Monday, April 30, 2012

Talking Points and Turtles (update)

In this post, http://unapprovedthoughts.blogspot.com/2012/04/talking-points-and-turtles-all-way-down.html , I make the point that all we ever get from liberals any more is mindless talking points.  There's nothing of substance.

Jonah Goldberg has a new book which seems to take the same general approach (although I'm sure he does it much better).  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1595230866/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=wwwviolentkicom&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1595230866

Is the World Run by Dr. Laura's Callers?

Before the internet was readily available as a source for all the news and opinion the mainstream media didn't want to share, Rush Limbaugh' radio show was a convenient source.  During the 1990s, the Dr. Laura show could be heard on the same station that carried Rush's show (it was either right before or right after).  So I had a number of opportunities to hear her callers explain the details of their particular dire situation and ask for her advice.  Generally, the typical caller had made a number of really bad decisions, gotten themselves into an uncomfortable situation where it looked like every possible course of action would result in painful consequences, and they were calling hoping that she could provide the pixie dust advice which would allow them to ride a magic unicorn to a place where there are no painful consequences and everyone lives happily ever after.  Dr. Laura, to her credit, would inform them that she was fresh out of magic unicorns and pixie dust.  I must confess I only managed to make it through a few such calls during the time the show was on around here, but all the ones I heard seemed to follow this same basic plot.  Life is full of painful consequences, especially when you make lots of really bad choices.  Heck, sometimes there's pain when you haven't done anything to cause it.

Is the Dr. Laura show still around?  And if it is, can we get most of the world's so-called leaders to call in?  Starting with Ben Bernanke, perhaps?  And Barack.  Along with those in Europe?

When did it become accepted wisdom that government has the expertise and the mechanisms of power to fix everything so that citizens never have to experience any pain?  This is hubris on steroids.  Does anyone really think that the Federal Reserve can print trillions in worthless currency and it will 'fix' our economy?  The world went on a bender fueled by debt and now we're going to fix everything by getting even more pickled?!  We're weaning the patient off cocaine by mainlining crack.  What could go wrong with a plan like that?

Suppose that Americans saw a news story that said the Federal Reserve is taking green construction paper, cutting it into rectangles, scrawling 100s or 1000s on them and carting them over to the Treasury in an endless parade of wheelbarrows to be used to pay the government's debt to the tune of a few trillion.  I hope we'd have enough sense to be concerned.  Yet, that's what helicopter Ben is doing, only with a computer.  Frankly, I think I'd have more faith in pixie dust and a magic unicorn.

Unfortunately, Ben's not the only vendor of pixie dust.  The current White House acts as if there isn't a problem in the world that can't be solved painlessly by throwing money at it and adding to our national debt.  It seems to be the only play in quarterback Obama's playbook.  And Europe is playing a bizarre game of financial musical chairs where there's only one chair, it belongs to Germany, and the German citizens are beginning to wonder if they want to keep playing.  Most of the nations in the EU are broke, they can't finance their debt, so they pressure the banks to buy it.  Except the banks are broke, too.  Which is why they have no choice but to do the government's bidding.  So everyone is spending money they don't have in an effort to keep the bubble expanding and hoping they aren't going to be around to take the shot in the face when it pops.  To mix my metaphors, the EU plan appears to be that if everyone will agree to pretend the shark isn't in the pool, none of the swimmers will get eaten.  I think they'd be smarter to try to ride the unicorn out of that pool.

At the very least, someone should have the integrity to point out that the emperor is swimming in it without a suit.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Euro is dead

The Euro is dead.  It's just lurching around and milking the scene for as much extra attention as it can garner before it collapses in a spectacular heap.

http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/04/28/europe-has-fallen-down-and-it-cant-get-up/

The ship is sinking. Spain is the fourth largest economy in the eurozone, and nothing is going right for it. Bad real estate loans in a collapsing housing market are pushing the country toward a huge bailout of sick banks. Unemployment is at a Depression level of 24 percent; youth unemployment is at 50 percent. Interest rates on the country’s debt are up sharply and its credit rating has just been downgraded. The Spanish government has no idea what to do.
An unemployment rate of 24%.  And the voters don't want to make any changes.  Hmmm.  I wonder how long the German people are going to want to subsidize the Spanish.  And the Greeks.  And the Italians.  And all the others.

 The countries in Europe, especially those in the South, have reached a point where reforms to the core social model are needed—soon—to avoid a catastrophic breakup of the eurozone. But voters in those countries don’t want the changes to be made.
In theory, there is a way to resolve this. The wealthier countries in the zone (which means Deutschland, ├╝ber alles) would underwrite the debts of the laggards as the laggards gradually made reforms and reduced their spending. That would make the reform process easier and promote some growth in Europe.
But the Germans believe — and they are almost 100 percent certainly right — that the Club Med countries plus Belgium and France will use any breathing space they get to water down or postpone reforms. After all, when they signed up for the euro, the Club Med countries knew that they needed to undertake ambitious reform programs to sustain their membership in the monetary union and they refused to do anything serious — especially in the super-sensitive area of labor markets.
This has been the problem from the beginning: Club Med doesn’t want to live under German rules and Germany doesn’t want a Club Med currency. Club Med can’t make Germany underwrite the Club’s lavish lifestyle and Germany can’t make Club Med live by German rules.

Noonan on the incompetent one

http://www.nypost.com/p/news/opinion/opedcolumnists/running_on_empty_furl6CRXj9dj3zVZfuXKSM

Peggy Noonan is often wrong, but she sometimes has a good feel for politics.  I think her feel here is dead on:
It’s interesting that the Obama campaign isn’t using what incumbent presidents always sooner or later use, either straight out or subliminally. And that is “You know me. I’ve been president for almost four years, you don’t know that other guy. In a high-stakes world do you really want someone new?”
You know why they’re not using “You know me”? Because we know him, and it’s not a plus.
Here’s one reason why.
There is a growing air of incompetence around Mr. Obama’s White House. It was seen again this week in Supreme Court arguments over the administration’s challenge to Arizona’s attempted crackdown on illegal immigration. As Greg Stohr of Bloomberg News wrote, the court seemed to be disagreeing with the administration’s understanding of federal power: “Solicitor General Donald Verrilli . . . met resistance across ideological lines. . . . Even Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the court’s only Hispanic and an Obama appointee, told Verrilli his argument is ‘not selling very well.’” This follows last month’s embarrassing showing over the constitutionality of parts of ObamaCare.

All of this looks so bush league, so scattered. Add it to the General Services Administration, to Solyndra, to the other scandals, and you get a growing sense that no one’s in charge, that the administration is paying attention to politics, but not day-to-day governance.
As I've noted before -- it's all talking points all the time.  There is nothing of substance.  Just sound bites.  And soundbites of hope and change may work once, but they don't govern a country.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Bending science to fit the needs of politicians

 "Why do some scientists insist that Texas is warming when the data show a negligible increase? I don’t know. But I do know that a National Science Foundation program officer told me that applications for atmospheric science grants that do not include a global warming theme stand little chance of acceptance."
 http://www.mysanantonio.com/life/article/Research-shows-Texas-is-not-warming-3498409.php#ixzz1se4V0iO7

Forrest Mims III, an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, was named one of the 50 Best Brains in Science by Discover Magazine.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The player formerly known as Ron Artest

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86pxEMPfKII

Because his new name is ridiculous in light of his behaviour, I suggest that henceforth, announcers should simply refer to him as the player formerly known as Ron Artest.

How soon they forget

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/split-decision-on-health-care-would-not-be-a-disaster/2012/04/23/gIQAnMg4cT_story.html?wprss=rss_opinions
I have no major complaint with Charles Lane's main point -- a 5-4 decision by the Court (should Obamacare be struck down that way) doesn't mean that the public would consider the Court's decision to be illegitimate.  But this part is just wrong:

The public still esteemed the court after five GOP-appointed conservative justices all but handed the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000 — contrary to many legal academics’ predictions that the decision was legally flawed and therefore a partisan blot on the court.
The Florida Supreme Court's decision was overturned by a vote of 7-2.  And no one has even tried to argue with a straight face that the Florida Supremes were right when they ruled that it was appropriate for counties run by the Democrats to engage in vote-adding chad inspection for Gore while denying the same opportunity for counties run by Republicans to engage in vote-adding chad inspection for Bush.

Which gospel was that?

A number of Georgetown professors and students are upset with Paul Ryan.  Apparently, Jesus teaches us to use the threat of violence to confiscate wealth from the unwilling, use the confiscated wealth to reward our friends and enhance our power, and provide free money to various groups of people.  We are to tell these people that they are entitled to all the freebies and risk fostering dependency, sloth and unproductive behavior.  All this we are to do in HIS name while, of course, scrupulously avoiding any mention of HIS name. 

I must confess that my record of Sunday School attendance wasn't always what it should have been.  I guess they must have covered this part of the gospel on one of those days I missed.  I remember the part about rendering unto Caesar, but not this teaching about confiscating wealth from the unwilling by using the government and the threat of violence in HIS name.  Could someone help me out with a cite to the relevant verse?

Update -- having reviewed some discussion of the letter written by some of Georgetown's faculty, I can only assume that they aren't as ignorant or as stupid as the letter might make them seem.  They are, however, thoroughly dishonest in their characterization of Rep. Ryan and his proposed legislation.  Defamation is never becoming and their libel of Ryan is particularly revealing of the shortcomings in their character and the weaknesses in their scholarship.

Wackos say the darndest things

“Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?” Maurice Strong

“The only way to prevent global ecological collapse and thus ensure the survival of humanity is to rid the world of Industrial Civilization…Unloading essentially means the removal of an existing burden: for instance, removing grazing domesticated animals, razing cities to the ground, blowing up dams and switching off the greenhouse gas emissions machine.” Keith Farnish

“We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. It is cosmically unlikely that the developed world will choose to end its orgy of fossil energy consumption, and the Third World its suicidal consumption of landscape. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.” David Graber

“Failing to warn the citizens of a looming weapon of mass destruction- and that’s what global warming is- in order to protect oil company profits, well, that fits for me the definition of treason.” Bill Maher

“Chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to [should] be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature” James Hansen

“…every time someone dies as a result of floods in Bangladesh, an airline executive should be dragged out of his office and drowned.” George Monbiot

“When we’ve finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we’re in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards (global warming skeptics) — some sort of climate Nuremberg.” David Roberts

‘Global warming’ will kill most of us, and turn the rest of us into cannibals.” Ted Turner

“Entire nations could be wiped off the face of the Earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000. Coastal flooding and crop failures would create an exodus of “eco-refugees,” threatening political chaos.” Noel Brown

John Elway over Peyton Manning?!

FoxSports has a ranking of the best players in NFL history at each draft spot in the first round of the draft (1-32).  For the first overall spot, they chose John Elway over Peyton Manning.  This is so absurd it makes one question their sanity or surmise that they simply hate 18 for some reason.

NFL MVPS:  Manning 4, Elway 1
!st team All-Pro:  Manning 5, Elway 0
Pro bowl selections:  Manning 11 of 13 seasons, Elway 9 of 16 seasons

If some idiot wants to try to argue that Super Bowl rings are an effective measure of a QB (try to argue that Tom Brady was a better QB at the beginning of his career than he has been in the last half), note that Manning has one ring and Elway had zero when he was Manning's age.

Statistically, Manning is so much better in every category that it would be beating a dead horse to list them all.  It is interesting to note a couple of stats that don't get a lot of attention -- sacks and fumbles.  Elway is among the worst ever in both categories.  Manning is the best.

Talking Points and Turtles all the way down!

Stephen Hawking began A Brief History of Time:

A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the tortoise standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"
Lately, Obama and the Democrats appear to be campaigning and governing as if coherent thoughts are unnecessary luxuries.  They bounce from mindless talking point to mindless talking point.  The campaign appears to be a lurching process of throwing out talking points in the hopes of finding something that might stick on the wall.  I've seen toddlers resisting bedtime come up with better reasoned arguments.  If you look for some kind of organizing principle, a logical thread, or even a coherent thought, you'll find yourself in Gertrude Stein's Oakland.

Requesting a picture ID to vote is a Jim Crow-style denial of fundamental rights.  The federal government has a legitimate interest in not enforcing the law and demanding that states not enforce the law.  The Constitution limits the federal government's power except that the federal government can do anything it thinks is necessary or proper. 

It's fine to eat a dog.  You just can't put one on the roof of your car.  It's terrible to have polygamists as ancestors, but not a problem to have one for a father.  If a Hispanic Democrat kills a black teen, it's the fault of white conservatives.  Defending freedom of religion is a war on women, but it's okay to denigrate a woman for raising her children instead of working at a job.

It's talking points -- all the way down.  And mindless, bizarre talking points at that.  Voters are beginning to feel like Alice trying to understand Humpty Dumpty.  Except Humpty Dumpty made more sense.

Instead of all the foolish blather, Obama and his friends should be explaining the arithmetic behind Obamacare and his stimulus.  Hmmmm.  Maybe there's a pattern here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"It's still the economy ... and we're not stupid."

That line will play.  Look forward to hearing that on a regular basis from now to November.  In an election where a 1% move in the electorate is enormous, perhaps a clincher, it may be worth a 1% move.

Locked-in Voters

Jay Cost makes a good point about the weakness in most models which try to predict the presidential vote based on a few factors (e.g. economic growth, etc.):

So I would say that 90 percent of the vote is pretty well set. And this is the biggest reason that I am skeptical of these predictive models -- they usually fail to account for the fact that there were simply more gettable voters for Ike in 1956, LBJ in 1964, Nixon in 1972, or even Reagan in 1984. They assume that a president today can still win 60 percent of the two-party vote -- even though this was a regular occurrence before 1988 but has never happened since. And it has not happened since because the two parties have finally, after years of struggle and back-and-forth, locked down roughly 45 percent apiece.
 http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/morning-jay-90-percent-electorate-locked_642061.html

One quibble -- I don't think the re-alignment process is over.  The Tea Party demonstrations brought out an incredibly diverse group of people.  While the label "tea party" has beeen sufficiently branded by the news media such that it won't be an effective rallying cry for the future, the sentiments that gave rise to the demonstration have only been growing.

The new divide is flyover country vs. the beltway elite.  Glenn Reynolds linked to this article the other day.  http://spectator.org/archives/2010/07/16/americas-ruling-class-and-the   Although written, two years ago, the trend therein identified has only gotten stronger.

Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.
...
The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.

Never has there been so little diversity within America's upper crust.

Jay Cost says each party has nailed down about 45% of the electorate.  But he doesn't address the fact that only about 1/3 of GOP voters are very happy with the party.  They vote grudgingly for Republicans because they are horrified by the Democrats and the beltway mentality.  When a viable party or candidate emerges to tap into the disaffection with the ruling elite, a lot more realignment will take place.

Home field advantage

Looking at the standings this morning and enjoying seeing Cleveland at the top of the American League Central.  Noticed that every single team in the division has a better record on the road than at home.

Weird.

I wonder how often that has happened before. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Duh! Unemployment Benefits increase Unemployment

I'm shocked, shocked to find normal human beings living in this country.

Jack Kemp liked to remind people of that simple truth -- if you tax something you get less of it and if you subsidize it you get more of it.  I think there is something in the liberal brain that blocks that message and makes it impossible to learn.

Yesterday I was watching CNBC's morning segment.  The guest host was Jim Rohr, the head of a large bank (PNC) and a member of the board of directors of several large companies.  The regular CNBC talking heads were asking him the typical questions about how the economy looked from his vantage point and what it would take to turn things around, etc.

Rohr mentioned that lengthening the period of unemployment benefits had naturally made unemployment worse.  The liberals at CNBC seemed shocked and asked about that.  Rohr seemed a bit surprised that they didn't understand it.  He said that they have lots of applicants for jobs who want to start work months in the future after the time their benefits run out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6_1Pw1xm9U

They asked Rohr if he hired these people.  Uh, no. 

Who'd a thunk it.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jonah nails it:

"My complaint isn’t about distractions, it’s about the press’s tendency to treat controversies that help Republicans as “distractions” and ones that hurt Republicans as Very Serious Issues."

http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/296543/manufactured-mommy-war-jonah-goldberg?pg=2

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Academic research inching closer to the 21st century?

http://www.fraserinstitute.org/research-news/news/display.aspx?id=11513
"Empirical research in what are commonly called ‘peer-reviewed’ academic journals is often used as the basis for public policy decisions, in part because people think that ‘peer-review’ involves checking the accuracy of the research. That might have been the case in the distant past, but times have long since changed. Academic journals rarely, if ever, check data and calculations for accuracy during the review process, nor do they claim to. Journal editors only claim that in selecting a paper for publication they think it merits examination by the research community.
But the other dirty secret of academic research is that the data and computational methods are so seldom disclosed that independent examination and replication has become nearly impossible for most published research."

Last fall, Bayer, Amgen and a venture capitalist all blew the whistle on the sorry state of academic research.  The vast majority of published studies, even in the 'best' journals is flawed.  It can't be replicated.  See e.g. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/28/us-science-cancer-idUSBRE82R12P20120328  and http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203764804577059841672541590.html  and
 http://lifescivc.com/2011/03/academic-bias-biotech-failures/#0_undefined,0

Science has published a policy paper suggesting it is finally time for academic journals to recognize that data and code must be available for any study that is published.  http://thegwpf.org/science-news/5474-at-last-the-right-lesson-from-climategate-fiasco-.html

It is 2012.  A long time from the day in 2004 when prominent climate scientist Phil Jones said to Warwick Hughes, "Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?"

Given all the stonewalling in climate science, this would be a breath of fresh air.  'Science' without transparency and replication is no more scientific than voodoo.

The Antihumanism of the Left

Don't read this is you are in a good mood.  And especially don't look at the picture of the little girl strapped to the dying chair.

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-population-control-holocaust

"There is a single ideological current running through a seemingly disparate collection of noxious modern political and scientific movements, ranging from militarism, imperialism, racism, xenophobia, and radical environmentalism, to socialism, Nazism, and totalitarian communism. This is the ideology of antihumanism: the belief that the human race is a horde of vermin whose unconstrained aspirations and appetites endanger the natural order, and that tyrannical measures are necessary to constrain humanity."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why the Trayvon Martin case?

Can someone explain why this case is in the news?  A black teen and a hispanic man have a struggle and the teen is shot.  And this is deserving of news coverage because .... ?

We have murders all over the country every day.  Really nasty ones.  And all kinds of other crimes.  In this case, we don't even know if a crime was committed.  And likely never will.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How dumb is the 'war on women' meme?

They think we're stupid.  They must.  How else to explain it?

Lsst year, during the GOP debates many of us were baffled by questions from the moderators about birth control.  No one was talking about birth control  If any pollster had been silly enough to ask voters where they ranked birth control on a list of important political issues for the next election, it would have come in one spot lower than last. 

So why the questions?  Sure the moderators were strong supporters of the Democrats, but what did they seek to gain?  To waste time, distract from the real issues, confuse the candidates, bore viewers to the point they changed the channel?  It made no sense.  That is, until Obama's announcement that the Catholic Church's fundamental constitutional right to freedom of religion was going to be trumped by his desire to give women 'free' birth control (paid for by employers).  When supporters of the church and the constitution expressed their concerns, Obama's spin machine accused them of being against birth control as part of a war on women.  Obviously, the debate questions were merely the first steps in a coordinated strategy by the Obama campaign.

But what kind of strategery?  Even before Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen made a fool of herself, the 'war on women' claim was a joke.  Actually, it was more scary than funny.  Is this really the kind of tactic that the White House thinks is smart?  This was planned over a long period of time.  This was thought out (using the term loosely).  Who thinks like this?  Who thinks that American voters are going to be convinced that the GOP wants to ban birth control?

Since I don't want to consider that Obama and his advisors could possibly be this stupid, I have to believe that this can be explained as their cynical belief that we are this stupid.  Yes, they were correct to believe that the news media would parrot the charge, but can they really be correct that the voters are this stupid?  I'm not buying.

ExxonMobil's Masters Ads

Last weekend was the Masters golf tournament.  By the way, is there anything that says Spring is here quite so much as watching the tournament and seeing the beauty of that golf course?  Other than the opening day of baseball season?  This year, baseball season and the Masters both opened on Thursday, April 5.  Must have been a sign.  It was spring.

But getting to the point -- how politically calculating were the ads run by ExxonMobil?  To the best of my recollection, every single one of their ads made the point that the USA was falling behind the rest of the world in science and math education and we need to provide lots of money to our teachers to fix the problem.  Note -- the ads were particularly hard to miss because the Masters has only 3 sponsors and limits the number of commercials per hour.  (IBM and AT&T were the others.)

Here is a list of ads from the corporate web site. http://www.exxonmobil.com/Corporate/news_ad_us12_letssolvethis.aspx
 Most or all were shown on the broadcast of the golf tournament.  Note the summation sentences --

"The more we invest in teachers, the better our students will perform. Let’s solve this."
"Let’s do what is best for our students by investing in our teachers. Let’s solve this."
"Let’s invest in our teachers and inspire our students. Let’s solve this."

I'm sure everyone wants to see our schools do a better job of preparing our students for STEM jobs.  And ExxonMobil is to be commended for pointing out our deficiency.  But I have to question their proposed solution.  Do they really think that the problem is a lack of funding?  Funding for education has risen dramatically in the last few decades.  The rate of growth in spending has far exceeded the rate of inflation.  Based on the available evidence, it's hard to make a case that money is the problem or that an increase in spending will improve performance.

What is not hard to see is that teachers should be happy with the message.  That would be the teachers whose unions are the dominant special interest among the special interests which control and dictate to the Democrat Party.  And the Democrat Party would be the political party whose politicians  have been hammering on oil companies a lot lately in blaming them for rising gas prices and proposing changes to the tax code to punish them.

Hmmmm.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How foolish is reliance on a pension?

Via Meadia http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/04/10/pension-squeeze-hits-private-sector-unions/

As public pension schemes in states like California and Rhode Island continue to collapse, union pension funds in the private sector are also facing massive shortfalls. A new Credit Suisse report finds that managers of multi-employer pension systems have overestimated their plans’ funding at 81 percent; the bank’s calculation, based on new reporting standards, is a more dismal 52 percent. As the FT reports, the overall funding gap now stands at a startling $369 billion.
For years, workers in private sector companies covered by collective bargaining agreements have thought that their pensions were secure. They aren’t, if these new studies can be trusted.

I've never understood the logic behind a belief that a defined benefit plan was a secure retirement strategy.  Is it really a good idea to assume that a company, a union, or even a governmental entity will still be flourishing and well-managed decades from now?  A worker in his 30s today might very well live to be 100.  Is there any company today that you would want to bet will still exist six decades from now?   Given the long history of corruption and mismanagement by union bosses, are union pensions a better bet?   Or dependence that politicians won't screw things up as we see happening is states and localities all over the country?  Or the world?

I'd just as soon give a hamburger to Wimpy in exchange for his promise to pay on Tuesday, than give my labor to a business, union, or government in exchange for a promise to pay me a half century from now.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ6xBaZ92uA

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blogging Again

After seeing Reynolds and Mead, the bug bit me again.  I think I'll try a different direction this time -- post less, think more.  ;-)

Glenn Reynolds and Walter Russell Mead

In Tuesday afternoon, I had the good fortune to attend a forum about blogging at the Baker Center down on the UT campus.  Glenn Reynolds of http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/ and Walter Russell Mead of http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/ gave their thoughts.  Unfortunately, it lasted but an hour.  As they spoke and responded to questions (about both blogging and its impacts), I found that more and more interesting questions arose (well, at least they were interesting to me).  There was almost a chain reaction feeling -- every question one of them answered seemed to open up more areas where one would love to know their thoughts.  Sadly, I didn't get a chance to ask many of them.  I suspect that a chance to be part of a long conversation with them over the course of an evening would resemble the best parts of one of James Burke's old "Connections" episodes.  They are obviously both bright people who have spent a lot of time studying and thinking about the interplay of many global issues.  It would appear that much of that thinking has been outside the box.

They were joined by UT prof Chad Black, who spoke little other than to ask a couple of questions.  Glenn began by explaining how he got started, the impact of 9/11, and the role of blogging as part of his duties as a law professor.  Mead discussed how the informality of blogging resembles a lot of writing from an earlier time citing The Spectator, and essays such as the Federalist Papers (written by Madison, Hamilton and Jay and printed in newspapers to argue in support of adoption by the states of the proposed Constitution in the late 1780s).  [btw -- at the close, I suggested that Ben Franklin might be viewed as an early blogger.  Both readily agreed and Mead said that much of the writing in almanacs could be seen as 'blogging'.]

Mead explained that the rise of publishing houses in the 19th century saw the rise of curators of content.  The writer was no longer self-published, but subject to the decisions of layers of editors and publishers.  An establishment, less democratic and more restrictive, arose.  It's easy to see why he connects blogging to the earlier time when writers went directly to the public with their work.  Modern blogging is breaking down the establishment barriers to entry that have existed so long in publishing and journalism.

He said that he thinks a lot of the blogging he sees often reflects more interesting thinking and writing.  He liked it because of the feedback that he gets in the comments.  At that point, I think it was Glenn who described blogging as more like a conversation while publishing a magazine or journal article was more like giving a lecture.  Mead agreed.

The conversation moved into a discussion of how blogging was part of a larger influence that was breaking down the hierarchical structure, not just in publishing and journalism, but throughout society.  The technology was serving to revive the American democratic culture.  One aspect of the change was the reduction in our tendency to defer to experts.  A discussion ensued of how we relied on authority figures in decades past. They made note of Rathergate, factcheckers in pajamas, etc.  Later on, Glenn told us that in one of his classes they watch the movie "Absence of Malice" and remarked how strange it is today to see how the victim of a newspaper smear had so little recourse such a short time ago.  Today, he'd be blogging his side of the story and exposing the paper's inaccuracies.

Once questions began, the topic bounced around.  Their basic theme is that the internet revolution of which blogging is just a small part, is fundamentally changing a lot more than just publishing and journalism.  Bubbles are deflating all over -- e.g. colleges and universities are another institution where costs are inflated, the consumer fails to see the value, and the economic foundation of the institution is unsustainable.  Many governments are seeing their control of information circumvented.  All over, levels of hierarchy are being disrupted.  Barriers to entry are collapsing.  Traditional comfort zones of the establishment are under attack. 

I do want to highlight their response to one question.  Someone expressed concern about bloggers promoting bad information and mentioned the Trayvon Martin case.  I wish the professors had pointed out that a great deal of the false information in that case was put out there be establishment news media.  But they did say that people are people, errors will always be a part of the equation.  Glenn related Ted Sturgeon's Law.  When asked why he wrote science fiction since 90% of science fiction is crap, Sturgeon replied, "90% of everything is crap!"

Fortunately for those of us who attended, this event wasn't part of the 90%.

After it ended, I was one of the group that inevitably hangs around hoping to get a word.  Glenn had to return to the law school to teach a class, but professor Mead was kind enough to entertain a number of questions from students with remarkable good humor until it was time to move on to the next stop of his visit to the UT campus.