December 31, 2013

Mich. Car Dealer Is a Microcosm of What to Really Expect as Admin Ramps Up to Hype Obamacare ‘Success Stories’

Drudge’s headline linking to a Politico item by Carrie Budoff Brown and John Allen about the Obama administration’s plans to aggressively identify and promote Obamacare successes in 2014 (“White House Plans to Step up Obamacare Propaganda in 2014″) is far better than the tired one Politico itself used (“White House looks to spread good Obamacare news”).

What Team Obama plans to pursue will be propaganda, because as it identifies and “spread(s) good news,” it’s going to have to ignore a far larger volume of bad news. An NBC investigative report (video at link; HT Political Outcast) two days ago about the situation at a Michigan car dealership makes that point about as well as it can be made (bolds are mine):

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Happy New Year: Already Depressed Median Household Income Has Gone Nowhere For Almost Almost Two Years

In an earlier post today (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted that reporters at Politico and CNNMoney.com seemed mystified at a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showing that 68 percent of Americans believe the economy is in poor shape, and that over half believe it will still be that way a year from now.

One reason for their incredulity is that, perhaps deliberately, they haven’t been paying attention to household income data compiled monthly by ex-Census Bureau workers at Sentier Research. Sentier’s latest report covering November came out today. It shows that annualized inflation-adjusted median household income is still more than 7 percent below where it was when Barack Obama took office in Janaury 2009, and that it’s gone nowhere in the 23 months since December 2011. At an index value of 92.7, November’s figure is virtually the same as it was in December 2011 (92.8).

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Poll Showing Most Americans Believe Economy Is and Will Stay in Poor Shape Puzzles Politico, CNN

One thing the establishment press will not be celebrating this evening as we head into 2014 is the fact that they have been unable to convince the American people that the economy has been and will continue to be on the rebound.

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released on Friday, which “oddly enough” (no, not really) is not being touted at ORC’s related press release web page, shows that 68 percent of Americans believe the economy is in poor shape. Over half expect the economy to be in that condition a year from now. This came as somewhat of a surprise to Lucy McCalmont at the Politico and Gregory Wallace at CNNMoney.com.

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Krugman: Somehow, UPS-Fedex Christmas Snafus Make HealthCare.gov Seem Not So Bad

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:03 am

In a December 27 blog post, New York Times columnist and incurable Keynesian economist Paul Krugman capitalized on the problems United Parcel Service and to a lesser extent Fedex had in delivering Christmas packages on time: “Can’t the private sector do anything right?”

While I recognize that there’s sarcasm in his question, Krugman then went on to try to make HealthCare.gov’s problems appear analogous: “[M]any pundits were quick to declare healthcare.gov’s problems evidence of the fundamental, irretrievable incompetence of government, and as an omen of Obamacare’s inevitable collapse. … (But) none of these people are making similar claims about UPS or Amazon.” Since the Nobel Economics laureate appears to be too dense to understand the differences between the two situations, Robert P. Murphy, “the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Capitalism,” explained many of them in a Sunday post at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada’s web site (bolds are mine throughout this post):

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Tuesday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (123113)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

Positivity: Pope — Contemplate St. Joseph’s ‘greatness of soul’

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Vatican City:

Dec 22, 2013 / 03:48 pm

In his Sunday Angelus, Pope Francis reflected on the Christian witness of St. Joseph, who was faithful to God’s call despite impossible circumstances.

St. Joseph “was not stubborn in following his own life plans, he did not allow resentment to poison his soul, but he was prepared to make himself disposed to the news that, in a disconcerting way, was presented to him,” said the Pope on Dec. 22.

Referring to the gospel story which recounts St. Joseph’s plans to divorce Mary quietly after learning about her pregnancy, and his subsequent dream regarding the miracle of the Incarnation, Pope Francis reflected on “the greatness of St. Joseph’s soul.”

“He was following a good life plan, but God had kept a different design for him, a greater mission. Joseph was a man who always listened to the voice of God, profoundly amenable to God’s secret will, a man attentive to the messages that came from the depths of the heart and from above,” explained Pope Francis.

St. Joseph’s faithfulness did not mean that his path was easy, however. When he became aware that Mary was pregnant, “he remained disconcerted.”

“The gospel does not explain what his thoughts were, but it tells us the essentials: that he seeks to do the will of God, and he is ready for a radical renunciation,” noted the Pontiff.

The decision to then divorce Mary quietly represents for Joseph “an enormous sacrifice,” when “we think of the love that Joseph had for Mary!” Pope Francis exclaimed.

This was “a trial similar to the sacrifice of Abraham, when God asked for his son Isaac: to renounce the most precious thing, the most loved person.”

In preparation for Christmas, “we must meditate on these words (of the gospel) in order to understand the trial that Joseph had to sustain in the days preceding the birth of Jesus,” encouraged Pope Francis.

“But as in the case of Abraham, God intervened. He found the faith that he was looking for and opened a different way, a way of love and happiness.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.

December 30, 2013

Linda Ronstadt to Be Inducted Into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Filed under: General,Marvels — Tom @ 10:55 pm

The news came two weeks ago. It’s about time.

Here are nine songs of Ronstadt at her performing peak in 1983:

The tragedy is that she won’t be able to perform. Here is her interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer earlier this year:

Latest PJ Media Column (‘Ten Forms of 2013 Media Malpractice’) Is Up

It’s here.

It will go up here at BizzyBlog on Wednesday evening (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

Bloomberg Businessweek: Somehow, UPS-Fedex Christmas Snafus Make the U.S. Post Office Look Good

Bloomberg Businessweek and others are trying to capitalize on the difficulties United Parcel Service and to a lesser extent Fedex had in delivering packages in time for Christmas to claim that the U.S. Postal Service is coming out of it smelling like a rose (“An Unlikely Star of the Holiday-Shipping Season: The U.S. Postal Service”).

Not so fast, people. Let’s be extremely generous and take it as a given that the Post Office didn’t have any late arrivals, and that it deserves props for delivering 75,000 packages on Christmas Day. It’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison, but based on the quoted number of packages UPS planned to deliver on Christmas Eve, the private company’s package volume, particularly its air package volume, dwarfs that of the Post Office, and would overwhelm it if it tried to pull off what UPS routinely does:

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They Did Build That — Twice

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Marvels — Tom @ 9:00 pm

Notes from a conversation with Michelle and Jesse Malkin.

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This column went up at PJ Media on Saturday evening and was teased here at BizzyBlog Sunday morning.

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The recently announced sale of Twitchy LLC to Salem Communications marks the second time Michelle and Jesse Malkin have started up, built and sold a growing business enterprise. Their early 2010 sale of Hot Air LLC, also to Salem, was the first.

Defying the odds against success one time, especially in web publishing, is noteworthy. Doing it twice is remarkable.

I certainly wanted to learn more about the Malkins’ experiences, and believe that businesspeople who are themselves trying to build legitimate value and wealth, regardless of their field of endeavor, can take away important lessons from those who have succeeded.

So I emailed Michelle and asked for an interview. Her “yes” came back in 46 minutes. Michelle, Jesse and I were on the phone just 16 hours later.

Here are the five most important points I took away from our discussion. Note that a couple of them relate to personal qualities completely apart from whatever business skills and smarts entrepreneurs might bring to the table.

1. Know what you want from your people, clearly communicate it, and hold them accountable.

Michelle rattled off exactly what she was looking for in the people who wrote for the couple’s two pioneering web sites even before I asked the question:

We were looking for … a very distinct special combination of people who are reliable, put out clean copy, and are trustworthy. But you also have to have incredible news judgment and a passion and energy for the topics that you’re covering. If that doesn’t come through, who wants to read you?

A couple of extra traits sought out at Twitchy were people who are “savvy about social media, and (have) spirit and snark.” It shows.

Without dwelling on it, they noted that “turnover” was an early issue with Twitchy, which to me indicates that the pair were very careful in their “keeper” selections, and didn’t just “settle.” Getting through that process had to be nerve-wracking at times, but was clearly worth it.

2. Have genuine affection and respect for your people, and let them flourish.

This came through loud and clear. Michelle spoke of how her employees were “gold” to them, and how it’s in “our self-interest to help them.” Shoot, I’d work hard for someone like that just to make sure I didn’t disappoint them.

In “recogniz(ing the talents of others” and giving them “the opportunity to shine,” Michelle especially escaped a deadly trap into which all too many entrepreneurs fall. Hot Air and Twitchy were not all about her. As a result, they became salable enterprises. That would not have happened if she had tried to do it all or had stayed too heavily involved and visible.

Michelle also emphasized that she wanted to make sure, especially before the Hot Air deal, that Salem wouldn’t try to fix what was already working, and would treat the site’s key employees well. She was less concerned about that in the Twitchy deal because she saw how Salem had kept its promises with Hot Air. She is very proud that Ed Morrissey and Allahpundit are still at Hot Air’s helm almost four years later, and anticipates similar continuity with Twitchy’s key people.

3. Stay technically up to date. Pay attention to how the world is changing.

The Twitchy idea, to become a “Twitter curator” — Twitchy is forever! — came about as a result of Michelle’s ongoing involvement in conservative and Tea Party causes. She saw how activists used Twitter and social media to organize and support those efforts while also shaping news narratives.

Ultimately, she thought that capturing, presenting, and critiquing “ephemeral tweets” would generate readership, and that her own Twitter feed and Facebook efforts would be great vehicles for moving traffic to the new enterprise.

She was right. In the 18 months since its mid-2012 founding, Twitchy grew “from less than 2 million page views per month to more than 12 million.” It has became the “water cooler” top 20 conservative site intemperate tweeters most fear, and clever ones most enjoy. It was a surprise to me to learn from Jesse that most of the site’s traffic does not come in through its front page.

4. Be willing to recognize adapt to failure, and accept others’ ideas.

Michelle’s original inspiration for Hot Air was to build it around daily videos, known as “Vents.” Many visitors, including yours truly, enjoyed them. They certainly did a great job of annoying and pressuring politicians in Washington and elsewhere who deserved it. Quite a few Vents are still available on YouTube, and they stand up quite well.

But, as Jesse noted, their viewership level wasn’t sufficient, and they didn’t see a way they could monetize their content. So they reluctantly abandoned the effort. The entrepreneurial landscape is littered with really smart people who couldn’t let go of their ideas and strategies, even when it’s obvious that they won’t work.

By contrast, Michelle and Jessie moved on. They added Hot Air’s “Green Room,” where other reputable writers could submit content. They replaced the blog’s top section, which had been devoted to the Vents, with headlines. They readily gave credit to Allahpundit, one of the site’s two key employees, for both moves. Driven by “Allah’s” special news instincts, the headlines became important as traffic drivers. Yours truly and many others would (and still do) go there a couple of times a day to catch important headlines other imitators still manage to miss. If I were only interested in the blog posts, I’d probably only visit once a day.

All of this went into the value that Salem ended up recognizing — and buying.

5. Keep the back office under control.

It’s way too easy to take this aspect of business for granted. If you let it get away from you, you end up distracting yourself from your core business-building activities. Jesse clearly did a fine job handling this often frustrating arena, and Michelle’s appreciation (and affection — after all, they are married) for all that he did was obvious.

Beyond their business successes, Michelle and Jesse Malkin have been invaluable in keeping conservatism front and center in the blogosphere. Michelle pointed out that Twitchy, with its wide range of coverage encompassing topic areas where conservatives rarely tread, including entertainment and the full range of media, has been “reaching out to non-traditional people and giving (them a conservative) perspective” they might not otherwise ever see.

For that, and as examples of how to ethically build a successful business, we can’t thank them enough.

‘Happy Birthday, Chairman Mao’ — From CNBC and the New York Times

The fascination with and excuse-making for long-gone communist dictators responsible for the murders of millions during their reigns is a long-standing phenomenon.

Both CNBC and the New York Times continued that hoary tradition last week. Each headlined reports on the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mao Zedong (whose name was written as Mao Tse-Tung until about two decades ago) with “Happy Birthday, Chairman Mao!” headlines. CNBC’s appears after the jump (HT Twitchy; bolds are mine throughout this post):

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NewsBusted (123113)

Filed under: NewsBusted — Tom @ 6:30 am

Here we go:

Topics:
– Happy New Year!
– Obama’s New Year Greeting
– New Laws in 2014
– Bill Clinton
– Illinois Textbooks
– Justin Bieber
– Joe Biden
– McDonald’s

Best Line: “Millions around the world are celebrating the new year. And millions in America are celebrating being one year close to the end of the Obama administration.”

Monday Off-Topic (Moderated) Open Thread (123013)

Filed under: Lucid Links — Tom @ 6:05 am

This open thread will stay at or near the top today. Rules are here. Possible comment fodder may follow. Other topics are also fair game.

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For the “It Can’t Happen Here (Oh Yes It Can)” File: “Debtors’ Prisons Make A Comeback In America”

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A long read, but worth it for revelations about and insights into yet another form of class envy: “Look Who’s Gawking: Inside Nick Denton’s phony, hypocritical class war against tech workers”

Positivity: Restaurant Offers Discount For Families Who Don’t Touch Their Smartphones During Meal

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

Clever idea (HT Jennifer Rooney at Forbes):

RestaurantNoSmartphoneUseDiscount1213

Hope it spreads.

December 29, 2013

Video: ‘A Day In the Life (under ObamaCare)’

Tragically funny: