Great new commercial – Hit and Run

The Republicans created this economic mess, and now they’re trying to stand in the way as Obama tries to clean it up.

CNBC’s Dennis Kneale is a hack

I may have spoken too soon several weeks ago when I called Melissa Francis the “dumbest person on CNBC.” Dennis Kneale has thrown his hat in the ring.

Dennis Kneale rarely provides any real analysis, and that’s the biggest problem on CNBC. Too many of the CNBC hosts use each piece of news to regurgitate their political views, and Kneale is one of the worst offenders.

Today he was outraged that the Obama administration would ask Rick Wagoner to step down. He talked about it on the air, and he even managed to write a column about it.

He starts with a rational statement, but he quickly lets his anger get the best of him.

Yes, it’s about time. Wagoner had been in denial about the auto industry’s woes for far too long. He just wasn’t scared enough. But if this IS the right move, um, then why didn’t the REAL shareholders of GM—the big pension funds and mutual funds in particular—demand it long ago? Maybe because they felt Wagoner was doing as good a job as anyone could under impossible difficulties.

So, he starts by admitting this might be a good move, but he’s concerned that the “shareholders” didn’t ask Wagoner to leave. Of course, the stockholders really don’t have that power (GM is a Delaware corporation, so it’s “stockholders,” not “shareholders”). The board of directors has the power to fire the CEO, not the stockholders. The stockholders can elect a new board, but elections usually happen once per year. The stockholders of course HAVE weighed in by hammering the stock from about $40 to under $5 in just six months. Do you think they’re happy with Wagoner? He also doesn’t mention that the Obama administration also wiped out most of the Board of Directors as well.

Also, at this point, who gives a damn what the stockholders think? This company would be bankrupt without the help of the federal government and the stockholders would lose everything. As the most senior lender, and as the ONLY entity or person on the planet capable of saving this mess of a company, the government has every right, AND the obligation, to put in place a management team of its choosing.

In the next paragraph, we see his real agenda – using this incident to take cheap shots at the Obama administration.

The bigger worry is this summary execution betrays a deep antipathy toward Big Business on the part of the Obama Administration. Lamentably, the president’s henchmen may have imposed this coup mainly for reasons of image and example-setting. No wonder stocks are down big today.

Here we go again. Anyone who uses the phrase “the president’s henchmen” in this context shows he’s not serious about analyzing the issue. Can’t he just explain why he disagrees with the decision? Does he have to use this kind of language? Is someone at CNBC asking him to act like an asshole so he gets more page views for his articles? We’re in the middle of a huge financial crisis that has produced real anger among the American people, and reasonable people will disagree about how we should address these political problems, so is it really necessary for CNBC hacks to ratchet up rhetoric in this case?

Then he goes on to slam Fritz Henderson.

Otherwise, how is it that GM . . . is any better off run by Wagoner’s doppelganger—Frederick “Fritz” Henderson, like Wagoner a GM lifer who helped preside over the automaker’s years-long decline?

Naturally, he doesn’t answer his own question. That might require some actual reporting that would compromise the pissy tone he has worked so hard to establish. He probably spent at least five minutes coming up with the “doppelganger” crack. If he had done a little digging, he might find that some people actually think Henderson could do a good job.

Then again, Henderson is no Wagoner. Where the boss is measured and aloof, Henderson is fast-talking and direct. He attacks problems with gusto, which is why GM sent him to trouble spots on three continents. “Fritz has a real sense of urgency,” says Joseph Phillippi, principal of firm Auto Trends Consulting. “His intensity would be a big plus.”

Earlier this decade, Henderson shored up GM’s flailing European operations. He needed to cut jobs and came out swinging—announcing 12,000 layoffs even before inking a deal with union bosses. The move sparked a wildcat strike in Germany, but Henderson got his way. He also helped introduce the Chevrolet brand to Eastern Europe. After years of losses, GM Europe made $357 million in 2006 and a small profit last year. (Those gains have deteriorated along with the global economy.)

During a two-year stint in Asia, Henderson simplified GM’s brand strategy. The company used to sell Saturn, Chevrolet, and cars from former partners Isuzu, Suzuki, and Subaru in Japan. Henderson focused solely on Chevy. He can’t take all the credit, but Chevy is now GM’s global brand.

Since returning to Detroit nearly three years ago, Henderson has spent much of his time negotiating with the United Auto Workers. The deal he cut with the union will save GM billions a year. “If it weren’t for Fritz and his team,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger at the time, “this deal would never have come about.”

Now, we don’t know if Henderson is the right choice. One could argue he was too easy on the UAW in the last round of negotiations. But we certainly didn’t learn anything about this important move from Kneale.

The future of one of the most iconic companies in American history hangs in the balance, and all of his comments on the subject were simplistic and useless. He was more concerned with insults and politics as opposed to analysis. What a joke.

Jim Webb acknowledges that marijuana legalization should be on the table

I argued yesterday that Jim Webb’s proposed commission on prison reform could be the first step to ending the drug war. Now Jim Webb has confirmed that he’s open to all possible outcomes regarding drug policies.

“I think everything should be on the table, and we specifically say that we want recommendations on how to deal with drug policy in our country. And we’ll get it to the people who have the credibility and the expertise and see what they come up with,” said Webb.

What about legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana?

Webb paused. “I think they should do a very careful examination of all aspects of drug policy. I’ve done a couple of very extensive hearings on this, so we’ll wait to see what they say about that,” he said.

So it’s on the table? Webb flashed a wry grin, laughing mischievously.

The last government study group to look at drug policy, the 1972 Shafer Commission, recommended that President Richard Nixon decriminalize marijuana. He didn’t.

Jim Webb is a serious guy with impeccable military credentials. He’s not someone who can be pushed around by the “law and order” crowd. Proponents of legalization or decriminalization want this to happen overnight, but they are not being realistic. A thorough study by experts will give politicians cover as they try to deal with this political minefield.

At the very least, advocates of reform should be pushing the feds to leave regulation of marijuana to the states. This will make it much easier to get sensible policies, as progressive states like California and Massachusetts lead the way.

The idiotic war on drugs

John Stossel has a great piece about the idiotic drug war. Medical marijuana has been legalized in California, but the feds under Bush raided his operation, which was legal under California law, and convicted him in federal court. He faces 100 years in prison. Fortunately, the judge has decided to delay sentencing in light of the recent announcement by the Obama administration that growers and users of marijuana will not be prosecuted unless they are also violating state law.

Webb pushes prison reform commission

Jim Webb and Arlen Specter “introduced bipartisan legislation to create a blue-ribbon commission charged with conducting an 18-month, top-to-bottom review of the nation’s entire criminal justice system and offering concrete recommendations for reform.”

“America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace,” said Senator Webb. “With five percent of the world’s population, our country houses twenty-five percent of the world’s prison population. Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980. And four times as many mentally ill people are in prisons than in mental health hospitals. We should be devoting precious law enforcement capabilities toward making our communities safer. Our neighborhoods are at risk from gang violence, including transnational gang violence.

Webb continued: “There is great appreciation from most in this country that we are doing something drastically wrong. And, I am gratified that Senator Specter has joined me as the lead Republican cosponsor of this effort. We are committed to getting this legislation passed and enacted into law this year.”

“There have been many commissions in recent years, but the problems which we are now confronting warrant a fresh look,” Senator Specter said. “This commission has the potential to really make some very significant advances in public security and protection from the violent criminals. I look forward to working with Senator Webb and my colleagues in the Senate on this important legislation.”

The high-level commission created by the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 legislation will be comprised of experts in fields including criminal justice, law enforcement, public heath, national security, prison administration, social services, prisoner reentry, and victims’ rights. It will be led by a chairperson to be appointed by the President. The Majority and Minority Leaders in the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republican Governors Associations will appoint the remaining members of the commission.

Commissioners will be tasked with proposing tangible, wide-ranging reforms designed to responsibly reduce the overall incarceration rate; improve federal and local responses to international and domestic gang violence; restructure our approach to drug criminalization; improve the treatment of mental illness; improve prison administration; and establish a system for reintegrating ex-offenders.

One of the key terms above refers to the need to “restructure our approach to drug criminalization.” This is critical if we’re ever going to reform the Drug War, and perhaps a commission on prison reform is the best way to attack the billions wasted on prohibition. We should be focusing on violent criminals, not drug offenders.

The Dumbest Person in Congress

She has plenty of competition, but Michele Bachmann is a joke.

Cool site – Shorpy.com

If you like vintage photos, you’ll love Shorpy.com.

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Glenn Beck is one scary guy

Geithner proposes a solid plan

The press is in a tizzy over the AIG mess, but the real story involves the new Geithner plan to deal with toxic assets. Of course, Paul Krugman hated it, but economist Brad DeLong explains why the plan makes sense.

President Obama reaches out to Iran with a video message

President Obama shows he’s serious about diplomacy with a stunning video message to the Iranian people seeking a new beginning to the relationship between our two countries.

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