And it occurs to me that, for all the high-minded talk of "change" that was heard during last year's election, this country is still easily distracted by paper tigers — when there are plenty of real tigers ready to devour us in the wink of an eye.
All that has changed is who is being distracted.
In case you hadn't noticed, unemployment is now in double digits in the largest state in the Union.
Gross domestic product shrank by 6.2% in the final quarter of 2008, which was much worse than anticipated.
And, while I know this is getting redundant, the Dow had another triple-digit loss yesterday. It will be just slightly over 7,000 when the market opens on Monday.
The pendulum really seems to have swung on that one. I remember a day about 10 years ago when everyone in my office was talking about the history that had just been made when the stock market cracked 10,000 for the first time. And not long before what is now considered the start of the current recession, it reached its highest level ever.
So there's plenty of bad news for journalists (the ones who still have jobs) to write about. I'll grant you that it may help your morale more to contemplate a paper tiger than to read the bad stuff. But it won't go away, just because you're distracted.
- My friend and former newspaper co-worker, Kyle, who writes the therapymalaria blog, resumed writing his blog today after a four-week absence and chastised those in the "mainstream media" for being "mesmerized" by Republicans and not exercising their responsibilities as public watchdogs.
I was inclined to agree with him, even though I find the phrase "mainstream media" to be a vague and widely (and not always justifiably) applied label — until he concluded that journalists were unable to "wean themselves" from the horse race of a political campaign and, therefore, "[i]t is no wonder newspapers are struggling."
As a former journalist, he ought to know better. Newspapers, like other businesses, are going under because of the crummy economy. The bottom line is advertising revenue. It's not possible to pay a newspaper staff and pay all the other expenses involved in printing a daily publication on 50 cents for each individual copy. Advertising keeps the presses running, and that's been drying up.
Declines in advertising revenue have been well documented, but declining readership doesn't help matters. And, for that, many newspapers deserve plenty of blame for failing to recognize the need to establish a revenue-producing online presence from the very start.
But I'm sure, if you were to talk to the now ex-employees of the now defunct Rocky Mountain News, they would say that speculation about the 2012 presidential campaign had little, if anything, to do with their employer's demise. Likewise, the journalists who lost their jobs in San Antonio and Hartford, Ct., this week most likely would see no connection between the GOP's angst over its 2012 nominee and their own troubles.
And Democrats cannot afford to be smug and continue to refer to it as the mess they inherited. By the time 2012 gets here, the Democrats will be judged on the progress that has been made. The mess belongs to them now.
- In fairness to Kyle, there are newspaper columnists who are obsessing over the 2012 Republican campaign, but most of them seem to be in the centers of political power — Washington and New York — where election speculation has always been part of their work, even in "off" years. Or they are other bloggers. Then again, maybe he and I are reading different sources.
I'm seeing the obsession on the part of bloggers like David Frum, who writes, for The New Majority, about "The Goldwater Myth."
You know you're obsessing when you write about a campaign from 45 years ago and hold it up as a model for bouncing back from the last two elections — especially since the 1964 campaign didn't produce any real political fruit for conservatism for another 16 years.
- J. Bradford DeLong continues to try to make sense of Bobby Jindal's remarks at Grasping Reality With Both Hands. Seems like a losing proposition to me.
- But, for that matter, Jonathan Zasloff wrestles with the same problem at The Reality-Based Community.
- The Blue Indiana blog devotes space to repeating TPM Muckraker's report that Jindal's tale about Hurricane Katrina was a lie.
That's funny. At the time, I thought it was just plain loopy.
- Mary Ann Akers at the Washington Post's The Sleuth blog feels compelled to remind former Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode that he lost the election in November.
Of course, that's somewhat timely. Goode, as she observes, doesn't seem to have gotten the message.
- Meanwhile, Akers' colleague, Chris Cillizza writes, at The Fix, about the top 10 Republican prospects for 2012. That's way ahead of schedule.
Enough already with 2012 — we're only two months into 2009.
- The Arch Pundit blog writes about the "selective outrage about race" that is being shown by Roland Burris' media adviser.
- Politik Ditto, which supposedly is written by a black conservative Democrat, takes former Air America broadcaster Mike Malloy to task for a "racist" joke at Bobby Jindal's expense.
Politik Ditto also criticizes Barnes & Noble for a book display at a Florida store honoring Barack Obama — that included a book about monkeys that B&N says was placed there by a customer.
- Politik Ditto isn't the only black-authored blog that doesn't accept B&N's apology. Black Political Thought does the same thing.
It seems to have replaced the New York Post and its chimpanzee cartoon as a target of racial wrath.
Look, I'm not saying that racial prejudice has been eliminated by Obama's election. It hasn't. But can we cool it on the race card for awhile? I'm starting to sense the same kind of walking-on-eggshells mentality that some people felt during the war on terrorism/Patriot Act period and the hysteria that brought on. This time it's a measure of one's racial tolerance. Last time it was a measure of one's devotion to country, a mass revival of the "America, Love It or Leave It" attitude that I witnessed as a child on a much more modest scale during Vietnam. What will it be next time?
When ordinary people are worried that each word they say or each gesture they make may be misinterpreted as being derogatory to whatever the issue du jour happens to be, something is wrong.
Barnes & Noble has apologized. Even if you find the explanation somewhat fishy, can you be gracious enough to accept the apology?
- Sister Toldjah, meanwhile, is obsessing over "cloth toilet wipes" and instructions about how to use them.
- Tara Lohan touches on the same topic — sorta — in a piece on "America's Love Affair with Really Soft Toilet Paper" at AlterNet.org.
- Meanwhile, Susie Madrak of Crooks and Liars feels moved (so to speak) to agree with The Guardian's assertion that soft toilet paper is "worse than driving Hummers."
I'm just saying that there are more important things to deal with right now.