Just a quick word for now. Like many other bloggers, I’ve let this site fall into a bit of disrepair. While my last post was technically January 20th, I’ve actually drafted several articles since then (on the Jon Stewart v. Jim Cramer situation, among others), but I haven’t felt that they were good enough to publish. However, I have been active on my Google Reader Shared Items, keeping the commentary going strong.

So, in an effort to revive the blog, I’m going to loosen my restrictions on what I post here. Rather than just long articles, I’ll be experimenting with shorter commentaries, as well as some other video and image-based ideas I’ve been kicking around in my head. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how the experiments play out.


Today I find myself with split emotions… which isn’t what I was expecting.

I’m unsurprised to find that I feel incredibly hopeful. Today is truly a significant day in history. It is a day that for many holds great power, and I feel incredibly lucky to have helped make it happen in whatever small part I could. It is a day that breaks barriers, lifts hopes, and kindles dreams. It is a good day today.

However, I’m also surprisingly worried.

I know $170 million dollars could have been better spent than on such a show of pomp and circumstance in DC. I know putting so much faith in a single man, rather than the collective voice of many, is a large part of what brought us to this miserable point… yet we’re leaping into another single man’s arms without reservation.

I’m worried that we as a people have built the expectations so high for this one man, that the loss of faith in government if he fails could do tremendous damage to ever reforming it in any meaningful fashion. I’m worried that some will view today as the end of a great social struggle, while others still experience it every day. I worry that after today, the majority of Americans will consider their parts done, and leave the business of the country to “someone else.”

I don’t know what this feeling is called, this combination of hope and worry…

…but I pray that half of it turns out to be unjustified.


Radio MicI listen to NPR’s To The Point with Warren Olney because it’s one of the best sources of balanced information I’ve found. However, I’ve noticed that though the show handles bias better than any other I’ve seen, they have trouble with getting facts straight if people are willing to stand up for factual innaccuracies.

For example, I was listening to “Detroit Pleads for Survival” (12/04/2008) when I heard a clip of a UAW rep in his Congressional testimony. The quote said, roughly, given that Congress recently provided a loan to Citi, the UAW feels justified in asking for a similar loan for Detroit. A commentator when on to say after the clip that the US has started a bailout trend, and now that’s it’s begun, what’s the difference between giving money to Citi compared to GM?

I’ll tell you right here, because the answer is obvious to anyone who has taken Economics 101.

Citi is a bank. GM is not.

Citi participates in the money multiplier effect, which is a mainstay in the valuation of our currency. That doesn’t mean we should write them a blank check, but it does mean that a loan to Citi does not justify a loan to GM. End of discussion.

But even this basic point is missed on To the Point. So I’ve been wondering, how can we improve radio to help overcome this? How can the Internet help integrate factual knowledge as a check in real time against BS commentators?

My best thought right now is to have a team of fact checkers with laptops at their fingertips during the discussion, and to require guests to back themselves up with hard evidence whenever possible. Research in advance of the show could be chached for quick access and use by all parties as well as on the fly lookups.

If you have any better ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments.


car-show

After a superb meal with my girlfriend’s family this Thanksgiving, several family members were discussing the most recent bailout proposal for the auto industry. Some were for it, others were against it, but the reasons for each position varied from person to person. However, What struck me most was the following statement:

“I can tell you exactly what needs to be done to fix the auto industry. They need…”

This is a sentence I can’t imagine I would’ve heard from an average person regarding the bank bailouts, but it seems to be commonplace when talking about Detroit. Everyone from family members to Congresspeople seem to “know” exactly where the auto industry went wrong and how it should fix itself.

My question is, why is this the case? If people feel entitled to an executive-level opinion through their experience of owning a car, then why do they not feel the same way by owning a bank account? Is it the abstraction of a bank account compared to a real asset like a truck? Or could it be the transferred feeling of stewardship to the bank, hoping they “look after my money”, compared to a personal sense of stewardship for one’s own car?

My money’s on a hybrid of those two forces, but I’d like to know if anyone else has any thoughts on the subject.


Apologies

20Nov08

Work’s been up, so posts have been down. Hopefully I’ll be able to post in more depth soon, but for now you can check out my short comments at FriendFeed (look at the sidebar).


Net Neutrality

12Nov08

Time Lee has just posted an article at Freedom To Tinker that is pretty well thought through.

With Barack Obama’s election, we’re likely to see a revival of the network neutrality debate. Thus far the popular debate over the issue has produced more heat than light. On one side have been people who scoff at the very idea of network neutrality, arguing either that network neutrality is a myth or that we’d be better off without it. On the other are people who believe the open Internet is hanging on by its fingernails. These advocates believe that unless Congress passes new regulations quickly, major network providers will transform the Internet into a closed network where only their preferred content and applications are available.

So it seems to me that new regulations are unnecessary to protect network neutrality. They are likely to be counterproductive as well. As Ed has argued, defining network neutrality precisely is surprisingly difficult, and enacting a ban without a clear definition is a recipe for problems. In addition, there’s a real danger of what economists call regulatory capture—that industry incumbents will find ways to turn regulatory authority to their advantage. As I document in my study, this is what happened with 20th-century regulation of the railroad, airline, and telephone industries. Congress should proceed carefully, lest regulations designed to protect consumers from telecom industry incumbents wind up protecting incumbents from competition instead.

I think the majority of Lee’s points are sound and worth considering. I do think that he overestimates the power of competitive forces among ISP’s, given that the majority of consumers only have one or two broadband choices, but that doesn’t soften his position too much.

If anyone has a good, reasoned article for the pro-Net Neutrality position, I’d be glad to read it.


Jim Wooten put up a post this morning, beginning with a simple question on the AJC website:

Does anybody actually believe Republicans are trying to keep legitimate voters from exercising their right to vote?

I think this is the wrong question to ask. The right one is “Does anybody actually believe partisans are trying to keep legitimate voters from exercising their right to vote?” To which I would answer, unfortunately, yes.

From redistricting tricks to return required mailings to unverified voter purge rolls, I believe it’s all too easy for elected officials to look the other way for a few people’s rights when their job is at stake.