Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Imminent Paywall coming to the Oshkosh Northwestern

And the Fondy Reporter, Wausau Herald, GB Press-Gazette and every other Gannett newspaper in Wisconsin:
Those in range of Gannett's community newspapers will be sad to learn the publisher will soon erect a paywall around the websites of its 80 small-town titles, while keeping USA Today free online.
"We will begin to restrict some access to non-subscribers," Bob Dickey, Gannett's president of community publishing told Forbes' Jeff Bercovici on Wednesday. "The model is similar to the metered system adopted by The New York Times a year ago, in which online readers are able to view a limited number of pages for free each month." The company expects to gain 25 percent boost more revenue -- or, $100 million per year -- thanks to the new payment system, but might expect to see a drop in profits at first though, if The Times is any model.
Haven't seen any related announcement from any of the local Gannett papers, but this seems to follow a trend started by the above mentioned NY Times, and later adopted by the Milwaukee JS, which will presumably become standard industry practice in the near future.
I really don't have anything to add to this and don't feel all that strongly about the matter, one way or another. Just thought I'd kick off another round local media hyperventilating.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Walker and Jobs

The Recess Supervisor has a rather elegant explanation of why he disagrees with Scott Walker's economic policies:
In my mind, the failure is simple.  When an economy is weak, don't take spending out of it and don't severely diminish the spending capacity of many of its participants.

Walker's proposals are failing for the same reason that Obama's Making Work Pay tax credit bombed.  The theory behind Making Work Pay was that people would be more inclined to spend their additional money if they got it a little bit at a time instead of in one lump sum.  But what behavioral economists found is that if the money received on an incremental basis is relatively insignificant, it doesn't get spent at all.

So while some conservatives are wildly rejoicing at a  $20 or $30 savings on their property tax bills courtesy of Governor Walker, the reality is that their $20-30 came at the expense of many public employees losing their jobs, or the tens of thousands of public employees who are now taking home thousands of dollars less each year as the result of higher health insurance and pension costs.
The RS goes on:
In other words, less economic activity is generated in Wisconsin by 200 people with 20 extra dollars than is generated by one person in Wisconsin with 4,000 extra dollars.  Not really rocket science, but we should note that the Obama administration got this one wrong as well.
Or we could put it another way: more economic activity is generated by one entity spending $1-3 billion (i.e. the state) than by 2 million people not doing anything with $20. (I'm going to assume that this is not the extension of that argument that the Supervisor had in mind when he made it, but it seems to me like one that could follow.)

Compounding this is Walker's actual strategy for bringing jobs to Wisconsin: the "Wisconsin is Open for Business"plan -- which really isn't anything more than a marketing strategy -- relies entirely on importing jobs from out-of-state and completely ignores native jobs creation. Job importing should definitely be part of any strategy, but Walker's budget, economic policies and leadership tone have made Wisconsin completely unattractive to companies who might otherwise be interested in relocating or expanding into the state. Why would anyone want to build a workforce here when there's so much labor strife that seems waiting to spill over into the private sector? How can Wisconsin promote an educated workforce when we're slashing school budgets? What about potential infrastructure issues? etc. Businesses aren't just going to to listen to what Walker promises them, they'll want to know what the long-term prognosis for the state is and right now it's completely debatable.

Right now the company that is being held up as a model of Wisconsin's potential economic prowess is Epic Systems in Madison, which every elected official in the state seems eager to label as the Microsoft of the Midwest or the Dell of Dairyland -- and for good reason. Epic really should be a model that Wisconsin follows: they were founded in Wisconsin, currently employ 5000+ people (and have something like 150,000 resumes on file), are investing in Wisconsin with an enormous campus outside of Madison, and are feeding the growth of local suppliers and vendors. What more could we ask from a business? Epic is no more likely to leave Wisconsin than Apple is to leave Silicon Valley. That's largely because they were founded here and businesses generally don't leave the places where they were created. Yet these are the very businesses that are being neglected when Walker concentrates all of his energy on importing jobs -- that may or may not come here in the first place ad are increasingly not likely to do so now -- at the expense of cultivating them here, which is exactly what's happening with his slash and burn budgeting.

I do disagree with the Recess Supervisor on one point: that Walker's job pledge was unrealistic. It certainly was a gimmick, but one that even his opponents thought plausible early in the campaign, yet also one that was made before the financial meltdown of September 2008 when the prospects for achieving such a goal declined precipitously. At that point it was nearly impossible to remove the central tent-pole of his entire campaign. Walker has since has numerous opportunities to adjust his goal to a new economic reality and not doing so make him look ridiculous. 250,000 may have been possible at one point, but Walker's agenda has clearly proven to be no way of getting to that goal.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Adventures in Headache-inducing Foreign Policies, Starring Tim Nerenz, PhD*

Tim Nerenz, erstwhile Libertarian Party candidate for congress, has a mind-melting blog post advocating a Ron Paul/Allen West presidential ticket. The suggestion alone is enough to send neural synapses misfiring into a sea of liquefied gray matter, but it's Nerenz's solipsistic defense of the suggestion that really betrays the lazy, Manichean foundations of what passes for libertarianism these days.

I'd go through the text line by line, but really there are only two aspects of the argument worth worrying about. The first is the flagrant way is which Nerenz throws any pretense of principle overboard with his selection of West as a VP candidate. "Which ever faction’s favorite son wins should pick a running mate that the losing factions absolutely adore," he writes, because "the only purpose of choosing a running mate is to win, and winning back rivals' supporters alienated in this primary fight is the most important decision the GOP nominee will make."

I suppose the question of whether or not a running mate would actually be able to assume the office of the Presidency is immaterial to Nerenz. He certainly makes no effort whatsoever to argue that West is fit to do so. (West is not, by the way; and in all likelihood he'll find out this fall that voters made a mistake to think he's fit to hold office in Congress.) And just in case there were any doubt about where Nerenz's priorities are, here's his blanket abdication of principles:
And to all my libertarian friends who are still breathing into a bag at the thought of Col. West standing next to our icon, I say that I, too, could list a dozen policy disagreements with the conservative Rep. West.  But if conservative Vice President Allen West is what it takes to elect libertarian President Ron Paul, then the Colonel overcomes my lesser objections by the score of 1-12.  As an MOC reader comment recently reminded us – politics isn’t religion, and compromise is not a mortal sin.   
We here at The Chief like compromise. We encourage it. This isn't compromise. It's a rather transparent and pathetic Hail Mary. We would hope that conservatives would have learned an important lesson about elevating unproven leaders to exalted positions from the lat time they made this mistake. Evidently, libertarians have not.

Fitness for office aside (as if there were any other issue), what's makes a Paul/West ticket inherently absurd is that they are ideologically incompatible, and in no place is this more evident than in their views on foreign policy. Paul is an extreme isolationist, whereas West sees the justification of military intervention toward any country that so much as looks at the United States cross-eyed. Even Nerenz seems to acknowledge:
What’s your problem with Ron Paul – that he’s supposedly racist?  Hello, Allen West.  Anti-Israel?  Shalom, Allen West.  Soft on Defense?  Make that Col. West, pal.  Too old?  Allen West, youngster.  Meandering answers? Allen-get-the-hell-out-West.  Appeaser?  Allen-obliterate-them-West.  Too Muslim-tolerant?  Allen-pee-on-‘em-twice-West.  You get the picture. 
We do, indeed, and it's not a pretty one.

Clearly, Nerenz doesn't understand that a Vice President is supposed to advance a President's agenda, not contradict it. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one example of there ever being a sort of White House odd couple like the one Nerenz proposes, but that was during the Civil War and it did not end well.

If this is the future of conservatism, then Republicans are in trouble. The problem is that this year's crop of GOP primaries seem to suggest that Paul's 30+ crusade is paying odd dividends. Just take a look at the gains he's made in the last four years:


2008: 11,841 (9.93%) .... 2012: 26,036 (21.43%)     
Turnout: + 1.9%
Paul Raw Vote Improvement: +120%

New Hampshire:
2008: 18,308 (7.9%) .... 2012: 56,848 (22.9)%
Turnout: + 5.8%  
Paul Raw Vote Improvement: +211%

South Carolina:
2008: 16,155 (3.62%) .... 2012: 78,000 (13%)
Turnout: +34.72%  
Paul Raw Vote Improvement: +383%

2008: 62,887 (3.23%) .... 2012: 117,032 (7%)  
Turnout: -15%  
Paul Raw Vote Improvement: +86%

2008: 6,087 (13.73%) .... 2012: 6,175 (19%)
Turnout: -26%   
Paul Raw Vote Improvement: +1%

2008: 5,910 (8.42%) .... 2012: 7,759 (11.7%) 
Turnout: -7%
Paul Raw Vote Improvement: +31%

2008: 26,464 (4.50%) .... 2012: 30,641 (11.3%) 
Turnout: -57%   
Paul Raw Vote Improvement: +16%

2008: 9,852 (15.68%) .... 2012: 13,228 (27.0%)
Turnout: -24%   
Paul Raw Vote Improvement: +34%

Those might not be staggering numbers of support, but they are signs of astonishing growth. Unfortunately, they belong to a movement that unacceptable to the American mainstream. It's a spectacular liability waiting to explode in the GOP's face. The ability of Mitt Romney to effectively compete against Barack Obama should be a mere secondary concern to expansion of the party's lunatic wing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Effortlessness of being Mitt Romney

He really just makes it so easy on his opponents, doesn't he?
This could very well be the caption:

Never mind that some of these events are taken out of context or distorted beyond recognition. Romney’s an easy figure for mockery, simple to tag as an out-of-touch rich guy – a caricature even simpler to sketch than the one Republicans made of John Kerry in 2004, and in 2012, potentially even more devastating.

At a time when Democrats are prepared to stoke a little class resentment, they may well be able to pigeonhole the odds-on favorite for the Republican nomination into the narrative President Barack Obama laid out in his State of the Union address: the rich versus rest of us.

And the reality is, Romney himself is helping them do it.
More here.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to Implode Your Brand in 24 Hours

You have to hand to the Susan G. Komen folks--they certainly know piss away a reputation in an incredibly efficient manner. For the life of me, I can't understand why they've adopted this new ideology-based strategy. Normally I would give an organization the benefit of the doubt and figure that they ran the numbers and believed this to be the best strategy, but the unspeakably shoddy way they've handled the PR for the decision makes that impossible to believe. I honestly don't know how it walks away from this fiasco without the resignations of the people behind the policy change and tougher institutional controls that prevent ideology from trumping the core mission of providing for women's health. Charities live and die by their reputations and right now SGK's is imploding.

But this isn't going to stop with Komen. Like most other successful charities, SGK has dozens of prominent corporate sponsors, like:

3M, American Airlines, Bank of America, Bic, Caribou Coffee, Caterpiller, Crayola, the Dallas Cowboys, Energizer, Evite, Ford Motors, Forever 21, Guess, Hewlett-Packard, LPGA, Lowe's, Major League Baseball, The Preakness Stakes, Merck, Microsoft, New Balance, Old Navy, Oracle, Pepperidge Farms, REMAX, Samsung, SELF Magazine, Stanley Black & Decker, Walgreen's, Yoplait.

Those are some huge brand names and all of them are about to be inundated with a deluge of requests to end their sponsorships or face a boycott. Some will do so before they receive the first angry email. Komen is handling this so poorly that it's brand is going to start to weigh others down with it.