Tonight was the annual White House Correspondents’ Associaton dinner in Washington, D.C. During his speech, President Obama made fun of his reputation for using teleprompters and poked at House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), Fox News (Glenn Beck could be spotted pumping his fists), and RNC chairman Michael Steele. As the comedian this year, Wanda Sykes made jokes that were considerably more controversial than the comedians from the past couple years — about Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) and abstinence, Rush Limbaugh’s kidneys failing, and how Keith Olbermann should waterboard Sean Hannity. Watch some highlights:
Your Saturday links:
– Trying to evade bank ownership rules.
– Star Trek a progressive mythology.
– You both can and should preorder Mark Kleiman’s new book.
– Mercer’s quality of life index makes European-style socialism look pretty good.
And now, I grill.
Kevin Drum argued yesterday that the broadcast TV networks should be freed from their anachronistic quasi-obligation to be at the president’s beck and call when he wants to hold a prime time press conference.
I agree, but there’s an important caveat here. The traditional basis for the formal and informal requirement that the networks serve the public interest by carrying this sort of programming has to do with the fact this is the price you pay for your broadcast license. In the modern day, the rights to portions of the electromagnetic spectrum currently being monopolized by television broadcasters are enormously valuable. If that spectrum was put up for bid, then TV stations would need to compete with cell phone companies, wireless internet providers, etc. And the prices they’d wind up paying might prove to be quite high.
In the era of cable and satellite TV and the internet, both sides of the public service broadcasting for free spectrum exchange are obsolete. It would make sense to cancel both of them. But of course the last thing in the world TV executives want to do is give up their free spectrum rights. So they really have no standing to be whining about being burdened with the occasional press conference. The best thing to do, however, would be to ditch the traditions conceived of during the pre-cable era and also end the spectrum giveaways.
One substantial problem in transportation policy is simply that the institutional culture at many state departments of transportation is rotten. Basically, they exist to find ways to make the case for building more highways, and perhaps to make decisions about where new and wider highways should go. Other considerations often aren’t on the table at all.
Thus, Dave Alpert’s flow chart:
Things are changing, though often not fast enough. In my neighborhood, a dense walkable area, we had a movement a little while back to change how one intersection worked so that cars would go slower and it would be safer to cross the street. We were told, basically, that the change couldn’t be done because it would make the cars go slower.
Over at ThinkProgress, Faiz Shakir highlights a report showing that the nation’s 19 largest banks successfully lobbied to make their stress tests less stressful. For instance, the test results — which were released on Thursday — showed that Bank of America needs to raise about $34 billion in capital. But the original test, before the bank’s lobbying, found that BofA was $50 billion in the hole.
And that’s not all. According to a report in the Financial Times, the banks have been assured by the Federal Reserve that they don’t actually have the raise even the amount mandated by the less-stressful tests:
US banks have been given government assurances they will be allowed to raise less than the $74.6bn in equity mandated by stress tests if earnings over the next six months outstrip regulators’ forecasts, bankers said. The agreement, which was not mentioned when the government revealed the results on Thursday, means some banks may not have to raise as much equity through share issues and asset sales as the market is expecting. It could also increase the incentive for banks to book profits in the next two quarters.
This is a troubling development, considering that the banks used all sorts of accounting gimmicks — including making entire months disappear from their books — to record “profits” in the first quarter of this year. This assurance from the Fed gives them every reason to pull similar tricks again. And thanks to a new financial instrument derived by Treasury as part of the tests, the banks can go out and raise funds from private investors while counting on a government guarantee.
Two banks — Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley — have reportedly been quite successful at raising capital from the private sector in the days since the stress tests results were released. But it’s looking more and more like the goal of the tests was to boost confidence in the banks by papering over their problems and assuring them that all possible steps to make them appear healthy would be taken.
Henry Blodget at Clusterstock: “Thank goodness we did away with mark-to-market accounting. Now the banks can just ‘earn’ all the money they’re supposed to raise!”
CNN reports that Texas hospitals are charging women who have been raped thousands of dollars for their rape kits that are collected by police as part of their investigations. According to CNN, Texas’s crime victim compensation fund consistently has a surplus and could likely cover these expenses. Watch it:
During the 2008 campaign, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) came under criticism for the fact that while serving as mayor of Wasilla, the town’s policy was to “bill victims” for their rape kits. (HT: AMERICAblog)
Cara at Feministe writes, “[W]e know that this is a problem that goes beyond Texas. Numerous states reportedly charge victims, despite the fact that it violates conditions of receiving grants under VAWA. And the real rub is that governments largely get their power to charge rape victims without attention due to the rape culture that breeds shame and stigma, and therefore keeps victims quiet.” Debra Dickerson at Mother Jones also has more.
There’s a lot to disagree with in Walter Pincus’ CJR essay “Newspaper Narcissism: Our pursuit of glory led us away from readers” but I find it to be a welcome tonic anyway. I think it’s pretty clear that the financial problems of the news business extend beyond the issue of declining readership. But it’s also totally clear that it’s better, financially, to have more readers rather than fewer. And while it’s by no means obvious that doing better work is the best way to get more readers, I do think it’s absolutely vital for people working in the media to have some kind of faith that doing a good job and attracting an audience are related issues.
At any rate, it would be wishful thinking to assume that if everyone just rolled up their sleeves and did the job right that the money would inevitably follow. But quality issues are relevant. And most of all, for people who are actually engaged in the process of writing about the news, trying to do a better job of writing about the news is the aspect of the situation that we’re most in a position to do something about.
Do you have any questions for McKinsey about their updated GHG cost curve, which (still) finds stabilizing at 450 ppm has a net cost near zero?
I have written a great deal about the terrific work of McKinsey & Company (see “McKinsey 2008 Research in Review: Stabilizing at 450 ppm has a net cost near zero” and links below).
So I was excited and delighted to be invited by The German Marshall Fund to be the respondent for a roundtable discussion Monday in DC (details below) on their updated cost-curve, which I have an early glimpse of for Climate Progress readers [click to enlarge]:
Nobody has as detailed a set of “bottom up” numbers as McKinsey — though I certainly have some issues with their work. Too little concentrated solar thermal power — and it is not a little cheaper than PV, it’s a lot bigger.
Anyway here are details of the event, in case you are in DC and can make it. And again, I’d be interested in ideas for responses or questions to McKinsey.
All the love goes to the stars able to lead their teams deep into the playoffs, but it’s worth taking a moment to observe that even though the always-shallow Hornets declined to mediocrity thanks to a poor supporting cast that Chris Paul is still an incredible basketball player. Not only did he have 23 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds per game but he did it while shooting fifty percent from the field, 36 percent from behind the arc, and 87 percent from the free throw line. He wasn’t, in other words, one of these guys who scores a ton just because he takes a ton of shots. But he also wasn’t one of those guys who shoots efficiently because he barely ever shoots. It was just an incredibly efficient performance. And that’s to say nothing of the 2.8 steals per game.
Given his age, he’ll probably continue to improve for another couple of years and then plateau for a while. And it’ll be a huge shame if he spends that time languishing with bad teammates in a small market. Team success winds up having an unduly large influence on perceptions of NBA player quality. When Kevin Garnett first burst upon the scene, his abilities were widely appreciated. Then we he repeatedly proved incapable of contending for a championship with utterly sub-par teammates, you started hearing that this was somehow his fault. Fortunately, he made it to Boston and was able to win a ring and get the recognition he deserved, even though by that time his skills had already deteriorated somewhat.
Steele Calls GOP Base Bigoted, Says They ‘Rejected’ Romney Because They Have ‘Issues With Mormonism’
In December 2007, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) delivered a speech on religion, in which he addressed how his Mormon “faith would inform his Presidency if he were elected.” Though Romney claimed it was “not a Mormon speech,” it was widely believed to be an effort to dispel “skepticism about his religion” among some conservatives.
Since losing the GOP primary to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Romney has insisted that the Republican Party’s base doesn’t have a problem with Mormonism. “I believe that religion will not be a factor of a significant nature in selecting our nominee, regardless of who might run,” Romney told the Deseret News last month.
But RNC Chairman Michael Steele disagrees. While guest-hosting Bill Bennett’s radio show yesterday, Steele debated a caller who thought Romney could have beat Obama if Democrats and the New York Times hadn’t “co-opted” the GOP primaries.
Steele insisted, however, that Romney couldn’t have won because the GOP base “rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism”:
STEELE: Yeah, but let me ask you. Ok, Jay, I’m there with you. But remember, it was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life. It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism. It was the base that rejected Mitch, Mitt, because they thought he was back and forth and waffling on those very economic issues you’re talking about. So, I mean, I hear what you’re saying, but before we even got to a primary vote, the base had made very clear they had issues with Mitt because if they didn’t, he would have defeated John McCain in those primaries in which he lost.
Steele regularly claims the Republican Party is “still a big-tent party.” But apparently he doesn’t believe it is big enough to accept a Mormon candidate for president.
Transcript: Read more