Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Mailbag

Got an email this morning that I'd like to share, especially with those of you old enough to recognize the name of the sender.

Dear Citizen:

What’s all this I keep hearing from conservatives about tart reform? Some guy was going on about it on talk-radio the other day as having some connection to the health care bill, claiming that, without tart reform, healthcare would bankrupt the country!

Now, I’m a senior citizen and in good health despite a slight hearing problem, but even I know that tart reform just doesn’t work. The [always non-partisan] Congressional Budget Office crunched the numbers recently and concluded that the expense of sending all those hookers to the Virgin Islands to be recycled cannot be reconciled to the budget. The cost-to-benefit ratio doesn’t compute.

Furthermore, you’d never get it through Congress. So many of its members are whores, they would never vote to reform themselves, despite the allure of an all-expense-paid trip to St. Croix.

One can only despair of our Constitution, but, never mind.

Sincerely yours,

Emily Litella

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Identity Crisis

Guy writes in to the Barnstable Enterprise this week, signing himself: Independent Member, Barnstable Republican Town Committee. He calls upon "all disillusioned Republicans, Democrats, independents and Tea Party members" to join our town committee...", and invites them to attend the next meeting. Can't help but wonder how comfortable the other (non-independent?) members of the Republican Committee are about seeing their group morph into a "rainbow coalition" of political colorations.

Monday, March 15, 2010

News Junkie Alert

The 2009 State of the Media Report by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) has just been released. For the media savvy, the Report is the ultimate consolidated reference on the subject. It is exhaustive -- the Executive Summary alone runs 25 pages -- but such detailed comprehensiveness is what makes the report a vade mecum for those who track the industry.

As has been the case for the past few years, PEJ's 2009 findings are disheartening, especially as exemplified by the parlous state of the newspaper industry where revenues and circulation continue to decline precipitously in the face of its inability -- so far -- to adequately monetize its increasing online readership and that of the countless number of other websites and social media which link to newspapers. (90% of all news reports are originated by newspapers).

That financial shortfall -- at least partly recession-driven -- affects other newsmedia as well. Network and local television news is losing both revenue and viewers, with the resulting increase in fluff over substance. Cable television, conversely, is holding its own, particularly at the journalistically-challenged Fox News Channel where original news reporting has been subordinated to a 24/7 mix of commentary and punditry. One cannot argue with their stunning success, but it doesn't get us any more of the primary newsgathering, skilled editing and cogent analysis that is the hallmark of the legacy media and the lifeblood of an informed electorate.

What it gets us is a citizenry plugged-in full-time, 70% of whom feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information being thrown at them every day. But quantity is not quality, and 80% of the million-plus blogs and social media sites out there are linked to conventional newsgathering sources. If those sources dry up through lack of financial sustenance, the entire construct implodes.

To some, this dramatic scenario is simply a clash of titans, with gigantic media conglomorates vying for control of information and the gateways through which it flows, while paying only lip service to the 1st Amendment and the cherished ideal of a free press.

Clearly, there is no quick and easy fix to the current dilemma, and pessimism will continue to dog the issue in the near term. But, in this observer's perhaps quixotic view, the Republic will not fall, democracy will survive and journalism will remain a viable business as well as a vital profession. Yankee ingenuity and resourcefullness, coupled with an economic recovery, will eventually pull the press out of the fiscal mire. We can only hope that next year's PEJ report will find us on that road, but -- even so -- our reading/viewing habits will have been changed forever.

The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) provides a half-dozen key excerpts from the Report at:

For the full PEJ report, go to:

Friday, March 12, 2010

This Is Not About Texas (updated)

Turns out that it is all about Texas, after all.

Our earlier-voiced (2/11/10) concern that the Texas Board of Education's disproportionate influence on the national textbook publishing scene (because of its outsize spending vis a vis the rest of the country) is, it appears, being mitigated by new digital technology. That technology now gives publishers more ability to tailor their texts state-by-state.

This news, courtesy of the New York Times, arrives in the nick of time. On friday (3/12), the TBOE brought forth a statewide social studies curriculum so reactionary as to make the most lukewarm 1st Amendment apologist bleed from the ears.

There is further good news. Texas governor Rick Perry has been giving not-so-thinly-veiled aid and comfort to the Texas Independence movement in its campaign to secede (yet again) from the Union.

One can only hope.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Party Loyalty

I see where Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and 13 (so far) of his cohorts would like to see Ulysses S. Grant's image deleted from the $50 bill in favor of Ronald Reagan.

History has not been kind to Grant's presidency, but to suggest that the man who was Lincoln's inspired choice to preserve the union, should be dumped in favor of the father of what G.H.W. Bush called "voodoo economics", seems yet another nod to the sort of PC so often derided by Republicans.

Rather than cannibalizing their own, one might suggest that the GOP start creating some latter day statesmen in lieu of recycling the ones they have.

A previous effort to replace Old Hickory with The Gipper on the Twenty failed, and a click-thru poll by the New York Daily News found that opposition to the newly suggested change is nearly two to one.