Feb 112010

Even though I complain almost daily about the partisan hackery and unprofessionalism of newspaper journalism, even though Leonid Brezhnev would have drooled at the possibility of having a press as subservient to party ideology as the U.S. mainstream media now is, I didn’t realize it had become quite this corrupt. It’s an AP article by Sharon Theimer that appeared in the Battle Creek Enquirer a few days ago: “The influence game : Toyota’s Powerful DC Friends”

The article happens to make a lot of good points. There are legislators who worked hard to get Toyota to locate in their districts, and who have reason to want Toyota to stay. Those legislators are now the ones who are investigating Toyota’s safety issues. It’s a corrupt arrangement, to say the least.

So what’s wrong with the news media telling us about it?

Nothing. The news media absolutely should tell us about it. They should tell us about it starting when legislators get involved in plant-siting decisions in the first place. That kind of business-government partnership is corrupt from the word go. But it has been going on for years, with encouragement from newspaper editors across the land. It is only when the administration which has made a heavy investment of tax dollars in the former General Motors needs help in attacking one of General Motors’ competitors that the news media have seen fit to point out the problems with this kind of government involvment.

And naturally, this article had not a word to say about the conflict of interest when the corporate owners of General Motors, aka the Obama administration, are the ones that are providing regulatory oversight of General Motors’ competitors.

The next time a Governor John Engler or Jennifer Granholm gets involved in trying to entice a business to locate a plant in our state, will these same news people who pushed this story into print have a word of criticism about this kind of inappropriate role for elected officials? Of course not. It’s only when Public Motors and its influential friends on the left need help in harrassing the competition that they will point out the conflict of interest involving the influential friends of competitors.

The people who can put something like this in print, but only for this purpose, are not ordinary human beings with a conscience and a sense of right and wrong. They are not people who are driven by idealism. These are people who are more Machiavellian than Niccolò Machiavelli, but without the moral scruples.

Feb 082010

I actually saw a bit of the Super Bowl, toward the end. And I saw that Green Police ad.

David Roberts at Grist wonders if it was aimed at teabaggers, but then rejects that idea and thinks it’s aimed at people like himself — self-righteous green moralists?

But why does it have to be one or the other? Why couldn’t it have been aimed at both, with a different message takeaway message for each of the two opposing groups?

Or maybe the takeaway message is that obnoxious greenies should buy Audis and make the company a lot of money, and then the teabaggers will be justified in their opinions of Audi drivers.

Feb 082010

It wasn’t just the Community Reinvestment Act that got us into this mess.

The problem wasn’t merely that HUD under Mr. Cuomo was raising the volume of risky loans for which taxpayers were guaranteeing. HUD was also encouraging a dangerous decline in underwriting standards at these government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). Says former Fannie Mae chief credit officer Edward Pinto, “HUD commissioned much research aimed at forcing the adoption of more flexible lending standards by the GSEs.”

WSJ article, “Prosecutor, Charge Thyself : Andrew Cuomo has more to answer for than does Bank of America.”

Feb 052010

This is corruption. No possible good can come from a meeting between the chief regulator and the CEO of one of the companies being regulated. This is not how regulation is supposed to work. This is just an opportunity for political pressure and political concessions.

Either the cars have defects or they don’t. A meeting behind closed doors between the CEO of Toyota and a representative of Public Motors is not going to establish any facts. It’s not going to make cars any safer. The regulatory process needs to be transparent and objective, and not dependent on two guys talking nice to each other or tough to each other.

Does a public prosecutor want to meet one on one with the mafia godfather before deciding whether or not to prosecute? Does a public prosecutor want to meet one on one with the local representative of Angels of Mercy before deciding whether or not to prosecute There are proper ways of conducting interrogations. What LaHood is doing is not one of them.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday his agency is widening its probe of sudden acceleration complaints in Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles to look at the possibility of electromagnetic interference with electronic throttle systems, and said he wants to talk directly with company Chief Executive Akio Toyoda.

URL here.

What if a company like Toyota actually develops a safety problem with its cars someday, and somebody gets killed? The blood will be on the hands of the Obama administration. The government is supposed to be an honest regulator and is supposed to provide information on such things to the public, and to keep unsafe cars to go uncorrected. But now that it has a huge conflict of interest, there is no basis for the public to believe anything it says or does in the way of safety regulation. We still have the usual workings of the market to help us, but we’re deprived of a source of information we used to have. Obama took it away when he instituted the public automotive option.

What LaHood is doing is tearing down any residual shreds of confidence we may still have had that the government could be an honest regulator in spite of its huge conflict of interest.

Feb 032010

Here is something to read as soon as our university library gets it, or I can snag a cheap used copy. 19th century France is definitely a missing period in my historical understanding. It’s not that my college history classes didn’t cover it, or that I haven’t read accounts of, say, the Paris Commune. But this might help me make better sense of it:

For the Soul of France, by Frederick Brown. Knopf, 304 pages, $28.95

Here is some of what Michael Gurfinkiel, the WSJ reviewer, said:

Mr. Brown does not omit a single episode in this narrative, nor does he stint on the vignettes and human angles that bring the story to life. He is the author of noted biographies of Émile Zola and Gustave Flaubert, and “For the Soul of France” clearly benefits from his long immersion in the lives and works of these two great novelists, who flourished during the era he describes. Mr. Brown’s storytelling is vivacious and fluid, but he also keeps a firm hand on his chronicle, bringing order and perspective to these often chaotic times. …

Then again, Mr. Brown simplifies his task by operating with a single organizing principle: Most of the turmoil in France during this period stemmed from battles over the restoration of the Catholic Church as France’s main societal institution….

Feb 012010

“Building codes disenfranchise young people. Give me a break.”

That’s what one of Paul Jacob’s commenters replied in response to his article, “Who Killed Disco.” The guy didn’t mean to, but he provided a nifty five-word summary of an all-too-real phenomenon.

My own comment after reading some of the other comments:

It seems there are some people for whom is is not so important that people are safe, but for whom it is very important that we have government regulations that require safety. It’s an interesting psychological phenomenon.