Tag Archives: Don Suber

“Soy Un Perdedor, I’m A Loser Baby, So Why Don’t You Kill Me?”… Wait, Wrong Beck

David Carr at NYT:

Almost every time I flipped on television last week, there was a deeply angry guy on a running tirade about the conspiracies afoot, the enemies around all corners, and how he alone seemed to understand what was under way.

While it’s true that Charlie Sheen sucked up a lot of airtime last week, I’d been watching Glenn Beck, the Fox News host who invoked Hezbollah, socialists, the price of gas, Shariah law, George Soros, Planned Parenthood, and, yes, Charlie Sheen, as he predicted a coming apocalypse.

Mr. Beck, a conservative Jeremiah and talk-radio phenomenon, burst into television prominence in 2009 by taking the forsaken 5 p.m. slot on Fox News and turning it into a juggernaut. A conjurer of conspiracies who spotted sedition everywhere he looked, Mr. Beck struck a big chord and ended up on the cover of Time magazine and The New York Times Magazine, and held rallies all over the country that were mobbed with acolytes. He achieved unheard-of ratings, swamped the competition and at times seemed to threaten the dominion of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity at Fox.

But a funny thing happened on the way from the revolution. Since last August, when he summoned more than 100,000 followers to the Washington mall for the “Restoring Honor” rally, Mr. Beck has lost over a third of his audience on Fox — a greater percentage drop than other hosts at Fox. True, he fell from the great heights of the health care debate in January 2010, but there has been worrisome erosion — more than one million viewers — especially in the younger demographic.

He still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy and, with about two million viewers a night, outdraws all his competition combined. But the erosion is significant enough that Fox News officials are willing to say — anonymously, of course; they don’t want to be identified as criticizing the talent — that they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck.

Ryan Witt at The Examiner:

Today Beck was not on his radio show, but his substitute claimed that the New York Times article was just “wishful thinking” and that Beck and Fox News are, in fact, on good terms.  Beck’s website The Blaze is running an article at the top of their home page which makes fun of Carr’s article.  However, none of the factual assertions in Carr’s article are actually refuted The Blaze response.

Of course, the one group who actually knows the truth are the executive of Fox News.  Thus far no one at Fox News has released a statement either confirming or denying Beck contract, or Carr’s claims that the network is thinking about dumping Beck.  Fox News normally offers a strong defense of their own employees.  Fox News President Roger Ailes has been known to send out memos stressing the need fo unity among their employees.  By not saying anything at all, the silence of Fox News executives may speak louder than words.

Matt Schneider at Mediaite:

However, Carr later points out that Beck “still has numbers that just about any cable news host would envy and, with about two million viewers a night, outdraws all his competition combined.” One might think that would be the beginning and the end of the speculation, since what more should a television show be expected to do besides get more eyeballs watching them than any other show? However, Carr raises a separate intriguing point: not only does Fox not need Beck to continue to be successful, but Beck doesn’t really need Fox either. Therefore, unless both sides are completely happy with the relationship, maybe a separation is possible?

Then, just in case the article is completely wrong, Carr mentions “But the partnership, which has been good for both parties, may yet be repaired.” In other words, yes Beck and Fox News can survive without one another, but since the relationship is highly profitable and consistently headline generating for all involved, might Carr’s conjecture be nothing more than an attempt to stir the pot?

Chris Rovzar at New York Magazine:

Beck, Carr guesses, is narrowing his audience down to only the diehards — because most people don’t want to hear about how the world is going to end. Not only because it’s depressing, but also since the world is not going to end. While other Fox News hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity are lecturing to an audience that believes in America, Beck is talking to people who don’t believe in anything — except, perhaps, God and the end of days.

Carr spoke with several Fox News executives who said (on background, of course) that “they are looking at the end of his contract in December and contemplating life without Mr. Beck.” One Fox development VP is on record saying they’ve tried to get Beck to make his show cheerier. But no one, not even Fox’s crack publicity team, is quoted defending the controversial host — or insisting that his contract will be renewed. Which means that Beck, who can see doom in every shadow, is probably getting this message loud and clear: Something could very well come to an end within the year, and it won’t necessarily be the world.

Don Suber:

Yes. He has “made it difficult for Fox to hang onto its credibility as a news network.”

How about Rick Sanchez’s anti-Semitic spew when CNN canceled his show?

How about CNN’s Operation Tailwinds story?

How about CNN hiring Client No. 9 to begin with?

And speaking of news credibility,. there were never 300 asdvertisers of the Glenn Beck show to “fled.”

There are only about a dozen minutes of advertising a show.

Any media expert knows this. Any amateur knows this. Apparently David Carr does not.

And left out of David Carr’s story is the fact that the White House — through New York Times darling Van Jones — organized an advertising boycott.

Of people who don’t advertise on the Glenn Beck show.

The more the media dumps on Fox News over gnats while allowing CNN’s elephants to escape, the less unbiased the media look.

From Lucianne Goldberg: “David Carr (NYT) goes after Beck’s followers. Later tweets Beck’s audience is ‘a lot more sophisticated than people think’.”

Keep thinking you know it all, lefties.

Oliver Willis:

Beck’s problem is that he took the “oooh I’m scared of Obama (and his black skin)” sentiment and thought it was a way to make himself into a national leader of more than just a fringe of the fringe. As a result, he’s made his conspiracies even more ridiculous and tried the patience of even the tinfoil-hat brigade.

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More NYC Snow Posts, More Use Of Simpsons Songs To Explain NYC Snow Problems

Sally Goldenberg, Larry Celona and Josh Margolin in NY Post:

These garbage men really stink.

Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts — a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.

Miles of roads stretching from as north as Whitestone, Queens, to the south shore of Staten Island still remained treacherously unplowed last night because of the shameless job action, several sources and a city lawmaker said, which was over a raft of demotions, attrition and budget cuts.

“They sent a message to the rest of the city that these particular labor issues are more important,” said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot.

Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department — and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan — at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents.

J.P. Freire at Washington Examiner:

I reported yesterday how well compensated these people are:

…[T]he top salary of $66,672 is only the tip of the iceberg for active sanitation worker compensation because it excludes other things like overtime and extra pay for certain assignments. For example, one worker in 2009 had a salary of $55,639 but actually earned $79,937 for the year.

Sanitation workers don’t pay a dime for premiums on their cadillac health care plan, which includes prescription drug coverage along with dental and eye care for the whole family. Many continue to receive the full benefit upon retiring after only 10 years. And then there’s the matter of their pension:
…Nearly 180 retired [sanitation workers] make over $66,000 year — in other words, over and above the maximum salary of currently working employees. In fact, 20 retirees make upwards of $90,000 in retirement, up to $132,360.

Keep that in mind when reading lines like this:

…[M]ultiple Sanitation Department sources told The Post yesterday that angry plow drivers have only been clearing streets assigned to them even if that means they have to drive through snowed-in roads with their plows raised.

And they are keeping their plow blades unusually high, making it necessary for them to have to run extra passes, adding time and extra pay.

One mechanic said some drivers are purposely smashing plows and salt spreaders to further stall the cleanup effort.

Sure, Mayor Bloomberg planned poorly and should have announced a snow emergency. But this story makes it clear that even if he did, it wouldn’t have made a difference. The question is whether Bloomberg will do anything about it.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

Among the victims of this crime: A newborn baby died after waiting nine hours for paramedics to arrive.

Doug Mataconis:

Assuming this is true it’s likely to provide much more ammunition to the arguments of those on the right who have started speaking out against the very idea of a public employees being allowed to unionize. Personally, I don’t think it would be appropriate to ban people from voluntarily associating just because they’re public employees. However, situations like this do raise the legitimate question of whether public employees in certain positions should be legally permitted to engage in some of the tactics that unions in the private sector engage during work disputes. When you’re a position where your job is one that is essential to the operation of the city — like a policeman, fireman, or sanitation worker — I think it’s highly questionable to concede that you should the right to go on strike. Essentially what happens in that situation is that the Union has a huge negotiating advantage over the city because leaders would not want to deal with the backlash that would result from the fact that garbage hasn’t been picked up in a week.

Ronald Reagan set the precedent for this in 1980 when he fired every air traffic controller in the country for going on a strike that they were not legally permitted to call. Of course, no American city would be able to do the same thing with it’s police force for fire department, which is why forbidding essential public employees from going on strike seems to me to be an entirely reasonable idea.

Megan McArdle:

On the face of it, it’s not implausible–it wouldn’t be the first time that New York City unions chose the worst possible time to show their displeasure with working conditions.  (Two of the last three transit strikes, for example, have taken place during the holiday season.)

Nonetheless, the charges are serious, and I’d like to see some better backup than a politician claiming he has secret union informants.  If it is true that the trucks were driving around with their plows up, refusing to plow any but the streets they were specifically directed to plow, presumably there will be witnesses who saw this.  Similarly, I assume that people noticed if their streets were plowed with the plows set too high, requiring a second pass.
In individual cases, that won’t tell you whether it was an organized plan, incompetent individual workers, or workers who were simply trying to score a little extra overtime for themselves.  But in aggregate, it should be possible to detect a pattern.  Couldn’t the Post find anyone in Queens or the Bronx who claims to have seen this misbehavior?
Hopefully, Bloomberg will appoint some sort of investigative committee–after all, it’s his political price to pay.  Of course, even if it turns out that the sanitation workers did make things worse, that won’t absolve the mayoral administration that apparently decided to ignore the storm warnings rather than pay the sanitation workers expensive overtime for working the Christmas holiday.

Don Suber

Mike Riggs at Daily Caller

Ed Morrissey:

I’m a little skeptical, but mainly because the primary source for the conspiracy theory is an elected official who can expect to be held accountable for the poor performance thus far in the Big Apple.  Also, the Twin Cities had the same level of snowfall a few weeks ago, and snow removal was a problem for us, too.  Minneapolis/St Paul and the first-ring suburbs have a large amount of infrastructure to deal with heavy snowfalls and about a fifth of the population, and we still have huge piles of snow blocking sidewalks downtown.  Heck, we can’t even get the Metrodome fixed; now, the estimate for repair and reinflation is the end of March.  I’m not sure that NYC could have done better, with its relatively smaller snow-removal infrastructure, lack of places to put the snow, and population density.

Is it possible that this was a coordinated slowdown effort by public-sector unions to make Bloomberg and city officials look incompetent?  Sure, but the simpler answers are usually closer to the truth.  The simpler answers here are that this was freakishly heavy snowfall in a city not used to such things, and, well, it has a mayor more interested in salt use in restaurants than on the roads.

 

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Forgive The Blog Post

Brent Baker at Newsbusters:

“I was at – forgive the expression – a Christmas party,” NPR reporter Nina Totenberg interjected on Inside Washington in the weekend’s oddest cautionary separation from a common description for a common event, seemingly embarrassed to invoke any religious terminology for Christmas. She didn’t say what she’d prefer for parties this time of the year to be named. “Winter solstice party”? Just plain old “holiday party”? Or a “seasonal gathering”?

Ed Morrissey:

Via Newsbusters, Nina Totenberg offers another data point for the “war on Christmas” with this odd, offhand remark about attending a Christmas party. What’s to forgive in that expression?  Christmas gets celebrated as both a religious and secular holiday, and a “Christmas” party is about as offensive as eggnog.  Totenberg seems more interested in apologizing to the PC crowd for even mentioning Christmas rather than using a more generic term, such as holiday celebration.

Matt Schneider at Mediaite:

On Sunday’s Inside Washington, NPR’s Nina Totenberg apologized for using the words “Christmas party” in a discussion about budgets. It’s unclear why she became as red in the face as the red Christmas flowers behind her when she mistakenly allowed the “offensive” words to escape from her lips. Yet she does regret that no alternative expression was available to describe the party she attended.

[…]

And please forgive the above-mentioned description of the flowers, I should have referred to them as red poinsettias.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

Aren’t you just thrilled that your tax dollars – forgive the expression – are paying this loon’s salary?

Don Suber:

Don’t worry. She only insulted Christians, not Muslims so she will keep her job.

Ann Althouse:

Nina Totenberg: “I Was At – Forgive the Expression – a Christmas Party at the Department of Justice….”

Brent Baker at NewsBusters does not understand why Totenberg said “forgive the expression.” In his headline, he uses the same quote I’ve used in my headline, but he puts the ellipsis 5 words before I’ve put mine.

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Walmart Woes

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic with a round-up.

SCOTUSBlog:

The Supreme Court stepped into two major controversies on Monday, agreeing to sort out when a class-action lawsuit may be filed when employees are seeking back pay for alleged workplace discrimination, and to clarify whether companies claimed to be a major source of global warming can be sued under the law of nuisance.  The first issue is raised in an appeal by the discount retailer, Wal-Mart Stores; the second an appeal by four large  electric generating companies that have been sued by a group of state governments.  The cases are likely to be heard in March or April.

A federal judge in San Francisco has cleared the way for a class of at least 500,000, and perhaps as many as 1.5 million, present and former women employees of Wal-Mart to sue the huge chain over alleged sex bias throughout its 3,400 stores in the U.S.   The Court agreed to hear one issue raised by the company, and added a question of its own.  The outcome will not decide whether the company did engage in  discrimination, but only whether the lawsuit may proceed as a class-action.  Potentially, billions of dollars are at stake.

The first question will be whether, under Federal court Rule 23, a lawsuit may seek a money verdict — in this case, a claim for back pay — when the class was created under a provision that limits remedies to corrective court orders, not money.   Besides agreeing to hear that, the Court told the parties to file briefs and prepare to argue on a second question — whether the class was a proper one, under Rule 23, when it was cleared to go forward under Rule 23(b)(2).   It is unclear whether the Court, if it answered that second question in the negative, would be signaling that the class case might still proceed under a different part of Rule 23 — part (b)(3), which does allow money claims.

Wal-Mart’s petition had raised a second question that embraced the broader argument that no class should have been approved at all, since the claims made by the women employees were so disparate and so diffuse that they really had nothing in common, and that, as a result, Wal-Mart would not have been able to mount a defense to such claims.   The Court rewrote Wal-Mart’s second question, without making it clear exactly what arguments the lawyers should now be making in addition to whether a money claim could be made in this case.

Dahlia Lithwick at the XX Factor:

The six plaintiffs in the suit claim that despite the enormous size of the class, Wal-Mart’s decision-makers determine pay and promotion based on a rigid and highly centralized “strong corporate culture that includes gender stereotyping.” Their claim is that women constitute more than 70 percent of Wal-Mart’s hourly workforce but less than one-third of salaried management. They seek back pay, punitive damages, and changes to Wal-Mart’s hiring and promotions policies. Wal-Mart’s liability may be in the billions of dollars. Aside from the size of the class, Wal-Mart argues that the lower courts used the wrong standards to certify the class.

This is a high-stakes appeal that has elicited strong responses from the Chamber of Commerce on one hand, and those who worry about the need for class-action suits to protect worker rights on the other. It’s going to garner an enormous amount of interest from those who contend that big business never loses at the Roberts court and that workers can’t catch a break. It may also prove an early litmus test for whether the presence of three women at the high court will in any way shape the debate about gender discrimination.

Marcia Coyle at The Blog Of Legal Times:

The merits of the case, however, are not before the justices. Instead, the Court will focus on whether the class was properly certified.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s limited review of the class certification decision in this case. As that decision was based on a vast body of evidence, we are confident that the decision to certify the class was sound,” said the plaintiffs’ lead co-counsel Joseph Sellers, partner in Washington’s Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, in a statement. “We believe the Court will reach the same decision after reviewing the record before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where class certification was granted in June 2004.”

Wal-Mart has lost the class action issue four times in lower court rulings, noted Sellers.

Wal-Mart, represented by a team of lawyers from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, led by partner Theodore Boutrous, contends that the class was improperly certified, both as to its size and type. It argues that the plaintiffs, who are seeking back pay, were certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2), used for classes seeking injunctive relief and, instead, should have been required to meet the tougher standards for classes seeking damages.

In the grant of review Monday, the justices ask the parties to address whether claims for money damages can be certified under 23(b)(2) as well as whether certification under that rule was consistent with the certification requirements of Rule 23(a).

Carrie Lukas at The Corner:

It will be interesting how this plays out. Walmart claims that its employment practices “expressly bar discrimination and promote diversity,” and it is hard to imagine that the official employment practices would do the opposite. The crux of this case will likely be the outcomes of that employment system: If, on average, women have ended up earning less than men with similar job titles, that will be evidence of discrimination.

Those familiar with debates about the so-called wage gap (the difference between the earnings of the median working man and working woman) know that there are many reasons other than discrimination why women sometimes end up earning less than men do. As a report for the Department of Labor (conducted using data from the Current Population Survey) concluded:

Although additional research in this area is clearly needed, this study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.

It’s an important fact to keep in mind: Even if statistics show that men and women earn different amounts, discrimination isn’t necessarily to blame.

Monica Potts at Tapped:

I’m not expecting the current court to side against Wal-Mart, however. At every opportunity, the Roberts Court has expanded the rights of corporations. Moreover, as Tiku points out, the issue might even split Obama’s two appointees. Wal-Mart twice cited Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote an influential law-review note on class certification while she was a student at Harvard.

But class-action suits are important ways for a discriminated class of people to be compensated. If Wal-Mart as an institution discriminates against women, it seems perfectly reasonable that those affected stretch across the country and through the entire corporate hierarchy. Women already have a hard time seeking redress against discrimination; it’s disappointing to consider that it’s about to get even harder.

Don Suber:

For years, conservatives have called for tort reform. Legislating tort reform is difficult because so many lawyers like it (including the defense attorneys for businesses) and really the courts do not like to be told what to do.

The class-action lawsuit is the biggest paid. It always seem the lawyers get millions while the “victims” get coupons for prices off on their next purchase from the maker of the defective product.

Walmart may help end that abuse.

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Filed under Feminism, Supreme Court

We All Get Punched In The Gut

Chart from Calculated Risk

Calculated Risk:

From the BLS:

The unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent in November, and nonfarm payroll employment was little changed (+39,000), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

David Leonhardt at NYT:

Overall employment growth fell to 39,000, from 172,000. Private-sector hiring fell to 50,000 — which isn’t nearly enough to keep up with normal population — from more than 100,000 in each of the previous four months. Average hourly pay rose just 1 cent, to $22.75, the smallest gain in five months. The average length of the workweek remained stuck at 34.3 hours.

What’s causing this? No one knows, to be honest. But the most likely suspect is the same one that has been hurting the economy for much of this year. Financial crises do terrible damage, and the economic aftershocks from them tend to last longer and be worse than people initially expect.

Steve Benen:

I realize that economists tend to emphasize that it’s unwise to overreact to any one report, but this one feels like a punch to the gut. For all the indications that the job market was starting to pick up a little steam, this morning’s jobs report suggests the exact opposite.

Ryan Avent at Free Exchange at The Economist:

There is little to be happy about in this report, in other words. But there are some indications that the November numbers may be an aberration. September’s job losses were revised down to 24,000 in this report, while October’s job gains were revised upward, from 151,000 to 172,000. Through November, weekly data on initial jobless claims showed significant improvement. And of course, many other indicators have been flashing positive signs in recent weeks.

It’s likely, then, that the November figures will be revised up in future months to show a better performance more in keeping with broader trends. And it’s important to remember that monthly data are noisy. America’s labour markets have yet to generate job growth sufficient to bring down the unemployment rate. But the pace of recovery has been improving. There is good reason to suspect that when all is said and done this report will appear as a blip marring a strengthening upward employment trend. All the same, policymakers in Washington weighing whether to extend unemployment benefits and tax cuts should heed the obvious weakness in labour markets. They can and should make sure that November’s number remains an anomaly.

Don Suber:

Unemployment rose to 9.8% in November — or a full two points higher than what Barack Obama said it would be if we had done nothing.

One year ago, unemployment was at 10%, which proves Obamanomics has stalled the economy, as there was a net gain of only 39,000 jobs this November.

President Obama can no longer blame President Bush for this mess. Obama has spent record amounts of money and increased the size of the federal government from being 20% of the economy under Bush to now 25% of the economy as he increased the budget from $2.8 trillion a year to $4 trillion.

He has failed.

He is a failure, America.

Nice guy, but a failure none the less.

But he did ban Four Loko.

Philip Klein at the American Spectator

John Cole:

Just a reminder. The Republicans, energized over their November victories, went to Washington and immediately went about securing tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires as priority #1, all while blocking any attempts at job growth legislation and continuation of unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, this is happening:

[…]

A competent political party would be able to make the Republicans pay a political price for this and be forced to make very uncomfortable votes. Does anyone know where I can find a competent political party?

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Piss Christ, Part II: Antz

Penny Starr at Newsbusters:

The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show’s catalog as “homoerotic.”

The exhibit, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” opened on Oct. 30 and will run throughout the Christmas Season, closing on Feb. 13.

“This is an exhibition that displays masterpieces of American portraiture and we wanted to illustrate how questions of biography and identity went into the making of images that are canonical,” David C. Ward, a National Portrait Gallery (NGP) historian who is also co-curator of the exhibit, told CNSNews.com.

crucifix 3  npg

A plaque fixed to the wall at the entrance to the exhibit says that the National Portrait Gallery is “committed to showing how a major theme in American history has been the struggle for justice so that people and groups can claim their full inheritance in America’s promise of equality, inclusion, and social dignity. As America’s museum of national biography, the NPG is also vitally interested in the art of portrayal and how portraiture reflects our ideas about ourselves and others.

crucifix 4

An ant-covered Jesus/crucifix in “A Fire in My Belly” video, part of the ‘Hide/Seek’ exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Victor Davis Hanson at Pajamas Media:

Its title is coyly encrypted in postmodern bipolarity: “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” And the exhibition apparently is full of Mapplethorpe-inspired gay-related imagery and offers us an image of Jesus being swarmed over by ants. Clever, brave, bold, shocking. Or in the words of the overseers of the federally-subsidized National Portrait Gallery, such artistic courage proves how the gallery is now “committed to showing how a major theme in American history has been the struggle for justice so that people and groups can claim their full inheritance in America’s promise of equality, inclusion, and social dignity.”

But once more all that verbiage turns out to be just Sixties-ish lingo for about the same old, same old:

  1. Abject cowardice—since if a theme were really religious intolerance, why not portray Mohammed in lieu of Christ, inasmuch as contemporary Islam is far more intolerant of gays and liberated women than the so-called Christian West. Such a video might better exhibit just how “committed” these federal artistic bureaucrats were to “equality, inclusion, and social justice.”
  2. Mediocrity—dressing up talentless soft-core pornographic expression with federal catch-phrases and subsidies ensures a venue for junk art that most otherwise would neither pay to see nor ever exhibit.
  3. Politics—all this is supposedly sort of revolutionary, full of neat phrases like “committed”, “struggle for justice”, “full inheritance”, “equality”, “inclusion”, and “social dignity”, and all the empty vocabulary that mostly upscale white nerds like a Bill Ayers employ when they want to tweak and embarrass the gullible liberals who support and pay for their nonsense.

The Jawa Report:

If these “artists” really wanted to be daring and controversial, they’d create an ant-covered Quran exhibit. But the cowards take the path of least resistance and then applaud their own courage in the face of minuscule risk.

Don Suber

Ann Althouse:

“If they’ve got money to squander like this – of a crucifix being eaten by ants, of Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, men in chains, naked brothers kissing…”

“… then I think we should look at their budget,” said Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, scaring the Smithsonian Institution into taking down the ants-on-Jesus video. Cowed, the Institution nevertheless defended the artist, whose “intention was to depict the suffering of an AIDS victim.” The museum assures us it had no “intention to offend.”

John Nolte at Big Hollywood:

Another turn in this story, again via CNS News, and in my opinion a hollow threat from John Boehner and Eric Cantor:

House Speaker-to-be John Boehner (R-Ohio) is telling the Smithsonian Institution to pull an exhibit that features images of an ant-covered Jesus or else face tough scrutiny when the new Republican majority takes control of the House in January. House Majority Leader-to-be Eric Cantor (R.-Va.), meanwhile, is calling on the Smithsonian to pull the exhibit and warning the federally funded institution that it will face serious questions when Congress considers the next budget.

CNSNews.com had asked both congressional leaders if the exhibit should continue or be cancelled and both indicated it should be cancelled. …

“Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake and correct it, or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January when the new majority in the House moves to end the job-killing spending spree in Washington,” Smith said.

When asked to clarify what exactly Boehner meant by calling on the Smithsonian to “correct” their mistake with the exhibit, Smith said Boehner wanted the exhibit “cancelled.”

Cantor, meanwhile, said the exhibit should be “pulled.”

I’m sure some on the Left will scream censorship, but this is what happens when an institution takes money from the government, or anyone else. If the Smithsonian depended on big private donors to fund this junk, those big private donors would likely demand a say in what their money’s used for. Same with Congress, and not just in the arts. Whether you’re on welfare or a big corporation receiving subsidies, all taxpayer money comes with certain conditions.

The problem is that there’s no teeth behind this threat. The time to end the grossly immoral practice of funding the arts (and PBS) in every shape, manner and form was sometime between 2002 and 2006 when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Pardon my cynicism, but if the Republicans didn’t have the sand to do it then, they sure don’t now with even less power; so you can bet the Smithsonian isn’t exactly shaking in their boots.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

Update:

That didn’t take too long. The ant-covered Jesus is now gone. From TBD.com:

The National Portrait Gallery has removed a work of art from a GLBT-themed exhibition after it attracted conservative and religious ire for its images of homosexuality and Christianity. Director Martin Sullivan announced the removal of A Fire in My Belly by artist David Wojnarowicz after conservative news service CNS wrote yesterday that the “Christmas-season exhibit,” which opened in October, used taxpayer money to indirectly fund an exhibition that includes imagery of genitalia, homoerotic situations, and Christ covered in ants.

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Filed under Art, Politics, Religion

Shave And A Haircut, Two Bits And A Whole Lot Of Red Tape

Karl Smith:

For example, in most jurisdictions cutting hair at home can legally be done with a vacuum cleaner but cutting it for pay requires schooling, examination and a licensing fee.

Matthew Yglesias:

The way I’ve been getting my hair cut for the past six months or so is that I bought a pair of hair clippers and I do it myself. I normally trim about twice a week, and this lets me keep the hair short at an acceptable cost. Once I screwed it up, then my hair looked funny for like a day until I figured out how to fix it.Meanwhile, meet the District of Columbia Board of Barber and Cosmetology:

The DC Board of Barber and Cosmetology (Board) regulates the practice of barbering and cosmetology while working diligently to raise the standards of practice; ensure quality service; establish accepted codes of ethical behavior, and protects the health, safety and welfare of the citizens and visitors of the District of Columbia by upholding the city’s Barber and Cosmetology laws and regulations. The Barber and Cosmetology license law (pdf) is defined in the Barber and Cosmetology Municipal Regulations, which took effect on May 2001.

The Board consists of eleven members appointed by the Mayor. The Board consist of three (3) barbers, three (3) cosmetologists, threes (3) specialists, all license and practicing for at least three (3) years. There are two (2) members (non-license) representing consumers. Six members of the Board constitute a quorum.

Regulation of this sort seems totally unnecessary. People don’t die of bad haircuts, and since hairstyle is a quintessential matter of taste there’s absolutely no reason to think consumers can’t figure out for themselves who has a decent reputation as a cutter of hair. You can cut your own hair perfectly safely in your own house, and if you screw it up all that happens is you need to find a real professional to fix it. But what’s more, even if regulation were somehow a good idea, the composition of the board couldn’t possibly serve a legitimate consumer protection function. It’s overwhelmingly composed of people from the industry whose incentive is to limit competition and raise prices.

Don Suber:

Congratulations, Matthew Yglesias, you have just discovered what my economics professors used to call Barriers To Entry, in much the same way Charlton Heston discovered the secret ingredient for soylent green.

All those business lobbyists in Washington? They are not there to stop legislation. They are there to write legislation. Of course BP endorsed tougher regulations on oil drilling. It helps their side businesses in alternative energy and keeps wildcatters from drilling for oil.

Those tough regulations on Wall Street? Goldman Sachs wrote them. Hey, it paid Obama a million bucks for that seat at the table.

When I get time, I will explain why Bill Gates and other billionaire liberals create tax-free — er, non-profit — foundations. A hint: John D. Rockefeller V was born a millionaire.

James Joyner:

Matt Yglesias figures that, since he’s able to cut his own hair, it’s silly to license barbers.

His commenters point out to him, fairly rudely, that people who handle straight razors probably ought to have some training and prospect of inspection from the authorities for health reasons.  And that beauticians, who handle dyes and other chemicals, really need to be regulated.   Apparently, they’ve explained this to him once or twice before, and hence their irritation.

Mostly, I think the commenters are right.  While the free market would probably regulate simple barber shops — as opposed to beauty shops — with reasonable efficiency, we’d hate to have barbers routinely cutting people with infected implements.   Let’s just say that the signaling mechanisms for that sort of thing are too slow for comfort.

Further, in terms of arguing by analogy, if Matt is an unlicensed barber, I’m an unlicensed taxi driver and restaurateur.  The idea that because people can be trusted to do something for themselves, they should therefore be allowed to do the same things for the public on a professional basis is rather thin.

Kevin Drum:

You’ll be unsurprised to know that I don’t have a lot to add on this subject. But I did get into a conversation about this with my haircutter once, and she pointed out that there’s more to this business than you might think. It’s true that clipping hair — which is the only side of the business that Matt and I ever see — isn’t especially dangerous. But for more complicated jobs, hair professionals handle a lot of dangerous chemicals and they need to know how to use these properly to insure that they don’t do some serious damage to their customers. That, apparently, is part of what they teach you at cosmetology school.

That’s what she said, anyway. Alternatively, maybe it’s all just a big scam. After all, plenty of women give themselves home perms and seem to survive the experience. Hair professionals should feel free to school us in comments.

Alex Massie:

Matt’s critics say that anyone using sharp objects or chemicals such as peroxide needs to be regulated and inspected. This, my friends, is a reminder that the American mania for credentialism (cf journalism) frequently travels well into the realm of the absurd.

Happily, this sceptered isle is a freer place entirely. No surprise then that the British Hairdressing Council is not happy. From their FAQ:

But surely everyone must be qualified before being allowed to practise?
Alas, not so; in fact, quite the opposite. Here in Britain, anyone is free to practise as a hairdresser without registration, without qualification, even without proper training. In short, hairdressing is totally unregulated.So is there no yardstick by which to judge hairdressers?

Yes, there is. In 1964, Parliament passed the Hairdressers Registration Act to give status to hairdressers and assurance to consumers. Under the Act, the Hairdressing Council (HC) was created to establish and maintain a register of qualified hairdressers. Hence, every State Registered Hairdresser (SRH) is officially recognised as qualified to practise hairdressing on the public.

Are most hairdressers registered?

Sadly, they are not. The 1964 law left registration a voluntary option. Only about ten per cent of hairdressers have ever exercised their right to a place on the official register. At the same time, with the industry unregulated, many unregistered operators might not be eligible for inclusion on the register.

Where does this leave the consumer?

In a far from ideal position. Choosing a practitioner in any unregulated industry is tricky; in an industry where part of the human person is being treated, it truly can be a lottery. While many consumers no doubt chance upon good stylists, others stray into the hands of incompetent operators and have experiences ranging from overpriced and unsatisfactory services to damaged hair and even injured scalp and facial tissue.

Surely all hairdressers are accountable for their professional actions? Isn’t this the role of the Hairdressing Council?

Had registration been mandatory, the Hairdressing Council would indeed regulate hairdressing much as the Medical and Dental Councils, for instance, regulate their sectors. However, so long as the Act remains voluntary, the HC has jurisdiction over SRHs only – complaints against whom are very few and far between.

Something must be done! To be sure…

If it can, why won’t Parliament take action?
Action by government ministers, rather than back bench MPs, is what’s needed. For the record, ministers are requested, regularly, to amend the Act. This campaign for a tightening of the law, spearheaded by the Hairdressing Council, is supported by the industry trade bodies, consumer groups, much of the media and, not least, consumers. A great many individual MPs also support the regulation of hairdressing.
And where does government stand on the regulation of hairdressing?
To begin, a few facts: First, no government is going to commit parliamentary time to bringing in legislation it feels to be unnecessary*. Second, no government is going to introduce what it regards as unnecessary regulation. Third, regulation, of pretty well any sort, is increasingly viewed at best with suspicion and at worst with contempt by business interests, including many salon owners.
Fourth, governments tend to be wary of introducing laws viewed unfavourably by large or significant sections of the community. 
As to the stances adopted by recent governments on hairdressing regulation, when in power the Conservatives refused, consistently, to contemplate action. Their argument, repeated many times, was that “market forces are a sufficient regulator”. The current Labour government has listened to and acknowledged the merits of the case for regulation but has, at least so far, declined to act on the matter.
Have other measures been tried, through ordinary MPs in Parliament to bring in regulation?
Since the voluntary registration law was introduced in 1964, initiatives such as Early Day Motions, Ten Minute Rule Bills, Ministerial Questions and Private Members’ Bills have all been tried by helpful and supportive MPs. But lacking government support, none of these has succeeded. However, be sure efforts will continue.

I’m sure they shall! Somehow, however, the country has survived an unregulated hairdressing and barber-shop industry all these years and may yet, with god’s providence, do so in the future.Mind you, Sweeney Todd was a Londoner…

*If only this were true…

More Yglesias:

A number of people, including many commenters here and even alleged conservative James Joyner think you should need a professional license to become a barber because you might hurt someone with a straight razor. Uh huh. At best this would be an argument for regulating people who do shaves with a straight razor, which would be considerably narrower than current comprehensive regulation of hair stylists.

Meanwhile, though “torts and the free market will take care of it” isn’t the answer to everything, it’s surely the answer to some things. Getting some kind of training before you shave a dude with a straight razor is obviously desirable in terms of strict self-interest. If you screw it up in a serious way, you’ll face serious personal consequences and the only way to make money doing it—and we’re talking about a very modest sum of money—is to do it properly. People also ought to try to think twice about whether their views are being driven by pure status quo bias. Barbers are totally unregulated in the United Kingdom, is there some social crisis resulting from this? Barber regulations differ from state to state, are the stricter states experiencing some kind of important public health gains?

Last you really do need to look at how these things play out in practice. If you just assume optimal implementation of regulation, then regulation always looks good. But as I noted in the initial post the way this works in practice is the boards are dominated by incumbent practitioners looking to limit supply. One result is that in Michigan (and perhaps elsewhere) it’s hard for ex-convicts to get barber licenses which harms the public interest not only by raising the cost of haircuts, but by preventing people from making a legitimate living. States generally don’t grant reciprocity to other states’ licensing boards, which limits supply even though no rational person worries about state-to-state variance in barber licensing when they move to a New Place. In New Jersey, you need to take the straight razor shaving test to cut women’s hair because they’re thinking up arbitrary ways to incrementally raise the barrier to entry.

Mike Konczal at Rortybomb:

It’s worth noting that Barack Obama, back when he was a state senator in Illinois, pushed against some of this when it came to jail sentences and prohibitions on getting regulatory licenses:

Town Hall Meetings: On August 15 and 16, 2003 the North Lawndale Employment Network sponsored the annual Town Hall meeting for Congressman Danny Davis at Malcolm X College in Chicago. Brenda Palms Barber was one of the distinguished speakers for the Congressman’s opening address. Ms. Barber and Anthony Burton participated on a panel with State Senator Barack Obama and State Representative Constance Howard to discuss the federally funded Going Home program and several new laws that were passed by the state lawmakers. The lawmakers introduced to the audience several bills that had been passed, including one that would change some of the expungement laws in the State of Illinois and one bill that would allow formerly incarcerated individuals to seek regulatory licenses in several fields including barbering, nail technicians, cosmetology and dead animal removal. Under this bill, the formerly incarcerated individual would have the opportunity to seek a license once they have served their time in prison and have been given a certificate of good standing by the State of Illinois. NLEN also set up a booth at the Town Hall meeting to highlight its program and accomplishments.

Back then if you had a jail record you couldn’t receive most regulatory licenses. So if you were trying to escape from a life of crime, or even if you were tagged with a minor crime during a wayward period in your life, you would automatically have a wide variety of occupations immediately shut off from you. You couldn’t be a barber for instance. (You also probably couldn’t be a licensed fortune teller.) Whatever the idea behind this, in practice it’s going to take people at the edges and shut off a number of crucial options to them. I don’t know if this exists in most states, but it’s an obvious way to begin to push back against the worst excesses of license overkill.

So beyond just being a hassle these licenses can be a major form of explicit job segregation and can have major distributional problems associated with them.

UPDATE: Doug J.

Jonathan Adler

UPDATE #2: More Yglesias

Conor Friedersdorf here and here

Kevin Drum

Adam Serwer at The American Prospect

UPDATE #3: Matt Steinglass at DiA at The Economist

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