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eriatarka

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  1. What about keeping up interest payments on the existing national debt (around $400 billion a year)? Defaulting on it is possible but it would pretty much ruin the economy. You have to decide whether youre just making up blueprints for some theoretical utopian society, or talking about the actual US today. If America was going to move towards a minarchist political system then the existing national debt would be a fairly serious problem and its not clear what could be done about it without causing a disasterous global recession.
  2. Structually simple yes. Theres obviously an extremely high amount of 'local' complexity due to the counterpoint but it doesnt have the complex large-scale forms that you find in (eg) Mahler or even Beethoven. Its not so much relativism as it is realising that different types of music need to be judged by different standards. Comparing Bach to (eg) Scarlatti is one thing, but comparing him to Wagner or Philip Glass makes little sense since they are making completely different types of music.
  3. It's not clear what rating the composers 'objectively' means here, and I think youre using a standard of value which is inherently biased towards Bach. Theres no question that Bach was a more technically gifted composer than Rachmaninov, and possibly the most gifted ever. However its not clear that technically brilliant music is inherently better than more simple music. Rachmaninov was a Romantic and the purpose of Romantic music was generally expression and the communication of emotion/inner states. Therefore by a Romantic standard, the 'best' composer is the one who's work communicates the greatest depth of feeling, not the composer who's work is the most groundbreaking on a technical level. Much late-Romantic music (I'm thinking of Wagner/Mahler/Bruckner) would have been viewed as crass, over-the-top egofests by the standards of Bach's time, so comparing the two eras is difficult. Both Bach and Rachmaninov were trying to achieve very different things with their art, and their music has very different forms as a result - who you prefer is going to be biased by whether you prefer structually simple, emotionally understated, subtle, technical music, or large, sprawling, frenzies of emotional expression. If most people find that Rachnaninov's music communicates emotional and spritual depths than Bach's, then Rachmaninov was a 'better' composer by Romantic standards.
  4. The radicalness of Marx often gets underestimated - he didnt support really the sort of things which Obama is proposing. Obama's position is fairly straightforward social democracy, as implemented in pretty much every Western country. It has little to do with socialism/communism/Marx, all of whcih involve a radical transformation of society rather than just raising tax by another few percent and having a couple more social programs. Remember that Obama is still to the right economically of every European country including the UK, and none of them could reasonably be described socialist under its proper definition. Also Marxists tend to be ambivalent towards the welfare state rather than enthusiastic supporters, since they often see it as propping up a fundamentally broken system (a fairly standard Marxian analysis of the 20th century is that programs like the New Deal and various welfare states in other countries were necessary to prevent the working classes revolting against the capitalist system and bringing it down entirely). Obama wants a largely market-based economy with a social welfare net, which has little in common with what socialists/communists are after. Obama's America will still have a lot more in common with an idealist Objectivist society that it will have with either Soviet Russia or a theoretical anarchist/communist state. Its not too important, but he graduated magna cum laude, I'd disagree with this - first, there isnt a direct connection between intelligence and being a good public speaker (although with Obama's legal background I'd expect him to be quick on his feet in debates), and secondly Im not sure I agree with your assessment. I havent watched Obama speak many times, but on the few occasions that I have, I've thought that he comes across as fairly intelligent (for a politician) - he handled the Joe the Plumber incident well, and made his point with more clarity than I'd expect from people like Bush/McCain (its not a case of whether you agree with his position, its how lucidly he managed to present it). I find his pre-written speeches genuinelly painful to listen to due to all the banality and cliches that he uses, but again I think that's more of a reflection of the political system as a whole, and the audience he's addressing, that it is of him personally. The only politicians who are interesting to listen to are those who have no chance of being elected and so are free to say whatever they like rather than pandering to populism (Ron Paul for example), but I dont think this makes them any more intelligent than Obama.
  5. What caused the first child to be a better block builder than the second? Was he just genetically more intelligent, or was his increased creativity a result of his upbringing and social conditions? What about the child who was building a tower and then had his blocks taken away because his parents needed to sell them to buy food? Obviously children who are more talented (for whatever reason) shouldnt be handicapped to help those who are less talented, but I think that stories like this have the effect of portraying intelligence/creativity as something which is innate (or chosen/willed) rather than as something which is strongly influenced by upbringing. The children of wealthy parents are more likely to have their intellectual curiosity encouraged from an early age, and have access to more resources, which is going to have an effect on creativity and academic performance. It's not enough to just notice that some people are more talented than others, you need to look at where this talent comes from. I do think that a lot of modern educational philosophy is horribly misguided and does tend to have the effect of stifling more gifted children, but its not clear what the 'best' educational system would be. Parental income is one of the strongest predictors of academic performance, so a system which is geared towards trying to identify the brightest children and give them special attention is flawed because it results in potentially intelligent children being passed over because they havent yet been shown how to use their intellectual tools. Education is a really difficult problem imo - ideally you want the most talented children to be continually encouraged to excel, but in a way which doesnt involve segretating them from children who havent developed their potential yet, and I'm not sure what that would look like in practice. I like the Montessori idea of refusing to segregate based on age though - a classroom which tries to eliminate competition between children and focuses on developing an environment where everyone can learn at their own pace seems like a fundamentally good idea. Along these lines, I think the way the first child ignores the second in your example is quite interesting - it seems like he has already formed negative attitudes about others, maybe because he is used to an education system which regularly holds back the talented children back to help the less talented. So perhaps if he had been raised in a more healthy educational environment where his own development wasnt being continually sacrificed to help others, he would have a more benevolent attitude towards the other child. Teaching others about something is often the best way of improving your own understanding of it, and I think that most children enjoy showing-off what they know. Its not really healthy to be hostile to people just because theyre less talented, and I think this hostility is mainly the creation of a broken education system which pits children against each other rather than trying to encourage mutual learning.
  6. Obama's public persona isnt remotely Marxist and anyone who thinks it is has a superficial understanding of Marx and probably hasnt read more than the Communist Manifesto (if even that). Regarding Obama's intelligence, you cant really judge him on his public persona because his speeches exist in a political climate which is geared towards soundbites and anti-intellectualism. No mainstream American politician is going to come across as being intelligent, because intelligence isnt a value which is currently respected in mainstream American politics. I remember reading some accounts of Obama written by his former students though, and they pretty much all agreed that he came across as extremely intelligent while working in academia, and they felt that his political speeches were very dumbed down (which is to be expected).
  7. Criticizing a set of awards because they often go to people of a different political persuasion than yourself is about as ideological as it gets. Awards in semi-scientific fields like economics are always going to be more influenced by bias than those in pure sciences like physics where it's easier to evaluate theories in a value-free way, but the 'liberal conspiracy' accusations are rooted in far deeper bias than anything the Nobel committee has ever had. It's counter-intuitive but the fact it's went unrefuted for decades is decent evidence that it's correct. Noone has managed to conclusively demonstrate non-trivial inefficiencies in developed markets which dont require access to information which isnt available to the general public (eg insider information, access to expensive data-sets which only large-capital hedgefunds can afford, complex trading algorithms which allow funds to act before information is widely disseminated, etc [and none of these things are inconsistent with the EMH]) If you can establish this claim then you'll be in the running for a Nobel prize yourself. LTCM's collapse is down to over-confidence and bad luck (Russia defaulting). Why do you think that the EMH was involved?
  8. what The Nobel peace prize (which Gore won) has nothing to do with any of the academic prizes and using it to discredit the awards as a whole is ridiculous. The efficient market hypothesis is not 'stupid', is largely correct, and had nothing to do with the collapse of LTCM Black-Scholes still has a central place in quantitative finance, and modern portfolio theory is still largely based around models like CAPM which assume efficiency.
  9. This may be heresy but I prefer Shostakovich's first book of preludes and fugues to anything Ive heard by Bach, and to me it carries more emotional range. (these are pretty horrible performances though, Keith Jarrett's interpretation is exceptional and the one I'd recommend. Why are so many composers so bad at performing/interpretating their own work? I'd say the same about Rachmaninov too!).
  10. Its just an applied ethics class as opposed to meta ethics
  11. How so? Ignore the Ayn Rand books and the Reader's list is hardly great - it overrates pop fiction (sci-fi, LoTR, etc) whereas the board's list is more concerned with artistic merit (Lolita, Portrait of an Artist, and so on). I'm not a huge fan of either list (it ignores pretty much all European literature) but if I had to be stuck on a desert island with all the books from one then it would be the board's. They arent that different though, once you remove the sci-fi nerdery. edit: both the non-fiction lists are weird and read like anything with academic merit in its field has been deliberately excluded. I thought at first that the board had taken a decision to leave out works of philosophy/sociology/science and keep it to non-specialist works which are accessible to everyone, but then I noticed they have Keynes' economic treatise and Russell's Principia while ignoring Wittgenstein/Freud/Kuhn/Nietzsche/etc. Very odd list. The reader's one is still worse though, it looks like it was voted on exclusively by readers of free republic.
  12. Just back up your important documents and reformat your computer...
  13. She's wrong about several things, particularly the part about 'sociological studies showing that group consensus is better than individual opinion'. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asch_conformity_experiments http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_polarization http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink
  14. John told me that we'd be best buddies for life but now he has a new girlfriend and doesnt have time to see me very often, what moral recourse do I have against him for violating the implicit contract of our friendship?
  15. Isnt the Clarion Fund a branch of an Orthodox Jewish organization with strong ties to Israel? It hardly seems the most unbiased source of information on Islam or the Arab world.
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