🎧 Summer Series Episode 4: Tectonic Edition | WNYC | On The Media

Listened Summer Series Episode 4: Tectonic Edition from On The Media | WNYC Studios

This summer we are revisiting some of our favorite Breaking News Consumer Handbooks. Episode 4 in this mini-series is Tectonic Edition.

After an earthquake struck Nepal in April of 2015, the post-disaster media coverage followed a trajectory we'd seen repeated after other earth-shaking events. We put together a template to help a discerning news consumer look for the real story. It's our Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Tectonic Edition. Brooke spoke to Jonathan M. Katz, who wrote "How Not to Report on an Earthquake" for the New York Times Magazine.

Breaking News Consumer Handbook

Understanding how news is reported and the good and bad of it can certainly help one be a better consumer of it. This episode was quite enlightening about how disaster reporting is often done wrong.

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🎧 “General Chapman's Last Stand” Season 3 Episode 5 | Revisionist History

Listened “General Chapman's Last Stand” Season 3 Episode 5 by Malcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

"Good fences make good neighbors. Or maybe not."

General Leonard Chapman guided the Marines Corp through some of the most difficult years in its history. He was brilliant, organized, decisive and indefatigable. Then he turned his attention to the America’s immigration crisis. You think you want effective leadership? Be careful what you wish for.

A piece of history I was surprised to not have heard about with relation to current immigration policy. Also a great example of how policy makers need to be able to think 20 steps into the potential futures to realize the ramifications of what they’re doing an the effects it will have on future generations.

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👓 The End of History? | Francis Fukuyama

Read The End of History? by Francis FukuyamaFrancis Fukuyama (The National Interest | No. 16 (Summer 1989), pp. 3-18)

IN WATCHING the flow of events over the past decade or so, it is hard to avoid the feeling that something very fundamental has happened in world history. The past year has seen a flood of articles commemorating the end of the Cold War, and the fact that "peace" seems to be breaking out in many regions of the world. Most of these analyses lack any larger conceptual framework for distinguishing between what is essential and what is contingent or accidental in world history, and are predictably superficial. If Mr. Gorbachev were ousted from the Kremlin or a new Ayatollah proclaimed the millennium from a desolate Middle Eastern capital, these same commentators would scramble to announce the rebirth of a new era of conflict.

And yet, all of these people sense dimly that there is some larger process at work, a process that gives coherence and order to the daily headlines. The twentieth century saw the developed world descend into a paroxysm of ideological violence, as liberalism contended first with the remnants of absolutism, then bolshevism and fascism, and finally an updated Marxism that threatened to lead to the ultimate apocalypse of nuclear war. But the century that began full of self-confidence in the ultimate triumph of Western liberal democracy seems at its close to be returning full circle to where it started: not to an "end of ideology" or a convergence between capitalism and socialism, as earlier predicted, but to an unabashed victory of economic and political liberalism.

In general, while I’ve been reading Stuart Kauffmann’s At Home in the Universe, I can’t help but thinking about the cascading extinctions he describes and wonder if political extinctions of ideas like Communism or other forms of government or even economies might follow the same types of outcomes described there?   
August 29, 2018 at 09:37AM

Building on this, could we create a list of governments and empires and rank them in order of the length of their spans? There may be subtleties in changes of regimes in some eras, but generally things are probably reasonably well laid out. I wonder if the length of life of particular governments follows a power law? One would suspect it might.   
August 29, 2018 at 09:43AM

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism.  

Total exhaustion?
August 29, 2018 at 08:53AM

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.  

What if, in fact, we’ve only just found a local maximum? What if in the changing landscape there are other places we could potentially get to competitively that supply greater maxima? And possibly worse, what if we need to lose value to get from here to unlock even more value there?
August 29, 2018 at 08:56AM

Hegel believed that history culminated in an absolute moment – a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state became victorious.  

and probably not a bad outcome in an earlier era that thought of things in terms of clockwork and lacked the ideas of quantum theory and its attendant uncertainties.
August 29, 2018 at 08:59AM

Believing that there was no more work for philosophers as well, since Hegel (correctly understood) had already achieved absolute knowledge, Kojève left teaching after the war and spent the remainder of his life working as a bureaucrat in the European Economic Community, until his death in 1968.  

This is depressing on so many levels.
August 29, 2018 at 09:05AM

Paul Kennedy’s hugely successful “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers”, which ascribes the decline of great powers to simple economic overextension.  

Curious how this may relate to the more recent “The End of Power” by Moisés Naím. It doesn’t escape one that the title of the book somewhat echoes the title of this particular essay.
August 29, 2018 at 09:18AM

But whether a highly productive modern industrial society chooses to spend 3 or 7 percent of its GNP on defense rather than consumption is entirely a matter of that society’s political priorities, which are in turn determined in the realm of consciousness.  

It’s not so much the percentage on produced defense goods, but how quickly could a society ramp up production of goods, services, and people to defend itself compared to the militaries of its potential aggressors.

In particular, most of the effort should go to the innovation side of war materiel. The innovation of the atomic bomb is a particularly nice example in that as a result of conceptualizing and then executing on it it allowed the US to win the war in the Pacific and hasten the end of war in Europe. Even if we otherwise had massive stockpiles of people or other weapons, our enemies could potentially have equaled them and dragged the war on interminably. It was the unknown unknown via innovation that unseated Japan and could potentially do the same to us based on innovation coming out of almost any country in the modern age.
August 29, 2018 at 09:24AM

Weber notes that according to any economic theory that posited man as a rational profit-maximizer, raising the piece-work rate should increase labor productivity. But in fact, in many traditional peasant communities, raising the piece-work rate actually had the opposite effect of lowering labor productivity: at the higher rate, a peasant accustomed to earning two and one-half marks per day found he could earn the same amount by working less, and did so because he valued leisure more than income. The choices of leisure over income, or of the militaristic life of the Spartan hoplite over the wealth of the Athenian trader, or even the ascetic life of the early capitalist entrepreneur over that of a traditional leisured aristocrat, cannot possibly be explained by the impersonal working of material forces,  

Science could learn something from this. Science is too far focused on the idealized positive outcomes that it isn’t paying attention to the negative outcomes and using that to better define its outline or overall shape. We need to define a scientific opportunity cost and apply it to the negative side of research to better understand and define what we’re searching for.

Of course, how can we define a new scientific method (or amend/extend it) to better take into account negative results–particularly in an age when so many results aren’t even reproducible?
August 29, 2018 at 09:32AM

FAILURE to understand that the roots of economic behavior lie in the realm of consciousness and culture leads to the common mistake of attributing material causes to phenomena that are essentially ideal in nature.  

August 29, 2018 at 09:44AM

“Protestant” life of wealth and risk over the “Catholic” path of poverty and security.[8]   

Is this simply a restatement of the idea that most of “the interesting things” happen at the border or edge of chaos? The Catholic ethic is firmly inside the stable arena while that of the Protestant ethic is pushing the boundaries.
August 29, 2018 at 09:47AM

Hence it did not matter to Kojève that the consciousness of the postwar generation of Europeans had not been universalized throughout the world; if ideological development had in fact ended, the homogenous state would eventually become victorious throughout the material world.  

This presupposes that homeostasis could ever be achieved.

One thinks of phrases like “The future is here, it just isn’t evenly distributed.” But everything we know about systems and evolving systems often indicates that homeostasis isn’t necessarily a good thing. In many cases, it means eventual “death” instead of evolving towards a longer term lifespan. Again, here Kauffmann’s ideas about co-evolving systems and evolving landscapes may provide some guidance. What if we’re just at a temporary local maximum, but changes in the landscape modify that fact? What then? Shouldn’t we be looking for other potential distant maxima as well?
August 29, 2018 at 09:52AM

But that state of consciousness that permits the growth of liberalism seems to stabilize in the way one would expect at the end of history if it is underwritten by the abundance of a modern free market economy.  

Writers spend an awful lot of time focused too carefully on the free market economy, but don’t acknowledge a lot of the major benefits of the non-free market parts which are undertaken and executed often by governments and regulatory environments. (Hacker & Pierson, 2016)
\August 29, 2018 at 10:02AM

Are there, in other words, any fundamental “contradictions” in human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure?  

Churchill famously said “…democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time…”

Even within this quote it is implicit that there are many others. In some sense he’s admitting that we might possibly be at a local maximum but we’ve just not explored the spaces beyond the adjacent possible.
August 29, 2018 at 10:08AM

For our purposes, it matters very little what strange thoughts occur to people in Albania or Burkina Faso, for we are interested in what one could in some sense call the common ideological heritage of mankind.  

While this seems solid on it’s face, we don’t know what the future landscape will look like. What if climate change brings about massive destruction of homo sapiens? We need to be careful about how and why we explore both the adjacent possible as well as the distant possible. One day we may need them and our current local maximum may not serve us well.
August 29, 2018 at 10:10AM

anomie  

I feel like this word captures very well the exact era of Trumpian Republicanism in which we find ourselves living.
August 29, 2018 at 10:37AM

After the war, it seemed to most people that German fascism as well as its other European and Asian variants were bound to self-destruct. There was no material reason why new fascist movements could not have sprung up again after the war in other locales, but for the fact that expansionist ultranationalism, with its promise of unending conflict leading to disastrous military defeat, had completely lost its appeal. The ruins of the Reich chancellery as well as the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed this ideology on the level of consciousness as well as materially, and all of the pro-fascist movements spawned by the German and Japanese examples like the Peronist movement in Argentina or Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army withered after the war.  

And yet somehow we see these movements anew in America and around the world. What is the difference between then and now?
August 29, 2018 at 11:46AM

This is not to say that there are not rich people and poor people in the United States, or that the gap between them has not grown in recent years. But the root causes of economic inequality do not have to do with the underlying legal and social structure of our society, which remains fundamentally egalitarian and moderately redistributionist, so much as with the cultural and social characteristics of the groups that make it up, which are in turn the historical legacy of premodern conditions.  

August 29, 2018 at 11:47AM

But those who believe that the future must inevitably be socialist tend to be very old, or very marginal to the real political discourse of their societies.  

and then there are the millennials…
August 29, 2018 at 11:51AM

Beginning with the famous third plenum of the Tenth Central Committee in 1978, the Chinese Communist party set about decollectivizing agriculture for the 800 million Chinese who still lived in the countryside. The role of the state in agriculture was reduced to that of a tax collector, while production of consumer goods was sharply increased in order to give peasants a taste of the universal homogenous state and thereby an incentive to work. The reform doubled Chinese grain output in only five years, and in the process created for Deng Xiaoping a solid political base from which he was able to extend the reform to other parts of the economy. Economic Statistics do not begin to describe the dynamism, initiative, and openness evident in China since the reform began.  

August 29, 2018 at 11:58AM

At present, no more than 20 percent of its economy has been marketized, and most importantly it continues to be ruled by a self-appointed Communist party which has given no hint of wanting to devolve power.  

If Facebook were to continue to evolve at it’s current rate and with it’s potential power as well as political influence, I could see it attempting to work the way China does in a new political regime.
August 29, 2018 at 12:04PM

IF WE ADMIT for the moment that the fascist and communist challenges to liberalism are dead, are there any other ideological competitors left? Or put another way, are there contradictions in liberal society beyond that of class that are not resolvable? Two possibilities suggest themselves, those of religion and nationalism.  

August 29, 2018 at 12:19PM

This school in effect applies a Hobbesian view of politics to international relations, and assumes that aggression and insecurity are universal characteristics of human societies rather than the product of specific historical circumstances.  

August 29, 2018 at 12:30PM

But whatever the particular ideological basis, every “developed” country believed in the acceptability of higher civilizations ruling lower ones  

August 29, 2018 at 12:37PM

Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.  

Has it started again with nationalism, racism, and Trump?
August 29, 2018 at 12:48PM

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👓 Muslim Woman Ignores Dying Victim of London Terror Attack? | Snopes

Read Muslim Woman Ignores Dying Victim of London Terror Attack? by Dan Evon (Snopes.com)
On 22 March 2017, an attack took place outside the British Parliament in London during which a man drove a vehicle into a crowd of people on the Westminster Bridge. As police responded to the incident, which left four people dead, a photograph showing a woman dressed in a hijab with a cell phone in ...

A potential interesting case study for the “Made to Stick” arena.

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👓 The Expensive Education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley | Kara Swisher for New York Times

Read Opinion | The Expensive Education of Mark Zuckerberg and Silicon Valley by Kara SwisherKara Swisher (nytimes.com)
They have weaponized social media, and we are all paying the price.

I’m definitely just biding my time until their export feature improves. Then I’m moving out of this toxic space.

I still find it interesting that no one seems to be taking him to either enough task or calling him out on potential political bids. He could very easily and quickly use the platform to drastically reshape the political scenery in America and around the world.

Aside: Interesting to note that Kara Swisher’s byline here doesn’t have a link on it, even to a default NY Times page for her.

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👓 The Third-Party Option | David Brooks | The New York Times

Read Opinion | The Third-Party Option by David BrooksDavid Brooks (nytimes.com)
National politics needs a leader devoted to redistributing power downward.

Oh to have a solid centrist party with smaller far left and far right parties. Maybe we could get some pragmatic work done. With the Republican party in crisis, perhaps this is the best time…

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👓 On Generosity and Obligation | Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Read On Generosity and Obligation by Kathleen FitzpatrickKathleen Fitzpatrick (Kathleen Fitzpatrick)
I am returning, at last, to the thoughts I was exploring in my recent posts on Miranda Joseph’s Against the Romance of Community (post 1 | post 2), and I’m starting to wrestle this morning with the big one: obligation. Thinking about community as a strategic rather than an idealized concept, community in its pragmatic coalition-building sense, leads me to consider the work required to create and sustain communities. If the kinds of communities that I am seeking in trying to imagine a more generous relationship not only between the university and the publics that it engages but also, crucially, within the university itself are first and foremost voluntary communities—self-organizing, self-governing collectives based in affiliation and solidarity—what exactly can we be said to owe those communities? Do those communities and our relationships to them impose obligations on us?

Highlights, Quotes, Annotations, & Marginalia

I am generous with what I have—I choose to be generous with what I have—precisely because we are no longer committed to one another as members of a shared social structure. Instead, the shift of responsibility for the public welfare toward private entities displaces our obligations to one another in favor of individual liberties and, I think, leaves us queasy about the notion of obligation altogether.  

The game theory of things tends to pull the society apart, particularly when it is easier to see who is paying what. If the richer end feels they’re paying more than their fair share, this can tend to break things down.

I suspect that Francis Fukuyama has a bit to say about this in how democratic societies built themselves up over time. Similarly one of his adherents Jonah Goldberg provides some related arguments about tribalism tending to tear democracies down when we revert back to a more primitive viewpoint instead of being able to trust the larger governmental structures of a democracy.

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👓 There is no single solution to making the internet more decentralised – The art of the possible | The Economist

Read There is no single solution to making the internet more decentralised (The Economist)
Stopping the internet from getting too concentrated will be a slog, but the alternative would be worse

This has generally been an interesting series of articles in The Economist.

As John Sherman, the senator who gave his name to America’s original antitrust law in 1890, put it at a time when the robber barons ruled much of America’s economy: “If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale of any of the necessaries of life.”  

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👓 If You Say Something Is “Likely,” How Likely Do People Think It Is? | Harvard Business Review

Read If You Say Something Is “Likely,” How Likely Do People Think It Is? (Harvard Business Review)
Why you should use percentages, not words, to express probabilities.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Phil Tetlock, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who has studied forecasting in depth, suggests that “vague verbiage gives you political safety.”  

This result is consistent with analysis by the data science team at Quora, a site where users ask and answer questions. That team found that women use uncertain words and phrases more often than men do, even when they are just as confident.  

A large literature shows that we tend to be overconfident in our judgments.  

The best forecasters make lots of precise forecasts and keep track of their performance with a metric such as a Brier score.  

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👓 ‘I snookered them’: Illinois Nazi candidate creates GOP dumpster fire | POLITICO

Read ‘I snookered them’: Illinois Nazi candidate creates GOP dumpster fire (POLITICO)
Republicans fear blowback from a Holocaust denier’s run for Congress.

How has the state party just sat by and ignored this altogether? Deplorable…

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🎧 ‘The Daily’: What Trump Learned From Clinton’s Impeachment | New York Times

Listened ‘The Daily’: What Trump Learned From Clinton’s Impeachment from nytimes.com

Twenty years ago, President Bill Clinton survived impeachment after casting himself as the target of partisan motives. What lessons has President Trump gleaned from that strategy?

On today’s episode:

• Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, who covered the investigation and impeachment of Mr. Clinton.

[READ: When the President Testified: People in the Room Recall Clinton’s 1998 Interrogation]

Background reading:

• Mr. Trump has assailed the Russia investigation as a politically motivated “witch hunt” brought about by Democrats who oppose his presidency. The partisan narrative bears similarities to the one promulgated by Mr. Clinton and his supporters during the inquiry into whether he had lied under oath about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky; Hillary Clinton characterized the matter as a “vast, right-wing conspiracy” against her husband.

• How will the president fare in the Russia investigation? Here’s a look at several possible outcomes, including a finding of no wrongdoing, impeachment and indictment.

• Some Republicans are seizing on the specter of impeachment to energize voters ahead of midterm elections, and Democrats are divided on how to respond.

• Several people who were in the room with Mr. Clinton during his grand jury testimony on Aug. 17, 1998 recall their experience of his interrogation.

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👓 How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump | New York Times | Opinion

Read Opinion | How to Lose the Midterms and Re-elect Trump (nytimes.com)
Robert De Niro and Samantha Bee model the wrong way to resist a dangerous president.
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🎧 ‘The Daily’: When Democratic Newcomers Challenge the Party Line | New York Times

Listened ‘The Daily’: When Democratic Newcomers Challenge the Party Line by Michael Barbaro from nytimes.com

Alarm over the election of Donald Trump spurred dozens of first-time candidates to run for Congress. Some of those candidates now present a problem for the Democratic Party.

On today’s episode:

• Mai Khanh Tran, a Democratic candidate for a United States House seat in California.

• Alexander Burns, who covers national politics for The New York Times.

Background reading:

• National Democrats, fearing that crowded rosters of primary candidates could fracture the party, have begun to intervene by urging some to bow out of the election.

• The party views the California midterms as a particular risk. The state’s nonpartisan primary system — in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation — could propel two Republican candidates to the November race.

• Here’s what to watch for in the California primaries, which take place on Tuesday.

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🎧 ‘The Daily’: A Crossroads for the Democratic Party | New York Times

Listened ‘The Daily’: A Crossroads for the Democratic Party by Michael Barbaro from nytimes.com

In Georgia, two women were locked in a close race for the Democratic nomination for governor. What does this primary tell us about the future of the Democratic Party?

On today’s episode:

• Jonathan Martin, a national political correspondent for The New York Times.

Background reading:

• Stacey Abrams, a former minority leader of the Georgia House, made history by becoming the first black woman to be a major party nominee for governor in the United States, defeating Stacey Evans in Georgia’s Democratic primary.

• The race between Ms. Abrams and Ms. Evans, two well-regarded candidates with starkly different campaign strategies, was viewed as a weather vane for the Democratic Party’s prospects in the midterm elections. Ms. Abrams banked on the support of young people, women, and African-American and Hispanic voters, while Ms. Evans reached out to moderate and conservative-leaning white voters.

• Here are the results for Tuesday’s primaries in ArkansasGeorgiaKentucky and Texas.

• Record numbers of women are running in the midterm elections, but the road to Capitol Hill is a hard one.

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