And don't think that Brad De Long has a chance at being objective. Excuse me while I go bang my head against the wall in despair:

And don't think Colin Powell is going to become White House Chief of Staff and save us:

Whiskey Bar:

Sanctions exist -- not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of keeping in check Saddam Hussein's ambitions toward developing weapons of mass destruction ... And frankly they have worked. He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.

Colin Powell
Press Briefing in Cairo
February 24, 2001

If Iraq had disarmed itself, gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction over the past 12 years, or over the last several months since (UN Resolution) 1441 was enacted, we would not be facing the crisis that we now have before us.

Colin Powell
Interview with Radio France International
February 28, 2003

[Semi-Daily Journal]

Can the University of California, Berkeley find an economics professor that (a) can see the forest for the trees (b) understands that September 11th changed everyone's perspective on foreign policy (c) knows that you can take pieces of any statement, juxtapose against another piece of a statement that the person made, and make it look contradictory.  I'm not sure that Prof. De Long is capable of clicking a link that he, himself pointed to in his post.  The first press briefing quote was a response to a question about Arab press reaction to the US's policy of enforcing UN sanctions.  The second quote was in response to a question about US's policy to enforce UN resolution 1441.

Almost surely, Powel, in both quotes, is discussing the administration's consistent policy of working with the UN!
  Yahoo! News - World Photos - Reuters
  I love the French - part 1
I just ordered my "le jeu de cartes du régime Bush" styled after the card deck the military handed out to troops in Iraq to list the most wanted Saddam lackies.

God, the French piss me off and that's why I love 'em.
  Russian Ark - Update
Right. So the other day I fell asleep watching this movie. I missed the last 1/2 hour and I'm not really interested in going back and watching it.

There were too many reference to Russian history that I have no idea about. Also, the topic, which I should have guessed, was 'Russianess'. I'm pretty indifferent to what it means to be Russian. I suppose it has importance and it could have an impact on geopolitics, but I'm just not into it. Oh, well.

Christopher Hitchens writes about Britishness in this month's Atlantic. He tries his damnedest to make it interesting to the rest of us non-Britons, but in the end its not interesting to hear about "others'" identities when your knee deep in trying to figure out what you're all about.

HOWEVER, there's a small chance that the movie sparked an interest in Russian history...
Mr. Wheeler explained, last night in class, that an integral is just the limit of a Riemann sum. He said that we'll learn clever ways to integrate (e.g. by parts, the substitution rule, completing the squares, etc), but that in each case we're really just finding the limit of the corresponding Riemann sum. This is all good because it turns out that its pretty hard to find the limit of the Riemann sum and relatively easy to integrate using these other techniques (once you've drilled them into your head).

To illustrate graphically: lim n->∞ ∑[i=1,n] f(xi)Δx = ∫f(x)dx

That thing on the left is, by definition, equal to the thing on the right of the equal sign. This is just messing with symbols. Like saying 1+1+1 is equal to 1*3 or like the little stick man on the doors of bathrooms. There is something to that symbol-play that sets our feeble little minds at ease, though. For some reason, the simplicity in this new set of symbols on the right of the equation make it easier to fiddle with integrals. To me, this is amazing. We haven't introduced anything but a metaphor and it makes the job that much easier. Why does this magic happen?!

Is it that our brains can only process so many little symbolic units at a time? Anything that can compress the number of units can simplify the processing the brain has to do. With this understanding, the way to understand the integral metaphor is by counting the symbols... the metaphor reduces the number of characters in the Riemann sum (20) down to 7 for the integral on the right hand side. So introducing this new notation reduced the complexity that the mind has to deal with by a factor of almost 3.

The genius of inventing these metaphoric mind tools, the genius of Riemann, is that they make concepts like integrals easier for us mere mortals to grasp, not that they tell us something profound about the truth of integrals. If we were gods, omnipotent, we wouldn't need these metaphors, the complexity of Riemann's Sums would be transparent, and there would be no need for integral notation. This fact stands in strange contrast to our notions of the divine beauty of metaphors, the idea that they get us closer to the truth, don't you think?

This contradiction begs another question: is it possible that metaphors get us further from the truth, rather than closer?

The thought that I have to keep distant, for now, is that if these metaphors are just tools, there is no truth in them besides the object of the metaphor, and they don't help to uncover more deeply hidden truths, why do I need to learn them? I have to keep this question distant because I'm in the middle of taking a 10 week course where I'm learning those worthless metaphors!
  Russian Ark - going in
I saw a review of this movie on Ebert and Roeper a couple weeks ago that perked my interest. The movie is a single take, continuous 90 minute scene.

There's a good chance this won't be a good movie in the sense that Braveheart, Empire Strikes Back and Casablanca are good. It may be more like watching acrobatics. The drama (or comedy) in the show isn't why you watch. You watch for the 'gimmick' that isn't really a gimmick as much as an newly discovered tool to entertain.

Each discipline seems to have at least two major areas of concern. Content (which is usually broken down further in more granular sub-groups) and the 'Tools of the trade'. Economics has micro/macro as its content and things like econometrics as its tools. These two areas feed off each other. Discovery in the content area eventually hits a wall that requires new tools. The tools then are invented. Clever use of the tools discovers new content and so on.

This pattern occurs all the time in science... Looking at smaller and smaller things required better and better microscopes and the better microscopes allowed for unexpected discoveries.
Today was my first day of class at DeAnza. I'm taking the Math 1b class which is basically intro to integral calculus. It's been a while since I've been in school (at least in a 'real' class... I took Italian a couple years ago), so a lot of thoughts came flooding into my mind:
- teachers 'care' about what they're teaching, even though they've taught it over and over again
- it's annoying when students go through the motions but don't really care
- math is fun, even beautiful
- criticism needs to be tempered to the environment (I know this is a stretch, but maybe I'll come back to this point)
- I might be an academic!
- How exactly does out mind work? Why do we need the 'ladder of the mind'? Are 'model' and metaphor just tools to help get up that ladder or are they 'real'? It's annoying that they're not real!
'People loved us' - Back in Humboldt after the Iraq War...

A Marine's story back from Iraq... He's from my home, Humboldt County, California.
  This war on terrorism is bogus
Bogus? The conspiracies outlined in this article do not prove that the war is bogus, they simply point to the fact that the US sees a need for an International Stabilization Regime. The US's interests are at risk in a world of uncertainty. The middle east and North Korea represent two highly volatile areas of the world and who knows what will emerge their to reek havoc for us and allies. Oh, by the way, these areas are among the worst in human rights and the outright oppression of people. Is it wrong to want to police those areas, to bring order?

The UN doesn't have that charter, no nation in the world, but one, has the the power or will.

Oil? Two words: North Korea. How can Oil be the motivation of all this when North Korea is on the top of the agenda?

Meacher uses the example of Pearl Harbor as precedence. To him it proves that the US has a pattern of similar conspiracies. Ok, fine. Let's assume that US engages in such conspiracy as a matter of course:

"The US national archives reveal that President Roosevelt used exactly this approach in relation to Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941. Some advance warning of the attacks was received, but the information never reached the US fleet. The ensuing national outrage persuaded a reluctant US public to join the second world war."

What again was morally wrong about the US entering the war, freeing Europe, defeating Japan and generally restoring/creating order to the world?
Bowling for Columbine - Coming out

Trust. Fear. This movie wasn't about guns. It was about a culture of fear. (And the unexplained bashing of Charlton Heston... What was that all about?)

What is the difference between Canada and the US? Canada has 7m guns and 10m households; they have guns too. Their murder rate is much, much lower than ours (hundreds of gun related deaths vs 10k in the US... A Canadian has 1/8th the chance of an American of getting killed by a gun). Why do we kill each other with guns and why don't they?

Mr. Moore argues that the difference is fear. We have a history of fear. The Pilgrims came because they were afraid of persecution. The European settlers killed off the indians because they were afraid. To show further fear of other ethnicities, we've grown to be fearful of black people. This fear is shown again and again in our news programs.

According to Marilyn Manson, the fear is driven by corporations to drive demand for consumption. To be safe, you have to by this.

The problem doesn't appear to be the guns but it is corporations and a culture of fear. How do we fix the problem?

This is where the movie fails. Instead of answering the question, the last act of the movie is spent disparaging the noticeable feeble and old Charlton Heston. Why does Moore spend his time beating up on this man? Earlier in the movie he had determined that the problem wasn't guns. He even has a conversation with one of the Columbine victim's father who can't understand why Canada has as many guns but fewer deaths by them.

I'm going to punt on the issue of how to fix the problem just as Moore did... It's easier to disparage old people and pin it on racism.
Bowling for Columbine - Going in

There's much controversy about this movie. Is it a documentary or Micheal Moore's political soap box? Does Mr. Moore lie? Are his arguments persuasive?

I'm from a small town and therefore, I'm pro-gun by default. Individuals are responsible for themselves and we should trust them and allow them to protect themselves with firearms. Also, having grown up with guns, gun safety was integral to my upbringing. Arguments involving how scary guns are, won't convince me.

Now, living in a suburb and having lived in a city, I can see the point of anti-gun arguments. How can you trust so many people to handle gun's with care? How will Micheal get me around the 'guns don't kill people, people kill people' argument?

Mostly, I'm persuaded by arguments that correlate gun ownership with the violence of the society. Is there a high correlation? Is it correlation or causation?
Glenn Loury

Berkeley is one of the most dogmatic of places. When I was there as an undergraduate, the big debate was regarding affirmative action. You couldn't be against affirmative action without being ostracized and certainly, nobody took what you said seriously or would engage you on the subject.

It is clear that American history contains moments when, simply due to the color of one's skin, certain people were treated in awful and in some instances sub-human ways. It is also clear that these moments were responsible for building a kind of structural racism that lives on today in some or all of our institutions in one form or other. So before the civil rights movement, there were two types of racism, overt and structural. The efforts of civil rights advocates resulted in policies that in most instances have removed or drastically reduced overt racism. For example, out-right racism (of the name calling, cross-burning, lynching variety) is no longer acceptable, in any form, in the large majority of our society. The tactics that civil rights advocates used, impassioned speech of freedom and equality for all, to remove these overt racism made sense for that purpose.

The question remains of how to remove the structural racism. The answer is not obvious but it is obvious that you can't create color blind institutions by color conscious policy. The policy would be a constant reminder of the thing its trying to erase.

At Berkeley, you couldn't discuss that obvious deficit of policies like affirmative action. Like all dogmas, Berkeley's stunted true discussion and for a dogma that calls itself "progressive" it eliminates the prospects of progress.

The hope of true dialog on the subject would be to yield policies that resolve the conflict; eliminate structural racism while encouraging color-blindness.

Jobless recovery aka Productivity-cushioned recession

There's much being said of the unprecedented nature of this recovery. GDP is rising at healthy levels, but unemployment is riding high. Usually, recoveries are caused by more input being made by more workers. The current recovery is unusual because increased production is up because productivity of the folks that still have jobs is increasing, not because more people have jobs.

So this is why Arnold Kling says that the better way to describe the recovery is to not call it a recovery at all. He prefers the term "productivity-cushioned recession".

To me, the distinction is important depending on your priorities. If you think that its important for the country to have maximum employment (basically, everyone that wants a job can get one) then you prefer Kling's description of the current economy. If you believe a country should have maximum income, then you'll side with the folks that are calling this a jobless recovery.

I'm not very concerned about the unemployment rate. You have to have some unemployment rate because folks in between jobs take some time to get a new job. In some sense, the rate is an indication of how long it takes to get a job after you've lost your previous job. The very long term view on unemployment shows us to be within historical norms. The ongoing policy challenge is to find ways to make it easier for folks to switch jobs. This means it needs to be easy to find jobs and it needs to be easy to retrain folks for new/different industries.

One way to interpret the current joblessness is to see the 90's as a time when new industries were being created. In these new industries there was low barrier to entry for workers. Any Joe Schmo could learn to code html, quit his job and join the dot com craziness. This had the effect of reducing the average time between jobs. When we all sobered up and realized that there is more to it then slapping up some web pages, the bubble crashed and Joe couldn't easily find a web jockey job. This had the effect of increasing the time it took to get a job (i.e. there's no easy jobs to be taken) and thus increase the structural unemployment rate.
Confirmation bias

The greatest lesson learned is that people are locked in their own heads. This seems obvious. Everyone has their own perspective. What is less obvious is that perspective is not chosen, its innate. It's not as if every person was born, given a set of optional world views and then consciously chooses the one that suits them. Perspective forms and grows as the person grows up, influenced by family and friends. Perspective becomes integral to who a person is; you can wholly describe a person by describing how that person sees the world. There's no such thing as detachable, plug-n-play world views.

My writing teachers would tell me over and over again that I need to understand my audience. This point was always lost on me. To me, writing was expository in that I was laying down the facts. Facts are universal, understood by all. What I've come to understand is that what is fact to me may be fiction or inconsequential to another.

If I'm interested in imparting my opinion and world view on others, I would need to find a method for changing the world view of others. The brute force method of hammering out 'facts' would not do the job.

The challenge when working with others is to understand their perspective and to understand that their perspective is big part of who they are. If I want that other person to see the fact of something I see, I need to understand their point of view. While their point of view is integral to who they are, how can I make my point without butting up against who they are? Once I answer that question, I can frame my argument for them.
A new book wrestles with monogamy and its modern discontents

"Love might indeed get a better name if we were as attentive to the intellectual dishonesties of the public debate over its failings as we are to the emotional dishonesties of adulterers."

Failing at Living / It's a blackboard jungle out there: It's bad enough when the students don't want to learn, but when they can't even spell dirty words correctly, can a teacher really expect them to grasp Stephen Sondheim?

Star Telegram | 09/01/2003 | Watering the driest thing I know

Economics, dry? No!

Someday, I'm going to read Manias, Panics, and Crashes by Charles Kindleberger. It has been said that he is a great economics writer and I've already Amazon'd the book (its sitting on my growing 'to-read' pile).
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