Tuesday, January 03, 2006

More! Jobsworths!

The first day back in dayjobland, and it is obviously far too early to get back to doing work. So I'll pick over the two-day old Observer instead. Which is apt, because, the Observer seemed a tad refried as well.

Inside the comment section, horror awaited. A rather pedestrian column from the normally excellent Nick Cohen. Cohen's an investigative columnist, and a rather better one than top child-procurer Nick Kristoff. The only time he's been less than gripping was when he went on TV for a programme about New Labour and spent much too much time snarking at press officers in the manner of the Guardian Diary.

Anyway, this week Nick takes on self-satisfied pundits, with the aid of a new study by Philip Tetlock on how frequently they are wrong. So far, so promising. Problem is, that the US study has already been extensively and masterfully referenced by the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly. Now, I appreciate that even the best of British journalism must rely upon foisting old US copy on its readers and hoping they don't follow it.

But the big problem for Cohen is that I don't think the lessons of the US can be transferred to UK political discourse - at least yet. The galaxy of talking heads and inane pundit shows on television just doesn't have anywhere near the mass of the US. Which is important, because the prediction game is in large part a televised sport. Not that there aren't plenty of columnists - and bloggers - doing this. Just that the most egregious examples tend to come up on telly, and the more opportunities there are for a pundit to appear, the more likely they are to make up something stupid.

Still, this is a mere quibble, and Nick probably deserves a few weeks rest. There are, after all, quite a few bullies for him to go after. How about this one? More proof that many Americans are temperamentally unsuited to waging a war on terror. This from the Post:

'A cherubic-cheeked, 4-year-old boy almost didn't get to spend Christmas with his adoring Bronx grandparents — after clueless security heavies at two airports demanded his mom prove he's not a terrorist.'

'"In order for him to get cleared, you have to fill out a form and provide three notarized forms of ID, like a military ID or driver's license," [his mother] said.'

I've had just that kind of screaming at, so my sympathies to the mother. From the president down, the war on terror means all idiots all the time.

In other news (I won't even try a segue as inept as the last), Marty "Tossbungle, That's What I Do" Markowitz spends his political capital on an advertising campaign. Your tax dollars at work, NYC kids, making that buffoon look useful.


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