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July 02, 2010

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Brendan is happy for journalism that the Washington Post Company refuses to entertain a bid from Newsmax. Maybe he's right that it's good for journalism (and maybe he's wrong) but it certainly doesn't sound like it's good for the shareholders.

When the Washington Post Company excludes bidders whose politics it disagrees with, does it breach its fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value? No doubt its position is in accord with current corporate flackery about all the "stakeholders" the corporation serves--its customers, its employees, its communities, and maybe, if they're lucky, its shareholders. Probably the company will be able to successfully defend its actions in a putative class action lawsuit. So most likely the strictly legal answer to the question is that the company hasn't breached its fiduciary duty as that concept is currently interpreted. That leaves the question of whether the company acted ethically.

In this situation the company is selling a magazine. Let me pose a similar example. Your friends die in an accident and name you their executor and the trustee for their children. As executor, you need to sell the house they lived in. You receive two bids, one from Glenn Beck for $600,000 and another from Keith Olbermann, for $575,000. Do you let your intense dislike for Glenn Beck prevent you from accepting his higher offer? That's something you'd have all the right in the world to do if you were selling your own house, but here you're acting on behalf of others (your friends' children, who will receive the proceeds), and you have a legal and, in my opinion, ethical obligation to maximize the sale price.

Don Graham prefers to elevate his political and journalistic preferences and no doubt the preferences of the current employees of Newsweek over the interests of his shareholders. What a courageous stand.

Does the number of jobs held by illegal workers amount to half of the total unemployment? Yes it does.

Pew says there are about 7.2 million undocumented workers in the U.S. http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8G6U2ko8

Thanks to Fox News, we know that there are 15 million unemployed workers. If these 7.2 million undocumented workers were replaced by workers currently unemployed, unemployment would decrease by 7.2/15 = 48%.

Could those jobs actually be reclaimed? IMHO, if the onus were put on employers, it could be done. Visa and American Express have systems to prevent most unauthorized use of their credit cards. I believe a similar system could be designed to prevent unauthorized use of employment documents. However, neither party has any intention to force illegals out of the workforce, so this sort of effort is not likely to be tried.

Bad as that FoxNews graph was, it compares favorably with statistics presented by the New York Times and President Obama. Fox News displayed accurate statistics drom a reliable source in a misleading manner. That's bad. Obama and the Times presented statistics that are unsupported and probably false. That's even worse.

Obama spoke on immigration yesterday and said:

"Contrary to some of the reports that you see, crime along the border is down."

The NY Times made a similar claim recently, although the statistics they cited failed to support their point - briefly, they relied on metropolitan crime statistics for Arizona, which have been falling, and ignored rural crime stats, which have been rising.

And in any case, the FBI statistics only went through 2008; preliminary data is available for some cities through 2009, but that does not resolve the border question.

Maybe you could quit your job and take a job picking fruit, David. Do it for America!

There are some jobs Americans shouldn't be asked to do, such as picking fruit, packing meat and teaching at Dartmouth.

Let me be clear about two point:

1. I'm accusing Media Matters of bigotry against Fox News. They trumpet every possible error made by that station while ignoring larger errors elsewhere.

I think they may be too quick to find malice. Media Matter says "Fox must have invested significant resources into the creation of the chart." I attribute their poor chart to incompetence, following Hanlon's Razor, "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

2. Brendan mentioned Edward Tufte. Tufte admired packing a lot of information into a single chart, such as the famous Napoleon's March. Media Matters' second chart is a lot better than Fox News' chart, because it shows results by month and it has an undistorted horizontal time scale. However, I don't think it would win plaudits from Tufte, because it leaves out much of significance:

-- It's a "Gee-Whiz" graph. That is, the vertical scale doesn't go down to zero. So, one cannot guess the significance of the change in unemployment.
-- The number of unemployed is not compared with total workforce, total population, or any other base that would show its relative magnitude.
-- The level of normal or frictional unemployment isn't shown.
-- The time period is too short to get an idea of how significant the unemployment rate is by historical standards.
-- There's no comparison with other countries, to put the US situation into a worldwide context.

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