reid’s Hormone Deficiency

Apropos to my letter to Harry Reid — over at Thom Hartmann, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks to the difficulty of blocking the Republican filibuster thanks to Harry Reid’s hormone deficiency.

Scroll down to ‘THP090702 Brunch with Bernie.’ I am confident this will link rot like a big dog.

Rotted, dog removed…

Did ‘Mark to Market’ Accounting Changes Affect 1stQ Profits?

Did accounting changes just before the issuance of the strongly positive 1st quarter profit reports have an effect?

After Year of Heavy Losses, Citigroup Finds a Profit [NY Times]
Citigroup, the battered banking giant, eked out a first-quarter net profit on Friday after more than a year of staggering losses and three bailouts from Washington, but used an accounting adjustment to do it.

The New York-based bank reported first-quarter net income of $1.6 billion, after a loss of $5.11 billion in the period a year earlier. <…> The results were also helped by an accounting adjustment that allowed the bank to post a one-off gain of $2.5 billion on its derivative positions.

So, check my math here, a $1.6B profit minus the one-off gain of $2.5B equals a -$0.9B shortfall, a $900,000 loss, yes?

The Hunting of the President Resumes

It does feel like 1992 in several ways. [For those that don’t recall, Conason wrote The Hunting of the President.]

The Hunting of the President Resumes: The right is trying to link Obama to Blagojevich and corruption — and the mainstream media is playing along. The Clinton rules are back.
by Joe Conason in Slate

If Blagojevich’s own pungent words don’t answer the supposed questions about Obama, then perhaps the explicit exoneration offered by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who ran this investigation, should suffice. The quoted portions of the Blagojevich wiretaps represent a very small percentage of the conversations taped and monitored by the FBI. Knowing Fitzgerald, it is safe to assume that his agents heard nothing that implicated Obama or members of his transition staff in the Blagojevich scheme.

While that should be obvious, don’t expect the excited Republicans to calm down anytime soon. Having nothing to sustain them for the moment except a whiff of Democratic scandal, they can hardly help themselves. They will persist in their partisan efforts to undermine the new president.

As for the rest of us, including mainstream reporters, perhaps we should be mindful of the vast amounts of money, time, and journalistic, prosecutorial, congressional and presidential effort that were squandered on the mythical crimes of the Clinton era. Can America still afford that kind of stupidity?

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, in the USA, at least. Traditionally, the US has observed it a secular harvest festival.

The use of the turkey in the USA for Thanksgiving precedes Lincoln’s nationalization of the holiday in 1863. Alexander Hamilton proclaimed that no “Citizen of the United States should refrain from turkey on Thanksgiving Day”, but turkey was uncommon as Thanksgiving fare until after 1800. By 1857 turkey had become part of the traditional dinner in New England. [1]

Elsewhere in the country regional choices such as ham, chicken or other meats were the central dish. Turkey acquired its character as the national Thanksgiving entrée of choice in World War I (1918), when American men and women in the military dined on turkey, regardless of where they were stationed.

Thanksgiving cheer distributed for men in service

Happy Thanksgiving!