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Monthly Archives: January 2017

The Morning Brief: Donald Trump, Sally Yates and Boy Scouts of America — TIME

Good morning. These are today’s top stories: President Trump axes defiant attorney general President Donald Trump last night fired Sally Yates, the acting attorney general of the United States, saying she “betrayed” the Justice Department by refusing to enforce his temporary immigration ban. Yates had publicly opposed the order and had told Justice Department lawyers…

via The Morning Brief: Donald Trump, Sally Yates and Boy Scouts of America — TIME

“The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt’s definitive guide to how tyranny begins, has sold out on Amazon — Quartz

In 1951, political theorist Hannah Arendt published The Origins of Totalitarianism. The tome traces the rise of two 20th-century totalitarian governments—Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia—to their roots in colonial imperialism, World War I, and decades of anti-Semitism. As of today, it is out of stock on Amazon. The Origins of Totalitarianism is one of several…

via “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Hannah Arendt’s definitive guide to how tyranny begins, has sold out on Amazon — Quartz

Turning 40? – “Holy Crap! Already??”

Yes. Here it is.

That moment in time when you aren’t sure whether to reach for a double scotch, or…….two more. That time when the mirror stops being your friend, or when you still haven’t purchased that BMW, or your chest has slowly slid into your gut, or your son has entered college twelve-hundred miles away. That awful time of “Who am I?” “Where am I going?” “Where’s my hair?”

How you got there seems like a short train ride along a long track of mortgages, job changes, pet deaths, daughters entering dreaded puberty, painting the house, putting a down-payment on a cottage, and not knowing who’s playing for your favourite team. Your school chum’s birthday card contains the words “over the hill”, and your older brother buys you an obscene gift. The boss holds a 15 min after-work party for you, out in the hallway. Your mother still tells you to get a “proper” haircut, and your Dad buys you two tickets to the basketball game and you hate basketball. You’ve always hated basketball.

You subconsciously move the clock to a further away place in the bedroom, and you spend $400 on a new suit you will wear twice. A molar needs a root-canal, and you find yourself unexplainably looking at Viagra in the pharmacy. You buy a riding mower for your stamp-sized lawn because ‘Bill’ has one. You take down the poster of Star Trek in your home office, replacing it with a photo of a 15-lb Walleye. You decide to buy a new Harley ‘Fat Boy’ your wife frowned upon getting, only to have neighbours finally complain about the ‘incessant noise’ two months later. The highway to work is now more of a parking lot than an early morning dragstrip, and you doctor tells you you have “moderately high blood pressure” and to exercise more.

Your belt needs another hole put in it, and you and your Texas Hold ‘Em buddies tend to play until 3 am, threatening divorce within your happy home nest. The raise you got was eaten up by inflation and the cost of hydro and taxes and your new ‘benefits plan’ contributions. And you start getting up at 3 am to pee.

Ain’t aging grand?

Social ‘Entropy’: Engineering Order and Chaos

Sociology exists as a ‘social science’ partially because it assumes human behaviour found in groups, institutions, organizations, classes, etc., can be objectively studied using statistics and other methods, to inform social policy through generalizations from the findings. For example, if a randomized statistically significant sampling of a given population, say, of all people with red hair who drive, repeatedly tells us that the majority of them each consistently cause (in the legal sense) four serious car accidents every ten years, then that finding may eventually affect vehicle licensing policies. It may also point us at the DNA level, to a correlation (but not causation) between a genetic trait (red hair) and behaviour. But it could also point us to the way these individuals are socialized, but that would be extremely difficult to determine due to the number of variables. So here, the observation of red hair and its relationship to driving, i.e., most red-haired people cause regular car accidents, is sociological because scientific ways were used to reach this conclusion about group behaviour. Social policy therefore, might require red-heads to never drive, or only with a non-red-head passenger accompanying them at all times.

Order and chaos are relative terms often applied in daily dicourse to describe the intenal states of societal groupings, and relations between nations and cultures. Most nation-states for example, are internally peaceful enough to represent an adquate amount of social order for normal lives to be led, economies to function, and governments to exert necessary controls. Peaceful relations internally and externally are the prevailing norm, while tolerating, adjusting to, and confronting common dissent, and skirmishes such as demonstrations  or protests. Social order is a meaningful concept therefore for the analysis of the status quo and of social change, as it provides benchmarks for comparisons, at the local, regional, national and international levels. For functionalists, it is the degree of shared values that ‘cements’ groups and societies into maintaining order. Change occurs through the introduction of new or ‘foreign’ values, forcing re-adjustments that result in a qualitatively new social system. This view differs from Marxian/feminist and symbolic interaction theories, in which conflict, and discourse over meanings, are central  to the maintenance of rights and responsibilities. Conflict and interpretation are necessary  aspects of all social systems, from micro to macro levels, in order to achieve qualitative change towards lasting order and peace.

Entropy (from physics) describes a tendency for order to move towards disorder in closed systems. The higher the entropy the greater the disorder (chaos). Real (qualitative) change brings this about.

It is common today to hear that social change is ‘entropic’, that change leads to more disorder and possibly chaos (‘unpredictable and seemingly random behaviour occuring in a system that should be governed by deterministic laws’; Oxford dictionary of Physics). A small difference could trigger large change, and hence, from applying this “second law of thermodynamics” to human society, social policymakers having a systems view are today guarded about permitting too much social change for fear of a society lapsing into uncontrollable chaos. Warfare among groups or nations must be limited to skirmishes that are controllable, and nation-states must cooperate to ensure at least this level of international stability is maintained.

ISIS for example, an ideologically religious based terrorist organization, with a mandate to return to past values and reject prevailing or “Western” world values, is an obvious case in point. It fails to realize that change is irreversible, and that promoting chaos within and among social systems that are predominantly stable and democratic, i.e., change through rational discourse, is self-defeating. Unbridled zeal without educated social, economic, and psyhological knowledge, predicts evetual failure.

 

 

Japanese white-collar workers are already being replaced by artificial intelligence — Quartz

Most of the attention around automation focuses on how factory robots and self-driving cars may fundamentally change our workforce, potentially eliminating millions of jobs. But AI that can handle knowledge-based, white-collar work are also becoming increasingly competent. One Japanese insurance company, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, is reportedly replacing 34 human insurance claim workers with “IBM…

via Japanese white-collar workers are already being replaced by artificial intelligence — Quartz

In his farewell speech, Obama will reassure Americans that democracy can survive — Quartz

On the evening of Jan. 10, at Chicago’s McCormick Place, president Barack Obama will give his final address to the American people, a tradition that dates all the way back to George Washington. In 1796, after 45 years of public service, Washington penned a lengthy address about his decision not to run for a third…

via In his farewell speech, Obama will reassure Americans that democracy can survive — Quartz

In his farewell speech, Obama will reassure Americans that democracy can survive — Quartz

On the evening of Jan. 10, at Chicago’s McCormick Place, president Barack Obama will give his final address to the American people, a tradition that dates all the way back to George Washington. In 1796, after 45 years of public service, Washington penned a lengthy address about his decision not to run for a third…

via In his farewell speech, Obama will reassure Americans that democracy can survive — Quartz

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