Quotulatiousness

April 9, 2014

Being “pro-business” does not mean the same as being “pro-market”

Filed under: Business, Economics, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:32

It’s a common misunderstanding (especially with people who don’t know what laissez faire actually means):

For years, Republicans benefited from economic growth. So did pretty much everyone else, of course. But I have something specific in mind. Politically, when the economy is booming — or merely improving at a satisfactory clip — the distinction between being pro-business and pro-market is blurry. The distinction is also fuzzy when the economy is shrinking or imploding.

But when the economy is simply limping along — not good, not disastrous — like it is now, the line is easier to see. And GOP politicians typically don’t want to admit they see it.

Just to clarify, the difference between being pro-business and pro-market is categorical. A politician who is a “friend of business” is exactly that, a guy who does favors for his friends. A politician who is pro-market is a referee who will refuse to help protect his friends (or anyone else) from competition unless the competitors have broken the rules. The friend of business supports industry-specific or even business-specific loans, grants, tariffs, or tax breaks. The pro-market referee opposes special treatment for anyone.

[...]

GOP politicians can’t have it both ways anymore. An economic system that simply doles out favors to established stakeholders becomes less dynamic and makes job growth less likely. (Most jobs are created by new businesses.) Politically, the longer we’re in a “new normal” of lousy growth, the more the focus of politics turns to wealth redistribution. That’s bad for the country and just awful politics for Republicans. In that environment, being the party of less — less entitlement spending, less redistribution — is a losing proposition.

Also, for the first time in years, there’s an organized — or mostly organized — grassroots constituency for the market. Historically, the advantage of the pro-business crowd is that its members pick up the phone and call when politicians shaft them. The market, meanwhile, was like a bad Jewish son; it never called and never wrote. Now, there’s an infrastructure of tea-party-affiliated and other free-market groups forcing Republicans to stop fudging.

A big test will be on the Export-Import Bank, which is up for reauthorization this year. A bank in name only, the taxpayer-backed agency rewards big businesses in the name of maximizing exports that often don’t need the help (hence its nickname, “Boeing’s Bank”). In 2008, even then-senator Barack Obama said it was “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” The bank, however, has thrived on Obama’s watch. It’s even subsidizing the sale of private jets. Remember when Obama hated tax breaks for corporate jets?

April 2, 2014

Comparing scandals – Toyota’s phantom acceleration and GM’s ignition switches

Filed under: Business, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:10

David Harsanyi offers this comparison and says it’s another reason governments shouldn’t own businesses:

In February 2010, the Obama Administration’s Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told America, without a shred of evidence, that Toyota automobiles were dangerous to drive. LaHood offered the remarks in front of the House Appropriations subcommittee that was investigating reports of unintended-acceleration crashes. “My advice is, if anybody owns one of these vehicles, stop driving it,” he said, sending the company’s stock into a nosedive.

Even at the time, LaHood’s comments were reckless at best. Assailing the competition reeks of political opportunism and cronyism. It also illustrates one of the unavoidable predicaments of the state owning a corporation in a competitive marketplace. And when we put LaHood’s comment into perspective today, it’s actually a lot worse. Not only did the Obama administration have the power and ideological motive to damage the largely non-unionized competition, it was busy propping up a company that was causing preventable deaths.

[...]

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s acting chief David Friedman testified that GM never told them that faulty switches were at the root of the airbag problem. Fine. Before plowing billions of tax dollars into saving the United Automobile Workers, did the Car Czar or any other Obama officials take extra care to review DOT records to insure that taxpayers would not be funding the preventable deaths of American citizens? Would DOT or Holder exhibit the same zealousness for safety when it came to GM as they did when it came to Toyota? In the midst of the bailout debate and subsequent “turnaround,” news of a coverup and major recall would have been a political disaster.

So it’s difficult to understand why this isn’t a huge scandal. If every obtuse utterance by an obscure Republican congressman gets the media juices flowing, surely the possibility of this kind of negligence is worth a look. Can anyone with access to the administration ask some of these questions? Because if you take credit for “saving” a company (actually, an “industry,” as no one would ever driven again if Obama hadn’t saved the day) you also get credit for “saving” the real-life unscrupulous version of the company. “I placed my bet on American workers,” Obama told union workers in 2012. “And I’d make that same bet again any day of the week. And now, three years later that bet is paying off.” Betting $80 billion of someone else’s money to prop up sympathetic labor unions isn’t exactly fraught with political risk. Unless it turns out that your administration was less concerned about the safety defects of the company you owned than the company you disliked. That would be corruption.

March 30, 2014

State occupational licensing is out of control

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:58

Ramesh Ponnuru discusses some examples of ridiculous state occupational license requirements:

Melanie Armstrong wanted to be an African hair braider, practicing a skill passed down from generation to generation. In Tupelo, Mississippi, where she lived, government licensing rules meant she had to take 300 hours of course work to start her salon: 300 hours, she notes, “none of which covered hair braiding.”

In testimony before a U.S. House subcommittee on Wednesday, Armstrong explained that her “ultimate goal” was to teach others how to braid. Getting the needed licenses to do that would have taken 3,200 hours. None of them taught students how to braid hair, either. That’s more hours than it would have taken her to get licenses to become a firefighter, emergency medical technician, hunting instructor, ambulance driver or real estate appraiser. It’s longer than it would have taken her to get licenses for all those things combined.

The subcommittee — led by New Yorkers Richard Hanna, a Republican, and Grace Meng, a Democrat — was considering the excesses of state occupational licensing. More and more jobs fall under these regulations. In the 1950s, according to one study, only about one in 20 jobs required a license. By 2006, about 29 percent did.

While Armstrong helped get her state to scale back the requirements for hair braiders, the trend is toward more stringent regulation. Patti Morrow, who runs an organization fighting licensing for interior designers, says, “These bills come back year after year like zombies.”

March 16, 2014

QotD: American “cheese”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Europe, Health, Humour, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:05

Everyone thinks America Alone is about Islam and demography, but in fact it has a whole section in it on cheese, called “The Pasteurization is Prologue”. Page 181:

    I’ve never subscribed to that whole “cheese-eating surrender-monkey” sneer promoted by my National Review colleague Jonah Goldberg. As a neocon warmonger, I yield to no one in my contempt for the French, but, that said, cheese-wise I feel they have the edge.

    When I’m at the lunch counter in America and I order a cheeseburger and the waitress says, “American, Swiss or Cheddar?” I can’t tell the difference. They all taste of nothing. The only difference is that the slice of alleged Swiss is full of holes, so you’re getting less nothing for your buck. Then again, the holes also taste of nothing, and they’re less fattening. But, either way, cheese is not the battleground on which to demonstrate the superiority of the American way.

Most of the American cheeses bearing European names are bland rubbery eunuch versions of the real thing. I wouldn’t mind if this were merely the market at work, but it’s not. It’s the result of Big Government, of the Brieatollahs at the United States Department of Agriculture:

    In America, unpasteurized un-aged raw cheese that would be standard in any Continental fromagerie is banned. Americans, so zealous in defense of their liberties when it comes to guns, are happy to roll over for the nanny state when it comes to the cheese board… The French may be surrender monkeys on the battlefield, but they don’t throw their hands up and flee in terror just because the Brie’s a bit ripe. It’s the Americans who are the cheese-surrendering eating-monkeys — who insist, oh, no, the only way to deal with this sliver of Roquefort is to set up a rigorous ongoing Hans Blix-type inspections regime.

I’m not exaggerating about that. Nothing gets past their eyes, and everything gets pasteurized. That’s why American “cheesemakers” have to keep putting stuff into the “cheddar” — sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers, chocolate chips — to give it some taste, because the cheese itself has none. And, if you try to bring in anything that does taste of something, the US Government’s Brie Team Six seizes it:

    The US fate of the bright-orange, mild-tasting French cheese has been in jeopardy for months and the Food and Drug Administration has blocked all further imports.

    Why? Because US regulators determined the cantaloupe-like rind of the cheese was covered with too many cheese mites, even though the tiny bugs give mimolette its unique flavor.

    No formal ban has been put in place, but 1.5 tonnes (3,300 pounds) of cheese were blocked from being imported, and nothing is going through US customs.

“No formal ban has been put in place” — because that would involve legislators passing laws in a legislature and whatnot. So they just banned it anyway.

Mark Steyn, “Live Brie or Die!” SteynOnline.com, 2014-03-13

February 28, 2014

Corporate welfare bums

Filed under: Business, Government, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:38

David Sirota says that in at least some high-profile cases, President Obama was quite right to say they didn’t build that:

Remember when President Obama was lambasted for saying “you didn’t build that”? Turns out he was right, at least when it comes to lots of stuff built by the world’s wealthiest corporations. That’s the takeaway from this week’s new study of 25,000 major taxpayer subsidy deals over the last two decades.

Titled “Subsidizing the Corporate One Percent,” the report from the taxpayer watchdog group Good Jobs First shows that the world’s largest companies aren’t models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism. To the contrary, they’re propped up by billions of dollars in welfare payments from state and local governments.

Such subsidies might be a bit more defensible if they were being doled out in a way that promoted upstart entrepreneurialism. But as the study also shows, a full “three-quarters of all the economic development dollars awarded and disclosed by state and local governments have gone to just 965 large corporations” — not to the small businesses and start-ups that politicians so often pretend to care about.

Of course, anyone who thinks major corporations as a whole are “models of self-sufficiency and unbridled capitalism” doesn’t spend much time in the real world. Far too many spend as much time trying to use their market position to exclude smaller competitors and lobbying for regulations that will prevent new entrants into their respective fields of business. As with anything, when you subsidize certain kinds of activity, you’ll inevitably get more of it — and governments compete with one another to offer sweet deals to corporations in terms of tax breaks, direct subsidies and other inducements to set up or expand their operations in a given state or country.

February 27, 2014

OQLF now monitoring social media for language

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:32

No, not coarse language … the English language:

The agency in charge of enforcing the primacy of the French language in Quebec apparently has a new target — social media.

Eva Cooper, the owner of a small retail boutique in Chelsea, Que., has been notified by the language agency that if she doesn’t translate the shop’s Facebook page into French, she will face an injunction that will carry consequences such as a fine.

“Ultimately, to me, Facebook has nothing to do with Quebec,” said Cooper, who uses the social media site to inform customers of new products in her boutique north of Ottawa. The shop — Delilah in the Parc — has an all-bilingual staff of fewer than 10 people.

“I’m happy to mix it up, but I’m not going to do every post half in French, half in English. I think that that defeats the whole purpose of Facebook,” said Cooper, who has requested the agency send her their demands in English.

Cooper’s case represents a new frontier for the language agency, the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF). The agency says probes of social media complaints, which started only recently, are “not frequent.”

February 20, 2014

Anti-tobacco campaigners – “a great bunch of puritanical Cnuts”

Filed under: Britain, Business, Health, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:37

In sp!ked, Rob Lyons looks at the way e-cigarettes are being marketed in the UK and how it’s driving anti-tobacco campaigners absolutely insane:

For the tobacco-control lobby, an advert like Dorff’s is an absolute nightmare. It makes no health claims. It is clearly targeted at adults. It plays to the fact that even smokers dislike aspects of old-fashioned cigarettes, and are happy to compromise in order to get most of the pleasure of smoking without the hassle or the irritation to others. And then – God forbid – it even plays to the annoyance of smokers at the health fanatics. The last thing smoke dodgers want is for anyone to be able to take their freedom back. Even the existence of the sanitised offer from Vype’s say-nothing advert is anathema.

This was made abundantly clear in a report published by Cancer Research UK last year, The marketing of electronic cigarettes in the UK [PDF]. The authors are forced to admit that e-cigs ‘are accepted as being much safer than their conventional equivalents, so if smokers can be encouraged to switch there is the potential for significant public health gain’.

However, this message is quickly lost in a cloud of public-health cant. The threats, say the authors, include concerns that ‘hard-won tobacco-control policies (smokefree public places, the ad ban, age restricted sales, tobacco industry denormalisation, POS [point-of-sale] restrictions) are being undermined’ and that ‘there is evidence that young people, who have always been the key to the long-term viability of the tobacco industry, may be being pulled into the market’. The danger, say the authors, is that tobacco companies don’t want you to give up your addiction, just switch to a different delivery system. The problem with this argument is that the new delivery system is much, much safer. Why shouldn’t corporations try to sell us safe products?

[...]

In reality, what the anti-tobacco lobbyists (and their fans in Westminster and Whitehall) are really afraid of is the loss of their power and influence over our lives. They fear they will be helpless against the tide of e-cigs, like a great bunch of puritanical Cnuts. (Note to sub-editor: that’s definitely ‘Cnuts’, as in the Danish king who famously – probably apocryphally – tried to turn back the sea. Honest.)

E-cigs are a safe, practical alternative to smoking. For all the huffing and putting-a-stop-to-puffing, tobacco control has been an illiberal failure. E-cigs are encouraging smokers to switch, cut down or stop altogether far more successfully than all the bans, taxes, restrictions and useless nicotine-replacement therapies that have gone before. ‘Vaping’ is an unexpected but nonetheless happy success story.

February 15, 2014

In one stroke, Connecticut becomes the state with the highest proportion of criminals

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:54

In a development that absolutely nobody could have seen coming, Connecticut has the highest known population of (technical) criminals in the United States:

In a massive display of civil disobedience, tens of thousands of state residents have refused to register what the left calls assault weapons, instantly making them criminals guilty of a felony.

The legacy of the Connecticut residents who used their privately owned firearms to help overthrow the tyrannical colonial rule of King George III, who probably considered their muskets the military-style assault weapon of the day, apparently lives on.

Connecticuters in the tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands have refused to comply with a law, adopted after the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, requiring them to register what gun-control advocates consider assault weapons by the end of 2013.

As the Hartford Courant reports, as of Dec. 31 some 47,916 applications for assault weapons certificates had been received by state police. By some estimates, this represented as little as 15% of the rifles classified as assault weapons owned by Connecticut residents.

Estimates by people in the industry, including the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, place the number as high as 350,000.

Update, 19 February: The editorial board of the Hartford Courant thinks that the solution to this problem is to just ignore the deadline or even scrap the law. No, wait, that’d be a sensible reaction. They actually want the state to round up the scofflaws en masse:

Some people actually tried to comply with the registration law, but missed the deadline. The state’s official position is that it will accept applications notarized on or before January 1, 2014 and postmarked by January 4. But, says Dora Schriro, Commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, in a letter to lawmakers [PDF], anybody sufficiently law-abiding but foolish enough to miss that slightly extended grace period will have to surrender or otherwise get rid of their guns.

This, of course, is the eternally fulfilled fear of those who oppose registration of things governments don’t like — that allowing the government to know about them will result in their eventual confiscation. Such confiscation, despite assurances to the contrary, occurred in New York, California, and elsewhere. Connecticut has accomplished something special, though, by making “eventual” a synonym for “right now.”

You know who won’t have to surrender their weapons? People who quietly told the state to fuck off.

This successful example of mass defiance horrifies the editorial board of the Hartford Courant, which shudders at the sight of the masses not obeying an order that, history, tells us, never had a shot at wide compliance. According to them:

    It’s estimated that perhaps scores of thousands of Connecticut residents failed to register their military-style assault weapons with state police by Dec. 31….

    …the bottom line is that the state must try to enforce the law. Authorities should use the background check database as a way to find assault weapon purchasers who might not have registered those guns in compliance with the new law.

    A Class D felony calls for a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Even much lesser penalties or probation would mar a heretofore clean record and could adversely affect, say, the ability to have a pistol permit.

    If you want to disobey the law, you should be prepared to face the consequences.

Such shock! Such outrage!

February 12, 2014

In praise of Frédéric Bastiat

Filed under: Economics, Europe, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:48

Douglas Carswell wishes more people knew about nineteenth-century economist Frédéric Bastiat:

I reckon that one of the greatest Frenchman of all time is a fellow called Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850). Not heard of him? France, I reckon, would have remained a truly global nation if more people had.

A free market, Classical liberal thinker, Bastiat grasped how wealth is created — and how parasitical elites and vested interests will seek to live off the productivity of others.

Nations rise, he could see, when various naturally parasitical interests were reined in, making production more fruitful than parasitism. Nations sunk into mediocrity, or remained there, when the parasites got their way — and other people’s wealth.

Far from being just a creature of his time, Bastiat speaks to us today. His spoof petition of the candlestick makers (they lobbied politicians to block out unfair competition from sunlight) tell us a great deal about the behaviour today of energy renewable interests and central bankers.

As a free market thinker, Bastiat was up there on a par with Adam Smith or Richard Cobden. Yet unlike Smith and Cobden, for all his brilliance, Bastiat had little impact on the French body politic. French lassies faire gave way to dirigisme. In terms of French politics, it is almost as if Bastiat might never have existed. And a once global player, presided over by a succession of enarques and corporatist cliques, sunk slowly into Hollandesque mediocrity.

My fear is that free-market thinkers on this side of the Channel could turn out to be little more than British Bastiats. Already the land of Adam Smith is run by a big, bloated state bureaucracy. The country that produced Cobden trades with the world on the basis of quota, not free competition.

February 8, 2014

What happened to charities that actually concentrate on charitable works, rather than lobbying?

Filed under: Britain, Government, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:34

James Delingpole on the remarkable community of interest between charitable organizations (partly funded by governments) and the government agencies they lobby:

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical”. Thomas Jefferson, 1779.

One of the curses of modern life is the plethora of “charitable” lobbying groups demanding that the government take more regulatory action in areas where most of us believe the state has no business interfering.

Almost every day you read in the papers that some apparently grassroots movement, supposedly speaking for all of us, thinks more should be done to stop us drinking, smoking, eating sugar or salt, make us less sexist, force us to spend more on foreign aid or environmental issues. But if that wasn’t annoying enough, here’s the worst thing of all: we’re paying for these unrepresentative, mostly left-leaning lobby groups with our taxes.

This is the message of Chris Snowdon’s report for the Institute of Economic Affairs, The Sock Doctrine [PDF] — the third in his trilogy of broadsides against the lavishly state-funded “fake charities” industry. By 2007, he noted, a quarter of the UK’s 170,000 charities were receiving money from the state and approximately 27,000 received at least 75 per cent of their income from the state. If you share these charities’ predominantly liberal-Left-leaning aims you probably won’t mind so much. But if you don’t, you might be inclined to believe, as Fraser Nelson argued in these pages last year, that “Britain’s charities are nurturing a colourful, talented and efficient anti-Tory alliance.”

But, of course, there are opposing charitable organizations equally dependent on government funding and spending disproportional time and effort lobbying for their pet causes?

Well the problem is that they’re almost non-existent. The reason for this was identified in 1985 by US researchers James T. Bennett and Thomas J. DiLorenzo:

“Virtually without exception, the recipients of government grants and contracts advocate greater governmental control over and intervention in the private sector, greater limitations on rights of private property, more planning by government, income redistribution, and political rather than private decision making. Most of the tax dollars used for political advocacy are obtained by groups that are on the left of the political spectrum.”

February 6, 2014

E-cigarettes – growth industry or doomed by regulatory overstretch

Filed under: Business, Health, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:03

Megan McArdle discusses the past, present, and potential future for the e-cigarette industry:

In its simplest form, an e-cigarette is a cartridge filled with a nicotine solution and a battery powering a coil that heats the solution into vapor, which one sucks in and exhales like smoke. Typically, it looks like a regular cigarette, except the tip, embedded with an LED, often glows blue instead of red. The active ingredient in e-cigarettes is the same nicotine found in cigarettes and nicotine patches.

The effects of inhaling nicotine vapor are not totally understood, but there is no evidence to date that it causes cancer. Experts and logic seem to agree that it’s a lot better than setting chopped-up tobacco leaves on fire and inhaling the nicotine along with thousands of combustion byproducts, some of which are definitely carcinogenic. Because cancer is the main drawback of smoking for a lot of people, the delivery of nicotine without lighting a cigarette is very attractive. And because it produces a wispy vapor instead of acrid smoke, an e-cigarette lets you bring your smoking back indoors, where lighting up in an enclosed space is no longer socially, or legally, acceptable.

[...]

A primitive, battery-operated “smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” was patented as early as 1963 and described in Popular Mechanics in 1965. Thomas Schelling, a Nobel prize-winning economist who helped start the Institute for the Study of Smoking Behavior and Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School in the 1980s, recalls that people in the 1960s were talking about a charcoal-based vaporizer that would heat some sort of nicotine solution. While those early versions might have been safer than a regular cigarette, they were too expensive and cumbersome to become a substitute for a pack of Camels in a country where, as Schelling notes, “you’re never more than 5 or 10 minutes away from a smoke.”

In a way, electronic cigarettes were made possible by cell phones. The drive to make phones smaller and lengthen their battery life led to the development of batteries and equipment small enough to fit in a container the size and shape of a cigarette. There’s some dispute over who invented the modern e-cigarette, but the first commercially marketed device was created by a Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik, and introduced to the Chinese market as a smoking cessation device in 2004.

In the same way that alcohol comes in various guises (many carefully crafted to appeal to beginners: sweet as soda pop, for example), e-cigarettes are available in many different flavours:

E-cigarette cartridges come in classic tobacco and menthol flavors — Verleur’s company even offers V2 Red, Sahara, and Congress, clearly aimed at loyal smokers of Marlboros, Camels, and Parliaments. But most companies also have less conventional flavors. Blu offers Peach Schnapps, Java Jolt, Vivid Vanilla, Cherry Crush, and Piña Colada, presumably for people who don’t just like a drink with a cigarette, but in one.

February 4, 2014

Administration costs in higher education

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:27

Megan McArdle says that the meme about fast-rising tuition costs at university being driven primarily by the increase in administration staff isn’t the whole story:

Tim Burke, a Swarthmore professor who is also a top-notch (if insufficiently prolific) blogger, has penned a long post that is a very useful corrective to this complaint. It isn’t that the professors are wrong, exactly — administration has grown fantastically over the last 50 years. And empire building is undoubtedly some of the reason for this, because all organizations accumulate unnecessary mid-managerial retinues unless the leadership makes a regular effort to scrape off the supernumerary barnacles.

However, most of those administrators have been hired for two much simpler reasons: The faculty wanted to outsource their administrative responsibilities to professionals so they could focus more on teaching and research; and the demands placed on a university are much greater than they used to be.

I am not going to excerpt Burke’s piece because it is too multifaceted, and too good; you’ll just have to read the whole thing. He elaborates the many new things that administrators now do, from monitoring diversity to tending the mental health of the students. He touches on the legal changes that have made much of this administrative bloat into an expensive necessity, a sort of institutional immune system that defends against lawsuits. He also mentions the new regulations, like Title IX, that imply a whole new staff of people certifying that you have complied with their requirements.

February 2, 2014

Some of the Super Bowl commercials Canadians won’t see on TV

Filed under: Business, Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:13

The audience for the Super Bowl is split between fans of the game (who actually care about the outcome) and fans of the ads (because this is the biggest TV audience, advertisers pull out all the stops and generally try to be genuinely funny). In Canada, thanks to our TV regulations, most of us will see the broadcast of the game itself, but we won’t see the same commercials as our US neighbours … we’ll get the same assortment of crummy ads they’ve been showing since the start of the season, with a few of the US ads as a “teaser”.

Fortunately for those who aren’t interested in the game itself, but like the commercials, the lead-up to the Super Bowl usually includes web release of many of the ads that will air during the broadcast. Here’s a selection put together by the Guardian, including a “behind the scenes” of an ad that won’t get shown … because it was never made:

Go behind the scenes of the Mega Huge Football Ad Newcastle Brown Ale almost made with the mega huge celebrity who almost starred in it. See more at http://www.IfWeMadeIt.com

The VW ad is rather amusing, too:

January 29, 2014

YouTube‘s formative nine-sixteenths of a second

Filed under: Football, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:19

Marin Cogan explains how less than a second of TV helped to trigger the development of YouTube:

You know what happens next. Justin reaches over, grabs a corner of Janet’s right breast cup and gives it a hard tug. Her breast spills out. It’s way more than a handful, but a hand is the only thing Janet has available to cover it, so she clutches it with her left palm. The breast is on television for 9/16 of a second. The camera cuts wide. Fireworks explode from the stage. Cue the end of halftime. Cue the beginning of one of the worst cases of mass hysteria in America since the Salem witch trials.

[...]

Michael Powell, then the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, was watching the game at a friend’s house in northern Virginia. He’s a football fan and was excited to relax and watch the game after a rough couple of weeks. “I started thinking, Wow, this is kind of a racy routine for the Super Bowl!” he says, his voice pitching up in bemusement. “He was chasing her kind of with this aggressive thing — not that I personally minded it; I just hadn’t seen something that edgy at the Super Bowl.”

Then it happened. Powell and his friend gave each other quizzical looks. “I looked and I went, ‘What was that?’ And my friend looks at me and he’s just like, ‘Dude, did you just see what I did? Do you think she … ?’ And I kept saying, ‘My day is going to suck tomorrow.’” Powell went home and watched the moment again on TiVo. The same thought kept running through his mind: Tomorrow is going to really suck, he remembers thinking. “And it did.”

[...]

Of course, our children and our children’s children will never need to dig up an actual time capsule to find out about the wardrobe malfunction. As soon as they hear about the time Janet Jackson’s breast was exposed on live TV, they’ll watch it online. And the reason they’ll watch it online is that in 2004, Jawed Karim, then a 25-year-old Silicon Valley whiz kid, decided he wanted to make it easier to find the Jackson clip and other in-demand videos. A year later, he and a couple of friends founded YouTube, the largest video-sharing site of all time.

January 17, 2014

The Nanny State ethos – you’re too thick, so we’ll do the thinking for you

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:37

At the Adam Smith Institute blog, Tim Worstall talks about the way regulatory agencies approach problems:

It’s claimed as one of the great victories for enlightened (sorry) regulation, the way that the EU and US have both banned the incandescent light bulb through bureaucratic action. The ban came about by raising the efficiency standards required: this meant that the traditional bulb could no longer be sold.

The argument in favour of doing things this way was, in public at least, that everyone’s too stupid (or, in a more polite manner, subject to hyperbolic discounting) to realise that the new bulbs will actually save them money in the long term by consuming less electricity. There are also the more cynical in the industry who insist that it’s actually a case of regulatory capture. The light bulb manufacturing companies managing to get us all away from using cheap as spit bulbs and onto something with a decent margin on it.

[...]

This has a number of implications in the larger world as well: for example, it means that bureaucratic regulation on car mileages (like CAFE in the US) is contra-indicated. A simple tax on petrol will drive up average mpg because we’re not all as thick as bricks. Assuming that climate change really is a problem that must be dealt with then a carbon tax is going to do the job. For we’re not all so dim that we cannot work out the utility of using fossil fuels or not given the change in prices.

That is, we don’t need to be regulated into behaviour, we can be influenced into it through the price system. Something that really shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise to us market liberals: for we’re the people who already insist that people do indeed respond to price incentives in markets.

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