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Archive for March, 2009

JUST NATIONALIZE IT: AIG Is Too Stupid To Live

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

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WASHINGTON POST: A tidal wave of public outrage over bonus payments swamped American International Group yesterday. Hired guards stood watch outside the suburban Connecticut offices of AIG Financial Products, the division whose exotic derivatives brought the insurance giant to the brink of collapse last year. Inside, death threats and angry letters flooded e-mail inboxes. Irate callers lit up the phone lines. Senior managers submitted their resignations. Some employees didn’t show up at all. MORE

TIME: The rescue of AIG is warping the banking system and unnecessarily extending the credit crisis. This piggybankbust.thumbnail.jpgmisguided effort stems from a lack of transparency and some basic misconceptions about AIG’s business. [...]But there’s a true insight into this mess if you just step back and consider the bigger picture, not just AIG. Regardless of the details of the various swap contracts, they all represent potential transfers of wealth between financial institutions. If we consolidated the entire financial sector, all these debts would effectively vanish. [...] At the very least, there should be full transparency. Any institution receiving money from the government — and ultimately from American taxpayers — should reveal its holdings. Even institutions that do not require a bailout should be more closely tracked by regulators. The government can and should monitor all transactions, even those over-the-counter. We have focused too much on each individual bank and its possibility for failure. The economy does not need every bank to survive; it needs most. Right now, we need to know which ones. By propping up financial institutions that are subject to unknown potential losses, the government is prolonging the uncertainty about whether they will fail. This perpetuates the crisis of confidence in which banks do not trust one another enough to loan money. MORE

NEW YORKER: Another option—which recently received the reluctant endorsements of even Alan Greenspan, James Baker, and Lindsey Graham—is temporary nationalization: the government takes over the most troubled piggybankbust.thumbnail.jpgbanks, splits off their toxic assets, puts those assets in a publicly owned “bad bank,” and sells off the healthy parts of the businesses. After a ruinous boom-bust cycle in the late nineteen-eighties, some Scandinavian governments followed this approach. Within a couple of years, their economies were recovering strongly, and the Swedish government ended up making a profit. Here the strategy could punish irresponsible bankers (whose shares and options would be wiped out), avoid having to put a price on the toxic stuff, and enable the government to order the institutions under their control to make more loans.

(more…)

NEWS CLUES: Like A Lux Hi-Rise Condo Of The Truth

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

SENATOR: AIG Executives Should ‘Resign Or Go Commit Suicide’

harikari_1.jpgExpressions of outrage across the political spectrum reached a new crescendo Monday when Sen. Charles Grassley suggested in an Iowa City radio interview that AIG executives should take a Japanese approach toward accepting responsibility for the collapse of the insurance giant by resigning or killing themselves. “Obviously, maybe they ought to be removed,” the Iowa Republican said. “But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they’d follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I’m sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.” Grassley spokesman Casey Mills said the senator wasn’t calling for AIG executives to kill themselves, but said those who accept tax dollars and spend them on travel and bonuses do so irresponsibly. In another development, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he has issued subpoenas for the names of American International Group employees given bonuses despite their possible roles in its near-collapse. [via YAHOO NEWS]

Somebody Paid $7.7 Million For A Philly Condo — Repeat a PHILLY Condo!

liberty_place.thumbnail.jpg“The most expensive luxury condominium ever sold in the history of Philadelphia” has fetched nearly $7.7 million, according to the Residences at Two Liberty Place. A spokeswoman declined to say who the buyer is, but names linked to other properties there include Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels and Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, who purchased a $3.58 million pad on the 52d floor. The four-bedroom home on the 46th floor – one of 20 floors with living quarters – has 5,850 square feet of space, including billiard room, a “custom gourmet kitchen,” hand-finished walnut floors, and more than 2,000 square feet of balcony. That’s the “highest residential outdoor space in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” according to a news release. [via the INQUIRER]

NUTTER: Property Tax Hike Or Cut Cops And Firemen — Your Choice

nutterfloatinghead.thumbnail.jpgMayor Nutter yesterday made his case for a substantial but temporary hike in the city’s property tax, saying the failure to do so would trigger deep service cuts and hundreds of layoffs in two critical departments: police and fire. Alternatively, increasing the tax would ensure no layoffs in the departments and not a single fire company would close, said Nutter, who was flanked at a City Hall news conference by more than two dozen uniformed officers and firefighters. “We’ve heard the public,” he said, referring to the pleas of residents at neighborhood budget forums to leave the police and firefighters relatively untouched. “I refuse to do anything that halts our march toward a safer city,” the mayor said. Linking an unpopular tax hike to the future of the city’s most popular workers reflects a well-thought-out strategy by the administration as it looks to City Council for approval in the weeks ahead. [via INQUIRER]

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RAW TAPE: F*ck It, We’ll Do It Live!

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

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BOING BOING: Thanks to Al Franken, we all know that Bill O’Reilly wrote a terrible pornographic novel in 1998. Now the Village Voice’s head garage-sale nut has digitized a bunch of choice clips from the audiobook (read by O’Reilly), including “Say baby, put down that pipe and get my pipe up,” “Cup your hands under your breasts and hold them for ten seconds,” and “Cunnilingus involves the lips and tongue.” MORE

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WORTH REPEATING: We Have Met The Enemy…

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DAILY NEWS: There was an unindicted co-conspirator in the case against Fumo. That would be the city that spawned him, took what he delivered and then pretended to be shocked, shocked at the unsavory details of how he manipulated the process. That, of course, would be Philadelphia. That, of course, would be us.

Power corrupts, and the legendary power that Vince Fumo built corrupted him mightily. But the strain of fumo.thumbnail.jpgcorruption that infected Fumo was not the kind that is cured by ethics reform, campaign-finance limits or registration of lobbyists. It was the price we paid for our own lack of civic engagement. It was way easier and much more reliable to let Vince take care of our interests in Harrisburg, which he did well.

In more than 30 years in office, Fumo placed friends in positions of power, protected political allies from challenge and steered lucrative contracts to his favorites. In the process, he created a web of personal and financial loyalty, and a savvy staff that worked the state capital better than anyone else. He wasn’t called the Vince of Darkness for nothing: Crossing Fumo carried a cost few were willing to pay. Even without a MENSA proof of his genius IQ, Fumo was, indeed, the smartest guy in the room.

Make no mistake, he made good things happen, and brought benefits to Philadelphia that it would not have had fumo.thumbnail.jpgotherwise, and may not see again, at least in that magnitude: SEPTA was saved, kids got TransPasses to take to magnet schools, payday lenders were kept out of the state. Fumo defended reproductive rights when they were seriously threatened, and championed gays against discrimination.

No wonder he came to think that he was entitled to the vacuum cleaners and the power tools, the yacht trips and the laptops. They were the trappings of power, a power that benefited more than Fumo. In the end, Fumo – who beat a corruption conviction in 1984 on a technicality – was brought down by changing times: unscrubbed e-mails that allowed jurors to see the hubris usually visible only to those who needed him.

In his early years in politics, Vince Fumo liked to say that the worst part of a politician’s life was to be “middled” – fumo.thumbnail.jpgto be torn among conflicting loyalties. Today, as we look at the wreckage of Fumo’s life and career, it’s easy to speculate how he became “middled” between delivering good things for the city and his sense of being owed something in return. Not so obvious is how we as a community also were middled: between the principles of honesty and integrity that we say we want from our politicians and the very real advantages of having Vince Fumo take care of our needs in Harrisburg. MORE

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MAILBAG: The Trouble With Tweeney

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following represents two divergent reader responses to Jeff Deeney’s new Twitter project for Phawker (CLICK HERE for the details). Deeney responds in the comments section which should be of interest to all you people that love giving or getting a good flamejob.

DEAR PHAWKER,

This is downright shameful. Poor black people say the darndest things, right? Ya, well so do self-inflated white dudes. Your snippets of conversation provide no context and smack of the same poverty porn you’ve been peddling on this site for a while now, Deeney. It is so disheartening to see tweeney_1_1.jpghow you’re capitalizing on your access just to trivialize these impoverished communities. I’m sure if they followed your twitter they would feel clowned. It especially stings that you’re getting these quotes while on the “job”, which I would assume is some sort of community services job. You’re there to help. So start.

–SHAMEFUL, Mar 16, 11:02 PM

DEAR SHAMEFUL What’s so shameful about giving the outside world a window into the world many have never seen and away from which most of those who have seen it have run? Most of this isn’t humorous at all, unless you’ve been there and seen enough of it for yourself that you just have to laugh, like I have. When I left a place where I was reminded of this every day, Deeney kept his nose in it, and has been relaying messages from deep space ever since, seemingly just to keep us all honest. It makes me ill on a regular basis to work and mingle with people who are so wrapped up in the secure, upper/middle class existence they’ve been sheltered under since birth that they would read Deeney’s tweets and insist they’re fiction. To me, they’re bite-sized reminders of what the world is for a lot of folks; reminders that there’s a lot of good that needs to be done and a lot of uncomfortable and horrifying reality out there; reminders that there are a lot of real humans doing what they can every day to deal with it. They are perspective, and they direct some extra attention where not enough is paid. Isn’t that a good thing? Without readable reports from the front, there would just be so much more anonymous, silent suffering going on. Is that what you’d prefer? For people NOT to see this? For people to continue to forget about the problems of the inner city and the people trying to do something about them?

tweeney_1_1.jpgSomething is better than nothing, and even the folks who are interested, like me, need to get their information in tolerable doses. I’m not going to wallow in it all day every day; I can’t. I just need a reminder every once in a while of how good I have it, and not to forget about the shit going on every day out there in the real world–shit that might as well be happening in China, for all anyone in my Ivy League neighborhood cares. I need something to keep the reality top-of-mind. Jeff’s articles and now his tweets do this for me and many readers. If he gets some attention for it, good for him. You may think of it as poverty porn. I think of it as a window into a part of the world that we all need to be paying more attention to–a window that you can actually tolerate looking through occasionally. It’s not porn, it’s reality. Context or not, it’s better than silence. It edifies ME. Maybe you should start writing about the things you see, too. Who knows, people might pay more attention to it. It might even help.

– SHAMELESS, Mar 17, 3:38 PM

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NPR 4 THE DEF: Giving Public Radio Edge Since 2006

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

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Acrassicauda is an Iraqi heavy-metal band — though its members live in a one-bedroom apartment in Elizabeth, N.J. Despite their humble quarters, the band is happy to be together: When they were still based in Iraq, their practice space was bombed and they received death threats. The band first gained widespread notice in a 2007 documentary, Suroosh Alvi’s Heavy Metal in Baghdad, which followed the band in the days after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Initially hopeful, the band members watched their country crumble around them. Two years of exile in Syria and Turkey followed before the men were able to settle in the United States. Now reunited, Acrassicauda is again receiving attention. Recently, band members were VIP guests backstage at a Metallica concert, and after years of dealing with immigration bureaucracy, they’re looking forward to having more time to practice. Lead singer Faisal Talal and drummer Marwan Riyadh and director Suroosh Alvi join Fresh Air to discuss Heavy Metal in Baghdad. The film airs on the Sundance Channel March 19.

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Hour 1
Former State Senator Vince Fumo was convicted of more than 130 counts of corruption. Former aide Ruth Arnao was found guilty of 45 counts as well, including fraud. We discuss the trial and verdict with CRAIG MCCOY, Staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and EDWARD OHLBAUM, Professor of Law at Temple University. Listen to the mp3

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AIG has received more than 170 billion dollars in bail out money and is planning on handing out 165 million dollars in bonuses to executives, including those at a department responsible for the company’s near collapse. We get reaction to this news from DANIEL GROSS, Moneybox columnist for Slate and the business columnist for Newsweek. He has a new book out called “Dumb Money: How Our Greatest Financial Minds Bankrupted the Nation.” And MICHAEL KAZIN, Professor of history at Georgetown University. His most recent book is “A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryant.” Listen to the mp3

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As a child, Benjy Ferree dreamed of becoming an actor. After discovering his love of music, he moved to Washington, D.C., and began playing gigs at local clubs. Before long, Feree’s vintage Americana music had caught the eye of a label, which put out Leaving the Nest, a folksy, acoustic and blues-filled album that won Ferree many new fans. Ferree’s new follow-up, Come Back to the Five and Dime Bobby Dee, Bobby Dee, tells the tragic story of Disney actor Bobby Driscoll in song. Though he sticks to Americana, Ferree adds interesting touches of Britpop and ’50s doo-wop while maintaining his idiosyncratic, crooning vocal style.

 BENJY FERREE: Fear

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I, GAMER: Meet The Rape Simulator

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

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EDITOR’S NOTE: I am old enough to have witnessed the birth of Pong and sorta lost the plot sometime around Defender, but I realize that lots and lots of young folk spend hours and hours playing games. Hours that could be better spent reading Phawker. Now there’s a way you can do both. Introducing our brand spanking new game column, I GAMER, penned by intern-to-the-stars Adam Bonanni. Adam is 21 and attends Temple University.
I_GAMERAvatar_1.jpgBY ADAM BONANNI It’s embarrassingly easy to become so desensitized to violence and sexuality from gaming that it takes a real atomic bomb to start raising some red flags.  That atomic bomb comes in the form of RapeLay, a rape-simulator game from Japan-based Illusion development studios.  RapeLay deals with the titular “protagonist” molesting a woman on a train, later raping her in her home. Your reward for raping her is an encounter with her schoolgirl dressed daughters, with the implication that you must rape them as well.  RapeLay was released in 2006, but recently found its way into the news when it was discovered that Amazon, eBay, and Overstock.com were all carrying the title.

I haven’t had hands-on experience with RapeLay, but there is a rather in-depth snark-tastic review posted at Something Awful. Illusion has apparently been at this for quite some time, as evidenced by the longevity of the rape and sodomize genre in Japan, although they won’t find much of an audience on western shores as RapeLay has been pulled by all major American online retailers and is currently banned in the USA. Actually, scratch that — Illusion won’t find much of a paid audience on Western shores. A Google search for ‘RapeLay Torrents’ turns up 57,000 entries. Obviously, there is an audience. Whether or not there should be is yet another question of conscience the Internet has to answer for.

Curiously, America is totally OK with violence, but averse to sexuality, while this idea is reversed in Japan.  CERO, the Japanese equivalent to America’s ESRB, ordered geysers of blood in the American version of No More Heroes changed to a black goo in the Japanese version. And while it is fine to depict rape, showing gentitalia is rapelay_1_1.jpgforbidden. Such selective censorship may explain some of the more, ahem, unique fixtures Japanese sexuality, such as used panty vending machines and a nationwide lolita complex. Sex, as we all know, is an unstoppable human impulse and when you damn it up, it just flows elsewhere — often to strange and dark places.

Overt sexuality in games has gained a good deal of notoriety over the past decade.  Rockstar games came under heavy flack when an early version of a supposedly removed sex minigame was discovered deeply embedded within Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  The ESRB ordered the product re-rated to AO (Adults Only), the equivalent of a film’s NC-17 rating, ensuring that most stores would not carry the title.  The mode was entirely cut, which allowed the product to retain its original rating, and shelf space.  It was also noted in The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, from Betheseda software, the ability to create a female character that could remain topless.  This skin could only be unlocked by using software not endorsed byBetheseda, but the ESRB quickly clamped down, and ordered the rating raised from “T” (Teen) to “M” (Mature).  My guess is, they would have to create an entirely new rating for RapeLay: NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.

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NEW FEATURE: Meet Jeff Tweeney

Monday, March 16th, 2009

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Hey folks, Jeff Deeney here to let you know how this new Twitter project we’re rolling out will work. From now until Philadelphia no longer needs me for cannon fodder in the trenches of the War On Poverty, I will be posting the little overheard snippets of unintentional brilliance and frequently unhinged insanity that comprise the background noise of my work day.  Think of it as Today I Saw for the ADD set; I will bring you the streets in 160 characters or less. All dialogue 100% overheard. You’re already a couple days behind, so start following the Phawker Twitter stream and you can play along at home. And yes, it WILL be on the test.

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THAT’S COMCASTIC: 8,000 Customer Passwords Leaked 

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NEW YORK TIMES: A list of more than 8,000 user names and passwords for customers of Comcast, one of the nation’s largest Internet service providers, sat unprotected on the Web for the last two months. Kevin Andreyo, an educational technology specialist in Reading, Pa., and a professor at Wilkes University, came across the list Monday on Scribd, a document-sharing Web site.

Mr. Andreyo was reading a recent article in PC World entitled “People Search Engines: They Know Your Dark Secrets… And Tell Anyone,” when he was inspired to find out what information about him was online. He searched for his own e-mail address on the search engine Pipl. The list on Scribd was one of four results, and it also included his password, which was a riff on his love for a local sports team. Statistics on Scribd indicated that the list, which was uploaded by someone with the user name vuthanhan2004, had been viewed over 345 times and had been downloaded 27 times.

comcastic3s.thumbnail.gifMr. Andreyo informed Comcast, the F.B.I. and several technology journalists about the breach on Monday morning, but the document disappeared only at 1:45 p.m. when I contacted Scribd about it. “That isn’t just my password for Comcast, it’s my password for everything that is not tied to my credit card,” Mr. Andreyo said in an interview. “It’s one thing to publish a credit card number, but to hand over user IDs and passwords for accounts is another. Someone could just go in and pull up all your archived messages, and then they have everything about you.” MORE

[H/T to DANTZERDAZE]

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BREAKING: Fumo Guilty On All Counts

Monday, March 16th, 2009

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INQUIRER: Former State Sen. Vincent Fumo was convicted of all 137 counts against him today as his marathon federal corruption trial ended in a stunning victory for prosecutors. The jury also found co-defendant Ruth Arnao guilty of all 45 counts against her. After a 30-minute hearing this afternoon, U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter agreed to let Fumo and Arnao remain free pending sentencing although he ordered them to post bail of $2 million and $500,000, respectively, by Wednesday. The two had been free on unsecured own-recognizance bail since they were charged. Both defendants were ordered not to leave the Eastern District of Pennsylvania – nine counties in the southeastern part of the state – without court approval and to report in person once a week to federal pre-trial services personnel and three more times each week by phone. Buckwalter did not set a sentencing date but scheduled a hearing for Thursday morning on how much in assets Fumo should be ordered to forfeit, based on the jury’s finding that he illegally funneled public funds for his personal benefit. Prosecutors are expected to seek a prison term of more than 10 years for the once-powerful politician. MORE

nutterfinal_cropped.jpgPHILLY CLOUT: Mayor Nutter just announced that his upcoming budget won’t include layoffs in the police or fire departments.  Nutter, joined by Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, also said there will be no closures of facilities or elimination of equipment.  His plan last fall to close libraries and eliminate fire companies drew legal challenges and prompted wide-spread controversy. “I refuse to do anything that halts our progress on a march to a safer city,” Nutter said. Nutter – who must close a five-year $1 billion budget shortfall — is set to release his budget and five-year financial plan in City Council on Thursday. MORE

SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE: Post Intelligencer First Major Daily To Go Online-Only

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ASSOCIATED PRESS:  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which has chronicled the news of the city since logs slid down its steep streets to the harbor and miners caroused in its bars before heading north to Alaska’s gold fields, will print its final edition Tuesday. Hearst Corp., which owns the 146-year-old P-I, said Monday that it failed to find a buyer for the newspaper, which it put up for a 60-day sale in January after years of losing money. Now the P-I will shift entirely to the Web. “Tonight will be the final run, so let’s do it right,” publisher Roger Oglesby told the newsroom. Hearst’s decision to abandon the print product in favor of an Internet-only version is the first for a large American newspaper, raising questions about whether the company can make money in a medium where others have come up short. MORE

newspaperchart_042808_1_1.thumbnail.jpgPEW RESEARCH CENTER: As many newspapers struggle to stay economically viable, fewer than half of Americans (43%) say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community “a lot.” Even fewer (33%) say they would personally miss reading the local newspaper a lot if it were no longer available. Not unexpectedly, those who get local news regularly from newspapers are much more likely than those who read them less often to see the potential shutdown of a local paper as a significant loss. More than half of regular newspaper readers (56%) say that if the local newspaper they read most often no longer published — either in print or online — it would hurt the civic life of the community a lot; an almost identical percentage (55%) says they would personally miss reading the paper a lot if it were no longer available. MORE

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THIS JUST IN: It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

Monday, March 16th, 2009

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 THE ROOTS LAUNCH SECOND ANNUAL

ROOTS PICNIC!

 

Starring

THE ROOTS

TV ON THE RADIO, THE BLACK KEYS

SANTIGOLD, ASHER ROTH & MORE

And a special performance:

 PUBLIC ENEMY performs
IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS TO HOLD US BACK

backed by ANTIBALAS and THE ROOTS

 

PHILADELPHIA’S FESTIVAL PIER AT PENN’S LANDING

Saturday, June 6 @ 2pm

 

Tickets Go On Sale This Friday, March 20 @ 10am

 

Get tickets at LiveNation.com, 877-598-8696, EFC Box Office (111 Presidential Blvd, Bala Cynwyd, PA / cash purchase is service-charge free on-sale only) and Festival Pier (Columbus Blvd & Spring Garden St, Phila, Pa / day-of-show only)

 

Tickets: $49.50 (advance) | $50 (day-of-show)

***

NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gretchen Morgenson discusses the latest news in bailouts and banking — including the recent revelation that insurance giant AIG plans to pay $450 million in executive bonuses to the employees who work in the unit that crippled the company and contributed to its $40.5 billion loss. AIG’s spending habits and the identity the other companies it transacts with — also known as its counterparties — have been are under particular scrutiny since the company received $175 billion in taxpayer guarantees as part of the federal bailout. In her Mar. 14 New York Times article, “At A.I.G., Good Luck Following the Money,” Morgenson hypothesized why AIG’s actions have angered so many, writing: “Even as investors, employees, communities and taxpayers have been battered by the crippled financial system, A.I.G.’s counterparties were saved from losses on deals they struck with the insurer.” Morgenson is an assistant business and financial editor and columnist for The New York Times, the author of Forbes Great Minds Of Business and the co-author of The Woman’s Guide To The Stock Market.

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USELESS INFORMATION: Miley Cyrus Vs. Radiohead

Monday, March 16th, 2009

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US MAGAZINE: A war of words has erupted between Miley Cyrus [above, right] and her former rock Gods Radiohead [not pictured, above]. The argument started when Miley tried to use her clout to meet her heroes backstage at the Grammys. The notoriously shy band refused. Miley then blasted the group on a syndicated radio show as “Stinkin’ Radiohead!” and said, “I’m gonna ruin them, I’m gonna tell everyone.” But the band aren’t taking the insult lying down. A spokesperson for the band responds on their behalf, “When Miley grows up, she’ll learn not to have a sense of entitlement.” MORE

PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE: Dude To Chick Ratio At Phish Concerts Is 100 To 1

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Red arrows mark Phish fans with vaginas. [CLICK TO ENLARGE]

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DAILY NEWS: Did Facebook Just Eat The Fumo Trial?

Monday, March 16th, 2009

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DAILY NEWS: “STAY TUNED for a big announcement on Monday everyone!” So wrote a blogging juror who’s been deliberating for five days in the public corruption trial of former state Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, in a comment posted Friday on his Facebook Internet profile. The posting by Juror No. 5 – Eric Wuest of suburban College-ville – raised questions: Is a verdict imminent? Did Wuest have third-party discussions about the trial as a result of his postings on Facebook and Twitter social networking Internet accounts during the 15-week trial and the ensuing deliberations? Last night, Fumo defense attorneys NiaLena Caravasos and Peter Goldberger filed an emergency motion seeking an immediate suspension of deliberations so the judge could conduct “a delicate, but probing inquiry” of the juror Wuest’s actions. “Depending on the results, the lawyers wrote, “one or more jurors ought to be removed and possibly replaced.” MORE

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NEWS CLUES: Like A Domestic Dispute Of The Truth

Monday, March 16th, 2009

RAMPAGE: Husband Kills Wife, Boyfriend, Family, Then Self

gunshootingcliff.jpgA Miami man upset by his estranged wife’s affair with a younger man intruded on a party early Sunday and killed her, the woman’s daughter, grandmother and boyfriend. Before cops could catch up to him, police said, he set his home and truck on fire, then shot himself. Detectives on Sunday afternoon were piecing together the carnage of what marked the second high-profile murder-suicide in three weeks in Miami-Dade County. Last month, a South Miami-Dade man killed his wife and two teenage daughters before killing himself. The shooting began shortly after midnight Saturday when Lopez barged into a party at a duplex near Coral Gables. Fifteen family members and friends had gathered to celebrate the 27th birthday of the male victim, according to Miami homicide detective Sgt. Ervens Ford. From behind the duplex at the 2852 SW 38th Court, neighbor Santos Estrada said he heard a woman shouting ”`You’re crazy!”’ and “`What are you doing here?”’ A man told the woman to shut up, said Estrada, who then heard 8 to 10 shots fired. Then a pause, followed by the sound of more bullets. A video recorded by another neighbor captured the sound of 27 gunshots in all. Lopez jumped into a 2006 red Ford Tacoma parked at the end of the block and drove off. Lopez sped to his duplex, in the 700 block of Southwest 33rd Avenue, in Little Havana. There, he set his truck on fire. And then, his house. As the place burned, he shot himself. [via MIAMI HERALD]

MONSTER DAD: Trial Begins In Austrian Incest Sex Slave Horror

monsterdad.jpgThe trial has begun of Josef Fritzl, the Austrian man accused of holding his daughter captive for 24 years and fathering seven children with her. TV pictures showed the 73-year-old entering the courtroom with his face concealed by a blue file. He refused to answer questions from journalists. He faces charges of rape, incest, coercion, enslavement and deprivation of liberty. He is also accused of the murder of one of his daughter’s children. The case, seen as one of the biggest in recent Austrian history, is attracting intense media interest. Escorted by six policemen and dressed in a grey suit, Mr Fritzl made the short walk down the corridor from his cell to the courtroom, where journalists tried unsuccessfully to question him before the judges arrived. Speaking in a weak voice, Mr Fritzl gave the judges his name and other personal details. An estimated 200 journalists are in the town of St Poelten for the trial. However, fewer than 100 were allowed inside the courthouse, and camera crews and photographers were told by judges to leave shortly after the trial started. Mr Fritzl put down the blue folder only after they had gone, Reuters news agency reported.  [via BBC]

Will The New Depression Trigger The Repeal Of The New Prohibition?

njweedfarmers.jpgIn 1977, President Jimmy Carter asked Congress to decriminalize marijuana possession (it never did). The next year, the Ladies Home Journal described a summer jazz festival on the White House’s South Lawn where “a haze of marijuana smoke hung heavy under the low-bending branches of a magnolia tree.” The late 1970′s may have been the high-water mark for permissiveness regarding marijuana. But advocates of decriminalized pot believe a confluence of factors, especially the country’s economic malaise, are leading to another countrywide reappraisal of the drug. “There is momentum of the sort I haven’t seen since I’ve been involved in this,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, which supports easing marijuana laws. He says incidents like then-candidate Barack Obama’s early admission of pot use or the flap over Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps’s bong-smoking may lead to initial public hand-wringing, but in the end they tend to legitimize pot use. So does the growing recognition of medical marijuana. But, he adds, “the economic crisis is the single most important factor” in this new shift in perceptions. That’s because the ailing economy is triggering a scramble for new government savings or sources of revenue. Nadelmann compares today’s marijuana laws to alcohol prohibition, approved during prosperous times in 1920 only to become unpopular during the Great Depression. Prohibition was finally repealed in 1933, in part due to the cost of reining in illegal booze and the need to recoup lost tax revenue in tough economic times. As he signed a law easing prohibition, President Franklin Roosevelt reportedly quipped, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.” [via ALTERNET]

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HEAR YE: The Feelies The Good Earth

Sunday, March 15th, 2009

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Now playing on PHAWKER RADIO! Because it’s the best record you never heard.

feelies_1.jpgVILLAGE VOICE: Though we may be the lone strangers on this one, companion-less contrarians careless of the compulsory crit-pick of Crazy Rhythms, likely the only thing writer Rick Moody and I have in common is our commitment of needle to the Feelies’ Good Earth vinyl over a thousand times apiece. Easy. This, the band’s second album–released in 1986, a good half-dozen years after their debut, Crazy Rhythms–served as the soundtrack to Moody’s own novelistic debut, 1992′s Garden State. (No, not that Garden State. This Garden State is set in Hoboken and bereft of anyone remotely resembling Natalie Portman.) Like the book Moody wrote while playing it over and over and over, the Feelies’ sophomore effort — thanks to vocals so buried they might’ve reached China — reeks of the now-removed warehouse-industrial side of Ol’ Blue Eyes’ hometown. Mellifluous, yet murky. As if singing a sprightly shadow. The album (nominally co-produced by R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck) not only bridged the gap from the Velvet Underground to college radio, it also paved the way for Hoboken geek rock (They Might Be Giants, Yo La Tengo, etc.). And while I’m not suggesting this is a good thing, the multi-platinum equation that was the Counting Crows’ August and Everything After is near-equal parts Van Morrison (vocals) and the Feelies (music). MORE

WE KNOW IT’S ONLY ROCK N’ ROLL BUT WE LIKE IT

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SLIPPING INTO SOMETHING: The Feelies, JB’s, Friday [Photo: JONATHAN VALANIA]

meAVATAR2.jpgBY JONATHAN VALANIA FOR THE INQUIRER The Feelies are one of those beloved band’s bands whose influence far exceeds their royalty statements and, as a consequence, the period on the last sentence in their bio keeps turning into a comma. Borne of the suburban garages of North Haledon, New Jersey, they released Crazy Rhythms in 1980 to massive acclaim and minimal sales and then promptly split off into a myriad of minor side projects, only to resurface again in 1986 with the altogether wonderful The Good Earth, produced by Peter Buck, guitarist for REM, whose early sound is deeply indebted to the inviting ambiguities and pretty persuasions of the Feelies’ aesthetic.

Two major label releases would follow — 1988′s Only Life and 1991′s Time For A Witness — and that was pretty much all she wrote. Although a funny thing happened on the way to the cut-out bin in that The Feelies pretty much wrote the template for much of the indie rock that would follow: A dense web of jangling guitars and zooming raga-like drones, percussion-heavy rhthyms played at double latte tempos, incantatory lead vocals mixed as understatement of the year.

Fast forward to 2008, when the reactivated Feelies once again turned the period at the end of their bio into a comma. Friday night at Johnny Brendas the band was living proof that not much has really changed all these years later. They still dress like grad studies professors, with dual frontmen/guitarists Bill Million and Glenn Mercer rocking matching pleated khakis.

They still love turning a good classic rock cover sideways (“She Said, She Said” and “Paint It Black), crazy-tempoed rave-ups like “Slipping (Into Something)” have lost none of their amphetamine pep, and the Feelies’ brand of indie-rock raga can still make a sold out club audience wiggle wildly like worms on a hook despite the preponderance of graybeards and thinning pates in the crowd. With a set list that drew liberally from their glorious middle period, the Feelies recreated once-upon-a-time college radio staples such as “The High Road” and “Deep Fascination” with impeccable precision, warmth and clarity, not to mention that sense of mystery at the center of their music that always suggested they knew much more than they let on.

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