Laura Bush Clipped

Frank Rich of the New York Times recently blasted the American media for its gleeful coverage of Laura Bush's address at the White House Correspondents' Association dinner:

Yes, Mrs. Bush was funny, but the mere sight of her "interrupting" her husband in an obviously scripted routine prompted a ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention. The same throng's morning-after rave reviews acknowledged that the entire exercise was at some level P.R. but nonetheless bought into the artifice. We were seeing the real Laura Bush, we kept being told. Maybe. While some acknowledged that her script was written by a speechwriter (the genuinely gifted Landon Parvin), very few noted that the routine's most humanizing populist riff, Mrs. Bush's proclaimed affection for the hit TV show "Desperate Housewives," was fiction; her press secretary told The New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller that the first lady had yet to watch it.

Mrs. Bush's act was a harmless piece of burlesque, but it paid political dividends, upstaging the ho-hum presidential news conference of two days earlier in which few of the same reporters successfully challenged administration spin on Social Security and other matters. (One notable exception: David Gregory of NBC News, whose sharply focused follow-ups pushed Mr. Bush off script and got him to disown some of the faith-based demagoguery of the Family Research Council.) Watching the Washington press not only swoon en masse for Mrs. Bush's show but also sponsor and promote it inevitably recalls its unwitting collaboration in other, far more consequential Bush pageants. From the White House's faux "town hall meetings" to the hiring of Armstrong Williams to shill for its policies in journalistic forums, this administration has been a master of erecting propagandistic virtual realities that the news media have often been either tardy or ineffectual at unmasking.

Indeed. So who can you trust for your news? The networks? Ha! Public broadcasting. Maybe. It's too laborious to cull the blogosphere for news. And what's at stake for bloggers? Their journalistic credibility? Page views? Click-throughs? Hm. Not much of a check to dsitortions or fabrications.

See my news source links on the sidebar at the right of this page. I trust them to get the story right ultimately. But by the time a story's fictions begin to unravel, the faux story has already entered the nation's consciousness. Those same media outlets that broke the story are far more reticent about breaking the story of their error.

So those who make the story do little or nothing to unmake it.

Vigilance and skepticism is soooo taxing. No wonder most people don't bother (present company excepted, of course).


"Finish Your Homework"

Just read an interview Wired did with Thomas Friedman, columnist for the New York Times and author of The World Is Flat. The book comments on the ready accessibility of supply chains globally, and the effects of that interconnectedness on foreign policy, prosperity, and your job security.

The statement that stimulated me to post a link to the interview was Friedman's answer to Wired's question, "[W]hat should we be doing?...what advice should we give our kids?":
When I was growing up, my parents told me, "Finish your dinner. People in China and India are starving." I tell my daughters, "Finish your homework. People in India and China are starving for your job."

He continues in this vein in his column of May 13, "Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?" wherein he cites results of a recent international computer programming competition. The University of Illinois, the US's top-ranked performer in the competition, tied for 17th, the lowest rank in the 29-year history of the competition. (For your interest, the top-performing Canadian school was the University of Waterloo, achieving a fourth place ranking).

I have no doubt that Friedman's thesis has much truth. The threat to the domestic workforce posed by developing nations had been largely limited to manufacturing. At the start of the Information Age, the innovators and the workforce behind them came out of the US: IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments, etc. And the plum white collar sectors--financial services, accounting, business management--were firmly rooted on American soil.

For more than a decade now, jobs in all these sectors have been under continuing and accelerating threat from abroad. If the knowledge capital of the emerging megapowers--India and China--is not just cheaper, but also more skilled, what chance does our labor force have? How can it compete against a younger, talented, more recently trained and upwardly mobile horde of hundreds of millions?

So, to my four boys I'll say: Finish your homework, boys. There are children in India and China who've already finished theirs.