Weekly Roundup 10/18/2010

In this recovery, Washington has less power over the economy than you think
Allan Sloan, Tory Newmyer and Doris Burke, The Washington Post, Oct. 17, 2010

Synopsis: Sloan, the award-winning senior editor at large for Fortune, and colleagues Newmyer and Burke relate "an Ugly Truth" about the economy: "There is nothing that the U.S. government or the Federal Reserve or tax cutters can do to make our economic pain vanish overnight." Why? The Great Recession was caused by a financial meltdown the consequences of which cannot be cured by the traditional economic tools of low interest rates, tax cuts or government spending. And the busting of the housing bubble will leave Americans less wealthy for years. Applying a traditional rule for "bubbles" (seven years down, seven years up), housing prices may not start to rise again until 2013, seven years after they peaked in 2006.

Takeaway: There's "no fast fix" for the economy.

Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor, CQ Researcher


National Poetry Day: Unlock the Mathematical Secrets of Verse
Steve Jones, Telegraph [United Kingdom], Oct. 5, 2010

Synopsis: Human beings are pattern-loving animals, and not only mathematics but also poetry provide the evidence. And back in the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment periods, plenty of poets were juiced about the mathematically patterned underpinnings scientists were discovering in our world -- and also excited about the patterns poets could make from words and ideas as well.

Takeaway: Being a Romantic didn't stop Byron, for example, from having an eye for pattern and even science. Famous for this quip -- " I know that two and two make four - and should be glad to prove it too if I could - though I must say if...I could convert 2 and 2 into five it would give me much greater pleasure -- his verse was nevertheless a festival of interlocking rhythmic and rhyming patterns that could make a mathematician swoon. And in his epic and humorous masterpiece Don Juan, Byron wrote this of Isaac Newton: "This is the sole mortal who could grapple/ Since Adam, with a fall or with an apple."

Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer, CQ Researcher


“Who Was Annie?”
Dan Barry

Synopsis: In one of his patented profiles of real people – fascinating, sensitive and compulsively readable -- the prolific New York Times feature writer tells the story behind the story of “Shopping Cart Annie.” For seven decades at Manhattan’s legendary Fulton Fish Market, the spunky, mysterious woman hustled cigarettes and told dirty jokes. “But a mysterious pinup hinted at a life her friends there knew nothing about.”

Takeaway: Watch a sublimely talented journalist prove, once again, that there are indeed 7 million stories in the naked city.

Tom Colin, Managing Editor, CQ Researcher


Education of a President
Peter Baker, The New York Times, Oct. 12, 2010

Synopsis: Nearly two years into his term, and facing a backlash from those on the right as well as some in his own Democratic Party, President Obama expresses pride in his policies but concedes his administration “probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right.” Obama tells Baker, a prolific and respected Washington correspondent, that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” and says he has allowed himself to look too much like “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat.”

Takeaway: In a fractured America riven by uncompromising partisanship, suspicion, disillusionment and legitimate worries about the direction of the economy and foreign policy, failing at politics—including its media-driven theater—is a recipe for failure. Obama faces an uphill struggle to get an agenda of substance accomplished after the November midterm elections and to convince the electorate to give him four more years in the White House.

Thomas J. Billitteri, Staff Writer, CQ Researcher


Tea and Crackers
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone, Oct. 14, 2010

One of the most memorable of the countless stories about the Tea Party movement published over the past year. Taibbi spent considerable time with tea partiers in Kentucky, one of their hot spots, and makes an effort to understand and explain a movement that he makes no secret of loathing. In one passage, he points out to ardent Tea Partiers riding motorized scooters for the disabled, that despite their cries against government spending, government funds paid for their vehicles. They were unabashed. “The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending – with the exception of the money spent on them,” Taibbi concludes.

Peter Katel, Staff Writer,
CQ Researcher