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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Wall Street

Dow Jones plunges 512 points; but don't worry, President Obama's birthday parties unaffected

New York Stock Exchange traders react to the market's plunge on president obama's birthday, 8-4-11

Uh, what in the world is going on here?

That humongous hard-fought debt ceiling deal that was supposed to settle things down in D.C. financially and politically seems to be doing precisely the opposite there and now around the world. And all within 48 hours.

Europe isn't buying the deal.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged almost 513 points today, erasing all of its gains this year, as fears grew of yet another recession before most people believed the first one was ovObama celebrates his birthday in chicago aug 3 11er. This White House returned to SOP immediately anyway. And George W. Bush is nowhere in sight to blame for this one.

Could Texas Rep. Ron Paul be right again?  He said: "You don’t get out of the problem of having too much debt by allowing Congress to spend a lot more."

Former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson, who served on Obama's deficit commission, explained the financial battering of the U.S. as similar to crises in Portugal, Greece, Ireland, Spain and Italy.

"It is a global, global economy," he said to Neil Cavuto on the Fox News Channel. "It is so different from anything we have ever had in our whole history, and all of these countries have this trajectory of deficit and interest which is unconscionable and unsustainable."

Here's what the world was witnessing as it hoped to see this country start controlling its craving for fiscal cheeseburgers and fries for every meal:

Obama was so pleased with the bipartisan deal to control spending and cut the nation's $14.3 trillion national debt that he signed it in private. Within hours he was talking about spending much more on bridges, roads, clean energy and unemployment extensions.

Despite his sagging poll numbers, Obama then resumed fundraising for his reelection. He flew to Chicago for a $35,800-per-plate dinner that raised millions. He gave a 22-minute oration that still blamed what's-his-face the Texas guy from nearly three years ago, did not contain the word retrenchment and was widely applauded by Windy City fans.Obama Birthday celebrated with a Hat at Mme Tussauds wax museum

Dick Durbin, another Illinois Democrat and the Senate's No. 2 ruling leader, said he's not giving up the fight for new taxes for government to spend. He wants on the new super Congress panel.

Vice President Joe Biden was out of public sight back at his Delaware home for a couple of days.

Obama's Press Secretary Jay Carney was pummeled today with questions on exactly what the president was doing to stop rising unemployment, restore consumer confidence and take control of what appears a chaotic Washington scene. Here's his reply;

"He is working very closely with his senior economic advisers to come up with new proposals to help advance growth and job creation."

Which, actually, is what many people thought the president had been doing all along during these 926 days of his presidency. To little economic effect, so far.

Carney also said Obama has planned several trips to talk with Americans about things. Sites include northern Virginia, the Midwest for a three-day bus tour and Michigan next week to talk about clean energy again.

The stock market plunge, however, was not expected to affect the White House's next pair of parties, a staff gathering this afternoon and another this evening with more friends and family to celebrate the aging Obama's well-documented birth a half-century ago today.

To help mark the happy occasion Michelle Obama sent out an email to millions of her husband's supporters. She didn't directly ask for money or mention the nation's ongoing financial troubles. She asked instead for people to sign an e-book of birthday wishes that the campaign is compiling, which will require leaving contact information.

"Every day," she said, "I see Barack make choices he knows will affect every American family. That's no small task for anyone -- and more proof that he's earning every last one of those gray hairs."

Just what every hubby wants to hear.


Debt deal done, Obama sees need for much new spending

Vice president's reference to opponents as 'terrorists' is wrong

Smiles on Capitol Hill but more bad poll news for the White House

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Mario Tama / Getty Images (New York Stock Exchange traders react to the market's plunge on President Obama's birthday, Aug. 4); Jim Young / Reuters (happy Obama at his first 50th birthday in Chicago); Win McNamee / Getty Images (Obama's birthday celebrated with a party hat at Madame Tussaud's wax museum).


Breaking Urgent Flash Really Rush: Mitt Romney is running for president, again, still

Republican Mitt Romney Announce his presidential candidacy in Stratham NH 6-2-11

Mitt Romney announced today what most sentient Americans have known since August of 2008, the former Massachusetts governor is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

This became quickly obvious long ago when John McCain's Hail Sarah pass was ruined by McCain's own backbiting staff and then completely blown up by the Wall Street meltdown, not to mention eight years of accumulating anger over George W. Bush policies and his lazy decision to keep Dick Cheney as political partner, instead of grooming a young heir apparent for four years.

So, with no Hillary Clinton pantsuits to mock, the country was doomed by its own self-proclaimed progressive news media to focus on the credentials of the female GOP candidate -- the important stuff, you know, her frameless glasses, alleged wardrobe desires, whether her hair was up or down on any given day, and, of course, red shoes or not. What deleterious impacts her political ambitions had on her poor, oddly-named children. And the possible divorce there rumored by no one trustworthy.

Instead of superficial campaign stuff like the Real Good Talker's blank resume, absence of reform credentials, bald ambition and Chicago machine heritage.

According to Republican tradition, next year's nomination should go to....

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Another amazing Washington coincidence: Comcast hires FCC member who just OKd its NBC merger

This is one of those stories that doesn't attract much attention from the factories that produce the news consumed by millions across this country.a happy Meredith Attwell Baker of the FCC now comcast Corp

It's one of those "yeh-so-what-about-it?" stories back there.

But for those who watch Washington closely from normal America, like a daily visit to some exotic zoo of human behavior, this story says much in its raw chronological simplicity about how that city works. And how it works for the benefit of those there, not those elsewhere.

That was all going to change after the 2009 inauguration of someone.

July 2009 -- President Obama appoints Meredith Attwell Baker as one of two Republican members among the five on the Federal Communications Commission.

January 2011 -- Baker joins three other commission members in approving the mega-takeover of NBCUniversal by Comcast Corp.

May 11, 2011, early -- Baker announces her FCC resignation effective June 3.

May 11, 2011, later -- Comcast announces Baker will become senior vice president of government affairs for the same NBCUniversal unit that she recently agreed could be swallowed by Comcast.

That's how smoothly it works.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle.Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: FCC (a happy Baker).

Charles Manson thinks Barack Obama is 'a slave of Wall Street'

Charles Manson in his booking photo taken March 18, 2009Billionaire Donald Trump recently proclaimed he is the Democrats' worst nightmare, but it's hard to imagining someone more frightening than Charles Manson ending a 20-year silence to call you out.

The 76-year-old spoke recently to Spain's Vanity Fair magazine on the 40th anniversary of his conviction in the Sharon Tate and LaBianca murders.

President Barack Obama is "a slave of Wall Street," the diminutive cult leader said by telephone from Corcoran State Prison to journalist David Lopez.

"He doesn't realize what they are doing. They are playing with him," Manson said of Obama. The president recently was being petitioned by Manson's lawyer, Giovanni Di Stefano, to free the iconic killer, who has been incarcerated since 1969. That request was refused.

When he wasn't proclaiming how "bad" he is, Manson rambled about how people need to pay attention to the enviornment and global warming.

"Everyone's God, and if we don’t wake up to that, there’s going to be no weather because our polar caps are melting because we’re doing bad things to the atmosphere," Manson warned.

"If we don't change that as rapidly as I’m speaking to you now, if we don’t put the green back on the planet and put the trees back that we’ve butchered, if we don’t go to war against the problem...' he said before trailing off.


Steve Wynn politely calls Obama a liar

Charles Manson found with second cellphone

Donald Trump says he's the Democrats' 'worst nightmare'

Note: Andrew Malcolm is on vacation

-- Tony Pierce

Photo: Charles Manson in his booking photo taken March 18, 2009. Credit: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations

President Obama's remarks on signing Wall Street reform bill

Biden and Obama

President Obama on Wednesday signed into law the most sweeping overhaul of financial regulations since the Great Depression. Here are the president's remarks from the signing ceremony, as prepared by the White House:


THE PRESIDENT: Well, good morning, everyone.

AUDIENCE: Good morning.

THE PRESIDENT: We are gathered in the heart of our nation’s capital, surrounded by memorials to leaders and citizens who served our nation in its earliest days and in its days of greatest trial. Today is such a time for America.

Over the past two years, we have faced the worst recession since the Great Depression. Eight million people lost their jobs. Tens of millions saw the value of their homes and retirement savings plummet. Countless businesses have been unable to get the loans they need and many have been forced to shut their doors. And although the economy is growing again, too many people are still feeling the pain of the downturn.

Now, while a number of factors led to such a severe recession, the primary cause was a breakdown in our financial system. It was a crisis born of a failure of responsibility from certain corners of Wall Street to the halls of power in Washington. For years, our financial sector was governed by antiquated and poorly enforced rules that allowed some to game the system and take risks that endangered the entire economy.

Unscrupulous lenders locked consumers into complex loans with hidden costs. Firms like AIG placed massive, risky bets with borrowed money. And while the rules left abuse and excess unchecked, they also left taxpayers...

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Social nets wrap: Sharron Angle and Harry Reid launch their Nevada Senate mudslinging


He says she talked about “armed insurrection.”  She says he’s “waterboarding the economy.”  He says she’s “retreated to an underground bunker” and her views are “extreme, dangerous.” She says he’s “terrified”  and a “whack job.”

Harry Reid, Nevada's incumbent Democratic senator and the majority leader, faces Republican newcomer and "tea party" favorite Sharron Angle in November. And they've already been taking some pretty good shots at one another on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter.  Reid has about 10,300 Facebook fans and Angle just under 9,000.

A recent Rasmussen Reports poll gave Angle an 11-percentage-point lead over Reid, who's been unable to reach the crucial 50% approval level this year.

Early indications are that both sides are prepared to go fully negative while using the Web as a key part of their campaigns. And Nevada columnist Jon Ralston reports that President Obama will return to the Silver State next month to help the endangered Reid raise more millions.

Reid’s Web presence, as expected, is pretty well established. Angle, meanwhile, has hired....

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Financial reform could turn on Blanche Lincoln's re-election bid in Arkansas -- derivatives anyone?

Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln by AP Photo

Blanche Lincoln is running for her political life in Arkansas. And if she falls, the sweeping reform of Wall Street that Democrats hope will bolster their case for reelection could be one of the casualties.

Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Lincoln fought for language that would require Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co. and other players in the $605-trillion derivatives market to curtain off swap trades from regular banking. Wall Street argues that the Lincoln Rule would cripple their ability to stay in business. Key players in the administration -- Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Timothy  F. Geithner and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd -- worry that Section 106 could disrupt the economy.

But Lincoln, responding to voter anger about Wall Street's greed at the expense of Main Street, has resisted efforts to soften the rule. As the Senate bill goes to conference with the House on its version, Lincoln heads back out to the campaign trail, facing a June 8 runoff election against fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. The race will likely come down to turnout -- whether Lincoln's organization or Halter's coalition of liberal advocacy and labor union supporters best get out their vote.

Much hangs in the balance.

If she loses, perhaps senators like Dodd who have qualms about Section 106 will be in a stronger position to scuttle it, confident they are not hurting the cause of an incumbent Democrat. Or she could decide to make this her legacy, insisting that conferees keep the provision as the legislative capstone of her Senate career.

Things will get even more interesting if she wins the primary to face Republican John Boozman in the fall campaign. A strong Lincoln platform against Wall Street could force her GOP opponent to play defense. In that case, President Obama might find himself signing Section 106 into law.

Ah, politics.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo credit: Associated Press

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Obama's plan to downgrade nickel faces protest from laundromat owners. Should U.S. Mint drop the penny?

Nickels, pennies from U.S. Mint by Ryan McVay:Getty Images
For four years, given the rising price of metals, it has cost the U.S. Mint more to produce and distribute the penny and the nickel than they are worth. As the Wall Street Journal noted, "like many things produced in Washington, U.S. coins aren't what they seem." A penny, which in 2009 cost 1.62 cents to make, is mostly zinc. The nickel, which cost 5.79 cents, has more copper than nickel. Silver? No U.S. coin has any.

"Making coins from more cost-effective materials could save more than $100 million a year, which isn't just pocket change," said Dan Tangherlini, the Treasury Department's chief financial officer.

So President Obama is proposing to save money by making the coins from cheaper material than their namesakes. Mindful of the likely uproar from the zinc industry, laundromat owners and coin collectors, the government is not disclosing its option. Speculation centers on aluminum alloy, which other countries use,  or perhaps industrial porcelain, embedded with an ID chip.

Vending machine owners and laundromat businesses are poised for a fight -- worried that any change in size, weight and metal content would require costly retooling or even replacement of their machines.

"We're all taxpayers, and we're all in favor of being able to mint coins at a more reasonable cost," said Brian Wallace, president of the Coin Laundry Assn. "But we want to make sure there aren't unintended consequences that could deeply impact the small business owner during a recession."

For their part, coin collectors seem more tepid in their response. "I am not necessarily opposed as long the new coins are not awful," said one writer on the Coin Community Info Blog. "I am glad to see there is no plan to get rid of the penny."

And the penny, as they say, is where the rub is. Periodically a member of Congress, usually Ohio Democrat Zack Space, introduces a bill to change U.S. coin content or even banish the penny, on grounds that it is a costly expense for business owners.

But advocacy groups like Americans for Common Cents, backed by the zinc industry, usually manage to defeat the idea. "The penny is a hedge to inflation," argues Mark Weller, the group's executive director. Without it, he adds, businesses would merely round up to a nickel.

In its 2010 budget asking Treasury to research alternative coin content, the Obama administration made no mention of the 1-cent coin, which now costs 2 cents to make. As the president keeps saying, with a full plate, you have to pick your political battles carefully.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo Credit: Ryan McVay/Getty Images

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What do Sarah Palin, Lady Gaga, Gen. McChrystal have in common? Time magazine: they're special

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Lady Gaga and former President Bill Clinton, all named to Time Magazine's 2010 list of Most Influential People by Getty
Tuesday night's black-tie gala for Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" actually includes 350 guests who made the list, or did last year, or were invited as wannabes who could make the list next year. On some level this self-indulgent congratulatory confab is a great excuse for a party -- and a smart branding ploy to boost circulation.

But on a more serious level, it can be a barometer of public opinion. For instance, golfer Phil Mickelson was selected this year over Tiger Woods. And pointedly, revered golfer Jack Nicklaus was asked to write the tribute to Mickelson, which reads like a denunciation of Woods, with its praise for Mickelson's family values.

Former President Bill Clinton is on the cover (along with Lady Gaga and Ivory Coast footballer Didier Drogba) and gives opening remarks. But he will be joined by an odd assortment of political types -- President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the list, but so did Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown and Arizona Republican John Kyl.  Not included: his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, is on the list, but nowhere to be found is Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell or Nevada Democrat  Harry Reid, leaders of their parties in the Senate.  Paul Volcker, Elizabeth Warren (TARP critic and potential nominee for the Supreme Court) and even Kathleen Merrigan, sustainable-food advocate and deputy assistant secretary of Agriculture, make the cut, but White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel did not, and for that matter neither did Merrigan's boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Gen. Stanley McChyrstal and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen are on the list, but not Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the Central Command.

Time magazine rationalizes these exclusions by saying the list is not about people of power, but people of influence, and that they delight in finding "people you've never heard of" and sharing their achievements.

Forgive me if this is unduly cynical, but when you anoint the rock star of the "tea party" movement, the leading credible critic of TARP spending and a major singing star conglomerate -- and have a former president introduce them -- you guarantee a lot of buzz. And maybe save a dying media giant in the process. But hey, we imagine the food will be good.

Full list here. Let us know who you think Time's editors forgot.

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Lady Gaga and former President Bill Clinton, all named to Time magazine's 2010 list of Most Influential People. Credit: Getty Images

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Florida's Crist to run as independent? Hold on to your sun hats! (Updated)


Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is headed to his hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla., for Thursday's big announcement about his political future, his parents and his wife at his side for the 5 p.m. event.

"It's home. It's where my family is, so I think it's appropriate," Crist told reporters Wednesday morning.

(UPDATE: 12:38 p.m.: Our sister publication the Orlando Sentinel reports now that Crist has decided to launch an independent bid for the Senate seat, claiming he wants to serve "the people" more than the party.)

Crist -- down 20 points against "tea party" favorite Marco Rubio in the latest polling on the Republican primary for U.S. Senate -- has been hurt by his support for President Obama's $787-billion bailout of Wall Street. Reading the political tea leaves, pundits are saying he will run as an independent. More popular in the state than he is with the GOP base, this could make for a very interesting election.

If he does leave the Republican Party and run as an independent, Crist would set up a....

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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