Monday Oct 5th 2009

gun imagesHour One: "Should people with a gun in their house pay more for health insurance?" Thom mixes it up with Mike Hammond of Gun Owners of America

Hour Two: Is Mattel's new $95 homeless doll proof of Michael Moore's plutonomy?

Hour Three: Are Europeans right that the Polanski case shows - that the American justice system is moving in the direction of the Communist Chinese arbitrary prosecution system?


Mark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

How is it possible that the stock market can go up, while all other indicators suggest that things are rather worse? September’s unemployment numbers were worse than expected, including the loss of more than 50,000 manufacturing jobs. Many of these jobs will likely never come back. If wages are increasing at all, it is more likely for “valued” white collar employees rather than blue collar, since the latter are “replaceable.” There are fewer people who can afford to buy products, with less money. The stimulus package should have worked to slow unemployment, but the money is either being wasted or not used for its intended purpose. It would appear that the only value associated with (slowly) rising stock prices is “easy” credit being doled out by the bail-out and the Federal Reserve, mainly without accountability. When this line of credit runs out, what is there left of value to keep the stock market up?

Somebody has to be making money if we are in a so-called “recovery” mode, to account for any increase in the stock market. This “jobless” recovery would suggest “downsizing” on a massive scale; Wall Street apparently believes that if this downsizing makes companies more profitably, the human effect that it has be damned. This isn’t like the Great Depression, when American know-how still dominated and manufacturing capacity could be expected to rebound. Instead, manufacturing jobs are disappearing, probably for good. So who benefits from the phony money being generated on Wall Street? No doubt wealthy stock holders who hope to make a quick killing while the getting is good—having no interest in the welfare of the nation as a whole, or beyond their gated communities. How long will this situation be permitted to continue? Even Prince Prospero could not, in the end, escape the vengeance of the Masque of the Red Death.

It was also reported today that the failure of the education system in the state of Washington--particularly its failure to properly fund and provide access to higher education for its residents--has led to the inability for local employers to find employees to hire for high-wage occupations. "Fortunately," there are plenty of educated foreign-born workers ready to take their place.

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


You have just underlined a very important point (and one that frustrates me.) The stock market ceased to be an indicator of the health of the American economy ever since companies started outsourcing. It only shows multinationals' profits. I wish business journalists would stop using it as an economic indicator for the U.S.

mstaggerlee (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

"Homeless" Barbie?

I heard about Mattel's latest entry in the alleged "socially concious" toy market a couple weeks ago, and had hoped a discussion thereof might develop here. I think this brings to light a far bigger question than Dubya's "Is our childrens learning?" query.

When one buys for their own child a toy that represents a homeless child, but this item is priced such that the parents of less-advantaged children can't even THINK of buying one, the question in my mind changes from "Is our childrens learning?", to "What is we teaching thems?"

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


Many of the companies are listed on the big two exchanges are multi-national enterprises and there fore are separated in part/shielded from the effects of the economy. Additionally, the stock price is not an indicator of the actual worth of any company. Stock prices are reflections of what investors consider to be an acceptable risk of capital to gain a potential payout. Remember that except for the initial release or any buy back by the company, stocks are largely financial toy for folk with cash to pay with.

The rant about the failing/failed economy is welcome BUT the flawed logic is not.

Manufacturing base is an issue. Availability of credit is an issue. Availability of an educated workforce is an issue. Stock prices are a recessivist straw man.

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


Another example of the buyout sickness (similar to Thom's examples of why newspapers are failing plus short video):

"Buyout Firms Profited as a Company’s Debt Soared


Private equity firms, former executives and Wall Street investment banks profited as the Simmons Bedding Company fell into bankruptcy, devastating its bondholders and employees."

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


I would really like to hear someone from Mattel justify or explain this new doll.

mstaggerlee (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Mark & Quark -

The problem, as I see it, is that Washington has come to believe that Wall Street MATTERS more than Main Street. As long as those at the top 2% of the economic pyramid are making money again, then we're "recovering". Whether or not the money being made represents any REAL value in the marketplace in apparently immaterial.

Somehow, we need to re-educate Wall Street. Shuffling debt may create short-term profit for the "dealers", but it adds nothing of lasting value to the economic landscape. The pillars that support the economy of a supposedly great nation CANNOT simply be a series of bubbles! There has to be something there to build upon.

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


Re: "Additionally, the stock price is not an indicator of the actual worth of any company. Stock prices are reflections of what investors consider to be an acceptable risk of capital to gain a potential payout. Remember that except for the initial release or any buy back by the company, stocks are largely financial toy for folk with cash to pay with."

Yes, of course you are right. My comment was a knee-jerk reaction to the connection between profits going down (or a company not meeting its earnings "goals") and the decline of its stock price, which can be manipulated thru other means, also.

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


Re: "Somehow, we need to re-educate Wall Street."

Maybe we need to re-educate Washington.

mstaggerlee (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Quark -

Perhaps, a bit of both.

But - where do we open the "re-education camps"?


Mike (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Guns as a pre-existing condition

You are giving the republicans another scare tactic to use on the ignorant. Obama is working to help people get insurance despite pre-existing conditions and here you are suggesting another thing that the insurance companies can use against their customers. People who commit suicide by other means still die as do people who are murdered by other means. What if I have a gas stove in the house? It could explode. I have a shower;I could slip and fall. Should I be charged more?

And it's none of the insurance company's damned business what you have in your house. Next they'll want to know what your next door neighbors have to determine if that is a risk. Get a damned clue Thom. Are you actually a republican in disguise? You are damned sure helping them by suggesting this.

mstaggerlee (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Quark -

3/4 thru the Simmons article. This is EXACTLY what's wrong with the economy today - that the "equity" holders can make big bux while, apparently with malice aforethought, bankrupting a vibrant, productive company that manufactures products of real value. This practice must be stopped if any substantive, lasting recovery for the middle class is ever rto occur.

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


Yes, I agree --- this corruption of capitalism needs to be turned around. I have become aware of this trend since the sale of the once-profitable, "healthy" NW Airlines to guys from the hotel industry. They leveraged the buy-out and later got out with millions. We ended up with a broken company. (Northwest was purchased in a 1989 leveraged buyout by an investment group headed by Al Checchi.)

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

I don't suppose a percentage of the sale of Mattel's "homeless" doll goes to homeless shelters. At least THAT would give it a decent raison d'etre.

mstaggerlee (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Apparently, the only "raison d'etre" for this thing is to increase stockholder equity. :(

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

In addition to grousing about inverted taxation policies, America needs to hold Ronald Reagan’s name as a curse for millennia to follow for the intentional destruction of our educational system. By forcing the de-funding of ‘Humanities’, the Reagan Administration eliminated exposure to entire skill sets for our youth and future generations AND destroyed learning systems for those whose primary learning is not by rout or by reiteration. Largely, this was not about saving money as it was sold to America’s citizenry; it was about population control.

Gone are the supports for story tellers, artisans and musicians. Invention and intuition is drugged away and molded out of us. The relational databases that are our minds are being starved for input. Our education system is producing thralls that are functionally separated from their ability to process. Our ballooning illiteracy rate is merely a symptom of the dearth that follows. We are losing the ability to think cyclically and linearly. Jingoism and the thirty-second mentality have supplanted our ability to do the very things that has brought humanity to the point we are now.

I think that America needs to return to educating its young folk about logic, rhetoric and debate as well classical economics, history and civics.

Mark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

To Richard L. Adlof:

Experts smarter than both me and you recognize that the investors "reward" companies that reduce costs by downsizing. That's common sense. I frankly have no idea of what you were talking about, and I doubt you really do either.

Anyways, Thom seemed especially animated today; he did something today that all lawmakers who support weapons control should do in calling out lawmakers who oppose it: is there any limit to the type of weapons that can be privately owned? There is, of course, the “common sense” answer, but when Pat Buchanan tells us that the “limit” is anything you can’t haul with a truck, “common sense” is no longer a part of the equation. It would be interesting to see a Republican be forced to answer the question, and try to weasel his or her way out of having to either expose their consciencelessness to the American people, or put them on the hot seat with gun rights advocates.

Earlier today I heard a caller on Stephanie Miller’s show complain that we were losing jobs because of our trade agreements with “third world” countries, which is not exactly true, and Miller and company failed to correct him on it. Thom, not to his credit, has frequently blamed our easily-scapegoated neighbors to the south, apparently because we have nifty catch-names for our trade agreements with them. But if anyone checks the official government foreign trade statistics, our trade problems with “third world” countries, stereotyped as Latin America and Africa, far pales in comparison to our vast trade imbalances with Europe and Asia, especially China. Forget where our electronic and automobile products are coming from (we know that); I used to work for an apparel company where the main sources of product were places like Indonesia, Pakistan and Bulgaria. I never saw anything with a “Made in Mexico” or anything else made in Latin America (or Africa, for that matter). This blaming our neighbors for our trade problems is happening because it’s easy, and it satisfies Americans’ immediate prejudices and bigotries.

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


"Arbitrary" prosecution was one of the things that I thought was so frightening under the Bush ("W") administration. It doesn't seem like a new idea. Obama's tenure only allowed me to feel that I, as an American, could exhale slightly. Justice is still a hope, not a reality.

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

The Polanski case is also about bread and circus. While justice and the rule of law requires Polanski paying for his crime:

1. This is about branding liberal folk who defend him as defenders of the perverted. This is payback for the Catholic churches black-eye on the pedophile priest thingy.

2. Over the last eight years, we were largely desensitized against prosecuting criminal acts by our ‘ruling’ class. Now we can point towards the bad guy getting spanked and have a ‘look at the kitty’ moment about the jack_holes who are destroying America through fascism and kleptocracy.

3. PLUS our do-nothing Department of Justice gets a gold star for finally pretending to do its job.

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


I am sorry. I failed to communicate my issue with your thought process. Let me try again.

There are a crap-load of reasons to re-regulate trading and banking operations; rewriting tax policies to require the repatriot-ization of our workforce and returning the manufacturing base to our country; AND requiring that companies with governmental contracts be headquartered on American dirt.

Your initial point was “OOOO, look at the bad stock market” then you went on to cover the exporting of our labor base. There is a real and viable case that can be made for these things being linked . . . Unfortunately; you utterly failed to do so. There was no transition or linking statements and to make matters worse you beat the drum for the other side in your attempt to co-opt the meme.


Bad folk are evil, therefore duct tape sales should be regulated BUT without pointing out that bad folk tie up others with duct tape, there is no story.

The other side is intentionally logically sloppy. We need to clean up our communication. This was not about criticizing your mindset, it was about sharpening our message.

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


Interesting article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine:

"Understanding the Anxious Mind


Is the economy making you nervous? Or is it terrorism? Or could it be the way you’re hard-wired?"

B Roll (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

I’m wondering if I’m like Stephen Colbert and just don’t see race. So up to today, I had no idea that Thom Hartmann is white. But now I’m getting suspicious. A few things tipped me off today.

First, I heard Thom longing for the good old days when our economy worked. But the economy didn’t work that way if you were African-American of Latino.

Second, Thom is expressing concern about our legal system morphing into a system of “arbitrary prosecution”. Of course, it’s always been a system of “arbitrary prosecution” for African-Americans, Latinos and members of some other non-white ethnic groups.

I’d suggest David Feige’s book “Indefensible: One Lawyer’s Journey into the Inferno of American Justice” for a chilling account of how the good justice system works.

Well, well, well! After a caller pointed out that “arbitrary prosecution” has been around for a long time, Thom has admitted that there has been racially based “arbitrary prosecution” for a long time. It just didn’t occur to him until someone else raised the point.

Maybe Thom is like Stephen Colbert too and just can’t tell that his guests are almost all white. Thom just doesn’t see race.

Since I was already starting this post, I won’t let Thom’s meaningless mea culpa stop me from posting this.

Richard L. Adlof (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Sandra Day O’Connor can decry America’s legal issues all she wants . . . BUT she has gotta recognize that her being the fifth vote on appointing GW Bush was the threshold for the destruction of Justice in America.

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

B Roll,

Yes, I often think how different my life would be if...(I were a minority race, handicapped, etc. --- tho I think I do get "points" for being a woman.) It's depressing, unfair, outrageous, etc. that there are SO MANY "Americas" in which people in this country must live.

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


YES! And it pisses me off to read hypocrits Tom Friedman talk about his fears about the emotional upheaval in this country when he helped to promote inequality and lack of financial stability and a better standard of living in this country through his books like "The Lexus and the Olive Tree."

"Where Did 'We" Go?"

'Funny how some people have no shame...

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

s.b. "hypocrits like Tom Friedman"

Quark (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago


More CX: Too many to list. Just try to get thru my post the best you can. 'Sorry.

Rasta (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago




Gerald Socha (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

I missed Thom's first two hours but his discussion of the Roman Polanski case has me reassessing my position.

Prosecutorial misconduct is a concern. What is interesting is that we have cafeteria prosecutors who pick and choose the cases they want to take to court.

I read an article by Paul Craig Roberts that I will share with you.

B Roll (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Oh Lord!!!

Sometimes I'd rather believe that Rasta is a fictitious character made up by the Thom Hartmann Show staff than a real person saying such absurd things.

Who knows, maybe Rasta's really a pigeon.

9driver (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Using the Chinese arbitrary prosecutions of jaywalkers and unauthorized relocation to draw a line to the prosecution of a confessed child rapist is pretty weak. The question Thom should be asking is not "Why now?", but rather "Why did it take so long?"

Does anyone really believe that if Joe Schmuck fled to Europe to avoid prison as a confessed child rapist, that the US would not have extradited him YEARS ago, at the first opportunity? So why did it take so long with Polanski. That is the relevant question.

Regarding the less clear discussion on "crush" videos: If there is no legal basis for making posession of these videos a crime, then what legal basis is there for making posession of child pornography a crime? Society (or the Commons, as Thom says sometimes) has determined that it has an interest in eradicating the production of such material by making even posession of it illegal. Is this wrong? Does society not have the right to do this?

leighmf (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

This doll thing sounds like more black magic hexes to me. Of all the nerve!

This is how they celebrate the 50 year anniversary of the Klaus Barbee Doll which has driven young girls to crave injections of plastic.

JM (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

The "new" Mattel doll isn't new, it's been out for almost a year. Each character doll in the American Girl series has their own book. And in the book, this doll (Gwen) is mentioned, almost in passing, to have been homeless at one time. The story doesn't dwell on this point, but moves on to more interesting things. Again this has been out for almost a year (so you can imagine that the story in the book is a year older than that). It's not something new Mattel is producing to cash in on the recession, which some are making it out to be.

nora (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

REGARDING the 'arbitrary' laws or law enforcement Thom addressed today in relation to the Roman Polanski case:

Isn't the OTHER HALF of the arbitrary law the fact that it ISN'T enforced?

I say, if the arbitrary issue is to be applied to the Roman Polanski case, then WHY WASN'T the request for his extradition renewed everyday? Why?

This is very weird. Not only did Polanski commit the crime, admit to the crime, plea bargain in relation to his crime, try to settle with his victim (and renege on paying the settlement!), convicted for his crimm but he also chose to FLEE from the justice process and paying his debt to society and assuring society he was reformed and would no longer commit such crimes. Polanski did not prove his innocence or his intent to reform when he went to Europe and continued to bed down young girls (so-called enlightened European sex standards aside).

I agree with Thom's caller who said child abuse knows no end and to argue against prosecution of child molestation/rape in ESOTERIC terms is QUICKSAND, and it would be better to pick a different case to make your points!

Several times Thom said the prosecutor was arbitrary in his judgement. NO HE WASN'T. The prosecutor is a DIFFERENT elected official I am gathering, who may be more enlightened than his predecessors! It's not like the same person has suddenly decided to change his behavior!

Regarding the animal abuse 'evidence' in the form videos: Please understand that all animal welfare groups use photography of slaughterhouses (as seen in the documentary "Food, Inc.") and labs and blood sports, etc., to indicate it's institutional existence and heinousness (as were the photos and videos of torture at Abu Grahib!). But to outlaw these videos takes away evidence and educational tools used to enlighten human beings to a new state of compassion, kindness, and interspecies/environmental awareness. This is the issue that concerns me. If it is to be portrayed as an arbitrary crime-- then what is the purpose? It looks to me that it fits right in with removing freedom of speech and thought via the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act which has already thrown people in jail for mere animal exploitation abolition leaflets. I think Thom is missing the thread here because his argument does not break down MOTIVATION far enough.

I hope this topic can be revisited in a more full form, because Thom's presentation today sounded half-baked to me.

nora (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

What is very strange about the animal abuse videos is that they are similar to child abuse videos -- used not to track and trap their creators but their consumers. What is that about?

makevalue (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

I worked at Mattel just as the current CEO arrived. Nothing that I see know indicates that anything has changed. Bob is a nice guy and has done some things but he fits the mold of previous CEOs at Mattel (and Kraft, his former employer).

Mattel began receiving request to review their offshore manufacturing conditions long before I joined the staff in 1998. But to Mattel and most other corporations, it's all about the short term benefit. It's like ignoring the warnings about having unprotected sex with the next pretty girl who walks in the room. Anyone realizes there may be unintended consequences but the allure is too much.

I was in consumer relations when Mattel contracted with a Canadian licensee to make a Hot Wheels and Barbie computer. I know the situation first hand and when licensee had financial problems, it seemed to me that Mattel provided a meager solution to consumers. About 1,000 people placed orders with this company and didn't receive it or a refund. Some of these people scrapped the bottom of barrel to get a computer for their kids' Christmas. Mr. Eckert's response was to provide $100 to them and some coupons for Mattel products. Sounds nice but Mattel knew in the summer that this company was going broke. In my opinion, the lawyers looked at things and said Mattel's liability was limited because it was a license arrangement. So they got another six months of royalties and thought they looked good by giving a small refund.

It's always about the money in the fortune 500.

Titantom (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Tom I want to know how you feel about Dylan Ratigan? I really like his show and I know he is a through and through out Capitalists but he doesn't seem like the gangster to me. He is on MSNBC. He had an interview with Anthony Weiner and Betsy McCoy that was exceptional.

Here is the link:

I just want to know what you think of him or is he just another Corporate Thug. I don't feel like he is but who knows these days since Money seems to trump everything else.

Kate Sibley (not verified) 13 years 25 weeks ago

Regarding the Polanski arrest: I support this action, because I do believe that a child rapist should be held accountable no matter how long he's been hiding out...but I do wonder about the timing, given that Polanski has been in Switzerland numerous times in the past 30 years and he could have been arrested at any time. But now Switzerland is in trouble with the U.S. for offering tax havens to financial scofflaws. Could it be (because I can see a political negotiation in almost anything) that the U.S. said: "Give us Polanski and we'll ease up on the pressure to give us the names of the financial thieves who have been robbing us blind"??

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