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Matt Warren

How Puritans became capitalists - 0 views

  • How could people who loathed market principles birth a modern market economy? That question captivated Mark Valeri after he read sermons by the fiery revivalist Jonathan Edwards that included detailed discussions of economic policy. Edwards turned out to be part of a progression of ministers who led their dour and frugal flocks down a road that would bring fabulous riches, and ultimately give rise to a culture seen as a symbol of material excess.
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    By Michael Fitzgerald at The Boston Globe on August 1, 2010.
Matt Warren

The Way We Live Now - I Tweet, Therefore I Am - 0 views

  • I quickly mastered the Twitterati’s unnatural self-consciousness: processing my experience instantaneously, packaging life as I lived it. I learned to be “on” all the time
  • Back in the 1950s, the sociologist Erving Goffman famously argued that all of life is performance: we act out a role in every interaction, adapting it based on the nature of the relationship or context at hand.
  • Effectively, it makes the greasepaint permanent, blurring the lines not only between public and private but also between the authentic and contrived self.
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  • The expansion of our digital universe — Second Life, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter — has shifted not only how we spend our time but also how we construct identity.
  • “On Twitter or Facebook you’re trying to express something real about who you are,” she explained. “But because you’re also creating something for others’ consumption, you find yourself imagining and playing to your audience more and more. So those moments in which you’re supposed to be showing your true self become a performance. Your psychology becomes a performance.”
  • I enjoy those things myself. But when every thought is externalized, what becomes of insight? When we reflexively post each feeling, what becomes of reflection? When friends become fans, what happens to intimacy?
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    "Each Twitter post seemed a tacit referendum on who I am, or at least who I believe myself to be. The grocery-store episode telegraphed that I was tuned in to the Seinfeldian absurdities of life; my concern about women's victimization, however sincere, signaled that I also have a soul. Together they suggest someone who is at once cynical and compassionate, petty yet deep. Which, in the end, I'd say, is pretty accurate." By Peggy Orenstein at NYTimes.com on July 30, 2010.
Matt Warren

Sussing Out Patterns in American History - 0 views

  • authors William Strauss and Neil Howe in their books Generations (1991) and The Fourth Turning (1997) suggest that throughout the 500-year span of Anglo-American history, a more or less predictable cycle has played out, a cycle in which generational types are in a certain stage of life at any given time.
  • According to Strauss and Howe’s model, we’re currently in an Unraveling, with the aging prophet Baby Boomers moving into elder mentorship roles, the middle-aged nomad Gen Xers assuming the highest leadership positions, and civic-oriented Millennials coming of age to become the doers and institution-builders of the next High.
  • While we may be a bit different than our forebears, history suggests that even they were not without their faults, and that we have more in common with them than we’ve given ourselves credit for. If they could dig themselves out of catastrophes like the Civil War and the Great Depression, why can’t we?
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    "If the past is any guide, argues historian Neil Howe, the institution-building Millennial generation will take America to a new era of good feelings." By Ben Preston at Miller-McCune Online on July 23, 2010.
Matt Warren

Anchoring Effect - 0 views

  • The Misconception: You rationally analyze all factors before making a choice or determining value.

    The Truth: Your first perception lingers in your mind, affecting later perceptions and decisions.

  • In many situations, people make estimates by starting from an initial value that is adjusted to yield the final answer. The initial value, or starting point, may be suggested by the formulation of the problem, or it may be the result of partial computation. In either case, adjustments are typically insufficient…that is, different starting points yield different estimates, which are biased toward the initial values.

    - “Judgment Under Uncertainty” by Kahneman, Slovic and Tversky

  • Anchors can make big numbers seem small, throw estimates out of whack and lead you into decisions which, in the long view, seem silly.
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  • You depend on anchoring every day to predict the outcome of events, to estimate how much time something will take or how much money something will cost.

    When you need to choose between options, or estimate a value, you need footing to stand on.

  • When you haggle over the price, you are pulling away from the anchor, and both you and the dealer know this.
  • Drazen Prelec and Dan Ariely conducted an experiment at MIT in 2006 where they had students bid on items in a bizarre auction.

    The researchers would hold up a bottle of wine, or a textbook, or a cordless trackball and then describe in detail how awesome it was.

    Then, each student had to write down the last two digits of their social security number as if it was the price of the item. If the last two digits were 11, then the bottle of wine was priced at $11. If the two numbers were 88, the cordless trackball was $88.

    After they wrote down the pretend price, they bid.

    Sure enough, the anchoring effect scrambled their ability to judge the value of the items.

  • People with high social security numbers paid up to 346 percent more than those with low numbers.

    People with numbers from 80 to 99 paid on average $26 for the trackball, while those with 00 to 19 paid around $9.

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    "The Misconception: You rationally analyze all factors before making a choice or determining value. The Truth: Your first perception lingers in your mind, affecting later perceptions and decisions." By David McRaney at You Are Not So Smart on July 27, 2010.
Matt Warren

Sun Could Set Suddenly on Superpower as Debt Bites - 1 views

  • We have been raised to think of the historical process as an essentially cyclical one.

    We naturally tend to assume that in our own time, too, history will move cyclically, and slowly.

    • Matt Warren
       
      Really? I had thought that we all assumed a linear-time-frame. Strauss & Howe's cyclical view doesn't strike me as common main-stream thought.
  • Yet what if history is not cyclical and slow-moving but arhythmic, at times almost stationary, but also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car? What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly, like a thief in the night?
  • Complex systems share certain characteristics. A small input to such a system can produce huge, often unanticipated changes, what scientists call the amplifier effect.
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  • What are the implications for the US today? The most obvious point is that imperial falls are associated with fiscal crises: sharp imbalances between revenues and expenditures, and the mounting cost of servicing a mountain of public debt.
  • There is a zero-sum game at the heart of the budgetary process: even if rates stay low, recurrent deficits and debt accumulation mean that interest payments consume a rising proportion of tax revenue. And military expenditure is the item most likely to be squeezed to compensate because, unlike mandatory entitlements (social security, Medicaid and Medicare), defence spending is discretionary.
  • It may not have escaped your notice that China now has the second-largest economy in the world and is almost certain to be the US's principal strategic rival in the 21st century, particularly in the Asia-Pacific.
    • Matt Warren
       
      This is conventional thinking. StratFor disagrees, though. I can't wait to see what *actually* unfolds. One or another could be wrong. Moreover, *both* could be wrong.
  • But what if the sudden waning of American power that I fear brings to an abrupt end the era of US hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region? Are we ready for such a dramatic change in the global balance of power?
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    A counter-argument to Strauss & Howe's generational view of the world - with particular regard to global power-politics. By Niall Ferguson at RealClearWorld on July 28, 2010.

    Hat Tip to Matt Eckel at Foreign Policy Watch (http://fpwatch.blogspot.com/2010/07/again-on-empire-and-punctuated.html).
Matt Warren

Foreign Policy Watch: Again on Empire and Punctuated Equilibrium - 0 views

  • First, and this may be a minor point, Ferguson positions the piece against "cyclical" views of history, arguing instead that history is "arhythmic, at times almost stationary, but also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car."
  • He then goes on to explain (or at least hint at) cyclical processes that lead to these sudden shifts. A better way of putting it might be that history is cyclical, but that the outward, superstructural manifestations of long cyclical processes often change very quickly.
  • Beyond the specific issue of American fiscal health, though, Ferguson's thoughts raise some interesting and under-explored issues; namely, the role that generational shifts might play in international relations.
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  • It would be interesting to try to track generational attitudes toward foreign policy, and in what way those attitudes create cognitive "hangover effects" that make it difficult for countries to adjust policy to changing circumstances. There must be a decent book to be written somewhere in there.
  • *Just a note, if you haven't read Strauss and Howe's Generations: A History of America's Future, you really should. It's a bit theoretically baroque, and I certainly don't agree with everything in the book, but it's a very conceptually-interesting journey through the ups and downs of generational memory and experience.
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    By Matt Eckel at Foreign Policy Watch on July 28, 2010.
Matt Warren

Again on Empire and Punctuated Equilibrium - 0 views

  • First, and this may be a minor point, Ferguson positions the piece against "cyclical" views of history, arguing instead that history is "arhythmic, at times almost stationary, but also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car."
  • He then goes on to explain (or at least hint at) cyclical processes that lead to these sudden shifts. A better way of putting it might be that history is cyclical, but that the outward, superstructural manifestations of long cyclical processes often change very quickly.
  • Beyond the specific issue of American fiscal health, though, Ferguson's thoughts raise some interesting and under-explored issues; namely, the role that generational shifts might play in international relations.
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  • Just a note, if you haven't read Strauss and Howe's Generations: A History of America's Future, you really should. It's a bit theoretically baroque, and I certainly don't agree with everything in the book, but it's a very conceptually-interesting journey through the ups and downs of generational memory and experience.
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    By Matt Eckel at Foreign Policy Watch on July 28, 2010.
Matt Warren

After Breitbart and Shirley Sherrod, We Need a Slow-News Movement - 0 views

  • What brings this journalistic parable to mind is the arrogantly unapologetic way that Andrew Breitbart has reacted to the furor over the ripped-out-of-context Shirley Sherrod speech excerpt that he posted on his website. Choosing bluster over blushing, Breitbart told Matt Lewis in a Politics Daily interview: "I couldn't wait to get this story. I knew from past experience that I had a news cycle to get this out." Later in the interview, Breitbart underscored his cavalier publish-or-perish approach to fact-checking: "It had to be done at the exact moment in time that the press would notice it." A new report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism details how the Sherrod charade migrated from conservative blogs taking their cues from Breitbart to Fox News and then to CNN.
  • Breitbart is just a symbol of a larger problem that transcends the poison-pen politics of ideological warriors (of both the right and left) and the slippery ethics of the blogosphere.
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    A good case for why we need to kill the modern news-cycle. By Walter Shapiro at Politics Daily on July 28, 2010.

    Thanks to Dylan555 for the hat-tip (http://twitter.com/dylan555/status/19764594739).
Matt Warren

BPA Receipts Bombshell: Paper Slips Contain High Levels of Bisphenol A - 0 views

  • Animal tests have linked BPA exposure to a range of health problems, including cancer, obesity, diabetes, and early puberty. The studies are controversial though, and how they related to human health is not fully clear, according to WebMD.
  • If you're worried about being exposed to the cancer-causing compound BPA, you may already know to be wary of some water bottles and food cans.

    But you'll never guess where BPA, a.k.a. bisphenol A, is showing up now:

    Cash register receipts.

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    "...you'll never guess where BPA, a.k.a. bisphenol A, is showing up now: Cash register receipts." By Aina Hunter at CBS News Health Blog on July 28, 2010.
Matt Warren

Whoa There, Rising Powers! - 0 views

  • Some critics have alleged that the U.S. administration passed up a golden opportunity for peace in a fit of pique at diplomatic interlopers, or that Iran had made painful concessions to fellow emerging nations that it would not make to the West.
  • something important has shifted in the world order, and we will have to get over our flinch reflex. Brazil and Turkey are middle-sized powers -- eighth and 17th in the world, respectively, in GDP -- that live at peace with their neighbors and believe they have a calling to play a role on the global stage.
  • "rhythmic diplomacy," which sounds like jazzercise but in fact, as he put it, "implies active involvement in all international organizations and on all issues of global and international importance."
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  • The Brazils and Turkeys of the world are not likely to form a coherent new bloc, but they will be far less inclined than they were in the past to stay within the lines chalked in by the referees of the West.
  • Partisans of a "concert of democracies" have assumed that maturing democracies in the developing world would seek to advance the same, supposedly universal, values prized by their elders in the West, but it hasn't worked out that way.
  • There's no question that Brazil's interests, or Turkey's, overlap in many places with those of the U.S. and Europe; Turkey seeks nothing more ardently than full EU membership, for instance. But in many other places, interests diverge, and the middle powers are inclined to view the current world order as an instrument to advance Western designs, not theirs.
  • For Obama, the really important question is whether he should reconcile himself to an unavoidable clash of interests with rising powers, or try to win them over by offering a deeper and more substantive kind of engagement -- for example, by pushing for a greater democratization of the institutions from which those states now feel excluded. It may be that the only chance to get Brazil to act more like a global citizen is to treat it like one.
  • When I first read the news about the nuclear deal that Brazil and Turkey reached last week with Iran, I flinched. My reflex reaction was: Third-World troublemakers rally to the side of evil-doer in the face of Western pressure. That was, of course, the wrong reflex.
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    "Brazil and Turkey's diplomatic forays may be annoying, but they also signal a huge shift in the way the world works. Is Obama paying attention?" By James Traub in Foreign Policy on May 25, 2010.
Matt Warren

Comparing the Costs of America's Wars - 0 views

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    "Figures in billions except for World War II and post-9/11 totals; all are in fiscal year 2011 dollars." At The New York Times on July 24, 2010.
Matt Warren

Against Evil - 0 views

  • it is more likely yet another example of the refusal of liberals to acknowledge the success of Reagan's Cold War policies: first, rebuilding a disastrously diminished security establishment (diplomatic and political as well as military), then challenging the Soviet Union in a way that surely hastened the demise of the "evil empire."
  • What many of us who served in the Reagan administration do argue is that the delegitimization of the Kremlin dictators (accomplished, in part, by what Beinart calls "virulent Cold War rhetoric"), the rebuilding of American military capabilities, and a skillful arms control strategy (that eventuated in Soviet acceptance of Regan proposals they began by categorically rejecting), led to the Western victory in the Cold War.
  • Reagan barely took notice of what was an insignificant "demand" for détente.
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  • Reagan knew what he wanted and he knew how to achieve it. He was rock solid in defining -- and sticking with -- policies he believed were right. This was especially true with respect to arms control, where, often against the advice of the experts, the liberals, and much of the media, Reagan stayed the course until the Soviets gave him the agreement he wanted. 
  • What the article calls Reagan's "sudden infatuation with arms control," is pure invention. Beinart refers to the failure to conclude a U.S.-Soviet arms control treaty in Iceland in 1986 and implies that Reagan, his heart and mind changed by political expediency, had abandoned the tough policies to which he had been committed.
  • But Reagan, following his own beliefs and proceeding in his own way, achieved results no liberal foreign policy has approached -- or is likely to achieve.
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    A rebuttal against Peter Beinart's "Think Again: Ronald Reagan." By Richard Perle at Foreign Policy on July 27, 2010.
Matt Warren

Russian Modernization, Part 2: The Kremlin's Balancing Act | STRATFOR - 0 views

  • The Kremlin has already struck many deals with foreign businesses — especially U.S. and European firms — and set out the first steps to make Russia appear more attractive to investors. But the necessary deals and investments will have to be on Russia’s terms, making this modernization program very different from previous efforts in an attempt to prevent the errors of the past from being repeated.
  • In centralizing Russia’s economy, the Kremlin changed the laws, limiting how much a foreign business or citizen can own in Russia’s strategic sectors and nationalizing many assets owned by foreigners. This, along with shifts in Russia’s foreign policy, made Russia’s anti-Western sentiments very clear. Russia, with its oligarchs and organized crime, was already a risky market to invest in, but the legal changes made it even more difficult for foreign groups to work inside the country.
  • Typically, the Kremlin has thought that as long as it had energy wealth it did not need a diverse or modern economy, let alone foreign investments. But over the past two years, a series of events has made the Kremlin reassess Russia’s long-term economic capabilities.
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  • First was a tumble in global energy prices.
  • That resurgence led to a second issue: international reaction to Russia’s war with Georgia in August 2008. Russia’s confidence in starting a war with one of its neighbors made the West nervous and led many Western states to cease investing in Russia.
  • This, along with reaction to the Russo-Georgian war, led investors to take more than $130 billion — nearly 11 percent of Russia’s foreign investment stock — out of Russia in the last quarter of 2008.
  • These tremors in the Russian economy undermined the Kremlin’s confidence in its ability to hold its consolidated state and periphery in the long term.
  • Russia cannot modernize its economy by itself because it lacks the necessary capital, experience and technology.
  • in the late 1980s, then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced Perestroika, which allowed Western influence and technology to flood the country. This was a major component of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
  • In order to entice foreign businesses and money back into the country — especially those with modern technology — Russia has had to do some restructuring to make itself more attractive for investors, yet it must stand its ground in certain areas to prevent a flood of foreign influence.
  • The Kremlin is also softening the strict laws on capping a foreign firm’s stake in Russia’s strategic assets and sectors.
  • The Kremlin’s first move was to give investors a certain amount of protection.
  • Additionally, the Kremlin has drafted new laws on the legal status of foreign workers in Russia.
  • The last step Russia needed to take was to appear more pragmatic in its relations with the West.
  • To do business in Russia, one still has to be on the Kremlin’s good side. The political, regulatory and judicial environments in Russia remain restrictive, and the regulations are still convoluted to the extent that the Kremlin, regional or local governments decide what to enforce and how. The changes are intended more as confidence-building measures aimed at firms who want to enter (or return to) Russia. The legal shifts also make it easier for foreign firms and investors to comply with domestic and international laws on investing abroad.
  • For the Kremlin, this is not just about controlling business and investments — it is about controlling influence and power inside the country.
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    "Russia is undertaking an ambitious modernization program in order to ensure its strength in the long term. However, it lacks the expertise, capital and technology to accomplish its goals on its own and must appeal to foreign firms and investors. The Kremlin is making changes to Russia's strict laws concerning foreign businesses and investment, but is taking care to maintain control and avoid importing potentially dangerous levels of foreign influence along with foreign business."

    At StratFor on July 27, 2010.
Matt Warren

Russian Modernization, Part 1: Laying the Groundwork - 0 views

  • Russia is launching a massive modernization program that involves seriously upgrading — if not building from scratch — many key economic sectors, including space, energy, telecommunications, transportation, nanotechnology, military industry and information technology.
  • Moscow has seen incredible success at home and in its near abroad. Now the plan is to make it last as long as possible.
  • However, there are two factors that could keep Russia from remaining strong enough to carry out its plans.
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  • First, Russia is suffering from an extreme demographic crisis that could lead to a further decline of Russian society as a whole, much like the decline seen in the 1990s.
  • Second, Russia’s indigenous capital resources are insufficient to maintain its current economic structure — much less the economic power of the former Soviet Union.
  • Russia is now looking to extend its economic lifespan in hopes that the country can remain strong for another generation.
  • Russia has traditionally lagged behind Western nations in the fields of military, transportation, industry and technology but has employed periodic breakneck modernization programs, which have destabilized the country during their enactment while also bringing it into the modern era.
  • The main unifying theme of each modernization period in Russia was that it required the import of Western technology, information, planning or expertise.
  • Russia cannot simply throw more of its domestic population at the problem as it has in the past. It must import foreign expertise on a massive scale. So Russia is turning to the West for help.
  • Russia’s timing in this is critical. Moscow feels more secure in reaching out to the West for such deals because it has already expanded and consolidated control over much of its near abroad. Furthermore, Europe is fractured (and becoming more so) and the United States is occupied in the Middle East. This is a very opportune time for Russia to undertake another grand modernization.
  • First, Russia will have to change its restrictive laws against foreign investment and businesses, which the Kremlin implemented from 2000 to 2008 in order to contain foreign influence in the country.
  • Second, Russia has to moderate anti-Western elements of its foreign policy implemented from 2005 to 2008, to show that the country is pragmatic when it comes to foreigners.
  • Third, Russia will have to decide which investors and businesses to invite into the country.
  • The fourth part of the process is the most difficult and the most important. The Kremlin must calculate how far it can modernize without compromising the core of Russia, which depends on domestic consolidation and national security above everything else.
  • Russia remembers all too well what happened during the last modernization process — Perestroika — when too much modern and Western influence flooded the country, collapsing the Soviet Union’s social structure and political control.
  • First, there are those in the Kremlin — like Medvedev — who want full modernization, with sweeping reforms.
  • Second, there are the conservatives — who form the majority in the Kremlin — who are terrified that the chaos and collapse which followed Perestroika will recur.
  • That is why Russia is heading down the path of the third group within the Kremlin. This group is led by Putin, who is attempting to implement modernization in an incredibly careful step-by-step process in order to lead the country into the future while controlling foreign forces, to prevent them from shaking Russia’s foundation.
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    "Russian President Dmitri Medvedev is leading a large delegation of Russian economists, politicians and businessmen on a tour of the United States this week. Medvedev's visit is part of Russia's effort to launch a massive modernization program that will involve attracting investment and expertise from the West. Russia's long-term survival depends on such modernization, but the process will require changes and compromise within the Kremlin."

    At StratFor on June 23, 2010.
Matt Warren

People Initially Overestimate Then Later Underestimate Their Abilities - 0 views

  • Researchers performed six experiments that involved subjects trying out new tasks—including drawing an image from looking at its reflection in a mirror, and learning to type on a new kind of keyboard. The participants were asked how long it would take them to learn the task. They tended to be overconfident and thought they’d do better on the first try than they actually did.
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    "People initially expect to learn a new skill easily, then become overly pessimistic when reality sets in." By Cynthia Graber at Scientific American Podcast on July 27, 2010.
Matt Warren

Objectivism & "Metaphysics" (Part 1) - 0 views

  • Metaphysics, in the proper sense of the word, is dialectical physics, or an attempt to determine matters of fact by means of logical or moral or rhetorical constructions.
  • Even when used to defend postulates that are basically sound, metaphysics remains, in the words of F. H. Bradley, “the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct.”
  • Karl Popper applied the word metaphysics to any claims or conjectures that are not empirically testable.
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  • I don’t choose to call my so-called “basic view” of the universe metaphysical. It is merely, as Santayana calls it, cosmology or natural philosophy.
  • Unlike Rand, I don’t believe these basic presuppositions can be defended or validated via axioms or logical argumentation. All these fundamental presuppositions may conceivably be illusory—that is to say, the arguments against them cannot be decisively refuted. They are presuppositions which nature has bred in us (probably via evolution) and which have proved their worth, not by logic, but through centuries of practice.
  • They neither require nor are amenable to logical justification.
  • The belief that all human contentions and presuppositions require explicit philosophical justification constitutes a false demand.
  • Rand’s foundationalism only serves to encourage rationalization, verbalism, essentialism, and other modes of empty speculation, and is often symptomatic of a dogmatic turn of mind that has trouble accepting the provisional and conjectural nature of knowledge.
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    "Rand defined metaphysics as "the study of existence as such or, in Aristotle's words, of 'being qua being.'" Well, that sure narrows it down!" By Greg Nyquist at Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature on July 26, 2010.
Matt Warren

Bury the Graveyard - 0 views

  • Afghanistan, we're told, is "the graveyard of empires."
  • Look, failure is always a possible outcome, especially judging by the way things have been going lately. But if the United States and its allies end up messing up their part of the equation, blame it on their bad policy decisions. Don't blame it on a supersimplified version of Afghanistan's history -- especially if you prefer to overlook the details.
  • One of those myths, for example, is that Afghanistan is inherently unconquerable thanks to the fierceness of its inhabitants and the formidable nature of its terrain. But this isn't at all borne out by the history. "Until 1840 Afghanistan was better known as a 'highway of conquest' rather than the 'graveyard of empires,'" Barfield points out. "For 2,500 years it was always part of somebody's empire, beginning with the Persian Empire in the fifth century B.C."
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  • Alexander's successors managed to keep the place under their control for another 200 years.
  • Genghis had "no trouble at all overrunning the place," and his descendants would build wide-ranging kingdoms using Afghanistan as a base.
  • But context is everything. Everyone tends to forget what happened after the rout of the British: In 1842 they invaded again, defeating every Afghan army sent out against them.
  • Britain's foreign-policy aim, which it ultimately achieved, was to ensure that Afghanistan remained a buffer state outside the influence of imperial competitors, such as the Russians.
  • But even the most skeptical historians concede that, around 1984 or so, the Soviets were actually getting the better of the mujahideen. It was the U.S. decision to send shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles to the Afghan resistance, which robbed the Russian helicopter gunships of their superiority, that allowed the guerrillas to stage a comeback.
  • As Barfield points out, the war against the Soviets was sharply different from previous rebellions in Afghanistan's history as a state, which were relatively fleeting and almost always local affairs, usually revolving around dynastic power struggles. "From 1929 to 1978," he says, "the country was completely at peace."
  • Unfortunately, popular views of the place today are shaped by the past 30 years of seemingly unceasing warfare rather than substantive knowledge of the country's history.
  • Anti-war activists routinely blame the post-2001 Western military presence in the country for the destruction of national infrastructure and the widespread cultivation of opium poppies -- both of which actually date back to the Soviet invasion and the civil war that followed. Others play up the notion of Afghanistan as inherently immune to civilization: "We are not going to ever defeat the insurgency," said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on CNN in 2009. "Afghanistan has probably had - my reading of Afghanistan history - it's probably had an insurgency forever, of some kind."
  • One thing is for sure: If we really want Afghans to attain the future they deserve, clinging to a fake version of their history won't help.
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    "If you want to figure out a way forward for Afghanistan, fake history is not the place to start. " By Christian Caryl at Foreign Policy on July 26, 2010.
Matt Warren

Defense Expenditures, History and Empire - 0 views

  • I tend to fall in between the two camps, largely out of a certain fatalism toward America's role as an imperial state/great power. Ethical or unethical, strategically tenable or strategically foolish, consistent or inconsistent with America's core values, the international position that the United States currently occupies is unlikely to change except in the face of serious structural pressure. The inertia of the status quo, and the colossal political and economic interests and institutions that have dedicated themselves to its perpetuation, is likely beyond the power of American leaders to change in any more than a superficial way. If the U.S. is going to be an imperial power, then, it might as well try to do a decent job at it.
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    "The story Kennedy tells, which repeats itself in various individual permutations from the Habsburg Empire to the USSR, is one in which states rise to prominence on the backs of strong financial and productive apparatuses, which they are then able to convert into military power, and fall from such lofty heights through overextending their resources, running up insurmountable debts and (sometimes) fighting counterproductive wars." By Matt Eckel at Foreign Policy Watch on July 26, 2010.
Matt Warren

Louis C.K. Stares at the Void - 0 views

  • he dwells lavishly on his mortality
  • Louis C.K.—or, more precisely, the comic persona we see him deploy in segments of his consistently excellent stand-up act and in uneven short films amounting to blurts of surrealistic autobiography—isn't especially jaded or anxious.
  • The crux of the shtick is that he's free of illusions
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  • It is as if, beneath the anger that every good comedian must cultivate and cherish, he's achieved a kind of philosophical peace. Having meditated on the world's absurd injustices, he greets them with absurdity in kind. In all, the outlook qualifies him as a kind of existential hero.
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    "His new show, Louie, displays a fine dark humor." By Troy Patterson at Slate on July 26, 2010.
Matt Warren

That Bioshock is tragedy - 0 views

  • The question I want to consider in this post is whether it's helpful to think about these ancient genres together in connection with our ongoing attempt to figure out what video games are good for.
  • I'm going to suggest that by describing Bioshock as a tragedy (in a technical sense, at least) we gain the ability to relate the game to artistic tradition, and to compare and contrast its themes and cultural effects with those of other works of the tragic tradition in particular.
  • It's equally important to note that tragedy's situations of "no choice" are also about the way the freedom of choice is taken away
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  • To put that in a less complicated way, tragedy is about having no choice.
  • Looked at in this light, narrative games may turn out to be the most perfect medium for tragedy ever conceived.
  • Could it be that having an avatar whose choices are taken away meaningfully is the same as watching a bunch of singer-dancers in masks tell you the cryptic backstory of a bloody myth?
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    "The question I want to consider in this post is whether it's helpful to think about these ancient genres together in connection with our ongoing attempt to figure out what video games are good for." By Roger Travis at Living Epic on July 26, 2010.
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