Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Thorts from the road, after a week round and about in America

Quoting prices gross of sales tax. Insane. Trips me up every time I visit, and seems to confuse a lot of natives too. It makes no sense at all. Every American I've spoken to agrees with me on this one, except for one bloke who tried to make a half-hearted defence of it as a way of "reminding people of the tax burden". To be honest, if the only way you can build a coalition for a low-tax policy is to impose minor irritations a dozen times a day, I would say that's a sign of a political programme not worth bothering with.

The food really is excellent. In particular, you do get better vegetables in America than most places in Europe.

I have no idea why everyone has such a scunner against "USA Today". It's actually a pretty decent newspaper. Compare it to something like the Mail (or even the Times to be honest) and you'll see it's really good. The Wall Street Journal is still much too ugly to read.

American news television. Jesus it's awful. Not so much the content as the technical standards of broadcasting. I watched the O'Reilly Factor and … well, this guy is meant to be the charisma magnet of Fox? Dreary. Half the time it was bad reading off an autocue, and half the rest, woefully under-rehearsed ramble. Paxman would eat these guys alive. Also, the news channels seem to have got really lazy in terms of substituting whizzy CGI graphics for old fashioned camerawork, which makes them look even more dull and static. CNN - they really love their poorly composed group shots, don't they? And their slow zooms in and out on a giant television screen. O'Reilly managed to do about a six minute sequence without a single cut, and then when he moved to an interview, they pulled up a split screen, despite the fact that the guest was clearly in the studio!

The media industry which invented the hyperactive cutting style as a cheap way of creating fake excitement now can't be bothered with it because it's too expensive (my guess is that the CNN studio show I was watching only had two cameras, and a director who wasn't confident in doing anything other than midrange group shots). I suspect that it is only the massive human capital subsidy of the BBC which stops UK media from heading into the same economic tailspin. The only remotely watchable show I saw all week was CNBC Squawkbox, where they at least still remember the concept of putting a camera on the person who's talking. Thinking about it, a lot of sitcoms also suffer from really pedestrian camera-work - this is part of what makes "The Office" stand out so much.

I heard forty minutes of "Savage Nation", in a taxi. Wow. Forty minutes and for every single one of those minutes, nobody was speaking who had any remote idea what they were talking about. I am 100% convinced that show came about as the result of a corporate brainstorming session in which someone, high on black coffee and urine retention, gabbled "what about idiots? There's loads of people out there who are idiots. Shouldn't idiots have a radio show? Let's do a show for idiots". If Michael Savage ever runs for President I have a slogan for him: "It's Moroning In America".

Reading Peter Dale Scott's "The Road to 9/11". Very good book. I think I posted in someone else's comments and lost the suggestion that "the military and intelligence services actually do work in roughly the way in which public choice theorists believe the whole government works". That's the basic message. The other basic message is the answer to Melanie Phillips' implicit question in "Londonistan" - the reason why the UK, US and other intelligence services have been so willing to accommodate not only the growth of global Islamism, but also the specific al-Qaeda faction within them is that, for the most part over the last twenty years, they have delivered the goods. From Afghanistan to the Balkans, Islamist militias were a lot more helpful and reliable than our previous main men in the cause of the plausibly deniable imposition of foreign policy goals, the global drugs industry. The growth of the Wahabi element in Islamism (and its consequent gain in market share from the Muslim Brotherhood) also probably bought at least a decade's extended survival for the House of Saud, who I hardly have to remind readers are our allies. It really is a shame that any discussion of this deep involvement between the two nominally opposed sides in the War on Terror (compare; the deep connections between the CIA and their frenemies in the War on Drugs) is considered totally unserious and evidence of being a tinfoil conspiracy loon. It's true that we hate the Islamists and they hate us, and that they murder Western civilians. On the other hand, the Mafia were and are also our enemies …
26 comments this item posted by the management 2/07/2008 07:03:00 AM

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