Time channels Game of Thrones for its cover
Archive for the ‘Media and the Press’ Category.
This has already made the rounds but I can't resist mocking an HBS professors whose classes I assiduously avoided when I was there. Her house was hit by lightning. Apparently, this was not the fault of poor lightning protection for her house, but was due to your SUV:
I am not a climate change scientist, but I have come to understand that I am a climate change victim. Our daughter took the lead investigating destructive lightning in Maine. She found that the NASA Goddard Institute estimates a 5-6% change in global lightning frequencies for every 1 degree Celsius global warming. The Earth has already warmed .8 degrees Celsius since 1802 and isexpected to warm another 1.1-6.4 degrees by the end of the century. Maine's temperatures rose 1.9 degrees Celsius in the last century and another 2.24 degree rise is projected by 2104. I learned from our insurance company that while the typical thunderstorm produces around 100 lightning strikes, there were 217 strikes around our house that night. I was shocked to discover that when it comes to increased lightning frequency and destructiveness, a NASA study concluded that eastern areas of North America like Maine are especially vulnerable. Scientists confirm a 10% increase in the incidence of extreme weather events in our region since 1949.
This is one of those paragraphs that is so bad, I put off writing about it because I could write a book about all the errors.
- The 5-6% lightning strike estimate comes from one single study that I have never seen replicated, but more importantly comes from running a computer model. Though it may exist, I have found no empirical evidence that lightning activity has net increased with increases in temperature
- The world has warmed about 0.8C over the last century or two. Congrats. Infinite monkeys and Shakespeare and all that.
- We could argue the forecasts, but they are irrelevant to this discussion as we are talking about current weather which cannot be influenced by future warming.
- Her claim that Maine's temperature rose 1.9C in the last Century is simply absurd. Apparently she got the data from some authoritative place called nextgenerationearth.com, but its impossible to know since in the few days since she published this article that site has taken down the page. So we will just have to rely on a lesser source like the NOAA for Maine temperatures. Here story is from 2009 so I used data through 2009
Annual Averages in Maine:
Oops, not a lot of warming here, and certainly not 1.9C. In fact, there has not even been a single year that has been 1.9C above the average for the century since the early 1900s. And 2009 was a below average year.
Well, she said it was in summer. That's when we get the majority of thunderstorms. Maybe it is just summer warming? The NOAA does not have a way to get just summer, but I can run average temperatures for July-September of each year, which matches summer within about 8 days.
Whoa! What's this? A 0.3-0.4C drop in the last 100 years. And summer of 2009 (the last data point) was well below average. Wow, I guess cooling causes lightning. We better do something about that cooling, and fast! Or else buy this professor some lightning rods.
And you have to love evidence like this
I learned from our insurance company that while the typical thunderstorm produces around 100 lightning strikes, there were 217 strikes around our house that night
What is this, the climate version of the Lake Wobegone Effect? If all our storms are not below average, then that is proof of climate change. Is this really how a Harvard professor does statistical analysis? She can just look at a sample and the mean and determine from that one sample that the mean is shifting?
Finally, she goes on to say that extreme weather in her area is up 10% from some source called the Gulf of Maine Council on Marine Environment. Well, of course, you can't find that fact anywhere on the source she links. And besides, even if Maine extreme weather is up, it can't be because of warming because Maine seems to be cooling.
This is just a classic example of the observer bias that is driving the whole "extreme weather" meme. I will show you what is going on by analogy. This is from the Wikipedia page on "Summer of the Shark":
The media's fixation with shark attacks began on July 6, when 8-year-old Mississippi boy Jessie Arbogast was bitten by a bull shark while standing in shallow water at Santa Rosa Island's Langdon Beach. ...
Immediately after the near-fatal attack on Arbogast, another attack severed the leg of a New Yorker vacationing in The Bahamas, while a third attack on a surfer occurred about a week later on July 15, six miles from the spot where Arbogast was bitten. In the following weeks, Abrogast's spectacular rescue and survival received extensive coverage in the 24-hour news cycle, which was renewed (and then redoubled) with each subsequent report of a shark incident. The media fixation continued story with a cover story in the July 30th issue of Time magazine.
In mid-August, many networks were showing footage captured by helicopters of hundreds of sharks coalescing off the southwest coast of Florida. Beach-goers were warned of the dangers of swimming, despite the fact that the swarm was likely part of an annual shark migration. The repeated broadcasts of the shark group has been criticized as blatant fear mongering, leading to the unwarranted belief of a so-called shark "epidemic"....
In terms of absolute minutes of television coverage on the three major broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—shark attacks were 2001's third "most important" news story prior toSeptember 11, behind the western United States forest fires, and the political scandal resulting from the Chandra Levy missing persons case. However, the comparatively higher shock value of shark attacks left a lasting impression on the public. According to the International Shark Attack File, there were 76 shark attacks that occurred in 2001, lower than the 85 attacks documented in 2000; furthermore, although 5 people were killed in attacks in 2001, this was less than the 12 deaths caused by shark attacks the previous year.
A trend in news coverage <> a trend in the underlying frequency. If these were correlated, gas prices would only go up and would never come down.
By the way, why is it so easy for the media to see, say, back room abortions as a symptom of prohibitions on abortion but not see stories like this in the same light.
I am seldom surprised at NBC's behavior -- after all, this is the network that ran the exploding pickup truck story, only to admit later that it put model rocket engines in the fuel tanks to ignite the cars during simulated crashes because the they weren't catching fire on their own.
But NBC's editing of the Zimmerman 911 tapes to make them more inflammatory really sets a new low. The country was practically on the verge of race riots, with groups actually posting dead-or-alive bounties for Zimmerman, and NBC purposefully edited the tape from neutral to incendiary?
Because its important to have a diversity of skin pigment and reproductive plumbing in our intellectual mono-culture.
Update: Wait, wait! We aren't a mono-culture! For example, some of us think Ralph Nader would make a great President and voted for him and some of us think Ralph Nader would make a great President but we didn't vote for him because we thought he was unelectable. That's some real diversity.
The Associated Press purchased an advanced copy of the book. It is set for release on Nov. 15.
Let's start with the second paragraph. It's a lie, pure and simple--and the papers that reprinted the stories know it. Giffords didn't sell any "advanced copy" of the book. The book is strictly embargoed so that she can control the timing of the media stories that surround it. Bookstores, however, have copies locked up in storage rooms so the copies can all be put on the shelves at the same time. Someone stole one of those copies...or perhaps stole a proof text from the publisher...and then sold it to the Associated Press.
Rather than admit that they illegally purchased and then printed excerpts from a stolen copy, the Associated Press lied and said that they "purchased an advanced copy of the book." That would be a big story by itself, but the newspapers that have contracts with the AP didn't want to blow a good story, so that meekly reprinted the lie.
What's worse is that the AP not only stole Giffords' book and disrupted the timing of her planned roll out...they botched the story and made Giffords issue a denial. ...
...faced with an ambiguous quote in a stolen book and no chance to verify it, the AP did just what they teach you in the ethics classes in Journalism school...they ran with the most tantalizing, headline grabbing interpretation and then made Gabby deny it. Nice.
Ten years ago today, we were arguing over whether it was appropriate to even hold professional football and baseball games, much less enjoy ourselves in any way, in the aftermath of 9/11.
No one even contemplated trying to deal with it humorously. Heck, I am not sure I have seen many attempts even a decade later to do so. But just days after 9/11, the Onion published an amazing issue dedicated to 9/11. It was funny without being disrespectful of the victims, and in many ways still on point. They should have had a Pulitzer for it. The articles are archived here.
Lefties are struggling with the concept of a libertarian doing a good deed (in this case, Radley Balko's great journalism leading to the release of Cory Maye.
Here is the real problem for the Left: This is exactly the kind of story -- a black man railroaded into jail in Mississippi -- that leftish reporters used to pursue, before they shifted their attention to sorting through Sarah Palin's emails. A lot of investigative journalism has gone by the wayside -- in Phoenix, it has really been left to independent Phoenix New Times to do real investigative journalism on folks like Joe Arpiao, as our main paper the Arizona Republic has largely fled the field.
Newsweek has for a number of years been the poster child for the lost traditional media trying to find its way in the digital age. Tina Brown was supposed to have been the brilliant media mind brought in to save Newsweek, but if anything she has made Newsweek even more of a joke.
Her major focus seems to be to use Newsweek as a platform for self-promotion, beginning in her first issue when she used the cover to promote her upcoming women's conference and stroke her friend Hillary. This week, she gives the cover over to promoting her biography of Lady Diana with a concept that People Magazine would probably have passed on -- what would it have been like if Diana were still alive. Seriously. This is how far this magazine has fallen, trying to envision how the recent Royal Wedding would have been any more of a circus for the rich and over-dressed had Diana been in attendance.
But I probably would not have bothered to blog about it had it not been for this cover I saw in the airport. Check out the horrible zombie Diana. Jeez, is this a real story or a preview of Left 4 Dead 3? Pre-order now and get custom DLC including the solar-powered chainsaw and the zombie Lady Di. (You may have to click to enlarge to see the full horror).
So a bunch of bloggers agree to write for the HuffPo, a profit-seeking venture, for free. The HuffPo gets bought by another profit-seeking company, though this one is less successful in shrouding its financial goals in a cloud of feel-good progressivism. So the bloggers get mad. But instead of just quitting, they are actually suing the HuffPo for back wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
A few observations:
- I blog for free at Forbes. It's not like the arrangement was hard to figure out. They get some free content, I get some exposure and a bit of cache from being associated with Forbes. Seemed like a good deal to me. When it ceases to be so, I will quit.
- The fact that everyone agreed to the deal in advance and it was completed by both parties to their mutual self-interest is NOT a defense under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). I have employees who beg to work for free all the time (e.g. they have a disability arrangement that allows no outside income). I have to tell them no. Any defense from the HuffPo will come through convincing a court that the writers were somehow exempt or not actually employees.
- This same problem arises with internships as well as in my work. In short, people sometimes value non-monetary aspects of jobs that are not given any credit in the FLSA. My son would love to have a good summer job and for the right one would work under minimum wage for the experience. Even the experience of showing up on time, functioning in an organization, working in a hierarchy, etc. are important skills those outside of the work force gain from obtaining. (In an interesting parallel to this, probably the most important skill I am gaining at Forbes is simply writing to a regular weekly deadline. It's harder than it seems from the outside).
In short, I would say that these folks are utterly without personal honor for filing the suit, but in the current state of labor law they potentially have a case. How sad that would be. And what would be next? A class action suit by product reviewers at Amazon for back wages?
These were the suggestions I made 6 years ago to replace Dan Rather. Some of the names are a bit dated, but I think many would have worked out as well as Couric. I think the last suggestion is, if anything, even more timely.
Improve ratings approach #1: Finally get rid of the pretense that anchors are journalists rather than pretty talking heads. Hire Nicollette Sheridan, or maybe Terri Hatcher. Or, if you feel CBS News deserves more gravitas, in the Murrow tradition, how about Meryl Streep?
Improve ratings approach #2: Go with comedy. Bring in David Letterman from the Late Show to anchor the evening news. "Tonight, we start with the growing UN oil for food scandal. Uma – Anann. Anann – Uma." Or, if you want to segment the market differently, how about Tim Allen and the CBS News for Guys. Or, if CBS wants to keep hitting the older demographic – what about Chevy Chase – certainly he already has anchor experience from SNL.
Improving Credibility Choice: No one in the MSM really has much credibility left after the last election, but there is one man who would bring instant credibility to CBS News — Bob Costas. CBS should hire him away from NBC, like they did with Letterman. Make him the evening news anchor. Heck, if Bryant Gumbell can make the transition to the news division, certainly Costas can.
Become the acknowledged liberal counterpoint to Fox: Hire Bill Clinton as anchor. Nothing would generate more buzz than that hire, and he is at loose ends anyway (and think about all those wonderful business trips away from home…) If Bill is not available, try James Carville. I might even have to watch that.
Let the public decide: Forget making a decision, and just create a new reality show like ESPN’s Dream Job to choose the next anchor. Each week the 12 finalists can be given a new task. In week one, they have to pick up incriminating evidence about the President at a rodeo. In week 2, they have to forge a believable set of documents from the early 70′s, and survive criticism from about 10,000 bloggers. They can kick one off the island each week based on the viewers votes.
I wanted to leave Glendale's proposed $100 million subsidy of the purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team by Matthew Hulzinger behind for a while, but I had to comment on something in the paper yesterday.
The Arizona Republic, which is an interested party given that a good part of their revenues depend on having major sports teams in town, had an amazing editorial on Tuesday. Basically, it said that Goldwater, who has sued to bock the bond issue under Arizona's gift clause, needed to stop being so pure in its beliefs and defense of the Constitution and that it should jump down in the political muck with everyone else.
I encourage you to read the article and imagine that it involved defense of any other Constitutional provision, say free-speech rights or civil rights. The tone of the editorial would be unthinkable if aimed at any other defense of a Constitutional protection. Someone always has utilitarian arguments for voiding things like free speech protections -- that is why defenders of such rights have to protect them zealously and consistently. The ACLU doesn't get into arguments whether particular speech is right or wrong or positive or negative -- it just defends the principle. Can't Goldwater do the same?
My thoughts on the Coyotes deal are here and her. Rather than dealing with the editorial line by line, which spends graph after graph trying to convince readers that Darcy Olsen, head of the Goldwater Institute, is "snotty," here are some questions that the AZ Republic could be asking if it were not in the tank for this deal
- How smart is it for the taxpayers of Glendale to have spent $200 million plus the proposed $100 million more to keep a team valued at most at $117 million? (several other teams have sold lately for less than $100 million) And, despite $300 million in taxpayer investments, the city has no equity in the team -- just the opposite, it has promised a sweetheart no-bid stadium management deal of an additional $100 million over 5 years on top of the $300 million.
- The Phoenix Coyotes has never made money in Arizona, and lost something like $40 million last year. Why has no one pushed the buyer for his plan to profitability? The $100 million Glendale taxpayers are putting up is essentially an equity investment for which it gets no equity. If the team fails, the revenue to pay the bonds goes away. The team needs to show a plan that makes sense before they get the money -- heck the new owners admit they will continue to lose money in the foreseeable future. I have heard folks suggest that the Chicago Blackhawks (Hulzinger's home town team) are a potential model, given that they really turned themselves around. But at least one former NHL executive has told me this is absurd. The Blackhawks were a storied franchise run into the ground by horrible management. Turning them around was like turning around the Red Sox in baseball. Turning around the Coyotes is like turning around the Tampa Bay Rays. The fact is that the team lost $40 million this year despite the marketing value of having been in the playoffs last year and having the second lowest payroll in the league. The tickets are cheap and there is (at least for now) free parking and still they draw the lowest attendance in the NHL. Part of the problem is Glendale itself, located on the ass-end of the metro area (the stadium is 45 minutes away for me, and I live near the centerline of Phoenix).
- If taxpayers are really getting items worth $100 million in this deal (e.g. parking rights which Glendale probably already owns, a lease guarantee, etc) why can't the team buyer use this same collateral to get the financing privately? I have seen the AZ Republic write article after article with quote after quote from Hulzinger but have not seen one reporter ask him this obvious question. I have asked Hulzinger associates this question and have never gotten anything but vague non-answers. A likely answer is what I explained yesterday, that Hulzinger is a smart guy and knows the team is not worth more than $100 million, but the NHL won't sell it for less than $200 million (based on a promise the Commissioner made to other owners when they took ownership of the team). Hulzinger needed a partner who was desperate enough to make up the $100 million the NHL is trying to overcharge him -- enter the City of Glendale, who, like a losing gambler, keeps begging for more credit to double down to try to make good its previous losses.
- Glendale often cites a $500 million figure in losses if the team moves. Has anyone questioned or shown any skepticism for this number? My presumption is that it includes lost revenue at all the restaurants and stores around the stadium, but is that revenue really going to go away entirely, or just move to other area businesses? If your favorite restaurant goes out of business, do you stop going out to eat or just go somewhere different?
- We hear about government subsidies to move businesses from other countries to the US, or other states to Arizona, and these tend to be of dubious value. Does it really make sense for Glendale taxpayers to pay $400 million to move business to another part of the Phoenix metropolitan area?
- Why do parties keep insisting that Goldwater sit down and "negotiate?" Goldwater does not have the power to change the Constitutional provision. Do folks similarly call on the NAACP to "negotiate" over repeal of Jim Crow laws? Call on the ACLU to negotiate over "don't ask, don't tell"? This may be the way Chicago politics works, with community organizers holding deals ransom in return for a negotiated payoff, but I am not sure that is why Goldwater is in this fight. The Gift Clause is a fantastic Constitutional provision that the US Constitution has, and should be defended.
- Jim Balsillie offered to buy out the team (and move it to Canada) without public help and to pay off $50 million of the existing Glendale debt as an exit fee. Thus the city would have had $150 in debt and no team. Now, it will be $300 million in debt and on the hook for $100 million more and may still not have a team in five years when, almost inevitably, another hubristic rich guy finds he is not magically smarter about hockey and can't make the team work in Arizona. Has anyone compared these two deals? Private businesses cut losses all the time -- politicians almost never do, in part because they are playing with house money (ours).
Perhaps this is just a pet peeve of mine, but I really hate it when local news organizations try to find a local angle to a huge international story. This headline from the Arizona Republic today is a good example:
Both I and most Congressional Republicans want to defund NPR. Republicans want to do it because they perceive it as a government-funded liberal partisan voice; I want to do it because broadcasting is simply not a role for government.
But note -- Republicans who want to count coup on NPR out of spite and frustration should recognize that defunding it could very likely make NPR a more, rather than less, potent leftish voice (insert Star Wars quote "if you strike me down.... yada yada). NPR's government funding is all that is really keeping it in sight of the political center. Pull that funding and it will be free to tack left - in fact, this likely will be an imperative given its likely sources of additional private funding it will need.
All of which is fine by me, but I think the Republicans are expecting an Air America-type crash and burn, and I think they are mistaken. There is a lot about PBS and NPR that are vital and unique -- their supporters are not wrong about that -- which I think will make them viable private (though still non-profit) entities.
Several days ago, I wrote how our local paper, the Arizona Republic, was engaging in a coordinated campaign to get the city of Glendale to subsidize the private purchase of our professional hockey team with a $200 million bond issue. The logic of this is mainly to save the previous $180 million bond issue the city unwisely issued several years ago to build an arena for this same hockey time as well as the sweetheart commercial real estate deals it has cut adjacent to the stadium. All in all, the city proposes to spend a cumulative $380 million of public money to hold on to an asset valued by third parties at $ 116 million. And through all of this spending, taxpayers will end up with not a dime of equity in this asset.
At the time, I thought the campaign had been relentless, going on day after day with both editorials and news articles making cases to subsidize the team, and hammering the Goldwater Institute for actually questioning the legality of transaction. I mean God forbid anyone would actually interpret the Arizona Constitution "gift clause" that says governments in the state cannot give money to private businesses as potentially barring Glendale from giving money to a private investor so he can buy the hockey team.
But when I called the campaign relentless, little did I know it would continue day after day through the rest of the week. Every day we get a new article that is basically an editorial in disguise, with the opposing position, if included, down around paragraph 25. Today's is just a masterpiece of such yellow journalism, which includes no opposing viewpoint at all, and includes this classic gem that is almost a caricature of itself:
Rick Myers and his wife have worked as part-time ticket-takers since 2004, the year after Jobing.com Arena opened and they visited for the first time.
"This arena is not brick and mortar, ice and air-conditioning. This arena is a family," he said.
Craig Van Kessel, a disabled military veteran, agreed.
He said six months after getting a job with the team, when he had major surgery, his co-workers called, sent cards and offered help. The team also donates prizes each year for a Western Amputee Golf Association tournament that Kessel helps organize.
If the team leaves, he said, it affects "us little people."
John Minor, a guest services employee, said he counts friendships among the fans he meets at the arena, while Kyle Olson, director of arena events, said he's taught his toddler to howl like a coyote.
Can I barf now? Seriously, if you were doing a caricature of bad anecdotal arguments for a typical concentrated-benefits-diffuse-costs government program, could you do any better than this? We are talking about $200 freaking million dollars here.
Nowhere in any of its editorials or news articles acting as thinly veiled editorials does the AZ Republic reveal that it is an enormously interested party to the transaction. The Sports Section sells papers, and the presence of an additional major league franchise adds a hard to measure but most definite contribution to the paper's bottom line.
Postscript: The key issue that spurred this is that the city's bond issue is facing higher than expected interest costs. The city and the AZ Republic are trying to lay the blame on this on Goldwater for stirring up bad karma. But in fact there are at least six factors for why bond interest rates might be higher:
- The major bond ratings agencies recently put the city of Glendale on a credit watch list
- Sales tax revenues that pay for the bonds are way down in AZ and Glendale
- The city is investing $200 million in a $116 million dollar asset without getting any equity
- The city has a history of failed bond issues, as evidenced by the previous $180 bond issue they are trying to bail out with this one
- There is a general sense of wariness nationwide in government finances being overdrawn that may be spilling over into the bond market
- A local think tank has raised legal questions about the deal — legal questions that turned out to be correct in a parallel case.
Incredibly, our paper has spend over a week harping on just one of these, which to my mind seems the most trivial.
Postscript #2: And by the way, this team is in bankruptcy. Where is the plan for how that will be avoided in the future? Won't we be in the same spot five years from now, just with twice as much bond debt?
I have never really liked to wallow much in the accusation and counter-accusations of media bias. But I am coming around to the hypothesis that the media is neither liberal or conservative but has a big government bias. Recently, as in this article, the Arizona Republic (our daily paper) has been going after the Goldwater Institute for opposing what amounts to a $200 million subsidy to a buyer of our hockey team.
The short story is that after the city of Glendale blew a bunch of money for a hockey stadium in the desert, it turns out hockey is not very popular here (surprise). So the team went bankrupt, and threatened to move. To keep it from moving, the city of Glendale wants to throw more good money after bad and subsidize the new buyer. Goldwater is challenging the subsidy as illegal under AZ law.
As I noted in the previous article, third parties value the Coyotes at $117 million. So with this new bond issue, they will have run up $380 million in debt to keep a $117 million asset in town. Further, they will have basically paid the entire purchase price of the team (and more) without getting a drop of equity in return. All they get is the right to charge for parking around the arena, which is currently free. This at first makes some sense (though the value of the concession is never mentioned) but in fact it is ludicrous as well. The entire reason for the subsidy, supposedly, is to protect the mall/apartment/office complex around the stadium that the city cut sweetheart deals with developers to make happen. So now they are going to charge for parking -- what is going to happen to all those businesses they supposedly are doing this for when their customer's parking is not longer free?
Anyway, the Republic editorialized against Goldwater on Sunday (in an editorial titled "Back off, Goldwater Institute") saying that they were hurting taxpayers because if the new bond issue and team sale fails, then there won't be any revenue to pay the old bond issue. Its hard to figure how this is any different from doubling down at the roulette table in hopes of making back one's past losses. And, Goldwater opposed the first bond issue too.
Now, the Republic has editorialized again, this time in a nominally news article. They argue that by pointing out the potential illegality of the subsidy, Goldwater is messing up their bond interest rates. I kid you not:
As Glendale prepares to sell bonds to finance its Phoenix Coyotes deal, the interest rates the city obtains make a big difference in how much debt Glendale would take on.
Team buyer Matthew Hulsizer says investors are demanding high interest rates due to nervousness among bond buyers about a potential Goldwater Institute lawsuit over whether the city is illegally subsidizing a private business. Glendale maintains it's on firm legal ground.
This is exactly the line the paper took in its Sunday editorial. Now they are giving an interested party the ability repeat it in a supposed news article. The author deliberately puts Goldwater on the spot and in the center of blame
Late Monday, Hulsizer questioned whether the Goldwater Institute wanted the team to stay.
"If they do indeed want the team to stay, then wouldn't they want the city to be able to complete financing at the best possible rate?" he said in a statement to The Arizona Republic.
He asked, if the Coyotes left Glendale, what Goldwater's plan was for the city to pay off its construction debt on the arena and for businesses nearby to survive without hockey customers. The city spent $180 million to open the arena in 2003.
Why in heaven's name is it Goldwater's problem that an earlier bond issue they actively opposed as a bad idea might turn out to, you know, have been a bad idea? The article goes on and on this way, quoting other people of the same point of view. Goldwater doesn't get a quote until paragraph 24 or so, where Darcey Olson who heads the Institute says
She said Glendale has "unlimited options" to avoid a Goldwater lawsuit. "For instance, Hulsizer could get a private loan to buy this team like most businesses do," she said. "They finance their investments not on the backs of taxpayers but take the risk privately where it belongs."
The evidence of the article that Goldwater is shaking the very pillars of Wall Street is that the city expected one set of interest rates, but the market was giving them higher rates
Glendale officials in December hoped for a roughly 6 percent interest rate.
Todd Curtis, portfolio manager for Aquila Tax-Free Trust of Arizona, said he expected to see a 5 to 5.5 percent interest rate after Moody's Investors Service in mid-February gave the Coyotes bond sale a fairly high rating.
More than a week ago, Curtis was hearing of proposed rates around 7 percent.
Of course, they present no evidence as to why this might be. We are left to assume it is because Goldwater is somehow creating unfair bad vibes. Except then we get this oh-by-the-way near the end of the article:
Moody's and Standard & Poor's raised worries in February about the city's debt levels. As a result, Moody's downgraded several city bond ratings and Standard put the city on a watch list, though the city's ratings remain high.
Also, Glendale pledged to cover the Coyotes bonds with sales taxes, a revenue stream hurt during the recession. The city in its preliminary bond statement points out its sales-tax base is strong.
OK, lets check the reporter's decision-making here. We have five facts
- The major bond ratings agencies recently put the city on a credit watch list
- Sales tax revenues that pay for the bonds are way down
- The city is investing $200 million in a $116 million dollar asset without getting any equity
- The city has a history of failed bond issues, as evidenced by the previous $180 bond issue they are trying to bail out with this one
- A local think tank has raised legal questions about the deal -- legal questions that turned out to be correct in a parallel case.
So our lede is that it is all about the fifth one, just because millionaire Matthew Hulsizer, who is set to feed at the public trough to the tune of $200 million, says its so?
Ask yourself, what is the first section of the paper many folks look at? The sports page? An extra professional sports team adds a hard to quantify but definite amount to the paper's bottom line. The AZ Republic clearly recognizes this and is all-in for any taxpayer subsidy that is required to keep this important part of their business running.
From the WSJ, about a recent "documentary" on PBS's Newshour
Mr. Suarez's report, by contrast, is like a state propaganda film. In one segment, an American woman named Gail Reed who lives in Cuba tells him that the government's claim of its people's longevity is due to a first-rate system of disease prevention. He then parrots the official line that Cuba's wealth of doctors is the key ingredient. What is more, he says, these unselfish revolutionary "foot soldiers" go on house calls. "It's aggressive preventive medicine," Mr. Suarez explains. "Homes are investigated, water quality checked, electrical plugs checked."...
As to doctors checking on water quality and electricity outlets, the PBS reporter might be surprised to learn that most Cuban homes have no running water or power on a regular basis. This is true even in the capital. In 2006, Mr. BotÃn says, a government minister admitted that 75.5% of the water pipes in Havana were "unusable" and "recognized that 60% of pumped water was lost before it made it to consumers." To "fix" the problem, the city began providing water in each neighborhood only on certain days. Havana water is also notoriously contaminated. Foreigners drink only the bottled stuff, which Cubans can't afford. In the rest of the country the quality and quantity of the water supply is even less reliable.
This is particularly ironic since, at the same moment this show was airing, state department reports leaked by Wikileaks revealed that the Cuban government banned the showing of Michael Moore's "Sicko" in Cuba, despite the film being wildly propagandistic in favor of the Cuban government. Why? Because the portrayal of the Cuban medical system, as in Mr. Suarez's PBS report, was so unrealistically favorable that ordinary Cuban citizens would immediately recognize it as BS.
Back in January, I wrote about both ethanol and the stimulus bill, observing:
I have decided there is something that is very predictable about the media: they usually are very sympathetic to legislation expanding government powers or spending when the legislation is being discussed in Congress. Then, after the legislation is passed, and there is nothing that can be done to get rid of it, the media gets really insightful all of a sudden, running thoughtful pieces about the hidden problems and unintended consequences of the legislation
My emerging theorem about the media is that they want to be on the record as having predicted problems with legislation, but that for leftish legislation they personally support, they defer their most insightful analysis until after the law has passed. That way, their favored legislation gets on the books, but they are also on the record as having spotted potential problems and can make the argument later that they were not rubes or useful idiots.
We are seeing this yet again, as the New York Times questions some obvious flaws with the Dartmouth health savings data (ht Insty)
Of course, the article misses the most obvious point -- while the Dartmouth data was certainly used to try to sell Obamacare, nothing in the actual legislation does anything to capture these supposed potential savings. The $700 billion in waste number is more of a sort of happy thought that lets politicians sign the ridiculously expensive bill while pretending that some mythical savings are somehow available in the future through unidentified mechanisms to pay for the program.
It is a beautiful day here, so I really don't have the time or desire right now to summarize the absolute mess that is the FTC discussion draft for the "reinvention of journalism," reinvention being a synonym apparently for government takeover. Almost every proposal is fraught with unintended (or perhaps intended but hidden) consequences, faulty economics, and unprecedented attacks of the first amendment. If you don't have the time to read it, I will try to summarize it next week, but just open it and scroll the bold headers with the proposals. Its really outrageous. Here are just some quick highlights:
- Substantial narrowing of fair use, with particular focus on how search engines and other online sites (e.g. blogs) use and/or have to pay for access to news sites
- Expansion of news copyrights on breaking news - ie certain papers will own the copyrights to certain news events if they are the first mover on it
- Increased government funding of news organizations along multiple vectors, from subsidies to guaranteed loans to income tax checkoffs to lower postal rates to Americorps programs for for journalists.
- Simultaneously reduce private funding of journalism through taxes, including a tax on advertisers
- Shift the organizational model of journalism from profit corporations (which rely on satisfying individuals to get their revenue) to non-profit organizations dependent on the government for funding
- New taxes on and licensing of the Internet. New taxes on broadcast spectrum to subsidize print media (shifting money from media that are more hostile to the administration to print media and non-profits that are more sympathetic to the administration).
Here is the intro that was missing from the report: "The New York Times and Newsweek can't figure out a profitable business model in the Internet age. We propose the government step in with all means at its disposal to limit competition to these print media companies and create new government subsidies for their business. Once their companies' profitability is absolutely dependent on these government mandates and subsidies, the Federal government will have a powerful source of leverage to protect itself from criticism in these outlets. Once we have this situation in place, we will have a strong inventive to quash more independent outlets and maximize the market share of media companies beholden to the government. In a large sense, our recommendations build off the success of the tobacco settlement experiment, where a few large companies agreed to pay the government large percentages of their future profits, and then the government worked diligently to quash new tobacco competitors to maximize the market share of those companies paying it settlement money."
Update: South Bend Seven makes an interesting comparison to campus newspapers.
That's the headline from the Arizona Republic today. Do editors realize this is becoming a national running joke?
The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by the largest amount in three months. The surge is evidence of how volatile the job market remains, even as the economy grows.
I absolutely couldn't believe what I was listening to on NPR the other day, with the breathless coverage of the moron in Southern California who for some reason couldn't slow his Prius but did manage to alert the national media. Your brakes on your car can stop it even at full acceleration. Why couldn't he? Why didn't he shift into neutral? Why didn't he turn the engine off? How amazing was it that a one in a million problem (because even if the sudden acceleration issue is a real hardware problem, it is very, very rare) occurs at just about the exact height of the Toyota panic in SoCal, the world's largest media market?
I am glad someone else is showing some skepticism. The media is just incredible. I used to feel guilty that I was too hard on the media in stories like this in my novel, but now I think I stopped short of reality.
Years ago, I wrote a novel (still available at Amazon!) wherein a key plot point was a conspiracy between a Senator, a law firm, and a media company to create a high-profile tort case out of thin air.
Today, we may be seeing something similar with the Toyota sudden acceleration case. In this case, we have the Senate calling stooges of the plaintiff's bar as "expert witnesses" with the whole thing getting a third of the air time on nightly news programs. In my book, the whole thing was kicked off by a media company afraid of a new competitor - in this case it was kicked off by the US government, which controls GM, trying to sit on a competitor.
It is hard to spot the lowest behavior in the affair so far, but that honor can arguably go to ABC and the lengths to which it went to pretend it had recreated the problem. In fact, they had to strip three wires, splice in a resistor of a very specific value and then short two other wires. They made it sound like this is something that could easily happen naturally (lol) but this is an easy thing to prove - and inspection of actual throttle assemblies from cars that have supposedly exhibited the sudden acceleration problem have shown no evidence of such shorting. So the ABC story was completely fraudulent, similar to the old Dateline NBC story that secretly used model rocket engines to ignite gas tanks. Its amazing to me that Toyota, acting in good faith will get sued for billions over a complex problem which may or may not exist in a few cars, while ABC will suffer no repercussions from outright fraud.
Basically ABC proved that if you bypass a potentiometer with a resistor, you can spoof the potentiometer setting. Duh. The same hack on a radio would cause sudden acceleration of your volume.
I have decided there is something that is very predictable about the media: they usually are very sympathetic to legislation expanding government powers or spending when the legislation is being discussed in Congress. Then, after the legislation is passed, and there is nothing that can be done to get rid of it, the media gets really insightful all of a sudden, running thoughtful pieces about the hidden problems and unintended consequences of the legislation. I remember that they did this with the ethanol mandates, when I summarized:
All this stuff was known long before Congress voted for the most recent ethanol mandates. Why is it that the media, who cheerled such mandates for years, is able to apply any institutional skepticism only after the mandates have become law?
A federal spending surge of more than $20 billion for roads and bridges in President Barack Obama's first stimulus has had no effect on local unemployment rates, raising questions about his argument for billions more to address an "urgent need to accelerate job growth."An Associated Press analysis of stimulus spending found that it didn't matter if a lot of money was spent on highways or none at all: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless. And the stimulus spending only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, the analysis showed.
With the nation's unemployment rate at 10 percent and expected to rise, Obama wants a second stimulus bill from Congress including billions of additional dollars for roads and bridges "” projects the president says are "at the heart of our effort to accelerate job growth."...
Even within the construction industry, which stood to benefit most from transportation money, the AP's analysis found there was nearly no connection between stimulus money and the number of construction workers hired or fired since Congress passed the recovery program. The effect was so small, one economist compared it to trying to move the Empire State Building by pushing against it.
Well, better late than never. And actually moderately timely in this case because we are considering a second stimulus bill. It even includes this insight which is almost NEVER raised in stimulus-related discussions:
"As a policy tool for creating jobs, this doesn't seem to have much bite," said Emory University economist Thomas Smith, who supported the stimulus and reviewed AP's analysis. "In terms of creating jobs, it doesn't seem like it's created very many. It may well be employing lots of people but those two things are very different."
Exactly. Stealing $10 million from Peter so Paul can hire three more people doesn't net increase jobs until you understand what Peter would have done with the money. One has to argue that the market did a poor job in allocating capital to Peter and that the government will employ this capital more productively (hah!)
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood defended the administration's recovery program Monday, writing on his blog that "DOT-administered stimulus spending is the only thing propping up the transportation construction industry."
Well, as the article goes on to say, this turns out not to be the case. But even if it were true, what industries were gutted by having their capital taken away so that one government-favored industry could be stimulated.
By the way, never underestimate the power of politicians to use every tool up to and including malfeasance to get more money and power for themselves (because that is exactly what the stimulus bills are -- a substitution of the markets with Congress in the capital allocation process).
It is also becoming more difficult to obtain an accurate count of stimulus jobs. Those who receive stimulus money can now credit jobs to the program even if they were never in jeopardy of being lost, according to new rules outlined by the.
The new rules, reported Monday by the Internet site, allow any job paid for with stimulus money to count as a position saved or created.
It is amazing that a scandal that has appeared on something like 14 million web pages (per Google, though ymmv as I see people getting all kinds of numbers) in a matter of just 2 weeks has yet to appear on the US mainstream network news. I mean, these were the guys who spent breathless hours of live coverage reporting every breaking rumor about changes to Michael Jackson's coffin.
No real point. Not calling for government intervention, obviously. Just amazing how irrelevant the networks have become. If it weren't for Time and Newsweek, and I would say they were the least relevant major news outlets in the country.
Some major, must-report outcome is going to come out of this Internet hype, and at that point the networks will find themselves in a position they have already been in several times this year -- trying to explain significant actions resulting from a long-standing scandal or controversy they never reported.
There is just so much wrong with this news blurb, entitled "LA Mother Who Beheaded Son Was Allowed To Keep Him Despite Signs of Mental Illness." Here are just the first four I have thought of:
- Isn't the boy dead, and if so, why is custody an issue?
- Why would a mom who assaults her child be allowed to retain custody?
- Does the "despite signs of mental illness" clause apply to the son or the mother?
- If the mental illness question applies to the mother, can it even be in question?
The article clears some of this up, barely.