The Not News. Are You Really Surprised?


There are things that happen in this world that get reported as news but really aren’t.

Dog Bites Man

Dog Bites Man

Like Governor Sean “Captain Zero” Parnell losing yet another of his silly Federal lawsuits. How can that be news? If something happens five or six times in a row, is it still “news”? Isn’t it “olds” by this point? This time the lost lawsuit involved the roadless area classification imposed back in the Clinton administration. Technically, Captain Zero hasn’t lost all of the lawsuits. But his record is embarrassingly bad. He’s giving lawyers a bad worse name.

David Lawrence, the Shell executive for North American exploration, including the extensive series of debacles surrounding the Chukchi and Beaufort Sea drilling programs, “announced his resignation.” Shell denies he was fired. Right. You can practically hear a public address announcement: “The sacrificial lamb will report to the chopping block for the ceremonial beheading.” If there is anyone left in America who is naive enough to believe that heads weren’t going to roll at Shell, well, WC envies them their charming world view. While its drill rigs are being repaired, WC invites Shell to study the sunk cost fallacy.

Long-time readers know WC is a big fan of effective graphic displays of information. The New Yorker has an outstanding interactive graphic presentation of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, based upon the revenue and expenses of the basketball programs at each of the 64 schools. The hypothesis is that the schools with the most money will win. As a graphic illustration of WC’s premise – always follow the money – it’s wonderful. WC won’t completely spoil it for readers, but will note that the pre-tournament pick to win, Louisville, has an astonishing $42 million dollars in revenue, far more than any another school.

It’s always chancy trying to read the tea leaves at oral argument in the U.S. Supreme Court. The discussion in conference among the justices and the exchange of draft opinions really does make a difference. Recall the oral argument on the Affordable Care Act. But it’s reasonably clear that Justices Kennedy and Sotomayor, at least, are inclined to dismiss the appeal on California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriages. The technical phrase is cute: “dismiss the petition as improvidently granted.” WC suspects you wouldn’t be surprised, either. The challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act will depend on what Justice Kennedy decides to do. But while there’s been very rapid change in the U.S. on same sex marriage, rapid change doesn’t happen very often in the U.S. Supreme Court.

And no, the fact that The Quitter stood in front of CPAC, the most avowedly conservative body in the U.S., and advocated communism isn’t news either. It’s irony. Wasted irony, in the case of The Quitter, but irony nonetheless.

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