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Scritti Politti: February 27, 2009

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I quite liked Mark McKinnon's piece in The Daily Beast, today, about Twitter "jumping the shark." I especially liked his admonition that we all must honor our connections to our friends and loved ones by relishing those relationships in the time-tested, offline ways that have always served us. I will keep that spirit this weekend, when I perform one of those classic rites of true friendship - helping someone pack their moving van.

As for Twitter jumping the shark, well, let me toot my own horn by saying that I warned everyone last June that eventually, it would be your Congress that would ruin Twitter for everyone, or at the very least, tragically displace the more gentlemanly tradition of dueling. Also, just as a point of debate, while I agree that this weeks news of Twittering Congresscritters does nothing but spur the regress of the medium, I would posit that Twitter jumped the shark in the same way all internet paraphenalia does - at the very moment CNN dedicated a show to reading it out loud, on the teevee.

Facebook statuses, I'm certain, will be next.

[Naturally, if you want to follow me on Twitter...I won't stop you!]

The Curious Case Of Buck McKeon: And now, the incredibly true story of a U.S. Representative taking a grand stand in support of plainly idiotic "crony capitalism." A taste:

Well right now we do student loans through a really pointless mechanism of basically laundering the money through private firms. All of the downside risk is borne by the government in case of default. And the lenders receive federal subsidies for doing the service of undertaking no-risk lending. But of course the companies also take a slice off the top for profits and salaries for executives and so forth. Consequently, this is more expensive than just directly lending the money. And the government is bearing all the risk anyway. So what Obama is proposing to do is to save taxpayers money by simply having the government make the loans. What's not to like? Well:

But there's already been pushback from Republicans. Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (Calif.), ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, lashed out against the proposed shift, calling it a "government takeover of the private-sector-based student loan program, taking away options and benefits from students while adding tens of billions" of dollars to the deficit.

The government is not, however, "taking over" anything. The government already completely controls the industry since it's existence is predicated on the existence of federal subsidies. Obama is simply proposing to cut out the middle man and save some money.

Press Pre-Emption: The sad thing about the idea of "too big to fail," is that you'd think the "big" side of the equation would attract some scrutiny before the "fail" aspect manifested itself. This article in Fortune indicates a sensible shift in practices, as they take an look at whether bond giant Pimco has arrived at the "too big to fail" threshold before that inquiry becomes a sigh of resignation.

MSNBC Adds Disclosures To Analyst Appearances: I was enthusiastic in the immediate moments following MSNBC's decision to disclose to viewers that Barry McCaffrey works for DynCorps. It's a small victory, but an "incomplete" one, according to CJR's Clint Hendler, who succinctly demonstrates why this stuff really matters:

But Gregory's introduction neglected to mention that DynCorp has many other military contracting interests outside of Afghanistan that were far more relevant to the topic at hand. Like those interests, say, in Iraq.

One of them is the joint venture Global Linguist Solutions, of which DynCorp is a majority owner. And while McCaffrey is merely one member of the DynCorp board, he chairs the board over at GLS, which has a five-year, $4.6 billion contract to provide translation and interpretive services to U.S forces operating in Iraq.

Today, Obama announced that America's Iraq combat mission would end by August 31, 2010, and, per the country's Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, that he intended to "remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011."

The GLS contract will not expire until 2013.

Math would indicate that McCaffrey's company stands to lose up to $920 million of revenue for each year that U.S. troops leave Iraq before the contract expires. While McCaffrey endorsed Obama's withdrawal plan as "sensible" on MSNBC today, in the past GLS has been sensitive to the possibility that shifts in White House policy could jeopardize its business. Days after Obama's election, they issued a press release (.pdf) quoting portions of Obama's Iraq platform that warned against quick withdrawal, and assuring that the election results would "not cause interruption" in their contract.

Is Kellogg's Taking Hits From A Phelps Backlash?: Yes, according "a company called 'Vanno' that tracks the brand reputations of more than 5,600 companies." Of course, Vanno's metrics are described as something that "kind of looks like it was made by a 12 year old," so take it with a bowlful of, you know, "salt."

Your Daily Dose Of WTF!?!: Uhm, yes. That Kyra Phillips report on sword swallowing? It really happened.