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Ed Driscoll

The Butterfield Effect

Mother Butterfield

October 27th, 2014 - 8:45 pm


Indeed. Mother Butterfield, is that you?

Anthony Weiner, CNN Butterfield Themselves On Air

September 22nd, 2014 - 3:04 pm

God, that sounds filthy. But not as filthy as this:

(Via SDA.)

‘¿Fox Butterfield, Es Que Usted?’

February 28th, 2014 - 1:09 pm

“Venezuela is now the world champion of inflation, homicide, insecurity, and shortages of essential goods–from milk for children to insulin for diabetics and all kinds of indispensable products. All this despite having the greatest oil reserves in the world and a government with absolute control of all state institutions and levers of power.”–Moisés Naim, TheAtlantic.com, Feb. 25

—As spotted by James Taranto in his latest Best of the Web column today.

Hard to believe how badly the Atlantic has fallen in recent years from its perch as a once-serious publication. I’d blame Xenu, but his appearance last year on their homepage was simply the most visible symptom, not the cause.

And for those who can’t spot the glaring logical fallacy in the quote above, a rereading of the Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism is well in order.

ButterfieldCare

October 17th, 2013 - 12:05 pm

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The New York Times has its daily Fox Butterfield moment, here:

“Problems finding providers or drug coverage are occurring mainly on state exchanges paradoxically because those Web sites are working better than the federal insurance exchange used by 36 states.”

As Moe Lane writes (and click over to Moe if you want to read the underlying Times article), “Translation: the states are (marginally) better at complying with federal regulations than the federal government is itself. Raise your hand if this shocks you.”

As for the rest of us who don’t view the world from the windows high atop Pinch Avenue, Nick Gillespie explores “The Abysmal, Pathetic Obamacare Rollout,” adding that “It’s a colossal, expensive failure that projects a 1970s-era DMV experience into cyberspace.” 

Shocking, I know. What is somewhat surprising is that Nick is writing the above not from his usual perch at Reason, the libertarian house organ, but from the pages of the Daily Beast. And oh how Tina Brown must have enjoyed publishing that.

MSNBC-parody-10-4-10

“MSNBC’s resident genius Chris Hayes: Why are we putting more people in jail when the crime rate keeps dropping?”, as spotted by Jim Treacher:

“Why isn’t my head wet, even though there’s a roof over it?”
“Why isn’t my car stopping, even though I have my foot on the gas pedal?”
“Why do people keep laughing at me, even though I’m really smart?”

Presumably, these are just a few of the questions that bedevil Chris Hayes every day. His life must be a series of unfathomable conundrums, if the following clip is any indication:

“What I find most frustrating is that what we have seen is incarceration go up at the same that crime is going down. And yet the fear level is still stoked, even though what we have is, objectively, less [sic] murders every year, we have less crime, we are living in a safer society, and we are putting more people in prison.”

Note that this is the exact issue that vexed Fox Butterfield, the now-legendary bard of the New York Times, a decade and a half ago, causing Michael Graham to dub the symptoms “The Butterfield Effect:”

It’s what happens when someone on the Left makes a statement that is laughably ludicrous on its face, yet it reveals what the speaker truly believes — no matter how dumb.

“The Butterfield Effect” is named in honor of ace New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, the intrepid analyst responsible for such brilliantly headlined stories as “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” and “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” not to mention the poetic 1997 header, “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”

Mr. Butterfield is truly perplexed at what he calls the “paradox” of more criminals in prison coinciding with less crime in neighborhoods. An observation that might appear obvious to an 8th grader (crooks + jail = fewer crimes) is simply beyond his grasp. Butterfield of the Times is the poster boy for the greatest conundrum facing the American Left today: How do you explain to people who just don’t get it that the problem is they just don’t get it?

To paraphrase P.J. O’Rourke on the American Senate, you give them a little-watched TV network where they can do the least amount of actual harm, but can always be counted on to generate insane quotes that help maintain the Conservative Blogosphere Full Employment Act.

This Just In

July 2nd, 2013 - 8:33 pm

“Rise in gay homeless people threatens San Francisco’s name as gay-friendly mecca — It’s built a reputation as the most gay-friendly city on earth. But the mask is slipping.” In other words, the London Independent discovers that San Francisco has teensy-tiny homeless problem:

Of the 6,436 people the SF-HSA counted sleeping rough in the city, more than half of those do not stay in shelters. Earlier this month, the city authorities finally began steps to set up San Francisco’s first shelter for LGBT homeless, large numbers of whom have mental health issues. Some of San Francisco’s gay rough sleepers are young people from other parts of America or the world who have fled violence and discrimination at home in search of safety in San Francisco. Others are elderly survivors of the worst ravages of the Aids epidemic who now find themselves unable to cope financially in a city where rents have been driven sky high by gentrification and the booming economy of nearby Silicon Valley. They end up living in doorways and parking lots.

Against the backdrop of the San Francisco City Hall cupola, hundreds line up each Tuesday afternoon in the United Nations Plaza for free food handouts from volunteers. For several blocks in all directions from the city hall, tourists find themselves stepping over prone bodies on the pavement.

The San Francisco Bay Area, including Silicon Valley, is home to an estimated 220,000 millionaires, not to mention Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, investor Charles Schwab and Star Wars creator George Lucas. It is a shock to visitors to find that a city of stunning natural and architectural beauty, famed for its tolerance and future thinkers and flooded with internet wealth, should also be home to such chronic poverty.

It’s happened ever-so-”unexpexectedly,” to use the favorite adverb of those innocent naifs who do the economic reporting at Bloomberg.com. What on earth ould be the cause? The SF Weekly accidentally stumbled over the reason in 2009:

“Despite its spending more money per capita on homelessness than any comparable city, [San Francisco's] homeless problem is worse than any comparable city’s.”

Fox Butterfield, is that you?

Of course, the London Independent is the newspaper that sagely warned its readers that “Snowfalls Are Now Just a Thing of the Past” in 2000, so perhaps we should cut them a bit slack here.

Butterfield Orszag

June 26th, 2013 - 7:41 pm

“Why Are So Many College Graduates Driving Taxis?”, asks Peter Orszag in Bloomberg.com:

It’s a parent’s nightmare: shelling out big money for college, then seeing the graduate unable to land a job that requires high-level skills. This situation may be growing more common, unfortunately, because the demand for cognitive skills associated with higher education, after rising sharply until 2000, has since been in decline.

So concludes new research by economists Paul Beaudry and David Green of the University of British Columbia and Benjamin Sand of York University in Toronto. This reversal in demand has caused high-skilled workers to accept lower-level jobs, pushing lower-skilled people even further down the occupational ladder or out of work altogether. If the researchers are right (which is not yet clear), the consequences are huge and troubling — and not just for college grads and their parents.

Let’s start with some basic facts. There have always been some graduates who wind up in jobs that don’t require a college degree. But the share seems to be growing. In 1970, only 1 in 100 taxi drivers and chauffeurs in the U.S. had a college degree, according to an analysis of labor statistics by Ohio University’s Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart and Jonathan Robe. Today, 15 of 100 do.

It’s hard to believe this is because the skill required to drive a taxi has risen substantially since 1970.

Why yes it is hard to believe. “Unexpectedly” so, as they like to say in Bloomberg.com, made even more difficult to fathom when you’re the former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama during his first term. You know those four years in which “Recovery Summer” was an annual event?

(Fox Butterfield could not be reached for comment.)

Oh, and speaking of Recovery Summer, or the lack thereof, “Slow-Motion U.S. Recovery Searches for Second Gear,” the Wall Street Journal reports this week, in a headline that could have appeared in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012…

Related: “Google just threw its whole old-fashioned HR process out the window.”

Barry Munchkin Syndrome

April 29th, 2013 - 6:57 pm

BHO is “Good at campaigning, bad at governing,” Salena Zito writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

President Obama is a good campaigner. He won the big one twice and effectively made Republicans question their electoral existence. He also has shown once again, by not effectively managing his own agenda, that he has no appetite for governing.

Nothing proved that more than his approach to gun-control legislation.

Yes, he made lofty speeches, emotionally gripped the hands and shoulders of gun-crime victims, held dinners with Republicans and conservative Democrats whom he needed to pass a gun bill — all great theater, but great theater is rarely enough.

The truth is, Obama has serious coalition-management issues and lacks basic managerial competency. Tactically, he chose to act blustery and self-righteous while, strategically, he sought the path of least resistance in actual negotiations and willingly outsourced the details of legislative agreement to others.

All in all, he vastly underestimated how his tactics undermined his strategic goals.

That is an unnerving prospect for supporters of immigration reform as that proposal makes its way to the forefront of congressional debate.

Obama had everything he needed to get a gun bill passed — support in the polls, raw empathy for recent victims, Senate members willing to cross the aisle — yet he never dirtied his hands to get the job done.

“Obama is a great orator but a lousy convincer,” explained Steffen Schmidt, Iowa State University political science professor.

Schmidt said Obama “just does not have the skill set or the self-confidence to get into the Jell-O pit and wrestle with the members of his own party and a few Republicans to close the deal … another skill he doesn’t have is to log-roll and cut deals in a pragmatic way.”

Yes. The word this article is searching for is…“Munchkin.”

No, really. Or as Jim Geraghty noted in late February, also using the M-Word, “You Can’t Community-Organize Your Way Out of a Sequester.”

Permit me to spotlight a funny recent essay by Red State contributor Moe Lane, where he examines the skills and philosophy of President Obama through the lens of role-playing games:

To begin with: a munchkin (or power gamer, or mini-maxer, or a bunch of terms that cannot be repeated here) is a type of gamer (roleplaying, computer, roleplaying-computer) who looks for loopholes in the rules – because games have rules, and there isn’t a rule-set in the world that cannot be manipulated by somebody with enough motivation/obsession.  And it turns out that the American Democratic primary system was full of such loopholes, which is why Barack Obama won the nomination in 2008 despite losing almost all the big Democratic primary states (and arguably the popular vote, depending on how you score Michigan).  And it also turns out that the intersection of our electoral system with our rapidly-expanding online culture can produce what computer gamers call “exploits:” which is to say, a glitch in the system that gives someone an unintended benefit (if it just crashes the system, it’s a bug).  Strictly speaking, the system is not designed to elevate a state Senator to the Presidency in five years – for what turned out to be very good reasons – but it can be done.

Mini-maxing is when a player designs a character that is fantastically good at one thing, at the expense of everything else.  So you could end up with a character who is, say, obscenely good at hitting things with a sword – but can’t convince a bunch of sailors to drink free beer.  The mini-maxer doesn’t mind; he’ll just go around the game trying to resolve as many problems as he can by hitting them with a sword (tabletop gamers – err, “D&D players” – often call this The Gun is My Skill List, although obviously substitute a sword for a gun in the name).  The problems that the mini-maxer can’t resolve that way he’ll either ignore until later, or else flail about on the screen while hitting the buttons quickly and/or at random (“button-mashing”), in the hopes that eventually the laws of probability will allow him to bull on through anyway.

And that’s where we are now.  Barack Obama knows how to do one thing: elect Barack Obama to public office.  And that’s not ‘elect Democrats.’  Or ‘elect liberals.’  Or even ‘elect people that Barack Obama likes.’  It’s just him: his team is trying pretty hard right now to figure out how to use their over-specialized skill more generally, but they don’t have much time to figure it out and the system is actually rigged against them in this case.  Barack Obama certainly doesn’t know how to govern effectively; take away a Congress that will rubber-stamp the Democratic agenda and he flails about.  He’s so bad at this, in fact, that when confronted with a situation where all he had to do was do nothing to fulfill a campaign promise (the tax cuts) we somehow ended up with a situation where Obama gave in on 98% of those tax cuts and voluntarily signed up to take the blame for the AMT fix.  In short: Obama was woefully unprepared for the Presidency, and he hasn’t really spent the last four years trying to catch up.  Instead, he goes from situation to situation either trying to recast the problem in ways that he does have some skill in (permanent campaigning for office), or else… flail about on the scene while hitting people’s buttons quickly and/or at random, in the hopes that eventually the laws of probability will allow him to bull on through anyway.

Dipping into the Book of Saul can only go so far, James Taranto writes today. “Power constrains because it entails responsibility, and Alinskyite tactics are designed to take advantage of those constraints for the benefit of the powerless. Such tactics have backfired on Obama repeatedly because he seems not to understand that they are ill-suited to power politics.”

And note this quote underneath:

“Obama happens to be president at a time when virtually all of the nation’s social institutions are losing the public’s trust and facing irrelevancy in the digital age.”–Ron Fournier, NationalJournal.com, April 29

Why yes, that is from Taranto’s recurring “Fox Butterfield, Is That You?” category.

Capt. Butterfield to the Bridge, Please

February 23rd, 2013 - 2:39 pm

For a newspaper that self-identifies as “Progressive,” the New York Times sure records any signs of actual progress with enormous heaping helpings of solemnity, doesn’t it?

Michelle Ridgway, a marine ecologist who serves on the state science panel for cruise ships, watched as Alaska cruise ship traffic grew to about a million people a year and changed her hometown, Ketchikan. “The pulp mill closed and the place turned into Disneyland,” she said.

As Orrin Judd quips in his headline linking to the above story, “Lucky Devils.”

But my God, man! Just wait until the New York Times stumbles upon how centuries of increasingly larger oceangoing vessels pulling into the Hudson River has transformed Nieuw Amsterdam beyond all recognition. A once desolate and remote island, placid and sparsely populated, through the constant influx of both tourists and immigrants, has transmogrified itself into one giant, overpriced amusement park — even down to its own Disney stores, including one right in the center of town — a region named after the Gray Lady herself.

Any day now, the Times will be begging Mayor Bloomberg to sell the island back to the Indians — though I’m not sure if they’d meet the standards of his environmental beliefs.

(In other words — the Butterfield Effect strikes again.)

(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)

Just NBC the Concern Trolling

February 4th, 2013 - 4:16 pm
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“Consumers Taking Financial Hit From Rising Fuel Prices,” CNBC reports today:

Consumers have been spending more on gasoline than they have in nearly three decades.

With pump prices at their highest level on record for this time of year, the stage is set for an even greater climb in gasoline prices and expenditures than in 2012. Retail gasoline prices have surged 17 cents in a week to top $3.50 a gallon on average, posting the highest prices on record for the beginning of February. (Read More: Gasoline at Highest Price Ever for This Time of Year.)

According to AAA, the national average price of regular gasoline is $3.52 a gallon, 4 cents higher than the average price a year ago. The average price was $3.35 a gallon a week ago and $3.30 a gallon a month ago.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Monday that gasoline expenditures in 2012 for the average U.S. household reached $2,912, or just under 4 percent of income before taxes. This was the highest estimated percentage of household income spent on gasoline in nearly three decades, with the exception of 2008, when the average household spent a similar amount. Gasoline prices averaged $3.63 a gallon in 2012, according to EIA.

So in other words, gasoline prices are reaching the levels advocated by NBC’s Tom Brokaw in December of 2008, and by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in December of 2012, echoing the 2008 party line of line of both Obama and his recently departed “Energy” Secretary, Steven Chu.

Mission Accomplished!

And note this in the CNBC report:

Although overall gasoline consumption has decreased in recent years, a rise in average gasoline prices has led to higher overall household gasoline expenditures, according to the EIA.

Fox Butterfield, is that you?

Frum Butterfield

January 22nd, 2013 - 5:29 pm

Wow, David Frum turned into Fox Butterfield so slowly, I hardly even noticed. (A transformation that seems particularly odd, given that even at the Daily Beastweek, Michael Moynihan and Niall Ferguson manage to stay on the payroll, despite not always toeing Tina’s party line.

At the Corner, Yuval Levin writes another Timesman is giving Fox Butterfield plenty of competition in the naïveté department:

The New York Times’s Fox Butterfield is famous for repeatedly reporting with astonishment that crime rates went down as the prison population went up without giving much heed to the possibility that the two trends might be correlated rather than (as the paper’s house ideology insists) contradictory. Here’s a good instance.

Well, he now seems to have some competition in the “incredulous about cause and effect” department at the Times. In today’s paper, Times business reporter Reed Abelson notes with barely masked bewilderment that insurance premiums are rising sharply as Obamacare’s insurance regulations begin to take effect. The opening paragraph is just perfect:

Health insurance companies across the country are seeking and winning double-digit increases in premiums for some customers, even though one of the biggest objectives of the Obama administration’s health care law was to stem the rapid rise in insurance costs for consumers.

Huh, how did that happen?

Read the whole thing.

The Butterfield Effect Strikes the Sacramento Bee

December 29th, 2012 - 11:16 am

“Gun deaths and injuries have dropped sharply in California, even as the number of guns sold in the state has risen, according to new state data.”

Oh sure. And next you’ll be telling me that the crime rate keeps on falling, even as prisons keep on filling

“CA Tax Revenues Continue to Drop Despite Voter-Approved Tax Increases.”

Art Laffer — not to mention Robert Conquest – could not be reached for comment. (And neither could JFK, incidentally.)

Related: As James Taranto noted on December 13th, this isn’t the first time this month that the Butterfield Effect — hopefully for deliberately ironic purposes — has struck Breitbart.com’s “Golden” State coverage.

CNN: The Fox Butterfield News Channel

December 17th, 2012 - 9:15 pm

Conservatives have had a decade and a half of fun with New York Times journalist Fox Butterfield’s headlines:

“The Butterfield Effect” is named in honor of ace New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, the intrepid analyst responsible for such brilliantly headlined stories as “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” and “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” not to mention the poetic 1997 header, “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”

John Nolte of Big Journalism spots CNN’s Don Lemon going Butterfield one better, and muttering, “It doesn’t matter if gun violence is down.” It just doesn’t matter! (Cue Bill Murray’s rant in Meatballs.) Lemon wants guns to magically vanish in America, and that’s all there is to it. (Presumably though, not from the guards on the ground floor of CNN HQ.)

Meanwhile Soledad O’Brien, another Time-Warner-CNN-HBO spokesperson, demonstrates epistemic closure on the topic, dismissing Second Amendment scholar John Lott by sniffing:

“I appreciate you talking with me this morning, but I just have to say, your position completely boggles me, honestly. I just do not understand it.”

“I just don’t understand it” is a strange verbal tick that’s uttered with “unexpected” frequency by the left — which holds itself out as being multicultural and believing in diversity and that everyone’s worldview and viewpoint is equally valid — but refuses to allow any information contrary to an already preconceived idea in to be considered.

So unlike Soledad’s take on Rev. Wright, evidently Lott didn’t score “a home run” from her perspective, I guess.

Unexpectedly!

Gun crime has almost doubled since Labour came to power as a culture of extreme gang violence has taken hold.

The latest Government figures show that the total number of firearm offences in England and Wales has increased from 5,209 in 1998/99 to 9,865 last year  -  a rise of 89 per cent.

In some parts of the country, the number of offences has increased more than five-fold.

In eighteen police areas, gun crime at least doubled.

The statistic will fuel fears that the police are struggling to contain gang-related violence, in which the carrying of a firearm has become increasingly common place.

Women, children, Bob Costas, and Fox Butterfield hardest hit.

In addition to the great Dave Brubeck Taking Five yesterday, as James Lileks writes, Oscar Niemeyer, one of the architects of the UN, disciple of Le Corbusier, builder of the Orwellian modernist Brazil capital, died at age 104, causing the BBC to display one of its innumerable blind spots:

He was a firm, committed Communist. The BBC has this classic line:

“His style was not to everyone’s taste, and for a communist some people say his work was not very people-friendly.”

Imagine that. He also designed this structure, although William Harrison is often cited; he was the lead architect on the entire project.

As a critic noted with great astuteness, the building is quite clear about its intention: the bureaucracy is given prominence over the space where the “representatives” meet.

Across the pond,the New York Times’ readers are having a blind spot moment of their own. As Ross Douthat writes in the follow-up to the backlash from the Times’ core readers to his previous column on America’s current birth-dearth, “Don’t Mention The Decadence:”

If you are a true misanthrope, a radical environmentalist, or a partisan of voluntary human extinction, then of course you can feel free to answer “no” to these questions. But readers who consider themselves humanists should consider: Is there any population better situated to bestow fulfilling, flourishing, opportunity-rich lives on future generations than the inhabitants of rich democracies? Yes, those opportunities can be bestowed in part through generous immigration policies, but why not go for the direct path as well as the bank-shot? (Especially since historically speaking, shrinking, aging societies tend to have more trouble assimilating large immigrant inflows than countries like, well, the relatively fecund United States.) Is replacement-level fertility really so much to ask, morally speaking, of people graced with wealth and entertainments and diversions beyond the dreams of any previous generation? If conspicuous consumption is morally dubious when it substitutes for sacrifices on behalf of strangers, as most good progressives seem to think, why isn’t it morally dubious when it substitutes for the more intimate form of sacrifice that made all of our lives possible in the first place?

Likewise for readers who regard any talk about the moral weight of reproductive choices as a subtle attempt to reimpose the patriarchy: Can it really be that having achieved so much independence and autonomy and professional success, today’s Western women have no moral interest in seeing that as many women are born into the possibility of similar opportunities tomorrow? Is the feminist revolution such a fragile thing that it requires outright population decline to fulfill its goals, and is female advancement really incompatible with the goal of a modestly above-replacement birthrate? Indeed, isn’t it just possible that a modern culture that celebrated the moral component of childrearing more fully would end up serving certain feminist ends, rather than undermining them — by making public policy more friendly to work-life balance, by putting more cultural pressure on men to be involved fathers rather than slackers and deadbeat dads, and so on?

Okay, enough rhetorical questions. It’s the nature of social conservatives to be cranky about contemporary trends, often to a fault. But it’s also the nature of decadent societies to deny that the category of “decadence” exists.

I can think of one person at the Times who qualifies for the D-word; can’t you?

Actually, come to think of it, to tie these two stories together, the Times and the BBC are now two groups of Bobos separated by a common current and former CEOand an ongoing extremely decadent scandal that unites the two as well.

But then, between these stories, Bob Costas’ on-air breakdown, and all of the “unexpectedly” bad economic news — hey, did you hear unemployment stats edged up after the election ended? Shocker! — it really is Fox Butterfield’s world these days:

It’s what happens when someone on the Left makes a statement that is laughably ludicrous on its face, yet it reveals what the speaker truly believes — no matter how dumb.

“The Butterfield Effect” is named in honor of ace New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, the intrepid analyst responsible for such brilliantly headlined stories as “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” and “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” not to mention the poetic 1997 header, “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”

Mr. Butterfield is truly perplexed at what he calls the “paradox” of more criminals in prison coinciding with less crime in neighborhoods. An observation that might appear obvious to an 8th grader (crooks + jail = fewer crimes) is simply beyond his grasp. Butterfield of the Times is the poster boy for the greatest conundrum facing the American Left today: How do you explain to people who just don’t get it that the problem is they just don’t get it?

Of course, it’s even worse. That’s from Michael Graham’s 2004 column; these days, how do you explain to people who just don’t get it that the problem is they just don’t get it, when they’re running the White House, the Senate, academia, MSM, and Hollywood?

Update:  “Ross Douthat: History’s Greatest Monster”!

Wait, I thought that was Jimmy Carter.

Anthony De Rosa’s Butterfield Balls

November 23rd, 2012 - 8:26 pm

As found via Maggie’s Farm — Fox Butterfield, call your office.

As Harry Stein quipped over a decade ago, one of the moments when he “Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace),” was when “Someone’s going on about how fantastic San Francisco is, and it suddenly hits you that’s one place on earth you never want to live.” Of course, given that the city perennially ranks last in terms of families, that’s now a bipartisan consensus.

So much of what’s wrong with the city is inadvertently summed up in an article in the Sacramento Bee, titled “SF to unleash puppies-for-panhandlers program.” What could possibly go wrong?

San Francisco hopes a cold nose and a warm heart will help end the problem of panhandling.

In what could be the first program of its kind in the nation, the city beginning in August will offer panhandlers up to $75 a week to stop begging and foster puppies from the city animal shelter until the pups are ready for adoption.

The pilot program, called Wonderful Opportunities for Occupants and Fidos, or WOOF, is intended to meet panhandlers’ need for income while helping more animals avoid being euthanized.

“You can make it difficult for people to panhandle, but ultimately they’re just going to go do it somewhere else,” Bevan Dufty, the mayor’s point person on homelessness, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Why not try to meet their needs for income in a way that helps the city and its animals?”

Yes, you can make it difficult for people to panhandle — and if you do make it sufficiently difficult for them, they’ll beg somewhere else — outside of your city. And that way, you’ll have less headlines such as this: “Aggressive Panhandlers Blamed for San Francisco’s Slipping Tourism Ranking.” (See also: Rudy Giuliani and New York’s squeegee men.) It’s also a classic Fox Butterfield moment, which author and Boston talk radio host Michael Graham once defined as:

It’s what happens when someone on the Left makes a statement that is laughably ludicrous on its face, yet it reveals what the speaker truly believes — no matter how dumb.

“The Butterfield Effect” is named in honor of ace New York Times crime reporter Fox Butterfield, the intrepid analyst responsible for such brilliantly headlined stories as “More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime,” and “Number in Prison Grows Despite Crime Reduction,” not to mention the poetic 1997 header, “Crime Keeps on Falling, but Prisons Keep on Filling.”

Back in 2009, we spotted a similar Fox Butterfield moment in the San Francisco Weekly, with this quote, which neatly dovetails with the one above:

“Despite its spending more money per capita on homelessness than any comparable city, [San Francisco's] homeless problem is worse than any comparable city’s.”

Still though, at least the SF Weekly managed to pull out from that mental nosedive to admit, “It’s time to face facts: San Francisco is spectacularly mismanaged and arguably the worst-run big city in America.” And with articles such as the above, don’t look for improvement in that department, until…well, ever.

Found via Kate McMillan of Small Dead Animals, as part of her ongoing “O, Sweet Saint Of San Andreas Hear my prayer” series of posts. Also at SDA is a link to this rather related article, “America’s Friendliest Places for Starting a Business,” in which Forbes grades all 57 American states from A to F. Two guesses as to which state received the latter grade. (San Francisco actually fared better than California in the same article — they only received a D+ from Forbes. Maybe the puppies swayed them.

The Toothless Dog

June 2nd, 2012 - 10:03 am

In “The barkless dog,” the Economist laments the passing of the physically printed daily newspaper in New Orleans and other regions:

BY ONE measure, it was dying. In March 2005 the daily circulation of the Times-Picayune, the best newspaper in New Orleans, was around 257,000, up to 285,000 on Sundays. Seven years later those numbers had dropped to 134,000 and 155,000. Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005; in 2010 the city’s population was just 71% of what it had been in 2000.

By other measures, though, the Times-Picayune was thriving. Its market penetration was 65%, the fourth-highest of any newspaper in the country. And it was continuing to do excellent investigative work. But the decline in newspaper advertising revenue hit the paper hard, and on May 24th it announced that it will cease daily publication this autumn.

That will make New Orleans America’s biggest city without a daily newspaper. In future, the paper will come out on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Advance Publications, a media conglomerate that owns the Times-Picayune, announced similar changes at three of its Alabama newspapers: the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Press-Register in Mobile.

These four are merely the latest group of newspapers to combine print cutbacks and digital expansion. The Detroit Free Press is published on seven days a week but is delivered to subscribers on only three. Other Advance-owned newspapers across Michigan have also restricted deliveries of print editions while moving their focus online.

Inadvertently at the conclusion of the article, The Economist stumbles, Fox Butterfield-style, over just how ineffective newspapers have been as public watchdogs:

The effects of moving to a principally digital operation in two states with some of the lowest internet-usage rates in the country are also uncertain. The press has been called the watchdog of good government. Between 2001 and 2010, Louisiana and Alabama were among the ten most corrupt states, measured by public-corruption convictions per person and per government employee (Louisiana was top in both). What happens when nobody hears the watchdog bark?

But these regions (and the aforementioned Detroit) were corrupt back when people actually wanted to buy hard copies of newspapers; shifting to the Internet isn’t going to alter that equation. And heck, as far back as 32 years ago, when old media was still basking in the ruddy drunken glow of Watergate, Tom Wolfe told an interviewer in Rolling Stone, “Hell, to this day, you can’t get anything in newspapers. I think of this as the period of incredible shrinking news. I’m really convinced that there’s less news covered in America now than at any time in this century.” Wolfe would go on to add, “I don’t know how much corruption there is at the local level, but there’s never been a better time in the century for there to be corruption in local government, because the press is not gonna spot it.”

And even if, by chance, their reporters do happen to stumble over corruption, whether on a local or national level, if it’s going to hurt the media’s home team, we know now that it’s that much less likely that they’ll actually print it. Or to put it another way…Keep rockin’!