Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
It's a new approach to public policy that takes into account the odd realities of human behavior and the new behavioral research to help people, as well as government agencies, companies and charities, make better decisions.
It's a new look at what they call Choice Architecture. Here's how they describe it:
Choice architecture is the context in which you make your choice. Suppose you go into a cafeteria. What do you see first, the salad bar or the burger and fries stand? Where's the chocolate cake? Where's the fruit? These features influence what you will choose to eat, so the person who decides how to display the food is the choice architect of the cafeteria. All of our choices are similarly influenced by choice architects. The architecture includes rules deciding what happens if you do nothing; what's said and what isn't said; what you see and what you don't. Doctors, employers, credit card companies, banks, and even parents are choice architects.My Conversation with Richard Thaler:
Monday, December 29, 2008
The violence we are watching is just yet another installment in the blur of tit-for-tat violence from both sides of this chronic foreign affairs ulcer.
The US -- and the incoming Obama administration -- must move an agenda forward in Israel-Palestine negotiations that works at levels higher than the perpetrators of this violence. It's time to get this conflict out of the weeds, and time to stop allowing any actors in this drama to hijack the foreign policy machinery of governments trying to push forward a Palestinian state.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
A couple of weeks ago it was interesting to hear Avraham Burg, the former speaker of Israel's Knesset and the author of The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes make a heartfelt plea to his countrymen: remember the past, but do not be its slaves; pathology is neither patriotism nor statecraft. His story is a compelling and eloquent cri de coeur from a veteran of Israel's wars and politics and one we'd all to well to remember and learn from.
My conversation with Avraham Burg:
Monday, December 15, 2008
A reader on Daniel Larison's Conservative blog talks about Obama and Pragmatism. It's perhaps the most important outcome of the election. Call it the "Best and the Brightest," "competence over ideology," regardless, it WILL be the central guiding idea of the next eight years.
I don’t think you’re giving full credit to pragmatism as one of several possible natural dispositions of human beings. It isn’t just some facade that some ideologues put on to try to pretend they aren’t ideologues, which of course does happen. It’s an actual approach to life that is a natural path for some of us.
Take the scientific method, for example. It’s not natural to everyone, but it certainly reflects a basic human approach based on objective evidence, facts, observation, and trial and error. Pragmatists are people who simply aren’t inclined towards ideology and dogma, or even if they are to some degree, feel that such things need to be tested by real experience and reformed accordingly. They think it is more natural to proceed in this rather scientific, pragmatic way than it is to try to impose an ideology on nature.
Obviously not everyone is pragmatic, many are quite opposed to it. Some are opposed, but recognize that in politics pragmatism is valued by many, so they put on a pragmatic facade, in order to promote their ideology. So there’s always a question about someone who puts themselves forward as a pragmatist, as to whether they really are, or are just pretending to be.
Assuming the debate over Obama has inspired these remarks, I think its worth mentioning that a large part of the election campaign was fought over just this issue. Obama presented himself as a genuinely pragmatic politician who was not primarly concerned with ideology, but with what would work, and that he could appeal across ideological divides to come to agreements on what worked that would be good for the country.
McCain and many conservatives were accusing Obama of presenting a false facade, that he was actually a socialist, a communist, a terrorist, a leftist ideologue who was hiding his real ideological extremism behind this fake veneer of pragmatism, and that once elected he would show his true colors, and try to turn the country into a muslim, socialist paradise for Bill Ayers and al Qaeda terrorists.
The electorate rejected McCain’s version of Obama, and accepted Obama’s own self-description. Those who are surprised by Obama’s appointments thus far are those who for some reason mistakenly believed in McCain’s criticism. One of the best examples of Obama’s pragmatism is his appointment of Chu as energy secretary. Imagine that, and actual expert scientist in charge of energy research and development! Rather than a politician or military official or a “green” progressive environmentalist, Obama picked a guy who actually knows science. Is this being “centrist”, or is it being pragmatic in the real sense of the word.
I think the truth that is coming out, and which you have avoided seeing as best you can, is that Obama really is, by nature, a pragmatist, in the most basic sense of the word, and that ideology is not what makes him tick. That doesn’t mean he has no ideological biases, but that the forms and changes his ideology based on actual observation, analysis, and testing of those ideas, in what is loosely a scientific matter, and not even a purely political form of pragmatism.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Time said of the book:
"The gaping wounds of Iraq and Afghanistan have produced a torrent of words, but no single volume so far has the precision and power ofThe Forever War. Filkins has been covering the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan since 1998, and since then he has filled 561 notebooks with observations and interviews. Even under the direst of conditions Filkins is alive to novelistic detail: the popping sound of a 105 mm cannon, like 'a machine that served tennis balls'; a barber shaving the beards of Talibs so they can switch sides; a man whom Saddam forced to pay for the bullets that were used to execute his brother, and who received a receipt for his payment. Filkins' set pieces have the absolute clarity of lightning flashes that burn away the fog of war."Here is my conversation with Dexter Filkins:
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Where the discussion isn't going, at least in public, (or the PR level), is the possibility that the first foreign policy crisis the administration will face will be the complete economic collapse of a large, unstable nation. To be sure, Pakistan is nearly broke, and U.S. policy makers seem to be aware of that; but a worldwide demand crisis could lead to social unrest in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, Singapore, the Ukraine, Japan, Turkey or Egypt (which is facing an internal political crisis of epic proportions already). The U.S. won't have the resources to, say, engineer the rescue of the peso again, or intervene in Asia as in 1997.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Here is my conversation with Jonathan Alter:
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Whenever he talks about this selection, Obama (plus his lieutenants) can describe it completely, sufficiently, and strictly in the most bipartisan high-road terms. They have selected a wounded combat veteran; a proven military leader and manager; a model of personal dignity and nonpartisan probity: an unimpeachable choice. Symbolic elements? If people want them, they can work with Shinseki's status as (to my recollection at the moment) the first Asian-American in a military-related cabinet position, not to mention a Japanese-American honored for lifelong military service on Pearl Harbor Day.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Moreover, those now engaging in attempts at boycotts and publishing names of Prop 8 supporters are engaged in the same kind of sloppy, miscalculated, tone deaf tactics that got Prop 8 passed. For those that ran the No on 8 Campaign, the blame for its passage is, to paraphrase Shakespeare, not the Stars, but in yourselves.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
My Conversation with Bacevich based on his book The Limits of Power: