The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

March 12, 2009

the flub series

a new work installation beneath the accident installation flub pngs

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really weird new work installation beneath the accident installation

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 12 Mar 2009 07:52:33 +0200
From: Michael Gurstein <>
Subject: [stuff-it] FW: [TriumphOfContent] Why is Jim Cramer shouting at me?
     (Gabriel Winant -

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Steven Brant
Sent: March-12-09 2:16 AM
Subject: [TriumphOfContent] Why is Jim Cramer shouting at me? (Gabriel
Winant - <>


Why is Jim Cramer shouting at me?

Is CNBC as bad as Jon Stewart says it is? Yes, and a full day in
front of the network will have you longing to return to the real world.

By Gabriel Winant

Mar. 11, 2009 |

On Monday, at 8:30 a.m., I turned on CNBC and started watching the
business channel for the first time in my life. Twelve hours later, a
long stare through the peacock-colored looking glass had shaken me. I
was huddled in the corner of my living room couch, arms hugging my
knees, wondering why the angry faces on-screen were yelling at me.

Since the dawn of the Obama administration, not even two months ago,
CNBC has become notorious as a redoubt of talking -- no, shouting --
heads who insist that the market is tanking because the new president
is an incompetent lefty. A Bolshevik even, according to Bloviator-in-
Chief Jim Cramer. A squish who hands out free mortgage do-overs to
"losers," according to Chicago trading-floor populist Rick Santelli.
Twice in the past week, "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart has responded
with blistering mash-ups of the same talking heads talking out of
their behinds. Larry Kudlow and Jim Cramer and others were seen, in
CNBC footage assembled by "The Daily Show," making absurd, toxic and
ultimately tragic predictions about how awesomely awesome the market
was about to be, how Bear Stearns would never fail, how turnaround
was coming, how it was time to buy. Maria Bartiromo and various on-
air soldier ants were also shown sucking up to assorted titans of
business in the golden days before the recession began to seem like
something worse.

Jim Cramer has responded by noting, angrily, that Jon Stewart is a
comedian, which apparently makes Stewart unqualified to judge when
someone is making a fool of himself. But rather than rely on "The
Daily Show" for our opinions, even though we usually do, we at Salon
decided to spend a day glued to CNBC and judge the network for
ourselves. That is, my boss made me watch it.

What I found was a paradox at the channel's core -- one that seemed,
late on the afternoon of Monday, March 9, to make Jim Cramer want to
claw his own skin off. The station's business model rests on its
claim to insider wisdom and market smarts. CNBC's army of analysts
marshals a host of data to tell the daily story of the markets in the
language of the markets. From that angle, the disorienting effect
that hours of watching had on me is not surprising: I only sort of
understand what derivatives are. No wonder my head was spinning.

At the same time, however, the network depends on a particular
industry, and thrives on good economic news, which is in short
supply. Nobody wants to tune in to cable day after day to hear yet
another dirge for yet another one of their stocks. There is a
financial imperative for the pundits to keep their core audience of
investors coming back, and therefore an obligation for the pundits to
distort empirical reality to make a grim future seem manageable. Or,
as one commercial puts it, "In an unpredictable market, one man has
the answers, the vision, the experience you can trust. In Cramer we

And yet the financial future is starting to seem unmanageable, even
to the all-knowing pundits of CNBC. Someone must be to blame. Thus
the essence of CNBC circa 2009 is an uneasy mixture of despair and
boosterism, made to cohere with the liberal application of pure
venom. And the venom is directed at the most convenient target:
Barack Obama.

CNBC's day starts off in the wee hours, with "Worldwide Exchange," a
largely unwatched look at world markets. By sunrise, "Squawk Box" is
on, the first of the day's many indistinguishable talking-heads
panels. "Squawk" generally gives a look at what's coming up on the
markets that day, which on Monday was pharmaceutical giant Merck's
$41 billion acquisition of rival Schering-Plough. Monday's was a very
special episode of "Squawk Box" for another reason: Reporter Becky
Quick was in an Omaha, Neb., furniture store, interviewing Warren
Buffett. The normally reassuring, Obama-supporting "Oracle of Omaha"
showed up uncharacteristically jittery about the economy, which
Buffett said had "fallen off a cliff ... not only has the economy
slowed down a lot, people have really changed their behavior like
nothing I've ever seen."

At 9 a.m., the action shifts to CNBC's field team, "Squawk on the
Street," who are waiting for the 9:30 bell to open trading in New
York. "We are at the nerve center!" marvels anchor Mark Haines. "The
raw, shingles-infested nerve center," Erin Burnett responds. The Dow
starts the day at 6,625, and though the Schering-Plough acquisition
is supposed to juice the markets, it doesn't seem to be happening.
As, somewhere outside my apartment and far from the glow of the TV,
the sun gets higher in the sky, it becomes clear that there is no
pharmaceutical fix for the Dow. It will be another bad day at the
market for CNBC to explain. "This was a long time coming.
Consolidation in the sector is inevitable, but the market is clearly
saying, 'We hate it,'" puzzled one of the many interchangeable CNBC

As the morning goes on, the market continues to jitter, and the
"Squawks" give way to "The Call," which features ongoing, real-time
analysis. Co-host Larry Kudlow (who will reappear later) laments the
Dow's gradual sinking. "In the morning, I wake up, I have a special
Google alert to the Baltic dry shipping index, because I'm trying to
glom onto something positive." Kudlow sees nothing positive about
Obama's plans. "They are spending their tuchises off!" he shouts.
"That's the problem! It's Keynesian stimulus! What we need is tax
cuts, lower tax rates." At noon, "The Call" moves over for the two-
hour "Power Lunch," which is basically the same idea, but at lunchtime.

By now, I have noticed that I speak a different language than the
people on this channel. Or maybe I'm just not as smart as they are.
"I've decided that flat is the new up," declares one talking head.
"If they can't get their heads together, there's no way we're going
to get meat on the bone," warns another. Their braying seems to mean
something to their target audience, but not to me. Even most-esteemed
sage Warren Buffett wasn't immune. He spoke in an un-CNBC-like
volume, but said things like, "It's a lot better to have a goose that
keeps laying eggs than a goose that just sits there and eats
insurance." Now, that is easy to understand, and probably true. Plus,
can you imagine how gross that p�t� would taste?

I have also noticed, by "Power Lunch," that the seemingly endless
market slide is posing a profound problem for cable news experts. As
the hardheaded veterans, these guys are full of disdain for the
weekday warriors who expect to work the market and make a quick buck.
That's how you know you can trust them. "Right now, attempts at stock-
picking, for six months, have been completely unsuccessful," warns
Bob Pisani, standing on the trading floor. Guest Vern Hayden advises,
"People have to not worry so much about missing the turn!" Bob
Griffeth, agreeing, shakes his head in consternation at "human
nature, wanting to get that last downtick."

A heartbeat later, Sue Herera is asking Hayden, "What's the signal of
the turn, for you?" Because CNBC is aimed at making its viewers feel
like masters of the universe, it has to offer them this bizarre sweet-
and-sour cocktail of happy-days-around-the-corner optimism and I'm-no-
sap flintiness.

When "Power Lunch" clears out, Erin Burnett of the "Squawk" series
comes back to anchor "Street Signs." This, too, is basically more of
the same. With the trading day starting to wind down, Burnett pauses
to try to place the day's mediocre results in some larger analytical
perspective; is it too late for an afternoon rebound? (Most likely.)
What sectors have done OK? (Retail.) Which have taken a beating?
(Finance.) Should investors fear "all-out class war"? (Probably not.)

Then Jim Cramer stops by at the end of her show, and turns in one of
the more tortured and conflicted television performances I have ever
seen. He personifies, in his very body, the war between boosterism
and reality that lends CNBC such an air of anxiety. Dripping with
contempt for Burnett, he berates her for citing a positive -- and,
one should note, true -- statistic about Ford. "I could make you look
really horrible on this show," Cramer shouts. And then he admits that
he's just as guilty of searching desperately for silver linings.
"Every night," he barks, "I try to come out and say something good,
but it's difficult. It's difficult, because it spits in the face of
people who've lost so much."

Cramer is in pain, and he's taking it out on Burnett. By the end of
six of the more excruciating minutes I've witnessed on television,
Burnett was scrambling for a graceful way out. "We can let everybody
know, that now they know, that we have very real, frank discussions
and disagreements in this segment. As people can do." She changes the
subject to his nightly show, which on Monday will cover carbon cap-
and-trades. "And I believe you're talking energy tonight?" offers
Burnett, helpfully. "Some degree," huffs Cramer. He's just openly
wrestled with the dilemmas of his job, and come out the loser.
Burnett is visibly relieved to sign off for the day.

Maria Bartiromo, the famous "Money Honey" who was once the subject of
a Ramones song, follows Burnett with "Closing Bell," which runs from
3 p.m. to 5. Today, Bartiromo's big draw is an interview with John
McCain. Where should the president's attention be, Senator? "I would
focus on the pork-barrel spending." I experience a strangely familiar
urge to nap. Wall Street's closing bell rings at 4:00, under
Bartiromo's watch. The Dow has sunk 79 points, to 6,547. Bartiromo
sums up, and steps aside.

"Fast Money" comes on after Bartiromo, to kill an hour until the
network's true stars start to shine at 6. The show professes to arm
its viewers with insight and analysis gleaned from the day's
gyrations. "Faster than a New York minute, Dylan Ratigan and the
'Fast Money' traders give you the information normally reserved for
the Wall Street trading floor," promises the Web site. This claim
might be true, if the Wall Street trading floor is secretly run by
Lewis Carroll. The hosts have all affected epithets like "the
Commissioner," "the Pit Boss" and "the Ambassador." And they seemed,
to an outsider's ear, to speak nonsense, at an auctioneer's manic
pace, with exclamation points. "Look at Google at 290!" snapped the
Ambassador. "Did you buy it?" beeped a voice off-screen. "I did look
at it, I didn't buy a share!" "Why not?" "I like to look at it!"

Then the Commissioner explained it all. "One company's going to buy
another company, and this company's going to buy the company that's
going to buy that company."

After "Fast Money," it's time for the channel's marquee names to make
sense of the day's fiscal carnage. At 6 o'clock Eastern, 90 minutes
after the closing bell, Cramer is back on camera, this time as the
host of his own show, "Mad Money." I was vaguely aware that Cramer's
shtick involved high-volume, manic behavior and sound effects. I did
not expect it to involve a confession of fallibility and ignorance.
"My job is not just to entertain you but to educate you," he says.
"You know what drives market pros and grizzled veterans crazy about
this particular market? It's that no pattern that we've had before,
ever, nothing that worked before, is working now."

"We're like navigators operating without a map or compass." Now, with
the Dow below 7,000, he tells us.

Never having seen the show before, I'm astonished, even though
Cramer's conniptions earlier in the day should've warned me. I
thought the whole premise was that Cramer had a compass, and knew
where he was taking us. Jon Stewart's whole point in his criticisms
of Cramer was that the guy gets things wrong all the damn time. Yet
the show depends on his almost violent assertion of his own
authority. He has to acknowledge that he's been wrong if he wants to
seem like a serious analyst, but he also has to keep pointing the way
forward. A caller asks him if it's a good time for new investors to
break in. Cramer says there's no hard-and-fast rule, we've got to go
case-by-case, and then, without missing a beat, or seeking any
further information, says, "Buy Verizon."

Nobody knows what they're doing, but hey, here's what you should do.
How can CNBC square this circle? The answer is, as Jon Stewart called
it, cheap populism. That's where Barack Obama comes in.

According to CNBC's evening punditocracy, nightly tasked with
explaining why another day has ended in the toilet, it's not the
market's fault, it's the government. Cramer warns that the Obama
administration might cause another Great Depression, accuses the
administration of "wealth destruction," and compares Obama's cap-and-
trade carbon pricing scheme to the McCarthyite House Un-American
Activities Committee. "It's time to join the witch hunt against known
polluters," he snarks. "Will the Democrats carbon blacklist this
company, unless it names names?"

Economist Larry Kudlow, whose hour-long "Kudlow & Company" follows
"Mad Money" Monday through Friday at 7 Eastern, has even less shame
than Cramer. Kudlow accuses Obama of "waging war against businesses
and investors and entrepreneurs." He tees up guest Art Laffer, a
wholly discredited economist, who claims, "The political process
started in late 2007. Since that time, the markets have been down 55
percent. Markets are forward-looking, not backward-looking. They saw
what was coming in the election. They were anticipating what this guy
would do, and they caused a slowdown."

Got that? It's not our fault none of the models are working. The
economy collapsed because the government broke it. Buy Verizon. If it
goes up, Cramer and Kudlow and Santelli are geniuses. If it goes
down, it's Obama's fault. Either way CNBC wins.

CNBC's audience is not a demographic cross section of America. If it
was a cross section, the network wouldn't make any money; CNBC
attracts advertisers not with the size of its audience but with its
maleness and its affluence. The network gets about a quarter million
viewers a day, a tiny fraction of the U.S. population, but those
viewers have a median household net worth of more than $1.2 million.
Still, the financial pundits flatter viewers into thinking, as Rick
Santelli put it during his famous trading floor rant, that they are
"a pretty good statistical cross-section of America." For these guys,
investors are America. Jim Cramer asked at one point, of the Obama
administration, "Who do they think owns stocks?" As if the obvious
answer is, "Everybody!" Obama, Cramer complained, "seemed proud that
he ignored the [market] averages, as if they're some sort of
distraction, and not a precursor of the economy."

I'm not going to argue that the Dow Jones is irrelevant to the
economy, but the fundamental problem of the bubble years was that the
Dow Jones was growing and our actual assets were not. We weren't
really getting richer. We were just pretending to get richer.

In mistaking themselves for the country at large, and the bouncing of
the market for the health of the economy as a whole, Cramer, Kudlow
and the whole talking-head crew give the lie to Rick Santelli's
assertion about a "silent majority." CNBC feels like bizarro world
because, in an important sense, it is.

-- By Gabriel Winant

Copyright �2009 Salon Media Group, Inc.

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3 electric saz solos

These replace the others previously uploaded (esaz1, esaz2, esaz3) ones.
They're probably the best string solos I've done to date; because of the
complexity of the saz frets (18 frets to the octave), I've been able to
play in a different way with greater structure and beauty (given the
tuning of the instrument). Please have a listen, thanks - Alan

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