Gen X at 40

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Ben -

Judge for yourselves, folks, and read the original post and its comments thread.

Incidentally, the gent who wrote about how academics are suspicious of charismatic politicians is a "liberal" (scare-quotes mine), not a classical liberal.

Alan -

Yours were only the Ronnie quote. The rest was on the the political e-blog, wasn't it? I feared for you, going to a masters at Harvard amongst all the "academics" and that you might choose not to go. You can't read all the posts I never sent anywhere.<p>Don't you agree that it is getting worse or dumber or perhaps all just the same?

Ben -

Oh, I don't even bother reading the e-group much anymore. It's degenerated. People are just writing the same points in slightly different words.

Academics are fine -- they just have a slight problem in sometimes missing the forest for the trees. I listen to them on their specific areas of expertise, and often ignore their other analyses.

For instance, one can get a lot from George Kennan's articles about Russia and its history and about American foreign policy without adopting his rather odd view that democracy is a bad thing.

Academics are... well, about as useful as their work. Rice and Wolfowitz are as professionally qualified as their tenured colleagues -- academics all.

When it comes down to it, I trust my own judgment more than others' on moral issues, though I'm willing to be persuaded. (And foreign policy, to me, is definitely a moral issue.)

Alan -

If there are going to be those argument pits, what we need are off-setting blogs about tourist places or other escapes. Remember in the mid-90s early brewery sites pretended to make "virtual bars" which were MOOs or what ever the acronym for pre-sims sims. I need a blog about sitting at a double AA baseball game where you can make small talk about hot dogs and how a cold beer on a hot day is good.

Ben -

Our problem is that hockey is gone, not as many like basketball, baseball's in early days still, and so our sporting sides are crying out to fight over something just as meaningless. And so we picked politics.

I suggest that we found some greyhound tracks, and take care of the problem that way. Or start really big bonfires.

Alan -

Gold.<p>And maybe the hockey thing is it. I am freaking out over the meaningless of the discourse upon this country's governance but it is Peter Puck I am really missing:<p><center><img src="images/2005b/ppuck.JPG" vspace="10"></center>

'nee -

A problem, Ben, is that many people move non-moral issues into the moral-issue category in a misguided attempt to preclude debate or to force an "agree to disagree" when one is not called for - moral issues are not only open to debate but we have a duty to debate them. Also, most people are dumber than stumps but somehow manage to believe that they're not, which includes many academics but not as many as the general populace, so nothing should ever be taken as a given because it's probably not. Also, it's a point of primary argumentation that experts are only ever expert in their field of expertise, and then only if what they're saying is uncontraversial, so no doubt trust your own judgement but remember that rule also applies to one's self. I have no point to make, here, except that I think Ronald Reagan will end up justly villified by history, and that shitty 'blogs - which Alan's, Ben's and, of course mine, are not - will end up like shitty-everything-else: laughed at by many, read by few. If there's any justice. Which there probably isn't.

Alan -

No it was definitely Peter Puck...and I took solace in these photos of shortwave antenna arrays and other radio infrastructures through history:<p><center><img src="images/2005b/shortwave1.JPG" vspace="20" hspace="2"><img src="images/2005b/shortwave6.JPG" vspace="20" hspace="2"><img src="images/2005b/shortwave7.JPG" vspace="20" hspace="2"><p><img src="images/2005b/shortwave2.JPG" vspace="20"><p><img src="images/2005b/shortwave3.JPG" vspace="20"><p><img src="images/2005b/shortwave4.JPG" vspace="20"><p><img src="images/2005b/shortwave5.JPG" vspace="20"><p><img src="images/2005b/shortwave8.JPG" vspace="20"><p><img src="images/2005b/shortwave9.JPG" vspace="20"><p><img src="images/2005b/shortwave10.JPG" vspace="20"><p></center><p>Can you name them?

Ben -

Absolutely, we debate them. We fight like hell over them. And that's why academics are less useful in the area -- professional credentials are not a convincing enough authority.

Reagan, though -- he'll get his judgment in history. I believe it'll be a good one, but I'm not the one to make it. Some American historian who hasn't even been born yet will write the seminal history of the era. (The definitive one-volume Civil War history has only just been written.) One needs distance to gain perspective.

Ben -

No knowledge of antennae here.

Arthur -

On the upside, I bought one share of Google today. I own all your souls now.

But it takes 277 million Google shares to own the world...

Googleplex -

This conversation is not in compliance with Google<sup>TM</sup> directive 145.4a(iv). Kindly keep your comments about Google<sup>TM</sup> appropriate, on target, complementary, and non-referential to us owning everything in the world or we'll be forced to disappear your website from the Internet.

Have a nice day.

Alan -

Why did that music from Star Wars just pop into my head? You know, when Darth Vadar strides into rooms?

Arthur -

You know, when Darth Vadar strides into rooms?

Darth Vader once will be considered by history to be one of the great minds in the Galaxy, you know...

Marian -

I'm sure this will sound self congratulatory (don't I always sound a little self-congratulatory anyway?) but I've been posting nothing but babies, vacation stuff, and crap about Hungary over on my blog. I too am tired of the rhetoric about academics living in ivory towers and knowing nothing. Anyone who is acquainted with academics will tell you that they are vicious brutes who would eat their own mothers. People who think otherwise are completely unaware of what goes on in the world and should just put a sock in it.

Alan -

That would mean the blogosphere would be reduced to its 1999 population! Wouldn't that be nice.

Marian -

Re: reducing the population of the blogosphere. Are you referring to the mother eating or the putting a sock in it?

'nee -

First off, some of my best friends are academics.

Second off, saying academics know nothing when discussing their chosen field of expertise is akin to saying an electrician doesn't know what colour a ground wire is.

Third, and most importantly, people who know how to think are not always academics but most people who aren't academics don't know how to think.

"And that's why academics are less useful in the area -- professional credentials are not a convincing enough authority."

Why on earth not? Academics are indeed incredibly useful in moral areas - when that area is their area of expertise, that is. They are, actually, THE people who we should be asking questions of and expecting discourse from; they have the time and inclination to study a subject from many angles. Just because a moral issue is intersubjectively evaluative doesn't mean it's impervious to academic study and/or criticism. I don't get why they're not a convincing enough authority. 'Cause some guy just talking out his uninformed ass (for example) is MORE convincing? How so?

Ben -

First off, I have every intention of becoming an academic myself.

Second off, I don't see how you can get "academics know nothing when discussing their chosen field of expertise" from me when I wrote, "I listen to them on their specific areas of expertise, and often ignore their other analyses. For instance, one can get a lot from George Kennan's articles about Russia and its history and about American foreign policy without adopting his rather odd view that democracy is a bad thing."

Third off, the statement, "most people who aren't academics don't know how to think," is arrant nonsense.

Fourth, given that we live in a democracy and are not about to hand over executive or legislative authority to our doctorate-holding overlords, I think that a little healthy skepticism is in order, especially given that on most of those (moral) issues, it is impossible to form a consensus and intelligent people continue to disagree. And rightly so.

Alan -

"Arrant" is new to me:<blockquote class="smalltext">Def.: thoroughgoing; downright; out-and-out; confirmed; extreme; notorious.<p>Etym.: "arrant" was originally a variant spelling of errant, meaning "wandering." It was first applied to vagabonds, as an arrant (or errant) rogue or thief, and hence passed gradually into its present sense. It ultimately derives from Latin iter, "a journey."</blockquote>That is a pretty good one. Now, what is the word for when you hear banjo music in your head when you look at pictures of shortwave antenna farms?

Arthur -

"academics know nothing when discussing their chosen field of expertise"

Ben. I keep thinking you're confusing academics with the 'experts' (from whichever institute) on CNN and other broadcasting stations.

Ben -

They overlap. (And often go back and forth between the institutes and the academies.)

Alan -

I think you need a defintion or two - I would never distinguish between "expert" and "academics" and "intellectuals" in terms of clear divisions.

'nee -

I definitely stick with "most people don't know how to think," and I believe that I will have it engraved upon my tombstone just in case those who visit me after my death ever begin to forget it.

And besides... "not about to hand over executive or legislative authority to our doctorate-holding overlords..." is equally ridiculous. Yes, you're right, Steven Harper is an ill-educated moron, but seriously... don't you think a little bit of education, maybe a Master's degree or two, maybe an LLB or three, would actually help our leaders, er, lead? Oh, Trudeau, where art thou when we need you? Currently, what we have is a bunch of MBAs and BAs in Psychology and precious little else. I wouldn't mind giving those doctorate-holding overloards a chance to lord over us. It's not like they could do much worse than the bunch of ill-mannered snots jostling at the reigns currently.

Ben -

I'm happy to bash politicians, but our guys aren't _terribly_ educated:

Harper -- MA in economics.
Martin -- BA in history and philosophy, LLB.
Layton -- PhD in political science.
Duceppe -- BA in political science.

Trudeau, for all that we saw him as an intellectual, wasn't that much ahead of the bunch in terms of credentials. He had a law degree from a civil law programme in Quebec, a master's in political economy from Harvard, and he never finished up his doctorate at LSE -- a trip to do dissertation research ended up as a pleasure jaunt around the world. (Pity, too, as his topic was darned interesting: the interplay between Marxism and Christianity.)

As for lawyers, we've had enough:

Sir John A. MickeyD -- lawyer.
Alexander Mackenzie -- carpenter (!).
Sir John Abbott -- not just a lawyer, a former dean of McGill law.
Sir John Thompson -- lawyer, law prof.
Sir Mackenzie Bowell -- journalist.
Sir Charles Tupper -- doctor.
Sir Wilfrid Laurier -- lawyer.
Sir Robert Borden -- lawyer.
Arthur Meighen -- lawyer
William Lyon Mackenzie King -- lawyer, among other things. (Darned well educated)
Viscount Bennett -- lawyer.
Louis St. Laurent -- law prof., bar association prez.
Dief the Chief -- lawyer.
Lester B. Pearson -- diplomat.
Trudeau -- law prof.
Clark -- journalist, but with two years of law school at different schools.
Turner -- lawyer.
Mulroney -- lawyer.
Chretien -- lawyer.
Martin -- businessman with law degree.

Save us from the lawyers, please!!! We're ready for an economist. Or, god help us, for a political scientist.

SayNay? -

GIGO

'nee -

I see Layton's the only one on that list with a PhD. As for our guys, see? They're not terribly educated - as I said, let's shove over and give the head-in-the-clouds crowd a chance to prove themselves. Harper's not an MBA but that's pretty damned close. Or maybe, as Heinlein said, the electorate itself should have to have a certain amount of smarts, too? His idea was that if you can't do a fourth-order quadratic in your head, your vote gets thrown away. Hey, maybe we just need an engineer or two in the political mix.

Ben -

If you want to start up the "all academic graduate degrees" party, you can try. Heck, if the overall policy statement looks good, I might even vote for it.

But I stick to it that liberal democracy with suffrage for all is the least bad way of doing things.