I saw an interesting little segment on I forget which news story yesterday: some educators are worried about the effect the internet is having on the memory of modern people. They found that more people remember where on the internet they found a fact than remember the actual fact. The conclusion parallels my own experience. As I surf on the internet I usually have two tabs active: one for the blog and on that I am reading. I can easily go between the two as I find something that strikes my fancy. Often I will open a third tab to search for more details on or for confirmation of something I am reading. But I don't always remember exactly what information I am reading beyond a short time after I have read it. I know I can always go back on line and find the info again. As I listened to that news segment I thought about a piece from James Burke's The Day the Universe Changed series some 25 or so years ago. He described Medieval minstrels who could remember with few errors songs of 1000 lines or more after hearing it once. A second hearing and they could play the songs perfectly. What changed you ask? The printing press invented by Gutenberg in the middle of the 15th century. And that led me to a memory which I couldn't actually nail down before I went to the internet. Did I hear it in a class, or was it something I read, or was it a discussion of something I read in a class? It took me only a few seconds to locate the ultimate source: Plato's Phaedrus. I read it some 35 years ago for a class on ancient Greek philosophy. Why should the news story trigger that memory? Well, in the Phaedrus, Socrates discusses memory and writing. For what ever benefit people would derive from the technology Socrates saw as many detrimental effects. More things change, the more they stay the same. Each new technology has unforeseen effects which may be as detrimental as positive.
According to Huffington Post this is the new plan John Boehner is trying to get going to deal with the stalled debt ceiling. Frankly, I think this is an admission that our system is simply not working today. The Constitution might as well be dead. The body that has the responsibility for originating money bills (the House of Representatives) is insisting that someone else--anyone else--provide them with a plan and then create a mechanism that forces them to pass it. Unfortunately, this is only the latest incarnation of this problem. Two decades ago we needed a Presidential commission to determine what excess military bases should be closed and then had to require an up-or-down vote without amendment to get it passed. What really depresses me--the fact that Boehner seems more worried about the Market's response and his paymasters' responses than getting a really workable deal. I noticed that he didn't release his letter breaking of negotiations with the President until after the Markets closed on Friday. It took about 12 hours for the mainstream media to comment on that. They were much quicker to link his insistence that we get some deal today to the opening of the Tokyo market. The financial tail is really wagging this dog.
I just had a bit of a wandering thought on the whole mess. I wonder how much of the on-again-off-again nature of these negotiations comes from each of the principles (Boehner and Obama and whoever else happens to be in the room) agreeing in principle to something that seems extremely reasonable to them and then finding that they simply can't sell it to their respective sides. Then of course they have to have the dueling news conferences to blame the unreasonableness of the other side. The nasty thing coming out of this--I don't trust anybody much at all.
Several op-ed pieces and blogs have expressed the theme of "willful deceit" in comments about the debt limit negotiations. Jeffrey Sachs has a good one today. I think he is right on the money.
No need to comment on this Job Jones post this morning.