The Weekend Zeitgeist – 5.11.2019

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Every morning, we run the Narrative Machine on the past 24 hours worth of financial media to find the most on-narrative (i.e. interconnected and central) stories. On the weekend, we leave finance to cover the last week or so in other shifting parts of the Zeitgeist – namely, politics and culture. It’s not a list of best articles or articles we think are most interesting … often far from it.

But these are articles that have struck a chord in narrative world. 


May 11, 2019 Narrative Map – Non-Financial Articles

Source: Quid, Epsilon Theory

Commentary: Capitol Hill hearing takes up the war between the needy and the greedy: The future of payday loan regulation [Winston-Salem Chronicle]

This topic was at the top of our Friday Zeitgeist, too, so I won’t spend too much time talking about it. But one of the responses I’ve gotten in a couple places has been: “Why can’t people talk about this issue in good faith? It’s just policy.” This is why.

Once an issue has been moved to the world of abstraction, once it’s about something else other than itself to a meaningful portion of the population, it is far more difficult to have a good faith discussion with anyone who has absorbed the abstraction into their framework of thinking about the issue. The participants in most of these discussions are simply engaged in a complex soliloquy about their own particular abstracted version of the topic.

Still, make no mistake – the people committed to good faith can’t wait for the rest to catch up. That’s an argument I’ve made before, too. Payday lending is a topic of its own – different even from the very high rates of standard unsecured / auto lending. I’ve got a lot of opinions about it, too, but it’s the weekend, and I’ll spare you those. This one sits at the top of the Zeitgeist, and it’s not going anywhere for a while.


The Double-Edged Sword of the Justice System [Chronicle of Social Change]

Criminal justice and the state of the US prison system have been frequent visitors to the Zeitgeist, too. If you see it here, expect to see it in policy discussions. If you don’t know what you think about those issues, now’s the time to do your research and thinking, before the content you’ll find becomes dominated by Fiat News that will tell you how to think about it.


The Bulgarian city reversing the brain drain [MSN]

There hasn’t really been an active narrative – in the US, I mean – about eastern Europe since the early days after the fall of communism and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. At that time, and in many eastern European nations, the growth – in terms of both freedom and in more tangible economic terms – was remarkable.

Except that didn’t really happen in Bulgaria. As it happens, Bulgaria’s first free elections put the communists right back in power. Its economy grew in fits and starts throughout the 1990s, unlike the Baltics and states of the former Czechoslovakia. Serbia had a similar experience, but it was a special case in a lot of ways – thanks to Tito, probably not a true part of the Eastern Bloc during the Yugoslav days despite its communist government, and thanks to Milosevic, subject to some, shall we say, other sources of economic malaise in the late 1990s. By the mid-2000s, Bulgaria had recovered enough to become a more integral part of Europe, and stabilized.

Even so, that a country that has sat at the crossroads of the world – culture, religion, peoples – for so many centuries could lose citizens at this rate is still surprising to me. Maybe a little bit heartbreaking.


‘New economics’: the way to save the planet? [Reuters]

Here’s the lede:

Here’s the internet masthead categorizing the article as “World News.”

Here’s the footer characterizing what took place in the article as “Reporting.”

I’m sure you don’t care, Directors of Thomson Reuters Founders Share Company, but your news staff is using your Trust Principles as a dishrag.

Do better.


Let the sunshine in at the Federal Reserve [WND]


You know, Stephen, you could have just gone on Glassdoor and left a brutal review like any normal person does after bombing an interview.


The lost art of the mixtape [Schenectady Daily Gazette]

The headline on this article was changed after the fact, which is a shame, because Googling the “lost art of the mixtape” provides some powerful evidence of our nostalgia for this relic of the 1980s and 1990s. I still remember fashioning the perfect mix of songs for my 7th Grade girlfriend Vanessa. It was the ultimate low-tech labor of love, sitting in my bed at night with the radio playing on my tape player, waiting for one of the songs I knew I wanted to come on, finger on the Record button. It was the work of dozens of hours, culminating in a cassette with a strip of masking tape that would allow me to write my title. Never actually given because I was a cowardly 12-year old.

I was about to write about my frustration with the conflation of “playlists” with this experience in the linked article and in these Google results, but then I realized that I’m 36 years old and not ready to yell at the kids to get off my lawn just yet.


The bird that came back from the dead [CNN]

The white-throated rail colonized the Aldabra Atoll in the Indian Ocean -- twice.

We end with a short, interesting article about a sort of convergent evolution that, well, ain’t, as it were.

But the real story here, if you ask me, is this goofy-looking bird. It looks like a wingless, arthritic duck, and it probably shouldn’t exist.

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Mark Kahn
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Mark Kahn

A nice explanation of the nuts and bolts of how the gyre widens ⇩ “Once an issue has been moved to the world of abstraction, once it’s about something else other than itself to a meaningful portion of the population, it is far more difficult to have a good faith discussion with anyone who has absorbed the abstraction into their framework of thinking about the issue. The participants in most of these discussions are simply engaged in a complex soliloquy about their own particular abstracted version of the topic.” Sadly, they probably don’t care, but it’s destroying (destroyed) the (their) news industry ⇩ “I’m sure you don’t care, Directors of Thomson Reuters Founders Share Company, but your news staff is using your Trust Principles as a dishrag.” (Nice phraseology) What is the equivalent romantic gesture young lovers do today?⇩ “I still remember fashioning the perfect mix of songs for my 7th Grade girlfriend Vanessa. It was the ultimate low-tech labor of love, sitting in my bed at night with the radio playing on my tape player, waiting for one of the songs I knew I wanted to come on, finger on the Record button. It was the work of dozens of hours, culminating in a cassette with a strip of masking tape that would allow me to write my title. Never actually given because I was a cowardly 12-year old.” ⇧ Rusty, have your read the play or seen the movie “Tea and Sympathy -” the boy’s a bit older… Read more »