Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Open Letter to Bill O'Reilly

Mr. O'Reilly,

The O'Reilly Factor has been watched by me and mine for many years.  Gradually bad manners and uncivil discourse have become more common on the show.  These actions are hurting the body politic.

Ratings are important for the business of op-ed journalism.  Disagreement, drama, and theatrics are tools to maintain a viewership's attention.  Such actions get ratings, but easily become abuse.  There is a trend on The O'Reilly Factor towards disrespect for both people and truth.  Each time these tactics are used, a deeper wedge is driven between our citizens.  The public discourse is dragged down and our ability to work together harmed.  

Can not The O'Reilly Factor's causes be better served by other tactics?

Please stop calling people names. Robert Reich is not a "communist", liberals are not all "pin heads",  David Silverman is not a "fascist", and  Ron Paul is not "dumb". On the playground, children call each other names. As we mature we should grow out of this.

Please stop interrupting people.  Talking over people has become such a habit that it even disrespected the Office of the President, without any regard for proper decorum. Close minded people interrupt those they disagree with.  A healthy democracy requires that even a fool get chances to express themselves.

Please stop the ad hominem attacks.  Attack the idea and not the person.  Attacking the person disrupts healthy discourse and is a logical fallacy.  Ad hominem attacks on speakers are rarely warranted.  Belittling people when we believe them wrong belittles all involved. 

Please stop cherry picking facts.  When one looks at data and then comes to an opinion, one is searching for truth.  When one has an opinion and searches data that prove it, they disregard information that may show the opinions error.  Cherry picking data hurts ones credibility. A wise man struggles to find the truth.  A foolish man seeks evidence to prove his prejudice.

Is the money really worth tearing us apart a little each day?  Is that to be The O'Reilly Factor legacy? 

From this viewers perspective, it appears that the emotion of the moment too often overrides good sense and manners.  A TV host has a greater obligation to be master of their feelings and to search for truth.
Please sir, govern words with your mind and manners and not by emotion or prejudice.  

Kindness to people and humility before truth are strengths I hope we all strive for.   You can do better.  We, your audience, need you to do better.

Mark Bloom

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Transparency and Friction

Free markets are effected by interested parties only if the market has complete transparency and resources move in a friction-less manner. 

Some actors will try to control every market by removing transparency or bringing friction into the market.

When ever a body of people is able to shade the market or place friction into it, the market ceases to be free.  
What ever institution monitors the market, in order to ensure its both friction less and transparent  is by default called "the government".  One can name it committee or congress or agency or what ever we wish, but each market's monitor will be it's "government".

Some would have the "free market" be "the government".  For select markets, being free may be just the right institution for that market best meet the needs of humanity.  However, not all markets can be absolutely free.

Libertarian and anarchic ideas, in general,  aim to make markets governed by Adam Smiths "blind hand".  This view advocates letting markets go to "the natural order of things".

However, one must first prove that the "natural order of things" is the best existence for humans.  I maintain that this simply and obviously not so.  Rather, we manipulate our environment constantly in order to improve for ourselves.  Our markets are just another form of human manipulation.

There is no natural law that says markets will self balance optimized to human needs any more than there is any law that says campfires will burn at the right temperature for cooking.  The unaltered natural order is not what is always best for us.

What I have yet to see from these viewpoints is how, in a realistic manner, with out some form of "government" markets will work properly.  What systems will actually effect pragmatic and practical transparency and friction-less movement in markets?

It appears to me that humans will always be struggling to find a balance between "controlling" markets and allowing them to be free. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

What Next? Security or Freedom?

Has our exertion and fumbles in this "War on Terror" worn down our resolve?  Are we too weary to take on another challenge?  

Should we now turn inward and rebuild, letting down our guard against evil in the world?  Or should we maintain the struggle for a better future while  allowing our treasure and freedom to slowly drain away?

Heady Heights

In the decade after the Soviet Union fell, the world opened up to us all; a booming economy and planetary freedom seeming ours for the taking.  As the Iron curtain opened up to trade with the world our new communications technologies boomed.  Financial practices were loosen creating a vast new source of credit for anyone who could ask for money.  All over the globe the economies of the world soared.

9/11 shocked us.  A large scale attack inside USA borders, long protected by vast oceans, put fear in hearts.  I remember distinctly that in small towns across the land, people who afraid that their own little community would be the next target, demanded the government act in a big and dramatic way.  Our surprise exaggerated the threat until we felt existence itself may be threatened. 

"They" wanted to take away our freedoms.

Shock and Awe

The reaction to this new horror was to spend blood and treasure on security, combat and construction of public works here and in far away lands.  Huge build ups in surveillance,  secret soldiers, and military might drove us forward.  Massive government agencies were restructured to face the looming doom of a landless enemy who would do our "homeland" harm.

War was waged in places where conflict had already raged for thousands of years.  Free people thought technology, money,  science, and even ideology would be naturally triumphant.  Who could dare stand before such awesome piles of money and military might?

Victory Apparent?

After a decade of effort at home and around the globe, the criminals who would hurt us were caught or captured.  Ben Laden was put in Davy Jone's Locker.  Although violence recruited new enemies, they too were sought out and brought to pay a price.

With time, terrorism itself no longer seems an imminent and real threat to us individually.  We gradually felt our small towns safe again.

Walking Wounded

Devastation and turmoil were left in our wake, as millions of lives lay shattered and radically changed.  Revolutions were triggered across dozens of countries as dictators and tyrants fell.  New governments are not always good governments.  Now nations are unstable, in chaos, or even engaged in brutal civil wars.

Professional soldiers, stretched to their limit and beyond suffer from combat fatigue, long separation from family, and traumatic stress.

Economies built on a bubble of easy borrowed money spent by citizens, corporations, and congresses have left the world economy teetering like a drunken sailor on a pay day binge.

The west wearies of fear and violence.

Forever Threatened

Terrorism's will never be gone.  Terrorism is a tactic that our enemies may pursue again.  Terrorism can never be defeated by armies or money or science or technology.  Terrorism will be tried again by someone else in another place.  Terrorism will come when we least expect it; for its very strength is it's sudden shock and brutal violence.

Security, secrets, and spying, initially embraced as a necessary evil now scares us with their attendant loss of freedoms.  No one wants to lose all their privacy in order to feel safe.  Now the tools of a war on terrorism scare us more than the terrorism itself does.

If high levels of security are maintained, the very institutions that protect us put privacy and freedom at high risk.  A dystopian future of governmental control intruding too far into our private lives  has begun to replace the fear of violence from angry people far away.  The gradual loss of liberty has become too high a price to pay for becoming less terrified.

If we ramp down our security another attack is probable some day; perhaps sooner, perhaps later.  The opportunity to surprise will present itself eventually to people of bad will.  

Choking the Chicken

We can not be Chicken Little assuming the sky of terrorism is falling down up us.
Neither can we be ostriches buried with our heads in the sand.
We can no more dismantle the entire security apparatus than we leave it in place as it is.  Both of these options leave us at perils we do not wish.

Which security works best that intrudes least?  Can such a thing be found?  
Could we stop patting down grandma at the airport?  
Could we stop tracking every phone call in order to stop bad men with evil intent?  
Could we pull all our troops home and watch the world from inside a bunker of safety until the next threat appears?

What ever we do next, let us not again react rashly.  How questions such as these get answered will determine our children's futures.