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  • Glenn Sonnenberg

Musings from the Bunker 6/10/20

Good morning,

It is no secret that, for the past 30 years people increasingly have become more intransigent about their political views and tend to see the world through a lens that is most pleasing to them. Every news item, every piece of data, is viewed in the context of proving the listener’s point. One would have thought that this crisis would cause people to draw together to solve the problems that beset us. Yet it seems the public has returned to their respective corners, ready to go mano-a-mano. Increasingly, even when the facts may be apparent, we disagree on their interpretation.

We are plagued by a concept called “confirmation bias,” which says that we tend to view new information in a way that confirms our existing beliefs. The genius of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes is not so much that they created a vehicle that presents the news in a different way, but that they created a confirmation bias factory. It isn’t enough to put out the facts in a way that encourages the listener to “connect the dots” to their belief system. The “commentators” are there to connect the dots for you. The brain can turn off as the commentators tell you what just happened and what to believe. While certainly this is also true of commentators on other platforms as well, Fox makes little pretense of hiding its agenda.

Confirmation bias lately has manifest itself in other troubling ways. I have a friend who, when we disagree on a policy or when he doubts a study, he challenges me to show him an article in support of my position. When I send an article from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the L.A. Times and sometimes even the Wall Street Journal, the retort is “that’s a biased news source,” “that’s just fake news” or “that’s just the liberal mainstream media that you liberals listen to.” This last one I find most amusing, since until fairly recently I pretty consistently chose more conservative candidates. Confirmation bias is even simpler to come by when one opts out of any source of information that might not conform to one’s own bias. Alas, how can one ever have a conversation on any reasonable terms, when there is no sense that there are mutually accepted facts.

But the greatest winner in the “Confirmation Bias Derby” has to be Facebook. Their algorithm is designed to feed you only the news you want to read. And since over 50% of Millennials seek their news primarily from Facebook, how can we be surprised that people’s opinions have ossified? As recently as this month, a Facebook executive acknowledged that they have known for years that their algorithm—the very basis of their business model—promotes divisiveness.

 

GREAT MOVIES


David Lash, who says Schindler’s List is the best ever, gives a “big nod to The Godfather, likely the next best. Wizard of Oz and Butch Cassidy are two all-time greats. Casablanca and Citizen Kane are way up there. And I would watch Field of Dreams once a week if I didn’t cry so much.”


Please send in your “best movies ever” to me and we’ll see how many are agreed upon. I agree with David’s picks and include a few dark horses (feel free to agree or tell me I’m nuts):


• Princess Bride

• Young Frankenstein

• Groundhog Day

• Frequency

• Glengarry Glen Ross (“put that coffee down…”)

• Goodfellas

• Pulp Fiction

• It Happened One Night

• North by Northwest, Rear Window, Vertigo—Hitchcock was a genius

• Twelve Angry Men

• Gone with the Wind

• Chinatown

• Bonnie & Clyde

• Memento, Inception, Dark Knight—Christopher Nolan is a genius

• Die Hard (action movie classic)

• Silverado (a love letter to the era of Westerns, hitting all the clichés, “they took the little boy with ‘em,” for one…)

• Amadeus (“too many notes…”)

• Room with a View

• Iron Giant, Wall-E, Up and other animated films that are as powerful as any live action

• Gladiator, Master and Commander, or anything with Russell Crowe…

• Bridge over the River Kwai

• Life of Brian

• The Usual Suspects

• The Big Lebowski (“Donny, you’re out of your element…”)


And I’m excluding the dopey, yet beloved, Airplane, Back to School, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Animal House, Dodge Ball, Zoolander (the Casablanca of its time), Starsky & Hutch…). There are others, but it’s getting late…

 

AND MORE BASEBALL MEMORIES

This reminiscence from Jerry Coben is so wonderful not to be quoted at length and just so we can all “feel the pain” of the long suffering Cleveland Indians fans:

"My family thinks this passion [for baseball] is conclusive evidence that I long ago lost my mind. They may be correct about the location of my mind, but this wouldn’t be the reason. I remember listening to games on the radio—yes, the radio---with my grandfather, who tuned in to as many games as he could, except on Shabbat. Was part of the allure that Al Rosen was one of the stars of a very good team? (1954 Indians went 111-43 in the regular season; I know, I know, they were blitzed by Willie Mays and the Giants in the Series). Probably. I know my grandfather qvelled every time Rosen hit a home run. The Indians’ 1954 pitching staff initially came to mind in response to Glenn’s daily quiz, but they aren’t the answer. Quite a starting rotation, though—Lemon, Wynn, Garcia, Houteman---and a guy named Feller.

Two of my most vivid baseball memories involve Herb Score, the left-handed phenom who pitched for the Indians in the mid-50’s for all too short a period. I was listening to the game on May 7, 1957 (I had to look up the date) when Gil McDougall of the Yankees hit a line drive that hit Score flush in his right eye, effectively ending his rise to almost certain stardom. He pitched only one good game after that, on April 23, 1958, going nine innings, giving up only three hits and striking out 13, beating the White Sox, 2-0. I saw that game from a seat in the second row behind home plate, as the guest of a friend (sadly, not with my grandfather or father). The next morning, the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran a two-inch banner headline: “HERB IS BACK.” Sadly, he wasn’t..."

 

CLARIFICATION

A clarification about the public financing of stadiums, which I wrote about earlier this week... As is the case with many development bonds, the bondholders typically cannot make demand for the city making payment for general funds. But the practical implications of shortfalls of taxes that support these bonds often yields a similar outcome—when all the revenue goes to the bondholders, there is less from these revenue sources to pay municipal general expenses. In any event, the City is worse off. Thanks, Ed Nahmias, for this clarification.

Happy day,

Glenn


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