Any Economists at The Economist?

I wonder who The Economist magazine is going to endorse for president this time. Four years ago they endorsed Barack Obama. Puzzlingly, The Economist thought Obama would be good for The Economy. If makes one wonder if there are  any economists on staff at The Economist. Now, four years later, I wouldn’t be surprised if they endorse Obama again, because from what I gather, that publication has become decidedly left-leaning. (Though you never know – they went for Bush in 2000.) Compared with other left-of-center publications they can occasionally say a sensible thing or two when it comes to economics, but overall they usually seem to be colder toward U.S. candidates that lean free-market and warmer toward those who lean otherwise.

Case in point was yesterday. In the aftermath of the first Obama-Romney debate, everyone seems to think Romney eviscerated Obama – which may be so but I think Romney could have presented even better arguments. In any event, The Economist’s “Lexington” columnist put in his or her (their columnists go unnamed) two cents on the issue. It prompted me to write this:

It’s noteworthy that the writer of The Economist article points to Romney’s “repeated false claims about Mr. Obama cutting hundreds of billions from Medicare programmes for the elderly”. The writer seems to think that because the $716 billion is to be cut from providers rather than beneficiaries, that it’s not a cut. Try getting treatment from someone if they’re not being paid. Even Obama didn’t dispute the $716 billion transfer from Medicare to Obamacare.

Meanwhile Obama repeated the patently false claim that Romney plans to raise taxes on the middle class, basing that on some “study” where the authors think Romney should raise such taxes in order to fund his promises. That’s a far cry from Romney proposing to raise those taxes, which is what the Obama people want everyone to believe. It’s the biggest, most outrageous falsehood of this campaign and gets repeated over and over, which should make anyone think twice about the integrity of the Obama people. Not to bring up that falsehood in The Economist article is journalistic malpractice.

Get Your News from Right and Left

You shouldn’t just patronize news outlets with political bents similar to your own, while always ignoring outlets with a different ideological bent. If you do that, you’re denying yourself crucial information.

A good example was yesterday, vis-a-vis the Democrats’ national convention. A political hot potato was brewing: it was being reported that Democrats had taken “God” out of its platform, as well as language saying Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel.

But no stories of the kind showed up on the go-to publication for lefties, The Huffington Post – at least none that I saw. (And if there was any story on it, it was well hidden.) The publication has an unabashedly leftist bent, and it’s reluctant to publish stories that are embarrassing to or reflect negatively on the Left – unless such a story gets so hot that it has no choice but to feature it.

It was only when chaos erupted at the DNC, when they took a voice vote to reinstate the language – the chairman ruled “yes” even though it was generally agreed that the “no” voices were louder – that The Huffington Post went to press on the issue.

Readers of The Huffington Post were blindsided. If you’re accustomed to only reading that publication, then you would have had no idea that that issue was brewing. The Huffington Post did its readers a big disservice by ignoring the issue until it came to a head.

Poor Woody Allen. He only has two buttons on his iPhone he can touch – the weather and The Huffington Post, he told the Wall Street Journal. He must have been blindsided too.

I recall a similar thing happening in The Washington Post eight years ago vis-a-vis the swift boat issue involving then-presidential candidate John Kerry. The Post ignored the story (at least on its front page) – until information came out on it that put Kerry in a positive light. It reminded me of someone getting repeated legitimate criticism for something, and just sitting there staying silent all along, taking it in and fuming, unable to rebut. And then when information finally comes out that’s useful for that person, the person finally speaks up.

There’s also the well-known example of ABC newsman Charlie Gibson, during a radio show, getting blindsided regarding the scandal in which video of an ACORN worker advises a couple pretending to be a pimp and prostitute. That ACORN story had been all over right-leaning news outlets. It’s a good bet that Charlie Gibson wasn’t a regular reader of them. That’s extremely risky when you’re a national media professional.

And yes, right-leaning news outlets ignore stories that may be embarrassing to the Right. I recall seeing noteworthy things in The Huffington Post that I didn’t see on Foxnews.com. Of course the editors probably would argue that they don’t consider something as significant news, and so don’t report it. But sometimes it blows up in their face.

So the moral of the story is to read publications on both sides of the political spectrum. If you don’t, you’re denying yourself significant news.

NPR’s Peter Overby: Reporting the Left’s Side of the Story but Not the Right’s

If one comes across blatant bias and shirking of journalistic responsibility on the occasional occasions when one does listen to NPR, imagine how much bias and irresponsibility a dedicated listener must be exposed to.

I fall into the former category of listeners. The other day I came across a story by NPR’s “Power, Money and Influence” reporter Peter Overby on a recent American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference. With a job title like that, it’s a good bet that Mr. Overby isn’t going to treat those he disagrees with fairly. And in this recent story, that certainly was the case. He reported on the left’s recent campaign against ALEC for its support of voter I.D. laws “which Democrats say are meant to keep minorities and young voters from casting ballots in November.”

OK, so listeners hear from Overby why the left doesn’t like voter I.D. laws (which, by the way, is hogwash). But does Overby ever mention why the right likes voter I.D. laws, which is because such laws help reduce voter fraud?

Nope, not a peep of that.

So listeners hear from Overby the left’s stated reason for disliking voter I.D. laws, but never hear from Overby ALEC’s stated reason for liking voter I.D. laws. Overby could have made a simple and short mention of “voter fraud” in order to inform listeners of ALEC’s rationale for supporting voter I.D. laws. But he conspicuously left that out.

And that’s a downright shirking of journalistic responsibility. It crosses over into propaganda.

I’m thinking of the young people listening, like high-school and college students who are just becoming politically aware, and how deceived they are being. They hear stories like that from Mr. Overby, and lacking exposure to alternative viewpoints, think the only reason organizations support voter ID laws is racism – “to keep minorities and young voters from casting ballots in November.”

Abolish the taxpayer subsidy for NPR now.

Journalistic Malpractice at PBS Frontline

If there were a clearer case of journalistic malpractice, I can’t think of one at the moment. This isn’t just media bias. It’s out-and-out journalistic malpractice bordering on deceit.

This evening the PBS series Frontline broadcast a program called “Money, Power and Wall Street”. It’s about the origins and consequences of the financial crisis that began in 2008. Just from the title, you know it’s dripping with bias.

Still, in order to try to maintain a facade of impartiality, and given that the program’s funding comes from American taxpayers of all political persuasions – not just from leftist taxpayers – you would have thought that Frontline would have at least briefly acknowledged the very popular and very convincing argument that the U.S. government had a significant hand in causing the financial meltdown.

During the program when the topic of subprime mortgages was introduced, which everyone agrees was at the crux of the financial meltdown, the narrator said that the subprime market went from being a very small niche market to a huge one. That begged the obvious question that surely was on the mind of any discerning viewer: how did the subprime market get so big?

This is where the journalistic malpractice really kicked in. Frontline totally ignored why the subprime market got so big. That’s because if they were to explain why it got so big, they would have had to discuss the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and the fact that banks, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and other lending institutions were required by law to make loans to subprime borrowers. (Click here or here for a smidgen of the voluminous literature on the subject.)

Journalists and producers with a modicum of journalistic integrity, even if they leaned left, would have at least briefly mentioned that well-established line of thinking.

Based on what I watched, Frontline didn’t even mention the name Barney Frank in the whole discussion, let alone Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae – all players who were instrumental in promoting the continuation of loans to subprime borrowers.

One speculates as to why they would ignore it. It’s either deceit or ignorance or both. Deceit if the producers of the show were familiar with that line of thinking, and privately acknowledged that it even made some sense, but chose to not present that information because it wasn’t consistent with the agenda they’re trying to promote. Ignorance if the producers of the show have been so conditioned by leftist viewpoints over their lifetimes that they’re mentally incapable of understanding how any arm of the government, except perhaps the military and CIA, can do any wrong, leading them to dismiss the whole CRA angle outright – and ignore the question of how the subprime market got so large because they have no idea themselves how that happened.

Journalistic malpractice, while unfortunate, is a fact of life in a democracy. It’s inevitably going to happen in societies where there’s freedom of the press. People can choose not to patronize or fund the entity committing the malpractice. But what’s galling is when journalistic malpractice is carried out by entities that people are forced to fund through their taxpayer dollars. That goes against everything a free society should stand for. Taxpayer-funded entities should be bound to the highest of standards. Instead, in this case, PBS has been captured by leftists trying to foist an agenda. As the people forced to finance such entities come from both sides of the political spectrum, such taxpayer-funded entities should lose their subsidies, or barring that, be required to hire reporters, editors and producers on both sides of the political spectrum.

Journalists have a professional obligation to present all significant angles of a story. That’s woefully lacking in Frontline. It’s far from a news program. And it doesn’t bill itself as an opinion program. So propaganda program is a more apt description. “Money, Power and Wall Street” easily could have passed as a Michael Moore production.

The principal Frontline interviewer, by the name of Martin Smith, was fond of using the term “crap” while interviewing his subjects, in characterizing the subprime securities that caused the whole mess.

Mr. Smith, your manner of presentation of the issue at hand falls into that category, too.

* * *

BTW, here are some names behind the content of the above-referenced program:

  • Producer – Callie T. Wiser
  • Web Design & Development – Jordyn Bonds
  • Senior Digital Producer – Sarah Moughty
  • Director of Development – Sam Bailey
  • Director of Digital Media/Senior Editor – Andrew Golis
  • Managing Editor – Philip Bennett

Tribute to Claude-Michel Schönberg

Yes, even though their leadership and the content of many of their shows are politically biased, PBS does carry many good programs. PBS Kids, nature shows, and fundraising specials like the 25th Anniversary production of Les Miserables, and Celtic Thunder, are among them. So even though one already helps fund PBS through one’s tax money, one nevertheless feels compelled to respond positively when they’re soliciting for donations.

Two comments about Les Miz, one negative and one positive.

The 25th Anniversary Special of Les Miz was great, except for the questionable attire of the full choir in the back. Les Miz t-shirts? Give me a break. Talk about a spoiler. It was painful to watch when they’d cut to shots of the choir. Hey, why not Les Miz bathing suits? They definitely should have been dressed in more formal attire.

The other comment is to marvel at the super-human talents of Claude-Michel Schönberg. He wrote the music to all of the songs. Usually out of, say, 10 songs in a given album or production, maybe just one or two of them are good. It amazes me that Schönberg could write one amazing song after another.

Lyrics are great too. And the singing. And the story. But writing the music required the most talent by far.

You know how they say that if an inventor, like Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell, wouldn’t have been around to invent what they did, then someone else would have?

The same can’t be said of Claude-Michel Schönberg. If he hadn’t have been around to write the music of Les Miserables, then that production never would have existed. And the world would have been worse off.

WaPo Redeems

Just when you thought the Washington Post jumped the shark* with its recent front-page, Sunday edition, above-the-fold story on romance in the Occupy Wall Street camps, the paper redeems itself with two very good pieces. One is what the Post does best: human interest stories with a policy/political/national security bent. It focuses on Jennifer Matthews, a key CIA agent and mother of three, who was among the seven Americans killed in the December 2009 suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

Another article was the type of article you don’t find very much in the Washington Post (apart from regular columnists like Krauthammer and Will): a grown-up’s piece on the topic of income inequality, titled “Angry about inequality? Don’t blame the rich,” by James Q. Wilson.

True, the OWS romance piece was a human interest story with a political bent, but its corniness should have relegated it to the Style section. It belonged nowhere near the front page.

One other observation. The Post’s ombudsman showed that the paper’s coverage of the annual Pro-Life March was rather biased, with its absence of photos indicating the large size of the crowd and its use of the term “antiabortion ideology.” That begs the question: why isn’t the ombudsman catching these things before they go to print? Surely the Post employs copyeditors to proofread for typos before putting each issue to bed. Why not the same to proofread for bias?

* A phrase describing the moment in the evolution of a television show or other entity (in this case newspaper) when it begins a decline in quality that is beyond recovery. The phrase originated from the Happy Days episode where Fonzie jumps a shark while water skiing.

(Also see previous post on Washington Post quality control issues.)

LiveScience Should Examine the Science of Envy, Using Itself as a Research Subject

Here’s a comment I wrote in response to a LiveScience article titled “5 Facts about the Wealthiest 1 Percent”:

“Hey LiveScience, have you ever thought about writing an article about the science of envy?

For manifestations of envy, you could point to this very article. It plays on people’s envy. It clearly implies and assumes that rich people getting richer is an inherently bad thing. But what if the rich get richer while the lower-income groups get richer as well (which by and large was happening until the Obama years)? That’s a good thing. Only the envious would think it’s a bad thing. And envy is an immature and destructive emotion; one should not base public policy on it.

And by the way, it is probably true that wealth inequality is rising. But wealth inequality is mainly a function of inequality of education. Our educational system is breaking down and our dropout rate is high, resulting in millions of uneducated, unemployable, and low-income people. And our lax immigration policies are resulting in millions upon millions of uneducated people arriving here from the third world who can’t even speak English. Do you expect them to be instantly rich or middle-class as soon as they cross the border? Of course not.

So you should have discussed the main factor that is causing rising income inequality, namely inequality of skill levels.

The ironic thing is that people on the left wail the loudest about inequality, yet it is they, through their support of near-open borders, of education-stifling teachers’ unions, and of job-destroying anti-business policies that give rise to worsening inequality in the first place.

Meantime, hey Natalie Wolchover (author of the article). I’m curious. Are you an envier? From the tone of this article, it appears so.”

And here’s a comment I posted in response to another LiveScience article titled, “Who Has the Money and Power?”

“Hey LiveScience, you should run an article on the science of envy. For manifestations thereof, you could point to your own articles such as this one, which really play on people’s sense of envy. The material here conveys the false impression that the rich are sinister and conspiring to hold the rest of us down. The graphs are really biased, too. Did you know that the top 1 percent’s income has actually substantially declined during the last few years, during the anemic economy? Nah – that wouldn’t jibe with the agenda you want to promote.

It’s also telling that in your race chart, you left out Asians, who have the highest income and net worth. I guess that would have been politically incorrect, eh? After all, you want to make it look like the evil white folks have all the money and power. Not that there’s anything wrong with Asians being the wealthiest race — they should be admired for that.”

News Flash: NBC News Report That’s Critical of Obama Administration

I don’t turn on the tube much, including the news, but whenever I do, when they talk about politics it’s usually slanted left.

But this morning was an exception. I think it’s the first time I remember seeing NBC’s Lisa Meyers report a story that’s critical of a Democrat, in this case the Obama administration. (I’m sure she has reported other stories critical of Democrats while I wasn’t watching, but I doubt it’s just coincidence that whenever I do tune in, that’s usually not the case. I bet if you ran the numbers, there would be far more negatives for righties than for lefties.)

The story in question was Solyandra – the solar energy company that’s going bankrupt and that’s under investigation for wrongdoing, after receiving money (or loan guarantees) from President Obama’s spendulous package. Meyers pointed out that the Obama administration rushed through the aid to the company without adequately vetting it, even against the advice of some advisors. It appears it was done for political reasons, Meyers reported.

Good going NBC and Lisa Meyers – it shows that you can be balanced at least some of the time!

Hey WaPo, Why Not Seek Outside Help With the Wikileaked Cables?

Remember when the Washington Post (and NYT) solicited its readers to help its staff comb through the trove of Sarah Palin’s e-mails as governor, in an effort to dig up dirt?

Funny that they didn’t issue a similar solicitation to their readers with regard to the trove of leaked diplomatic cables by Wikileaks, at least not that I’m aware of. There’s surely too much material there for the WaPo staff to comb through on their own. And another 200,000 or so unredacted cables were just released.

So why wasn’t WaPo as enthusiastic in getting outside help in digging up dirt within the Wikileaks documents as it was with the Palin documents?

That’s a rhetorical question. (The answer is obvious.)

But if I’m wrong and it turns out that WaPo did make a similar solicitation with regard to the Wikileaks cables, then I’ll promptly issue a correction and apology. Ditto if it turns out that WaPo did the same thing vis-à-vis a trove of documents from a prominent left-leaning politician.

Injustice at NPR

With reference to NPR’s David Welna (see the previous post), to paraphrase a quote attributed to Mark Twain:

It’s better to remain silent and be thought to be economically challenged, than to speak and remove all doubt.

(The original quote has “a fool” in place of economically challenged, but that’s too harsh.)

That’s what happens when straight news reporters wander into the realm of political & economic commentary. They confirm our suspicions that they’re as leftist (which is synonymous with economic illiteracy) as they come.

And that brings up another quote by Thomas Jefferson:

To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

It truly is unjust to compel right-leaning taxpayers to furnish funds for the propagation of the unbalanced left-leaning ideas featured on NPR. Straight news reporting is deceptively subjective. The reporter and/or editor has wide discretion over the topics he or she chooses to feature, and whom he or she chooses to interview on those topics. I’m confident that an analysis would show that NPR overwhelmingly chooses left-leaning topics, left-leaning interviewees, and quotes from left-leaning people.

If NPR were funded from purely private sources, then that would be totally fine. But because it receives funds from taxpayers, and therefore from coerced funds from people who lean right, the decision-makers at NPR and PBS should feel morally compelled to hire half left-leaning and half right-leaning reporters and editors. If moral suasion doesn’t work – and it won’t because if it did they’d already be doing it – then there should be a regulation compelling them to do so (yes, some regulations are good!). Either that, or forgo the taxpayer funds.

Not to take either of those actions is sinful and tyrannical.