Going down, Mr. Tyler?

From Editor & Publisher:

The average circulation decline among 684 US daily papers is averaging 1.9% in the past year. In some places it is catastrophic. This is the biggest drop in the last five years. And no one is forecasting a turnaround yet. In case it hasn’t occurred to anyone, that means fewer slots for Newspaper Guild workers. Media credibility is in the toilet, even if the Koran isn’t.

The Manchester Guardian’s Peter Preston explains where the circulation is going—-“the defectors are packing up and moving out of newsprint: to broadcasting in tiny measure (though radio and TV news are losing customers, too) but overwhelmingly to the Net.” And it isn’t the Right or the blogosphere that are doing this to us, although that is what the MSM would prefer to believe. We are doing it ourselves.

If the most basic tenets of Journalism 101 are now no longer important enough for the media itself to honor and defend against their own members who violate them, where is the professionalism and the authority that is our main claim to writing the indispensable “first draft of history” – much less its value for sale? And if we lose sight of that irretrievably, who needs us? There are bloggers out there today with more credibility than Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, Eason Jordan, and Linda Foley combined, and their audiences are growing.

But they’re professionals! PROFESSIONALS! Yeah, well, I don’t recall seeing any journalists drafted on ESPN this spring. Lawyers, however loathesome they might be, are professionals. Doctors are professionals. Veterinarians are professionals. Journalists? I don’t think so.

It’s a trade, not a profession. Otherwise, Dan Rather, Linda Foley and a whole host of similarly truth-challenged individuals would have lost their ability to practice some time ago.

Only four years late

Paul Krugman writes in the NYT:

Remember the stock market bubble? With everything that’s happened since 2000, it feels like ancient history. But a few pessimists, notably Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley, argue that we have not yet paid the price for our past excesses. I’ve never fully accepted that view. But looking at the housing market, I’m starting to reconsider.

In July 2001, Paul McCulley, an economist at Pimco, the giant bond fund, predicted that the Federal Reserve would simply replace one bubble with another. “There is room,” he wrote, “for the Fed to create a bubble in housing prices, if necessary, to sustain American hedonism. And I think the Fed has the will to do so, even though political correctness would demand that Mr. Greenspan deny any such thing.”

As Mr. McCulley predicted, interest rate cuts led to soaring home prices, which led in turn not just to a construction boom but to high consumer spending, because homeowners used mortgage refinancing to go deeper into debt. All of this created jobs to make up for those lost when the stock bubble burst.

Now the question is what can replace the housing bubble.

Nobody thought the economy could rely forever on home buying and refinancing. But the hope was that by the time the housing boom petered out, it would no longer be needed.

But although the housing boom has lasted longer than anyone could have imagined, the economy would still be in big trouble if it came to an end. That is, if the hectic pace of home construction were to cool, and consumers were to stop borrowing against their houses, the economy would slow down sharply. If housing prices actually started falling, we’d be looking at a very nasty scene, in which both construction and consumer spending would plunge, pushing the economy right back into recession.

That’s why it’s so ominous to see signs that America’s housing market, like the stock market at the end of the last decade, is approaching the final, feverish stages of a speculative bubble.

Roach has been saying this for years. So have I. But if Paul Krugman is finally starting to figure it out, we must be on the verge of something interesting and probably nasty.

Then again, perhaps this is simply the first sign that I’m incorrect.

Bane on the dangers of height

Quoth Bane:

“I hate fighting a short man. If I have to, I drop into a horse stance, to lower myself to their level, and I watch my knees. I never attempt to dominate from height, rather, from mass.”

Height can get you in trouble. The Perfect Aryan Male has five inches on me and long arms to boot, but if I could slip inside his jab, (which was always tricky), an uppercut would seriously discombobulate him. His mother still hasn’t let me forget the time I almost broke his jaw; in general, smart taller guys learn to respect the uppercut.

One short guy with whom I used to spar regularly had a particularly nasty weapon in the repertoir, an uppercut kick that you never, ever saw coming. I always preferred to trade kicks with him in a side stance until something opened up rather than go face-to-face and end up taking the ball of his foot in my gut, or worse, my chin.

He was frighteningly tough too. A very good barefoot waterskiier who could do tumbleturns and deep water starts, he wiped out rather spectacularly on TPAM’s boat one summer afternoon. When he climbed back on the boat with blood trickling out of one eye and a leg laid open to the bone, his first words were: “Maybe I’ll drive for a little while, who’s next?”

It took a little persuasion, but we finally managed to talk him into letting us take him to the hospital, if only to stop him from bleeding all over everything.

Vote until you get it right II

M Chirac is expected to react to a French “non” by promising to listen to the people before making a second attempt at ratification.

He and other “yes” campaigners have said repeatedly during the campaign that there is no “Plan B” if the treaty is rejected and that there would not be a second referendum.

But one option being discussed in senior diplomatic circles is for candidates in the French presidential election in 2007 to promise to ratify the treaty in parliament rather than by referendum.

Remember this when you’re told how important your vote is, how you don’t dare “throw your vote away”. Democracy is a sham; it exists only to provide cover and protection for the ruling elite, who took the lesson of 1789 to heart. The ruler that does not at least appear to bow to the will of the people will fall.

But when it comes to what the elite considers truly important, they’ll cast off the pretense in a heartbeat in order to get the necessary business done.