Spanning the globe for insights into human behavior and persuasion.



Staying power? Maybe not...

So much of politics is just empty rhetoric. Say something one day, backpedal the next, and hope the electorate doesn't notice. I congratulated Pres. Bush on his inaugural speech a few days ago because I thought his ideas had staying power. But the White House is pulling the policy reins. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz, in an article I found by way of Jeff Jarvis, summarized it this way:
You might think that calling on the United States to spread freedom around the globe and stand against tyranny might have consequences.

It was a statement of ideals.

But what does the president plan to do to carry out those ideals?

There will be no change in administration policy.

But how can Bush call for action against regimes that oppress their people and still do business with the dictators of China, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?

The goals the president set forth can only be met over a generation, not in a year or two.

Then was the speech just meaningless rhetoric?

It was an attempt to lay out his strategic vision about moral choices.

So we shouldn't take his words seriously?

The president believes in bold action to advance the cause of freedom.

But if he doesn't take any practical steps, won't he have failed to clear the bar he set for himself?

It was a statement of ideals.

FDR backed up his 1933 inauguration statement "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" with the New Deal. John F. Kennedy backed up his 1961 inaugural statement "Ask not what America can do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man" with the creation of the Peace Corps. Will Bush back up his statements? Doesn't look like it. Too bad.

Ideas are without action are just daydreams. Political ideas are useless without policy.



Where Do I Go from Here?

Now that I've set the scene for what this blog is about, I'm struggling with how to continue. I'd like to use it to promote great ideas (through the lens of my own experience, of course), but I don't want it to turn into a quotation diary.

Any ideas? Comments are turned on -- you just need to register. (I require registration only to keep comment spam to a minimum. Feel free to use fake information.)

With the above in mind, I present my first link to another blogger's post. Jeff Jarvis, through his Buzz Machine blog, has a wonderful wit and a refreshing knack for getting to the point quickly.

My stand here is quite simple: I am intolerant of intolerance; I particularly don't like intolerance allegedly in the name of Jesus. That's my view. So we disagree. Glad we can.

This statement struck a chord with me. Maybe because I agree that many of us use Jesus to advance our own prejudices. Maybe because he's disagreeing without being disagreeable. Maybe because I love the whole First Amendment -- freedom of the press and freedom of religion.

There it is.



Online Marketplace of Ideas, Part 3

For his 1985 novel Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card conjured up a network system -- called "the nets" -- where citizens debate the issues of the day. It was a tiered system, one where getting access to highest eschelons meant being noticed in the lower eschelons. To get noticed, you needed to have great ideas and great arguments. Ender's older siblings, Peter and Val, gamed this system as children and got access to the network's highest level. Peter eventually was elected the planet's multi-national leader -- essentially, he ruled the world.

The blogosphere is shaping up like Card's "nets". It's much more democratic than the nets -- anyone can post their own blog or place comments on millions of others. But stand out bloggers get noticed because of the currency of linking. Bloggers acknowledge each other by referencing a blogger's idea, scoop or report, and that is done with a link. Most sites include a "blogroll" -- a list of links to other blogs that the author regularly reads (grokmart will have a blogroll soon).

Tools are emerging that measure the impact of blogs:

For those of you keeping track, GrokMart has a grand total of zero external links and a Technorati rank of 871,307. No chance of me ruling the world any time soon...



Online Marketplace of Ideas, Part 2

Lots of cog floating about my cranium about the online marketplace of ideas, so this may take a few posts...

The blogosphere is obviously thriving -- you wouldn't be reading this obscure blog if it weren't. Bloglines says it indexes more than 257 million articles. Technorati watches more than 6.2 million blogs.

I was a college student when the Internet started to take off. There was buzz around the English department (I double majored in English and Journalism -- how's that for overkill?) about this new form of writing -- hypertext -- where the rules of communicating were supposed to be different. The hype coming from Silicon Valley was that everyone could be a publisher. I believed the hype and learned HTML and how to use WS_FTP. It helped me get a few jobs, but I never published my own website. Not that I couldn't have done it. It's just that no one would have cared.

Now thanks to blogging, my knowledge of HTML is useful but not necessarily essential. And FTP? What a pain. Blogs certainly make it easier to publish online. Does that make them revolutionary? No. But here's what does: The blogosphere is becoming the online marketplace of ideas because of the currency it gives to bloggers... (drum roll, please) Links.

(Can I hear a "yougottabekiddinme"?)

Linking is what gives bloggers their power. More to come.


Powerful Ideas in Inauguration Speech

I didn't see the inauguration -- I was in the middle of editing a press release for bill review software, of all things. Thankfully, the full text of Bush's speech is available online. (Here's another link for those who don't want to register with

The speech has staying power. A few of the phrases that may be repeated in textbooks someday:

There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals. Eventually, the call of freedom comes to every mind and every soul. We do not accept the existence of permanent tyranny because we do not accept the possibility of permanent slavery. Liberty will come to those who love it.

[T]here is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty.

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul.

The man's got some good speech writers.



Why "GrokMart?"

Writers know that when you write a first draft and let it sit for a day, the next time you look at it you almost always think it's garbage. That's happening to me a day after I created this blog. I'm having second thoughts about the title. It seems a bit presumptuous. I'm not one to pound my chest, so I feel like I ought to explain why I came up with the name.

GrokMart wasn't my first choice. I actually wanted to call it "IdeaMart" as a play on the "online marketplace of ideas" theme. But another Blogger blogger had already chosen that name, so I thought of different synonyms for "idea." I registered CogMart (think "cognition"). Then I thought of GrokMart. Honestly, I didn't know what Grok meant, exactly, but in the usage that I remembered, it seemed to link loosely to ideas. And it sounded cool. -- a resource I can't live without -- lists the definition of "grok" as "To understand profoundly through intuition or empathy." Despite the fact that grok is a word coined in a book I had never read, that definition struck a chord. One of the reasons I love writing is it allows me to string together bits of cog that are floating in my brain, just below conscious thought. In other words, to really know what I think, I need to write it down. Whether these thoughts amount to anything profound is up to you to decide.



The Online Marketplace of Ideas

The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas... the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.

-- Oliver Wendell Holmes
Abrams, v. U.S., Nov. 10, 1919

When I was first introduced to the "marketplace of ideas" concept as a journalism student, I thought of an intellectual sphere where the best ideas, backed by persuasion and open discourse, led to wide-spread acceptance. In this idyllic space, the source of the idea wouldn't matter.

Of course, such a space was non-existent. In the mid-90's, big media had the the idea market cornered. Not because they had the best ideas or employed the best thinkers. They had the money, which meant they had the power. But today, blogging is changing the power structure.

The blogosphere is emerging as a true marketplace of ideas.

More to come.


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