Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: February 21, 2011


NYT: Blogs “wane” as young set moves to sites like Twitter

In another example of how little the NYT knows about blogging (but fervently wishes for the day they’d just go away and the Times could get back to the good old days of deciding what is news or just flat making it up), it reports today that blogs are on the “wane”.  Check out this paragraph:

Like any aspiring filmmaker, Michael McDonald, a high school senior, used a blog to show off his videos. But discouraged by how few people bothered to visit, he instead started posting his clips on Facebook, where his friends were sure to see and comment on his editing skills.

“I don’t use my blog anymore,” said Mr. McDonald, who lives in San Francisco. “All the people I’m trying to reach are on Facebook.”

This is the lead for the story.  It is clueless.

Some 17 year old who likes to make videos doesn’t use his blog to show them off anymore, but instead uses Facebook – and that sounds the death knell of blogs?

What this youngster wanted to do was show his vids off to a few (tens? hundreds?) friends at most.  Facebook is a much better venue for that.  In fact, it’s an even better venue than YouTube because your friends have to go to YouTube to find your vids vs. having them delivered to their Facebook page via your posting.  It. Makes. Perfect. Sense. 

But … it says more about the misapplication of blogging (for what the young man wanted to accomplish) than the demise of blogging.

Twitter – same thing.  For some things it’s perfect.  For others, a blog is perfect.   Depends on what you want to do.   Like say anything  that takes more than 142 characters. Blogs, Twitter and Facebook are all networking tools that provide an application that helps accomplish what the user wants to accomplish.

The case the NYT is trying to make is blogs will die out as the younger demographic moves to different venues:

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Center found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs. Among 18-to-33-year-olds, the project said in a report last year, blogging dropped two percentage points in 2010 from two years earlier.

Well here’s a news flash – I don’t read “children” or their blogs and they most likely don’t read mine.  But note the next demo – 18-to-33 year olds – suffered a whole 2% decline from two years earlier.

As of Feb. 16th, 2011, according to Wikipedia, there were 156 million blogs in existence.  A two percent drop in two years is simply statistically insignificant.  And, blogs aren’t just for “social networking” as the Times would like you to believe.  Nor do they require writing “lengthy posts” unless you want too. 

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval.

No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do.

Phenomenal – I never had to blog to “connect with the world”. Nor was any blog I was a part of “intended” for comments on the weather or to just share photos. 

I hadn’t waited on blogs to “connect with the world” – that had been available for years via email, first through bulletin board systems, then through Usenet and Google Groups.  Blogs are just another method of doing so and may someday be supplanted by something else.  But on the wane because of Facebook and Twitter? 

All I can say is if Twitter is now the first choice of someone who was once blogging, they were never a serious blogger to begin with.  And, if Facebook is now the choice of a blogger, they’ve greatly narrowed their outreach to only those who subscribe to them.  The fact that they’re on Facebook, even with an open page, doesn’t mean anyone is going to read them any more than when they had a blog.

Obviously things are going to change and evolve in the online media and social networking world, but as much as the NYT would love to declare the blog dead and gone, it’s not even close.

And a little note for the editors and publishers of the Times – when blogs have finally gone the way of the dodo bird, the NYT will most likely have predeceased them by a substantial amount of time.  My guess is Hot Air has as many or more readers than the Times does.    HuffPo just went for 300 plus million to AOL.  Point me toward the last major newspaper that sold for that much.

~McQ


Who is winning the public relations fight in Wisconsin?

Rasmussen says it’s Republican governor Scott Walker:

A sizable number of voters are following new Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s showdown with unionized public employees in his state, and nearly half side with the governor.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters agree more with the Republican governor in his dispute with union workers. Thirty-eight percent (38%) agree more with the unionized public employees, while 14% are undecided.

Additionally:

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters think teachers, firemen and policemen should be allowed to go on strike, but 49% disagree and believe they should not have that right. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

And finally:

Public employee unions have long been strong supporters, financially and otherwise, of Democratic Party candidates, so it’s no surprise that 68% of Democrats support the union workers in the Wisconsin dispute. Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Republicans and 56% of voters not affiliated with either of the major political parties side with the governor.  [emphasis mine]

The bold line is key.  I find nothing particularly surprising about either of the percentages from Democrats polled or Republicans.  But again this indicates that the Democrats have lost the independent vote and lost it significantly.  Public opinion, based on this poll, is definitely with the Governor.

What is playing out in Wisconsin has been recognized by unions as a hill they must die on or suffer the probably irreversible consequences of losing political power.   They also understand the potential reaches far outside Wisconsin.  If Wisconsin goes, others could follow:

“Some of the labor people are saying, ‘It’s the beginning of the fight back,’” said a top labor official. “But if the labor movement rallies and gets run over in Wisconsin, it opens [the gates] in every state” for governors to start pushing harder to curtail labor rights.

“Not every state’s going to roll back collective bargaining,” the official — who, like many, spoke off the record to avoid undermining the protests — added, but said it could open the gates for union losses on various fronts, like benefits.

Don’t be fooled – this isn’t just about “benefits”.  It is about power, politics and money.  The mix of those three have given public sector unions a synergy that has allowed them, in many places, to hand pick Democratic representatives, have them elected and then have them do the union’s business.  It is a pernicious and non-competitive arrangement that is finally, because of the financial downturn, coming to light.

But the unions have a problem.  They haven’t been able to sell the emotional argument (benefits) and they certainly aren’t about to try to explain the real reason they’re fighting this (power and money).   So what they’re having to deal with the the public’s perception, formed over many years in Wisconsin, that the public sector costs too much, has to be cut and that includes public sector employee benefits as well:

But this fight isn’t at the time or place of the unions’ choosing. Hostility to public-sector workers, including teachers, is at an all-time high amid a recession and a new national mania for curbing the tide of fiscal red ink. Walker appears to have a firm legislative majority on his side.

And labor is struggling to explain — and convince a voting public that has inched away from the concept of unions as a bedrock American institution over the years — that while it’s willing to be flexible on Walker’s demands for cost control, his attempts to change the rules governing public unions are a matter of institutional life and death and union principle. Labor hopes the public will see Walker’s attempt to use a budget gap to reshape labor-management relations as an overreach. But for many people watching from afar, the details of what Walker wants to accomplish have gotten lost, and the fight is playing out as yet another in a long string of recent state-based brawls over the high cost of the public sector.

So public sector unions have a heck of a PR problem not only in Wisconsin, but if the Rasmussen poll is to be believed, throughout the US.  Nationally that could mean this:

Bradley Tusk, a former Illinois deputy governor and New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s 2009 campaign manager, said that if Walker succeeds in the fight, “this will be portrayed as a major change toward fiscal sanity and protecting taxpayers.”

“The average voter will never feel any pain from it,” he added, “so the high ground shifts away from labor. That puts Obama and other Democrats in the position of being forced further to the left, or moving more toward the GOP position and risking losing support from labor. … This almost creates some of the problems that a primary forces on the challenger.”

And the union’s “winning strategy” to counter that?

As a broader issue, in other states, national union officials think they’ve found a winning strategy in shifting the fight off government and slamming Wall Street, armed with repeated polls that show anti-financial industry sentiment at an all-time high.

Apparently, however, union officials don’t understand that it isn’t an “either/or” situation.  The public blames both for different reasons.  But more importantly, the public realizes “what is, is” and you deal with it.  Whether they believe (or not) that Wall Street is to blame, that doesn’t change the fact that the problem (budget deficit) has to be confronted and solved and part of the solution has to be borne by public sector employees.

Norman Adler, a longtime lobbyist for public sector labor unions in New York, says the unions have to fight – that this is not something they can walk away from.  And, if they lose in Wisconsin, they “have to reconfigure their tactics and move on.”  But, he says:

“Labor pretty much lost the PR fight a number of years ago,” he said, suggesting the true targets of opportunity at the moment are state lawmakers who are “on the fence,” and can be swayed because they’re worried about getting elected back home. “And I think their position is that they have to show political muscle here.”

Translation: this could get even nastier.

Watch for it.

~McQ


WI Republicans – snatching defeat from the jaws of victory?

Why is it that in almost every scenario imaginable, where a stiff spine, adherence to principle and with public support behind them ensures political victory, there always seems to emerge a group willing to compromise (unnecessarily) before the fight is over?

With Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker maintaining a hard line on his budget bill and Democratic senators refusing to return to Madison to vote, attention is turning to a group of moderate Republican senators to negotiate a compromise to the stalemate that has drawn thousands of protesters to the state capital for a sixth straight day.

The proposal, written by Sen. Dale Schultz and first floated in the Republican caucus early last week, calls for most collective bargaining rights of public employee unions to be eliminated – per Mr. Walker’s bill – but then reinstated in 2013, said Mr. Schultzs’s chief of staff Todd Allbaugh.

"Dale is committed to find a way to preserve collective bargaining in the future," said Mr. Allbaugh in a telephone interview.

Really? Why?  Because one of the major reasons the state is having to rescind the sweetheart deals made to state workers is the result of the so-called “collective bargaining” done in the past.

Consider this – in the private sector, corporations compete against other corporations for market share.  The demands of competitiveness help keep union demands in check as both sides in a negotiation understand that going to far will cripple the corporation in terms of its competition and may cost everyone their job.   So  private sector union members have been paying a higher portion of their wages toward their own pension and health care than public union members.

There’s also an healthy adversarial relationship between labor and management that lends to checking the benefits allowed.

There is no competitive atmosphere within the public sector nor is there much of any adversarial relationship present.   In short, there are none of the checks on those unions that a competitive atmosphere puts on private sector unions. 

Secondly, the public sector unions have become huge players in state and national politics.   What happens is the guy they help elect is the guy with whom they often end up sitting across the negotiations table.  What do you think the union extracts as promises from politicians they support for election?  Well of course, sweetheart deals like those enjoyed by the unions members in Wisconsin where the taxpayer is dunned for their pension and health care benefits instead of the union member.

The bill in question is an important one.  It would also remove the requirement that state employees must join the union to hold a job in state government.  That, of course, scares the living daylights out of the union leadership.  Why?

Because it breaks their monopoly control on government employees, it removes their ability to use the state to require and collect union dues for them and it threatens their ability to fund political activities and further extend their power. 

And then there’s the accountability “problem” they’ll suddenly face.  The Wisconsin bill would require the union to hold a yearly recertification vote by secret ballot.  Until now, with mandated membership and the state collecting dues for the union (via payroll deduction), the union has had no need or requirement to be accountable to its members.  Members have had no choice but to join the union regardless of whether they wanted to or agreed with the union’s direction.    With the passage of this bill the union would suddenly have an accountability requirement.  As you might imagine, they want nothing to do with that.

With all of the liberty enhancing aspects of this bill as they pertain to the Wisconsin public service unions, why in the world are some “moderate” Republicans getting wobbly in the knees (thankfully Gov. Walker is standing his ground)?  They have a strong case, they have a voter mandate, they have public opinion on their side, union members are acting like spoiled children and their political opponents have shut down state government.

But with Democratic senators indicating they are willing to remain away from the capital indefinitely, state government remains shut down with no end in sight.

That’s bad on them.   So why is Dale Schultz trying to entice them back to the table with an absurdity like suspending collective bargaining rights for only 2 years?  It shouldn’t be their side that is showing signs of giving in, it should be the Democrats who’ve run off to another state to avoid doing their job.  Let public pressure work on them.

It is to the advantage of the state GOP to let the Democrats carry out this travesty for as long as they wish.  Let the so-called public servants stay off the job and throw their selfish tantrums in the capitol.  It doesn’t reflect well on them and the public will finally tire of it. 

But if the GOP there capitulates and compromises it will most likely turn the public opinion tables on them and encourage the unions and Democrats there and elsewhere to duplicate the tactics that forced the compromise.

For once, I’d like to see the GOP stand its ground – firmly – and invite the opposition to give it their best shot.  I think Democrats have badly misread this situation and are in the middle of hurting themselves.  What’s the old political axiom: when your opponent is in the middle of self-destruction, get out of their way and let the process continue – or something like that.   WI “moderate” Republicans need to grow a pair and stand their ground.  What they’re proposing is in the best interest of the state and its citizens, and that is what they were elected to concern themselves with.

~McQ

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