Friday, August 30, 2013

Pointed Examples of Forward Motion

After an unexpectedly busy August filled with news, we're excited today. A full three-day weekend away from the drawing board and keyboards is staring us in the face, with time for our families, friends, and the opening weekend of college football.

We plan on celebrating the true meaning of Labor Day too, a time to remember the struggles and sacrifices of past working class Americans, who fought - and sometimes even died - so Americans today can have things like a 40 hour work week and safe working conditions. Some workers, like those who went on strike across the country on Thursday, need no reminder of what it means to fight for fair wages.

That fight against injustice has sometimes seemed pointless in the face of policies like the newly rigged voting laws in TexasNorth Carolina, and elsewhere. After yesterday, though, we're a bit more hopeful that almost anything is possible, if we just prepare and keep hacking away at the problem.

We stress 'almost anything', though. After all, we're not in charge of finding Democratic candidates to run for Congress in Nebraska in the 2014 election.

Still, there was slew of good news yesterday afternoon, even in the midst of all the rumors surrounding Syria.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Thursday that they will now begin recognizing all same-sex couples' marriages for tax purposes, even if the couple lives in a state that doesn't recognize their marriage. That news came on the heels of the announcement that the Justice Department will no longer sue to block laws legalizing marijuana in 20 states and DC.

Both of those pieces of news fell in line with the news from the White House that - as promised - President Obama is going ahead with Executive Branch changes to federal gun laws, closing two loopholes that allowed corporations to register highly restricted guns that people might not otherwise be able to register and own themselves.

Add to those pieces of news another story from Barton Gellman & Greg Miller, based on the leaked NSA information that finally lets Americans know how much money we're spending on our security state ($52.6 billion), and who actually spends the most "secret" government money (That's the CIA, followed by the NSA). Even more good news came when the British Parliament voted down military action in Syria, and the Swiss & U.S. agreed to finally go after the tax cheating banks on Wall Street.

It wasn't all good news yesterday. As we noted on Thursday, many pundits and some at the highest levels of the U.S. government are still pushing to get America involved in Syria's civil war.

Frankly, the story that many on the rabid anti-war left have jumped on is a single report from The New York Times, unsubstantiated by separate sources elsewhere. That story insists President Obama is "willing to pursue solo Syria strikes" - a claim we have difficulty believing for multiple reasons, including the past history of the New York Times publishing misleading lies in the run up to an unnecessary and unwanted war.

Still, overall, it's been a much better August than we'd anticipated it to be.

Time for a well-earned three-day weekend.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Of Pushy Pundits, Rotten Onions, and Supercops

As the horrors reported from Syria have become the focus of news, both in the U.S. and abroad, we've watched, listened, and read political pundits of many kinds insist that America MUST take military action in Syria. The rumor from many sources is that a temporary bombing campaign may even begin today.

Some pundits don't even seem to care whether unilateral action by the U.S. would be legal. Others have even drawn up maps, as though this were some kind of role-playing game. Still others, like normally humorous and satirical media group The Onion, have put forward pieces that seem less like satire, and more like serious commentary.

In the end, too many pundits both in the U.S. and abroad are anxiously pushing President Obama and the U.S. toward a dangerous political cliff, effectively screaming that SOMEBODY must DO something about Syria NOW, NOW, NOW - meaning that they think America should jump into the quagmire and fix another nation's problems.

This demand for a Supercop - and the inevitable condemnation that would surely come for acting like a Supercop - isn't a new perspective. In fact, we said almost exactly that about two-and-a-half years ago, when many of the same chickenhawk commentators were screaming that America MUST "do something" about Libya.

Over the years, we've found that most chickenhawks have outstanding records of avoiding military service, or really conflict of almost any kind. Think of them as the blowhard at the bar who screams the loudest for his team to kill the other guys, yet he's near even played a game of two-hand touch football himself.

There are advantages in life to having been in a few scraps, including the wisdom to know when to be quiet, and when to be calm and blunt about the truth.

Matthew Duss at The American Prospect was blunt about the truth, saying right at the top of his commentary that the benefits of a U.S. military strike against Syria don't outweigh the costs. Duss also quotes political scientist Jonathan Mercer, for those people who think screaming about America's credibility would be damaged if we don't go into Syria - the international political version of "What will they think of me if they call me chicken and I don't DO something?"

Erik Voeten also has a great round-up of sound punditry at The Monkey Cage that effectively debunks most major arguments about U.S. legal involvement in Syria.

Finally, Aaron David Miller also has a great piece in Foreign Policy that mirrors a discussion we had among our staff earlier this week - that America has limited options, limited interest, and limited reason to get involved in Syria.

In the end, no one knows exactly what President Obama will choose to do, except him. That said, it may be helpful to look at President Obama's actions in similar situations. As we noted multiple times back in 2011, President Obama continues to want to lessen the role of America as worldwide supercop - not increase it.

It's no question that what's happening in Syria is awful. It was awful when it began happening in 2011 - but we don't remember seeing The Onion or most of the other pundits screaming for an instant resolution one way or the other back then.

If having an instant answer to the problem in Syria is SO critically important right at this time for those pundits and critics pushing Obama for action, we've got a great suggestion for them.

You go first this time.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Dream Anyway

It seems there is never enough time. Not enough time in the day to do all the things we should do. Not enough time to be with the people who mean the most to us. Not enough time to cover all the stories we want to either. Sometimes, it seems there's barely enough time to sleep, let alone dream.

That said, we're purposely taking the time today - a bit more than last Friday - to focus one more time upon the significance of today, and the incredible event that happened fifty years ago. August 28, 1963 was the day when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave one of the most important speeches in American history from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

That we're taking a solemn break today won't matter to the neo-cons and chickenhawks, who will still be screaming for President Obama to go to war in Syria. The debt ceiling disaster will still loom, as will a potentially catastrophic nomination for Fed Chairman by the President. Massive problems like the relatively new Republican-backed voter suppression laws will still be snapping at our nation's heels, too.

Today, every American should be taking the time to look at where we were fifty years ago, and where we are today.

As President Obama said yesterday to nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner and co-host Sybil Wilkes, Dr. King would likely be amazed at all the progress America has made in the last fifty years. To start with, our President is now an African American man - technically of mixed race - an idea that was unfathomable fifty years ago.

The technological progress we've made has been stunning too - even if the nation's newspaper of record has been hacked twice in less than a months' time. Dr. King would likely be surprised at what has happened to both the Republican and Democratic Parties in the last fifty years too.

He would also likely be both saddened and encouraged. Saddened by the fact that fifty years later the economic gap between blacks and whites persists, racial inequality is still so prevalent, and the simple right to vote is under renewed attack. Encouraged by the new civil rights movement and labor rights movements that are emerging around the nation.

The speech Dr. King gave, after all, was at the "March for Jobs and Freedom."

As we noted last Friday, Americans know that we haven't yet achieved King's dream. But that doesn't mean we've given up. John Lewis, an activist King knew well back in '63 is a Democratic Congressman now, still fighting for civil rights, like the right to vote. Republicans like Rep. James Sensenbrenner are also fighting alongside Rep. Lewis, just as some whites stood with African Americans on the mall that day fifty years ago.

In many different addresses throughout his lifetime, Martin Luther King Jr. reminded all of us to keep following the words of our founding fathers, to keep working towards a more perfect union.

We still agree with him wholeheartedly, fifty years later.

Life expands to fill the time every one of us is given. Make a difference with the time you have.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Heat Is On

Life is often about expectations, and at the end of August in the Midwest, we usually expect it to be hot. The scorching heat wave now covering the Great Plains is certain to push temperatures into the triple digits throughout the region all week long -  a sure sign you'll hear someone talk longingly of the Farmer's Almanac forecast for this winter that predicts a frigid and snowy season ahead.

As ridiculously hot as the weather in the Plains region feels this week, we also expect that the relative temperature for President Obama on the topic of Syria is multiple degrees hotter than anything Midwesterners are feeling.

As the latest Reuters/Ipsos Poll confirms, Americans are cool to the idea of intervening in Syria right now. They actually like Congress right now more than the thought of getting involved in any kind of conflict. That makes President Obama's job that much harder to decide what - if anything - the U.S. may be able to do, in light of the 'moral obscenity' of the chemical gas attack that happened in Syria this past week.

Secretary of State John Kerry gave a brief address on Monday afternoon where he did note that - after U.N. inspectors had visited the site - it's undeniable that a poison gas attack has killed hundreds of Syrians.

What most media outlets and many pundits failed to pick up on was that Kerry did not explicitly say the Assad regime was responsible for killing hundreds of Syrians with chemical or nerve gas.

The fact is, we don't know if Assad's forces fired the chemical weapons, or if the rebels themselves used the chemical weapons on their own people, in an attempt to draw the United States into the Syrian conflict, to help them take down Assad. Don't think strange actions like that are impossible. Newly declassified CIA files that prove the during the Reagan era, America actually helped Saddam Hussein to gas his own people.

It's also not like Middle Eastern political relationships are easy. As Max Fisher at the Washington Post, and the Egyptian blogger The Big Pharaoh pointed out in their fantastic relational chart on Monday, Middle Eastern political alliances are anything but simple or easy to understand.

Still, what Joshua Holland, writing at Moyers & Company, also made clear is what anyone with any sense of the region already understands. While pundits on all sides - both in America and abroad - are screaming that somebody, ANYBODY, needs to take some immediate action to stop the carnage in Syria, they aren't the ones who would be on that Syrian battlefield. The pundits also aren't the ones that would have to deal with any political fallout.

Further, as anyone who studies the chart from Fisher and The Big Pharaoh can see, there is very little upside for any of the three biggest powers on the chart - the U.S., Russia, and Iran - to intervene in Syria. In fact, any intervention is almost all downside for any of the three major players - which means no matter how loud the pundits scream, there isn't likely to be any serious, sustained action to change the situation from the outside anytime soon, by the U.S., Russia, or Iran.

Think of it like the heatwave hitting the Midwest; Right now, there are people screaming about conditions that are inarguably bad. But what people are saying they want so very much, right now - whether it's the icy chill of winter or a serious military strike by the U.S. - isn't what they're going to want in six months, or even this time next year.

Presidents must act carefully so as not to make conditions worse for those who follow behind them in the future. Unfortunately for President Obama, it's almost certain that at least some of the heat he's feeling now was caused by his predecessors.

Unfortunately, the political forecast for him doesn't look to be cooling off anytime soon.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dressed In Distress

Last Friday, we noted we didn't have time to fully cover what Eugene Robinson called the GOP's continued fantasyland behavior on Obamacare, or the simple fact as Jonathan Bernstein puts it that there won't be any GOP alternative to Obamacare because they don't have ANY plan to replace it. We've got time now, though.

We'd originally planned on addressing other issues today, since the GOP's failed rhetoric on Obamacare has already been addressed by everyone from Paul Krugman and Jared Bernstein on the left, to Juan Williams,  Newt Gingrich, and the conservative-leaning Rand Corporation on the right. In other words, people who have a great deal of experience on issues like health care and federal policy making.

However, after an embarrassingly slanted op-ed piece by Senator Deb Fischer was published in a newspaper in her home state over the weekend, filed with outright lies and misinformation, we felt it was our duty to point out her mistakes. After all, on the issue of Obamacare, the Republican Party currently resembles no one so much as the foolish swindlers in the iconic children's story, "The Emperor's New Clothes." Apparently, they've even swindled one of their own in Fischer.

We won't belabor Sen. Fischer's significant inexperience in federal health care policy, or in policy making at the Federal level, or that the piece bearing her name makes a mockery of its own headline. We won't even ding Fischer on the fact that her opinion piece has all the hallmarks of being written mostly by her staff, who were obviously cribbing off talking points from the Heritage Foundation, or stealing talking points from articles at The Hill.

We'll simply note the real facts, and let Fischer's ridiculous rhetoric lie, just as she did.

First, no one forced the small business owner that Sen. Fischer quotes in her piece to hire an outside consultant. There are many organizations that have broken down the health care law into easily understandable pieces and made that info available for free, online - including the government's own Healthcare.gov. The only way Sen. Fischer's small franchisee will be assessed a penalty is if the business owner picks unaffordable plans for her workers. That would force those workers onto the exchange, where they will get a subsidy, paid for in part by the penalty to their employer.

Secondly, Fischer and her staff appear to have been purposely lying and confusing numbers regarding the costs of premiums. The non-partisan CBO estimated the impact on premiums - but not the numbers Fischer was quoting. In fact, the premium increases Fischer cited actually all happened PRIOR to the ACA kicking in - meaning private insurance companies were raising the premiums on their own, OUTSIDE of the law over the past few years, in order to pad their own pockets before they're forced to give affordable coverage.

Small businesses, by the way, are NOT, in fact moving to part-time work staffs or dropping coverage. As Jonathan Cohn cited on Friday, that UPS decided to drop spousal coverage is a business decision that many companies are making today, since most spouses today work and can get coverage on their own.

Further, as the Rand Corporation pointed out, the delay in full implementation of the employer mandate will not have any serious effects in the short term. In fact, the delay in full implementation is specifically in part because people like Fischer have been spreading lies, fear, and misinformation - making the clear implementation of the law that much more difficult.

Finally, Fischer's point that she is committed to "scrapping the ACA and replacing it" with some amorphous Republican plan is the biggest lie of all. The Republican Party has had FIVE YEARS to come up with something - ANYTHING - different. As even Newt Gingrich admitted this month, the Republican Party has NO REPLACEMENT PLAN. None.

That those who paid Fischer's way to DC are now terrified that Nebraskans will see the freshman Republican Senator has no policy clothing of her own is obvious, made ever more clear by the words they shoved under her byline this weekend.

That any Senator would allow themselves to be made a fool of by the special interests that bought them and brought them to Washington is a failure in judgment we simply can't see as anything but incompetent.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Puppets & Perspective

There never seems to be enough time in any one week to cover all the topics we'd like you to hear about. The story of Antoinette Tuff and her disarming of a school shooter in Atlanta is one we didn't get to touch on this week.

We also ran out of time to tackle the GOP's continued fantasyland behavior on Obamacare, as Eugene Robinson detailed in the Washington Post. Entire U.S. Congressional delegations - like the five members from Nebraska  - continue to act like right-wing puppets on the health care issue, all pandering to the same far-right fringe voters, while ignoring anyone who doesn't parrot the same message. As Greg Sargent noted yesterday, the day of political reckoning for weak Congressional Republicans like that is coming soon, and it's likely to be a nightmare for them.

Nightmares and dreams are both on our minds this weekend, as the memorials and celebrations surrounding the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's iconic "I Have A Dream" speech and his legendary protest march are filling the Washington, DC area.

A recent Reuters poll confirmed that fifty years after Dr. King's infamous "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" Americans say we still haven't achieved his dream. In fact, the two biggest problems America faces today are the very same problems King was fighting back then: A lack of jobs that pay a fair and living wage, along with continued racial, economic, and systemic injustices within our government.

Statistics bear out these sad facts about our nation today. Wages for working Americans have remained flat for more than a decade, and the median income for Americans still hasn't been able to climb up to where it was before the Great Recession began in 2007. For African Americans, the numbers are even worse, as the economic gap between blacks and white hasn't budged for 50 years.

As Dr. King's son, Martin Luther King III noted in a recent editorial for USA Today, the Supreme Court's attack earlier this summer on the Voting Rights Act has set back our nation fifty years or more. The subsequent attacks on voting rights in states like Texas and North Carolina are thankfully being fought against by Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice - but, to paraphrase Dr. King, we can't be satisfied when some of our fellow Americans are denied the right to vote while others believe they have nothing left to vote for.

Even in the midst of so many lingering problems, as Dr King himself said that day, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, "Let us not wallow in the valley of despair." We simply need to keep things in perspective.

Fifty years ago, many would have considered it a foolish dream that an African American man would be our President today. Now, we're in the midst of President Obama's second term and the idea that a woman could be our next president surprises almost no one.

Those two facts alone should remind us all that almost anything is possible. Keep dreamin'.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Latest Edition

As people who work in the media, we try to remind ourselves regularly that the rest of the world, or even the rest of America, is often not nearly as "up" on all the latest news stories as we are, or like those you read in our daily extended edition.

That said, we've been sharply critical of our American news media for some time now, as most of our regular readers are aware. What passes for news today, whether on TV, on the radio, in newspapers, or online is often a sickly-sweet combination of celebrity news, gossip, and fluff that's usually missing a key ingredient: News.

Without the ability to be properly informed, it's no real surprise to us that Americans can't even agree on objectively proven ideas in science or economics today. Battles like the one highlighted by Greg Sargent yesterday, between educated voters and ignorant politicans, have become all too common in the news too, as politicans seek to prove their ignorance as a badge of honor to a certain subsection of voters. It doesn't help that often, corporate media executives are more frightened about losing advertisers than about their teams producing honest, quality content.

Thankfully, we've been noticing a positive shift in the American news landscape lately. Over the last two days, that shift has become significant, with the launch of America's latest cable news channel, Al Jazeera America.

As former Nebraskan Ana Marie Cox pointed out accurately in The Guardian, "Al Jazeera America is the news channel Americans deserve." With a top-notch staff cherry-picked from CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, and elsewhere in the media world, that description already seems completely accurate.

From Richelle Carey and Antonio Mora, to Ali Velshi, Joie Chen, and Soledad O’Brien, to John Seigenthaler and David Shuster, the programming AJAM is producing is already more substantive and more informative than much of what their competitors are offering. They're also getting the jump on top stories too, having announced both the Bradley Manning verdict and the earthquake in Mexico before their competitors, while those same competing stations like Fox News were busy discussing weighty matters - like the reunion of pop music group N'Sync.

AJAM isn't the only recent positive change in the news landscape we've noticed.

MSNBC has been stealing some of the best writers and journalists in the business from different publications all over the print and internet world. Many of those are journalists we've linked to regularly in the past, and will continue to do so in the future.

We've also been watching HuffPost Live, and its growing and solid influence on more traditional media organizations. Online magazines like Quartz are also pushing our industry in new directions, like the story we cited earlier this week by Tim Fernholz about the Suez Canal.

The push that all of these new and upgrading news and media organizations are giving is one of quality first – a direction that's been sorely lacking in the media industry at most levels for far too long.

We realize that, for now, many of our readers are still stuck with too few quality media outlets - a local TV news show, a newspaper, or a radio station - that are too afraid to do real news well.

We have little doubt, however, that with the latest additions to our greater news media fraternity pushing them to do better, the days of all fluff "news" for the most common media outlet you have access to may be coming to an end faster than anyone had previously thought.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Truth & Consequences

A few of our regular readers have quietly noted since our series of commentaries and cartoons focusing on the NSA leaks in early June, we've generally stayed away from in-depth discussions of the government's spying programs this summer.

With the sentencing today of U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, and the events of this past weekend in the UK, we've decided to open up that topic again and let things fly, as several of the issues surrounding Private Manning, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and the U.S. government's spying programs have new information - but really haven't changed our positions.

As we noted in June, nothing that has come out about these government programs has truly surprised us. That Mr. Greenwald sent his significant other from their home in Brazil to Europe, to effectively be a document mule - and then somehow seemed shocked when his partner was stopped by U.K. officials looking for digital data that might contain "highly sensitive stolen (government) information" - also didn't surprise us. The behavior of both Greenwald and the U.K. authorities offended us, just as we're sure some of what the folks at the NSA have seen and heard might have offended them. It didn't shock us, though.

The latest stories about U.K. security officials trying to play the heavies to The Guardian newspaper weren't shocking either. Sadly, stories like this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who's ever had any significant knowledge of what really goes on in government and in corporations at the highest levels.

While we remain in solid opposition to most of the PATRIOT Act, and the U.K.'s "Schedule 7," what most critics of either law seem to have forgotten this summer is that both are, in fact, laws - and have been for over a decade. That doesn't make either law ethically right. But railing against the two laws as unconstitutional or illegal at this point in time makes those using that kind of opposition look like idiots or fools.

If either law needs changing or repeal - and both do, desperately - the people to blame aren't the Executive branches of either government who are operating under those flawed laws. It's the Legislative branches of both the U.S. and U.K. governments that must be forced to take their oversight roles seriously and change those laws.

We still have little respect for Edward Snowden, the impatient coward who remains hiding in Russia, even as further facts come out that continue to impugn his credibility. At least Private Manning did the honorable thing, standing to face the crimes he knowingly committed.

The key difference between Manning and Snowden is indeed one of honor, for us - and it's one of the reasons we fervently hope PFC Manning is sentenced far more lightly than he might be otherwise, had his intentions been malicious or self-aggrandizing. The treatment that Bradley Manning has received at the hands of his own government while being detained for trial has also been shameful and deplorable, even by international standards. In our collective opinion, Private Manning deserves some modicum of payback - especially as he's generally remained respectful and even apologetic for his actions.

Private Manning could be locked away for effectively the rest of his life, or he could be sentenced more humanely, as an example both to Mr. Snowden and the world that our American government is not vindictive.

We're somewhat less than certain that will happen, though.

We are still certain of this: There are some things the average American simply does not need to see or know regarding national security.

Just because Americans believe they have a right to demand certain secret government information doesn't make those demands legal - and it doesn't make those Americans any more able to handle the truths those secrets might reveal.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Educational Monkey Business

Many in the political media lament that August is the worst month of the year for news gathering. While President Obama was already back in DC and working yesterday, Congress is still out for another couple weeks - meaning that there is little news coming from the Capitol.

Schools, however, are back in session nationwide, and that lull in stupidity from Capitol Hill gives writers and journalists a chance to revisit certain issues we may not have been able to fully close out earlier in the summer.

For example, the student loan fiasco that got quietly resolved in July, and the legislation that President Obama signed earlier this month.

As we noted in July, and again before that in April, the student loan industry has become a massive racket, the kind of monkey on the back of Americans that seems cute at first and - literally for some - turns deadly later.

Even though the numbers surrounding America's student loan beast are clear and terrifying, we still encounter large numbers of people who scoff at the idea that the student loan problem is as bad as it is, or that America has broken any kind of contract that it's made with the young.

So we're going a bit gorilla today, and we're going to hit you over the head with a piece by Matt Taibbi, of Rolling Stone.

Taibbi, for his part, still has a chip on his shoulder against President Obama that we do not share. That said, the picture Taibbi paints of a fiscal and social disaster happening now, and stemming from the monster that is the student loan program is accurate, and is getting worse all the time. Just in the last decade, student loan debt has quadrupled.

In real-life terms, as Taibbi makes clear in his in-depth piece, this means everything from students having to sell drugs, to students committing suicide from the pressure of the crushing debt - debt that as we noted in April, was part of a social contract, one that America has welshed on.

Student loan companies now take such draconian measures as garnishing the federal disability checks of near-fatally injured former students, or going after the families of dead students trying to collect on higher ed. loans. Yet the best our government could do for a student loan relief bill this summer was to temporarily drop interest rates on the loans back below 4%.

That rate won't last, though. Unlike the plan financially wise members of Congress like Sen. Elizabeth Warren supported earlier this year, the plan that passed Congress in July ties the new student loan rate to the market rate. Which means it's a certainty that student loan rates will go up, and be even higher than they were before. While it's likely this issue will be tackled again, as Taibbi points out early in his piece, the focus on student loan interest rates is a distraction.

The real problem is the principal of the loans - as well as the principle that millions of American kids have been sold: That a college degree is a ticket to success, or at least a foot in the door for a decent paying job.

The truth today is that college loans are a scam. Even when they guaranteed good paying jobs, they were a risk.

Now, they're simply a monkey on the backs of millions of Americans - one that is dragging down the future of our entire nation.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Success Can Really Bite

As the long hot days of August roll on, we were reminded through a few news stories and conversations over the weekend that farming isn't exactly a profession for wusses.

Last week, the USDA released a new estimate of what this year's U.S. corn crop harvest likely will look like - and indeed, the crop looks to be one of the largest ever. Most non-farmers might look at that and think, 'Great! A Bumper crop is a good thing, right?'

In terms of sheer productivity, yes. A bumper crop in any year proves America's farmers can once again navigate the challenges of Mother Nature, international agribusiness, our gridlocked Congress, and other unforeseen events to deliver a successful harvest. That said, it's not exactly like any of those challenges that farmers face are easy or stable. Even the best farmer can rarely account fully for unintended consequences, the kinds of things that often bite them in the behind.

One look at the complicated monster that is the corn market gives outsiders a perfect view of how success in growing food doesn't always mean success in the pockets of farmers.

When you're looking at how corn is sold in agricultural markets, what happened last year and in previous years matters. This year, corn harvest yields are forecast to be up worldwide. After last year's U.S. corn crop withered in the heat of late summer, many international corn buyers had to switch away from American suppliers to South American nations. Five years ago, combined exports from Brazil and Argentina accounted for only 23% of global trade. Last year, thanks to the weather in the U.S., it was 47%.

With more and more corn, and the same number of purchasers or less, thanks to global agribusiness corporations the demand is down - and sadly so is the price of corn. All of which means a bumper corn crop in the U.S. this year isn't exactly great news for the pocketbooks of American farmers.

What's going on in the Middle East and Egypt could also come back to bite American farmers. As Tim Fernholz wrote in Quartz this weekend, the Suez Canal in Egypt looks to remain open, even as that nation burns. Part of why the canal remains open is America's financial support of Egypt, as well as its international agreements with the Egyptian government.

There are plenty of people on all sides insisting President Obama is caught in a dilemma on Egypt - but the facts don't really bear that out. There are many reasons why President Obama won't likely publicly admit a coup has taken place in Egypt. For one thing, as soon as he would do so, legal considerations would automatically come into play that could potentially close the Suez to American shipping interests. That would include not just agribusiness interests, but also up to 3 million barrels of oil per day. A closed Suez Canal would be brutal to the bottom line of most American farmers.

Such an admission would also likely cut off a great deal of the U.S. military access to the Middle East - making America weaker in the Middle East, not stronger.

Finally, Mother Nature isn't exactly stable these days. In fact, as Jillian MacMath of AccuWeather notes, the entire greater midwest, from the Rockies through the Ohio valley looks to be getting an early frost this year - which could completely change the harvest outlook again, if the forecasts hold true.

All of which reminded us over the weekend to thank the next farmer we see, and reminded us to be thankful we don't have to deal with the issues farmers do every day. Even when they win, they can still lose - and that really bites.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Darkness & Light

As we noted on Thursday, it's been a surprisingly packed week of news, including positive news about jobs, horrifying news about Egypt (that most Americans don't understand), and some amazingly clownish news coming from the right wing, including their party's stunningly dark attempts at voter suppression. There's also been plenty of bad news throughout the media and journalism industries this week.

Even so, the bogeymen of fear that sometimes even dig around in the dreams of our staff members don't seem to be able to hold us down today. In fact, since it's Friday, we've decided to take the high road and give some well-earned kudos to some very deserving friends and colleagues in our industry, as well as some respects to some now departed members of the media.

In the area of praise, we have none higher than for those members of our media industry weathering massive changes at radio and TV networks like SiriusXM, Current, Pivot, and Al-Jazerra America.

For example, the Current TV network is ending its two-plus year run this weekend, which is sad to see in some ways. Thankfully, some of their fantastic producers and writers have been hired on at Al-Jazerra America, the news network taking over Current's channel positions. Sadly, a few amazingly talented former Current staffers are now "on the beach" professionally, including Peabody Award winner and former CNN correspondent Jacki Schechner, as well as comedian, writer, political pundit and TV star, John Fugelsang.

For all those we know who are the best, yet for one reason or another are now looking for work, on an emotional level we empathize. On a practical level, we want to point you to the story we noted in Thursday's extended edition, from CNN, that the overall number of jobs in journalism and media in now significantly up.

Now to pay our respects.

As the increasingly unstable Middle East region goes through even more turmoil with the collapse of the current interim Egyptian government, several more journalists lost their lives this week including British Sky News cameramen Mick Deane, and Dubai's XPress journalist Habiba Ahmed Abd Elaziz. We also lost the great political journalist Jack Germond this week, to the ever-present opponent of every journalist, time.

We love being in the media. We wouldn't do what we do, or spend the hours poring over the tools of our trade to create great work if we didn't. Ask anyone who's worked in the media professionally for a substantive period and most will say the same thing.

There is a cost, however, borne by some of our fellow professionals who take the biggest risks, traveling into war zones to get the stories the rest of us, frankly, are too scared to cover that close-up.

So for those in our profession who made that ultimate sacrifice this week, we ask that you do something for them, and for us, this weekend.

Enjoy some paid media. Go to a theater and watch a movie with your friends. Buy a book, newspaper subscription, or a comic book from a local retailer. Turn on your local or satellite radio if you're out and about. And if you're home watching TV, flip over to a new channel like Pivot or Al Jazeera America.

While you're at it, if you could, hug your family and friends too.
And as always, thanks for reading The Daily Felltoon.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Defining Quixotic

If you think because most of official Washington is on vacation, that you'll need to go on some kind of grand quest to find real news right now, we can say with one hundred percent certainty that you're wrong.

Much to the chagrin of those of us in the news and information business who were expecting a relaxing August, there are a ton of great stories right now. From the news that networking company Cisco is planning to cut 4,000 jobs, to the beginning of the end of the recession in Europe, to the final end of California's Prop 8, to the upcoming budget battles in DC, important, substantive news stories are nearly everywhere we look today.

Some of the biggest stories this week though involve war, in one from or another. Sadly, most of these wars seem to be accurately defined as "quixotic": Exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic and impractical.

The "war" extremist Republicans seem desperate to wage against Obamacare is one example, as we pointed out Wednesday. Another war is the United State's ridiculous "War on Drugs," a conflict that Attorney General Eric Holder made clear earlier this week, the Obama Administration is no longer looking to fight.

Frankly, we can't disagree with the Administration's decision to stop tilting at the drug war windmill. As both Ed Kilgore and Greg Sargent noted, stopping pointless overspending on drug policing, while ending ineffective mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent criminals are things that large numbers of Americans across the political spectrum agree on.

The biggest war going on, however, isn't on American soil. It's in Egypt, where the concept of a mostly civil revolution may have finally proven the most impractical of any of the conflicts in the news this week.

Reliable and verifiable media reports from Egypt were often hard to come by before the recent clashes of violence. After the deaths of hundreds - including the deaths of multiple journalists - that happened during the crackdown on protests by the military, firm statistics on the numbers of dead and injured are even more difficult to find.

The short version of the ongoing conflict is this. Supporters of recently deposed President Morsi, who generally side with the Muslim Brotherhood, make up a significant and sizable minority in Egypt. They are rebelling against the primarily secular and Christian factions in the country who have been attempting to form a new government. Neither side is too fond of the military, who has put Egypt under a month-long state of emergency, complete with daily curfews throughout the country. It appears some in the military may even have designs of taking control of Egypt once again, as it was for thirty years under Hosni Mubarak.

In the Middle East, a perpetually unstable region, Egypt has long been America's ally for many reasons - not the least of which is that whoever controls Egypt controls access to the Suez Canal, a key shipping route for major corporations from the Middle East and Asia to the Western hemisphere. Egypt has also, for many years, helped the U.S. to keep a lid on the perpetual conflict between Israelis and Palestinians - who are currently starting peace negotiations once again.

For those two reasons alone, America has been loathe to change policies and call what's been going on in Egypt a legal "coup". Doing so may endanger the passage of American ships in the Suez, while admitting America no longer has a powerful political ally in the region.

No matter what the outcome of any of the conflicts we covered today, the simple fact is this: If a war costs too damn much, has no obvious end, and won't be of much benefit to anyone, no matter who wins, isn't that also a definition of quixotic?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

GOP Clowns, Still Near The Edge

In the past, we've often used the metaphor of a clown to represent blithely clueless politicians. While we mean no insult to clowns, the metaphor couldn't be any more fitting this month - especially in light of the racist anti-Obama rodeo clown and his crew at the Missouri State Fair.

The clown has since been banned for life from working at the State Fair in Missouri and may end up being permanently banned from rodeos throughout the 'Show Me' state. Some may feel that punishment is a bit overboard, like getting kicked in the head by a bull. We believe the harsh punishment is likely the exact intention of the Missouri State Fair board: To make sure no one else ever tries another similarly disrespectful and stupid stunt. Hopefully, that clown learned his lesson.

Sadly, a large number of Republican clowns in Congress still haven't learned the harsh lessons of the 1995 Federal government shutdown, including freshman Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska. Fischer recently signed a letter stating - in effect - that she and the other Congressional Republican clowns would prefer the political equivalent of getting kicked in the head by a bull, and knocked over the edge into the political abyss during the next few election cycles.

Contrary to what you might have thought yesterday morning, Republican leaders have yet to pull their craziest members back from the abyss.

It's true that Senate Minority Leader Mitch 'My campaign manager hates me' McConnell made some noise on Tuesday that made it sound like he thinks a government shutdown would be stupid. But as Greg Sargent correctly notes, McConnell's comments are merely a political distraction, as many Republican leaders think voters aren't paying attention right now. In other words, Republicans in Congress may still shut down the government this fall, even though their leadership has admitted that shutting down the government won't stop Obamacare.

If you thought Newt Gingrich was acting like a three-year old having a temper tantrum when he and Republicans shut down the government back in 1995, Newt's antics from back then have nothing on the GOP clown show now.

If Republican members of Congress wanted to be even slightly constructive, they could at least be pretending to intelligently focus their criticisms on the bumpy rollout of Obamacare. Another adjustment in the rollout of Obamacare was announced on Tuesday - at which point, certain Republicans immediately began acting melodramatic about how the whole health care law is a disaster. However, as both Greg Sargent and and Ezra Klein noted Tuesday, and as the facts confirm, Obamacare is not a train wreck and this adjustment is just a slight delay.

Those facts still don't appear to be changing the antics of Republicans like Fischer, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio, who all seem more than willing to shut down the government, apparently just for their own enjoyment.

For her part, at least  Sen. Fischer hasn't been like most of her cowardly colleagues in Congress, who overwhelmingly have been avoiding holding town hall meetings during the August recess. Fischer has no less than a half-dozen public open town hall meetings scheduled over the next week - and if you're a constituent of hers, we highly recommend you attend.

Town halls or not, the facts remain as clear as a blast of seltzer to the face. Congressional Republicans like Fischer insist they're willing to shut down the Federal government in order to stop Obamacare, yet even their own leadership admits a government shutdown won't stop Obamacare. They can't "win" this game they're playing - so why the hell are Republicans looking to lose by getting kicked in the head and knocked into the political abyss?

Either they're clowning around or they really are suicidal.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Serving Up Failure

As kids begin returning to schools around the country, inevitably, the battles over testing and curriculum are beginning to float to the surface like so much grease floating to the top of a poorly cooked school lunch.

Indeed, in the DC area, the big news lately has been record high test scores, the best in six years for DC public schools. The problem, of course, is the perpetual difficulty regarding tests and numbers: Those who agree with the positive numbers trumpet them as proof of their success. Those who disagree with the numbers simply cite other numbers and studies and claim that the "winners" are really losers according to some other form of measurement.

In Nebraska, the fight over testing of schools has been going on all year, since Nebraska turned down the Common Core Standards passed by 45 other states in January. The Cornhusker State even went to the trouble of funding its own study comparing Nebraska's standards against the national Common Core standards, which recently came out. Not surprisingly, Nebraska's language standards stack up well against those of Common Core.

The problem is rarely in the numbers, or even in the different ways of measuring. Indeed, if you count how many times we've already mentioned "standards," "numbers," and "test" or "testing" we've referenced all of those words more than a dozen times just in our first three graphs today.

If you count how many times we've mentioned "kids" though, you'll notice the same problem that educators, parents, and politicians are having: That testing and test prep are completely hogging the discussion, and leaving the kids with no real substance or serious attention.

You can blame the issue on President Obama or President Bush, on 'Common Core Standards' or 'No Child Left Behind.' This issue isn't even one that divides the electorate along strict strict partisan lines.

The fact is, the altruistic ideas that drove 'No Child Left Behind' under President Bush and are currently driving the idea of 'Common Core' standards under President Obama are similar. Those basic ideas are attractive and even laudable. Kids at the same grade level should have a similar basis of knowledge, if for no other reason than if their parents drag the family to a new city, the child won't be completely lost in his or her new school. Similarly, the ideas of testing teachers is, on the surface, a good idea. Teachers who can't communicate and can't do the job should be let go, so those who are great at teaching can have those job positions. No one can argue with either of those ideas.

What spoiled both programs though, is also the same thing - billion dollar for-profit testing companies, who also spend lots of money on lobbying to push politicians and educators to spend more education dollars with their companies.

Even if you ignore the billions of dollars in testing today, the biggest problem with all of these tests is that too many parents, teachers, administrators, and politicians are all looking for shortcuts on how to judge the performance of teachers and the success of their kids. Too often they all seem to forget the most basic goal of our education system isn't some pile of statistics on a plate.

It's feeding the minds of children so they learn the basics, while also teaching those kids how to learn, so they can keep learning throughout their whole lives.

If we forget that most basic goal of education for any American child, the only things we'll be serving up to the future are empty promises and piles of problems.

Returning Themes

Even as the long hot dog days of summer drone on, and town halls continue to be filled with angry voters - some already yelling that Republicans in Congress keep trying to take away their Obamacare - the fact is, August is already further along than you might think.

Many schools around the nation are set to open this week, including those in our hometown, with both teachers and students either grumbling about being back or ready for excitement. Our Cartoonist and Editor In Chief also happily reminded us that football season has already returned, if you enjoy pre-season NFL action. College football will also be back soon, something we know Huskernutz are very much looking forward to.

The truth is, "returning" seems to be a theme today, throughout many sections of the news, even if most members of Congress won't be returning to DC for another four weeks.

President Obama began the theme of returning last Friday in his press conference, when he revisited the issue of how the NSA handles data. As Greg Sargent noted, the President embraced NSA surveillance reform, outlining four specific changes which will add more transparency and more checks and balances. Unfortunately the President also had to return to the idea that Congress would have to do their part if some of those reforms were to take effect - and we all know that won't happen anytime soon.

Along with his press conference, the President acted on the issue of student loan rates on Friday, signing into law a fix that returned rates to less than four percent, at least for the near-future.

Last week also saw the return of the Obama Administration's focus on Wall Street, though not in the way the white collar gamblers of the stock market would like. JP Morgan, run by President Obama's now-former friend Jamie Dimon, looks to be finally getting the kind of scrutiny they've so richly deserved. If past is prologue, JP Morgan will only be the first of the Wall Street monsters to get at least some of regulatory comeuppance they've avoided since the Wall Street banksters caused the crash in 2008.

Returning to our initial focus on members of Congress, some sanity appears to be returning to Republicans as they face their constituents back home, many of whom seem seriously afraid of a GOP-caused government shutdown this fall. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor admitted in an interview Friday that he's telling his extremist Conservatives that they will not be allowed to shut down the government. Some House Republicans also now appear to have backed down from their tea party positions on immigration.

Meanwhile, the corruption allowed by the Supreme Court's ill-advised Citizens United decision has also returned to bite another legislator in the behind, this time Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The contest in Kentucky may give America its first $100 million race for U.S. Senate in 2014. What's worse for McConnell is that his campaign manager, Jesse Benton, is also wrapped up in another political money scandal dating back to the 2012 Iowa GOP Presidential primary.

The theme of returning was also in full swing overseas, as factional violence continued in Iraq, even as the move towards Israeli-Palestinian peace talks ramps up again. And yes - Fukashima, Japan is back in the news too.

Maybe it's just the heat of summer getting to us, but many of today's headlines seem like a fever dream, a return to previous news from months and years past that we'd hoped to forget. We'll just have to sooth ourselves by grabbing a nice cold drink this evening while watching highlights of Husker football from last season - as research for the regular season, of course.

Not everything that returns is bad, after all.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Feeling Buoyed About News

There's a special feeling around our offices today that we don't normally experience every Friday. Whether that's because of friends we know that are celebrating the end of Ramadan, or friends we know celebrating the beginning of the Iowa State Fair, or just because it's been a very long week for us, we don't know.

We do know we've all got a hopeful feeing today, especially regarding a topic near and dear to our hearts - the future of media in America, and specifically, the future of newspapers like the Washington Post.

Like many of our professional colleagues, when Jeff Bezos bought the Post earlier this week, we were a bit apprehensive. With more than fifty years of combined experience in professional paid journalism between our staff members - much of it in the field of print and newspapers - we've seen many changes in the media, and more than a handful have not been good.

After a few days and a bit more digging, we're not only feeling cautiously optimistic about Mr. Bezos. We think Jeff Bezos may just be able to provide journalism a life raft for the 21st Century.

Our web producer is the most excited about that possibility, chattering excitedly about legitimate profits from digital journalism at major newspapers, and technological innovations like "customer targeting" - something in which Mr. Bezos' company, Amazon, is a world leader. In short, "customer targeting" like that at Amazon is finding out what customers are most likely to buy - and then successfully convincing them to buy those things. Amazon and its competitors have become masters of this technique, spending comparatively little to gain a comparatively large return on their investment in advertising and promotions.

Compare that with most media advertising, which is still far too often of the "spray n' pray" variety. That's where media organizations try to hit the largest number of potential readers, listeners, and viewers in a given geographic area - then pray enough of those potential customers follow through to buy the products and services of their advertisers.

It would be fantastic if all media advertising would be as efficient and effective as Amazon and its competitors are. If it was, media organizations might be able to charge significantly more for their advertising, which could fuel significantly more great journalism. Small media organizations might even be able to license top-notch targeting tools from larger organizations like The Washington Post, allowing them to find ways to make digital journalism work in their small, local area.

Technological tools like these are exactly the kinds of advances in media our web producer has been raving about for more than a decade now.

Frankly, we don't know if Bezos' plan for the Washington Post looks anything like what we've suggested here. We're not 100% sure if he or anyone can bring to the news industry the kinds of social and technical innovation necessary for high-quality, profitable news media. We're not even sure if the idea of "super targeting" like we described above will work for smaller local media outlets. The crucial jobs of covering stories like your local city council meetings and high school sports events might still end up falling to some dedicated blogger, if there isn't enough money in it.

What we are certain of is that Jeff Bezos' purchase of The Washington Post - along with other major technological shifts going on in the industry right now - have given us all the hope for a better media landscape in the relatively near future. Quality journalism might even become a reliable source for an honest wage once again, a trend that's not just good for us, but good for America too.

If that kind of hope isn't a reason to feel yourself lifted up, even just a little, we're not sure what is.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

If It Ain't Broke...

As our regular readers know, our staff tends to travel a good bit, both nationally and internationally. No matter where we go, we often end up running into other Nebraskans, and we'll often end up discussing topics near and dear to our hearts, like Husker sports or Lincoln's Haymarket development, or our favorite Nebraska restaurants like Valentino's, Misty's, and Runza. Of course, most true Nebraskans also know our home state's unofficial motto: "If it ain't broke, don't 'fix' it."

We mention that unofficial motto and the other Nebraska bona fides today, in light of the latest developments this week from the Nebraska Tax Modernization Committee.

As we've pointed out more than once this year, it's obvious that Gov. Heineman would prefer the Nebraska Tax Modernization Committee simply rubber stamp his plan to eliminate Nebraska's income tax - a plan that's not only unnecessary, but frankly unworkable. Those facts haven't seemed to matter to the Governor, though, or to other special interest groups, like the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce.

Like a mechanic with his eye on your car and his mind on your wallet, no matter what the facts say, supporters of scrapping Nebraska's income tax have kept pushing to "fix" a system that didn't need fixing – a very un-Nebraskan way of thinking.

So it was with both surprise and and satisfaction that we noted the news coming out of Nebraska's Tax Modernization Committee this week, specifically from the committee's head, State Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney. If you're unfamiliar with the former mayor of Kearney, Hadley has a long history of siding with both the Governor and the Chamber, especially on matters that involve tax cuts.

Hadley went into this weeks meetings a proponent of eliminating the state's income tax. Yet, after climbing under the metaphorical hood of the state's budget with other members of the Committee and tax experts from all over the nation, Hadley admitted that Nebraska's tax system didn't really need much fixing after all.

That doesn't mean the Cornhusker state's tax system couldn't do with some tweaks - for example, eliminating tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals that aren't truly benefitting the state's citizens. That also doesn't mean that extremists like 2014 gubernatorial candidate State Sen. Charlie Janssen aren't going to prance around Nebraska, holding their own events to try to convince Nebraskans to do something major with their state tax system that just doesn't need to be done.

Still, Sen. Hadley appears to have joined other members of the committee like Sen. Pete Pirsch of Omaha who seem to have stayed pretty close to Nebraska's unofficial motto - and who deserve at least a note of praise from us in these digital pages for their wise caution.

After all, as all true Nebraskans know, if it ain't broke, don't "fix" it.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In Need Of A Fix

If you're a fan of baseball like some members of our staff, you were probably well prepared for the stack of suspensions that Major League Baseball handed out on Monday. Maybe you even felt a lump in your throat, or had a slight twist in your stomach when the punishments for drug use came down. We saw players we've enjoyed (and maybe even cheered for) revealed to be like so many other pro athletes caught cheating - just another group of technologically enhanced frauds.

There's a part of us that looks at the crumbling metaphorical pillars of our iconic national pastime and wishes that America still had baseball heros like Aaron, Maris, Ruth, and Robinson. Today we'd all be lucky to even get another Cal Ripken Jr.

Instead, we get guys like Alex Rodriguez, the one-time golden boy of professional baseball, now "the party guest that won't leave," in the words of USA Today's Christine Brennan.

Whether he stays or goes, Rodriguez may be just the kind of hero America currently deserves.

As Dave Zirin of The Nation noted earlier this week, the hypocrisy of Major League Baseball on the issue of performance enhancing drugs is legendary. That said, Alex Rodriguez is to Major League Baseball's doping scandals, as Lyndee England was to the Abu Ghraib scandal. We'd even be willing to go further and say that as duplicitous as Rodriguez has been about using banned substances, he's got nothing on modern America, a nation that has too often played a similar hypocritical position.

Just look at the recent headlines if you have any doubts.

After being conned into war by Dick Cheney and his chickenhawks, Americans spent most of the last decade supposedly making Iraq "safe for democracy." Yet, since the U.S. military left Iraq bombs go off there every day, killing scores of innocent civilians.

Our "Department of Justice" says the criminal banks on Wall Street, like Bank of America, screwed the nation with the mortgage crisis in 2008. While we're glad the DOJ is finally going after institutions like Bank of America, it's five years after the crime, and they're only going after a small fraction of the damage those Wall Street criminals caused.

The President was also on The Tonight Show last night saying America doesn't really have a domestic spying program - and by the letter of the law that's true. That said, there's been enough evidence recently revealed to know that too many of the spooks in our Federal government intelligence communities have traded their responsibilities over domestic surveilliance to private contractors, like pro baseball teams trade players - and many of those private contractors followed the letter of the law about as well as A-Rod followed the MLB rules.

America does need heroes again, like those our nation once had in Major League Baseball - maybe more now than ever before.

We're just not sure that the America we live in today deserves better heroes than the ones we're getting already.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Not What Was Expected

Even the most impulsive people have expectations of how things are supposed to work in life. For example, town hall meetings with members of Congress are generally expected to be forums where constituents speak and Congressmembers are forced to pay attention - not literal war zones, like in a small town in Pennsylvania last night.

It's frustrating but almost certain that some town hall meetings this month aren't going to work out the way either Congressmembers or constituents expect them to - at times because some members of Congress have no intention of truly listening.

More this year than ever before, we recommend you get prepared and get involved in the meetings and events of your Congresspersons and Senators, as they visit their home districts over this month's recess. Part of that preparation might include a visit to websites like Accountable Congress, that can help you find the next town hall in your area, and even help you form some intelligent questions to ask your member of Congress.

We also highly recommend that you follow the advice of Thomas Jefferson and make sure you're well-informed before you get involved in your government. To us, that means reading a first-rate newspaper every day, like The Washington Post.

Of course, the Post announced its own seriously unexpected change Monday afternoon, one that many in the media, including our staff members, are still trying to process.

In case you missed it, the short details of the change are simple. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, has agreed to buy the Washington Post newspaper, and few of its related print products, including a few smaller newspapers. Bezos did not buy every part of The Washington Post Company (which will have to change its name), so some very important news sites like Slate and The Grio will remain publicly owned.

The paper itself, however, will be solely owned by Bezos, who made it clear in his message to Post employees, "The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners."

No one is really sure what to make of the deal yet. Many are saying this is the end of an era. That one of the nation's most important news sources will no longer be tied to the insane demands of Wall Street is something we can certainly applaud. Still, the idea of a single hyper-wealthy owner controlling one of the nation's most important newspapers brings to mind the kinds of yellow journalism so prevalent during America's first Gilded Age - and sadly, so common among right-wing media today.

Still, we've been cheered by looking at Bezos' former experience as part of a media ownership team, when he invested in the website Business Insider this past year. As many in the media have noted, during that time Business Insider's journalism and overall quality has improved, while the voices of their investors - like Jeff Bezos - continue to remain silent.

We hope that Mr. Bezos recognizes the incredible value of Post staff clusters like Ezra Klein's Wonkblog group and Greg Sargent's Plum Line group - but like Post writer Jim Tankersley noted, we also hope Bezos can help find a modern business model that will allow the Washington Post to continue being one of the nation's best newspapers.

With all the insanity in our national politics, now more than ever Americans need to have trustworthy news sources that deliver what we should always expect from our best news organizations: The truth.