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The no-win situation with microphones

by Greg Krehbiel on 6 October 2014

People with microphones tend to love the sound of their own voice and therefore talk too much, which tempts me to endorse the view that anyone who wants a microphone should by no means be allowed to have one.

My hesitation with endorsing that view is that some people are so unskilled at public speaking that the annoying loud-mouth is, on balance, still the better choice.

It seems this all stems from the feedback problem, meaning that rude behavior tends to get the kind of feedback that encourages more rude behavior. If, for example, 97 people in a crowd of 100 quietly think, “I wish this guy would shut up,” and 3 people whoop and holler and encourage the speaker, the speaker will think he’s on to something and keep at it.

I think this also explains why best man speeches have become so long, weird and embarrassing. The people with little sense of decency or decorum are aggressively cheering on the lack of decency and decorum.

-- 2 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-10-06  ::  Greg Krehbiel

So many ways to be racist

by Greg Krehbiel on 5 October 2014

this is an amusing list of all the strange things people are accused of racism for. (HT Vox Day)

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-10-05  ::  Greg Krehbiel

When people get news from comedians

by Greg Krehbiel on 3 October 2014

The subject of this article is John Oliver’s concerns about drones. The take-down of Oliver’s argument doesn’t particularly interest me, but the idea that a large portion of the population gets political information from comedians does.

The comedian’s goal is not to be fair or accurate. It’s to be snarky. It’s to twist and bend a story to find its most mockable angle, then add some toilet humor or something to make it even funnier.

I’m not against political humor. Political humor can be very funny, and it serves an important role in our society — essentially the same role the court jester used to play. Somebody needs to take these stuffed shirts down a notch.

But what would you think of a pastor who got all his information about religion from Lutheran Satire?

There’s a place for humor and satire, but serious topics also require … seriousness.

In general I think we are simply too snarky these days, and I don’t like it. (Somewhat along those lines, see this opinion piece, The Art of Courage, which argues that we are far too enamored of the subversive.)

-- 1 comment  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-10-03  ::  Greg Krehbiel

When abortion rhetoric becomes surreal

by Greg Krehbiel on 3 October 2014

I haven’t followed the Texas law about abortion clinics except at the very basic level, i.e., it requires abortion clinics to meet the same health standards as other medical facilities. This — in the minds of abortion-rights activists — means that the law denies women’s access to “safe” abortion.

Got that? Requiring the abortion clinic to meet health standards is a blow against access to safe abortions.

That strikes me as about the equivalent of saying that seat belt laws are a blow against access to safe cars.

-- 3 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-10-03  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Will the country trust the CDC?

by Greg Krehbiel on 2 October 2014

With the new Ebola scares I think we have to wonder if the country will trust the guidance coming from the CDC.

I don’t mean to cast aspersion on them or their professionalism. Lacking any evidence to the contrary I assume they are competent people who take their job very seriously.

My concern is that there’s a growing sense that government in general is either less than competent or does things for political reasons. There are two obvious examples. The Secret Service, which has heretofore had a very strong reputation, has been shown to be less than competent. The IRS, which is presumed to be above politics, has been shown to lie for political reasons.

There are other examples. Many Sailors no longer trust their leadership. The White House is promoting the idea that there’s a rape epidemic based on phony rape statistics. The head of the NSA blatantly lied to Congress about eavesdropping.

In this climate, will people believe the health advice from public officials, or will they assume the CDC is taking orders from Valerie Jerrett and just saying what they’re supposed to say?

-- 6 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-10-02  ::  Greg Krehbiel

This is sick. The NYT should be ashamed

by Greg Krehbiel on 1 October 2014

An article in the NYT thinks it strange that Republicans care about the president’s safety.

I think the president is a naive, arrogant, incompetent narcissist. But I don’t wish any harm on the man, and I certainly don’t want the president of the United States — whoever he is — to be in any danger.

Perhaps the NYT needs to look in the mirror and ask why it seems strange to them that people who disagree with the president’s policies would be concerned about his safety. Maybe, just maybe, it’s they who can’t see the difference between ideology and basic human decency. Let alone patriotism.

It’s also worth mentioning that when Reagan came back to speak before Congress after being shot, he got a standing ovation from everybody — Republicans and Democrats — because they knew it was good for the country.

Republicans and Democrats disagree about a lot of things, but nobody wants the president in danger.

-- 2 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-10-01  ::  Greg Krehbiel

When you’re not in the mood for violins

by Greg Krehbiel on 1 October 2014

Years ago there was a story about a reporter who hired a world-class violinist to play at some D.C. Metro. The reporter was outraged that nobody stopped to listen. (NPR mentions it today in this story.)

The rubes. The ignorant masses. Don’t they know genius when they hear it?

This is the kind of “arrogance of the expert” that really annoys me. The “expert” insists on measuring what he thinks is important and doesn’t stop to consider that other people might have different priorities, or that those priorities might be more rational than his own.

The phenomenon is discussed in this article: Not so foolish: We are told that we are an irrational tangle of biases, to be nudged any which way. Does this claim stand to reason?

Experts can be such idiots.

People in cities are constantly dealing with interruptions from cretins trying to get their attention and intrude on their time. We pass beggars of every sort as well as salesmen and hucksters. After a while you develop an attitude about it. You don’t want to be disturbed no matter what the person is selling.

(The exception is when vendors send people downtown to hand out free food. Everybody likes that.)

Frequently I have to walk past do-gooders who are trying to get signatures on their petition, or donations to their cause, or whatever. They try to trap you with questions like, “do you care about children?” If you’re foolish enough to say “yes, but …” then they’ve got you.

You simply have to adopt a studied, careful, deliberate “it doesn’t matter what it is, I don’t care” attitude.

Another part of the equation is that there’s a time and a place for everything. I like the TV show Castle, but I don’t want it on flat screens in every corner of the restaurant when I’m trying to talk to my wife. I like the “In Our Time” podcast, but I don’t want it playing on the Metro speakers.

There’s a time to shut up and leave people alone — even if you are the world’s greatest violin player.

-- 2 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-10-01  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Get those men off those bikes!!

by Greg Krehbiel on 30 September 2014

Apparently men ride bikes more than women. To some people, anything other than a 50-50 distribution in any area of life means there must be sexism. It’s a problem that needs to be solved — maybe with a federal program, or subsidies.

Here’s a mostly sensible article about some of the other “gender gaps.” Not every gender gap needs to be closed.

-- 4 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-09-30  ::  Greg Krehbiel

When everybody wants to be a rock star …

by Greg Krehbiel on 29 September 2014

… sell band equipment.

I think about this often in the context of my writing.

Lots of people want to be a writer these days, and since the barriers to entry have fallen dramatically, the number of wannabe writers has skyrocketed.

The sensible thing to do is to provide services for these writers. Edit manuscripts. Design covers. Help with marketing and promotion. Provide technology for self publishers. Or write books about how to be a successful self-publisher.

So … why don’t I do these things? Because I don’t want to provide services to writers. I want to be a writer.

Fortunately it’s just a hobby with me. Sure, I’d like to make some money at it, but the mortgage payment is not on the line.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-09-29  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Why Neil deGrasse Tyson’s lies matter

by Greg Krehbiel on 28 September 2014

You’ve heard of the dust-up over some Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes that he’s probably just making up. If not, see this: Neil DeGrasse Tyson: Just Trust Me On Those Things I Said, OK?

To some people, this is evidence of dishonesty while to others it’s no big deal. I think it’s illustrative of an on-going problem in the science fetish community.

To these folks, science is the only source of true statements. History isn’t really true or false. Neither are politics or economics. And don’t even mention religion.

They believe that science is the only source of reliable statements about the world, so the only things that matter are (1) good science, and (2) convincing other people that science is the only source of reliable statements about the world. If, in the service of goal #2, you say things that are “false” from the perspective of economics, history, politics, religion, etc., so what? Those things aren’t really true or false anyway. It doesn’t matter.

When I was in high school and college it always irked me that I had to study history and English and other stuff. I just wanted to study chemistry and physics and geology. Eventually I got over that and actually started to enjoy other disciplines.

Neil deGrasse Tyson illustrates why broad-based education is necessary. These “science is everything” people need to understand that there are other perspectives, other disciplines, and other ways of looking at problems and finding solutions.

But studying them is not enough. For all I know Dr. Tyson has studied such things. What’s needed is an end to this fetishizing about science.

Science is a great thing, but there are important things that can’t be known scientifically, and we have to have respect for truth and falsehood in those matters.

-- 7 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-09-28  ::  Greg Krehbiel

2014-09-26 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Some have never seen a Republican
2014-09-25 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
No U.S. boots on the ground?
2014-09-25 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
A new colonialism to save Africa?
2014-09-24 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
This is well worth your time
2014-09-23 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Feeling sorry for Richard Dawkins
2014-09-23 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Private cyber wars are coming
2014-09-21 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
When women rape
2014-09-20 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
The left and global warming
2014-09-19 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
The successful narcissist