Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Just finished John Grisham's newest book, "The Rooster Bar," which is a sort of a rehash of the "The Pelican Brief." The plots of the two books are somewhat similar, and they are both about legal misfits, but the latest book has a slightly different raison d'être.


The thing that I found most interesting about the new book was that it was reinforced by a Wall Street Journal article over the weekend. This article concerned the establishment of private law schools and how they make money by lowering standards, making student loans available, and allowing students to run up debts. As in the book, real student debt can run into the 1/4 million dollar range.


This is a purposeful scam of the highest order. It goes right along with the escalation of tuition and fees which have increased many fold and result in bilking students out of huge sums. This puts them in a financial hole just as they are trying to get their lives started.


The plot of the book and the reality brought to light by the WSJ are a story of crooks setting up an empire for doing this fleecing of the unsuspecting (they all figure that they will have the means to pay it back with their wonderful, lucrative law school education), but it is really not much worse than what nearly all educational institutions have done to students over the past quarter-century or so.


Tuitions when I was in school were reasonable and could be paid by the student himself with a part-time job, summer work, or some other way of raising money. This is what I did. Today's rates, even at the University of Tennessee, have gotten to the point where this is no longer possible. Kids now are forced to choose their selected educational institution based on things other than the quality of instruction there.


We are very far down the road where a good education will not be possible for most Americans. This is influencing the college attendance decision, making some people realize that they can get into a career of building things or assembling products with a paycheck comparable to current college graduates from all but the blue-chip universities.


This is a very un-American turn of events, but it is the cards that they were dealt. US universities were complicit in this situation, grabbing for every dime as they have been for the past several decades.


Monday, November 27, 2017

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article this morning.  It is the six laws of technology that we have heard about before. These laws were written by Melvin Kranzberg, a professor of the history of technology at Georgia Tech. His laws have become a lot more famous than he was.


The first one, "Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral" is full of wisdom. People ascribe the traits of human beings – evil intent, beneficence of motive – to inanimate machinery. This is a very difficult thing to do, separating an object from the things that can be done with it. It is human nature to assign intent to the object, calling a baseball bat evil when observing a broken window.


Sunday, November 26, 2017

There are many much worse ways to spend an evening than watching Alabama and Auburn pounding each other. And so it was last night. Auburn finally won this battle of football powerhouses that can't stand each other. I now have a grudging admiration for Auburn and their pluck in this impressive win over Alabama, who was supposed to be undefeated at the end of the season.

This column is usually sports-news free, or at least all but UT sports free, but this game was an exception. The description found in the Wall Street Journal this morning is worth reading here. As a budding journalist, I can't do better than the Wall Street Journal.


As a product of UT, I can only say that I wish there were a way for both teams to lose every confrontation they have with each other, but this game was a superlative show of grit and determination on the part of both teams.


I am currently reading the new John Grisham book "The Rooster Bar," which tells a near identical tale to an article in this morning's Wall Street Journal, which can be found here. The photographs from the WSJ do not translate into web articles without a whole lot of extra effort, so the article found on this website is illustration-free.


Grisham's book and the Wall Street Journal article are amazingly similar, which makes me wonder how long the Wall Street Journal has been holding this article back. Grisham's book is dated October of this year, and it must have been in the process of being written for several months, so he must have gotten the concept early in 2017. The Wall Street Journal is actually mentioned as an outlet for the tell-all story in the book, which also lists the New York Times as one of the story bearers.


I suppose this is part of the justification of trying to keep up with the news when it is 'hot off the press.' This is something that I have never been terribly interested in trying to do, keeping au courant on news happenings. I'm usually completely happy with this kind of story a couple of weeks old. In this case, however, since this was just something that happened when I saw fit to obtain a freshly minted novel because my store of reading matter was empty, I feel a twinge of insider delight.


I'm trying to figure out how to write this experience into an article for Scragged. By the way, they have two of my articles which they plan to publish, but I'm not sure when.