Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:55 am

Who knew one radio network could hold so much Stoopid?

I did not realize this until just moments ago, but apparently NPR’s ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, wrote last week about the Lisa Simeone case. Even by the standards of in-the-tank ombudsmen, the piece is remarkably incoherent: It talks about NPR’s code of ethics for journalists while 1) failing to note that Simeone was a contractor for a contractor, and thus beyond any reasonable understanding of NPR’s control with respect to stuff she did on her own time, and 2) insisting that “Simeone has no influence or role in NPR news” and that “the issue surrounding her, therefore, is a management and legal one.”

My response, which might or might not get past the moderators:

Ed, could you possibly be any more disingenuous?

Your organization went after Simeone — who was neither an NPR employee nor a contractor, but was, rather, a contractor of a contractor, for political reasons, for things she was doing on her own time. That’s bad enough. Then your organization TRIED TO GET MY ALMA MATER TO DO YOUR DIRTY WORK FOR IT. And when my alma mater quite sensibly refused, your organization stopped syndicating the program. At least one D.C. lawyer I’ve talked to has described NPR’s action as “tortious interference with contractual relations.” You want a “management and legal issue”? Congratulations; you’ve got one. If I liked popcorn at all, I’d be making some right now.

What NPR did was bad enough, and you’re just compounding the error by lying about it in a way that makes quite clear you think your audience is dumber than linoleum.

So noted.

Good God, these people are idiots.

(UPDATE, 10/25: Schumacher-Matos’s Twitter feed makes quite clear he is toeing a party line: The phrase “not a news issue” appears repeatedly. In the unlikely event that it wasn’t a news issue before, it is now. That he is not recognizing that fact means either that he’s on the take or that he’s too stupid to be holding his current job. I’m sorry to be personally abusive, but there really aren’t any other plausible explanations for his behavior on something that perhaps, once, briefly, was “not a news issue” but which 1) originated with a flawed news report and 2) is now ricocheting around The Atlantic, the Huffington Post and the online writings of some of the nation’s most prominent press critics.)

I also finally got around to sending an email to Dana Rehm, the NPR spokesbot who was babbling about all this last week. I wrote:

Dear Ms. Rehm:

As a Davidson College alumnus, a former WDAV-FM staffer and someone who has freelanced a time or three in the past 35 years, I’ve watched NPR’s behavior in the Lisa Simeone case with growing disbelief, anger and disgust. First you did something stupid. Then you tried to get my alma mater to do your dirty work for you and apparently lied about it. Then you dropped “World of Opera” out of what appears to be nothing more than sheer petulance and spite. Certainly, I can see no journalistic, moral, ethical, legal or PR upside for NPR to what you did, and as a guy with almost 35 years in media, I’ve looked at it from every possible angle.

I’ve also blogged about it here and here and gone after the author of the original Roll Call piece here for her crappy reporting. (In the likely event that I hear nothing more from her, I’ll move up her food chain to her editors, too: This was either a malicious fabrication or Roll Call tanking for a source with an agenda, and either way, I’m not going to let it go.)

The good news for you is, my blog doesn’t normally get much traffic. The bad news is, because I was briefly almost  famous in the media biz a few years ago, the traffic it does get is kind of influential.

And since I first blogged about this subject, my daily traffic has gone up an order of magnitude. I realize you’re surprised. After all, no one could have foreseen that in this era of job insecurity and increasing incidence of sole proprietorship and freelancing, a lot of people might think that there’s something badly wrong with NPR’s trying to screw around with the livelihood of a contractor’s contractor. One lawyer I’ve talked to in D.C. thinks Simeone might actually have a cause of action against you for tortious interference with contractual relations. If I liked popcorn at all, I’d be making some right now.

The first rule of holes, Dana, is: When you’re in one, stop digging. Put the shovel down before you hurt yourself, and the country, any further. And while I appreciate your giving my alma mater the opportunity to look good in the national spotlight twice in one week, you really need to rethink how you’re doing business if you want to avoid serious harm to the country, let alone stay in business much longer. There’s a war against accountability journalism going on right now. I’ve been a Red State Republican for 33 years, and yet even I don’t think I’d much like the country I’d be living in if accountability journalism loses. If you think there’d be a place for you, you’re delusional.

Best,

Lex Alexander

In the unlikely event that she responds, you’ll see it here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011 4:24 pm

So how did all this stink with NPR and Lisa Simeone get started in the first place?

Not surprisingly, with a bone-headed play by the So-Called Liberal Media.

In this case, it was a short piece by Roll Call’s Neda Semnani, who writes the “Heard on the Hill” column. From the snarky headline to the factual inaccuracies, it is one steaming, stinking heap of FAIL.

So late Friday, I emailed her:

Hi, Neda:

I thought I’d fill in some gaps in your reporting on Lisa Simeone. Whether you choose to share this information with your readers or not, I leave to your conscience. Oh, and my blog. Hee.

Lisa Simeone is a FREELANCER. For WAMU (until her unjustified dismissal). And for WDAV, for whom she continues to produce “World of Opera.” Although she did, once, work for NPR, she hasn’t had any direct, formal relationship with the network in quite a while.

Have you ever been a freelancer? Because I don’t think you have. It’s a tough gig. For one thing, overentitled clients generally presume that because they pay you to produce a certain body of work, they assume control over all other aspects of your public life EVEN IF THEY HAVEN’T BOTHERED TO OBTAIN THE CONTRACTUAL RIGHTS TO DO SO.

No, dear. The technical term for that is “slavery,” and it was outlawed by the 13th Amendment. Jim Asendio should have known that. So should you.

If WAMU had wished to obtain that level of control over what Simeone did on her own time, it was perfectly entitled to negotiate for the rights. It failed to do so. I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve freelanced off and on since 1978, and because whether I ate or not depended on my attention to this level of detail, I’m confident I’m accurate when I say that absent other evidence of which I am unaware, not only was WAMU’s action unjustified, but also that Ms. Simeone has grounds to seek, at the least, a buyout of the remainder of her contract, if any, and possibly other damages.

As for WDAV, for which I once worked, and which is operated by my alma mater, it didn’t need any of this explained to it. The station and college looked over the contract with NPR under which they produce “World of Opera” for NPR, decided that they were in full compliance and politely told NPR to take a flying flip at a rolling doughnut.

“If you want to be a hack, don’t flack.” No, Neda; if you want to be a journalist, you need to start calling bullshit on every noncontroversy that the right-wing Wurlitzer tries to gin up into a Category 5 scandal. I’ve been a Red State Republican since 1978, and even I get that. You’re being played, and the fact that NPR management has the political savvy and common sense of dryer lint (see: Williams, Juan) doesn’t let you off the hook. [Note that I am giving her the benefit of the doubt here and presuming that she's just passing along a bug someone put in her ear, rather than presuming that she fabricated a controversy on her own initiative. -- Lex]

Pity Roll Call doesn’t take comments, but if this is an example of its “journalism,” I can see why.

Best,

Lex Alexander
Davidson ’82
WDAV-FM 1978-82
Her response was, to say the least, puzzling:

Hi Lex,

Many thanks for your email. I spoke to and used Ms. Simeone’s quote in my original post. I have her on tape, which is what I used. I was quite explicit about her role as a freelancer and a host. I was clear about the information I had as I received it, including stating that she was not fired from her post as host of NPR’s World of Opera in my follow up item.

I have passed your email to my editor.

If you have any further comments and concerns, feel free to email me any time.

Many thanks,
Neda

For those of you following along at home, the question wasn’t the accuracy of Semnani’s quoting of Simeone. It was the accuracy, or lack thereof, of what she was saying about what Simeone said. So I responded:

Neda:

Thanks for responding. I wasn’t questioning the accuracy of your quote. I was pointing out that your snarky item …

… she said, “Well, I work in radio still, but this is totally different.”

Huh. Different, how?

“I’m a freelancer,” she said.

OK …

… completely misrepresented the nature of a freelancing relationship by making clear with the “OK …” that you thought Simeone was full of shit. In fact, her position has a basis in everyday contract law.

You also allowed Jim Asendio to assume facts not in evidence, as the lawyers say. What he says is true if and only if WAMU’s code of ethics is incorporated directly or by reference into the freelance contract the station has with Ms. Simeone. If it isn’t — and your article offered no evidence that it is — then he doesn’t get to decide after the fact that she’s a journalist and therefore bound by some code of ethics to which she never agreed.

I’m not only questioning your abilities as a journalist, I’m now also questioning your ability to read plain English. Feel free to share that with your editor as well.

Cheers,

L.

Haven’t heard any more from her, but she’s entitled to a weekend, too, so that’s fine. I’ll let you know what else, if anything, transpires, although I’ll be subject to the demands of work, school and parenting and so might not be able to do so in anything approaching real time.

More on Lisa Simeone, “World of Opera,” NPR and WDAV

When last we spoke, Thursday evening, NPR had said that it was going to have a “conversation” about the fact that Lisa Simeone, the freelance host of “World of Opera,” her political involvement in her spare time and WDAV’s relationship with the network in supplying “World of Opera” for syndication by the network.

I emailed the general manager of WDAV, who promptly informed me that he and the college already had had their own conversation about Simeone, determined that what she did on her own time was her own business and were going ahead with business as usual.

And if things had been left to lie there, all would be well. But NPR being NPR, it ignored the First Rule of Holes: When you are in one, stop digging. Instead, it found a way to make itself look even stupider by announcing that it would stop syndicating “World of Opera” to 60 stations nationwide.

In stark contrast to that behavior, WDAV and Davidson College simply and quietly did the right thing yet again, announcing that if NPR didn’t want to distribute the show anymore, they would do it themselves. Station general manager Scott Nolan emailed me yesterday to specify that the new arrangement would take effect Nov. 11.

We’ve already established that Lisa Simeone has no formal relationship with NPR, as employee or as freelancer, which means NPR has no legal, moral or ethical justification for attempting to regulate her political involvement on her own time. Given the pontification of NPR news staffers — news staffers, not producers of opera showson Fox News and other outlets, it is difficult for anyone with half a brain to think that NPR cares about the ethics or appearance or bias of its news people in general and quite easy to believe that something altogether more sinister is at work, whether right-wing political conspiracy or simple petulance.

NPR never should have tried to make an issue of Simeone’s off-duty political involvement in the first place. And once it did, it certainly never should have expected WDAV and Davidson College to do its intellectually dishonest and journalistically unethical dirty work for it. It is difficult to understand NPR’s decision to stop distributing the program as anything other than a childish act of pique, the raving of a clueless dinosaur as it sinks into the tar pits of its own irrelevance and oblivion.

But we need to ask a question: Why is it OK with NPR for NPR employees Mara Liasson, et al., to do what they do and be paid for it, but not OK for Lisa Simeone, a freelancer, to do what she does on her own time for no money? What is the moral or ethical difference in the behaviors? Why is the NPR’s response to the differing behaviors so dissonant? And what does that dissonance tell us about NPR’s news credibility, ability to navigate ethical questions and overall common sense?

The honorable behavior of my alma mater and former employer stands in stark contrast to that of NPR. It is, yet again, a good day to be a Wildcat.

But it’s a bad day, and has been a bad decade, to be an American in need of smart, credible news and information programming produced by insightful, ethical people. Those Americans are screwed, and the Occupy movement of which Lisa Simeone has been just one small part is one big sign that a lot of Americans aren’t going to stand for it. If they Occupy enough voting booths, some things will happen on the political front, but I suspect the only thing that will change NPR will be extinction. The network certainly hasn’t demonstrated an ability to learn from experience.

Thursday, October 20, 2011 8:57 pm

Letter to Scott Nolan, general manager, WDAV-FM, re: Lisa Simeone UPDATE: … and his reply

UPDATE 2: Please click on the link below and join me in thanking President Quillen for doing the right thing. If you’d also like to thank her for making Davidson look good in the process, that’s fine, but I won’t insist on it. ;-)

UPDATE: DAMN. I had no sooner hit “send” on that email and begun copying and pasting it into the blog here when Scott Nolan called me.

Long story short, I am delighted to report that he, the station and the college are doing all the right things here for all the right reasons. They’ve reviewed the terms of their contract with NPR to provide content — i.e., the opera show Simeone produces. They have concluded that the college is in compliance with every stipulation of that contract, and they’re going to ignore the national media and keep doing what they’re doing.

It is a good day to be a Wildcat.

(As you might expect, I bcc’ed a lot of people on that email. I’ll be letting them know about this conversation immediately.)

* * *

cc: Dr. Carol Quillen, president, Davidson College

Scott:

As a Davidson College alumnus and former employee of WDAV-FM during its critical early years as a high-powered broadcast outlet, I was more than a little dismayed to learn that NPR was “in conversations with WDAV about how they [sic] intend to handle” Lisa Simeone.

Here’s some free advice from someone with decades of experience in media and PR: You don’t. You listen politely to NPR, you then tell its representative to take a flying flip at a rolling doughnut and you let Ms. Simeone keep doing what she’s doing for WDAV without interruption or hassle. (If nothing else, I’m sure my late father, Class of ’52, founding member of the WDAV advisory board and a board member at Opera Carolina for about two decades, would appreciate it. He’d have loved her show, I think.)

There are so many things wrong about this situation that it’s difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, that’s exactly the kind of situation where I’ve eaten, professionally speaking, for the past 30 years.

First, if I understand the situation correctly (and I might not; I’ve seen conflicting reports in major media outlets), Lisa Simeone is a freelancer for WDAV and has no direct, formal relationship whatever with NPR anymore. That being the case, then absent any written agreement between the station and her with respect to how she will conduct herself off the air, the station simply has no jurisdiction — no moral, legal or ethical standing to tell her what she can and cannot say, what groups she can and cannot participate with, whom she can and cannot represent besides WDAV. If, going forward, the station finds it valuable to control that conduct, it is welcome to attempt to reach a contractual arrangement with her on that point and to attempt to compensate her accordingly. She, of course, is free to tell you to go to hell, and if you’re foolish enough to try to achieve that goal, then for reasons that have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with my having been a freelancer off and on for much of my career, I sincerely hope she does.

Second, although there are no true First Amendment issues here as no government agency is involved so far as I know, Davidson College and every college and university worth the name has a strong interest in defending freedom of expression, particularly unpopular expression. One of the unfortunate side effects of the evolution of the American economy from one based on manufacturing to one based on knowledge — and, therefore, frequently on relationships — is that otherwise rational people can and do sever perfectly productive professional relationships because overentitled jackasses get a bad case of butthurt over something someone said or wrote or blogged or tweeted about them. The academy, of all our institutions, ought to be the one that stands up and points out both the impracticality and the immorality of shutting down unpopular speech. If you have a problem with that, you’re welcome to seek employment in the for-profit sector. I hear it’s hiring. Oh, wait.

Third, moving from the general to the particular, what, exactly, is it of which Ms. Simeone stands accused? Depending on which news account you read, she’s guilty of being a “spokeswoman” or “organizer” for Occupy Wall Street — again, on her own time, separate and apart from her work for WDAV. Unfortunately, neither NPR nor anyone else has bothered to explain exactly what that even means, let alone why it’s a bad thing. Moreover, from everything I’ve read or heard about Occupy Wall Street and its offshoots (including first-hand accounts from my brother and sister-in-law in Raleigh, friends here in Greensboro, friends in New York and other participants), one of its defining characteristics is that anyone who wants to be can be an “organizer” or “spokesperson” for the movement. It’s a consensus movement, not a hierarchical one. While that might not bode well for its political effectiveness, it also makes defining moral and ethical transgressions on the part of any one participant problematic when we’re talking about an act of speech as opposed to, say, defecating on a police car. Put another way, the terms are meaningless. Two nights ago, as a joke, I created the Twitter hashtag #LWS — Liquidate Wall Street. (This was before Bloomberg Business News broke the story that Bank of America intends to try to stick taxpayers with a looming $53 TRILLION loss on its derivatives; in 24 hours, Liquidate Wall Street evolved with no effort on my part from joke to logical policy proposal, but that’s a different subject altogether.) Does my having created that hashtag make me an “organizer” or “spokesman” for the Liquidate Wall Street movement? If so, neither I nor the movement appear to be deriving much benefit.

Finally, I would point out something that I hope already has become obvious to you in your dealings with NPR: In matters relating to politics — a subject on which its news coverage purports to have some expertise — NPR cannot find its own ass with both hands and a flashlight. It has mishandled every major story of the past decade related to important political issues, from war crimes to the economy, health care to regulation. Probably not coincidentally, it has failed to recognize that it is facing ongoing, coordinated political attacks from one and only one side of the aisle that are bent on destroying it because they are bent on destroying accountability journalism entirely. I have been a registered Republican since 1978, but even I am not blind to this phenomenon, nor do I care for the likely national consequences if this effort succeeds. NPR is blind, willingly or otherwise, but you need not let your affiliation with the network blind you, too.

What you do, or choose not to do, is up to you. But you need to understand that your actions and those of the college in whose name you operate will be watched carefully and interpreted in the context of the values for which this country and Davidson College purport to stand.

Best,

Hooper “Lex” Alexander IV ’82
Greensboro, NC
www.lexalexander.net

Wednesday, October 19, 2011 10:14 pm

Why anti-government conservatives should be parachuted into more business-friendly environments

Apparently, Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren has said some things that have hurt the fee-fees of our Galtian overlords. Fred sent me the following, which he says he saw on some board dedicated to Stanford football. (Uh, OK, whatever.) The writer purports to be responding to this video of Elizabeth Warren as he wahrgarblz:

“You built a factory out there? Good for you,” – “Built a factory” is a summary for a lot of work. Put up equity, designed a business, took risk to buy land, get permits, pay property taxes and use taxes and permit fees. Then, bought a bunch of equipment and had it installed …and paid sales taxes. Hired some employees and paid them a bunch of money and paid payroll taxes on top of that. Bought a bunch of raw materials from companies that paid a bunch of salaries and a bunch of taxes. Building a factory is a huge private investment that pays the public a lot of taxes for the right to be built.

“But I want to be clear: you moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.” – Between fuel taxes, license fees, tolls and various taxes on transportation related activities, the roads budget is smaller than the total tax take.

“You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.” No, you did not educate them. You babysat them for 12 years. Then I hired them, taught them how to be responsible and show up for work, taught them how to communicate in clear sentences, taught them that there are rights and wrongs and (unlike with your schools) wrongs have consequences in the workplace. Then paid for extended education for my employees so they could continue to improve themselves and better add value to what we do around here.

“You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.” Funny, my factory has 24/7 security guards because the last time it was broken into, the police did not even bother to take a report, they just said “call your insurance company”. As for fire? The closest fire department is 10 miles away. My insurance company requires that I have a full wet sprinkler system to qualify for insurance because there is no local fire protection.

“You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.” Well, that is not exactly true. When the AFL-CIO tried to unionize my workforce, they staged three days of noisy protests outside my factory. The police forces just stood around and watched as the protesters intimidated my workers, vandalized their cars and destroyed my property.

You say “we” like the government and society are the same. They aren’t. My company and my community and you politicians are not “we”.

One could use many adjectives to describe this outlook. “Rational” is not one of them. “Contextual” is not one of them. “American” is not one of them. Given the likelihood, in this day and age of video cameras in every phone, that AFL-CIO protesters destroyed your property in plain view while uniformed police officers stood by and watched, I’m pretty sure “factual” isn’t even one of them.

Indeed, one could I’M SORRY I CAN’T HEAR YOU MY BULLSHIT DETECTOR IS GOING OFF TOO LOUDLY.

Wait. You know what? I’m over being civil to idiots.

Memo to this shit-for-brains Galtian overlord:

You’re so talented? You’re so smart? You’re so independent of everything your fellow Americans have worked and sweated for that you’ll be just fine without it?

OK. Let’s test that hypothesis.

This’ll be the best “Dude, What Would Happen?” episode ever. (My 10-year-old loves that show. Sorry.)

Here’s what we’re going to do.

We’re going to parachute your ass into the wilds of north-central Alaska or a free-fire zone in Uganda or a raft off the coast of Somalia. Just to be fair, we’ll parachute your money in, too, all in gold, of course, since U.S. currency would be too declassé.

We’ll let you keep all the education and experience you’ve ever gotten. And all the friends and contacts you’ve ever made.

We’ll let you keep the lowest corporate tax rate in 60 years. Hell, we’ll set the tax rate to zero. And we’ll let your corporation keep its share of the $2 trillion in cash U.S. corporations are sitting on when unemployment is better than 9%. Because, after all, what’s yours is yours, right?

All we ask in return is one thing:

Create some jobs.

That’s all.

Granted, for the entire 10-year period from 2001 through 2010 that was too goddamn much for you to be bothered with. But I’m going to assume that, oh, I don’t know, maybe you just weren’t trying. Maybe it was all that uncertainty about the horrific cost of government regulations or something. Whatever; we’ll give you a mulligan on that. And, as I said, we’ll let you keep all your stuff.

But here’s what we won’t let you keep.

The U.S. military, which keeps you reliably supplied with cheap energy.

The subsidies for whatever it is you do — and, honestly, it doesn’t matter what you do because at the moment, federal, state and local governments are subsidizing everything from ethanol to NFL franchises.

The Internet, which was built by the taxpayers when I was 9, belonged to them until I was in my late 30s and should never have been put in private hands at all.

The roads, including the Interstate Highway System, that are paid for by people whose gasoline tax payments constitute one HELL of a lot bigger share of their income than yours, not to mention, in many cases, bonds that drivers and non-drivers alike pay for. (Fun fact: Pedestrians and private 4-wheel vehicles a disproportionately high share of the costs connected with road maintenance; 18-wheelers, many of which routinely travel over weight limits, pay a disproportionately LOW share of the costs.)

Or the government mechanisms that make the insurance companies whose cost you complain about so much possible in the first place.

Or the water lines that make your pretty sprinklers work.

Or the police departments that might or might not have allowed AFL-CIO thugs to damage your workers’ cars and destroy your property — I think you’re pulling this one out of your ass, although we’ll let that go — but which damn well do keep the very walls of your plant from being carted off and sold for scrap and the women who work for you from being raped and mutilated right there on the assembly line by the Lord’s Resistance Army or whatever the hell terrorist group Rush Limbaugh thinks he can suck up to conservative Christian listeners by fellating on the air this week.

Or the current state of education of the work force. Because if you like this, you’ll love a work force consisting mainly of 9-year-olds pointing AK-47s at your head. (And just so you know, teaching people how to communicate in clear sentences, which, on the basis of 35 years in the business world, I can confidently conclude you have not done because the sheer incidence of such effective education in the business world is vanishingly small, means that you also have to teach them the difference between reality and fantasy. Keep that in mind next time. Moreover, given how much personal offense you have taken at Warren’s remarks, you probably should Google “synecdoche,” although because I’m repaying you in kind, I’ll let it go. That said, the period goes inside the close-quotation marks.)

That’s the deal. It’s what you asked for, so you pretty much have to take it, now, don’t you?

Strap on the chute and get on the plane, big guy. I’ll be happy to be the jumpmaster who puts a boot up your ass as you and your bullion exit over the drop zone.

And then?

Start creating jobs.

Go on.

We’ll wait.

I’m old enough to remember when they wanted to be the best bank in the neighborhood

Filed under: Evil,I want my money back. — Lex @ 8:36 pm
Tags: ,

Now, they just want to crap all over everything. Bank of America, getting ready to screw you again, even harder:

Bank of America, hit by a credit downgrade last month, has moved derivatives from its Merrill Lynch unit to a subsidiary flush with insured deposits, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. disagree over the transfers, which are being requested by counterparties, said the people, who asked to remain anonymous because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The Fed has signaled that it favors moving the derivatives to give relief to the bank holding company, while the FDIC, which would have to pay off depositors in the event of a bank failure, is objecting, said the people. The bank doesn’t believe regulatory approval is needed, said people with knowledge of its position.

Three years after taxpayers rescued some of the biggest U.S. lenders, regulators are grappling with how to protect FDIC- insured bank accounts from risks generated by investment-banking operations. Bank of America, which got a $45 billion bailout during the financial crisis, had $1.04 trillion in deposits as of midyear, ranking it second among U.S. firms.

“The concern is that there is always an enormous temptation to dump the losers on the insured institution,” said William Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and a former bank regulator. “We should have fairly tight restrictions on that.”

Yeah, we should, but bankster politicians of both parties (Mel Watt, I’m lookin’ at you) have put the kibosh on that.

So, how bad is this? Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism offers some perspective:

The reason that commentators like Chris Whalen were relatively sanguine about Bank of America likely becoming insolvent as a result of eventual mortgage and other litigation losses is that it would be a holding company bankruptcy. The operating units, most importantly, the banks, would not be affected and could be spun out to a new entity or sold. Shareholders would be wiped out and holding company creditors (most important, bondholders) would take a hit by having their debt haircut and partly converted to equity.

This changes the picture completely. This move reflects either criminal incompetence or abject corruption by the Fed. Even though I’ve expressed my doubts as to whether Dodd Frank resolutions will work, dumping derivatives into depositaries pretty much guarantees a Dodd Frank resolution will fail. Remember the effect of the 2005 bankruptcy law revisions: derivatives counterparties are first in line, they get to grab assets first and leave everyone else to scramble for crumbs. So this move amounts to a direct transfer from derivatives counterparties of Merrill to the taxpayer, via the FDIC, which would have to make depositors whole after derivatives counterparties grabbed collateral. It’s well nigh impossible to have an orderly wind down in this scenario. You have a derivatives counterparty land grab and an abrupt insolvency. Lehman failed over a weekend after JP Morgan grabbed collateral.

But it’s even worse than that. During the savings & loan crisis, the FDIC did not have enough in deposit insurance receipts to pay for the Resolution Trust Corporation wind-down vehicle. It had to get more funding from Congress. This move paves the way for another TARP-style shakedown of taxpayers, this time to save depositors. No Congressman would dare vote against that. This move is Machiavellian, and just plain evil.

I invented the #LWS (LiquidateWallStreet) hashtag on Twitter yesterday as a goof. Less than 24 hours later, we’ve officially arrived at the point at which an American taxpayer could burn down a Bank of America facility and plausibly claim self-defense.

(h/t: Fec)

Thursday, October 13, 2011 9:22 pm

Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas, Wall Street Journal edition

Not even the Wall Street Journal is immune:

 

One of Rupert Murdoch’s most senior European executives has resigned following Guardian inquiries about a circulation scam at News Corporation’s flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal. The Guardian found evidence that the Journal had been channelling money through European companies in order to secretly buy thousands of copies of its own paper at a knock-down rate, misleading readers and advertisers about the Journal’s true circulation.The bizarre scheme included a formal, written contract in which the Journal persuaded one company to co-operate by agreeing to publish articles that promoted its activities, a move which led some staff to accuse the paper’s management of violating journalistic ethics and jeopardising its treasured reputation for editorial quality.

Whocouldaknowed?

As you’ll recall, earlier this summer some members of the Bancroft family, which had owned the Journal’s corporate parent, Dow Jones, expressed regret about having sold the property to Murdoch’s News Corp. after learning about Murdoch’s operation’s wiretapping and other crimes. They can go to hell. It was obvious to anyone with half a brain that Murdoch was a criminal, and they got more for the property than the market really should have dictated, so I don’t want to hear them whine.

An apology from them for turning over a crown jewel of American journalism to a common thug, and screwing their employees and readers and advertisers, would be nice. But then so would a pony, and I ain’t counting on that, either.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 9:28 pm

In which Jesse LaGreca not only appears on a Sunday-morning TV talk show but also is far more polite in the face of George Effing Will and Peggy Noonan’s disingenuousness than I could ever be.

Even better than Tina Fey as Sarah Palin

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:25 pm
Tags:

Molly Erdman as Elizabeth Warren:

My only quibble: In Massachusetts, the Coors Light should have been a Sam Adams.

And here’s the real Elizabeth Warren, providing some of the grist for Erdman’s parody:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011 8:33 pm

Proof that there is no God.

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:33 pm
Tags: , ,

Elmore Leonard just turned 86.

He won’t live forever.

And when he dies, Mitch Albom will write something about him.

q.e.d.

(h/t: Nance)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 8:10 pm

Not so bizarre after all

Filed under: Cool! — Lex @ 8:10 pm
Tags: , ,

So, the recent report that scientists had found particles traveling faster than the speed of light? The one that was going to blow up Einstein’s theory of relativity?

Maybe not so much, actually.

Oh, it’s not that the neutrinos in question weren’t traveling slightly faster than 186,200 miles per second. They might have been. It’s just that that might not actually be the top speed of light, depending on what light is going through.

In a Q&A with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Marvin L. Marshak, a professor of physics at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, breaks it down:

Q. Could Einstein and his immensely famous ratio, E=mc2, really be wrong?

A. I’ve convinced myself that this could actually be real. If it’s real, I don’t think it overthrows relativity completely. It could be basically telling us that the constant that Einstein proposed—namely, the speed of light—is not actually the right constant. In other words, when light goes through material, it slows down, and so it could be that what we think is a vacuum is not actually empty. And that’s not that shocking, because for the last 10 years or so we’ve been talking about dark energy. We’ve been talking even longer than 10 years about the Higgs field. So the possibility is that a vacuum is not empty, and therefore, just like light going through glass, light is slowed down relative to neutrinos, which don’t have electromagnetic interactions, and therefore could possibly go a little faster.

Q. But there’s still some ultimate speed limit at which matter converts into energy?

A. Right. There’s still some point. And in any event, for us here, the exciting thing is that we have the only other experiment that could really check this result, and that’s the neutrino beam that goes from Fermilab to northern Minnesota. This is an existing experiment that actually published a result four years ago on this topic, but not with sufficient accuracy to detect the effect at the level that the people at CERN are claiming exists. So now our plan is to improve our timing and go back and look at this with a different setup.

Q. So what does this mean for Einstein and relativity?

A. I don’t want to minimize the impact on physics of this, but personally, I think it could fit into Einstein’s basic framework with some relatively small modifications. What the implications of those modifications are, that would be still significant.

So: significant, but not quite “What if everything you thought you knew was wrong?” significant.

 

Monday, October 3, 2011 9:57 pm

Best living will ever …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:57 pm
Tags:

… is John Cole’s. (Language NSFW)

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