Up Front

The Question: What is Washington twittering?

"Callista got a wii from the cushmans and the lubbers for her birthday A lot of bowling golf and tennis to come"
-- Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House

"Took down tree and most outside lites xcept for lite on roof edge bc roof icy. Not safe up there"
-- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

"Ordered a pizza more than an hour ago ... starving"
-- Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)

"Those naysayers bout twitter don't get it. It's all about communication."
-- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Parody by T.A. Frank

"It's not a pass-fail test."
-- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on "stress tests" to be applied to major U.S. banks.

U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT STRESS TEST

Instructions: This test is designed to help you, so no one is trying to look over your shoulder. You can't "pass" or "fail." Just relax and answer as honestly as possible.

YOUR NAME AND EXECUTIVE TITLE: __________________________________

NAME OF YOUR FINANCIAL INSTITUTION: _____________________________

1. How are you holding up? Are you still finding time to do the things you enjoy, to exercise and get into hobbies? How about your family?

2. What can the federal government do to make you feel better? Would an additional capital infusion help? How much would you consider ideal?

3. How are those salary caps working out for you? Are you going to be OK, or are you sort of feeling "whoa, that's not cool"? What sort of salary structure would you prefer?

4. Do you think if we paid off your creditors, things could go back to the way they used to be?

Yes
No
Not sure, but you should try.

5. Relax, and just try to give this your best guess. If a lot more of your bets went bad, you would be:

Fine
Fine, just needing a sort of temporary boost
Fine, as long as you can cover a lot of that downside
Not so cool but should be A-OK as long as we get all the help we need

6. Are you and your colleagues still able to keep your kids in a good school and "up to fashion" with their friends?

7. How long do think it'll take for people to stop freaking out and start seeing that housing prices are way too low now?

8. If you get tired of working in finance, do you think you might be interested in working in government, maybe at Treasury or the Fed? Would it help if we raised the salary of officials at these departments to attract the brightest people on Wall Street?

That's funny
Come on, we're not desperate
Well, maybe if you added bonuses to the base

9. Is flying commercial having any bad effect on executive morale?

Yes
No
It's too painful to talk about

Dialogue: The New New Media

Why is everyone so excited about Twitter? A discussion in 140 characters or less

Ezra Klein: Politico has now run five stories on Twitter. And it's made appearances in The New York Times, the Toronto Globe and Mail, The Guardian, The Spectator, Business Week ...

Tim Fernholz: Ana Marie Cox has 120,000 followers on Twitter. Newt Gingrich twitters. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill twitters. House Minority Leader John Boehner twitters.

Ezra: Right-minded people should ask: WTF?

Tim: WTF indeed. Being a curmudgeon and not having a Twitter account myself, I'm creeped out by seeing everyone's thoughts run on a reel. I don't know why people feel they need

Tim: ... to express opinions in 140-character blocks.

Ezra: Here's the thing: I feel about Twitter the way old media felt about blogs. It's too short, too fast, too hastily composed, and I'm no good at it.

Tim: Then we agree!

Ezra: But remember what happened to old media when they decided to ignore blogs?

Tim: They either hired already-successful bloggers or forced their staff to start blogging. I hope you're not forecasting a similar future for non-Twittering journos.

Ezra: That's why I am trying desperately to embrace Twitter. And Tim, I think you should, too.

Tim: Is it a coincidence that the most compelling Twitterers -- McCaskill, Gingrich, Shaq -- are also the least bloggy people? Ana Marie Cox excepted, obviously.

Ezra: But there are different types of Twitterers. Such as the "life of the rich and famous" Twitterer. Shaquille O'Neal, say.

Tim: Or in D.C., the "life of the elected and powerful" Twitterer.

Ezra: They're compelling because it's odd to see the mundane details of their existence. tim: How long will the mundane remain compelling? It's funny the first time you hear McCaskill talk about working out, but the fifth?

Ezra: Then there's the newsfeed Twitterer, like Mike Allen, and the snark Twitterer, like Ana Marie Cox. Do any of these add value to the public debate?

Tim: I'm not going to go all David Denby on you and say that Twitter is undermining our discourse. But I think it's a waste of time for people who could more valuably express

Tim: ... their thoughts in a 300-word blog post or a 3,000-word feature article. Or even a book.

Ezra: The 300-word post is a relative of the 3,000-word article. The 140-character Twitter update is a relative of the one-line blog post. It's the Atrios of mediums.

Tim: But does that put us on the road to the Instapundit of mediums? Heh.

Ezra: Yep. But aren't we on the road to ruin anyway? Best to have company in the meantime.

Tim: If you invited me to a party with Ana Marie Cox, Newt Gingrich, Claire McCaskill, and Shaq ... I'd probably go.

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