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HLG Notebook | April 2015

1. Journalism’s Back-Patting Obsession

Jack Shafer has made it certain that he will never win a Pulitzer. In Politico, he offers what has to be the best-ever takedown of journalism’s self-important Oscars:

All journalism prizes are arbitrary and self-aggrandizing, the product of insular thinking and administrative logrolling. But only Pulitzer winners expect the world to bow to the prize’s prestige and think owning one indemnifies them against criticism. Others believe that it should be rolled into their name like a knighthood or a doctorate.

2. Moore’s Law Created the Modern World

Fifty years ago, Gordon Moore predicted the future far better than anyone else:

Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers – or at least terminals connected to a central computer – automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment.

 

This remarkably unpretentious article, published in an obscure electronics magazine, laid the foundation for “Moore’s Law” – an idea that has shaped the entire modern technology industry. In a shrewd analysis, Stratfor outlines how Moore’s Law has even had profound geopolitical consequences:

Exponential growth in processing has accelerated technological progress and forced every country to adapt to change more quickly than at any other point in history. This is true not only for computers and digital information, but for essentially everything that exists in today’s world.

 

If you are looking for a very clear, illustrated account of what Moore’s Law means, the BBC has done a splendid job.

 

3. Lobbying’s Corrosive Power (and Public Value)

It is a well-rehearsed routine to lament how Washington is awash in lobbyists. Even so, this newBrookings review of Lee Drutman’s The Business of America is Lobbying offers a provocative description of the problem:

Drutman paints a portrait of an arms race that has primarily benefited the arms manufacturers. There is so much lobbying that it is difficult to understand which efforts are really efficacious or worthwhile, and that creates a vicious principal-agent problem in which the lobbyists’ ability to exploit their clients’ uncertainty is nearly limitless.

 

But wait! Grantland reports how one ad hoc group called “No Boston Olympics” has lobbied to thwart a wildly popular campaign to bring the Olympics to Beantown:

[They] managed to turn the entire city around on the project, and by February, the project’s approval-disapproval polling had inverted itself entirely, with opposition gaining 13 points in less than a month.

 

Question for Drutman: Doesn’t this suggest that some lobbying is “efficacious and worthwhile”?

 

4. Does Anderson Cooper’s Career Have a Future?

Months after the Brian Williams “scandal” – and nearly 20 years after the eerily prescient Broadcast News – Frank Rich of New York magazine offers this perfectly smarmy screed against the bizarre persistence of the network anchorman. Better late than never:

With their larger-than-life heads looming into our living rooms, the anchors have been brilliant at selling the conceit that a resonant voice, an avuncular temperament, a glitzy, throne-like set, and the illusion of omniscience could augment the audience’s brains, hearts, and “courage” (at one point, a Dan Rather sign-off) as it tries to navigate a treacherous world.

5. Catfight! WikiLeaks vs. The Guardian

WikiLeak’s narcissistic Julian Assange has written a completely self-serving review of Luke Harding’s book chronicling The Guardian and Edward Snowden. Assange condemns it as self-serving and soaked in “institutional narcissism.” Never have reviewer and author deserved each other more:

[The book is] a hack job in the purest sense of the term. Pieced together from secondary sources and written with minimal additional research to be the first to market, the book’s thrifty origins are hard to miss… It is a book by someone who wasn’t there, doesn’t know, doesn’t belong and doesn’t understand. Where the book is accurate, it is derivative. And where it is not derivative, it is not accurate.

6. Apple Watch: Don’t Take It to the Movies

Among the torrent of diaries about “my first week with my Apple watch,” this one is hard to beat. Whiny throughout:

My favorite unknown feature was the Apple Activity app informing me halfway into a movie with a forceful haptic jolt and message demanding I needed to stand for one minute out of every hour to remain healthy and I should do so right now because I hadn’t stopped sitting since the movie began.

This post first appeared on High Lantern Group.