Archives for: May 2012, 23
As if robocalls didn't have a bad enough reputation in the world of Baltimore media and politics thanks to consultant Julius Henson's activity in the last gubernatorial election, along comes WBFF (Channel 45) Monday night with its own questionable computer-generated calls into hundreds of thousands on Maryland homes.
And the calls continued Tuesday. I received one at my home in Baltimore City both days. Racquel Guillory, director of communications for Gov. Martin O'Malley, also received one at home in Howard County Monday night around dinnertime.
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Taegan Goddard, at PoliticalWire.com has the pertinent part of the transcript and the clip from Fox, as Ronald Reagan's Budget Director, David Stockman, explodes the main reason Mitt Romney says he is qualified to be President.
"I don't think that Mitt Romney can legitimately say that he learned anything about how to create jobs in the LBO business. The LBO business is about how to strip cash out of old, long-in-the-tooth companies and how to make short-term profits...All the jobs that he talks about came from Staples. That was a very early venture stage deal. That, you know they got out of long before it got to its current size."
She pointed her finger at me in yet another moment of drama and issued her accusation. It was an argument about our all too frequent arguments. "You always think you're right."
We have moved on. Married to others and gone to different parts of the country. It was years ago, and yet it still amazes me. We were supposed to have a disagreement in which I began with a supposition that I was wrong? What is the sound of one hand arguing?
Many seasons back, I was enamored with a television series based on a movie based on a book. The Paper Chase was a scholarly work about scholars at work. It centered around the adventures of a law student. Each week young James Stephens, playing a Harvard student, was schooled by John Houseman on some vital but obscure legal principle.
One week, the lesson had to do with resolving differences. What, demanded Houseman of his classroom, is the first requirement for a meeting of the minds? The hour was filled with students struggling to find the answer. A willingness to compromise? Common ground? A definition of terms? Reason? Logic?
The answer, toward the end, was as obscure and obvious as any week's episode. The first requirement for a meeting of the minds is . . . disagreement.
Over the years, I have formed some strong opinions. I'm very tough in defending of those opinions. Very tough. One reason I know I'm tough is that she whom I love tells me I am tough. She says, "Of course you are, dear." Then she goes back to assembling something complex and electronic.
One reason I took to blogging, I suppose, is that I enjoy the examination of ideas. It is true that I also appreciate a good rant, especially if it is conducted with some degree of creativity. But I seldom engage in it myself. Instead, I like the give and take of debate.
The Jeffersonian ideal is that debate informs those who listen. That could be one reason I enjoy it. While he walked among us, I liked the repartee of a William F. Buckley exchange, not just for the resultant winning or losing, but for the clash itself. The process also tends to inform advocates, even the most partisan. You can't win such an exchange without acquiring at least some sense of the arguments with which you disagree. Sometimes opinions reverse. More often they change only to the degree of a slight angle. That angularity does sometimes stay with us, however.
Several months ago, I was encouraged by a statistically promising national employment report. Hardship erased is easy to cheer about, at least for me. and a lot of good people have been hurt by the economic crash.
Heathen Republican, who writes for a blog called, by some strange coincidence The Heathen Republican referred to the same encouraging statistic, pointing to a related indicator, the percent of those employed in relation to those not actively seeking work. When people are too discouraged even to try, shouldn't that be counted as well?
As I recall, I suggested that the rate of economic participation was at about the center of developed economies. European economies, in fact, had retirement policies, vacation, and youth educational stipends that influenced their participation rates, since huge groups were routinely not counted. And we were still about in the center.
Heathen published news of a spike in the monthly non-participation rate in January. No matter what long term factors influence overall levels, the direction was not a healthy one, right?
I discovered another reason. The monthly rate of non-participation has spiked in pretty much every January since the beginning of economic statistics. That happened to be when census figures, the kind compiled every year, were added in. The spike was an artifact.
And so it went. And so it went some more. And so public debate always goes.
At the heart is a more fundamental disagreement, of course. Conservatives are, I think, biased on principle toward balanced budgets in good times and bad. I can see a combination of intuition, mixed in some cases with a sort of moralism one degree removed. It just sounds so right, this rock bed idea that we pay as we go. It can't be wrong.
I am not conscious of a corresponding bias in favor of deficits. In fact, I have a hard time imagining anyone having a prejudice in favor of deficits. If there exists such a person, would the bias come from a fascination with minus signs? Would it come from an obsession with red, and a fetish toward red ink? Some childhood trauma involving crayons?
I think those on our side, the opposite side from conservatives, are more biased toward what experience, and evidence, and the Economics 101 lessons we learned as youngsters, all combine to tell us. Deficits are good as short term moderation for recession. Balanced budgets are good during economic boom times. Our bias, if you can call it that, is toward what we think will work.
So, when I see the debate, and when I participate in it, I tend to trust those whose bias is toward what seems to work, rather than those who have an intuitive agenda. That's just me. Your mileage may vary.
I make my points, Heathen makes his. In the light provided by a loving God, we both have a better understanding of opposing views and even our own positions, as a result of the interaction. Jeffersonian debate is a good idea on its own merits.
I like and admire John Myste. He is a friend. Behind the scenes, he inquires about my health, which is not always the best, and about the state of my writing. When I'm away for a few days, I can count on a private message asking if everything is okay. He is a thoughtful, dependable friend.
As I see it, he objects to the process of debate itself, or at least to the place of evidence in that debate. At times I see him as a cynic, sneering at and rejecting evidence. He protests that my observation is flawed. "I don't deny evidence," he says, "I deny faith. When you try to reduce the economy to a specific set of data you choose to claim represents it, you are not looking at 'the facts.' You are selecting 'the facts' that best support your position."
In practice, however, I seldom see him challenge facts or, as he refers to them, "facts" with evidence. I see him rejecting evidence. As he puts it, "I have enough data to form a rational evidence based conclusion, not about the economy, but about some(one) else’s 'scientific method' in evaluating it."
John's wave of the hand dismissal of evidence because it backs one side or the other, because it is not objective, because it does not provide a sufficient degree of scientific certitude, suggests to me an unreasonable standard. His insistence on purity of scholarship spares him from the dreary task of countering what he finds faulty.
Heathen comes across to me as delightfully acerbic, attacking to a fault. He does me the courtesy of telling me why he thinks I am wrong.
Heathen presents "facts," John proposes, but his opponent Burr has "evidence" too. John's examination of that evidence and those facts frequently begins and ends with that superficial observation. Both sides have opinions and John can't be bothered. After all, neither side is sufficiently, scientifically, dispassionate.
For me, that approach to evidence, that refusal to engage in testing its validity, that gentlemanly avoidance of the dirty fingernails that come from the common labor of digging through argument in a test of value, comes down to an all too familiar voice from an unfortunate past.
I think Heathen is wrong for reasons.
John thinks Heathen is wrong because Heathen always thinks he's right.