How Bad is CNN?

Conservative writer Roger Simon has been traveling in Europe and reports that he’s finding the Al-Jazeera news network less biased and more professional than CNN.

Except for those stories when the “I”-word was prominent (you know, that little country south of Lebanon), Al Jazeera was clearly better, more honest, more informative and more entertaining than CNN International or the BBC. And kinder to the US. In fact, it wasn’t even close. Also, since much of the news they reported was coming from the Middle East, they seemed better informed about such things as the death of the Iraqi Shiite leader Hakim (they referred to Saddam Hussein flatly as a fascist, something you rarely hear on CNN) and the Al Qaeda suicide bombing in Saudi Arabia (they had nothing but withering contempt for Al Qaeda – no pussy-footing “insurgent” rhetoric for them).

It’s not that Al-Jazeera is actually good. It’s just than CNN is that awful.

The Day Civil Discourse Died

It’s the day for remembering the achievements of Ted Kennedy, it seems. Here’s a shining moment:

If a young person ever asks you when it was that America’s public discourse began to rapidly devolve into the fetid, polarized mess we have today, point them to this day–when Kennedy, backed by NOW, People for the American Way, and a brilliantly viscious ad campaign featuring Gregory Peck smeared a good and brilliant man.

Random Tuesday Musings

Sorry for the sparse posting lately. I volunteered to work on a special project for my daughter’s school and it’s ended up sort of owning me and my business over the last few days. In the spirit of making restitution, the following are some things I should’ve/would’ve noted:

1. The Suite Life

Last Friday night the Dallas Cowboys officially launched their new $1.2 billion stadium as they hosted the Tennessee Titans for a pre-season game. A client of ours was gracious enough to invite us to join him for the game in his shiny new luxury suite. I have to tell you, this is not a bad way to watch a football game:

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The whole facility is pretty impressive. But one of the most stunning things about the thing is what amounts to world’s largest high-definition television set hanging from the ceiling:

Cowboys Titans Football

This four-sided screen is essentially a 5-story building hanging from the ceiling. And the pictures this thing produced had even Jon Simpson, a A/V critic of the highest order, gobsmacked. But as anyone who watched the game will attest, there’s just one small problem with this wonder of technology . . .

Punts tend to hit it.

It’s difficult to imagine that the likely height of a punt wasn’t factored into the construction of a stadium purpose-built for football. In postgame interviews, Jerry Jones was in full “Nathan Thurm” mode about it. “Of course, I knew punts were going to hit the scoreboard. I can’t believe you think I didn’t know this. It’s part of our plan.”

2. Excellence in Podcasting

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We launched a new website for our business  a couple of weeks ago and with it, Jon Simpson and I began a weekly series of audio podcasts. Each runs about 5 minutes and tries to combine a nugget of information about technology or media with a little levity. You can find it and subscribe here. Or you can subscribe through iTunes by searching “Cobalt Bridge.”

I hope to start creating some audio and video for this site as well. Stand by for . . . something.

3. What Would Chavez Do?

The Obama administration continues to be on exactly the wrong side of the governmental controversy in Honduras. Sweet flaming Uzziah, is there anything this president isn’t wrong-headed about? . . . spectacularly, petulantly, condescendingly wrong? God help our poor country . . .

4. Some Dare Call It Amusing

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A few weeks ago, on the anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing, I posted some thoughts about conspiracies. (One Giant Leap for Conspiracy Theories). Since then, I received some good-natured chiding from a friend or two suggesting I’m being naive. So, I’ll take this opportunity to expand and clarify my remarks.

I did not mean to suggest that there are no conspiracies. History is filled with them–some criminal, some political, some financial. A few  succeed (e.g., the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln.) Most fail (as with Guy Fawkes and his Gunpowder Plot of 1605).

My argument is not that conspiricies aren’t hatched and attempted. Only that people are reliably bad at carrying them out and/or keeping them a secret if by dumb luck or providence, they succeed. Thus, here are three guidelines I follow when presented with a juicy conspiracy theory.

1. Never attribute to malice what can adaquately be explained by incompetence. (So, no, Roosevelt didn’t intentionally ignore warnings about a Japanese attack in order to justify America’s entry into the war. He and a lot of other people down the chain of command were hiney-covering nincompoops.)

2. Always apply lex parsimoniae (the law of economy), also known as Occam’s Razor. When evaulating competing hypotheses, the simplest explanation that adaquately explains the phenomena is likely to be the correct one. In other words, embrace the explanation with the fewest moving parts. (No conspiracy theory in the history of paranoia has more moving parts than the “9/11 was in Inside Job” narrative.)

3. “They,” whoever they may be, are no smarter, organized, dependable, disciplined or mistake-proof than your local chapter of the Kiwanis Club. People are fallen, frail, and finite.

Yes, as the second Psalm reminds us, the heathen rage and the peoples devise vain things. But it also points out that God finds it all very amusing.

More on "the Recovery"

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Mark Steyn makes pretty much the same point I was attempting to make below . . . except he does a much better job because . . . well, he’s Mark Steyn, for crying out loud:

Meanwhile, in Brazil, India, China, Japan and much of Continental Europe the recession has ended. In the second quarter this year, both the French and German economies grew by 0.3 percent, while the U.S. economy shrank by 1 percent. How can that be? Unlike America, France and Germany had no government stimulus worth speaking of, the Germans declining to go the Obama route on the quaint grounds that they couldn’t afford it. They did not invest in the critical signage-in-front-of-holes-in-the-road sector. And yet their recession has gone away.

Of the world’s biggest economies, only the U.S., Britain and Italy are still contracting. All three are big stimulators, though Gordon Brown and Silvio Berlusconi can’t compete with Obama’s $800 billion porkapalooza. The president has borrowed more money to spend to less effect than anybody on the planet.

Read the whole thing here.

Why It's Crazy to Take Encouragement on the Economy from Europe

Financial headlines this morning said U.S. stocks were soaring. Why? (emphasis mine)

Stocks jumped Friday, setting the stage for a four-session winning streak, after a sharp jump in existing-home sales and some encouraging economic data out of Europe.

First let me say that I’m always skeptical of these financial press explanations of why stock indices are doing whatever it is they do. It’s usually just wild speculation. If the stock markets go down, reporters search the headlines for bad news and then point to it and declare: “That’s the reason.” When they go up, they search for good news and do the same thing.

Nevertheless, any investor basing his bets on what European markets are doing should have his head examined. Here’s why:

  • The fact is, European governments didn’t pretend that massive increases in spending equaled “stimulus.” They increased the money supply to unfreeze the credit markets, as the Bush administration did simultaneously. But the Europeans didn’t use the panic and fear as a cover to send trillions of taxpayer dollars to pet pork projects as the Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika did.
  • The European governments aren’t trying to push through the biggest new entitlement program since Social Security, either.
  • Corporate income tax rates in Europe were already much lower than they are in the U.S.. Under the current government here, taxes and regulatory burdens on businesses are increasing on a daily basis.

So yes, the business outlook in Europe is probably getting brighter. But why anyone would assume that would translate to improvement here is beyond me.

A Little More Goofing on Woodstock

Writer Neil Steinberg and I seem to be on the same wavelength. As it happens we’re also the same age. Over at the Political Mavens site, Neil writes:

Gee, have I really been listening to these goofs celebrate themselves for only 40 years? Because it feels like 400.

Doesn’t the self-regard and self-significance make you want to vomit? OK, 400,000 people gathered for a rock concert and didn’t kill each other — big flippin’ deal. Ten years later, in 1979, 1.2 million people showed up in Grant Park for a mass with Pope John Paul II, and you never hear them claiming it was a rend in the time-space continuum. Even more people are flocking to the lakefront for the Air & Water Show this weekend, and we don’t act like it’s some giant epochal moment — just another summer weekend in Chicago.

You can read the whole thing here.

Is Opposing Universal Health Care Uncivilized and Un-Christian?

the-good-samaritanBritish columnist Janice Turner says “Yes” to the question above in an op-ed for The Times of London.

As the headline of her piece makes evident, Turner is bristling at criticism of the British National Health Service which has become a part of the debate over health care here: “America has no right to speak ill of our NHS: Free healthcare is the mark of a civilised society . . .”

It’s quite human and understandable that Brits are taking umbrage at Americans speaking ill of their system (especially given that, based on my past viewing of UK TV, feeling superior to Americans is almost a national obsession there). Pride of nation is a pretty universal impulse.

It also shouldn’t be a surprise anyone that the merits and/or deficiencies of the NHS (and the Canadian system) are being highlighted by the partisans in the debate—the changes being proposed will lead us to something very similar sooner or later.

I was fascinated by the author’s assertion that providing tax-payer funded health care for everyone is the “civilised” and “Christian” thing for a nation to do. Ms. Turner, however, is glaringly wrong on several key points.

If you get past the touchy snarkiness of the first two paragraphs you find the (accurate) statement that virtually all political parties and politicians of every stripe in the UK support the NHS system.

The fact is, support for the existing system is a matter of political survival because it is indeed wildly popular with the voters. But then redistributionary programs are always popular with those on the receiving end of the redistribution. That popularity doesn’t tell us much about the merits or the morality of the program. By the way,  I understand that heroin is wildly popular with heroin addicts.

Both heroin and government largess are highly addictive.

Then Ms. Turner starts piling up red herrings and false assumptions. For example, praising the virtue of the British system, she writes:

It shows that decency, fairness and compassion, the national traits we fear died with nobler generations, live on. That America does not have universal health-care, that 47 million of your citizens live in fear of getting ill, appals and, frankly, baffles us.

I’ll set aside the question of what constitutes superior decency, fairness and compassion and just point out that the 47 million figure that she cites here is the one always thrown around by those trying to make the case that the current system is broken. It is a completely bogus figure. (See why here.) Or this:

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Nor is is likely that those without insurance live in any greater fear of getting sick than do insured folks–Ms. Turner’s powers of telepathic empathy notwithstanding.

Existing federal and state programs are designed to give the poor and indigent access to a full range of health care (no compassion or decency points for us from Ms. Turner on this, alas.)

The next paragraph gets to the heart of her argument:

The Republican National Committee can condemn the NHS as Orwellian or evil or “socialised”, but what it is, at root, is Christian.

Really? This gets to something that I plan to build a book around someday. Government expressions of “compassion” tend to be mandatory and coercive. Christian charity is by definition, voluntary. If it’s coerced, it’s neither Christian nor charitable.

As an individual Christian, my faith compels me to reach into my wallet and consider widows and orphans and the poor. What my faith does NOT compel me to do is reach into my neighbors wallet and force him to do the same. In fact it forbids it. But this is precisely what the Christian-ization of public policy does.

Then Ms. Turner goes completely off the rails. She writes:

But unlike the lean NHS, there’s a spare tyre of fat on the system and any Briton who has been treated in America can tell you where it lies: around the bellies of physicians grown corpulent on prescribing unnecessary treatment.

This is nonsense on stilts. It also betrays a profound lack of understanding of the real problem with the current system here. Doctors do indeed routinely order tons of unnecessary tests and treatments–not because they’re greedy–but because they’re terrified of being sued.

Yes, the greatest driver of higher costs and inefficiencies in the American health care system–malpractice suits and class action suits–are rooted in the Trial Lawyers Association. And yet, none of the manifold “reform” proposals bouncing around Congress even acknowledge this problem, much less try to address it.

In the next-to-final paragraph, we get a sudden burst of candor:

In Britain the bureaucracy you fight is the hospital, in America it is in the insurance companies. Dealing with the NHS is like wrestling a Leviathan. The system is trying, rigid, oblique: the endless wait to see a doctor if there is no emergency, the senseless way everything stops at weekends, the noise in the wards, the defining mode of grace under pressure.

Then we read: “But the NHS has one thing about it that is perfect — its underlying principle.”

Well, to each his or her own. I’m not a fan of that underlying principle because I believe it infantilizes people. Perhaps the difference of opinion is rooted in our countries respective histories.

Monarchy and feudalism infantilized regular people. It viewed them as, and made them, helpless wards of the governing authority. Unlike Great Britain, the United States has no history of monarchy and no feudal roots. Perhaps that’s why cradle to grave nanny state care is a harder sell here than there.

In any event, if the President and the Democratic leadership in Congress continue to try to move our health care system in the direction of Great Britain’s, then folks over here are going to examine it and point out its weaknesses.

Hopefully Ms. Turner is civilized enough and Christian enough to deal with that.

Our Woodstock Government

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Forty years ago today, the Woodstock music festival began. Woodstock has been so romanticized by the current ruling elites (media and political) that the reality no longer bears much resemblance to the myth.

A reverent and fawning documentary last night only reminded me of all that was ugly and idiotic about the thing and I couldn’t help but see many parallels to our current situation. You see, the people who attended this thing are now pretty much running our country.

Woodstock Encapsulated

woodstock-2Billed as “Three Days of Peace & Music, Woodstock was envisioned as a ticketed, three-day concert in which about 200,000 people would pay $18 in advance and $24 at the gate. About 186,000 people actually paid good money for a ticket but then about twice that many more crashed the gates and expected to be entertained, fed, and medically treated for drug related mishaps at no cost to themselves.

Based on all the misty, water-color remembering that ex-hippies were doing in that documentary I watched, we’re all supposed to marvel and admire Woodstock for the miracle that 500,000 stoners got together in a pasture for three days without violence breaking out.

They seem to be under the impression that if a half million insurance agents and bankers had been put in that situation it would have devolved into Lord of the Flies within 24 hours.

Of course, squares with jobs and responsibilities and bourgeois hangups about walking in without paying would  have never been in that situation. As the documentary pointed out, neighboring farmers and shopkeepers quickly came to the rescue of the in-way-over-their-heads organizers and brought food, drinking water and equipment in.

The U.S. Army — uniformly despised and reviled by the musicians and their assembled fans — rushed in to offer medical support. Most of the medical needs arose from drug overdoses and “bad trips.” (“We have a report that there’s a problem with the brown acid!”)

40 Years Later

Four decades later, the generation that filled farmer Max Yasgur’s field with peace, love, trash and vomit is largely running our country. Most of them weren’t actually at the event, but they imbibed deeply of the spirit of the times.

You could define the Woodstock generation as those born between 1943 and 1953 (Americans who were age 16 through 26) and who rejected the traditional cultural values of Christianity, capitalism, self-reliance and self-restraint.

Among our current leaders and policy shapers who came out of this brown acid trip are:

Nancy Pelosi; Hillary Clinton; Joe Biden; Charles Schumer; John Kerry; Robert Reich; Al Gore; Maureen Dowd; Paul Krugman; Al Franken; Chris Matthews; etc. etc.

Our New Woodstock

Reduced to it’s purest essence, Woodstock was an invasion by a bunch people operating with an inflated sense of entitlement and moral superiority; indulging their every whim and impulse, becoming a burden to responsible people who had to come to their rescue;and who left a gigantic mess for others to clean up.

And here we are again, only the farm that’s being trashed is the entire country.

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