Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The rise and fall of news

I heard some sad news today from a fellow transit junkie friend of mine. Steve Hymon, the transit reporter for the LA Times, was laid off along with 30 other people at the paper once regarded to be one of the nation's best. It's amazing that there are still enough people in that building to actually put together enough stories to produce a paper, and the quality level definitely reflects these staffing changes. Just a few of the things he's reported on recently include: LA's plans for the stimulus money with regards to transit, the Expo and Gold line construction, and not to mention his excellent Bottleneck Blog. It's disconcerting that in a city with as much transportation issues as LA, the main newspaper would choose to decrease the amount of reporting on this extremely important topic.

Seeing as I now must rely on the New York Times for reliable and interesting news information, I found this somewhat hilarious post about Paul Krugman in the Freaknomics blog. My favorite economist wrote a scathing opinion on the new plan to price "toxic" assets in the public-private partnership developed by the Treasury Department. I know it's not fair that Krugman gets to criticize all of Obama and Geithner's moves without having to develop a solution (that is politically viable) but it's important that someone is pointing out the possible pitfalls. For the taxpayers' sake, let's hope that this Nobel award winning Economist is wrong, at least this once.

Finally in reference to my previous post, check out Steve Lopez's column about the last hired, first fired policy at LAUSD.

And for those of you who watched the Presidential Press Conference last night, please take a moment to watch Jon Stewart explain how conferences should go. HILARIOUS!
The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Pres. Goofus and Pres. Gallant - Peer Pressers
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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Defying Logic

Lately I have noticed several things that do not make a whole lot of sense. They range from the inane to the important but here's a brief list.

1. Chicken Carnitas. El Pollo Loco has debuted their new line of Carnitas menu-items, which might sound normal enough for a Mexican fast food joint, but they're made from chicken! Carnitas by definition is pork, just like carne asada is beef. Next they'll start serving Ensenada style fish tacos made from tofu!

2. First hired, first fired. Several of my grad school friends have fallen prey to this ridiculous HR policy utilized throughout public offices. It basically means that regardless of prior experience, expertise, education, or ability, the first person hired, will be the first person fired when budgeting requires a trimming down of staff. Why this is flawed logic, is pretty obvious, but let me break it down. Without younger people moving into these public servant jobs, there will be no one with the necessary experience and institutional knowledge to take over once the baby boomers retire, not to mention who will actually get things done while everyone else is busy chilling on disability?

3. The Obsession with OctoMom. I know it's kind of like watching a trainwreck in slow motion, but OctoMom really isn't that interesting. I can't imagine why people want to see her on TV. She never says anything outrageous, no driving around with the baby on her lap, and she hasn't even shaved her head bald yet. I bet the paparazzi really misses the old BritBrit these days. Plus, it's embarassing to see Whittier and its environs on the news every night. First Nixon, now this.

4.The wrap sandal. Is it me, or is this look even worse than the open toed boot? Now instead of worrying about only our toes being cold in winter, our spring option is to at least keep our ankles warm.

5. Local news television. My bearded friend brought this one up the other day. Who really relies on local news tv for important and reliable news and information? I watch KTLA in the mornings, mainly because I love Mark Kriski's crazy antics and I like to hear the weather before I get dressed but as for news this is what I learned this morning: a NASCAR race will be at Irwindale Speedway this weekend, the Woz was on with his partner in Dancing with the Stars, Manny is playing cricket and most important there is a REALLY long line for tickets at the Jay Leno show with the President in town. All super important and relevant news info considering that the economy is in shambles, AIG is giving out millions in bonuses paid by taxes and oh yeah the entire State is on the verge of chaos (again). I'm so glad I tuned in.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back!

Mannywood has returned and not a moment too soon or to late for that matter. Just in time to let the Dodgers break into their new stadium without any Mannigans. (Like my new word?) All in all, I'm proud of the Dodgers management for staying the hard line and only offering the 2 years. Andruw Jones was a hard lesson learned, but hopefully we won't suffer another for a LONG time. No matter what, I'm sure that Manny will do well and that the Blue faithful will welcome him back with open arms. Hey, these are some of the same people who still actually like Kobe. But I digress...

Another person who is back to his old stomping grounds is a former top executive from the now defunct Countrywide. He's opened up shop in Calabasas with some of his old friends with a new venture called PennyMac. Turns out this new business buys mortgages that are in default for pennies on the dollar and then calls up the homeowners offering them reduced interest rates and better terms. The homeowner ends up being able to renegotiate for a monthly amount they can actually pay and PennyMac reaps huge profits since they bought the loan on the cheap. Now this all sounds wonderful and just picture perfect, but then again these are the same guys who put alot of these people into these bad loans in the first place. Very fishy...but don't take my word for it, read all about it here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Get on the Socialist Bus

The title of this post is a joke a conservative friend of mine likes to tell, only half-kidding when he describes President Obama driving a big bus with the destination Socialism on the front and everyone jumping on for a ride. It was interesting to hear it reverberate during the campaign as Joe the Plumber and Sarah ranted about promises to "spread the wealth" around. Whenever I hear that phrase I always think about the game of Life and landing on that square where you had to give the other players $100.

The article in the NY Times about socialism, quotes several pundits detailing how socialism is 'un-American' and will be soundly rejected by the public, particularly in the area of universal health care. I think that might be the case if the country was prospering and people weren't losing their jobs left and right. Because as far as I can tell whether you're on the left or the right, almost everyone can use a little help right now. And before we start lambasting socialism let's take a moment to think about all the things we enjoy that might be just along the lines of what those Comrades in funny hats we're thinking.

1) Free public education. Now that's a handout if I ever saw one. America has always loved to believe that education is the great equalizing force. Except for the fact that even wages for college-educated workers have remained stagnant while prices continue to rise. Add to that the fact that no one making $35,000 at 22 in their first entry-level job has enough to move out of their parents' home, pay off their student loans and afford to put into their 401(k), which leaves few with the ability to pull themselves up from their proverbial bootstraps.

2) Unemployment insurance. Sure we pay into this, but the majority of us (God-willing) will never use it, which means we're "spreading the wealth" by helping out those who are less fortunate than us and are not currently gainfully employed. I guess you could say that it is always there in case you need it, but why not just take the money you pay into it and put it in your own rainy day fund. Oh, I forgot Americans hate saving, we like spending!

And while I was thinking about another one (please feel free to post your own) I came across this jewel of news. The only thing states spend more on than prisons is Medicaid! Yup, we've finally reached the point where corrections budgets are larger than education, transit and public aid. So if you're wondering what happens when you have a public school system that graduates only half of its students, you don't need to look too far. We continue to "spread the wealth" except this time instead of with books and after-school programs, it's with 3 square meals a day and a very tiny window. We tried to buy our way out of crime, but that hasn't seemed to work, unless you're a member of the prison guard union that is.