Sunday, January 09, 2011
-- "Transparency in the age of Obama," Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan (Al Jazeera).
The Great Afghanistan Reassessment has come and gone and, outside of certain circles, no one much paid attention. In this respect, the United States has become like Rome or the British Empire, able to fight nonessential wars with a professional military in places like Iraq. Ultimately, this will drain us financially and, in a sense, spiritually as well. "War is too important to be left to the generals," the wise saying goes. Too horrible, too.
-- Richard Cohen, "A stranger's wars" (Washington Post).
Another week, another edition. Year six. Ay-yi-yi.
First off, we thank Ava and C.I. for steering last week's edition. They did a great jb.
And we thank everyone who helped with this edition. The credits for it are Dallas and the following:
The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.
All of the above worked on the editorial except Trina. Trina's input was in suggesting we Let It Be this edition. Otherwise?
This was our Let It Be edition. We all did our own thing.
And that's what we ended up with. See you next week.
-- Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava and C.I.
The press repeatedly demonstrated that they still care about Iraq -- or at least some aspects of it.
While Moqtada was the name you couldn't escape,Jose Cintron Rosado and Jose Delgado Arroya were two names that few heard of.
Sunday "Sgt. Jose M. Cintron Rosado, 38, of Vega Alta, Puerto Rico; and Spc. Jose A. Delgado Arroyo, 41, of San Juan, Puerto Rico" were killed in an Iraq attack.
They didn't get write ups galore or TV segments.
Moqtada al-Sadr most likely has a long, long life ahead of him. The two Joses lives ended.
It's really amazing what the press runs with and what it ignores.
One of the few in the press remembering the dead last week was Laurie Roberts (Arizona Republic):
It's likely you haven't thought of it in awhile, what with the holidays and getting life back to normal this week. Mary Cordova reminded me that not everybody's life has returned to normal. She's the chaplain for American Legion Post 41's auxiliary unit. Every month, the group meets on the first Thursday and she opens the meeting with remembrance of U.S. soldiers who died the previous month in Afghanistan and Iraq. She lights a candle and announces the name, age and hometown of each one, then says a prayer. It's nothing fancy, just a few minutes time out of a month to remember that we are at war -- that good men and women are dying and that families across this nation are grieving. Even if the rest of us have moved on.
We'd planned to. We'd said we would. We'd promised that after the first episode aired, we'd do a new piece and hopefully help get the word out on the improvements. But we put a qualifier in throughout noting that this was what we planned to do and that, as John Lennon once sang, "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans" ["Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)," first appears on John and Yoko Ono's Double Fantasy album] and, goodness, did it.
The first episode was supposed to roll you. And the cast was sent out to attract attention via a variety of interviews with Darren Franich's Entertainment Weekly interview with Elizabeth Mitchell being the most prominent. Last week was going to be the week that V got attention.
And it did get attention, just not the kind that it needed.
V was one of those Water Cooler Shows that makes a big splash and then spends every week running the audience off. It really can't afford to lose anymore viewers and, in fact, if it doesn't increase its audience, ABC's giving it the axe.
So a new creative team was brought in, a lot of discussions took place as to what was working and what was not as well as what might garner attention?
That last part is how you get Marc Singer doing some episodes this year. He's been in every V incarnation thus far having originated the role of Mike in the first mini-series, the second mini-series and the original TV series. It's also why Jane Badler showed up for the season debut last week, reprising her role as Diana.
But they tried to make it a surprise. Why?
To create word of mouth?
Tuesday night and all the days that followed did increase V's word of mouth. It was probably one of the most talked about shows of the week. But, as Melissa Manchester once warned, "You should hear how she talks about you."
* ABC and ScyFy, you have both lost your minds. This is absolutely not the correct business decision to make. -- Albert Hood
* ABC is filled with morons! -- J R
* Short sighted, greedy people who are clining to an old way of thinking run ABC -- Rich Littleton
* So ABC, what exactly is the point of alienating (see what I did there) a large potion of the audience by going cable-only? -- Jon R.
And that's just some of the comments at Hulu (none of the above are comments in full). What has pissed off so many viewers?
ABC has pissed them off. Let's drop back to our April review:
One helpful thing they have done is put the show on Hulu immediately after an episode airs. This could lead to some helpful word of mouth. (We covered how they shot themselves in the foot with Hulu's audience in 2009.)
So what has ABC done to kick off season two? That's right, they've pulled online streaming. Not just at Hulu but at ABC's own website where comments also appear. It's Sunday and, as of now, there's no "Red Rain" (season debut) at Hulu or ABC.com.
At ABC's message boards, memprime explains, "[. . .] the issue is that for those who missed this week's episode, for whatever reason, they are going to be behind for next week's episode. This is how they very easily lose viewership, and the easiest way to retain viewership is to make it available online so people who missed it can catch up in preparation for the following week's episode."
A struggling show is the talk of the week. And it's not because Diana turns out to be Anna's mother or that Jane Badler's returned to the role of Diana. It's not because the show's finally started to show the aliens. It's not because of any of the creative decisions made, many of them brilliantly executed. V was the talk of the week because ABC screwed up.
Network's aren't supposed to do that. They're job is supposed to be promote a show and to exhibit a show. It's not a difficult task, believe it or not.
Nor is the network ever supposed to upstage the programs that it airs. But ABC is now the star, front and center before the fans, and the reaction isn't pretty.
A struggling show can't afford to piss of viewers.
It's a lesson ABC forgot. And it reminded us of Arthur Miller's After the Fall -- specifically, this section:
Quentin: You know? There's one word written on your forehead.
Maggie: But what else is there?
Quentin: A future. And I've been carrying it around all my life, like a vase that must never be dropped.
"Now." People who want to watch V want to watch it "now." Refusing to allow them to do so creates the situation where V is a broken vase without any future.
ABC needs to get its act together real quick. In the immediate aftermath of V airing Tuesday night, there was excitement about seeing Ballard's return all over the net. Since she had no significant moment -- it was a cameo at the very end of "Red Rain," ABC would have been smart to have promoted Ballard's return before the episode aired.
But, had they allowed for online streaming, the poor decision could have been saved. People wanted to see it, were eager to do so, were even willing to pay to watch it.
And they were excited about this Tuesday. But, day by day, the excitement turned to sorrow and then to anger.
It's really a shame because V is actually a better show this year than when it left off last spring. It's a real shame because V's return should have been the story last week but instead it turned into a story about all the assholes running ABC.
People interested in democracy for all don't turn around and trash two women who may have been raped. And people interested in democracy don't spend their entire lives focused on everything but equality.
Equality is forever semi-present in Pilger's narration. "Slavery" is a word he loves to toss around and you get the feeling that, were he 'reporting' in the immediate time after ancient Greece, he'd be making similar remarks. What he wouldn't be doing, of course, is what he refuses to do today: take seriously the inequality around the world when it comes to women.
In the film, Pilger is openly disgusted with CIA tyrant Duane Clarridge (above) over the issue of Chile and the torture and deaths that came about with the CIA-installation of Augusto Pinochet. "But it's worth it?" Pilger asks. "Is that what you're saying? Those crimes are worth it?"
And apparently sexism is worth it to Pilger. He probably never realized how much he had in common with Duane Clarridge but both men believe they "serve" a "higher purpose."
Our own attitude towards Pilger has generally been positive. He can deliberately skew the facts (as Ava and C.I. noted in "TV: The Craziest Sitcom") but, for the most part, he's a solid reporter.
But like so many of his age, class and, yes, political ideology, he has no interest in the rights of women or their historic oppression.
He's spent his entire career avoiding that reality and it's hard to be silent on it when he's basically justifying rape.
That's what he's doing. Regardless of whether Julian Assange raped anyone or not, Pilger's joined the rape justification brigade.
Can you imagine him justifying lynching?
No, of course you can't.
Because our society condemns bias and prejudice against men.
And let's wind down with a bit of truth telling. For weeks, we've heard boo-hoo-ing about Julian Assange and bail. Loonies like Pilger and Naomi Wolf and others have gone on and on about how unfair it is to not give Assange bail (he is now out on bail).
He was a flight risk. He was very much a fight risk. In fact, he still is one. That was the whole point of the nah-nah-nah-you-can't-catch-me pose he was repeatedly striking prior to London. And many cheered on that pose as it was reported. Eben Harrell (Time magazine) reported it in July of last year: "But Assange -- who reportedly lives an itinerant existence, traveling the world with a backpack and computer -- is himself a shadowy figure." Nikki Barrowclough (The Age) reported last May, "The former teenage hacker from Melbourne, whose mystique as an internet subversive, a resourceful loner with no fixed address, travelling constantly between countries with laptop and backpack, constitutes what you might call Assange's romantic appeal." His friend Vaughan Smith told CBS News at the start of last month, "He lives out of a suitcase, he clearly doesn't have a fixed address." And his periodical of choice, The Times of London, described him last April as "elusive as a modern-day pimpernel." This is someone who would not return to Sweden for questioning. And all of the above would go a long way towards establishing a pattern that someone is a flight risk.
Next time we're forced to tell truths, we'll address the myth of WikiLeaks as opposed to the reality of how Julian Assange operates it.
We're aware that many would feel that way about us to which we say, "End the Iraq War tomorrow and you never have to here from us again. " But we've never, ever attempted to use someone's tragedy to push our own agenda. We are aware some do, on the right and on the left. Many more Americans have the common sense to not try to hijack a tragedy for their own political reasons.
Corrente, one of the few sites that you can still comfortably go after the 2008 split in the Democratic Party, posted one of the nuttiest things we've ever read. No surprise, it came from Stirling Newberry -- an overpraised blogger so, naturally, we're talking about a man.
He's also a man who, increasingly, appears to be a bit high strung, to say the least. That's the sort of person who, for example, would write a blog post entitled "The Truth, an Open Letter on Why This America, and This Left, Are Doomed." Yesterday, he topped that with "Attempted Assassination of Congresswoman Giffords in Arizona." Disclosure, we both know US House Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Newberry and, in the comments, Lambert seem to argue that a service has been provided by Newberry's rantings.
Seriously? A service? Such as information?
Strange because information would include names. We've already named Gabrielle Giffords. Despite using 1186 words -- and, in fact, using her family's tragedy, Newberry can't be bothered with informing readers of her first name and, no, she was not on the same recognition level of national fame as the Director of Homeland Security or a Republican vice presidential candidate before the attack yesterday.
Jake Sherman, Jonathan Allen and Molly Ball (Politico) report that six people were shot dead in the Tuscon, Arizona assault in which Gabrielle was wounded and that among the dead are Gabe Zimmeran who worked for Gabrielle, Federal District Judge John Roll, and a nine-year-old girl. MSNBC lists the 9-year-old as Christina Taylor Greene and identifies the other three: 76-year-old Dorwin Stoddard, 76-year-old Dorthy Murray and 79-year-old Phyllis Scheck. MSNBC lists two of the other eleven injured as Pam Simon and Ron Barber. Now none of that is in Stirling's 'informative' post. None of these people matter to Newberry as evidenced by the fact that he can't name any.
To Newberry, it's all about the right wing. And for many, many loony and fact-free paragraphs, he tells you how the right-wing caused Saturday's violence. Seriously? Shailagh Murray and Sari Horwitz are real reporters and, reporting for The Washington Post, they note important details: "Police said they think that Giffords was the target of the attack. [. . .] It was unclear what might have motivated the suspect, identified as 22-year-old Jared Loughner." So there's a suspect and no one knows what motivated the attack?
And yet Newberry contributes 1186 angry words attacking Republicans and somehow thinks his brand of crazy helps?
In a piece allegedly on violence and a violent culture, two ongoing wars and the drone attacks killing civilians in Pakistan are never raised. But it's really not about exploring a violent culture, it's about whipping up everyone into a frenzy.
Blind cries of do-something, politicians given the go-ahead to crackdown on rights and liberties. How very sad that Corrente would publish this nonsense.
Frenzy and hysteria crack down on political speech throughout this country's history. One example, from Chris Hedges' Death Of The Liberal Class:
[President Woodrow] Wilson easily pushed through draconian laws to squelch dissent, but he hardly needed to have bothered. Congress passed the Espionage Act in 1917, which criminalized not only espionage but also speech deemed critical of the government. Wilson had hoped to include a provision for direct censorship of newspapers, but Congress denied his request. Next year Congress passed an amendment, known as the Seditious Act, that made it a crime to use "disloyal" or "profane" language that could encourage contempt for the Constitution or the flag. The Espionage Act and the Sedition Act became the coarse legal tools used by the Wilson administration to silence isolated progressives and the dwindling populist forces that questioned the war. Postmaster General Albert Burleson, empowered by the Espionage Act, cancelled the special mailing privileges of journals he condemned as unpatriotic, instantly hiking their postal rates and putting about a hundred out of business. A few thousand people, including the Socialist politician Eugene Debs, were arrested for their continued denunciation of the war and calls for draft resistance and strikes. Debs was imprisoned after making an antiwar speech in Canton, Ohio, in June 1918. The Washington Post wrote after his sentencing that "Debs is a public menace, and the country will be better off with him behind bars." Debs spent more than two years in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary until President Warren Harding commuted his sentence on Christmas Day 1921. Vigilante groups, roused by the enflamed war propaganda and nationalist call to arms, physically attacked and at times lynched war opponents.
As long as Newberry's pointing the finger at people using their free speech rights, maybe he should ponder how posts like "The Truth, an Open Letter on Why This America, and This Left, Are Doomed" might cause despair and lead the frustrated and impotent to a path of violence?
Ideas and language are the new weapons? Is that what's going to be argued next?
Only if Americans are stupid enough to fall into that trap.
A tragedy's taken place. A shooting has led to multiple deaths and many wounded. That's what's known. Probably a good thing to leave tea leaf reading to the psychics. Or do we not remember the last attempt to whip up hysteria over a death?
For those who have forgotten, a census worker died, Bill Sparkman. Rachel Maddow and the MSNBC Brigade joined in telling the world that this was the work of right-wing fanatics and much more.
Bob Somerby (Daily Howler) repeatedly cautioned against making snap judgments. "But," as Lindsey Buckingham sings in Fleetwood Mac's "Walk A Thin Line," "no one was listening." Too bad for them. From Sombery's November 25, 2009 piece:
This morning's newspapers describe a sad story, involving the death of census worker Bill Sparkman.
Kentucky state police have concluded that Sparkman’s death was, in fact, a suicide. (This finding was foreshadowed several weeks ago.) The Washington Post’s report includes some facts the New York Times was too decorous to mention, although the Times lays out some basic facts about the investigation too. "Witnesses told investigators that Sparkman had discussed ending his life," the Post reports. And this: "Before his death, Sparkman also secured two life insurance policies, totaling $600,000, that would not pay out for suicide."
Assuming the state police are right, Sparkman’s death is a very sad story. Even sadder? The use our tribe hoped to make of his death -- they way we shrieked and wailed with joy at the way his death first appeared.
According to the state police, Sparkman had written the word "FED" on his own chest, hoping to fool some rubes into thinking he'd been murdered by some anti-government local. If the state police are right, the rubes he fooled are us.
As you may recall, the "liberal" world leaped into action at the first report of Sparkman's death. Rachel Maddow showcased her lack of experience -- and her relentless upper-class tribal hatred-- throwing away the start of her program to report the thrilling non-news. (She promised that she'd break in again if anything else developed that night.) As we all surely know, people like Maddow prayed to their God that Sparkman had been murdered by some anti-government nut-case. They wanted this so they could then slime all members of the opposite tribe (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/25/09).
We liberals shrieked with delight, dreaming of the future slimings we could pursue -- for the good of the nation, of course. We had no idea what had happened. But we gave vent to our dreams.
Because yes: For decades, a large amount of "liberal" politics had really been tribal hatred. This helps explain why there's nothing resembling a progressive politics in this benighted, laughing-stock nation. In all honesty, pseudo-liberals are in this game so we can vent at the unwashed masses -- at the tea-b**ers, the redneck racists, the people whose limbic brains don't work right.
Is Stirling Newberry really reporting? No. Is he contributing any new ideas regarding the culture of violence? No. But he is pounding the tribal drums and using the dead and the injured to do so. When no one knows what motivated the suspect, Newberry's self-stroking in public, exposing his own perversions. It's disgusting.
While Newberry uncorked the crazy, US Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement that said all that needed to be said:
The horrific attack in Tucson, Arizona, this morning has taken the lives of at least five people, including a federal judge and a young girl, and left many others wounded, among them a dear friend, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
Gabby is one of the finest members of Congress I know. She is a principled leader and a consensus-builder. She has spent her time in office working her heart out to improve the lives of the people she represents. And she loves her husband and family above all else. On this tragic day, Jill and I are praying for Gabby’s recovery, and we hold her family in our hearts.
Chief Judge John Roll was a dedicated jurist whose death is a terrible loss to Arizona and to the country.
We do not yet know the motivation behind these shootings. But what we do know is that there is simply no justification, no rationale for such senseless and appalling violence in our society.
Please join Jill and me in praying for each of today’s victims and for their families and loved ones.
Not Robert Knight's feelings. I don't give a damn about his feelings.
I do, however, give a damn about Ruth's feelings.
Ruth is Every Grandma.
If you're lucky, she's the grandmother you had. If you're not, she's the grandmother you wished you'd had.
When Helen Thomas was being attacked, I was offended both because of her body of work and because of her age. The latter didn't excuse her from attacks but did, I thought, mean they could take a little more care with their wording even if they loathed her. I marveled over Ava and C.I.'s ability to strongly (and rightly) defend Helen Thomas without ever raising the age issue (see "Media: Let's Kill Helen!").
Ruth is very much a part of this group. And I feel like acknowledging her age, writing about it, is going to make her wonder about where she fits in the group because she has expressed those concerns before.
Friday, I was among those working the public account of The Common Ills and I seemed to be hitting the motherload with one cranky media type after another. Some were whining, two were cursing, and I responded in kind. I found it amusing that they were so upset with C.I. Then I came across Robert Knight's e-mail.
That didn't amuse me.
His rudeness to and about Ruth didn't amuse me.
Now not only do I believe that Ruth's age should mean a certain tone, I also know damn well that Ruth's done more to promote radio programs in the last six years than pretty much anyone else.
That includes Robert Knight's past work, Ruth had championed it. He was familiar with Ruth's previous work as well as the work of C.I. I know that due to the e-mails that have come in from him. (He needs to learn to count because he undercounts the number of times he's e-mailed The Common Ills. Not only does Jess keep a count of all the media types e-mailing, since 2005, he's also printed up every one of the e-mails for this site and C.I.'s.)
It wasn't just that his e-mail was rude and nasty, it was that he rendered Ruth a non-person.
That's how he thanks someone who endlessly praised him?
I think Betty captured it very well in her "Sick of the beggar media."
The ingratitude and the expectation that you will forever assist those who demand your assistance are really the hallmarks of the one-way Beggar Media.
I'm not someone who goes around asking people I don't know personally for favors so maybe I just don't understand the protocol but from where I sit, Beggar Media thanks throwing around orders and never offering thanks is how you make your mark.
Robert Knight showed his ass last week. I'm not in the mood to be mooned again. He's dead to this site (excepting only a piece by Ava and C.I.).
For Ruth's take, see "Robert Knight is upset."
Which is? Frustration mainly.
I have many wonderful friends and am very lucky for that. But in eighth grade I met one of my best friends, Donna. We were Donna & Dona all through high school. We maintained our friendship despite going to different colleges. And then?
Well I have no idea. Jim and I are married now -- as many of you know. Donna was supposed to be a bride's maid. Actually, she was almost the maid of honor but I thought about how she never calls and the only time we speak is when I call her and so I quickly asked Ava who was kind enough to say yes. But Donna was supposed to be a bride's maid. Did agree to it. Said she was thrilled to be that. Wasn't a case of not having money to fly in (Elaine's gift to Jim and I was flying in members of our wedding party, thank you, Elaine). C.I. covered the cost of the wedding including bride's maids outfits so it wasn't a case of not being able to afford the outfit.
And, she was a go. She was coming. And when she still hadn't arrived by the day of the rehearsal dinner, I called and, oh, yeah, she was coming.
Day of the wedding, she still hadn't arrived and when I called that morning, I went straight to voice mail repeatedly.
I had a cousin who was more than happy to stand in as a bride's maid at the last minute. Jim and I went off on our two-week honeymoon and we had a great time but I'd be lying if I pretended that several times during the honeymoon I wasn't wondering exactly why Donna had behaved the way she did?
We last saw each other face to face in 2008 but, again, we spoke on the phone at least twice a month and usually more than that.
So when we returned from our honeymoon, I asked everyone why someone would do that? She hadn't called or e-mailed or texted or gotten in contact in any way or form. The nicest explanation was that sometimes, when people get married, things change. Maybe, several suggested, Donna was worried or nervous about that?
Okay, fair enough. And I was married and had a wonderful wedding so I was more than okay with being the one who reached out. So I called her and we spoke. And I waited for her to bring up the wedding in a "I'm sorry I couldn't make it" kind of way or, as more time went by, even in a "How was the wedding?" type of question.
She never did so I finally did.
I told her I was a little surprised and little hurt that she hadn't shown up and she had a million excuses and I have no idea why she wasn't there but none of her excuses made sense. So I went with what my cousin had told me, "Maybe she's jealous that you got married first." Going with that, I just put the whole thing out of my mind.
Two weeks later, she called me to ask if I would be her reference for a job? I said sure and she e-mailed me a lengthy narrative which I stuck to.
She then called me to find out if I'd been called by the would-be-employer?
I had not been called.
A day later, I was called and, after giving the performance Donna asked me to, I called Donna to tell her. She was thrilled that I had stuck to her story.
I thought we were getting back on track for our friendship.
But a variety of things -- too many to list -- have convinced me otherwise.
The easiest and simplest point is the one Jim makes: If she wants something from you, she can call.
And that is true.
That's the only time she's the one to pick up the phone. She's never calling to say hello. She's never calling to say she saw something online, on TV, at the store, that reminded her of us. She's never calling for any reason at all except she needs me to be her reference for a job or she needs to vent about a guy she's seeing.
I don't think I'm a high demand friend. I don't ask that you e-mail me constantly or text me every minute or call me daily. But one thing I do ask is that if you say you're going to do something, you do it.
I'm also mature enough to understand that things come up. So if you fail at something you tell me you're going to do, if you fail and forget to even let me know that you failed -- that you know you failed -- I'll still give you one more chance. But after that one more chance?
I don't have time for it. I can't be there for you, if you refuse to be there for me.
I'm sorry that's the way I am.
And Donna is someone I expected to be friends with my entire life. I'm not even thirty yet but so many have fallen by the wayside. She was the touchstone -- the rock.
She was the person whose voice on the phone could bring up a million shared memories, the person whose voice on the phone could make the worst day really not seem so bad. We didn't even have to talk about why something had shaped up to be the worst day because we'd shared so many worst days before that just hearing her voice put that into perspective.
In my little story here, she doesn't come out very well. I'm sorry about that but this is my story. I will point out that she's very funny and very smart. And that if she takes the time to be your friend, you're a lucky person.
But, without going into too much detail, right around Christmas a relative passed away. She called the day of the funeral needing to talk about her boyfriend. I explained to her that I was out the door to go to a family funeral. She said, "I'll call you next Saturday." That was January 1st. And I was really looking forward to that call, valuing her even more due to the recent death. And when she didn't call, okay. Maybe something's up.
I waited and waited and then finally texted her at 8:00 pm my time (ten p.m. her time). Nothing back from her. Three days later, she texted me that she was sick Saturday and that's why she didn't call but this Saturday she would call.
That was yesterday. By six p.m. when she hadn't called, I texted her. I received no reply.
It may seem silly of me or petty of me. But whenever I need her, I can't count on her. I only here from her if she needs something.
I'm not someone to prune my list of friends but I'm just not up to being hurt anymore. I don't need the drama and I don't need Donna repeatedly making clear through her actions just how unimportant my friendship is.
By 2006, it was clear that the US Federal Reserve’s (the Fed’s) own figures on mortgage and other consumer debt were demonstrably flashing red. And yet, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed’s board of governors and thus arguably America’s most important banker, did not issue a warning about them.
Was Mr. Bernanke afraid to tell the truth about America’s mortgage/consumer debt problem? Perhaps he felt that given his position he could not provide such a warning as financial markets might react badly to such comments and thus he would be labelled as the instigator of a financial-economic slowdown.
Regardless, he appeared to offer even further encouragement in the promotion of mortgage/consumer debt.
On February 15, 2006, Mr. Bernanke said “our expectation is that the decline in [housing] activity or the slowing in activity will be moderate, that house prices will probably continue to rise, but not at the pace that they had been rising.” Then, just as the sub-prime mess was starting to unfold, on March 28, 2007, Mr. Bernanke said, "at this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the sub-prime market seems likely to be contained.” Only a few days later on April 2, 2007, one of the largest sub-prime lenders, New Century Financial, filed for bankruptcy, and the sub-prime mortgage panic began to engulf America and the world.
By contrast, perhaps having learned the lesson of the US, Mark Carney, the governor of Canada’s central bank, the Bank of Canada, together with the heads of Canada’s major banks this past December 16, openly expressed the desire to slowing the growth in Canadian mortgage/consumer debt. Canadian consumer debt levels are now close to those prevailing in the US before the credit markets there imploded.
At least in Canada we are seeing some truthfulness from top bankers. But as we know such truths by American bankers were virtually non-existent prior to its financial debacle.
At the heart of the US financial crises were bank balance sheets that were crippled with ‘toxic’ assets—mostly, but not exclusively, mortgaged-backed securities (MBS) where markets were largely non-functional and prices distressed. This led to massive losses on bank income statements and balance sheets.
Now a balance sheet is supposed to show the true financial condition and net worth of an entity on a given date. But this fundamental rule of honesty in accounting has been squelched to make banks’ balance sheets (and income statements, etc.) look much better in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse. It was claimed that continuing to value assets on the balance sheets at distressed prices accentuated the financial turmoil.
Hence, under extraordinary pressure from the US government and the banks in the spring of 2009, the American Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) relaxed its requirement that banks value applicable assets at real life market values. FASB now allowed banks to price difficult to value, thinly traded securities or those in distressed markets, to a self-proscribed bank computer ‘model.’ Magically, banks were suddenly profitable again and balance sheets improved! Here the belief is clearly that the “end justified the means.” Truth in basic accounting values got sacrificed.
Perhaps bankers, who purportedly espouse honesty and integrity, should have their banks issue two sets of audited public financial statements: one which accounts for assets and liabilities being valued, where possible, at market prices (so called ‘mark to market’ or ‘fair value’), and the other set of statements using the current FASB’s directives. Then let investors and stakeholders draw their own conclusions about the banks’ financial condition!
Just as US bankers are found lacking in truthfulness, so are American politicians. Martin Jay, a history professor at the University of California-Berkeley, discusses the honesty of politicians in his recent book, The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics. In an interview with US News & World Report on May six he said, “I’m not urging governments to lie, and I'm not urging the citizenry to be complacent about mendacity. But what I'm trying to say is that it's more important to focus on the issues, on the policies, and on the effects these have on people's lives, than to constantly look for discrepancies in promises and performance, or to look for inconsistencies in a person's career.”
So perhaps the electorate should be more interested in the issues and policies than about the politicians’ honesty. But if a person is seen as knowingly speaking lies or hiding truths, we believe they cannot be trusted. It is probably this dilemma that results in politicians almost everywhere being held in such low regard by their electorates.
But possibly, Americans do want to know more of the truth concerning the state of their economy, its unfunded liabilities, and so on. And if politicians were more truthful, then, perhaps, the respect the public has for them will improve. And maybe those politicians speaking more honestly will get elected. This yearning for truthfulness seems partly responsible for the growth of the US Tea Party Movement.
American history is replete with bankers and politicians telling lies and misleading the public. Maybe sometimes the consumer, the public, is not ready to hear the truth. But perhaps the only way for bankers and politicians to regain the confidence of their respective public is for them to be more honest. However, does the public not also share in the blame of the pervasive untruthfulness of bankers by allowing them inordinate power, and for continually electing politicians who disrespect or hide truths?
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AmpedStatus.com Hit By Mass DoS Attacks
As you may have notice, for most of the day yesterday AmpedStatus.com was down. Shortly after posting our new report we were hit with a heavy barrage of DoS attacks. Not only did they take out our website, they took out our ISP network, which affected many other sites as well. We will release information on where the attacks were coming from once the ISP network gives us the go-ahead.
We're assuming that the attacks were designed to keep us out of the peak news cycle for the report below. We timed the release to correspond with Obama's press conference announcing his new economic team. Unfortunately, it appears as if they succeeded, as many of the websites that were linking or would have linked to it while peak traffic attention was focused on this news peg has faded.
It's one thing to be threatened with baseless defamation lawsuits, as we have in the past, that are clearly designed to intimidate. It's quite another to get knocked off the net for exercising our First Amendment rights. The limited knowledge I have of these attacks leads me to believe that we may never know the true source of them, as it is easy to set up servers in foreign locations to launch attacks from, but given the information contained in the following article, we can only speculate as to who is behind this.
Obama Renews Commitment to Complete Destruction of the - Meet the New Economic
Obama has just doubled down on the side of the financial terrorists. Meet Bill Daley and - another JP Morgan-Goldman Sachs attack. Let's dig deep into their past and reveal everything that you need to know.
"Kelly McEvers requires a correction" -- most requested highlight from last week was this by C.I.
"Trust the CBO?" -- Trina spoke for a lot of Third readers with this post. All agree a wall should go up between the CBO and political parties.
"the sainted kennedys" & "helen thomas is back" -- Rebecca celebrates the return of Helen Thomas and pokes holes in the myth of the Kennedys.
"Robert Knight is upset" -- Knight is upset with Ruth. Kiss our ass, Knight.
"Those Carly Simon 'experts'" -- Kat provides a fact check on the Carly information published today.
"brothers and sisters," "No Ordinary Family," "Desperate Housewives," "brothers & sisters" and
"Raising Hope" -- Rebecca, Stan, Betty and Mike talk TV. Ann continues her radio coverage:
- Six guests only one is a woman -- name that show!
- Who gets to talk in this nation?
- 4 men, 2 women, it's an NPR orgy
- Talk Of The Nation sexist, sexist, sexist
"Another appointment, another disappointment" -- Marcia had the best headline of the week.
"Catwoman" -- Stan goes to the movies.
"Alberto's Hospital Rounds" -- Isaiah dips into the archives for one on Alberto Gonzales.
"I'm not in the mood for the cop-out" -- Elaine calls for accountability.
"THIS JUST IN! HE PULLS OUT!" and "The legacy?" -- Wally and Cedric on the failed one.
"Chris Hedges' Death of the Liberal Class" -- Trina talks books.
"It is only news to Aileen if it is her friends" -- Ruth points out the flaws in Alfandary.
"ERA and Rally 'Round The Flag Boys!" -- Kat goes to the movies.
"Dave Zirin is such a little bitch" -- Marcia pulls no punches.
"Can there be a movement?" -- Elaine with the hard questions.
"Anatomy of a donut -- or a crawler" and "THIS JUST IN! THE SWEETS STRIKE BACK!" -- Cedric and Wally reveal why Robert Gibbs left the White House.
"E-mails" -- Betty on e-mails.
"The Vacationing President" -- Marcia talks Barry.
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