Lizza vs. Matthews

There’s a great exchange between Chris Matthews and The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza towards the end of this clip:

Lizza has the audacity to suggest that it’s the journalist’s job not only to “report” on the “controversy,” regarding Obama’s pastor, but to actually inform viewers that these guys are actually different people. Lizza says, “If Barack Obama had said it, he’d be out of this race. I don’t remember him saying it. A guy who was his ex-pastor said it, Chris.”

Needless to say, Matthews is dumbfounded. He genuinely thinks that the job of the media is to just mindlessly parrot the “controversy” and not actually ascertain any facts about it.

Part of the problem here is that Matthews seems to have an outdated view of his role in the media ecosystem. He still holds on to the quaint notion that informing the public about the issues is being taken care of somewhere else in the ecosystem — the nightly news perhaps. Increasingly, though, Matthews is the ecosystem, at least in terms of reporting on national government politics and policy. He’s on the NBC morning shows, the Sunday shows, the nightly news. In other words: they’re all pundits now. They’re all talking about the horserace, the meta-narrative, etc. No one’s actually minding the store!

[And to make matters worse, you've got nattering bloggers like me commenting on Matthews. I'ts meta-meta-narrative!]

That’s not to say we don’t have any good reporters in this country. Dana Priest and Dexter Filkins are doing yeoman’s work trying to keep some semblance of the fourth estate stitched together. But they get drowned out by Matthews’ loud, rambling voice.

The Gas Tax Holiday as Word Problem

Apocalypse Tom owns a 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX, an all wheel drive pseudo sports car that goes faster than Tom reasonably needs to drive and allows him to go over Snoqualmie Pass in winter weather that keeps everyone except chained-up semis and Tom at home.

The WRX has a 15.9 gallon gas tank, and requires premium gasoline. With premium gas running $3.929 per gallon in the Seattle market, a full tank costs $62.47. Presume that Congress elects to implement the McCain/Clinton plan for a Gas Tax Holiday.

1) Assuming that the price of premium gasoline remains fixed at $3.929/gal., how much money in dollars does Apocalypse Tom save on his weekly trip to the pump if his weekly top-off requires purchase of 3/4 tank? What can Tom buy with the savings?

2) What is Apocalypse Tom’s percentage savings over the taxed price, again assuming a fixed price of $3.929/gal.? Round your answer to the nearest hundredth of a percent.

3) Because the Gas Tax Holiday is sure to be temporary, what is Apocalypse Tom’s total savings in dollars over a period of 20 weeks?

4) Assuming that he chooses to save the extra money calculated in Question 1 instead of spending it on junk food, how much whiskey can Apocalypse Tom purchase with the accumulated savings, in order to get him through a notional McCain inauguration?

Answers After the Jump. Seriously, try to work it out, and let Tom know if you think he’s insane.

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Big Hitter, the Lama

Well, at least they’re talking again, even if it may not accomplish much:

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at People’s University in Beijing, said the Chinese government does not want the talks to be “interpreted as a concession under duress.” He predicted that any discussions would be unlikely to bring meaningful breakthroughs.

“I doubt that both sides will change their fundamental positions,” Mr. Shi said. “If there is dialogue, this is dialogue for the sake of dialogue. Maybe both sides only want to impress the Western audience.”

Our Undemocratic Senate

It’s a cliche to talk about how undemocratic the U.S. Senate is, with it’s filibusters and non-proportional representation. But I think the recent cloture vote on the the Lilly Ledbetter Act highlights this fact pretty acutely, and is worth exploring a bit.

To recap, the bill was:

named for an Alabama woman who lost a case against the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company when the court found she not did file her complaint in time. Ms. Ledbetter had been paid as much as 40 percent less than her male counterparts doing the same job, according to her allies.

It was intended to remedy a 5-4 Supreme Court decision that threw out her case because the statute of limitations had run out (she didn’t realize how much less she was getting paid until it was too late).

So the bill passes the House, and goes to the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to cut off debate, as we all know. The cloture vote is 56-42, with weak-kneed “principled, mavericky” Republicans Hagel and McCain conveniently skipping the vote.

But just for a moment, let’s take a look at the 56 Senators who voted “yea.” They collectively represent 181 million Americans, or just over 60% of the country (assume that in D/R divided states each Senator represents half the population).

So, to recap: it passes the democratic (small-d) House, it gets the support of 60% of America from Senators representing 34 of the 50 states, and yet the bill fails. Staggering. And don’t forget the fact that the public, bless their hearts, put Democrats back in charge of the country in 2006 because they wanted more of the things that Democrats wanted.

To be sure, it would have been vetoed by the President. And also to be sure, had the filibuster not been in place the last five years, we’d be drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge right now. Still, on balance the filibuster is a small-c conservative instrument. It’s designed to keep America from doing stuff. And that means that in the long run, it will tend to be a large-C Conservative instrument. Time to abolish it.