Virtual Front Page, Friday, March 18, 2011

Had a lot of things I wanted to blog about today — I want to share with you some thoughts from that really interesting conference at Furman in which I participated last night, for instance — but wasn’t able to get to them. I will as soon as I can. In the meantime, here’s the news at this (later than usual) hour:

  1. Obama Warns Libya, but Attacks Go On (NYT) — Of all the coverage out there, I chose the NYT one because that headline sums up  the situation most neatly and comprehensively. What has happened in the last 24 hours, starting with the UN resolution, followed by the transparently cynical call for a “ceasefire” by Qaddafi (the perfect way of trying to fake a newly-resolute world into holding off just long enough to let him finish crushing the opposition), and continuing with the president’s ultimatum (“in one of his most forceful statements as president, Mr. Obama said that his demands were not negotiable”), has not just been news. It’s been history. But the sweep of it is captured well in those few words: Obama Warns Libya, but Attacks Go On.
  2. U.S., allied forces converge for Libya attack (WashPost) — For the president to be able to use the language he used, you already have to have forces in motion.
  3. In Libyan capital, a revolution crushed (WashPost) — In Tripoli, Qaddafi has won, and this is what that looks like.
  4. Japan raises nuclear alert level (BBC) — The drama of what’s happening in the world right now is underlined by the fact that this only the second-biggest story of the day.
  5. Yemeni Forces Fire On Demonstrators; Dozens Killed (NPR) — This sudden escalation reminds us it’s not just Libya and Bahrain right now.
  6. Ethics staff: Ard improperly spent on meals, trips (AP) — This would have made the front yesterday, but I didn’t have one. Here it is now.

You know,  folks, news has been my business for several decades, and for a lot of that time, part of my job was looking at the totality of the news, seeing the full range of it as a whole and trying to assess the relative importance of the top developments. For instance, at two previous newspapers, in Tennessee and Kansas, I had responsibility not only for deciding what went on the front page each day, but the relatively play of each story. Then, as editorial page editor at The State, there was the need to look at the whole range and decide what it was most important to comment upon.

And in all that time, I don’t quite recall a run of earth-shaking stories on multiple international fronts quite like this. I mean, yeah, you might have ONE international story dominate for awhile, such as the collapse of the Berlin Wall or 9/11 or the Iraq invasion, but not this much at once. It’s rather awe-inspiring. Yeah, most of them are related — Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, the UN suddenly having a consensus on military action that we haven’t seen in a long time — although each development is different in profound ways, with different implications for our country and the world. But to have all of that going on, AND a leading industrialized nation like Japan brought practically to its knees by a paroxysm of the Earth itself… it’s all kind of awe-inspiring.

Consequently, there’s almost a sense of whiplash when you step from the international to the state or local. Yeah, it’s a big deal in a political town for the lt. gov. to be accused of misspending campaign funds, but it seems almost embarrassingly trivial against the scope of what’s happening in the world (as does the latest pettiness by our governor). Similarly, the “titanic” struggle in Washington between Dems and Repubs over federal spending just sort of fades into the background.

Unusual situation, which is a rather silly understatement, now that I type it…

58 thoughts on “Virtual Front Page, Friday, March 18, 2011

  1. bud

    I know the Brad front page is already quite full but a terrible local story probably deserves a mention. The killings in Red Bank was certainly a tragic reminder of just how dangerous our world is. And most of the dangers have nothing to do with foreign terrorists.

  2. Scout

    What do you make of this business with Haley and the ETV board?

    Most people commenting on the State page seem hung up on the aspect of ETV that they see on regular Television, which is already paid for by donations and the ETV foundation for the most part, as I understand it, and is not what is really being talked about here. I don’t think most people realize how much ETV does for public schools and for state agencies. I don’t think privatizing these functions is going to be an improvement in quality or cost for the state.

    Haley’s ability to do this as a clean sweep is another legacy of Mark Sanford, since the board member terms are supposed to expire on a staggered basis so that the board is never completely replaced at any one time. Sanford did not keep up with his appointments. Several have been expired for years but have continued to serve in the absence of Sanford replacing them. Thanks Mark.

  3. martin

    Scout, it also says a lot about the sorry state of reporting at the state capitol’s only daily. The one that “covers the state”.

    I had read about overdue appointments at an agency here and there, but an entire agency’s board? How many more are out there like that?

    Didn’t Pearson or Godfrey say just the other day that there were, I can’t remember if it was 1000 or 2000 appointments to be made. They were using it as the excuse for not announcing dumping Darla Moore.

    I worked at a cabinet agency and personally know how slack Mark Sanford was from an attempt I made at whistle blowing. He was not real interested in that agency’s pretty severe problems. So, I should not be surprised.

    But, it is really disgusting to think of one of those “run government like a business types” letting this happen.

  4. Doug Ross

    Here’s an idea: let’s cut the sales tax collected by the state by about $100 million dollars then ask citizens to donate ONE TENTH of that to fund ETV. Think it will happen?

    Just because a few people want the government to fund ETV doesn’t mean the general public wants to.

    Make the case. If it’s worthwhile, cut some other non-essential program (they do exist)

  5. Brad

    Sanford didn’t fill the positions because he didn’t care. Nikki doesn’t care, either — except to score points with the Tea Party. And they HATE the idea of public broadcasting. So whatever you can do to it is good in her book. That makes her eager to seize the opportunity Sanford left her, to shake things up and make as big a splash as she can.

    The other night at that conference at Furman, Vincent Sheheen said something to Bob Inglis about ETV, and said something like “whatever their budget is…” Mark Quinn of ETV, who was moderating, interjected, “It’s $9.1 million.” I laughed; I couldn’t help it — Mark was so quick with the answer.

    Anyway, that got me to thinking with the back of my mind about Nikki replacing the board, and recalling that I had heard earlier in the day whom she had named to chair it, and thinking it was someone I wanted to talk to, and couldn’t remember at that moment who it was. It was Brent Nelsen, a professor at Furman. Who was sitting right next to me at the time. We spoke before and after the program. I didn’t remember that he was the new ETV chair until the next morning.

    Now that I remember, I need to call him, and see if I can find out what he actually thinks about all of this…

  6. Tim Carrier

    What to cut that is like ETV? All state parks, any state support for museums, convention centers, public gardens, street cleanup, or anything remotely uplifting, enhancing and improving. First, start with the statehouse grounds. Cement is much cheaper to care for than landscaping. I certainly don’t use most of them, so I personally won’t miss any of them. And I am fairly certain that in this day and age there are businesses that will take over those functions.

    The core problem with the faux libertarian scheme is that there is no model ever in the history of Man that demonstrates it as a viable philosophy. Oh, I forgot,.. Modern Sudan.

  7. Doug Ross


    Please provide recent examples of where a libertarian philosophy hasn’t worked. It hasn’t ever been tried in the U.S. because there are too many people dependent on getting their cut of other people’s money.

    It’s the same line people opposed to vouchers use. “It won’t work.” We won’t try it but it won’t work because if it does work it means breaking the entire failing system that so many educrats depend on. And yet the most recent results show more kids are dropping out than ever.

    We can fund ETV. I have no problem with doing that. But if you’re seriously saying that there isn’t any other less important government spending that could be cut instead, your credibility drops a whole lot.

  8. bud

    South Carolina is pretty close to a libertarian state. And last time I checked we were at the bottom of everything. There is too much greed among those who run corporations for libertarianism to ever work for the majority of folks.

  9. Brad

    You’re right, Bud — SC is about as libertarian as a place gets in this country. East of the Rockies, anyway. Some of those folks out West are pret’near as gummint-hatin’ as our own white folks here. In SC, we have never allowed the public sector to provide the level of services, or levels of coordination or planning, one usually finds along the Eastern seaboard. If Doug’s perfect-freedom state has not been tried (outside of Somalia), one must grant that the alternatives haven’t been tried, either — in SC.

    But, that said… you say, “There is too much greed among those who run corporations,” and I have to ask why you limit the statement so. There is too much selfishness among mankind, period, to live in a place with no laws or rules or regulations or agreed-upon standards (all things that libertarian militates against). The CEO of a corporation isn’t necessarily more greedy than the average working man. He’s just a little better at grabbing what he’s greedy for.

  10. Kathy

    By the time our current governor is finished, I believe we will have the most libertarian experiment in this country. What a pathetic state of affairs that will be—and what a pathetic state we will live in. Do you think Howie Rich and the Koch brothers will move here then? You would think they would want to live in their “state of nirvana”–especially since they will have bought and paid for so many of the wonderful leaders.

  11. Doug Ross


    We spend more per student than most states with bottom of the barrel results. The state budget has grown consistently over the past decade with little to show for it. We have all sorts of committees, boards, school districts, etc. duplicating effort. We have more children born immediately into government assistance than nearly any other state.

    We had a libertarian leaning governor for eight years who couldn’t get any of his policies enacted. Same will be true for Haley.

    To call South Carolina close to libertarianism is farcical. It’s like saying I’m close to being a major league baseball player because I play catch in the backyard.

    You guys are really sad. You link greed with libertarianism. Is it okay if I link laziness with liberalism? What else would you call someone who feels that other people owe them something for nothing?

    Greed has nothing to do with political philosophy. Want to compare charitable donations? I’ll post mine if you’ll post yours.

  12. Doug Ross


    And can you please provide examples of what parts of government are too small and how you raise the money to fund them to the level you think they deserve?

    How much more money do you think it would take to turn our schools from dropout factories (56% of 8th graders never make it out) into something close to marginal success. Double spending? Triple? Explain how more spending = better outcomes using districts like Allendale as a model. More money is spent there than anywhere else in SC. Results: nada.

  13. Brad

    Pretty much all of it, Doug. Of course, I don’t use that odd libertarian lingo (“too small,” “too big”), but to try to answer your question, pretty much every essential function of government in South Carolina is GROSSLY underfunded, to the point of minimal effectiveness or ineffectiveness (and the Grover Norquists of the world LOVE it when it gets to this point, because the less effective government is, the more people despise it, and pretty soon, you get to drown it in that bathtub). Take your pick: Highway patrol, our prisons, road construction and maintenance, public health inspectors — you can go on and on without getting to the one that government-haters REALLY like to fulminate about, public education.

    And no, Doug, I can’t give you a number. Sorry. I’m not an accountant. Much less an accountant good enough to look at all these different operations, assess needs and predict costs, and come up with totals. If I were king of the world and able to make all the decisions, I’d have to hire an army of accountants to do that for me.

    Sorry. I know that for you that means I lose the argument. Because, you see, the rules are that Brad must not say anything unless he can provide a 1,000-page manual of all the rules of how it would work, and a detailed set of spreadsheets with numbers. But I don’t have that. Sorry. Or rather, congratulations. You win.

    But you ALWAYS win. You’ve always won as long as I’ve engaged in any of these discussions over the last three decades. Your people always win the elections, and we cut taxes in good times, and cut spending in bad times, and we never get it together and try to actually solve any problems through the mechanism of this thing we call representative democracy. Not in South Carolina we don’t.

    And that’s what Bud and I were talking about.

  14. Brad

    Oh, and Doug, our schools are not “dropout factories.” See it’s the kids who quit, not the schools. Sort of by definition, they’re not dropouts as long as they’re actually IN the schools.

    And it is positively amoral to suggest that it is the SCHOOLS producing the factors that cause these kids to fail. To hear you talk, you’d think these kids show up for school fully prepared, with two highly motivated, college-educated parents at home cheering and driving them on, poised to make a 1600 on their SATs… and then our wicked schools, which exist only to waste YOUR personal money, which you made and printed yourself and made from fibers grown on your land and ink drawn from your own blood (sorry; I just get carried away sometimes with the absurdity of the way libertarians talk about “MY money,” as if anything like money could exist in anything but a highly interdependent society)… where was I? Oh, yes, and then these evil schools open up their perfect little heads and scoop out their brains or something.

    Anyway, that’s the picture that is conjured in my mind when you start getting all condemnatory of our schools, when you start using that TONE…

  15. Doug Ross


    Yep, I win the argument whenever we try to talk about facts. That’s normally how arguments are won. Especially when you keep repeating things that simply are not factual – government is not shrinking. It is larger than ever.

    As for your disdain for the term “dropout factories”, what would you call them? The schools are not wicked. The teachers who work in them are not wicked. It is the system that has been in place for decades wasting money and afraid to do anything different that might save some of these kids. It’s millions of dollars spent on testing that did nothing to improve the schools.

    The schools don’t create the factors that cause the kids to fail. Start with the parents who don’t care. Add in a culture of dependency on the government. Mix in education bureaucrats who get rich without ever showing any improvement in the results. It’s school boards and administrators who will not fire bad teachers nor deal with school discipline.

    This is why we need vouchers. To let those who want to put in the effort have an opportunity to escape the culture that permeates the communities that allow dropout factories to exist.

    But your answer is “more of the same”. Spend more and it will be all better.

  16. Doug Ross


    And you always fall back to that old chestnut “representative democracy” as the panacea to all the problems.

    We HAVE it already. South Carolina is a representative democracy. Unfortunately its in the hands of a small group of career politicians who have created the environment that exists. It was there before Mark Sanford and will be there after Nikki Haley. They just are easy targets for you so you don’t ruffle any feathers with the real power brokers in the state.

  17. Tim

    Frankly, I don’t have to provide you with evidence. I am not making the claim. You are. You provide the evidence of where ‘libertarian idealized government’ ever existed and what great claim to superiority it ever demonstrated. Clearly, if it was so extraordinary, it would have so far outstripped all over forms of civilization that its superiority would be manifestly unstoppable.

    And Brad, just a reminder, since I know you probably know, those supposedly ‘more’ libertarian tendencies in the great mountain and intermountain west, along with that great paradigm of anti-government sentiment, Alaska, are actually the greatest government freeloaders of all. Their hugely expensive infrastructure, per capita, is basically paid for by the ‘socialist’ New Yorks, LA’s, Bostons, etc.

  18. bud

    Pure Communism has never been tried either. Why don’t we give that a shot. With all the ENRONs, Deepwater Horizons, Exxon Valdez and Banking Industry collapses do we really want to go down the path toward an even MORE libertarian nation. I don’t think so.

  19. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    You hit the nail on the head–Alaska can be ever so libertarian when being libertarian preserves its privileges.

    Libertarians are big deniers of privilege. They tend to be the socially favored able-bodied white males. They got theirs and they don’t want anyone taking it away from them.

  20. Doug Ross


    You can’t be a government freeloader and libertarian. Which is why saying a state like South Carolina is libertarian is a crock.

    The reason there aren’t libertarian states is because there are too many people who depend on the government teat for sustenance.

  21. bud

    The reason there aren’t libertarian states is because there are too many people who depend on the government teat for sustenance.

    There is some truth to that. Examples: Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, Bank of America, Koch Industries, Goldman- Saks, Lockheed, Pfizer, Elly Lilly and who knows how many other huge companies.

    But Doug you miss the bigger point here. South Carolina may not be a libertarian state but they come close in many respects. Given that it comes closer to the libertarian ideal than say Massachusetts or New York shouldn’t we be healthy, prosperous and thriving? Or do libertarians care about such things. Seems like libertarians care more about principal that results.

  22. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    You mos def can be a freeloader and a libertarian–you think that you got what you got because of what you did.You got what you got because you reaped disproportionate benefits because of your race, sex, class and nationality (so did I except for the sex part). That’s freeloading.

  23. Doug Ross

    Sure, Kathryn… I’m just on a 35 year lucky streak. Ability and effort have no impact on success.

    Every dropout working behind the counter is just one lucky break from being a college professor. We’re all equals.

    Once is luck… Twice is good luck… After awhile you have to accept that there is skill and effort involved.

  24. Doug Ross


    Sorry. A libertarian government would not bail out banks nor have the worlds largest military. So you are making my point for me. We have nothing approaching a libertaruan government.

  25. Brad

    Hey, I was on a lucky streak of exactly 35 years myself, until I got laid off. Don’t believe me — follow me around one day. Watch how hard I work. See how much money it makes me.

    Of course, that’s my fault, right? I must have been slacking off. Those long days and nights all those years at the paper, I was just playing, right?

    Watch, folks — Doug will actually say that. He’s done it before. He believes the loss of my 35-year career, at the outset of what should have been my peak earning years, is my fault for not ditching journalism sooner. He intimates that I should have seen the handwriting on the wall. Hey, I saw it far more clearly than he or anyone else did (in fact, I frequently wrote about it to explain it to Y’ALL). What Doug probably doesn’t understand is that some of us work ourselves to death at something because it is a calling, not just to have something to do to get a paycheck.

    For the first couple of decades of that career, paying the bills was a struggle — even though I worked harder than anyone around me. What working hard (and being good at it, which I cannot take credit for; I just had the ability) did was put me in a position in which I made more money than other journos, and the last 12 years of it, I made pay that would be considered good even outside of journalism.

    But it all counted for nothing when it went from great pay to zip.

    See, that’s the thing, folks. It’s like arguing nature vs. nurture. Of course working hard is a factor — but it’s not a guarantee. Bring other factors into play, and the hard work truly counts not at all. It’s very easy to outweigh.

    You need hard work — except when you’re, I don’t know, Justin Bieber. I heard the other day he’s a billionaire now. Merit, right? Because, you know, at the age of 17 he’s put in SO much more hard work than I have.

    There’s hard work, there’s luck (and before we have a debate about the theological meaning of “luck” all I’m talking about is factors you cannot control), and then there’s talent — which is another form of luck. It’s actually a blessing from God, of course, but my point is that you do nothing to earn talent. You can develop it, but you either have it or your don’t.

    You look out at the world, and it is full of people who have neither talent nor any kind of “luck,” defined as circumstances beyond their control that break their way.

    Doug thinks (based on what he’s said before) that anyone willing to work hard enough can see which way the wind is blowing, and match his course to it in a way that success is guaranteed as long as he works hard enough.

    THIS IS NOT TRUE. I know this. Even if it is right and moral to always leap at the main chance, without regard to the right thing to do (which is what is involved in trimming your sails always to the prevailing wind), and even if you can magically snap your fingers to match your talents to the opportunities that exist, the problem is that not everyone is smart enough to do it. Period. They can work themselves to death, but without that savvy and talent, and without things breaking their way (because even the clever can miscalculate), people do NOT succeed. You need it all.

    Unlike Bud (and forgive me if this is a mischaracterization; if it is, please correct it), I don’t condemn people for succeeding. And most people who succeed DID work hard, Justin Bieber aside. But for every person who did well after working hard, there’s one, or two, or more (depending on the state of the economy) who works just as hard, or harder, and is losing ground.

    This is something I see across all sorts of businesses and lines of work right now (one interesting thing about working for ADCO is that, working with clients, I get glimpses into the inner workings of very different lines of work, glimpses that would never be granted a newspaper editor), people who used to do quite well are working just as hard as they ever did, and failing. Or at least not succeeding as they did.

    And it’s not their fault. It’s due to circumstances beyond their control.

  26. Steven Davis

    I disagree, I know people (like everyone else when they go back to high school reunions) who didn’t have luck, didn’t have skill, and didn’t have ambition. Have two and you will be successful. Throw some brains and common sense in and you can get by with one of those three. I have yet to find someone I know who wants to succeed not do so. And I’m not counting those who want to succeed by playing the lottery. One more thing, I don’t think I know one successful person who hasn’t been fired from a job at least once. Personally, I’ve been fired once and laid off twice, and I’m making more money in 2011 than I’ve ever made.

  27. Steven Davis

    One of the problems with many today is they can’t fall back on a trade if they had to. Men’s Health magazine recently had a list of 100 things every man should be able to do. Everything from tie a tie (regular not bow) to change spark plugs to repair a leaky toilet to driving a manual transmission truck. It’s shocking how many people I run into who would be lucky to be able to do 10% of that list. I have a neighbor (that Brad knows, but I’m not disclosing) who has a plumber’s truck sitting in his driveway every time a sink gets clogged and an electrician over at his house every time a breaker trips… a AAA card is not a luxury but a necessity. Part of me shakes my head and part of me just laughs at his incompetence at home ownership.

  28. Doug Ross


    How are things working out for you lately? Better or worse than your future at The State? Did ADCO hire you out of pity or based on your experience and capability? You appear to have had a bump in the road brought on by a stubbornness to accept the reality of your industry’s future. What did you REALLY do different in the last couple years at The State to change the editorial page? All I saw was cutting the output.

    Katherine would suggest you are lucky to find a new job and that the primary factor in that “luck: would be your sex, race, and class. I would suggest that you have apparently landed on your feet because of your talents – you write well, you have a strong network across the state, you are loyal (to a fault) to your core values. Is that luck? I don’t think so.

    Here’s another simple question: Are you happier now than you were in the final year at The State?

    I have a friend (the godfather of my oldest son) who worked side by side with me thirty years ago as a computer programmer. He just got laid off two weeks ago from his job as a computer programmer (same job for the past twelve years). I don’t know how many times over the years I suggested he invest some time in learning new skills to stay current and to take on more responsibility to increase his visibility. Same age, same race, same class growing up, same educational background. Now he’s 50 years old with a resume that might have been attractive in 1995 but will leave him competing with kids half his age willing to accept half his pay. Is he unlucky for staying in a job that can be shipped over to India? Especially when he saw the people around him being laid off over the past couple years?

    Steven has it right – there are very few people who are (pick two) smart, hard working, positive, interested in learning who are sitting around blaming “luck” for their situation. Luck is an event. Success is a goal met through hard work.

  29. Doug Ross

    And one more thing – when I talk about success, it is not about money. It is about enjoying going to work every day, doing something interesting and productive, being paid enough to keep the kids in shoes, the dogs in milk bones, and the wife in Prada (I kid… I kid).

    It comes down to one core belief I have: a person should be able to keep as much of the money he earns as possible and do with it what he wants. Allowing someone else to define how much and what for is the work of takers not makers.

  30. Mab

    @ Steven Davis —


    Between South Carolina and Texas I have been fired six times & laid off once.

    I’m making *zero* money — but banking lots of credits.

  31. bud

    I’m not sure Brad entirely refutes Doug’s point. Since Brad worked hard and did his job well he did enjoy 12 years of exceptional earnings. Most people would love to have 12 high earnings years. Over the course of a 40 year working life I’m sure Brad will ultimately earn much more than the average American. Even with some low earnings years factored in.

  32. bud

    Unlike Bud (and forgive me if this is a mischaracterization; if it is, please correct it), I don’t condemn people for succeeding.

    That is a mischaracterization. I have no problem with people succeeding and earning money I just don’t find it plausible to say, as Doug does, that a person’s wealth is entirely dependent on their skill and hard work. Luck plays a huge roll in that. Justin Bieber pretty much proves that. I’m sure Mr. Bieber has a certain talent that justifies his income. But to seriously argue that luck didn’t play a roll is ludicrous. I would simply tax the big earners more than they currently are. That would still leave them with a huge amount of wealth and at the same time they could help the nations financial situation. What’s wrong with that?

  33. Steven Davis

    @ Mab – Yes, but have you quit twice and been fired once in one 8 hour business day? Then asked to stay on for two weeks so it wouldn’t screw up a director’s vacation plans?

  34. Brad

    To answer Steve’s earlier question… yes, when someone attends by teleconference, I count it as participating.

    In fact, I find teleconferencing so unpleasant that the fact that someone’s willing to do it affords them extra points, on one level. I’ll walk a mile, easily, to speak to someone in person rather than on the phone. Not because I’m so conscientious, but because I personally prefer it.

  35. Steven Davis

    In the attendance records, it has those who attend by telephone noted in the “Members Present” section. Moore’s name is listed that way several times, but it’s more often noted in the “Members Absent” listing… as in not physically there and not calling in.

  36. Phillip

    @Doug: “People are paid what they are worth.”–well, yes, in the purely capitalist sense of “market value.” The problem is that modern conservatism turns that phrase on its head and seems to believe that “People are worth what they are paid,” with all that implies.

    The thing is, I’m not really sure that our market system is as “value-neutral” as your statement implies. Were some of these Wall Street or bank execs really “worth” the salaries/bonuses they were paid, even in an abstract market sense? Compared, let’s say, to other more-or-less free market countries with far less salary disparity between top-execs and other company employees, Japan for example?

  37. Steven Davis


    Unless the BOT secretary is lying and nobody objects to the reading of the previous meeting’s minutes.

  38. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    A free market requires perfect information, and numerous studies have shown the lack of open information about wages/salaries disadvantages women and minorities….

  39. Brad

    “Disadvantage” is a noun, not a verb. I don’t care how many sources you cite; they’re all wrong.

    Same with “impact.”

  40. Doug Ross


    Assuming there is no illegal activity going on, if someone/some entity decides to pay a person a certain amount, how does it make him unworthy of receiving it? You are defining the worthiness according to YOUR perception of value.

    Is a Picasso or Monet painting worth millions? Not to most people. Give me a Mad Magazine cover over a Jackson Pollock splatter any day.

    Is LeBron James worth $25 million a year? According to the fans who pay to watch him play, he is.

    Should Lil’ Wayne be a multi-multi-millionaire? YES!

    And here’s a relevant posting today from Andrew Sullivan:

    Referencing a very recent study from the University of Pennsylvania, the write concludes:

    “It doesn’t matter if one is looking at retention rates at West Point or teacher performance within Teach for America or success in the spelling bee: Factors like grit are often the most predictive variables of real world performance. Thomas Edison was right: even genius is mostly just perspiration.”


    Please pass along your theory of “free market” salaries to Darla Moore. Had she only known she was disadvantaged, she may not have tried so hard.

  41. Steven Davis

    @Mab – Sorry, I thought you were talking about something else.

    Yep, I figured I had nothing else to do for the next two weeks. I didn’t do anything illegal, but some people got loans approved that would have been denied a week before. “Not my problem.”

  42. Steven Davis

    @Phillip – If someone earns you a million dollars, would you give them a $50,000 bonus if you knew they could do it again?

    Are musicians worth multi-million dollar contracts? Are rappers or professional sports players worth millions in salaries and endorsements? If they can make you 10x the amount your paying them the answer is yes.

  43. Phillip

    @Doug and @Steven: Maybe I didn’t do a good job asking my question. For example, I don’t think most professional athletes are overpaid, relative to the money being made overall in their respective sports. Or even Lady Gaga or whoever, if they are really creating that much wealth through record sales, concert revenues, endorsement deals, etc. So, I was trying to take MY opinion OUT of the equation.

    My question was if many of super highly paid top execs at a certain level on Wall Street, etc., were actually rigging things in a way that was counter-productive or counter-intuitive to the actual financial health of their institutions, i.e., were they actually “worth” their pay from a purely economic, market standpoint. In other words, is the “invisible hand” of the market infallible in your view? Steven seems to think yes, but weren’t some of these guys getting huge bonuses even after LOSING money for the company, not gaining?

    Doug, I can’t be sure if your Picasso/Monet/Pollock example supports your point or not, since you mentioned the opinions of “most people.” You do know of course that the highest price ever fetched by a painting was this one, for $140 million a few years ago.

  44. Doug Ross


    The “invisible hand” works in the long run but there are certainly cases where people rig the system in the short term. Is it likely that a highly paid executive can retain his job over a long period of time by doing things that are counter-productive? I don’t think so.

    Look at Ken Lay from Enron. He was riding high until it all crashed down on him. The invisible hand slapped him down.

    Then look at Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. They have a long track record of making mostly correct decisions and (I believe) in an ethical manner. They deserve to keep as much of every dollar they have made — and, in turn, have voluntarily agreed to give back 95% to humanitarian causes of their own choice. That, to me, is the perfect model. Let smart, ethical people reap the rewards and distribute the bounty without funneling the money through an inefficient government.

  45. Doug Ross


    As for the $140 million painting, I can probably create one this weekend that would look very similar using some of the extra paint cans I have lying around my garage.

    I’ll sell it to you for $70 million.

  46. Phillip

    Re Ken Lay: was it really the invisible hand that slapped him down, or the very visible hand of the United States Government?

    You picked one of the more diabolical examples and then two of the more admirable examples, but there’s a lot of in-between there. I haven’t seen “Inside Job” yet but I gather that its main point is about the many execs who caused pain and suffering for thousands, maybe millions of Americans, perhaps not individually as ridiculously culpable as Lay, but also perhaps more worthy of jail time rather than bonuses.

    As for the “invisible hand” working things out in the long run, I can only quote Keynes: “In the long run we are all dead.”

  47. Kathryn Fenner (D- SC)

    @ Brad– “puts at a disadvantage” in common parlance, by educated native speakers (e.g., moi), becomes “disadvantages”–Professor Steven Pinker of MIT would approve.

    I have no doubt that Darla Moore excelled because she was from Lake City–she is an an extraordinary person. What percentage of young women of her background have even made median incomes? What percentage of white men from upper middle class backgrounds make median or above incomes?

    You can’t cite one outlier as meaningful refutation of my general assertion.

  48. Doug Ross


    So it’s just a lack of information holding women back? I think there’s a whole lot more involved.

    In fact, in my work I’ve spent the past five years working at ten different companies doing consulting work. I could easily make a guess than more than half the managers I have come in contact with were women – and this is across industries like high tech, insurance, manufacturing.

    It’s not 1965 out there… but at the same time, as long as women have the primary role in birthing and raising children during the timeframe when many men are building their career chops, it’s not going to ever balance out. And that’s not a bad thing. My wife took a twenty year break from her degree field to raise our kids and then work at lower tier jobs in their schools. She’s now back where she might have been 15 years ago and we’re both fine with that arrangement.


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