I know he's committed the financial crime of the young century, but I still find some of vengeance porn around the Bernie Madoff sentencing a bit off-putting. There's a bloodthirsty quality to the digital mob, as if Madoff were the American economic equivalent of Guy Fawkes, planting explosives under our vulnerable financial infrastructure. Because he revealed our weakness, he must watch his entrails roasted before his own eyes on the public commons.
Writing in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Gary Stein calls for the death penalty in cases like Madoff's: "How about making the worst of the defrauders and bilkers and scam
artists and life ruiners - people like Bernie - be eligible for the
death penalty? I'm very serious about that."
Over on MSNBC's Newsvine thread, it's much tougher - no lethal injection clinician to ease the Ponzi king's departure from this mortal coil.
Bernie Madoff should be WATERBOARDED to reveal where he has all this money stached!
scumbag. I say let him out, and publish his address on the internet......
He is an evil man. If there's a Hell, he's headed there. And I hope the
prisoners there LOVE him and show him exactly how much.
He should have been taken out in back of the courthouse and strapped down on a hill of fire ants - as a starting point...
It's just gonna be hell sitting in prison remembering why he's there.
Too bad he couldn't have been turned over to the people he defrauded
Bernie Madoff is a crook alright. But the size of his monetary theft doesn't make thievery any worse; it's like swimming - once the water's six feet deep, it may as well be 10,000. What stirs this particular pot is the social status of his victims (generally upper middle class and higher, plus some horribly victimized charities) and the poor judgement they showed in trusting the Madoff name without adding up the returns and asking questions. And the "torture Bernie till he bleeds money" chorus mourns not just some personal fortunes lost, but an era of financial blindness just ended.
There's nothing cute about the Mets getting pounded by the New York Yankees, the cross-town American League team whose management felt it necessary to install a field level moat to keep its regular fans away from the swells paying a couple of grand for the lame "Legends Club" seats in the $1.5 billion Vegas attraction that replaced the real American field of dreams on River Avenue in the Bronx.
Sure, the Mets play in a smaller, more fan-friendly ballpark in Corona and clearly their management feel more comfy in second team status - yet their lack of ambition as a franchise is showing; this is a team of Triple-A talent, journeymen, and 40-plus types on their last big league rosters. Yes, they're "hanging close" in the under-achieving triumvirate of the NL East with the Phils and Marlins - but that's because the Phils and Marlins aren't the Dodgers or Red Sox.
Blame the injuries if you will - two of this year's projected starting five are out, as are sparkplug Jose Reyes, cool centerfielder Carlos Beltran, and twilight slugger Carlos Delgado. David Wright is the one prime-time regular still in action, hitting for a high average with almost no power and a strikeout ration that should give him the nickname "Bonds." Filling in are a bunch of jumped up Mets like Santos and Murphy, and the elderly Gary Sheffield.
Even in their nice new park (despoiled by embarassingly and exclusionary "private" clubs built on the public dime that I'm formally urging Assemblyman Richard Brodsky to investigate) the Mets seem like a smaller, shrinking baseball team. The one exception: super-closer Frankie "K-Rod" Rodriquez, an upfront, in-your-face New York star whose temperament and talent are built for this city.
Pity he doesn't have the mangement or teammates to push his amazing closing talent to the post-season stage.
I've always thought that like the late Bob Murphy, Chrissie Hynde's voice was a vocal harbinger of summer. Catch her running through those early Pretenders hits from 'round about '79 or '80 and it pretty much called for a cold beer on the back porch or the front stoop. Later this summer, the artist and I are planning to see Hynde and the current Pretenders lineup in Central Park - but I thight it would be great to kick off summer 'round here (and perhaps chase away the lingering monsoon) with this live gem, an early 80s rendition of Middle of the Road (which Chrissie Hynde most definitely is not).
The crescendo of grief and digital group hugs over the death of pop idol Michael Jackson took down some of the Internet's top search and social networks last night. Google struggled. Twitter crashed. Facebook spun out scripting errors. Wikipedia stammered. YouTube sputtered.
In short, Jackson's death was the biggest event in the short history of social media.
The mysterious and shocking (though not surprising) demise of the King of Pop seemed to dwarf even primetime sharing moments like election night and and uprising in Iran. Last week, media maven Clay Shirky said of the Iran reaction exploding on Twitter: "This is it. The big one." And he was right - for the Internet era that was last week. This one was bigger, and here's why.
First the obvious: dying iconic pop stars trump political street battles in countries halfway around the world, unleashing a massive community of grief that will never be matched by that some of us may feel for murdered street protesters. We may think that makes us something less than a responsible, attentive society. But it's not going to change.
So beyond the MJ icon thing, why did the news hit with megatonnage for social media? For one, the sudden spread of such cultural momentous news hit the network in the late afternoon and spread like wildfire. Huge events like the presidential election and the disputed Iran election unfolded; Jackson's death hit like a bomb.
For another, the rapid adoption of social networking among older users - ie, people who were Michael Jackson fans in his prime - made venues like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and news search sites like Google the media of first choice. I suspect that many people used their phones to tune in, or kept cable TV on in the background while jumping into the global conversation on the social networks.
So everybody had something to say - and they all wanted to say it at the same time. Then too, the very nature of sites like Facebook allow the easy sharing of media; Jackson videos were everywhere last night and the sheer volume of footage shared online had to set some kind of record.
But there's another reason as well - the personal nature of social media. I think my friend Peter Daou got at the core of it with his quick Tweet after the news broke yesterday: "With the loss of anyone famous what we're really mourning is the passage of our own lives, their death a marker on OUR journey."
For all the glamor and scandal and just plain weirdness surrounding Michael Jackson and his strange surgical Neverland life, the man's musical output in the post Jackson 5 years was spotty - a sea of weeds surrounding one massive, startling oak, the 1982 megahit Thriller. That album remains the greatest seller in pop music history and perhaps deserves the honor; by far the best song on the record is the funky R&B hit, Billie Jean.
In a way, it's a shame Billie Jean became the tune Jackson did the moonwalk to - because in the end, though a brilliant entertainer, Jackson was no Fred Astaire or even Gene Kelly as a hoofer and Billie Jean will always be remembered in a moonwalk context. Yet it was the best of his solo tunes, which tended to suffer from massive over-production and the worst of music video overselling. Billie Jean had that infectious core groove - ably plumbed by Quincy Jones, though at first the producer hated the track - that tapped an addictive funk bass line and Jackson's strange but effective vocals, not to mention jazzman Tom Scott's sax.
But the tune was so emblematic of the madness around the budding icon, even in the early 80s; Jackson wrote the tune about a woman who claimed he fathered her children - a woman who is also a siren, luring the pop star into another world. Billie Jean may be the one, "but the kid is not my son."
Jackson's was a strange, sad life and the times had so clearly passed him by, even as he became the human Transformer under the knives of surgeons looking for a buck. Yet the Jackson 5 canon will stand up over time; Michael was always best with Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon and their "bubblegum soul" hits produced by The Corporation still sound great.
Their last big hit as the 5 was Dancing Machine, a pre-disco era number with a killer hook - watcha get down, watcha get down - that still brought the funk before the repetitive thump-thump-thump killed off much of the dance music genre. By that time, the feathered winged hair of the mid-70s female disco queen was in full blow-dried flight, thanks to a comely lass from Corpus Christi, Texas - a natural beauty who really didn't need any of the new hair products to shine.
And Farrah Fawcett, who Nancy Nall eulogized as a woman of the same generation, recalling one of the Farrah posters that sold like mad during the run of Charlie's Angels: "She looks great, of course, the essence of the American blonde beauty
but warm, not Grace Kelly cool, fresh and clean and scrubbed. Don’t
hate her because she’s beautiful. She was just one of the lucky ones."
Hollywood deals some strange hands in death, but this week may be its version of the inside straight, a virtual Carson show lineup from the late 70s or early 80s - chortling pitchman Ed McMahon, the vivacious and naturally appealing blonde Farrah Fawcett, and the the strange and self-tortured Michael Jackson. We knew you so well, but we hardly knew ye at all.
I kid you not. A sample of this brilliant economic analysis by Christina Hoff Sommers in the Weekly Standard: "Our incoming president did what many sensible men do when confronted by a chorus of female complaint: He changed his plan." After successfully arguing for more stimulus jobs for Americans sporting two X chromosomes, it seems that conservatives now believe that women have devolved into that most lowly of statuses: they're now "a conventional interest group."
Michael Tomasky has it exactly right in the Guardian: "What time is it? Simple. It's time this week for Barack Obama to start banging some heads in Congress."
Crank up the Motörhead, aim that low-slung Presidential hog at Capitol Hill, and open up a fat jug of whup-ass on vacillating Democrats threatening the President's top campaign promise: a major reform of the U.S. healthcare system, including public insurance for every American.
Democrats are Obama's big problem if he wants to force this issue (and I believe he does); as Paul Krugman pointed out in the Times today:
"relatively conservative Democrats still cling to the old dream of
becoming kingmakers, of recreating the bipartisan center that used to
run America." Yet that poll showing three-quarters of the country now favors public healthcare seems to have moved a few; I found the lead on this AP update on the healthcare battle illuminating in the extreme, mainly for the feckless, cowardly, idea-barren legislative landscape it reveals:
Emboldened by polls that show public backing for a government health
insurance plan, Democrats are moving to make it a politically defining
issue in the debate over the future of medical care.
Emboldened indeed. And perhaps they're finally getting the signal from Rahm Emanuel's office in the West Wing as well - the big Obama symbol in the night sky over the Capital - that we've all been waiting for, a sign that the White House is readying the head-banging option.
By now, the refrain against public healthcare in the United States is numbingly familiar. A government-funded insurance counterpart to the private system is a "slippery slope" that will take us "down the path to socialism" and undo "all the good" in our current system. But just for once, let's toss the first two parts of that rote sing-song of the lobbyists and right wing, and focus on that last bit. Ask yourself this: do you know anyone - any single American citizen - who is entirely satisfied with her access to healthcare?
OK, if you know someone with eight figures in the bank, then sure; they can pay for the best of the best and jet anywhere to get it. But anyone else?
I don't. Literally nobody. Everyone I know is either under-insured, fearful of losing their insurance, crushed under the weight of costs, frustrated with complexity - or all of the above. And almost everyone I know favors public healthcare insurance of some kind. Indeed, so do most people. This week, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that a clear majority of Americans - 72 percent - support a
government-sponsored health care plan to compete with private insurers.
Yet what isn't blocked by the ideology of the right, seems to run into the swamp of disinformation - namely, that we have a decent system that works well and if a bunch of bureaucrats tinker with it, we're liable to lose it.
The week after President Obama's inauguration, the New Yorker writer Atul Gawande set the stage for the coming healthcare battle with a piece that recalled the founding of national healthcare systems in England and France, and called for a realistic reformation of the broken American system:
Every industrialized nation in the world except the United States has a
national system that guarantees affordable health care for all its
citizens. Nearly all have been popular and successful. But each has
taken a drastically different form, and the reason has rarely been
ideology. Rather, each country has built on its own history, however
imperfect, unusual, and untidy.
This is the trouble with the lure of the ideal. Over and over in the
health-reform debate, one hears serious policy analysts say that the
only genuine solution is to replace our health-care system (with a
single-payer system, a free-market system, or whatever); anything else
is a missed opportunity. But this is a siren song.
American health care is an appallingly patched-together ship, with
rotting timbers, water leaking in, mercenaries on board, and fifteen
per cent of the passengers thrown over the rails just to keep it
afloat. But hundreds of millions of people depend on it. The system
provides more than thirty-five million hospital stays a year,
sixty-four million surgical procedures, nine hundred million office
visits, three and a half billion prescriptions. It represents a sixth
of our economy. There is no dry-docking health care for a few months,
or even for an afternoon, while we rebuild it. Grand plans admit no
possibility of mistakes or failures, or the chance to learn from them.
If we get things wrong, people will die. This doesn’t mean that
ambitious reform is beyond us. But we have to start with what we have.
Dr. Gawande went on to argue (and remember, the Inauguration "change" glow was turned up to eleven) for a sort of "lifeboat" to help get that broken, patchwork system to an eventual public program that mandates (and pays for) coverage for everyone. The cancer specialist followed up with a fantastically incisive story four months later, looking at healthcare costs in McAllen, Texas - the highest in the country - and how an entrepreneurial business-oriented system has incented institutions and doctors to run up massive costs that do not improve either individual outcomes or community health.
The case is pretty clear, and as Dr. Gwande's reporting (and experience) illustrates, there is a path to massive reform and away from market-dominated healthcare - which, by the way, will relieve American companies of a burden that holds down both hiring and innovation during a killer recession. Yet we're starting summer in full staff mode: the Senate has entirely rejected any public options. The House says a public option is a prerequisite to any action. And the Obama Administration still seems to be listening and reflexively yearning for compromise, despite an incredibly rare political opportunity. Amazingly, the Administration may fail in its central healthcare promise - even without going to the mat.
I think that Digby, who has been doing important work in blogging this issue and taking on the reluctant and rudderless Democratic Party, has it entirely right:
It's not only necessary for the health of the economy to make some big systemic changes --- it's a political
opportunity to challenge this free market, CEO worshipping
fundamentalism as well. It doesn't appear that the Democratic party is
interested in doing that, at least not yet, since they are as wedded to
the system as the rest of the ruling elite. But it's an opportunity for
Tom Watson is a journalist, author, media critic, entrepreneur and consultant who has worked at the confluence of media technology and social change for more than 20 years. This long-running blog is my personal outlet - an idiosyncratic view of the world. "My dirty life and times" is a nod to the late, great Warren Zevon because some days I feel like my shadow's casting me.