Totally on board on #1.
“Teachers" — 88 tracks that inspired Daft Punk’s Homework: From Brian Wilson to Boo Williams, George Clinton to George Duke, DJ Sneak to Dr. Dre, and Armand van Helden to Big Daddy Kane. Cashmere, Kraftwerk, Prince, and Ween, plus an a ‘83 obscurity by Daniel Vangarde, father of Thomas Bangalter. (Expanded version of 2011 Bodytonic podcast)
Voters could learn some things about choosing a leader from a fish. Or a chimp. Or an elephant.
That’s because the animal kingdom, despite its name, tends to operate more like a democracy, says Iain Couzin, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University.
"One common property we see in animal groups from schooling fish to flocking birds to primate groups is that they effectively vote to decide where to go and what to do," Couzin says.
When one fish heads toward a potential source of food, the other fish vote with their fins on whether to follow, he says. And this highly democratic process helps animals make decisions as a group that are better than those of any single member.
Successful animal leaders know they can’t get too far ahead of their constituents, Couzin says.
"They seem to simply reconcile their own goal-oriented behavior with this tendency to align with others," he says. "Because if you don’t tend to be influenced by others, you then leave the group behind, and you may get eaten by predators, or you lose the benefits of group living."
Findings like this are relevant to humans because we carry a lot of evolutionary baggage with us into the voting booth, Couzin says. And when it comes to leadership, he says, we are most like animals that live in groups and depend on cooperation to survive. And these groups tend to pick cooperative leaders.
So what about the idea that it’s just the biggest or strongest animal in a group that calls the shots?
It’s rarely that simple, says Mark van Vugt, an evolutionary psychologist from the VU University in Amsterdam. Take chimps, for example, he says.
"In chimpanzees, it’s not necessarily the physically strongest individual who seizes the control over the group," van Vugt says. "It’s usually the more cunning individual, someone who forms his coalitions well."
Animal leadership also demonstrates how groups choose different leaders for different situations, he says. Among elephants, for example, the de facto leader is usually the oldest female. But that can change, van Vugt says.
"When the group is attacked, it might be one of the dominant male members who takes control," he says. "But when it comes to knowledge problems and particularly where to find water, they then turn to the oldest female."
Some animal leaders have traits that voters might wish all human leaders had — like unfailing honesty, van Vugt says.
Honeybees are a good example, he says. Their scouts lead by finding a food source and then communicating the location to other bees through something called a waggle dance.
"The interesting thing about it is in the signaling of the scout bees, there is no deception whatsoever," van Vugt says. "They want to do what is best for the hive. And I think that is a little bit dissimilar to humans."
Or chimps, whose leaders are often accomplished liars.
One way animals and people are clearly alike is that both are capable of choosing a bad leader, says Couzin.
"It’s not necessarily the most talented or intelligent individual that ends up in a leadership position," Couzin says. Unqualified animals sometimes rise to power, he says, but most of the time they don’t last long.
And animals don’t wait for the next election to find a replacement, Couzin says.
ROBERT REICH - Anyone who characterizes the deal between the President and Republican leaders as a victory for the American people over partisanship understands neither economics nor politics.
The deal does not raise taxes on America’s wealthy and most fortunate — who are now taking home a larger share of total income and wealth, and whose tax rates are already lower than they have been in eighty years. Yet it puts the nation’s most important safety nets and public investments on the chopping block.
It also hobbles the capacity of the government to respond to the jobs and growth crisis. Added to the cuts already underway by state and local governments, the deal’s spending cuts increase the odds of a double-dip recession. And the deal strengthens the political hand of the radical right.
Yes, the deal is preferable to the unfolding economic catastrophe of a default on the debt of the U.S. government. The outrage and the shame is that it has come to this choice. […]
Many months ago, when Republicans first demanded spending cuts and no tax increases as a condition for raising the debt ceiling, the President could have blown their cover — showing the American people why this demand had nothing to do with deficit reduction but everything to do with the GOP’s ideological fixation on shrinking the size of the government. […] But he did not.
And through it all the President could have explained to Americans that the biggest economic challenge we face is restoring jobs and wages and economic growth, that spending cuts in the next few years will slow the economy even further, and therefore that the Republicans’ demands threaten us all. Again, he did not.
The radical right has now won a huge tactical and strategic victory. Democrats and the White House have proven they have little by way of tactics or strategy. […]
By embracing deficit reduction as their apparent goal – claiming only that they’d seek it differently than the GOP – Democrats and the White House now seemingly agree with the GOP that the budget deficit is the biggest obstacle to the nation’s future prosperity.
The budget deficit is not the biggest obstacle to our prosperity. Lack of jobs and growth is. And the largest threat to our democracy is the emergence of a radical right capable of getting most of the ransom it demands.
DAVID FRUM - I’m a Republican. Always have been. I believe in free markets, low taxes, reasonable regulation and limited government. But as I look back at the weeks of rancor leading up to Sunday night’s last-minute budget deal, I see some things I don’t believe in:
- Forcing the United States to the verge of default.
- Shrugging off the needs and concerns of millions of unemployed.
- Protecting every single loophole, giveaway and boondoggle in the tax code as a matter of fundamental conservative principle.
- Massive government budget cuts in the midst of the worst recession since World War II.
I am not alone. Only about one-third of Republicans agree that cutting government spending should be the country’s top priority. Only about one-quarter of Republicans insist the budget be balanced without any tax increases.
Yet that one-third and that one-quarter have come to dominate my party. That one-third and that one-quarter forced a debt standoff that could have ended in default and a second Great Recession. That one-third and that one-quarter have effectively written the “no new taxes pledge” into national law.
There was another way. There still is. Give me a hammer and a church-house door, and I’d post these theses for modern Republicans:
1) Unemployment is a more urgent problem than debt.
[…] More than 14 million Americans are out of work, more than 6 million for longer than six months. The United States has not seen so many people out of work for so long since the 1930s.
2) The deficit is a symptom of America’s economic problems, not a cause.
When the economy slumps, government revenues decline and government spending surges. Federal revenues have collapsed since 2007, down from more than 18% of national income to a little more than 14%. To put that in perspective: That’s the equivalent of losing enough revenue to support the entire defense budget. Federal spending has jumped to pay for unemployment insurance, food stamps and Medicaid benefits.
Fix the economy first, and the deficit will improve on its own. Cut the deficit first, and the economy will get even sicker.
3) The time to cut is after the economy recovers.
Businesses are hoarding cash. Consumers are repaying debt. State and local governments are slashing jobs. (Since 2009, the number of Americans working for government has shrunk by half a million, the biggest reduction in civilian government employment since the Great Depression.) Right now, there’s only one big customer out there: the federal government. How does it help anybody if the feds suddenly stop buying things and paying people?
Let’s hope that as America steps back from the brink, Republicans remember that it’s their job to protect the system, not to smash the system in hopes of building something better from the ruins. That’s how student radicals think — not conservatives.