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raja_indy14

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  1. American Politics

    From what I remember, it was a mess created by people trying to "fix" regulations that weren't broken. Although they were increasingly irrelevant. By the end of Glass-Steagall many of its provisions were circumvented, so that its legal repeal was simply the nail in the coffin. But the financial sector was also under increasing pressure to expand the products that it could sell - as interest rates fell in the late 1980s from the high point of the Volcker shock, investors went looking for alternative high-return investments - and the liberalization of financial markets in London threatened to take business from Wall Street. Liberalization/deregulation had been initiated to allow Wall Street to profit from an overseas Eurodollar market that it had hitherto been excluded from; as always, the argument for deregulation came in the guise of international competition. By the late 1990s, the Quants had engineered all sorts of wonderful ways of assessing and mitigating risk, by assuming that markets functioned rationally and followed a 'random walk' around a predictable equilibrium point (once again, economics borrowed concepts from the natural sciences, particularly physics, and applied them to human systems), and by developing models of abstract risk. The collapse of LTCM in 1998 should have been a warning sign that such models were not guarantees against failure - indeed, in a crisis positively exacerbated the situation - but by then the triumph of rational-actor, mathematics -based economics had entrenched itself against all the evidence that was beginning to accumulate. The assurance of risk mitigation bred by such models was added to the constant pressure to expand and find new profitable outlets for excess capital - especially as, since the 1980s, a shrinking share of profits have been reinvested as retained earnings thanks to the concept of shareholder value. It wasn't a mess created by people trying to fix regulations, it was supported by an understanding of economics that had become ideology - that risk had been controlled, that markets were understood - combined with a relentless need to create profitable outlets for vast accumulations of money capital. Regulations didn't need to be fixed, and nor was this the mindset, instead their very existence acted as barriers to higher profitability and international competitiveness.
  2. Late to bed makes Jack a dull boy.

    I don't much agree with whatever "theories" people have conjured to argue that night owls (i.e. the researchers themselves) are "more intelligent" than larks. So are they suggesting that mankind hasn't produced any smarty pants until Edison invented the light bulb? --- Studies have shown that "power napping" during the day can never replace deep REM sleep at night. Constantly changing the going-to-bed times and wake-up times will also disrupt your circadian rhythms (sleep-wake cycles) which is extremely detrimental to health (in many cases, more so than unhealthy eating habits). I don't think anybody has suggested that it is healthy.
  3. Late to bed makes Jack a dull boy.

    Which is one of the major theories for why people who are night owls often display more intelligence, lateral thinking, and creativity: overriding your biological clock is a novel behaviour that indicates a suppression of natural instincts for other purposes. But, as you say, particularly since night owls have to live within a society with a much different time regime, it does lead to a higher incidence of other problems. ---- Also, I don't think it would be correct to characterize late sleepers as doing so because of parties. Throughout High School I would regularly go to sleep very late - if my school wasn't incredibly lax on attendance I would probably have failed - but I almost never partied. Most of the time was spent reading. As it relates to the OP, I would imagine that if that time was instead spent watching television in my room, the outcome would have been very different.
  4. Late to bed makes Jack a dull boy.

    An article about night owls and intelligence and one about the genetic basis of sleep patterns.
  5. Late to bed makes Jack a dull boy.

    This is interesting, because it's been in the news a lot in the last year or so that many studies show that there is a correlation between night owls and intelligence. Basically, people who preferred later hours and sleeping in tended to have higher IQs than those who slept and woke with patterns more in line with the daily rhythm. At the same time, they tended to suffer from somewhat elevated rates of disease and psychological disorders. I recall one study suggesting the link may be related to such sleep patterns being 'evolutionarily novel behaviour'.
  6. Detroit's bankruptcy

    I have to admit that I made an error. That breakdown is the capital investment of the city of Winnipeg. The following proportions are of the operating budget. They're more in line with what you'd expect from SimCity (although, of course, Healthcare is not really a municipal responsibility here). 44% Police and Fire Paramedic Services 25% Street System, Solid Waste Collection, Land Drainage, Street Lighting, and Insect Control 12% Community Services (Libraries, Parks) 7% Organizational Support (Legal, Assessment, IT, Finance) 5% Property Development 5% Transit Subsidy 2% Executive Costs If you look at the revenue figures, while 52% comes from property taxes, a not insignificant 23% comes from levies, sales of goods and services, interest, and fines and fees.
  7. Detroit's bankruptcy

    This is a difficult question to answer because, in light of your last post, it's difficult to understand what you mean by 'government', 'produced', and 'direct value'. By government do you mean the state in general or specifically people who are running the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at any given time? With 'produced', are you restricting it to goods and excluding services, specifically things that are manufactured? 'Direct value' is completely indecipherable; is it something exchanged for a surplus, something that has direct use-value for a consumer, or something else entirely? To begin with a minimalist definition of the government, I would say that the public education system, the police and fire fighting services, and a huge chunk of research and development are all examples of very important services that are provided by government. Generally, having access to education, not having my house burned down in periodic out of control fires, and using the internet all have value to me. Although is it 'direct value'? I can't be sure. Even extremely basic things like keeping track of rights to land and property ownership (which are essential services in our economy) is evidently of 'indirect value'(?) when you compare it to locations where such services are decidedly lacking. If you mean that government does not profit directly from its activities, that is correct. In part because the 'shareholders' of the government are the citizenry at large, so one might say that any return is made in services rendered. However, most government has an interest in expanding the level of production and consumption that takes place within its jurisdiction, and to the extent that it is successful in this, it expands its potential revenue stream. Lastly, if we are referring to the state in general, and not simply the governing apparatus (which I think one must, since while the legislative-judiciary-executive provide key but indirect services, they absorb a very minimal amount of state expenditure) it's fairly clear that most of the expenditure is in services that are deemed to have some sort of general value to the public. Look at national defense. A government organization purchases inputs on the market (although in many ways not a terribly efficient one) - labour, land, and let's say 'capital machinery' - it even has in-house managerial training, and produces a 'service': national security, the ability to intervene in the affairs of other nations, and a greater influence in the global pecking order. You could have this exact same process being carried out by a private organization, except that the services would be sold at a profit, and in fact lately these have become more popular. One might argue, however, that public control over such 'military services' is smarter and safer than contracting it all out to private firms (cf. Renaissance Italy). In many instances, public provision of services is more efficient than private, just read the history of fire fighting in the United States, unless in the name of free markets you prefer to have fire companies fighting each other rather than fires, or starting fires on purpose. To bring it back to a more local level, one can see in the breakdown of the budget of my city, Winnipeg, that the vast majority of the expenditure is going into services that have use value to citizens (in order of size): 40% Sewage Disposal Projects (I feel I get a direct use-value from not regularly dying of cholera) 19% Roads and Bridges (Just imagine how expensive my groceries would be if everything was carried in on toll roads or, more likely, dirt paths) 12% Transit System 10% Parks, Community Infrastructure, and Amenities (I definitely get use-values out of these on a regular basis, I'd likely be obese otherwise) 8% Water System (I'm sure hauling water several km every day has a positive impact on productivity in African countries where this is largely missing) 4% Land Drainage and Flood Control (Especially where I live, I definitely derive value from not having my house flooded every few years) 3% Public Safety 2% Solid Waste Disposal 2% Misc. Other Also, it's not true that government only derives revenue from taxes. Governments also charge user fees, for example when you obtain a Passport or visit a National Park. And, of course, this is very much America-centric, in much of the rest of the world the government also often directly owns a sizable portion of the means of production. As for the money comment, the bulk of the contemporary derivatives market is predicated precisely on the idea of making money from nothing, or at least on intangibles such as risk. 'Money is a fiction and therefore nothing' is just an empty platitude. I can't tell whether its a dig at the fiat currency system that currently presides over the globe, or some larger attack on the social nature of embodied value. In any event, it's largely irrelevant to the way money functions in the contemporary economy. An atheist would say that God is fiction, should we treat the apparatus and ideology of religion as 'nothing'?
  8. Detroit's bankruptcy

    This is only correct if by 'government' you are referring specifically to the legislative, executive, and judicial branches that govern a certain political entity. Virtually all governments, by which I mean the state, are a major producer of goods and services, including advanced capitalist economies. While in the United States, only 1% of the economy is state-owned, most other developed countries have levels of state ownership of around 10% or more, and as these are concentrated in areas such as transportation and public utilities are hardly peripheral. Even in the US, the state is a major provider of key services. In any event, states are not by definition non-productive, but it has been in vogue in many contemporary states that their productive capacities should be or have been privatized or eliminated. Taxes are not a production of value on the part of the state, but a contribution or levy made by citizens to states to indirectly pay for some of the goods and services that a state provides. Specific publicly or state-owned enterprises or institutions may also charge direct user fees. For instance, you travel on publicly maintained thoroughfares without having to pay user fees because these have been indirectly paid for through taxes. Or you send your children to a public school. Getting back to Detroit, the contracts that were made with public service unions have not been amenable to the changes that have taken place, but it is also unlikely that the level of depopulation and property abandonment that occurred could have been foreseen. Halving of urban populations and property vacancy rates of over a third are well beyond the boundaries of business as usual. That over 33% of the properties in Detroit are vacant exacerbates the problems that municipalities must already tackle in providing service in the face of significant urban sprawl. Civil service employees and rigid contracts certainly make the situation more difficult, but we shouldn't mix causes with symptoms. These become unsustainable in the face of the collapse of the local economy, which in Detroit has proceeded rapidly in the last 15 years, which is not a timeline that most civic governments are able to respond within.
  9. Population over-exaggeration?

    One of the annoying aspects of this is that you need to have unrealistically large areas of your city zoned for commercial or industrial. When I compare the zoning of a typical SimCity to real life examples the difference is incredibly stark. It may be the consequence of Maxis wanting to make cities more balanced between the three zone types, since in game terms players might become bored with creating the vast areas of residential neighbourhoods necessary to house the workers of dense commercial office space. The most obvious examples are the low-density housing, where a single family home might house more than 10 people. In a typical North American suburb it would be out of the ordinary for more than 4-5 people to occupy such a house, and on average likely no more than 2.5.
  10. North Korea's Gulags

    The Korean camps are not larger than Stalinist Gulags, which covered vast territories in Siberia. Norillag included Norilsk and Krasnoyarsk, which are hundreds of kilometres apart. As for stopping humanitarian aid, I fail to see how precipitating a famine that could kill hundreds of thousands or even millions is preferable to the current situation. The regime survived the millions killed by the famine of the mid-1990s, how many would have to die before a similar crisis toppled the government now? China may or may not care what they do. At times they have been seen to rebuke Pyongyang, although not necessarily for humanitarian reasons. What is clear is that they favour a communist ally on their doorstep rather than what they perceive to be an American puppet. The creation of a unified Korean republic under the auspices of Seoul is the last thing Beijing wants.
  11. Expand This Word

    Fort → Forget Ample
  12. Syria

    UN reform that eliminates the veto is beyond impossible. Each power guards that right jealously, none more so than the United States (which would likely leave the UN if it didn't have it). As for the water supply idea, virtually all of Syria's drinking supply comes from ground water sources so it is hardly, if at all, dependent on Turkey. From wiki: "All major cities - with the exception of Aleppo – and all rural distribution networks in the rural areas are supplied with water of good quality from springs and groundwater. Major water treatment facilities exist only for the domestic water supply system for Aleppo, which is provided with water from Lake Assad."
  13. Islamists Target World Heritage!

    I would still say that to see this simply as the work of wayward imams working on an illiterate population is overly simplistic. Islamism, whether radical or moderate, is in almost every facet a reaction against the external world, particularly Western capitalism, and its penetration or violation of Muslim-majority countries. For one thing, illiteracy cannot explain it entirely because there has always been mass illiteracy, but Islamism as a political movement only emerged slowly since the 1950s (when Western modernization first began to significantly effect Middle Eastern countries) and exploded in 1979 against Anglo-American domination of Iran and Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. If one reads the works of Sayyid Qutb, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1950s/60s and one of the 'founding fathers' one might say of contemporary Islamism, one finds a strong vein of disgust with the West: it's materialism, decadence, and hypocrisy. A recovered and autonomous Islam founded firmly in spiritualism and social order is held up as the object of struggle. If one were to make a broad statement about the present-day sources of Islamism, I think it would be more correct to look at the clash between capitalist globalization and local traditionalism, between the promises and results of secular modernization, and at the ongoing unequal political and economic interference in the affairs of the Middle East by the leading capitalist powers. After all, the Iranian revolution and the theocracy that followed was not largely a consequence of religion-hungry fanatics, but a widespread reaction to a foreign-dominated, illiberal regime bent on secular Westernization. That Khomeini ended up in control of a regime headed by Islamic jurists was more a consequence of political shrewdness and capacity to exploit a power vacuum, rather than a goal of the revolution. PS; zero and the decimal system was actually invented in Hindu India, but refined in Persia and transmitted to Europe via Arab North Africa. Preservation, hybridization, elaboration, and invention across a vast range of scientific and philosophical subjects occurred during this time, however. One advantage may have been that the Islamic philosophers in the period were much better able to source their ideas in the rich philosophical heritage of Greece, Persia, and India, while the Greeks who had dominated the region before looked upon non-Greek philosophy with contempt.
  14. Islamists Target World Heritage!

    I am puzzled by this interpretation. Yes and no. While I tried to point out an alternative reason behind the end of the Golden Age of Islam (that is, not a general stultification under monarchical regimes), I wouldn't suggest that this can be seen as directly leading to the present situation.
  15. Islamists Target World Heritage!

    I had thought about editing my post to include the factor of mass illiteracy, but decided that this could be assumed to be a generally understood. Mass illiteracy certainly enables and exacerbates the factors mentioned previously, and it interacts quite closely with at least the first two. The fact that so many governments in the Islamic world have failed to provide effective, secular mass education makes Saudi-funded madrassas much more effective and appealing. It is a signal failure of the secular modernization drives of the 1960s and 1970s. As for the history, neither the Moors nor the Ottomans ever constituted the 'most part' of the Islamic world, although symbolically the latter came fairly close. Nonetheless it still sustained a titanic and prolonged struggle against the Safavid Persians, who would not have agreed with the view that it was part of the Ottoman domain. Although I don't know enough about it to discuss in too much detail, I do know that the impact of the Mongol invasions on the Islamic Middle East were profoundly devastating. The wanton depopulation of huge areas of productive agricultural land and the discontinuation of ancient agricultural practices; the repeated invasions from the 13th to the 16th centuries annihilated such wondrous cities as Baghdad, where the Tigris ran black with the ink of texts thrown into it (not to mention the blood of the hundreds of thousands slaughtered), and the cultured urban centres of Persia; and the psychological blow to Islamic intellectualism initiated by this 'scourge from God' that, in addition to the physical destruction of libraries and learned centres, prompted a widespread philosophical retreat into conservative theology. What came out of this calamity, at least initially, were not cultured regimes with a strong intellectual bent, but warriors: the Mamelukes in Egypt, the Turks in Anatolia and Southeast Europe, and Mongols (Timurid) in Persia and Afghanistan. Although the latter two subsequently attempted to recover the culture of the shattered Persian and Mesopotamian civilization, it would be a slow process - eventually it would seem simpler to just borrow from the increasingly dynamic Europeans. Finally, I would say that what's more important is that general literacy and educational attainment would put a lot of authoritarian regimes out of work, which have always had much more political clout than clerics (well, except in Iran). @IL. Although that might be the impression one gathers from some posters, the overall tone of the thread would seem to suggest that (a) fanaticism or extremism are hardly limited to Islam and (b) that while there is much discussion of the general, this should not be taken to indicate the universal. Tendencies and patterns are drawn out for the sake of simplicity.
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