Obama and Boehner’s speeches

If you are a regular here, you know I wasn’t watching these (tonight I was watching Next Food Network Star on the DVR with my wire– good episode, the season started with bloated 90 minutes episodes, but wisely cut back to 60).  [Interestingly, I’ve used this particular excuse not long ago.]  Anyway, all the usual sources, plus some FB friends had pretty lukewarm reviews for Obama.  I really don’t think a speech like this is going to make a big difference, but dispiriting nonetheless.  As for Boehner, he took to telling bald lies about pretty much everything.  Not that the media will call him on that– wouldn’t be “unbiased.”

Common journalism mistakes in coverage of the debt ceiling

Pretty nice little piece that a journalist friend of mine linked to in FB.  Basically, 7 common mistakes journalists make in covering the debt ceiling.  I think two of these are of particular importance as they very much run counter to the narrative the GOP has been pushing:

Mistake #1: The debt ceiling limits the spending of the U.S. Government.

House Republicans who are resisting a rise in the debt ceiling often make this argument, said NPR correspondent Robert Smith, who’s covered the debt issue for Planet Money. He explained that the government only spends money when it is approved by Congress, which has already approved the budget for this year and promised money to Medicaid and the Department of Defense. Issuing the debt is just the final step that enables us to pay our bills.

“The way I put it is that Congress has already ordered the pizza. They approved the pepperoni. They called up and had someone deliver it,” Smith said via email. “Now the pizza guy is knocking at the door, and asking to get paid. If you don’t raise the debt ceiling, it’s like saying we didn’t want that pizza in the first place. Maybe he’ll go away if we don’t answer.”

If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, much of the government will have to shut down. “That’s a brutal way of limiting spending,” Smith said. “But even then we’ll still owe the money we already budgeted. We just won’t be paying it until the crisis is over.”

Love that analogy– I’m going to have to start using it.  Also:

Mistake #3: The U.S. government is like a family that needs to balance the budget.

People sometimes compare the U.S. government to a family balancing its budget, or say our debt is like a credit card that has a limit on it. These are handy metaphors, Smith said, but they can be misleading.

Unlike a family, which cuts its budget because it makes a limited amount of money, the government can raise its income through taxes whenever it wants. If a family could get a 10 percent raise at will, then it would be less likely to cut its budget.

“Unlike a family, the government can print its own money to make its debts seems smaller,” Smith said. “Unlike a family, the government owes much of the debt to itself.”

A big part of the U.S. debt, he explained, is money that one branch of government owes to the other.

“Like Mom lending Dad some cash. You don’t count that in a family. But we do count it in the debt ceiling debate,” Smith said. “And another biggie. Credit card companies eventually want their money back. But foreign governments own Treasury bonds as a way to store money. They don’t want the money back (yet). They just keep rolling over the debt.”

Okay, one more mistake, but this one could go for pretty much every issue, not just the debt ceiling:

Mistake #7: Giving equal weight to politicians.

Journalists tend to turn to politicians as sources rather than to financial experts. And they try to equally represent both sides of the political spectrum. Allan Sloan, a senior editor at large at Fortune, said that works for some stories, but not this one.

“This is not the kind of story where you can give equal weight to what everyone says,” he explained by phone. “There’s a lot of screaming by people who are politically informed but not financially informed, and they’re being quoted along someone like Ben Bernanke.”

Amen to that.  Dare I say that more of the screaming people who don’t know what they are talking about are Congressional Republicans and their apologists.

How to get a woman on the cover of SI

I gave up my subscription to Sports Illustrated years ago– too much coverage of women’s sports (kidding!).  I nonetheless found this fun little analysis of what it takes for a non swimsuit model to get on the cover of SI (in honor of Hope Solo making last week’s cover).   Secrets include being a cheerleader or doing something very unusual (e.g., competing in auto racing, playing professional tennis at 13) or simply being a Tennis or soccer player.

7.) Be an outlier

Being an unexpected presence in a given sport has helped women get on the cover of SIDanica Patrick, a rare woman in the male-dominated world of stock-car racing, has been on the cover twice. Jennifer Capriati made the cover as a 13-year-old tennis sensation. And Pat Summitt was put on the cover for her accomplishments as the coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team, as the list of highly successful college coaches is male-heavy.


Anyway, a pretty interesting visual commentary on the relationship between gender and sports.

Chart of the day: the Bush Deficit

Via the Times:

Check out the impact of those Bush Tax cuts!  The fact that Obama was willing to cut a deal to make these permanent (or much longer term) is quite disturbing.  Whatever deal gets cut now, I don’t think that will be part of the bargain– and that’s a good thing.  If you want to see the long-term deficit shrink, getting rid of all (or, at least most) of these tax cuts is a great start.   Somehow we survived the tax rates of the 1990’s.

Of third parties and bipartisanship

Article in the Post this morning about how voter anger and dissatisfaction makes times ripe for a third party:


The numbers are startling.

Eighty percent of people in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll described themselves as either “angry” or “dissatisfied” with the way Washington works — the highest that number has been in nearly two decades.

Additionally, 63 percent said they would prefer to vote for someone other than their current member of Congress in the 2012 election, a historic high in Post-ABC data on that question.

Okay, people are angry, but that 63% number is a great example of how not to trust people to predict their future behavior in opinion polls (short of a vote for President).  I guarantee you, 80%+ are going to vote for their current member is that member is the same party.  And, if there are third party Congressional candidates, pretty much none of them will have any real impact.  To quote Kang and Kodos, “it’s a two party system.  Go ahead, throw your vote away, ha ha ha.”   Now, it’s not impossible, and it is entirely conceivable that third party presidential candidate could do unusually well in 2012 (they tend to do well in election years with high dissatisfaction), but there’s no reason whatsoever to expect that an actually successful third party could emerge.  Though Duverge’s Law occasionally falls apart, with very few exceptions, electoral systems like ours very rarely support more than two national parties.

But people really love their theoretical bipartisanship:

The two most prominent are Americans Elect, a group aimed at winning ballot access for an eventual third-party candidate, and No Labels, an organization filled with high-profile names — including former George W. Bush media consultant Mark McKinnon and former Kentucky state treasurer Jonathan Miller — designed as an online home for the politically disaffected. “If you build it (ballot access), they (candidates and voters) will come,” McKinnon said in an e-mail.

No Labels says it advocates for bipartisan solutions to problems and not a third-party presidential candidate.

Look, we can have solutions that combine ideas from liberals and conservatives– hello, Affordable Care Act and Carbon Cap and Trade.  What we can’t have is “bipartisan” solutions when one of the parties utterly refuses to compromise with the other party no matter what.


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