This probably wasn't the best time to make the Minnesota Legislature invisible, but that's just what TPT-17 has done by eliminating daily coverage of the Minnesota Legislature on its main channel. Legislative coverage on free TV is one of the little facts of Minnesota life that made our political process so transparent.
TPT has substituted "lifestyle programming" instead. As I write this, we're all watching how to make equidistant, light hem stitching on Sewing with Nancy. It's fascinating, sure, but you can't close the big budget gap with pinking shears, except in a metaphor.
Granted, it's highly unlikely the calls are pouring into the TPT headquarters with people demanding access to the K-12 Mandate Reduction Work Group session, but it's rarely a good thing when fewer eyes have access to what politicians are doing.
TPT has moved the Legislature to its "digital tier," which you can get if you have the correct cable TV tier or have over-the-air access and you can perform the pat-your-head-rub-your-belly method of finding new channels. If you have Dish Network or DirectTV, you're out of luck.
You can still see the Legislature on its Web site.(16 Comments)
Gold passed the $1,000 an ounce mark a few minutes ago, which is the economy's version of a hurricane flag.
Today, apparently, is going to be another horrible day in the equity markets. Fear of bank nationalization is being blamed for pre-market jitters. And the rhetoric surrounding Wednesday's unveiling of a housing assistance plan by President Obama is starting to sink in, and not just among the talk-radio crowd.
"The government is supporting bad behavior," said CNBC's Chicago Board of Exchange analyst Rick Santelli as he organized a "revolt" on the floor of the exchange on Thursday morning. "You can go down to -2% on a mortgage and they still can't afford the house."
It was such a display of economic petulance, that this morning, the Today Show brought Santelli in for a repeat.
A few people have moved past the "why should I help someone who bought too much house?" stage and are concentrating on some interesting questions. For example, if someone gets help with their mortgage, and the economy rebounds and home values go up again, does that person who got help give something back?
Perhaps you've seen this New York Times tool by now. It helps you calculate what would have to happen for your retirement fund to get back to where it was at its zenith.
According to the various scenarios I entered, in my case I would have to get a 5.2% annual return -- starting today -- to get back to my 2006 state by the time I retire. To get to the point where I'd calculated the resources I'd need to retire, I would need roughly a 10 percent return.
If I were much younger, this isn't a problem. But it's here where the usual financial advice isn't making sense and doesn't apply to a significant number of Americans -- essentially those who are within 10-15 years of retirement. Sure, historically the market comes back given the right amount of time. But there isn't enough time left for these people. They are looking at a significantly reduced standard of living, and there's virtually nothing they can do about it.
It's that reality that few economic experts are addressing or acknowledging. Might it soon be time to warn them that they need to accept a lower standard of living? Is that politically wise for them? Should younger people plan on having mom and dad move in?
(h/t: Marty Moylan)(2 Comments)
Bloggers are almost like normal people. They occasionally get tired of all the bad news and are looking for diversions, too. This is pledge drive week at MPR, which causes us to talk about ourselves, so let's slip this little number in for a timewaster diversion.(1 Comments)
Or maybe not.
(h/t: Bill Hibbler)
Most of the talk in newspaper circles these days is about how to stay employed at dying companies. But in the cubicles occupied by editorial cartoonists, there's a different conversation going on: How to draw Barack Obama without appearing to be racist.
In his blog post, Read Obama's Lips, Washington Post cartoonist and critic Michael Cavna, says "For every Steve Benson or Mike Luckovich who is zeroing in on a swell, spot-on Obama, there seems to be a cartoonist who invokes 'caricature' in the most grotesque sense of the word.
So, do we (and the Toronto Star) read too much into this? Are too many cartoonists not subtly skilled enough to draw a deft caricature of our first African American president? I seriously doubt that's it. When you truly study art, you delve deeply into all shapes and sizes and learn to "see" -- and learn to see skin not as one single hue, but often as more than a dozen hues (subtle reds, flecks of green, etc.). Of course, perhaps a few cartoonists aren't looking deeply enough at Obama.
Yet even the most highly trained comic artists are quite fallible. As Comic Riffs contributor David Betancourt says of one comic giant: "Drawing large lips on an African American is a huge debate -- I couldn't read any of Will Eisner's original 'Spirit' strips because I couldn't stand the site of the way he drew [grotesquely caricatured] Ebony Ivory."
Nate Kreuter, who writes the Viz blog, says many cartoonists are emphasizing Obama's height and skinniness, and avoiding racial overtones, but not everybody.
Daryl Cagle, a cartoonist for MSNBC.com, figures the issue to get stickier over time:
The cartoon version of Obama will continue to evolve quickly. If we ever actually see him smoking a cigarette, he will always be smoking in cartoons. Obama may turn different colors, and he'll grow or shrink with his performance. Obama's ears will keep growing no matter what he does. As Obama's honeymoon passes and the caricatures become more severe, I expect the complaints about racism in the cartoons will also grow more severe.
He probably won't have to wait long. In an Associated Press story on the subject today, Mike Lester of the Rome News in Georgia didn't shrink from a poke in the eye.
Lester...said that when he was growing up, "if we didn't make fun of you, we didn't like you."
Perhaps race relations would improve, Lester said, if black people lightened up a bit: "They're not too good (at being) made fun of. We can all take a joke.
Last week I blogged about an increase in the number of people with insurance who aren't paying medical bills. At North Memorial, for example, $1 million in unpaid bills by people with insurance in 2007 swelled to $8 million in 2008.
So MPR's Michael Caputo, of the Public Insight Network, solicited your stories about this factoid.
One of the things he found is that a lot of unpaid bills are the result of battles that consumers are waging with insurance companies, health care providers, or the go-betweens that are supposed to prevent bureaucratic nightmares with insurance companies and health care providers.
Liz Shatek of Cambridge tells the story of not having nearly enough money to pay for health costs, including those around the birth of a child. So she was counseled by her insurance provider to use a financial services provider - MedCredit - that gives loans to patients who can't afford the bill.
"Anyway, once we started questioning whether insurance had covered the appropriate amounts, we started getting caught in between the MedCredit company and the insurance company. Both would tell us we needed to talk to the other first, no one seemed able to get at the information we were asking for and I wanted to pull my hair out! I was trying to take care of a new baby in between insurance phone calls and waiting on hold for hours (our phone bill was astronomical for a few months). Eventually we just used tax money to pay off the last of the balance with MedCredit and stopped worrying about whether the insurance company had paid for what they said they would."
Find some of Michael's stories here. He's still looking for yours.(2 Comments)
Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, said this week that the U.S. is "a nation of cowards" on matters of race. He said most Americans avoid candid discussions of racial issues.
"If we're going to ever make progress, we're going to have to have the guts, we have to have the determination, to be honest with each other. It also means we have to be able to accept criticism where that is justified," Holder said after the speech.
He provided no framework for how to have that conversation.
Neither did National Public Radio's All Things Considered, which took the unusual step -- for NPR -- of putting two people with different views together to hash it out and prove to thousands of people on the way home in their cars, that if we're not cowards, we're at least clumsy as all getout.
Joe Klein, Time magazine's political columnist, and Michael Eric Dyson, an author and professor at Georgetown University, got very little accomplished. Klein was upset that Holder didn't acknowledge "the incredible progress that has been made over the last 40 or 50 years," and Dyson sounding as though African Americans think white America wants to hear a "thank you."(9 Comments)