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.

Parenting Advice from Economists

Winning is Everything

Winning isn't Everything;
Joshua Gans is 'over the moon' because his daughter won a sports event. With some qualifications he asserts winning is everything. Its a very American attitude and I don't agree at all particularly in relation to kids sport where I think the key objective for the vast majority of kids is to participate - to enjoy participating in a healthy activity. Assuming Joshua's type of elation feeds back into the incentives influencing participation decisions by youth it seems to me unhealthy for those who don't really need to win and don't in fact win. The key reward from sport is to the individual in terms of enhanced individual physical potentiality not their ability to rank themselves ahead of other competitors.

Nor, for that matter, am I overly concerned with the signalling function of education - the important issue is to add value not to order students 1,2,...N. Again the ordering is irrelevant because it does not map into something that reflects significant value in any field of life. From an individualistic perspective the point is to realise individual potential not to be able to rank yourself ahead of the other guy.

The King of Bollywood in New York

There is no American equivalent to this spectacle, in which actors, joined by dozens of dancers, recreate musical numbers from popular movies. Here, all talents — acting, singing, dancing — are equal. Well, not always singing; in most Bollywood films, vocals are provided by playback singers while the stars on screen lip-sync...

Though the musicians remained onstage for Amitabh Bachchan’s first solo set, they were less consequential. His appearance was more an exercise in collective memory than a great performance. A star of stratospheric proportions, he was celebrated with hagiographical videos and voice-overs. (“Even the way he stands makes an impact.” “They aped his hairstyle.”) The younger Mr. Bachchan performed one of his father’s best-known routines, from “Don,” while images from that film flashed on a screen behind him.

With a silver goatee and short dark hair, the elder Mr. Bachchan cut an august figure. But he, too, was not immune to the pulls of legacy. Toward the end of the show, in a segment that was part spoken-word performance, part “Inside the Actors Studio,” he discussed his own parents with emotion. First, he recited a few lines of “Agneepath,” a poem by his father, Harivansh Rai Bachchan, which was, he said, “written to inspire the Indians.” (Friday was the 61st anniversary of Indian independence.)

Then he spoke about his mother, who died last year, and slipped into his character from the film “Deewaar,” who prays for his mother’s health. As Mr. Bachchan delivered the lines, his voice grew deep, mean and improbably raspy. And then, just as quickly as he had begun, he snapped back to normal and was greeted with the night’s most sincere standing ovation. On a night full of carefully choreographed moments, this blatant blast of acting also proved to be the truest.

-Movie Stars Take to the Stage, Giving ’Em the Old Bollywood Razzle-Dazzle

Friday, August 15, 2008

IT Age and narrowing of science?

Electronic Publication and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship
James A. Evans

Online journals promise to serve more information to more dispersed audiences and are more efficiently searched and recalled. But because they are used differently than print—scientists and scholars tend to search electronically and follow hyperlinks rather than browse or peruse—electronically available journals may portend an ironic change for science. Using a database of 34 million articles, their citations (1945 to 2005), and online availability (1998 to 2005), I show that as more journal issues came online, the articles referenced tended to be more recent, fewer journals and articles were cited, and more of those citations were to fewer journals and articles. The forced browsing of print archives may have stretched scientists and scholars to anchor findings deeply into past and present scholarship. Searching online is more efficient and following hyperlinks quickly puts researchers in touch with prevailing opinion, but this may accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas built upon.

The Miseducation of Robert S. McNamara

He was a brilliant student at the University of California and at Harvard Business School, where he became a member of the HBS faculty. McNamara was a devotee of managerial control, an expertise he applied in his work at the Ford Motor Company and later at the Department of Defense as secretary in President John F. Kennedy's cabinet.

His mantra was measurement. As secretary of defense, McNamara developed, along with key subordinates, including Robert Anthony of the HBS control faculty, long-range procurement cycles. He even tried to get the U.S. Navy to subscribe to a common aircraft for the three branches of the military. The Navy refused to go along, since this branch was concerned about aircraft operating from carriers.

McNamara urged field commanders in Vietnam to apply measurement to enemy losses, but did not realize until it was too late that the measurements were unreliable to assess enemy losses. The most reliable assessments came from correspondents like Neil Sheehan and David Halberstam. McNamara published a book years after he retired to reassess the Vietnam War and his role in it as secretary of defense. His main theme was the failure to examine critically the assumptions leading to U.S. involvement in this disaster. Editorial writers took no pains to spare McNamara's feelings.

The moral I took away from his story is to avoid the perils of the fox and its reliance on a single belief, in this case measurement, and the technology of control.

-The Inner Life of Leaders

Tropic Thunder

Good luck

Lugo 'to end' Paraguay corruption

I've been warning the world- Saakashvili

Russia: Georgia will lose South Ossetia

Podcast of the Day

Nassim Taleb Says Crisis Continues Until Banks' Management Changes

Nuke, Kooks and Democracy in Iran

Abbas Milani's talk will be "Nuke, Kooks and Democracy in Iran: a discussion of Iran's current political situation, and the prospects of democracy, and a resolution of the country's nuclear program." His most recent book is Tales of Two Cities: A Persian Memoir.

-Iran signed an agreement with MIT to train 100 nuclear scientists in 1976
-Khomeni stopped the program after the revolution, started it after Saddam's use of chemical weapons (and when the world ignored it).

Islamic Republic of Iran: 2008 Article IV Consultation - Staff Report

Islamic Republic of Iran: Selected Issues

Job description for a Goddess

Despite being revered as a powerful Hindu divinity, the Himalayan state's Royal Kumari has no option but to step down once she reaches puberty. Because Preeti Shakya, the current holder of the centuries-old role, has reached her 11th birthday, the race is on to find a replacement before the end of the summer...

The job criteria are rigorous: Kumaris, who are typically selected as toddlers, must have a voice “as soft and clear as a duck's”, “the body of a Banyan tree” and “the chest of a lion”. The 32 prerequisite physical “perfections” also include flawless skin, hair, eyes and teeth. A suitable horoscope is mandatory and being afraid of the dark is not allowed.

-Nepal seeks new child goddess

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Night of the Gun

Me and My Girls

The Gift of Time

The Gift of Time-Letters from a Father
By Jorge Ramos

Blaming Monica Goodling

Poverty Measurement

a sensible way to measure poverty?

Top Reformer goes at it again

Moments after President Bush appeared at the Rose Garden to say that the Pentagon would begin a humanitarian aid mission to support Georgia, Mr. Saakashvili was on the phone with a Western reporter, talking fast. “This is a turning point,” he said. Soon he appeared on national television, his tousled hair combed back flat and wearing a freshly pressed suit, assuring his country that the worst had passed.

No matter that Russian troops were 30 miles away, milling on the road outside the capital, meeting no resistance. Mr. Saakashvili was in cocky form in an interview later in the evening with reporters, expounding on Nazi propaganda, Orwell and the film “Dr. Strangelove.”

“Russians should see that this is not a demoralized, you know, nervous panicking capital that is just scared,” he said. “Shops are open. There are no lines for gas stations. Prices are not up.”

He added, “We will fight to the end, until the last Russian soldier leaves Georgian soil and this country is not going to be brought to the knees anymore. We are not surrendering, no matter what.”

Mr. Saakashvili’s latest show of bravado came only a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she and a special State Department envoy had explicitly and repeatedly warned him not to take any military action against Georgian separatists that might provoke Russia, cautioning that the United States was not prepared to back him militarily if he did. He also appeared to exaggerate the Pentagon’s planned relief operation, making it seem larger and further developed than it was.

“We already saw U.S. Air Force landing in Georgia despite Russians controlling the airspace,” he said, after a C-17 had touched down. “And we will see U.S. military ships entering Georgian ports despite Russians blocking it. That we will see.” He added, “These will be serious military ships.”

Q & A on Georgia

Economics … by John McCain


The great grammar debate
Is learning formal grammar essential to becoming a good writer and communicator? Or is it more important to develop a feeling for language that can be applied in different contexts?

John Milton: 400 Years On

Restructuring secondary education

Being your own therapist - Buddhist style

Is being gay in your biology?

Cuba: socialism with salsa

Post traumatic stress disorder

Oral cancer

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

Pole to Pole: A vet on the ice with seals

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

Buckminster Fuller

Chinese contemporary art

State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century

Goldman Says Economic Recovery Requires More Saving

Public Bailout of Bank’s Recklessness
In response to the ongoing sub-prime crisis, the recently published Crosby Report recommends that the Government uses public money to swap bank’s seriously damaged mortgage-backed securities for pristine government bonds. Matthew Watson from the Department of Politics and International Studies at Warwick University talks about these recommendations, and how the global ‘credit crunch’ is affecting Labour’s popularity with the electorate.

Chilli, Chocolate, and Chips: Foods that Originate from the New World

South Korea’s Cram Schools

“Min-ju, do your best! Fighting!” Mr. Chung shouted as his daughter disappeared into the building. Min-ju turned around and raised a clenched fist. “Fighting!” she shouted back.

South Koreans say their obsession to get their children into top-notch universities is nothing short of “a war
.” Nowhere is that zeal better illustrated than in cram schools like Jongro Yongin Campus, located in a sparsely populated suburb of Yongin, 25 miles south of Seoul.

Most Jongro students are “jaesoo sang,” or “study-again students.” Having failed to get into the university of their choice, they are preparing relentlessly for next year’s entrance examination. Some try and try again, for three years running after graduating from high school.

The Jongro school pursues a strategy of isolation, cut off from competing temptations of any sort. Its curriculum is so tightly regulated and the distractions so few that students say they have no option but to study.

“Sending Min-ju here was not an ideal, but an inevitable choice,” said Mr. Chung, a 50-year-old accountant. “In our country, college entrance exams determine 70 to 80 percent of a person’s future. It’s a sad reality. But you have to acknowledge it; otherwise you hurt your children’s future.”

Admission to the right university can make or break an ambitious young South Korean. The university that students attend in their 20s can determine the jobs they get and the money they make in their 50s. The top-tier schools — Seoul National, Korea and Yonsei Universities, collectively known as SKY— may hardly register on global lists of the best in higher education. But here, their diplomas are a ticket of admission, an envied status symbol and a badge of pride for graduates and parents.

The life of a South Korean child, from kindergarten to high school, is dominated by the need to excel in standardized entrance examinations for college. The system is so demanding that it is credited with fueling the nation’s outstanding economic success. It is also widely criticized for the psychological price it exacts from young people. Among young people 10 to 19, suicide is the second most common cause of death, after traffic accidents.

-A Taste of Failure Fuels an Appetite for Success at South Korea’s Cram Schools

Mahmoud Darwis' Legacy

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Parenting advice from Michael Phelps' Mother

As he entered public school, he displayed what his teachers called “immature” behavior. “In kindergarten I was told by his teacher, ‘Michael can’t sit still, Michael can’t be quiet, Michael can’t focus,’ ” recalled Ms. Phelps, who was herself a teacher for 22 years. The family had recently moved, and she felt Michael might be frustrated because the kindergarten curriculum he was getting in the new district was similar to the pre-K curriculum in their old district.

“I said, maybe he’s bored,” Ms. Phelps recalled saying to his teacher. “Her comment to me — ‘Oh, he’s not gifted.’ I told her I didn’t say that, and she didn’t like that much. I was a teacher myself so I didn’t challenge her, I just said, ‘What are you going to do to help him?’ ”

In the elementary grades at their suburban Baltimore school, Ms. Phelps said, Michael excelled in things he loved — gym and hands-on lessons, like science experiments. “He read on time, but didn’t like to read,” she said. “So I gave him the Baltimore Sun sports pages, even if he just read the pictures and captions.”

She will never forget one teacher’s comment: “This woman says to me, ‘Your son will never be able to focus on anything.’ ”

His grades were B’s and C’s and a few D’s.

It was a tough period. Ms. Phelps and her husband, a state trooper, were divorcing. She had just gone back to school to get a master’s degree to become an administrator, she said, and at the same time she had to be the 24/7 parent.

Michael grew like crazy, but not evenly — his ears looked huge, and when he ran, his arms swung below his knees. (He was on his way to being 6 feet 4 inches tall with an arm span of 6 feet 7 inches.) Kids bullied him, and when he whacked one on the school bus, he was suspended from the bus for several days....

At age 9, Michael was put on Ritalin, a stimulant used to treat hyperactivity.

His mother thinks it helped a little. “He seemed to be able to focus longer,” she said. “He could get through homework without moving around so much.” She said he was still a middling student. “It might have raised some C’s to B’s,” she said. But if a homework assignment had to be at least four sentences, she said, “he’d just do four sentences.”

After two years, Michael asked to get off the meds. He had to go to the school nurse’s office to take a pill at lunch, she said, and felt stigmatized. “Out of the blue, he said to me: ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, Mom. My buddies don’t do it. I can do this on my own.’ ”

I was always stern as a parent,” she said, “but from Day 1, I included my children as part of the decision process. So I listened.” After consulting with Dr. Wax, Michael stopped medication.

-Phelps’s Mother Recalls Helping Her Son Find Gold-Medal Focus

Assorted on Iran

Bueno de Mesquita on Iran and Threats to U.S. Security;
Ahmadinejad is the President of Iran, but virtually all power there is held by the Supreme Council. Has veto power, can remove people from office; all people elected including Ahmadinejad serve at the pleasure of the Supreme Council. Interviews, Ahmadinejad ranked 18th in terms of power. At odds with most people's public perception. Maybe he's 17th or 19th; but he's not 3rd or 4th. He is a very outspoken man, says many outrageous things, so he gets a lot of news coverage. Came to power by election from being mayor of Teheran by carving out a constituency of not-very-well educated who saw in him someone who would advance Iranian nationalist sentiment. His power has faded and his party keeps losing by elections. Media attention also because American media has poor or no access to Ali Khamenei, head of the Supreme Council, most powerful person in Iran. Putin had audience with Khamenei; Western leaders only get to see Ahmadinejad. Why would Khamenei want Ahmadinejad in power? Good for floating trial balloons, has a salutary effect in terms of foreign policy; has convinced some people that the Iranian leadership is irrational, and in doing so have attained a certain amount of deterrent clout. Very Schellingesque (Thomas Schelling, Nobel Prize winner), soft application of game theory to national security problems, brinksmanship. Strategy that if you convince the other guy that you'll drive off the cliff, the other guy gets pretty nervous about it.

Iranian interior minister's fake Oxford diploma

When the the obviously faked diploma hit the Web, it caused a popular firestorm in Iran, with calls for Kordan to step down immediately if he can't produce the real thing. The Iranian Web site that first revealed the bogus document has now been blocked inside the country. Some analysts even think Ahmadinejad may have set Kordan up to embarrass his likely rival in the next presidential race, Ali Larijani. Kordan is a former aide to Larijani, who is also speaker of the parliament and looking slightly worse for the wear as the controversy continues.

New Ministers in Iran May Quash Ahmadinejad’s Economic Plans

Incredible America

The census calculates that by 2042, Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, black, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander will together outnumber non-Hispanic whites. Four years ago, officials had projected the shift would come in 2050.

The main reason for the accelerating change is significantly higher birthrates among immigrants. Another factor is the influx of foreigners, rising from about 1.3 million annually today to more than 2 million a year by midcentury, according to projections based on current immigration policies.

No other country has experienced such rapid racial and ethnic change,” said Mark Mather, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a research organization in Washington.

-In a Generation, Minorities May Be the U.S. Majority

Assorted Economic Podcasts

Allan Meltzer Says Fed Failing to Control Inflation

Harvard's Feldstein Says Fed Slow to Recognize Credit Crisis

James Poterba Says U.S. Consumer `Likely' to Retrench

What Would Nixon Do on U.S.-Cuba Relations?

Nixon Center

More on Georgia

Professor Padma Desai and Nina Kruscheva

Russia Blog Readers Comment on Conflict

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Next Big Thing on the Web?

Fire Eagle

Yahoo Unveils Platform for Location-Based Services

Force feeding little girls

A deeply disturbing habit from Mauritania;

Big is often regarded as beautiful in Mauritania, but the controversial act of force-feeding is still practiced in some parts of the country.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Why Are Exchange Rates So Difficult to Predict?

Building a Better World: Infrastructure's Role in Economic Growth

Clearing the Roadways: The Case for Congestion Pricing

Why the U.S. Treasury Began Auctioning Treasury Bills in 1929

Poverty in New York City, 1969-99:
The Influence of Demographic Change, Income Growth, and Income Inequality

The Changing Nature of the U.S. Balance of Payments

Early warnings of inflation in India'

World Free of Poverty on Vacation

World Bank's Poverty and Growth blog goes on vacation.

Photo of the Day

via Boing Boing- Pieter Hugo's Nollywood Series

Nigerian films are so successful that the government wants to get involved;
Today, filmmaking employs about a million people in Nigeria, split equally between production and distribution, making it the country's biggest employer after agriculture, according to the National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB). The industry has sales of $200m-300m a year....

The films cost anywhere between $15,000 and $100,000 to make, and the money comes directly from the market. Producers, or “marketers”, as they are known, use some of the profits from one film to pay for the next. Banks do not lend to Nollywood, as there are no statistics from which they could estimate likely returns