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Current Topic: Society

Our Epistemological Depression
Topic: Society 12:27 pm EST, Feb 11, 2009

It's all about the incentives.

The history of socialism is the history of failure—and so is the history of capitalism, but in a different sense. For the history of socialism is one of fundamental failure, a failure to provide incentives and an inability to coordinate information about supply and effective demand. The history of capitalism, by contrast, is the history of dialectical failure: it is a history of the creation of new institutions and practices that may be successful, even transformative for a while, but which eventually prove dysfunctional, either because their intrinsic weaknesses become more evident over time or because of a change in external circumstances. Historically, these institutional failures have led to two reactions. They lead to governmental attempts to reform corporate and financial institutions, through changes in law and regulation (such as limited liability laws, creation of the FDIC, the SEC, etc.). They also lead market institutions to reform themselves, as investors and managers learn what forms of organization and which practices are dysfunctional. The history of capitalism, then, is the history of success through dialectical failure.

Our Epistemological Depression

What Life Asks of Us - Op-Ed -
Topic: Society 9:39 am EST, Jan 27, 2009

“I was in awe every time I walked onto the field. That’s respect. I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponents or your teammates or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. You make a great play, act like you’ve done it before; get a big hit, look for the third base coach and get ready to run the bases.”

Sandberg motioned to those inducted before him, “These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. It’s disrespectful to them, to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.

“Respect. A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn’t work hard for validation. I didn’t play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that’s what you’re supposed to do, play it right and with respect ... . If this validates anything, it’s that guys who taught me the game ... did what they were supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do.”

Brooks uses this as an example of "institutional thinking" I like it and the article as valuing community and community values as a counterweight to individualism. He comes to this from a center-right perspective and I from a center-left perspective. Whilst I profoundly believe in individualism as a well-spring of liberty I also believe individualism can lead to egotistical behaviour and that individualism is not an unalloyed virtue. I believe in community and society and I like aspects of Eastern philosophy which emphasize surrendering the ego and social harmony (the latter an aspect of more traditional conservative thinkers who emphasized tradition and social cohesion).
I like what Brooks quotes as a sort of Tao of Baseball. 8-)

What Life Asks of Us - Op-Ed -

First family reflects a nation's diversity - International Herald Tribune
Topic: Society 6:58 am EST, Jan 21, 2009

The president's elderly stepgrandmother brought him an oxtail fly whisk, a mark of power at home in Kenya. Cousins journeyed from the South Carolina town where the first lady's great-great-grandfather was born into slavery, while the rabbi in the family came from the synagogue where he had been commemorating Martin Luther King's Birthday. The president and first lady's siblings were there, too, of course: his Indonesian-American half-sister, who brought her Chinese-Canadian husband, and her brother, a black man with a white wife.

First family reflects a nation's diversity - International Herald Tribune

1950s pinup model Bettie Page dead at 85
Topic: Society 5:30 pm EST, Dec 12, 2008

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Legendary pinup queen Bettie Page died of pneumonia at the age of 85 in a Los Angeles, California, hospital Thursday, a week after suffering a heart attack, according to her agent. "She captured the imagination of a generation of men and women with her free spirit and unabashed sensuality," said agent Mark Roesler in a written statement. "She is the embodiment of beauty." Page, said to be one of the most photographed people of the past century, became a recluse in recent decades. Yet, her images continued to be used around the world to market Bettie Page action figures, clothing lines and other merchandise.


1950s pinup model Bettie Page dead at 85

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Swiss vote on radical heroin rules
Topic: Society 8:57 pm EST, Nov 29, 2008

Voters in Switzerland go to the polls on Sunday to decide whether to make a controversial heroin prescription programme a permanent, nationwide health policy.

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Swiss vote on radical heroin rules

BBC NEWS | Magazine | Turning the air blue
Topic: Society 12:00 pm EST, Nov 23, 2008

The odd expletive escapes most people's mouths in times of stress, but when we fall back on swear words just for effect have we really just run out of ideas, asks Clive James.

a plea for not puritanism but a little quality language
I regard Gordon Ramsey and his incessant swearing as the worst sort of bully
an essay about shock value, its diminishing returns and a plea for a wider range of registers, subtlety and nuance
I swear and I am no puritan but I love language and ideas and would contrast Oscar Wilde's wit and cutting remarks that still bring a smile, using language as a rapier, with Gordan Ramsey's blitzkreig storm signifying nothing, not adding to the world, just adding to his own cult - he is "the expert" and that somehow legitimates his behaviour - he (and Simon Cowell) are Emperors with no clothes. (I got off the subject but nevermind - a little rant)

BBC NEWS | Magazine | Turning the air blue

Obama asks Bush to provide help for automakers - International Herald Tribune
Topic: Society 12:05 pm EST, Nov 20, 2008

SAY NO! to a bailout of the automakers.

Here, here! Online petitions are getting a slow start, so email your reps directly.

Senator Chambliss contact form
Senator Isakson contact form
District 6 Representative Tom Price contact form

Granted, these guys are all Republicans from GA, so accordingly they only sponsor bullshit legislation, but its worth emailing them anyway. My email text is below.

Dear So-and-so,

Please vote against the bailout of the US automakers. They have been operating inefficiently for 30 years and are finally being brought to bear. They need to file for bankruptcy, purge their management pool, eradicate the bloated unions, and streamline their operations, all of which they can do probably quite successfully without my tax money. They need bankruptcy to encourage them to finally innovate and quit lobbying against every major safety and fuel efficiency advance in this country. They’re already making efficient cars, they’re just not selling them here!

This is capitalism, and this is what companies do in this country, they don't fly to DC and beg for alms. It’s a waste of money in an already wasteful government and will only prolong the inevitable since the companies will have absolutely no impetus to avoid future bailouts. Also, I reject the notion that Detroit workers are worth more than other workers at other companies. This will only snowball into a feeding frenzy among failing companies. In this economy, we need to encourage strong, viable companies, not propped up puppet-companies.

Regards, your-name-here.


Update: Chambliss speaks!

Dear Mrs. Hoffman :

Thank you for contacting me regarding a financial rescue of the automakers. It is good to hear from you.

The automobile industry has deep seated problems that cannot only be solved by more money. Instead, a restructuring of the industry is needed. I am not in favor of using taxpayer funds to bailout the industry.

Obama asks Bush to provide help for automakers - International Herald Tribune

Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama
Topic: Society 10:33 pm EDT, Oct 19, 2008

This is the picture he mentioned in his endorsement:

Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama

RE: The Fall of America, Inc.
Topic: Society 12:53 pm EDT, Oct  8, 2008

Decius wrote:
Fukuyama does an excellent job of looking past the present crisis and into next era of American history.

The unedifying response to the Wall Street crisis shows that the biggest change we need to make is in our politics. The Reagan revolution broke the 50-year dominance of liberals and Democrats in American politics and opened up room for different approaches to the problems of the time. But as the years have passed, what were once fresh ideas have hardened into hoary dogmas. The quality of political debate has been coarsened by partisans who question not just the ideas but the motives of their opponents. All this makes it harder to adjust to the new and difficult reality we face. So the ultimate test for the American model will be its capacity to reinvent itself once again.

I think we're good at that.

AND there are lots of important ways that this can be executed on. Consider us taking leadership in ANY of the following with a new found investment and commitment:

public education
health and wellness
sustainability (energy, food production, infrastructure, finance)
science and research

Like any affluent family that falls from grace, sometimes their best work comes after they've hit bottom.

RE: The Fall of America, Inc.

RE: News Analysis - For the Nominees, New Roles and New Risks - News Analysis -
Topic: Society 4:29 pm EDT, Sep 25, 2008

flynn23 wrote:

Decius wrote:
If the Democrats win, all of that money, unfortunately, will have to be spent on bad debt which won't be worth anything in the end. Obama will not be able to make progress on any of his social programs because the national debt and plummeting US dollar will be in an untenable situation. If the Republicans win, however, it will turn out that only 100 billion was needed. Things weren't so bad after all...

Unfortunately, I don't think it matters. This isn't about who gets elected next, because that's irrelevant. It's about which lobby has enough presence to get what they want. Right now, it's the banking and financial system lobby. The price is $700B. That includes cleaning up all the bad debt, making sure my firm survives and has liquidity, and oh, I get to keep my bonus as well. This deal stinks. Period.

Not that I disagree with your conclusion, but...

The banks don't need the government to sell these assets at market value, but they don't want to do that, because if they do, they have to mark all of their other assets to that market price, which will screw their balance sheets (reasonably or not). Hence, the liquidity problem - no one wants to sell anything. In some respect the point of the bailout is to buy the assets above market rates, which keeps the bank's balance sheets from deflating.

Now, I'm quite sure we end up eating the difference. It boils down to whether or not you think the market price is actually reasonable. I'd say if that was in dispute the government's assistance wouldn't be required either.

Regardless of how you slice it, the tax payer is being asked to eat all of the financial losses incurred from the go-go days of the housing boom, while all of the people who generated those losses go home with 6 figure bonuses.

RE: News Analysis - For the Nominees, New Roles and New Risks - News Analysis -

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