Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A world turned upside down

Strange times, maybe desperate times, when a conservative like me has to admit that left-wingers like Krugman and Joan Walsh make more sense than the typical right-wing pundit.

Paul Krugman:

Indeed, these days America is looking like the Bernie Madoff of economies: for many years it was held in respect, even awe, but it turns out to have been a fraud all along.

It’s painful now to read a lecture that Mr. Summers gave in early 2000, as the economic crisis of the 1990s was winding down. Discussing the causes of that crisis, Mr. Summers pointed to things that the crisis countries lacked — and that, by implication, the United States had. These things included “well-capitalized and supervised banks” and reliable, transparent corporate accounting. Oh well.

One of the analysts Mr. Summers cited in that lecture, by the way, was the economist Simon Johnson. In an article in the current issue of The Atlantic, Mr. Johnson, who served as the chief economist at the I.M.F. and is now a professor at M.I.T., declares that America’s current difficulties are “shockingly reminiscent” of crises in places like Russia and Argentina — including the key role played by crony capitalists.

In America as in the third world, he writes, “elite business interests — financiers, in the case of the U.S. — played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive.”

Joan Walsh in Salon:

The article confirmed a feeling I've had for a while, that the Democrats can't get us out from under this mess until they are forced to reckon with their role in creating it. Every time I see Chuck Schumer on television pretending to be a populist scourge of Wall Street, I remember his role in blocking higher taxes for hedge fund managers and repealing Glass-Steagall. I can't help thinking that Tim Geithner is too close to the industry that took over -- and took down -- the economy to tame it. A large part of the Democrats' resurgence in the last four years, ironically, has been its success raising money from Wall Street, which undermines its populist street cred at a time like this. Fortunately for the party, Republicans are just as compromised, so it's not too late to for Democrats to take leadership in bucking the financial oligarchy and develop real solutions to the financial crisis.
On the right there is a curious silence about the crony capitalism that created this mess. Instead we get Randian wet dreams about "Going Galt", and endless quotes from "The Road to Serfdom."

I can't say i disagree with Armed Liberal:

But - what I'm seeing in this rising tide of conservative confidence is relatively stupid chestbeating.
How evil is Google?

Well, Dante put hypocrites in the second lowest circle of Hell. By that standard, Big G is very evil.

For some reason, the site feeds from (Google-owned) Blogger are not talking to (Google-owned) Feedburner. I've wasted hours trying to get past that failure to communicate. The various "Help" screens seem designed to give the illusion of helpfulness without actually helping the customer.
Slowly the truth comes out

Karl at Patterico has more information about Dodd, his BFF at AIG, and charges of fraud.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dodd and AIG: Perfect together

EXCLUSIVE: AIG chiefs pressed to donate to Dodd

$160,000 streamed in as senator gained power on banking committee

After all the political posturing over the retention bonuses, maybe we should ask the poliicians to return the campaign contributions they collected from Fannie, Freddie, AIG, Maddoff, etc.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The essence of leadership

An interesting article on Dennis Walaker, the mayor of Fargo.

With jokes and tears, Fargo mayor fights flood

Field Marshall Montgomery defined the essence of leadership:

The final test of a leader is the feeling you have when you leave his presence after a conference. Have you a feeling of uplift and confidence?

It appears that Fargo's mayor passes that test in spades.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I thought this only happened in movies

'Dumbest criminal' robs cop

Jerome Blanchett took a loaded handgun into the Holiday Inn-Harrisburg East on Friday, passing dozens of unmarked police cars in the parking lot and a sign at the hotel's entrance welcoming 300 officers to the Pennsylvania Narcotic Officers' Association conference, police said.

Nevertheless, the 19-year-old Harrisburg man went into the men's room and waited to rob the next person who walked through the door, police said.

Unfortunately for Blanchett, that person was John Comparetto, a retired New York City Police Department lieutenant
Jack Shafer shoots down another media illusion

Democracy's Cheat Sheet?

It's time to kill the idea that newspapers are essential for democracy.

The doyens of the MSM have no solution to offer so they now sound like neurotic matriarchs of dysfunctional families. They cannot staunch the bleeding so they now threaten the nonreaders of their fishwrap:

"Your going to miss us when we're dead. Oh yes, you will. But it will be too late then."
A linkfest like no other

'The Full Monty Joint Review' Avalanche
More fun than reading footnotes and less dangerous than smoking in bed.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A peek into the roots of the crisis

Rahm Emanuel's profitable stint at mortgage giant
In the 1990s, when it happened in Asia, we blamed "crony capitalism." In Washington it is still business as usual.

Beldar looks at what it means here.
Soulcraft and statecraft

This post at The American Thinker spiked my blood pressure:

The Dead-End Politics of Envy

The posturing over the AIG bonues disgusts me, but Todd Dittmann’s post is so over the top it is shameful. Come on. Comparing the AIG executives to the victims of Stalin? Invoking Deadly Sins?

It also reeks of hypocrisy.

There are other deadly sins, some of which led directly to this economic cataclysm Did Mr. Dittmann denounce those as well? Where is his heartfelt post worrying about the sould killing danger of greed, gluttony, and pride on Wall Street?

Or is Todd Dittmann one of those worshippers of the “Bitch Goddess Success” who sees sin only in the agents of the State? We have many idolaters of the Market who believe that the cash nexus washes away all iniquity.

Once again, Chesterton was prophetic:

"In practice the great difference between the mediaeval ethics and ours is that ours concentrate attention on the sins which are the sins of the ignorant, and practically deny that the sins which are the sins of the educated are sins at all."

"We are always talking about the sin of intemperate drinking because it is quite obvious that the poor have it more than the rich. But we are always denying that there is any such thing as the sin of pride, because it would be quite obvious that the rich have it more than the poor


The real meaning of gonzo

R. S. McCain explains it all to you:

In Search of Right-Wing Gonzo

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More evidence that Congress is filled economic illiterates

Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) wants to save newspapers by letting them convert their ownership into non-profit corporations.

That way they won't have to pay taxes on their vast profits.

Oh. Wait a minute. Newspapers are dying because they have no profits in the first place. Their owners dream of having profits to tax.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Making sense of the mess

Some worthwhile reading on AIG and the wider political and economic issues at stake.

Is Physiognomy Destiny?
Last fall I thought Jamie Gorelick was emblematic of the disaster. Lawrence Summers is another poster boy for the flawed system that created the crisis and now prolongs it. David Warsh hits the gruesome highlights in a fair but tough-minded article.

Despite all his baggage, The New Republic thinks it is time to “unleash” Larry Summers. That is how our mediated democracy works. Those inside the charmed circle take care of one another. Once inside, no number of blunders, policy mistakes, or acts of dishonesty can undermine one’s standing.

In an honest, reality-based community, The New Republic would be interred next to the Weekly World News and Larry Summers would be fenced off from the levers of power.

The American Spectator zeroes in on another member of the Beltway elect.

Plenty of Rahm at the AIG Table

Why is the press so uncurious about Rahm Emanuel’s role in protecting the AIG bonuses?

Another hidden tidbit. The maneuvering around AIG was an all Democrat production. Pelosi and Reid excluded Republicans from the conference committee negotiations.

Maybe someone will ask President Obama how that fits into his efforts to transcend partisan bickering.

Edward Jay Epstein explains why AIG had to offer those retention bonues.

Sympathy For The Devil: Why AIG Had No Choice But To Pay

Joe Nocera provides a welcome level-headed assessment of the state of play and outlines the danger of mindless AIG bashing. (Hint: it costs the taxpayers money.)
The Problem With Flogging A.I.G

Nocera also makes a the point that much of the taxpayer money propping up AIG is immediately passed on to other financial institutions. One of the leading recipients is Goldman Sachs which is sitting on a cool $100 BILLION in cash as it collects your tax dollars through AIG.

Seems outrageous. Actually it stinks to high heaven when you remember that Goldman is the former employer of Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Rubin and Bush’s last Treasury Secretary Paulson. (Not to mention Chris Dodd’s colleague John Corzine.)

Finally, my own snarky little contribution. Several of these stories note that people who created the mess at AIG are no longer on the payroll. Joseph J. Cassano, for instance, no longer heads the financial products division that wrote and traded all those toxic credit default swaps. BTW, anybody want to guess whose campaigns Mr. Cassano contributed to?

If you said Chris Dodd and Barak Obama, you are a winner.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Goring the correct ox

True confession time. I have no idea what McCarthyism is.

Not the Man and the Era. That i understand. I've read the biographies and the histories. The "Ism", though, that is a problem. It is ill-defined: a buzzword for political attacks instead of a term with concrete meaning. Often it is just short hand for "stuff i don't like."

One reason for my confusion is the hypocritical ambivalence that anti-McCarthyites display toward McCarthy's tactics. When Joe does it, it is evidence of his wanton depravity. When others do it, however, the tactics often pass without condemnation. Almost never are they described as harbingers of a new dark age.

Take, for instance, the scandal of the AIG bonuses. Here we see Congress critters using their subpoena power to berate politically unpopular targets. Isn't that what McCarthy did?

Does no one hear echoes of the Tailgunner when Andrew Cuomo announces that he holds in his hands the list of those who received bonuses from AIG?

To raise these questions is not to be in favor of the bonuses. As in the McCarthy period, the key issue is one of ends and means. No matter how righteous the cause, there are limits to the means that can be used in its pursuit.

If McCarthyism truly represents a dark time in American History, then the behavior of Cuomo, Grassley, and Maxine Waters deserve condemnation as well.
Even Homer Nods

The Other McCain has a post up that defends David Frum. Admittedly, he does so in the course of bashing David Brooks, but that is no excuse. That is the equivalent of praising gonorrhea while condemning syphilis.

Come to think of it, Brooks is the less dangerous of the two. He has already settled into his spot on the liberal reservation. In the not too distant future no one except deep-died liberals will think of David Brooks as a conservative.

Frum, on the other hand, is still trying to get on board the conservative-bashing gravy train. We can expect plenty of mischief from DF as he tries to catch the attention of the MSM.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Frightening thoughts on what lives inside the Teleprompter Presidency

What’s behind Obama’s Teleprompter addiction?

Obama is addicted to his Teleprompter not only because he knows he sounds better—smoother and smarter—with it than without. The deeper reason for his reliance on it may just be that he differs so profoundly from the persona he wishes to convey that he quite literally cannot trust himself to speak without it. Shorn of the Teleprompter, he not only runs the risk of revealing a disfluency that could rival (or even exceed?) that of his reviled predecessor George Bush—he may reveal who he truly is, an angry man with a profoundly radical agenda for America.
The Anchoress must be lying

She claims that President Obama made a cruel jole on The Tonight Show.

I know that is not possible.


David Brooks assured me that "Obama has the great intellect" and "he has tremendous powers of social perception." And we all know that David Brooks is never wrong. If you don't believe me, just ask David Brooks.
Clueless in the bubble

Turns out I’m not the only one concerned about the group polarization that Cass Sunstein sees as inherent in online life. Nicholas Kristof cites Sunstein in his Thursday column.

The only difference is that he is still worried about us barbarians who do not subscribe to newspapers:

The decline of traditional news media will accelerate the rise of The Daily Me, and we’ll be irritated less by what we read and find our wisdom confirmed more often. The danger is that this self-selected “news” acts as a narcotic, lulling us into a self-confident stupor through which we will perceive in blacks and whites a world that typically unfolds in grays.
Wonder what he thinks of journalists from the “traditional news media” kibitzing with leftwing bloggers and policy wonks on a secret listserv? He does not say. Guess that concern never entered his mind.

Underneath all the hand wringing, Kristof strikes me as a disciple of “castor oil journalism”. He is happy to deliver the medicine and is delighted to work for the biggest nurse in the ward. He worries about group think but what really scares him is that the plebes no longer let Pinch and Punch and Keller do their thinking for them.

In the end, Kristof is just making excuses for the catastrophic collapse of the MSM. He sees people deserting newspapers so he blames the customers for fleeing the purveyors of “hard truths” in favor of the “narcotic” of “self-selected news.” He will not, on any account, look at his own profession and its performance.

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps Kristof will revisit this issue. He can discuss JournoList and this study. Maybe he can tell us what it means when 70% of surveyed voters believe that the MSM favored Obama in the 2008 election. That is a hard truth and is well worth discussing.

But that is a tough issue for the hallowed NYT. Delicate subject. Handle it wrong and you might encourage the barbarians. Wouldn’t want to give them another reason to stop buying the product. Hard truths don’t come cheap and op-ed columnists have a life style to support.
Blog comment of the day

The best thing about blogs is i get to hear the opinions of people who were too smart to waste 4 years on a journo degree

From The Other McCain

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Good reading on the kerfuffle of the day:


Tom Maguire

Winds of Change

For the journalists involved, isn't there a danger of groupthink and group polarization that Cass Sunstein is worried about?

We can sharpen our understanding of this problem if we attend to the phenomenon of group polarization. The idea is that after deliberating with one another, people are likely to move toward a more extreme point in the direction to which they were previously inclined, as indicated by the median of their predeliberation judgments. With respect to the Internet, the implication is that groups of people, especially if they are like-minded, will end up thinking the same thing that they thought before-but in more extreme form.
Barney Frank tries to rewrite history

Lucky for us that there is a blogosphere and sites like Patterico's:

Barney Frank cannot hide his Fannie role

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Shattering some illusions

A new book looks at teen mass killers:

Columbine shooters mentally ill, not bullied

The most prevalent misconception about school shootings, Langman contends, is that they are perpetrated by loners or outcasts striking out against classmates who bullied them. In reality, most shooters were teased no more or no less than their peers, most had friends, and most of the victims were targeted at random.

Anti-bullying efforts really took off after Columbine. I remember hearing Rush Limbaugh zero in on an unintended consequence of linking such programs to school shootings. To wit, outcasts and misfits are already persecuted by their peers. After Columbine, law enforcement and school administrators added to their misery by treating them as potential mass murderers.
Much good sense on newspapers

The imperative of localism and local news

Both might be equally blamed on the turn from community news to more professionally produced political and process coverage by newspaper staffs. I call this "Castor oil" coverage, as in "we think this is important and we don't care whether you, dear reader, agree -- take it and don't whine about it."

(And note, too, readership declines started before newspaper chains became massive entities and were often publicly traded, so readership losses are not necessarily an ownership problem, either.)


Of course, to me, the business model and the journalism model are one and the same. Revenue declines are closely related to readership declines, so we must fix readership before we can fix revenue


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Newspaper killers mourn the passing of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

I caught part of ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” Sirius and happened to hear their discussion prompted by the end of the Seattle P-I. Both Golic and Greenberg pronounced themselves fans of newsprint and struck a mournful tone even as they admitted that new technology was killing traditional newspapers.

They were probably sincere which means they are remarkably obtuse about their role in the death dance of the local media dinosaurs.

Simply put, the success of their employer (hence their own livelihood) is based, in part, on sucking the life out of local papers all across the nation.

Start with the most basic economic realities. Audience attention and advertising dollars are finite. When one outlet grows its share, others must lose out. Declining media are hurt no matter if the growing outlets are blogs, talk radio, or cable channels.

ESPN’s success, to some degree, comes at the expense of local media. That is how markets work. These realities do not change just because Mike Greenberg loves newspapers while Rush Limbaugh hates the MSM.

ESPN is killing newspapers in other ways. For instance, they, like many primetime cable news programs, “cover a story” by talking to the beat reporters who are actually covering the story. In essence, they let newspapers bear the cost while ESPN or Nancy Grace shares in the benefit.

(I’ve long found it puzzling that publishers and editors let their reporters give away their expensive product to the competition. Don’t they know about unsold cows and free milk?)

It is not enough that cable takes without paying. As noted here, ESPN has degraded the product of local newspapers. At a time when these outlets need the best from their reporters and columnists, ESPN has pushed them to become less distinctive and less valuable. For every Woody Paige or Tony Kornheiser who becomes unreadable after they become ESPN stars, there are dozens of local scribblers who use their local reporting gig as platform to grab Bristol’s attention. Only a few like Rob Parker will pull it off, but all those failed Kornheiser wannabees still hurt the newspapers that pay their salary.

ESPN, with its national reach, is a big promoter of “teamless fandom”. Those fans best fit their business model. Hence, the emphasis on mock drafts, fantasy sports, individual highlights, and soap opera stories (like the sequential trainwrecks that define Terrell Owens’s career). Conversely, being the fan of a specific team is one of the best reasons to read that city’s newspapers. (I read the Post-Gazette online because it is the paper of record for Steeler Nation.) Once again, ESPN’s gain as they shape the sports media is newsprint's loss.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why (most) newspapers are doomed

The people running newspapers have the information to diagnose the problem. Why can’t they act? Too blind to see? Too scared to take action? Too unimaginative to formulate a solution?

Some revealing results in this Pew research survey:

Stop the Presses? Many Americans Wouldn't Care a Lot if Local Papers Folded

Only 55% of the people who read their local paper would “miss it a lot” if it shutdown. I. e. barely half of current customers care very much. Among non-customers only 12% see the paper as important.

Among those who think that the loss of the paper will not hurt civic life, fully 20% say it is because the “quality of the newspaper is poor.”


There is also an intriguing example of the disconnect between the Audience and the Deciders.

The survey asked respondents to note the story they were following most closely. Number 1 was Obama’s plans to reform health care (26%) followed by unemployment and the stock market with 18% each.

And how much attention did these topics get from the MSM?

The stock market got 6% of the total coverage. Unemployment received 5%. Health care reform (#1 in audience interest) only received 4% of the coverage.

Way to appeal to the customers.

One story dominated the coverage. It received more attention than all three economic stories. Yes, that’s right—Rush Limbaugh. The Deciders devoted 8% of their attention to El Rushbo.

Only 4% of the audience thought this was the most important story.

Two obvious points stand out about this disparity.

First, the Limbaugh story was born and bred within the White House. It was a political strategy by Obama, Emmanuel, Carville, et. al. The skeptical MSM, the people who pride themselves on cutting through the BS of official Washington, fell in line and carried water for the Administration. They devoted twice as much coverage to political talking points as they did to the story their audience was most interested in.

Tell me again why they are a vital watchdog for democracy?

Second, David Frum poses as a conservative leader who wants to rebuild the Right so it can win again.

Yet, DF did not take to the pages of Newsweek to analyze the weaknesses of Obama’s health care program. Nor did he offer a conservative plan to rebuild investor confidence and speed economic recovery.

No. Frum went with the White House playbook and attacked Rush Limbaugh.

How exactly do you build a majority movement around an issue that few people care about. At a minimum, this raises questions about eDF’s political acumen.

Makes you wonder which is more important to Mr. Frum: creating a new majority or grabbing a resercon franchise like his buddies Brooks and Carlson.

UPDATE: Kathleen Parker is determined to win recognition as the most airheaded of all the airheads in the media. In her special little world, Rush Limbaugh and his fans are the reason newspapers are failing and that is a bad thing.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Parker is that editors PAY FOR her kind of clueless punditry.

Maybe it is just a giant terrible trick on little Kathleen. Maybe the cool kids are letting her play "elite opinionmaker" for a little while just so they can pull the rug out from under her. (Sort of like Carrie being elected Prom Queen.) That would be cruel, but at least it would show some intellegence on the part of the movers and shakers in the MSM. Right now, they just look stupid when they run her insipid stuff.

It's things like putting Kathleen Parker on your op-ed page that make readers say “the quality of the newspaper is poor” when asked why they do not read it.

UPDATE 2: One sure fire way NOT to win back dissatisfied customers is to hold them in such contempt that you see them as "a public that has been conditioned, like rats in a Skinnerian dystopia, to hate us."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Patterico calls out John Stewart

It’s possible for a comedian to have serious opinions, and Stewart is a smart guy, no doubt. He’s very clever and most people don’t notice that Clever Remark B and C contradict Clever Remark A.

But he’s also a wimp. He tries to be a political commentator, but if you call him on his own failings as a political commentator, he whines that he’s just a comedian.

Fine. You’re just a comedian. So when I look at you, you always have the clown nose on

Read, laugh, learn

Wonder what Orwell would think of Brooks, Frum, et. al.?

To be a highbrow [writer] with a footing in the snootier magazines, means delivering yourself over to horrible campaigns of wire-pulling and backstairs-crawling. In the highbrow world you "get on", if you "get on" at all, not so much by your literary ability as by being the life and soul of cocktail parties and kissing the bums of verminous little lions.

The typical socialist... a prim little man with a white collar job ... and above all, with a social position which he has no intention of forfeiting

Makes me think he might agree with the comments noted here.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Remember children, it is hypocrisy that makes a story big news

You know, like the Larry Craig scandal or Mark Foley.

That's why you can expect this story to lead the evening news for days on end.

Maxine Waters: Banking on Hypocrisy

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A link-fest like no other

Dr. Freaking S. Goodblog's Happy Hour of Hot Sweet Pink Rule 2 Linky-Love

Tough, smart, and funny.
A herd of independent minds

If I had to offer a single data point to validate the nightmare scenario outlined here, it would be this article.

Left Wing Journalists Celebrate Themselves
When you go looking for evidence that the journalistic establishment is blinded by a clueless leftism, you cannot ask for anything better than the I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence.

At a time when a sizable minority of the public thinks the press is too liberal, the elite of the guild decide to honor a man who never hid his leftism and who remained an apologist for Stalin decades after the purge trials, Ukrainian famine, and the pact with Hitler. (Stone signed a public letter to The Nation lauding Stalin as a bulwark against Hitler and a force for Peace just weeks before Ribbentrop and Molotov signed on the dotted line.)

If Izzy is a role model, the press will keep drifting left while audiences shrink. If the keepers of journalistic standards cannot see the difference between left-wing agitprop and honest analysis, what hope is there for righting the ship?

The grand poobahs of the guild probably do not recognize the contradiction between their claims of objectivity and their esteem for an unrepentant left-wing ideologue.

Nor can they reconcile the contradiction between their ritualistic denunciation of rightwing bloggers (they cannot be trusted because their work is shaped by their politics) and their high regard for I. F. Stone whose work was shaped by his (left-wing) politics.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was a one-time fan and subscriber to the I. F. Stone Weekly. His take on Stone is out of step with the usual hagiographies:

I remember thinking at the time that some of the stories were probably not true, and that he knew it, which did not diminish his delight in telling them. When you’re “speaking truth to power,” you need not be too scrupulous about the truths you’re speaking. Izzy Stone was a hard-of-hearing, thick-spectacled, quizzical little man who exuded delight in fighting the good fight, as he understood the fight. He had no difficulty in separating the children of light from the children of darkness, and there was no room for shadows or ambiguities.

And this is dead-on:

Sartre and Stone were lovers of freedom only in the sense that they adamantly insisted upon their own right to do what they wanted, while being indifferent to or even, as was often the case, celebrating the powers that enslaved and killed millions of others. This is not a “paradox.” This is a deep corruption of intellect and soul.

Come to think of it, an “I. F. Stone Medal for the Deep Corruption of the Journalistic Intellect and Soul” is not a bad idea. Certainly better than one for “Journalistic Independence.”

The many fans of I. F. Stone also face the difficult question of his relationship with Stalin’s secret police. The end of the Cold War triggered a flood of new information about Soviet intelligence activities. Contained in this voluminous (but incomplete) record are hints that Stone had a covert relationship with Stalin’s operatives.

The Stone-groupies did not react to these revelations with a hard-nosed determination to seek the truth no matter how unpleasant. Instead, they rose up in a righteous rage that anyone would dare question the integrity of their friend/mentor/icon Izzy the Great.

The nature of Stone’s relationship with the KGB is still shrouded in mystery. There is no proof that Stone took money from Stalin’s Gestapo. His defenders claim that this is PROOF that he was as pure as fresh-fallen snow. Apparently, they never heard that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. (It goes without saying that they have no interest in actually looking for more evidence.)

In their rush to exonerate Stone, they gloss over one glaring, incontrovertible contradiction in I. F. Stone’s career. They praise Stone’s resolute refusal to be sucked into the insider games of Washington journalism. They happily quote his dictum: ““You've really got to wear a chastity belt in Washington to preserve your journalistic virginity. Once the secretary of state invites you to lunch and asks your opinion, you're sunk.” Yet even his defenders admit that Stone had no problem lunching with Soviet intelligence operatives and sharing his opinion with them.

What kind of twisted worldview sees patriots like Dean Acheson or George Marshall as the vortex of corruption, but has no problem dining with Stalin’s secret policemen in order to exchange information?

That worldview, in and of itself, makes I. F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence a laughable award. That the journalistic guild sees it as a high honor tells us all we need to know about life inside the media bubble.
Well said

Dead Wrong

When liberals adopt you as their token conservative, kiss your credibility among conservatives goodbye and say hello to writing gigs at the Atlantic, appearances on Keith Olbermann's program, and lectures at the Kennedy School of Government. David Brooks, who serves as the house conservative to both PBS's News Hour and the New York Times op-ed page, could have told David Frum this. To be the liberals' favorite conservative is usually an indication of just how alienated from conservatism one really is.
You could toss Tucker Carlson in there to make it a trifecta.

There is only upside for Frum, though. The moment he denounced Rush Limbaugh, all his embarrassing moments went down the memory hole. No one cares anymore about the grandstanding over the "Axis of Evil" speech. Bygones. Forgotten. Only people the press dislikes are reminded of past mistakes.

The bigger question, the more honest question, is this: When was David Frum ever an important leader in the conservative movement? The "second thoughts" of a self-promoting scribbler hardly seems worthy of Newsweek's attention.

ADDED: Waste not, want not. I emailed this another blogger several days ago. It fits, so i might as well use it.

A couple of years ago i started calling Brooks old buddy Tucker Carlson a "reservation conservative." Brooks is an even better example of the breed. The Frum is bargaining for a slot.

Liberals love those kind of "conservatives". It lets them define both the liberal and conservative position on an issue. (If Brooks gets too out of line, a sharp look from MoDo will send him to his keyboard to make amends.) And if real conservatives don't get in line, resercons provide a nice club: "even David Brooks thinks that
The Other McCain is crazy."
Speaking of The Other McCain, this post contains an incredible sociological analysis of Washington and the environment that produces resercons.

If National Review wanted to be interesting again, they'd make McCain their Red America correspondent in Washington.

Even better, The Atlantic should hire McCain to follow-up on this idea:
As an aside-- it would be interesting if a magazine like The Atlantic did a reverse Brooks. Send a "Red America writer" to do a red/blue comparison.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Offered without comment

Between the late 1950s and the early 1980s government in the United States became so big and so complex that it all but lost the ability to function. A medical term, 'iatrogenic disease,' illness resulting from treatment by a physician, fairly well describes what happened. Starting with the New Deal, government attempted to solve problems of a nature and magnitude beyond the capacities of a limited constitutional system and perhaps of any system. Some remedies worked, others did not. When they did not, the tendency was to create a new program on top of an old one, rather than to scrap the old. By the early 1960s this jerry-built machinery was beginning to produce, or aggravate, social problems of a scale previously unknown in America. Every governmental 'remedy' produced a new governmental-caused sickness; and yet Americans had become so addicted to the habit of believing that government could cure everything that the response of the late sixties was wave after wave of crash programs. These created new problems that, in the seventies, resulted in more programs. By the time considerable numbers of people began to suspect that they were overgoverned, the reality was that, though government interfered in their lives from cradle to grave, it scarcely governed at all, in the original constitutional sense of the term. Government had ceased to be able to protect people in their lives, their liberty, and their property; and it had lost the capacity to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare.

Forrest McDonald, A Constituional History of the United States, (1984)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Perhaps a badge of honor, but maybe not the best business model

I found this at a site that has a lot of smart things to say about journalism.

But there are probably just as many--or more--people rooting heartily for papers and journalism to fail, for political reasons.

Twenty-five years ago, a smart professor and editor of mine named Charles "Puff" Puffenbarger told me something about news audiences that I'll always remember: "They hate us out there." It appears that's true more now than ever
The mind boggles. How can a for-profit business be so flippant about alienating their customers.

David Gerlenter relates a more telling and more recent anecdote in Drawing Life:

"Today's elite loathes the public. Nothing personal, just a fundamental difference in world view, but the hatred is unmistakable. Occasionally it escapes in scorching geysers. Michael Lewis reports in the New Republic on the '96 Dole presidential campaign: 'The crowd flips the finger at the busloads of journalists and chant rude things at them as they enter each arena. The journalists, for their part, wear buttons that say 'yeah, i'm the Media. Screw You.' The crowd hates the reporters, the reporters hate the crowd-- an even matchup, except that the reporters wield power and the crowed (in effect) wields none."

The media arrogance might remain, but the audience’s powerlessness is a thing of the past. Some talk back; even more stop buying the product.*

For decades journalists delighted in bringing bad news to the doorstep of their readers. Now the bad news is in the newsroom and the game is not fun anymore. Now it sucks to be a Decider.

The economic problem for newspapers is easy to see but hard to correct. They have a mass-market cost-structure but are headed toward a niche-product revenue stream. The business side responds as bean counters usually doget costs in line with the new realities.

The newsroom is not on board with this. (Understandably, since they are a big part of the cost being cut.) But they have few good ideas about growing their audience.

How could they? Their guild ethos sees angering (some) customers as a badge of honor. They have spent decades ignoring criticism. It is too much to ask that they suddenly start listening.

* In the “good” old days, the only way to talk back was to write a letter to the editor. Angering customers meant free content and reinforced the idea that the newspaper was the only game in town for public discussion and debate. The internet changed that. Now the criticism appears outside the confines of the newspaper. That, in turn, reduces the centrality of the local paper and makes it one of many competing venues. Bad news when your business model depends on being a monopoly.

Collectively, the internet also helps counter-act what Michael Crichton called the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. Readers no longer fact check the newspaper based on their personal knowledge. Now they benefit from the combined knowledge of dozens of critics. (Ahh, the awesome power of the hyperlink.) this can be devastating to a newspaper’s credibility which is its primary selling point.

Counterpoint: I think conservatives underestimate the New York Times and are going to be disappointed at the end of the Dinosaur Media Death Watch. The newspaper industry may crater, but the Times has taken that into account. (See this Nicholas Carr article) If the Times is right, then they will be even more dominant in “explanation space.” (See also here.)


The newspaper today and tomorrow

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Good sense here

Shook up about Rush, &c.

And let me say a further word about John McCain — whom I admire, and whom I voted for enthusiastically. He was almost perfect for the GOP moderate types, you would have thought. He was anti-Christian Right. He was Mr. Campaign Finance Reform. He was Mr. Amnesty. He was Mr. Global Warming. He was Mr. Reach Across the Aisle.

Except for being against abortion and for free trade, he was made-to-order.

And if McCain isn’t good enough for the [Colin] Powell brigades — who ever would be
A five star thumbs up

Finally watched Taking Chance on HBO. It's a wonderful movie: understated yet powerful.

If you don't have HBO, you are going to want to get the DVD when it comes out in May. Trust me. You don't want to miss this movie.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I guess the rules only apply to little people

In Madoff asset search, wife's worth adds intrigue

Her husband is the one accused of the biggest fraud in Wall Street history, but Ruth Madoff's name also keeps coming up in investigators' pursuit of assets linked to Bernard Madoff.

From mailing more than $1 million worth of jewelry and watches in violation of a court order, to withdrawing $15.5 million before his December 11 arrest and an attempt to separate $70 million in her assets from his purported fraud, Ruth Madoff has added intrigue to the case

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

That's going to leave a mark

R.S. McCain on David Brooks

If there is one thing that the blogosphere has accomplished, or will eventually accomplish, it is to expose the likes of David Brooks as vestiges of the golden age of journalistic excess, a Darwinian remnant of an obsolute appendage, a luxury that newspapers could arguably afford when ad revenues were growing and newsrooms were crowded.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Who should i believe? Academics or my own lying eyes?

KC Johnson has a new post that reviews several academic papers on the Duke lacrosse case.

A difficult task

I can't say that i am surprised that enterprising "scholars" are devote time and energy to rewriting history. Ideology plays a role, but the main allure is market positioning. It is easier to get attention when your findings seem to contradict conventional wisdom.

I followed the mess down in Durham from the beginning. I blogged about it frequently. Almost all my posts zeroed in on the lies, distortions,and evasions of the press. If Gross and Entman believe that their methodology shows that the media was fair to the falsely accused lacrosse players, then i would suggest that they get another methodology.
Et tu, Warren?

Looks like all our pop idols have feet of clay.

Buffet Versus The Hedge Funds

It turns out that even while Buffet was denouncing derivative contracts as "financial weapons of mass destruction" and " time bombs", he was amassing one of the world’s largest position in them. For example, he sold derivative contracts on four stock market indexes– the S&P 500 in America, the FTSE 100 in the U.K., the Dow Jones Euro Stats 50 index in Europe and the Nikkei 225 Stock Average in Japan– for $4.9 billion that expose his company to over $35 billion in losses. In 2008 alone these contracts had lost on paper nearly $10 billion and with the market in free fall in 2009, they lost another $3 billion. Indeed, each percent these indexes decrease adds another $350 million to the loss Berkshire Hathaway is liable for.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Highly recommended

I've had it for a year and it spends most of its time in the stereo.

Hipster iconography

What's So Bad About Socialism, Anyway?

In 2007, Cameron Diaz carried a Maoist messenger bag while sightseeing in Peru and was forced to apologize — 70,000 Peruvians were murdered by the Maoist Shining Path in the '80s and '90s. At least with Che chic, the idiocy is dreamy and romantic and you can pretend that wearing his face is all about being young, riding motorcycles, and having South American-level sex; Mao was responsible for the death of 60 million people — he makes Hitler look like an amateur.

Cameron Diaz is not, of course, a communist. She's a ditz — that's her ideology. Her Mao bag was tasteless, not evil. And she's far from alone in her tastelessness. The coolest literary bar in New York is KGB in the East Village — the 92nd Street Y for young writers — and it's full of Soviet propaganda.

RTWT (HT: Photon Courier)

The "ditz pass" only applies to left-wing icons. If Cameron Diaz wore a Confederate flag t-shirt, i doubt that she would be excused for "bad taste" because she was ignorant.