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09-01-2012
The Gospel of Wealth: Towards a New Generation of American Consumership By Jim Chaffee
08-01-2011
Rick Perry leads Baal worshippers in prayer meeting By Pig Bodine M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
02-01-2011
A Film Too Far: The Battle of the Strait of Hormuz By Jim Chaffee
08-01-2010
Maurice Stoker quasireviews The Vicious Circulation of Dr. Catastrophe: A Polemical Ensemble by Kane X. Faucher By Maurice Stoker
06-01-2010
Boozer Allan Hamilton Justifies the Tea Party By Boozer Allan Hamilton
04-15-2010
Keith Olbermann Freaks Out Pig Bodine By Pig Bodine
06-15-2009
Saving California: Secession and the Reagan Scheme By Pig Bodine
05-15-2009
Maurice Stoker on Tom Bradley's Even the Dog Won't Touch Me By Maurice Stoker
12-15-2008
Two Glad Tidings from The Marshall By Marshall Smith
11-01-2008
Sarah Palin's Party of God By Maurice Stoker
09-15-2008
Double-Ended Dildos Manufactured at Cosmodrome By Kane X. Faucher
07-15-2008
At the Airport By Tom Bradley
05-01-2008
Building the Perfect Weapon By Thomas Sullivan
04-01-2008
CNBC Wins Pequod Institute Award for Excellence in High School Journalism By Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
03-01-2008
Pig Bodine's Funky Financial Cooze Network Topological Finance for Aging Bald Dudes By Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
12-01-2007
Un Mensaje Navideño del Director General Por Sandra Ramos Rossi
Christmas Parades are a Deadly Derangement of Culture and other Seasonal Asides by Kane X. Faucher
11-01-2007
Euphotan, Protoplasmic Flash, and their Properties by Nail, with commentary by Chevy the Scientist
10-01-2007
Suggested reading, Universitatis Merdalina Literature 734.5, Advanced Topics in Mathematical Literature: Pseudo-British/American/Pidgin English Literature, Tensor Products of Novels and Poetry for Quasi-Conformal Plagiarism in Modern Genre and its Relationship to Sexual Identity and Morphisms by Maurice Stoker
08-01-2007
The Unexamined Life in Hell: Peregrinations Across The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman by Maurice Stoker
06-01-2007
Presidential Politics in the Year of the Toad by Boozer Allan Hamilton Ph.D.
04-01-2007
An Eleventh Tonkin Scenario by Donald Dickerson
03-01-2007
The Second Annual Howard Littlefield Boosterism Award for Economic Forecasting Awarded to Boozer Allan Hamilton by Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
12-01-2006
Maurice Stoker On Writing a Prize Winning Best Seller by Maurice Stoker
11-01-2006
¿Study says lack of talent? by Pig Bodine M.S., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
08-01-2006
US Cracks International Terrorist Ring by Maurice Stoker
06-01-2006
Pig Bodine Solves the US Immigration and Education Dilemmas in One Blow by Pig Bodine M.S., Ph.D., BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA
05-01-2006
Maurice Stoker Anent Two Errors in Thomas Pynchon’s Mason and Dixon by Maurice Stoker
Full PAM Archive
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CNBC Wins Peequod Institute Award for Excellence in High School Journalism

Hellorado float, old days, Las Vegas

The Pequod Institute for the Preservation of Human Intellect has made its 2008 awards for excellence in US high school journalism. The award began in 1942 considering only high school newspapers, but the Pequod Institute now considers every news source staffed by a preponderance of US high school graduates, including university journalism departments, major news networks and major newspapers. This extension was made in 1998, when US university standards for graduation fell to the 1960 standards of high school reading, writing and arithmetic, part of a decline that began in the 1980s and has accelerated in recent years.

The award this year is significant because it is the first time since the Institute opened the competition to the broader range that a major network has won. The underlying concern is whether the win reflects rising standards for the network or falling standards for high school journalism, but in any case it is now clear that major network news departments can compete with high schools in news analysis and coverage.

This year's awardee is CNBC for their business day programming. This has led to some carping, as expected given the budget of network productions which only a handful of high schools are able to match. Notably, once again Palo Alto High School representatives complained that since the internet bubble deflated they have suffered more draconian budget cuts than NBC. Of course, this reflects the reality that overall the US stock markets never did return to their highs, most notably the embarrassing NASDAQ, with the S&P 500 just barely making it back before retreating.

One pundit noted that perhaps the award was based more on nostalgia than accomplishment as the judges transported back to their own high school days, particularly given the cast of prom characters from king and queen to chaperones, plain Janes, and generally smiling, frothy, empty bobbleheads. Not to mention the advertisements with the likes of Sam Waterson describing software allowing individual traders to lose money automatically buying high and selling low based on models they don't understand, as well as hysterical former hippie Dennis Hopper ranting that it is possible by careful planning to live more extravagantly in retirement than one ever lived while working.

And who could forget the flirtatious interplay between the class clown and the almost-pretty wannabe-smart quasi-bimbo Miss Popularity? He in his tie with elephants and dollar signs, to symbolize no doubt Republicans as party of loose spending financed by freshly printed money. What better symbol for the big government of the Grand Old Party than an elephant of bloated bureaucracy? How does one symbolize the idea of free enterprise meaning government-guaranteed non-regulated "private" enterprise? The government as daddy-with-big-bucks to bail out the bozo plays?

After reading the Pequod announcment I spent a week watching this drivel. Television is a medium I tend to stay away from. It has been demonstrated to have a high correlation with stupidity; the more you watch the less intelligent you are. But then no one in the US public media can possibly notice stupidity. Sort of like Katie Couric complaining that the primaries were so complicated you needed a PhD in calculus to understand them. Was it that no one knew, or were they simply too afraid of her famous temper to tell her that calculus is an elementary subject, taught early in high school in Europe? (In the US, it is a college course when taught at the level of European high schools. But even in the US, with the lowest educational standards in the industrialized and almost-industrialized world, it is still a freshman course.) No one gets a PhD in calculus, though for those who major in business, social science, journalism it might as well be. But her statement leaves the impression she has a PhD in stupidity. Moreover, it is an insult to the intellectual endeavor of those who labor within mathematics and rigorous disciplines like physics.

What scared me most about CNBC's business day programming was the quality of in-house experts who make stupendously ignorant statements. Of course, they do get to interview ceremonially vaunted figures, being properly in awe of authority. Usually with absurd questions like "Have we reached a bottom yet?" (only the most desperate could want to get to the spreading bottoms of the usual bimbos blathering blithely along in these interviews) which are carefully bounced back by those few ceremonial figures with a modicum of sense. It made me wonder why the same stupid questions and statements were repeated ad-infinitum (and corrected ad-infinitum). Truth shows here: the entertainers on the program, and that is clearly what they are, have mastered the modern repoitoire of education, which consists of learning the buzz words and proper mythos without a modicum of content. They are also inclulcated to recognize the boundaries outside which one is not allowed to wander mentally; education as censorship at the pre-media level, an excellent idea. Trained bozos set free to inflict a biased view of the world based on shallow rote, never thought. After all, thought is dangerous.

But it is also terrifying to hear experts working within investment firms make information-free statements like (regarding a locally downward trend in oil prices), "If oil breaks 100, I think it will head for 90." Man, that is so deep! Yet I heard as much. And still, as the Pequod report notes, this show has the highest level of economic savvy of all the media news shows though not higher than the better high schools and universities.

So why did CNBC beat the high schools? The median level of economic education displayed on this program was sixth grade. That is a higher median than all the other journalism sources.

There are some media news shows that have outliers in economic coverage, notably The Lehrer NewsHour. However, The Lehrer NewsHour displays a painfully low level of understanding of economic issues by its quotidian staff. The economic reporter Paul Solmon does seem to get most things right within the boundaries he sets himself in terms of complexity, and it is clear that these boundaries are not set by his own understanding but for the sake of the audience. Even then he seems to confuse most of the day-staff, whose economic understanding is likely below the national median. And consider the weekly interview with Shields and Brooks, perhaps better suited to vaudeville than discussing economics. Fortunately for viewers, they say little in this regard and it is usually Mr. Brooks displaying his want of even the most shallow understanding of the subject. Perhaps Mr. Shields knows better than to yap about it, since he yaps little regarding this topic. To their credit, the NewsHour hosts a wider spectrum of economic experts on their program, but for sheer brute force it is difficult to outdo CNBC.

Of course, anyone who believes there exists an economy that can be studied in isolation from the institutions of society is clueless anyway. And no one who does not understand the assumptions of Ito's calculus as the basis for Black-Scholes and the numerous extensions of this theorem as applied to financial derivatives is not equipped to comment on any of the current problems in so-called "financial engineering." Perhaps CNBC 101 will explain Ito's lemma, it's reason for being and meaning, and the part it plays in deriving Black-Scholes as a theorem.

There were more issues than economics in making the decision regarding who topped out in high school journalism. My own interest is the economic aspects, but my colleague Maurice Stoker admitted to me his total disdain for all the programming when it comes to language. And here it was noted by Pequod that the language level displayed was close to fourth grade, and that was the best. Even grammar was a problem for many reporters, and Maurice held out the Lehrer group for highest disdain, calling their reporting "prose impaction, which might require the same sort of surgery as fecal impaction." Stoker found it particularly amusing that new words are added on CNBC to make it seem as though the reporters are saying something technically precise. We both laughed at the use of the word space, so that instead of talking about coal, now the reporters talk about coal space. As if appending that word somehow makes their gibberish scientific. It is the same nonsense that caused economists to use impact instead of effect and affect, to imply some direct causation as with a billiard ball hitting another billiard ball. Bogus, to be sure, but this kind of ceremonious language seems to fool most listeners. I wanted to ask, What kind of space? Hausdorff? Second countable? Polish? Metric?

The bias in international reporting of all the networks, including The Lehrer NewsHour (mitigated somewhat by other PBS reporting, though that was not included in the judgment since The NewsHour was considered a stand-alone feature), college newspapers and high school journalism, was pervasive and molded by the same filters. It is true that some colleges have a wider aperture on their filters. But the prevalent idea that the world is the US neocolonial oyster and that if other nations do not do as told by the US, they are either not Kapitalists (a crime) or are stupid or an enemy or fundamentalist religious nuts, is accepted by most of the population of the US anyway. To think otherwise now is considered heresy and grounds for quasi-official anathema.

It is interesting that logical consistency is not to be found among the categories judged by the committee. One member has for several years attempted to have it added, but to no avail. Among the most convincing reasons given is that logical consistency is now seen as irrelevant in reporting at any level, as it has been to the general public for decades. In fact, studies have shown that the general public does not understand the idea of logical consistency, nor indeed logic in any form. But to listen to an expert misunderstand the analogy of giving an antibiotic for a virus, or a reporter confuse rate with total, makes one despair for something so complex as logic anyway.

A category with higher discrimination value would be to measure the information content of the broadcasts. For a program like CNBC business day the optimum would be without journalists, that is to say, sans the yapping hosts and hostesses of this wannabe game show. Display the charts, let the few guests who actually know something briefly present their idea and then answer a series of automatically generated questions. But of course, this kills the entertainment value, which is the real raison de etre for this kaffeeklatsch.

An anonymous reviewer for the group noted that the entire nation is basking in high school levels of manic depression with grade school understanding of everything. At the level of taking the film The Matrix to be a documentary or philosophical treatise. The idea that the government can cut taxes and pay for wars is totally absurd, even at a Reagan-level misunderstanding of economics. The only way funds can increase dramatically enough to pay off deficits is for there to be a bubble and unbridled optimism causing otherwise rational people to pay taxes on income that doesn't really exist except in hope, i.e. to pay taxes on future income. Slick Willy profited from such a thing, courtesy of cunning and Reagan's program of printing money to cut taxes and fund defense spending. Junior Bush is pushing the envelope here, creating money in the classical sense explained by Milton Friedman in Money Mischief, a book written at the elementary school level that it seems all the people on the networks ought to be able to understand.

Perhaps the reason for the decline in US attainment has been the supply side rewarding of lack of intellectual accomplishment. Or maybe turning the entire educational system into ceremonial certification mills. It will probably only get worse, with the journalism programs from high school to network media cheering it on. Ignorance is indeed bliss.

Pig Bodine, M.Sc., Ph.D.,BM2, BEM, MAD, MDMA

© Pig Bodine 2008

Helldorado Photo from Old Las Vegas in the days when a family could watch nuclear test mushroom clouds from their rooftops, courtesy of Patrick Gaffey; © Patrick Gaffey 2008

dead pig on a motorscooter

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