STUMP » Articles » Friday Trumpery: Digging through STUMP's Basement... » 17 March 2017, 01:01

Where Stu & MP spout off about everything.

Friday Trumpery: Digging through STUMP's Basement...  


17 March 2017, 01:01

You never know what you’ll come up with. I’ve got over 600 posts on STUMP currently, in the 3 years STUMP has been around…. okay, this one was my first STUMP post, and I’ve been freshening up my compilation posts and dug up some items that I found interesting.

But first, thanks to my referrers!

Howdy to the folks from facebook, twitter, and those who came through the Actuarial Outpost. Also, my UConn students – see you next week! The snow is waiting for you!


Well, here’s a thing. I haven’t used my dumbassery tag too often, but here was a special dumbassery post in March 2015. Check out these excerpts:

How Not to Look Like a Complete Ass When Doing Your Job… AS A REPORTER

I can’t believe this, but I’m going to have to make a tag for this.

Back last year, during the election season, a losing campaign decided to do a pirouette on the shark with a ridiculous ‘story’ and a newspaper joined in the fun. I also have covered a couple of non-political cases of dumbassery.

But now, we’ve got a new category: totally munging up a story.

To be sure, people like James Taranto at the WSJ regularly cover media dumbassery but “doesn’t even do a simple google search” is about the lowest level of media fuckupery.

This is a hobby for me, but I am putting more work into my hobby than these supposed professional journalists.

These supposed professionals are making themselves look like clowns.

Look, I understand you’re unhappy with Scott Walker. You don’t have to make yourselves look like idiots coming up with these lame stories.

I guess I had better set up a new blog category, though, if the reporters are going to keep losing their shit over the prospect that the Republicans may actually win the next Presidential election.

Seriously, get some therapy. Don’t shitcan your career over not being able to deal with unpleasant truths.

And get some lessons in googling.


I haven’t been keeping up with the generic journalistic dumbassery that has exploded since Trump became President, but it would be quite a bit to keep up with. I don’t have that amount of energy. Rachel Maddow’s faceplant sure was funny, wasn’t it?

And hey – Geraldo’s career wasn’t totally shitcanned by that whole Capone vault episode…

Anyway, I think I’ll stick to pensions and finance.


Here is this piece by Nate Silver, trying to explain why the U.S. media were blindsided by Trump’s win.

Here is a key bit:

Although it’s harder to measure, I’d also argue that there’s a lack of diversity when it comes to skill sets and methods of thinking in political journalism. Publications such as Buzzfeed or (the now defunct) get a lot of shade from traditional journalists when they do things that challenge conventional journalistic paradigms. But a lot of traditional journalistic practices are done by rote or out of habit, such as routinely granting anonymity to staffers to discuss campaign strategy even when there isn’t much journalistic merit in it. Meanwhile, speaking from personal experience, I’ve found the reception of “data journalists” by traditional journalists to be unfriendly, although there have been exceptions.

Let me be extremely blunt — I’ve dealt with various journalists, and most of them have a very limited toolset of skills.

I don’t want to denigrate the ability to tell a compelling story — that’s an important skill, and one I learned from my grandma (though the “…and then the murders began…” doesn’t show up often in pension stories.)

But here are some of the areas in which generic journalists are lacking:
- ability to read financial statements, especially balance sheets
- ability to read original documents of any sort (legal filings, government reports, research reports)
- understanding of numbers
- broad knowledge of history
- know how to find information independently of the sources feeding them info

To be sure, I have found a few journalists who can do these things, but there’s a reason that Ben Rhodes said the journo-kiddies he dealt with “…literally know nothing”.

Yes, experience can help with some of that. Rhodes was remarking that he was dealing with 27-year-olds re: international relations. If these people had international experience, at that point, it was probably of the limited study abroad experience, like I had in Japan. I definitely did not come back from that a Japanese expert, but I guess it would work in journalism.

It also reminds me of Camille Paglia writing of these 20-something-year-olds who did not realize their reading of sexuality in normal people was absurd:

The drums had been beating for weeks about a major New York Times expose in the works that would demolish Trump once and for all by revealing his sordid lifetime of misogyny. When it finally appeared as a splashy front-page story this past Sunday (originally titled “Crossing the Line: Trump’s Private Conduct with Women”), I was off in the woods pursuing my Native American research. On Monday, after seeing countless exultant references to this virtuoso takedown, I finally read the article—and laughed out loud throughout. Can there be any finer demonstration of the insularity and mediocrity of today’s Manhattan prestige media? Wow, millionaire workaholic Donald Trump chased young, beautiful, willing women and liked to boast about it. Jail him now!

Blame for this fiasco falls squarely upon the New York Times editors who delegated to two far too young journalists, Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey, the complex task of probing the glitzy, exhibitionistic world of late-twentieth-century beauty pageants, gambling casinos, strip clubs, and luxury resorts. Neither Barbaro, a 2002 graduate of Yale, nor Twohey, a 1998 graduate of Georgetown University, had any frame of reference for sexual analysis aside from the rote political correctness that has saturated elite American campuses for nearly 40 years. Their prim, priggish formulations in this awkwardly disconnected article demonstrate the embarrassing lack of sophistication that passes for theoretical expertise among their over-paid and under-educated professors.

It reminds me of when I was a camp staffer where I had the “privilege” of listening to nerdy teenage boys talking about sex.

Me: “So, this is a theoretical discussion….”

Boys: “No, really, this guy told me that women really like…”

Me: “As I said, theoretical.”

They never got what I was insinuating (or pretended they didn’t). It’s been 15 years since that particular exchange, so I hope it’s not theoretical for those guys now.

But back on track. Look, nobody can be an effective generalist without actually learning something. This is why I don’t like Malcolm Gladwell. He doesn’t actually know anything, so he’s so ridiculously easy to fool. Spin a plausible story and poof you’ve got him, and he’s got his next TED talk.

But the best do know at least something concrete. If all you’ve got is a degree in storytelling, you have nothing solid to attach it to. Stories are nice, but in journalism it’s expected that the stories have truth and not truthiness in them.

I think part of the problem is that people who do know a lot more end up not being journalists, because there are so many more remunerative options for them.

RELATED: Don Surber on diversifying the newsroom:

Publishers should ask themselves:
Do I have any military veterans on staff?
Do I have any gun owners on staff?
Do I have any hunters on staff?
Do I have any church goers on staff?
Do I have any temple goers on staff?
Do I have any pro-life people on staff?
Do I have any immigrants on staff?
Do I have anyone who can drive standard on staff?
Do I have anyone with a B.S. on staff?
Do I have anyone on staff who was home-schooled or home-schools their children?

That reminds me, some of the most embarrassing news blunders I’ve seen is just awful screw ups that indicate extreme ignorance of major religions. Like, not knowing what Easter is about.

Anyway, that’s the end of my Trump-related content for this post.


Okay, this isn’t Trump-related. But this post on Illinois plan valuation assumptions has recently become a lot more relevant.

I’ve gotten a lot of hits for that post lately, due to this thread from the Actuarial Outpost. And I wasn’t the one who posted the link!

Alas, that thread has lapsed into boring semantic quibbles, and we’re waiting for lawyers (or the American Academy of Actuaries) to do stuff, so it may become interesting again.

That said, someone pointed me to the link of the experience study in question. I plan on doing something with that.


So I decided to do a little bit of blog clean up as I was doing my compilation posts. Of the 673 numbered posts I have in the STUMP system right now, there are 32 in draft mode I’m not actively working on.

One is a draft by Stu from 2014, and I’m going to leave it, in case he wants to do something with it.

The oldest one in draft I have may bubble up again in a Mortality Monday. I’m not sure how much I want to do this one, but I think it needs to be done. It’s on suicide. I started it right after Robin Williams died. I’ve got three other Mortality Monday posts being developed, so I may wait for sunnier days on that one.

I have a few posts in draft where I’m mainly dropping resources if I have something more recent to write about…almost all of these are pension-related, like one from two years ago on Phoenix, Arizona pensions. I’m not deleting that one, just in case.

But one I’m deleting has to do with this cartoon:

The cartoon itself is old, and I couldn’t get good data on the particular groupings…and I don’t even remember where I was going with that post. So =poof= it’s gone!

Ah, that feels good.

Let’s see what else I can delete.

Ah, “Are teachers underpaid?” DELETED.

“NJ would like in on the bailout action” DELETED.

“What do women want?” Ugh, that is DELETED. I would delete that one twice if I could.

“Will bacon kill you?” Hmmm, hang on to that one for a Mortality Monday.

Anyway, most are pension stuff where I’m just holding onto links in draft posts, and will likely bubble up again. There are a few pension systems I had in draft posts that I have never covered, but with my State of the State pensions project, I should get to each of them eventually.

One of the posts I have left in draft relate to this Actuarial Outpost thread (mentioned above). I was waiting for some public documents, and not private information, before publishing. Well, I saw nothing public at the time. But with a lawsuit, there sure are public documents now.

I may or may not post on that, but we’ll see. The thread isn’t that promising, and while there are some interesting aspects to the legal filings, the parts I find very interesting don’t seem to be central to the legal dispute.

So I leave it for now.

It’s been a rough few weeks, so I am done.

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