Archive for December, 2010

Some New Year’s travelin’ music from right here at home

Before the year plays out, I need to correct a major injustice. One of my favorite people working the music scene today is Atlanta’s own Francine Reed, a national treasure living right here in town. For some reason, I’ve never featured her on Friday Night Travelin’ Music, so I’m taking the opportunity to do so now. Ms. Reed often tours with Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, which backs her up here as she performs the classic “Wild women Don’t Get the Blues,” written by Ida Cox, another Georgia girl and blues queen who never got her full due.

Take the time to enjoy, and if you see Francine Reed listed as playing somewhere within reach, do yourself a favor and go.

Happy New Year, y’all!

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Unemployment numbers offer glimmer of hope into 2011

A little end-of-the year cheer, from the AP:

WASHINGTON – The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell last week to its lowest level in nearly 21/2 years, a sign that the job market is slowly improving.

Applications dropped by 34,000 to 388,000, the fewest since July 2008, the Labor Department said Thursday. The number of applications has either fallen or remained unchanged in five of the last six weeks.

The rule of thumb for economists is that fewer than 425,000 new people seeking unemployment benefits signals modest job growth. But they also caution that applications need to fall consistently to 375,000 or below to bring down the unemployment rate. Applications for unemployment benefits peaked during the recession at 651,000 in March 2009.



In general, economic forecasts call for somewhat sunnier days ahead, with a few even upgrading their predictions for 2011. Mark Zandi of, for example, concludes that “the …

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‘ … the last leaf dangling on an empty tree’

One day left on the 2010 calendar.

One day — the last of December — in a year that is all but spent.

This day is the remnant, the orphan. It is the last customer in the bar come closing time, the last leaf dangling from an empty tree in winter. And soon that leaf too will blow away in a cold, sweeping wind.

On the other hand, it’s also a day no different from the day that came before it, or the day that comes next. If it’s the last of its old kind, and tomorrow the first of a new kind, it’s only because we proclaim it to be so. Or at least the calendar does.

And the calendar is our creation, an ancient tool born of a still-more-ancient human drive to measure things, quantify things and categorize things. What we can measure, quantify and categorize, we can also control, or so we like to tell ourselves. We’re wired to think that way from birth.

The instinct is so powerful that by now, every physical phenomenon of which we are aware has been broken down into units so it can be …

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CNN poll finds — surprise!! — a divided country

CNN released a new poll last week with some interesting numbers. For example, pollsters asked whether it would be good or bad for the country that Republicans will control the U.S. House of Representatives: 51 percent said it will be good, 42 percent said it will be bad.

That would seem to be pretty good news for the GOP. However, CNN also asked a similar question in 2006, when Democrats took over the House. Four years ago, 67 percent said the Democratic takeover would be good for the country, and only 24 percent said it would be bad. So voters are a lot less optimistic about the impact of GOP control.

But that’s just liberal CNN, right? Well, not quite. It turns out that CNN also asked that question after the 1994 takeover of the House by Newt Gingrich and the Republicans. In that poll, 50 percent of Americans said the GOP takeover would be good for the country, while just 26 percent said it would be bad.

So it seems that House Republicans in 2011 face an unusual amount of …

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Fox News is master of its domain, such as it is

From Mediate:

“Fox News will mark 2010 as one of the best years since the network’s launch in 1996. The network posted powerful ratings, beating the combined ratings of CNN and MSNBC and marking the ninth straight year as cable’s top news network.

According to Nielsen, the top five cable news programs in terms of total viewers and viewers 25-54 (the metric used by advertisers and considered the most important by networks) were all on Fox: The O’Reilly Factor (781,000 viewers 25-54); Hannity (585,000); Glenn Beck (572,000); On the Record (481,000); and The O’Reilly Factor repeat (447,000).”

MSNBC beat CNN for the second straight year among viewers 25-54, and for the first time beat CNN among total primetime viewers as well. The numbers for CNN are truly abysmal, not only compared to Fox and MSNBC, but compared to its own numbers of a year ago. Total primetime viewers of CNN fell by 34 percent compared to 2009.

However, Fox viewership fell as well, declining 7 percent in …

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After an $182 billion taxpayer bailout, Atlas shrugs

I continue to be amazed at the smug arrogance displayed by Wall Street types who came close to bringing down civilization as we have known it and now bitch and complain that they aren’t being appreciated enough.

Poor babies. Even the biggest bonuses ever paid apparently aren’t enough to soothe their hurt feelings.

Until now, my favorite example of the phenomenon was one Anthony Scaramucci, the hedge fund manager who complained publicly to President Obama that he and his fellow Wall Streeters were tired of being “whacked with a stick.” This, after news had broken that Wall Street’s top 25 hedge fund managers had an average income of $1 billion each in 2009, and that total bonuses on the Street this year were likely to set a record.

For comparison’s sake, Facebook made news recently when it announced that its total revenues this year may hit $2 billion. That’s right. Facebook’s total revenues — not profits, revenues — may equal the average income of just two of the top 25 hedge …

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The accumulated wisdom of Merle Haggard, and other topics

OK, time to change the atmosphere a bit here. After all, for a lot of you, this is still a holiday week, and there’s more to life than politics.

For example, there’s Merle Haggard, who earlier this month was honored at the Kennedy Center along with Paul McCartney, Oprah Winfrey, dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones and Broadway composer Jerry Herman. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Haggard mentions that during the event, Ope — he calls his buddy Oprah “Ope,” you see, — was “completely beside herself” about the award.

“I don’t think she’d ever been a recipient of much in her life,” says Hag (his fans call him Hag, you see.) “She reached over to me, leaned over and said, ‘You know, we’ve come the farthest.’” Which is probably true.

And McCartney?

“He’s Paul McCartney, man. You can’t forget that he wrote those songs. That kept going through my mind: I’m an aspiring songwriter and sat beside the guy that wrote “Yesterday.” I recorded that. Some guys are famous for some songs you …

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The all-too-smooth transition from general to arms salesman

An important piece of work from the Boston Globe:

An hour after the official ceremony marking the end of his 35-year career in the Air Force, General Gregory “Speedy’’ Martin returned to his quarters to swap his dress uniform for golf attire.

He was ready for his first tee time as a retired four-star general.

But almost as soon as he closed the door that day in 2005 his phone rang. It was an executive at Northrop Grumman, asking if he was interested in working for the manufacturer of the B-2 stealth bomber as a paid consultant. A few weeks later, Martin received another call. This time it was the Pentagon, asking him to join a top-secret Air Force panel studying the future of stealth aircraft technology.

Martin was understandably in demand, having been the general in charge of all Air Force weapons programs, including the B-2, for the previous four years.

He said yes to both offers.

The Globe goes on to document that 80 percent of three-star and four-star officers now go …

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Gingrich, Palin have no shot at being GOP presidential nominee

She can kiss dreams of the White House goodbye.

She can kiss dreams of the White House goodbye.

Bill Kristol, the Fox News analyst and Weekly Standard editor, made a couple of predictions on Fox News Sunday about the GOP presidential race:

“Can I go out on a limb, since everyone else is scared to say — actually make any predictions. I predict Palin will not run. I have no knowledge at all; I just have the hunch that she ultimately will not run.

I think Newt Gingrich is underestimated. Newt is going to run and Newt will be formidable. People can talk about the baggage, but lots of candidates have had lots of baggage, and people think they’re the right guy for the job, he could do better — and I do think — than people expect.”

Kristol has been an advocate for Palin in the past, so his prediction about her candidacy is interesting in that light. I also think he’s correct. Palin has peaked politically, and will be taken less and less seriously from here on out. A year from now, she’ll be considered little more than a curiosity. …

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James Madison: Savannah port funding by feds is unconstitutional

When the U.S. House convenes next month under GOP leadership, one of its first pieces of business will be the reading aloud of the U.S. Constitution. In addition, every bill introduced in the House will be required to cite the specific provision of the Constitution that allows Congress to pass such a law.

The goal, Republicans say, is to remind our elected officials that under the Constitution, the powers of the federal government are to be “few and defined,” as James Madison put it.

That proper division of powers between state and federal authorities will be a recurring theme in the 2011 General Assembly as well. Republican leaders in Georgia, including Gov.-elect Nathan Deal, say they are intent on reasserting the rightful, constitutional role of states against an overly intrusive federal government.

In case you’re not getting the message, Republicans are serious about the Constitution.  Unlike the Democrats, who treat the nation’s founding document as a mere series of …

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