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Current Topic: Society

After capitalism
Topic: Society 4:09 am EDT, Mar 30, 2009

The US banking system faces losses of over $3,000bn. Japan is in a depression. China is headed for zero growth. Some still hope that urgent surgery can restore the status quo. But more feel that we are at one of those rare points of inflection when nothing is the same again.

But if one dream is over, what other dreams wait in the shadows? Will capitalism adapt? Or should we be asking again one of the great questions which has animated political life for nearly two centuries: what might come after capitalism?
Only a few years ago that question had been parked, deemed about as sensible as asking what would come after electricity. Global markets had pulled China and India into their orbit, and capitalism’s triumph appeared complete, with medievalist Islam and the ragged armies that surround the G8 summits jostling to be its last enfeebled competitor. Multinational companies were said to command empires greater than most nation states, and in some accounts had won the affiliation of the masses through their brands.

OOooooh you gonna sit there and take this stuff, Fukuyama? Where's your last man now?

After capitalism

Requiem for a Maverick : Rolling Stone
Topic: Society 4:09 am EST, Dec  5, 2008

McCain's shtick wasn't exactly that, but it was close. He was a war hero who married an heiress to a beer distributorship and had been in the Senate since the Mesozoic Era. His greatest strength as a politician had up until this year been his ability to "reach across the aisle," a quality that in the modern Republican Party was normally about as popular as open bisexuality. His presence atop the ticket this year was evidence of profound anxiety within the party about its chances in the general election. After eight disastrous years of Bush, they thought they had lost the middle — so they picked a middling guy to get it back.

Requiem for a Maverick : Rolling Stone

Fukuyama: The Fall of America, Inc.
Topic: Society 4:08 pm EDT, Oct  8, 2008

Ideas are one of our most important exports, and two fundamentally American ideas have dominated global thinking since the early 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was elected president. The first was a certain vision of capitalism—one that argued low taxes, light regulation and a pared-back government would be the engine for economic growth. Reaganism reversed a century-long trend toward ever-larger government. Deregulation became the order of the day not just in the United States but around the world.

The second big idea was America as a promoter of liberal democracy around the world, which was seen as the best path to a more prosperous and open international order. America's power and influence rested not just on our tanks and dollars, but on the fact that most people found the American form of self-government attractive and wanted to reshape their societies along the same lines—what political scientist Joseph Nye has labeled our "soft power."

It's hard to fathom just how badly these signature features of the American brand have been discredited. Between 2002 and 2007, while the world was enjoying an unprecedented period of growth, it was easy to ignore those European socialists and Latin American populists who denounced the U.S. economic model as "cowboy capitalism." But now the engine of that growth, the American economy, has gone off the rails and threatens to drag the rest of the world down with it. Worse, the culprit is the American model itself: under the mantra of less government, Washington failed to adequately regulate the financial sector and allowed it to do tremendous harm to the rest of the society.

Fukuyama: The Fall of America, Inc.

George F. Will - McCain Loses His Head -
Topic: Society 5:12 am EDT, Sep 23, 2008

The political left always aims to expand the permeation of economic life by politics. Today, the efficient means to that end is government control of capital. So, is not McCain's party now conducting the most leftist administration in American history? The New Deal never acted so precipitously on such a scale. Treasury Secretary Paulson, asked about conservative complaints that his rescue program amounts to socialism, said, essentially: This is not socialism, this is necessary. That non sequitur might be politically necessary, but remember that government control of capital is government control of capitalism. Does McCain have qualms about this, or only quarrels?


Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

George F. Will - McCain Loses His Head -

The Nation as a Family — Rockridge Institute
Topic: Society 2:20 am EDT, Sep 12, 2008

In American culture there are two opposed and idealized models of the family, the Nurturant Parent model and the Strict Father model. The metaphor of the Nation as a Family maps the values and relationships from those family models onto our politics, creating "liberal" and "conservative" political positions that we understand through our models of family structure.

The Nation as a Family — Rockridge Institute - Westmoreland calls Obama ‘uppity'
Topic: Society 1:41 am EDT, Sep  5, 2008

Westmoreland was discussing vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's speech with reporters outside the House chamber and was asked to compare her with Michelle Obama.

"Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity," Westmoreland said.

Asked to clarify that he used the word “uppity,” Westmoreland said, “Uppity, yeah.”

That would be Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. I suppose on the bright side he left out the normal noun that goes with it. - Westmoreland calls Obama ‘uppity'

RE: The election is basically over.
Topic: Society 8:40 pm EDT, Sep  2, 2008

flynn23 wrote:
Comparing her to Obama strictly on the level of experience and she wins.


To be perfectly clear, I am talking about comparisons of their overall qualifications for the Presidency. My point is that focusing on "number of years in an executive role" as you do is an oversimplification. I didn't really want lay out what is clearly documented elsewhere as it provides ample opportunity for partisans to continue to stick their fingers in their ears, but here goes:

Palin's background is:
1987 - BS Journalism - University of Idaho
1988 to 1992 - Television Sports Reporter
1992 to 1996 - City Council, Wasilla, Alaska
1996 - 2002 - Mayor, Wasilla
2003 - 2004 - Appointed to Alaska Oil Ethics Board
2006 - Present Governor of Alaska, the 48th smallest state in terms of population, whose largest metropolitan area is less than a quarter of the population of Nashville, Tennessee.

Obama's background is:
1983 - BA Political Science - Columbia University
1985 - 1988 - Director of a community non-profit
1988 - 1991 - JD Harvard, President of the Harvard Law Review
1992 - 2004 - Part time Professor, Constitutional Law, University of Chicago
1992 - 2002 - Lawyer - Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland
1992 - Served on the board of a large number of public interest organizations
1997 - 2004 - State legislature, Illinois (America's 5th most populous state, containing its 3rd most populous city.)
2005 - Present - United States Senator

If you were hiring a business manager, perhaps you might prefer Palin. Obama is a lawyer and like most lawyers has not had large organizations reporting to him. Palin clearly does have more time in an executive role. But thats not what we're doing here. Furthermore, just about any executive at a medium to large sized company anywhere in America would beat out Palin for executive experience. They are not all qualified to be President of the United States. The question is, what qualifies a person to be President.

Chiefly, the President of the United States is responsible for making policy decisions, which is not merely a matter of operational experience in an executive role, but a matter of understanding the long term implications of those decisions and the complicated legal and political context in which they will play out. This requires a deep understanding of our country and of world affairs.

There is absolutely nothing about Palin's background that qualifies her to grapple with the depth of these matters. If she is capable of doing so, nothing about her background indicates it or would prepare her for it. You cannot simply skip from being Mayor of a tiny town in Alaska to being President. The idea that you could hold up this person next to someone who, among other things, has taught constitutional law at one of the top law schools in the country for 12 years, and say their qualification for the Presidency is comparable...

Frankly I can't find words to express this more clearly than to say that I think thats fucking idiotic. In fact its exactly the kind of fucking idiotic thinking that partisans have been foisting on this country repeatedly over the past few years in their cynical power struggles. It is frustrating to me that so many people that I know who are otherwise reasonable and intelligent are willing to buy into something which is so transparently stupid, particularly given the gravity of whats at stake here.

Sure, I'd be more comfortable if Obama had spent time in an executive roll, thats a perfectly valid criticism of his record. But you cannot reasonably hold up Palin and say that her qualifications are comparable to Obama. That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

RE: The election is basically over.

South Ossetia, The War of My Dreams
Topic: Society 9:52 am EDT, Aug 13, 2008

War Nerd:

There are three basic facts to keep in mind about the smokin’ little war in Ossetia:

1. The Georgians started it.
2. They lost.
3. What a beautiful little war!

For me, the most important is #3, the sheer beauty of the video clips that have already come out of this war. I’m in heaven right now.

South Ossetia, The War of My Dreams

RE: Keep the Cheap Wine Flowing - Freakonomics - Opinion - New York Times Blog
Topic: Society 6:41 pm EDT, Aug  5, 2008

CypherGhost wrote:

The bottom line is that in blind wine tastings, there is a zero or even slightly negative correlation between the ratings of regular people and the price of the wine they are drinking; for experts the relationship between rating and price is positive.

I enjoyed this short article, and the first blog post it links.

When my friend Mark first started exposing me to decent wine I was subject to numerous blind taste tests in which I was asked to select the more expensive bottle. I was consistently wrong when I first started. I am fooled less easily today, but wine is a very complicated thing and it takes a long time, and a lot of bottles, to get good at it and to have a good appreciation for a wide array of variatals. Thats part of what makes it fun. There is always something new to discover. Something else to learn.

There are some potential problems with running these kinds of blind taste tests particularly with two decanters that contain the same bottle. The first is that the character of a wine changes as it oxidates. If you had the same bottle appearing twice in a taste test, and you tried it first, just after it was opened, and then again after it had been sitting out for half an hour, it would taste much better the second time, particularly if it was higher quality or older.

The second is that your perception of wine is contextual. This is why people pair particular foods with particular kinds of wine, and why wine in general goes well with some kinds of food (like pasta) and terrible with other kinds (like hot wings). What you have tasted before tasting the wine effects your perception of how the wine tastes.

My advice is to always drink your cheapest bottle first. (More expensive does not always mean better, but it often does.) You'll appreciate a really good wine after a glass of average wine even more than you would if you started with that good bottle and you had nothing to compare it to. In the blind taste test if you had tried the repeating bottle first, with no context, you might have given it a medicore rating, and then if you tried it again immediately after having tried a cheap wine, you might have found it singing!

Of course, my sister suggests that I am more impressed with the quality of my wines as the evening goes on and I get more drunk. I insist that this cannot be the case. :)

The economist's suggestion, that ignorance is bliss, is a perfect example of why accounting is the opposite of art. I've found getting better at drinking wine to be very fun and rewarding. Really great wine and really great gourmet food can provide an experience that is completely different than ordinary eating -- its not about satisfying hunger but more about experimenting with the range of flavors that you are capable of experiencing... Its worth knowing why cooking can be considered an art, but you can't just roll up to an ex... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]

RE: Keep the Cheap Wine Flowing - Freakonomics - Opinion - New York Times Blog

So, doesn't CBS believe in 'journalistic integrity'?
Topic: Society 3:01 am EDT, Jul 26, 2008

So, I'm just going to lay this out very simply, even though in the linked video, Olbermann appears to consider this too distasteful to do more than just touch upon (and indeed, there are bigger fish to fry first).

An "interview" is supposed to be a question and answer session between a reporter and the interviewee, right? So that the reporting is basically saying, "the reporter asked this question, and the person being interviewed gave this particular answer to that question", right?

So, in what lunatic alternate dimension does this become "an interview is a creative reinterpretation of what we think we'd like this person to have said in response to these questions" and make Katie Couric's interview session with John McCain, as aired not a massive breach of journalistic integrity because basically, what they aired showed McCain giving an entirely different answer to the question asked about the troop surge.

In short, what CBS aired was decidedly fiction and "news" is supposed to be non-fiction.

McCain has problems with facts and timelines. Kinda like Reagan in his second term, after Alzheimer's started to effect him.

So, doesn't CBS believe in 'journalistic integrity'?

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