May 2003 Archives
May 27, 2003
Anti-establishment used to mean "liberal" but as many establishments today are decidedly left leaning--especially those that invlove the youth (such as universities)--the "radicals" of our day are increasingly... conservative. The most radical person I know, David Horowitz, now speaks from the right. When I was in college, a little over a decade ago, there was little social stigma and certainly no official sanctions imposed, for being radically liberal. But speak of conservative ideas and you were really taking on the system--retribution from the administration and faculty, let alone countless campus groups, could be swift. These trends are only growing and the result is that radicals from the left must now be radical to the point of absurdity, and a new class of radicals, fighting a conservative revolution, is emerging. See this piece in the NYT about the "Young Hipublicans."
Coda: this piece calls Dartmouth a conservative hotbed. Well the college I refer to above was Dartmouth and the idea that Dartmouth was conservative in any way in the past two decades is simply false. If it was in any sense a "conservative hotbed" it was in the sense this this is where the first conservative college newspaper, the Dartmouth Review, was founded. But the Review was far from mainstream, and was perhaps one of the most radical and controversial things at Dartmouth since the newspaper was founded in the 1980s. Review staffers were ostrasized and punished, in a real sense, by other students, faculty, and the administration. The Review's crime? In an evironment dedicated to tolerance of diverse view points, the Review was too "insensitive"--read politically incorrect.
May 13, 2003
Many on the Sunday shows were quick to laud the New York Times in their extensive expose of one of their own's mendacity--the astonishing tale of Jayson Blair. I'm fairly critical of the way the Times has handled this, actually. It seems clear that Blair was suspected for years and despite questions by senior editors (a senior editor for the Times wrote over a years ago: "We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now.) and victims of his deceitful practices (i.e. the subjects of articles), in addition to having a terrible corrections record, nothing was done until the story got out.
This is the sure sign of a systematic failure and the Times rush to mea culpa, in encyclopaedic volume, smacks of a sort of cover up. Flood people with the sorry tale of a troubled youth but ignore that larger issue. In fact deny it: "Mr. Sulzberger [publisher of NYT] emphasized that as The New York Times continues to examine how its employees and readers were betrayed, there will be no newsroom search for scapegoats. 'The person who did this is Jayson Blair,' he said. 'Let's not begin to demonize our executives -- either the desk editors or the executive editor or, dare I say, the publisher.'"
Now no one's talking about "demonizing" anyone, but absent from the flood of coverage of the massive deception is little, if any, discussion about the systematic issue. Most simply: why wasn't this guy fact checked? Why were complaints from his subjects not taken seriously? Why was a senior editor ignored? And was it political correctness that prompted them to turn a blind eye to Jayson for so long?
However, to some of us this hasn't changed our view much of the NYT--while it's shocking to see the depth of this improbity I never trusted the New York Times much. I'm not saying they new about this, condone it, or that it's widespread. However, I didn't trust them because I felt they are pushing a political agenda in their news, where it doesn't belong, rather than in their op-eds, where it does.
The point is this: don't trust media. Many worry about the corporate control of media--and there are undoubtedly instances in which big media cave to the pressures of the organizations that own them or support them financially. But these critiques, and efforts to oppose FCC Chairman Powell's move to loosen media ownership rules, miss the point. ALL media shouldn't be trusted: whether it is political bias, petty fraud, business pressure, or even lazy reporting there are plenty reasons why reporting, even in the most reputable of sources, can be just flat our wrong. We should prosecute crime, but we will never be able to legislate, litigate, or regulate errors in media. Consumers will just have to learn to wise up.
The best solution: media diversity. This is why the explosion of media sources is such a powerful and important trend.
Consider a seemingly unrelated story surrounding the publishing of THE LANGUAGE POLICE: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, by Diane Ravitch, in which the author tells the sordid tale of political correctness and other censorship in our text books. (See the NYTimes's book review.) This is a clear indication of the problem of concentrated information sources. The text book industry is monolithic and heavily influenced by buyers in Texas and California. Political pressures, from both left and right, drive down the quality to a lowest common denominator. We need diversity. We need choice. It's true in the private sector market for news as well as the text books force fed to our kids in public schools.
I hope that where the revolutions in online media is heading is for a market in information. Rather than paying reporters by the word, or by a flat salary, why shouldn't they be paid for performance? We peer review academic journals, why can't we peer-review (or reader review) news journalism? The technology is out there and Slashdot, among others, has shown us the way. I trust the people to keep the Jayson Blair's of the world honest more than I trust the imminently fallible publishers and editors at the New York Times.
Louisiana Democratic Senator John Breaux can sometimes get it right, but I was astounded by a comment he made this weekend on Fox News Sunday.
BREAUX: Tax cuts are not free, Tony. I mean, it's fun to cut taxes. Politically, everybody can go back home and say, look, we cut taxes. But tax cuts have to be paid for. You can pay for them in two ways: by increasing taxes on some other people, or by increasing the already record size of the deficit. I'm for a tax cut, third-largest in history, but some aspects of the president's plan, I think, are not proper.
Tax cuts are indeed free. Only someone who is representing the government, not the people, would suggest that you have to pay for tax cuts. You don't. You have to pay for government programs. Our politicians have been very successful at perpetuating this idea that we can't "afford" a tax cut. This is an Orwellian distortion of the truth by politicians who perpetuate their power by dolling out favors to special interests with our money. Their sense of entitlement to our money is astounding. Notice that Breaux leaves out a key way to "pay" to tax cuts: spending cuts!
Now of course Breaux was using a sort of short hand to make the point that tax cuts have consequences that should be addressed. That's a fair point, but his phrasing is telling.
May 6, 2003
If you can stomach it, read the latest by Paul Krugman. Now there are plenty of reasons to oppose the various policies of our President, but there are a few on the left who can now only be defined by their hatred of George W. Bush. It becomes all consuming and the basis by which you measure yourself--as it used to be in American politics when they were defined by how much of an anti-communist you were (and yes, how some Republicans may have measured themselves under Clinton). Even the most liberal of commentators whom I saw remark on the Presidents speech from the Lincoln (such as Bill Press, Mark Shields, David Broeder, and Eleanor Clift) didn’t get their blood boiling over this one. Krugman is way out there on the fridge. He can only see things, it seems, by how they benefit Bush (which is the equivalent of bad) vs. how they may benefit the country. So what if the ceremony on the Lincoln helped Bush? It had a profound effect on millions of Americans and the men and women in our armed services deserved the tribute, frankly. None of this seems to matter to Krugman. His politics of envy help explain his economics. He feels it is much worse for some to have more than others than for the whole to have less, instead of more. Krugman would sacrifice prosperity for an artificial leveling--he is the very definition of a socialist (no wonder he's so unhappy.)
May 4, 2003
First there was TheOnion, now there is WreckedHighway. Check it out.
We dedicate this issue to Madonna "The Material Girl" Ciccone and her recent statement:
"We as Americans are completely obsessed and wrapped up in a lot of the wrong values -- looking good, having cash in the bank, being perceived as rich, famous and successful or just being famous."
IN THIS ISSUE
Saddam Exiled to Nantucket
Inside the mind of Ben Affleck
Carson Palmer Enters the Workforce
Tom Cruise Outs Himself
Springtime in New England