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Bought-and-paid-for journalism

Layers and layers of fact checkers:

David Kocieniewski of the New York Times is guilty of some outrageously bad journalism in the form of a groundless ad hominem attack on the reputation of two professors for the sole purpose of reinforcing the prejudices of his misinformed readers.

Kocieniewski’s article is titled “Academics Who Defend Wall St. Reap Reward”, and insinuates that academic research produced by University of Houston Professor Craig Pirrong and University of Illinois Professor Scott Irwin was bought and paid for by financial speculators as “one part of Wall Street’s efforts to fend off regulation.”

Disgusting.

(h/t Cafe Hayek)

UPDATE: Thanks for the link, Kate!

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Kooky Suzuki

David Suzuki, not satisfied with merely taking Canadian taxpayer’s dollars in order to spew his misanthropic stupidity, participated in a public question-and-answer forum recently on the taxpayer-subsidized Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Humans are maggots, baby

“Humans are maggots, baby.”

Posted below are a few snippets of the reaction to the appearance.

From the left-wing Media Watch:

The Canadian geneticist was given the podium to himself, in an honour previously granted only to Bill Gates and a handful of Australia’s political leaders.

And even his supporters must have been disappointed…

When challenged on the claim that global warming appears to have slowed or paused over the last 15 years Suzuki seemed somewhat surprised… So why was Suzuki given the stage all to himself if he is not a climatologist and is not across the subject?

Suzuki supporter davrosz:

Love David Suzuki, but sad ABC #QandA is spreading doubt about climate science again. Why do we keep having this ridiculous conversation.

The Daily Telegraph‘s Miranda Devine:

David Suzuki’s appearance on the ABC flagship program Q&A spelled the death of any credibility left in the fag end of the climate alarm movement.

The Herald Sun‘s Andrew Bolt:

The only rational response to Suzuki’s astonishing admission of utter ignorance would have been to say to him: “Sir, you are a phony and imposter. Get off the stage and don’t waste our time for a second longer.”

Anthony Watts at Watts Up With That?:

How in God’s name could people take this man seriously?

Climate blogger Joanne Nova:

The man is emphatically an activist who might as well be innumerate. He is unburdened by data, evidence or logic. Why is the ABC giving him such a hallowed space, which is usually only given to PM’s?

Australian blogger Don Aitkin:

What in blazes does he know? And why on earth is such a know-nothing given pride of place on a top ABC talk show? I expected a tough, well-informed, competent scientist. What I got was a feeble apologist. From a sceptical perspective the event was a success: Suzuki is such a dreadful exponent of the faith that  I would think he loses twenty supporters every time he answers a question.

The Sun News Network’s Ezra Levant:

Last week in Australia, David Suzuki did something he hasn’t done before: He allowed himself to be interviewed in a situation he did not control.

It was a disaster.

Saving the best for last, don’t forget to check out Ezra’s beautiful five-part summary of the Suzuki appearance (part 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5).

Insert your favourite responses to the Suzuki meltdown in the comments below.

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Creative Dissonance

If you ever want to know if Gerry “The Finger” Klein wrote the StarPhoenix editorial (and who wouldn’t?), just look for the buzzword “creative” or its variants in the text. The Finger is a disciple of Richard Florida, the increasingly discredited “creative cities” “expert,” and as such uses every opportunity to propagate the ideology.

Here’s what The Finger wrote in the September 18 editorial:

The mayor’s other defence of the automobile – that the only way to convince more people to live and play in the downtown is to have more cars on its roads – is counterintuitive to anyone who has walked in a successful urban centre. It is when there is a dearth of automobiles that streets come alive. That’s when there is more room for street vendors, outdoor restaurant tables, more casual walking. However, even successful urban cores require access for people who live in the periphery. And in a city such as Saskatoon, which is still a long way from having the kind of rapid transit options available in Calgary or Edmonton, which can bring people to the core without their cars, there will long be a need to facilitate the automobile.

Check out the “dearth of automobiles” in the living streets of New York…

nyc times square

“Hey, I’m walkin’ heah! I’m walkin’ heah!”

…or Tokyo…

Granted, they're driving on the wrong side.

Granted, they’re driving on the wrong side of the road.

…or Las Vegas…

"Yeah, but the real fun is downtown," said no one ever.

“Yeah, but the real fun is downtown,” said no one ever.

…or, closer to home, Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue…

where they only burn phone booths during Oiler playoff runs (i.e. once a decade)

where they only burn phone booths during Oiler playoff runs (i.e. once a decade)

…or Calgary’s Red Mile.

Ditto for the Flames

Ditto for the Flames

If anything, it’s a dearth of dearth of automobiles.

It’s obvious The Finger doesn’t get out to successful urban spaces much, but does he even read his own paper? This is from the September 5, 2013, StarPhoenix:

"Pedestrians cross at a crosswalk on Second Avenue between 20th and 21st Street East in Saskatoon, August 24, 2013. "Photograph by: Liam Richards, The StarPhoenix"

“Pedestrians cross at a crosswalk on Second Avenue between 20th and 21st Street East in Saskatoon, August 24, 2013.
“Photograph by: Liam Richards, The StarPhoenix”

It is dusk on Second Avenue, and the air smells of cigarettes. Groups of young people gather outside the pubs and restaurants that line the street, laughing and chatting. A woman in a dress sits on a nearby bench asking for change in a high-pitched voice. Cars circle the block looking for a parking space.

It’s a Friday night, and this street is alive and buzzing. The after-work drink crowd is slowly being replaced by nighttime revelers who have chosen this street — and more specifically this block — for a night out on the town.

Again, emphasis mine.

What The Finger and other “pedestrian-friendly” advocates don’t get is that the walkways themselves aren’t the destination. They’re a means to an end. What draws people to urban spaces are their own desires and goals: a night out with friends, a new movie at the multiplex, a great band coming to town, a fancy dinner.

They need to get to these places.

A fancy new ped- and cyclist-only bridge would be fun for those wanting to go for a nice outdoor jaunt, and I get that. But that in itself doesn’t make a space “come alive.” This goes especially for a ped bridge that would merely connect an older residential neighbourhood filled with people who look like this to the downtown. And even then only when the weather cooperates.

Not shown on the bridge: hordes of pedestrians and cyclists

Not shown on the bridge: hordes of pedestrians and cyclists

Every new bridge has to be accommodating to pedestrians and cyclists. I agree with that sentiment. And I also don’t have any problem with creating public infrastructure with a pleasing aesthetic, especially if it is to be a particular landmark near the centre of the city, even if it costs (a little bit) more.

My issue is with those self-anointed elitists who adhere to a particular lifestyle that suits them to the disregard to others. For me, I want to get downtown, and I’m not about to ride a bike or jog just so I can have a few beers with the boys.

The best use of public funds is to ensure that public infrastructure benefits citiziens in the broadest way possible. Excluding the 90% of people who wouldn’t cycle or walk downtown normally is a poor use of taxpayer dollars.

Not that this would concern the “green” lobby one iota anyway.

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Gift Horse Remorse

When all you want is to be miserable, there is no pleasing you.

Paul Hanley's photo of his birthday present

Paul Hanley takes a photo of his birthday present

Paul Hanley, the StarPhoenix‘s answer to David Suzuki except without the charm, sees no benefit in the “Saskaboom.”

Saskaboom is supposed to make our lives better, isn’t it? It may be making some of us richer – there are now 8,000 millionaires in the province – but the evidence suggests Saskatchewan’s booming economy has not translated into a better society.

Can you believe that there was once a time when rich, successful people were considered to be “society”?

Sure, there are many hundreds of new trucks lined up in the car lots and plenty of young men with big wages eager to buy them. The suburbs are expanding, couples are building houses and buying big screen TVs, but where are the social goods that make for a strong community?

People getting the chance to purchase what they want, to pursue their dreams, and to live their lives more in accordance with their wishes? Where’s the social good in that?

Some countries see wealth as an opportunity to create public or social goods. These are goods or services that benefit the largest number of people in the largest possible way.

By definition, a healthy economy provides more goods and services which benefits the largest number of people in the the largest possible way.

Classic examples include clean air and water, streets, health care and literacy. Such goods are “non-excludable” and “non-rivalrous,” meaning some individuals cannot be excluded from their use and usage by one individual does not reduce availability to others.

At any one time, the water I drink is used by me alone, the air I breathe is used by me alone, the street under my car is used by me alone, the doctor I see is seen by me alone. My use of these reduces their immediate availability to others.

His point, of course, is that society doesn’t provide these goods equally, which is another way of saying Hanley is envious of others’ good fortune.

It seems our booming economy mainly creates private goods that are excludable and rivalrous, in that they are exclusive to those who can afford them.

Envy.

And because we have adopted an ideology were economic winners feel entitled to all the income they earn – even though that income often results from exploiting publicly owned resources – tax revenues are insufficient to generate the public goods that build communities.

Resource income comes not from simply “exploiting publicly resources” but from providing the capital, labour, expertise, infrastructure, marketing and delivery of these resources, which benefit consumers and society as a whole. The alternative to this is if the state itself runs their own resource companies, which was done remarkably poorly in the past and, in some backward nations, today.

With all the money being generated in the province, why are universities cutting budgets? In other wealthy societies, such as Denmark, which has fewer resources than we do, most higher education is free.

The universities are cutting budgets because they are bloated bureaucracies with no sense of restraint, while higher education isn’t free in Denmark or elsewhere; it’s subsidized by “economic winners”.

Supposedly, Saskatchewan is the only jurisdiction in Canada running budget surpluses. The provincial auditor says this is a polite fiction and a fuller analysis of costs and revenues reveals deficits in nine of the last 10 years. Why, when our economy is booming?

Good question. Our economy is booming despite the growing expanse of government. Such is the power of the marketplace.

Despite the boom, inequality is growing in this province. The top 20 per cent of families with children earn 40 per cent of after-tax income, the bottom fifth only six per cent.

The key word is “earn”.

Rents and other living costs are rising due to the boom, making life harder for low-income families.

Rents and living costs are rising not because of the boom in general, but specially because more people want to live here. Saskatchewan is becoming a more attractive place to build a life for thousands of people. This is a good thing.

Whole segments of the population – including most First Nations and Metis citizens – continue to be excluded from the boom. Inequality results in social problems. Aboriginal kids often land in jail instead of university. Yet reserve schools get less money than other schools. Why is that?

The most socialized demographic in the province — i.e. those receiving the most taxpayer subsidized income and services relative to taxes paid — are First Nations people. Since they rely on government more than other demographics, they are less dependent on the free market economy and, as a result, do not benefit as readily (though are not excluded entirely) in times of market prosperity. This is not a good thing.

And northern Saskatchewan reportedly has among the highest levels of poverty in the country when resource extraction there generates hundreds of millions of income for mining companies.

Hanley’s expressed concern for the poor folk of northern Saskatchewan would be more convincing if he weren’t trying to shut down the only viable private industry in the north.

We are booming, but Saskatoon doesn’t have enough money to fix its potholed roads. Traffic is increasingly unpleasant and as the city expands, time spent in cars can only rise. Yet there is not enough money to provide effective public transit.

There’s not enough money in the world to provide effective public transit.

Meanwhile, the federal government is systematically cutting every measure designed to protect our most important public good, a clean and sustainable environment.

If only that were even half true.

There are other models. In Denmark, for example, social policy in areas such as health care, child care, education and protecting the unemployed are part of a “solidarity system” that makes sure almost no one falls into poverty. Danes pay very high taxes, but in return en-joy a very high quality of life due to the proliferation of public goods. It may be difficult to become very rich, but it is also difficult to be poor.

Some earnest Danes might disagree with this. Hanley might be happy about Denmark’s anemic economy,  though he might not be enthused about one of the primary causes.

Denmark’s minimum wage is double North American levels and people who are totally out of the labour market have a basic income guarantee of about $100 per day. Unemployment insurance covers up to 90 per cent of earnings for as long as two years. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays. The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for low-income workers.

It’s official. No one works in Denmark.

Despite high taxes, the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world, according to an OECD study. They are also highly engaged citizens: In their last election, which had no TV ads, 89 per cent of Danes voted – for governments that tax them heavily.

For “right-wing populist” governments.

Why is there so little public benefit from Saskatchewan’s boom?

Because Paul Hanley has a very narrow definition of “public benefit”.

In Paul’s world, if it ain’t perfect, it ain’t good.

Remember that if you ever consider buying him a birthday present.

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The Lame-Stream Media Strikes Back

The following is a draft post I came across from more than a year ago (March 30, 2013). Not sure why I didn’t post it. Thought I’d do it now.

Just when you think the mainstream media couldn’t get any lamer, they go ahead and lame harder than they’ve ever lamed.

It started with the whole Graham James saga, how he was given a lenient sentence for the crimes of sexually abusing his former hockey players, Thereon Fleury and Todd Holt. It was all over the news, especially here in Saskatchewan, where the crimes were primarily committed.

Apparently, one of the StarPhoenix‘s readers had enough of the coverage given to the principles of the trial and wrote a letter to the editor expressing her displeasure. The letter is not available online for reasons I’ll soon explain,  so here it is in full:

Is anyone else as sick of hearing and reading about Theo Fleury as I am?

What Graham James did was wrong, and abuse should never happen to anyone. Did Fleury and Sheldon Kennedy do anything to stop it? Fleury could have walked away and in doing so may have prevented it from happening to someone else.

But Fleury wanted to get to the NHL at any cost. That cost was James.

And what about all the people in whom Theo Fleury gave drugs and money for sex? Is it not the same thing? Is being a “john” and doing drugs not a crime? Where is his jail time for his crimes? Enough already.

It’s signed “Carol Belton, Saskatoon.”

If you’re like me, when you read this you probably thought, wow, what a nut, she sure hates Theo and has some surprising assumptions about sexual abuse victims, and then you move on.

But, as what happens in these days of perpetual outrage, some people weren’t too happy about this. Fleury posted about it on his Facebook page, apparently, and the winds of fury blew up across the land or something. Fair enough. It would have been a stupid, insensitive letter at any time, much less at the tail end of Graham’s trial. Of course people were going to be pissed.

What’s stupider, however, was the reaction of the StarPhoenix to this outrage. Here’s the editorial from this morning, entitled “To our readers”:

It was a letter that should not have run. We were wrong and we apologize.

On Thursday, The StarPhoenix published a letter to the editor submitted by a reader suggesting Theo Fleury could have taken steps to stop the abuse that was inflicted on him by confessed sex offender Graham James.

The letter was disturbing and shocking in its lack of understanding around the issue of child abuse.

Every year, we publish hundreds of letters dealing with sensitive topics. Like the letter in question, many represent views with which members of the editorial board at The StarPhoenix strongly disagree, but are selected for publication to promote free speech and encourage dialogue. It was here the paper fell down.

Mr. Fleury is a survivor of child sexual abuse. There is no constructive moral debate to be had around the question of whether he could have fought back or “walked away.” For anyone to blame him for his fate is unfair in the extreme. The letter did little to advance intelligent debate around our need to confront and address the horrors of child abuse.

We have personally apologized, by telephone, to Mr. Fleury . During that conversation, he spoke of his belief that any discussion exposing the troubling issues of child abuse can be taken positively. He also said he welcomes all opportunities to advance his work as an advocate for greater understanding of the issue. We appreciate his grace and understanding.

We regret The StarPhoenix could not have contributed more constructively to the important discussion of the issue of child sexual abuse. We again apologize to Mr. Fleury , his family, other survivors and all of those we offended by publishing the letter.

Oh, please. Where do I begin?

There is no constructive moral debate to be had around the question of whether he could have fought back or “walked away.”

I hate to shock you, SP, but you obviously had at least one reader who disagrees with that position, wrongly or otherwise. And where there’s one, there’s probably others, which would mean that there might be a small subset of people who don’t approve of Fleury and his silence in these matters until now. This means that there is a moral debate going on, no matter what this city’s paper of record insists.

The letter did little to advance intelligent debate around our need to confront and address the horrors of child abuse.

Even though on the same page, the paper published no less than 13 letters to the editor advancing precisely that intelligent debate.

[Fleury] spoke of his belief that any discussion exposing the troubling issues of child abuse can be taken positively. He also said he welcomes all opportunities to advance his work as an advocate for greater understanding of the issue.

Of course he would say this. He’s taken on tougher opponents than some nobody on the letters page. He knows that the way to fight stupidity is with a good, solid argument.

The late, great Andrew Breitbart knew this better than anyone. The man was the news editor of the Drudge Report, helped build the Huffington Post, founded a formidable collection of Big websites, and took on all comers. Those of us who followed him on Twitter took delight in his constant re-tweets of every vile, wretched, subhuman comments directed his way by the vermin Left. He knew that sunlight was the best disinfectant, and that the way to battle ignorance was by exposing it for the foolishness it is.

He had balls not to run away from a bad argument, but to confront and challenge it to oblivion.

That original letter to the editor was stupid. So what? The public responded the way they should have. Good on them, shame on the editors of the StarPhoenix and any other self-described “journalist” who feels that, when it comes to bad taste, censorship is an option.

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The Hard Case of Rehteah Parsons

From the opinion pages of today’s StarPhoenix:

Brucex25 RGB_8

The very purpose of symbolically blindfolding Lady Justice is to ensure that legal dcisions are made in a passionless and logical manner, i.e., in an environment devoid of emotion.

If Bruce MacKinnon intended to make an ironic statement on how makers of opinion, news and legislation are using the singularly emotional and tragic death of a teenager to promote their agendas, then he nailed it spectacularly.

Unfortunately, my suspicion is that MacKinnion truly feels justice ought to be guided by the emotional response generated by mass media hype and political pandering.

That hard cases make bad laws is as true a legal aphorism as any, and this goes especially for those cases involving children.

No doubt that this case is a hard one. I couldn’t imagine anyone not feeling sympathy for the family and close friends of a teenage child who committed suicide, much less for the reasons alleged. Therefore, it’s completely rational to want to ensure that such a tragedy doesn’t happen again.

What isn’t rational — but nonetheless inevitable — is the reaction against those who might have a more objective response to the event. As is too often the case in incidences of alleged sexual assaults, the truth of what initially happened to Rehteah is obscure and not provable. To point this out, however, is to elicit the sort of response seen in Christie Blatchford’s piece from today.

The lesson, then, is that if your opinion differs than that of the majority, you’d either have to have the balls of Blatch or just keep your mouth shut.

Politicians are particularly sensitive to this trait. This goes especially for experienced ones, as those politicians who speak logically rather than emotionally do not tend to hold office long enough to gain experience.

Still, this is no excuse for politicians of all stripes to fall over themselves in becoming the first to “do something.

For one thing, despite the furor brought on by Rehteah’s grieving parents, the “cyberbullying” she received after the alleged incident did not kill her; she killed herself as (I’m told) a response to the cyberbullying. There are other means in the criminal code which could have been used — and were considered — in addressing Rehteah’s complaints regarding her harassment.

Another consideration is that the intention of legislation is not the same thing as the outcome. Perhaps anti-cyberbullying (which was not a word, much less than a concept, a couple of years ago) could be prevented through legislation as intended. But what of the unintended consequences, such as the strain on the legal system which would inevitably arise as a result?

My biggest concern is that even if legislation would address future circumstances specific to cases like Rehteah’s, the legal system would be applied to other cases which wouldn’t have merited otherwise. Instead of parents and teachers working with their children to solve their differences (or, better yet, letting the kids solve their issues on their own), you add the strong arm of the law to impose its unyielding will on the actors.

The legal process itself would be punishment enough for a teenager accused of bullying a fellow classmate, regardless of the innocence or veracity of the accused.

The term “bully” is already being abused by people who should know better. Just this week, for example, defenders of Justin Trudeau are accusing Conservatives of “bullying” the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada and, apparently, a grown-up.

As Kathy Shaidle implied a while back, “bully” is the new “racist”. It has become a term used to shut others up, the latest progressive cause du jour to which public school kids are encouraged to relate such atrocities as the Holocaust.

(Never mind that the Holocaust occurred precisely because citizens were rendered impotent by the state, who then enforced its own bigoted, monolithic ideology.)

I don’t know if Rehteah was raped or sexually assaulted, or if the boys implicated are telling the truth. No one does for sure, and as a result, many lives have been impacted and the world lost a person far too young.

I do know that the biggest lesson I’ve learned from this episode is to teach my kids to carry themselves in public under the assumption that their actions are being recorded and posted on the internet.  If they are doing something that merits shaming, then chances are someone will use that against them. If all kids applied this lesson, then maybe there would be fewer sexual assaults or false accusations or bullying or what-have-you.

It’s a terrible lesson, but a lesson nonetheless.

To bad this is being lost in the national hysteria.

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Where did we go right?

With all due respect to Kathy Shaidle, I didn’t need Steve Sailer to tell me that Richard Florida is full of shit. Saskatoon, for example, has failed Florida’s vaunted 3T criteria for success so miserably that it merely has the best economy in Canada.

Still, I tip my hat to her for letting me know that others are onto Florida’s scam:

Florida himself, in his role as an editor at The Atlantic, admitted last month what his critics, including myself, have said for a decade: that the benefits of appealing to the creative class accrue largely to its members—and do little to make anyone else any better off. The rewards of the “creative class” strategy, he notes, “flow disproportionately to more highly-skilled knowledge, professional and creative workers,” since the wage increases that blue-collar and lower-skilled workers see “disappear when their higher housing costs are taken into account.” His reasonable and fairly brave, if belated, takeaway: “On close inspection, talent clustering provides little in the way of trickle-down benefits.”

It’s really a devastating takedown of the whole creative-class-as-economic-driver myth which has been all too prevalent in our urban chattering classes.

As such, it deserves to be read (deliciously) in full.

(And full props to Shaidle for referencing The Music Man rather than the Lyle Lanley knock-off.)

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