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Keep On Brexiting

Posted by Ogged
on 06.24.16

This made me laugh.

This could be right.


 

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Link: Solving the correct problem

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.24.16

Nick S. writes: Takes a very good example of how not to think about solving complex problems and uses it as an opportunity to discuss more useful approaches.

Evgeny Morozov has offered a sharp and helpful critique to this mode of thinking, which he calls "solutionism". Solutionism demands that we focus on problems that have "nice and clean technological solution at our disposal." In his book, "To Save Everything, Click Here", Morozov savages ideas like Snow's, whether they are meant as thought experiments or serious policy proposals. (Indeed, one worry I have in writing this essay is taking Snow's ideas too seriously, as Morozov does with many of the ideas he lambastes in his book.)

...


[I]t's rare that technology provides a robust solution to a social problem by itself. Successful technological approaches to solving social problems usually require changes in laws and norms, as well as market incentives to make change at scale. I installed solar panels on the roof of my house last fall. Rapid advances in panel technology made this a routine investment instead of a luxury, and the existence of competitive solar installers in our area meant that market pressures kept costs low. But the panels were ultimately affordable because federal and state legislation offered tax rebates for their purchase.

...

Disability rights activists have demanded "nothing about us without us", a slogan that demands that policies should not be developed without the participation of those intended to benefit from those policies.

Heebie's take: the article does an excellent job on a totally grandiose topic. The jumping off point is this other guy, Snow, who wrote an article suggesting that prison reform could be accomplished by putting every prisoner in solitary and giving them Virtual Reality headsets.

How does an apparently intelligent person end up suggesting a solution that might, at best, constitute unethical medical experiments on prisoners? How does a well-meaning person suggest a remedy that likely constitutes torture?

The author, Zuckerman, identifies a few common pitfalls and has smart things to say about them and examples to illustrate them:

Make sure you're solving the right problem.
Understand that technology is a tool, and not the only tool.
Don't assume your preferences are universal
Am I the right person to solve this problem?

Indeed! Perhaps this topic will neatly complement the Brexit one.



 

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They've all gone away

Posted by Ben
on 06.23.16

Ralph Stanley RIP.


 

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AA

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.23.16

Go suck on an egg, Abigail Fisher!


 

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No, his other other mom.

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.23.16

I don't know why I clicked through, but I did and I'm annoyed. No one has a stereotype that gay people can't be surgeons. I mean, they sort of do, but out of the invisibility of gay people's gayness in their professional careers, not out of the specific nature of homophobia, in contrast to how the stereotype that women aren't surgeons is specific to sexism and notions of gender and power and intelligence and career trajectories. This kid isn't extra-evolved, he's just more quick to believe that a household with an ambitious parent and a dead dad must be a household of two dads rather than a household of a mom and dad. He just evolved laterally or sideways or something. At least he's not also homophobic.

Anyway, can your gay dad do this?

June%2023%2C%202016%20%281%29.jpg

I'm pretty pleased with myself.


 

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Sit in

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.23.16

I guess it's good that the Democrats are also finally making scenes with no procedural value? I would be very annoyed if people drew parallels between fighting for gun regulations and Ted Cruz reading Green Eggs and Ham.


 

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"Eating"

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.22.16

As long as we're talking about the midwest...

via you, at the other place


 

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"Violence"

Posted by Ogged
on 06.22.16

Chicago being "violent" means different things to people. Usually the people who talk about it in the media are using it to make some point about how horrible blacks/Democrats/guns/neo-liberals are. As a "Chicagoan," talking to people from elsewhere, it's about that crazy city of mine (although as a suburbanite, the violence affects me about as much as if I lived in Madison). But whatever you think the reason or solution is, the fact is that it's a crisis (it should be a national crisis) and people care, but not so much.


 

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Enjoy the implosion

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.21.16

Trump is on his own campaign payroll. I have had high hopes for this election season all year, but this past month - watching Trump pivot to his Presidential Face - has exceeded my best-case scenarios. My current optimistic take is that the Republicans get branded as the party that gets swindled by conmen. I know that's sort of their brand already, but I mean the kind of brand that sticks with low-information voters. This primary season was truly magical.


 

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Complain, complain

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.20.16

My fingers have started tingling on the side where I've been having back and neck pain. Ugh. I can't tell if I just really struck a nerve when I was doing the lacrosse ball stretches, or if something is actually getting worse. Clearly the underlying problem is either repetitive stress or sleeping weird; I'm out of ideas of things to do differently.


 

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Guest Post: It's not the kids making you unhappy

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.20.16

Sifu Tweety writes: Parents are less happy than nonparents. Sweet ironies of the human condition, eh? All joy and no fun, right? But it's great, really! You can't understand if you haven't had kids. Anyhow, what happens to the relationship between parenthood and happiness when you look at countries with generous leave policies, subsidized childcare, and general government family-friendliness? Funny story:

The negative effects of parenthood on happiness were entirely explained by the presence or absence of social policies allowing parents to better combine paid work with family obligations. And this was true for both mothers and fathers. Countries with better family policy "packages" had no happiness gap between parents and non-parents.

Huh! Maybe that's at the expense of non-child-havers, though.
[T]he positive effects of good family support policies for parents were not achieved at the expense of non-parents, as some commentators have claimed might be the case. The policies that helped parents the most were policies that also improved the happiness of everyone in that country, whether they had children or not.

Fine. That's fine. Everything's fine.

Heebie's take:
Surely some solid evidence will clarify things for our policy-makers and we can get this fixed in a jiffy.


 

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Brexit

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.20.16

I don't think we've had a Brexit thread, probably because I'm a total ignoramus. Enlighten me.


 

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Deluge: Chapters 11 and 12

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 06.20.16

Fake Accent writes: In contrast to earlier chapters, which have ranged across the globe (or at least the northern hemisphere), chapters 11 and 12 are relatively short and focus almost exclusively on Europe. So my summaries are pretty short too.

Chapter 11: war's over, everyone go home.
Chapter 12: what's going on with democracy and the left?

Too short? Ok, let me try again.

Chapter 11: snatching peace from the jaws of victory

If global power competition was a great game, Woodrow Wilson was the kind of player who every time the ball got near, looked ahead too soon and missed it completely. Earlier in the war, before the US got directly involved, Wilson held out hope for a "peace without victory": a settlement in which no side would be able to dictate terms. In Wilson's vision of the future, any of the great powers could potentially become a threat to world stability. Germany may have started this war, but a too strong France or Britain could start the next. Only a mediating body like a League of Nations could prevent the kind of dynamic that had led to a war of this size.

Until the fall of 1918, the exigencies of the war had worked against Wilson's desire to keep the US above the fray. US troops were now fighting alongside the British and the French, supplied with mostly British and French equipment, much of which had been purchased with American dollars. Yet Wilson apparently still clung to the hope that his earlier vision could be salvaged. When Germany gave him the opportunity, he didn't stop to consult the Entente before grasping at it.

Tooze starts this chapter with Germany, not Wilson, but Wilson and the US play the key roles in pushing the armistice through. By October 1918, Germany was on the verge of military defeat and internal collapse. Tooze makes the point that had the war gone on for much longer, little would have stood in the way of total victory for the Entente.

Three factors saved Germany from invasion: 1) Germany was not a total dictatorship, and a liberal government with a willingness to negotiate took power under Max von Baden in early October 1918; 2) everyone (except the US) was already exhausted by the war, and without clear signs of a German collapse, no one was ready to commit to fight for unconditional surrender; 3) Woodrow Wilson.

Despite opposition from the right and misgivings from von Baden himself, in October 1918 Germany opened up a dialogue with Wilson over a negotiated peace. British and French officials were livid that Wilson would act unilaterally, but Wilson was receptive to the German proposal and there was little they could do. The Entente's forces were already stretched to the limit, their leaders didn't want to look like reactionaries, and even if they won a more decisive victory, the US would still have played a large role in any peace that followed. The time when Britain and France could have won alone had long since passed.

Wilson, for his part, didn't stop at mere peace: he also called for Germany to end the Kaiser's rule and become a democracy. Tooze argues that Wilson's demand was as much about American public opinion - hard to look like you're fighting for democracy when you're willing to leave the Kaiser in charge - as it was about Wilson's own beliefs. The effect of this demand was to anger and embolden the German militarist right, leading to acts of open rebellion. Naval leaders attempted to send the fleet back into battle, but were thwarted when sailors in Kiel refused to follow orders. The Kaiser eventually abdicated on November 9, 1918, but the German Republic had nearly collapsed before it could be established.

In the final agreement, the US did make a few concessions to the French and the British, but these were relatively minor: the British got to write their "reservations" about the terms of the peace into the final note sent to the Germans, and the military leadership of the Entente got to set the terms of the surrender. The broader basis of the peace remained on Wilson's terms.

Perhaps more consequential than the rift between the US and its allies were the American mid-term elections of 1918. Tooze points out that Wilson held a stronger position relative to the Entente than he did within American politics. Republicans were in favor of fighting the war to a military end, and treating the Entente as allies to work with, not potential problems to be managed. There was also a fair amount of red-baiting, accusations that the Democrats were too sympathetic to the European left. Wilson campaigned for his postwar vision but lost badly. The US would go into Versailles with the Republicans in control of both the House and the Senate.

Chapter 12: democratic politics and the left[s]

One of the things I've really enjoyed about this book is Tooze's attention to detail and contingency. Tooze explicitly frames his argument in opposition to narratives that draw a direct line between the two world wars, as if the second one was the inevitable consequence of the first. Most of those interpretations rely on smoothing out the details, selecting key events and then jumping from one to the next. The closest I ever got to studying the first world war was in an international relations class that covered the twentieth century, and that jumped straight from the armistice to Versailles. Chapter 12 is devoted entirely to developments that took place after the armistice but before the peace conference reached full swing.

The war didn't start as a war for democracy or national independence, but it left a lot of new European nation-states behind, many trying out democratic forms. The big exception was Russia, which tried to leave the war early, only to end up in a civil war that lasted past the armistice. The Bolsheviks and not yet consolidated their power, and some Entente leaders felt they were a threat that needed to be eradicated. But the primary motive for intervention in Russia had been the worry that Russia would become a client state of Germany. Now that Germany had been defeated, that was no longer a concern. With Russia too weak to seem like a threat on its own, and with the allies exhausted from the fighting on the western front, advocates of escalating the intervention into an all out war against Bolshevism found little support.

While Bolshevism posed no direct military threat to western Europe, its specter still haunted postwar European politics. Though this chapter is called "Democracy Under Pressure" it's mostly about how socialism and the left fared in western Europe at the end of the war.

In Germany, conditions resembled somewhat those of Russia before the communist revolution. The Kaiser had just abdicated, a republic had been declared, and plans were made to elect a Constituent Assembly. Some on the far left, like Rosa Luxemburg, called for a more radical revolution, but a more moderate social democracy eventually prevailed. Protests from the left developed into an uprising in Berlin, which the government then violently suppressed - Luxemburg was among those killed - but in Tooze's telling, at least, it's hard to describe these events as full-blown revolution and counterrevolution.

The elections for the Constituency Assembly went ahead on January 19, 1919, and as Tooze points out, more people voted in that election than would vote in the U.S. presidential election in 1920. The result of the election was a centrist coalition of the Social Democratic Party, Catholic Centre Party, and Progressive Liberals. Far left and far right were pushed to the margins. Germany would go into Versailles as a democracy.

In February 1919, many of the European socialist parties met in Berne for a conference of the Second Socialist International. The Italian party refused to attend, denouncing the conference attendees as 'national chauvinists' and not radical enough. Instead, they joined the Third International, which met for the first time in Moscow in March 1919.

Even the parties that did attend the Berne conference didn't see eye to eye. To make matters worse, both the French and the German socialist delegations were divided amongst themselves. An attempt to agree on a unified statement with respect to Bolshevism in Russia failed. The only significant motion that did get broad support at the conference was approval for Wilson's vision of peace and a League of Nations, which passed under the banner of anti-imperialism. Within their own nations, the socialist parties tended to be split, with the more moderate parties forming coalitions with parties to their right, as happened in Germany.

In England the Labour Party fared surprisingly poorly in the December 1918 elections. Observers thought the expanded franchise would lead directly to Labour gains, but instead the government won in a landslide, showing, I guess, that you should be wary of betting against nationalism. Yet despite the left's losses, the British government made some major concessions to labor: maintaining the real purchasing power of wages, instituting the eight-hour day, and committing to spending a significant amount of the budget on reconstruction.

One issue that went unresolved was what to do about the massive increase in public debt brought on by the war. Higher taxes were one option, but Tooze argues that only left coalitions could have passed measures radical enough to make a difference. The left-center coalitions would never go for high taxes on wealth, for example. Among the remaining choices for dealing with the debt were reparations from Germany, or forgiveness from the U.S. Arguably, debt, not communism, was the real specter haunting Europe at the end of the war.


 

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The Hottest Take

Posted by Ogged
on 06.20.16

Watching the Phoenix temps and various wildfires reminds me of something I might have mentioned before: between the absence of natural disasters, the abundance of water, and the annual bug-killing freeze, Chicago, and perhaps some other Great Lakes/Rust Belt cities, have the optimal group of environmental and climatic traits in American cities.


 

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