Dead Cat Recovery

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Fewer people are missing mortgage payments in Minnesota. I suspect that means all the bad loans, marginal loans, unemployed, sick and elderly mortgage payers have been wrung out of the system over the past seven years and now are renters, which explains the tight rental market.
The only homeowners left are those who can and will pay. It’s nice that fewer people are losing their homes. If that’s because fewer people have homes to lose, it’s not unalloyed good news.
Joe Doakes

Where are the housing values blooming these days? Not where the worst of the foreclosure crisis was, or most of the bad loans got shaken out.

Rose Colored Glasses

You can’t escape it on Twitter or in the Media – the DFL and its various spokespeople, and the media (pardon the redundancy) crowing about Minnesota’s job numbers.

Because raising taxes creates jobs, dammit!

Except, as Bill Glahn notes, the numbers just don’t add up.

The state and its minions have been crowing that the state gained 8.500 jobs in June, and a total of 10,700 jobs so far this year.

Doing the arithmetic, that total means Minnesota gained 8,500 jobs in June, but a mere 2,200 jobs in the five months of January through May, combined.

And it the numbers get more interestinger:

 Each month DEED also reports on the jobs created in the previous 12 months, for a rolling look at the number of jobs created for a year-long period. For the 12 months ending June 2014, DEED reports Minnesota created almost 53,800 jobs. That figure would mean that we’d created 43,100 jobs in the six month of July through December 2013, but a mere 10,700 jobs in the most recent six months. Rather than suggesting an economic boom, those numbers indicate a real weakness in our state’s economy.

Bad, politically-driven reporting from the state?  Casual illiterate reporting from the media? 

Glahn’s not done:

 But consider this anomaly:
Jobs Gained
Last 12 Mo.
Adding together the number of jobs created each month in 2014, as reported by DEED, produces a total of 17,700 jobs for the year so far. So that means that sometime during the last few months, 7,000 jobs have vanished from the official state rolls.

“Unexpectedly” vanished, of course.

Glahn predicts the state’s rosy “8,500″ number for June will be gradually revised out of existence.

To be replaced – this is my prediction – by more inflated, misleading predictions intended to lull the incurious.

And the news consumers they report to.

The Real Minimum Wage

Progressives, awash in worry about income inequality, will barber on and on over whether the minimum wage should be $10, or $11.50, or even a Seattle-sized $15/hour.

Conservatives know that the real minimum wage is zero

“Diggity”, a new fast-food restaurant concept in Coon Rapids, gets a jump on McDonands, does away with the server:

Diggity functions on an elaborate and expensive system of self-serve, touchscreen kiosks and software that allow customers to place orders directly from smartphones or tablet devices. Diners watch monitors (or their phones) to track the progress of their order and pick it up at the counter when ready.

 Customers can also order takeout online, drive into a designated spot in the parking lot and check in using the restaurant’s wireless Internet connection, which will ping the staff with a request to bring the order out.

“You don’t even have to make a telephone call, which is one more convenience factor,” Cary said.

The system cost six-figures (Cary wouldn’t be more precise), but he said he has no doubt it will pay for itself. The setup from Michigan’s Nextep Systems allowed Hemipshere to hire half the staff a restaurant of Diggity’s size would normally need.

But wasn’t it just the “wow” factor that led to the innovative design? 

Cary and Managing Partner Anoush Ansari said the new model was inspired by Minnesota law mandating a gradual bump in the minimum wage.

Thanks, DFL!  The teen unemployment rate is going to take another hit.

How To Do Transit

If you read my blog or listen to my show, you know I’m a huge fan of Kevin Williamson, writer at National Review and author of The End Is Near (And It’s Going To Be Awesome).

One of his book’s (and body of work’s) central theses is that politics is the worst possible way to allocate resources.

Yesterday’s story about the Green Line light rail – which was built as a relatively heavy, relatively high-speed “Light Rail” line down a crowded commercial street entirely due to the desire to play the political subsidy game, and was conceived in the first place less to move people than to re-engineer the layout of the area between the Twin Downtowns – is evidence toward the thesis.

“But if the government doesn’t build things – not just trains, but roads and streets – then who will?”

If people need to go from one place to another, somebody will find a way to get them from point A to point B.

Contradictory Indicators

Joe Doakes from Como Park writes:

If the economy is as bad as the first quarter economic report indicated, why is the stock market so high? Powerline supplies a clue.


We know that correlation does not prove causation, but since the Standard and Poors Weekly 500 stock index so closely tracks federal government stimulus spending since President Obama took office in 2009, it’s fair to ask if we’re headed for another stock market bubble, one entirely of government’s making.
Joe Doakes

Fair, but – until we get a media that isn’t serving as a praetorian guard and, hopefully, a Congress full of economic realists – pretty much hopeless.

Dear “Progressives”

We warned you. Oh, yes we did.

“When you raise the taxes on the parts of our society that produce wealth, the wealth moves”

That’s especially true when the taxes you’re raising make the producers of wealth – companies, in this case – less competitive in a global marketplace with other companies that produce wealth and get less of a tax hit.

Two weeks ago, it was Medtronic packing up its corporate plantation moving to Ireland for a much, much, much better tax rate.

This week? Word that Walgreens is planning a similar inversion with a company in Switzerland.

And after news that Nash Finch and Advance Auto Parts are leaving Minnesota largely because of the DFL’s tax orgy, and Red Wing Shoes and Laurence Transportation shelving major expansions because of that same tax policy, i’m wondering how much longer the DFL can hide behind the the headlines about Minnesota’s phantom, low unemployment rate.

(Which translates to “low unemployment in the metro, where all the Fortune 1000 companies are, with the market a little less reassuring outstate…)


The “Obama Recovery” still isn’t

The U.S. economy shrank at an annual rate of 2.9 percent during the first three months of 2014, government bean counters announced this morning. That matches the worst non-recession contraction of the U.S. economy in over 40 years.

Perhaps, taking a cue from minimum wage hike laws, the Administration could issue a decree for everyone to build, spend and borrow more?

Doakes Sunday: 1950

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Mark Steyn insight:
We speak of “credit bubbles” and “housing bubbles,” but the real bubble is America’s 1950 moment: a very precise set of post-war conditions that put the U.S. in a different league from other nation-states. Europe rebuilt, Asia got the hang of capitalism, and still America thought 1950 was forever. It’s not. It’s already fading.

The argument over unions is the perfect evidence of this.

In 1950, we were the only functional economy in the world.  This was when contracts like the UAW’s iron grip over the auto industry got started.

Which was great – while Germany and Japan were rebuilding, and China, Singapore, South Korea and India were still third-world hellholes.

Things have changed.

We – too many of us – haven’t.

Gone Baby Gone

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Another business leaving Minnesota, explicitly for tax reasons.  Democrat Al Franken is “troubled” . . . not that he’s chased away another business, but that they’re taking their taxes with them.

Joe Doakes

On the other hand, all of the company’s workers that are relocating elsewhere can still “vote Democrat” for another 70 years or so.

Would You Like Fries With Your Unemployment Check?

From Zero Hedge, the “unintended” (?) but inevitable consequence of the $15/hour minimum wage:

With a seemingly endless line of talking-heads willing to ignore essentially every study that has been undertaken with regard the effects of raising the minimum-wage; and propose what is merely populist vote-getting ‘benefits’ for the ever-increasing not-1% who benefitted from Ben Bernanke’s bubbles – we thought the following burger-flipping robot was a perfect example of unintended consequences for the fast food industry’s workers.

Oh, my.

And it’s produced by a what, you say?

With humans needing to take breaks, have at least 4 weekend days off per month, and demanding ever-increasing minimum-wage for a job that was never meant to provide a ‘living-wage’, Momentum Machines - a San Francisco-based robotics company has unveiled the ‘Smart Restaurants’ machine which is capable of making ~360 ‘customized’ gourmet burgers per hour without the aid of a humanFirst Jamba Juice,then Applebees, next McDonalds…

The end result – says the company?

There are those on the left who say that it’s inevitable, that robots were/are going to replace humans in fast-food kitchens anyway.  The statement itself betrays ignorance about how economics work; the artificial acceleration of wages for what was never intended to be anything but entry level jobs where people trade low-skill labor for low-skill wages and – for the smart ones – work experience.  As the jobs got priced beyond what the labor was naturally worth to the market, the imperative for the “robots” grew.

The opportunity is there, of course, for those who are smart enough to see it and develop the skills for it; for people to build, sell, install, program, maintain and repair the “robots”, this is going to be the good ol’ days.

But those aren’t the people who are marching up and down in front of WalMart, McDonalds and Burger King demanding minimum wage hikes.

Free Money!

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 while the economy is in the doldrums and employers are reacting by cutting hours, benefits, and in some cases relocating out of the city.

This is PROOF that employers are robber barons who will do anything to go on exploiting the workers. Plainly, the minimum wage must be set at a higher level of government so employers cannot move to escape it. And benefits mandated, too. With free parking, and overtime. And more vacation.

I’ve noticed the celebratory coverage from Seattle has been really light on impacts.


Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The panhandlers are back, stronger than ever. Used to be one per overpass, now there are four. I didn’t see them this Winter, when they could have made a bundle shoveling sidewalks. Do panhandlers hibernate, like bears, or are they migratory, like geese? Maybe the DNR should put up “No Feeding” signs.

I know the courts have ruled that panhandlers have a First Amendment right to ask the public for donations, but I got hit up in the drive-through lane at McDonalds this morning, which is a little much. At first I thought I might slide out of it: he was wearing an American flag on his jacket so I suspected he was a Tea Partier seeking donations to spread the word about Obama’s fake economic “recovery.” If that had been the case, I could have saved a buck plus sicced the IRS on him because, as everyone knows, Tea Partiers have no First Amendment rights. But no – he only wanted money for the bus to get to the homeless shelter for breakfast, so I was stuck.

This is an area where traditional DFL solutions would work: regulate, license and tax. Permit fees and registration. Make them register as licensed mendicants, same as itinerent peddlers. If they work in teams, they must provide employer-paid insurance, including unemployment and Obama care. They need a permit for each day and location of business. Hot spots require a medallion, just like a taxi at the airport. Also nobody is allowed to give alms in amounts less than $20.00. After all, beggers deserve a living handout. Or livable handout, I’ve lost track of the current terminology.

Mandatory jail for first offenders, escalating punishment for scofflaws. Traditional Liberal solutions can solve modern urban problems. We just need to implement them.

Joe Doakes

They “solve” all manner of free enterprise and prosperity.

Doakes Sunday: Dubious Solutions

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The Labour Party in Britian proposes to tie the minimum wage to average earnings.


Doesn’t this simply shift the fight to Whose earnings?  Everybody?  Only Union?  Excluding Government?  Basing the minimum wage paid by McDonalds on the average wage paid to bureaucrats in Washington – is that sensible?


Rife for political manipulation without transparency or accountability, just like every CBO report.


I know – let’s tie the minimum wage to an international monetary standard like the Libor, that will eliminate all chance of manipulation of the standard.


Joe Doakes

People seem amazed that when you turn things over to politicians, the solution is inevitably political.

This Is Your Obama “Recovery”

Real economic growth…didn’t exist in the first quarter:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property

located in the United States — decreased at an annual rate of 1.0 percent in the first quarter according to

the “second” estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP

increased 2.6 percent.

The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for

the “advance” estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, real GDP was estimated to have

increased 0.1 percent. With this second estimate for the first quarter, the decline in private inventory

investment was larger than previously estimated.

Some lefty pundits are blaming the “tough winter”.

I remember some tough winters in ’83-85.  The economy kept on recovering, somehow.  Perhaps shovel and snowblower factories and shoveling crews were hiring?

The real answer?  It goes beyond President Obama.  “Progressivism” destroys economies and lives.


Doakes Sunday: Killed

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Another feel-good law passed by Minnesota Democrat-controlled legislature.  If your cell phone is stolen, the cell phone company must do something to switch it off so thieves can’t use it.

Private industry already offers that service – you call the cell phone provider to report your phone stolen and they shut it off.

There are two ways to kill a phone: the Hard Kill that turns the phone into a brick permanently, and the Soft Kill that shuts it off temporarily, but we have no control over which option your cell phone company takes so if the phone is lost but recovered, it still may be unusable.

Worse, industry experts don’t think it’ll solve the problem because thieves can work around the shut-off with SIM cards and computer program.

Providing a mandatory service costs the cell phone provider money.  The state isn’t funding this service.  So your cell phone rates will go up to pay for other people’s carelessness.

The U of M Police Chief who claims guns are often used to steal cell phones on campus is LYING.  He must be, the U of M is a “gun-free” zone.

Joe Doakes

It’s amazing how little the DFL accomplished this past session that wasn’t entirely “feel-good”.

The STEM Scam

As anyone who’s done hiring for web designers, Java programmers or network techs knows, there’s no shortage of technical workers; wages throughout most of the IT sector have been worse than stagnant for quite some time.

And yet not only do our kids constantly have “Take STEM courses!” beaten into their heads, but the government and business want more tech workers immigrating to the US.

Now, a survey shows there isn’t a shortage:

In looking at the latest government data available, my co-author and I found the following: In 2012, there were more than twice as many people with STEM degrees (immigrants and native-born) as there were STEM jobs — 5.3 million STEM jobs vs. 12.1 million people with STEM degrees. Only one-third of natives who have a STEM degree and have a job work in a STEM occupation. There are 1.5 million native-born Americans with engineering degrees not working as engineers, as well as half a million with technology degrees, 400,000 with math degrees, and 2.6 million with science degrees working outside their field. In addition, there are 1.2 million natives with STEM degrees who are not working.

Meanwhile, less than half of immigrants with STEM degrees work in STEM jobs. In particular, just 23 percent of all immigrants with engineering degrees work as engineers. Of the 700,000 immigrant STEM workers allowed into the country between 2007 and 2012, only one-third got a STEM job, about one-third got a non-STEM job, and about one-third are not working.

But enough about the statisticians – what is the market saying?

Wage trends are one of the best measures of labor demand. If STEM workers were in short supply, wages would be increasing rapidly. But wage data from multiple sources show little growth over the last 12 years. We found that real hourly wages (adjusted for inflation) grew on average just 0.7 percent a year from 2000 to 2012 for STEM workers, and annual wages grew even less — 0.4 percent a year. Wage growth is very modest for almost every category of STEM worker as well

The drive to jam kids – especially girls – into STEM classes is just a long-term plan to drive down tech costs.

In A Just World…

 …we’d have an administration with Kevin Williamson running domestic policy…:

Our choice is not really between neat ideological verities with their roots in Adam Smith or Karl Marx, but between the DMV and the Apple store. Each model has its downsides, to be sure, but it does not seem like a terribly difficult choice to me.

 And Richard Fernandez as Secretary of State:

Suppose Benghazi was a catastrophic failure, made all the more dangerous by the possibility that Russia had a hand in it. If Putin, having studied how Reagan used the jihad to bring down Soviet Union, played the same game on Barack Hussein Obama, it would explain many otherwise inexplicable things. The role of Snowden. The disgrace of Petraeus. The exile of anyone and anything to do with Benghazi. The kid-gloves treatment of the Ansar attackers. The strange enmity between Hillary and Obama. Each is bound by the same secret. Each lives in fear of the same smoldering fire burning in the bowels of the administration.

The lie is much more dangerous than the truth. America can live with an Obama mistake. But it can’t live with an Obama who cannot acknowledge his mistakes.

 The world is, of course, not just.

But both of them provide some useful templates for gauging candidates and what they believe.

Dear Minimum Wage Activists

We warned you.

But did you listen?  No!  You said that jobs would not be lost as pay for low-skill jobs was forced upward by government fiat, and that there’d be no unintended consequences – because all consequences, presumably, would be forestalled by foo-foo dust brought down from the skies on the backs of unicorns. 

But there is no foo-foo dust, there are no unicorns, and when you force someone to pay more or less than the free market will bear for something, there will be consequences.

And so there are.

This Is Your Obama Economy, Part MMMCCXVLIII

A report from the center-left Brookings Institution shows that not only is busines dynamism – the pace of new business openings and old business closings – the slowest it’s been, but during the Obama “Recovery” the pace of closings has far outrun the pace of new business creation, for the first time in post-Great-Depression history:

Says Brookings:

Research has firmly established that this dynamic process is vital to productivity and sustained economic growth. Entrepreneurs play a critical role in this process, and in net job creation.But recent research shows that dynamism is slowing down. Business churning and new firm formations have been on a persistent decline during the last few decades, and the pace of net job creation has been subdued. This decline has been documented across a broad range of sectors in the U.S. economy, even in high-tech. …

While the reasons explaining this decline are still unknown, if it persists, it implies a continuation of slow growth for the indefinite future, unless for equally unknown reasons or by virtue of entrepreneurship enhancing policies (such as liberalized entry of high-skilled immigrants), these trends are reversed.

Why has America become less entrepreneurial? 

I’m going to suggest it’s two things; the constant accretion of new regulations atop old regulations, which continually make new businesses harder and harder to launch, and a culture – especially a school system – that is slowly leaching the desire independence out of the citizenry.

(Via Ed)

“Unintended” Consequences

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

This law passed, people who claim to be abuse victims can walk away from their leases.

I understand the emotional appeal of this law, but the potential for abuse is obvious. And once landlords get burnt, they’ll be twice shy about renting to people who have boyfriend trouble, or are divorced, or have a history of domestic trouble, the unintended consequence of which will be that the very people we’re trying to protect will find it harder to get a place to live.

I can see that. Why can’t Liberals?

Joe Doakes

Because none of them – at least, the elected ones – have the foggiest idea how business and the markets work?  None of them could identify “perverse incentive” if they saw one?

I could keep going.

The No-Brainer

A majority of Minnesotans support Sunday liquor sales.  And every year, as another generation of Minnesotans runs out of beer for a Sunday cookout for the first time, that support rises.

And yet the Minnesota Senate killed an amendment to an omnibus booze bill that would have legalized Sunday liquor sales for the first time.

In a state where taxes are booming and small business is being strangled, it seems like a minor issue – and it is.  But it’s also a no-brainer if you claim to support limited government and scaling back on pointless, mindless regulation – which are things Republicans talk about a lot.

Walter Hudson goes over the reasons,and finds them wanting:

While liquor stores near the border may clamor to compete with stores in surrounding states who enjoy a surge of business from exiled Minnesotans each Sunday, most of the liquor industry likes their state-mandated day off. Union contracts would have to be renegotiated if Sunday sales were legal. Routines would have to be adjusted. Staff might need to be hired and trained. Things would change, and change is icky.

Other special interests include moralizing theocrats who believe the state should force others to conform to their religious preferences, along with mother hens concerned that a seventh day of drinking invites untold carnage…Can you smell the nanny-statism? Do you see the cronyism at work? This is why rank-and-file activists and average everyday Minnesotans find this issue so provocative. There’s no plainer case of special interests wielding undue and wholly illegitimate influence over the rights of individuals.

And you’d think this’d be a no-brainer for Republicans.

And for a little over half the Senate GOP caucus, you’d be wrong.  While the DFL voted overwhelmingly to kill the Amendment, at the behest of their union benefactors and one of the state’s main booze-retail lobbies, the Senate GOP also voted 14-12 to kill the amendment.    Here are the votes.    And the s

And while it is a minor issue – to me more than most, since I go to liquor stores maybe once or twice a year – Hudson explains as capably as any I’ve read why that makes it, in some ways, even more important:

Why does this issue matter? Because if we can’t conjure the political will to overcome special interests in defense of individual rights when it barely matters at all, how are we going to champion rights when the stakes are huge?

If we can’t achieve consensus on the political Right that people should be free to open their businesses when they please, how are we going to win the argument that parents should educate as they please, or that individuals should own their healthcare, or that any of us own our life in any meaningful way? If the legislature can cite some social benefit to banning Sunday sales, why can’t they cite a social benefit to banning anything imaginable?

While 12 of the GOP caucus supported the Amendment (proposed by Branden Petersen, who is fast turning into the Rand Paul of the MN State Senate, and I mean that as a good thing), we need to have a word with Bruce Anderson, Gary Dahms, Michelle Fischbach, Paul Gazelka, Dan Hall (to whom I give a partial pass at voting for a higher principle as a Catholic lay priest, but it’s only a partial pass), Bill Ingebrigtsen,  Mary Kiffmeyer,  Warren Limmer,  Carla Nelson,  John C. Pederson,  Eric Pratt,  Julie A. Rosen,  Bill Weber and the normally-excellent Torrey Westrom.

Freedom Of Choice

I don’t oppose unions.

Unlike the vast majority of Democrats, I’ve actually belonged to a union.

Unions can be - can be - a vital part of a free labor market.

But they usually aren’t.  And when people encounter a product or service that’s of no worth to them in the free market, they can say no – provided the political process hasn’t removed that option.

In Michigan, which just passed a “right to work” law granting workers the option to say “no” to unions, 80% of healthcare workers have done just that:

That means some 44,000 workers did not wish to be part of the SEIU, when given the choice.

Ted O’Neil, media relations manager for the Mackinac Center, said plummeting SEIU membership is a clear sign that the forced unionization of home healthcare workers was never something those people wanted.

“All 44,000 of those caregivers who were originally forced into the union are free to go back and join,” he told The Daily Caller. “It’s very telling of what worker freedom means to people.”

Drop the word “worker”.  When people have the freedom to say “no” to things that don’t work for them, real change happens.

I bring this up because it’s an issue that should resonate with Minnesotans, where the DFL is trying to force healthcare and childcare workers into AFSCME and the SEIU, respectively.  They’re doing it for exactly the same reason as they did it in Michigan – to skim dues for their management and the Democrat party that gives them all the goodies:

The dues-skimming scheme was set up in 2006, after the SEIU identified home-based healthcare workers as a potential revenue source. Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm helped facilitate the process by setting up a by-mail election for union representation for home-based caregivers. Some said they never received ballots and were unaware of what had happened.

The Minnesota plan – which is currently under a court injunction – would be exactly the same scam.


The Unthinkable

In the eternal battle between crony controlled, politically endorsed monopolies and new service is popular among hipsters, a Minneapolis City Councilman has proposed – well, suggested – the unthinkable.

The Minneapolis city Council match in a public hearing to determine how to deal with the difference in regulation between the city sponsored taxicab monopoly, and the new ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft. Some cities have opted to back the monopolies.

. But in Minneapolis, the ordinance sponsor, Council Member Jacob Frey, said after the hearing that he doesn’t yet know if that’s an option but he is open to considering relaxed taxi regulations.

What will those Democrats think of next?

The Barricades Fall – A Little

The Twin Cities’ left is declaring a Code Red; Glen Taylor is buying the Strib

The Minnesota sports and business tycoon and former GOP state senator has picked up the shrivelling Gray Nag of Minnesota media properties - and has vowed to make some changes.


Bear in mind, Taylor came from the old-school Minnesota GOP; relatively moderate, accustomed to working with the then-slightly-less-extreme DFL in a way that’s as obsolete as the personal computers from the 1980s, when that arrangement still held sway. 

But he’s talking changes; the MinnPost‘s Britt Robson (from the first installment of a two-part interview) talked with Taylor about his planned changes:

MP: The Star Tribune is regarded as a liberal newspaper, rightly or wrongly, and probably less so now than ten years ago. Will that change under you in any way shape or form?

GT: I think the answer is yes. But I think the answer is yes whether I buy it or don’t buy it. Everything changes, and some people are going to say, “Well it is, because you bought it, that it changed.”

I would say back to them, “No. You are going to have new hires. You are going to have new people. There are going to be changes in seniority. You have got to be responsible to your readership.” And I think it has already been changing, and I have been a longtime reader of the paper.

Will it change because of the ownership of Glen Taylor? Yeah. To say it won’t wouldn’t be accurate. But it isn’t like Glen Taylor is going to come in there on day one and say, “I’m going to fire people” and do all sorts of things. I am going to say — and I have already told them this — that first of all it has got to be fair and it has got to be accurate.

On the one hand, that – especially if manifested in the form of “reporting news that impacts the DFL with the same zeal as they do it to the GOP” – would be a huge start. 

On the other, I think Taylor is too sanguine about the evolutionary process in journalism.  The old, DFL-upsucking liberals like Nick Coleman are slowly fading away (and Lori Sturdevant has got to be eyeing that condo in Tampa, right?), but even they got their start at a time when American journalism paid more than feeble lip service to the ideals of impartiality and balance.

The Journalism academy today is far less idealistic than it was forty years ago.  New J-School grads are far more likely to start out as advocates from the word “go” than their elders, who oozed into the role over decades in a “progressive”-dominated state. 

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes:  So what does the Strib  really need?

  1. An Editorial Staff that actually puts accuracy and completeness ahead of politics.  Today – when they’ll sit on video of Mark Dayton giving an embarassing speech, but race to press with even the most foetid allegations about Republicans – they do not.  This editorial staff needs to crack the whip on, if not “objectivity” (which I believe has always been a myth in the major media) at least detachment, balance and development of sources outside the current crop’s clubby Rolodex full of left-leaning contacts. 
  2. Accountability:  For the better part of a decade, the person filling the role of the ombudsman (“reader representative”) at the Strib has served entirely as the editorial board’s spinmeister/spinmistress.  Ombuds like Sue Perry were the journalistic equivalents of Baghdad Bob, asking who you trusted – your lying eyes, or the Strib’s spin on the mountain of evidence of the paper’s bias.   The Strib needs an ombud that revels in mixing it up with the paper’s status quo. 
  3. A Columnist’s Row With Real Diversity:  Liberals have spent the past half-decade or so whining about the hiring of Katherine Kersten.  The complaints took two forms; “why hire a conservative, the paper is already balanced/conservative”, and “she doesn’t know the journo’s secret handshake!”.  The first line of complaints was straight from Alice in Wonderland.  The second wasn’t so much delusional as, I think, a tacit admission that conservatives were right; the journos wanted someone filling the “house conservative” role who knew the secret journo handshake and would work for “the team” when in doubt.  Which is not to impugn Doug Tice, Kersten’s designated replacement, in any way – he’s a solid reporter, right of center by Strib standards, and a journo of great integrity, but hardly an iconoclast.   The Strib needs an iconoclast, someone who will hold the ancient, biased institution of the paper’s feet in the fire. 

What else will it take?