The media owners get the journalists they want

UPDATE: For the record, I’ve made the point below dozens or hundreds of times. Hardly anyone ever agrees, and often no one disagrees either. Apparently the idea is just unthinkable, probably because of the Chomsky cooties. (Have I ever mentioned that I hate liberals?)

At the moment we’re having another episode of the same old grumbling about the media, and as always, I think people are missing the point. Below is an edited and enlarged version of a comment I made to the post linked above:
I’m really becoming a nag on this question, but “journalistic incompetence, laziness, and the knowing distribution of unadulterated bullshit” are management problems. The journalists whose names and faces we see are doing exactly the jobs they were hired to do. When Jonah Goldberg or William Kristol gets hired by a major newspaper, it’s not because the person who hired him has made a mistake.
The reason why there’s a journalism groupthink problem is that there’s a management groupthink problem. For a long time now, up-and-coming people in the business have been seeing dishonest, frivolous journalists hired and promoted while better journalists are deadended or fired, and they have learned to conform their work to what their bosses want.
The interests and ideologies of the owners and publishers of the various media have overwhelmed whatever journalistic standards they ever had, and their primary interest is low taxes.
The Republicans’ extraordinary emphasis on the inheritance tax, which affects onlt 0.5% of the population can be explained in large part by the fact that the owners of the old privately-owned newspapers (the Washington Post, the New York Times,the Seattle Times, and others) are among that 0.5%

Continue reading

“Franken Stole the Election!!!”

Now that he’s lost, Norm Coleman plans to stink up the place. In his statement he revives some old claims that were knocked down weeks ago. The WSJ is on board. The odious Dick Morris is hard at work; presumably he’s being paid. The national attack is being coordinated by the Swiftboater Benjamin Ginsberg.
Hannity, Limbaugh, Coulter, Lott, and the WSJ have been flogging the “stolen election” idea for a month already, and now we can expect it to explode. They won’t be able to keep Franken from being seated, but they can raise suspicions. This will be just one more small obstacle in Obama’s path — keeping a Democratic Senator out of office for awhile, sucking up the media oxygen, and diverting attention from Obama’s attempts to prevent a depression, deal with the Israel Palestine dispute, etc. They want to cripple this American President the way they crippled Clinton.
The truth of the matter is that Franken honestly won a very close election after an honest, carefully done recount. The wingers will be pushing a lie: “Franken stole the election”. They don’t really need people to believe that — they just want to put Franken (and indirectly Obama) under a cloud. If the conventional wisdom becomes “Franken won in court after a controversial and flawed recount — some say he stole it”, then the wingers will have won. And something like that’s about what we should expect from the zombie media.
The battle against the lies has just begun. My guess is that some of the Republican scum kept their horns pulled in while it still seemed that Coleman might win, but we can now expect to see them crawling out from under their rocks. (And sorry for the mixed metaphor).

It looks like Franken has beaten Coleman

Cue the Republican core constituency:

Stolen election! Stolen election! Stuart Smalley, ha ha ha! Franken wasn’t funny on SNL! Franken asked for the recount because he was a sore loser! Ballots found in the trunk of a car! Somalis!!!!!!!! People voting twice with “duplicate ballots”! ACORN!!!!!! Franken wants to count invalid absentee ballots! Minnesota sucks! Worse than Chicago! Communists!

Republican losers have all the class of tweaking Wichita Falls Cowboys fans after another blown game.

Minnesota Republicans threaten chaos

The Minnesota recount is going along pretty smoothly considering everything, and routine small problems are being routinely corrected. But in this freakishly close race, every vote is important, and a lot of people are getting unduly excited. The Star Tribune’s headline (“Minnesota’s vote: Cast into doubt”) is entirely wrongheaded, and unfortunately it encourages the Republican goons — for example, Sarah Janacek:

Coleman supporters say their man won on Nov. 4, is still winning and will be certified as the winner: “If that gets refuted, then the whole system will be throw into chaos,” said Sarah Janecek, a Republican strategist. “So far, at the grocery store and gas station, everyone is very tired of the whole thing, but there’s a basic sense that, yep, we had an election and we had a recount and the result was the same, so the system must work.” (Star-Tribune, December 14, 2008)

Coleman did not win on election day, because his margin then threw the race into automatic recount. No one wins until Friday when the recount (hopefully) will be finished.
Janacek knows that, but she doesn’t care. She’s setting up the “stolen election” meme, and she’s threatening chaos if the recount doesn’t match the election day count. But that’s what recounts are for — to check the original count to see if it was correct. Recounts are meaningless if you insist that they don’t change anything.
Here’s the kind of thing we’ll be dealing with:

How to steal a senate seat
By Richard Baehr

The Minnesota senate race is being stolen as you read this. Rejected absentee ballots may be counted at discretion of counties. Which ones do you think will find more to count? There is no uniform standard for determining which once rejected absentee ballots should now be counted — just as with Florida in 2000 (basis for Bush v Gore decision in U S Supreme Court). My guess is that Minneapolis/St. Paul and Duluth/Iron Range areas will decide on acceptable ballots. Coleman’s lead may well disappear. (Read more)

They’re absolutely convinced that Franken is committing fraud even though they have no accurate information about the recount (and not even very much inaccurate information). Furthermore, they seem completely unfamiliar with the idea that when you accuse someone of a crime, you have to provide evidence that a crime was actually committed — more than once they ask me to prove that there was no crime. Finally when I persist in asking that same obvious question, they declare me a troll and stop responding.
At the moment I’d say that Franken has a 50-50 chance. He’s only 190-odd votes behind, and some signs are pointing his way. If he does win the recount, we should prepare ourselves for a flood of enraged screams, and we have to give tit for tat and push back hard. We can’t let them intimidate the ref this time.

The tweakers are crashing on us

Most scientists believe that only objective factors are real and try to eliminate all subjectivity from their explanations — subjectivity is seen primarily as a source of error. Economists are the most objective social scientists, and they customarily sneer at dumber so-called scientists who fail to reduce human behavior to hard facts.
When things are going well, that is. During times of prosperity economics is a hard science like physics. It’s only when things go badly that they kick the can over to psychology and reach for mental factors like “irrational exuberance” and “mental depression” so that they can blame other, stupider sciences for their failures. (Quantum physicists also reach desperately for The Mind at times, since after sixty or seventy years their data are still impossible to interpret.)
So here’s my explanation of the present Collapse of Western Civilization: amphetamines. The world of finance is a rather small one, populated entirely by supersmart, extremely aggressive and competitive men (mostly) who have to go at top speed twelve or more hours a day, day after day. How do they do it? Performance-enhancing drugs, that’s how: legally-prescribed amphetamines. (Cocaine is uncool, and so Eighties.)
And since finance controls the world, when the tweakers crash, the whole world crashes with them. Like a football team collapsing in the fourth quarter, the world has run out of beans. We’ve had our jag, and now we’re crashing. Not much fun.
In my small experience, amphetamines are very nice. The world becomes a happy place. You get smarter and have lots of energy, and you can keep on going indefinitely. Complex ideas seem simple and all of your ideas look good. The crash isn’t even that bad if you use in moderation. But amphetamines are not conducive to moderation.

Continue reading

Fight the “stolen election” meme

I’ve been going around the internet posting comments on blogs spreading the “stolen election” meme. It’s not futile: one guy basically accepted my argument, and another took his post down.
I am unable to post at the following sites, for whatever reason, and maybe someone else can give it a try.
Caleb Howe
Hot Air
More slanderous sites can be found here.
What I’ve found is most effective is the quiet, businesslike enumeration of the facts, without rhetoric — most of these people are ill-informed. Just point out that both sides are playing the same game, and that that’s as it should be, and that so far nothing scandalous has happened, contrary to the winger allegations.
I do believe that this is worth it. Not everyone reading those thread is a confirmed winger, and we need to blunt the rumor-spreading before it reached critical mass.
UPDATE: This site specializes in Republican recount spin.

Norm Coleman Is Stealing The Election — What You Can Do About It

Wait — my headline is wrong. Coleman isn’t stealing the election, and neither is Franken. Both sides are going to fight the recount battle all the way to the end, and that’s the way it should be.
And the election isn’t in chaos. Routine problems are being handled routinely, with one precinct still up in the air. It’s just an unbelievably close election, and no one knows who will win.
What is happening, though, is that the national Republicans (Ann Coulter, Powerline, Wall Street Journal) are setting the stage for a “stolen election” claim. (It’s amusing that some of the people talking about a Florida-style stolen election are Republicans.) At the moment the Coleman people themselves are playing it cool (though they made fools of themselves right after the election) and most Minnesota Republicans, who will still have to live in the state after the dust settles, are behaving decently.
We don’t have to just sit and watch. Besides contributing to Al Franken we can also push back at the Rovian spin about the recount we see on the internet and in the media. We’ve already had one small success. The first dozen or so responses to

all politely and carefully explained to the guy that he was misinformed, and you’ll note that he’s taken the page down, though the link still takes you to his site.
Here’s a couple of useful links:
Google News latest: “Coleman Franken Recount”
Blogsearch latest: Franken AND “stolen election” OR “steal the election”
and I’ve posted some good informational sources below the fold.

Continue reading

Coleman / Franken Recount Overview: Republicans Are Doing What Republicans Do

Story Number One: It’s an amazingly close election
The Franken-Coleman election is freakishly close. The first semi-official report showed a spread of 700 votes out of 2.9 million (less than three hundredths of a percent). One of my imaginary internet friends has calculated that flipping 2.9 million coins would come up with a heads-tails difference bigger than that 90% of the time. Un coup de des jamais n’abolira le hasard, they say, but apparently the disseminated intelligence of Minnesota has succeeded in defeating the law of averages.
And the gap has been narrowing. The first official report (before the recount) reduced the spread to a little over 200 votes, and the recount so far has reduced the spread still further. It’s quite possible that when the dust settles, the difference will be fewer than 100 votes one way or the other. (My imaginary friend hasn’t done the math on that one yet.)
Story Number Two: Everything’s going fine so far
Except for the closeness of the election, nothing unusual has happened yet. The corrections that were made in the first few days were in the normal range. The corrections that have been made in the first half of the recount have been in the normal range. Routine honest mistakes were routinely and honestly corrected. The Coleman and Franken campaigns have filed two quite ordinary lawsuits. The Secretary of State and the various election officials have all done their jobs in a correct, routine, businesslike way.
Minnesota’s election law regarding recounts is carefully written and unambiguous, Minnesota has a well-earned reputation for efficient, honest elections, and nothing has happened so far to damage that reputation.
Story Number Three: The Republicans are stinking up the place
Coleman still has to be the favorite, but the Republicans are doing whatever they can to cast a shadow in the process, so Coleman could end up representing a state whose reputation for honesty he’d just dragged through the mud. They just can’t help themselves. That’s the only way they work.
Not all of the Republicans are acting badly. Former U. S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger was originally slated to head the Coleman recount campaign, but he made some polite excuse and backed out. (You have to believe that he just didn’t want to be involved with the sleazy operation the Coleman team was planning.) And after a little slip on national TV (which he corrected the next week) Republican Governor Pawlenty has generally affirmed the integrity of his state’s recount process — though still he might relapse, and definitely needs watching.
But Coleman is a Rovian. Even though he hasn’t won yet, legally speaking, he’s already declared victory three times. He’s proposed that Franken waive the “unnecessary” recount. He’s blamed Franken for the cost of the recount required by law. He’s smeared Secretary of State Ritchie. He’s smeared several local election boards. He’s made a stink about the 32 votes (which were never lost and were never in the trunk of a car), and about the routine correction of a hundred-vote mistranscription, and about the next-morning report of one county’s votes, and so on ad nauseum. Whenever the count has turned against him, he has immediately, without checking, insinuated the possibility of fraud. (In this he has been joined by Minnesota’s labile, amnesiac Congresswoman Michele Bachmann . Michele may not bother to get her facts right, but “she knows her heart is right”).
The Coleman allegations have been refuted in Minnesota, but they’re still alive and well nationally. The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, MSNBC, and other outlets have succeeded in convincing millions of people that Franken is trying to steal the election. Even the New York Times has relayed erroneous Coleman charges. Some Republicans — and many media people — are even hinting that Minnesota is Florida all over again, with Secretary of State Ritchie as the Katherine Harris figure. (Are the Republicans really finally admitting that the 2000 election was stolen?)
It’s hard to be sure what the Republicans have been trying to accomplish. The voting is finished, so public opinion is pretty much irrelevant. The recount process is spelled out in detail and not really susceptible to public pressure, and neither is the legal process. The most it seems that they can accomplish by their methods is to inflame their demented base, discredit Franken a bit, and generally poison the atmosphere, but by doing that they risk ending up even more despised than they already are. My guess is that they’re acting like stinkers because that’s what Republicans do. They’ve been playing that game for so long that they don’t know how to do anything else.
(Link from Digby, who describes a stolen election in Alabama. It’s my hope and expectation that Minnesota will perform better than Alabama did.)

The Election Process:

The night of the election, preliminary unofficial results are reported. Usually these results are decisive, but not this time. An automatic spot check is then done to find gross errors. (None were found.) After a week or so of adjustments and corrections, mostly at the local level, the corrected preliminary results are certified. The recount then begins, if necessary. Every ballot is recounted by hand, ballots challenged by one side out the other are separated out, and the new counts are recorded. (As of Nov. 22 we’re in the middle of this part). The challenged ballots are then evaluated by the recount panel, and the final result is reported.

Legal challenges can follow, though Minnesota law makes them difficult. (That’s presumably why the Franken camp is already suing about the rejected absentee ballots.) And finally, the Senate decides. Maybe they should skip to this right now, because I really doubt that the earlier phases are going to be decisive.

Supporting links below:

Continue reading

How did Iceland go bankrupt?

The small and hitherto very prosperous nation of Iceland seems likely to go bankrupt. At the moment they don’t have even enough foreign exchange to import food (which they can’t grow themselves), and because Icelandic banks have defaulted on British depositors, Britain has rather ludicrously declared Iceland to be a terrorist nation. The future is uncertain, but it seems sure that every Icelander will see a big decline in their standard of living, and that includes many who never really profited from the recent boom.
That’s just introductory. Up until a year ago, the Icelandic miracle was one of the big success stories of globalization and financial deregulation. The rest of this post will just be links and citations, most of them obsolete and highly embarrassing..

Update: Iceland as a terrorist nation
They may not have dressed up in burkas and strapped several kilos of Semtex around their waists. But to go into the high street, persuade charities, pensioners, local authorities to deposit money and then disappear, having trousered nigh on £8bn is, even by City standards, bad. Financial terrorism, grand larceny, call it what you will…..

Deregulation brings boom time to Iceland Nov. 9 2007

The catalyst for a dramatic turn-around was the deregulation of the formerly state-controlled financial sector. The move unleashed an unprecedented credit boom and helped to create a business elite now known locally as the billionaire boys club. Flush with cash raised domestically and from international markets and headed by fresh-faced entrepreneurial chief executives, firms such as Bakkavor Group, FL Group and Baugur have used Reykjavik as an unlikely base for aggressive overseas expansion.

Bank July 4, 2005

The Icelandic economy is transforming in a postive way since the currency crisis of the 1980’s from the old collective institutions to government now privatizing sectors and implementing free market reforms opening up this small economy. During the 1980’s, less than satisfactory political management resulted in a currency collapse for the Icelandic krona in that era…..If the government is committed to opening up foreign investment more, especially in areas like energy, Iceland’s future looks tremendously prosperous….Prime Minister Halldor Asgrimsson has been in power since September 2004. Free market reforms under former Prime Minister Oddsson led Iceland from 1991-2004 who spearheaded this economic transformation……During the 1990’s, the Icelandic economy strengthened as deregulation and privatization policies were implemented replacing the former slow growth protectionist and a highly regulated economy hiding behind capital controls.

Newsweek: The Iceman Cometh (May 23, 2005)

Since the mid-‘ 90s, the country’s center-right government has pushed free-market reforms–privatizing banks, ditching price controls and slashing taxes. Companies now pay just 18 percent on profits, down from 50 percent. “The same economic laws apply whether a country is small or large,” says Finance Minister Geir Haarde. “We are experiencing the fruits of a very determined and consistent policy.”

Wall Street Journal, January 29, 2004: Miracle on Iceland

Having stabilized the economy with monetary and fiscal restraint, the Oddsson government started privatizing. It began with small companies, later turning to large fish-processing plants, factories and financial companies. All the commercial banks are now in private hands. Altogether, the sales brought in $1 billion, not a bad haul for a country of 280,000. Only one large company remains, Icelandic Telephone, but it will soon be put on the sales block.

Mont Pelerin Society conference in Iceland, 2005
: The MPS are freemarket cheerleaders. Not much info at the link itself, but I wish I had access to this archive from their conference.

Hannes H. Gissurarson has recently published an article in the Wall Street Journal European edition, on the Icelandic economic miracle. Newsweek has also published an article about the Icelandic economic miracle, interviewing Finance Minister Geir H. Haarde.

The Virtues of a Free Market System (05-25-2008): I included this piece because the passage below is so freaky.(Update: I now see that “The Virtues of the Free Market System” is from a company which ghosts undergrad papers. I should have left it out but it’s just too funny. The humor may have been intentional on the part of the ghostwriter. It’s so damn hard to tell when those folks are serious.)

Free market economic systems are the best way for a country to create wealth and get out of poverty. If we look at the top ten countries based on the UN Human Development Index, we find that highly deregulated countries are in the top ten, namely; 1. Norway 2. Iceland 3. Australia 4. Luxembourg 5. Canada 6. Sweden 7. Switzerland 8. Ireland 9. Belgium 10. United States. As you will note from the above there is no country in the top ten that is socialist in any shape or form.

So much for the ‘free’ market. Now what?

Unfortunately, Britain’s Blairite authoritarians didn’t spend enough time taming the market. That country has been badly wounded by the credit crisis, as have other nations that moved too enthusiastically into free-market deregulation including Ireland and Iceland. Nations that were slower to deregulate, like Canada, have fared better. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is right when he says that. What’s ironic is that if he and other aficionados of the unfettered free-market had been in charge earlier, Canada’s financial system might well be in more trouble than it is.

Milton Friedmanism and the Meltdown in Iceland: just for fun I’ll finish up with this:

What is somewhat incredible is the apparent lack of remorse or self-reflection and doubt being expressed by the ideologues who put these policies in place and caused this economic and financial meltdown. Amazingly, many neo-cons continue to argue that this was caused by regulations that were too strong, or by a confluence of unlikely events, including a rise in “leftist attitudes“.

Police at the Republican Convention: Miscellaneous stories

A convenient summary up until Monday
The search warrants mostly listed common household items.
Two employees — and friends — of Sheriff Fletcher make their pleas on corruption charges.(Update: They’ve been convicted of theft.)
More on Fletcher
I-Witness video tells their story
Video activists were targeted.
Attorney trying to get an emergency injuction forbidding police to sieze cameras and video equipment; More.
Star Tribune story: apparently an AP photographer and a Minnesota Daily (U of M) photographer have been pepper sprayed.
Amy Goodman arrested
Firsthand report of civil disobedience
Kos Diary asks why most Democrats don’t care (except FDL)
Kos story
The impounded bus was the home of the pagan spiritual teacher Starhawk. It’s pretty evident that she was no threat.
A summary view from the Twin Cities
Perspective from Chris Floyd
Howard Rodman: historical and constitutional background
Hat tip to Ronebreak.