I regret that I have but one LA Times to not read

I am happy that there is little outcry about the rumored death of newspapers. At the purest level, the rumors are quite exaggerated. There will still be newspapers after this depression is finished, only fewer and less consequential. The root cause is the internet, which has made distribution of information virtually free. Can't compete with that, and why would you want to?

However, the death throes give a nice chance to dance on the graves of the worst parts of the industry. Never waste a crisis, eh? The worst thing about newspapers is the bias. From psychology today:
"Most journalists take a number of psychology, sociology, political science, and humanities courses during their early years in college. Unfortunately, these courses have long served as ideological trainingprograms—ignoring biological sources of self-serving, corrupt, and criminal behavior for a number of reasons, including lack of scientific training; postmodern, antiscience bias; and well-intentioned, facts-be-damned desire to have their students view the world from an egalitarian perspective. Instead, these disciplines ram home the idea that troubled behavior can be fixed through expensive socialist programs that, coincidentally, provide employment opportunities for graduates of the social sciences. Modern neuroscience is showing how flawed many of these policies have been—structural differences in the brains of psychopaths, for example, help explain why remedial programs simply helped them become better at conning people."
Right. I went to a school with very rich schools of science, liberal arts, and engineering. As far as I can tell, what school you graduated from is a fine predictor of your political ideology. The students who took mostly engineering courses (and those who took our "quantitative economics" course) are not necessarily conservative or libertarian, but they are critical - when pressed, they question the means of a policy and independently assess the likely consequences. They are the types of people who you argue with, and you leave the argument having gained perspective.

The liberal arts students (and qualitative economics grads, whatever that is) on the other hand, usually end their arguments with vague pleas. "We have to do something," "Someone has to help those who aren't as fortunate as us [always with the implication that they know who should help and they can identify who is less fortunate]," and "While their policies might be similar, I don't see how you can say that Obama is like Bush." I don't know if they are just arguing with axioms with which I am not familiar, or if they really don't know how to think critically, but this is generally the depth of the conversation. It is frustrating, so I usually avoid it. We talk a lot about sports and girls.

Those are basic enough. The odd category is scientists. One would think that scientists and engineers share perspectives more often than not. In fact, I find engineers to be much more broad-minded. Engineers know more stuff. This is not to say they are smarter. It makes sense when one considers that engineers generally have to make stuff work. It doesn't matter how. A good engineer thinks outside the box, taking experience from other fields. The Wright Brothers beat the Smithsonian because they were good at building light mechanical things quickly - they owned a bike shop, after all. If you drive cross country, you may notice that pavement color changes. That is because civil engineers have to use whatever dirt and rock is available in the region. And so on. Scientists, on the other hand, are studies in compartmentalization. Their job is not to work with confounding factors, it is to eliminate them. One of the great challenges of a successful science career is resisting the temptation to specialize yourself into obscurity. Some do it by actually broadening their horizons - they attend lectures and read journals of tangential subjects, or else they start entrepreneurial incubators to feed back more R&D funds. But the usual strategy is to find a racket. Latch onto a funding source and push the research into more and more obscure territory. So it is often the case, when talking politics with these people, that they have very strong opinions about science and education funding - and little else. They are smart, and they can argue you into a corner to dectuple the NSF's small-grant spending, but they are reduced to almost liberal-arts like platitudes everywhere else.

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