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Archive for March, 2011

  • Cults of personality are hardly ever taken seriously enough. They are often seen as a sort of bizarre curiosity found in some authoritarian regimes, their absurdities attributed to the extreme narcissism and megalomania of particular dictators, who wish to be flattered with ever greater titles and deified in ever more grandiose ways. And it is hard not to laugh at some of the claims being made on behalf of often quite uncharismatic dictators: not only is Kim Jong-il, for example, the greatest golfer in the world, but he also appears to have true superhero powers:

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  • ACT ONE. MISTER FIX IT.
    Richard Ravitch has helped fix three governmental crises, including when New York City nearly went bankrupt in 1975. What's changed, to make it so much harder for him to solve the state's current financial crisis? Host Ira Glass reports.

    ACT TWO. IF YOU WERE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND AND COULD ONLY BRING ONE ECONOMIC PLAN…
    Why is it that Barbados and Jamaica faced almost identical financial crises, but now Jamaica is incredibly poor and Barbados is prospering? Alex Blumberg reports on the surprising strategy Barbados used to survive its crisis.

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  • First Iceland. Then Greece. Now Ireland, which headed for bankruptcy with its own mysterious logic. In 2000, suddenly among the richest people in Europe, the Irish decided to buy their country—from one another. After which their banks and government really screwed them. So where’s the rage?
  • Once again, the question of what types of human behavior computers can imitate shines light on how we conduct our own, human lives. Verbal abuse is simply less complex than other forms of conversation. In fact, since reading the papers on MGonz, and transcripts of its conversations, I find myself much more able to constructively manage heated conversations. Aware of the stateless, knee-jerk character of the terse remark I want to blurt out, I recognize that that remark has far more to do with a reflex reaction to the very last sentence of the conversation than with either the issue at hand or the person I’m talking to. All of a sudden, the absurdity and ridiculousness of this kind of escalation become quantitatively clear, and, contemptuously unwilling to act like a bot, I steer myself toward a more “stateful” response: better living through science.

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