Archive for July, 2005

New Worlds

Saturday, July 30th, 2005

Brings a cosmological connotation to “What can Brown do for you?” This is a confusing story, because another, smaller object called “2003 EL61” was reported the day before the larger “2003 UB313“. Interesting scholar — also has edited a number of policy books, far from the science beat.

Speaking of Airplanes . . .

There is a Blog Business Summit August 17-19.

Richard Posner has an essay on the changing news media. His argument is grounded in rational choice/ economic theory. The basic claim:

The current tendency to political polarization in news reporting is thus a consequence of changes not in underlying political opinions but in costs, specifically the falling costs of new entrants. The rise of the conservative Fox News Channel caused CNN to shift to the left. CNN was going to lose many of its conservative viewers to Fox anyway, so it made sense to increase its appeal to its remaining viewers by catering more assiduously to their political preferences.

An interesting argument, possibly true, but not backed by numbers, which would require content analysis of reporting across time and media entities.

Part of his argument breaks under his own filtered world view when he makes the following claim.

Does this mean that the news media were better before competition polarized them? Not at all. A market gives people what they want, whether they want the same thing or different things. Challenging areas of social consensus, however dumb or even vicious the consensus, is largely off limits for the media, because it wins no friends among the general public. The mainstream media do not kick sacred cows like religion and patriotism.

Now let’s see, “dumb and even vicious . . . consensus, is largely off limits to the media” is immediately followed by what instantiation? “sacred cows like religion and patriotism.” How illiberal. And unfortunate examples because the very people he and his readership apparently find “dumb and even vicious,” or at least “easily led” (WaPost), are regular targets of the cultural left, whose attacks are approvingly reported and defended by MSM.

That said, the rest of this piece is an interesting argument about the effect of blogs on media:

The charge by mainstream journalists that blogging lacks checks and balances is obtuse. The blogosphere has more checks and balances than the conventional media; only they are different. The model is Friedrich Hayek’s classic analysis of how the economic market pools enormous quantities of information efficiently despite its decentralized character, its lack of a master coordinator or regulator, and the very limited knowledge possessed by each of its participants.

However, there are a number of bloggers with very deep or wide knowledge, in themselves or in aggregating expertise from multiple blogs.

In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise - not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It’s as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.

But regular blog readers know that we are past this point, that blogs with significant readership do carry advertising, and so the danger is far greater to MSM.

Journalists express dismay that bottom-line pressures are reducing the quality of news coverage. What this actually means is that when competition is intense, providers of a service are forced to give the consumer what he or she wants, not what they, as proud professionals, think the consumer should want, or more bluntly, what they want.

A very tough hit on MSM self delusion.


Friday, July 29th, 2005

Thoughtful review of “Over There.”

Mentioned in Wired 13.08 “Blogs of War.”

“Miss Ethiopia, Supergeek” calls to mind Hedy Lamarr.


Thursday, July 28th, 2005

Afghanistan-Pakistan disagreement with Taliban in the middle. I read this as two neighbors quarreling with a rattler coiled between them.
A modern Pin Ball Wizard.
Please don’t play that funky music . . .[cultural reference here]

Still, tastes do evolve, and we’re reminded that people who as children eat and drink only Velveeta and soda pop often later develop a taste for Camembert and cognac. That’s fine, even if it may be a little on the generous side to use “Camembert and cognac” as analogues for unpleasant sounds. But I’m afraid the “lesson” has usually been taken considerably further, and reinforced with large doses of intellectual condescension and intimidation. While much of the public would be perfectly willing to acknowledge that Camembert and cognac can be wonderful elements of a diet, what we’ve heard from the avant-garde establishment for years has been something like this: “Yes, we know from centuries of experience that most people find a steady diet of nothing but Camembert and cognac unappealing, and there is no reason to believe that that will ever change. Nonetheless, starting now we are going to feed you . . . a steady diet of nothing but Camembert and cognac. We don’t care that you find it unappealing, because we’ve decided that this dietary change is necessary; it represents Progress. And if you can’t accept this Progress, it’s only because you’re not knowledgeable or sophisticated enough to understand and appreciate it.”

A Tale of Two Verdicts

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

Contrast this sentence “Prominent Cleric From Yemen Is Sentenced to 75 Years” with this one“Ressam judge decries U.S. tactics”. Note that the first was handed down in New York, and the second in Seattle.


Sunday, July 24th, 2005

U.S. Constitution, Article VI:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

[HT: Hugh Hewitt on the Test Act and looming Supreme Court confirmation fight.]