Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Little Wonder Geldof's Frustrated

I don't even know if I know any Geldof tunes, but in general it's getting tougher to listen to music as more musicians get their genius quotes in print. Radiohead and their "Fair" trade, Chris Martin's evils of shareholders, the list goes on.

If Bob Geldof thinks he's the man to cure any of the poor's ills, he might get a handle on market economics first. Here's his latest distilled brilliance, when he found out (surprise) that Live8 tickets were for sale on eBay:

"It is completely against the interests of the poor. The people who are selling these tickets on Web sites are miserable wretches who are capitalizing on people's misery."

Is it? Are the poor getting less money because of the auction of tickets? Well, indirectly, yes, because Mr. Geldof sold the tickets for less than they're worth in the first place. So the responsibility for the short-changing of the poor rests squarely on his shoulders. He got a whopping $5.4 million for 150,000 tickets, roughly $35 per ticket. For a concert of this profile, and additionally for charity, that is simply pathetic.

I can understand his frustration, because based on the sale prices of the some of the tickets (almost $1000), it is obvious that his lottery sales method is leaving a ton of money on the table that his beneficiaries will never see. And whether it happens on eBay or not, those tickets are going to be sold to people that want them. Maybe next time he'll take a page from reality and set aside some tickets for auction instead of crying about capitalism.

Which brings up another problem-- how does someone so clueless about market economics hope to help the poor in any significant way? He obviously can't be hoping to convert them into "miserable wretches" like we all apparently are-- you know, we people who buy and sell things for (gasp) money.

Beyond that, another annoying moment in the item is where he blames eBay for ever allowing the tickets to go on sale, as though eBay has a responsibility to proactively monitor every individual auction and judge whether Mr. Geldof is offended by it. It is in no way illegal to sell the tickets, keep in mind, but Mr. Geldof expects some other kind of standard. He calls it "a sort of example of corporate arrogance that it thought it could operate outside the morality of its audience."

I absolutely agree with him on one thing. The problem is arrogance.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Eugene Robinson's Thoughts on White "Damsels"

After seeing too much white "damsel" coverage for his taste, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post thinks that:

"...the pattern of choosing only young, white, middle-class women for the full damsel treatment says a lot about a nation that likes to believe it has consigned race and class to irrelevance."

Which I think is completely untrue. It may say something about a nation's demographics and human nature, but it's not some kind of indictment of American race relations. People tend to viscerally relate to people that look like they could be in their family. America is mostly white. News stories live on ratings. News subjects tend to play toward the largest audience. Wow.

I don't think it's a problem that he notice this trend, I just think it's stupid to try to chalk it up to some kind of latent racism, and claim that "
those stubborn issues are still very much alive" in America today.

Obviously, Mr. Robinson is somewhat less affected by these stories of white women, as I would expect to some degree, but that doesn't make him a racist. I would expect him to more naturally relate to stories that he could see himself, a father of sons, in. For example, a story about a boy roughly his son's age that looks something like his son.

We all do it, all the time, and it's not a problem. Unless people try to make it one by creating mistrust and resentment that don't even exist.

I don't have a daughter or a sister, and I don't relate to these stories either. I do have a girlfriend in Thailand though, and I did relate to a lot of the suffering that went on after the tsunami there. But I did not, and do not, feel that America was somehow anti-Asian when most of the stories were about the few missing Europeans, Australians, or Americans.

It's harmless, it's not malicious, and it's just the way we are. Don't try to make it something it's not.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Please Explain the Benefits of the Minimum Wage

I'm wondering if I can get somebody to explain, in the comments or via email, what benefit the minimum wage gives, and to whom. Flipping through radio stations I heard Bill O'Reilly say he supported a $7 an hour minimum wage, but he gave no reason at all.

To me, it seems like most people support it because they don't really want to think about it. But why $7, or why any amount? Why not $100 and hour? If the market can't determine wages, should we trust it to determine prices?

The common thought, I imagine, is that getting rid of the minimum wage would hurt our lowest wage earners. I believe exactly the opposite, and this article describes better than I can why.

That doesn't mean I won't try, but I thought I'd see if I can get someone to defend it or at least give a rational reason for the minimum wage to exist.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Freakonomics Background on TCS

I haven't even read Freakonomics, but this article on TechCentralStation brought to mind exactly what I think is completely missing in today's education system: economics, statistics, and logic. I think it's a lot of the reason things like Super Size Me get going. It's too easy to play with statistics and make it look like there's some kind of causal link somewhere there isn't.

In any case, read the article, it's a top-ten list of counterintuitive realities out there, and it's very interesting. I think the main reason it's counterintuitive is that education is lacking in this area.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Changing Gears a Little

I'm going to see if I can make a few more, shorter posts to keep things a little more regular around here. I know it's a common problem, maybe I'll be able to find a nice combination of sentence-long posts and multiple paragraph pieces.

It's not that I don't care about anything right now, but I'd like to work toward getting more comments so maybe I'll try to start discussions on things I haven't decided 100% about. We'll see.