April 9, 2009 - April 2, 2009
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
he's a liberal, French-loving weenie. But he has his moments.
. Honestly, I've never been a fan of Michael Kinsley
but I've always had a grudging respect for him. He played the liberal
foil amicably and cogently on William F. Buckley's Firing Line
, so I've never doubted
that he was one of the diminishing population of lefties who don't
stroke out at the mere presence of a conservative in the room. On the
other hand, I had the impression that he was boringly predictable, a
party-line kind of guy without much in the way of original ideas. Now
I'm thinking I might have been wrong about that. His op-ed piece today
in the Washington Post
Newspapers," is brilliant.
Regular readers here will know that I have a dog in this hunt. I've
written about the financial catastrophe facing newspapers many times,
most recently here
In the latest instance, I was responding to a newspaperman who took
strong exception to my assertion that the crisis was one newspapers had
brought on themselves, much of it through increasingly naked
political bias. A representative excerpt of his argument and my
Don't take for granted the crucial role
still played by newspapers in
informing us about the world. If every newspaper abruptly folded
tomorrow, we'd have a very empty Internet and a very clueless public.
And we'd suddenly be living in a very dangerous society. Even if you
don't read a single newspaper's website, you still know the news you
know because of newspapers.
If you respond by saying,
well, some other enterprise will step in and fill that role, then the
burden is on you to explain how such a business could be any more
sustainable than the ones that are struggling mightily to be
sustainable as we speak.
Sorry for the lengthy post. I'm
just getting weary of seeing this flawed argument about the newspaper
industry's decline (i.e., various versions of "they're too biased!"),
and it's hard not to wax on about it.
uh, well, "some other enterprise will
step in and fill that role." And,
no, I don't have any burden whatsoever "to explain how such a business
could be any more
sustainable than the ones that are struggling mightily to be
sustainable as we speak."
But I will explain a fact or two about economics to our overwrought
friend. The demand for clear, factual reportage is a constant, a market
that will never go away so long as it is permitted to operate freely.
Which means that it represents a huge economic opportunity, a source of
enormous wealth potential to the person or entity who figures out how
to meet the demand. Which also means that the demand will be met and
profits will be made. It doesn't matter how.
Since then, of course, bailout fever has spread, not surprisingly, to
newspapers who believe not that they're too big to fail but -- like my
antagonist above -- too important
to fail. Congress is actually considering the possibility of making
newspapers nonprofit "foundations" subsidized by the very government
they're supposed to be objectively reporting on. That should make
liberals happy, shouldn't it? Well, interestingly enough, not in
Michael Kinsley's case. It turns out he's the kind of old-fashioned
liberal who still believes in quaint concepts like the market and an independent
press. From his
Two recent articles in Slate argued
that newspapers (1) actually play a fairly unimportant role in our
democracy and (2) are in this pickle because of financial shenanigans,
not inexorable forces of technology. But let's say these are both
wrong: that technology is on the verge of removing some traditionally
vital organs of the body politic. What should we do?
How about nothing? Capitalism is a "perennial gale of creative
destruction" (Joseph Schumpeter). Industries come and go. A newspaper
industry that was a ward of the state or of high-minded foundations
would be sadly compromised. And for what?
You may love the morning ritual of the paper and coffee, as I do, but
do you seriously think that this deserves a subsidy? Sorry, but people
who have grown up around computers find reading the news on paper just
as annoying as you find reading it on a screen. (All that ink on your
hands and clothes.) If your concern is grander -- that if we don't save
traditional newspapers we will lose information vital to democracy --
you are saying that people should get this information whether or not
they want it. That's an unattractive argument: shoving information down
people's throats in the name of democracy.
He's also unsparing about how this crisis came to pass.
Few industries in this country have
been as coddled as newspapers. The government doesn't actually write
them checks, as it does to farmers and now to banks, insurance
companies and automobile manufacturers. But politicians routinely pay
court to local newspapers the way other industries pay court to
politicians. Until very recently, most newspapers were monopolies, with
a special antitrust exemption to help them stay that way....
And then along came the Internet to wipe out some of the industry's
biggest costs. If you had told one of the great newspaper moguls of the
past that someday it would be possible to publish a newspaper without
paying anything for paper, printing and delivery, he would not have
predicted that this would mean catastrophe for the industry. But that
is what it has been.
Wow. That's an acute perception. And true. What's more, he's not
But there is no reason to suppose that
when the dust has settled, people will have lost their appetite for
serious news when the only fundamental change is that producing and
delivering that news has become cheaper.
Maybe the newspaper of the future will be more or less like the one of
the past, only not on paper. More likely it will be something more
casual in tone, more opinionated, more reader-participatory. Or it will
be a list of favorite Web sites rather than any single entity. Who
knows? Who knows what mix of advertising and reader fees will support
it? And who knows which, if any, of today's newspaper companies will
survive the transition?
But will there be a Baghdad bureau? Will there be resources to expose a
future Watergate? Will you be able to get your news straight and not in
an ideological fog of blogs? Yes, why not -- if there are customers for
these things. There used to be enough customers in each of half a dozen
American cities to support networks of bureaus around the world. Now
the customers can come from around the world as well.
If General Motors goes under, there will still be cars. And if the New
York Times disappears, there will still be news.
It's enough to make you wonder if Michael Kinsley is becoming, um,
conservative. I confess it; I'm impressed.
Now, if only we could extend the grand option of "doing nothing" to a
bunch of other issues the Obama administration is interfering in so
recklessly and disastrously. Then
maybe, I could begin to share CountryPunk's naive hopefulness. Although
I'd also have to see some change
An attractive concept. btw, follow
every link in this post, or you just won't get
. Redemption lurks in the oddest corners. Reliable sources
telling me that the current nostalgia craze is for the Eighties, and my
experience of the past weekend bears that out. My wife paid rapt
attention to a five-hour VH1 special devoted to one-hit wonders of that
decade, and I found myself enraptured, too, despite my reflexive
the much more serious sixties era of popular music. But constantly in
thrall to this site as I am, I also took skeptical note of the canned
intro that was repeated at the beginning of each one-hour segment --
declaration that the 1980s were a "simpler time" and that without the
music we all loved the decade would have "sucked."
A simpler time? Hardly. Unlike many who have fallen vicariously in love
(or at least 'like') with distant decades, I actually lived through the
eighties, just as I lived through the seventies and sixties, and I can
report that there was nothing "simple" about them. Of course, I fully
understand why the people who keep track of popular music have to say
what they say, because the Eighties were the decade of Ronald Reagan,
the twilight of the Cold War, a time of prodigious global challenges,
and the last time that Americans were unashamedly proud
to be American. Uncomfortable
realities in the Age of Obama. It was a
time when time might very well have suddenly ended for us at any
moment, but also
a time when our nation was finally, after several diffident decades,
standing up to those who threatened us. It began, quite propitiously,
with the "miraculous"
1980 Olympic hockey victory against the Russians. (All right. I was
going to be content with just a link to Miracle
, but I can't. I want to
be sure you watch it. So, my apologies for interrupting the flow of
The decade ended with the total collapse of the Soviet Union,
engineered by a president whom the MSM hated so much it contrived to
give all the credit for sudden peace to the Soviet leader who had the
wit to fold an irretrievably bad hand.
Did the Eighties "suck"? No. Defiinitely
no. After twenty years of economic stagnation and inflation, the
Eighties were the beginning of a 30-year epoch of growth and
prosperity. And oddly enough,
prosperity also spurred a boom in the innovation and excitement of
popular music. Within months of the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, MTV
was born, and it became an international phenomenon. Are you starting
to understand why the Eighties are the source of a current nostalgia
craze? I have it on good authoriity that girls are suddenly wearing leg
warmers again, just as they did in the aftermath of the movie Flashdance.
In fact, my own grown-up daughter -- she's 24 now -- tells me that the
Eighties, especially the music, are all the rage now. I asked her what
was so special about this era she's too young to remember. What one
word characterizes her fascination with a long expired decade?
"Electricity," she told me. "The Eighties were electric."
That's an odd term to be used by a contemporary generation that carries
electricity in its
pockets and purses in a far more literal way than any denizen of the
Eighties could have. There were no cell phones then, no Gameboys, and
barely any internet connections. But I know what she means. In my
somewhat retro vocabulary, her description translates to vitality,
passion, aspiration, life
Particularly at the beginning of that decade, there was an explosion of
s that infected
everyone, but most of all young people, even if they didn't know or
credit the source. For just a moment, everything you could possibly
imagine was conceivable. Like all such moments, it ended, long before
the anguished 2000s, but the buzz of it still resonates in 2009.
Music, as always, is the key, the thing which gives us the feel and
rhythm of the time. It's part of a continuum obviously, which is why we
can look to the Rolling Stones (as usual) for bookends of eighties pop
music. They kicked it off with Start Me Up
, which is a new
beginning by any measure and concluded it with Mixed Emotions
, a monument to
the end of the long simmering and incredibly dangerous Cold War between
Mick and Keith. In between, there was a long ton of great music. Thanks
to MTV, there was a profusion of one-hit
, which provide an unsurpassed insight into just how
competitive the music industry is. So much talent harnessed to produce
one fleeting moment of fame. Do you remember these?
Men Without Hats. A guilty pleasure. Hallucinogenic and fun. What an
Come on Eileen
/ Dexy's Midnight Runners. Oh those Irish. They never even look like
Melt with you
/ Modern English. Pure romance. A guaranteed lay. Still.
the Music Play
/ Shannon. A song that produced an entire genre
(techno-dance) all by itself.
99 Luft Balloons
/ Nena. A novelty song about nuclear war by a hottie with tight pants
and hairy armpits. Kewl.
She Blinded Me
/ Thomas Dolby. A nerd star who went on to invent
cellphone ringtones. The Eighties!
Party All the Time
/ Eddy Murphy. One Word. Fun.
How much harder must it be to read the times well enough to dominate
them utterly? Here are the top ten
of the entire decade:
10. You Shook Me All
/ AC/DC. The most elemental beat of rock rocks on.
/ Aerosmith & Run DMC. Rock plus rap, a union that
wouldn't be repeated until Linkin Park
teamed up with Jay-Z about 20 years later.
8. Like a
/ Madonna. Yes, she was a slut. Blatantly so. You could love
her or hate her. But she never pretended her exhibitionism was somehow
inadvertent. In that respect the Eighties were
Child O' Mine
/ Guns N' Roses. The greatest trailer-trash love song
ever recorded. It still makes me want to suck down a 40-ouncer in a
brown paper bag while she whirls up a naked tornado of cheap perfume.
How about you?
6. I Can't
Go for That (No Can Do)
/ Hall & Oates. Eh. My wife likes them.
So does yours probably. Maybe we should listen more.
5. When Doves Cry
Prince. The only guy still figthing the doomed battle against Internet
sharing. So you'll just have to remember
this fabulous song, along with the greater classic, Purple Rain
/ Michael Jackson. uh, yeah. There was a time when he was
. That time
was called the Eighties.
Like the Wolf
/ Duran Duran. It was a new technology. Mistakes get
made. So MTV created some stars who looked better than their music. You
can't make a good looking omelet without coddling your eggs. (Don't
even try to ask me what that means. I'll just ignore you while I'm
watching Slash do this
Some Sugar on Me
/ Def Leopard. Metal. With a one-armed drummer.
Those were the days. I'm not kidding. I'd be willing to bet he never
tried to park in a handicapped spot. Those were the days.
on a Prayer
/ Bon Jovi. A monogamous Catholic boy from New Jersey
in the top spot. Who'd a thunk it? Those were the days.
The lists never tell the whole story, though. Time for me to come
clean. Child of the sixties that I am, I still had a tape or two (or
three) that I played every morning before I launched myself into
corporate America in my expensive suit. And, yes, it was Eighties
stuff. Come into my parlor...
The first one was actually the last gasp of the seventies, but it's no
secret I was once a punk. The rest are the music of my life in the
business world, about which I was as fierce and passionate as I am
here. These aren't all
songs I listened to. But they are the ones -- apart from the obligatory
Stones fix -- I remember most intensely. Psychoanalyze me at your own
peril. In case you don't know it yet, I bite.
What were the Eighties? A vivid
time. If you were there, you know what I mean. If you weren't, you
probably wish you were. Which is a good sign that you can trust your
gut. Nostalgia can
be a kind
of redemption. If it sends you in productive directions. I have a
nostalgic decade or two that I look to as well. Maybe I'll tell you
about them sometime. If you prove yourselves worthy. Until then, study
this about me:
Eighties. Pure and (not so) simple. Just like me. Not to mention electric
. After all, I am
the undercurrent. Of everything.
Monday, April 06, 2009
in the Age of Obamessiah
else seems happy to be headed
SING, BABIES, SING
. The Y-Gen website where I found this titled it
"Dumb.flv." But both the escalators in the shot are down
escalators. We can think of
them as the two parties in our political system. If you're determined
to go up
, what other choice
do you have? Even though the editor chose to cut before this young
woman made it to the top, it does look as if she's going to get there,
I've been searching, I admit it, for reasons, images, even excuses for
hope in the face of the daily avalanche of catastrophic news. They've
been few and far between. (btw I will personally
eviscerate the next person who writes "far and few between," which is
one of the latest viruses of illiteracy sweeping the internet,
included.) But I think I've found something. Not
an item or two to cheer about but a pattern
that provides a basis for cautious optimism. How to frame it? Simply.
(I have a post in progress about the complex virtues of certain kinds
of simple-mindedness, but you'll have to wait for that one; it's far
from simple to write.) The
Obamaniacs and their adoring lefties are overplaying their hand.
Yes, Americans are patient and slow to anger, but they will eventually
respond to the drip-drip-drip of liberal pessimism, insults,
authoritarianism, and hysteria. In this context, many of the recent
"bad news" occurrences are not really bad news but baby steps toward
massive repudiation of a worldview most Americans will ultimately and
Take the new Newsweek cover
celebrating the impending death of
Christianity in America:
It's just flat overstated. Twenty years ago, 86 percent of Americans
described themselves as Christians. Today it's only 76 percent. That still sounds like an overwhelming majority to me. And
probably more realistic than the old number anyway. If current events
affect your religious affiliation, you weren't very spiritual to begin
with. And even if the figure declines to 60 percent a decade or so from
now, it will remain a large enough majority to 1) take punitive umbrage at cover
art that translates its faith's most sacred symbol into political
propaganda and 2) recoil in disgust at the image of an American
to a muslim plutocrat who's in the business of secretly subsidizing
terrororism against Jews and Christians. I have no doubt that Newsweek
editors yearn for the death of Christianity in America, but declaring
that it's imminent doesn't make it so. It merely exposes their own
prejudice in the matter. Drip-drip.
I've been wondering quietly about the lack of media coverage of the two
journalists seized by North Korea. Two young women in the clutches of
the most indisputably evil political regime on earth. It's not even
clear that they were captured inside the North Korean border.
Regardless of their professional stature or lack of it, these are media
people. They work for Al Gore's
television network for
heaven's sake. How is it possible that this is not a
day-after-day-after-day headline story in the nation's leading
newspapers? No matter how left wing these girls are, even conservatives
would raise hell to secure their safe return. But it's been only a
rueful footnote in coverage of the "Hundred Days" of Obama. And the few
leaks we've been permitted to date suggest they're facing ten years of
imprisonment. Americans. Journalists. Women. Young
women. Imprisoned in North
Korea. Under who knows what godawful, abusive conditions.
Ironically, the only
I've heard expressed about their plight came from MSNBC's leftwing
Gorgon Rachel Maddow. I was actually applauding to myself when I heard
her say she was so mad about the situation she wanted to scream. That's
how I feel too. But then.... BUT THEN she transitioned smoothly into
video clips of Guantanamo and actually blamed the Bush administration
for creating the precedent of institutional oppression that somehow
enabled the North Koreans to justify their actions. American
journalists are kidnapped and imprisoned under the Obama
administration without the
least sign that that administration is trying to secure their release
and IT'S THE FAULT OF GEORGE W. BUSH??!! As if Kim Jong Il would be
more reasonable if the United States were more tolerant of muslim
terrorists... Yes, she said it with a perfectly straight face, but it's
over the top. The unavoidable inference is that she doesn't care at all
about the fate of her unfortunate media sisters. They're just
convenient chips on the table in the game she's playing against the
opposition party. Americans will subscribe to this bizarre
interpretation of responsibility? No. Drip-drip-drip.
The new six-dollar-a-carton cigarette tax to pay for S-CHIP went into
effect this week. No matter how anyone wants to spin it, including the
troglodyte conservative Neal
, it's a huge and hugely regressive tax increase on exactly
the people Obama promised to give tax relief
Nothing could demonstrate more convincingly that Obama doesn't care at
all about the disadvantaged, underprivileged folk he promised to care
for as his first priority. He isn't about happiness. He's about
punishment. For all the sins against his own personal conception of
right and wrong. Wherever Americans transgress his own own peculiar
code of morality, he will be there with a stick and a slick
self-justifying platitude. Drip-drip-drip-drip.
We're on the verge of the NFL draft, which is interesting in the wake
of the AIG and other bonus scandals. Obama and the mass media may think
they've successfully blitzed the question of how much talented
Americans should make in a free (or controlled) market economy, but
once again, they've overplayed their hand. How many people watched the
Super Bowl? Precisely. You can whip them up to a fever pitch over the
course of a few weeks of intense indoctrination, but at a level deeper
than the NYT or White House press office can ever get to, they
understand the market economy. When their NFL team selects the most
talented quarterback in the draft this year, they'll be clamoring on
sports talk radio for team ownership to make whatever compensation deal
is necessary and then they'll stand in line to shake the hand of the
brand new mega-millionaire they prayed
would join their team. Contrary to all the wouldas and shouldas of the
MSM and the libs, Americans do know that outstanding talent deserves --
and earns -- outstanding compensation. One or two news stories may
temporarily stir their emotions in an opposing direction, but they still
know what they know and in time they will remember it.
Meanwhile, President Obama stands up before an audiene in France
and declares that Americans
have been arrogant in their dealings with Europe. Excuse us? We've
been arrogant? Whose side is
this guy on? Is it somehow wrong to expect that a president of the
United States of America should be on our
Which perfectly highlights and crystallizes the essentials of the
mistake the Obamaniacs are making. They secured 53 percent of the vote
in the presidential election. In popular terms that's not exactly a
landslide. It's a decisive win but not a mandate equivalent to, uh,
say, the 76 percent of Americans who still describe themselves as
Christians. Chances are very good that a big chunk of the 53 percent
who voted for Obama didn't think they were signing up for a regime that
despises the country it's sworn an oath to protect and the religion
that gave rise to that country.
It will take time. But within the next four years, a majority of
Americans will come to understand the worldview of Obama and the people
who back him most fervently. Drip-drip-drip-drip-drip-drip. And guess
what. Even people who are dumb as rocks don't enjoy being insulted,
derided as racists, arrogant imperialists, foolishly obsolete for their
religious beliefs, and incapable of making decisions for themselves
about their own lives. The media are cutting their own throats -- and
Obama's. They just can't help their delirious impulse to parlay a
modest electoral victory into a license to assert their own twisted
vision of utopia as a fait accompli.
This is an act that will get old in a hurry. Maybe not tomorrow or next
month. But soon -- and permanently. Here's the news that's NOT being
reported during this disastrous Hundred Days. Americans have 300-plus
years of experience at being Americans. Meaning that at some very deep
level they do not accept being told what to do, how to live their
lives, where and who to work for, what (and what not to) smoke and
drink and eat and fuck, and especially
how they should regard themselves and their own lives vis a vis the
rest of the non-American world and the God who made us all.
The media do NOT have the power they think they have in such matters.
Nor does the Obamessiah. When the people finally realize he is not one
of them but something else, with an alternate agenda, they will turn on
him with a vengeance and all the bad that has been done will
In the meatime, all you conservatives, keep working your way up the
down escalator. It may seem
like you're bucking the tide, but remember that they're going down
because that's the way the escalator is going. Ever so slowly, they'll
remember that down is the wrong way to go, and before you know it,
they'll arrive en masse at the escalator switch box and reverse its
Yeah. I know. Come on, all you gloom and doomers. Do your worst. I
don't care. I'm an optimist. Because I'm...