Creepy, but I can’t stop looking.
ECHO CHAMBERS GO BIPARTISAN!
I think their belief that “government don’t work good,” to borrow a classic line from Michael Barone leaves conservatives a bit more grounded, but there’s no doubt that both sides of the aisle loathed traditional mass media and wanted news media that fit their beliefs at the dawn of the Web, and they now have them. Good luck putting that genie back in the bottle.
IT’S NOT AN EXPERIMENT IF YOU KNOW HOW IT WILL TURN OUT: 70 Years Ago, the U.S. Military Set Off a Nuke Underwater, And It Went Very Badly.
EVERYTHING SEEMINGLY IS SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL: Associated Press now referring to Ginsburg as “Notorious RBG:”
A couple of years ago, “AP [was] Under Fire for Using Hashtag Backing Wendy Davis Abortion Filibuster.”
More recently, “The AP [let] its lib mask slip with this [anti-Trump] tweet about Elizabeth Warren.”
AP is really dropping the mask these days, as the last vestiges of a near-century old practice of mass media “objectivity” finally fall. Keep these examples in mind, the next time AP runs a think piece complaining about readers becoming, as Spinal Tap’s manager would say, more “selective” about where they consume their news.
CRAZY CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR – “She’s a walking parody of an unhinged leftist ‘reporter,’” Andrew Badinelli writes at NRO:
I would cast my presidential election vote based on a “Which Candidate Are You?” BuzzFeed quiz, ask for Trump’s recommendation on skin-care products, and call Hillary Clinton for tech support before I would rely on Amanpour for an objective view of the world. For years, the mainstream media have reassured viewers of reporters’ objectivity. Lefties everywhere deny the existence of liberal media bias while swiping away Salon push notifications on their iPhones. But at least talking heads such as Chris Matthews — who has made no pretense about what sends a thrill up his leg — are more open about the leftward slant of their opinions. Amanpour — who has made the laughable claim to CBS’s Lesley Stahl that “no one knows” her biases — pretends to channel the spirit of Woodward and Bernstein. In fact, she is merely spreading propaganda as quickly as she can read a teleprompter (or fumble through notes).
I always have to laugh at the Democrat activists with bylines who still use the “no one knows my biases” excuse — not only does no one believe it anymore (if they ever did), but it’s a vestigial holdover from the earliest days of the industry, when there were only three national networks, which had to at least pose as being neutral to serve a large and diverse nation. Today’s narrowcasted world of media allows consumers to pick and chose the journalists who (more or less) best match up with their own.
It’s even more fun when journalists play the “I have no idea what the biases of my colleagues are” game. Really? You’ve been covering politics since days of Gerald Ford and you still can’t deduce the biases of the people you work with every day? How do you tie your shoelaces Ralph Wiggum, let alone report on Capitol Hill? On very rare occasions, journalists get called on this sort of tack – including the aforementioned Lesley Stahl, whom when being interviewed on Fox in 2003 by Cal Thomas claimed, “Today you have broadcast journalists who are avowedly conservative…. The voices that are being heard in broadcast media today, are far more likely to be on the right and avowedly so, and therefore, more — almost stridently so, than what you’re talking about,” to which Cal responded, “Can you name a conservative journalist at CBS News?” Two guesses as to her answer.
EVERYTHING SEEMINGLY IS SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL: Nothing gets past the AP — in their Drudge-linked column, “DIVIDED AMERICA: Constructing our own intellectual ghettos,” columnist David Bauder suddenly notices that Americans like having choices where to consume their news and opinion:
In a simpler time, Albrecht and Dearth might have gathered at a common television hearth to watch Walter Cronkite deliver the evening news.
But the growth in partisan media over the past two decades has enabled Americans to retreat into tribes of like-minded people who get news filtered through particular world views. Fox News Channel and Talking Points Memo thrive, with audiences that rarely intersect. What’s big news in one world is ignored in another. Conspiracy theories sprout, anger abounds and the truth becomes ever more elusive.
I’m not sure if Cronkite is your go-to guy for a callback to a purer, better age, considering that at various times during his lengthy career as anchor at CBS, he claimed that Barry Goldwater was a crypto-Nazi, America had lost the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and that a new ice age was on the way. After he stepped down as anchorman, he gave yammered about one-world government and told Larry King on CNN in late October of 2004 that George Bush had Osama bin Laden on ice in order for him to dial-up speeches near the end of the election cycle, perhaps kept in the basement of the Ministry of Defense next to Austin Powers, Evel Knievel, and Vanilla Ice.
The month before Cronkite’s on-air meltdown with Larry King, his successor Dan Rather famously self-immolated over George Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service. But Rather also did his best at the start of his presidency to make it seem illegitimate:
“Florida’s Republican Secretary of State is about to announce the winner — as she sees it and she decrees it — of the state’s potentially decisive 25 electoral votes.”
“The believed certification — as the Republican Secretary of State sees it.”
“She will certify — as she sees it — who gets Florida’s 25 electoral votes.”
“The certification — as the Florida Secretary of State sees it and decrees it — is being signed.”
All the while claiming: media bias — who me?!
Fortunately, technology began increasingly to allow for alternatives. Alvin Toffler was writing about the “demassification” of mass media and how it might impact our culture during the very early days of cable TV in his 1980 book, The Third Wave. In 2006, I wrote an article for the New Individualist titled Atlas Mugged on how the Blogosphere was born due to bipartisan loathing of how newspapers and network TV news report the news.
As I wrote, neither side of the political aisle was happy with an “objective” media, which was a necessary fiction for radio and television to maintain for the first three quarters of the 20th century. This was a time when the first radio, and later TV networks were a massively expensive proposition, hence only three over-the-air national commercial networks. However, as a byproduct of their dramatic cultural influence, most cities were gradually reduced after WWII to only being served by a couple of newspapers. By the 1970s, the amount of news services producing content was remarkably small, despite an era that had no shortage of crises to report.
The arrival of first Rush and then in rapid succession Fox, Drudge, and the Blogosphere were a necessary and long overdue counterbalance to a left-leaning media posing as “objective.” Speaking of which, note that the AP still holds itself out as being objective, despite a howler such as this in Bauder’s column:
By 2002, Fox had raced past CNN to become the top-rated news network.
This was the beginning of a golden age of partisan media, though Rush Limbaugh had started a boom of conservative talk radio in the early 1990s.
There wasn’t anything to compare on the left, at least until summer 2006 when MSNBC host Keith Olbermann read about a speech where Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld equated Iraq War opponents to pre-World War II appeasers. The next night, Olbermann angrily denounced Rumsfeld. Olbermann half-expected his boss to fire him, but management instead saw viewers had responded.
“The next day he came into my office and said, ‘could you do one of those every night, buddy?'” Olbermann recalled.
His show became home for disaffected liberals in the Bush administration’s final years. MSNBC hired Maddow and eventually made the entire network left-leaning. It didn’t really stick: Low ratings forced a turn to straight news in daytime the last two years, but vestiges of partisanship remain.
“There wasn’t anything to compare on the left” – other than NBCABCPBSCBSCNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR. Not to mention, by 2006 a host of leftwing magazines, Websites, blogs and Internet forums. Plus Air America, which ran from 2004 to 2010 and served as MSNBC’s farm team.
But wait, there’s more:
Liberals like Jeff Cohen, communications professor at Ithaca College, believe that conservatives will always dominate mass media because of corporate ownership.
“Conservatives…dominate mass media,” despite the fact that journalists have been a reliably monolithic Democrat voter block since at least 1964.
And speaking of posing as objective when you’re really a group of Democrat activists with bylines, note the headline on this post, which is also a favorite leitmotif of James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal’s “Best of the Web” column. It was an AP headline in June of 2008, Democrat propaganda pretending to be news. Perhaps if AP had truly been worried about readers departing to “intellectual ghettos,” they wouldn’t have worked so hard to drive them away in the first place.
Old hosts die hard in public radio.
When 73-year-old Garrison Keillor retires as host of “A Prairie Home Companion” next month, he’ll leave more than 3 million weekly listeners loyal to a show that began more than 40 years ago. Elsewhere on the dial, “Car Talk” ranks near the top of National Public Radio’s ratings even though co-host Tom Magliozzi died at age 77 nearly two years ago—his jovial cackle still echoing in “best of” versions of the show on more than 600 stations nationwide. Later this year, Washington talk-show doyenne Diane Rehm, 79, who boasts one of NPR’s 10 largest weekly audiences, will end more than three decades on the air.
“We’ve known that the so-called old guard would eventually have to retire,” said Mike Savage, general manager of public-radio station WBAA in West Lafayette, Ind., which has aired all three shows for decades. “There’s concern because these programs are well-known and well-loved.”
Public radio is facing an existential crisis. Some of the biggest radio stars of a generation are exiting the scene while public-radio executives attempt to stem the loss of younger listeners on traditional radio. At the same time, the business model of NPR—the institution at the center of the public-radio universe—is under threat: It relies primarily on funding from hundreds of local radio stations, but it faces rising competition from small and nimble podcasting companies using aggressive commercial strategies to create Netflix-style on-demand content.
Why, It’s as if public radio is a Great Society-era socialist dinosaur in an era of endless podcasts, Sirius-XM, and other forms of multimedia. (Many of which can now be created quite easily in a home studio with a couple of mics, software and perhaps a modicum of acoustic treatments. Want to create your own culture? The tools are out there, much to old media’s chagrin.)
HEALTHY COMPETITION: Regulator says too many drugmakers chasing same cancer strategy.
Perhaps some kind of anti-dog-eat-dog rule is called for.
WHY AIRPORT SECURITY takes so long.
THIS JUST IN AT AP. Poll: Vast majority of Americans don’t trust the news media.
As I wrote in 2007 for the Objectivist-themed New Individualist (ignore the 2011 date on its reprint), the Blogosphere was a bipartisan phenomenon. The right has been complaining about media bias ever since Spiro Agnew’s “Nattering Nabobs” speech of 1970 — but the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren/Al Sharpton left thinks those very same journalists are too conservative, and neither side feels well served by a mass media. Suddenly, at the dawn of the 21st century, both sides now had easily affordable — often free — tools to do something about it. As a result, the notion of a one-size-fits-all mass media became a relatively brief one in American history, originally made necessary by the economies of scale required to build the first nationwide radio networks in the 1920s, who then became the “Big Three” commercial TV networks in the 1950s.
As for America’s dramatic fracturing of opinion between left and right and coastal elites and the voters, well, that will happen to a nation on its way to becoming the next Yugoslavia.
SWEDEN FINALLY FINDS AN IMMIGRANT INVADER IT’S WILLING TO TRY TO KEEP OUT: American Lobsters.
THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE VIDEOFREEX FROM MARS. We now take for granted YouTube’s ability to birth DIY performers who eventually acquire large followings and of course, video cameras built into smart phones and tablets have become ubiquitous. But just as DARPA was crafting the notion of an interconnected network of computers in the late 1960s, portable DIY video technology was also being birthed during that period, as authors Doug Hill and Jeff Weingrad write near the beginning of their 1985 book Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live. Without Sony’s invention, “It’s possible that the underground [comedy movement, which SNL creator Lorne Michaels tapped into for his first stars and writers] might have bypassed television altogether had it not been for the Sony Corporation’s introduction in the late 1960s of portable video cameras and recorders that were affordable by the public at large:”
That technology spawned a movement known as guerrilla television, which was populated by hundreds of long-hairs carrying Porta-Pak units, nascent auteurs who’d previously had no access to the mechanisms of television production and who set out to invent their own kind of programs. One such guerrilla remembers showing up with his partner at the house of a famous Hollywood writer, hoping to tell him some of their ideas. They were laden with gear, their hair hung well past their shoulders, and they wore fatigue jackets and pants. The memory of the Manson murders was still strong at the time, and the writer’s wife, answering the door and seeing the equipment they were carrying, thought it was some kind of machine gun and ran screaming back inside.
In his latest film review at NRO, Armond White explores the Videofreex, one of the leftwing underground groups producing guerrilla television in the years that preceded SNL, the subject of a new documentary Here Come the Videofreex:
Entitlement is quite different from “Civil Rights,” and Here Come the Videofreex helps us understand how the two things became closely linked and then were tied in with the self-satisfaction of media domination. Directors Jon Nealon and Jenny Raskin observe those Sixties youth who felt that through the then-new video technology they could more accurately address the proletariat — a sense of righteous free expression like the social networking of cell phones, Twitter, and innumerable blogs. They were eventually crushed by corporate media’s ultimate indifference. CBS sacked the Videofreex but let them keep the “worthless” technology, which led to the Videofreex’ brief pirate TV enterprise.
It’s amazing to see this all laid out in an indie documentary while we currently contend with the bewildering, flip-flopping propaganda of MSNBC, Fox Cable News, and the shamelessly pandering CNN — all 21st-century videofreaks with small regard for reporting or objectivity. Their “news” cycles merely exploit American politics.
Co-director Raskin had worked on the 2013 Our Nixon, the most compassionate of all Watergate documentaries, which most reviewers misunderstood — seemingly deliberately. Today’s media politics all result from class privilege: Millionaire newsreaders follow the dictates of their behind-the-scenes tycoon bosses (broadcasters committed to the status quo and partisan politricks). They’re determined to influence the voting and polling patterns of viewers and readers. This is what the now-aged provocateurs of Here Come the Videofreex teach us. Parry Teasdale, Davidson Gigliotti, Skip Blumberg, Chuck Kennedy, Carol Vontobel, Ann Woodward, Bart Friedman, and others recall their pasts without guile, even as they lament their inability to fully “democratize” the U.S. media.
And note this: “When a veteran hippie mused, ‘Turning people on to video was like turning them on to grass,’ it seems stunningly naïve. It’s also au courant.”
Which dovetails well with an encomium to a man who also seemed to singlehandedly craft his own culture during the early 1970s, David Bowie. As Nick Gillespie writes in the latest issue of Reason, “David Bowie Was a Time Traveler from Our Hyper-Personalized Future — The star who made it cool to be a freak,” though a very different “freak” from the Videofreex, needless to say:
In 1987, he returned to West Berlin, where he had made an exceptional set of records in the late 1970s, including several with his muse and protégé Iggy Pop. There he played a concert so loud it could be heard in communist East Berlin. The Internet abounds with footage from the show, which is capped by an absolutely brilliant version of “Heroes,” his ballad of doomed lovers who literally meet in the shadow of the Berlin Wall to steal a moment (“I can remember standing by the wall, and the guns shot above our heads”).
Just days after the concert, President Ronald Reagan also performed in Berlin, delivering one of his most memorable lines: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Who’s to say that the example of Bowie, who personified not only the freedom of expression but the sybaritic desire that the Communists had unsuccessfully tried to stamp out, wasn’t as important to the Wall’s destruction as the arms race? The day after his death, the German government tweeted, “Good-bye, David Bowie…Thank you for helping to bring down the #wall.”
Bowie was exceptionally well-read (his list of 100 favorite books ranges from Madame Bovary to The Gnostic Gospels) and was renowned for his knowledge of blues, folk, jazz, and experimental music. (He introduced U.S. audiences to the German avant garde perfomer Klaus Nomi on Saturday Night Live, of all venues.) Yet only fools look to celebrities and artists—especially rock stars—for moral instruction and political programs. We’re wiser to seek artists for inspiration and ideas on how we might expand our own horizons and think about our own possibilities.
It’s in this sense that Bowie was a time traveler from our own future, where we all feel more comfortable not just being who we are but in trying out different things to see whom we might want to become. Certainly, an entire species of performer, from U2 to Madonna to Lady Gaga to Jay-Z (who sampled “Fame” in his 2001 track “Takeover”) were influenced by him.
And unlike many rock stars, Bowie created continuity with earlier forms of popular music, not only by covering various old songs (“Wild Is the Wind” is a memorable instance) but by incongruously appearing with Bing Crosby on der Bingle’s 1977 Merrie Olde Christmas TV Special, which gave birth to Crosby and Bowie’s enduringly beautiful and strange duet of “Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy.”
Back in 2007, I wrote a piece for the Rand-themed New Individualist magazine titled “Welcome to My.Culture — How Emerging Technologies Allow Anyone to Create His Own Culture.” (Somehow, when the piece went to the Web, the subhead replaced the editor’s original title from the print edition, unfortunately):
Through television, newspapers, radio, and advertising, the mass culture of the twentieth century created easily understandable points of reference for virtually everyone. Often, these were low and crude and coarse. But everyone knew who Ralph Cramden was. Who Batman was. Who Vince Lombardi was. You might not have known who Gene Roddenberry was, but you knew that NBC had a show starring a guy with pointed ears.
Today, however, we’re looking at that shared culture in the rearview mirror, and with mixed emotions. In fact, we’re witnessing the death throes of mass culture. It’s being replaced, not by the elder President Bush’s “thousand points of light,” but by a thousand fractured micro-cultures, each of which knows only a little bit about what’s going on in the next micro-culture thriving on the website next door.
As James Lileks of Lileks.com and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Buzz.mn told me a couple of years ago: “Take a basically divided populace—the old red and blue paradigm—and then shove that through a prism which splinters it into millions of different individual demographics, each of which have their own music channel, their own website, their own Blogosphere, their own porn preferences delivered daily by email solicitations. I mean, it’s hard to say whether or not there will eventually be a common culture for which we can have sport, other than making fun of the fact that we really lack a common culture.”
This trend has both good and bad aspects. But before we turn our attention to that—and what it may bode for our future—it might be useful first to review how we got here.
Though I have no doubt that I’ll be repulsed by their reactionary socialist-anarchist message, I’m looking forward to seeing the Videofreex documentary, at least when it comes to Amazon Prime or Netflix. Decades before YouTube, iPhones and GoPros, their taking advantage of the first portable video technology was itself the real revolution (a textbook example of McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” aphorism). Gillespie makes a very good case that Bowie was a similar sort of revolutionary — and the recording studio technology he (and his frequent producers Tony Visconti and Nile Rodgers) mastered is similarly now available inside of a reasonably-equipped PC. And as old media continues to be an even vaster version of the vast wasteland that JFK’s FCC Chairman Newton Minnow infamously described, making your own culture as an alternative seems more important than ever. Think of it as the Nockian Remnant with iPhones.
ALOE VERA NOW CAUSES CANCER IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA: For those of you not familiar with California’s Proposition 65, this 2009 L.A. Times article is a reasonable introduction:
Whether you are pumping gas or buying a fillet of salmon, your eyes have no doubt landed on an ominous sign documenting the presence of “chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
Such alarming notices began appearing in the state in 1986 thanks to Proposition 65, otherwise known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, which prohibits businesses from discharging potentially harmful chemicals in drinking water and requires them to disclose the presence of such chemicals on their premises. The 19-page list of hundreds of potentially dangerous chemicals kept by the state is updated annually.
Today, the warnings are everywhere: parking lots, hardware stores, hospitals and just about any decent-sized business including, as of May, those of medical marijuana suppliers — because marijuana smoke is now on the list of known carcinogens.
Flash-forward to 2016, when as the California Political Review notes, Aloe Vera has been added to the state’s Prop. 65 List:
You read that correctly: Aloe vera. In December of last year, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published its intent to list Aloe vera, whole leave extract to the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. Despite the widely accepted extensive health benefits of Aloe vera, an unelected regulator in Sacramento can now tell you and all consumers it will cause cancer, even if no cases of cancer from Aloe vera exposure exist.
The problem is that the 800+ chemicals listed in Proposition 65 are not devised to protect consumers, but rather serve as a cash cow for private trial lawyers to sue small business and reap the hefty settlement payout. Since 1986, nearly 20,000 lawsuits have been filed, adding up to over half a billion dollars in settlement payments by business owners.
Unfortunately, the most profitable thing regulators give to trial lawyers at the expense of job creators is confusion. Recent Proposition 65 proposed regulatory revisions create compliance difficulties, increase frivolous litigation, and add consumer confusion.
Which for trial lawyers, is a feature, not a bug. Or as Ayn Rand wrote a half century ago in Atlas Shrugged, “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for me to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed or enforced nor objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of law-breakers — and then you cash in on guilt.”
AN OLD POST, BUT WORTH CONSIDERING MORE THAN EVER: Can There be an “After Socialism”?
If there was a prize for the most complex capital gains tax platform, it would assuredly be awarded to Hillary Clinton. She proposes many new capital gains rates than today, based on the duration one owns an asset sold and one’s income the year of the sale.
By contrast, the Sanders plan on capital gains is pretty simple. All households above a small exemption have to pay a 2.2% tax to help pay for his “Medicare for All” single payer socialized healthcare system. This effectively makes the 3.8% surtax a 6% surtax for families making at least $250,000 per year.
If a household makes more than $250,000 per year (where most gains occur), it pays ordinary income tax on its capital gains, plus the 6% surtax. Sanders raises the top statutory income tax rate to 54%. Add in the surtax, and you’re at a 60% top capital gains rate.
Each plan would result in a very large increase in the capital gains top rate. According to the Tax Policy Center, the highest this rate ever got was just under 40% in the late 1970s, which precipitated the supply side revolution and the Reagan tax cuts.
Glenn likes to say that Atlas Shrugged has been a how-to manual for the Obama Administration, but Clinton and Sanders are looking to the Malaise Era for their inspiration.
So where’s our Reagan?
PREDICTION: SOMEONE WITH POLITICAL CONNECTIONS WILL MAKE A LOT OF MONEY OUT OF THIS. One of D.C.’s Most Contentious Pieces of Real Estate is 25 Feet Underground.
In the upscale Washington, D.C. neighborhood of Dupont Circle, where galleries, bars, and bookshops jostle for room, a 75,000-square-foot expanse in the heart of the quarter has been almost untouched for 20 years. That’s because in order to access it, you have to grab a flashlight and descend 25 feet below ground, into the vast, abandoned streetcar tunnels that flank Connecticut Avenue.
For the past 60 years, the city and its residents have wondered what to do with this vast subterranean space, whose history features a long list of failed attempts to repurpose it, including plans to make it into a gym, a greenmarket, and a storage facility for funeral urns.
Well, the way things are going it should probably be stocked as a fallout shelter.
MIDNIGHT, THE STARS, AND YOU: Exploring the Forgotten Art Deco Artifacts of the New Yorker Hotel.
I’m certain my late father caught a few big bands there during his youth.
SPACE HISTORY: NASA’s Very First Idea For A Space Station. “Although the Atlas wasn’t powerful enough to deliver an entire space station into orbit, Convair engineers came up with an ingenious solution—one that was later eyed for many other space projects, but has yet to be tried. The idea was that after the rocket had done the job of delivering the mission into a 400-mile-high orbit, the now-empty forward propellant tank (which had contained non-toxic liquid oxygen) would become the living quarters of the new space station. An inflatable structure made of rubber nylon was also proposed to provide insulation inside the stainless steel body of the rocket, and to subdivide the tank into different rooms. This trick would immediately give engineers enough volume to fit a four-story habitat, complete with a laboratory, a kitchen, a washroom, a playroom, and sleeping facilities for four people. . . . With its vertical design, the bottle-shaped station would make 2.5 rotations per minute to give its inhabitants a little bit of artificial gravity. A hallmark of the 1950s—the nuclear reactor—would produce all the needed electricity. All add-on components of the station would be launched on Atlas rockets upgraded with a custom-built space tug. In addition, the station could be expanded by adding extra empty tanks left over from crew exchange and resupply missions. A special airlock would allow exiting the station to board incoming ships and conduct assembly work. The no-longer-needed main engine of the rocket, and its associated pressure tanks, could be reused for oxygen storage.”
CNN FAILS TO GRASP SOCIAL MEDIA, suspending reporter Elise Labott for two weeks for editorializing “House passes bill that could limit Syrian refugees. Statue of Liberty bows head in anguish,” in a tweet, Ed Morrissey writes:
A two-week suspension isn’t going to convince anyone that CNN reporters (or any reporters) are robots without their own biases and opinions. If anything, it’s better for consumers to have those out in the open. Media bias was obvious long before Elise Labott hit Twitter, and suspending her over this tweet isn’t going to convince anyone that it’s been cured, at CNN or anywhere else.
In fact, that is one of the merits of social-media interaction — so that consumers can interact with and get to know reporters. CNN obviously values that promotional value, or they’d order Labott and other reporters off of Twitter and Facebook altogether. If reporters do nothing but tweet headlines, there would be no value to their engagement at all; CNN tweets headlines all day long, and people can find links there if that’s all they want.
CNN is apparently still clinging to the notion of “objectivity” like one of the legendary stories of Japanese soldiers stranded on desert islands and still claiming allegiance to the emperor long after the war had ended. “Objectivity” was a fable the MSM needed to promote during the early days of the original national broadcast networks, first radio in the 1920s, and TV after World War II, to convince the American public — and the FCC — that it was delivering a neutral product that appealed to the largest possible audience. (A premise the MSM regularly broke with impunity, of course.) Building a national broadcasting network was staggeringly expensive, which is why for decades TV channel choices were so limited; today, anyone can start a Website with just a few clicks of a computer mouse.
In the 1980s, CNN broke the big three TV networks’ logjam on the news. Perhaps its current management might join the rest of us in the 21st century someday.
Of course, Labbott’s suspension raises another question for CNN viewers: if the network is going to continue to pretend to be “objective,” then why do all their reporters’ Kinsley-esque gaffes keep occurring from the left?
SALENA ZITO: “More than 3 million people didn’t show up to vote in 2012, according to David Leip’s ‘Atlas of U.S. Elections.’ That number was not a show of apathy, but the beginning force of populism that sent a message to the establishment of both parties that neither recognized.”
OBAMA VISITS WITH TOP NEWSPAPER EXECUTIVES RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT MEDIA FAIRNESS:
In recent weeks, the president has gotten cozy with top executives at major U.S. newspapers, headlining a Democratic Party fundraiser at the home of Las Vegas Sun owner Brian Greenspun and dining at the Anchorage home of Alaska Dispatch News publisher Alice Rogoff during a three-day trek across the state last week.
On the surface the events didn’t seem to influence either paper’s coverage of the president during his stays in Las Vegas and Alaska, but journalism specialists say they may have raised questions in the eyes of average Americans about the fairness of the news media.
At the same time, however, a distinction must be drawn between the business leaders at an individual media outlet and the reporters who work beneath them, says John Watson, director of the journalism division at American University.
“Here’s a news flash for you: The people who own newspapers and the people who publish newspapers aren’t journalists. They’re business people,” Mr. Watson said. “Owners and publishers aren’t journalists, even though they own and employ journalists. It’s different.
Nahh, it really isn’t; as the passage I highlighted above regarding a Democrat fundraiser in the home of the Sun’s publisher, he and his journalists are all, as Glenn likes to call them, Democratic operatives — and the vast majority of news consumers on both sides of the aisle know this already and can adjust their expectations accordingly. Nobody is still claiming with a straight face that the media is objective — or even should be – at this late date.
And second, it’s worth noting that even when Obama has been aboveboard with journalists, their role as party operatives supersedes their ability to report news. Recall Obama’s infamous quotes, which rocketed through the Blogosphere immediately before the November 2008 election that he would bankrupt the coal industry and that “under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”
These promises, spoken in a chilling monotone by Obama sat, out in the open, as part of an hour-long video uploaded without comment in January of 2008 by the San Francisco Chronicle. They were recorded during his meeting with the paper’s editors to discuss his policies in general. No matter what your beliefs on environmentalism are, if you’re a journalist, a major presidential candidate promising to raise consumers’ energy prices and bankrupt an entire industry should be 48-point all-caps front page news. Instead, Obama’s remarks went uncommented on by the Chronicle, meaning either they’re lousy journalists who don’t know when a major story has been handed to them, or they’re Democratic operatives with bylines.
Or both. Any questions about media “fairness” were answered quite a long time ago.
NATIONAL REVIEW COLUMNIST APPROVES GWEN IFILL’S “TAKE THAT BIBI” ADMISSION. At the Corner, Jay Nordlinger writes:
I’ve said it a million times: The anchorman of CBS News should attend Democratic fundraisers (as happened). The Supreme Court reporter of the New York Times, a.k.a. the paper of record, should march in abortion-rights rallies (as happened). And PBS news figures should be open partisans.
Yesterday, when Senator Barbara Mikulski declared for the Iran deal, meaning that this deal could not be blocked by the Senate, Gwen Ifill spiked the football. “Take that, Bibi,” she tweeted. Aha! Good one, Gwen!
The PBS ombudsman has written about this matter disapprovingly. I’m not sure I disapprove. What I disapprove of is pretending — the pretending that these news organizations are neutral and dispassionate, instead of on the left.
Nomsayin? Know what I’m saying? It seems so . . . elementary. Let your true colors fly, and we’ll have a good ol’ democratic debate.
Exactly. There’s no such thing as “objectivity,” and news consumers should know about the worldview of journalists and/or Democratic operatives with bylines such Ifill, in order to make informed choices. (Particularly in the case of PBS and NPR, as we’re legally required to partially foot the bill for these networks.) The MSM’s cry of “objectivity” dates back to the 1920s through the end of the 1970s, when limits in technology created a mass American media consisting of just three national radio networks, the forerunners to the three national commercial TV networks, a handful of wire services, and for most large cities, only a couple of newspapers. That media world hasn’t existed for decades.
I thought self-styled “Progressives” didn’t want to live in the 1950s anymore — why rely on an Eisenhower-era trope to dodge responsibility for your statements?
At the New Republic, Malcolm Harris asks an interesting question: Was the Soviet Union’s problem that Communism can never work? Or did the Soviets just need a lot more MacBook Airs?
Actually, Harris is channeling Paul Mason, the author of the book he is reviewing, and unfortunately, he doesn’t really try to answer the question. Instead he makes the stridently timid argument that this won’t happen because the capitalists won’t let it, at least without a healthy dose of revolutionary action.
I’ll swing for the fences and argue that no, even with better computers, Communism isn’t going to work. Nor some gauzy vision of post-capitalism that looks like Communism, but with YouTube videos.
In retrospect, Communism seems wildly stupid, or at least, incredibly naive. Did the people who dreamed up this system not understand the enormous incentive problems they were creating? As Ayn Rand dramatized the problem in “Atlas Shrugged”: “It’s miseries, not work, that had become the coin of the realm — so it turned into a contest among six thousand panhandlers, each claiming that his need was worse than his brother’s. How else could it be done?” The incentives of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” drive toward falling production, which means there won’t be enough to cover the needs.
Or as a former colleague who fled Communist Poland once told me, “They pretended to pay us, and we pretended to work.” There is a reason that basically all the Communist and Socialist regimes ended in some degree of authoritarianism.
To most people espousing communism, the authoritarianism isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. All the talk about “sharing” and “compassion” is just to fool the rubes. People espousing communism should be treated as if they are on the same moral plane as people espousing Nazism, because they are.
UPSIDE: IT ONLY KINDA LOOKS LIKE A TERMINATOR. Atlas, a Humanoid Robot, Takes a Walk in the Woods.
ANOTHER OP’NIN, ANOTHER SHOW — BUT IS ANYONE NOTICING? At the Weekly Standard, John Podhoretz explores the latest in Broadway openings, novels, and the art world, and wearily concludes, “It’s the fact that so little of what’s made these days, or written these days, or filmed these days, or performed these days, seems to provoke the kind of anticipatory thrill that once went hand-in-hand with being a serious customer, consumer, and enthusiast of culture:”
Is there a recording artist at present whose new album might elicit the sort of tingling expectancy that a new Paul Simon or Talking Heads record would have in its day? For those with more highbrow tastes, is there a classical artist whose participation in a new recording of Wagner’s Ring cycle, or a new interpretation of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, might be the talk of the town?
I remember when, in the early 1980s, Americans for whom the visual arts were profoundly important could talk of little else than the German monumentalist painter Anselm Kiefer—and this at a time when it was simply taken for granted that a cultured person was familiar with the works of the Abstract Expressionists and the post-modernists that followed them. To put it most plainly: How many living painters are household names the way Jackson Pollock was? The answer, of course, is that there isn’t a one.
This summer, everyone in New York has been lining up to see the insides of the new, $400 million building housing the Whitney Museum of American Art, but it’s doubtful that more than a handful could have identified the painters or sculptors whose work they strolled by. As Michael J. Lewis wrote in “How Art Became Irrelevant,” his magnificent essay in the current issue of Commentary: “For a generation or more, the American public has been thoroughly alienated from the life of the fine arts while, paradoxically, continuing to enjoy museums for the sake of sensation and spectacle, much as it enjoyed circuses a century ago.”
There are several elements going on here, and we’ll get deep into the tall grass right after the “continue reading” break.
FREUDIAN SLIP: CNN’S TOOBIN ADMITS ‘WE’ CELEBRATE GAY RIGHTS VICTORIES BEFORE WALKING IT BACK.
All of the media kabuki about being “objective” dates back to a philosophy from the days of the first national radio networks 90 years ago. As I wrote several years ago in the New Individualist magazine, with the birth of mass media, journalists had to convince the public (and the FCC) that they were “objective,” since they were increasingly the only game in town until media began becoming democratized once again and as Alvin Toffler would say, “demassified,” via talk radio, Fox News, the Internet, and the birth of the Blogosphere.
In the 21st century, nobody buys the notion about journalists being objective, and news outlets and their spokesmen such as CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin would be far better off if they started being honest with their customers, and openly declaring their allegiances.
WELL, THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY, YOU KNOW: ULA’s New Vulcan Rocket Comes Back to Earth via Helicopter. “ULA’s new Vulcan rocket will use BE-4 engines currently being developed by Blue Origin, the private aerospace company of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. They’ll be 20 percent more powerful than the engines currently powering ULA’s Atlas, and Vulcan will be able to handle six strap-on boosters for heavy lifting, as opposed to five on the Atlas. The Vulcan replacement for the Atlas should cost under $100 million, $65 million less than an Atlas launch, and competitive with the SpaceX Falcon. With 65% of the booster costs of the Vulcan wrapped up in the engines, reusability can slash launch costs dramatically. Rather than try to duplicate SpaceX’s not-yet-successful vertical landing to reuse the entire rocket, ULA is planning on reusing just the engines themselves, and to do that, they need to come up with a way of getting them back to Earth in a soft, gentle, non-crashy sort of way.”
SPACE: Hoping to Set Sail on Sunlight. “The Planetary Society, a nonprofit that promotes space exploration, announced Monday that it would send the first of two small craft testing the technology of solar sails into orbit this May, tagging along with other small satellites on an Atlas 5 rocket. . . . When photons — particles of light — bounce off a shiny surface, they impart a tiny bit of momentum, an effect that comes directly from the equations of electromagnetism published by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell in the 1860s. In his 1865 novel, ‘From the Earth to the Moon,’ Jules Verne appears to have been the first to realize that this force could be harnessed for space travel. The bombardment of sunlight over a large area can gradually but continuously accelerate a spacecraft.”
21ST CENTURY RELATIONSHIPS: Date The Atlas, Not The Shrug.
REALLY, CHAMP? ‘CAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN USING IT AS A MANUAL SINCE DAY ONE: Steny Hoyer: ‘Atlas Shrugged’ No Way to Run a Country.
CHRISTINA HOFF SOMMERS: 5 Feminist Myths That Won’t Die. Here’s one:
MYTH 3: In the United States, 22%–35% of women who visit hospital emergency rooms do so because of domestic violence.
FACTS: This claim has appeared in countless fact sheets, books and articles—for example, in the leading textbook on family violence, Domestic Violence Law, and in the Penguin Atlas of Women in the World. The Penguin Atlas uses the emergency room figure to justify placing the U.S. on par with Uganda and Haiti for intimate violence.
What is the provenance? The Atlas provides no primary source, but the editor of Domestic Violence Law cites a 1997 Justice Department study, as well as a 2009 post on the Centers for Disease Control website. But the Justice Department and the CDC are not referring to the 40 million women who annually visit emergency rooms, but to women, numbering about 550,000 annually, who come to emergency rooms “for violence-related injuries.” Of these, approximately 37% were attacked by intimates. So, it’s not the case that 22%-35% of women who visit emergency rooms are there for domestic violence. The correct figure is less than half of 1%.
I tend to assume that most any factoid of this sort is bogus, and probably presented dishonestly. I’m seldom wrong, these days.
IS BARACK OBAMA JOHN GALT? “Now, Barack Obama has decreed that the American Atlas should shrug. Weary of its burdens and tired of being blamed for the world’s problems, America is withdrawing from its global leadership role. And the result, as in Atlas Shrugged, is disaster.”
Could’ve saved the world a lot of trouble by just reading a John Birmingham book or two instead.
SPACE: How Badly Can Russia Put The Squeeze On NASA? “On the manned spaceflight front, NASA is now completely reliant on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft and rockets to get its astronauts to the International Space Station. . . . On the unmanned front, United Launch Alliance (ULA), the near-monopoly created by Boeing and Lockheed Martin for launching satellites for the Pentagon, depends on the Russian-built RD-180 to power the first stage of its Atlas V satellite launcher.”
CHANGE: SpaceX Sues To Break Satellite Launch Monopoly. “Saving money is only one of Musk’s arguments for choosing his upstart company to launch government sats. Here’s another: ULA Atlas V rockets that launch Air Force and spy agency satellites use Russian RD-180 engines to get into orbit. Musk argues that this fact makes a national security asset vulnerable to the whims of international diplomacy.”
LARRY KUDLOW IN THE NEW YORK SUN: Is Atlas Shrugging? Koch Warning on Collectivism Echoes Slow Jobs Growth.
SPACE: Dream Chaser Space Plane Will Fly in 2016. “The Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced that Dream Chaser will blast into orbit in November 2016 atop an Atlas V rocket. Dream Chaser’s first orbital flight will be unmanned and will test the space plane’s autonomous landing system. SNC expects to launch its first manned orbital mission about one year later.” All is proceeding as I have foreseen.
JAMES DELINGPOLE: Shale Gas Is Rearden Metal.
For my summer holidays I have been mostly reading Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand has her faults but, boy, was she prescient.
One of the things she foresaw was the current nonsensical, dishonest, canting campaign against shale gas. In Atlas Shrugged it takes the form of Rearden Metal, the miracle technology which is going to transform the US economy if only the progressives will let it. But of course, Rand’s fictional progressives don’t want Reardon Metal to succeed any more than their modern, real-life equivalents want shale gas to succeed.
Why not? For the same rag-bag of made-up, disingenuous reasons which progressives have used to justify their war on progress since time immemorial: it’s unfair, it uses up scarce resources, it might be dangerous. Rand doesn’t actually use the phrase “the precautionary principle.” But this is exactly what she is describing in the book when various vested interests – the corporatists in bed with big government, the politicised junk-scientists at the Institute of Science (aka, in our world, the National Academy of Sciences or the Royal Society), the unions – try to close down the nascent technology using the flimsiest of excuses.
Read the whole thing.
YOU CAN SEE WHY HUMA WAS SO EAGER TO HITCH HER WAGON TO THIS POLITICAL STAR: Weiner to 69-year-old at AARP event: “What are you going to do about it, grandpa?”
On Twitter, a suggested reply.
AS A READER NOTES, THIS COULD COME STRAIGHT FROM ATLAS SHRUGGED — WHICH WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A WARNING, NOT A HOW-TO MANUAL: Bill Nojay: Lessons From a Front-Row Seat for Detroit’s Dysfunction. “Union and civil-service rules made it virtually impossible to fire anyone. A six-step disciplinary process provided job protection to anyone with a pulse, regardless of poor performance or bad behavior. Even the time-honored management technique of moving someone up or sideways where he would do less harm didn’t work in Detroit: Job descriptions and qualification requirements were so strict it was impossible for management to rearrange the organization chart. I was a manager with virtually no authority over personnel. When the federal government got involved, it only made things worse.”
ATLAS BUGGED: Why the “Secret Law” of the Patriot Act Is Probably About Location Tracking. “All we can do is speculate, of course: only a handful of legislators and people with top-secret clearances know for sure. But a few of us who closely monitor national security and surveillance issues have come to the same conclusion: it probably involves some form of cellular phone geolocation tracking, potentially on a large scale.”
21ST CENTURY RELATIONSHIPS: Ab-solutely Fabulous: Women’s expectations of the opposite sex are at least as unrealistic as men’s. Love the accompanying Charles Atlas photo. He wouldn’t even be considered especially buff today. . . .
But note this important caveat: “Other factors—such as social status, for instance—may, in the real world, override the physical preferences that the researchers were measuring.”
ATLAS THUGGED: Who Is The Real “Big Oil?” “The Big Picture is that over 70% of the world’s reserves are produced by National Oil Companies (NOCs). These are companies with reserves and production that dwarf those of ExxonMobil or Shell, and with names you have probably never heard unless you are in the bidness. These are companies like PDVSA, Aramco, PetroBras, CNOOC, Gazprom, Yukos, and Pemex.”
What’s interesting is that the national companies somehow seem to get a pass on environmental problems and price-gouging. It’s only the private companies that are evil, apparently.
SO FOR ANYONE WHO’S INTERESTED, I’ve got an early version of my Due Process When Everything Is A Crime essay posted now. It’s pretty short, as I plan to submit it to the online law reviews for faster turnaround. Maybe later I’ll write a longer piece on the topic — I’ve already been asked if I’d like to do a book, but I’m not sure. Maybe someone else will pick up the ball and I won’t have to. . . .
UPDATE: Reader William Vine writes:
Thanks for the very insightful article. You explained concisely the legal ramifications of everyone is guilty. However, there are the psychological ramifications: Everyone is guilty. Everyone is immoral. Everyone is corrupt. Everyone is a failure. First explained to me in Atlas Shrugged. Unfortunately, do not remember citation details.
I believe this is the passage you mean:
“Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against – then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now, that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”
Things aren’t quite that bad. Yet. (Bumped).
SUBVERTING THE DOMINANT PARADIGM: Photo: Romney’s Name Written In Sand On Point Pleasant Beach During Obama’s New Jersey Flyover.
It’s impressive that Romney supporters found the energy and initiative to pull this off amid the devastation. Must be more of the “crawl over ground glass to vote for Romney” contingent.
VOTES BY PRECINCT: The Stanford Election Atlas.
YOU DIDN’T HEAR STUFF LIKE THIS FROM REPUBLICANS LAST TIME AROUND: “Romney was not my first, second, or third choice, but I will crawl over ground glass to vote for him.”
UPDATE: Maybe this is why.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Aaron Jones emails: “Not only would I crawl over broken glass to vote for Mitt Romney, I’ll show ID if I have to.” Now that’s serious.
INSTAVISION: Is Atlas Shrugging? Job Creators Are Giving Up on the U.S. Economy. I talk with Harmon Kaslow, producer of Atlas Shrugged Part II, about the movie, the book, and why the Obama Administration seems to see it as a how-to manual, rather than a cautionary tale.
WELL, I’LL HAVE TO GO SEE IT: The critics hate Atlas Shrugged II. Meanwhile the audience rates it at 78. Sounds like a winner to me!
WHO’S AFRAID OF AYN RAND? Paul Ryan, apparently. He’s now back-walking some of his 2005 remarks to the Atlas Society about Social Security and Medicare. Who wants to bet all these progressives who shudder at the mention of Rand have never read any of her work? LOL.
WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Socialism Kills, Venezuela Edition. “It is clear that the Chávez regime has been squeezing every last penny out of the oil sector, but despite the ‘Bolivarian’ socialist rhetoric promising equal distribution of this wealth, the money hasn’t just been used for social programs, but also to fund Venezuela’s expensive foreign policy, as well as its efforts to cover up the results of poor policy, rampant cronyism, and the general mismanagement of the public sector. When things go wrong, Venezuelan citizens are the ones who pay the price for the state’s poor choices. Three things seem likely at this juncture: first, no one will be able to trust whatever ‘investigation’ the Chavez government undertakes. It will be an obvious whitewash. Second, conditions for oil workers are unlikely to improve. Third, the usual crew of Chavez defenders in the United States, desperate after all these decades of misery and failure to point to some place some where, where authoritarian socialism isn’t a dreary charnel house and economic failure zone, will struggle to convince themselves that things are just fine in Bolivarian Venezuela.”
Venezuela is doing fine.
UPDATE: Reader John Steakley writes: “Based on how things are going, I would estimate that Hugo Chavez is about halfway through reading Atlas Shrugged.”
FAMED AUTHOR STEPS IN to pay Barack Obama’s Brother’s Hospital Bill. “One of Obama’s favorite phrases comes right out of the Bible: ‘We are our brother’s keeper.’ Yet he has not contributed a penny to help his own brother. And evidently George does not believe, even in times of emergency, that he can turn to his brother in the White House for help. So much for spreading the wealth around. Obama’s refusal to help George is especially surprising because George doesn’t just live in American-style poverty but rather in Third World poverty. He lives in a shanty in the Huruma slum in Nairobi. He gets by on a few dollars a month.”
UPDATE: Reader D.J. Schreffler writes:
The first thing that lept out at me was the mis-quote of Genesis 4:9. Depending on translation, it runs: Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother, Abel?” And Cain replied, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
To be fair, Cain’s trying to dodge trouble for murdering his younger brother at this point, but what do we see?
Mr. D’Souza thinks the phrase ‘We are our brother’s keeper[sic]’ is in the Bible. If he’s accurate in his assertion, President Obama thinks so as well. Nothing of the sort. There are admonition to be generous with the unfortunate, to take care of family, and to not let justice be changed depending on wealth and power (and insider access, I suppose), so they can be forgiven thinking that the quote comes from the bible, because you can find the sentiment there.
Where I do remember seeing the phrase ‘We are our brothers’ keepers’ (which might be a slight mis-recall, but at least is grammatically correct), is in Atlas Shrugged, with various people using it as a political slogan, or even as the new guiding principle of the Twentieth Century Motor Company after management goes to the next generation.
Which, of course, leads to another interesting possibility: Mr. D’Souza has read Atlas Shrugged, or other works of Rand, if the phrase shows up in them, and has ascribed the sentiment, as Rand uses is, to President Obama. This, I find depressingly accurate.
MORE PROOF THAT FOR BARACK OBAMA, Atlas Shrugged isn’t a cautionary tale, it’s a how-to manual.
“He didn’t invent iron ore and blast furnaces, did he?”
“Rearden. He didn’t invent smelting and chemistry and air compression. He couldn’t have invented his Metal but for thousands and thousands of other people. His Metal! Why does he think it’s his? Why does he think it’s his invention? Everybody uses the work of everybody else. Nobody ever invents anything.”
She said, puzzled, “But the iron ore and all those other things were there all the time. Why didn’t anybody else make that Metal, but Mr. Rearden did?”
Related: U.S. Employers Add 80,000 Jobs As Economy Struggles. “About one-third of the jobs gained in June were in temporary services.”
UPDATE: CNBC: Worst hiring period in 2 years. “There is little hope of an acceleration in the pace of job growth any time soon.” Not until November at the earliest.
Plus: “A measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers ticked higher to 14.9 percent, its highest level since February, while the labor force participation rate stayed near a 30-year low at 63.8 percent.”
Remember back in 2009, when President Obama and his team told us that we needed to squander $800 billion on a so-called stimulus package.
The crowd in Washington was quite confident that Keynesian spending was going to save the day, even though similar efforts had failed for Hoover and Roosevelt in the 1930s, for Japan in the 1990s, and for Bush in 2008.
Nonetheless, we were assured that Obama’s stimulus was needed to keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent.
Well, that claim turned out to be quite hollow. Not that we needed additional evidence, but the new numbers from the Labor Department re-confirm that the White House prediction was wildly inaccurate. The 8.2 percent unemployment rate is 2.5 percentage points above the Administration’s prediction.
Here’s the chart:
Mitchell: “The one thing that is unambiguous is that we’ve never had a jobs recovery as anemic as the one we’re experiencing today.”
Here’s another chart on that, from the Minneapolis Fed:
The red line is the current recession. Click through for a bigger version with more data. This is a predictable result of having an Administration — and for the first two years, a Congress — that views Atlas Shrugged not as a cautionary tale, but as a how-to manual. . . .
A NEW ATTEMPT AT A HUMAN-POWERED HELICOPTER.
READER BOOK PLUG: Charles Heard writes: “Would you please consider plugging my novel, Joe Shrugged? It is a very modest reprise of Atlas Shrugged, written some years ago but still very topical. Many of your readers would enjoy it, I believe.”
A lot of Joes are shrugging these days, I think.
IT’S LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF ATLAS SHRUGGED: Half of Detroit’s Streetlights May Go Out as City Shrinks. Key quote: “You have to identify those neighborhoods where you want to concentrate your population.”
Or maybe this: “Brown said, the city will fix broken streetlights in certain places even as it discontinues such services as street and sidewalk repairs in ‘distressed’ areas — those with a high degree of blight and little or no commercial activity.” Forget Ayn Rand, this sounds like the “Abandoned Areas” in Robert Heinlein’s I Will Fear No Evil.
Atlas ALWAYS shrugs.
MEANWHILE, BACK IN OLD MEDIA: Stacy McCain and Forbes have “Grim News in WaPoVille:”
The Washington Post Co. reported its first-quarter earnings on Friday, and the news coming out of the newspaper division was mostly grim. The unit lost $22.6 million in the quarter, with revenue down 8% and revenue from print advertising specifically falling 17%.
Meanwhile, the Post just reported one of the biggest circulation drops of any major newspaper with the lucrative Sunday edition selling 5.2% fewer copies and the daily edition skidding almost 10%. Oh, and newsroom leaders are so distressed about the way the business decline is affecting them, they held a secret meeting with the paper’s president, Steve Hills — without inviting executive editor Marcus Brauchli.
Click over to Stacy’s blog for details of that “secret meeting,” and some thoughts on the future of journalism (more on the latter in a moment).
There’s equally grim news coming out of the other end of the Northeast Corridor, where New York Times journalists “fight for [their] pensions, paper be damned,” an editorial at the Washington Examiner notes, with an embedded video that’s a series of cris de coeur from veteran Timespeople, a video that Walter Russell Mead quipped watching could cause the rest of us to have “Uncontrollable gales of laughter stemming from excessive levels of schadenfreude [that] may cause spilling and staining.”
Here’s more from the Examiner:
“What am I gonna do? Am I gonna eat cat food? Am I gonna move in with my kids? Am I gonna commit suicide?”
These complaints come not from a laid-off auto worker or a victim of foreclosure, but from longtime New York Times reporter Donald McNeil. His alarming quote expresses his fears that the New York Times Co. will freeze its defined-benefit employee pension plan and make the transition to a defined-contribution system. The Newspaper Guild, the union, which represents McNeil and other Times journalists, released his complaints and others in an Internet video as a protest against the 401(k) plans used by nearly every new worker in America who has retirement benefits.
We’ll leave it to the Times, its employees and its shareholders to settle the dispute. As spectators, we find it mind-boggling that journalists from a leading national newspaper would vigorously resist a trend they have been chronicling for years. What’s good for the rest of us is evidently not good enough for toplofty Timesmen.
In the real world of the private sector, defined-benefit pension plans have been going the way of the dinosaurs for decades. The Social Security Administration reports that between 1980 and 2008, the share of private sector workers in defined-benefit pension plans fell from 38 percent to 20 percent. By some estimates it stands at just 15 percent today. In 1985, 89 of the companies in the Fortune 100 offered traditional defined benefit plans. In 2011, only 13 did so. In the same period, the number of Fortune 100 companies offering only defined-contribution plans increased from just 10 to 70.
When not haggling over retirement plans, Stacy McCain’s post concludes with a reminder to journalists to endeavor to “write for the reader:”
This seems so obvious to non-journalists that it feels stupid saying it so simply, but too many people in the news business completely lose sight of the fact that the reader is their customer, and is under no obligation to consume your product. You must try to write something that people actually want to read, and try to keep the readership in mind. Your boss is ultimately not the editor, but rather the guy who drops 50 cents in the newspaper box.
But that can be awfully hard to remember, let alone take to heart, if you’re like so many in the MSM who “loathes the public,” as the Wall Street Journal’s David Gelernter wrote, in a snapshot that perfectly sums up the insular nature of the MSM vis-à-vis their customers in 1996, just before first Matt Drudge and then the Blogosphere broke open the formerly closed feedback loop that was old media:
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 balance of power has shifted considerably in the years since, but that underlying attitude — “Yeah, I’m the Media. Screw You” — hasn’t changed. At the base of Bill Keller’s rants about Fox News is his anger that millions of viewers enjoy the channel (especially in middle America, which another prominent Timesman publicly referred to last year as “the dance of the low-sloping foreheads”), and have written the Gray Lady off as hopelessly out of touch with their day-to-day lives. (See also, video referenced above.)
Similarly, a recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review, the house organ of what Hugh Hewitt once dubbed “The Media’s Ancien Régime,” spends its time instructing old media journalists on “the right way to cover Joe the Plumber,” a man the MSM itself empowered by spending more time in the fall of 2008 vetting than they did the winner of the presidential race.
Finally, back in 2005, I once wrote that in the wake of RatherGate, Dan Rather had morphed into his bête noire, Richard Nixon. (Whom the Gods Destroy, They First Render Nixonian.) Today, as he makes the rounds promoting his autobiography, Rather is reduced to sounding like a stock Scooby Do villain — I would have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for all you meddling bloggers!
UPDATE: Michael Malone emails in a rather prescient Silicon Valley Insider column he wrote in 2005: “Newspapers Nearing Death?”
I can’t precisely place the moment when I stopped reading newspapers, but it was sometime during the dot-com boom. My family went off to Africa for a couple months one summer, cancelled our newspaper subscriptions, and when we got home never really got around to re-subscribing. Eventually, perhaps three months later, we did start again — but by then the bloom was off.
First to go was the Times. That one was easy. I didn’t write for it anymore. The kids kept me too busy on the weekend to read it. My colleagues always pointed out the interesting articles. And, most of all, because I didn’t trust the Gray Lady’s reporting anymore.
Next was the Merc. I found that the only thing I even looked at in the paper was the headlines in the business section — and I could get those stories in other places. That, and the movie listings — and when I needed those I could just drop four bits into a local newspaper rack. A few weeks ago, when the paper reprinted a column of mine in its Sunday Perspective section, I had to depend upon my 85-year-old mother to cut out the article. Otherwise, I wouldn’t even have a hard copy.
Then came the Chron. Of all of them, that was the one I noticed most. I missed the arts section, especially the old Sunday pink section, and the columnists. But after a month or so, I didn’t even notice.
That last paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, had the opportunity to break real news in early 2008, and chose to bury it instead. Try and guess why.
GUESS WHO’S HIRING: Atlas Shrugged, The Movie.
DOG BITES MAN: A double standard at the New York Times.
Twenty years ago, most well-off US citizens owned a camera, a video camera, a CD player, a stereo, a video game console, a cell phone, a watch, an alarm clock, a set of encyclopedias, a world atlas, a Thomas Guide, and a whole bunch of other assets that easily add up to more than $10,000. All of which come standard on today’s amrat phones…that’s how quickly $10,000 worth of expenses can vanish.
From Peter Diamandis & Steven Kotler, Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think.
Glenn and Scott Carpenter, the only other survivor of NASA’s original Mercury 7 astronauts, spent nearly an hour being photographed with the retirees, posing in front of a black curtain with a model of a Mercury-Atlas rocket. Glenn is 90; Carpenter is 86.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Mercury brigade traveled by bus to Launch Complex 14. That’s the pad from which Glenn rocketed away on Feb. 20, 1962.
Some retirees were in wheelchairs, while others used walkers or canes. Most walked, some more surely than others. But they all beamed with pride as they took pictures of the abandoned pad and of each other, and went into the blockhouse to see the old Mercury photos on display and to reminisce.
Sad that so many of these people have grown old without seeing lunar colonies and Mars missions. That would have been hard to believe back then, when progress was so swift.
VIRGINIA POSTREL: Can You Pass the ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Test?
As someone known for writing defenses of chain stores and explaining Plano, Texas, to puzzled pundits, I agree that way too many smart people, particularly on the coasts, are quick to condemn middle-American culture without understanding why people value one or another aspect of it. But they were even worse in 1963. That’s the second problem with Murray’s fable: The cultural consensus was not just an illusion. It was an unhealthy one. Instead of promoting understanding, it fed contempt. . . .
With five decades’ distance it’s clear that books as seemingly different as “The Organization Man,” “The Lonely Crowd,” “The Feminine Mystique” and “Atlas Shrugged” were really all about the same thing: the alienation and discomfort of gifted, independent-minded individuals in a society in which the “normal” ruled. The “cognitive elite” felt left out of or oppressed by the country’s culture and, as a result, scorned it.
Now these people have one another.
And they’re out for payback.
Related: U.S. Auto Dealerships Turning Away Chevy Volts. “If the customer doesn’t want it, and the federal government insists on it, what are the car companies to do? They may have only one recourse; force dealers to take Volts and other plug in hybrids on their way to market.”
It’s like Atlas Shrugged come to life.
The downside: It’s much harder to have a unified sense of culture now that the mass media of the 1920s through the 1980s is no more, thus leading both to the existence of “present-tense culture,” and the desire to hang onto the beloved older forms of the past. (See also: endless Hollywood sequels and the ubiquity of forty year old rock songs.) The upside: it’s much easier to create your own.
CATHY YOUNG: The Rise Of Ayn Rand On Campus. “The question of Ayn Rand in academe has been made particularly relevant by the recent spike in her popularity. After the financial collapse of 2008, the Wall Street bailout, and the start of the Obama presidency—amidst widespread talk of the failure of markets and the inevitable rise of European-style social welfarism—there has been a marked resurgence of interest in Rand, an unabashed champion of capitalism and foe of big government. Sales of Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s 1955 mega-bestseller depicting a future America in the grip of economic collapse and socialist paralysis, soared in early 2009.”
IN THE MAIL: Atlas Shrugged Part 1.
HOW’S THAT HOPEY-CHANGEY STUFF WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): Banks turn to demolition of foreclosed properties to ease housing-market pressures. Wasn’t there something like this in Atlas Shrugged?
GREEN FAIL (CONT’D): A U.S.-Backed Geothermal Plant in Nevada Struggles.
In a remote desert spot in northern Nevada, there is a geothermal plant run by a politically connected clean energy start-up that has relied heavily on an Obama administration loan guarantee and is now facing financial turmoil.
The company is Nevada Geothermal Power, which like Solyndra, the now-famous California solar company, is struggling with debt after encountering problems at its only operating plant. After a series of technical missteps that are draining Nevada Geothermal’s cash reserves, its own auditor concluded in a filing released last week that there was “significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
It’s as if political connections matter more than having a viable business plan.
UPDATE: Reader Jose Hill writes:
Regarding your comment, “It’s as if political connections matter more than having a viable business plan,” I was reminded of the following, particularly incisive dialogue from Atlas Shrugged:
(James Taggart speaking) “We will liberate our culture from the stranglehold of the profit-chasers. We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by -”
“-the aristocracy of pull,” said a voice behind the group.
Yes. Atlas Shrugged was meant to be a cautionary tale, but for this gang it’s a how-to manual.
CHANGE: Atlas Takes Heat For Melting Glacier Claim. Well, less change than the Atlas says. . . .
SOLARGATE UPDATE: Obama Officials Sat In On Solyndra Meetings. “Officials from the Department of Energy have for months been sitting in on board meetings as ‘observers’ at Solyndra, getting an up-close view as the solar energy company careened towards bankruptcy after spending more than $500 million in federal loan money.” Probably felt just like being back at the federal government, which is careening toward bankruptcy after spending more than $15 trillion in loan money . . .
UPDATE: Reader Tracy Cobbs emails:
Once again, real life mirrors Atlas Shrugged. Here’s a paragraph from Part 2, Chapter V, “Account Overdrawn”, describing a meeting of the Taggart Transcontinental Board of Directors:
“A man from Washington sat at the table among them. Nobody knew his exact job or title, but it was not necessary: they knew that he was the man from Washington. His name was Mr. Weatherby, he had graying temples, a long, narrow face and a mouth that looked as if he had to stretch his facial muscles in order to keep it closed; this gave a suggestion of primness to a face that displayed nothing else. The Directors did not know whether he was present as the guest, the adviser or the ruler of the Board; they preferred not to find out.”
Message to the Obama Administration: Atlas Shrugged was meant as a cautionary tale, not a freaking how-to manual.
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON: Atlas Is Sorta Shrugging.
Every president lets slip a smear now and then. The key is that there should be little consistency or frequency in his targeting. But with Obama there is both monotony and predictability. He clearly does not like private businesses — except the super wealthy who are liberal and share his refined tastes and politics and have enough millions in “unneeded income” that they figure they will either die before or weather through our transition to European democratic socialism.
Of course, one Huey Long — like “fat cat,” an occasional adolescent “millionaires and billionaires,” a once in a while juvenile “corporate jet owners,” a few 1960s-like “spread the wealth” or “redistributive change” slips, a single petulant “unneeded income,” or a sole pop-philosophizing “at some point you’ve made enough money,” or even on occasion the old socialist boilerplate “those who make over $250,000 should pay their fair share” in isolation are tolerable. But string them together and even the tire store owner and pharmaceutical rep are aroused from their 70-hour weeks, and start to conclude, “Hmmm, this guy doesn’t like me or what I do, and I better make the necessary adjustments.” And, believe me, they are making the necessary adjustments.
ATLAS SHRUGGED comes to Detroit. “In a perverse way, I’m glad that there are places such as Greece and Illinois. These profligate jurisdictions are useful examples of the dangers of bloated government and reckless statism. There also are some cities that serve as reverse role models. Detroit is a miserable case study of big government run amok, so I enjoyed a moment or two of guilty pleasure as I read this CNBC story about the ongoing decay of the Motor City.”
BANK OF AMERICA HAS SO MANY FORECLOSED HOMES, it’s resorting to bulldozing. And is it just me, or does this sound vaguely Atlas Shrug-ish?
“There is way too much supply,” said Gus Frangos, president of the Cleveland-based Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., which works with lenders, government officials and homeowners to salvage vacant homes. “The best thing we can do to stabilize the market is to get the garbage off.” . . . The lender will pay as much as $7,500 for demolition or $3,500 in areas eligible to receive funds through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Uses for the land include development, open space and urban farming, according to the statement. Simon declined to say how many foreclosed properties Bank of America holds.
Urban farming. They had that in Rome in 500 A.D., didn’t they?
WAIT, I THOUGHT HE WAS A “RIGHT-WING CHRISTIAN?” Parts of the manifesto written by the suspect in Norway’s terrorist attack were taken almost word for word from the writings of “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski. Still, if you’re going to commit terrorism, I guess committing plagiarism is small change.
REPORT INFLATION HIGHER THAN GOVERNMENT ESTIMATES, go to jail? “Consumer prices rose 9.7% in May from a year ago, according to the national statistics agency, Indec. But virtually all economists say annual inflation surpasses 20%—one of the world’s highest rates—angering government officials who dismiss inflation as a problem. The criminal complaint, initiated by the Commerce Secretariat, is the harshest in a series of legal measures against economists. The credibility of Indec’s data has been questioned ever since former President Nestor Kirchner replaced longtime civil servants with political appointees in early 2007.” For some people, Atlas Shrugged is a cautionary tale. For others, it’s a how-to manual.
HEY, IF YOU’RE NOT A CRONY, YOU DON’T GET IN ON THE GOODIES FROM CRONY CAPITALISM: Private emails detail Obama admin involvement in cutting non-union worker pensions post-GM bailout. “New emails obtained by The Daily Caller contradict claims by the Obama administration that the Treasury Department would avoid “intervening in the day-to-day management” of General Motors post-auto bailout. These messages reveal that Treasury officials were involved in decision-making that led to more than 20,000 non-union workers losing their pensions.” (Via NewsAlert). Bonus question: Did somebody lie to Congress about this?
Meanwhile, reader Ed Stephens emails, “It really is like something out of Atlas Shrugged.” For some people, it’s a cautionary tale. For others, it’s a how-to manual . . . .
CAN’T TELL TRUTH FROM FICTION: Dan Mitchell: Corrupt Obamacare Waiver Process Is Like a Scene from Atlas Shrugged. The novel that was meant as a cautionary tale, but that has been adopted as a manual.
TIMOTHY DALRYMPLE: Battle Of The Bulge: Is The Weiner War Worth It? “The comic value alone is priceless.”
I think there’s an important point in the comic value: The people who think they’re smart enough, and morally superior enough, to run everyone else’s lives are risible. They’re not smart enough to run their own lives competently, and they’re actually, overall, morally inferior — I mean, John Edwards, DSK, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barney Frank, Tax Cheat Tim Geithner, just go down the list — and mocking them is inherently valuable. They pursue power, and they exercise power, as much for deference as anything else. Deny them that, and make it painful for them whenever possible. That’s my take.
UPDATE: Reader Walter Oster writes: “You talk about the moral inferiors and incompetents who want to run our lives. I recently re-read Atlas Shrugs and was saddened by the incredible parallels. Geithner and Frank and those guys are James Taggart and Wesley Mouch. I agree that comic value is important but man, is it sad.”
And for more on Rand, here’s PJTV’s Bill Whittle and Andrew Klavan:
I went in with low expectations, partly because of the critics’ savaging (even though I know not to trust them, you can’t help incorporate spin if you hear it enough) but mostly because I read the book, and knew, to make a good movie out of it, you’d have to change a lot. And I feared that they wouldn’t.
That said, I was pretty nicely surprised. It’s good. Not great. But still — good. It’s actually more subtle than I was expecting; maybe too subtle in one key area (more on this later, as it truly is key). Rand’s book had the subtlety of a cast-iron lightning bolt, so any screen treatment might be expected to be much less didactic than her novel; but they seemed to have gone even further in toning down the heavy didacticism. Oh, it pops up here and there, but it’s not really objectionable.
In fact, to tell the truth, I could have endured a little more of the statement of principle stuff. Because with so much of that stripped away– why are the heroes acting as they do?
Two and a half stars good (which is my way of saying “Good enough to see, but not outstanding;” outstanding is three stars and superlative is four).
That’s not too far off the mark from my own take immediately after seeing Atlas: made-for-TV-quality production values and acting damaged a film that’s brimming with big, and timely ideas. It wasn’t as nearly as bad as I expected, but it was far from good enough to get the job done. And given that this sort of film in particular needs quality word of mouth to sustain it at the box office, and move it beyond an audience made up of libertarians and hardcore Objectivists, that B-Movie vibe couldn’t have helped. But if it’s still playing near you, see it for yourself and decide.
CHINA’S TRAIN WRECK: “Is China’s high-speed rail a model for U.S. transportation? Based on his travels in China, Washington Post editorial writer Charles Lane thinks not. . . . Liu’s legacy, in short, is a system that could drain China’s economic resources for years. So much for the grand project that Thomas Friedman of the New York Times likened to a ‘moon shot’ and that President Obama held up as a model for the United States.”
If nothing else, I’m hoping that the Atlas Shrugged movie, with its romanticization of trains, will kill lefties’ enthusiasm for high-speed rail.
UPDATE: “Prediction: this won’t make Tom Friedman stop talking nonsense about how awesome China is.” Well, nothing else has.
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Box-office power of Ayn Rand’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ baffles insiders. “Business has been brisk enough for producers Harmon Kaslow and John Aglialoro to expand from 299 theaters to 425 this weekend and to 1,000 by the end of the month. They don’t have enough film prints to fill all the orders.”
VIDEO MASHUP: Atlas Is Shrugging Already. “It occurred to me last night that this film wouldn’t have resonated nearly as well three years ago, or ten years ago, or perhaps not any time in the 54 years since Rand published the novel. The sense of crisis in the movie would have seemed too far from the experience of most Americans; likewise, the sense of aggressive, populist redistributionism would have looked hyperbolic and contrived. If this isn’t the perfect moment for this film, then it’s as close as I’d like to see it in my lifetime.”
PJTV: Amy Holmes, Kristen Soltis, and Katie Pavlich talk about the Atlas Shrugged movie. Is it a work of fiction? Or a documentary?
PJTV: Mr. Galt Goes to Washington: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged Premiers Among DC’s Capitalist Elite. Amy Holmes with John Fund, Steve Moore, and members of the cast.
DONALD LUSKIN: Remembering The Real Ayn Rand:
Tomorrow’s release of the movie version of “Atlas Shrugged” is focusing attention on Ayn Rand’s 1957 opus and the free-market ideas it espouses. Book sales for “Atlas” have always been brisk—and all the more so in the past few years, as actual events have mirrored Rand’s nightmare vision of economic collapse amid massive government expansion. Conservatives are now hailing Rand as a tea party Nostradamus, hence the timing of the movie’s premiere on tax day.
When Rand created the character of Wesley Mouch, it’s as though she was anticipating Barney Frank (D., Mass). Mouch is the economic czar in “Atlas Shrugged” whose every move weakens the economy, which in turn gives him the excuse to demand broader powers. Mr. Frank steered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to disaster with mandates for more lending to low-income borrowers. After Fannie and Freddie collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage books, Mr. Frank proclaimed last year: “The way to cure that is to give us more authority.” Mouch couldn’t have said it better himself.
But it’s a misreading of “Atlas” to claim that it is simply an antigovernment tract or an uncritical celebration of big business. In fact, the real villain of “Atlas” is a big businessman, railroad CEO James Taggart, whose crony capitalism does more to bring down the economy than all of Mouch’s regulations. With Taggart, Rand was anticipating figures like Angelo Mozilo, the CEO of Countrywide Financial, the subprime lender that proved to be a toxic mortgage factory. Like Taggart, Mr. Mozilo engineered government subsidies for his company in the name of noble-sounding virtues like home ownership for all.
There’s a big difference between favoring free markets, and favoring big business.
A BLOG REVIEW OF the new Atlas Shrugged movie.
RAND SIMBERG ON SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy rocket. “The Falcon Heavy could have major space business implications. A cheaper launch cost could bring in customers that were priced out before, and the extra payload capacity could entice new customers, too. That could include the Air Force and NASA. While the Falcon Heavy has only half the capacity of Saturn V, it offers twice the payload of its American competitors—United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, and for quite a bit less per launch—at least according to Musk’s plan.” Well, let’s hope things go according to plan.