Jun 272007

Here’s John Edwards on Ann Coulter:

“I think she [Mrs. Edwards] was making it clear that we can’t continue to tolerate this kind of name-calling and hate-mongering,” Edwards said. “We have to elevate the discussion because this is all calculated to keep us from talking about … the things that affect people’s lives, like men and women dying in Iraq.”

Source: We Have to Elevate the Discussion

And then watch Edwards’ supporters respond by spewing venom and hatred against Coulter at this blog at the New York Times.

Edwards Coulter P.S.

One of my favorites was this one posted by “Joe”.

I hate Ms. Coulter and I do not understand why she is aloued [sic] to have a voice on TV.


This was mild in comparison to what some of them said.

Maybe these people think Edwards’ advice applies only to the other side.

Jun 262007

Google News has been giving a lot of play to the Supreme Court decision in the student vs school case. Yet to read the headline news late tonight, there was no news about the Supreme Court and political speech. Earlier today, Google gave some play to both Supreme Court decisions, but now their minds seem fixated on drugs. (Yeah, I know they say a computer program picks the stories. Blaming the computer is one of the oldest dodges in the book. That one was going around before most of these Google people were even born.)

Besides, a search for “Supreme Court Federal Election Wisconsin Right Life’ gives 281 hits, while a search for “Supreme Court Morse Frederick”gives only 245.

Jun 212007

The Best of the Web at opinionjournal.com  is more tolerant and easygoing than I am.   I admire them for that.   I suggested in …but acknowledged… that journalists not be allowed to use the word “but.”  After reading Best of the Web, one realizes that it might suffice to publish a dictionary that explains the special definitions of words like “but” and “many”, as used by journalists.

 … according to the AP’s Sara Kugler, “many believe [it] could be a step toward entering the 2008 race for president.”

To make sense of this assertion, you need to be fluent in the dialect of American English known as Journalese. In Journalese, many can be either singular or plural, and it is a first-person pronoun.

Which is to say, Bloomberg is the candidate of the media, ideologically as well as professionally. The positions Kugler enumerates are all very popular among journalists. And while they are also popular among Democrats, Democratic politicians do not necessarily support them, or support them sincerely.

The URL: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110010234

Jun 202007

A letter writer to the WSJ writes today

… the essential question: What is the driving force behind the “earmark” phenomenon? It’s so clearly destructive, yet it persists….

The problem is simple. Earmarks bound for my home district are “economic opportunity.” Earmarks bound for your home district are “pork.” Until that reality changes, folks like Sen. Coburn are rolling this boulder uphill. Fiscal responsibility? For thee and thee, but not for me.

To change that reality, we need term limits.   If your congressperson is rewarded by his constituents for getting pork for your district, and mine is rewarded by ours for getting pork for our district, it will be a race to the bottom.  If there are no effective controls on the greed of congressperson or voters, the most corrupt congressperson (and the most corrupt voters) will win.

What is needed is a way for the voters in our district to put limits on the greed and corruption of the voters  in yours, and vice versa.  Given that the power to pork is highly correlated with incumbency (and if you don’t believe me, listen to the incumbents argue as to why voters should re-elect them) term limits will be a control on this.  It will be a way for us to limit, not our own congresspersons, but yours.

And why should voters in our district be allowed to control who you elect?  Because your congressperson gets to spend our money on special treatment for you.

If Congress was restricted to dealing only with national issues, it might be a different story.   But there is no chance of that happening any time before the Revolution comes.



Jun 172007

The New York Times reports that internet sales growth is slowing.    It’s no longer growing at 25 percent a year.

Article:  Online Sales Lose Steam

I say that’s good news for internet sales.  Why?  Because it will force some of the really stupid web sales systems to be innovative and use the potential of the internet to sell their products.

The way it is right now, there are some really, really dumb web sites out there.    They probably get by with being dumb, because no matter what they do, they makes sales.  Well, no longer.

Some things we might see:

  • Better ways to browse the sellers’ wares.  Savable search results.   (I mean something a lot more than just the ability to save items in a wish list.)
  • Photos that are informative.  No more “click here for a larger photo,” only to get a window that’s larger while the product part of the image stays the same.   (Shoes.com does a little better with photos than many others, but could do even better.)

The NYT article talked about how shopping online is a chore while shopping in a retail store is fun.   I agree that online shopping is a chore, but to me it’s more fun that retail shopping, because as clumsy and crude as web sites are, I can get a better idea on the net of the universe of products from which I’m picking.  But I’ve never considered retail shopping to be fun — just a necessary evil to be avoided as much as possible.  The problem is, until now most online store sites haven’t felt much of a need to do better.

Jun 162007

Back in the very early 1980s I started a newspaper clipping file under the subject line “Academic Intolerance.” At the time it seemed ironic to find occasional examples of intolerance in institutions that were supposedly devoted to freedom of speech and inquiry. Since then the quantity and ferocity of the intolerance have increased to the point where the term no longer sounds oxymoronic.

I hadn’t known about this one, though, until I read Fred Thompson’s column today:

The head of Marquette’s philosophy department apparently didn’t get it. He took down Barry’s words and issued a statement that included the words, “while I am a strong supporter of academic freedom. I’m afraid that hallways and office doors are not free-speech zones.” Since then, the Marquette philosophy department has stuck to its stance that Barry’s words are “patently offensive,” despite the fact that lots of other doors had slogans pasted on them.

You have to wonder just how oblivious that department chair is. The hallways and office doors of academia have long been free-speech zones. For decades I have been reading offensive and objectionable political statements on the doors of academic offices. I can point to a whole bunch of objectionable statements on the doors of the offices and labs where I work now. But while I usually disagree with what’s posted, I think it’s a great tradition. I think of how Martin Luther got the Reformation started by posting controversial statements on a door where they could be seen by passers by.

I see that this particular example has already been blogged to death. But it reminds me that this blog for some reason did not yet have an “Academic intolerance” category. It now does.

And whether or not Fred Thompson would make a good president, it’s great that he is bringing up issues like this. It will be good for the campaign if he can keep it up.

I long ago threw out my old clipping files. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that, now that governments and other institutions are learning how to censor the internet. I still have my old clipping indexes, and some of them are in a form that would allow me to track down the articles, at least until the newspaper archives get censored, too.

Jun 162007

Charles Krauthammer has a very sensible article on how to do immigration reform (and in the process, call the bluff of the extremists on both sides of the issue):

He states the problem thusly:

Comprehensive immigration reform is in jeopardy because it is a complex compromise with too many moving parts and too many competing interests. Employers want a guest worker program; unions want to kill it. Reformers want to introduce a point system that preferentially admits skilled and educated immigrants; immigrant groups naturally want to keep the existing family preference system. Liberals want legalization now; conservatives insist on enforcement “triggers” first.

There is only one provision that has unanimous support: stronger border enforcement.  Why not start by passing what everyone says they want?

And his conclusion:

Comprehensive immigration reform has simply too many contentious provisions to command a majority of Congress or the country. We all agree on enforcement, don’t we? So let’s do it. Make it simple. And do it now. Once our borders come visibly under control, everything else will become doable. Including amnesty.

The article: The Jeopardy of Reform

Jun 132007

Time to pick on the Kalamazoo Gazette and Julie Mack some more.

Bureaucracy or efficiency? Granholm would expand role of intermediate districts; critics say they are a waste.

One reason given for ISDs is that they do things that school districts themselves cannot easily manage. And to some extent, that’s true. It’s hard for smaller school districts to run specialized facilities and hire highly specialized workers who serve only a few students. That doesn’t mean ISDs are the best way to deal with it, though.

A couple of  paragraphs from the article:

Olson, the education analyst for the Mackinac Center, said ISDs are a waste of money and should be scrapped. He said local districts could pick up services such as vocational and special education, but acknowledges a funding mechanism would be necessary.

“We could have an incentive structure that would allow schools to compete for the privilege of educating special-education children,” Olson said.

There is a sneaky put-down of this Olson here.  It’s those two words, “but acknowledges.”  Given what he is quoted as having said, Julie Mack could as well have written “and suggests a funding mechanism.”  Or even more exuberant words, such as “can barely contain his enthusiasm for the possiblilities.”  But instead she makes it sound as though she did a gotcha that put him on the defensive.    It’s a good ploy, if your editor lets you get by with it.

 I mean, it’s as if I tell her I’d like to go on a bicycling vacation in Russia (which is true) and then she goes back to her office and writes, “…but he acknowledges that he will need to travel outside the country to do this.”  Well, duh.   But if she wants to make it sound as though I’m being defensive about some huge flaw that I hadn’t planned on, that’s the propaganda technique to use.

I hereby propose a journalism reform.  News writers should not be allowed to say “but acknowledges.”  Maybe they shouldn’t even be allowed to use the word “but”.   Most of the time “and” would do just as well, and would be more neutral.

Jun 122007

Finally, after years of remarkably good behavior for a Democrat, Jennifer Granholm may be letting her true colors show.

The following headline is from the lead article on the front page of the Kalamazoo Gazette (Sunday June 10, 2007):

Bureaucracy or efficiency? Granholm would expand role of intermediate districts; critics say they are a waste.

That could be the article that launched a thousand blog posts, but let’s start with this paragraph.

There is general consensus that Granholm’s proposal is a move in the right direction. But educators question the idea of mandatory collaboration, saying flexibility is needed.

General consensus? Perhaps there is a lot of support for the general thrust of Granholm’s proposal, but no data were presented to support this assertion. Now I suspect that if you add up all the time that reporter/writer Julie Mack spent talking to people about this issue, you’d find that the vast majority of her time was spent talking to people who support this kind of centralization of schools. Maybe she mistook that for general consensus. (I don’t know that for sure, but I have as much data to support my statement as Julie Mack presented to support hers.)

BTW, back in Mrs. Bredberg’s English class in the 1960s, we learned that Ms. Mack’s propaganda technique is known as the bandwagon ploy.

Jun 092007

I’m a huge fan of private property and free markets, but this is nuts. Unfortunately it’s a kind of nuttiness we see all too often from certain Republican types. It handicaps them. If they don’t understand the limits on what private property and free markets can do for us, they will not be adequately prepared to defend these institutions from the onslaught by the left.

It’s from an article by Steven Landsburg in the June 9 WSJ, titled “A Brief History of Economic Time.

It’s one of those articles that talks about how wonderful life is, given all the modern conveniences we have. It talks about our well-being in purely material terms. I suppose you could say it’s outdoing Karl Marx and doing it on a very superficial level.

Here’s the lead paragraph:

Modern humans first emerged about 100,000 years ago. For the next 99,800 years or so, nothing happened. Well, not quite nothing. There were wars, political intrigue, the invention of agriculture — but none of that stuff had much effect on the quality of people’s lives. Almost everyone lived on the modern equivalent of $400 to $600 a year, just above the subsistence level. True, there were always tiny aristocracies who lived far better, but numerically they were quite insignificant.

Yup, it treats the quality of human life in purely material terms, and says not a word about social relationships. One nice thing about this particular article, though, is that it reductio ab absurdums itself, saving commentators like me the trouble of explaining the nonsense this kind of thinking will lead to if not balanced by other considerations:

The moral is that increases in measured income — even the phenomenal increases of the past two centuries — grossly understate the real improvements in our economic condition. The average middle-class American might have a smaller measured income than the European monarchs of the Middle Ages, but I suspect that Tudor King Henry VIII would have traded half his kingdom for modern plumbing, a lifetime supply of antibiotics and access to the Internet.

Anyone who has read a history book or watched the turf wars at the office knows how important power is to people. Henry Kissinger said power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. George Washington understood that people think of their well-being in comparison to what their neighbors have. Does anyone really think Henry VIII would give up one bit of power? Look at how hard the left resists tax cuts, even though high taxes destroy our economic engine. What matters to the left is their slice of the economic pie in relation to the whole, not how large the whole is. It’s the same with everyone.

Henry VIII might give up a wife in exchange for a new one, or for one who would secure his continued power on the throne through his heirs. Think of all the trouble his power-grabbing caused for himself. He wouldn’t have traded a bit of it for modern conveniences, or even for the conveniences he could have had if he had not been so ambitious.