Posts tagged ‘MSM’

Frustrating

This seems to represent the general MSM reaction to Peter Gleick's fraud in obtaining Heartland documents:

Peter Gleick violated a principle rule of the global-warming debate: Climate scientists must be better than their opponents....

It’s very tempting for scientists and their allies to employ to tactics of their over-aggressive critics. Yet the global warming camp must make an affirmative case for ambitious action on carbon emissions. Critics need only poke holes in the scientists’ arguments, or, as is so often the case in global warming debates, merely insist they’ve done so. Manipulation and perfidy work much better for the deniers.

Whatever the misdeeds of those who attack climate research, however braindead the opposition to climate scientists appears to be, advocates degrade themselves when they allow their frustrations to get the better of their ethical responsibilities. They lend credence to the (wrong) impression that both sides of the debate are equally worthy of criticism, that global warming is another ideological war that both sides fight deceitfully. In that context, those who want to spend lots of money to green the economy lose, and those who want to do nothing win. As Rick Santorum tours the country accusing climate activists of treachery and conspiracy, this should be only more obvious.

In other words, shame on Gleick for stooping to the level of those corrupt and evil skeptics.  A sentence or two of denunciation of Gleick for an actual crime, accompanied by 500 words of unsubstantiated ad hominem attacks on skeptics.  Nice.  I try to have a "let's play nice" response and this is what comes back in return?  Very frustrating.

Jon Stewart on Mumbai

Pretty funny.  Even funnier when you consider it is probably the most dead-on analysis of terrorism you will see in the MSM this week.

Really a Joke

I am finding Andrew Coyne's live blog of the Canadian hate speech "trial" to be endlessly fascinating.  Imagine taking the the most self-important but dysfunctional local school board you can find, give them a knowledge of court procedure and the rules of evidence mainly through watching People's Court reruns, and put them in charge of enforcing speech and censorship, and you will about have duplicated this proceeding.

Interestingly, the current evidence being entered in the proceeding seems to be blog comments made on non-Canadian blogs.  Every so often, we have to go through an educational process with the MSM to help them understand that commenters on blogs do not necessarily represent the opinion of the blogger.  It may be OK to use blog comments as evidence that the community at the Free Republic or the Democratic Underground are loony, but not to say that blogger X or Y is a racist because racist comments have been posted on his blog.

It appears that the government of Canada needs a similar education, but I can see this being hard to do.  Remember, each of the hearing "judges" are essentially people who make their living as government censors.  Their job is wiping out speech with which they do not agree.  It is therefore quite likely difficult for them to comprehend that many bloggers (like myself) have no desire to edit or control the content of our commenters.

Memo to Fact Checkers and Editors on Ethanol

Let's forget all the other issues surrounding ethanol for a moment  (we'll mention a really bad one below), and just consider one fact that is beyond dispute.  Ethanol has an energy content per gallon that is only about 65% of that of gasoline.  So, another way to put it is that it takes a bit over 1.5 gallons of ethanol to replace 1 gallon of gasoline.  There is nothing suspicious or sinister about this (ethanol is flawed for other reasons) or at all controversial. 

Therefore, when your paper prints something like this:

"The number of plants under construction is truly frightening,"
said Ralph Groschen, a senior marketing specialist with the Minnesota
Department of Agriculture who closely watches the state's ethanol
development. The country could go from 7 billion gallons of capacity
now to 12 billion gallons, or about roughly 10 percent of U.S. gasoline
capacity, in a few years, according to Groschen.

You need to understand that you and everyone else are failing at simple math.  In 2004 the US consumed just over 140 billion gallons of gasoline.  So, already, our media has failed the math test.  12 billion gallons would be 8.6%, but we will give them a pass on rounding that to "roughly 10 percent."  But this 8.6% only holds true if gasoline is replaced by ethanol 1:1.  Using the actual figures cited above, 12 billion gallons of ethanol is about 7.8billion gallons an a gasoline equivalent, which would make it  5.6% of US gasoline usage in 2004, and probably an even smaller percentage if we were to take the worlds "gasoline capacity" at face value, since surely capacity is higher than production.

I know it seems petty to pick on one paper, and probably would not be worth my time to bother if it was just this one article.  But this mistake is made by every MSM article I have ever seen on ethanol.  I can't remember any writer or editor ever getting it right.

By the way, if you want more on what is wrong with ethanol, check my past posts

Finally, the other day I pointed out how much of our food crop is getting diverted to fueling our cars, with negligible effect on CO2 or oil imports.  If you really want to be worried about ethanol, note this:

Biofuels need land, which means traditional food crops are being
elbowed off of the field for fuel crops. Biofuel production is
literally taking the food out of people's mouths and putting into our
gas tanks. Already, increased food costs sparked by increased demand
are leaving populations hungry. The price of wheat has stretched to a
10-year high, while the price of maize has doubled.

Need more
land? Clear cut some forest. Is there a word beyond irony to describe a
plan to mitigate climate change that relies on cutting down the very
trees that naturally remove carbon from the atmosphere? Stupidity,
perhaps? The logic is like harvesting a sick patient's lungs to save
her heart. Huge tracks of Amazon
rainforest are being raised to the biofuels alter like a sacrificial
lamb, and the UN suggests that 98 percent of Indonesia's rainforest
will disappear by 2022, where heavy biofuel production is underway.

Still
need land? Just take it. The human rights group Madre, which is backing
the five-year moratorium, says agrofuel plantations in Brazil and
Southeast Asia are displacing indigenous people. In an editorial
published on CommonDreams last week, Madre Communication Director Yifat
Susskind wrote, "People are being forced to give up their land, way of
life, and food self-sufficiency to grow fuel crops for export."

Ex Post Facto Guilt

You gotta love those vaunted MSM fact-checkers.  I mean, I am all for criticizing George Bush, but this seems to be going a bit too far  (Guardian via Q&O):

Ministers insisted that British secret agents would only be allowed to
pass intelligence to the CIA to help it capture Osama bin Laden if the
agency promised he would not be tortured, it has emerged.

MI6 believed it was close to finding the al-Qaida leader in
Afghanistan in 1998, and again the next year. The plan was for MI6 to
hand the CIA vital information about Bin Laden. Ministers including
Robin Cook, the then foreign secretary, gave their approval on
condition that the CIA gave assurances he would be treated humanely.
The plot is revealed in a 75-page report by parliament's intelligence
and security committee on rendition, the practice of flying detainees
to places where they may be tortured.

The report criticises the Bush administration's approval of practices
which would be illegal if carried out by British agents. It shows that
in 1998, the year Bin Laden was indicted in the US, Britain insisted
that the policy of treating prisoners humanely should include him. But
the CIA never gave the assurances.

LOL.  It seems like Bush has been president forever, but I am pretty sure that Hillary's husband was in the White House until early 2001.

Thanks for the Help, MSM

Well, thanks a hell of a lot, mainstream media, for doing such a good job of delivering the facts.   QandO, in discussing the issues behind my earlier post on testing for mad-cow disease (BSE) helpfully includes this link to the EU's BSE testing site (the home of the testing program supposedly so much more enlightened than ours):

No method will detect BSE early in the infection. BSE has an average incubation period of 4-6 years. Therefore the EU testing programmes are targeted at animals over 30 months. The PrPres has not been detected in bovine brain or other nervous tissue very early in the disease and infectivity has not been shown either. In experimental infection where very high doses were administered, infectivity has been found in the ileum, part of the intestine. This has not been detected in natural infections.

Robert Fulton, via QandO, supplies the one other missing fact:  Most US cows are slaughtered as two-year-olds.  So they can't have BSE, because you can't have a five-year incubation disease in a 2-year-old animal.  And further, even if the animal has latent BSE infection, which has never been shown to harm humans, it can't be detected by current technology!  Even those superior Euros only test at 30 months.  This is an issue for aging dairy cows sent to slaughter, not for most of the US beef supply.

Well, those facts certainly would have been good to know, though in reading at least 20 mad cow articles in the MSM over the years, I have never seen it mentioned.  And it certainly hasn't been mentioned in the current testing brouhaha. 

I stand by my statement that private companies should be allowed to compete on full testing if they wish.  Hell, most of the stuff that is labeled "organic" and sells at a premium price is probably no safer than normal stuff, but companies are welcome to try to profit from the public's perceived need for organic stuff.

Assuming this is the reason behind the administration's decision to test only 1%, for which they have been chastised for years, it is yet another example of Bush's ham-handedness on communication.  Why not change the policy from "1% of all steers" to "100% of all beef from cattle over 36 months old." The latter would not represent much more testing, but would sure calm people a lot more than the other statement.

What Ails the Media

Newsweek:

The press needed there to have been a rape to keep the story going. It
was much too dull to consider that the lacrosse players deserved the
presumption of innocence.

Of course, there is nothing new under the sun, as I am sure you could find the same problem 100 years ago.  But it does give one perspective when the MSM tries to go all high and mighty on us, particularly the always arrogant NY Times, which cheer-led the virtual lynching and went out of its way to prop up the failing DA's case when nearly everyone else was starting to see the holes in it.  The Rutgers basketball team got an apology from the media figure that slighted them.  Don't expect the same treatment for the Duke boys.

An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots?

Seldom do I plagiarize editorial titles - I usually try to make up my own post title, even if mine is not as good as the original.  But how can you not give kudos to an MSM editorial like this:

An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots?

The Detroit News

We have come to the conclusion that the
crisis Michigan faces is not a shortage of revenue, but an excess of
idiocy. Facing a budget deficit that has passed the $1 billion mark,
House Democrats Thursday offered a spending plan that would buy a MP3
player or iPod for every school child in Michigan.

No cost estimate was attached to their hare-brained idea to "invest" in education. Details, we are promised, will follow.

It is good to see a MSM outlet treating this type of stupid populist government proposal with all the seriousness it deserves.  I wish they would cry foul more often.  Via Hall of Record.

I Was Sortof Right

A couple of years ago I made this prediction:

We will soon see calls to bring a tighter licensing or
credentialing system for journalists, similar to what we see for
lawyers, doctors, teachers, and, god help us, for beauticians
.  The
proposals will be nominally justified by improving ethics or similar
laudable things, but, like most credentialing systems, will be aimed
not at those on the inside but those on the outside.  At one time or
another, teachers, massage therapists, and hairdressers have all used
licensing or credentialing as a way to fight competition from upstart
competitors, often ones with new business models who don't have the
same trade-specific educational degrees the insiders have....

Such credentialing can provide a powerful comeback for industry insiders under attack.  Teachers, for example, use it every chance they get to attack home schooling and private schools,
despite the fact that uncertified teachers in both these latter
environments do better than the average certified teacher (for example,
kids home schooled by moms who dropped out of high school performed at
the 83rd percentile).  So, next time the MSM is under attack from the blogosphere, rather than address the issues, they can say that that guy in Tennessee is just a college professor and isn't even a licensed journalist.

Well, despite all efforts by John McCain, we still have free speech on the blogosphere.  But I was almost right, because another country is considering such a proposal -- In France:

The government has also proposed a certification system for Web sites,
blog hosters, mobile-phone operators and Internet service providers,
identifying them as government-approved sources of information if they
adhere to certain rules. The journalists' organization Reporters
Without Borders, which campaigns for a free press, has warned that such
a system could lead to excessive self censorship as organizations
worried about losing their certification suppress certain stories.

The Joy of Blogging

I guess it's become de riguer to take a shot at Joseph Rago's editorial in the WSJ the other day, saying in part:

Some critics reproach the blogs
for the coarsening and increasing volatility of political life. Blogs,
they say, tend to disinhibit. Maybe so. But politics weren't much
rarefied when Andrew Jackson was president, either. The larger problem
with blogs, it seems to me, is quality. Most of them are pretty awful.
Many, even some with large followings, are downright appalling.

Every conceivable belief is on the
scene, but the collective prose, by and large, is homogeneous: A tone
of careless informality prevails; posts oscillate between the uselessly
brief and the uselessly logorrheic; complexity and complication are
eschewed; the humor is cringe-making, with irony present only in its
conspicuous absence; arguments are solipsistic; writers traffic more in
pronouncement than persuasion . . .

I haven't really posted on this editorial any more than I have posted on the commercials I hear every day for FM radio telling me how bad satellite radio is, and how much I should enjoy hearing 15 minutes of commercials an hour rather than paying $30 a month in fees.  There is a consistent human behavior which tends not just to be threatened but to be outraged by upstart competitors.  Remember this story on the milk cartel  -- entrenched interests are flabbergasted that anyone would even attempt to compete with them in a new way.  New competitors are not just bad and unworthy, they are portrayed as threatening all the good things that already exist.

Now that I am started, though, here are a few other random thoughts:

  • It is inappropriate to compare single blogs to individual newspapers.  The WSJ has hundreds of reporters, while most blogs have one.  In making such a comparison, one is comparing a brain on one hand with a single brain cell on the other.  Blogs have much of their value as a network or swarm, in how the individual "cells" interact with each other and complement each other.  We might read one or two iterations of the daily fishwrap each day, but I read at least 30 blogs, all aggregated together for me in a convenient form by Google Reader.  And these thirty are augmented by links that I follow to as many as a hundred other blogs each week to learn more about individual issues.
  • I don't particularly disagree with this statement:

The blogs are not as significant
as their self-endeared curators would like to think. Journalism
requires journalists, who are at least fitfully confronting the digital
age. The bloggers, for their part, produce minimal reportage. Instead,
they ride along with the MSM like remora fish on the bellies of sharks,
picking at the scraps.

Few bloggers would disagree with this view that we depend on the reporting of the MSM for a starting point of much of what we do.  However, I would probably argue that some of the scraps we are picking up are larger than Rago would concede.  By the way, if you leave out a few papers like the NY Times, I could make the same accusation against 99% of the papers in this country, arguing that they are riding on the backs of the wire services, only doing a small percentage of their own reporting.  What's the difference?

  • One of the reasons there are so many scraps left for us blogger-remoras is that newspapers load up on people whose education and entire professional career is in writing and journalism, rather than in economics or business or law or science whatever they are writing about.  You can just see the institutional hubris in Rago's complaint quoted above about the quality of the prose and the humor, longing for real journalists who can use logorrheic and solipsistic in the same sentence (not to mention four commas, five semi-colons, one colon, and one set of ellipses).   So while newspapers load up on journalism and English majors who write lovely and witty prose, blogs are written by leading economists, legal practitioners and professors, successful business people, technology experts of every stripe, etc. etc.  No newspaper, for example, has even one tenth the economic firepower the combination of Cafe Hayek, Marginal Revolution, the Knowledge Problem, and the Mises Blog, among many others, bring to my desktop.  Ditto for Volokh / Scotusblog / Instapundit / Overlawyered / Tom Kirkendall on legal issues. [Update:  Oh, and a lot of those other bloggers are, uh, journalists]

  • One of the mistakes newspaper-types make in comparing newspapers to blogs is that they compare the reality of blogs with the ideals of newspapers, particularly on things like sourcing and fact-checking.  However, it's becoming clear that this comparison is increasingly unfair, because the reality of newspapers is diverging a fair amount from their ideals.  Of course, we all tend to fall short of our ideals.  But what is worrying about newspapers is that those who purport to be gaurdians and watchdogs of these ideals are increasingly becoming appologists for their violation.  How many times are we going to hear the "fake but accurate" response to blogger accusations of problems in MSM sourcing?
  • I will concede that the Mr. Rago's employer the WSJ is one of the few newspapers that really understand how they create value, or at least are consistent in their value story and their pricing policy.  If, as Rago and others argue, it is the reportage that is of value and editorializing is just the remora, then shouldn't it be the reporting behind the firewall and the editorials out front?  This is how the WSJ does it, but for some odd reason the NY Times does it just the opposite:  They let everyone have access for free to the output of their uniquely large and talented reporter pool, but put the confused economic rantings of Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd behind a paid firewall.  Huh?

Democrat's Privacy Push

Via Powerline and the Washington Times comes a report (or maybe a prediction) that Democrats may be preparing to use privacy as the unifying theme of their 2006 legislative agenda and reelection efforts.  This actually echos a suggestion made by Kevin Drum last year (which may be an indication that Democrats are getting smarter, if they are listening to Drum rather than Kos).

John Hinderaker thinks that this suggestion, which would link abortion and NSA surveillance, ranks as either ineffective or "downright weird".  I think it would be fabulous, but, as I wrote in response to Drum's post the first time around, it contains huge land mines for the left:

I am all for a general and strong privacy right.  I would love to see
it Constitutionally enshrined.  But liberals (like conservatives, but I
am answering Drum's question) don't want it.  They want to allow women to choose abortions, but not choose breast implants.
They want the government to allow marijuana use but squelch fatty
foods.  They don't want police checking for terrorists but do want them
checking for people not wearing their seat belts.  They want freedom of
speech, until it criticizes groups to whom they are sympathetic.  They want to allow topless dancers but regulate the hell out of how much they make.  Liberals, in sum, are at
least as bad about wanting to control private, non-coerced individual
decision-making as conservatives -- they just want to control other
aspects of our lives than do conservatives.

It just so happens a perfect example is sitting right at the top of Instapundit this morning:  Teresa Nielsen Hayden apparently takes the drug Cylert to treat her narcolepsy.  For a while, it has been known that Cylert can cause some liver trouble.  She apparently knows this, has a doctor monitor her liver health, but is willing to take this risk because she apparently is fine with accepting some risk of liver trouble in exchange for substantially improved quality of life. 

The problem is, the liberal/progressive Public Citizen group has fought hard and successfully to deny her this choice for her own body.  This type action is not an exception, but rather is fundamental to the left/Democrat agenda, i.e. We are smarter than you about making choices, and we would never risk liver disease to cure narcolepsy (though we have never lived through narcolepsy ourselves) so we are not going to allow you to make that decision for yourself.  Vioxx users, like acute-pain sufferers for whom Vioxx is really the first treatment to allow them to enjoy life again without incapacitating pain, have also been denied this choice.  So have folks who want to get breast implants, manage their own retirement (social Security) funds, ride motorcycles without helmets and drive cars without seat belts.  One case that is quite revealing is NOW's insistence that women, even
at the age of 13, have the ability and absolute right to make abortion
decisions without government intervention, but that these same women are completely incapable of making breast implant decisions so they demand that the government curtail this choice. 

But the list really goes much further.  For example, why isn't it a "private" decision when two people agree without coercion as to how much money one will provide labor or goods or services to the other.  An enormous part of the Democratic platform rests on regulating the shit out of every single facet of this type of private encounter.

Since the left considers sex absolutely beyond regulation, and commerce completely fair game for detailed government intervention, its funny when the two cross, as they did when the ACLU argued that taxation of topless dancers interfered with their freedom of expression.  Fine, but if topless dancing is expression, which it seems to be, why isn't writing a book, designing a house, making an iPod or even cooking great cheese-fries?  Commerce is all about expression, about communication, about private agreements and exchanges.  But I am pretty sure that the Democratic party does not want their privacy stance to go in these directions.

A while ago, I had a fascinating experience actually reading for myself the much-talked about Roe v. Wade decision.  Because I take the 9th amendment seriously, I wasn't struck, as conservatives are, that the judges had created a privacy right out of nowhere.  What I was struck by instead was just how narrow a line the Court tried to walk in saying that a woman's decision to have an abortion (at least in the first trimester) is beyond the reach of government, but nearly every other non-coerced decision we make is still fair game for government intrusion.  It was this distinction, between abortion and every other decision that I found compelling:

However, I hope you see the quandary in which all this leaves abortion
supporters on the left.  Much of their philosophy and political agenda
rests on this notion of "a compelling state interest" in nearly every
facet of human endeavor.  The left pushes constantly for expansion of
government regulation into every corner of our lives.  They are trying
to walk a line, a line so narrow I don't think it even exists, between
there being no state interest in 16 year old girls getting abortions
without their parents' knowledge or consent and there being a strong
state interest in breast implants, painkillers, seat belt use, bike
helmets, tobacco use, fatty foods, etc.  They somehow have to make the
case that that a woman is fully able to make decisions about an
abortion but is not able to make decisions, without significant
government regulation and intervention, about her retirement savings,
the wages she accepts for her work, her use of a tanning booth, and her
choice of painkillers. I personally think she can handle all these, and more.

So, to the Democrats, bring on the privacy issue!  I am sure no one in the MSM will test these contradictions and certainly the Republicans don't want to go here (they are just as invested today in statism in their own way as Democrats).  But we libertarian bloggers should have a good time.

My summary post on attacks against individual decision making from both left and right is here.

Browser Market Share? Depends on Who You Ask

I have been a marketer for almost 20 years, and one of the classic mistakes in marketing is to rely too much on your own experience and preferences.  Its often easy to fall into the trap of saying "everyone I know would like that" or vice versa, only to find that "everyone you know" are not necessarily representative of the market as a whole.

When I was a consultant at McKinsey & Co., we often asked people we were interviewing questions like "what is the market size for window glass in Mexico".  The key to successfully completing the exercise was to break the problem down into cascading assumptions, each of which could theoretically be researched and checked.  For example, with the window glass problem, a good answer might be:

The glass market is probably made up of housing, commercial buildings, automotive, and other.  Take the housing market.  Assume 80% of the market is new construction.  Assume the population of Mexico is 50 million, and there are 5 people per home, so there are 10 million homes, and lets assume the housing stock is increased by 5 % a year and that each home has 100 square feet of glass..  etc etc.

It was kind of fun to see if they get to the right answer, but the whole point was to see how they could break down and analytical problem.  The reason I bring up this whole episode was sometimes we would ask our recruits, typically Ivy Leaguers, to come up with the market size for annual snow ski sales.  So they would work through the logic that there are 300 million people in the US and x% ski and these people replace their skis on average every 5 years, etc.  However, it always made me laugh that these folks would be guaranteed to miss the number way, way high.  Why?  Because in coming up with the percentage of people that ski, they would look around the room and say, well 80% of my friends ski and so lets assume 30 or 40 or even more percent of Americans snow ski.  In fact, I have not looked up the number lately, but the actual percentage of Americans that ski is something less than 5%.  Recruits intuition was fooled because, at least in terms of skiing, they were surrounded by an anomalous population.

All of this is a long, long, overly long intro into an interesting set of facts around browser share between IE and Firefox.  A while back I wrote that, from my traffic logs for this site, Firefox appears to be killing IE.  In fact, since I posted this, Firefox has gained even more share on this site:

Coyotebrowsershare_1

Now, to the issue of this post, one might suspect that my traffic might not be representative of the whole market.  I would argue that blog readers probably are heavier Internet users, more Internet-savvy on average, and therefore more likely to have investigated browser alternatives beyond the one pre-loaded on their PC.  It turns out that I have a way to test this.  I have another group of sites for my business, including sites for Forest Service Campgrounds, Lake Havasu Jetski Rentals, and Campground Jobs.  The readers of these sites tend to be older on average and less computer proficient.  The browser market share at these sites looks like this:

Rrmbrowsershare_1

Wow, that is a huge difference.  Take it from me, its unusual to find a market segmentation that dramatic.  It makes me wonder about all of the talk about blogs replacing the MSM.  How much are we breathing our own exhaust?

Postscript: This is an age-old problem and takes many forms in many businesses.  For example, thousands of farmers have bankrupted themselves in the commodities futures markets making bets on worldwide crop prices based on their local weather and harvest expectations.

Disclosure: Yes, I did take the opportunity to shamelessly Google bomb my own sites.  Sorry.  I don't do it very often, maintaining a pretty solid firewall between my business and blog.

I Guess I am an Extremist

I have not really had the time to do the research to form an opinion about Bush's judicial nominees, and the MSM is not very helpful in its coverage on the issue.  I wrote here that the judiciary has started to overreach of late, legislating from the bench to advance an agenda generally supported by the Democrats.  I don't know the candidates well enough to decide if these proposed judges are conservative activists who want to legislate from the bench but for conservative ends, or if they represent a first shot at reversing extra-constitutional judicial activism (which I would support).

However, I may have started to develop an favorable opinion on a couple of judges, based on what I have learned from their detractors.

Take this example, from a NY Times editorial, March 6, 2005.  In disparaging how extremist Bush judge nominees are, they use the example of:

Janice
Rogers Brown, who has disparaged the New Deal as ''our socialist
revolution.''

Woe is me, I must be an extremist.  First, the New Deal was clearly a "revolution", in that it was one of two events (the other being the Civil War) in the last 200 years that fundamentally changed the role of the federal government in what was a massive reinterpretation of the Constitution.  But was it socialist?  We can argue about whether the New Deal legacy that reaches us today is socialist or not- many quite normal non-extremist folks would argue yes and many similarly rational folks would argue no.

However, arguing the nature of the New Deal from what programs reach us today leaves out a lot of the picture.  Much of the New Deal was voided by the Supreme Court.  While some was re-passed later once FDR had a chance to remold the court with his own (for the time) extremist ideologues, some of the most socialist-statist-fascist legislation never was reinstituted.

The most dramatic of these institutions that fortunately were left on the cutting room floor was the National Industrial Recovery Act, or NRA.  Roosevelt actually modeled the NRA on Mussolini's fascism in Italy, so I guess it might be more correct to call it fascist rather than socialist but in practice, I can't ever tell those two apart.*

The image of a strong
leader taking direct charge of an economy during hard times fascinated
observers abroad. Italy was one of the places that Franklin Roosevelt
looked to for ideas in 1933. Roosevelt's National Recovery Act (NRA)
attempted to cartelize the American economy just as Mussolini had
cartelized Italy's. Under the NRA Roosevelt established industry-wide
boards with the power to set and enforce prices, wages, and other terms
of employment, production, and distribution for all companies in an
industry. Through the Agricultural Adjustment Act the government
exercised similar control over farmers. Interestingly, Mussolini viewed
Roosevelt's New Deal as "boldly... interventionist in the field of
economics." Hitler's nazism also shared many features with Italian
fascism, including the syndicalist front. Nazism, too, featured
complete government control of industry, agriculture, finance, and
investment.

If you are not familiar with the NRA, you need to be if you are going to come to a conclusion about the New Deal and just how statist FDR's aspirations were.  The actual text of the act is hereHenry Hazlitt has a long evaluation here.  In the end, the NRA was scrapped in large part because it was a disaster for the economy.  Many blame the NRA for strangling the recovery that began in 1933-34 and thus extending the depression.  Parts of the law (collective bargaining, minimum wage) were incorporated in other later legislation, but the core concept of organizing industrial cartels with government backing to run industries and set prices, wages, and production levels died, fortunately.

Update:  More here.  Mr. Gregory quotes John Flynn's The Roosevelt Myth:

[Mussolini] organized each trade or industrial group or professional group into a state-supervised trade association. He called it a corporative. These corporatives operated under state supervision and
could plan production, quality, prices, distribution, labor standards,
etc. The NRA provided that in America each industry should be organized
into a federally supervised trade association. It was not called a
corporative. It was called a Code Authority. But it was essentially the
same thing. These code authorities could regulate production,
quantities, qualities, prices, distribution methods, etc., under the
supervision of the NRA. This was fascism. The anti-trust laws forbade
such organizations. Roosevelt had denounced Hoover for not enforcing
these laws sufficiently. Now he suspended them and compelled men to
combine.

*  I disagree with people who want to argue that socialism is freedom but without property rights while fascism is property rights without other freedoms.  Neither of these conditions are stable, and both converge to the same destination of suffocating statism, just with different starting points and different people in charge.  One of the things that drive libertarians nuts is being presented with a grade school civics book that has a linear political spectrum with fascism on one end and communism on the other.  Are those really my only two choices? 

 

Arizona School Vouchers

The Arizona legislature has passed a school voucher bill, though the Democratic governor is likely to veto it.  The MSM generally hates vouchers - just check out this Google news search on the bill.  I have not even linked to a cached version - I just have complete confidence that any time you click on the link the preponderance of headlines will be negative.

I think that the legislature did make a tactical mistake in crafting this bill.  While over time, everyone should be eligible, it is much more intelligent politically to phase the law in with a means test.  Otherwise what happens is the initial beneficiaries in the first year of the plan, before new private schools begin to develop, are the rich who are already sending their kids to private school who will get back some of their tax money that went to public schools they did not use.  The optics of this are terrible, as seen in arguments like this that play on this effect, even if I find the class warfare elements of this extremely tedious.

If the bill were crafted to squelch this argument, the rest are easy to fight.  For example, the same article complains about:

the very different mandates and requirements public schools must comply with and private schools do not

Duh.  If private schools had to follow all the same stupid rules as public schools they would be bloated celebrants of mediocrity as well.

Another argument is that kids leaving public schools will drain the schools of money.  This is a huge scare headline by opponents of choice.  It also makes no sense.  In 2004, the average pending per pupil in Arizona (according to the teachers union, opponent #1 of choice) was $5,347.  Per the proposed law, the average voucher size per pupil is $4000.  So, for every student that leaves, the state will spend $4000 but save $5347, meaning that every student that leaves actually increases the money per pupil that can be spent on those left behind.  (by the way, more on the absurdity of NEA positions here and here).

The other argument that gets made is that private schools are all very expensive.  Again, duh.  Today, the only market
for public schools is to people who can afford to pay for their kids to
go to public school and then pay again for private school.  However,
private schools at the $3500 to $4500 level will appear if people have
a voucher in their hand and are looking for alternatives.  My kids
private school is awesome, and does not charge in the five figures - in
fact it is just a bit over $5000 a year.  Here is more on why more private schools don't exist today.

I would love to find a way to get the left, who in other circumstances seem to be all for choice, onto the school choice bandwagon.  This post had an invitation to the left to reconsider school choice:

After the last election, the Left is increasingly worried that red
state religious beliefs may creep back into public school, as evidenced
in part by this Kevin Drum post on creationism.
My sense is that you can find strange things going on in schools of
every political stripe, from Bible-based creationism to inappropriate environmental advocacy.
I personally would not send my kids to a school that taught creationism
nor would I send them to a school that had 7-year-olds protesting
outside of a Manhattan bank.

At the end of the day, one-size-fits-all public schools are never
going to be able to satisfy everyone on this type thing, as it is
impossible to educate kids in a values-neutral way.  Statist parents
object to too much positive material on the founding fathers and the
Constitution.  Secular parents object to mentions of God and
overly-positive descriptions of religion in history.  Religious parents
object to secularized science and sex education.  Free market parents
object to enforced environmental activism and statist economics.   Some
parents want no grades and an emphasis on feeling good and self-esteem,
while others want tough grading and tough feedback when kids aren't
learning what they are supposed to.

I have always thought that these "softer" issues, rather than just
test scores and class sizes, were the real "killer-app" that might one
day drive acceptance of school choice in this country.  Certainly
increases in home-schooling rates have been driven as much by these
softer values-related issues (mainly to date from the Right) than by
just the three R's.

So here is my invitation to the Left: come over to the dark side.
Reconsider your historic opposition to school choice.  I'm not talking
about rolling back government spending or government commitment to
funding education for all.  I am talking about allowing parents to use
that money that government spends on their behalf at the school of
their choice.  Parents want their kids to learn creationism - fine,
they can find a school for that.  Parents want a strict, secular focus
on basic skills - fine, another school for that.  Parents want their
kids to spend time learning the three R's while also learning to love
nature and protect the environment - fine, do it.

Kate Groves Handbags Featured in the Newspaper!

Kate Groves Handbags

Hey, look!  We are fashion-blogging here at Coyote Blog today (fellow Princetonian Virginia Postrel would be proud)

We are having fun today as my wife, Kate Groves, had her handmade handbags and purses featured in the weekend style section of the Arizona Republic today!

Of course, being the MSM, they forgot to put her web site in the article, but they have the article and a link to her site here.  Since they only keep the articles online for a week (server disk space must be expensive over there) we have cached the article on Kate Groves handbags here. Kate's website with all of her purse designs are here.

Prediction: Media Insiders Call for Liscencing

Note:  the following post grew out of an update to this post -- I have not pulled it out into its own post.

I resisted the call by a number of web sites at the beginning of the year to make predictions for 2005.  However, now I will make one:  We will soon see calls to bring a tighter licensing or credentialing system for journalists, similar to what we see for lawyers, doctors, teachers, and, god help us, for beauticians.  The proposals will be nominally justified by improving ethics or similar laudable things, but, like most credentialing systems, will be aimed not at those on the inside but those on the outside.  At one time or another, teachers, massage therapists, and hairdressers have all used licensing or credentialing as a way to fight competition from upstart competitors, often ones with new business models who don't have the same trade-specific educational degrees the insiders have.  As Milton Friedman said:

The justification offered [for licensing] is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who may be a plumber.

Such credentialing can provide a powerful comeback for industry insiders under attack.  Teachers, for example, use it every chance they get to attack home schooling and private schools, despite the fact that uncertified teachers in both these latter environments do better than the average certified teacher (for example, kids home schooled by moms who dropped out of high school performed at the 83rd percentile).  So, next time the MSM is under attack from the blogosphere, rather than address the issues, they can say that that guy in Tennessee is just a college professor and isn't even a licensed journalist.

Fortunately, this effort will fail, in part because it is fighting the tide of history and in part because constitutional speech protections would probably invalidate any strong form of licensing (I wish there were similarly strong commerce protections in the Constitution).  Be careful, though, not to argue that this proposal will fail because the idea is stupid, because it can't be any more stupid than this form of licensing (or this one;  or this one).  Here are the various trade-specific licenses you need here in Scottsdale - I would hate to see the list for some place like Santa Monica.  My favorite is the one that says "An additional license is required for those firms which are going out of business."

I Don't Understand "Off the Record"

I haven't blogged at all about the whole Eason Jordan thing, partially because blogging on it would be like adding one extra reporter to the Superbowl, and partially because his comments, while way out of line for head of a journalism organization, didn't seem to be much worse than all the other things he has said over time.

Anyway, I mention it here because whether his comments were "off the record" seems to be an important part of the controversy.  I can't think of any ethical justification for this distinction.  I can understand when comments are "private" (say with my family around my house) or "confidential" (say with my managers about what we are paying someone) or even "anonymous" (such as when a source might be blowing the whistle on their boss).  What, though, does it mean if public comments in a public forum are "off the record"?

The only practical, rather than ethical, justification I can come up with is that someone wants their remarks to be "off the record" when they are telling one audience something different than another audience.  Such as when a politician speaks radically to his/her hard left or right base, but doesn't want moderate voters to hear the extreme positions they are advocating.  Or such as when a US news director makes anti-American comments to an anti-American audience and doesn't want his US viewers to hear.  There is nothing very pretty about either of these situations - why does the media continue to enable this behavior?

The only other argument I can come up with is that the media tends to be so incompetent that they can seldom summarize a speaker's remarks correctly or quote them in context, and speakers know this, so they use "off the record" to protect themselves from the media's incompetence.  But if this is the true justification for "off the record", it is ironic and funny to see the head of CNN news using it.  He is basically saying that "I know in advance that my own organization will get my remarks wrong so I won't allow them to quote me".

UPDATE and PREDICTION:  I resisted the call by a number of web sites at the beginning of the year to make predictions for 2005.  However, now I will make one:  We will soon see calls, from media insiders, to bring a tighter licensing or credentialing system for journalists, similar to what we see for lawyers, doctors, teachers, and, god help us, for beauticians.  The proposals will be nominally justified by improving ethics or similar laudable things, but, like most credentialing systems, will be aimed not at those on the inside but those on the outside.  At one time or another, teachers, massage therapists, and hairdressers have all used licensing or credentialing as a way to fight competition from upstart competitors, often ones with new business models who don't have the same trade-specific educational degrees the insiders have.  As Milton Friedman said:

The justification offered [for licensing] is always the same: to protect the consumer. However, the reason is demonstrated by observing who lobbies at the state legislature for the imposition or strengthening of licensure. The lobbyists are invariably representatives of the occupation in question rather than of the customers. True enough, plumbers presumably know better than anyone else what their customers need to be protected against. However, it is hard to regard altruistic concern for their customers as the primary motive behind their determined efforts to get legal power to decide who may be a plumber.

Such credentialing can provide a powerful comeback for industry insiders under attack.  Teachers, for example, use it every chance they get to attack home schooling and private schools, despite the fact that uncertified teachers in both these latter environments do better than the average certified teacher (for example, kids home schooled by moms who dropped out of high school performed at the 83rd percentile).  So, next time the MSM is under attack from the blogosphere, rather than address the issues, they can say that that guy in Tennessee is just a college professor and isn't even a licensed journalist.

Fortunately, this effort will fail, in part because it is fighting the tide of history and in part because constitutional speech protections would probably invalidate any strong form of licensing (I wish there were similarly strong commerce protections in the Constitution).  Be careful, though, not to argue that this proposal will fail because the idea is stupid, because it can't be any more stupid than this form of licensing (or this one;  or this one).  Here are the various trade-specific licenses you need here in Scottsdale - I would hate to see the list for some place like Santa Monica.  My favorite is the one that says "An additional license is required for those firms which are going out of business."

Defending Your Enemy When They Are Right

There is a tendency in politics, once you have an enemy, to attack that enemy no matter what position they take.  Conservatives of late have (rightly) attacked Liberals for being un-supportive of Iraqi democracy, just so they can embarrass their arch-enemy GW Bush.  However, conservatives can be guilty of the same thing. 

Ed Morrissey of Captains Quarters has been on Governor (of Wisconsin) Jim Doyle's case for historically opposing and promising to continue to oppose reforms in election controls, despite very suspicious voting numbers in Milwaukee.  In this case, Captain Ed has done a great job bringing focus to election fraud and "over-vote" issues in Milwaukee, E. St. Louis, and Washington State, especially since the MSM has preferred to focus on potential "under-vote" issues in Ohio and Florida.

However, in piling on Mr. Doyle, I fear that Morrissey has put aside his political and/or philosophical beliefs in favor of giving his enemy another good bludgeon.  His post points out that:

executives involved in a controversial health-care merger gave Doyle over $28,000 in donations shortly after he allowed the merger to go through. Critics at the time wondered why Doyle didn't ask for common-sense economic concessions

OK, lets take this in two parts.  First, lets look at Doyle's decision on the merger.  The article says that Doyle is being criticized basically for NOT holding two companies for ransom.  Often anti-trust law is used as "merger tax" to extract some sort of pay-off from the parties, in the form of reduced prices or a spun-off properties or whatever.  However, no matter what you call it, this is a bribe the government is demanding to let individuals carry forward with a private business transaction.  Usually this bribe is waved around by some politician in order to score some populist political points toward their next reelection (the Europeans and Elliot Spitzer are both good at this).

Is this really what Morrissey thinks Doyle should have done?  As a libertarian, I find that conservatives' support for truly free market capitalism sometimes runs hot and cold, but I would generally expect a conservative to oppose this kind of extortion and interference with the free market.  So does Morrissey really think Doyle did the wrong thing?

The second part of the story, of course, are the campaign contributions.  First, I would argue that if Doyle's merger decision was not wrong, then donations based on this decision are not wrong either.  Many, many companies out there donate to politicians who promise to keep the government off their back.  I certainly do - does that make my contributions graft?  Finally, Morrissey admits that

These donations do not appear to have broken any laws, although the timing strongly suggests some sort of payoff

Look at it the other way around:  If Doyle HAD extracted concessions to approve the merger, it would not have strongly suggested a soft of payoff, it would have been a definite payoff.

Captain Ed- I enjoy your site immensely, even when I disagree with it.  It is OK for you to say that Doyle made the right decision on the merger without backing off of him over the election issue -- just as it is OK for those of us who had concerns about the war in Iraq to gleefully support that country's return to democracy.

Sarin Gas in Fallujah?

See Updates Below -- Update #1: Sarin test kits, most probably. Update #2: MSM still waddling along, left in the dust by blogs

This is not a huge surprise, but it is still bad news.  Sarin find announced a few days ago confirmed in pictures, and it sure looks legit.  Memo to Republicans:  This is bad news.  Do not make the same mistake as Democrats in deciding what is good and bad news based on how it vindicates or hurts Bush.

Sarin

Larger version is picture #2 in USA Today Slideshow

Story courtesy of Powerline and Captains Quarters

Update #1

More information in the link above at Captains Quarters.  The betting line now is that these are Sarin test kits, rather than Sarin, which makes more sense anyway given how they were found.

It is amazing to me that USAToday and others could have this story now for days, and make less progress on what is really in this picture than amateur blog readers can in a couple hours in a comment thread.  Interesting.

UPDATE #2 (1AM EST Thursday): 

It has been well over 8 32 hours since readers at a number of sites, including Powerline and LGF, deconstructed this photo and concluded that these were Sarin test kits.  USAToday has still not changed their story or their caption.