“The Media”

[Gallup.com] “WASHINGTON, D.C. — Four in 10 Americans say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly. This ties the historical lows on this measure set in 2014 and 2012. Prior to 2004, slight majorities of Americans said they trusted the mass media, such as newspapers, TV and radio.”

Trusted the mass media is an oxymoron:

“The media” is a catch-all term which includes an unholy gamut from NYT, WaPo and WSJ all the way down into the subterranean morass of People magazine, rightwingnews.com and National Enquirer. This means nothing, however, to people who think “vetting” is a recreational activity for cats and dogs, never fact-check, and believe everything they read.

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The Economy and The Dam

CATASTROPHE: To the right of the steep Interstate 5 grade that takes us out of the Los Angeles basin and over the Sierra Pelona Mountains of northwestern Los Angeles County, toward Gorman Pass, looms a massive concrete and earthen dam high above the freeway. When traffic slows up the grade, I often get the creeps pondering the fact we are all sitting ducks here. If this dam forming Castaic Lake were ever to burst, there is no place to turn around and flee, no place to go, and we and everything around and below us would all be swept away by a wall of water nearly 200 feet high. Of course the communities below would be wiped out.

They would build a new dam, and they would wait for it to fill up.

But as it turns out, this already happened before.

In 1928, one year before the 1929 Great Depression, the old St. Francis Dam failed catastrophically, killing 600 people in the flood.

When an economy breaks completely as it did in 2008, there are only a few things the government can do to stimulate demand, promote hiring, and get businesses going again. It is a slow process. And most of those things are against the political philosophy of half of the country, anyway. Like that new dam filling with water, there is just so much engineers and hydrologists can do to increase the flow of the water that fills the dam. You can dredge the feeder creek.  You can try to remove obstacles to smooth water flow. There’s no magic wand to boost the flow of water that gradually refills the dam. Most of it is up to processes that occur naturally. An economy works the same way.

But you can bet the folks in the wealthy homes high above the dam were anxious to see their Lake Castaic Reservoir refilled. “Make the river flow faster!” they’d have shouted. “Make it rain!” And they’d vote for the magician who promises he can wave his magic wand and make all that unpleasantness go away.

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Milton Friedman Then and Now

Here’s a comment I posted to Huffington Post, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of economist Milton Friedman …

The Chicago School of Economics was always conservative. More than any other economist, Milton Friedman made it synonymous with ultraconservative. Friedman was a brilliant advocate of free-market economics, but he was no ideologue. With elimination of controls, laissez-faire thinkers like Friedman (and Greenspan) envisioned increased competition, a healthy business and social environment, more jobs, a higher standard of living, and lower prices. That was the theory.

What we got was “too big to fail” mega-mergers, corrupt business practice, decreased competition, layoffs and mortgage defaults, a thrust-fault slippage of the standard of living, higher prices, and the biggest global economic catastrophe since 1929. As a consolation prize, we got Citizens United to remind us what a monumental achievement this was.

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Spam Insights

What a hoot! Below is some spam boilerplate some idiot left in my Comments queue. Now we know how all that “original” drivel is created!

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Syria, Russia, China

Even the King of Saudi Arabia seemed baffled at the recent United Nations resolution veto by UN members Russia and China.

After all, the Assad regime in Syria is not only killing its own citizens who are engaged in massive protest demonstrations across that country, it is now engaged in the indiscriminate shelling of entire cities, such as Homs, suspected of harboring those unsympathetic to the regime.

The king of Saudi Arabia inserted himself directly into the Syria crisis on Friday, castigating Russia and China for vetoing a United Nations Security Council resolution over the weekend aimed at ending the Syrian government’s deadly repression of a nearly year-old uprising.” — New York Times

In today’s airing of the Charlie Rose Show, taped last night, Charlie Rose and guest Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, both commiserated over the veto votes but both agreed that China “probably would not have” vetoed the resolution had its ally Russia not done so. Their reasoning: China, casting about for alternative oil sources, has much looser ties to the Syrian regime, whereas Russia is formally allied with the Assad regime and has supplied it with tanks, armaments and ammunition which is being deployed against Syrian citizens.

In Putin’s Russia, we hear reports the state media has begun reminding Russian citizens once again that “protest” equals “terrorism.” Russia is undergoing its own more modest version of civil demonstration, against the Putin cult of power and rigged elections. Putin is anxious to contain any spread of political conflagration and to avoid unfavorable analogies to the “Arab Spring” developments.

In Sichuan Province in China, international news media report that China has completely sealed off entire counties in the region to prevent people or information from flowing in or out. Ethnic Tibetans in the province have renewed protests against repression, and three of them, so far, have set themselves on fire.

Any differences in the perceived bluntness of the two vetoing superpowers notwithstanding, it is a good time to remember that the more totalitarian the regime, the more it must of necessity fear and suppress freedom of expression.

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“Do conservatives tend to be less intelligent?”

“Are racists dumb? Do conservatives tend to be less intelligent than liberals?” Short commentary on the dangers of oversimplifying the oversimplifiers.

See: Huffington: Intelligence Study Links Low I.Q. To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism

Looking at the archive photo of the racist Klansmen, the article is provocative, interesting, even mildly amusing. But I think this study begs the point. The study’s lead author did acknowledge that “less intelligent types might be attracted to liberal ‘simplifying ideologies’ as well as conservative ones.” For every conservative who’s stuck in the rut of social Darwinism, we can also find some other liberal who sounds like a broken record. I think the real point is that (1) thinking isn’t the exclusive domain of hi-IQ types, and (2) embracing ideological principles is never an acceptable substitute for doing our own thinking.

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“Social Conservatism”

To my knowledge this term first crept into the news around the beginning of the 2012 Presidential campaign. Everybody “sort of” knows which candidates are “social conservatives,” everybody “sort of” knows what political positions are entailed, and I have yet to see anyone explain to us what  a “social conservative” is.

So I looked up “Social Conservatism” in trusty ol’ Wikipedia. Their answer is more explicit than I feared. And it seems to directly contradict the stated GOP theme of scaling back government restrictions on of our lives.

Social Conservatism is primarily a political, and usually morally influenced, ideology that focuses on the preservation of what are seen as traditional values. Social conservatism is a form of authoritarianism often associated with the position that the national government, or the state, should have a greater role in the social and moral affairs of its citizens, generally supporting whatever it sees as morally correct choices and discouraging or outright forbidding those it considers morally wrong ones …

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Warren Buffett: “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich”

World-respected billionaire Warren Buffett wrote an August 14 article “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich” in the New York Times. I’d highly recommend this short read!

I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000.”

  • Warren Buffett also discusses his column, payroll taxes, income taxes and the general outlook on the Monday August 15 The Charlie Rose Show.

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Chinese Media Lambastes US Debt Crisis

Amazingly, this state media editorializing is the first rant I’ve seen out of mainland China in 50 years that actually sounds spot-on. Click to read the full BBC article.

China’s state-run media have labelled US domestic politicians “dangerously irresponsible” for wrangling over debt.

In an editorial, Xinhua news agency accused US politicians of playing a “game of chicken” over the issue, saying the rest of the world had been “kidnapped” by American politics …

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That May Work in Practice

To roughly summarize Republican responses, I’d guess, to last-minute bipartisan proposals for a balance of budget consisting of both spending cuts and revenue increases:

That may work in practice, but it won’t hold up in theory.” — unknown author

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Notable quote

The most extravagant idea that can be born in the head of a political thinker is to believe that it suffices for people to enter, weapons in hand, among a foreign people and expect to have its laws and constitution embraced. It is in the nature of things that the progress of Reason is slow and no one loves armed missionaries; the first lesson of nature and prudence is to repulse them as enemies. One can encourage freedom, never create it by an invading force.” (Maximilien de Robespierre, 1791)

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Budget Talks Status

For the latest news on the Washington budget talks, we only have to turn to our late President Dwight D. Eisenhower:

Things are more like they are now than they’ve ever been before.”

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