Endless Curiosity

July 13, 2010

The Rich are Happier and More Content

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 6:07 am

I got this title from Jeffrey Goldberg’s posting, where he adds:

I, for one, am breathing a sigh of relief that the rich are happy. I imagine you feel the same way. How could you not?

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June 18, 2010

We Talk, They Act

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Psychology, Republicans — Alec @ 5:48 pm

I’ve blogged before about the ability of people to vote against their own interests, and after reading George Montbiot’s great article in the Guardian, I decided to write about it again. Montbiot has some interesting perspectives that are worth spending a few brain cells pondering.

The simple idea is that the right wing persuades people to fight for things that either don’t affect them, or indeed, harm them. Sample quote:

[The new conservatism] blames the troubles of the poor not on economic forces – corporate and class power, wage cuts, tax cuts, outsourcing – but on cultural forces…The anger of the excluded is aimed instead at gay marriage, abortion, swearing on television and latte-drinking, French-speaking liberals. The working-class American right votes for candidates who rail against cultural degradation, but what it gets when they take power is a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

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June 2, 2010

Behead them all

Filed under: Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 12:21 pm

This is a follow-up to my previous post about wasting a good crisis. The Department of the Interior has been corrupted, and Minerals Management Service is perhaps the most corrupt.

You may have heard of Sun Tzu, a Chinese military strategist who lived around 500 BCE and who wrote the classic book, The Art of War. This book got the attention of King Ho Lu who asked Sun Tzu if he could form the king’s concubines into an army. Sun Tzu said he could, and divided the concubines into two armies, each headed by one of the king’s favorite concubines.

When Sun Tzu gave orders, the concubines simply giggled and did not do as instructed. After a couple of attempts, Sun Tzu had the two favorite concubines beheaded. After that, all orders were followed quickly and accurately.

Of course, we can’t behead the people who run MMS, but Obama should fire those in charge while corruption reigned. Obama needs to get the attention of the people who are responsible for running the government departments and show them that it is no longer business as usual. And he needs to get the attention of the American people and show them that his administration is fixing things.

May 31, 2010

Obama is Pathetic

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Alec @ 6:00 am

Obama is Pathetic. I say this with a lot of love because I’m a Democrat through and through. But he’s handed crisis after crisis and what does he do?  Stands aside, studies, intellectualizes, thinks. What he doesn’t do is take advantage of the crisis. But, as Maureen Dowd said, “Presidencies are always about crisis management.”

Economist Paul Romer said in 2004, “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste,” a sentiment echoed by Rahm Emanuel when he said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” But Obama wastes crisis after crisis.

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May 3, 2010

The world’s first third world first world country

Filed under: Economics, Life, Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 8:52 pm

These days it seems that we are slowly on the way to becoming the world’s first third world first world country. As I drive I notice more and more potholes in the roads, signs of a slow slide into the third world.

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December 23, 2009

Climate Change: Copenhagen, Failure or Folly?

Filed under: Climate Change, Politics — Alec @ 10:01 am

Of course, by now you’ll have read all sorts of things about Copenhagen and the agreements made there. So I’m not telling you anything new. But here are a couple of articles that perhaps you should read (okay, three articles).

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December 16, 2009

Liberals and Conservatives: Relics of the Past

Filed under: Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 3:59 pm

The battle lines have long been drawn between liberals and conservatives – or so myth would have it.

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December 13, 2009

The Rich get Richer

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Alec @ 3:32 pm

I can’t blame the rich for wanting to hang on to what they have, and I can’t blame them for framing the issues in a way that benefits them. That said….

Supposedly the free market is the best hope for a good life, the best hope for freedom, the best hope for humanity. It’s faster than a speeding bullet… oh wait, that’s something else. Anyway, it’s supposed to be pretty good.

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December 1, 2009

The Cowardly Supreme Court

Filed under: Politics, Republicans — Alec @ 8:56 am

I wrote a long blog post about the Supreme Court but it was somehow lost, and I’m not going to rewrite it. So here’s a shorter version.

The Founding Fathers distrusted power – they believed, with Lord Acton, that power corrupts. The whole Bill of Rights (Amendments 1 – 10 for those who have forgotten their civics lessons) was intended to protect individuals against power, especially the power of the State and the majority.

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November 19, 2009

Economic Strategy: Then and Now

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Alec @ 6:42 am

I thought I list a couple of area from the article I mentioned yesterday (Why America Needs an Economic Strategy). Porter first describes some of the “unique competitive strengths” that have allowed the U.S. to prosper. He then describes what he sees as the current situation. I’ve chosen two items that particularly resonate with me, reordering the paragraphs to match items up.

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November 18, 2009

An Economic Strategy

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Alec @ 10:15 pm

I’ve just read a great Business Week article called Why America Needs an Economic Strategy. It’s by Michael Porter, who leads the Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness at Harvard, and you would think that with a title like that, Porter believes we don’t have one. You’d be right.

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October 26, 2009

The Elderly are the Problem

Filed under: Economics, Politics — Alec @ 8:29 am

“We have met the enemy, and he is the future us.” –with apologies to Pogo

Yes, the elderly are the problem. Or at least one of the causes of the problems this country faces.

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October 20, 2009

Forget Afghanistan – let’s nation build in Mexico

Filed under: Politics — Alec @ 6:41 am

In the November issue of Harper’s Magazine, Andrew Bacevic has a fascinating article called The War We Can’t Win. In it he agrees with me! But seriously, he asks the question of why we care about Afghanistan, and wonders why there’s no debate on this question.

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October 19, 2009

Winning in Afghanistan

Filed under: Politics, Psychology, Republicans — Alec @ 8:06 am

Hawks believe we lost in Vietnam only because we didn’t commit enough troops; because the U.S. population chickened out. Hawks believe we can win in Iraq and Afghanistan if we just apply enough troops, and their big fear is that we will withdraw in unnecessary defeat.

The idea that we can create a new society if we only kill enough people has always been a siren song. But do we really want to rank ourselves with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia (killing one third of the population)? Or with Mao Tse Tung in China (who killed over 70 million people in the Cultural Revolution and The Great Leap Forward)? Or with Stalin in the Soviet Union (who killed over 50 million people in the purges and labor camps)?

I wonder if hawks ever stop to ponder how they and their fellow Americans would respond if the Chinese invaded us, hoping to impose the Chinese flavor of communism on us?

October 10, 2009

Backlash against inherited wealth

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Republicans — Alec @ 7:30 am

With unemployment so high and the dreams of many people crushed, I wonder if there will ever be a populist backlash against inherited wealth.

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September 29, 2009

China and climate change

Filed under: Climate Change, Politics — Alec @ 7:14 am

Another thing that Bill Maher’s article made me think about was climate change and the other pending disasters that I lump together under the rubric of Disaster Porn (more on this later).

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September 9, 2009

Blind Spots and Cassandra

Filed under: Climate Change, Economics, Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 6:35 am

I watched a great 2008 documentary on Labor Day called Blind Spot. It’s about the problems we face as the production of oil starts to run down. The fascinating thing is how much we as a race don’t want to think about these problems. We ignore the problem, or we tell ourselves that technology will solve it. As one of the interviewees said, we should go to church, mosque, or synagogue if we want to rely on miracles.

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August 21, 2009

America always does the right thing…

Filed under: Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 6:54 am

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else” – Winston Churchill

Who knows what will happen with health care reform – after all, it took 20 years for Medicare to become a reality. In 1945 Harry Truman asked Congress for legislation establishing a national health insurance plan. Two decades of debate followed, with opponents warning of the dangers of “socialized medicine.” Sound familiar? Finally Medicare was signed into in law in 1965 by Lyndon Johnson as part of his Great Society.

Now Medicare is one of our favorite programs. As we’ve heard recently, even people against health-care reform are saying things like:

“I don’t want government-run health care. I don’t want socialized medicine. And don’t touch my Medicare.”

and

“Keep your government hands off my Medicare.”

As always, Churchill has another appropriate quote: “The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter.”

Maybe in another 20 years we’ll get real health care reform.

August 17, 2009

Democracy in Afghanistan :-)

Filed under: Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 11:22 am

Call me stupid, but I really don’t understand why Obama insists on staying in Afghanistan, and not just staying, but increasing our troop levels. What do we hope to achieve?

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August 13, 2009

How depressing

Filed under: Politics, Psychology — Alec @ 1:18 pm

I just read Gail Collins’ article about people carrying guns to protests and rancorous town-hall meetings. What a scary thought – that someone who disagrees with me at a meeting might be carrying a gun. Democracy involves people feeling free to put forward their opinions – that’s what the First Amendment is partly about. Guns, on the other hand, intimidate people from putting forward their opinion and even from attending meetings. Ask any dictator.  Sometimes what I read is so depressing that I wish I hadn’t bothered reading.

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