Ronald McDonald rings opening bell on Wall St., then threatens to cut insurance for 30K workers

These two items appeared in rapid succession in my Twitter feed:

screen-shot-2010-03-17-at-12403-pm2 9:26 AM — @CNNLive ‘Ronald McDonald’ rings Wall Street opening bell. Live: http://on.cnn.com/cnndcl2

9:29 AM — @WSJ McDonald’s says it may drop health insurance for nearly 30,000 workers unless a new requirement is waived http://on.wsj.com/acZl03

 

In case you are wondering, you can follow me on Twitter at CurseYouKhan.

 

Image is from Logorama, which won the Oscar last year for best short animation.

penguin-seal

WSJ photo flap is the Official Stupid Non-Controversy of 2010

A spokeswoman for the Wall Street Journal said today its cover art was not intended as innuendo about Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan’s sexual orientation after the paper’s front-page use of an image of Kagan playing softball provoked a mixture of irritation and amusement from gay and lesbian advocates.

wsjkagancover Y’know I always try to read the minutes from the Gay Agenda committee meetings but I must have I missed the one where they announced women playing softball is a code for lesbian. Or maybe it’s just women who play softball well.

Speaking as one of the three people left in the world who still reads the Journal on paper I have to say my reaction to the photo was that it made Ms. Kagan seem really – oh how should I put this … – normal. Just a regular person having fun playing softball. The only thing it made her look like was someone’s kid sister or maybe a co-worker, or maybe both.

Here’s my favorite quote from the Politico story:

"It clearly is an allusion to her being gay. It’s just too easy a punch line," said Cathy Renna, a former spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation who is now a consultant.

The only lesbian punch line I know is this, “A U-Haul.” The joke: “What does a lesbian bring on a second date?” Apparently lesbians move in together quickly. If I were to go by the behavior of my friends who are lesbians I would have to say that this is closer to reporting than to humor.

Ms. Renna continues

"The question from a journalistic perspective is whether it’s a descriptive representation of who she might be as a judge. Have you ever seen a picture of Clarence Thomas bowling?"

No, but I did see some of former Chief Justice Rehnquist appearing as an extra in an opera (true!), does that count?

“The question from a journalistic perspective is whether it’s a descriptive representation of who she might be as a judge.” What would a picture that does this show? Here’s Ms. Kagan at the grocery store weighing a pound of opinion. Here she is in a hard-hat looking constructionist?

Ms. Kagan’s nomination will not be decided by whether or not she is a member of the Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That party. This is really too stupid for anyone to waste their time on. Get back to work getting rid of the Defense of Marriage Act. That actually matters.

The silver lining: “Amid Higher Unemployment, Fewer Workplace Injuries”

One more reason I love the Wall Street Journal.

The Labor Department’s report of occupational injuries and illnesses that required days away from work mimicked the shifts the recession caused in the labor market in 2008. Hard-hit sectors, such as construction and retail, reported fewer injury and illness cases. Older workers experienced more injuries as their labor force participation rose. And incidents among younger workers fell as fewer remained employed.

Twitter valued at $1 Billion say people with a vested interest in Twitter

Hysterical story in today’s journal headlined: Twitter’s Value Is Set at $1 Billion

The lede:

Twitter Inc. is nearing a deal for as much as $100 million in new funding that would buy the fast-growing Internet-messaging company more time to figure out its business model, according to people familiar with the situation.

But the punch line comes in the 3rd graph:

The investors are valuing Twitter – which has yet to generate more than a trickle of revenues – at more than $1 billion, according to people familiar with the plan. That’s more than triple the valuation Twitter received during its last round of capital raising in February, underscoring how quickly the company has grown.

twitter_fail_whale So let me see if I understand, the companies who are giving $100M to Twitter say Twitter is worth more than 10 times that amount. Hmmm. Well they are certainly an unbiased source.

By the way, CollateralDamage.biz is worth more than $10 million so you should want to buy it while the price is still this low, say people familiar with my bank account.

So we now know it takes about 10 years to forget the lessons of a bubble burst. Remember the .com bubble?

Anyone?

Bueller?

Companies with no way to generate actual money were suddenly worth absurd amounts because … well … because. As far as I can tell Twitter’s business model is to be bought by Google. To date Twitter has proven to be a very popular supplementary application. People use Twitter and all there other methods of communicating. It isn’t supplanting either email or blogs AND (this is big) it is NOT popular with the teens to 20s demographic, which means it doesn’t have a future.

UPDATE!

This just got added to the WSJ site:

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)–Micro-blogging service Twitter Inc. said Friday it had closed a "significant round of funding," a deal that will give the wildly-popular startup more time to develop a business model.” Twtter said investors included Insight Venture Partners, T. Rowe Price (TROW), Institutional Venture Partners, Spark Capital and Benchmark Capital.

There’s gotta be a pony in there somewhere, right guys? Hey, anyone seen my Kozmo.com messenger bag?

Kozmo!

If the Wall Street Journal Is So Smart, How Come They Agree With Me?

Me:

Second, housing starts are at a nine month high! Great, just when a huge amount of housing stock is about to be dumped on the market, aka, more foreclosures.

Them:

Recovery Obstacle: So Many Houses

They have to get better reporters over there.

Shanty towns and bank runs: recession may be the optimist’s outcome

Before the fiddlers have fled
Before they ask us to pay the bill
And while we still
Have the chance
Let’s face the music and dance

Last March, the BBC ran a story about shanty towns springing up in the US.

At the time BoingBoing and those few others who saw it asked why we were learning about this from the UK media and not from the US media. Now, a scant six months later, the US press has paused from parsing porcine lipstick and noticed.

The relatively tony city of Santa Barbara has given over a parking lot to people who sleep in cars and vans. The city of Fresno, Calif., is trying to manage several proliferating tent cities, including an encampment where people have made shelters out of scrap wood. In Portland, Ore., and Seattle, homeless advocacy groups have paired with nonprofits or faith-based groups to manage tent cities as outdoor shelters. Other cities where tent cities have either appeared or expanded include include Chattanooga, Tenn., San Diego, and Columbus, Ohio.

We’ve already had a bank run in the classic sense and one updated for today’s world: Yesterday’s announcement that Putnam was liquidating a “$12bn prime money market fund because of a spike in redemption requests from clients.” Just because they have the money to cover this — as it appears they eventually will — doesn’t make it any less of a run.

Today the early headlines say Stocks soar at opening after gov’t rescue plan. Forgive me for thinking the markets are indulging in some irrational exuberance. We’ve seen this sort of response before. This is from the Wall Street Journal on March 19:

Stocks and commodities plummeted on Wednesday as the euphoria that carried equity markets to massive gains a day earlier gave way to nervousness that the broader U.S. economy hasn’t yet escaped the dangers of the credit crisis.

At some point we are going to see a huge impact from the Fed’s determination to once again deal with another issue by printing more money. Some commentators say this will simply mean an explosion in the size of the national debt. I wish that was all. The current crisis was created by pumping increasing amounts of money and credit into the economy, it is beyond me to understand why doing more of this will help fix it.  You know what they call it when you keep repeating the same behavior and expect different results, right?

I am not smart enough to determine if we are about to hit a period of inflation or deflation but I know something is going to happen and will keep happening until all the difference between the amount loaned and the actual value of assets comes into balance. (If you’re a debtor start rooting for deflation — it means any money you do use to pay off a debt will be worth less than the money you originally borrowed. A net gain, if not a happy one.)

As the year has gone along, I’ve tagged a number of items under Recession? What Recession? I can’t say they make for happy reading:

In March, when the BBC ran that shanty town story, it still seemed possible to have a reasonable disagreement over whether or not we were in a recession. Now the D word is in play. Soon we will be hearing that we are not in a depression and that we are trying to avert one. That is becoming the economic equivalent of promising to have the troops home by Christmas. As soon as you hear it, you know it’s a lot worse than anyone is willing to say.

The leading indicator of the “we are not in a Depression” meme came last week when Alan Greenspan — who is mostly responsible for the crisis — tried to put lipstick on this pig by saying, “First of all, let’s recognize that this is a once-in-a-half-century, probably once-in-a-century type of event.” Given that the Mississippi river keeps getting hit by floods that were once described as “once in a century” events, this is not a heartening phrase. Another troubling indicator is that the folks who decided what’s in the Dow Jones Industrial Average have replaced the now defunct AIG with Kraft. I suspect the real problem with leaving AIG is that it would have made the Dow actually reflect the economy.

Someone once asked Tom Lehrer why he stopped writing those wonderful, witty songs about the news. Having turned out anthems on topics from pollution to nuclear proliferation, Lehrer said he had begun to feel like a citizen of Pompeii being asked to say funny things about lava. Without having matched Mr. Lehrer’s accomplishments, I can certainly empathize. I have been saying for the last seven years that the real problem with the Bush administration is that it took all the fun out of being able to say “I told you so.” Unlike Mr. L, I refuse to leave the scene — especially when we are in such a target rich environment.

There may be trouble ahead
But while there’s moonlight and music
And love and romance
Let’s face the music and dance

While many people have recorded this song — but not Roxxy Music, for some reason — I still prefer the original by Fred Astaire. It’s on the soundtrack to Follow The Fleet. A happy little musical by Irving Berlin that was made into a movie in 1936.

When helium balloons are outlawed, only outlaws will have helium balloons

California state Sen. Jack Scott doesn’t want your kids to have fun at their birthday parties! OK, so that’s not really the point of his bill to ban foil helium balloons but that sure is a better lead than he wants to prevent power outages caused when the damn things fly into power lines. There were 800 of those last year in the Golden State.

However — and I’m stealing the pun from the WSJournal here — he didn’t expect the issue to blow up in his face.

Last month, at a pro-balloon rally in a Pasadena park, protesters cheered as a group of children pounced on an effigy of Mr. Scott — made entirely of balloons. … Wedding planners, party organizers and balloon artists all rallied to the cause. The industry body, the Balloon Council, set up a Web site — www.savetheballoons.com — that urges people to contact their state representatives. Members began a grass-roots campaign to garner support.

There’s an industry group for this, who knew? What’s their magazine called, The Gas Bag?

You really should read the whole story. It’s filled (and not in a puff piece sort of way — ouch) with gems like this:

Others complained that balloon-sellers were an easy mark for legislators. “To them, we’re just the balloon people. We’ve got the big noses and the floppy shoes,” said Treb Heining, a balloon artist who began his career at 15 selling balloons at Disneyland and has since created installations for the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards. “We’re the Rodney Dangerfield of the professional-events services.”

Bravo to writer Amy Kaufman and the WSJ for this. Not only does the WSJ consistently produce some of the best serious journalism there is, they also produce some of the best intentionally funny journalism.