Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I loved the new movie on Lincoln from Steven Spielberg.   In the credits is says it is based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin book Team of Rivals which is a stunningly good book about Lincoln's use of his cabinet.  I am not sure how they made that connection except to the notion that both discuss Lincoln.

This movie is ostensibly about Lincoln's effort to get the 13th Amendment passed before the end of the Civil War and before his second inaugural.   There are many high points to the movie including a short segment where Lincoln justifies why a Constitutional Amendment is critical even with the Emancipation Proclamation.  But there are other high points too.  Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln is convincing.  Some of the reviewers have questioned whether the voice Lewis uses is appropriate - I think it is.

The supporting players including David Staithairn as William Seward, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens and Bruce McGill as Edward Stanton all turn in fine performances.  Sally Field does a pretty good job of looking haggard as Mary Todd Lincoln.

What was also interesting was the depiction of the lobbyists that Seward and Lincoln used to obtain passage in the House of Representatives.  When this legislative battle took place the Senate had already passed the proposal (which then went to the states for ratification).  There were only 193 members of the House in that Congress with a heavy weight toward GOP members.  Lincoln had to round up a group of lame duck democrats and other minor party members to win the day.   I think this is the first movie I have ever seen that puts the role of lobbyist in a positive light.

There are two other highlights of the movie.  The first is the costuming.   I usually don't notice things like that but all of the characters look like they are a part of that time.   The second is the ending where they do a flashback to part of Lincoln's second inaugural address.  All in all this is an entertaining and informative movie.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Constructing the Algorithm of College Costs

There is a lot of writing about college costs these days. The American Council on Education, for example, recently published a booklet by the two authors of the superb book, "Why Does College Cost so Much?"  attempting to explain the rather precipitous increases in tuition prices. They presented a fair amount of data and their conclusion was that the trend line on costs was declining although still faster than the underlying rate of inflation.  Over at the Hardwick Day site (One of the best consulting firms on enrollment management that among its peers has pioneered in encouraging its clients to think about enrollment questions more broadly than simply attracting students)  the President Emeritus of St. Lawrence University writes that the business model for higher education is broken. In the late 1990s I served as a member of the National Commission on College Costs, so this is an area of intense intellectual interest.
Figure from the Hardwick Day Article (mentioned above)

Colleges and universities, as the National Commission pointed out, have not paid enough attention to costs.  Part of that is their design and governance structures.   And part of it comes from what William Massey, formerly of Stanford, called the lattice effect.   Colleges and universities are constantly trying to improve themselves to the next level - in this case keeping up with the Joneses costs real dough.

All the discussion of college costs seems to have discounted two important issues.   First, many in higher education seem to be oblivious to the cost curve.  They believe that the inherent value of higher education will continue to trump the problem.   Many in those camp cite the College Board figures that suggest a college degree is worth something north of a million dollars more in lifetime earnings than a high school diploma.   Things are changing however.   The financing model for higher education is being changed quickly - that is especially true for public institutions which have seen concurrent increases in tuitions and decreases in state funding. (Not unrelated factors)   At the same time alternatives to the traditional four year degree have been popping up in all sorts of places - while many of those alternatives are downright nonsense - others have real credibility.

The second issue is more basic.   In the last decade (or more) one disturbing trend has been an escalation in the number of non faculty personnel compared to faculty.      From my perspective the trend has two causes - demands of the consumers and the costs of compliance.   Just like the car you buy is not your father's auto - the college education you purchase is not your father's college education.   Students expect all sorts of amenities that my generation did not.   Surprisingly some of the functions have been outsourced (bookstores and food service being prominent).  Even with those changes there are more people serving students who are not engaged in teaching.

Administrative creep has also been caused by the costs of compliance.   Governmental mandates to do all sorts of things have been escalating even faster than college costs.   Some of those things are simply a reflection of the changes in demand that all of us have asked for.   But a good many are attempts by all levels of government to substitute their judgment for the judgment of higher education professionals.   So higher education is asked to compile all sorts of reports on everything from how they use student aid to how they store chemicals.   Unfortunately, even when higher education recognizes a problem the heavy hand of government steps in to create a new and often redundant form of disclosure.   The last revision of the Federal Higher Education Act, had very little new funding in it but more than 170 new reporting requirements.   Reducing the problem of regulatory overburden won't eliminate the cost curve but it will help.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Enough with Chicken Little

Is College Worth It?

The Atlantic did a post on a recent speech by Bill Gates which presented a lot of data about colleges and universities and their current problems.   As Gates points out governmental support for colleges and universities is declining and the declines are being covered in part by increased loans and fees.  Default rates, by the way Mr. Gates, are unsurprisingly rising.    At the same time graduation rates are, to use an inappropriate term, crappy.  If you go to a community college you have a 30% chance of getting a degree in three years.   The numbers just about double when you attend a four year institution for twice the time.   Gates also points out that we are falling behind many nations in our supply of college educated workers and that by sometime in the near future we will be something like 22 million degrees short.

I hate to be jaded here but anyone with the least bit of sense, knows those numbers.   There has been a lot of writing in recent months about a) Why it is not worth going to college (Peter Theil, for example), or why there are plenty of alternatives to a traditional four year degree (Udacity, Coursera, etc.)   What one would hope is that Mr. Gates, no college graduate himself, would do is not yammer about the problems but actually begin to think about solutions.

What annoys me most about this presentation is that he concentrates on public universities.   Indeed, they are about 80% of the market.   But were Mr. Gates the least bit creative he might have thought about different delivery and pricing mechanisms that would require less government spending, allow more options for students and improve the abysmal stats on things like graduation.

Another Kind of Immigrant

Last night as we were celebrating Thanksgiving with our daughter and her family, I was reminded of something that should challenge all people who call themselves educators.   In 2001, writer Marc Prensky coined the term digital native and digital immigrant.   He argued that those of us who grew up in the era before digital technology became ubiquitous are "immigrants" that speak with an accent.  

I think of myself as a pretty digitally literate person.  But after dinner my son in law called his family in Oregon and his family huddled around an iPhone to FaceTime with them and exchange greetings of the day.   They had a fine conversation.

The point is not that they used Face Time but that their instinctive notion was to call visually (although I would have probably tried it on my iPad first for a bigger picture and a better video experience.   Our granddaughter, who is a very literate 2 year old, was engaged and chatty with her other grandparents and cousins and uncles and aunts.   Every time I use FaceTime or my wife uses SMS, we do it with a bit of wonder.  But we are, after all, immigrants.

Another example, about a year ago I was in Mexico City at a restaurant, with my iPad.   It had been hooked into WIFI in the restaurant for another purpose.   All of a sudden the iPad rang and there was a four year old calling his "boppy" on Face Time.  He had secured his father's phone and knew how to ring me up.

One of the issues that these two parents confront is how to make sure that their child is educated in a way that helps her develop in the world in which they reside.   We've had some long discussions about the challenges there.   And there are many.  Fortunately, these kids are comfortable bridging between traditional things like story books and new things like digital media and even at times in serving as translators for their immigrant grandparents.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Two Thoughts about the GOP

It seems there is no shortage of advice for the GOP these days after they lost the Presidential election against a weak candidate (on paper) and a chance to retake the US Senate. In both cases the GOP did not get the job done.

Until 2012 no President has been re-elected to a second term with a smaller majority of the vote, with unemployment at the range it is today and with negative polling about the direction of the country like it is today - that is until 2012. What has annoyed me about all this soul searching is that it has been done a lot by individuals who do not have the best interests of conservatives at heart.

One writer to the NYT said "Republicans would have to offer something beyond the “government is bad” mantra that alienates many of these potential constituents, an economic program more credible than trickle-down tax cuts, and backward-looking social policies." Steve Lopez of the LA Times said to California Republicans that their future was bleak without a "major makeover." Sarah Westwood, who describes herself as a lonely college republican at GWU says the GOP can't win unless they get the attention of young people.  A bunch of guys on something called Red State Update says lose Fox News and the Laffer Curve (which they describe as nutty economics - wonder what they think about Keynesian economics!)  Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch argues "The lesson for the Republicans is they will never win future presidential elections unless and until their platform accommodates diversity of opinion on hot-button issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and use of medical or recreational marijuana. " (Wonder how he feels about the diversity of opinion in the Democratic Party Platform on these issues.)   So there is no shortage of advice.

Brett Stephens (Earth to GOP; Get a Grip) of the WSJ who argued in the early part of the year that Romney would win the nomination and lose the race says that the GOP should back off on the Gay Marriage issue and on Immigration. Stephens predicted early in the cycle that the GOP would not win. And his advice was pretty much on point.

All this weltschmerzing has made me dizzy.   Andrew Kohut (Misreading Election 2012) from Pew has a slightly different take than the rest of the crowd.   He suggests that Romney did not do as bad as some of the others claim.  Kohut points out that a) Romney never did connect with voters and b) that the GOP did better with several groups than in previous elections.

So where does that leave the GOP?  Should conservatives be bringing out the sack cloth or should they do some more careful reshaping?   From my perspective, while I agree with some of the critics about gays and immigrants and a few other issues.   I also believe that to shape an electoral strategy conservatives need to weed out the weenies like Todd Aiken. - however, there is a bigger theme that is more important.   What is wrong with the current crop of "progressives" - from my view they want to destroy liberty.   What is wrong with the some in conservative circles - they also want to destroy liberty.  They both believe that the state can actually solve a set of problems.   But a lot of young voters understand that yammering about what people do in the privacy of their homes, and what we can do with people who want to come to this country are simply different sides of the issue of whether we as Americans believe that the federal government will be able to make wiser choices about health care than individuals.   Conservatives need to look at public policy issues through the lens of liberty.


We discovered a small restaurant in Fair Oaks that is worth the trip.  It is called Fabians Italian Bistro.  There are a lot of bistros in California (originally a neighborhood restaurant with a relatively simple menu and modest prices) that are not worth a damn.  They are able to combine haughty service with lousy food.

We've been to Fabians twice in the last week.  We've had four dishes - A butternut squash in burnt butter, a chicken piccata, a risotto and mac and cheese.   Each were special.  Tonight I had a Brussels Sprouts appetizer with a pinch of blue cheese and pancetta.  Exceptional.   Last week I had a home made soup that was magnificent.

But the place is even better because of the service.  The servers are polite, funny and they know their stuff.   But they don't hand out a lot of gourmet terms that mere mortals do not understand.

There is one small problem with the place.  The deserts are up to the quality of the entrees but the portions are generous enough that you will need to avoid the excellent bread to have enough room to try them.

Fabian's is in the Almond Orchard Center on the corner of Fair Oaks and Madison.  The Almond Orchard is one of those unassuming small shopping centers.   Don't be fooled. It is close to where we live but  it is worth the trip it you cannot call it your local bistro.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Only smaller

I got my iPad Mini today.  You might ask why I would buy a mini when I already have a regular sized iPad.   Those of you who know me would not ask such a question.  The Mini is even more portable.   A bit larger than the last Newton but a hell of a lot more reliable.   All the same apps; a bit better connectivity (I got the WIFI model); a larger screen face than most of its competitors; a brilliant display (great for reading but like a paperback); battery life is exceptional.

SO compared to the new iPad 4 - no A6 chip; and fewer pixels per inch - but same great connectivity.   So would I buy one?  Yes, and I did.

Did I mention that as a result of the smaller size, it is also incredibly light?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thoreau on Entitlement Reform

Over the weekend my daughter and her husband visited us and as often happens we had a couple of discussions about politics.  My daughter and her husband are strong supporters of the president.   As readers of this blog have already found out I begin my thoughts of government subscribing the the notion first advanced by Thoreau in Civil Disobedience in which he said in part -
"I HEARTILY ACCEPT the motto, — "That government is best which governs least";(1) and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient."  (Emphasis added)

I am not against government for a very limited number of things, just skeptical that if we get too exuberant in figuring out how much more government can do, we risk profound unintended consequences (although I suspect some of the consequences are intended by those who would extend governmental power).    

My daughter and her husband base their expressions of support for government on two premises.  First, is an assumption about improving equity in society.   While my wife and I have been relatively successful in life, there are those in society that have not and in a just society we need to as Dickens says in a Christmas Carol "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time.  Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."  Who could be against that?   Well, me for instance.

A just society should make provision for the poor and destitute, but there are what economists call moral hazards when you err too much in one direction.   People react to incentives and if you diminish the benefits of prudent behavior people may be less prepared to make provisions for themselves.   Social security is a prime example where a well intentioned program distorted individual choices ending up eliminating possibilities for some benefits to society and even reducing the possible individual benefits that most people could expect to receive.

I am an advocate of privatizing Social Security, in much the way that Jose PinĂ©ra did in Chile and which many other countries have proposed.   The privatized system has a couple of benefits for society.   First, it creates a capital pool which the existing paygo method does not.   Those assets could also create a larger benefit and a legacy to ones heirs.     Over my working life between employer and employee contributions to Social Security I contributed more than $330,000.   That produces a monthly "benefit" of about $2500.   Had that money been invested in a conservatively managed pool of stocks and bonds (similar to the options in programs like tuition savings plans or IRAs) the value of those contributions would have tripled.   At a payout rate of 4% my monthly benefit would increase by more than $800 per month.  Even if I agreed that we would make a payment to others that might amount to 10% to cover the needs of people in society who make poor choices, I would still have a much better result by having government set the rules rather than running the program.   From any reasonable interpretation, the current system (where benefits are reduced and there is no residual) is a sucker's bet.   The chart at the left shows inflation adjusted returns for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.    If you begin at 1900 that increase is 100 times the 1900 amount - even if you adjust for inflation (which is about 28X) the return is still huge.   Retirement savings have a very long time to grow because our cycle of work is a very long time.  

There are plenty of ways to make provision for people who are either unable to invest for themselves or who are simply unlucky.   But the bottom line is that the private alternative would provide greater security while at the same time producing a huge capital pool for investments that society needs.  IF you do not believe it, simply look at the transformation in places like Chile.

But there is a second argument raised by both my daughter and her husband.   There are a lot of people who receive government assistance, even me and my wife.   And indeed we do receive payments.    But again lets look at the facts. My return on the Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance have been mildly negative when compared to a reasonably diversified portfolio of investments. As demographics continue to turn against the younger participants in the system, they believe they will never receive benefits.   That is a bad deal for all.

There is also the question of Medicare.   And indeed the math here is also negative.   Over my working life I paid in just under $100,000 in tax payments to the health insurance part of Social Security. (Again remember to at least double the amount paid in based on an assumption that had the money been invested to term we would have a capital pool that would at least match some reasonable investment index.)   But Medicare is not free to recipients.   My wife and I now pay a monthly premium for parts A-D and advantage coverage of about $1000 per month.   When I left my last full time employer, my health insurance coverage was costing my employer (for covering both of us) a bit more than $1500 per month.  Add in the money already paid in and the cost of coverage is at best about equal to what I would pay in a market based solution.

Market based solutions need not be harsh to the less fortunate.  I come back to my original point, the risk of relying too much on government is that in the words of Thoreau government run solutions can be "inexpedient" for both the individuals and society.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Thoughts on the Big Issue on the California Ballot

I've spent the week as a Citizen Leader on Campus at the University of the Pacific.   That involves attending a group of classes and offering a couple of lectures.  I went there as an undergraduate and there are a lot of changes.   Most of them are positive.

One the questions I got in one of my lectures was about why someone who had spent his time in and around education could express doubts about the Governor's proposal to raise income and sales taxes to fill the hole in the budget created by the absurd budget assumptions in the budget that was adopted last year.

California has had a continuing problem in balancing its budget. Some commentators have argued that the problem was created when our former Governor repealed the fee on vehicle licenses that left a gap in the budget.   At the time I argued that the VLF was annoying but unimportant.  In essence what that Governor had done is give each of us a small reduction in taxes (which most of us did not notice) in exchange for a less stable revenue base.  

I was critical of the then Governor because I think he took the short term popular decision which cost us in the long term.   I think the same can be argued for this Governor and Proposition 30. California, before the passage of Proposition 30, has a revenue structure that is volatile in the extreme.   (As illustrated in the two charts to the left - which only go up to 2002-03 - note the volatility in revenues has done nothing but increase.)    The volatility comes from how people at the higher end make their money.   Most people assume that income taxes come from salary.   But as you go up the income scale income becomes more complex.   People begin to earn income from non-salary things like investments.   So income is income right?   Not exactly.   Salaries are pretty stable over time.   But investment income is much more volatile for two reasons.   First, risk capital is just that.  It involves risk.   But second, investors can decide when to claim the income when their investments go up in value.  If I have a big profit I can decide when to realize it.

There are some tax theorists that argue that we should begin to recognize what is called accreted income.  Accreted income includes things like the unrealized value of investments.   Indeed, at the beginning of the 1986 Tax Act discussions, a group of tax economists actually proposed something very close to that as a way to reform taxes.  They relied on an important book called An Expenditure Tax (Nicholas Kaldor) that many of us had to read in graduate school.   When President Reagan saw that proposal coming from his appointed task force he immediately recognized that what might be ideal in theory is often absurd in practice.   In the end, the 1986 tax act lowered rates and broadened the base of the tax system rather than including things like accreted income.  It was a wise decision.

So when you rely on high income taxpayers to bear the greatest burden, you commit to a more volatile revenue system and when planning for long term funding of programs, that is not a good idea.  Remember that under our current income tax system, the highest income taxpayers bear a disproportionate share of the burden (as they should under a progressive system) but since individuals can determine when to take income, the trick is to devise a system that encourages individuals to make more consistent tax payments.    In the end that means making hard decisions about broadening the base of tax systems (with fewer deductions and credits) and lower rates (which encourages more people to simply pay the tax rather than timing decisions in investments based on tax policy).

Governor Brown could have done the brave thing - which would have been to propose tax reform (which admittedly is not an easy task) but which would have reduced the volatility in the system and thus been a better long term fix of our budget problem.  

There are two other burdens created by Proposition 30 which also contributed to my opposition.   First, as you raise rates (to have California become one of the highest rate systems in the country and also one of the most complicated income tax systems in the country) high income taxpayers will make a decision to leave California for fundamentally more friendly tax climates.   Lose high income taxpayers and you reduce volatility, but you also lower the income tax base.   In the long term that does not bode well for the state's revenue structure.  Indeed, in the last few years we have seen a steady stream of very high income taxpayers leave the state.   But the Governor also proposed to increase sales taxes (again making our sales taxes were already among the highest in the nation).  

I understand the revenue models that project how much the state will collect with these new taxes but I am skeptical.  And more importantly, as rates for both income and sales taxes go up, the state becomes less friendly to attract new businesses and residents.    Who knows what the long term will bring?   Last year California actually grew at a slightly higher rate than the rest of the US (2.0 v 1.8%) but over the last decade California's wonderful growth engine has been tarnished.

The supporters of Proposition 30 could argue that our schools are in a horrible place - and indeed California's education system is in shambles compared to where it was earlier in our history.   They could point to the work of Charles Tiebout - who argued decades ago that people choose areas based on amenities not tax systems and better education coupled with our beautiful climate would allow us to have slightly higher tax regimes than less desirable places to live (like our neighbors to the east - Nevada).   But this is an argument about degrees.

From my perspective, Governor Brown took the easier path - ignore fundamental tax reform and tax the "rich."   It remains to be seen whether that easy path will actually solve the long term problems that the state faces.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Thoughts on the Election

Last night's election seems to have been a pretty significant victory for the Democrats.  The GOP campaign push, which at the beginning of the year looked like significant gains in the US Senate evaporated starting with the unfortunate Todd Akin but extending into states like Indiana, Wyoming and Montana.    The Romney campaign which had some very good issues did not seem able to exploit them.

So what happened?

1) Demographics can no longer be ignored by the GOP - As the percentage of White voters in the electorate continues to drop, the GOP has failed to generate interest in especially Hispanic voters.   That is in part based on their lack of a reasonable stance on immigration.   The option here is change or die.
2) I am skeptical about revenues and even more skeptical about the efficacy of tax policies adopted in California.  The Governor's Proposition 30 passed with a big vote from LA County.  The voters bought his argument of a gun to the head of the schools.  But I remain skeptical whether the revenue estimates that are projected ($6 billion) will solve the budget deficit that California has faced for the last decade or so.   What is more troubling is the notion that California does not need to reform its tax system which now can claim the highest sales tax in the nation and an income tax system which has punishing incentives for investors.   If the revenues are not realized I would expect the Governor to come back with some other proposal which also involves taxes.   Ultimately to make California a better place we will need to do a lot of work on the tax system including simplification and base broadening.   At the same time we need to blow up things like Proposition 98.  Schools deserve a priority in funding but Proposition 98 has not provided anything close to the guarantee that was promised.
3) Californians are bizarre - On Tuesday Californians voted to reduce the stringency of the Three Strikes Law but refused to stop the death penalty.   Both measures were conceived on the notion of saving taxpayer dollars (it is likely that eliminating the death penalty would have larger long term effects).   We refused (rightly I believe) to adopt a byzantine new set of regulations for regulating genetically modified food.  At the same time we adopted new measures against "human" trafficking which from my perspective look equally labyrinth like.

California also seems to have given a two thirds majority to democrats in both the Assembly and the Senate.  That kind of supermajority is likely to advance to the kind of mercantilist policies that have made other lefty paradises hell on earth.   I wonder how long it will take the voters to recognize what they have wrought.  The unfortunate situation is that the GOP in California died a few years ago and so there is no realistic opposition.

4) The Fiscal Cliff may be in better shape than before the election - Right after the election two of our leaders (Boehner and the President) at least made noises about figuring out how to think about our problems from both sides of the aisle.   The Minority and Majority Leaders of the Senate (which is supposed to be the mature body in Congress) echoed the sounds of the petulant children we have come to expect.   One scenario that was discussed last night was to let the country fall off the cliff so that and changes in tax policy would not be scored - but the risks and consequences could be substantial - especially if they fail to achieve the macro goals (partial pun intended).
5) Conservative Talk Radio needs to rethink their memes - The Salem Radio network seems to be all GOP all the time.  While there are some very interesting people on the station at times, others seem simply there to pimp for the current GOP candidate or issue of the day.   I would argue that a lot of the legacy media and the new lefty cable channels (MSNBC) are just as bad.   And in the end while I do not disagree with the idea that ideological media is useful, it needs to get some better perspective.
6) Breaking Precedents - When the Redskins lose in their last game before the election.  The Ruling Party loses.  Ditto for a president with a smaller margin than the first election.   Both of those were not upheld in this cycle.  But then there is the meme about Presidential coattails affecting the House more than the Senate and that one seems not to have been upheld either.

So what happens next?   1) We will continue to have crappy economic growth AND that will even be worse in California based on our new tax regime. That will not improve until we understand that government should revert back to a smaller percentage of the GDP.  2) The optimist in me says the politicians will finally realize that we should be working on the deficit.  The pessimist in me says to buy property in Mexico.  3) Big Bird is safe, at least for now, but I still believe that he should find his own dimes rather than taking tax dollars.

Funny things - the WSJ had two great posts in James Taranto's Best of the Web - One a Romney Haiku -  He did do better 
     Than 47% 
     But not by enough

The second thing he comments was the split voters made in battleground states (voting for the president versus their votes for House members) - 

Here's how the new House delegation breaks down for each swing state with 9 or more electoral votes, with Republicans counted first: Colorado 4-3, Florida 17-9 (with 1 yet uncalled), Michigan9-5, North Carolina 9-3 (1 uncalled), Ohio 12-4, Pennsylvania 13-5, Virginia 8-3, Wisconsin 5-3.  Voters, even in the battleground states, really do not want a unified government.

Friday, November 02, 2012

It is Deja Vu but this time the Press is not calling him on it

At the first conclusion of the Iraq War, the then President piloted a jet on to an aircraft carrier and proclaimed that we had vanquished the terrorists.   Today the current president is making a similar claim - He said Al Quaida is on the "run."  

Indeed, during this administration Osama Bin Laden was finally located and exterminated.   But as we saw on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, Al Quaida and all its various factions still has the ability to attack a US embassy (technically a consulate) and the current president and his administration have shown a marked propensity to be unable to respond in a timely or helpful manner.   But on both cases, the claim by the President and the failure to act - the legacy media seems strangely silent.

Just like his helicopter ride over New Jersey, the President's media events seem to outrank his ability to govern.  I am not surprised by this disparity but I am disappointed that the media seems to lack any sense of objectivity.