Sunday, March 28, 2010


This interview on disrupting college’s business model raises some good points. It’s not really appreciated how vulnerable the current model is: it sends most graduates out to live with massive, massive debt. At a certain point, you have to wonder how much it’s worth it.

The Wall Street Journal’s report on Brazil is a good overview for someone who knows nothing, such as myself. (So, you might say, how do you know it’s such a good overview? You, hypothetical interrogator, are correct.)

One of the obstacles in the way of reform—of everything—isn’t merely public sentiment. This can be disregarded casually, of course. It’s the institutions which clog up reform like leaves in a gutter. Here’s an example from the New York Times on scientists arguing we need more nukes.

This report from The Guardian on Zimbabwe is written…well, I want to say unconventionally, but not really. It takes a sort of imagistic, pointillist method of describing Harare, which you don’t really see in newspapers that often. And it’s well done too.

This summary of a Jamie Dimon speech in the Stanford Daily (it’s fairly old) is well worth reading for the subtext. Dimon looks to be conceding a lot to the critics of the financial system while defending it weakly. The momentum appears to be shifting on financial reform, but like health care reform, it must work correctly…Here’s why it’s so important for Democrats to do well (from Chris Hayes’s report from 2004 on undecided voters):
The worse things got in Iraq, the better things got for Bush. Liberal commentators, and even many conservative ones, assumed, not unreasonably, that the awful situation in Iraq would prove to be the president's undoing. But I found that the very severity and intractability of the Iraq disaster helped Bush because it induced a kind of fatalism about the possibility of progress. Time after time, undecided voters would agree vociferously with every single critique I offered of Bush's Iraq policy, but conclude that it really didn't matter who was elected, since neither candidate would have any chance of making things better.Yeah, but what's Kerry gonna do? voters would ask me, and when I told them Kerry would bring in allies they would wave their hands and smile with condescension, as if that answer was impossibly naïve. C'mon, they'd say, you don't really think that's going to work, do you?

To be sure, maybe they simply thought Kerry's promise to bring in allies was a lame idea--after all, many well-informed observers did. But I became convinced that there was something else at play here, because undecided voters extended the same logic to other seemingly intractable problems, like the deficit or health care. On these issues, too, undecideds recognized the severity of the situation--but precisely because they understood the severity, they were inclined to be skeptical of Kerry's ability to fix things. Undecided voters, as everyone knows, have a deep skepticism about the ability of politicians to keep their promises and solve problems. So the staggering incompetence and irresponsibility of the Bush administration and the demonstrably poor state of world affairs seemed to serve not as indictments of Bush in particular, but rather of politicians in general. Kerry, by mere dint of being on the ballot, was somehow tainted by Bush's failures as badly as Bush was.

As a result, undecideds seemed oddly unwilling to hold the president accountable for his previous actions, focusing instead on the practical issue of who would have a better chance of success in the future. Because undecideds seemed uninterested in assessing responsibility for the past, Bush suffered no penalty for having made things so bad; and because undecideds were focused on, but cynical about, the future, the worse things appeared, the less inclined they were to believe that problems could be fixed--thereby nullifying the backbone of Kerry's case. Needless to say, I found this logic maddening.

I think this report from The Guardian is pretty amusing: people really are the same everywhere. An issue that would otherwise molder without notice becomes dramatized because NO MORE SOCCER PLAYERS.

An older report from Alphaville alerts me to a worry: many prominent governments have very short term financing structures. They have to keep on rolling over their debts on a yearly basis. Obviously this makes them very vulnerable to a sudden sharp shift in interest rates…which of course means less money from elsewhere, i.e. public contraction and less money in the economy in general. Something to think about.

This New Yorker slideshow on miners in Ukraine has some great photos.

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