This blog is still alive, just in semi-hibernation. When I want to write something longer than a tweet about something other than math or sci-fi, here is where I'll write it.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Yammering versus thinking.
Yesterday, because of the vice presidential nomination, Keith Olbermann was supposed to have a special Saturday edition of Countdown, so I tuned in to MSNBC. Instead, it was Chris Matthews. I really can't stand Chris Matthews. Someone on the Think Progress website postulated that Matthews looks like Tweety Bird. I really don't see it, possibly because I have some underlying affection for Tweety Bird.
Matthews is a former Democratic Party operative, so I guess we are supposed to agree on the issues, but that isn't even close to true. He's been in Washington D.C. so long, he doesn't even smell the odor anymore. He is a bully and an idiot much like his fellow Irishman Bill O'Reilly, though he doesn't have O'Reilly's unquenchable need for self-congratulation. He just yammers. Any lamebrain notion that flickers through his head will likely pass through his lips. He was speculating on the possible Republican V.P. choices, and he rhapsodized about the possibility of Condoleezza Rice for a few moments because she has had run-ins with Biden when she has testified before Congress. It's an immensely stupid idea, but that was no reason why he couldn't waste time on it. Here are five reasons it won't happen, which I could think of more quickly than the time it took this ill-conceived blather to pop into Matthew's head then blurt out of his mouth.
1. She's not a politician. 2. As National Security Advisor, she earns plenty of the blame for the war in Iraq. 3. As Secretary of State, her only accomplishments are agreements with the Czechs and the Poles that bring us back to a near state of war with the Russians. 4. She is a never married woman in her early 50's and lives in a home she owns jointly with another unmarried woman. 5. She is pro-choice, and if the Republican base is just about getting comfortable with McCain, this would be another reason to be uncomfortable with him.
So it's an idiot idea, and when he's on the air, his panelists have to discuss his idiot ideas. Listening to him for a half hour makes me lament the chances for humans surviving, and makes me wonder if human survival is actually a good thing.
On the other hand, when I went down to Santa Barbara, my friend Alan Ponder had some YouTube spots of a recent appearance by Anne Korin on C-SPAN. She was speaking in front of the Young Americans for Freedom, an arch-conservative group. (Note: Alan is not an arch-conservative, but he found the talk interesting, as did I.) Ms. Korin is obviously a big fan of the free market, but in her talk, she postulated that the problems we face might best be solved by government intervention, at least in this special case. The audience asked questions at the end, and they were even more in love with the free market. There was a lively and mostly civil exchange of ideas, though she had to smack a few people down in a quiet, C-SPAN sort of way.
I will give links to the talk below, but the basic ideas are these.
1. Petroleum as a fuel for trucks and cars is a strategic commodity, which is to say there is no alternative that currently competes with it in a meaningful way. Ms. Korin brings up that there was a time when salt was a strategic commodity, when it was the only option for preserving meat, but refrigeration and other techniques changed that.
2. The petroleum market is not a free market, because of the cartel OPEC. Here, Ms. Korin states several facts at different times in her talk, and if she put them together, she would realize that OPEC is acting correctly in its own long term interests and market forces still work, just not to the benefit of the consumer. This is a weakness of many free market proponents. Friedman distrusted people acting in concert because his parents' business was destroyed by a strike, so Friedmanites think any concerted action as anti-market, and they tend to think all actions must maximize profits in the relatively short run.
3. Ms. Korin believes that the most important step in bringing fuel prices down is creating a market incentive for alternatives and against her principles, she proposed that the government step in and mandate American car companies to make a significant percentage of their fleet mixed used gas/ethanol vehicles in a short period of time.
The question and answer session is illuminating. Some of the true believers in the audience are true believers in Republicanism and not conservatism, and Ms. Korin brings them up short. She has little respect for the Drill Now political theater the GOP is now performing. She is willing to call for government intervention in this case because she believes we are at war. She makes a point I have heard elsewhere that the drop in the value of the dollar and rise in oil prices we have seen this decade is the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. This is the true legacy of the Bush-Cheney years, though Ms. Korin does not say it out loud.
I bring both of these things up because of my very different reactions to them. If politics is a one-dimensional left-right spectrum, I'm supposed to agree with Chris Matthews most of the time, but I don't and I have no respect for his intellect. I do disagree with Ms. Korin on many fundamental principles, but at least she thinks, and I agree with her diagnosis of the strategic commodity problem. That's why I could watch her for an hour and a half, while fifteen minutes of Matthews seems interminable.