I seem to have lost a post from yesterday. It was just a matter of migrating servers; and not that I was deleting it intentionally for some reason. Pretend that post was a masterpiece of craft and that it will be sorely missed.
Media Death Spiral: Abdul Edition
Abdul Hakim-Shabazz announced that he will no longer be doing his radio show with WXNT. Seems the corporate executives are engaging in cost saving measures and will fill his slot with syndicated programming.
Mike Kole who, among other things, is a radio guy out of Cleveland, is properly dismayed by the development. Personal concerns for Abdul aside — one expects he will be fine with penchant for many jobs and knack for self-promotion — Mike identifies the larger problem with this move. Indianapolis has very little local programming.
But I’m a fan of live radio that focuses on local topics. This is something woefully scarce in Indianapolis media. I was spoiled in Cleveland, with live local talk on several full power stations, plus the college radio scene, which I was a part of. When I came to Indy some 10 years ago, it was immediately apparent that radio here SUCKED in comparison. All of the media, really. Being in the state capitol, it always appeared that the media was interested in covering ‘big’ statewide news, at the expense of local issues. If the Star put the staffing into a City Desk that it does into Sports, it would have something vibrant. Alas. So, Abdul- yes, a guy from Illinois and with a foot still very much in the door in Illinois- was bringing better, more interesting, more useful radio to Indianapolis than the natives were creating.
In the context of newspapers, I’ve commented before that they have been abandoning the one thing that might help them weather the storm of new media. Local reporting is the one thing traditional media can do better than some guy with a blog or a commodity wire service. Sure, it’s more expensive, and the profit margins are smaller – for now; but it’s their only durable resource. I suspect something similar applies to radio. I don’t know what WXNT is going to put on specifically, but why should anyone care about them if, say, they end up being one more outlet for some national bloviator? Sooner or later, an Internet outlet that doesn’t have to pay for a radio license is going to eat their lunch if syndicated opinion is the weapon of choice.
I’m wishing all the best for Abdul; and I’m sure he’ll do fine. In addition to the qualities I mentioned above, he’s a gifted shit stirrer, and that’s a marketable asset. I assume WXNT will fade even further into obscurity.
Also, because I just mentioned getting rid of things that help you when the storm comes, here is a gratuitous quote from Robert Boalt’s “A Man For All Season” just because I like it a lot:
Wife: Arrest him!
More: For what?
Wife: He’s dangerous!
Roper: For all we know he’s a spy!
Daughter: Father, that man’s bad!
More: There’s no law against that!
Roper: There is, God’s law!
More: Then let God arrest him!
Wife: While you talk he’s gone!
More: And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!
Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down (and you’re just the man to do it!), do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
Marc Dukes Enters the Blogosphere
Just thought I’d put up a plug for a buddy of mine who also happens to be a solid thinker. You may have seen him commenting as Marc around these parts from time to time. He has a new blog here. I met him in college, and I recall he had a deep understanding of the issues back then. It must have been frustrating for him to be confronted by a guy like me – glib, superficial, and right of center. (At least economically – the conservative approach to social morality never held much appeal to me.)
Anyway, it should be interesting to see what he comes up with.
The Midwesterner: Blogging the Global Midwest
Hat tip to The Urbanophile for pointing me to a blog that appears to be well worth paying attention to: The Midwesterner: Blogging the Global Midwest. It really caught my eye with a post entitled America Throws in the Towel:
While China was joining the global economy and building the foundation of its current growth, the United States was cutting taxes, fighting two unfunded wars and promoting the mother of all housing bubbles. When the global recession began, the United States — the world’s biggest economy — landed in a slump that continues to this day. China — the second biggest economy — kept the stimulus funds flowing and barely slowed up.
The comparisons between the world’s two largest economies are stark — and, for Americans, distressing.
Another post that caught my eye was on the foolishness of trade wars between the states:
It’s precisely these states’ inability to compete globally that causes them to declare war on the folks next door.
In a global economy, Kansas and Missouri aren’t competing with each other, any more than Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin are competing with each other. The real competition is 10,000 miles away and all Midwesterners know that we’re losing it. The region — not just the individual cities and states but the entire region — is losing companies, manufacturing, jobs, people, congressional seats and college grads, which means they’re losing the resources needed to compete in a global economy.
. . .
Only one person gains if a business crosses the state line, and that’s the “winning” governor, who gets to claim short-term job growth on his turf during his tenure. This, of course, is why this practice continues. The payoff to the governor is immediate and gives him a boost in his next campaign.
Go check it out.
End of 2010
So, if you’re reading this, you made it to the end of 2010. (Or someone not yet born has really obscure reading habits.) For me, personally, it felt like a hard old year, but not without redeeming qualities. We moved to a new house which probably explains the hard-but-rewarding quality of the year well enough. Our firm brought on an associate. I coached my son’s soccer team. The family had a series of (thankfully) short-lived but disruptive medical issues. My golf game was ignored. My kids started at a new school. My daughter began reading. My son continued to impress me with how bright he is. My wife’s business jumped to a new level. I ran 333 miles. I made a couple of really good pots of chili.
But, the blog fell by the wayside a bit. I won’t do anything silly like resolve to make the blog a bigger priority. For example, I started drafting this post yesterday, and it just didn’t get done. Then, a sentence into resuming the post this morning, I was called upon to help with preparing a New Year’s breakfast for the family. I enjoy blogging, but, as the man said, the world will little note nor long remember what we say here. Better to concentrate on the more important things as they come along.
My predictions for 2011 politics are cynical. The Congressional Republicans will experience the inevitable backlash from actually having people in office instead of merely being some abstract Alternative to the Democrats who had to operate in the real world for the last two years. Congressional Democrats will continue to step in it as they continue to be a mix of disorganized, afraid, and venal.
On the state level, Republicans will suffer from not having Democrats to act as a brake to their throttle. I suspect Hoosiers will be reasonably tolerant of legislation that erodes schools or makes the wealthy and well-connected more comfortable, but less tolerant the more the General Assembly goes bumbling about in hot-button social issues. State Democrats need to find leadership, fast. They aren’t doing themselves any favors drifting along with comfortable guys like Bayh and Bauer. On the front end, I think they need to find someone hungry and charismatic; if anyone like that exists in the party. On the back end, they need to get some organization.
As a practical matter, most Hoosiers won’t see a whole lot of difference in their own lives as a result of legislative activity. Some will, of course, and they’ll be loudest and we’ll hear about them. But, for most of us, legislative activity nibbles along the edges and the main trajectory of our lives isn’t altered a great deal. Never was this more clear to me than when I went to a Blog Indiana conference where it came crashing home to me that political blogging was something of a ghetto of the blogosphere. This is probably a pretty good analog of politics’ relationship to social activity generally. For all the talk of the vitality of politics as a civic duty, in practice it mostly ends up being more of a shabby alternative to team sports. Where lawmakers and citizens simply focus on fixing problems and making our communities function well, politics usually ends up being largely incidental except as a countermeasure to other political activity.
With those cheery thoughts, have a happy 2011 everybody!
Masson’s Blog: Six Years Old
The anniversaries are getting less exciting, but it occurred to me that this is the 6th anniversary of this blog. My WordPress software tells me this is my 4,775th post and that there have been 22,460 approved comments. (The comments would be higher except that for the first year or two I used Movable Type and I never migrated the comments over when I switched to WordPress.)
Thanks everyone for continuing to read and comment. This has been a very enjoyable hobby for me over the years.
Issues are Incidental
I was chatting with my cousin at a surprise party for my brother this weekend, and we were discussing why my blog frequency was way down. There are a number of reasons, but one of them is a feeling that specific factual or policy issues are largely incidental to people. It’s not the issue that folks care about, usually, it’s just an excuse to advance the interest of their tribe.
For example, Mike Kole has, with some justification, ridden me about my silence on the deficit. It’s hard telling for sure one’s own personal motivations. In my mind, it’s not because Democrats are the ones spending money, it’s because they aren’t – in my opinion – spending the money nearly as stupidly as the previous administrations. Spending money to pull the country out of a nose dive and winding down some of the past administrations’ mistakes seems reasonable to me. And, a lot of that (I think) will be mitigated by the increase on taxes that never should have been lowered in the first place when the portion of tax cuts for income in excess of $250k expires.
But, there is a part of it that’s tribal – jumping on the bandwagon of those who discovered a sham concern for deficits only when Obama took office seems counterproductive. I imagine that a similar calculus or other internal justification goes through the minds of, for example, those who have a burning passion for strict sexual morality and go silent when their favored politician is caught with his pants down.
So, if it’s tribal considerations that win the day, at some level it seems a bit useless to get too animated about this issue and that issue in the way that my particular style of blogging seems to approach things. Then again, there is something of a prisoner’s dilemma going on. If one side is focused on governing and the other side is focused on winning elections, the the side focused on winning elections is going to end up governing.
I’ll have to give this more thought. I doubt anything about my blogging is going to change though. I’m going to keep babbling on about whatever strikes my interest when I have the time and inclination. And, hopefully folks will continue to find it an inviting place to spend their time and discuss whatever comes up. Objective search for truth, partisan sparring, or preaching to the choir; conversations are still valuable.
Facebook (and Twitter) Killed the Blogging Star
(With apologies to the Buggles). I have noticed that the upswing in Facebook and Twitter has really diminished my impulse to blog. In the past, I guess putting up a blog post was the most efficient way for me to get an idea out there and get some feed back, scratching whatever mental itch makes me want to bat around ideas with folks.
Now it seems that, more often than not, Facebook or Twitter is a faster way to do that. Funny how often 140 characters is enough for me to say, in broad terms, what I have on my mind. For instance, on this one, I could have just Twittered “Facebook is to Blogging as Video is to the Radio Star” or whatever. That would have propagated to my Facebook status bar, and then if that prompted ideas from my friends on either system, a discussion would ensue. For a blog entry, the interface (at least my WordPress based blog) is cludgier and the format seems to compel elaboration.
I still like my blog, and I still intend to maintain it. But I feel like it’s lost a bit of its vitality and, I might be projecting, but I feel like the blogosphere generally has dimmed a bit.
For those of you who like reading a true conservative’s take on things, I’ll go ahead and recommend Tipsy Teetotaler. I don’t agree with him with very much, politically, but when I’ve had discussions with this blogger, he’s been unfailingly civil – friendly, really – and he’s dead smart. Those nice things said, once again, I don’t agree with him on much politically. So, if you like my blog and bias reinforcement is your thing, maybe Tipsy isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re a thesis + antithesis = synthesis kind of person, this may be just the thing.
Update In retrospect, I probably over-hyped the disagreement angle. We find some common ground on the subject of “movement conservatives” as Tipsy puts it – Fox, Townhall, etc. He also did a double take at a Heritage Foundation suggestion that bigger military = smaller government. And, of course, I’ve found with even with my mainstream, Fox News watching Republican friends that when we get off the “my team versus your team” discussions and focus on particulars, there is often a lot of common ground.
South Bend Tribune To Police Comments More Vigorously
The South Bend Tribune has indicated an intent to be more active in policing the comments section on its website. The comment section there, like the website of any newspaper of any size I’ve seen lately, is basically a sewer. There seems to be a Gresham’s Law of commenting wherein the bad drives out the good. I know that the Indianapolis Star has a ridiculously low light to heat ratio. Why bother offering thoughtful commentary when it’s just going to get buried in a bunch of name calling?
I wrote a law review article on the Internet and Copyright Law back in 1995 or thereabouts. I had quaint ideas about newspaper websites which, essentially, did not exist at the time:
Using hypertext, for example, news articles could be linked to reference documents explaining specific topics within the article. This means that an article reporting about the conflict in Bosnia could have a hypertext link to a document giving a brief history of Bosnia and Eastern Europe which in turn contains links to documents that provide even more detailed information. Furthermore, the article could have a link to a discussion group where interested readers could share ideas about the article or the issue in general.
That has more or less come to pass, but what I didn’t foresee was that the “ideas” that readers would primarily be sharing were that other readers who disagreed were assholes with uncertain parentage.
The South Bend Tribune responds preemptively to those who will undoubtedly whimper about their First Amendment rights:
We believe strongly in the First Amendment. It is the cornerstone of our profession.. But our belief in free speech doesn’t mean we have to allow posters to make offensive or untrue comments on our Web site.
Start your own Web site. Pay for the domain. Host it. And say whatever you want. We don’t care. But we do care, deeply, about what is said on our Web site, to our readers.
I have been fortunate so far with this blog to have a minimum of comment flames. Undoubtedly this is, in part, because the population of readers is much smaller and much more thoughtful. I appreciate that.