Category Archives: Uncategorized

Book Review: Sway; The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman, 2008.

These brothers offer an attractive read that is notably more compelling than most pop-psychology fare. While the book does not clearly delineate a list, MC has bucketed the irrational factors referenced in the book. They include:

1. Loss aversion — the tendency to overemphasize what will be lost, at the expense of what may be gained.

2. Commitment — aka sunk cost. Similar principle to the above, but with time and reputation.

3. Value attrition — favoring preconceived traits and circumstances over objective facts.

4. Diagnosis bias — our reluctance to change our minds once we have decided on someone or something.

5. Rose-colored glasses — dismissal of info that contradicts our hopes.  Overestimating our objectivity.

6. Chameleon effect — predilection to act as we are treated / perceived.  Self-fulfilling prophecies–how your behavior can change an outcome.

7. Procedural justice –the value of a fair process. Willingness to punish someone at our own  expense.

8. The disincentive of money to altruism. Paying people for certain sacrifices can backfire as repulsion.

9. Dissension, and the value of blocking — even incompetent and erroneous blocking.  Breaking the spell of groupthink.

Which one sways you the most?  Write to us!

Did Modernist Architecture Fail? No Way

Modernist architecture and its adherence to functionality have forever changed how we view buildings.  The US’s history rivals that of Europe, especially in the Midwest.  According to this article, “(Michigan is) home to perhaps the most diverse and best-preserved collection of early Modernist experiments in the world,” thanks to the number of architects who experimented there.

Some consider the Modernist movement a failure because it did not bring people geographically and emotionally closer, as hoped. However, this minimizes the benefits we do see. The variety of materials, the safety, and the increased natural light are all parts of the legacy.

In the 2011 documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, about the ambitious and infamous housing project in St. Louis, the demolished buildings are commemorated as symbols of urban crime. In a cruel twist of fate, the architect Minoru Yamasaki’s other most famous building was also demolished: The World Trade Center in NYC.

Pruitt-Igoe’s construction was paid for by the federal government, but maintenance came from rent. The same 1949 law that built public housing also encouraged suburban homeownership, and suburban flight quickly took away the tax base for all city services.

As for the vandalism and violence, those left behind were allegedly angry at society and lashing out.

None of this is the result of the modernist architecture built to foster a community. So, modernism’s failure is the ultimate “urban myth.”

Image result for modernist office architecture

You Don’t Own Me

Apple’s lockdown on modifications to its products.  Netflix for DVDs. Uber/Lyft for auto transportation. Kindle for books (no, you do not own your purchases according to the fine print).

Americans now own less stuff, which leads Tyler Cowen to wonder if this phenomenon of surrendering the rights of ownership is a negative for society.  Many individuals find copious ownership to be out of reach, at least for the lifestyle that is both desired and readily available “for rent.” Housing is now just one piece of that trend.

We at MC do NOT think this trend of transient proprietorship is a harbinger of a collectivist state, but instead, represents the sum of individuals’ rational cost-benefit decisions in the internet-based economy. Would you agree?

Is American Tourism Hurting Cuban-Americans?

For Cuban-Americans who had family property confiscated by the Castro regime 60 years ago, the new wave of American tourism to the island is not a positive development.

A number of US cruise lines are docking in Havana and Santiago, whose ports were once privately owned by Cuban citizens.  Today, those families of the former owners, who have since come to the US, want the financial benefits they believe they have a right to.  And because the US government is allowing such water travel, they are asking the US government to help recoup.

Within the Helms-Burton Act of 1996,  Americans or Cuban-Americans whose properties were stolen after the 1959 Revolution are allowed to sue.  However, that part of the agreement is not enforced.

In retaliation for the claims, Cuba is asking for, “hundreds of billions of dollars for its counter claims, which it says are the accumulated damages of more than a half-century of U.S. hostility.”

This makes Cuban-American reimbursement seem very unlikely. Another point: Cuban exile benefits in America are already notoriously cush. So, dear reader, do you think these two families have claim to the port revenues?

Who Should Be Nominated to the Supreme Court?

Who might replace Justice Kennedy?  The announcement will be made tomorrow night at 9:00 PM EST.  The candidates:

Thomas Hardiman –– Was once a taxi driver, may restrict court challenges from immigrants, has no known stance on abortion

Amy Coney Barrett — socially conservative especially on abortion, and is a strong Catholic

Brett Kavanaugh — used to work for Bush 43, likes separation of powers and executive privilege

Raymond Kethledge — sometimes known as “Gorsuch 2.0” for his matching positions, and is a textual literalist when it comes to the Constitution

MC PICKS: HARDIMAN; more by process of elimination than by having distinguished himself.  While still “right,” he has not indicated an activist agenda.

Weekend Reading 6/16

Voting in Ohio = Use It or Lose It

Domino’s continues to be the best corporation around by fixing American infrastructure.

“(Cockfighting)…remains government-sanctioned and popular in Puerto Rico, generating an estimated $100 million annually in bets, food and drink and entrance fees tickets.  Florida officially outlawed cockfighting in 1985. But for decades before that, cockfighting was open and popular throughout the state, with tournaments in cities such as Orlando and St. Augustine drawing gamblers and spectators from across the country.”     No snitches for FL cockfighting murder

Conservative Feminism

This past week Jessica Valenti, who frequently writes on feminist topics, had a NYT Op-Ed about parsing female accomplishments. Specifically, that not every breakage of a glass ceiling is praiseworthy. She uses the recent confirmation of Gina Halspel (!) as a placemat for qualifying feminism:

“Feminism isn’t about blind support for any woman who rises to power…The truth is that while feminism need not be complicated — it’s a movement for social, economic and political justice — it is not for everyone.”

The argument is that advancing women who support policies or institutions perceived to be harmful to women more broadly (such as the GOP) do not count.

Her question, “Why do so many who strongly advocate for more women in office, and more women running for office, turn so despicably against conservative women who are willing to put themselves forward?” was not answered satisfactorily. To say that we as a society have, “come too far to allow the right to water down a well-defined movement for its own cynical gain” is laughably hypocritical; the American left has plenty of history using movements for its own cynical gains, as do all political parties.

And lastly, Valenti brings up torture as an anti-feminist stance, confirming the suspicion that true liberalism requires believing in the  slate card of causes, and does not allow for topical deviation.  How “progressive.”

Kmart, Sears, and the Kidnapping That May Have Sealed Their Fate

This rare profile of Eddie Lampert tracks the the troubles of Kmart, Sears, and their 2005  consolidation.

Despite valuable land holdings and iconic brands, the companies have not been able to find a foothold between Walmart and department stores.  Investments in online sales cannot compete with Amazon.  Sears brands such as Kenmore have been divested in what many see as indication of an imminent bankruptcy.

Before the merger, on January 10, 2003, Mr. Lampert was kidnapped and held for ransom.  There was also a conversation about a mob connection with Kmart’s finances.  To this day, the lead criminal says he wishes he had killed him rather than released him.

Lampert says this event was significant and life-changing.  Professionally, it seems to have made him even more driven, daring, and risk-taking.

In summary, the personal and professional dramas here are Shakespearean and ongoing, and MC will be keeping an eye on how things play out–as they may surely reveal truths about human nature both micro and macro.

Euro Refugees: Separating Human Interest from Economic Interest

One of the causes of the rise of the alt-right in western Europe may be the equivocating of economics and compassion when it comes to deciding to whom to grant political asylum. To quote one European politician, “Save the people who need saving. But don’t tell me they’re good for the labor market.”  80% of refugees in Germany are jobless, and the conservatives there have noticed. However, the human rights angle can be successful if truthful–is the applicant truly in danger, and is the government clear on why that matters to a free society?

This longform article from The Atlantic focuses on Germany’s handling of refugees since 2015, especially those from Africa and the Middle East.  While it also addresses the roots of xenophobia, as well as the German processes that could be emulated in the US, its most interesting content describes how economic opportunists are weeded out from the applicant pool, so as not to take the the spot of someone truly needy.

To get a sense of these (refugee applicant) interviews, imagine the following game. You meet someone who claims to be from your hometown, and you have to decide whether he’s telling the truth. You can ask him anything you like: Which high school did you attend? What color is city hall? Do people get around on buses or trains? Is there a McDonald’s? If so, where? The other player may prepare however he wishes, memorizing facts, maps, events. If he convinces you, he gets a million dollars. If he doesn’t convince you, he dies. You have 10 minutes to decide.

Germany also has fascinating uses of technology to verify these narratives–not just passports but mobile phone history, facial recognition, and speech patterns.

What do you think?  How rigorous should a country be in weeding out the criminal or the merely poor, from the displaced and the destitute?