Black Coffee: How the Government Shutdown Is Now Affecting the Press

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe

Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance.

I was on a plane this week coming home from a business trip and I noticed that the guy sitting across the aisle from me was passing time before take off texting and chatting on not one, but two cell phones. Two. That’s nutty.

Have you ever seen somebody who keeps two separate cell phones on their person? If so, why would anyone do that?

By the way, because I was away from home so much this week, I’ve got another abbreviated “espresso edition” of Black Coffee. Don’t let the cup size fool you — I promise it still packs the usual punch of my regular Black Coffees, it’s just more concentrated.

Okay, on we go …

The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed

From January 2011:

100 Words On: Why a Penny Saved Is More Than a Penny Earned – This was my first post in a very popular series where I try to boil a topic down to exactly 100 words. Trust me — it’s a lot harder than it sounds!

The Question of the Week

Last Week’s Poll Result

Has the shutdown of the US federal government affected you?

  • No (79%)
  • Yes (21%)

With more than 200 people responding, it looks like the vast majority of folks haven’t noticed the government shutdown. Why am I not surprised?

Credits and Debits

Credit: The US government shutdown was still raging as of last Friday and, as my poll confirms, for the vast majority of folks life goes on as it did before the shutdown — which just goes to show how non-essential most Big Government federal endeavors really are.

Debit: Of course, that isn’t stopping our overlords from going to absurd lengths to prove otherwise. It’s bad enough that the government felt compelled to close open-air capital memorials, and national parks including Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. Now they’re even trying to close the Atlantic Ocean.

Debit: Get this: The US federal government is such a leviathan that it still spent $63 billion during the first two days of the shutdown. It also borrowed $1.65 billion over the same period. Can you blame them? Wrapping the Grand Canyon with police tape isn’t cheap, you know.

Debit: Meanwhile, the White House held a one-hour press conference last week. Even so, the President didn’t get a single question from the press regarding the foundering Obamacare roll-out debacle. Not one. Unbelievable. Talk about journalistic malpractice — or should we chalk this up to the government shutdown too?

Debit: Apparently, the press corps believes it isn’t important that, as of last week, only 326 people in Maryland had signed up for Obamacare; or that exactly zero Obamacare plans had been sold in the President’s home state of Hawaii. Yes, zero.

Debit: I guess the press corps, which normally considers American privacy to be sacrosanct, cares not that there are Obamacare exchange disclaimers stating that any personal data submitted online can be used for “law enforcement and audit activities.” Really?

Debit: Don’t you think it’s just a little odd that the press corps didn’t even ask why Obamacare’s federal exchange is still broken after taxpayers shelled out more than $500 million for it? Who knows — maybe they just forgot.

Debit: Perhaps the press corps buys the Administration’s “high traffic” meme, even though, as one person astutely noted: 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Can you imagine the server load to handle that? And the federal government can’t handle people filling out a registration form?”

Credit: What’s really scary is that this is the very same government that, incredulously, promises to make our healthcare — which is even more complex — less expensive. Only in your imagination.

Credit: Call me a dreamer, but if the press corps knew that Facebook operated for six years before it spent $500 million, or that Twitter operated on $360 million between 2006 and 2011, maybe they’d have mustered up a little courage for once and asked the President a tough question, like: Why couldn’t government do the same with the Obamacare exchanges?

Debit: Then again, knowing the press, they probably wouldn’t.

(The Best of) By the Numbers

A 2012 study found that 16% of people like to shop for Christmas gifts on the toilet. Apparently, that isn’t the only thing people do there — um, besides the obvious, of course:

14 Percentage of women who use social media in the restroom.

14 Percentage of men who use social media in the lavatory.

32 Percentage of people between 18 and 24 who use Facebook and Twitter on the john.

28 Percentage of those ages 25-34 who use social media while seated on the crapper.

15 Percentage of those between 35 and 44 who tweet on the commode.

2 Twitter’s rank among the world’s most popular social networking sites. (Only Facebook is bigger.)

750,000,000 Estimated monthly unique visitors to Facebook. (How many of those folks who are on the toilet at any one time is anyone’s guess.)

Source: The Detroit Free Press; EBiz MBA

Other Useless News

Here are the top — and bottom — five states in terms of he average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:

1. Wyoming (2.50 pages/visit)
2. Idaho (2.49)
3. Texas (2.48)
4. Utah (2.36)
5. North Carolina (2.31)

46. California (1.89)
47. Massachusetts (1.85)
48. New Jersey (1.79)
49. Vermont (1.66)
50. Delaware (1.47)

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Letters, I Get Letters

Every week I feature the most interesting question or comment — assuming I get one, that is. And folks who are lucky enough to have the only question in the mailbag get their letter highlighted here whether it’s interesting or not! You can reach out to me at:

From the archives: Back in December 2011, Randy dropped this note into the Len Penzo dot Com complaint box.

“Here in Kansas we are tired of the dumbing down of America by morons and, it appears, you fit in that category. Sorry.”

No need to apologize. By definition, anyone who insists on living here in the People’s Republic of California has to be a moron.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 3

    Dave D says

    I pretty much always carry two iPhones with me. The first one is a personal one – I’ve owned 4 versions since July 2007. It’s Verizon, holds all my favorite apps, contacts, etc.

    While I fought getting the second one for over two years, my employer finally forced me to get it. It’s AT&T, has a minimal amount of apps and data, but I am required to carry it due to the nature of my job for work-related phone calls and emails.

  2. 4


    One of my sons carries 2 phones a work phone and a personal phone. His work has pretty tight restrictions on use but he had to bring it to visit me this Thanksgiving weekend so he could return work emails.

    He needed his personal phone to text his friends and update his fantasy football team.

    I suspect when he graduates school he will not need the personal phone because the personal texting level may drop.

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