Back-Channel Chatter Amid the Static and the Buzz

Posted: Mar 05, 2009 10:55 AM
Back-Channel Chatter Amid the Static and the Buzz

With the world's wealth halved and Barack Obama the first president to try his hand at stock-brokering ("Buying stocks is a potentially good deal"), herewith some back-channel chatter amid the static and the buzz....

-- This is written during a four-day power outage as a consequence of Virginia's heaviest March snowstorm since 1980. Must be global warming.

-- As the new editorial director of tailspinning Playboy Enterprises, Jimmy Jellinek -- former editor at and at with-it mags Maxim and Stuff -- sees Playboy returning "to our golden age." Jellinek wants Playboy "to be a magazine of ideas that leads the national conversation" -- presumably the way it did when pubescent teenagers were sneaking peeks at it for the articles.

-- Will Obama keep a campaign pledge, as Attorney General Eric Holder says he will, to end federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in states with lax marijuana laws?

-- Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen thinks Iran has enough fissile material to make a nuclear bomb. "And Iran having a nuclear weapon, I've believed for a long time, is a very, very bad outcome for the region and for the world." Roger that.

-- Despite a repeated campaign pledge not to sign any congressional measures containing pork-barrel earmarks, Obama will sign (may have signed already) a $410 billion spending bill containing earmarks totaling . . . 9,000. His apologists say those earmarks don't count because they were added to a spending bill that is part of the current fiscal-year budget drawn up by the Bush White House.

-- South Carolina's Republican Gov. Mark Sanford has cast the financial meltdown this way: "We're moving precipitously close to what I would call a savior-based economy."

-- More members of Congress list their profession as actor or entertainer than engineer. In China, the predominant backgrounds of the ruling class are scientist and engineer. The locations of the top three undergraduate schools of doctoral candidates in engineering and science? The U.S. doesn't make the cut (they're in China and South Korea). Maybe our congressional entertainers have a nifty fix for that one.

-- Racism still reigns: Zimbabwe's boss Robert Mugabe has told his country's "few remaining white farmers . . . (to) quickly vacate their farms as they have no place there." And anti-Semitism remains alive and well: A poll of 3,500 Europeans in seven countries found one-third blaming the global economic tailspin on Jews.

-- Perhaps you have noticed that having declined to wear a flag lapel pin during the campaign, Obama -- as president -- now appears routinely before flag-frenzied backgrounds bristling with stars and stripes?

-- Congress ripped the presidents of Chrysler and General Motors for flying to D.C. to ask for federal handouts. And Obama blasted federally infused Citibank for possessing a corporate jet, saying: "If the taxpayers are helping you, then you have certain responsibilities to not be living high on the hog." Yet Obama chose to sign the stimulus bill not in the White House but in Denver -- requiring a six-hour round-tripper aboard Air Force One, which burns about 6,000 gallons of jet fuel per hour.

-- Any employee of the Internal Revenue Service with the tax lapses of newly confirmed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (who oversees the IRS), would have been lucky to get off with just being fired.

-- Another Obama appointee with tax issues: White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. As a Congressman, he paid nothing to live for five years in a house owned by Connecticut Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and her husband, pollster Stan Greenberg. Emanuel (a) paid no taxes on the DeLauro gift of a rent-free living arrangement, and (b) contrary to congressional ethics rules, failed to disclose the gift.

-- In another example of erasing the past a la Big Brother, the Obama administration has renamed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) the Financial Stability Plan, because TARP got its name from the dread Bush administration.

-- During inaugural festivities, Obama skipped the military inaugural ball -- apparently the first time a newly installed president has failed even to show up.

-- A study of 600 private colleges by the Chronicle of Higher Education found that presidents do not always take home the biggest paychecks on campus. At the schools studied, 88 employees earned more than $1 million. The highest-paid among them? At $4.4 million (more than quadruple the compensation of the University of Southern California's president), Pete Carroll -- USC's head football coach.

-- In declaring the economy will recover, Obama stands in a distinguished line. Herbert Hoover, in May 1930 (the Great Depression would last 10 more years): "I am convinced we have now passed the worst and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover." Franklin Roosevelt, in 1935, two years before a surge in unemployment and a further collapse in the Dow Jones Industrial Average: "Never since my inauguration in March, 1933, have I felt so unmistakably the atmosphere of recovery."

-- Ah, but this time around surely there's comfort in the statement of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke: "We're not completely in the dark."

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