Selections from the Carnival

If you do not peruse the weekly Carnival of the Vanities, just let me say: you ought. For those two of you not aware, the Carnival of the Vanities (as opposed to, say, the Carnival of Recipies) is a weekly collection of blog posts from the recent past deemed noteworthy by their authors (and sometimes nominated by their readers.) It’s published every Wednesday, and on a different blog each week. I’ve hosted it here myself once. I generally try to write at least a couple of posts a month that I feel qualify.

The CotV has been running now for 118 consecutive weeks, and this week it was run by Ravenwood’s Universe. There were two posts I found particularly interesting, given my personal tastes as regards this blog. The first was Classical Values‘s Urgent warnings — from SCIENCE! – an analysis of the idea that “guns cause crime.” If that’s true merely based on the prevalence of guns in criminal violence he says, doesn’t that argue that “race causes crime”? Or “maleness causes crime”? And with a greater degree of association?

(And no, I’m not sucking up to Classical Values because he linked to me, though I appreciate that. He makes good points, and makes them well.)

The second post I find of interest is Revealed Truth‘s “Ecoloons” Doesn’t Quite Cut It, a discussion of the Environmentalist movement. Ed Mick writes that the environmentalist movement is just another collectivist power-grab, and the reason the piece grabbed me is that he asked about the environmentalist movement precisely the same question I asked last week in On Guillotines and Gibbets:

Do you think it can really be mere coincidence that leftism and environmental lunacy are inevitably linked hand in hand? That such as Mikhail Gorbachev wind up running outfits like “Green Cross International?” That the dramatic diminution of property rights is at the core of almost every Green prescription for ridding us of their bogeymen?

No, not when the evidence is so abundantly clear that not only are they peddling falsehoods, but that they KNOW they are doing it. Ask yourself; given what we know about how wrong they’ve been, why do they persist? Crichton says its because Environmentalism is a religion – a matter of faith, not science. I think he’s right with respect to some, but naively wrong with respect to most. Unless you believe Communism is a religion.

My question was the same, but from only a slightly different angle:

If it is so blindingly obvious to many of us that the ideologies behind, for example, gun control and welfare are so fundamentally flawed, why are these ideologies not dead? Not only are they not dead, in many ways, still flourishing? Why is the demonstrably erroneous ideology of the Left still advanced by people who just want to keep turning up the power, with the resultant escalation of failure?

He just added “environmentalism” to gun control and welfare as another flawed, failed ideology. His conclusion, that it’s just another form of communism, is correct, but I think he glosses over the fact that it is communism (or its little brother socialism) that is the underlying religious faith. But it’s a good piece.

I Need to Find This Store!!

If you’re not familiar with Tony Woodleif’s Sand in the Gears, you ought to go spend some time in his archives. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the written word and Tony is another artist in this medium. Unfortunately, he doesn’t tend to post much.

He did today, though, and it is a true gem.

Tony writes about needing to go pick up some cowboy guns for his boys for Christmas, the difficulties he ran into, and the answer to his predicament. A taste:

But I couldn’t find guns. I wandered up and down aisles until I spotted a salesman. “Excuse me,” I said, “where can I find cowboy guns?”

“Oh. We don’t sell those.” He looked at me as if I had just asked him for nipple clamps, or perhaps a Bible. His voice was tinged with the self-righteousness of people who announce to others that they recycle, or that their children attend Eugene V. Debs Elementary because they believe in supporting the public schools.

“So basically we’re becoming France, right?” He saw neither the truth nor the humor in this observation.

There was one place left, one final hope for a man intent on arming his children, in fine American fashion, for Christmas. The hobby shop.

I was greeted by a gruff bearded man. He could smell the panic on me, like a grizzled sergeant can smell it on a soldier in his first battle. “Something I can do for you, son?”

“Yes. Please. Please, for the love of all that remains good about America, tell me that you carry toy cowboy guns. Just a couple of cowboy guns is all I’m asking for. Toys R Us doesn’t have them, Wal-Mart doesn’t have them . . .” My voice trailed off.

He sized me up, perhaps to see if I was one of those pansy do-gooder Public Citizen types just looking to make trouble. Fortunately I hadn’t shaved, and I was wearing flannel. “C’mon,” he said with a gleam in his eye, “we just got in a shipment.”

They just got in a shipment.

Read the whole thing. It will leave a huge smile on your face, I promise.

Once Again, for the Record, I am NOT an Objectivist

I agree with much of Ayn Rand’s reasoning and logic, she has left us a number of eminently quotable quotes, but Dipnut of Isn’tapundit once expressed the definitive reason I have not swallowed the Objectivist philosophy hook, line, and sinker:

Perhaps the biggest mistake an intellectual can make is to try to parlay his one brilliant insight into a unified theory of existence. Ayn Rand made this mistake with Objectivism. Objectivism was useful for thinking in certain limited realms, but Rand sought to apply Objectivist thinking to every aspect of the human experience, including love. The result is a sterile philosophical landscape, extending out of sight in all directions.Tellingly, Rand was unable to live according to her ideals. This is part of what makes Rand so disagreeable; the almost hysterical denial of subjectivity’s inevitable, essential role in our lives. And it makes her not only disagreeable, but wrong.

I was therefore amused when I found via Prof. Reynolds this morning, Douglas Kern’s A TCS Christmas Carol. Kern offers various versions of the story from the perspective of different modern-day personalities. (Terry McAuliff’s was a howler.) Like Prof. Reynolds, though, I thought the Ayn Rand version was particularly scathingly accurate – and another illustration of why I am not an objectivist:

Ayn Rand: The ruggedly handsome and weirdly articulate Ebeneezer Scrooge is a successful executive held back by the corrupt morality of a society that hates success and fails to understand the value of selfishness. So Scrooge explains that value in a 272-page soliloquy. Deep down, Scrooge’s enemies know that he is right, but they resent him out of a sense of their own inferiority. Several hot sex scenes and unlikely monologues later, Scrooge triumphs over all adversity — except a really mean review by Whittaker Chambers. Meanwhile, Tiny Tim croaks. Socialized medicine is to blame.

Read the whole thing, though. Very funny.

Except the very last one, which is funny as hell.

Thought Crimes

Rivrdog has a post up concerning the brouhaha over Jason of Fish or Man‘s arrest, and he addresses something important:

There are many fertile subjects here: The need for clarity in the gun laws, the need for education of the gendarmes in the gun laws, the need of the police to be professionally detached, and not make “asshole arrests”, but above all, there is a need to be calm and deliberative in the face of such pressure. On both sides.

None of this is the reason I wrote this post, however. Mrs. DuToit was obviously horrified as to the way her comments section was being used to promote extreme and violent ideas, so she gutted the post and deleted all the comments.

Mrs. DuToit doesn’t write much about guns, but her husband, Kim DuToit, is the most prolific and widely-read gun blogger around. He is a mega-blogger. The DuToits are now worried about their position and their wide readership being interpreted to mean, to those who feel threatened about such things (read: the BATFE and all the lefty government hacks who worry about guns for a living), that she and Kim might become targets for some government action or other.

So might I, since I have stated in this blog before that I believe that the root of Gun Fearing is nothing less than the leftist fear that if they succeed in their desire for a left-wing dictatorship, there are enough guns around that will be used against them to prevent their seizing the government, or successfully revolting against the seized government after it happens. There is historical basis for this view, and there is historical evidence to show that it was this type of thinking that led the Forefathers to put the Second Amendment in place.

I have stated, as has Kim, that a time may come when all good people who support the Constitution as written and presently interpreted might have to defend said document with our guns and our lives.

This opinion puts us on a list.

He then goes on to make a list of recommendations for gun-bloggers to follow, with this caveat:

Blogging is a hobby, right? Gun blogging is just a subset of a hobby, right? No sane person pushes their hobby so hard it threatens their life and liberty.

On the surface, he’s correct. But what he’s saying is “Don’t get caught committing a thought crime.”

I found Rivrdog’s post through Rob Smith of Gut Rumbles. Rob understands. He wrote:

I love my country, but I FEAR my government. Yeah, I “beard the lion” frequently on this blog, but I fully understand the risks I take when I do it. I may be hauled off to jail some fine day for something I WROTE, right here in the land of the First Amendment. We fought a Revolution over that idea, but the government our founders fought and died for can and WILL do that to you today.

I understand Rivrdog’s concern, because I know that he’s not a wing-nut, black-helicopter-seeing, conspiracy-minded flake. He’s the kind of person I would like for a neighbor.

So, I have to ask a simple question: isn’t it tragic that he even thought to write that post in this “land of the free and home of the brave?” Isn’t it ALSO tragic that I read the post and felt compelled to write about it myself? Does that fact say something terrible about Rivrdog, me or the du Toit’s?

Or does it say something about government?

Jason wrote in a comment at Connie’s now redacted post,

I am at wits end. The loaded gun charge will likely be dropped on Thursday, it relies on what an officer claims my spouse said. Something which cannot be used in court anyway. So that leaves me with a cop claiming reckless driving and a prosecutor that will likely add a felony charge of threatening a peace officer, (from what I listened to while being held). After all this I will still need to go back to Ellensburg and clear my name from this “gun violation” they have waiting for me there. I only hope to be able to make that stand without being branded a felon.

I refuse to believe that these are the conditions we are fighting the war on terrorism to keep. If so, the war has lost my support.

All I have to say to Jason is, if you weren’t aware of the level to which we have fallen, you haven’t been paying attention. I thought you understood that the fight was to get back what we’ve lost.

When I started The Smallest Minority I was quite aware I’d probably end up on a list somewhere. I’ve kept the tone civil and polite (for the most part), and followed that list of recommendations Rivrdog put up (for the most part), but I’ve certainly committed a number of “thought crimes” by posting on those stories of government excess that I have seen, such as this one that John Ray recently found:

Gun collector visited by Waterbury police

Friday, December 10, 2004

By Ben Conery

WATERBURY — It never dawned on William Bechard that the two old Smith & Wesson revolvers he found for sale earlier this year in the Bargain News would get him arrested.

The classified advertisement newspaper led Bechard, 52, to a man in Hartford who was selling a .32-caliber revolver and a .38-caliber revolver. Bechard, of Waterbury, is an avid gun collector and trader who owns nearly 100 rifles and handguns, nearly all of them more than 50 years old.

Bechard said he bought the two revolvers in April for about $300.

The man Bechard bought the guns from called about a week later and said Bechard needed to contact the State Police to transfer the guns’ registrations. Bechard recalled Thursday night that he called the State Police to do so, but it didn’t have a record of the two guns.

Guns made before the late 1890s are considered antiques and don’t have to be registered. Believing the guns were antiques, Bechard said he didn’t give the matter a second thought until Thursday morning. Two State Police detectives knocked on his door Thursday around 7:30 a.m., Bechard said. They were there to arrest him for illegal transfer of a handgun.

“I said, ‘I’m a law-abiding citizen,'” Bechard said. “They said, ‘Well, now you’re not.'”

Bechard faces two counts of illegal transfer of a firearm, a felony, and up to 10 years in prison if convicted of both charges.

Bechard has a passion for old weapons. In his house, a room no more than three paces wide — protected by two dead bolts and pepper spray rigged to trip wire — contains an arsenal of history. He has a rifle used in the Civil War and an ivory-handled Colt.45 Peacemaker, the same model used by famed outlaw Jesse James.

Read the whole thing. Mr. Bechard has fallen victim to Ayn Rand’s dark and accurate vision. The government has made so many laws that he has violated one that brought him to the attention of the Powers That Be, who respond to his cry of “I’m a law-abiding citizen!” with “Well, now you’re not.”

Time to cash in on the guilt.

If he’s lucky, he’ll be offered a plea that will keep him out of jail, but will forever strip him of his right to arms. His entire collection, painstakingly built up over decades, will be taken. He will never legally be able to handle a firearm again. But the law that is supposed to keep guns out of the hands of felons will, again, serve only to punish an otherwise law-abiding person who merely made an error.

Last Monday I posted a piece from where a contributor there related the story of taking his son to a birthday party at the local pizza and video game parlor and shocking the socks off a gun-fearing wussy. In my comments, that same contributor posted this follow-on from another poster:

That reminds when my 8 year old daughter was at a gunshow with me and we were staffing a “gun rights” booth. The discussion was HOT and heavy with a large group of people around…….I caught only a piece of the discussion that my daughter was having with the LEO…….the LEO said “What if the President gives the order for the Police to take all the guns?”… 8 year old told the LEO “Don’t come to my house! We’ll shoot you and bury you in the backyard!”

The LEO just stopped with this look on his face………….and then he walked away.

That family is probably on a list. They’ve committed a thought crime.

Rob Smith says “I FEAR my government.” Connie du Toit fears being the target of some government action. Rivrdog recommends not making such a target of oneself.

Thomas Paine is credited with the quotation:

When people fear the government, there is tyranny. When government fears the people, there is liberty.

It’s pretty apparent where we stand now. Blindingly apparent now to Jason and to William Bechard, long apparent to Rob Smith, the du Toits, me, Rivrdog and many others.

Blogging is a hobby, yes, and gunblogging is a subset of that hobby, but most of us do it for more than just the enjoyment a hobby brings. We do it to remind our government that, while fearful, we’re not cowed. We do it to remind them that we understand what our rights are and what they’re supposed to be, and that we resent the distance between those two points. And we do it to remind them that we are not powerless.

One of the first posts I put up on this blog was Why DO I Own a Gun?, and I made the point plain from the start:

The last reason I own a gun is probably the most controversial. It’s the one that gets gun owners branded as “nuts”, “kooks”, and various other derogatory terms.

I own a gun in order to keep my government in check.

That is the primary reason the Second Amendment was added to the Constitution. The men who wrote it created a whole new form of government, one untried before in history. They did this in the full knowledge that governments are run by human beings, and that some human beings lust for power. They understood that, even with all the checks and balances engineered into the Constitution, with time and patience and even with good intent, the system they set up could fail and tyranny could again rise up. They understood that if the force of arms could be restricted to only the government, that the consent of the governed would become unimportant to those in charge.

So I own a gun. Just as a reminder those in charge that they’d better mean it when they swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. The Declaration of Independence says it best:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

It would be tough to throw off such a government starting with only small arms, but it’s been done. It would be impossible without them.

Bill Whittle wrote in Freedom:

In the Warsaw Ghetto, in Solzhenitsyn’s Gulags, in countless other miserable terrifying pits of murder, some people woke up to the idea that resistance is NOT futile. Which is why that old saw, which in my terribly, tragically misspent liberal youth I used to sneer at as the mark of a real idiot – “they can have my gun when they pry it from my cold dead fingers” – suddenly makes a new kind of sense to me.

That is not the statement of someone who doesn’t want to give up a snowmobile or a Beemer. That is a statement that draws a line in the sand for the government, or any other oppressor, to plainly see. You want to take this freedom away from me? COME AND GET IT.

That’s it, precisely.

Armed citizens, committing thought crimes in public, should act as a check on those officials who seek to overstep their powers. (I’m willing to bet that Sherrif’s deputy will now think twice if he’s ever actually given an order to confiscate weapons wholesale.) Granted, many of our freedoms have slid down the slippery slope over the past two centuries, but bear in mind that ours is the longest-lived Republic republic still in existence, too. An armed citizenry may or may not factor in to that, but I know which side of that argument I’m on.

So, like Rob and (I’m certain) like Kim du Toit, and the Geek and many others, we’ll continue to commit thought crimes and stay on those lists. We will do it in the (possibly forlorn) hope of keeping the Powers That Be attentive to the fact that they can only push so hard before another Marvin Heemeyer or Steven Bixby or someone like them has had enough, and only so much harder before what is now a tiny trickle might become a flood, because there are a number of people in this country who read this advice, and nod their heads in silent agreement:

Lesson No. 1: If a bureaucrat, or a soldier sent by a bureaucrat, comes to knock down your door and take you someplace you don’t want to go because of who you are or what you think– kill him. If you can, kill the politician who sent them. You will likely die anyway, and you will be saving someone else the same fate. For it is a universal truth that the intended victims always far outnumber the tyrant’s executioners. Any nation which practices this lesson will quickly run out of executioners and tyrants, or they will run out of it.

Lesson No. 2: If a bureaucrat, or a soldier sent by a bureaucrat, comes to knock down your door and confiscate your firearms– kill him. The disarmament of law-abiding citizens is the required precursor to genocide.

Lesson No. 3: If a bureaucrat tells you that he must know if you have a firearm so he can put your name on a list for the common good, or wants to issue you an identity card so that you may be more easily identified– tell him to go to hell. Registration of people and firearms is the required precursor to the tyranny which permits genocide. Bureaucrats cannot send soldiers to doors that aren’t on their list.

Lesson No. 4: Believe actions, not words. Tyrants are consummate liars. Just because a tyrant is “democratically elected” doesn’t mean that he believes in democracy. Reference Adolf Hitler, 1932. And just because a would-be tyrant mouths words of reverence to law and justice, or takes a solemn oath to uphold a constitution, doesn’t mean he believes such concepts apply to him. Reference Bill Clinton, among others. The language of the lie is just another tool of killers. A sign saying “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes You Free) posted above an execution camp gate doesn’t mean that anybody gets out of there alive, and a room labeled “Showers” doesn’t necessarily make you clean. Bill Clinton notwithstanding, the meaning of “is” is plain when such perverted language gets you killed. While all tyrants are liars, it is true that not all political liars are would-be tyrants– but they bear close watching. And keep your rifle handy.

Oops! I think I just committed another thought crime. Put another tick-mark next to my name.

UPDATE, 12/22: Kim du Toit informs me that Rivrdog misconstrued the reason behind the redaction, and has a post up explaining what they did and why. Connie has one, too. Excellent, as usual. Makes sense to me. I had not read the original post prior to writing Thought Crimes, so I took Rivrdog’s explanation at face value. Having met Kim & Connie, I ought to have known better, but hindsight is always 20/20.

I have just one comment on Kim’s explanatory post. There are supposed to be four boxes on which liberty stands: the soap box (which includes the mailbox), the jury box (which has been essentially stripped from us since the practice of jury nullification has been destroyed), the ballot box, and the cartridge box.

The box I use here is, of course, the soap box.

Department of Our Collapsing Collapsed Schools

Sweet bleeding jeebus. Even I didn’t think it was this bad.

Via Gary Cruse of The Owner’s Manual comes this OC Register column (registration required, or use username: nombre password: letmein – bugmenot works!). Just read it.

America as it ain’t
It’s no exaggeration to say the ignorance of college students is staggering

By Richard Nehrbass
The Huntington Beach resident is a professor of management at Cal State Dominguez Hills.

After America won its independence from Germany in the 19th century and Fidel Castro became the first ruler of the Soviet Union, Betsy Ross wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Wait, that’s not right. It was after the Emancipation Proclamation secured our independence from France and Tolstoy established his reputation as a singer and Stalin became the president of Italy.

No, this isn’t “magic realism,” or some obscure French philosopher’s post-modernist view of history. It’s our world, as understood by our children. Grown children, sitting in my classes at a campus of the California State University, and almost entirely the product of California’s public schools. To reach my classes, they have successfully navigated 12 years of American public education, graduating in the top third of their class. They have a history of A and B grades, they have admirable SAT scores. They are the flower of their generation. And they know almost nothing about their country, their culture or the world in general.

So serious is this problem that it is now often impossible for a college teacher to hold a discussion about anything that took place more than 15 years ago. Ask about Jimmy Carter, Gandhi or the Depression – or World War II or William Wordsworthor the civil rights movement of the ’60s – and it’s likely no one will know what you’re talking about. Most of my students can’t explain the difference between the political parties, or what the United Nations is, or name a single member of the president’s Cabinet. They don’t read newspapers or magazines, seldom watch the news on television, and think actually reading a book is an exotic and particularly cruel form of punishment.

Exaggerated? Unbelievable? Actually, it’s even worse – as I discovered when I gave a short general knowledge quiz to my students the first day of class. There was nothing difficult about the test, just the sorts of things you would imagine no one could reach adulthood without knowing. When I collected the papers, one young woman told me she was “embarrassed” at what she didn’t know. We all should be.

A few examples:

The vast majority of these soon-to-be college grads were not aware of even the most basic facts concerning their nation’s history. Most, for example, could not identify the decade of any of America’s wars. Any! Most couldn’t identify the century. A mere 16 percent were able to date the beginning of the Revolutionary War to the 1770s, and only 12 percent chose the 1860s as the time of the Civil War. Two-thirds were unable to date the War of 1812. The mind boggles.

America’s enemies in these wars? Fewer than one in three knew Great Britain was their country’s foe in the American Revolution. Most weren’t even able to work out who the United States fought in the “Korean” or “Vietnam” wars. When asked where the words “Four score and seven years ago” came from, only 17 percent were able to identify the Gettysburg Address. And just 17 percent (presumably the same students) knew what those six words meant.

To test simple arithmetic skills, I asked what 70 percent of 240 was. This is middle school stuff. But most had no idea how to figure it out. When asked to make change for a $5 bill when a purchase came to $1.37, one-quarter of California’s future bachelors of science weren’t able to figure it out.

Perhaps the problem is they’re too busy studying current events. Perhaps, but only 16 percent could name California’s two senators, and only 29 percent knew the Senate was composed of 100 members, though one soon-to-be grad said, “Fifty, two from each state.”

World history? One student out of more than 100 – one! – could identify the authors of the Communist Manifesto. Two knew what the Magna Carta was. Joseph Stalin was the leader of what country? Sixty-one percent were clueless, though some thought perhaps Italy or Germany. Only 4 percent chose Lenin as the first leader of the Soviet Union.

The humanities? Two percent knew Keats was a poet, 12 percent could identify D.H. Lawrence, and 18 percent Tolstoy and Stravinsky. Gerald Ford, though, will be delighted to learn that half of California’s best and brightest lauded him as the inventor of the automobile.

There were some positive results, of course. Sixty percent knew Nixon was the president who resigned in office, 95 percent chose Sacramento as their state’s capital, and 81 percent more or less knew what the Holocaust referred to. (“When jewes were killed” and “killing of ethnical group” are actual quotes from soon-to-be university grads.) And 76 percent knew what happened on Pearl Harbor Day (“There was a bombing in the shape of a mushroom which killed many people and destroyed lands.”)

But enough. After all, it’s the system, not the students, that is at fault. Our young people are not stupid. Indeed, many are quite brilliant. But it’s time we asked why after 12-plus years in our public schools, and a backpack full of As and Bs, they know so little about the world they live in. And it’s past time for our nation’s schoolteachers to take responsibility for what goes on in their classrooms. As things stand, they should be as “embarrassed” at the product of their labor as some of their own graduates are.

Go read Gary’s commentary. Then read Billy Beck’s.

I can’t add anything to that.

College students! Jeebus!

UPDATE: Rodger Schultz, in his inimitable way, has a post up on public education.

From 1980 to 2002, in real money, spending per pupil in public schools increased by $3,600, rising from $5,400 per student to $9,000. That is a two-thirds spending increase.

The result .. (you guessed the result 20 years ago didn’t you, ya big smart alek)? Last year U.S. students (8th graders) finished 15th in math and ninth in science when measured against 45 countries.


Which reminds me of the 1983 report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education that stated:

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today,we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves. We have in fact, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament.

I don’t think it was “unthinking.” I believe Connie du Toit had it right.

The other day our Carpenter’s helper heard me say something along the lines of, “it is difficult to conclude that incompetence is the reason why our public schools have deteriorated. There comes a point where you have to suspect sabotage, or a conspiracy.”

He asked me if I really meant that. I gave him the five minute explanation of John Dewey’s known affiliation with communists, his frequent essays and articles about the wonders of the Soviet education system, and his quote, “You can’t make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent.”

I then went on to tell him about how public schools changed at the turn of the last century. That there were others involved in turning Americans from free-thinking individualists to factory drones. I also added that many people probably went along with it because it seemed like a good idea, but there were certainly enough people behind the scenes, who knew that the goal posts had been moved. THAT is a conspiracy.

Yes. There does come that time when you are forced to don the tinfoil hat.

The incompetence excuse only works once. Incompetence this great is impossible to attribute to accident.

Or is it, really, war? And there’s been no “education 9/11” to wake us up to the fact?

‘Unintelligible’? I Understood Him!

I just spent the last hour watching C-SPAN’s Q and A interview of Roger Ailes that I mentioned below. I also read the transcript, as I (if you haven’t noticed) do a bit of transcribing myself from time to time. I found this interesting. From the transcript:

LAMB: How can you tell when you’re making somebody crazy and they’re in your presence?

AILES: Well, they usually try to persuade me that I’m either wrong or nuts, and certainly a bad person for not agreeing with them. And generally, when you start a debate and they try to do that, you know you’re making them crazy.

LAMB: But what is it? I mean, go back to what we were talking about in the beginning. What is it that gets under their skin about this network?

AILES: Look, they suspect we like America. They suspect that we think…

LAMB: Do they really hate America?

AILES: No, they don’t hate it. They just — are constantly telling you what’s wrong. There’s never a good story about this country. We don’t — you know, the American people don’t hear that. We don’t — you know, we don’t promote something that isn’t true, but we will put it in context. I mean, 95 percent of our people are working. That doesn’t say we don’t have an unemployment problem, you know, in Ohio and Michigan and some of those places. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t outsourcing. It doesn’t mean — you have to cover those, but you have to put it in a context. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You have to put it in a context of what we have. And that’s part of the news. Part of the news is all the facts. And we try to do that. That makes us a little different.

It wasn’t unintelligible. I understood him clearly.

He asked, “Do you want to live in Somalia?

Good question.

Interesting Coincidences

I am an avid reader. Sometimes a voracious one. I’d rather read than do pretty much anything else, given the choice. So I always have something to read when I go to lunch, and usually it’s a book or a magazine. I almost never, however, read newspapers. At least, not the dead-tree versions. Being the gun nut Second Amendment defender that I am, I am intimately aware of what Michael Crichton termed the “Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect” (PDF):

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect.

Thus was the art of “fisking” invented.

Anyway, if I want to read the news, I get it on-line now, generally. Besides, the two local papers, the Tucson Citizen and the Arizona Daily Star are generally Left and Far-Left respectively, so I don’t feel like giving them my money. But today I picked up a copy of the Star so I’d have something to read with lunch.

And I stumbled across this op-ed by Leonard Pitts, Jr. where he decries falling newspaper circulation, and relates the efforts of a Chilean newspaper to counter this fall by, well, giving the readers what they apparently want.

Mr. Pitts does not approve.

Mr. Pitts does not approve because the plebes choose to read brain candy rather than hard-hitting news such as “stories about budget deficits, congressional summits, and other boring stuff nobody cares about.”

How dare they!

Leonard blames the newspaper’s problems on “bean counters.” He says the paper where he works (the Miami Herald),

…is a place where costs are cut with the mad glee of an ax murderer, talented people are being shoveled out the door, and editors are required to prostrate themselves before the altar of the holy profit margin.

He has a point, actually. I’ve said myself that the worst thing to happen, at least to television news, was the discovery that the news department could be a profit center rather than a money-pit.

Newspapers, (and news magazines) on the other hand, have always been profit-driven. They haven’t had large commercial networks behind them to cover the payroll and the light bills. Thus “yellow journalism” was driven as much by a desire to sell newspapers as for idealism. But times have changed, and for one thing, people suffer less from Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect than they used to. The internet has had much to do with that.

As you’re no doubt aware, Time magazine awarded Power Line its “Blog of the Year” award. The guys at Power Line excerpted this from that story:

The story of how three amateur journalists working in a homegrown online medium challenged a network news legend and won has many, many game-changing angles to it. One of the strangest and most radical is that the key information in “The 61st Minute” came from Power Line’s readers, not its ostensible writers. The Power Liners are quick, even eager, to point this out. “What this story shows more than anything is the power of the medium,” Hinderaker says. “The world is full of smart people who have information about every imaginable topic, and until the Internet came along, there wasn’t any practical way to put it together.”

Now there is.

I believe that 60 Minute‘s viewership has fallen off dramatically since “the 61st Minute.” I think a good chunk of the falling newspaper circulation is due to similar reasons. There may still be a large audience willing to read “brain candy” from the press, but there are a LOT of people who still want to read about “budget deficits, congressional summits, and other boring stuff” – we just want the facts. We’re tired of being told what to THINK about it by people who don’t understand what it is they’re writing about. If we want an editorial, we’ll go to the editorial page.

I was listening to Hugh Hewitt on the way home from work this afternoon, and he was playing excerpts from C-SPAN’s “Q and A” interview of Roger Ailes. Roger is head-honcho of FOX News, a man with his finger on the pulse of what does and what does not attract an audience, I think. Hugh quotes Roger on his answer to the question, “What do they teach in journalism school?”

Well I think they get too political from time to time. I think they draw conclusions for students, at least many of the ones that I have talked to. They don’t necessarily teach them the simple things of gather all the facts, present all the facts. I think in many cases they have agendas. You know, I was asked by a university to give them some money and I went to the university and I taught a couple of classes and I interviewed a bunch of students and I said: ‘I’m not going to give you any money until you can graduate somebody who likes America. It’s not a bad country you know. Soon as you get me somebody like that I’ll get you some money , but based on what they’re learning, you’d think we lived somewhere else.’

Hewett expands:

The anti-Americanism of many elite media is palpable, and increasingly resented by Americans of all backgrounds. Ailes knows this, and knows as well that any network that simply does not attack America on a nightly basis will be ahead of CNN.

The same holds for newspapers, and Mr. Pitts should understand that and stop blaming the moronic public on the one hand, and the parsimonious bean-counters on the other. If he wants to see the reason for falling circulation, perhaps he and his professional breathren ought to spend some time staring into a mirror.

Failing that, he can go ahead and get into the bed-and-breakfast industry, and leave the news and analysis to the rising amateurs and semi-pros of the blogosphere.

This is TOO Cool!

On Nov. 12 I ordered six copies of Bill Whittle’s book Silent America (five are Christmas presents). They finally came in today. Nice!

But the icing on the cake is that Bill has included a few pages of comments praising his essays (as they do on many books – quotes from the reviewers) and he included one of mine!

I’m touched. (In the head, but don’t let that bother you.)

Have you ordered your copies?