Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My turn

I thought I'd conclude my contributions to this blog with a few thoughts about the future of blogging. A little meta-blogging, if you will.

The blogosphere (I hate that word, but it's the one we have) is in trouble, but doesn't realize it yet. Newspapers all over the country are failing; even the venerable New York Times is in trouble, and recently started selling front-page advertising to try to boost its revenue. Some bloggers would be only too happy to dance on the grave of the "old media" empire, but that would be shortsighted. Blogging is essentially a parasitic activity. Bloggers do almost no journalism of their own; rather they distill, interpret, and comment on journalistic work done by papers and wire services. If the newspapers die, the blogosphere starves. Yet the Internet revolution that the bloggers helped create is exactly what's killing off newspapers.

I'm not sure how we solve this problem. Good journalism costs money, and putting news and commentary on the Internet is not very profitable — online ad revenues are minuscule, and Internet users as a group don't like to pay subscription fees. A new model needs to emerge, but with newspapers quickly dying, we're running out of time.

. . .

Thanks for listening; you've been a wonderful audience. Feel free to check out my LiveJournal and my personal website. The content there is more technical than political, however. If you miss your regular doses of political snark, I highly recommend You Are Dumb and DBMT, both of which are far funnier than anything I've ever been able to write.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stepping away

I started drawing "I Drew This" for my college newspaper in January 2004, five years ago.

I've said this before, but it was a different world, then. Bush was still very popular. Most Americans still thought Iraq was a good idea. And while the liberal blogosphere was rising, it was still in its infancy. The media was still treating Bush like a cross between Churchill and Lincoln. I had to say something, because there was a good chance that at least some of it would be a new point of view for some of my readers. I felt a moral obligation to speak up, and I was really angry and needed to vent that anger somewhere.

Five years later, the country has turned on George w. Bush, who is now destined to go down in history as likely our worst president, joining the company of Herbert Hoover and James Buchanan. A center-left administration is about to be sworn in, and the Democrats run everything in Congress.

Meanwhile, the liberal blogosphere--Kos, Digby, Firedoglake, Josh Marshall, Media Matters, scores of others--has gained the power to push stories into the mainstream media, perhaps even surpassing the once-unparalleled ability of the right wing echo chamber to do so. And they have friends in the mainstream media, like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, who are unlike anything that was on the air in 2002, 2004. The media landscape has changed. George W. Bush could not happen now.

In other words, I don't feel as needed, or as angry, as I did five years ago.

The coming era will be different. Will there be a lot to criticize? Of course, always. But it will require more subtlety, a greater willingness to sift through policy details, and...that isn't my area.

I'm not saying things are perfect, but loudly pointing out that the emperor has no clothes is not the important calling it once was.

And that's why, at least for now, I'm semi-retiring as a political commentator. This site will still be here, but I plan to stop putting new content here.

I'll be devoting my energies to other projects, including the graphic novel I'm going to start posting online later this week, "Raine Dog." And if I simply must say something political, I do have a livejournal.

It's been awesome, and thank you all for reading. I'll leave you with this...

Friday, January 9, 2009

The final curtain

I realize I haven't blogged much on "Bird Brains" in the past, though it was definitely a cathartic experience when I did. However, I thought I'd make my farewell official.

To be honest, I'm weary of righteous anger. The election of Obama and a Congressional Democratic majority has gone a long way towards assuaging that. Sure, they're not perfect, and they're going to stumble more than once. (In some ways, they already have.) When that happens, there are plenty of progressive activists out there who will take them to task by holding their feet to the fire. I, at least publicly, will not be one of them. There are other aspects of my life which I've neglected that I need to concentrate on once again, now that the nightmare of the Bush years is coming to a close.

I want to thank Liberal Eagle and Liberal Seagull for giving me this forum for those times when I did want to vent. It felt good, and seeing your feedback made me feel better. For now, let's raise a glass to a brighter future. We could all use one.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cat Blogging

Gladys's Christmas present was the wrapping paper from everyone else's presents.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cars and class warfare redux

I thought I should note this date down, because it's not often I can say these words: William Kristol agrees with me.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cars and class warfare

There's been a lot of talk lately, both in Congress and in the media, about Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization as a strategy for General Motors. While this has worked well for airlines, I don't think it's an option for GM, for two reasons:

  • Buying a car is a long-term relationship. When people buy an airline ticket, they only care if the airline is around long enough to make the trip. When they buy a car, though, they want some reassurance that the company will be around long enough to make good on the warranty. If people hear that GM has declared bankruptcy, they will flee dealerships in droves, robbing the company of the income it needs to rebuild itself.
  • AIG issued credit default swaps on GM. A lot of credit default swaps, apparently; according to Forbes.com, estimates are that AIG's exposure is about 10 times the outstanding debt. If GM declares bankruptcy, AIG is on the hook for that money, and guess who currently owns AIG? That's right, the government. In a nutshell, if we let GM go bankrupt, we taxpayers are likely to end up paying out eight to ten times as much as if we bail them out.

While we're on the subject, I'm distressed at the level of classism that's hidden in this debate. One of the benefits being touted for bankruptcy is that it would allow GM to bust the United Auto Workers Union by eliminating its labor contracts. When insurer AIG was bailed out at a cost of more than twice what the auto industry is asking for, I don't recall anyone questioning what workers there earned; yet it's taken as given by everyone involved in this debate that auto factory workers are overpaid. We're apparently happy with white collar workers making whatever they can, but heaven forbid that a blue collar worker might make a middle class wage.

There's also a lot of deliberate misinformation going around about what auto industry workers are actually paid. For example, the $70/hour figure repeated by many conservative pundits is completely misleading. No factory worker makes that; in fact, UAW workers on average make about $28/hour, only slightly more than workers in Toyota plants, and wages and benefits for current workers are only 10% of GM's budget. The $70/hour figure includes money used to pay the pensions and health care benefits of retirees — effectively, deferred compensation for work done in the past, when GM had a much larger workforce. (This is a burden the UAW has agreed to take off GM's hands in 2010, in exchange for a lump-sum payment.) The much-maligned UAW "job banks" also make an easy target, but their cost to GM is minuscule — at present, only about 1,000 idle workers are drawing salaries this way, less than 0.3% of GM's total workforce. In any event, the job banks are likely to be one of the UAW's first concessions in any bailout plan.

The rhetoric we're seeing used against the middle and lower classes in this recession is really toxic. As Media Matters points out, the conservative media have blamed minorities and undocumented immigrants for the housing downturn, and union members for the auto industry's problems; groups that have little or no influence in the marketplace, and have benefited little and suffered greatly in the last eight years.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I'm a bit late with this one, but a couple of weeks ago the NPR show On the Media had an interesting interview about marriage — how it became both a civil and a religious institution, and when the current ideas about "traditional" marriage formed. (Surprisingly recently, as it turns out.) It also touches on why civil unions will never really be an acceptable substitute for gay marriage. Well worth a listen.

Hosted by KEENSPOT: Privacy Policy