Bash the Messenger

Nov 112012

Long before the Benghazi scandal, Republicans complained that President Obama didn’t give enough attention to national security.  The apparent lack of concern seemed to be exemplified by the Benghazi affair, in which Obama officials seemed to stand by while their people on the job in Libya were killed.  In the weeks before the election, Republicans grew frantic, trying without success to get the news media interested in the problem.

But now, success! President Obama and his news media have listened to their concerns, and now take national security ultra-seriously.  So seriously, that even the remote possibility of getting classified information through blackmail must be nipped in the bud.  So Petraeus has to go, even if it means it will be more difficult for him to testify about the national security situation in Benghazi.  But no sacrifice of national security is now to0 great to make for the sake of national security.

Concerned after discovering correspondence because of an earlier Chinese hack into the Google Inc. e-mail service, which the McAfee Internet security company dubbed “Operation Aurora,” the FBI was investigating whether Petraeus’s private or CIA e-mail accounts had been compromised, the official said.

They so far have found no evidence of a security breach, any loss of classified material or any evidence that another foreign power was aware of Petraeus’s infidelity, which the official said could have exposed him to blackmail.

via FBI Probe That Uncovered Petraeus Affair Began After Complaints – SFGate.

Oct 162012

Interesting article about Charles Koch, but the authors need to get out more, and find out what conservatives actually say.

But he also says things many conservatives would never dare say: Cut subsidies. Cut defense spending substantially. He also never says anything about religion, abortion, immigration or gun rights. And while political conservatives paint themselves as advocates for business, Charles Koch has accused corporate CEOs of cowardice for not speaking out for economic freedom.

via Charles Koch relentless in pursuing his goals | Wichita Eagle.

It’s not easy to find conservatives who advocate substantial cuts in defense spending, so the authors (Roy Wenzl and Bill Wilson) can be forgiven for not knowing there are some conservatives who would say just that.  But the rest suggests that the authors are severely constrained by their information bubble.

Jul 252012

The WSJ buries the lead in this story about the Fed:

Fed Sees Action if Growth Doesn’t Pick Up Soon –

You have to go almost to page 2 to find out what action the Fed is talking about.   Up until the last part of paragraph 4 it keeps us in suspense, speaking vaguely of “taking new steps” and “moving” and “taking actions.”

Only then do you learn that printing money to buy more securities is at the top of the list, followed by lowering interest rates even closer toward zero than they already are.

It makes one wonder if it’s not so much that the WSJ doesn’t have editors who can make sure that the main point comes first in the article, but that the Fed is not very proud of what it’s about to do.


Jul 162012

Here’s a grain of salt to use when reading the newspapers:

Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign, used by many top strategists and almost all midlevel aides in Chicago and at the White House — almost anyone other than spokesmen who are paid to be quoted. (And sometimes it applies even to them.) It is also commonplace throughout Washington and on the campaign trail.

The Romney campaign insists that journalists interviewing any of Mitt Romney’s five sons agree to use only quotations that are approved by the press office. And Romney advisers almost always require that reporters ask them for the green light on anything from a conversation that they would like to include in an article.

via Latest Word on the Campaign Trail? I Take It Back –

Mar 182012

Reality chartFour numbers:  10, 20, 30, and 20.

Me:  The average (arithmetic mean) is 20.

WSJ:  The reality may be a bit more complicated.  Some of the numbers are not 20.  The numbers include some that are larger and/or smaller than 20.

Me:  [Facepalm]

Sigh.  The above is not really from the WSJ, but page A5 of the print edition of the weekend WSJ has an item that’s even more ridiculous than the above.   It’s by a Dante Chinni and is titled, The Gingrich Effect:  What if it went away? 

Following a tough Tuesday night, calls have grown for Newt Gingrich to abandon his presidential run, even as he vows to battle on.  Some assume his departure would shake up the race, and supporters of Rick Santorum figure their man would benefit because more of Mr. Gingrich’s supporters would line up behind him than behind Mitt Romney.   The reality may be a bit more complicated.    Patchwork Nation’s demographic/geographic breakdown of counties suggests support for Mr. Gingrich varies greatly by community type, and from state to state.  In some states, such as Illinois, the impact of the Gingrich vote looks relatively small–Mr. Gingrich hasn’t won many votes in the type of places that make up most of Illinois’s population.  In others, such as Louisiana, it could be substantial. [Emphases are mine.]

The main problem is the statement,  “The reality may be a bit more complicated.”

No, the reality is NOT more complicated than that.   The situation may be more complicated than the simple summary, but that doesn’t mean the summary is wrong or any less real.     The summary may be wrong, but if is wrong it’s wrong because it’s wrong, not because it’s not complicated enough.   An accurate summary is reality, and a detailed breakdown is reality.   One is not more real than another just because it’s more or less detailed.

There are three questions:

  1. Is there a Gingrich effect?
  2. If yes, who would benefit?
  3. If yes, would it shake up the race?

The data that are presented on a chart show that the “Gingrich effect” is big in some places and small in others.    That’s interesting to know, but it doesn’t help us understand who would benefit or whether it could “shake up” the race.  The answer to the latter question would of course depend on more than just the numbers.    It’s hard to predict what the psychological effect of a vote shift would be, for example.

The numbers that are presented are interesting, but they don’t support the silly statement that, “The reality may be a bit more complicated.”   The reality may be different than what Santorum thinks.   If Newt drops out, Santorum may not benefit enough to make a difference.   But that’s not because the reality is more “complicated”.

Jan 292012

Coldwater MI, June 2010 - coal powered

Even if Wikipedia was censored, students would still be able to learn by reading the WSJ headlines which party controls the U.S. government administration.     Note the contrast between the headline where the cheerleading is done  (to be read by the masses) and the subheadline that provides a more sober view (and is read by fewer people):

Headline:   U.S. Economy Picks Up Steam

Subheadline:  Fourth-Quarter Growth Rate of 2.8% is Fastest in 18 Months, but Doesn’t Appear Sustainable

WSJ headline, January 28, 2012

Aug 072011

The image (derived from Wikipedia Commons) is of a clay tablet that contains the prologue to Hammurabi’s Code.

The latest regulatory atrocity that made me go here is the Obama administration’s plan (now dropped, at least in this instance) to regulate pharmaceutical companies by forcing the resignation of executives it disapproves of.  (WSJ article:  “U.S. Drops Effort to Oust Forest Labs CEO”   The print edition headline was a less honest, less accurate one:  “Forest Chief Prevails Over U.S.”)

When I was a wee kid in elementary school (possibly as early as 4th grade) we learned that Hammurabi’s Code was an advance because people knew from it what the laws were and what the penalties were.    Now our leaders devise regulatory systems under which nobody can know what is required, and under which the best one can do is try to stay on the right political side of the authorities.    And this in an environment where the current administration has been willing to attack and threaten private businesses that make political statements that it perceives to be critical or contrary to its agenda.

People in our country used to understand about due process.  But now we have President who supposedly has an advanced degree in constitutional law, but who institutes a regulatory system that is about as far from any constitutional system as you can get.   And some headline writers for the WSJ don’t get it.

There is such a thing as good regulation and there is necessary regulation.  I’ve long wished that we could discuss good vs bad regulation rather than re-regulation vs deregulation.   But trying to regulate in the way Obama has tried to do here is likely to give all of regulation a bad name.

So to do my part to get the discussion back where it needs to be, I’ve instituted a new category of articles:   Hammurabi-Handedness.   That term is in part an allusion to related concepts, such as the invisible hand.    Hammurabi-Handedness refers to letting the invisible hand do its thing, but within a regulatory system that is as clear and well-defined as possible, and which minimizes waste and corruption.

Jul 212011

I don’t watch television news, but I learned from the internet that a reporter named Contessa Brewer recently asked a U.S. Representative who disagreed with her if  he had a degree in economics.   (His answer:  “Yes ma’am, I do.  Highest honors.”)   URL here.

That’s a good start.  But reporters need to start asking President Obama questions like that, too.

And instead of just printing his campaign ads as news, they should ask him these questions about the debt limit debates:

  • If the debt limit is not raised or is not raised enough to pay for all of the nation’s spending, which would you cut first?   a)  NPR/CPP subsidies  b) ag subsidies  c) NEA subsidies  d) Social Security  [A non-answer would be almost as good as an answer.]
  • If the debt limit is not raised enough right away to pay for all the nation’s spending, will you use your $128 billion in unspent stimulus funds to help pay the bills?   Or is it more important for you to hang on to it to pay for your 2012 re-election campaign?
Dec 152010

I saw there were 1200 comments for the WSJ article titled, “Court Strikes at Health Law,”  which is the most I’ve ever seen.  I tried to post the 1201th with the following:

The headline is stupid, dangerous, and Murdochish. The judges make rulings. They don’t “strike at” things. If they do, the reporters should present their evidence and impeachment hearings should begin.

Nov 202010

Timmy Geithner is not only an accomplished tax evader, but he’s pretty good at political demagoguery, too. From Bloomberg:

U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said the Obama administration would oppose any effort to strip the Federal Reserve of its mandate to pursue full employment and warned Republicans against politicizing the central bank.

“It is very important to keep politics out of monetary policy,” Geithner said in an interview airing on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” this weekend. “You want to be very careful not to take steps that hurt our credibility.”

Not everyone would have the skills to criticize an effort to unpoliticize the Fed on the grounds that they shouldn’t politicize the Fed.

Of course, Geithner shouldn’t get all the credit. Al Hunt’s people helped, too, by not laughing out loud.

But to think, some people criticized the Tea Partier who is supposed to have said, “Keep your government hands off my medicare.” Maybe the Partier was just auditioning for a job in the Treasury Department.