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Distinguished Bibliophile
KathyS
Posts: 6,898
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

I'm going to place my comments here, only because it's the last post I've read on this thread concerning this conversation about our elections.

 

I said going into these political discussions that I, most often than not, am able to tell the leanings of people in regards to their party likes and dislikes.  I generally stay out of these conversations because I'm pretty much a chicken where it comes to debates, unless I have facts to back my emotional sentiments, or experience to back my feelings.

 

I've also said that I go into these presidential election years with an open mind.  I don't lean towards one party or the other.  I've voted both sides.  I have seen in years past that if a party has been in power for one or two terms, and hasn't made significant changes, or has made significant debacles, that party's presidential candidate doesn't get elected, because people want change.  But this election has had, and made, some tremendously different changes in our history.  We had a woman running, Mrs. Clinton, who just about out spoke, and out ran Obama in her debates.  With political history behind her, President Clinton.  But you have the issues of male and female voter leanings.  You have black and white leanings.  You have left and right issue leanings, ad issues, money issues, stock market/economical problems.  Then when a candidate's party selects a woman to run as VP, we've had other issues crop up along those lines:  Conservative right wing leanings.  Negative ad problems.

 

In my point I'm trying to make here is:  So many people vote their emotions;  so many people vote their race;  so many people vote sex;  so many people see money as the motivational drive to win votes, etc., etc., etc., where after a while you loose sight of what the issues are that these candidates stand for.  The focus has been all about the appeal to the emotions of the voter.  I said this from the start.  Which candidate has the most charisma could end up winning the vote of the people.

 

I watched Meet The Press this morning:  Colin Powell  (Republican) just announced his vote for Obama.  This was the most concise and eloquent vote for anyone I've every heard.  I've always liked and respected Powell for his knowledge, and his ability to see things that a lot of people overlook.  He only substantiated the things I've seen in Obama.  Tom Brokaw presented issues to Powell, he wasn't easy on him, either.  But every point that he discussed, gave a fair opinion of both McCain and Obama, as people who could represent our country fairly.  He pointed out the good sides to both of these men.  He didn't dwell on the negative at any time.  

 

But in doing so, he pointed out the same negativeness I've seen in McCains choices concerning his ad campaign, sending it in directions that were irrelevant to the issues at hand, making character assassinations, showing the futility in these choices.  This type of negative talk from either party will not win votes, as I see them.  What does that say to the character of that candidate?  There is a line that should be drawn as to this kind of hurtfulness.  And I do believe that there should be a ceiling on the amount of money spent for advertisements.  Of course, the net is another media that has come into play this year.  So much is free space, and so much is hurtful, also.

 

I watched the Chris Mathews program this morning, also, and these debates among all of these people at this "round table", said the same things as was said on Meet The Press.  A prominent thought was:  If Colon Powell's military background has anything to do with this debate, it will sway the states that are now leaning towards McCain, Florida for one, which has a large retired military segment. 

 

Anyway, that's all I have to say for this election year.  I wish everyone well, no matter which candidate  you vote for, or which candidate makes it into the White House.

 

Kathy S.

Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

hi deb,
you have a gift for clear headed responses that i wish i did. thank you for your kind remarks.
i supported hillary, not only because i thought she was qualified and strong, i felt clinton would be behind her, if necessary, in these difficult times...and before she dropped out, times were not even as difficult!
i think you are right about how i will feel about obama. it remains to be seen in the future. i do believe he will be president.
twj

debbook wrote:

TWJ,I don't think our conversation is becoming adversarial, at least I'm not trying to be and I'm not taking your posts that way either. I guess I'm just trying to understand what you are asking but I do now. You want to feel comfortable with the idea of Obama as president. The thing is I don't think I can tell you anything about him that you don't know, you have been doing a lot of research. I think we are just looking at it differently. Maybe you won't feel comfortable w/ Obama unless ( if he wins) as president he makes decisions that you feel comfortable with, that he isn't going to be an enemy of Israel, which I do not believe that he will. I think more has been made of his supporters than is really true. Ultimately, I have a good feeling about him in my gut. I had this feeling with Clinton.
(edited)...

I enjoy our discussions whether they are about books or politics.:smileyhappy: We can always agree to disagree though I think we agree more than it might seem.


I couldn't quote post because this site is being ornery

 

Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

hi peeps,
i said i was hanging up my keyboard regarding my opinions so i will only respond to your queries about me.
i was not actually trying to convince or prove anything to anyone with my arguments/opinions. i was simply expressing them, period, and hoping for a back and forth discussion with what you call "proof" from the other viewpoints as well. i read all the links posted, if i can.
i did back up most of my comments with explanatory links and even provided some with opposing views. even if mc cain was ahead, i would have done the same in support of obama, if mc cain did/said something offensive and did not repudiate that behavior.
i will ask you the same question you asked me. would you have felt the same way about the money and the coverage if mc cain was winning? what would you have done?
let's declare a truce on this matter.
may the best man win and whomever he is, may he receive more respect than president bush was given by an angry, unforgiving public that never gave him credit for any of the good he accomplished even though he served during a time of unprecedented crises. no president is all bad or all good, but all presidents are our president and as such, deserve respect.
colin powell was eloquent this morning. i always wished he would run for president. as soon as he began it was fairly obvious how he felt. he has been disappointed with the extremism of the republican party for awhile, as have many others. (i will allow myself this lone political comment: since it is pertinent to this conversation)  i have only one criticism of what he said and that is this...when he pointed out the extremism of the right, he didn't seem to mention or be bothered by the extremism of the left, which is also unprecedented. it seemed unusual to me, especially coming from his vantage point. that expressed the crux of my disappointment in this election season. even the unbiased show bias.
twj

 
 
Peeps wrote:
Maybe the reason why Obama has so many surrogates is because he appeals to more people--and therefore why he is ahead in the polls. And maybe the reason he has more money is because he appeals to more people and therefore they have been donating (many for the first time to a campaign). 
 I agree the election is unbalanced, but I think there are some pretty obvious reasons as to why, and isn't that what we are looking for--someone to emerge as the winner? What would be the point of this whole campaign rigamarole if the whole thing were to be a tie? 
Do you think you would have the same complaints if McCain were ahead?
As to your point about trying to show both sides, I've noticed that your political leanings are always a huge part of any argument you make. I think this my be a large part of the reason why some are not convinced by your arguments. More concrete evidence (with proof) would help.

 

RTA
Wordsmith
RTA
Posts: 920
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria


Everyman wrote:

You choose to define the term democracy in a way that it supports your argument.   But of course that is not the origin of the word, and is a careless use of the term.   But if you choose to use careless terminology, that's your choice, and there is no further point in discussion the issue. 

 

 


None of Zakaria's discussion is about the origin of the word democracy.  The origin of the word doesn’t wholly address how it is used today.  One’s language would probably be very obscure if she only focused on the origins of words rather than how the words are actually used.  The origin of the word “cab” comes from the abbreviation of cabriolet when it was introduced in London.  But, in my city, when someone tells me they hailed a cab, I don’t picture a light, horse-drawn carriage.  BTW, I thought I had already cleared up what I meant by democracy, if there was really any confusion to begin with.  So why are we further harping on this? 

 

So, just in case there is any further confusion, which I assume there must be if I’m still charged with being “careless” with my terms.  My unabridged Webster’s Dictionary, published in 2001, gives the first definition of democracy as: “government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.”  (I think this is pretty close to how I clarified that I was using the term.)  And the second definition is: “a state having such a form of government.”  Clearly, the accepted use of the term democracy refers to both direct and indirect democracies. 

 

At this point, I think I’ve clearly defined the term.  Would you like to proceed with the actual discussion now?  Do you think an emphasis on the public having increased influence in the process of governing is possibly counterproductive to how a representative government is meant to operate?

 

RTA
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RTA
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria


thewanderingjew wrote:

 

i would like to discuss transparency that rta mentioned with regard to zakaria.

if we had fair representation in all forms of our media, print, tv, radio, movies, entertainment etc., in terms of substance and truth, in addition to the one-sided attacks, insults, sarcasm and innuendo, etc., perhaps we could have transparency but with the bias so prevalent, are we receiving accurate information?

 


TWJ, just to clarify, the transparency that Zakaria is speaking of here is with regard to Congress’s proceedings.  He notes that legislatures had, in the past, functioned in a sort of closed manner.  Reps and Senators met on committees where they traded, bartered and compromised on issues, to hash out a plan, and that all this committee work happened without coverage.  Their votes on final bills were recorded, but the committee work was not.  Now, my immediate response is that transparency is good.  However, Zakaria argues that the open committees paved the way for targeted special interest groups to put an inordinate amount of pressure on Reps and Senators to vote according to their wishes.  So, though Congress became more responsive to the public, as a result of the transparency, what’s evolved is that the public it responds to is less and less a truly representative demographic.  Everyone has the ability to petition Congress and hold them to account for their interests, which sounds good.  But the result, Zakaria is arguing, is that the Reps and Senators are responsive to groups that don’t really represent the public.  In that way, though the transparency was meant to hold Congress accountable, which many would consider a virtue, Zakaria is offering that it might have had a more devastating effect on the process. 
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

Do you think an emphasis on the public having increased influence in the process of governing is possibly counterproductive to how a representative government is meant to operate?

 

Absolutely.  Just look at California's Proposition One, and Tim Eyman in Washington.   

 

Whether direct democracy in these instances is a good thing or not is certainly debatable.  But equally certainly, they are counterproductive to how a representative government is meant to operate. 

 

When individual issues are put on the ballot by referendum for direct vote, there tends to be vastly inadequate discussion of how these issues will impact the balance of government action, budget priorities, etc.  Representative government is meant to be a deliberative process among representative who take the time to balance issues and priorities.  This seldom happens with slash-and-burn initiatives or referendums. 

 

Good or bad, I don't say.  But a very different form of policy making, definitely. 

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria : Referenda.

RTA:  You might like to take a look as this Swiss website which explains how their referenda are organised and the origin of their direct democracy.  Theirs is perhaps the best example in the world today of direct democracy but we have to remember that not only are there special historical reasons for their form of government but that they are not a highly populated country, only having a population of around 8 million. 

 

One of the commonest arguments against direct government is that questions in referenda can be 'slanted' to favour a particular argument and that it is very difficult for them not to be biased in some way or other.  Results of referenda also favour what is sometimes called 'the lowest common denominator' in any argument or, to put it another way, the basest instincts of a population.  For instance, however beneficial an increase in taxation might be - to help the sick etc. - it is difficult to get a population to vote for it.    Whereas elected representatives are expected to study the arguments and are well briefed upon them, the electorate votes with much less information to hand and often with much more emotion.  And in these media ridden times, no government could be sure that a newspaper, TV or radio campaign would not undermine the most beneficial of policies.   

 

What does Zakaria say about direct government with regard to referenda?

 


RTA wrote: 

Do you think an emphasis on the public having increased influence in the process of governing is possibly counterproductive to how a representative government is meant to operate?

 


 

RTA
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RTA
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria


Everyman wrote:

 

Absolutely.  Just look at California's Proposition One, and Tim Eyman in Washington.   

 

Whether direct democracy in these instances is a good thing or not is certainly debatable.  But equally certainly, they are counterproductive to how a representative government is meant to operate. 

 

When individual issues are put on the ballot by referendum for direct vote, there tends to be vastly inadequate discussion of how these issues will impact the balance of government action, budget priorities, etc.  Representative government is meant to be a deliberative process among representative who take the time to balance issues and priorities.  This seldom happens with slash-and-burn initiatives or referendums. 

 

Good or bad, I don't say.  But a very different form of policy making, definitely. 


Everyman, I agree that the rush for referendums is, at least, counterintuitive to how a representative government is meant to operate. 

 

But, let me ask, do you think that extends to the influence of polling?  Zakaria argues that the immediate responsiveness of legislators to polling information, the eternal quest to get the pulse of the public’s opinions, also works counterproductively in a representative government.  Would you agree? 

 

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Choisya
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

However, Zakaria argues that the open committees paved the way for targeted special interest groups to put an inordinate amount of pressure on Reps and Senators to vote according to their wishes.

 

This is very true RTA and I have had personal experience of it on several occasions.  For instance, when the British parliament first debated whether homosexuality or abortion should be legalised, the catholic church organised a huge campaign to get their parishioners to send  pro forma letters to their Members of Parliament.  It was not unusual for an MP representing a constituency where there was a large number of catholics, to receive 10,000 letters a week on the subject and more recently Mullahs at mosques joined with the catholics in an effort to defeat the Bill which proposed a legalised form of marriage for homosexuals.  However, polls of the whole population, radio phone-ins etc. favoured all of this legislation and the views of these minorities were shown not to represent the national view. In all these cases our elected representatives voted in accordance with the national view, not the minority one but some of the time it was 'touch and go' and minority interests could have won the day because of undue pressure.  Afterwards, when the results of the vote were known, many MPs were threatened with violence and some lost their nomination at the next election.  That is one result of the effects of transparency.      

 

 


RTA wrote:
TWJ, just to clarify, the transparency that Zakaria is speaking of here is with regard to Congress’s proceedings.  He notes that legislatures had, in the past, functioned in a sort of closed manner.  Reps and Senators met on committees where they traded, bartered and compromised on issues, to hash out a plan, and that all this committee work happened without coverage.  Their votes on final bills were recorded, but the committee work was not.  Now, my immediate response is that transparency is good.  However, Zakaria argues that the open committees paved the way for targeted special interest groups to put an inordinate amount of pressure on Reps and Senators to vote according to their wishes.  So, though Congress became more responsive to the public, as a result of the transparency, what’s evolved is that the public it responds to is less and less a truly representative demographic.  Everyone has the ability to petition Congress and hold them to account for their interests, which sounds good.  But the result, Zakaria is arguing, is that the Reps and Senators are responsive to groups that don’t really represent the public.  In that way, though the transparency was meant to hold Congress accountable, which many would consider a virtue, Zakaria is offering that it might have had a more devastating effect on the process. 

 

RTA
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RTA
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria : Referenda.


Choisya wrote:

RTA:  You might like to take a look as this Swiss website which explains how their referenda are organised and the origin of their direct democracy.  Theirs is perhaps the best example in the world today of direct democracy but we have to remember that not only are there special historical reasons for their form of government but that they are not a highly populated country, only having a population of around 8 million. 

 

One of the commonest arguments against direct government is that questions in referenda can be 'slanted' to favour a particular argument and that it is very difficult for them not to be biased in some way or other.  Results of referenda also favour what is sometimes called 'the lowest common denominator' in any argument or, to put it another way, the basest instincts of a population.  For instance, however beneficial an increase in taxation might be - to help the sick etc. - it is difficult to get a population to vote for it.    Whereas elected representatives are expected to study the arguments and are well briefed upon them, the electorate votes with much less information to hand and often with much more emotion.  And in these media ridden times, no government could be sure that a newspaper, TV or radio campaign would not undermine the most beneficial of policies.   

 

What does Zakaria say about direct government with regard to referenda?

 


Thanks for the link Choisya.  Zakaria might reference Sweden, but I don't recall.  With regard to direct referenda, I think he includes the short discussion in his chapter about too much democracy. 

 

I'm actually out of time for the moment, I'll try to get back to you later today (which will be tomorrow for you). 

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Everyman
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

But, let me ask, do you think that extends to the influence of polling? Zakaria argues that the immediate responsiveness of legislators to polling information, the eternal quest to get the pulse of the public’s opinions, also works counterproductively in a representative government. Would you agree?

 

Not if the legislators are responsible and careful legislators.  

 

If they are, they will accept that:

 

1.  A poll's results depend very much on who is asking the questions, how the questions are asked, of whom they are asked, when they are asked, and how they are interpreted. 

 

2.  Polls are one piece of data. 

 

3.  Polls, if they are responsibly carried out, they can reflect the opinions of a certain portion of the population at a certain point in time with no knowledge of what information those polled had about the issue.  

 

4.  It is the responsibility of of a legislator in a representative government to use his or her best judgment to make the best long-term decisions for the health, safety, and welfare of the population as a whole.  The conclusion of such a thought process may differ from the contemporary view of a segment of the population most of whom do not have access to all the information available to the legislator.  

 

Used carefully and properly, polls can be a useful piece of information to help the legislator make the right decision.   Abused, they can be very dangerous and lead the legislator to make decisions that are not in the best long term interests of the people the legislator is responsible for representing. 

 

I trust that answers your question. 

 

_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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Everyman
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

Let's keep in mind that elections are just a form of polling. 
_______________
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Peeps
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

Hi Everyman,

 

I think you misunderstood what I was referring to. I meant that the campaign process is held in order to pick a president, i.e., a winner. Of course we also want to pick the person who is the best qualified.

 

I agree that the funding question makes for an imbalanced playing field. I don't, however, appreciate your rhetorical tool of presenting me with two options--either believing "the product ... which has the biggest advertising budget is necessarily the best product" OR "money has a corrupting effect on politics and we should strive to reduce that effect to the greatest extent possible."

 

I certainly don't see things in such simplistic terms or agree that those are the only two ways measure satisfaction or dissatisfaction with this election.

 

 

 


Everyman wrote:

I agree the election is unbalanced, but I think there are some pretty obvious reasons as to why, and isn't that what we are looking for--someone to emerge as the winner? What would be the point of this whole campaign rigamarole if the whole thing were to be a tie? 


Do you think you would have the same complaints if McCain were ahead?

 

I think the question is whether what we want to elect for a president is the person who is best qualified, or the person who si the best fund raiser.  They are not synonymous.  

 

This is why we tried, and succeeded for about thirty years, to have the Presidential campaigns funded equally through public donations.  Give the candidates a financially level playing field and let them present their cases with an equal opportunity to be heard (yes, money today equates to opportunity to be heard.)

 

Obama was the first candidate in, what, thirty years to reject this principle, to decide that money should be a major, if not the major, deciding factor in who gets elected.   And not only money, but largely money flying under the radar so we really have no idea whether the law is being followed or not (except that we know that it hasn't been at all times, that his system has invited fraud and illegal donations).  And yes, if McCain were the one who had thrown the public financing system system out the window and set up a system which invited illegal contributions, I would definitely have the same complaints. 

 

If you really believe that the product (and yes, candidates are products and are marketed as such) which has the biggest advertising budget is necessarily the best product, then you should be happy with this election.  If you think that money has a corrupting effect on politics and we should strive to reduce that effect to the greatest extent possible, you should be very, very unhappy at what is happening.  


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Jon_B
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

Hey everyone,

 

Just want to say - we'll be "officially" starting the discussion of the book on November 3rd.  I had originally suggested the 1st, but that's a Saturday so we might as well match it up with the rest of the November book clubs which will start on that Monday.  Of course, some people are already talking about it which is great - please continue to do so, just want to clarify the official start date :smileyhappy:

 

 

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RTA
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RTA
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

Everyman wrote: Not if the legislators are responsible and careful legislators.  

 

Heh.  That’s some caveat. 

 

Everyman wrote: 4.  It is the responsibility of of a legislator in a representative government to use his or her best judgment to make the best long-term decisions for the health, safety, and welfare of the population as a whole.  The conclusion of such a thought process may differ from the contemporary view of a segment of the population most of whom do not have access to all the information available to the legislator. 

 

I think part of Zakaria’s argument is that polling, to the extent that it’s used today, has, effectively, reduced the amount of “best judgment” a legislator uses, and often legislators rely more on polling than on other factors like the “best long-term decisions.”  Part of Zakaria’s argument (and certainly it’s not all of it) is that best judgment is being sacrificed for the responsiveness of polling information.  And he extends that by noting that though such responsiveness gives the public more influence on the system (i.e. it is more democratic that way), he wonders if we should consider that an unquestioned virtue. 

 

Everyman wrote: Let's keep in mind that elections are just a form of polling.  

 

True enough.  I think it was Richard Posner in his book about the contested 2000 election who said that what the public—those who called for every vote to be counted—had a hard time understanding regarding the Florida vote count is that who had won the election was not a factual matter, but a legal matter.  That is, because the difference was so slim, considering the margin for error, there was no way to factually know who, exactly, received the most votes.  And that’s because national elections, because of the numbers involved, are more a matter of polling than not.  So the question of who won becomes a matter of statistics and electoral law. 

 

Can I assume, however, that we do agree that there are substantive differences between the type of polling that constitutes an election and the sort of public opinion polling that we’re talking about?
RTA
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RTA
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria


Jon_B wrote:

Hey everyone,

 

Just want to say - we'll be "officially" starting the discussion of the book on November 3rd.  I had originally suggested the 1st, but that's a Saturday so we might as well match it up with the rest of the November book clubs which will start on that Monday.  Of course, some people are already talking about it which is great - please continue to do so, just want to clarify the official start date :smileyhappy:

 

 


Jon, is the discussion going to be broken up among different threads, or will it all happen in this thread?  Just curious.
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Jon_B
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

[ Edited ]

Well to be perfectly honest, I've kind of been debating that one with myself.  Traditionally, here on the Book Clubs discussion of a book is almost always done by having several threads each dedicated to sections of the book, often with a few additional threads containing things like the author's bio and other tangential subjects.  And while this has been successful in many of our boards, I think it can also lead to a situation where the book's threads completely dominate the board and make it a little harder to get to discussions on anything else - and given the subject of this board, we want to encourage discussion of several different subjects (and books) simultaneosly, not just have it be about one thing.  So I'm thinking of having it take place just in this thread - especially since some discussion of concepts in the book has already began in here.  Furthermore, since this is a non-fiction book the issue of "spoilers" (which is part of the reason for the multi-thread setup) isn't really relevant in here.  What do you guys think about it?

 

Message Edited by Jon_B on 10-23-2008 11:41 AM
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RTA
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

Well the discussion that I started is actually why I asked.  All my discussion is about Zakaria's other book, The Future of Freedom.  I put it in this thread, thinking it was o.k. to discuss some of Zakaria's ideas generally, presuming that you would be starting chapter threads for the discussion of Post-American World.  So, if the Post-American World discussion remains predominantly in this thread, I suggest you might want to remove most of the discussion that originated with my post.  Sorry for the confusion.

 

As to my input on the general question.  I think it probably depends on how many participants and how diverse the discussion.  If we have under say about a half a dozen people discussing two or three different topics from the book at a time, that probably wouldn't be too cumbersome for one thread.  However, if you end up with more than two or three different offshoots from points in the book going simultaneously, I think it might get a bit hectic.  I know, not real helpful, since you can't tell the future.  What can I say, I'm not normally the helpful sort.  (I would say that, if you decide to break the book into separate threads, I don't think Zakaria's books necessarily lend themselves to being broken into chapter threads.  Though I can't speak specifically to Post-American World, his work tends to have a more organic than linear feel to it, if that makes any sense.)

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debbook
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria

Jon, will you be listing this book on the November announcements?
A room without books is like a body without a soul.~ Cicero...
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Bossa-Nova
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Re: Our First Selection: The Post-American World - starting November 3rd!

What a terrific choice. I too have been meaning to read it; I bought it a few weeks ago with that intention. I am impressed with how the author seems to have become quite popular. I've read him in Newsweek & like his perspective very much.

Am looking forward to the discussion!