Posted by: Helen Walters on April 05, 2010
Interface designer and anthropologist Jan Chipchase (that’s him in the background, taking the picture) has made a name for himself and collected quite a following as a result of his work at Nokia, where he worked in both the research group and the design team (read a 2007 BusinessWeek Q&A with him here.) Having joined the Finnish telecoms company in October, 2000, Chipchase spent nine years in Tokyo and the last at Nokia Design in Los Angeles. Now, however, change is afoot, as Chipchase moves to work at design and innovation consultancy, frog design. As the firm’s new executive creative director of global insights, Chipchase is relocating once more, this time to Shanghai, China.
Link: SwissEduc: Stromboli Online - Volcanic and glacial landforms of Iceland.
Smoke and steam hangs over the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland. Volcanic ash drifting across the Atlantic forced the cancellation of flights in Britain and disrupted air traffic across Europe.
How an Icelandic volcano helped spark the French Revolution
Profound effects of eight-month eruption in 1783 caused chaos from US to Egypt, say experts
Just over 200 years ago an Icelandic volcano erupted with catastrophic consequences for weather, agriculture and transport across the northern hemisphere %u2013 and helped trigger the French revolution. The Laki volcanic fissure in southern Iceland erupted over an eight-month period from 8 June 1783 to February 1784, spewing lava and poisonous gases that devastated the island's agriculture, killing much of the livestock. It is estimated that perhapsa quarter of Iceland's population died through the ensuing famine.
OTOH, this FB link from my friend John Voelker points out (with link to carbon chart illustration):
So I figure, why not look in at them here? Let's look beyond the practical vo-tech employment concerns and wax a bit philosophical.
First, to Robert Niles:
By Robert NilesWhat's the value of journalism?
The short answer is, of course, "whatever someone will pay for it." But a more thoughtful response gets at why people are willing to exchange something of value for news information.
Economics 101 teaches that if more people want something, and the scarcer it is, the higher the price. With millions of new websites competing for people's attention, advertising rates across all media have plunged, threatening news businesses that depend upon advertising income.
[Hmmm. Tell the Econ 101 argument to poets, and they may beg to differ.
While journalists have long had to contend with the idea that their best work has the value of the Daily Fishwrap, the thing that people pile up unread, throw away daily, or use to line birdcages, poets have lived with this deep knowledge, that their very best work, their best of the best, work that strives for standing the test of time, or ephemeral, contingent, and quickly forgotten work like performance art, has an economic value of precisely ZERO, since before the time of Gutenberg.
Posted on February 11, 2010 at 04:56 PM in Academia, Books, Citizen Journalism, Civil Rights, Copyright & Intellectual Property, Cyberculture, Democracy Theory, Economy, Education, Free Speech, Hypertext Theory, Journalism, Literature, Long Tail, Personal, Photography, Poetry, Social Media, Sustainable Living, Teaching, Television, UCD, Web & Interface Design, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Just another voice in the wind about the very real difficulties facing journalism right now. So many people have talked about a non-profit journalism sector, operating largely along the lines of public radio and public television, with telethon-like beg-fests that apparently turn up a fair amount of cash (much to the annoyance of anyone forced to listen to those interruptions).So, folks reason, this model could be applied elsewhere. It goes back to the first warbloggers, like Christopher Allbritton, working for donations to get to Iraq and be an independent journalist on the ground in-country. I'm not certain that model even worked that well then.
Then there's the sponsorship of the Knight Foundation, with the News Challenge for entrepreneurial journalism (http://www.newschallenge.org/).
Zittrain also pointed to Amazon Mechanical Turk, where people can be put to near-automated work that makes them effectively zombies for largely non-useful purposes such as giving five-star reviews for devices they’ve never used. In this case he thinks government regulation, like the FTC’s new blogging disclosure policy, could be a good thing — at least in the sense that it pressures Amazon to police tasks on its platform.
Posted on December 01, 2009 at 11:17 PM in Academia, Books, Civil Rights, Copyright & Intellectual Property, Cyberculture, Democracy Theory, Economy, Education, Free Speech, Hypertext Theory, Journalism, Literature, Long Tail, Politics, Privacy, Research, Science, Sustainable Living, Teaching, Web & Interface Design, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
From the Bloomberg.com Obituary:
In 2007, he was writing about the securitization of home loans when subprime borrowers, who have bad or limited credit histories, began missing payments on their mortgages at a faster pace.
Pittman’s June 29, 2007, article, headlined “S&P, Moody’s Hide Rising Risk on $200 Billion of Mortgage Bonds,” was excoriated at the time by Portfolio.com for “trying to play ‘gotcha’ with the ratings agencies.”
“And that really isn’t helpful,” said the unsigned posting.
Beating the Pack
Pittman’s story proved prescient. So did his reports on U.S. banks exporting toxic mortgages overseas, on Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson’s role in creating those troubled assets while he was chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and on the U.S. bailout of American International Group Inc.
“He’s been on this crisis since before the crisis,” said Gretchen Morgenson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning financial columnist for the New York Times. “He was the best at burrowing into the most complex securities Wall Street could come up with and explaining the implications of them to readers of all levels of sophistication. His investigative work during the crisis set the standard for other reporters everywhere. He was a giant.”
In the “Faustian Bargain” series, Pittman explained how 5 percent of U.S. mortgage borrowers missing monthly payments could lead to a freeze in lending throughout the world.
‘Fearless, Most Trusted’
“Mark Pittman proved to be the most fearless, most trusted reporter on the most important beat during the 12 years he wrote about credit markets, corporate finance and the Federal Reserve at Bloomberg News,” said Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler. “His colleagues will miss his laughter and generous sense of mission. Bloomberg readers were rewarded by his many achievements culminating with a federal court ruling validating his search for records of taxpayer-financed policies withheld from the public and the Gerald Loeb Award.”
You know it's bad when things get this grim. The losses of more than five dozen well-paying journalism jobs sort of pale in comparison to what a community loses in the form of its collective memory of itself and its history.
And as The Wire's David Simon has been pointing out to the Senate and to anyone else who will listen (Bill Moyers, Bill Maher), we are about to enter an inglorious boom-time for corruption, from the small town petty kind (how big the automatic kickback for the building permit or zoning change?) to the massive scale Enron- and Maddoff-style fleecing of civil society on a level folks right now probably can't begin to imagine.
Simon is also refreshing for pointing out (as I would also) that this gutting, this hollowing out of the journalistic endeavor began in the late 1980s and reached a kind of height in the flush, 30% corporate journalism profit days of the 1990s, when the corporate coffers were overflowing with carpet-bagger cash, and journalists still faced low salaries and almost constant rounds of layoffs. As they have since. You can set your watch by them.
Apparently the corporate media monopolies have deliberately set out to kill their journalistic audience/community-voice host.
I've stopped posting on the topic as much because there is really little left to say, beyond rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic or "Thinking the Unthinkable" with Clay Shirky. Once you get there, you can rage, rage against the dying of the light all you want, but journalism as we know it is going going going into that good night.
Maybe I still have a little rage left in me, for the Kabuki Play of public relations material winkingly packaged as "journalism" that the hollowed out remnants of newspapers and other supposedly fourth estate enterprises will become, or perhaps have already become.
Chris Stomps Her Foot and Shakes Fist!
There. I feel better. For about 10 minutes.
Posted on May 16, 2009 at 10:07 AM in Advertising, Citizen Journalism, Civil Rights, Copyright & Intellectual Property, Cyberculture, Democracy Theory, Economy, Free Speech, Journalism, Radio, Stock Market, Sustainable Living, Teaching, Television, Web & Interface Design, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
I recently posted a longish comment on a post on the Lost Remote blog (I don't think it is strictly a TV blog anymore, as the masthead says "local media and the battle for the web"). Like many of us have, Lost Remote has engaged in a lot of soul-searching about what went wrong and what factors are to blame for this major shakeout in the Fourth Estate and the forced removal of what have to be thousands of veteran journalists from commercial participation in the profession (most blogs they are moving to are not yet commercially-viable).
At this point in my life, I've watched such shakeouts happen far too often, from my first days out of Journalism School in the mid-80s, although nothing as bad as what we see now.
I watched Radio majors graduating a few years after me immediately abandon their careers because of Reagan deregulation that allowed massive media chains to consolidate and automate radio properties on a scale that made that profession virtually disappear, just as print journalism is very likely equally hopeless for new journalism grads in the pipeline right now.
I watched 2-newspaper cities and towns become 1-newspaper monopolies, with the staff of one of those papers all let go (no matter what those bogus joint-operating-agreements stated). I was utterly demoralized then, yet that was nothing compared to what is happening now.
Much later, after teaching college for many years, I returned to journalism, this time in cable TV news, and again watched television newsrooms go through rounds of layoffs so regularly you'd think management was dosing on Ex-Lax.
These weren't Howard Beale-style layoffs made by cut-throat Faye Dunaways looking to corrupt the product (although there were those as well). Also rolling through TV and newspaper newsrooms were the deliberate purging of age and experience (where age became a liability in TV once you were over 30-- not on air, in the newsroom-- and over 40 in print) BECAUSE too much journalism experience meant you were more likely to protest at the full-on abandonment of journalistic standards and the embrace of presenting PR-created material as "news."
All small potatoes compared to what is happening now. Entire metropolitan areas may find themselves with NO newspaper of record very soon. This isn't just a convulsion in the field. It is a death rattle. I'm even following a Twitter feed called "Newspaper Death Watch."
So into this conversation comes analysis and blame, and the folks who are ready to pile on and claim traditional journalism was too hidebound and principled and worked itself into an anachronism (this argument is in alignment with the management philosophies that practiced illegal age discrimination in newsrooms, for its most crass purpose, because 20-somethings can be so green and easily intimidated as to abandon journalistic principles in ways that most veteran journalists are not).
So much of the blame centers around bizarre wrong-headedness in how to handle companion web ventures for newspapers, a primo opportunity that most newspapers missed out of sheer blindness to the media shift. Perhaps that is all that is happening now, paying the piper for believing the web was nothing more than a "horseless carriage," rather than a serious competitor for print, TV, and radio.
But with all the blame to go around, some go after the so-called "Great Wall" erected in the U.S. press between business/advertising and editorial content, a means to ensure that editorial stories were not being influenced by interested parties with axes to grind (a more than respectable purpose, and one I take a lot of comfort in, even though it may be, as Shakespeare put it, "more honor'd in the breach than in the observance."
There are many voices today arguing, "Tear down that wall!" They want to unleash journalism online and unite it with "pay-per-post" and sweetheart deals with advertisers, "creative" entrepreneurial solutions that will maximize SEO and online distribution systems with social media (the latter generally a good thing), while taking a pencil eraser to some seriously enshrined principles of journalistic ethics, even when only honored in the breach, because those things can serve to distinguish journalism from interested public relations and bald-faced marketing copy masquerading as editorial content.
I am not a fan of "objectivity" in journalism (pseudo-objectivity), a fiction which really only holds court in the U.S. press, and is dealt with far more sanely in international journalism. Removing point of view from reporting created a fiction, a lie, a form of posturing that hurts basic U.S. journalism to this day. All observations have perspectives, and good journalists will OWN and CLAIM their perspectives (as bloggers do), rather than pretend their eyeballs do not reside within their own heads. U.S. journalists are usually forced to adopt a floating disembodied deity perspective, WHICH IS A LIE.
But I remain a supporter of keeping advertising and business interests separate from editorial interests, and working hard at keeping editorial copy, no matter what form of delivery it takes, from morphing into primarily marketing copy, essentially pissing away journalistic credibility in the process. Newsrooms and editorial filters don't create that credibility (and they've already lost a lot of it). It is earned every day with readers/listeners/watchers/co-creators.
So I say, "Don't Tear Down That Wall!" And here is my response posted to the Lost Remote blog post (sorry about the length, but I care too much about this topic to not carry on about it). I'll also quote some bits from Cory Bergman's original article to set some of the context.
Cory Bergman February 26th, 2009
With the Seattle Post-Intelligencer likely in its final days, I’ve been attending a few of the many panel discussions and meetups in town about the future of journalism. Here in Seattle, the home of Microsoft and hundreds of other technology companies, surely we can figure out a way to bring journalism back from the brink. Right?
But nearly every one of these discussions, attended mostly by journalists and academics, downgrades into a frustrating and largely meaningless exchange of ideas. The problem: journalists wash their hands of the business side of the equation. That’s the business guys’ problem, said one newspaper journalist. But it’s not. It’s everyone’s problem. And the “Great Wall” separating news and the business side has expedited newspapers’ decline.
Now, I’m not proposing using journalism to influence business decisions, directly or indirectly. I’m proposing leveraging a community through technology to help people make better decisions about their lives — including decisions to buy products and services — which dramatically increases revenue potential. Does Yelp violate journalism ethics by allowing a community to self-organize around business information? Of course not. Does it help serve the user? Absolutely. How about Zvents, a popular social events calendar? Same thing. Can the “business guy” build this all by himself, without the help of journalists, the people arguably closest to the user?
By splitting journalism and business into two buckets separated by a longstanding cultural divide, the two groups fail to collaborate on ideas that tap the strengths of both.
This level of collaboration and organization-wide commitment has been painfully missing in local media companies. Journalists want to do traditional news, which is repurposed online. Sales folks want to do traditional reach advertising, which is repurposed online. And technology folks, well, they’re usually understaffed and misinterpreted as the “IT folks.”
Some really great comments available at the original post as well, comments as valuable as the posting. Go read them.
(I've tweaked my grammar a bit for clarity)
I personally find it extremely hard to believe there is a working journalist who doesn't know that the newspaper's costs are not covered by subscriptions and single copy sales.
This is a core principle of Journalism 101, and every possessor of a journalism degree (I can't vouch for the others) would have had to DITCH quite a lot of classes to have missed that key principle that is instilled in every budding young journalist from day 1.
And if not then, they hear it very quickly on the job, the first time they propose doing a story that has ANYTHING to do with a supermarket, which, as we all know, are TABOO simply because for most small newspapers, they are the biggest advertisers.
I patently disbelieve the problems facing this industry right now have anything to do with the so-called "Great Wall," which in and of itself has become so corrupted over the years by supermarkets and other big advertisers (back to school "special sections," anyone?) as fully as it has by the euphemism of "video press releases" and other similar "interested content suppliers" to newsrooms.
Holding the "Great Wall" to blame is nothing but a rationalizing scapegoat, a paper tiger, a straw man, and journalists are right to defend the little corner of that wall that is left.
Remove the wall, put the column inches up for sale (online or off) and you might as well forget about even calling it journalism, and let it all blur into the amorphous PR that is the REAL corporate agenda behind all this transitional cost-cutting. Hell, let's make them all look like the annual report dittoheads and fluff they will become (worse than it is already).
Whatever you do, don't blame corporate management for carrying too much debt, for sucking up too many papers into their massive behemoths, or for making these overly thick monsters into a giant red herring for the nuggets of real journalism that one has to look to find between all the fodder inserted for the advertiser and not the reader. It sure is awfully convenient for media conglomerate management to blame working journalists and throw us off the real trail.
Now, I will grant you this one primary point: journalists have become too disconnected from their communities, too isolated, too much in a bubble. That is their own fault, but it is also the fault of being part of a massive carpet-bagging corporate newspaper chain (as most of them are), parachuting into distant communities, with management brought in from outside and journalists encouraged to climb climb climb to ever distant metropolises.
Even with that weight, my friends over the years have mostly stayed rooted in communities, been part of them, stayed at single papers far longer than I could have. And do you know what they have faced? Constant corporate cutbacks on local coverage and reporters, CONSTANT, 20 years worth of constant. They fight to get inches for local stories around the AP copy used like so much filler, like so many Ann Landers columns or syndicated comics pages.
Section fronts, in some small towns, are all you get for local from the corporate chains. And barely the staff to fill section fronts. Inside those section fronts, it is worse than fishwrap. These papers in many cases were 100-year institutions and participants in community life, BEFORE the carpet-baggers moved in in order to build a pipeline to syphon local ad revenue out of communities and back into the coffers, or the corporate debt service so they could buy and gut more small town papers.
Journalists not knowing that subscriptions and single copy sales don't pay the bills? Get real. They are reminded of that fact every day that they go out into their communities and attempt to cover stories.
The bigger problem is that by letting advertising drive the bus (and I do support the ad model over a paid subscription model online) is that the advertisers became the REAL audience for the paper. Journalists who stubbornly refused to believe this are a dying breed, especially if they still wrote for communities and readers instead of winning awards and striving for their next step up the corporate chain ladder.
But the bulk of that 66% ad-supported content was as throwaway for readers as you could imagine. The ONLY reason many of those stories even existed was for the advertisers to read and file.
That's the disconnect that the online model will solve, with massive structural changes in the field. Just like women's magazines that place how-to put on make-up stories across from a make-up ad, newspapers allowed their relationships with advertisers to corrupt the papers to the point that their product became too irrelevant for real readers.
Journalism has to court readers again, to be sure, and teach advertisers that readers have more power than the advertisers' push model arrogantly denies them.
Some sure do like thinking turning journalists into entrepreneurs will save the world, and I seriously doubt that. Journalists getting even more cozy in bed with the people (advertisers) that drove their audience away will not bring the audience back.
Posted on March 08, 2009 at 06:17 PM in Advertising, Cyberculture, Democracy Theory, Economy, Free Speech, Hypertext Theory, Journalism, Long Tail, Politics, Radio, Research, Stock Market, Sustainable Living, Television, Web & Interface Design, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Rich gloats a little, perhaps presumes too much schadenfreude over what was neither a major fail whale NOR a big victory, but in the first month of a new administration, everything tends to get blown out of proportion.
Sort of like how the first year's grades for college freshmen cause such large swings and swoons in the old GPA.
But I enjoyed reading this too much not to pull out my favorite and most pithy bits. Rich surely does have a nice turn of the phrase. My most fav bits are in bold, emphasis mine.
They Sure Showed That Obama
By FRANK RICH
Published: February 14, 2009
AM I crazy, or wasn’t the Obama presidency pronounced dead just days ago? Obama had “all but lost control of the agenda in Washington,” declared Newsweek on Feb. 4 as it wondered whether he might even get a stimulus package through Congress. “Obama Losing Stimulus Message War” was the headline at Politico a day later. At the mostly liberal MSNBC, the morning host, Joe Scarborough, started preparing the final rites. Obama couldn’t possibly eke out a victory because the stimulus package was “a steaming pile of garbage.”
Less than a month into Obama’s term, we don’t (and can’t) know how he’ll fare as president. The compromised stimulus package, while hardly garbage, may well be inadequate. Timothy Geithner’s uninspiring and opaque stab at a bank rescue is at best a place holder and at worst a rearrangement of the deck chairs on the TARP-Titanic, where he served as Hank Paulson’s first mate.
But we do know this much. Just as in the presidential campaign, Obama has once again outwitted the punditocracy and the opposition. The same crowd that said he was a wimpy hope-monger who could never beat Hillary or get white votes was played for fools again.
[Yeah, there's that schadenfreude dance... naaaah nah-nah boo-boo. Nothing like a little taunting between friends.]
“It’s why our campaign was not based in Washington but in Chicago,” [campaign manager David Axelrod] said. “We were somewhat insulated from the echo chamber. In the summer of ’07, the conventional wisdom was that Obama was a shooting star; his campaign was irretrievably lost; it was a ludicrous strategy to focus on Iowa; and we were falling further and further behind in the national polls.” But even after the Iowa victory, this same syndrome kept repeating itself.
The stimulus battle was more of the same. “This town talks to itself and whips itself into a frenzy with its own theories that are completely at odds with what the rest of America is thinking,” he says. Once the frenzy got going, it didn’t matter that most polls showed support for Obama and his economic package: “If you watched cable TV, you’d see our support was plummeting, we were in trouble. It was almost like living in a parallel universe.”
For Axelrod, the moral is “not just that Washington is too insular but that the American people are a lot smarter than people in Washington think.”
[After living steeped in a world bent on underestimating and condescending to the broader audience of American people-- TV's cable news lowest common denominator programming-- can I just say the fact that someone would actually SAY this out loud is such a wonderful breath of fresh air, I almost don't know what to say! I mean, I tried to say such things to editorial managers and in editorial meetings, and was almost universally dismissed out of hand as someone whose credibility and expertise was in question for even suggesting such a thing. The conventional wisdom was that no one ever lost ratings or got fired for UNDER-estimating the intelligence and discernment of broader audiences.
What does it mean, if, at the highest levels of this president's administration, they are NOT assuming Americans are stupid "Joe Six-Paks," or even "Joe the Plumbers"? Wow. This is a massively radical shift on so many levels. If it is more than lip service (and we have also seen the first prime time presidential news conference where the first question asked gets a 7-minute response, a response that not only consisted of complete sentences, complex sentences, but also PARAGRAPHS. Hey, I've been an English teacher, so I can go a step further. They were well-developed and crafted paragraphs! I wrote about it in a previous post on this blog: BRAINS ARE BACK!) then the American people are being "called into" (think Louis Althusser) higher engagement and intellectual processing, right at the time when we need their smart engagement most.
Somebody needs to be noticing what a radical change this is, a change in faith, in belief, not just in democracy (small-d), but in ordinary people. Rachel Maddow has been going around talking about not talking down to audiences too, in interviews. It goes against mass comm theory, against programming wisdom, against years of Nielsen Ratings, and yet, they are saying it. Must be nice to be a big enough 800-pound gorilla that you don't get snarked out of editorial meetings for saying and believing something that goes against decades of conventional lowest common denominator programming wisdom. YO! Let's change these damn theories! Let's prove those wags WRONG! Let's actually RESPECT audiences!]
Here’s a third moral: Overdosing on this culture can be fatal. Because Republicans are isolated in that parallel universe and believe all the noise in its echo chamber, they are now as out of touch with reality as the “inevitable” Clinton campaign was before it got clobbered in Iowa. The G.O.P. doesn’t recognize that it emerged from the stimulus battle even worse off than when it started. That obliviousness gives the president the opening to win more ambitious policy victories than last week’s.
The stimulus opponents, egged on by all the media murmurings about Obama “losing control,” also thought they had a sure thing. Their TV advantage added to their complacency. As the liberal blog ThinkProgress reported, G.O.P. members of Congress wildly outnumbered Democrats as guests on all cable news networks, not just Fox News, in the three days of intense debate about the House stimulus bill. They started pounding in their slogans relentlessly. The bill was not a stimulus package but an orgy of pork spending. The ensuing deficit would amount to “generational theft.” F.D.R.’s New Deal had been an abject failure.
[The guffaws should have been widespread with that last number. It is the most bizarre kind of historical revisionism of the non-reality-based universe to even attempt to bring off such a claim, let alone to fan out and spread the word to the freepers and astro-turfers with a straight face. I'm not one to trust the American school system quite that much (having taught writing to college students, and knowing what they can readily pull out of their heads and what they can't), to assume that FDR's New Deal turnaround is common wisdom and an authoritative trope. I believe in Americans and their brains, I most certainly do, but I also know school systems at all levels have failed them, and badly, as well as universities where I have worked.
Obi Wan Kenobi may be our only hope, but it is the brains of ordinary people which will have to bring us back from this brink.
So the black-is-white, up-is-down crowd is out chattering on teevee as if the rules of the game had not changed, as if talking points revisionism could change reality just like in the old days, so why the hell not try to spin out the con job that the New Deal CAUSED the Great Depression?! Yeah, there's the ticket!
What was it Hitler's (whoops, stumbling on Godwin's Law) propaganda minister said? That little lies can't be counted on to get the job done. What you needed was the "Big Lie." Yeah, I'd say claiming FDR's New Deal CAUSED the Great Depression certainly qualifies as a "Big Lie."
Funniest thing to come out this past week, while the Stimulus was passing despite the GOP obliviousness was a web site called the GOP Problem Solver. Go type your problems in there! Try it. Too much fun.
The other bizarre thing to come out this week, tucked away in an obscure CSPAN Congressional interview, a legislator revealed while talking about something else that the U.S. had been just 3 hours from total economic collapse on September 15, 2008, when the shit was hitting the fan. Somehow, these two things go together. Go bookmark both of them, and ponder deeply during your yoga or meditation session or whatever.]
Perhaps the stimulus held its own because the public, in defiance of Washington’s condescending assumption, was smart enough to figure out that the government can’t create jobs without spending and that Bush-era Republicans have no moral authority to lecture about deficits. Some Americans may even have ancestors saved from penury by the New Deal.
At least some media hands are chagrined. After the stimulus prevailed, Scarborough speculated on MSNBC that “perhaps we’ve overanalyzed it, we don’t know what we’re talking about.” But the Republicans are busy high-fiving themselves and celebrating “victory.” Even in defeat, they are still echoing the 24/7 cable mantra about the stimulus’s unpopularity. This self-congratulatory mood is summed up by a Wall Street Journal columnist who wrote that “the House Republicans’ zero votes for the Obama presidency’s stimulus ‘package’ is looking like the luckiest thing to happen to the G.O.P.’s political fortunes since Ronald Reagan switched parties.”
Not all Republicans are so clueless, whether in Congress or beyond. Charlie Crist, the moderate Florida governor who appeared with the president in his Fort Myers, Fla., town-hall meeting last week, has Obama-like approval ratings in the 70s. Naturally, the party’s hard-liners in Washington loathe him. Their idea of a good public face for the G.O.P. is a sound-bite dispenser like the new chairman, Michael Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor. Steele’s argument against the stimulus package is that “in the history of mankind” no “federal, state or local” government has ever “created one job.”
[That was one of the most HILARIOUS TV clips of the week, I have to say. Steele may well turn out to be another one of those gifts to late night comedians.
I gotta add my own shot here, at the peculiar drama with Sen. Judd Greg (R-NH) pulling out on Commerce Secretary, even as the Obama administration claims he was the one who threw his hat in the ring. What was up with that?! SOMETHING was going on behind the scenes, I feel certain of it. He surely didn't think he'd be allowed to gerrymander the Census to lock up Republican districts or something, did he? I mean, eight years of stupid doesn't mean you assume stupid is the rule, and Obama was not born yesterday and clearly his grandmomma didn't raise no fools.
What was up with Greg? My guess? The GOP goose-step organizers shifted hard obstructionist in the past two weeks, even since Greg put his hat in, and they had something on him and forced him, not only to back out, but to promise not to run again in New Hampshire (a friend in NH tells me he had already been making those noises, tho). So Crist wouldn't cave to the top-down GOP organization, nor would those three GOP senators willing to vote for the stimulus, but Sen. Arlen Spector (R-PA) admitted that more senators would have come over, but that some HARD orders appear to have come down from on GOP high. I'm thinking those hard orders reached Greg too.
The scorched earth Republicans, the K-Street whips, the our-way-or-the-highway types, are stepping up party discipline, to their own clueless detriment, as Rich so eloquently points out. But what are they using for leverage? They don't have the patronage goodies to pass out anymore. Their pay-to-play system is unhinged with a new sheriff. All they have are their banker cronies, and those folks WANT the bailouts, so long as they are as crooked and full of loopholes as they can keep them.
I'll have to revisit these questions again, as they are worth pondering, as it all plays out. Rich meanwhile is taking his own shots below, and they hit the target bull's eye, so I'll let him play us out. This is really one of his best editorials.]
This G.O.P., a largely white Southern male party with talking points instead of ideas and talking heads instead of leaders, is not unlike those “zombie banks” that we’re being asked to bail out. It is in too much denial to acknowledge its own insolvency and toxic assets.
But, as he [Pres. Obama] said in Fort Myers last week, he will ultimately be judged by his results. If the economy isn’t turned around, he told the crowd, then “you’ll have a new president.” The stimulus bill is only a first step on that arduous path. The biggest mistake he can make now is to be too timid. This country wants a New Deal, including on energy and health care, not a New Deal lite. Far from depleting Obama’s clout, the stimulus battle instead reaffirmed that he has the political capital to pursue the agenda of change he campaigned on.
Republicans will also be judged by the voters. If they want to obstruct and filibuster while the economy is in free fall, the president should call their bluff and let them go at it. In the first four years after F.D.R. took over from Hoover, the already decimated ranks of Republicans in Congress fell from 36 to 16 in the Senate and from 117 to 88 in the House. The G.O.P. is so insistent that the New Deal was a mirage it may well have convinced itself that its own sorry record back then didn’t happen either.