…to Charlie Pierce:

Part of it is the preposterous way that the GOP set up its primary calendar, and the utter inability of the Republican National Committee to keep their state committees from banjaxing the whole thing in a scramble for the influence that comes from being early on the schedule. Part of it was the long time it took to clear out the deadwood from the field; Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann never should have been in the campaign long enough to be “frontrunners” even for one day. But the great responsibility lies with the fact that, for more than 30 years, the Republicans have been sucking around for a campaign just like this one. They knew full well that their “base” was heading into the wild places, and they did nothing to stop them. They did nothing to arrest the spread of abject wingnuttery in the various state houses, from which came the generation of young Republicans stalwarts who won in 2010. They played footsie in the South with the Council Of Conservative Citizens, and in the West with the more polite fringes of the militia movement. For mean and temporary political advantages, they allowed more and more of the fringes into power in the party until, finally, there was no “Republican establishment” any more. And now, too many respectable conservatives are wandering around, blinking, and wondering how it all happened that their party has lost its mind. You were there, kids. You just didn’t care.


Um no

Rick Santorum gets a lot of crap for his social views. Most people have probably heard about his tiff with Dan Savage, man-on-dog comments and more recently the JFK thing and Satan thing.

People really should hear about this, though, shouldn’t they?

He also blamed high gas prices for the economic downturn in 2008, when George W. Bush was president.

“We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices,” he said. “The bubble burst in housing because people couldn’t pay their mortgages because of $4 a gallon gasoline.”

I’m not even going to bother.

Freedom is beautiful

Oh yes.

I worked at Quebrada, a coffee shop/bakery/dessert place for three or four years. One of the things Quebrada makes is cakes, which are delicious (especially the chocolate tort w/ raspberry filling). Not all the cakes were made to order, so we’d have some in store in case anyone wanted to pick one up for an event that day.

When those display cakes got older than a few days, we couldn’t sell them anymore but they were still good to eat. So, we’d sample them. Put ’em on a nice tray and give everyone a piece. And people went absolutely crazy. I’m still amused remembering how customers would have a slightly suspicious look, wondering what the catch was, and then how their expression would change when we explained that no, really, it was a free sample. People went over the moon.

It was a very small thing. No more than a few bites. But the psychological effect was pretty outsized. Getting stuff for free just makes us all really happy.

Props to Boloco. I’ve never been to Boloco before but I’ll be going at least a few times in the next month. And I’ll give ’em money, too, because I appreciate free stuff enough to pony up. I think this will work out well for them.

More on Public Journalationism

As I noted in this post with the poorly portmanteau’d title, I think the onset of content marketing is making the journalism and public relations industries converge ever more closely. Two items from the past week or so caught my eye. Here’s the first, from the Content Strategist:

But for Jenny Leonard, research is much more than a reference point — it is content worth sharing and exploring. Leonard is the editor behind Futurity, a website that reveals the latest discoveries coming out of university research departments. The site, which is hosted at the University of Rochester, launched in 2009 as a way to share research news with the public.

“Universities produce a lot,” she explains, “and my team says here’s the stuff that matters, here’s what you should know.”

Futurity’s model runs deeper than exposing people to what’s happening idea-wise. Its strategy is really a hybrid of journalism and PR — an efficient way for universities to leverage the intrigue of their new ideas to ever widening audiences.

“The idea was that universities were already producing great content, but the role of the press release was changing,” says Leonard. “On one hand there was this explosion of new channels for distribution — through the Internet — and yet there was a shrinking demand in more traditional outlets. Publications like Time and Newsweek were covering less and less research as news, often limiting them to news briefs or cutting them entirely.”

Because an unfathomable amount of content is produced for immediate availability every day, good PR and journalism play an increasingly similar role: sifting through that information to pick out what’s useful. As I’ve said before, I know that this comparison will piss off some (most?) journalists, because PR is geared towards persuasion while journalism is ostensibly about informing people. I would, however, remind those journalists that their industry’s ostensible role is not always its role in practice (check here for an example that changed the course of world history).

Second item comes my way from Craig Collins. I found this through the Twittermachines:

Think newspapers are old school, antiquated, and dinosaurs of advertising? Think again. Newspapers utilize a formula that’s worked for centuries and continue to work in every advertising media today. While newspapers may be on the brink of extinction, the time tested formula lives on.


So how can you apply this to social media, and specifically to Twitter? Well, think of Twitter as your newspaper. You don’t have time to read every tweet that comes across your tweet stream so you’re naturally going to scan the tweets and read only those that catch your attention. Tweets are essentially headlines.

Collins’ point in the post mostly concerns copying the brevity of headlines because people often don’t click through, and of those who do, even fewer people read the linked content in its entirety (I agree with that, too). But again: lotsa overlap between PR and journalism, even more so with the Facebook and the Twitter and all the other crazy technology those kids are using.

…and no, I don’t really have anything else to say besides dancing up and down that other people publicly agree with my idea, even though they probably thought of my idea long before I did.

Sportscasting & Objectivity

Was thinking about those two things the other day watching the Celtics game. Tom Heinsohn does color commentary for the Celtics games. He is as partisan as they get, a fitting successor (in attitude, if not importance) to Johnny Most. According to Tommy, the Celtics have basically never committed a foul. If another team is shooting more free throws, it’s because the refs are in the bag for ’em. If the Celts are shooting more free throws, it’s justice. He has this attitude towards every facet of the game.

And it’s great. As a Celtics fan, watching on the local network, Tommy is entertaining, which is important for commentators, and I don’t really care whether he’s fair. This made me think about the way that’s sportswriting is changing, which it has been for some while. I think pegging Bill Simmons as turning point in ‘objective’ sportswriting is fair enough. In earlier times, when writing for major publications, writers often pretended that they had no biases.

Nowadays, and since Simmons’ great success in being a total, unapologetic partisan, tons of people write this way. Deadspin, which carved out its role as a primal scream against everything that’s wrong with ESPN (and there’s lots), has a rich history of bashing Simmons while embracing his sort of oeuvre. Same with KSK and the people who write that site. And, of course, these are uncensored Internet site, so people make dick jokes and say fuck a lot.

I think all that’s good. More than anything, Deadspin in its better days and KSK nowadays were/are sustained by writing that’s funny and engaging. But the honest and often profane perspective, which plays a big part in enabling that writing, is important, too.

Getting it all wrong

Kevin Drum flagged an enormously exasperating couple of op-eds from the LA Times. Bob Somerby gave ’em the liberal one the treatment here. The conservative one is garden-variety dumbness and not worth noting. On the “liberal” one, my thoughts mirror Somerby’s, but I’ll expand a bit.

It’s sorta tough to excerpt the “liberal” counterpart because you need to read the entire thing to catch the full breadth of the knuckle-dragging rhetorical idiocy, but this pretty much sums it up:

I don’t agree. I don’t want to be friends with someone who is a member of the tea party or is a Newt Gingrich Republican. We are not the same. I equate their political views with thoughtlessness, intolerance and narcissism. I think they are not kind or empathetic. And my neighbor made it clear that he does not respect my opinions or me.

Wow, how is it that we all don’t get along? For what it’s worth, I think conservatism in its current incarnation does contain some of the those qualities that Wagman mentions but not necessarily consciously. I think that the people who espouse those view do want what’s best for the country. It’s just that their way of bettering the country… doesn’t.

And what Wagman somehow misses is the primary salient political fact of our time: the Republican Party is surpassingly detached from reality and grows more untethered with each passing day. The reason that liberals can’t talk to conservatives isn’t because conservatives are wicked, backstabbing ogres who eat children. It’s because we’re all three plus decades deep into a disinformation campaign so effective and comprehensive that’s there no semblance of shared, objective ground anymore.

Arguments inevitably boil down to “ideological” differences: whether tax cuts raise revenue, whether Obama has spent like a drunken sailor, which government programs are causing our debt to accumulate, what caused the financial crisis, whether the US is going “broke,” etc. Of course, there are answers to those questions: no, he hasn’t, health care, the private sector and we aren’t. But ask any movement conservative and you’ll get a very different answer.

I don’t have any naive, nostalgic delusions about the past. Our politics has always been tribal and dirty and fractious and stupid. But there were still, on some level, shared templates. In the late ’20s, our economy was crashed by a bunch of rich assholes who bought the government and tolerated no oversight. And people recognized that.

In the late aughts, same thing happened. But not if you ask movement conservatives who get their “news” from FNC and the rest of the carnival barkers. They’ll inform you that the crisis was caused by some combination of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, a government determined to give loans to poor people, Barney Frank and Jimmy Carter.

Pick your issue: economics, climate change, the invasion of Iraq, the social safety net. It’s the same dynamic. There’s no ability to converse because there are no shared facts, no universally accepted bases for even beginning a discussion. And there are no shared facts because Rush, Sean, Heritage and the rest of ’em have been pumping millions of people’s heads full of increasingly delusional bullshit for the past thirty years.

You want a conversation? Reverse and remove all the effects of that trend. How d’you do that? Your guess is as good as mine.

It’s not necessarily “wrong” but…

This was an article above the fold on the WaPo website, front and center. It discusses the rise in taxes reversion of taxes to previous rates in the event that Republicans and Democrats do not come to an agreement and hash out a deal before 2013. Taxes on income, gifts, estates and the Social Security payroll tax, to name a few, will “go up.”

A few points:

1) As my snarky strikethrough and quotations around “go up” indicate, taxes rates will not exactly be rising. More accurately, they’ll be reverting to their previous levels, as was intended by the sunset provisions in the Bush tax cuts (because that’s the only way they’d ever pass). These tax cuts contribute so much to the deficit that they could not be made permanent. So, the strategy was to make them a ten-year piece of legislation that would have to be renewed (as they were in ’03) and Republicans were not too worried about renewing them because the optics of raising taxes are so dangerous (as Republicans themselves are experiencing).

2) The WaPo editorial board’s hair has been on fire about the Deficit for the past few years (will look for a link collection later but if you read ’em, you know this to be true). Note how Lori Montgomery frames this dynamic:

But in December, deadlock will cut the other way. Republicans need Obama if they want to prevent one of the biggest tax increases in U.S. history — nearly $5 trillion over the next decade, by official estimates — and block deep cuts to the Pentagon that could be triggered as part of last summer’s debt-ceiling accord.

See point one again about this “increase.” But even more strikingly, look at that bolded section. How’s this for a re-write:

But in December, Democrats and Republicans have the opportunity to reduce the national debt by $5 trillion over the next decade and cut the deficit by $300 billion a year at the minimum. What they must do is simple: nothing.

Bit of a different tune, eh? A cynical person might conclude that the WaPo, so rough and ready to slash the deficit when curbing “entitlements” is the means to do so, is a mite less interested in raising revenues. Of course, people who understand arithmetic (and it’s not my specialty, although I try to play along) realize that adding revenue reduces the deficit just as much as cutting spending.

Of course, there are reasonable objections to letting all of the tax cuts expire, not least that the AMT patch expiration will hit a lot of working families, as will the rate mentioned by the article on the first $8,700 of wages. Also, taking money out of the economy is a bad thing to do during these times, so, as much as I don’t like the slant of those tax cuts, Obama’s plan to keep the rates for everyone making less than $250k a year might be the best option. I’d like to see an analysis by Krugman or Dean Baker or somebody in the know looking at the pros and cons of letting all the cuts expire.

Nevertheless, isn’t it interesting how the WaPo normally falls all over itself to preach fealty to the Deficit but never once mentions in the article that, for all the potential negative consequences, letting the entire Bush tax cuts expire is an enormous step towards bringing the Deficit under control? Note this closing line from a January 2011 piece in Media Matters:

The Post‘s framing plays along with the false conservative claims that only spending counts towards deficits, and only spending reductions should be considered to reduce them.