08 November 2010

NBC, Not a Political Operation

Keith Olbermann gets suspended for contributing to Democratic candidates. Yes, shocking.
It appears as though the brass wants to mantain an image of impartiality (seriously) and avoid the possible implication that guests show up in return for contributions either from the hosts or from the viewers.
After Captain Melodrama got suspended, his right-hand man, Rachel Maddow leaps to his defense. First, she pulls the moral equivalency card (while denying that she's doing just that) saying that the hosts at Fox do the same thing. Fine. But Fox, apparently, doesn't have the same policy as MSNBC. If you get fired from Burger King for violating some rule, you can't raise the defense that McDonald's doesn't have that regulation.
Anyway, she rests the thrust of her argument on the premise that Fox is a political operation and that NBC, and by proxy MSNBC, are (sniff) News organizations and therefore don't muddy themselves in such nastiness like helping particular candidates get elected. They are in search for the Truth.

Or, they are exactly like Fox news...

except Fox news doesn't pretend to be anything else (aside from that "Fair and Balanced" tagline bullshit).

Olbermann should not have been suspended. MSNBC is in the tank for the Democrats and are about as interested in objective analysis of current events as my wife is in hearing me talk about Austrian economics. But His Man Friday still pulling this line that MSNBC, or even NBC for that matter, is a home of detached, sober, reasonable objectivity is embarrassing.


I saw this during the election returns and thought I imagined it. It comes right after Chris Matthews interviews Michele Bachman (you see, I was nodding off after flipping around at this point...there is no way I would willingly watch one idiot pretend to interview another). The absolute best part about this, especially in light of what happened with Olbermann and the defense of him by Maddow. At 4:12 of the below video Maddow says:

"With that sign, what they're trying to say MSNBC is in the tank, and NBC, is in the tank for Obama."

Yes, you are. Admit it. Honesty is the best policy and it will feel better. Or don't. But don't take umbrage or feign consternation when it is pointed out.

07 November 2010

06 November 2010

On Writing

A great post on the Art and Craft of writing by Marc Schuster, author of The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl (buy it, read it) and classmate of mine at the Greatest High School in the World.

I've often thought of trying my hand at writing fiction, but always punked out, intimidated. I've read that some authors make grand outlines of the whole story before writing a single word, while others just kind of wing it as they go. So I guess my biggest obstacle is not knowing exactly how to go about writing something as daunting as a novel.

Then I come up against feelings of inadequacy, wondering why anyone would care enough to invest the time to read anything I would come up with. I'm sure people wouldn't mind if what I would produce would be good enough, but this makes me put enormous pressure on myself. Anytime I start thinking about any potential project, I ultimately come to the conclusion that either the idea isn't good enough for anyone to care about, or the idea may be a good one but I don't have the talent to craft it properly, to make it worthy of someone else's time and effort.

Anyway, I've decided to start with short stories. I'll see how that goes.

05 November 2010

Debate in America

This blog post over at reason.com does a pretty nifty job of encapsulating the current state of discourse. If people vote or express an opinion you disagree with, let's not counter with argument, facts, logic or reason, let's just call them names.
For voting largely against the Democrats this week, voters are: fickle and dumb or spoiled (Bill Press); an atrocity (Mary Mitchell); throwing a "temper tantrum" (both at the Daily Kos and by Eugene Robinson).
All of the other analysis I've seen focuses on the fact that unemployment is at about 10%. That is the extent of the analysis of the election. People are either frustrated about being out of work or stupid.
No one disagrees with the policies that were put through, or if they do they are fools who don't know that Washington is much better (and more responsible) at serving an individual's interest than the individual is.
Listen, I agree wholeheartedly with Barnum's sally that no one ever went broke underestimating the American public. But that doesn't mean you, me or anyone else can suppose to know what is "best" for another person.

04 November 2010


Interesting post from the Daily Kos that could give Sean Penn a run for his money for quantity of both hubris and lunacy per square inch.

03 November 2010

Free Advice

Democrats, progressives, liberals, socialists, left-wingers, friends of Olbermann, Paul Krugman and whoever else may be out there and disappointed over the results of election night, please please please please do me a favor and take this woman's advice. You'll do just super next time around.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Indecision 2010 - Katrina vanden Heuvel
Colbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionMarch to Keep Fear Alive

Krugman, Yet Again

Paul Krugman tries to show the world again how he and other (like-minded, of course) economists are just smarter that those knuckle-dragging capitalists pigs that actually make the world go 'round.
Macroeconomics is hard, far too hard you regular folks to understand. Firms, he claims, are "open systems" The macro-economy is bound by the identity Y=C+G+I+NE* and companies are free to do whatever they want.

He forgets that firms are also bound by an identity, A=L+OE. Assets are equal to liabilities plus owner's equity. Spending money today either comes from cash on hand or you pay a premium (interest) and amass liabilities to borrow money. This liability is someone else's asset. While there is interdependency, just like there is in the world economy, there are no fully closed systems or fully open systems.

But to his main point, one that many of his commenters agree with, is that macroeconomics is just too hard for businessmen to understand is horsefeathers. Macro is relatively straightforward. To be sure it was been grotesquely over-complicated by those who try to make a social science based mostly on individual preferences (billions of times over) and mostly rational expectations into a hard science that has the complicated predictability of, say, physics, which ain't going to happen (one of the reasons Austrian economists eschew neoclassical mathematical models isn't because they aren't good at math, they have passed the same calculus classes as any other professional economist, it's because all of the models that have ever been designed only explain things after the fact when data have been manipulated and have never predicted anything).

*Y=C+G+I+NE is GDP. Production (Y) is equal to Consumption (C) plus Government spending (G) plus Investment (I, which is equal to national savings) plus Net Exports. From this relatively simple formula there are spin-offs galore, caveats, not-reallys and other obfuscations. But for (very) general purposes, it works. Stating broadly what a nation's worth is (GDP) where being off a few hundred million is inconsequential (and I'm not being a smart alek here) is one example.

So That's What Happened

Rachel Maddow says the Democrats were going to lose because they were brave enough to put policy before politics (never mind that their policies were their politics). Which was mighty big of them. Next time, one hopes, the liberals will be smart enough to put their politics first. Will Maddow hold Obama, Pelosi and Reid accountable for being so foolish?
No, she spends 15 minutes, some with "historian" Michael Beschloss, showing how typical yet brave such behavior is. She points out many things liberals were able to get done.

Like passing a healthcare bill. The same bill that her colleague at MSNBC, Keith Olbermann, spent twelve minutes in December decrying because it was a watered-down mess of compromised horribleness. He also hoped it wouldn't pass. It is rare indeed when Mr. Olbermann and me agree on anything politically, even if our varied means don't jibe with out common ends.

They also passed that stimulus bill that, not to put too fine a point on it, hasn't worked. Again with the strange bedfellows, Paul Krugman and I are in complete agreement. Of course, he thinks it hasn't worked because it wasn't big enough and that the Democrats were destined to lose because they weren't bold enough (here and here). I, on the other hand, come down on the side that the idea of spending your way in hopes of ending a recession is pretty stupid. Mr. Krugman also thinks that historians will look at the election of 2010 as a "catastrophe for America." We'll see.

So the Democrats lost because they sacrificed themselves in order to do great things, putting their policies before their politics (and a nice religious metaphor). Yet the great things they accomplished weren't great at all because they were bastardized by politics (a nod to Thomas Friedman's desire for autocracy). So they lost because they were bold. And they lost because they weren't bold enough.

I think they lost because they did exactly what they said they were going to do. I'm not necessarily happy that the Republicans won, but I'm pretty jazzed up over the fact that the Democrats lost.