Archive for December, 2009

links for 2009-12-31


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links for 2009-12-30

  • The grand, overarching theme of the Bush administration—the big idea that informed so many of its sordid episodes—was the same anti-supervisory impulse applied to the public sector: regulators sabotaged and their agencies turned over to the regulated.

    The public was left to read the headlines and ponder the unthinkable: Could our leaders really have pushed us into an unnecessary war? Is the republic really dividing itself into an immensely wealthy class of Wall Street bonus-winners and everybody else? And surely nobody outside of the movies really has the political clout to write themselves a $700 billion bailout.

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links for 2009-12-29

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links for 2009-12-25

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links for 2009-12-21

  • The problem today is not that we multitask. We’ve always multitasked. The problem is that we never stop multitasking. The natural busyness of our lives is being amplified by the networked gadgets that constantly send us messages and alerts, bombard us with other bits of important and trivial information, and generally interrupt the train of our thought. The data barrage never lets up. As a result, we devote ever less time to the calmer, more attentive modes of thinking that have always given richness to our intellectual lives and our culture—the modes of thinking that involve concentration, contemplation, reflection, introspection. The less we practice these habits of mind, the more we risk losing them altogether.
  • This year, The Princeton Review named Penn State the #1 Party School in America. It's a rotating crown—last year it was University of Florida, before that it was West Virginia University. So we wondered: What is it like to be at the country's top party school? This American Life producers spent a recent football weekend at Penn State to figure this out. There, we learned the definition of "fracket" (think frat plus jacket); the best way to clean up beer cans after a big party (snow shovel); and how hard it is to get college kids to drink less (really hard).
  • If this view is right, it has three painful implications: first, properly measured fiscal policy was far looser than was thought during much of Gordon Brown’s period as chancellor; second, it is likely that the UK will suffer not only from a permanent loss of output, but also a permanent decline in the trend rate of economic growth; and, third, a huge fiscal tightening cannot be avoided.

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links for 2009-12-20

  • Either way, “Celebrity Register” had uncovered a cold truth about the American idea of success, which left even those at the pinnacle of society vulnerable to shifting public appetites. It “is one of the most symbolic documents of our age,” the historian Daniel Boorstin wrote of Mr. Amory’s book. “It is an index to the new categories of American society” — the categories, he meant, that were formed by the media, which had degraded the hero into the mere celebrity. “The hero was distinguished by his achievement; the celebrity by his image or trademark,” Mr. Boorstin observed. “The hero created himself; the celebrity is created by the media. The hero was a big man; the celebrity is a big name.”

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links for 2009-12-17

  • One year ago, the U.S. government and all of us were over a big, ugly barrel. Bail out the mega banks, or they would crash and take the whole economy down with them. “Too big to fail.”

    And so we bailed and bailed and bailed. Billions and billions in taxpayers’ dollars to save the banks that had driven the crisis. And the cry went up: “Never again.”

    Well, now the tools for “never again” are on the table, and there’s a huge debate over whether they will work, or bring Wall Street running back for more.

    This hour, On Point: How to fix “too big to fail” on Wall Street.

  • Frankly, it is this mindset– that ideologies remain constant and that a chosen ideology can be applied to any problems– that is at the heart of our sorry public discourse. When issues are always presented as a choice between two (and it is always two) competing ideologies, then they can be discussed with almost no knowledge of the issues at hand. Witness our Sunday talk shows, where guests (who are often experts in one field) pontificate on other topics in which they have absolutely no background. They can do this because the debate is framed only in terms of ideology and political gamesmanship, which requires no new investigation or education, only a background in ideology that may have been gained decades ago. As a result, we are often dumber for having watched.

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