Saturday, December 26, 2009

the Most Influential Progressives

The three M's -- Bill Moyers, Michael Moore and Rachel Maddow -- scored highest in a recent AlterNet survey* asking more than 5,000 readers to rate the most influential progressive media figures. Moyers, who scored 67.5, and Moore, with a 66.2 score, were very close. Maddow was a tad behind at 63.5.

It's no surprise that Moyers, the moral sage, and Moore, the rabble-rouser, are ranked at the top. They have been popular with AlterNet readers for years. Moyers' current show, "Bill Moyers' Journal," gets at the heart of our many social ills with long-form exploration and probing interviews. Recently, Moyers spent an episode on the Lyndon Johnson Vietnam tapes, drawing a connection to Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan. The show was a television masterpiece.

Moore built his popularity with the astoundingly successful 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which remains the highest-grossing documentary of all time, taking in over $200 million worldwide, including U.S. box office revenue of almost $120 million. Bowling for Columbine, released in 2002, took in more than $58 million while Sicko (2007) brought in $36 million. The $14 mill pulled in by Moore's most recent film, Capitalism: A Love Story, is a large drop-off, and must be seen as a disappointment.

Moore also had the highest recognition score in the survey at 98.4 percent -- quite a feat for the former editor of the Flint, Michigan alternative weekly The Flint Voice. Moyers was next at 96.4, followed by Arianna Huffington at 95.6.

But the big story in the survey is Rachel Maddow. For her to leapfrog legends like Noam Chomsky, Arianna Huffington and Amy Goodman -- longtime media mainstays -- is a huge accomplishment. Maddow's success demonstrates that brains and savvy have a place on cable TV, amidst the name-calling that sometimes passes for dialogue. And it indicates that progressives will follow the right talent to corporate media, which may encourage mainstream media outlets to hire more progressives.

Noam Chomsky, still the left's leading intellectual, placed fourth at 57.6, followed by Paul Krugman at 53.4. Krugman's incisive column in the New York Times has been a must-read for several years among a broad swath of liberals and progressives. The sixth-place slot was taken by Maddow's MSNBC cohort, Keith Olbermann (51.7), whose bombastic style, while certainly different than Rachel's, clearly has its fans.

Next in line, and finishing off the top 10, were Amy Goodman (49.7), Arianna Huffington (49.4), Naomi Klein (47.7), and former Labor Secretary and Berkeley professor Robert Reich (31.1).



Here is the full list of Influential Progressives

Saturday, December 19, 2009

AT&T survives Operation Chokehold



Ma Bell's wireless network is still standing after Friday's grassroots iPhone attack

The appointed hour — Friday, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. PST — came and went and AT&T's (T) 3G cellular network had not been brought to its knees, despite the best efforts of thousands of Apple (AAPL) iPhone users.

"As far as I can tell, there’s been no impact at all," wrote Dan Lyons in The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs at 12:19 p.m. "My iPhone is working just the same as ever. "

It was Lyons, writing as Fake Steve Jobs, who on Monday had encouraged iPhone owners to overwhelm AT&T's network by turning on a data-intensive app and running it for an hour. Operation Chokehold, as he dubbed it, was intended as a protest against AT&T's threatened imposition of data usage fees.

By Wednesday, after the FCC's chief of homeland security issued a stern warning, Lyons began to have second thoughts. But by then the protest had taken on a life of its own. See here.

Although there were scattered reports of slowdowns Friday on the Operation Chokehold Facebook page, AT&T's 3G network seemed to be holding up just fine.

"We don't know of any instances in which AT&T's service was degraded or brought offline," says John Rust, one of the "Three Musketeers" who managed Operation Chokehold's official website. "Yet at the same time, we consider the operation to be successful: we proved to AT&T that we believe that 'unlimited' should be 'unlimited,' and that it's not their job to redefine it."

In Brooklyn, where we were monitoring the network's performance, upload and download speeds actually increased during the first quarter hour. See the chart below the fold.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If They Want to Make It Hip, They Shouldn't Call It Square-Dancing

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Every other week, Paul Silveria gathers his friends, many of them tattooed habitu├ęs of the punk scene here, in warehouses or large houses and cranks up loud protest music.
Then, the 28-year-old steps forward, do-si-dos his partner, and begins to square-dance.
"Square-dancing here isn't really what people imagine it to be," Mr. Silveria says of the hybrid rock and square-dance moves he does. "It turns into a hoedown mosh pit."
In the 1950s and 1960s, square-dancing was big with young and old folks alike. Today, youthful dancers and "callers" like Mr. Silveria are increasingly rare. If this quintessentially American art form can't lure new blood, many aficionados fear, it could be heading toward its last dance.
To attract young people, square-dancing organizations are making efforts to modernize. To the standard repertoire of Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash, some callers have added Michael Jackson, U2 and hip-hop. To keep younger pupils hooked, instructors use collectible plastic badges that denote dancing milestones. Moves include flourishes such as dancing with a beanbag on your head.
The push has some purists grumbling that the true square-dancing tradition -- which arrived from France during colonial times and thrived as a social activity in rural areas -- is being ruined. In particular, older dancers complain that young people are too loud and don't respect traditional clothing or music.
Some square-dance organizers are trying to modernize these gatherings in an effort to attract more young people.
Despite the complaints, leaders stress that they must update or die. "It's scary," says Doug Schafer, 60, an active member of the Bonnie Lads and Lassies square-dancing club in Tacoma, Wash. His group has 69 active members, only 13 under the age of 35. In a survey conducted by the United Square Dancers of America, only 36% of dancers were under the age of 60 in 2005. Fewer than 1% were between 19 and 29.
Nationally, the number of square-dancers has declined to 300,000 from more than one million estimated square-dancers in the late 1970s, says Len Houle, president of the USDA. Responding to the grim numbers, a related group voted in June to spend $22,000 revamping its Web site to feature video and younger dancers.
Attracting the young isn't easy, even in the Pacific Northwest, a bastion of square-dancing all the way back to the covered-wagon days. Organizers must battle a perception among young people that square-dancing is uncool.
For decades, children endured square-dancing taught by indifferent teachers in gym class. Many adults still grimace at the thought of another do-si-do, resurrecting memories of stepping on toes and listening to outdated music.
The 'Dare to Be Square' dance in Seattle last weekend, where young and old dance.
"We're trying to prove we're not square," says Ray Gallagher, chairman of the Pacific Northwest Teen Square Dance Festival. Fighting "the hay-bale and hillbilly stigma" can be tough.
Mr. Gallagher's annual festival is the largest of its kind left in the country and is credited with anchoring a robust young dancer community in the Northwest. In its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, the springtime event drew 1,500 dancers from the Northwest. Now, Mr. Gallagher says he'll be lucky to attract 500 competitors. They come from all over the country, because so many other youth square-dance festivals have died.
Baleigh Marquardt, 15, describes herself as a "closet square-dancer." Concerned her high-school friends will make fun of her, she says that only a handful know about her weekly trips to the Maplewood Grange in Aurora, Ore., to practice dancing with the Canby Cloverleaves. In lieu of full prairie skirts worn over lace-trimmed petticoats, Ms. Marquardt opts for "toned-down prom dresses," without open backs.
Speakeasy: Historian Digs Into Dance's History
A few miles north, at Kinton Grange in Beaverton, Ore., dancers sweat and spin, their footsteps thundering on the wood floor. Older dancers welcome half a dozen young dancers on the floor. One girl sports pink-tipped hair, black leather bracelets and a blue prairie skirt. Another boy uses a class ring to cinch his neck scarf.
During one dance, a white-bearded man wearing a pink neck kerchief twirls a 10th-grader so fast that she pleads, "I'm dizzy!" During breaks, younger dancers remove cellphones from belt holsters and begin text-messaging.
Among those twirling and texting is 20-year-old Amanda Roberts. Ms. Roberts recently was elected to the board of the Tualatin Valley Council of Square Dance Clubs. She is the youngest member by a few decades.
Since joining, she has begun a recruitment drive to find young dancers. She made a Facebook page for the Toe Draggers, the club she belongs to in Beaverton. She posts square-dancing fliers on high-school and college campuses, and joins online discussion groups to tell youths where they can find dance lessons. For all that, she's only recruited two people for lessons. Young people "think it's all Western. They have the wrong impression," Ms. Roberts says.
Sometimes it just takes the right incentives to convince people under a certain age to attend square dances. Charmaine Slaven, 29, helped launch a "Dare to Be Square" event in the Northwest two years ago to train new callers and musicians. This year's event sold out all 160 spots. Ms. Slaven's formula for success: cheap cover charges, no lessons required, and kegs of beer.
Teens used to have their own clubs, but because of the dwindling sizes of many organizations, many teen groups have combined with traditional clubs in recent years.
This creates some tensions. Christy Knierim, a 19-year-old dancer in Corvallis, Ore., says she and other youth were relegated by elders to the back corner of the dance floor. Elders worried about confusion when younger dancers switched male and female dancing roles. There were also concerns of "goofing off," she says. In time, the two groups have unified.
Other older dancers embrace the new culture. Down the road at the Oak Grove Community Club, George Hermann, a 62-year-old caller for the Oaky Doaks of Oak Grove, Ore., put on a backwards cap and shades and began rapping to "Whoop! (Square it is)," a square-dance version of Tag Team's 1993 hip-hop hit "Whoomp! (There it is)."
To a thumping backbeat, Mr. Hermann delivers his lines at a rapper's pace into a microphone: "Swing that lady round and round" and "do an allemande left."
Michael Kious, Mr. Hermann's grandson, was mortified as a young boy when he first heard his grandfather rap in front of an audience. But now, the 21-year-old Mr. Kious, a dancer himself, says his grandpa's rap is a favorite.
Mr. Kious met his wife, Lisa, square-dancing. Although they have encountered a handful of other young dancing couples online, the newlyweds realize they're a rare breed.
They say they enjoy dancing with older folks but acknowledge a generational divide. Younger dancers' faster pace, additional hip bumps and extra claps can cause some collisions with elders, many coping with knee replacements or arthritis.
"Sometimes we have to warn older dancers that they're in a younger square," Mrs. Kious says. "It can get crazy."

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Miami Herald Asks Readers For Donations

The Miami Herald is taking a page out of Wikipedia's playbook.

Starting Tuesday, the McClatchy-owned newspaper is using its website to invite readers to donate to the newspaper.

A link appears on every story that reads, "Support ongoing news coverage" and takes you to a page where readers can donate any amount they'd like.

"If you value The Miami Herald's local news reporting and investigations, but prefer the convenience of the Internet, please consider a voluntary payment for the web news that matters to you," the prompt reads.

The newspaper's parent company, McClatchy, said last week that advertising trends had improved. The company expected ad revenue "to decline in the low- to mid-20 percent range in the fourth quarter compared with a decline of 28.1 percent in the third quarter and 30.2 percent in the second quarter," the AP reported.

Wikipedia — run by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation — runs an annual appeal for readers to donate for the free service; last year, the campaign raised $3 million in the span of ten days.

STEPHEN COLBERT TO GRACE COVER OF SPORTS ILLUSTRATED


He’s long been a staple on newsstands and bookshelves, but this week Stephen Colbert will debut in an unlikely spot – on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

The host of “The Colbert Report” graces the front of the new issue devoted to sports media… wearing an Olympic speedskating uniform. Last month, fans of Colbert’s television program pooled more than $250,000 in contributions to become the official primary sponsor of U.S. Speedskating. The team’s largest annual cash sponsor, DSB Bank NV, declared bankruptcy in October.

Colbert has featured Olympics-related material regularly on “The Colbert Report” in recent weeks.

The issue will be on newsstands Wednesday.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

TIGER WOODS CAUSES BOOK BOOM!


Dr. John Gribbin, author of Get A Grip On New Physics, the book found in Tiger Woods’ crashed car at Sussex University on Wednesday (December 09).

A British University professor cannot buy a copy of his own book after it shot up the bestseller’s list because it was spotted in the disgraced golfer’s wrecked car.

Dr. Gribbin’s book was seen in police pictures of Wood’s battered Cadillac, surrounded by debris.

The title soon rocketed up Amazon’s sales rankings nearly 400 000 places and its value increased by an astonishing 700%.

As Tiger’s life seems to spiral out of control, University of Sussex lecturer Dr Gribbin’s keeps getting better — with sought-after overseas copies of his 2003 publication now pushing $80.

Because the book is out of print, it has caused second hand prices to soar as buyers battle it out for the few remaining copies.

The British version of Get a Grip on New Physics is unavailable on Amazon UK and only two copies of the American edition are now on offer there at $75.

It’s surge in popularity has mainly been in the USA where it was priced at just $10 before Wood’s fall from grace made international headlines.

The book — which suddenly climbed the internet giant’s rankings to become the 2268th most popular book shortly after the Woods crash pictures were released — aims to make big physics simple for ordinary people.

Prof. Gribbin thinks sportsman Woods may have been trying to get his head around puzzling world events.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Madoff's Sons are Looking for Finance Jobs

According to the Wall Street Journal Andrew and Mark Madoff are putting the feelers out and whipping their resumes into shape. Which must count as a lesson in optimism.

On the anniversary of the day the fraud as revealed, the Journal says Mark has talked to some Wall Street types about a position on a trading desk or in trading technology. He asked one person to keep him in mind if there were any openings. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

He's untouchable in any firm that deals with the public," says someone who talked to Mr. Madoff. He was near tears while describing his feelings about his father, the person added, asking why anyone would bring his son to work at a crooked investment firm. Another person approached by the 45-year-old Mr. Madoff was told by his lawyer not to respond.

Andrew Madoff, meanwhile, is considering starting a disaster recovery firm. Disaster being his area of expertees, one supposes. Even former employees who haven't got the last name Madoff are struggling.

I'll never get a job in finance, and I'm one of the lucky ones," says Eleanor Squillari, Bernard Madoff's assistant for many years. She went to beauty school this summer and plans to look for work at a hair salon while selling her handmade jewelry.

Do not be surprised to see a couple of Madoff-looking guys sweeping up hair there.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Harry Reid And GOP Duke It Out Over Slavery


By Beau Friedlander

Harry Reid likened opposition to health care reform to opposition to the emancipation. Republicans are calling foul and touting their historic role in freeing the slaves.

Harry Reid got things rolling on the Senate floor:

You think you've heard these same excuses before? You're right. In this country there were those who dug in their heels and said, 'Slow down, it's too early. Let's wait. Things aren't bad enough' — about slavery.

Michael Steele shot back that Reid was "far out of bounds with his absurd and offensive comments."

Reid has now compared his quest to pass the Obama-Pelosi government takeover of health care to the effort to end slavery.... To suggest that passing this horrible bill is anything akin to ridding our country of slavery is terribly offensive and calls into question Mr. Reid's suitability to lead.

Sure the Republicans freed the slaves and created the 13th and 14th amendments. They were branded "radical Republicans." No debate there. But there is quite a history of the GOP and its maniac messengers using the history of slavery to underline various forms of wingnuttery.

Ron Paul called taxes slavery:

The income tax is one of the most egregious encroachments on our liberties today. It is a form of involuntary servitude, which was supposed to have been outlawed by the 13th Amendment.

Mike Huckabee likened abortion to slavery earlier this year:

"What are we saying to the generation coming after us when we tell them that it is perfectly OK for one person to own another human being?" Huckabee said. "I thought we dealt with that 150 years ago when the issue of slavery was finally settled in this country, and we decided that it no longer was a political issue, it wasn't an issue of geography, it was an issue of morality. That it was either right or it was immoral that one person could own another human being and have full control even to the point of life and death over that other human being."

Pushing the envelope to the nth degree, Glenn Beck compared the economic stimulus plan to slavery. Seriously, watch the video. Beck also claims that progressives share a lot in common with slave owners:

"We call them progressives now, but back in Samuel Adams’ day, they used to call them tyrants,” said Beck. “A little later, I think they were also called slave owners."

Will Harry Reid stick to his guns? It was a courageous thing to say.

MEET THE REAL LIFE EDWARD SCISSOR HANDS


Valentino LoSauro is the real-life Edward Scissor Hands as he displays his revolutionary ‘Clawz’ that he claims cut hair twice as fast as normal shears.

Standing in his Fort Myers, Florida salon, Valentino proudly brandishes the ‘Clawz’ which he spent two years and nearly $250 000 developing from scratch.

Made from responsive elastic and razor sharp stainless steel, the ‘Clawz’ represent “the biggest advance in hair-styling since the advent of the scissors,” according to Valentino.

Attached to his fingertips, Valentino has been using his innovative invention for the past eight years and feels that one day they will replace the trusty scissor.

OH MY: MEET THE LION, BEAR AND TIGER LIVING LIKE BROTHERS



Check out Shere Khan the tiger, Leo the lion and Baloo the bear chillin’ like villains at the Noah’s Ark Zoo in Locust Grove, Georgia.

The adorable but deadly trio are the unlikeliest friends you could ever see.

Living like brothers at the at a local zoo in Georgia, the bear, lion and tiger have grown up together all their lives.

Found on July 27, 2001, after police confiscated them as part of a drug bust, the three friends were just two months old.

They were locked in a car, along with an African spurred tortoise — Barney, who also lives at Noah’s Ark.

Prior to being moved to their current habitat, they lived near the Noah’s Ark Children’s Care Home, which meant they were not accessible to the general public.

Now they are in display in a specially constructed habitat and they enjoy a special bond with the Hedgecoth family who own Noah’s Ark.

Some pets sickened by swine flu as well



LOS ANGELES - A handful of pets have been sickened with swine flu in recent weeks, but here are doctors' orders: Wash your hands and don't panic.

The virus, also known as H1N1, has been diagnosed in only a few cats and ferrets since it emerged in April. Veterinarians say they don't know if that is because so few animals have been tested or because so few have the disease.

"I think we're probably going to be seeing more (pet) cases in the future. There is more focus on it so people are looking harder," said Dr. Kristy Pabilonia of the Colorado State University Department of Veterinary Medicine, which confirmed two new cases in cats on Friday.

A lethargic 13-year-old tabby in Iowa that was having trouble breathing was the first house cat to be diagnosed. In the last two months, other cats have tested positive in Iowa, Utah and Pennsylvania. All have recovered or are expected to recover, Pabilonia said.

Swine flu appears to be the latest disease spread between animals and humans, said Dr. Miranda Spindel, Director of Veterinary Outreach for the ASPCA and based in Fort Collins, Colo. Other examples include ringworm, salmonella, plague and rabies.

"There are lots of diseases that are transmitted from people to pets and vice versa and people tend to forget that," Spindel said.

However, it is rare for flu viruses to jump between species, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. And there is no evidence that humans can get the swine flu infection from pets.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Andrew Sullivan: I'm Breaking From The Right

Reacting to prominent conservative blogger Charles Johnson's announcement that he would not follow the right wing off a cliff, Andrew Sullivan is offering his own reasons for parting with the movement.

Johnson, who blogs at Little Green Footballs, wrote on Monday that fanatic politicians, racism, sexism, anti-Islamism, hate speech, conspiracy theories and other troubling trends on the right wing have led him to make a formal break.

"The American right wing has gone off the rails, into the bushes, and off the cliff," he concluded. "I won't be going over the cliff with them."

Andrew Sullivan, though not as consistent a conservative as Johnson, felt compelled to emphasize his own separation from the right wing. Among other things, he writes:

I cannot support a movement that holds that purely religious doctrine should govern civil political decisions and that uses the sacredness of religious faith for the pursuit of worldly power.

I cannot support a movement that is deeply homophobic, cynically deploys fear of homosexuals to win votes, and gives off such a racist vibe that its share of the minority vote remains pitiful.

I cannot support a movement which has no real respect for the institutions of government and is prepared to use any tactic and any means to fight political warfare rather than conduct a political conversation.

FIVE POUND BLISTER PEARL!


Check out the Palawan Princess, an incredible, five-pound blister pearl which measures six inches in diameter.

This giant gem is the second largest in the world and expected to fetch over $400 000 at auction this week.

The Palawan Princess is a rare and immense blister pearl weighing five pounds. It is surpassed only by the renowned 14 pound Pearl of Allah.

The beautiful pearl measures six inches in diameter and is still attached to the giant clam shell it was formed in.

Gemologists at the European Gem Laboratories, who examined and authenticated the pearl, said: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime look at one of nature’s most unique treasures. A pearl this size is not only one of the largest ones we have ever seen, it is among the largest pearls ever seen anywhere.”

The clam shell was found off the coastal waters of the Philippines by a professional pearl diver. It is being auctioned by Bonhams and Butterfields in Los Angeles on December 6.

And the walls come a tumblin' down

As of yesterday, some section editors at all of (A.H. Belo Corp) papers, including The (Dallas Morning) News, will now report directly to (senior vice president of sales Cyndy) Carr's team of sales managers, now referred to as general managers. In short, those who sell ads for A.H. Belo's products will now dictate content within A.H. Belo's products, which is a radical departure from the way newspapers have been run since, oh, forever....

U.S. Skater Davis calls Colbert ‘a jerk’ for bashing Canadians

CALGARY, Alberta - Stephen Colbert's Canadian-bashing isn't sitting well with at least one American speedskating star.

"He's a jerk," Shani Davis said Thursday when asked for his take on the comedian's criticism of Canadians. "You can put that in the paper."

Davis declined to elaborate, making the comment while vetting potential questions from The Canadian Press before rejecting an interview request and walking away.

Davis has ties to Canada from training out of Calgary in the past, and has also had past differences with U.S. Speedskating, which is now being sponsored by the comedian who hosts the "The Colbert Report."

Publicists for Colbert did not respond to requests for comment.

Colbert stepped into a void for the American skaters after the team was left with a $300,000 shortfall when Dutch bank DSB declared bankruptcy and pulled out of its sponsorship. He put up a fundraising link on his Web site — a similar plan helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for wounded American soldiers and their families — in exchange for becoming the skating body's primary sponsor.

Soon after, Colbert used his show to aim some pointed barbs north of the border, while picking up on complaints that Vancouver Olympic officials have been limiting international athletes' access to facilities for the 2010 Winter Games.

"Those syrup-suckers won't let us practice at their Olympic venues," Colbert said. "At the Salt Lake Games, we let the Canadian luge team take 100 practice runs."

The issue of access to the Richmond Olympic Oval is one that resonates with the U.S. skaters, although they're more diplomatic about it than Colbert.

"It's the Olympics, the point of the Olympics is to bring the whole world together and by doing that they're kind of separating themselves off from the world," said rising U.S. star Trevor Marsicano. "... It's the way it is. I'm not going to complain about it."

Veteran Chad Hedrick feels the same way.

"I think everybody should have equal rights to train on the ice as much as they can," the Olympic champion said. "I don't know how it's been in past Olympic Games, I've only been to one Olympics and maybe when it was in Salt Lake the ice time was more favorable to Americans, I don't know. ...

"But that's part of the game."

Hedrick and Marsicano both appreciate Colbert's support, even though neither was particularly familiar with his show on Comedy Central before he came on board.

Hedrick hopes Colbert's fans will help bring more exposure to and increase the profile of a sport that repeatedly leads the way in terms of medals won by Americans at Winter Olympics.

"We're really fortunate that he jumped on board. It's a great situation for us," Hedrick said. "We needed it financially. It's a great opportunity for U.S. Speedskating to provide things for the athletes that they wouldn't be able to provide without him. ...

"As successful as we've been at the Olympics, a lot of people are unfamiliar with speedskating in America. And the money doesn't hurt at all."

Marsicano agrees and is looking forward to an expected team visit from Colbert at next week's World Cup stop in Salt Lake City.

"He's a good thing for U.S. Speedskating," Marsicano said.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Arming Goldman With Pistols Against Public

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- “I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

I called Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag to ask whether it’s true that Goldman partners feel they need handguns to protect themselves from the angry proletariat. He didn’t call me back. The New York Police Department has told me that “as a preliminary matter” it believes some of the bankers I inquired about do have pistol permits. The NYPD also said it will be a while before it can name names.

While we wait, Goldman has wrapped itself in the flag of Warren Buffett, with whom it will jointly donate $500 million, part of an effort to burnish its image -- and gain new Goldman clients. Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein also reversed himself after having previously called Goldman’s greed “God’s work” and apologized earlier this month for having participated in things that were “clearly wrong.”

Has it really come to this? Imagine what emotions must be billowing through the halls of Goldman Sachs to provoke the firm into an apology. Talk that Goldman bankers might have armed themselves in self-defense would sound ludicrous, were it not so apt a metaphor for the way that the most successful people on Wall Street have become a target for public rage.

Pistol Ready

Common sense tells you a handgun is probably not even all that useful. Suppose an intruder sneaks past the doorman or jumps the security fence at night. By the time you pull the pistol out of your wife’s jewelry safe, find the ammunition, and load your weapon, Fifi the Pomeranian has already been taken hostage and the gun won’t do you any good. As for carrying a loaded pistol when you venture outside, dream on. Concealed gun permits are almost impossible for ordinary citizens to obtain in New York or nearby states.

In other words, a little humility and contrition are probably the better route.

Until a couple of weeks ago, that was obvious to everyone but Goldman, a firm famous for both prescience and arrogance. In a display of both, Blankfein began to raise his personal- security threat level early in the financial crisis. He keeps a summer home near the Hamptons, where unrestricted public access would put him at risk if the angry mobs rose up and marched to the East End of Long Island.

To the Barricades

He tried to buy a house elsewhere without attracting attention as the financial crisis unfolded in 2007, a move that was foiled by the New York Post. Then, Blankfein got permission from the local authorities to install a security gate at his house two months before Bear Stearns Cos. collapsed.

This is the kind of foresight that Goldman Sachs is justly famous for. Blankfein somehow anticipated the persecution complex his fellow bankers would soon suffer. Surely, though, this man who can afford to surround himself with a private army of security guards isn’t sleeping with the key to a gun safe under his pillow. The thought is just too bizarre to be true.

So maybe other senior people at Goldman Sachs have gone out and bought guns, and they know something. But what?

Henry Paulson, U.S. Treasury secretary during the bailout and a former Goldman Sachs CEO, let it slip during testimony to Congress last summer when he explained why it was so critical to bail out Goldman Sachs, and -- oh yes -- the other banks. People “were unhappy with the big discrepancies in wealth, but they at least believed in the system and in some form of market-driven capitalism. But if we had a complete meltdown, it could lead to people questioning the basis of the system.”

Torn Curtain

There you have it. The bailout was meant to keep the curtain drawn on the way the rich make money, not from the free market, but from the lack of one. Goldman Sachs blew its cover when the firm’s revenue from trading reached a record $27 billion in the first nine months of this year, and a public that was writhing in financial agony caught on that the profits earned on taxpayer capital were going to pay employee bonuses.

This slip-up let the other bailed-out banks happily hand off public blame to Goldman, which is unpopular among its peers because it always seems to win at everyone’s expense.

Plenty of Wall Streeters worry about the big discrepancies in wealth, and think the rise of a financial industry-led plutocracy is unjust. That doesn’t mean any of them plan to move into a double-wide mobile home as a show of solidarity with the little people, though.

Cool Hand Lloyd

No, talk of Goldman and guns plays right into the way Wall- Streeters like to think of themselves. Even those who were bailed out believe they are tough, macho Clint Eastwoods of the financial frontier, protecting the fistful of dollars in one hand with the Glock in the other. The last thing they want is to be so reasonably paid that the peasants have no interest in lynching them.

And if the proles really do appear brandishing pitchforks at the doors of Park Avenue and the gates of Round Hill Road, you can be sure that the Goldman guys and their families will be holed up in their safe rooms with their firearms. If nothing else, that pistol permit might go part way toward explaining why they won’t be standing outside with the rest of the crowd, broke and humiliated, saying, “Damn, I was on the wrong side of a trade with Goldman again.”