Press Clips: Must Reads for the End of the World


Today’s post is dedicated to Vincent A. Musetto, the old-school copy editor who crafted the greatest headline in the history of the world, “Headless Body in Topless Bar.”

After 40 years at the New York Post, Musetto got what the paper called  “an affectionate send-off by his colleagues,” which sounds kinda effete and fuzzy for a Murdoch tab, but maybe they want to soften their image after SERIALLY HACKING THE CELL PHONES OF DEAD KIDS, or something.

Musetto’s farewell celebration not only included toasts to his iconic slammer, but also afforded him a chance to argue that “Topless” was only the second best of his career, behind “Granny Executed in Her Pink Pajamas.”

We started ruminating about headlines while struggling to write one about  the D.C. debt mess (an issue that came home in a personal way last night, when our CFO texted to say he was leaving for Uruguay with two suitcases full of cash and recommending we do the same).

The Post’s own efforts – “Debt Men Talking” and “Congress Has Lost Its Mind” – seemed a tad pedestrian, and our own drafts – “Debt Kooks Doom Planet,”  “Obama to Self: Drop Dead” and “Big Run on Uruguay Tix” – aren’t quite right either.

So please, if you have a suggestion for an iconic headline about the debt crisis, send it our way. And don’t forget to enclose cash. Hurry. Don’t forget the cash.

All you need to know: All across the media landscape, we see one of the most hokey, hoary and hardy MSM perennials blooming like stinkweed on the median strip. Whenever a news story gets too complicated to explain within the eight-second attention span of whoever it is that’s running the Page 1 meeting this week, and who, in any case, is running late for an appointment in HR to go through the new layoff list, it’s time for the old Q&A.

The basic conceit of the Q&A feature is that the average (dumbass) reader is scratching his (dumbass) head over the paper’s recent spate of confusing stories about a confusing topic, all of which appear to have been translated from the Swedish  – “goldarnit Maude, I just don’t get how the trigger mechanism for cuts in Harry Reid’s plan is different than in Boehner II.”

At which point the paper helpfully affects what elitist editors imagine a (dumbass) reader’s vernacular voice sounds like and then answers all these (dumbass) questions in a jiffy.

Just now, your best bet for a debt crisis Q&A is Washpost whiz kid Ezra Klein, who actually appears to understand this stuff; the NYT version popped up yesterday, but actually seems to muddy the waters even more, probably because it’s aimed at the average Times reader, a hedge fund manager who lives in Greenwich and is now on his way to Uruguay.

In any case, you’re better off with the Calbuzz version:

Q: Isn’t this all the media’s fault?

A: Yes.

The roots of the “crisis” lie in the MSM’s addiction to “balanced reporting,” according to which the views of, say, the world’s leading economists are “balanced” by those of some yahoo congressman from Meadow Muffin, Mississippi with an IQ of 12.

Instead of telling the truth – Obama has caved so completely to Republicans that he’s now to the right of GOP voters, but Tea Party thugs are still intent on stealing his lunch money and throwing his pants on the top of the school bus – they keep feeding their false equivalence meme, like this whopper from CNN:

They’re all talking, but no one is compromising, at least publicly. Democratic and GOP leaders appear unwilling to bend on proposals to raise the debt ceiling.

Q: Is Obama really that much of a wimp?

A: Yes.

Despite the utter absence of evidence, the president astonishingly maintains the view that if the Republicans would just think about the facts, darn it, they’d slap their heads, shout “Now we get it!” and ink a deal with him pronto. Why else would the leader of the free world interrupt “The Bachelorette” to urge everyone to call their congressmanPut another way:

He apparent really believes—still!—in civic-republican notions of government as an arena for reasoned deliberation. That he could still think this is akin to a child believing in Santa Claus until he’s 15—but apparently he does.

Q: Isn’t there something he could do?

A: Yes.

Pretend he’s the president. Instead of acting like a moonlighting muni court mediator trying to avert a City Hall janitor’s strike, he could invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to extend the debt ceiling for, as one leading constitutional scholar put it:

“At the point at which the economy is melting down, who cares what the Supreme Court is going to say?” Professor Balkin said. “It’s the president’s duty to save the Republic.”

Q: Aren’t the writings of German sociologist and political economist Max Weber particularly relevant to the situation?

A: Yes.

Despite his problems with the Weimar Constitution, not to mention the Spanish flu Max’s thoughts on social theory and methodological antipositivism hit the nail on the head, the New Yorker noted:

The sociologist Max Weber, in his 1919 essay “Politics as a Vocation,” drew a distinction between “the ethic of responsibility” and “the ethic of ultimate ends”—between those who act from a sense of practical consequence and those who act from higher conviction, regardless of consequences. These ethics are tragically opposed, but the true calling of politics requires a union of the two. On its own, the ethic of responsibility can become a devotion to technically correct procedure, while the ethic of ultimate ends can become fanaticism. Weber’s terms perfectly capture the toxic dynamic between the President, who takes responsibility as an end in itself, and the Republicans in Congress, who are destructively consumed with their own dogma. Neither side can be said to possess what Weber calls a “leader’s personality.” Responsibility without conviction is weak, but it is sane. Conviction without responsibility, in the current incarnation of the Republican Party, is raving mad.

Q: Anything else we need to know?

A: Best prices on California to Uruguay flights here.

Space capsule special: ICYMI here’s Kurt Loder’s oh-so-hip 1995 report on the newfangled internets thing.

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There are 3 comments for this post

  1. avatar Alan from Berkeley says:

    Republican Asses Line Up for Boehner

  2. avatar tegrat says:

    I don’t think your CFO’s suitcases full o’ cash are going to be worth much after the full faith and credit of the good old USA is destroyed come August 2.

  3. avatar M.J. Grove says:

    Tea Party throws whole country overboard.

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