TALK / TALK
A fun, feisty, and philosophical dialogue among two leading independents as they reviewed the week's top political news.
ARCHIVES: 2006 ‐ 2010
For years, Fred Newman and Jacqueline Salit ‐‐ two leading activists and intellectuals within the independent political movement ‐‐ watched the political talk shows and discussed them over coffee. In early 2005, they began transcribing these conversations and distributing them to their friends and followers. Over the years, their "talk about the talk" developed into a popular weekly missive distributed via e‐mail to tens of thousands of readers worldwide. Making ﴾Non﴿ Sense of an Irrational World is a compilation of some of their most popular and thought provoking discussions from the last five years.
I want to talk to you about the McChrystal story, about General McChrystal being relieved of his command in Afghanistan. But, I want to stay on some combination of speculative and maybe even a dramaturgical level...
I thought it was interesting. Obviously, the centerpiece of the discussion was that no matter that in the history of Western civilization happiness is treated as the object towards which everything moves, as Aristotle observed, there is still little money, little effort, and few resources given to the achievement of happiness in our culture. It’s interesting to speculate as to why that would be so.
There’s been a massive oil spill. There’s been a mobilization by BP and private industry and the scientific community under the auspices of the government to try to stop the leak. And, it seems to me the nub of the exchange between Axelrod and Matthews was this. Chris asked whether BP “can be trusted” to carry out this recovery effort, a question that comes complete with a whole set of negative political positions about the oil industry. They go back and forth. Finally, Axelrod says to him, ‘What would BP’s motivation be for not trying to solve this problem? They do not have a motivation for that.’ Chris doesn’t really have an answer. What he does say is ‘Well, what they had was a profit motive to go beyond their safety capability, to drill down 13,000 feet because their profit motive is the motive here. But they didn’t have the capacity to deal with what might go wrong.’ So Chris’ point is BP created a problem that they couldn’t handle and that’s what’s wrong with this situation. I guess the axiom that follows from that is We should never create problems that we can’t handle.
(May 16, 2010) There's so much interest in the British elections....the thing that has sparked the greatest interest is that under the British system, given that the Tories didn’t win enough seats to set up a Tory government, a coalition government had to be created. That meant the Conservatives (popularly known as the Tories) had to make a deal with the much smaller Liberal Democrats – the Lib-Dems as they’re called. The Lib-Dems apparently considered the very strong overtures from the Labor Party, which lost power in this election. But, ultimately the Lib-Dems rejected those in favor of going with the Tories. What seems tantalizing about this is that a small, somewhat marginal player in the English political system became the kingmaker. That’s what grabs the attention.
(May 2, 2010) Fred, here’s something that struck me in Charlie Rose’s discussion about the battle over financial regulation...that it was a discussion among insiders. You have financial journalists. You have the Wall Street guys. You have the government officials. And they all talk about the derivatives, the subprime mortgages and all that. They’re putting the whole conversation on TV, because they put everything on TV now, about what Goldman Sachs did. So, the context, if you want to use that term, is the outsiders’ anger at the insiders. But the outsider/insider tension isn’t being addressed by the discussion about reform. You just have the insiders working on trying to fix up the system that belongs to them. I’m sure they’ll come up with some approaches that will, for some time, mute the extreme excesses of investment banking. But it’s not as if you have any sense that the outsider/insider caste system is being called into question.
(April 18, 2010) Charlie Rose interviewed four analysts from different points on the political spectrum, but they all told a similar story. And the story, with different specifics for different countries, is that there’s now a greater political distance between Latin America and the United States than there has been for many decades...I’m wondering if this discussion about Latin America, however much it’s like discussions from 60 years ago, fills out the changing picture of where the U.S. is internationally.
(April 4, 2010) Fred, over the last month or so, there’s been a more edgy public debate within black political circles. Let me give you my characterization of that debate. Barack Obama is President of the United States. What should that mean for black people? And how should black leaders position themselves in relation to Obama?
(March 21, 2010) There’s a lot of “wordage” out there, certainly, and it’s all about regulatory reform. But there’s no talk about why it is that we have so many things that need to be regulated.
(March 14, 2010) Obama and the Democrats seem confident that even with all the ups and downs, even with the continued ambivalence on the part of the American public about healthcare reform, that they’re going to A) get something done and B) that it’s going to be a net-positive at the political level for them.