Monday, December 8, 2008

Announcing a Bail-Out and a Merger

From January 1st 2009, The Bayesian Heresy and MTEF blog will merge.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Special Announcement

MJ will be blogging on MTEF

Useful Tool for the Day

Convert For Windows
Convert is a free and easy to use unit conversion program that will convert the most popular units of distance, temperature, volume, time, speed, mass, power, density, pressure, energy and many others, including the ability to create custom conversions!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Corruption of Intentions

Ramadan Overeating Danger

Egyptains find hope in Dubai

"This is Dubai: go to the mosque, it is full. Then go to the disco, it's also full!"

"Here you become more materialistic because the values are materialistic. It doesn't mean you stop praying, or being religious -- I'm still very religious -- but you focus on other things during the day, and religion becomes more personal. In Egypt the value system is totally different -- the mosque comes before the bank."-Amr el Shoubashy, 25 from Egypt

"It happened to me twice that I had a girl sitting in my car and then I kicked her out. I couldn't. When I overcame the temptation, I started going out and I was observing more than I was participating, watching guys run after women and getting wasted. It's hard to hold yourself back and choose not to do this. Because all my friends might be going out and I would have to choose to just stay home alone."
-Muhammad Darawy, 25, from Egypt

"I work in the snow all day, on a ski slope in the desert! ... People can hardly believe this back home, the snow, me skiing. Dubai is about freedom and work - these are the two main ideas here. For that, you have to give up a bit of your personal life, your home, your family, but it is worth it."-Hani Khaled, 27, Egyptian

"When I was in Egypt everything was up in the air. I had no purpose. I'd go to work, come home, change, eat and go out with my friends. Now, I have a much clearer purpose. Egypt was not good to us."-Rami Galal, 24, from Egypt

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pakistan- is it now a Failed State?

How Jazz Can Change Your Life

Moving to Higher Ground: How Jazz Can Change Your Life

10 Moral Paradoxes

I shall argue that sometimes it is morally permissible not to be sorry when bad things happen. It is even permissible to be happy about it. But how CAN morality say this? ["On Not Being Sorry About the Morally Bad", p.59]

Saul Smilansky and Will Winkinson on Blogging Heads
10 Moral Paradoxes
1. Fortunate Misfortune
2. The Paradox of Beneficial Retirement
3. Two Paradoxes About Justice and the Severity of Punishment
4. Blackmail: The Solution
5. The Paradox of Nonpunishment
6. On Not Being Sorry About the Morally Bad
7. Choice-Egalitarianism and the Paradox of the Baseline
8. Morality and Moral Worth
9. The Paradox of Moral Complaint
10. Preferring Not To Have Been Born
11. A Meta-Paradox: Are Paradoxes Bad?
12. Reflections On Moral Paradox
Postscript: The Future and Moral Paradox

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What does this mean?

A mule is a biological hybrid, an offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. According to a new paper, all of this cross-pollination has real benefits: mules are significantly smarter than either of their parents.

-Mules are Smarter

The Market for Medical Tourism

New figures from Deloitte LLP, an international consulting firm, show how popular the practice has become with an estimated 750,000 Americans seeking medical care abroad in 2007.

Projections indicate this number could be as high as six million by 2010.

Al Qaeda update

An in-depth examination of the evolving organism that is Al Qaeda and the US response to it- from Al Jazeera.

Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 /

Schools killing creativity?

Ken Robinson with Riz Khan

Today is September 11


"...whosoever killeth a human being shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind"- Koran (5:32)

Surprised? Regulators in bed with Regulated!

The DOJ’s inspector general’s office, run by Glenn Fine, has had one heckuva busy summer, throwing much of its resources at investigations into the legacy of political meddling at the Department. But the Interior Department’s inspector general, Earl Devaney (pictured), has been busy too. The big news today, via the WSJ: Employees of the federal agency that last year collected more than $11 billion in royalties from oil and gas companies broke government rules and created a “culture of ethical failure” by allegedly accepting gifts from and having sex with industry representatives.

A report by Devaney describes a party atmosphere at the Denver office of the Minerals Management Service, a bureau of the Interior Department. Some employees of the office, which houses the department’s royalty-in-kind program, “frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relations with oil and gas company representatives,” the report says, adding that “sexual relationships with prohibited sources cannot, by definition, be arms-length.”

The report also says that between 2002 and 2006, 19 employees in the agency’s royalty-in-kind program, roughly a third of the program’s total staff, had “socialized with and had received a wide array of gifts from oil and gas companies with whom the employees were conducting official business.” Devaney’s report said: “We discovered a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity.”

We know what you’re thinking: What’s the Minerals Management Service? As the WSJ notes, it oversees the nation’s natural-gas, oil and other mineral resources on the outer continental shelf. Its duties include drawing up leases for drilling in offshore waters. Through the royalty-in-kind, or RIK, program, the government receives oil instead of cash payments from energy companies in exchange for drilling rights.

-Report: ‘A Culture of Substance Abuse, Promiscuity’ at Oil & Gas Agency

Most Educative Economics Blog for past Month

The joint winners are Economist's View and Stephen Kinsella.

Money does buy Happiness

Recent research by economists Amy Finkelstein, Erzo Luttmer, and Matthew Notowidigdo suggests that you'll get a bigger bang for your consumer buck by spending while you're healthy, before old age starts to take the fun out of life's indulgences. Their research is part of a larger academic enterprise attempting to understand what makes us happy. Economics is a field more associated with rational calculation than emotion, but there's an ever-growing subculture of "happiness economists." Just as mainstream economists spend their time figuring out things like gross national product—how much a country produces in dollar terms—these happiness scholars churn out numbers like gross national happiness (how much happiness a country produces).

It's relatively easy to measure things like corporate profits and trade flows. Measuring a person's psychic well-being is trickier, though happiness economists take a relatively straightforward approach: For the most part, they just ask people if they're happy. They then try to figure out what makes people say yes or no. Perhaps not surprisingly, money-obsessed economists have been fixated on whether higher incomes make us happier. And after much debate, their conclusion is that money does indeed buy happiness. Or, as an economist would put it, there's a positive marginal utility of consumption. People in rich countries say they're happier than people in poor countries, and in just about every nation, the well-to-do report being happier than their impoverished counterparts.

-Spend It While You Can

Marketers finally learn

The big grocery chains are not thinking about closing their larger stores, which have been a success. But they hope to capture new business with the smaller stores, appealing to consumers on days when they do not have time for a long shopping trip.

“The average person goes shopping for 22 minutes,” said Phil Lempert, who edits, a Web site that tracks retail trends. “You can’t see 30,000 or 40,000 products. We are moving into an era when people want less assortment.”

Jim Hertel, managing partner at the firm Willard Bishop, which advises supermarkets, added, “If you’ve got 50 feet of ketchup and what you want is Hunt’s 64-ounce and you can’t find it, people get overwhelmed.”

-Miles of Aisles for Milk? Not Here

Top Econ Blogs- BH is 29th!

Another ranking of Economics Blogs- BH gets 29th place.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Ellis on American Creation and the Founding

Oil Prices and the Cost of Logistics

What do Greta Garbo, Madonna and Napoleon have in common? Why Glamour, Darling!

How Psychology Affects Our Credit Card Payments

Calomiris Says Treasury Made Right Move on Fannie

Freddie, Fannie Scam `Hidden in Broad Daylight'

Orenbuch Says $60-100 Billion Needed to Capitalize GSEs

Hendra and the bats

The Gridlock Economy

Skills, Rights and Resources in the East Asian Path to Development

The Challenge in the Middle East: An Egyptian Perspective

The Future of Social Policy: Hard Lessons from the United States

'Allah' in Malay

Romani: a stateless language
Between three and five million people speak Romani, the language spoken by the Rom people, yet it originated in India. Professor Yaron Matras explains how this Indic language is thought to have become so widespread in Europe.

Assorted on Personal Productivity

Assistive Technology

Mind2Chart: MindManager add-in for project planning

Peace of Mind

Recommended Books

Tips 'n Tricks for Windows: Simplicity of Using MindManager Pro 7 as a Single Dashboard

Stacy Keibler Correction Coefficient

Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters

One of the best Google Talks- Bill Tancer is somebody to look out for.

Mad Scientists

Mad Scientist Hall of Fame: Muwahahahaha!
- Dr. Evil: Megalomaniacal doctor with antisocial personality disorder (and pathological dislike of his own son, Scotty)
- Nikola Tesla: Real-life mad scientist with obsessive compulsive disorder (and he talked to aliens)
- Lex Luthor: Villain and supergenius with manic mood disorder (and premature baldness

Keywords: Forensic Psychology,

Monday, September 8, 2008

Let your children watch television and surf the internet

But University of Chicago Graduate School of Business economists Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro aren't sure that TV has been all that bad for kids. In a paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics this year, they presented a series of analyses that showed that the advent of television might actually have had a positive effect on children's cognitive ability.

The two are part of a tight-knit group of young economists using statistical techniques to examine how television affects society. The group's research suggests TV enabled an earlier generation of American children in non-English-speaking households to do better in school, helped rural Indian women to become more independent and contributed to lowering Brazil's fertility rate.

Mr. Gentzkow, who is 33 and doesn't own a TV set, says that figuring out how television influences children is far from straightforward.

"What are the reasons why some kids watch six hours of TV a day and some kids watch none?" he asks. "Clearly it has to do with their parents and what kind of parenting they're doing; it has to do with how smart they are and how much they like doing other things like reading; it has to do with what socioeconomic resources they have. Do they have a nanny who's taking them to the museum every day versus sitting home alone?"

-Economists Probe the Data on Television Watching And Find It's Not All Bad; Better Test Scores?

At age 26, Jesse Shapiro practices accessible economics. ‘I’m Happy to Do That.’

Economists Look at How TV Affects Time Use

Sunday, September 7, 2008

US Elections links for the Day

A visual comparison of the four acceptance speeches

The Rhetoric and the Reality

'I love her very much'- Colonel Qaddafi

In the end they met at his compound in Tripoli. After the diplomatic niceties were dealt with, Ms. Rice and Colonel Qaddafi met one on one — though with note takers and interpreters, State Department officials said — for what had been billed as a more interesting private exchange than the usual diplomatic meetings.

After all, the Libyan leader had professed his “love” for the American secretary of state. “I support my darling black African woman,” Colonel Qaddafi told the network Al Jazeera last year. “I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders.”

He continued: “Yes, Leezza, Leezza, Leezza... I love her very much.”

*The Al Jazeera interviews Ali A. Tarhouni- an economist who has a death sentence on him by Qaddafi.

Another Saudi role model, Haifaa Mansour

WOMEN Without Shadows” is a Saudi documentary directed by the Saudi film producer, Haifa Mansour. The documentary, which unfortunately cannot be publicly screened in the Kingdom, was shown to a select audience at the French Consulate in Jeddah. As the title indicates, the film is about Saudi women, their problems and their development over time.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

This and That

Econ Academics Blog

Getting It Wrong by Robert M. Solow

Open Source Textbooks Challenge a Paradigm

Flat World Knowledge

Conference Presentations By the Numbers

Give every kid a kindle? No, give them a netbook!

Shadowstats debunked

Would NYT hire me?

I want to give some competition to David Leonhardt.

Ramadan Mubarik to all Muslims

Photo: NYT

Private Truths, Public Lies in China

Author Sorman Says Most of China Hates Communist Party
Why would a French writer publish a book in the United States about China and come here? Well, we live in a global world. But also, I think there is a specific reason, which is the Alexis de Tocqueville tradition. What I did for China and what I did in other books I wrote, like the book I wrote on India, is try to follow the Tocqueville method.

The Tocqueville method requires a lot of time. It is not like being a journalist, where you spend a week somewhere, you write a paper, and the following day it is over and you change the subject. The Tocqueville method requires that you spend a lot of time with the people and listening to the people. Tocqueville, as you know, spent seven months in the United States and took four or five years to write his book.

The Tocqueville method can be applied to other countries—going there, staying there, and listening to individuals—and with this material trying maybe to generalize, to come to some general conclusions, which are meaningful to understand the country but also meaningful for all of us, some kind of general laws of evolution and of history.

So it is a bit ambitious to say that, but this book on China is very much inspired by the Tocquevillean method.

Quote of the Day

[D]emocracy does not mean and cannot mean that the people actually rule in any obvious sense of the terms 'people' and 'rule.' Democracy means only that the people have the opportunity of accepting or refusing the men who are to rule them. But since they might decide this also in entirely undemocratic ways, we have had to narrow our definition by adding a further criterion identifying the democratic method, viz., free competition among would-be leaders for the vote of the electorate.

- Schumpeter in 1942

Assorted Writing Tips

Stiglitz the Omniscient;
When writing a novel, one of the things you have to decide is point of view. If you focus on one character, your point of view might be limited to what that character sees.

One point of view for the author to take is that of an omniscient observer. As you read, you know that the author knows what is coming (you keep getting hints) and understands all sorts of things that the characters are innocent about.

Stiglitz always writes as the omniscient observer. He knows exactly what should have been done to prevent or solve each of the 100 financial crises that he cites.

This omniscient-observer vantage point has its limits. It does not convey the uncertainty and trade-offs that policymakers face in real time. For example, as the housing bubble was inflating, there were not many Congressional voices raised against lending to first-time homebuyers.

From NYT's Paper Cuts;

The Economist article contained a passage that would never pass muster in an American news story:

“Recently, independent voters passed Republicans to become the biggest group in the state. Some of this is due to Colorado’s growing Hispanic population, some of it is due to Californians and some of it reflects the general unpopularity of the national Republican Party. But there is a more important reason for the Republicans’ woes: their elected representatives are bonkers.”

To most American readers, that last sentence certainly looks like an opinion, and should never be presented as news in a responsible publication. (As an editor, I’d never let it get through.) But consider this: what if Colorado’s congressional delegation really is bonkers, and the Economist correspondent was merely doing his job by informing his readers of that “fact.” Sometimes judgments, even if they aren’t as solid as hard facts, are more than merely matters of opinion.

A long goodbye;

It seems fitting to begin with the ancestors. One of the exceptional characteristics of this newspaper is the degree to which it still follows the principles and methods begun 163 years ago by its founder, James Wilson, and perfected by his son-in-law, Walter Bagehot. The Economist was launched to campaign for free trade and all forms of liberty, what proponents and detractors alike today call globalisation, blended with what George Bush likes to call “the freedom agenda”. It did so with a formula that was three parts factual description and one part strongly held opinion or argumentative analysis. That is what we continue to attempt today.

We do not do so merely out of loyalty to our founders: if those principles had turned out to be wrong, they would have been ditched long ago. And their application must always evolve. I, for one, had Bagehot grumbling in his grave when, in 1994, we declared the British monarchy to be “an idea whose time has passed”, in flat contradiction to his great 1867 book, “The English Constitution”. But in general what is striking about the past 13 years is how strongly this period has fitted Wilson's original view, how it made his principles feel more relevant than ever, and how in some respects our world is one whose issues he would have recognised.

Writing resources;
I would recommend them in the following order:

1. William I. Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, “The Elements of Style”

2. William Zinsser, “On Writing Well”

3. Deirdre N. McCloskey, “Economical Writing”

4. Keith Hjortshoj, “The Transition to College Writing“

Team of Rivals

Doris Kearns Goodwin with Colbert

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Poverty + Fashion = ?

A man modeled a Burberry umbrella in Vogue that costs about $200. Some 456 million Indians live on less than $1.25 a day.

Vogue India editor Priya Tanna’s message to critics of the August shoot: “Lighten up,” she said in a telephone interview. Vogue is about realizing the “power of fashion” she said, and the shoot was saying that “fashion is no longer a rich man’s privilege. Anyone can carry it off and make it look beautiful,” she said.

“You have to remember with fashion, you can’t take it that seriously,” Ms. Tanna said. “We weren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world,” she said.

Nearly half of India’s population — about 456 million people — live on less than $1.25 a day, according to World Bank figures released last week. But as any well-briefed luxury goods executive or private banker knows, India also has a fast-growing wealthy class and emerging middle class that make it one of the world’s most attractive new places to sell high-end products.

The juxtaposition between poverty and growing wealth presents an unsavory dilemma for luxury goods makers jumping into India: How does one sell something like a $1,000 handbag in a country where most people will never amass that sum of money in their lives, and many are starving? The answer is not clear cut, though Vogue’s approach may not be the way to go.

Marketers need to “create brand awareness” in India, said Claudia D’Arpizio, a partner with the consulting firm Bain & Company, who is based in Milan. She recommended the approach that some consumer brand companies took in China, opening big flagship stores and trying new forms of advertising like television.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

George Washington on leadership

Be realistic about politics

Dear Sara:

Thanks for writing. I often say, quite sincerely, that I'm not cynical about politics; I'm realistic about politics.

If a stranger knocks on your door and tells you that he or she is here for the express purpose of helping you, of serving you, of making your life better -- not because of anything that he or she will gain by doing so, but because he or she believes in your goodness and knows that you deserve more than you have -- what would you think? Would you give this person the benefit of the doubt, and trust that he or she really and truly is motivated chiefly and overwhelmingly by a desire to serve you?

Would you continue to give this person the benefit of the doubt on this score when he or she informs you that, to help you, he or she must have the power to tax you and to take away some of your liberties? When he or she assures you that, by some mysterious process, he or she "feels your pain"? When he or she modestly exclaims that those other persons standing on your porch ready to make pretty much the same offer cannot possibly care about you as much as he or she cares about you -- cannot possibly have sufficient skill, determination, and wisdom to improve your life; that only he or she possesses these qualities?

Would that benefit of the doubt continue to be given when you learn that, should you decide to trust this stranger with some of your wealth and your liberties, he or she will get lots of prestige and acclaim and applause simply because he or she holds power over you?

And would you persist in giving this person the benefit of the doubt when, should you ask probing questions about his or her motives or about inconsistencies you believe to have spotted in the plans he or she laid out for helping you, he or she suddenly begins dissembling or speaking in platitudes or vague generalities, or launches into stories of his or her past glory in some endeavor or other that has little to do with the power that he or she now seeks from you?

I suspect, Sara, that should such a person arrive at your door and deliver such a spiel to you that you'd quickly slam the door in his or her face, convinced (and correctly so) that that person is either an utter goofball or a supremely arrogant busybody. You'd want nothing at all to do with him or her, and if he or she persisted in knocking on your door you'd call the police or your bouncer-friend Bubba to escort this obnoxious person as far away from your home as possible.

So, if you'd not give such a person the benefit of the doubt, why in the world are you surprised that I don't give Barack Obama, John McCain, or any other successful politician you care to name the benefit of the doubt?

Don Boudreaux

The Plight of Dalits

There are about 200 million Dalits, or members of the Scheduled Castes, as they are known officially, in India. They remain socially scorned in city and country, and they are over-represented among India's uneducated, malnourished and poor.

Yoga for bloggers

Yoga for Computer Users: Healthy Necks, Shoulders, Wrists, and Hands in the Postmodern Age

How to dog-train your kids

One of the best TED talks;

The Anti-Cesar Millan
Sirius Dog Training, as Dunbar called it, showed proven positive results from early off-leash training. His classes, and the resulting video, were embraced by trainers and owners alike. Many say Sirius spurred the demise of punitive, punishment-based training that was the vogue after World War II. In 1993, Dunbar founded the Association of Pet Dog Trainers whose mission is to promote better training through education.

The return to dominance training such as Millan's, Dunbar says, is a disservice to dogs more than anything else. Though Millan gets results, Dunbar notes that most people don't have Millan's strength or skill, and even fewer keep dozens of dogs. "I teach methods that a supervised 4-year-old can use," Dunbar says. Having been called as a witness in high-profile Bay Area bite trials -- he was one of a team who evaluated one of the dogs involved in the deadly attack on Diane Whipple in 2001 -- he is all too familiar with the violent underbelly of dog aggression. Fear, he underscores, doesn't train a reliable dog.

Claudia Kawczynska, editor of Bark magazine, is one of Dunbar's many fans. "It's irritating to see Millan treated as the expert. Ian is an animal behaviorist with decades of experience," she says, "He should be where Millan is." Kawczynska likens the Millan cult of personality and popularity to the anti-science, anti-academic sentiment she sees prevalent in American culture and politics. "Millan lived on a farm, so what? He's good looking, but he's not smart about dogs. It seems people don't want their experts to be educated."

Dunbar refuses to comment on whether his lack of profile is due to his weighty credentials, though a Millan fan on Gladwell's blog says the backlash against the Dog Whisperer is "because Malcolm had written about the unschooled Millan rather than a string of PhDs that the average person has never heard of -- and never will."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Not ready yet?

He Is ‘Ready to Be President,’ Bill Clinton Says;
Barack Obama is the man for this job,” Mr. Clinton says.

Barack Obama is ready to lead America,” he says, a line that brings the conventioneers to their feet. And here’s the money quote: “Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States.”

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Blog of the Day

Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise

City at the end of Time

Go Fug Yourself

Finding the "Ultimate Blogs": An interview with Sarah Boxer

Blogs- a book review;
We've Got Blog: How Weblogs Are Changing Our Culture
compiled and edited by John Rodzvilla, with an introduction by Rebecca Blood

Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob
by Lee Siegel 2.0
by Cass R. Sunstein

by David D. Perlmutter

The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet
by Daniel J. Solove

We're All Journalists Now: The Transformation of the Press and Reshaping of the Lawin the Internet Age
by Scott Gant

Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World
by Hugh Hewitt

The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet Is Killing Our Culture
by Andrew Keen

Naked Conversations: How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers
by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, foreword by Tom Peters

Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution Is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture
by David Kline and Dan Burstein

Inside USA

US Agriculture

American Education

David Horowitz vs Hussein Ibish

The Private Armies of Iraq

The market value 100 billion dollars;

Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq
by David Isenberg

Private Sector, Public Wars: Contractors in Combat - Afghanistan, Iraq, and Future Conflicts (The Changing Face of War)
by James Jay Carafano

Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
by Jeremy Scahill

Sending Mercenaries Into Darfur?

The Award for protesters in China

One in year jail for 79 year old illiterate lady- and electricity was also cut from her apartment.

Meanwhile Chinese youth embrace Communism;

The first rule of politicians

Politicians do what they do to stay in office or come to office

From a debate in 2007, a clip shows Mr. Biden standing next to Mr. Obama. George Stephanopoulos of ABC News queried Mr. Biden: “You were asked, “Is he ready?” You said, ‘I think he can be ready but right now, I don’t believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training.’”

Mr. Biden: “I think that I stand by the statement.”

In addition, the McCain ad uses footage from another TV appearance, where Mr. Biden said, “I would be honored to run with or against John McCain, because I think the country would be better off.”

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke's Fed: The Federal Reserve After Greenspan

The Return of the Macroblog


Advise to the Young Economist

For those of you who have yet to encounter Gordon's scholarship, I urge you to purchase and to read, cover to cover, the 10 volume Selected Works of Gordon Tullock, that I recently edited for Liberty Fund. There is no better education for a young economist aspiring to contribute in the tradition of Virginia Political Economy, no better introduction into the ways of truly creative Renaissance Scholarship.

-Gordon Tullock is Retiring (an alternative title could be Gordon Tulllock is becoming more polite)

Your China reading list

The Globalist's Top Books on China

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Photo of the Day- The Cult of Obama?

Everything seems new to those too young to remember the old and too ignorant of history to have heard about it
- Thomas Sowell

The Future of Pakistan

by Shuja Nawaz

War on Drugs in Bolivia

The field of telomere research

the emergence of a new field of scientific research on the specialized ends of chromosomes and the telomerase enzyme that extends them.

Reading for the Day

How Obama Reconciles Dueling Views on Economy

Gorbachev on Georgia-Russia war

Russia did not want this crisis. The Russian leadership is in a strong enough position domestically; it did not need a little victorious war. Russia was dragged into the fray by the recklessness of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He would not have dared to attack without outside support. Once he did, Russia could not afford inaction.

-Mikhail Gorbachev

Kissinger on Kissinger and Nixon

Former U.S. Secretary of State and Nobel Prize winner Dr. Henry Kissinger joined CEO Eric Schmidt for a fireside chat at Google's Mountain View, CA headquarters

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What would an Obama loss mean?

Obama Pessimism with Glenn Loury and John McWhorter

Link of the Day

The Massacre Map;

On the night of June 3-4, 1989, troops of China’s People’s Liberation Army moved into Beijing to crush the pro-democracy demonstrations that began in April of that year. The number killed remains unknown although estimates range from several hundred to several thousand. The government of the People’s Republic of China insists that the demonstrators were counter-revolutionary criminals. Tens of thousands were imprisoned in the political crackdown that followed.

Islam in China


"One number, one painting - the number is the art is the limit is the price."

Trading on the female body


Confessions of a Serial Egg Donor
by Julia Derek

What the future holds for Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda

Shortly after 9/11, a Russian scientist named Dmitri Gusev proposed an explanation for the origin of the name Al Qaeda. He suggested that the terrorist organization took its name from Isaac Asimov’s famous 1950s science fiction novels known as the Foundation Trilogy. After all, he reasoned, the Arabic word “qaeda” means something like “base” or “foundation.” And the first novel in Asimov’s trilogy, Foundation, apparently was titled “al-Qaida” in an Arabic translation.

-A Beautiful Math: John Nash, Game Theory, and the Modern Quest for a Code of Nature

Hope in Obama's father's land

The War nobody cared about

The battle for peace in Northern Uganda

Podcast of the Day

Pitt Says Raising Capital for Fannie, Freddie Is `In Jeopardy'
Harvey Pitt, former chairman of the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission, talks with Bloomberg's Tom Keene about the role of the SEC, the U.S. financial industry, and the outlook for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Ownership Congestion? Tragedy of Anticommons?

A former World Banker;
Well, I’ve been finding ownership puzzles in a host of disparate places, like waiting around in airports and wondering why we don’t build more runways. Just 25 new runways at our busiest airports would solve most air travel delays. Why don’t we build them? In Europe, for instance, I started thinking about why cell phones work so much better there than here. The answer, in part, is that over 90 percent of our prime spectrum is dead air. Talking to research scientists I asked why we have so many pharmaceutical patents today but so few new drugs that actually help people. My students clued me in to another puzzle: why has African-American farm ownership dropped 98 percent in the last century? And why are so many old television shows, like China Beach and WKRP in Cincinnati, still not available on DVD? Turns out, all of these problems are really the same problem. Private ownership usually creates wealth. But too much ownership has the opposite effect – it creates gridlock. Once people see this free market paradox, once we have a shared language for gridlock, we can begin to talk about it and then to fix it...

A drug company executive tells me he may have a better Alzheimer’s treatment. But to get FDA approval and bring it to market, he has to license dozens and dozens of patents relevant to testing for safety and side effects. So negotiations fail and the Alzheimer’s drug sits on a shelf, even though my informant is confident it could save countless lives and earn billions of dollars.

Very few people or organizations are speaking out against this – against the underuse of property rights. Whom do you lobby for drugs that don’t yet exist or for cures that people can’t yet see? Gridlock, that is, resource underuse, is invisible in comparison with overuse – everyone can see the dramatic results of fisheries being depleted or air being polluted. But with wasteful underuse, the effects are almost always hidden. So when drugs, wireless services, DVDs, and runways go missing, we don’t really have champions ready to set it right. The flip side of gridlock is that it’s one of the great entrepreneurial and political opportunities of our era....

The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives, Michael Heller

The legal framework for private sector development in a transitional economy : the case of Poland

The Liberal Commons

Can Patents Deter Innovation? The Anticommons in Biomedical Research

Eminent Domain and the New York Times

Symmetric Tragedies: Commons and Anticommons
James M. Buchanan and Yong J. Yoon

Monday, August 18, 2008

The End of Suburbia

via 2blowhards

Who would you hire- an economist or a psychologist

Charlie Rose asks some of the best macroeconomists;

'If in fact you just simply want to make a lot of money,.. would you rather have a mind that is brilliant about the economy or would you rather have a mind that is brilliant about understanding human psychology'

Bubbles, entry in The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

Lectures and Talks

Reviving the Invisible Hand: the case for classical liberalism in the 21st century

Principles and Practice of Global Economic Governance
Prof. Jose Antonio Ocampo, former UN Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, currently Professor in the Professional Practice of International and Public Affairs at SIPA, Columbia University

Understanding tribal warfare: Kenya

The Natural State
Prof. Douglass C. North

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a window into human nature

Public Diplomacy in the Twenty-First Century

Democracy and Autocracy in Eurasia: Georgia in Transition

Finance in East Asia: from crisis to integration - challenges of second generation reforms

Good Governance
Prof. Jobst Fiedler, Associate Dean, Hertie School of Governance

A discussion about the Federal Reserve
Markus Brunnermeier, Wei Xiong, Harrison Hong

The Price of Political Connections

To illustrate our approach in action, let’s take a trip to Indonesia and turn the clock back to 1996. Former President Suharto, who by then had ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly 30 years, would be forced to step down a few years later. However, in 1996, Suharto’s government still exercised tight control over the economy: The president decided who could get loans, log for timber, build toll roads, or import rice. In other words, he decided who would make money and how much. If ever there were a time or place where we’d expect the market to place a value on connections, this would be it.

But the aging dictator was in poor health. And because none of his kids or cronies was seen as a capable successor, any leader who followed Suharto would be unlikely to honor (or enforce) the cozy business relationships established under his rule. Any threat to Suharto would translate into a threat to the value of connections, and bets would be placed accordingly.

And indeed, Indonesian investors didn’t disappoint. On July 4, 1996, the Indonesian government announced that Suharto was traveling to Germany for a health checkup. That may not sound like much, but who travels 10 time zones to get his pulse taken? Investors at the stock exchange were inundated with rumors that Suharto had already suffered a stroke or heart attack. The Jakarta composite index, an indicator of Indonesian stocks’ overall performance, much like New York’s Dow Jones Industrial Average, fell 2.3 percent on the day of the news.

What was merely bad for Indonesian stocks turned out to be devastating for well-connected companies. One such firm was Bimantara Citra, a media conglomerate run by Suharto’s son, Bambang Trihatmodjo. In the weeks leading up to the July 4th announcement, both the Jakarta exchange and the price of Bimantara Citra bounced around a bit, not gaining or losing very much value. Then, with the market awash with rumors in the first week of July, Bimantara’s stock price took a nose dive. The prospect of the company without its connections had shareholders dumping their stock and running for the exits, driving its price down more than 10 percent in just a few days, obliterating about $100 million of its value. (As the chart shows, Bimantara starts its steep slide even before the announcement, probably reflecting early selling by those with close ties to the Suharto family or his doctors.)

One can just imagine what would have happened to Bimantara shares if the 75-year-old Suharto had died suddenly. In fact, our estimates, based on stock returns during a number of Suharto health scares, suggest that a complete severing of Suharto connections would have resulted in a 25 percent loss for similarly well-connected companies. How much is 25 percent of a company’s value? When Apple announced its iPhone to great fanfare in 2007, its shares went up 8 percent; when Pfizer was unexpectedly forced to withdraw its bestselling antibiotic Trovan in 1999, its shares fell 10 percent. So, connections in Indonesia were worth a lot more than a blockbuster new drug or the next big technology gadget—or even both of them combined.

Of course, Suharto’s government was considered one of the most corrupt dictatorships of its time, so we should not make generalizations based only on its extreme example. Luckily, researchers have since created market-based measures of political connections in many other countries. Mara Faccio, an economist at Purdue University, has measured the value of political connections for nearly every country with a well-functioning stock market. She has followed the political careers of business tycoons (and the business careers of politicians), traced bloodlines to detect family ties, and read the society columns of local newspapers to track who dines with whom. Her conclusion? Close political-corporate ties exist in nearly every country. In Russia, fully 87 percent of the Moscow stock exchange’s value is in companies with close Kremlin connections. Maybe this isn’t such a shock in the unruly capitalism of post-Soviet Russia. More surprisingly, nearly 40 percent of the London Stock Exchange is politically connected.

-How Economics Can Defeat Corruption by Raymond Fisman, Edward Miguel

Nigeria's child 'witches'


A conversation with Austan Goolsbee- Charlie Rose show


John Taylor on Monetary Policy

El-Erian Says Banks Face Harder Time Raising Capital
El-Erian's latest book, ``When Markets Collide: Investment Strategies for the Age of Global Economic Change.''

The Stuff of Thought with Steven Pinker

Georgia revisited

Confessions of a subprime lender

Chinese repression of Falung Gong

Paying to be permanent

A high number of people who get Australian permanent resident visas don't get the skilled jobs they are trained for. And there are scams aplenty in the world of international students looking for any way to stay here.

Objective truth
For a long time now, it has been fashionable to say that what science offers is not a true mirror of nature but a distorting mirror, reflecting our presuppositions, prejudices and politics. But can we take the criticisms on board while still maintaining a belief in objective truth? We meet a philosopher who says we can. Also, objectivity and the arts: can artistic judgments ever be objective or is it all down to just knowing what you like?

Uprootedness and national conflicts

he French philosopher and social activist Simone Weil identified the basic human need for roots as crucial. Uprootedness and disapora in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians have shaped the narratives about the past and the future on both sides. Jonathan Glover, a Professor of Philosophy at King's College London has been in Australia to deliver the annual Simone Weil lecture on human value

The Wallace-Darwin papers on biological evolution - 150 years ago

Lung transplant
Australia has one of the highest success rates in organ and tissue transplantation, but it also has one of the world's lowest donation rates. About 3,000 Australians are on the official organ and tissue transplant waiting list and 20% of the people waiting for a heart, lung or liver transplant will die before they receive one. ABC journalist Phil Ashley Brown met a patient 20 minutes after she received the good news that she would get new lungs and he follows her progress through the transplant and recovery

Picture this!

Images by the illustrator and author Shaun Tan adorn the Children's Book Council's advertising for this year's Book Week (16-22 August, 2008). Reflecting on his fascination with both writing and painting, he reveals his thoughts on visual literacy and about creating an intimate distance between words and pictures.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Meet Terry O'Neill

Terry O'Neill with Riz Khan

Power Point creator gives advice on work-life balance

MJ: But then how did you balance your work and the rest of your life?

RG: It seems to me most people choose the wrong time periods for thinking about work/life balance. The usual discussion is about achieving a balance every day or every week. That just dilutes and compromises both your work and the rest of your life. A startup is a chance to balance out your work and life over many decades. If you can work, say, five times as effectively as other people (which is hard), and if you can get paid for that, you have the possibility to compress your working life into 9 years instead of 45 years—that will give you an extra 36 years with no work commitments at all, free to travel and choose your own interests. Most of the early PowerPoint people have had careers something like that, working flat-out for a few years and then having long periods of discretionary time. Balance in this form can make up for a lot of all-nighters during the startup.

The Traffic Guru

Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us

Which one do you think is the American cover and which is the British cover?

Welcome to The Dark Side

We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.
- Vice President Dick Cheney

A review of THE DARK SIDE: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American IdealsBy Jane Mayer.


Hanif Kureishi;
Kureishi’s latest novel, “Something to Tell You,” which will be published in the United States later this month, is his most ambitious book since “The Black Album.” A sprawling romp set in London, it centers on Jamal, an Anglo-Pakistani Freudian analyst confronting certain unresolved questions about his past. Along the way, his best friend, Henry, takes up with Jamal’s sister, Miriam, a petty drug dealer and distributor of porn videos and other items that fell off the back of a truck. Everyone is swept up in a wave of late-onset kinkiness. As in so much of Kureishi’s work, there’s a lot of sex here. Little is left to the imagination. At one point, Jamal goes to a basement sex club, its walls covered in whips and costumes, and asks a prostitute to dress like a British Airways hostess. While he waits for the Viagra and the painkillers to kick in, the prostitute tells him she’s working toward a master’s degree. “She was ‘doing’ decadence and apocalypse, always a turn-of-the-century preoccupation, along with calls for a ‘return to the family,’ ” Kureishi writes. “Unfortunately, this millennium, our fears had turned out to be realities. It had been worse than we imagined.”

In our conversation, Kureishi described the novel as “a critique of the notion of limitless pleasure,” a re-examination of the sexual revolution. “Is this what we thought we would be in the ’60s when were dancing around with flowers in our hair wanting a more erotic and a more sexual life?” he said as he drank his peppermint tea. “If the society doesn’t install the values anymore,” he went on to say, “your happiness and your pleasure is entirely up to you; you have to work and earn it and install your own moral values.” This, he pointed out, accounts for a common “complaint of the West against radical Islam: ‘Why do they have to keep asking God? Why can’t they, as it were, make up their own minds?’ Well, it’s much harder to install your own moral values than to have them imposed by other people or by the system.” Things were “miserable” when he was growing up in the ’60s before the sexual revolution, Kureishi said, but now, he added, “we’ve moved from repression to unrepression” — which comes with its own strictures.

As is clear from his new novel, Kureishi often uses a psychoanalytic lens. He himself has been in therapy since the ’90s — “you start to feel better after about 10 years,” he joked — and related that it has been “very stimulating in terms of ideas” and “ways of seeing the world.” But for him, the return of the repressed transcends Freudian cliché. It’s a crucial theme, a key to understanding recent history, not just family dynamics. In Kureishi’s view, radical Islam and radical sexuality intersect. “They produce each other in some way,” he said. Indeed, to Kureishi, the rise of radical Islam is nothing less than the return of the repressed writ large. “You can’t help but laugh,” he told me. “The project of the West, the Nietzschean project, has been to drive out religion and to produce a secular society in which men and women make their own values because morality is gone. Then suddenly radical religion returns from the Third World. How can you not laugh at that? How can you not find that a deep historical irony?”...
Writing runs in the Kureishi family. Hanif’s father, who worked for decades as a civil servant at the Pakistani Embassy in London, was an aspiring writer who remained unpublished. Kureishi wrote “My Ear at His Heart,” his 2004 memoir about his father, after his agent, Deborah Rogers, gave him a manuscript his father once submitted to her. Fathers and sons remain a deep and abiding theme. Kureishi’s own family life is not uncomplicated. His 1998 novella, “Intimacy,” is a brutal account of a man on the eve of leaving his partner and two small sons for a beautiful younger woman — as Kureishi himself had done. (Over the years, Kureishi has been criticized for misogyny and emotional cruelty, not least for the number he does on the woman left behind in “Intimacy.”) Today, Kureishi lives in a row house with his partner, Monique Proudlove, and their 10-year-old son, Kier, while Sachin and Carlo, his 14-year-old twin sons from his earlier relationship with Tracey Scoffield, a film-and-television producer, are often around.

After breakfast at the local cafe, I persuade Kureishi to let me see his house and study. Earlier, he told me he was reluctant to have me “round” since “the missus” doesn’t like journalists, but it quickly becomes clear from Proudlove, a self-possessed woman with slate-gray eyes who greets us in the entrance hall, that it’s Kureishi who’s protective of his privacy. In the living room, which is dominated by a drum kit, I was struck by the juxtaposition of books on the shelf: some novels by Henry James, Caroline Moorehead’s biography of Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Situations” next to Naipaul’s “Among the Believers” next to Roger Scruton’s “Sexual Desire: A Moral Philosophy of the Erotic.” Definitely guidebooks to Kureishiland. The writer works in a roomy study upstairs, its walls filled with images: a photo of the young John Lennon, a poster of a painting by William Blake, a Matisse-like painting of Monique. There are stacks of CDs on the desk — Prince, Jeff Buckley, the soundtrack to “Trainspotting” — and some photos of Kureishi’s sons. Above the desk I also notice a small black-and-white image: a man on his knees, his face firmly planted between the legs of a naked woman.

This is not surprising. Kureishi’s books are extremely raunchy. Nearly every page you turn, someone is being fellated, spanked, tugged on — or is thinking about it. Nipples are clamped. Wax is dripped. Things are inserted into places you would hardly have imagined possible. In the ’70s, Kureishi even wrote literary pornography under the pen name Antonia French. I ask him about his interest in pornography, which seems to go beyond the strictly anthropological. “When I was a kid and you wanted to come into contact with something sexy or dirty, you’d read a book,” Kureishi said. “Can you imagine?” Harold Robbins, Henry Miller, the Marquis de Sade. “D. H. Lawrence, can you imagine, as a sexual aid?” Today, literary pornography is a lost art, he says, but dirty pictures are available everywhere. “The much more interesting question might be, ‘What else is it that people need to make a life?’ It might be very easy to find sexual satisfaction, but getting someone to love you for a long time or loving someone might be more interesting.” This is a thoughtful observation — but it doesn’t entirely answer the question.

Nouriel Roubini;
On a cold and dreary day last winter, I met Roubini over lunch in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City. “I’m not a pessimist by nature,” he insisted. “I’m not someone who sees things in a bleak way.” Just looking at him, I found the assertion hard to credit. With a dour manner and an aura of gloom about him, Roubini gives the impression of being permanently pained, as if the burden of what he knows is almost too much for him to bear. He rarely smiles, and when he does, his face, topped by an unruly mop of brown hair, contorts into something more closely resembling a grimace.

When I pressed him on his claim that he wasn’t pessimistic, he paused for a moment and then relented a little. “I have more concerns about potential risks and vulnerabilities than most people,” he said, with glum understatement. But these concerns, he argued, make him more of a realist than a pessimist and put him in the role of the cleareyed outsider — unsettling complacency and puncturing pieties.

Roubini, who is 50, has been an outsider his entire life. He was born in Istanbul, the child of Iranian Jews, and his family moved to Tehran when he was 2, then to Tel Aviv and finally to Italy, where he grew up and attended college. He moved to the United States to pursue his doctorate in international economics at Harvard. Along the way he became fluent in Farsi, Hebrew, Italian and English. His accent, an inimitable polyglot growl, radiates a weariness that comes with being what he calls a “global nomad.”

As a graduate student at Harvard, Roubini was an unusual talent, according to his adviser, the Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs. He was as comfortable in the world of arcane mathematics as he was studying political and economic institutions. “It’s a mix of skills that rarely comes packaged in one person,” Sachs told me. After completing his Ph.D. in 1988, Roubini joined the economics department at Yale, where he first met and began sharing ideas with Robert Shiller, the economist now known for his prescient warnings about the 1990s tech bubble.

The ’90s were an eventful time for an international economist like Roubini. Throughout the decade, one emerging economy after another was beset by crisis, beginning with Mexico’s in 1994. Panics swept Asia, including Thailand, Indonesia and Korea, in 1997 and 1998. The economies of Brazil and Russia imploded in 1998. Argentina’s followed in 2000. Roubini began studying these countries and soon identified what he saw as their common weaknesses. On the eve of the crises that befell them, he noticed, most had huge current-account deficits (meaning, basically, that they spent far more than they made), and they typically financed these deficits by borrowing from abroad in ways that exposed them to the national equivalent of bank runs. Most of these countries also had poorly regulated banking systems plagued by excessive borrowing and reckless lending. Corporate governance was often weak, with cronyism in abundance.

Roubini’s work was distinguished not only by his conclusions but also by his approach. By making extensive use of transnational comparisons and historical analogies, he was employing a subjective, nontechnical framework, the sort embraced by popular economists like the Times Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz in order to reach a nonacademic audience. Roubini takes pains to note that he remains a rigorous scholarly economist — “When I weigh evidence,” he told me, “I’m drawing on 20 years of accumulated experience using models” — but his approach is not the contemporary scholarly ideal in which an economist builds a model in order to constrain his subjective impressions and abide by a discrete set of data. As Shiller told me, “Nouriel has a different way of seeing things than most economists: he gets into everything.”

Roubini likens his style to that of a policy maker like Alan Greenspan, the former Fed chairman who was said (perhaps apocryphally) to pore over vast quantities of technical economic data while sitting in the bathtub, looking to sniff out where the economy was headed. Roubini also cites, as a more ideologically congenial example, the sweeping, cosmopolitan approach of the legendary economist John Maynard Keynes, whom Roubini, with only slight exaggeration, calls “the most brilliant economist who never wrote down an equation.” The book that Roubini ultimately wrote (with the economist Brad Setser) on the emerging market crises, “Bailouts or Bail-Ins?” contains not a single equation in its 400-plus pages.