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Ed Driscoll

Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal

Shep Smith Fails the Ailes Test

December 17th, 2014 - 8:18 pm

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

[Roger Ailes] offered [self-admitted Democrat Chris Wallace] the job of hosting Fox’s Washington Sunday morning talk show—Rupert Murdoch’s favorite program— on two conditions. “Roger told me, ‘I want you to be equally tough on Republicans and Democrats. And I want to know if you can get up in the morning and not think that America is to blame for most of the world’s problems.’” Wallace assured Ailes that he could deliver on both counts, and went on the air in early December 2003.

—Zev Chafets, Roger Ailes: Off Camera, 2013.

Flash-forward to today, where Allahpundit catches Shep Smith wondering, is America about to “ruin” Cuba?

Actual quote about an honest to goodness police state, no apparent irony intended: “The last thing they need is a Taco Bell and a Lowe’s.”

Two ways to read that, I guess. One is that he’s objecting to having the wrong priorities, not to American businesses invading the island. Cubans need basic necessities, not fast food. Get a couple of Charmin factories in there churning out TP and that’d be a corporate move worth applauding. But wait — if that’s his point, why’s he reminiscing at the start of the segment about the sweet-ass four-dollar Cuban rum he likes to bring back whenever he travels there? That’s not a necessity. Which brings us to theory two: This is exactly what it sounds like, a guy seemingly willing to trade away greater prosperity for Cubans if it means Americanizing the island in return for preserving the quaint, simple culture that decades of authoritarianism and economic retardation have produced. It’s basically the “noble savage” view of economics. What doth it profit a Cuban to gain a middle-American depot for cheap building materials if he lose his cheap-rum-making soul? Where are we going to go to watch people riding around in 60-year-old Studebakers now?

Ahh, omnipotent tourism syndrome — even a Fox anchor isn’t immune:

“The great start-up slowdown” is explored by the Washington Post:

The more pronounced of those trends is a slowing birthrate for new businesses. The slowdown has persisted over two decades and has worsened since 2000. Economists aren’t entirely sure what’s causing it.

The nation’s “start-up rate,” the number of new companies as a share of total companies, declined by 12 percent from the late 1980s to the eve of the Great Recession. That’s according to research by John Haltiwanger, a pathbreaking University of Maryland economist who studies business dynamics, and several co-authors. They found the rate dropped even further during the recession: By 2011, it was about 25 percent lower than it was in the late ’80s.

Recent research from the Brookings Institution confirms that compared to 25 years ago, a smaller share of Americans today work in start-up companies and that a smaller share of companies are start-ups. Even the tech industry — that bastion of venture capital and IPOs — has seen its start-up rate decline. In 1982, Haltiwanger and coauthors report, 3 in 5 high-tech firms were young start-ups; in 2012, that had fallen to less than 2 in 5.

This is bad for middle-class workers. Newer companies create a lot more jobs, on net, than long-established ones, according to several studies, including a recent one by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which compiles economic statistics for wealthy nations around the world. (This is true even though so many start-ups fail.) Haltiwanger’s research suggests America would have 1.1 million more jobs today if dynamism were still at even mid-1980s levels. More jobs would reduce competition among would-be workers for available slots, which would mean companies would need to pay workers more to attract or keep them.

I blame the Washington Post.

Well, at least a little bit. After pulling out all the stops to get Mr. Obama elected, at dawn of his presidency, the Post, through its then-Newsweek division, ran the following cover:

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If you’re plumping for socialism, you’re also rejecting a dynamic entrepreneur-friendly economy in search of what Virginia Postrel calls stasism, a freeze-dried early-20th century economic paradigm in which big corporations, through plenty of help from government, happily crush small businesses into the ground.

Short of full-out nationalization*, that model seems like an ideal solution or at least a nifty modified limited hangout** when your industry is in its death-throes, and it’s not a coincidence that the Graham Family first divested itself of Newsweek after a half century of ownership for a dollar a year and a half after the above cover, and then last year offloaded the Post itself at fire-sale prices to Jeff Bezos.

Since Bezos made his money launching a quintessential start-up, presumably the new iteration of the Post is a bit more start-up friendly (at least for now). But the sins of their namesake predecessors shouldn’t be forgotten.

* Which Salon called on the government to do to all of media. No, really. Say, I wonder if they’ll ask the new Congress to take up the idea next year…?

** Whom the Gods destroy, they first transform into the second coming of the Post’s nemesis, the Nixon Administration. (See also: Rather, Dan.)

Quote of the Day

December 17th, 2014 - 5:01 pm

“I just think it’s ironic that in the 50 years that have passed under embargo, America has moved closer to communism than Cuba has to liberty.”

—Kate McMillan, Small Dead Animals, today.

‘This Is Cyberwar, Not Tabloid Fodder’

December 17th, 2014 - 2:54 pm

OK, to be fair, modern Hollywood has beclowned itself so badly in the post-9/11 era, that there is a weird kabuki-like performance art to the whole North Korea-versus Hollywood story, but as Abe Greenwald writes at Commentary, “The Sony hacking story has largely been treated as a juicy showbiz gossip scandal. We’re probably going to regret that:”

If North Korea is behind the computer hacks and threats to terrorize theaters showing The Interview, it confirms a new era of rogue-state terrorism, one for which there’s no counterterrorism blueprint. According to the New York Times, Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema has killed its scheduled New York premier of the anti-Kim Jong-un comedy. The Hollywood Reporter says that the country’s top five theater chains have pulled out of showing the film. Time says the movie’s stars, James Franco and Seth Rogen, have called off their publicity tour. A spate of film executives are backpedaling for their lives as their emails are picked through and published to viral derision. The Times’s Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes write that the theater threat “opens a new range of worry for Hollywood.”

As Allahpundit adds at Hot Air, “Rarely do you see a terrorist victory quite this total. Bow down, America:”

I hope our fearless leadership in Washington is preparing some form of retaliation, cyber or otherwise, for the NorKs for terrorizing an American industry into submission. By dropping the film under pressure, the theaters are making the same concession that newspapers made in refusing to publish the Mohammed cartoons, replacing the free-speech norms of American culture with the norms of a more illiberal one. Going forward, with respect to North Korea at least, Hollywood will follow North Korean rules for what can and can’t be said. That can’t stand. And it’s a disgrace that Obama hasn’t said so already.

Speaking of retaliation, this is a nice idea but fraught with problems. Imagine being a North Korean peasant who picks up a DVD of “The Interview” that he found on the ground, brings it back to his home having no idea what it is, and then gets a surprise visit from the NorK gestapo, who find the disc on his kitchen table. What happens to that guy? There has to be a better way to strike back. This is one, especially if Sony makes the download free.

Update (Allahpundit): North Korea’s GDP as of 2011 was $40 billion. Sony’s market cap today is $22 billion. Seems like a reasonably evenly matched virtual fight. Why doesn’t Sony build its own cyberarmy and counter if the feds won’t?

Update (Allahpundit): What’d I just say about following North Korean rules?

The chilling effect of the Sony Pictures Hacking and terror threats against The Interview are reverberating. New Regency has scrapped another project that was to be set in North Korea. The untitled thriller, set up in October, was being developed by director Gore Verbinski as a star vehicle for Foxcatcher’s Steve Carell. It’s a paranoid thriller written by Steve Conrad and it was going to start production in March. Insiders tell me under the current circumstances, it just makes no sense to move forward. The location won’t be transplanted.

Jihadi hackers would be nuts not to try this the next time a war movie is in the works. In hindsight, it’s amazing Zero Dark Thirty made it to the screen.

Oh sure, ISIS and the Iranians are great at headchopping and blowing stuff up, but they don’t have the technological know-how to pull off serious Neo-in-the-Matrix-level corporate database hacking cyberwar activities, right? Which brings us back to Abe Greenwald at Commentary:

In February, hackers laid digital waste to Sheldon Adelson’s Sands casino, forcing the Sands to temporarily disconnect from the Internet. It was a massive undertaking that wiped out or compromised millions of files. Bloomberg reports that “recovering data and building new systems could cost the company $40 million or more” (a figure coincidently close to the $44 million Sony sunk into The Interview). Why did hackers target Adelson? The cyberterrorists who hit him call themselves the “Anti-WMD Team.” They are based in Iran, and claim retaliation for Adelson’s hawkish remarks about the Islamic Republic. Here’s the rub, via Bloomberg:

The security team couldn’t determine if Iran’s government played a role, but it’s unlikely that any hackers inside the country could pull off an attack of that scope without its knowledge, given the close scrutiny of Internet use within its borders. “This isn’t the kind of business you can get into in Iran without the government knowing,” says James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

So, if the evidence is pointing in the right direction, dictatorships are tanking our enterprise, holding us hostage, and essentially turning us into their offshore subjects.

And thus we come full circle with our opening Tweet:

It’s hard to imagine worse people than today’s Hollywood executives and actors, but North Korean, Iranian and Cuban terrorists all qualify. And our semi-retired president, in full YOLO mode, is negotiating with at least two thirds of those monsters. Sleep tight, America.

If the Lies Don’t Fit, Time Magazine Must Omit

December 16th, 2014 - 2:22 pm

“Jonathan Gruber should’ve been Time’s Person of the Year,” Jonah Goldberg writes at the L.A. Times, likely much to the consternation of his ultra-PC editors there, who I’m sure have dreams of using Time as a career escape valve, one way or another:

I think Time missed an opportunity in not putting Gruber on the cover. Tea partyers and Wall Street occupiers disagree on a great many things, but there’s one place where the Venn diagrams overlap: the sense we’re all being played for suckers, that the rules are being set up to benefit those who know how to manipulate the rules. The left tends to focus on Wall Street types whose bottom line depends more on lobbying Washington than satisfying the consumer.

But Gruber is something special. He was supposed to be better, more pure than the fat cats. Touted by press and politicians alike as an objective and fair-minded arbiter of healthcare reform, the MIT economist was in fact a warrior for the cause, invested emotionally, politically and, it turns out, financially through undisclosed consulting arrangements. The people who relied on his expertise never bothered to second-guess his conflicts of interest because they, too, were warriors in the same fight.

In speeches and interviews, Gruber admitted he helped the Obama administration craft the law in such a way that it would seem like it didn’t tax the American people when it did. Using insights gleaned in part from his status as an advisor to the Congressional Budget Office, Gruber helped construct an actuarial Trojan Horse that could smuggle a tax hike past the CBO bean counters. If the individual mandate was counted as a tax it would be a big political liability for President Obama (fortunately for Obamacare, the Supreme Court saw through the subterfuge and called it tax, rendering it constitutional).

Gruber then mocked the “stupidity of the American voter” for not seeing through the camouflage he helped design.

No matter much Gruber and his fellow leftists hate us, as Iowahawk has noted, it wasn’t we on the right Gruber was mocking; we immediately saw the multifaceted dangers of Obamacare for what they were and sounded the alarm. Still, perhaps Time magazine didn’t want to rehash their previous mea culpa last year for how badly they and the rest of the cogs in the Time-Warner-CNN-HBO* conglomerate blew this story:

But in 2009 and 2010, when it mattered,  during the run-up to Obamacare’s passing, HBO and CNN, both owned by the same conglomerate as Mark Halperin’s Time magazine were doing the DNC’s bidding by insulting any of its detractors as racists, and CNN was inviting high school kids into the studio to sing pro-Obamacare propaganda:

* Time left their namesake owners this past summer. But they were very much a key member of the conglomerate during the period it thoroughly enjoyed being spokesmen for the Obama administration’s disastrous signature “achievement.” I mean, they gave themselves cake and everything to celebrate the joys of being used.

“What Happens to Society When Robots Replace Workers?” William H. Davidow and PJM alumnus Michael S. Malone ask at the Harvard Business Review. Though note the chilling phrase that concludes this passage:

Estimates of general rates of technological progress are always imprecise, but it is fair to say that, in the past, progress came more slowly. Henry Adams, the historian, measured technological progress by the power generated from coal, and estimated that power output doubled every ten years between 1840 and 1900, a compounded rate of progress of about 7% per year. The reality was probably much less. For example, in 1848, the world record for rail speed reached 60 miles per hour. A century later, commercial aircraft could carry passengers at speeds approaching 600 miles per hour, a rate of progress of only about 2% per year.

By contrast, progress today comes rapidly. Consider the numbers for information storage density in computer memory. Between 1960 and 2003, those densities increased by a factor of five million, at times progressing at a rate of 60% per year. At the same time, true to Moore’s Law, semiconductor technology has been progressing at a 40% rate for more than 50 years. These rates of progress are embedded in the creation of intelligent machines, from robots to automobiles to drones, that will soon dominate the global economy – and in the process drive down the value of human labor with astonishing speed.

This is why we will soon be looking at hordes of citizens of zero economic value. Figuring out how to deal with the impacts of this development will be the greatest challenge facing free market economies in this century.

“Hordes of citizens of zero economic value?” Frances Fox Piven, call your office.

Great Moments in Journalism

December 15th, 2014 - 9:19 pm

“Story of the $72 million teen trader unravels” CNN-Money reports. Possible alternate headline? At Long Last CNN Finds a Media Outlet It Can Look Down Upon:

It didn’t take long for New York Magazine’s story on a 17-year-old stock whiz with a rumored net worth of $72 million to make a splash. But the story’s juicy premise unraveled almost as quickly.

Jessica Pressler wrote the profile of Mohammed Islam, a senior at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, for a feature called “Reasons to Love New York.”

After getting an advanced look at Pressler’s piece, the New York Post put the improbable story on its Sunday front page. By Monday morning, Islam’s story was one of the hottest on Facebook.

Then it fell apart. In an interview with the New York Observer published Monday night, Islam admitted that he fabricated the whole story and has never actually made a return on any investment. “So it’s total fiction?” asked the Observer. “Yes,” Islam said. (updated)

Early Monday, CNBC’s Josh Brown wondered if Islam was duping “an overly eager press willing to believe.”

That last sentence is certainly a perennial these days, isn’t it? In any case, perhaps the once mighty New York magazine, founded in the late-1960s by legendary editor Clay Felker as a spin-off of the dying New York Herald Tribune, which helped put Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin and other practitioners of “the New Journalism” on the map, should these days stick to profiling men who have sex with horses. It’s safer for them, that way.

These Kids Today!

December 15th, 2014 - 12:03 pm

The Atlantic whines about “The Cheapest Generation: Why Millennials aren’t buying cars or houses, and what that means for the economy:”

In 2009, Ford brought its new supermini, the Fiesta, over from Europe in a brave attempt to attract the attention of young Americans. It passed out 100 of the cars to influential bloggers for a free six-month test-drive, with just one condition: document your experience online, whether you love the Fiesta or hate it.

Young bloggers loved the car. Young drivers? Not so much. After a brief burst of excitement, in which Ford sold more than 90,000 units over 18 months, Fiesta sales plummeted. As of April 2012, they were down 30 percent from 2011.

Don’t blame Ford. The company is trying to solve a puzzle that’s bewildering every automaker in America: How do you sell cars to Millennials (a k a Generation Y)? The fact is, today’s young people simply don’t drive like their predecessors did. In 2010, adults between the ages of 21 and 34 bought just 27 percent of all new vehicles sold in America, down from the peak of 38 percent in 1985. Miles driven are down, too. Even the proportion of teenagers with a license fell, by 28 percent, between 1998 and 2008.

In a bid to reverse these trends, General Motors has enlisted the youth-brand consultants at MTV Scratch—a corporate cousin of the TV network responsible for Jersey Shore—to give its vehicles some 20-something edge. “I don’t believe that young buyers don’t care about owning a car,” says John McFarland, GM’s 31-year-old manager of global strategic marketing. “We just think nobody truly understands them yet.” Subaru, meanwhile, is betting that it can appeal to the quirky eco-­conscious individualism that supposedly characterizes this generation. “We’re trying to get the emotional connection correct,” says Doug O’Reilly, a publicist for Subaru. Ford, for its part, continues to push heavily into social media, hoping to more closely match its marketing efforts to the channels that Millennials use and trust the most.

In 2012, Ann Althouse spotted the New York Times sneeringly dub Millenials the “The Go-Nowhere Generation” and complaining that “Back in the early 1980s, 80 percent of 18-year-olds proudly strutted out of the D.M.V. with newly minted licenses, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. By 2008 — even before the Great Recession — that number had dropped to 65 percent.”

As Althouse replied, “Isn’t that what the Boomer generation told them to do? Cars are bad. They are destroying the planet. Then, when they avoid driving, we scold them for being — what? — sedentary? unambitious? incurious?!”

If they were supposed to believe that movie — “An Inconvenient Truth” — that was showed to them by one public school teacher after another, why aren’t we celebrating them now for their teeny tiny carbon footprint? Just give them a tiny room and a computer with high-speed internet, and they’ll be perfectly happy.

But Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother….

Etc. etc. These kids today! Speaking of “Why Bother,” why did we boomers bother to teach them to sneer at aggressive capitalism, consumeristic acquisitiveness, and driving powerful cars if we were going to turn around and whine about their not competing vigorously enough?

Over to you, Atlantic, Vox, BuzzFeed, Gray Lady, and their ultimate boss, our semi-retired president, who began down the path to his golden Millennial-funded retirement plan with gems such as this in 2008:

(Via Maggie’s Farm.)

The Breakdown of Civil Society

December 13th, 2014 - 5:06 pm

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“NYC cops preemptively uninvite de Blasio to their funerals,” Jazz Shaw writes at Hot Air. We mentioned this story yesterday, but Jazz’s conclusion to his post is worth highlighting:

What we’re witnessing here is, yet again, the breakdown of civil society and the weakening of the line between order and mayhem. As long as protesters were out there having their voices heard and the city presented a sympathetic, yet unified front which was willing to engage with them in a positive conversation, things could move ahead over this tricky terrain. But the Mayor has sent the message that he is not on the side of the police and sides with their accusers. He has let them know that the executive offices which are charged with leading law enforcement do not stand with the officers on the street and that they view them as the problem rather than the criminals. This will do nothing but embolden responses on the streets where the police already take their lives in their hands by the simple act of suiting up and heading out each day to do their jobs and protect the citizens.

At some point it will not be worth the time of the cops to keep showing up in the highest crime areas. And when they stop, let’s see how much everyone enjoys that civil society with nobody around to enforce the laws.

See also: history of Detroit. And the future of Ferguson.

In the fall of 2013, when my wife and I were in New York to visit family and friends, and Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure was nearing its end, I was well aware walking around the city that I was witnessing the potential end of an era. On the other hand, right around that time, New York-based journalist Fred Siegel was positing in the American Enterprise Institute that “New York After Bloomberg” wasn’t likely to descend back into its Death Wish, Taxi Driver, Panic in Needle Park, Taking of Pelham 1,2,3, bad old days. A period that despite whatever moral uplift beloved Mayor Ed Koch brought the city, stretched for varying degrees from the late 1960s until Rudy Giuliani took office and revolutionized New York’s crime prevention techniques:

By the time the next mayor is forced to face up to the fiscal issues, he or she will likely also have to face the consequences of their support for eliminating stop-and-frisk policing. A somewhat hysterical Bloomberg has warned that New York could become Detroit or Chicago should the policy end for good. That is unlikely. Unlike New York, Detroit and Chicago don’t have professionalized police departments. What will likely change, however, is that Gotham will shift from the active policing first introduced by Giuliani (but overdone by Bloomberg, who pushed arrest quotas on the police in recent years) back to the passive policing of the Dinkins years. Active policing eliminated the sense of menace that once defined the city’s streets. Pre-Giuliani and Bratton (his first police commissioner), just asking for a cup of coffee the wrong way could get you a fat lip.

But then, as Daniel Henninger noted in the Wall Street Journal back in 2005, there’s a certain class of Manhattan intelligentsia and SoHo Bobos who longed for a rerun of the Travis Bickle-era — and with Bill de Blasio, they certainly have the right man for the job to return New York to the Bad Old Days.

In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president on a platform promising law & order after voters were disgusted by the race riots, assassinations, and leftwing mayhem at the 1968 Democrat Convention, which proved that both words in Lyndon Johnson’s “Great” “Society” to be lies. It’s entirely possible that a Republican could win back the White House in 2016 if voters are sufficiently angry over the violence, corruption, and rampant lawlessness of the eight years of the Obama era. But as the horrors of the 1970s remind us (including Watergate, of course), there’s only so much a president can do to restore order, when the rot in the nation’s leaders and bureaucrats is so systemic.

Yeah. You know how else it looks? Very much like this:

And the giant Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in early 2001. But then, the religious zealotry of radical Islam, radical socialism, and radical environmentalism do tend to echo other very strongly. Just ask Mohamed Atta, Socialist Critic of Capitalism, or this pair of fervent environmentalists, whose doom-laden ideas for the future of mankind intersect surprisingly well:

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On the other hand, at least Greenpeace has raised awareness that they’re still around, so they’ve got that going for them, as Sonny Bunch writes in the Washington Free Beacon:

The best—and by best, I mean absolutely the worst—part of this story? Greenpeace’s “apology.” Here’s Reuters:

The group said it was sorry if the protest at the historical site on Monday caused any “moral offense” to the people of Peru.

“Moral offense.” As if they were only guilty of hurting the feelings of the Peruvian people. And didn’t, you know, tromp all over a giant, incredibly fragile piece of art.

Amazing. Just amazing. But hey: At least now we know that the future is renewables, or some such. Greenpeace for the win!

As I’ve joked before, the vengeful Goracle didn’t title one of his tomes “The Assault on Reason” for nothing.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

The above Tweet is from the New Republic on October 1st of last year, with their fantasies of tank strikes on the GOP in response to last year’s government shutdown. As Jim Geraghty tweeted at the time in response, “The New Republic: Your first choice for violent, authoritarian, eliminationist rhetoric!” And back then, Twitchy added:

When Russia faced a constitutional crisis in 1993, President Boris Yeltsin did what any good dictator would do — he had the military surround the White House and had tanks shell the upper floors as a demonstration of force, announcing to the press that “Fascist-communist armed rebellion in Moscow shall be suppressed within the shortest period.”

It’s an efficient way to show who’s boss, and the folks at The New Republic seem like they’re warming up to the idea.

As I wrote at the time, Leftists convinced themselves in January of 2011 that clip art of targets and bullet points could kill — as long as it wasn’t their own. The same holds true of threatening a shutdown — they’re perfectly fine, as long as they come from an anointed member of the far left. “Elizabeth Warren Is Risking a Government Shutdown to Stop Wall Street. President Obama Should Join Her,” TNR is exuding today:

As always, for the left, the motto is, “It’s Different When We Do It.”

(QED.)

Speaking of which, Ed Morrissey adds today that in addition to Warren’s fantasies of shutting the government down, Maxine Waters is pretty cool with the idea, too:

Even the President’s usual allies are turning on him. Maxine Waters told her colleagues not to allow themselves to get “intimidated” into changing their votes shortly before McDonough arrived. Waters explicitly accused Obama of conducting that intimidation:

Waters gathered more than 20 fellow Democrats to her office Thursday afternoon to push back against the president’s efforts after learning of Obama’s lobbying effort.

And she’s not apologizing for it.

“We don’t like lobbying that is being done by the president or anybody else that would allow us to support a bill that … would give a big gift to Wall Street and the bankers who caused this country to almost go into a depression,” she said. “So I’m opposed to it and we’re going to fight it.”

Waters said the lawmakers who met in her office, including Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), divvied up a list of members and took to the phones to urge Democrats to hold their ground in opposition to the package.

“We’re fighting anybody who is lobbying to tell people to vote for this bill,” Waters said. “If the president is lobbying, we do not like it, and we’re saying to our members, ‘Don’t be intimidated by anybody.’”

C’mon Barry, intimidate ‘em and roll the tanks against your fellow leftists — you already have the (old) New Republic’s blessings!

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Unlike some of Time’s other contestants, nobody’s going to get of offended at “The Ebola Fighters” as person (people?) of the year*; fighting the disease is certainly an extremely worthy cause deserving of praise. As is fighting the hubris of those being monitored for having the disease. (See also: Soup-craving NBC celebrity doctor, Nancy Snyderman.)

As Big Journalism notes, this is far from the first time that Time has pulled their punches in their selection: “Osama Bin Laden was almost named Person of the Year by the publication in 2001 after 9/11, but lost to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.” And this year, one of the possible choices for person (people?) of the year were the Ferguson arsonists, but likely, that would have been a rehash of Time’s 2011 choice of ”The Protestor” as person (people) of the year.** And of course, Time pulled their punches that year as well, going with relatively tasteful cover art, rather than really playing it edgy, as one media critic suggested:

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* One minor peeve: Picking a large relatively faceless group goes against Henry Luce’s original intent in creating his annual “Man of the Year” cover in the 1920s to combat the Marxist cant of what was then seen as history’s dispassionate emotionless sweep, but then, pretty much every opinion uttered by Time in recent decades goes against its founder’s sane, centrist worldview.

** Which is one of the dangers of being in a permanently seething mood. After a while, the temper tantrums start to blur as the grownups become increasingly inured.

Hyman Gruber Meets Congress

December 10th, 2014 - 12:09 pm

“Congress was “Exposing deceit as [Jonathan Gruber] ‘humbly’ begs our pardon,” John Podhoretz writes in the New York Post. Podhoretz compares Gruber to Lee Strasberg’s Hyman Roth character in the Godfather II, the powerful rival mafioso who insisted to law enforcement that he was merely “a retired investor on a pension,” before noting:

Even [Gruber's] his invocation of a disclosure form was deceptive, because it turns out that form was hilariously incomplete (featuring only $100,000 of the many millions he has apparently received).

Gruber decided to play the fool he clearly is not — and to draw the fire of congressional Republicans and Democrats — because he clearly understands the damage his videotaped remarks do to the larger project of a government-led health-care system.

That is, the project which has not only become the mission of his life, but also a path to multimillionaire wealth most policy wonks can only dream of.

“We’re gonna be bigger than US Steel,” Hyman Roth says in “Godfather II” about his effort to take over Cuba in the 1950s.

Jonathan Gruber’s effort to help with the takeover of one-sixth of the US economy won’t end in revolution, as Hyman Roth’s does. It will survive or die based on the truth of his deepest wish, notwithstanding his meretricious apology yesterday: that the American voter is just as stupid and gullible as he thinks.

As Iowahawk tweeted last month, “Dear Tea Party people: say what you want about Gruber, but it wasn’t you he was calling stupid.”

Earlier in his column, Podhoretz wrote:

“You have to answer the question,” he was reminded more than once by congressional interlocutors whose interchanges with him ranged from amused disbelief (the committee chairman, Darrell Issa, pictured) to barely concealed outrage (Rep. Trey Gowdy).

As with his grillings of the equally smug IRS bureaucrat John Koskinen, Gowdy’s outrage was visible for all to see will dressing down Gruber:

It’s great theater, and nobody deserves to be on the receiving end of a Lee Ermey-style dressing down than those two. But as with Gowdy and Koskinen, all that rage is fun to watch, but it matters little — and could ultimately backfire for the GOP — if nothing substantive happens. Obama’s fellow socialists already likely believe they can get away with murder if all they have to do is endure a few hours of grilling from the spittle-flecked but ultimately supine school principal in return.

Just ask Barry himself.

Quote of the Day

December 9th, 2014 - 11:29 pm

The distinguishing characteristic of twentieth-century philosophy is a resurgence or irrationalism—a revolt against reason.

* * * * * * * * *
In this article, I shall confine myself to the analysis of a single principle—a single fallacy—which is rampant in the writings of the neo-mystics and without which their doctrines could not be propagated.

We call it “the fallacy of the stolen concept.”

To understand this fallacy, consider an example of it in the realm of politics: Proudhon’s famous declaration that “All property is theft.”

“Theft” is a concept that logically and genetically depends on the antecedent concept of “rightfully owned property”—and refers to the act of taking that property without the owner’s consent. If no property is rightfully owned, that is, if nothing is property, there can be no such concept as “theft.” Thus, the statement “All property is theft” has an internal contradiction: to use the concept “theft” while denying the validity of the concept of “property,” is to use “theft” as a concept to which one has no logical right—that is, as a stolen concept.

All of man’s knowledge and all of his concepts have a hierarchical structure. The foundation or ultimate base of this structure is man’s sensory perceptions; these are the starting points of his thinking. From these, man forms his first concepts and (ostensive) definitions—then goes on building the edifice of his knowledge by identifying and integrating new concepts on a wider and wider scale. It is a process of building one identification upon another—of deriving wider abstractions from previously known abstractions, or of breaking down wider abstractions into narrower classifications. Man’s concepts are derived from and depend on earlier, more basic concepts, which serve as their genetic roots. For example, the concept “parent” is presupposed by the concept “orphan”; if one had not grasped the former, one could not arrive at the latter, nor could the latter be meaningful.

The hierarchical nature of man’s knowledge implies an important principle that must guide man’s reasoning: When one uses concepts, one must recognize their genetic roots, one must recognize that which they logically depend on and presuppose.

Failure to observe this principle—as in “All property is theft”—constitutes the fallacy of the stolen concept.

—An excerpt from “The Stolen Concept,” written in 1963 by Ayn Rand acolyte Nathaniel Branden, PhD, who passed away last week at age 84.

Geoffrey Norman of the Weekly Standard spots Bill Scher of Politico dreaming “of a day when the left can mobilize like the Tea Party did.  Interesting notion and perhaps he will get back to us when the progressives have, in a couple of mid-term blowouts, changed the nation’s political map.” In the meantime, Scher writes:

Even as they publicly condemn Tea Party Republicans as hostage-taking legislative thugs, the truth is that some Democrats are quietly jealous of them. Think of it: The Tea Party gang gets to intimidate party leaders, threaten legislation, block nominees, shut down the government and default on the debt if they don’t get their way. They cause major trouble.

Boy, does that sound good.

Haven’t we all seen this movie before? In 2011, the Washington Post was asking “Can Liberals Start Their Own Tea Party?” To which Glenn Reynolds responded:

Well, we’ve had the Coffee Party, the Brownbaggers, The Other 95%, A New Way Forward, the One Nation Movement — am I leaving any out? I can’t remember — and none of them has gone much beyond a spot of initial positive coverage from the NYT. So, probably not. But apparently, Van Jones is going to try again with the “The American Dream Movement.” I hear he’s got a catchy slogan, too: From Each According To His Abilities, To Each According To His Needs. Or maybe it’s Death to the Kulaks! I’m not sure . . . .

Of course, these days, the self-admitted Communist would likely call his movement, “Can I Kiss You? Can I Kiss You Here Against Your Will?”, but that’s another story entirely.

But the Tea Party’s goals are ultimately simple: cut taxes, reduce spending, shrink the size of government, and have it leave people the hell alone. What would a leftwing Tea Party oppose in Washington? As Jonah Goldberg noted in July, “To the extent mainstream liberals complain about Obama it is almost entirely about tactics and competence:”

When was the last time you heard a really serious ideological complaint about Obama from, say, EJ Dionne or the editorial board of the New York Times? I’ll go further. When was the last time you heard liberals have a really good, public, ideological fight about anything? I’m sure there have been some interesting arguments between bloggers and the like. But I can’t think of anything – on domestic policy at least – that has spilled out onto the airwaves and op-ed pages in a sustained way. The Democratic Leadership Council – once committed to moving the Democratic Party rightward — closed up shop in 2011. They muttered something about accomplishing their mission, but that was basically sad office talk over cake and packing crates. Al Gore was once considered a conservative Democrat, but he moved to the left and has stayed there. Hillary Clinton was once a committed leftist. She moved toward the center for entirely mercenary reasons. But by the time she got there, the tide of her party receded leftward leaving her on a lonely atoll with her pile of Wall Street lucre.  John Kerry was the most liberal (or progressive) member of the senate in 2004, and he was his party’s nominee for president. In 2008, the same could be said about Obama and, well, you know how that story goes.

The best way to get the measure and value of ideological distinctions is to see what the ideologues are willing to fight for, in public, at some reputational risk. On the right today, those metrics are on full display. Not so on the left. Everyone gets along, all oars pull in the same direction. And what disagreements there are – between liberals and leftists or liberals and progressives – they’re overwhelmingly about tactics or insufficient zeal toward “common goals” and they are kept to a dull roar.

At the Politico, Scher wrote that the a leftwing equivalent of the Tea Party causing “major trouble” for the centrist-GOP establishment sure sounds good. What trouble did Occupy wish to cause Obama, aka “President Goldman-Sachs?” Where were the anti-war protesters when Obama saber-rattled against Syria and ISIS? What trouble do the Ferguson and Eric Garner-related protesters want to cause him? Tough to have a sustained protest movement when it seems like it will be kabuki right from the start.

On the other hand, don’t count the negative impact of what the left are currently seething about:

“Detroit Free Press staffer is ordered to attend a training session on the day she’s laid off,” MSM inside baseball site Jim Romensko.com reports:

A few weeks ago, the Detroit Free Press warned that three positions would be soon eliminated, including web producer. That was Andrea Farmer’s job.

Friday was layoffs day at the Gannett paper. It was also the last day of a weeklong series of metrics and marketing (aka PICASSO) training sessions for all staffers.

I asked if I had to go to the training, knowing my position would be cut,” says Farmer, a 35-year-old single mother. “‘You have to be there,’ they said.” So Farmer joined about 15 colleagues in the paper’s Stevie Wonder Room at 9 a.m. last Friday. The Gannett trainers told the Freep employees they were to make a marketing video that included some personal information and a plug for the newspaper.

Talk about burying the lede — the “Stevie Wonder Room?!” Tom Wolfe would be laughed out of the room if he put that detail into a satire of old media.

Elizabeth Warren Goes Full Orwell

December 8th, 2014 - 4:41 pm

Targeted?

During a meeting with nearly 50 of her top Boston-area donors Sunday night, Sen. Elizabeth Warren strongly criticized President Barack Obama’s Treasury Department pick Antonio Weiss and said Hispanic and African-American families were “targeted” during the mortgage crisis, according to people who attended the event.

* * * * * * * *

She ascribed some of the problem to a worsening climate of economic opportunity for African-Americans than existed even a decade ago, according to attendees. And she said that the mortgage crisis affected black and Hispanic families more heavily, describing those groups as being “targeted.”

Umm, minorities were targeted all right — by the Federal government — who demanded that banks lend money to those with those with insufficient credit to likely repay the loans, ushering in the subprime mortgage bubble that, when it burst, created the economic crisis that ushered in Barack Obama in the fall of 2008:

As a commenter at Hot Air notes:

This is an argument we can’t win with the left. If the sub prime loans are not made, then we are denying mortgages to low income families (Never mind that the interest rate is higher because of the increased risk to the lending institution). Since they were made, the left argues that they were predatory. And if you suggest that the interest rates should be higher to higher risk borrowers, now you are being discriminatory.

Just ask Barack Obama, who sued banks in 1998 as a young lawyer and would-be community organizer on behalf of 186 Chicago-area clients.  As Neil Munro noted in 2012 at the Daily Caller, “With landmark lawsuit, Barack Obama pushed banks to give subprime loans to Chicago’s African-Americans:”

Two guesses as to how that all worked out:

At least 46 of Obama’s 186 clients have declared bankruptcy since 1996, often multiple times.

That’s a far higher bankruptcy rate than the rate for all Americans, for Chicagoans and even for African-Americans in Chicago.

In a 2011 report, the left-of-center Woodstock Institute reported that just 4.25 percent of African-Americans living in Chicago’s mostly black neighborhoods went bankrupt between 2006 and 2010.

By contrast, 11 of Obama’s 186 clients — or 6.6 percent — went bankrupt during the same five-year period.

That bankruptcy is 50 percent higher than the rate among Cook County’s African-American population, and almost three times the bankruptcy rate of all Cook county residents, according to data in the Woodstock report, titled “Bridging the Gap II.”

And there you have it: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and even young radical Barack Obama pushing banks to lend money to those least likely to pay back their loans, and now Elizabeth Warren declaring those same subprime loan applicants were “targeted.”

Perhaps this earlier government spokesman summed up this Mobius Loop best:

Exit quote: “The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.”

But good luck trying tell America’s best-known phony Indian that.

TNR and 21st Century Media Reincarnation

December 7th, 2014 - 4:43 pm

In the middle of Megan McArdle’s article on “Tech Moguls and the TNR Meltdown,” she has a great excerpt from Jack Shafer, formerly of Slate and Reuters on the 21st century rinse-and-repeat cycle of brand-name media:

As Jack Shafer pointed out, there’s a lifecycle to rich people who buy magazines thinking they can make money on them:

Stage 1: The vanity mogul announces that he’ll return the publication to its former glory but says he doesn’t need to make money right away. Quality, he says, will attract readers. (That’s you, today.)

Stage 2: He replaces the editor with a journalistic star, redesigns the publication, expands editorial and art budgets, moves it to better quarters, and muses about parlaying his single title into a publication empire. (You’re writing that memo now.)

Stage 3: As fresh red ink flows, the mogul hires “name” writers to compose columns that will be talked-about and to get invited onto television to build buzz. (I see it in my crystal ball.)

Stage 4: Still losing money, the mogul grumbles, “I’m not running a charity here!” He eliminates employee perks, increases the price of the product, and reduces frequency of publication.

Stage 5: The losses make the mogul want to bail, but can he abandon the rise in social standing that the publication has given him? He wonders how much budget cutting he can do without being compared to Mort Zuckerman, who has amputated and bled U.S. News & World Report to the point of homicide. He sacks the troublesome “star” editor and hires a pushover.

Stage 6: Panic. The mogul does everything that Zuckerman did to U.S. News. Cuts medical benefits. Skips issues during the summer and the holidays. Closes the cafeteria. Reduces the staff to bare bones. Shutters the bureaus. Makes staffers give plasma and confiscates the proceeds. Fires the pushover editor for a paper shuffler.

Stage 7: He finds a new sucker to buy the publication. And we return to Stage 1.

I’ve worked at one magazine that defied this cycle, The Atlantic, and one that didn’t, Newsweek. And unlike most journalists, I’ve also worked at a bunch of firms that are not media companies, including ones that failed. Both journalists and non-journalists usually fail to understand just how weirdly different media companies are from other sorts of firms, which means they don’t understand that experience with one side gives you virtually zero insight into how the other kind works. Without unduly sucking up to current and former executives, let me note that David Bradley succeeded at The Atlantic by hiring people who understood the business — including Justin Smith, who now works for Bloomberg — and giving them room to do what needed to be done.

I’m not at all sure I agree with McArdle’s take on the current state of The Atlantic. As with whatever ultimately becomes of TNR, as with Time magazine — and even Newsweek — there is indeed still a publication called The Atlantic. Other than its masthead, it bears very little resemblance in tone and substance to its previous form.

And while the New York Times is still owned by the Sulzberger family, just compare Gay Talese’s The Kingdom and the Power, published in 1969, and Bill McGowan’s similarly-themed 2010 book Gray Lady Down to see that today’s Times has little similarity to its previous form other than the masthead and slogan.

Incidentally, earlier in her article, Megan writes, “But even by my profession’s cinematic standards, [Chris Hughes' TNR debacle] is going to be one for the Criterion Classics collection.” Heh. If a decent comedy screenwriter could be found, it would certainly make for a great made-for-TV movie along the lines of HBO’s The Late Shift or its likely inspiration, Larry Gelbart’s satiric 1993 adaptation of Barbarians at the Gate.

In the meantime, a riveting documentary about a magazine with an eccentric plutocratic socialist leader and aggrieved staff exists already: The September Issue, on Vogue magazine in 2007. It really does have a Last Days of Pompeii feel to it, seeing as it was filmed a year before the housing bubble blew up the economy, followed by Barack Obama getting to work at fundamentally transforming America to a standard that TNR could finally give its blessing to.

Related: “Is Opinion Journalism Dead or Dying?”

Standup Comic In Chief’s Zany Bedpan Humor

November 21st, 2014 - 3:02 pm

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

Obama’s finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don’t even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair. The other great leaders I’ve heard guide us towards a better politics, but Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves, to the place where America exists as a glittering ideal, and where we, its honored inhabitants, seem capable of achieving it, and thus of sharing in its meaning and transcendence.

Ezra Klein, January of 2008.

“America is not a nation that accepts the hypocrisy of workers who mow our lawns, make our beds, clean out bed pans, with no chance ever to get right with the law.”

—The president today in Las Vegas (appropriately enough), as transcribed by C-Span. Mockery on Twitter was, not surprisingly, swift and appropriately brutal. As one Twitter wag responded to the president’s inane remarks, “And we have reached peak ‘If it were Bush’. Thanks for playing everyone.”

Update: Hillary isn’t covering herself in glory either today. Shot:

Chaser:


Cringe, indeed.

The Ultimate Friday Afternoon Document Dump

November 21st, 2014 - 2:32 pm

mussolini_obama_lerner_forward_6-13-13-1

“30,000 missing emails from IRS’ Lerner recovered,” according to the Washington Examiner:

In all, investigators from the inspector general’s office combed through 744 disaster recovery tapes. They are not finished looking.

There are 250 million emails ion the tapes that will be reviewed. Officials said it is likely they will find missing emails from other IRS officials who worked under Lerner and who said they suffered computer crashes.

Investigators said the emails could include some overlapping information because it is not clear how many of them are duplicates or were already produced by Lerner to the congressional committees.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee he chairs will be one of the committees that will examine the emails.

“Though it is unclear whether TIGTA has found all of the missing Lois Lerner e-mails, there may be significant information in this discovery,” Issa told the Examiner. “The Oversight Committee will be looking for information about her mindset and who she was communicating with outside the IRS during a critical period of time when the IRS was targeting conservative groups. This discovery also underscores the lack of cooperation Congress has received from the IRS. The agency first failed to disclose the loss to Congress and then tried to declare Lerner’s e-mails gone and lost forever. Once again it appears the IRS hasn’t been straight with Congress and the American people.”

And…? Other than the (admittedly enjoyable) videos of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen appearing regularly on Capital Hill as Trey Gowdy’s punching bag, will there be any real consequences to the agency for its malfeasance?

(H/T: SDA)

Update: “That’s a lot of emails. But remember when the New York Times asked its readers to ‘crowdsource’ the review of 24,000 of Sarah Palin’s emails?”

More:

Sarah Palin committed no crime other than being a conservative woman. Lois Lerner has been implicated in using the power of the IRS to stifle the First Amendment rights of thousands of Americans and conservative Tea Party groups.

Surely, the media will investigate these newly found Lois Lerner emails more aggressively than they looked into Palin’s emails. Right?

Of course they will.