Free Markets, Free People

Media

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Guess what TIME blames for what it sees as America’s decline?

My guess is most of us would agree that America seems to be in decline, but not for the reasons TIME magazine does.  Much of the decline is centered in the politics and policies of the governing party.

But TIME is pretty sure that, given the study that they cite, the reason is … capitalism.  Here’s the “it was great, but” reason:

“We looked at very broad measures, and at individual measures, too,” said co-author Hershey H. Friedman, a business professor at Brooklyn College – City University of New York. The most dangerous sign they saw: rising income and wealth inequality, which slow growth and can spark instability, the authors say.

“Capitalism has been amazingly successful,” write Friedman and co-author Sarah Hertz of Empire State College. But it has grown so unfettered, predatory, so exclusionary, it’s become, in effect, crony capitalism. Now places like Qatar and Romania, “countries you wouldn’t expect to be, are doing better than us,” said Friedman.

I wish those who opine about this sort of thing would begin to delink capitalism and “crony capitalism”.  Because as soon “crony” is added, “capitalism” is no longer evident.  Instead you have powerful corporate/social/political constituents helping write laws that raise bars to entry in a markets to impossible heights.  You have the same entities suggesting regulations which have the same effect.  Capitalism, in its barest essence, is a voluntary transaction between two free people which ends profitably for both.  That’s it.  When government begins intruding with regulations and laws designed to limit and protect certain constituencies, from corporations to unions, that’s not capitalism, whether you stick “crony” in front of it or not.

It is certainly cronyism.  The government attacks, for instance, on Uber are rampant cronyism.  They’re designed by government to protect an existing constituency that doesn’t like the competition (and has had a government granted monopoly for decades).  Of course, in the end, it is the consumer – i.e. the citizen – who is hurt by this sort of cronyism.

And it appears that cronyism has gotten worse and worse over the past few years.  So while America may be in decline, it isn’t because of capitalism.

It’s because of cronyism, government favoritism, or whatever catch word or phrase you wish to tag the phenomenon with.  But leave capitalism out of it.

~McQ

The wages of emotional voting and lack of scrutiny? Obama

National Review has published an article by Victor Davis Hanson with three views of the Obama presidency.  One view is that of an Obama partisan and presents his presidency in a positive light.  The second is a decidedly non-partisan look that does precisely the opposite.  However, there’s a third view that I find most appealing and frankly the most honest:

A third view of Obama is neither so rosy as the first nor so melodramatic as the second. Obama may well have been an unapologetic progressive wolf in centrist clothing, but mostly he was a continuation of what he had been in the past: an unimpressive state legislator, a one-term partisan senator without any accomplishments, a lackadaisical executive who in his own words had to worry most about not appearing lazy and distracted. Obama as president simply pushed the right progressive buttons, all the more easily once his own party lost the Congress and he was freed to sign executive orders that enraged his enemies and moved the country leftward. He cares little about the scandals involving the IRS, VA, AP, NSA, GSA, TSA, EPA, Benghazi, and the Secret Service, other than ensuring that they stay far away from his own godhead.

Mostly, President Obama likes the ceremonial perks of his office — the public spotlight to pick sports winners, the regal access to the links in sporty golf attire, the huge plane and entourage, the video clips of his catlike descent down the stairs of Air Force One, and the captive audiences for his often ahistorical and confused ramblings about America’s past and present shortcomings. Rarely has a president entered office so inexperienced and unprepared, yet with such great hopes and expectations among the public. That he squandered such good will through petty spite and inexperience should not be surprising, given his meager qualifications and thin résumé. Most of Obama’s career in community organizing, academia, and the Illinois legislature was predicated on leveraging his race, name, and unique background with the pretensions of liberal America to land opportunities for which he knew in advance that he would never be held accountable.

Make sure you read the other two views, but unlike some who are sure Obama is following some sort of plan to hurt America, I don’t find this man able to purposely do much of anything.

One of the warnings many of us threw out there early on is he’d never “run anything or done anything”.  Think about it – his sole accomplishment before essentially running unopposed for and Illinois Senate seat, had been to write an autobiography.  About what?  Well, himself, of course.  He was all about self-promotion.   He is a first class narcissist as we’ve all discovered.  He loved the campaign but not the work.  He no sooner became an IL state senator, a poor one at best, than he began running for the US Senate.  In the case of both senate seats he came with an extraordinarily thin resume.  But, he was the right color with the right party at a time of two wars and an unpopular US president, and it just opened up for him.  Once ensconced in the US Senate he almost immediately began running for President on an even thinner resume (heck, with the US Senate run, he could at least claim “experience” at a state level).

I find Hanson’s point about Obama liking the “ceremonial perks” of office over the work to be dead on.  You’ve seen others remark about our “semi-retired” president.  His lack of leadership qualities is staggering.  And yet, there he is, in the Oval Office.

His domestic and foreign agendas have been a mish-mash of college dorm discussions and naive beliefs proffered by others equally as clueless (such as his former Secretary of State) combined to do enough harm that we’ll need years to overcome them.  His inability to work within the system, mostly because he doesn’t seem to know or understand how,  has left him frustrated.  His manner of dealing with his frustration is spiteful childishness and unilateral action which, frankly, he doesn’t care whether its legal or not.

What concerns me more than the fact that he’s so incompetent and as Hanson says “inexperienced and unprepared” is that a significant portion of the population was gulled into voting for him the first time and then, apparently uncritically, re-elected the man for 4 more awful years.

We’ve certainly paid the price for that bit of emotional voting and lack of scrutiny.

But let’s also not forget who aided and abetted this travesty and the lack of scrutiny.

All you have to know to understand what institution that was is to know that Marco Rubio and his wife have had 17 tickets in 20 years and own a “luxury speed boat” while Hillary Clinton’s past is essentially ignored.

And, as you might have surmised, that institution is again cranking up its machine to give us another incompetent who has more baggage and corruption surrounding her than one can shake a stick at.

Forewarned is forearmed, not that it is likely to change much.

~McQ

What I learned reading this morning’s USA Today

I don’t read newspapers much, and of course, I’m not the only one. But I’m travelling today, with most of my work for the week behind me. So I browsed through a USA Today while having breakfast in my hotel.

Here’s what I learned from it.

I learned that the driver of the crashed train in Philadelphia was going over a hundred miles an hour. I also learned that the way to respond to a government employee going double the speed limit around a curve on a government-run train is to raise taxes and spend more on infrastructure

I learned that Jeb Bush is raising scads of money. I learned that he knows exactly how to game the system of complex campaign finance regulations to raise the most money. I learned that one such technique is to delay a formal announcement. So he can talk incessantly about what he will do as president, but he is wise to delay the day he actually says (or tweets) “I’m running for president.”

I didn’t learn anything of consequence about what Jeb would do if he were elected president. The reporter seemed completely uninterested in that, possibly because said reporter is about as likely to vote for Jeb Bush or any other Republican for president as she is to vote for SpongeBob Squarepants.

I did learn from this reporter that GOP insider named Fergus Cullen said “Somebody like Jeb Bush doesn’t need to be worried that his poll numbers are mediocre right now.” Just as Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Bob Dole didn’t have to worry about their vote totals being mediocre on election day, I suppose.

I learned that there is a breakthrough in medical research between the US and Cuba. That’s because an early trial found that Cuban doctors have this incredible vaccine that, on a modest sample, let lung cancer victims live two to four months longer. Having watched my dad die of lung cancer, I didn’t exactly see this as something to get joyous about – extending the pain and suffering of cancer for a few months doesn’t strike me as a huge breakthrough. But the reporters sure seemed excited about it. They talked about a “quantum leap” of breakthroughs. I have the feeling that if it had been, say, New Zealand instead of Cuba, their enthusiasm would have been a bit more muted.

They didn’t seem interested in the possibility that this modest trial in a Communist country might have some fudged data either. Because, as we know from the client science debate, leftists just don’t do that. So Castroite communists certainly would not.

I learned that the Senate really, really wants to give Obama more power, specifically to fix up a trade deal with Asia, but he doesn’t want it because there’s one minor thing in the bill he doesn’t like. Something about currency manipulation by China. The bill has large bipartisan support, according to the article, which I interpret to mean that both Democrats and establishment Republicans are for it. But that famous compromiser Obama somehow just can’t give in a bit to get a whole bunch of other stuff he wants. Odd, that.

I learned that Rubio has a doctrine of defense. I learned that if it’s a Republican, the headline needs to put “doctrine” in scare quotes. (The web article moves the scare quotes from the headline to the article. Nice try, USA Today. But I’ve got a photo of the print copy.)

On the casual side, I learned that Saturday Night Live’s newest, hottest cast member is breaking new ground with fart jokes. (Web article again sanitizes things. Print copy’s subhead is “With farts, weed, and sex his forte (for jokes, that is) the new kid slays”.)

I learned that the average CEO makes 373 times more than the average worker. That doesn’t mesh with the CEOsc of mid-size companies that I happen to know, but the data is from an AFL-CIO database, and, given how close American labor leaders are to Castroite communists, you can be sure it’s reliable. (This article was apparently too hot for the web. I can’t even find it on their site.)

I learned that economic growth is sputtering. Nothing in that article about how much more politicians make than unemployed people, but I guess they can’t cover everything.

I learned that USA Today has a reporter named Gregg Zoroya who “covers the impact of war on troops and their families for USA Today”. I didn’t notice that they had any reporter who “covers the impact of government policies on workers and their families”, but perhaps I just missed it.

Remember, now, these people are not biased. Just ask them, they’ll tell you.

How times have changed when it comes to free speech – just ask the NY Times

At the risk of beating a dead horse, I’m going to talk about how the left continues to attack free speech by trying to argue that somehow what they consider “hate speech” isn’t a part of it.  We watched CNN’s Chris Cuomo embarrass himself (well he probably wasn’t embarrassed, but he should have been) when he admonished the right to read the Constitution because it clearly didn’t support such speech.  And I pointed out yesterday the totalitarian origins of “hate-speech” exemptions from free speech rights.

That said, I’m fascinated by the attacks on this event in Texas and its sponsor, Pamela Geller.  Agree or disagree with her agenda, in terms of free speech she had every single right in the world to put that on and not expect to be attacked.   The presumption that she would be attacked is just that, a presumption.  It isn’t valid in any terms but apparently the left feels that their presumption that an attack would happen is all that is necessary to condemn Geller’s event as a hate-fest and hate-speech.  You have to wonder what they’d have said if no violence had erupted?

The usual suspects, however, attacked her.  In the particular case I’ll cite, it was the NY Times.  Watch how they set up their editorial “But!”:

There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies. There is also no question that however offensive the images, they do not justify murder, and that it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.

End of editorial.  That’s the crux of the free speech argument.  There are no “buts” after that.  However, there is for the NYT:

But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.

Pure editorial opinion masquerading as some sort of “fact”.  What is the NYT doing here?  Arbitrarily deciding what is or isn’t hate.  And how dangerous is that?  See the USSR and all previous and existing totalitarian regimes.  They do that every day.

Anyway, in 1999, the NYT wasn’t in such a rush to equate an extraordinarily similar event as “an exercise in bigotry and hatred”.  You may remember it:

The Times in 1999 endorsed the showing at a public museum in New York of a supposed art work consisting of a crucifix in a vial of urine, arguing, “A museum is obliged to challenge the public as well as to placate it, or else the museum becomes a chamber of attractive ghosts, an institution completely disconnected from art in our time.” 

And what happened at that time?

Well, apparently the “image ridiculing” this religion was tolerated to the point that no violence occurred, meaning one can assume that leaders of that religion must have made it clear that it didn’t “justify murder” and none occurred.  That’s as it should have been.

So why, then, if the Times believed in free speech in 1999 when an obviously a large segment of the population viewed the crucifix in urine as offensive, provocative and sacrilegious, does it not believe the same thing in 2015 when the same conditions exist?

Because of the “but”, of course.  A “but” that didn’t exist when it was a religion being ridiculed that was not in favor with the left.

Some of those who draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad may earnestly believe that they are striking a blow for freedom of expression, though it is hard to see how that goal is advanced by inflicting deliberate anguish on millions of devout Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism. As for the Garland event, to pretend that it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.

The Times has yet to answer how “inflicting anguish” on millions of Christians who have done nothing to the artist is somehow “striking a blow for freedom of expression” or how that display wasn’t motivated by “hate” (hint: because their definition of “hate” is arbitrary).  It sure had no problem putting it’s editorial heft in support of that “hate” then.  And there’s no argument by anyone who can reason –  it was as “hateful” as anything at the Garland event.  And pretending otherwise is, to borrow the NYT term, “hogwash”.

~McQ

Heads they win, tales we lose

A link at Insty pointed me to an excellent panel discussion on the illegality of Hillary Clinton’s email shenanigans.

“This is just staggering in the brazenness of evasion of the legal duty by everybody at the State Department, and especially the secretary,” [diGenova] said. “It is simply staggering; it’s unbelievable.”

No, it’s not unbelievable. Many of us have followed politics since the media shamelessly chose to take sides with Bill Clinton during his scandals. We know the dynamic:

  • A scandal or obvious lie comes out: Bill Clinton’s perjury, Hillary’s Whitewater papers disappearance, Juanita Broderick’s rape accusations, Vince Foster’s suicide, Obama’s terrorist mentor, Fast and Furious gun-running, Harry Reid’s amazingly profitable “investments”, the IRS targets Tea Party groups, Benghazi, “if you like your doctor, you can keep him”, etc. ad nauseum.
  • If the media can get away with it, they completely ignore the story.
    If not, they do cursory, biased, and distorted reporting on it, minimizing and excusing the perp(s).
  • If someone (e.g. Sharyl Adkisson at CBS or Lisa Myers at NBC) steps outside the bubble and actually finds something to report on, her superiors in the media spike the story, and ruin the reporter’s career if they can.
  • After a few days or weeks, any attempt to raise the scandal is declared old news.
  • During a Democratic administration, any illegality is studiously ignored. A faux investigation at DoJ drags out things for a few months, and then ponderously declares that there’s nothing further to investigate and no charges of consequence are ever filed. In egregious cases, someone might lose a job, but not their pension, and certainly not their liberty.
  • Any attempt by a later Republican politician to re-open the investigation and really try to get to the bottom of it is declared by Democrats and the media to be “off limits”, “vindictive”, “mean spirited”, “a partisan witchhunt”, and other semantically meaningless but highly negative descriptions.
  • The Republican politician is then punished by the media through a series of unflattering and often downright distorted feature and opinion pieces. This attempt to marginalize that politician forever often works, at least to the extent of shutting them up and cowing them for their rest of their term.

The choices for those wanting to punish illegal and intolerable behavior such as Hillary’s email project come down to:

1. Make some noise but don’t really do anything (heads, they win)

2. Once they have the power, push for legal punishment, be pilloried in the media for it, and probably never get enough allies to do anything because no one else wants to be pilloried (tales, you lose)

The Democrats have learned this lesson well. They can treat the media the way a perverted stepfather abuses his stepdaughter, and the media will never offer more than token protest. The media is determined to further their own leftist vision of justice and right, and that means backing the Democrats no matter how illegal or disgusting their behavior might be.

Hillary implemented her email plans knowing that she would almost certainly never pay a price for it. She knew the press and the rest of the Democrats had her back.

Our political system has devolved to the point that major players on the left know they can break the law in any number of ways, smear opponents, cover up past misdeeds, and lie outright as needed in every news conference. They can indeed “brazenly flout” laws and ethics. I don’t know what you call this system, but it’s certainly not the one they described to me in 8th grade civics class.

Newspaper print circulation is down about half in last ten years

I did a couple of posts back in 2012 and 2013 about newspaper print circulation at major newspapers, compared to 2004. Seeing last year’s circulation figures made me curious about how things stand at the ten year mark. Here are the results:

 

Newspaper 2004 2012 2014 +/- %, 10 years +/- %, 2 years
USA Today 2192098 1627526 1156871 -47.23% -28.92%
WSJ 2101017 1499204 1256292 -40.21% -16.20%
NYT 1119027 717513 680905 -39.15% -5.10%
LA Times 983727 489792 405213 -58.81% -17.27%
Wash Post 760034 434693 399757 -47.40% -8.04%
NY Daily News 712671 389270 313178 -56.06% -19.55%
NY Post 642844 344755 261312 -59.35% -24.20%
Chicago Tribune 603315 388848 324620 -46.19% -16.52%
Denver Post 340169 236223 188630 -44.55% -20.15%
Newsday 553117 278369 247703 -55.22% -11.02%
Houston Chronicle 549300 234483 225032 -59.03% -4.03%
Dallas Morning News 528379 345342 172690 -67.32% -49.99%
SF Chronicle 499008 229176 145520 -70.84% -36.50%
Arizona Republic 466926 274783 244726 -47.59% -10.94%
Boston Globe 446241 180919 159458 -64.27% -11.86%
Tampa Bay Times 348502 299393 217597 -37.56% -27.32%

As I explained in the previous posts, I focus on print circulation because, for major newspapers, that’s where most of the money comes from. Newspapers do get money from the web, of course. However, most of them have minimal web-only subscription revenue, and their advertising dollars on the web are only about 15% of their print advertising revenues and growing slowly according to Pew Research. That same report shows that overall advertising revenue (including online advertising) is down just a bit over 50% for the 2004-2013 period.

I ignore the web “circulation” numbers touted by newspapers, because they’re meaningless without a complete explanation of how they were measured. Unique visitors for the year? Well, people have multiple computers, and they clear their browser cache sometimes. Even when an explanation is given, those numbers can be gamed in various ways. The money is what counts, and newspapers have struggled to increase the amount of money they get from web publication over the last six or eight years. There’s no indication they’ll solve that problem.

Doing a bit of math on the above numbers, the drop in the aggregate circulation of these newspapers combined from 2004 to 2014 is just over 50%. Aggregate drop from 2012 to 2014 is about 20%.

Many dissipative phenomena in the real world have an approximate exponential decay shape to the graph. That is, the newspapers might lose, say, 10% of their readers each year, but that 10% is a lower number each year, so the decrease flattens out in actual counted numbers. That’s my best guess for the near term future of circulation for major newspapers.

However, dropping revenue also affects quality. This hit my hometown newspaper, the Tennessean, at least ten years ago. You could see it exposed unambiguously in grammatical and printing errors. I also think the quality of the articles dropped to the point that I wasn’t willing to invest time in reading them, but that’s a more subjective judgment. Except for local events such a major water outage last year, I don’t pay any attention to the Tennessean.

When that happens, the days of a newspaper are numbered. They enter a vicious cycle in which more people drop them because of their marginal or poor quality, and that erodes revenues further, which erodes quality further, and so on.

There’s no obvious way to reverse any of that, no matter how innovative they get on the web. Advertising revenue for want ads isn’t coming back; Craigslist and its smaller relatives have captured it and I see no way for newspapers to get it back. Not even middle aged people get newspapers for movie ads anymore because they can find anything they want to know on their phones immediately. Retail advertising continues to suffer as retail closures start to impact suburbia, and dead malls continue to pile up.

So, with that dead horse beaten to a pulp, what are the likely effects outside the newsrooms? 

Right now, the New York Times and the Washington Post continue to have an outsize influence on political thinking. I don’t think either one is going to vanish any time soon. The left will no doubt find the Times so indispensible that it will find the money somewhere to keep the lefty editorial outrage and the slanted reporting pouring out of Times Square and setting the agenda for TV news reporting. The Post, under Bezos, seems to be becoming marginally more balanced, which is a good thing.

The Wall Street Journal maintains a decent hold on center-right readers, though it’s a lot more center than right these days. As the only major newspaper I read with any frequency (couple of times a month) I see the quality dropping. But for now it seems financially stable.

Almost all the others, though, are in trouble. I have to wonder if the recent successes of the GOP at the state and local levels have not been facilitated to some extent by the lack of effective opposition from the typically-liberal local newspapers. The fewer people who read them, the less able they are to torpedo Republicans and shield Democrats.

Naturally, you don’t see a lot of reporting on all this in the media. They don’t have much interest in exposing their own weakness. The reporting they do typically touts “total circulation”, which means they get to include their gamed web numbers. USA Today also started an insert program with a lot of local newspapers, so they like to pretend that this is equivalent to regular circulation. It’s rare for any of them to make their print declines front and center.

The main lesson here is that limited government types can afford to stand up to these biased media types more each year. I think that’s more true at the local level right now, but I also think there are a lot of people out there hungry to see the left-liberal twits of the major national newspapers put in their place as well.

*** Update 5 April 2015 ***

It occurs to me that, if the decay in readership of major newspapers is really a bit similar to exponential decay processes such as radioactive decay, then ten years would be the half life of newspaper readership. We might then use that half-life as a rough-and-ready estimator for future declines. It would suggest that by 2024, the newspapers will have lost around 50% of the remaining readers, and be at 25% of their 2004 readership.

Naturally, there are too many real-world factors to put much confidence in such an estimate, mainly because of the “death spiral” end game for such businesses. But it’s still an interesting first cut way to think about it, and it might help us detect the death spiral start point.

Stuff and whatnot

The idiocy continues on all sorts of fronts.  A few things that caught my eye.  David Axlerod’s autobiography and his expectations:

“More than anything, this is what’s terrible about modern media and how these books roll out,” Axelrod says. “I was determined to write a book that wasn’t going to be characterized by some titillating nugget that had about a three-day half-life, but rather an entire story of my life and the conclusions that life has led me to. I wanted to write a book that people might want to read years from now and not just today’s publication because they wanted to find out who had been knifing who.”

A lovely sentiment. But Axelrod, who likes to think of himself as a real-world idealist, surely knew not to get his hopes up.

Oh balderdash.  Axelrod is about as calculating a political hack as one can find.  To assume he was so naive or stupid to believe his book would be treated any other way is irony on steroids.  The only thing interesting about the man at all are the political secrets he may reveal.  I got a good laugh out of his disappointment.

Under the sarcastic title of “wow, I’d have never guessed this … ” we find:

A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.

Look, those guys learned how to successfully co-opt liberal left anti-war groups ages ago.  This is just the updated effort.  Why this would surprise anyone is a mystery to me.  And, of course, it’s the big names of the movement – Sierra Club, the Natural Resource Defense Council, Food and Water Watch, the League of Conservation Voters, and the Center for American Progress.  Bought and paid for … by evil oil.

Irony … it’s just lost on the left.

Under the title of “when bureaucrats get huffy”, things got a little testy in a Congressional hearing yesterday with the newest VA Secretary.  Apparently he’s not used to having his competence questioned:

The fracas started when Coffman criticized the VA for citing its effort to defend cost and time overruns at a Denver hospital projects as a major accomplishment.

“How is that a success?”

[Rep. Mike] Coffman [(R-Colo.)] asked. “You lost that case on every single point for the hospital in my district that is hundreds of millions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.”

“I think that that’s just characteristic of your glossing over the extraordinary problems confronted by your department,” Coffman added. “This is a department mired in bureaucratic incompetence and corruption. And I gotta tell you, I think the public relations is great today, but there’s no substance.”

McDonald said he was offended by those remarks, and then dodged the question and tried to shift the blame to Coffman and others in Congress.

“Actually, I’ve been here six months,” McDonald said to Coffman. “You’ve been here longer than I have. If there’s a problem in Denver, I think you own it more than I do.”

Really … because Coffman has what to do with running the VA project in question?  After all the failure of the past 6 years, that’s just what you need, an egoistic, thin-skinned nincompoop at the head of the VA.  McDonald followed that little jewel up by showing he knew nothing about the person he was insulting:

… McDonald ended by barking at Coffman, “I’ve run a large company, sir. What have you done?”

Well, as it happens, Mike Coffman is a combat veteran who started his own company, and is the only member of Congress to have served in both Iraq wars.  And as it happens, Secretary McDonald is an ass, just like the head of the IRS, just like our Attorney General, just like … yes, it’s the culture and climate that has evolved within this administration and it all goes directly to the head of it all … our snarky, sarcastic and disrespectful president.

Btw, in my estimation, McDonald ended up looking like a fool, something he richly deserved.

Instead of hurling insults, McDonald should be interested in actually doing something useful.  Like his job:

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ vast health network — beset by a scandal last year over delayed care — has been listed as a high-risk federal program by congressional auditors for the first time.

The report by the watchdog Government Accountability Office, which is issued every two years, includes a broad indictment of the $55.5 billion VA program, one of the nation’s largest health care systems. USA TODAY obtained the VA section of the report, scheduled for release Wednesday.

And this goob, like most of the administration, is trying to lay off any blame.  It’s a perfect example of an ossified bureaucracy that is more than incompetent, it’s lethal.

Finally, for those of you who like strolling down the memory lane of climate alarmist predictions, there’s a website up dedicated to reminding us again how wrong they’ve all been:

A senior environmental official at the United Nations, Noel Brown, says entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if global warming is not reversed by the year 2000.

San Jose Mercury News 30 Jun 1989

Ah, yes, the good old days.

~McQ

Don’t Fire Brian Williams!

I’ll assume that, if you made it to this website, you are at least somewhat familiar with the Brian Williams (growing?) fiasco, so I’m not going to provide a link. It’s all over the internet. Use your Google-fu. You have the power.

As this story continues to metastasize, more and more people will call for Williams’ head. Reportedly, Tom Brokaw is even doing so. But I say, let him stay.

Why? Well, it’s basically the same reasoning as the Basterds:

Lt. Aldo Raine: [to Wicki] Ask him what he is gonna do with his uniform when he gets home.
Pvt. Butz: [through an interperter] Not only do I intend to take off my uniform, I intend to burn it.
Lt. Aldo Raine: Nah, see, we don’t like that. We like our Nazis in uniform. That way we can spot ’em just like that. We’re gonna give you a little something you cant take off.

Right now, Williams is tarred with the truth. That is, he’s a lying fabulist who represents legacy media and, apparently felt not a twinge of guilt about telling his tale for twelve years. Judging by his actions, Williams believed that his media buddies would back him up, even though at least some in his own organization had to know he was completely full of horse puckey. He wasn’t the only one on that helicopter after all. His crew that day new damned well they didn’t take any fire. And the NBC upper brass had to know it too. They’re all in this together.

So, I say, let him stay. Let him sit there in that chair, night after night, pretending to be the very embodiment of sober truth and empirical justice. Everyone knows who he really is. He can’t scrub that off now. After a dozen years of not just telling the same lie, but embellishing it further, the stain of that prevarication is indelible. Let him wear it, and be a true representative of the legacy media. I can’t think of a better or more apt standard bearer.

~MichaelW
Twitter: @mjwadeesq

Media Manufacturing Controversy … Again

What else is new, right? In the last presidential election, it was the “War on Women”, with George Snuffleupagus firing the first volley with an oddball question about contraception. This time around, it’s a report from Chis Christie’s tour of the UK:

As he toured the United Kingdom on Monday, Chris Christie seemed to leave his tough guy persona back in the United States. The potential Republican 2016 presidential contender punted on questions about whether Americans should vaccinate their kids amid a 14-state outbreak of a disease which is staging a comeback after being largely eradicated by science.

“All I can say is we vaccinated ours,” Christie said, while touring a biomedical research facility in Cambridge, England, which makes vaccines.

The New Jersey governor added that “parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well, so that’s the balance that the government has to decide.”

Not exactly controversial unless you spin it the right way (which CNN does in the above article by accusing the New Jersey Governor of being uncharacteristically mealy-mouthed). And it would really help if you could get another potential candidate on the record saying something similar. Enter Rand Paul:

In a contentious interview today, Sen. Rand Paul said he’s heard of cases where vaccines lead to “mental disorders” and argued that parents should be the ones to choose whether they vaccinate their children, not the government. Paul is a former ophthalmologist.

“I’ve heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines,” Paul, R-Ky., said in an interview with CNBC anchor Kelly Evans.

“I’m not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they’re a good thing, but I think the parents should have some input,” he added. “The state doesn’t own your children. Parents own the children and it is an issue of freedom.”

Again, not terribly controversial except for the “mental disorders” part. Which is what the media are now running with to paint all conservatives as “anti-vaxxers”:

NBC News – “Rand Paul: Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
CNN – “Paul: Vaccines can cause ‘profound mental disorders'”
ABC News – “Rand Paul Says Vaccines Can Lead to ‘Mental Disorders'”
HuffPo – “Rand Paul: Children Got ‘Profound Mental Disorders’ After Receiving Vaccines”
Vox – “Rand Paul says he’s heard of vaccines leading to ‘profound mental disorders’ in children”
FactCheck.org – “Paul Repeats Baseless Vaccine Claims”

So on, and so on. The New York Times tackles it this way:

The politics of medicine, morality and free will have collided in an emotional debate over vaccines and the government’s place in requiring them, posing a challenge for Republicans who find themselves in the familiar but uncomfortable position of reconciling modern science with the skepticism of their core conservative voters.

[…]

The vaccination controversy is a twist on an old problem for the Republican Party: how to approach matters that have largely been settled among scientists but are not widely accepted by conservatives.

Suddenly, we’re all talking about vaccines and how those nasty, anti-science Republican weirdos are dangerous to society. Funny how that works. And of course, never let facts get in the way, such as Paul being correct about the mental disorders thing. Here’s his statement again:

I have heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.

Guess what? The CDC agrees with him (my emphasis):

MMR vaccine side-effects
(Measles, Mumps, and Rubella)
What are the risks from MMR vaccine?
A vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions.
The risk of MMR vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Getting MMR vaccine is much safer than getting measles, mumps or rubella.
Most people who get MMR vaccine do not have any serious problems with it.
Mild Problems
Fever (up to 1 person out of 6)
Mild rash (about 1 person out of 20)
Swelling of glands in the cheeks or neck (about 1 person out of 75)
If these problems occur, it is usually within 7-12 days after the shot. They occur less often after the second dose.
Moderate Problems
Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (about 1 out of 3,000 doses)
Temporary pain and stiffness in the joints, mostly in teenage or adult women (up to 1 out of 4)
Temporary low platelet count, which can cause a bleeding disorder (about 1 out of 30,000 doses)
Severe Problems (Very Rare)
Serious allergic reaction (less than 1 out of a million doses)
Several other severe problems have been reported after a child gets MMR vaccine, including:
Deafness
Long-term seizures, coma, or lowered consciousness
Permanent brain damage

These are so rare that it is hard to tell whether they are caused by the vaccine.

While extremely rare, do long-term seizures, coma, lowered consciousness, or permanent brain damage count as “profound mental disorders”? I guess you make an argument that not all such cases do, but I would think permanent brain damage fits the bill.

Ironically enough, the FactCheck.org article actually highlights that Paul and the CDC are on the same page:

There have been some reports of “lowered consciousness” or permanent brain damage after a vaccine is given for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) or measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), but the CDC says that these are so rare that a cause-and-effect relationship cannot be determined.

Note that the CDC does not posit a causal connection, but then again neither does Paul. Indeed, he further clarified:

“I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related — I did not allege causation. I support vaccines, I receive them myself and I had all of my children vaccinated,” Paul said in a statement. “In fact today, I received the booster shot for the vaccines I got when I went to Guatemala last year.”

Too late, since the media has its juicy soundbites already.

None of this is to say that GOP politicians don’t do this to themselves. Paul certainly didn’t have to even raise the specter of a potential causal link between vaccines and mental disorders. He should have known that, regardless of what the CDC and science says, most everyone was going to associate his comments with the debunked autism link. Even if there was a proven causal link, it’s so incredibly rare as to not be deserving of a mention. I get his thinking from a liberty perspective, but message delivery is vital and Paul failed at that.

The Chris Christie statements, on the other hand, don’t strike me as even slightly off, but clearly there was a theme building here amongst the media hivemind. The idea that the guy who insisted on quarantining the Ebola nurse is super interested in liberty does sound a sour note, and Christie probably should have led with the idea that routine vaccinations are safe and effective which is why everyone should get them. Seems like a rookie mistake for someone who’s been in the limelight for quite some time.

Not that it matters. The theme has been set, and the narrative will now run its course. Inconvenient facts such as who the anti-vaxxers really are, or what Democrats have had to say on the issue, will be glossed over or simply dismissed. And all vaccines will be treated the same so that if a GOP candidate balks at mandating, say, a flu vaccine, he or she will then be tarred as an anti-science, ant-vaxxer. Democrats and the Left will be fine with this since they have zero problems with government mandates. And thus the media has neatly cleaved the country it two wholly separate and unequal parts in order to drive the political wedge deeper.

OK, one more …

This one is simply stunning:

HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest publishing houses, sells English-language atlases to schools in the Middle East that omit Israel.

Collins Middle East Atlases show Jordan and Syria extending to the Mediterranean but do mark the position of the West Bank.

When confronted about this non-factual depiction of the region?

However, Collins Bartholomew, the subsidiary of HarperCollins that specialises in maps, said that including Israel would have been “unacceptable” to their customers in the Gulf and the amendment incorporated “local preferences”.

So, they sold out.  They published a lie for money and tried to cloak it in something called “local preference”, which apparently trumps the truth.

What does that say you should keep in mind when buying anything from HarperCollins or its subsidiaries?  That they will lie in a New York minute if they think it will enhance sales.  Hence, anything they publish that is supposedly fact based should be viewed as suspect at the very least.  Or you could simply avoid buying anything from them under the assumption that if they’re willing to incorporate “local preferences” into their “work”, that their work isn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.

~McQ

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