Millionaire Journalists

Bob Somerby has an assignment for some enterprising reporter:

Yesterday, Parade magazine offered a regular feature: “What People Earn: Our Annual Report.” Out on the cover and inside the magazine, Parade let us see how much people earn in all the various occupations.

Well — in all the various occupations but one. By our count, Parade offered head shots, with annual earnings, for 71 different people. There was a teacher, a pilot, a CEO and a realtor — two singers, a rapper and a big famous film star. But one occupation was oddly missing. No journalist could be found in the mix!

How much are major journalists paid? Major journalists rarely discuss that.

....Next year, could this feature include the earnings of some big major journalists? How much is Maureen Dowd paid, for example? Why can’t she and Rich grace Parade’s famous cover? We have literally never seen an estimate of Dowd’s yearly swag. We’re also curious how much she paid for JFK’s pad — how she managed to land such a pad even before she became a big columnist. Big journalists ask questions like that about everyone — except about other big journalists.

Well, maybe there were no big journalists, but in the online version they did include sports blogger Josh Bacott, who makes $10,700.  And TV news reporter John Dougherty, who makes $25,500.  So they're trying!  But sadly, no Dowd.  Maybe next year.

Obama's Bipartisanship

Whenever someone tells me that Obama has reneged on his commitment to bipartisanship, I always come back at them with some less articulate version of what Nate Silver is saying here:

...bipartisanship, as Obama intended the term, should not necessarily be confused for "compromise". Rather, it implied behaving in good-faith -- hearing out opinions from different sides of the aisle and identifying the best ideas regardless of their partisan origin. Bipartisanship, to Obama, was a process rather than an outcome. He could plausibly have been acting in a bipartisan manner, even if he hadn't gotten many Republicans to go along with his agenda.

In his election night victory speech, Obama repeated a line he had used throughout the campaign: "There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree." I think as president, Obama has fulfilled the promise he made in that line. But listening to someone is one thing; doing what they say is another entirely.

Big Banks

Ezra Klein writes that big banks are bad for small depositors:

They're about the pros rather than the amateurs. Which may be why they're so cavalier about exacting fees and penalties on individual depositors at levels they'd never consider applying to professional markets. Indeed, pretty good research suggests that as banks get bigger — which tends to mean more competitive on the global financial market — they begin charging consumers more.

This seems to be true.  Take a look at the chart on the right from today's Wall Street Journal.  It shows that banks receiving bailout funds have increased fees at a far higher rate than banks that haven't.

Does this show that banks receiving federal assistance are more likely to raise their fees and penalties?  Of course not.  This trend is nine years old.  However, it's big banks that have received most of the TARP money, so you can pretty much replace "Banks receiving TARP funds" with "Big banks."  So what the chart shows is that big banks have increased their fee and penalty structure far more than small banks.

Why?  Because they can.  And in the past they've wielded enough political power to prevent Congress from doing anything about it.  If there's any justice — and needless to say, that's still an open question — those days are finally gone.

Lessons in the Media Landscape

What does it mean that Matt Yglesias, a 20-something blogger, has a more astute take on political messaging and the leveraging of political power than David Broder, a man in his 70s who was considered for many years to be the dean of the Washington press corps? Two quick lessons: (1) Age and experience aren't everything, apparently. (2) Trying to shoehorn every new development into a worldview you're exceedingly well known for, as Broder is, will inevitably lead you to say some silly and misguided things from time to time.

Your conclusions, of course, may vary.

Obama and the Pirates

The Washington Post reports on the rescue of the captain of the Maersk Alabama from Somali pirates:

The result — a dramatic and successful rescue operation by U.S. Special Operations forces — left Obama with an early victory that could help build confidence in his ability to direct military actions abroad.

....The operation pales in scope and complexity to the wars underway in Iraq and Afghanistan....Nonetheless, it may help to quell criticism leveled at Obama that he came to office as a Democratic antiwar candidate who could prove unwilling or unable to harness military might when necessary.

You know, normally I'd say this was kind of ridiculous.  The Navy Seals who led the operation deserve tons of credit, but it really doesn't say very much about the president.

But I'll make an exception this time.  The right-wing criticism of Obama during the incident got so over-the-top that at times you'd have thought Obama was ready to invite the Somali pirates over for tea.  That was ridiculous.  So if this shuts them up for a few moments, it will be a well-deserved few moments of silence for Obama.

The Racial Wealth Gap, and Congress' Ignorance

The Washington Independent tackles an important issue -- the wealth gap.

As Washington policymakers screamed bloody murder last month over bonus payments for a few hundred AIG employees, another much larger scandal flew virtually unnoticed on Capitol Hill: The divide between the wealth of blacks and whites — already gaping — grew again.... According to the Federal Reserve, the net worth of the typical African American family in 2007 was just 10 percent of the net worth of the typical white family — down from 12 percent in 2004. Put another way: For every $1 held by whites five years ago, blacks had 12 cents. Three years later, they had a dime....

The staggering statistic has taken some powerful lawmakers by surprise. Participants in a wealth gap summit on Capitol Hill last month said that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who attended the event, was shocked to learn the extent of the disparity.

There's a lot more in the Independent article; little of it is new. The fact that the average black family in America has a fraction of the assets of the average white family is well known to the activist and policy communities, and the governmental policies, past and present, that have contributed to that phenomenon have been reported out in this magazine and others. The fact that anyone in Congress, particularly Democrats, is surprised by this is pretty shocking.

Okay, Here's the Freakin' Dog

This definitely isn't "media," and it's probably not "culture," although the little pooch does seem to be wearing a lei, which is, er, kind of cultural, right? Whatever, you know you want to look at pictures of the Obamas' new pet, which whitehouse.gov has provided, and The Riff can use the traffic. As you already know by now (since the story leaked two days early) the President has finally made good on his campaign promise to get Sasha and Malia a dog. The puppy is a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog, he's a gift from Senator Edward Kennedy, and his name is Bo. Hmm, "Bo Obama" is a little awkward, but the name is apparently the same as the Obama girls' cousins' cat, a phrase I can't believe I just typed, and is also an oblique reference to Michelle's father's nickname, Diddley, which is marginally more interesting I suppose. I have to say, Bo looks like he's pretty skeptical about this whole deal in the above photo, but I guess I would be too if I was forced to pose for photos in a nothing but a cheap-looking lei. (Again.) One more picture of the first family greeting their new doggy after the jump, and then I'm getting back to posting about indie disco dance tunes.

Susan Boyle, Curing Cynicism Since 2009

Good for what ails you: This 7-minute clip (video embed disabled, sorry) of 47-year-old Susan Boyle singing on Britain's Got Talent.

Wait for minute 4 when unbridled joy breaks out on the judges' faces. 

Forum Sneak Peek: Is Organic and Local so 2008?

So. Are you still peeved at Paul Roberts for dissing locavores and heirloom tomatoes? Well, grasshopper, Monday afternoon you'll have a chance to get in the ring with him and other foodies all answering the question: Is organic and local so 2008? If so, what's next?

Stay tuned for our MoJo Forum on organic food next week. In the meantime, you might want to reread Spoiled, watch Bryant Terry cook a vegan recessionista fave, or chow down on our meaty report about the future of food.

Update: The Food Forum is live.

As Steve Allen said: Do not allow children to mix drinks. It is unseemly and they use too much vermouth.
 
Round 1: The G-word punched through the media membrane this week. Geoengineering. Big word for the headlines. Uttered by none other than John Holdren, Obama's chief scientific adviser. He was referring to the possibility that we might be well advised to at least talk about some potential solutions to climate change that involve mitigating the shitstorm coming our way. You'd think he'd just come out in favor of pedophilia. Pour that man a drink. He's going to need one to deal with the hysteria of a misunderstanding media.

Round 2: An unusually uplifting paper at the online journal Plos One by topnotch researcher Stuart Pimm and colleagues concludes that rainforest reserves in the Amazon really are working. Fewer fires are being lit to clear trees inside then outside. They've been watching fires on what might as well be called SatellitEarthTV (can I trademark that?)—the ultimate reality show: namely, the European Space Agency's Ionia World Fire Atlas, mapping fires globally and monthly since 1996. Fewer fires are not always a result of fewer roads in the reserves, since there aren't, at least not always. The reason is partly because of a new generation of politicians in Amazona who foresee that avoiding deforestation will make money in future markets for carbon credits. I'll drink to that.

Round 3: Adding fuel to the fire is an analysis out of UC Berkeley of 10 years of satellite data on global fire activity, combined with a climate-projection model assuming little curtailment of current greenhouse gas emissions. The result: More than a quarter of the terrestrial world is likely to see relatively sharp changes in fire patterns in the next 30 years. That means more fires in some places (Scandinavia, western US, Tibetan Plateau). Less in others (southern US, central Africa, most of Canada). However less fire is not always good since all kinds of green growing plants that help mitigate CO2 need fire to germinate their seeds. Pour me another.

Round 4: It seems the cannabinoids in marijuana (THC) have anticancer effects on human brain cancer cells. This according to a new Spanish study. Tumors from two patients with the badassest form of brain cancer receiving intracranial THC administration showed signs of tumor death. Light one for the stoners.