Friday, June 04, 2010

Brooks does Gladwell 

David Brooks (New York Times, 5/28/10) informs us that the idea that "government should have more control over industry" is one of the "predictably partisan and often puerile" reactions to the oil spill. The lesson that smart people derive from the spill, Brooks says, is "that humans are not great at measuring and responding to risk when placed in situations too complicated to understand."

What follows is, as Matthew Yglesias pointed out (5/28/10), largely cribbed from a 1996 New Yorker essay by Malcolm Gladwell (1/22/96) that argued that "accidents are not easily preventable" because of various psychological pitfalls that humans are prone to--e.g., in Brooks' paraphrase, "people have trouble imagining how small failings can combine to lead to catastrophic disasters," and "people have a tendency to place elaborate faith in backup systems and safety devices."

In other words, it's all very complicated, and what we need to do is work on "helping people deal with potentially catastrophic complexity" so we can "improve the choice architecture."


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

I see you 


Federal officials are hoping film director James Cameron can help them come up with ideas on how to stop the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Yes, I'm aware that Cameron is an expert at most things underwatery, but still...has all other "expertise" been exhausted that they're turning to film directors? Or do the people in charge just see this as a cool opportunity to meet somebody famous?

Whither America?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

live on, AmCop 

AmCop swam into an anoxic area and began to suffocate-- but that doesn't mean there aren't still some immense and virulent shit-storms out there in desperate need of address.

Bush's chickens continue to come home to roost on Obama's watch, and while the comparisons with Katrina are sick and ridiculous, this is a major embarrassment and easily his lowest moment. But even this is a mix of act and image. What the press wants, what the public wants, is more than anything the -appearance- of trying to do something-- for O to fly over the Gulf, to "face" the "reality," and thus be shown working hard to "do" something. He cleans house in the department responsible but does so so quietly that it's barely reported on, while leaving the cleanup to BP's talented publicists. After many false calls, this is the true beginning of the end.

Meanwhile, Israel does what it can to protect O's reputation by draining attention from the Gulf with perhaps its most disgusting, shit-covered act ever-- at least since two years ago. The Gaza activists might, amidst appalling sacrifice, have achieved something great here-- they have reopened the discussion about the blockade and exposed unequivocally Israel's present fascism. Israel is still holding 100 of them... what now?


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