Who's guarding the hen house?

WASHINGTON -- As financial markets tumbled and the government worked to stave off panic by pumping billions of dollars into banks last fall, several members of Congress who oversee the banking industry were grabbing up or dumping bank stocks.

Anticipating bargains or profits or just trying to unload before the bottom fell out, these members of the House Financial Services Committee or brokers on their behalf were buying and selling stocks including Bank of America and Citigroup -- some of the very corporations their committee would later rap for greed, a Plain Dealer examination of congressional stock market transactions shows.

link: Members of U.S. House Financial Services Committee snapped up or dumped bank stocks as bottom fell out of market - Metro - cleveland.com

Thanks for mentioning

SHELBYVILLE, Tenn. – Authorities said a couple got into a fight using Cheetos. The Bedford County Sheriff's Department said a 40-year-old man and 44-year-old woman became involved in a 'verbal altercation.' Somehow, the orange puffy snacks were used in the assault.

link: Tenn. couple accused of assault using Cheetos - Yahoo! News

This is pretty much the whole of a story from the Associated Press (the rest: no one was hurt, both were charged with domestic assault, both posted bond).

In Georgia, you don't have to be a governor to have a little fun

A former mayor found sitting naked and holding a beer at a Rabun County campsite told police he wasn’t the same naked man seen walking around earlier.

link: Naked ex-mayor arrested at campsite | ajc.com


So the next time you hear somebody bitching about health care in, say, Canada...

A retired health insurance executive — in a shocking but not terribly surprising admission — confessed Wednesday that insurance companies deliberately confuse policyholders and attempt to dump sick patients to plump their profit margins.

link: Raw Story » Ex-insurance exec confesses health insurers dump sick people

Who voted for these bimbos anyway?

The US House of Representatives held a moment of silence to remember Michael Jackson

link: Raw Story » House holds moment of silence for Jackson

Oh, wait. Forget I asked.

Don't cry for him, Carolina

On behalf of the people of Illinois and New York, I’d like to thank South Carolina for giving us Mark (“I’ve been unfaithful to my wife”) Sanford. Finally, a governor who’s weirder than Rod Blagojevich and less responsible than Eliot Spitzer.

link: Op-Ed Columnist - The Love Party - NYTimes.com


Photo: Phil Compton


"Get well soon," says Avedon

It's a libertoonian meme that we are unhealthy because we don't make the individual choice to "live right". But, you know, people in England and France eat plenty of fat and sugar, and they even smoke more, and they are still healthier than Americans. Now, maybe that's because they never got New Coke and still use real sugar in their Coke, or maybe it's because of a lot of other things, but when people who invented the Deep-Fried Mars Bar (and deep-fried pizza) are in better health than you are, it certainly isn't just because of your individual slovenly and immoral lifestyle choices.

link: The Sideshow June 2009 Archive

A media guy asks: Why do they hate us?

There’s no question media people think highly of themselves. We tend to be well-educated and worldly, and we consider ourselves worthy to help shape what the entire country reads, watches, and listens to. But what’s equally clear is that the general public does not hold us in such esteem....

link: A Media Guy Asks: Why Do They Hate Us?: Matt Pressman | Vanity Fair

Here's the odd thing: Back in the '60s and '70s when thousands of young idealists decided we would save the world by exposing corruption and wrong-doing and general stupidity by becoming newspaper reporters, veteran reporters and editors were, for the most part, lazy -- but charming -- drunks. Reporting and writing was sloppy, with little enterprise or investigation or original work. Plagiarism was common. Press releases were printed verbatim, and passed off as the newspaper's work.

I worked for an afternoon newspaper in the late '60s and early '70s. We started our days before dawn in a headlong rush to get the first edition on the streets by 8 a.m. Across the street was a shabby bar/restaurant, eloquently called The House of Morgan, where writers and editors had eggs and Bloody Marys for breakfast.

And the media was widely respected and believed.

Then came a tidal wave of reporters and editors who were educated and (mostly) sober and who did amazingly creative work. They transformed newspapers from gray bulletin boards to sparkling guardians of freedom and champions of the little guy. The quality and character of the print media improved dramatically in the '70s, especially after Watergate when the really bright kids dumped pre-med and went for journalism. Need a Harvard grad with a masters to cover cops for $100 a week? No problem.

For the next three decades, newspapers -- and the people who produced them -- just kept getting better. Even small papers were doing quality, original work. Sometimes incredible work. And under really crappy conditions. You went home feeling proud of what you produced.

And the media was widely reviled.

It would be nice if someone would do a serious study to find out why attitudes changed so dramatically. I suspect it had something to do with the arrogant, bullying attitude many reporters and newspapers took. With the anti-Establishment tone of the front page, with the relentless support of the little guy. With the fact that newspaper people tend to be iconoclasts. And with the widespread -- but false -- belief that the media is way liberal. (Writers who are attracted to an industry where they can right wrongs are surely as liberal as Christians who are attracted to an industry where they can save sinners.) But the truth is that the editorial position of newspapers is unfailingly conservative, reflecting the opinions of the owners. But I digress.

It just seems strange that, as the industry became better, its public standing declined.

–Paul Knue

Yeah, by the way, now that you mention it, y'all...

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina's governor once cited "moral legitimacy" when he was a congressman voting for President Bill Clinton's impeachment. He became a darling of fiscal conservatives over his ideological opposition to federal stimulus cash.

Now Mark Sanford has taken a swan dive from the moral high ground.

link: SC Gov. Mark Sanford will find tough trail at home - Yahoo! News

...is it too late to ask for a do-over on that Clinton thing?


Cheat sheet

From Netflix's Your Queue page:

Your Queue (pronounced 'Q')

OK, dude, if you insist.

Me, I'm getting a headache from trying to imagine how somebody might pronounce "queue" if they didn't know "queue" was pronounced "q." "Qweeyoueee," maybe?

Ouch. See what I mean?

A must

The National Archives serves American democracy by safeguarding and preserving the records of our Government, while ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage....

link: YouTube - usnationalarchives's Channel

National Archives celebrates its 75-year anniversary on YouTube.

(To be added to our Work Avoidance list.)

Feds would muscle in on health insurance racket

“We do not believe that it is possible to create a government plan that could operate on a level playing field,” read a letter to the Senate from Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Scott P. Serota, president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. “Regardless of how it is initially structured, a government plan would use its built-in advantages to take over the health insurance market.”

link: Obama Says Government Health Coverage Plan Would Not Hurt Private Insurers - NYTimes.com
...errrr, market, sorry. Market. Or in other words, as one Jennifer Haberkorn writes in the largely irrelevant Washington Times, "creating a federally run health insurance plan that is open to the American public would destroy the free-market model of employer-provided health care." To which I say, holy shit!

Where, along the line, did health insurance become "employer-provided health care"? I must have been taking a nap. But never mind. It's clear having health insurance that is open to the American public would really screw... Oh. Wait. That's. Us. Or anyway, me.

So I'm asking, what is wrong with open to the American public? I seem to be missing that too.


Even dogs wear raincoats

It’s summertime, and the living is soggy. Yesterday was the 14th day of precipitation this month, and the near-constant drizzle has taken a toll on everybody. From Faneuil Hall to Downtown Crossing to Newbury Street, restaurant and store owners, already pummeled by the economic slowdown, gazed at sheets of relentless rain and said the lousy weather is just the latest sucker punch.

link: With rainy spell, Boston shop owners endure a June swoon - The Boston Globe

There's an app for that

Dunkin’ Donuts, the popular fast food chain famous for its coffee and baked goods, has released Dunkin’ Run, a free app for the iPhone and iPod touch. It’s designed to make it easier for Dunkin’ Donuts customers to make group orders — a social application, according to the press release

link: Dunkin’ Donuts releases ‘social’ iPhone app | Software | iPhone Central | Macworld

Oh yeah, we're getting serious here. (And if you don't have an iPhone this web site will do.) Although I don't think I've ever heard it referred to as a "popular fast food chain" noted for its "coffee and baked goods" before. I mean, really. They don't call it Dunkin' Baked Goods do they? No. I think not.

Dunkin' Donuts, for those of you who do not live in New England, is our Starbucks. Or, to put it another way, Starbucks is your Dunkin' Donuts. Everybody knows Dunkin' Donuts has the best coffee around, although McDonald's coffee isn't bad. Starbucks coffee isn't bad either, if you can figure out what all those funny names mean.

It's fun! And easy!

Department of Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano plans to end domestic law enforcement’s access to spy satellites, a government source told the Associated Press on Monday night.

...Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, called the move a "mistake" and a "step back in the war on terror."

link: Raw Story » Report: DHS to end use of satellites for domestic spying

Those R's are so easy to scare. Have you ever noticed that? I like to walk up behind one and shout BOO, watch him jump. Try it sometime - it's a hoot!

Ah. Well then...

It's never been easier to organize all the details of your busy life...

link: Bento For iPhone | FileMaker

...that pretty much explains that.

Bento is...well, let's let them explain it..."the wildly popular personal database from FileMaker"...right. A database. Wildly popular or not. For Macs. And it is pretty. And shiny! And not all that expensive, either. So it's tempting to play around with it a little.

But you know, I've just never been a database guy. Oh, I know how to use them - I had a class in Access for about eight years and I've used others as well. And I understand how they are useful in a business or even in your personal affairs if you have, say, more than a few thousand Christmas cards to get out every year.

But please. I don't have a busy life. I used to, relatively speaking, but I didn't need a database even then. I handful of sticky notes did the trick. And anyway, even if my life did get busy, I have a freakin' computer. And I know how to use it. I can use it to keep track of things. So why would I need a database anyway?

Seriously. On the Bento web site there's a sample template for a shopping list that lets the user categorize "bread" under "grocery store" rather than "hardware store." Dude. Gimme a break. Who really needs to do that?

If I go to the hardware store and they're out of bread, I'll just get a box of muffins. How easy is that?

Jon & Kate's big announcement

People magazine, through inside sources, has obtained scripted documentation concerning the Big Announcement forthcoming from TLC’s hit show, Jon & Kate plus 8. The following exclusive sneak peek is provided unedited from said sources.

link: Jon & Kate's Big Announcement - Sactogator - Open Salon

I've never watched Jon or Kate or any of the kids on TV, but I've stood in line at checkout counters long enough to understand the plot and the characters. So you'll like this, even if you don't know Jon & Kate are aliens who escaped from the post office. I'm pretty sure that's what the Star said.

–Paul Knue

Carefree, the governor takes a hike

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A dayslong absence by South Carolina's governor left fellow state leaders scratching their heads.

The lieutenant governor couldn't figure out where Gov. Mark Sanford was. Calls from a state senator and close friend rolled to voice mail. Even his wife said she hadn't talked to him for several days.

The explanation came Monday night from his spokesman: The second-term chief executive was hiking along the Appalachian Trail "to kind of clear his head after the legislative session."

link: SC governor takes a hike, leaves leaders in dark - Yahoo! News

This absolutely maybe looks like a cheat to me

After more than 10 days of protests against what now looks emphatically like a part-manufactured landslide to re-elect President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad...

link: FT.com / Comment / Editorial - Iran protests enter dangerous waters


Laughing Gators?

Photo: Phil Compton

The end of an era

Eastman Kodak Co. said sales of Kodachrome represent less than one percent of Kodak's total sales of still-picture film and that it would stop making it this year.

link: The Raw Story | Kodak taking Kodachrome away

Oh yeah, Kodachrome was good, good stuff. Or is, I suppose, still, but for not much longer. Alas.

This must be Econ 102

Supply and demand? The supply of crude oil has risen to its highest level in nearly two decades, even while the demand for gasoline is down dramatically, having fallen to a 10-year low. Supply up, demand down. That's a classic market formula for cheaper prices at the pump – yet they've risen by some 60 cents a gallon in the past two months alone.

We're being had by some brand-name dealers. Not Exxon, Chevron, etcetera – but such names as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other Wall Street dealers who place unregulated, speculative bets on the future price of oil. Sound vaguely familiar? Yes, this is the same so-called "dark market" of derivatives and swaps that led to the sub-prime mortgage crash, which then brought down Wall Street and crushed our economy. And, yes, these are the same banksters you and I are bailing out with trillions of our tax dollars.



So it would look sort of like a giant paperweight then?

A Republican Indiana congressman has a new plan to protect members of Congress from a terrorist attack: enclose the Capitol gallery with a Plexiglas shield.

...To the shock of onlooking congressmembers, Burton described how a terrorist could kill the lot of them....

...The Washington Post’s Mary Ann Akers noted: “Before rejecting his amendment, members of the committee stared at Burton dumbfounded, according to sources in the room, as if wondering to themselves how to delicately explain to the Indiana Republican that he may be more in need of Xanax than Plexiglas.”

link: Raw Story » Congressman proposes enclosing Capitol gallery in Plexiglas

You've really gotta like this guy Burton...

The Indiana legislator is most famously known for re-enacting the alleged murder of former Clinton aide Vince Foster by using a gun and a melon (the type of melon is in dispute).

I mean, hey, you can't get much higher on the entertainment scale then that.

Arriving and departing

A couple of nifty links:

This collection of photos from abandoned places in the world...

and, from the NYTimes, an interactive "immigration explorer" mapping the foreign-born U.S. population.


Somehow, this doesn't quite compute

A lack of competition and a surge in revenues from trading foreign currency, bonds and fixed-income products has sent profits at Goldman Sachs soaring, according to insiders at the firm.

Staff in London were briefed last week on the banking and securities company's prospects and told they could look forward to bumper bonuses if, as predicted, it completed its most profitable year ever....Warren Buffett, who bought $5bn of the company's shares in January, has already made a $1bn gain on his investment.

link: Goldman Sachs to make record bonus payout | Business | The Observer

For the incurably curious...

Readers can find a listing of all the vehicles built in North America, with the origins of their engines and transmissions and whether the factory is unionized, in an interactive graphic posted online. It includes production data supplied by the automakers. The information is current as of the publication date, but is likely to change in coming months.

link: For Baffled Buyers, a Guide to Cars Made in North America - NYTimes.com

Cow tax, oh my

The message circulating in Internet chat rooms, the halls of Congress and farm co-ops had America's farms facing financial ruin if the EPA required them to purchase air-pollution permits like power plants and factories do. The cost of those permits amounted to a cow tax, farm groups argued.

"It really has taken on a life of its own," said Rick Krause, a lobbyist with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which coined the term cow tax and spread it to farmers across the country. "This is something that people understand. All that we have to say is that (cows) are the next step with these proposed permit fees. And people are still talking about it."

link: THE INFLUENCE GAME: Excuse me! Lobby wins on burps - Yahoo! News

So it turns out all you have to do to kill a bill in our so-called house of so-called representatives is figure out some way to call it a tax. You call it a tax, you win.

Why is it...

The Disney romp stars Bullock as a ruthless publishing executive who coerces her put-upon assistant (Reynolds) into a fake marriage so she can avoid deportation back to her native Canada.

link: Bullock's `Proposal' woos date crowds with $34.1M - Yahoo! News

...I have the feeling I've seen this movie before? Of course I haven't seen it before, but somehow the plot seems way, way familiar.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

I'm fooling around with some new blogging software here (oooo, I think it's shinier!) and just wanting to see how this gets handled. Mostly, I want to see where the original image winds up – but that's neither here or there (wait! did I just violate the "e"-and-"i" rule?) (oh wait, what rule? that rule is soooo last post).

Still trying to figure it out

LONDON – It's a spelling mantra that generations of schoolchildren have learned — "i before e, except after c."

But new British government guidance tells teachers not to pass on the rule to students, because there are too many exceptions....

But supporters say the ditty has value because it is one of the few language rules that most people remember.

link: British government spells end of 'i before e' rule - Yahoo! News

Yeah, it's the only one I remember, and isn't that enough? Who cares if it's right or wrong? Nobody cares if "your" and "you're" is right or wrong, so why care about "e" and "i"? It just does not make cents.

Nobody suffers any more

“The Catcher in the Rye,” published in 1951, is still a staple of the high school curriculum, beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth. The trouble is today’s teenagers. Teachers say young readers just don’t like Holden as much as they used to. What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”

Barbara Feinberg, an expert on children’s literature who has observed numerous class discussions of “Catcher"...recalled one 15-year-old boy from Long Island who told her: “Oh, we all hated Holden in my class. We just wanted to tell him, ‘Shut up and take your Prozac.’ ”

link: Get a Life, Holden Caulfield - NYTimes.com

There'll always be an England

"One of the UK's leading authorities on family planning" discovers...