November 14, 2007

Positivity: ‘Anonymous Friend’ gives $100 million to town

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 4:35 pm

From Erie, PA:

Mike Batchelor invited the heads of 46 charities into his downtown office for one-on-one meetings to personally deliver the news. Nearby, on a small table, sat a box of tissues.

And then he proceeded: A donor had given a staggering $100 million to the Erie Community Foundation, and all of the charities would receive a share.

That was when the tears began to flow — and the mystery began — in this struggling old industrial city of 102,000 on Lake Erie, where the donor is known only as “Anonymous Friend.”

Batchelor, president of the Erie Community Foundation, has been sworn to secrecy and will allow only that the donor worked with the organization for years to identify deserving recipients before the announcement over the summer.

Is the donor dead or alive? No comment, Batchelor says. What is the donor’s connection to Erie? No comment.

The talk about the gift has taken an interesting turn in recent weeks. As much as everyone here would like to know their benefactor’s identity, many are also reluctant to pry.

(more…)

Hiring of ‘Screw Them’ Kos Unlikely to Reverse Newsweek’s Decline (UPDATE: Rove Won’t Either)

It seems appropriate that the person who wrote the following will now be writing for Newsweek (HT to NB’s John Stephenson, who posted on this Tuesday evening):

KosScrewThem040104

Yes, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga (“Kos”) apologized the next day; you can decide for yourself whether it suffices.

Assuming he’s really sorry, it’s odd that, unlike on the rest the site, there is no direct working link to the “screw them” comment (try the supposedly correct comment link, and you’ll be taken to the front page; this link will get you to the top of that post’s comments; scroll down about halfway to see the one pictured above).

But I’m not here to criticize Kos. He is what he is, and, other than link-diverting childishness just illustrated, Newsweek presumably knows what it’s getting into — though given the recent Cleveland Plain Dealer-Wide Open Blog brouhaha (HT Writes Like She Talks), one can’t be too sure. After all, AARP was apparently unaware of the above quote in early 2005, when it briefly linked to Kos from a now-dormant blog dedicated to derailing Social Security reform, and quietly removed the link about a week after apparently receiving quite a few complaints.

I simply want to point out that Newsweek’s hiring of an experienced and I-assume-still-working political operative who has made frequent monetary and priceless in-kind contributions to Democratic politicians is consistent with its past decades of negligent and reckless left-biased reporting:

  • They’ll deny it ’til the cows come home, but Newsweek was going to bury the Monica Lewinsky story in early 1998 until Matt Drudge forced it out into the open (6th paragraph) — just as the magazine’s affiliated company, the Washington Post, buried a story about Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment of Paula Jones by the same reporter in 1994.
  • Though it had a lot of Old Media company, the magazine failed to report on the credible rape charges leveled by Juannita Broadderick during the Clinton impeachment period.
  • Then there’s the Quran flushing story in 2005 that Newsweek had to retract — but not before people died in rioting over the false story.

Newsweek’s mission for oh-so-many years, as is the case with so many other Old Media publications, has been to slant its reporting and influence readers with with liberal bias in hopes of influencing election results. Evan Thomas once infamously said as much during the 2004 election campaign:

Let’s talk a little media bias here. The media, I think, wants Kerry to win. . . . They’re going to portray Kerry and Edwards as being young and dynamic and optimistic and there’s going to be this glow about them . . . that’s going to be worth maybe 15 points.

The Kos hiring is just the latest attempt to make sure the magazine holds up its share of Old Media’s built-in 15-point spread in 2008; perhaps New Media will take that spread down a few points this time around.

Newsweek has been saying “screw them” to readers who want fair and balanced coverage for as long as I can remember. The news-consuming public has been saying “screw them” right back:

NewsweekCirc1987to2006

The audience news for Newsweek appears to be on a similar path. Again, the increase was very small, to 3.118 million in 2006 from 3.117 million the year before ….. that total, was the second lowest circulation number recorded for the magazine in the time for which we have data – 2005 was the lowest.

The magazine has lost just under 10% of its readership since its Lewinsky-induced 1998 peak of 3.437 million, while the country’s population has increased by about 10%.

Although Newsweek, at least according to Kos, is hiring a conservative to counter him, there is virtually no chance that the person chosen will be as blindly partisan as he. Kos has said on several occasions that policy bores him, and that he only cares about winning. I guess we’ll have to wait and see who the actual conservative choice is, but it seems to me that the only way to “balance” someone with Markos’s mindset would to wake Machiavelli from the dead, and then hope he’s sensible and a conservative (though I repeat myself).

Regardless, the Kos hiring more firmly plants the magazine on far-left and likely less financially fruitful ground.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Kos’s “opponent” is Karl Rove, meaning that –

  • On substance, it will be Rove in a rout, if he succeeds in staying awake.
  • On entertainment value, i.e., giving me a reason to buy the magazine or check in online, I agree with Michelle Malkin — “Zzzzzzzz.”
  • Newsweek, by assuming Kos = Rove, has bought into the lefty blogosphere’s overinflated opinion of itself and its influence. How did that Ned Lamont thing go anyway (Ned who?)?
  • But on one of the defining issues of our time, illegal immigration, it will be Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Audit Board of Circulation (ABC) = Association of Book Cookers?

Filed under: Business Moves,Education,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 11:54 am

Thanks to changes being implemented by the newspaper industry’s Audit Board of Circulations (ABC), it may be, as I suspected in a previous post (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog) that the 30-month analysis of newspaper print circulation drops I did last week (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog) is the last “clean” one I’ll be able to do.

The ABC announcement is here. Editor and Publisher’s Jennifer Saba describes the changes that appear likely to prevent meaningful comparisons of new circulation figures to those in prior reports (bolds are mine; HT to Recovering Journalist, whose post on the topic is hysterical, though I always thought that CPAs were the ones who answered “What do you want it to be?” when asked “What is 2 + 2?” :–>):

During an annual meeting last week in Chicago, the board agreed to several recommendations by a committee — consisting of both publishers and advertising executives, ABC stressed — that will entail the following changes:

*Implement a flexible pricing model where newspapers will be considered paid by ABC regardless of the price for which the copy was sold.

*Other-paid circulation will become “verified circulation” similar to how ABC accounts for magazines, meaning there will no longer have to be payment for third-party copies or Newspapers in Education for the circulation to count.

*Hotel and employee copies, currently under other-paid, will be reclassified under a new paid-circulation category.

*Newspapers will have flexibility to convert home subscribers to a greater frequency.

“Our aim was to streamline the audit process, clearly define important measurement standards, and improve overall communication between newspaper buyers and sellers,” Craig Sinclair, vice president of advertising at Walgreen Co., said in a statement.

ABC has been working on these new strategies since the summer of 2006. The specifics will take approximately three years to work out, according to ABC, but it will alter the face of the FAS-FAX, publisher’s statements, and audit reports.

Even if the ABC continues to report separate paid print-circulation figures, which does not appear absolutely certain (they may be buried with other total audience measures, or at least kept that way in information given to the public), the first two bolded changes, and possibly the third, are fundamental changes to how circulation has historically been determined.

The changes also appear to present an opportunity for newspapers to game the system. One possibility would appear to include dumping “Newspapers in Education,” wanted or not, into college campus classrooms, cafeterias, meeting areas, and dorms. After all, these freebies count as part of “verified circulation,” which drives advertising rates.

I see no evidence from the ABC that they have any intention of restating circulation figures reported in prior periods. Even if they do, it would be nice to know how far back they intend to go.

Given the changes above, it would appear that the March 2008 circulation report will show higher figures for most, if not all, papers, and has the potential for being spun by the industry to those who don’t dig into the detail as some kind of turnaround for the industry. We shall see.

Recovering Journalist points out that this is all window-dressing, and perhaps self-delusion:

Cooking the books isn’t going to solve the problems of relevancy, competition from the Web, and failure to truly innovate (except maybe in the circulation-accounting department, apparently).

In the name of accuracy, I suggest that ABC consider changing its name to the Association of Book Cookers.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Early ‘Autism’ Diagnosis: As I Suspected …..

Filed under: Education,Environment,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:41 am

Confirmation usually doesn’t come this quickly, but in case of the autism-related item at this morning’s “Couldn’t Help But Notice” post, it has.

At that post earlier this morning, I wrote:

Excuse me if I detect the distinct aroma of a victim-creating, society-blaming industry. If it takes a bunch of false diagnoses and lifetime stigmas to create a hysteria, too bad, so sad.

In “Crusades Versus Caution: Part II,” Thomas Sowell flags the victim-creating industry (bolds are mine, and prove the point):

….. the dangers of false diagnoses of toddlers and preschoolers have been pointed out by Professor Stephen Camarata of Vanderbilt University, who has tested and treated children with autism for more than 20 years and has encountered many cases of inaccurate diagnoses.

A prudent trade-off, as distinguished from a crusade, would weigh the dangers of false diagnoses against the benefits of “early intervention.”

There is already considerable evidence of false diagnoses of preschool children as autistic, and the treatments inflicted on them can be abusive, with incalculable negative effects on their development.

….. Much has been made of statistics showing a sharp increase in diagnoses of autism in recent years.

What has gotten much less attention is the changing definition of autism, which raises the question whether there has been an actual change in the real world or simply a change in the way words are used when collecting statistics.

People today are often spoken of as being “on the autistic spectrum,” rather than as having autism.

While there are some conditions which are much like autism, there are other conditions, such as having a very high IQ or simply being late in talking, which often include characteristics listed on checklists for autism. These are open invitations to false diagnoses.

We would see the dangers immediately if people who wear glasses were included on “the blindness spectrum” or people with harmless moles were included on “the cancer spectrum.”

Blindness, cancer and autism are all too serious — indeed, catastrophic — to use loose definitions that fudge the difference between accurate and inaccurate diagnoses.

Loose definitions of autism produce bigger and more newsworthy statistics, which in turn can attract more children into existing programs and attract more money from the government, foundations and other sources to support those programs.

Many parents have told me that they have been urged to let their children be labeled autistic, or on the autistic spectrum, in order to get money for speech therapy or other conditions from grants that are available to deal with autism.

Professor Camarata points out that the “less precise ‘autism spectrum’” label “has had the unintended consequence of diluting resources, research and services to those children and families who most need the support” — that is, families whose children suffer from genuine autism.

I’m less sure than Prof. Camarata that what he cites is “unintended.”

Here’s an example of press coverage that plays right into Sowell’s point. Note the breezy jump from “autism” to the “spectrum”:

The alarming rise in autism rates in the U.S. and some other developed nations is one of the most anguishing mysteries of modern medicine — and the source of much desperate speculation by parents. In 1970, its incidence was thought to be just 1 in 2,500; today about 1 in 170 kids born in the U.S. fall somewhere on the autism spectrum (which includes Asperger’s Syndrome), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As to the “society-blaming” part, that same Time article engages in that too:

Still, there’s a nagging sense among many experts that some mysterious X-factor or factors in the environment tip genetically susceptible kids into autism …..

Enter Michael Waldman, of Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. He got to thinking that TV watching — already vaguely associated with ADHD — just might be factor X. That there was no medical research to support the idea didn’t faze him.

….. Lo and behold, Waldman and colleagues found that reported autism cases within certain counties in California and Pennsylvania rose at rates that closely tracked cable subscriptions, rising fastest in counties with fastest-growing cable. The same was true of autism and rainfall patterns in California, Pennsylvania and Washington State. Their oddly definitive conclusions: “Approximately 17% of the growth in autism in California and Pennsylvania during the 1970s and 1980s was due to the growth of cable television,” and “just under 40% of autism diagnoses in the three states studied is the result of television watching due to precipitation.”

If you think this stuff doesn’t pass the laugh test and has no chance of having public-policy implications (e.g., higher taxes on cable bills to feed the autism industry, regulation of how long TVs are on, perhaps even universal day care to control exposure to those autism-inducing TV sets), you’re forgetting that globaloney and globalarmism make similar leaps to indict mankind as THE cause of alleged global warming and climate change — and that those who are pushing it on us are prescribing draconian standard of living cuts and/or outrageous taxes and fees. The “anti-autism” measures I just described would be (excuse the pun) baby steps.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (111407)

Ralph Peters understands his journo colleagues, their changing Iraq coverage tactics now that there is appreciable success, and the deeply cynical nature of the Hollywood elites trying to tell us how to see things over there.Read the whole, awesome thing. Then compare and contrast with the over-the-top defensiveness of Time’s Joel Klein, if you can stand it.

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The Chicago Tribune and Michelle Malkin wonder where the Jena 6 defense fund money went. Malkin: “….. much of the money can’t be traced, while some of the defendants are literally rolling in race-hustling dough.”

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Rolling Stone Magazine is celebrating its 40-year anniversary. Dennis Prager makes a very apt observation:

….. the amount of public cursing on the left and the way curse words are accepted as part of public and formal discourse may be as significant to understanding the left as anything the left says. It is the left’s way of showing rejection of the values of the middle class and of America’s Judeo-Christian civilization.

Exactly.

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Is it too soon to demand Eliot Spitzer’s recall or resignation? If so, not by much:

Gov. Spitzer’s former communications director, Darren Dopp, asked another Spitzer aide to lie about the origins of the Dirty Tricks Scandal – including the governor’s own allegedly extensive knowledge of the plot to smear the Senate’s GOP leader, a well-placed source told The Post yesterday.

….. Dopp also insisted at another meeting that “the boss,” as he called Spitzer, had been kept fully informed “from the start” about the anti-Bruno effort, which dated back to the spring, the source said.

Such a claim, if true, would contradict Spitzer’s repeated insistence that he didn’t learn about the anti-Bruno plot until shortly before it became public – and had even made an unsuccessful effort to stop it.

Someone need to explain how this isn’t acquiescence to, or active participation in, obstruction of justice.

As Spitzer’s poll numbers collapse, the real question is whether he is, or ever was, fit for executive public office.

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Thomas Sowell, on too-early and too-often incorrect diagnosis of autism:

There have already been many casualties in the crusade against autism, and there may be far more if recent recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics are carried out to have every child tested for autism twice by age two.

….. The initial evidence on which a diagnosis of autism was based may be nothing more than a checklist of characteristics of autistic children, often administered by someone with nothing more to go on than that checklist.

The fundamental problem is that many items on such a checklist can apply to many children who are not autistic. A study of gifted children, for example, found many of them showing the kinds of characteristics found on checklists for autism.

….. The very definition of autism has been expanded in recent years to include what is called “the autism spectrum.” What this means, among other things, is that there is now far more wiggle room for those whose diagnoses have proved to be wrong, who refuse to admit it, and who are now even more unaccountable than ever.

Excuse me if I detect the distinct aroma of a victim-creating, society-blaming industry. If it takes a bunch of false diagnoses and lifetime stigmas to create a hysteria, too bad, so sad.

Update: Suspicions confirmed.

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Occam’s Razor tells me that there’s an easy explanation for Ted Strickland’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton: After a painful series of virtually non-stop gaffes and missteps by her, her husband, and her campaign, she and her poll-obsessed operatives knew that her internal poll numbers were in free-fall, and that it was only a matter of not much time before an external poll would show her statistically tied with BOOHOO (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama).