Health care: Now more children will have it. The dread Europeanization of American continues.
The Illinois Senate voted 59-0 to convict Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) “on an article of impeachment Thursday that charged him with a pattern of abusing power, prompting the governor’s immediate ouster.” Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn assumed power after the vote. President Obama issued this statement:
Today ends a painful episode for Illinois. For months, the state had been crippled by a crisis of leadership. Now that cloud has lifted. I wish Governor Quinn the best and pledge my full cooperation as he undertakes his new responsibilities.
Roll Call reports that Barack Obama might appoint Judd Gregg (R-NH) to be Secretary of Commerce. If that were to come to pass, I’m sure Senator Gregg’s unique qualifications for this crucial post would be the sole consideration. The fact that Gregg joining the cabinet would lead to Gregg being replaced by a Democratic Senator is surely something nobody in the White House would give even a moment’s consideration to.
If this scenario were to come to pass, it would sort of make me wonder why Gregg would want to make the switch. Being a United States Senator seems like a pretty good job to me. Commerce Secretary—eh? But tastes differ.
CQ reports that Chip Saltsman — who became notorious for mailing out the “Barack the Magic Negro” CD as a Christmas present to friends — will not be on the ballot for chair of the Republican National Committee because he was “unable to cobble together the six supporters necessary for nomination. The deadline for Saltsman to come up with two nominators from each of three states was 5 p.m.” The remaining five candidates are current chairman Mike Duncan, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, South Carolina Chairman Katon Dawson, and Michigan Chairman Saul Anuzis.
Today’s guest post on the green details of the Senate and House stimulus plans (with awesome bubble charts) is by Daniel J. Weiss and Alexandra Kougentakis. It was originally printed on the Center for American Progress website here.
On January 28, the House of Representatives passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, H.R. 1, by a vote of 244 to 188. The $819 billion recovery bill includes $72 billion for clean energy programs, and another $20 billion for clean energy tax incentives. This huge investment in weatherization, efficiency, transmission, transit, and clean vehicles programs will create at least 459,000 jobs by the end of 2010, as well as reduce oil consumption and global warming pollution.
Not to be outdone, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the American Investment and Recovery Plan, S. 336, which includes $78 billion* in clean energy spending as part of its $365 billion recovery package. At the same time the Senate Finance Committee passed a $522 billion tax package that includes $31 billion in tax incentives for renewables and energy efficiency. The bills will likely be joined before Senate floor consideration.
The future is going to contain lots of for-profit media enterprises. But the very rapid pace at which information can be disseminated these days makes it difficult for a media enterprise to internalize all the gains of reporting new information. Consequently, in the future news gathering is going to be a lot less profitable. And that means that more of it is going to have to be done by not-for-profit institutions. So I think it’s very good to see Steve Coll, a longtime veteran of the newspaper business now working for a non-profit, thinking along these lines:
Not to pick on any one institution, but, from a constitutional perspective, how did we end up in a society where Williams College has (or had, before September) an endowment well in excess of one billion dollars, while the Washington Post, a fountainhead of Watergate and so much other skeptical and investigative reporting critical to the republic’s health, is in jeopardy? I’m sure that Williams-generated nostalgia in the emotional lives of wealthy people is hard to overestimate, but still … [...] The typical spend rate for endowed nonprofits is in the five-percent range. If the Washington Post had a two billion dollar endowment, it would be able to fund a very healthy newsroom. And this is before revenue from continuing operations—advertising, circulation, etc., which could surely cover at least the cost of distribution and overhead, particularly if the form of delivery is increasingly digital. Two billion dollars, by the way, represents something in the neighborhood of five per cent of Warren Buffett’s net worth, the last I knew that figure.
One problem here is just that The Washington Post is no Williams. Elite American colleges, whether or not they actually do a good job of educating young people, do a VERY good job of producing nostalgic alumni and prestige for themselves. American newspapers have done a very good job of convincing professional journalists that they’re vital civic institutions, but journalists don’t seem to me to have a very good grasp of the fact that the public at large doesn’t like them very much (see here and here). And I have to say that when I worked at primarily journalistic institutions, one of the most aggravating aspects of my job was the need to deal with the self-righteousness of journalists about their work.
And beyond the fact that the Post does not, in practice, attract the kind of warm and fuzzy sentiments that newspaper nostalgics think it deserves to, it just wouldn’t make any sense to offer a $2 billion gift to an outfit like the Post for the simple reason that the vast majority of the Post‘s activities aren’t the sort of hard news reporting for which there’s a need for a stepped-up non-profit sector. The world is not currently lacking for sports coverage. Nor is there some kind of critical shortfall in people offering opinions about politics. Business reporting actually seems to have a viable economic model behind it. Similarly, lifestyle journalism continues to be viable in a number of formats. And Warren Buffett doesn’t need to spend $2 billion so that people can find movie recommendations somewhere.
Part of what’s happening to newspapers is the specific issue with the digital era making it hard to make money doing reporting. But part of what’s happening to newspapers is that a newspaper is a gigantic bundle of paper covering miscellaneous topics. The rationale for lumping all those topics into a single geographically-bound institution has a lot to do with the economic logic of printing and distributing bundles of paper, and very little to do with the economic logic of producing and disseminating a digital media product. In other words, two different things are happening simultaneously. One is that as things migrate online, it’s making less and less sense to have a “newspaper” in the traditional sense.
Another is that as things migrate online, the economic foundation of news reporting is looking shaky. But these two things aren’t the same problem, and they’re not equally problematic. If a billionaire was asking me whether investing charitable giving in the media sector was a good idea, I would tell him “yes.” But I wouldn’t tell him to invest in a non-profit newspaper. The smart thing to do would be either to spend money so that existing non-profit media operations—ThinkProgress, the Center for Independent Media, ProPublica, The American Prospect, The Washington Monthly, The Nation, etc.—can add capacity, or else to spend money to create a new non-profit media operation (my suggestion would be a focus on state and local reporting somewhere).
People should also recall that a catastrophic collapse of the newspaper industry would hardly be without precedent. The real heyday of American newspapering came in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the United States features a literate population and no broadcast media. The rise of radio and television had a devastating impact on the industry and caused massive shrinkage in the volume of papers. This shrinkage then led to what journalists consider the heyday of American journalism when the industry had fallen so far that most papers faced little-to-no competition and could serve as authoritative “objective” sources of information. We’re now once again amidst and era in which technological change is going to kill off a lot of existing business models. But all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.
Yesterday on CNN’s Situation Room, host Wolf Blizter interviewed former President Jimmy Carter. During the interview, Carter said that he believed that Obama should “stick to his guns” and not let “the Republicans deter him” as he continues his campaign to pass the economic recovery package:
BLITZER: So what advice do you have for the new president as far as the economy is concerened? [...]
CARTER: [S]tick to his guns on what he comes up with as a best approach to a stimulus package. Don’t let the Republicans deter him, don’t back down too much. Stick to it. And take advantage of the fact that the American people have turned to the Democrats to bring us out of this mess.
This is a bit old, but I thought I’d share with everyone the views of Rep. Alan Grayson (a Democrat from the Orlando area) on Rush Limbaugh:
Alan Grayson, the outspoken member from Orlando, as usual, wasn’t mincing words: “Rush Limbaugh is a has-been hypocrite loser, who craves attention. His right-wing lunacy sounds like Mikhail Gorbachev, extolling the virtues of communism. Limbaugh actually was more lucid when he was a drug addict. If America ever did 1% of what he wanted us to do, then we’d all need pain killers.”
Arguably, the interests of any given progressive politician are better served by trying to appease the right-wing media apparatus than by trying to take it on. But the movement as a whole vitally needs leaders who are willing to try to diminish the influence of those centers of power.
I got a request in a thread a few days ago asking if I was still dating Sara Mead. Indeed I am. But even if I wasn’t, I would still recommend her piece on why school construction should be part of a recovery package:
New investments in school construction and modernization are a natural fit for the stimulus package. Unlike education programs, which need ongoing funding in order to keep operating, a two-year investment in school construction would produce thousands of school buildings that could be used for decades to come, with no need for continued federal funding. Similarly, investments in “greening” existing school facilities to reduce their energy consumption will produce substantial, ongoing savings that school districts can use to fund pre-k, increased teacher compensation, and other educational programs.
Many states and school districts have construction projects that were already in the works but have been put on hold due to the economic downturn. Federal school construction aid would allow work to resume on those projects, moving cash into the economy quickly. School construction would also create new jobs for construction workers hard-hit by the housing downturn. Because the construction sector is slow right now, schools and districts are likely to secure better deals on projects now than they would if they waited until the economy picks up.
It’s worth noting that, in general, we tend to undertake our public sector construction projects in a perverse way. During boomtimes, there’s lots of revenue sloshing around to be spent, so projects get funded. During downturns, state and local governments are hurting for revenue, so we cut back. It would make a lot more sense to actually separate this kind of spending from the regular budget, establish targets, and encourage projects to be undertaken during downturns when it’s cheaper and easier to get things done.
Last night on Fox News, host Bill O’Reilly and former comedian Dennis Miller announced a new “business partnership.” “We’re opening a theme park: Waterboard World,” O’Reilly said. Funnyman Miller explained how the park would help in efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions:
MILLER: You know, I had a caller on my show, Bill today, the radio show, a guy named A.J. from Milwaukee. He had the best take on this. He said change the public relations of waterboarding, say that people are emitting too much CO2 and when you pour water down their nose, it cuts into their CO2 exhalation.
O’REILLY: So it’s better for the planet.
MILLER: You can call it greenboarding. And we could sell it. Greenboarding! There you go!
Miller concluded the segment by singing to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA,” —
“If everybody had a cheesecloth across the USA.” As actual comedian David Cross once observed of Miller, “You truly are the king of references.”