Friday, January 29, 2010

Da Vinci's Resume

A capabilites-based resume written in 1482, when Leonardo Da Vinci was 30, citing his skills as an armorer, engineer, architect and artist. I'd hire the guy, or at least give him an "experiment".
"Most Illustrious Lord, Having now sufficiently considered the specimens of all those who proclaim themselves skilled contrivers of instruments of war, and that the invention and operation of the said instruments are nothing different from those in common use: I shall endeavor, without prejudice to any one else, to explain myself to your Excellency, showing your Lordship my secret, and then offering them to your best pleasure and approbation to work with effect at opportune moments on all those things which, in part, shall be briefly noted below.
  1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.
  2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.
  3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.
  4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.
  5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.
  6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.
  7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.
  8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.
  9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvelous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.
  10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.
  11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.
Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency - to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc."

(via mr)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Guardian Editor Against Paywalls

Good. While everyone else in the newspaper biz is trying to squeeze nickels out of their online audience, The Guardian's Alan Rusbridger is worrying about how to grow his audience (and everyone else's) as large as possible. His model has worked, too. The Guardian has pulled 37 million unique users out of North America, having spent less than $25k in ten years to do it. Maybe information does want to be free.

More on the Freeze Gimmick

Bruce Bartlett reiterates the history of FDR's disastrous 1937 pullback.
what we call the Great Depression was not a continuous downturn; it was really two back-to-back recessions. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the first ran from August 1929 to March 1933 and the second from May 1937 to June 1938.

According to current Commerce Department data, real gross domestic product fell sharply in 1930, 1931 and 1932, and modestly in 1933. But GDP rebounded strongly in 1934, growing 10.9% that year, 8.9% in 1935, 13% in 1936 and 5.1% in 1937. But in 1938, real GDP fell 3.4%.

For many years, economists thought this "secondary recession" was inherent in the nature of the business cycle. Today, however, economists generally believe that the only thing that caused the 1937-38 downturn was disastrously bad government policy.

Although right-wingers like to portray FDR as a giddy big spender whose profligate ways made the depression worse, the truth is that he was by nature quite conservative, fiscally. Indeed, when running against Herbert Hoover in 1932 Roosevelt was unsparing in his criticism of Hoover's spending and deficits. As he put it in an Oct. 19, 1932 speech:

"I regard reduction in federal spending as one of the most important issues of this campaign. In my opinion it is the most direct and effective contribution that government can make to business. In accordance with this fundamental policy it is equally necessary to eliminate from federal budget-making during this emergency all new items except such as relate to direct relief of unemployment."

Roosevelt vowed that every member of his cabinet would be required to support the economic plank of the Democratic Party's 1932 platform, which said, "We advocate an immediate and drastic reduction of governmental expenditures by abolishing useless commissions and offices, consolidating departments and bureaus, and eliminating extravagance to accomplish a saving of not less than 25% in the cost of the federal government."

Mark Thoma pans the freeze:
This is pretty disappointing.

The long-term budget problem is due to primarily one thing, rising health care costs. Everything else is dwarfed by that problem. If we solve the health care cost problem, the rest is easy. If we don't solve it the rest won't matter.

This was an opportunity for Obama to explain the importance of health care reform and how it relates to the long-term debt problem. Why not emphasize this?...

Instead we get cheap political tricks that are likely to backfire. How will this look, for example, if there's a double dip recession, or if unemployment follows the dismal path that the administration itself has forecast?

This seems to be a case of the former Clinton people in the administration (or wannabees) trying to relive their glory days instead of realizing that those days are gone, the world is different now and it calls for different solutions.

I wasn't in favor of having so many Clinton administration people in this administration, and nothing so far has caused me to change that assessment. They're nothing but trouble.

Maddow on the Budget Freeze


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Maddow on the Budget Freeze


Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

125 Unusual Photos of Famous People

George Clooney, proving that there is hope for all of us as we grow older. 124 more, including a surprising number of Manson & fam.

(via Alltop)

Monday, January 25, 2010


This discretionary spending freeze idea from the Obama Administration is the first sign that they're not just disappointing and spineless, they're actually stupid. It is impossible that the economics PhD's who are supposedly advising the place believe both that a) deficit spending in a downturn produces positive results, and therefore the stimulus package was (somewhat) effective, and that b) now cutting the deficit will also produce positive results.

In fact, the proposed freeze will be a serious drag on the economy, just like the tightening in 1937. What part of Great Depression do you not understand? We've had this level of stupidity from the Bushies for eight years, with tax cuts that were supposed to work for everything from helping a weak economy to cutting inflation. Eight years of reliably bad news produced by idiots who left the country in a shambles, and now we get more of the same? No thank you.

People should be fired for any policy that would get you thrown out of Econ 101.

Wise up.

More: Brad DeLong rounds up the reactions from actual deficit hawks.

Still more: via Brad, here's Jonathan Zasloff:
Obama’s Self-Inflicted Lobotomy Proceeds Apace « The Reality-Based Community: I’m trying to think of what could possibly be a worse plan. Let’s see: we might be entering a double-dip recession and unemployment is in double-digits, and you are going to freeze spending? What in God’s name are they thinking? Perhaps the worst thing about this is how it cedes the ideological ground to the Republicans. At some point someone must make an argument for government. I think it was former Senator Paul Simon who said: “give the voters a choice between a Republican and a Republican and they will choose a Republican every time.”

What next? The rotting corpse of Andrew Mellon as Treasury Secretary? Or do we already have that?

Career Changer

Grant Desme decides to drop out of baseball and become a priest after being offered a lucrative contract with the Oakland A's. Good decision? Would it be better if he hadn't been offered a lot of money to play?

What Kind of Smart?

Gary Kasparov on the differences between AI and human intelligence as applied to chess.

Before 1994 and after 2004 these duels held little interest. The computers quickly went from too weak to too strong. But for a span of ten years these contests were fascinating clashes between the computational power of the machines (and, lest we forget, the human wisdom of their programmers) and the intuition and knowledge of the grandmaster.

In what Rasskin-Gutman explains as Moravec's Paradox, in chess, as in so many things, what computers are good at is where humans are weak, and vice versa. This gave me an idea for an experiment. What if instead of human versus machine we played as partners? My brainchild saw the light of day in a match in 1998 in León, Spain, and we called it "Advanced Chess." Each player had a PC at hand running the chess software of his choice during the game. The idea was to create the highest level of chess ever played, a synthesis of the best of man and machine.

Although I had prepared for the unusual format, my match against the Bulgarian Veselin Topalov, until recently the world's number one ranked player, was full of strange sensations. Having a computer program available during play was as disturbing as it was exciting. And being able to access a database of a few million games meant that we didn't have to strain our memories nearly as much in the opening, whose possibilities have been thoroughly catalogued over the years. But since we both had equal access to the same database, the advantage still came down to creating a new idea at some point.

Having a computer partner also meant never having to worry about making a tactical blunder. The computer could project the consequences of each move we considered, pointing out possible outcomes and countermoves we might otherwise have missed. With that taken care of for us, we could concentrate on strategic planning instead of spending so much time on calculations. Human creativity was even more paramount under these conditions. Despite access to the "best of both worlds," my games with Topalov were far from perfect. We were playing on the clock and had little time to consult with our silicon assistants. Still, the results were notable. A month earlier I had defeated the Bulgarian in a match of "regular" rapid chess 4–0. Our advanced chess match ended in a 3–3 draw. My advantage in calculating tactics had been nullified by the machine.

At the level of complexity represented by chess, no single capability has achieved dominance. A combination of capabilities is necessary, all of which are the result of trade-offs.

The "freestyle" result, though startling, fits with my belief that talent is a misused term and a misunderstood concept. The moment I became the youngest world chess champion in history at the age of twenty-two in 1985, I began receiving endless questions about the secret of my success and the nature of my talent. Instead of asking about Sicilian Defenses, journalists wanted to know about my diet, my personal life, how many moves ahead I saw, and how many games I held in my memory.

I soon realized that my answers were disappointing. I didn't eat anything special. I worked hard because my mother had taught me to. My memory was good, but hardly photographic. As for how many moves ahead a grandmaster sees, Russkin-Gutman makes much of the answer attributed to the great Cuban world champion José Raúl Capablanca, among others: "Just one, the best one." This answer is as good or bad as any other, a pithy way of disposing with an attempt by an outsider to ask something insightful and failing to do so. It's the equivalent of asking Lance Armstrong how many times he shifts gears during the Tour de France.

The only real answer, "It depends on the position and how much time I have," is unsatisfying. In what may have been my best tournament game at the 1999 Hoogovens tournament in the Netherlands, I visualized the winning position a full fifteen moves ahead—an unusual feat. I sacrificed a great deal of material for an attack, burning my bridges; if my calculations were faulty I would be dead lost. Although my intuition was correct and my opponent, Topalov again, failed to find the best defense under pressure, subsequent analysis showed that despite my Herculean effort I had missed a shorter route to victory. Capablanca's sarcasm aside, correctly evaluating a small handful of moves is far more important in human chess, and human decision-making in general, than the systematically deeper and deeper search for better moves—the number of moves "seen ahead"—that computers rely on.

There is little doubt that different people are blessed with different amounts of cognitive gifts such as long-term memory and the visuospatial skills chess players are said to employ. One of the reasons chess is an "unparalleled laboratory" and a "unique nexus" is that it demands high performance from so many of the brain's functions. Where so many of these investigations fail on a practical level is by not recognizing the importance of the process of learning and playing chess. The ability to work hard for days on end without losing focus is a talent. The ability to keep absorbing new information after many hours of study is a talent. Programming yourself by analyzing your decision-making outcomes and processes can improve results much the way that a smarter chess algorithm will play better than another running on the same computer. We might not be able to change our hardware, but we can definitely upgrade our software.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Passing Healthcare Through "Majority Rule Process"

This is the right idea. A stronger, simpler bill without all the baggage, passed under an up-or-down vote.

Lower the minimum Medicare age, raise the maximum Medicaid income level, no recissions/pre-existing conditions, national freedom of exchange, millionaires tax to pay for subsidies.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Amanda Palmer's Sucess de Scandal

AP's having quite the year. Interviews & articles at Huffington Post and Coilhouse.

The Missing Ingredient

Jo Walton interview with Steven Brust, in which a plausible missing ingredient to Valabar's mushroom barley soup is proposed, and a discussion of narrative time travel ensues.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Has Brian Eno Ever Given a Bad Interview?

I think not. Certainly not this one, in which he opines on Gospel, the end of recording as a get rich (quick) scheme, and feedback:

Take Steve Reich. He was an important composer for me with his early tape pieces and his way of having musicians play a piece each at different speeds so that they slipped out of synch.

"But then when he comes to record a piece of his like, say, Drumming, he uses orchestral drums stiffly played and badly recorded. He's learnt nothing from the history of recorded music. Why not look at what the pop world is doing with recording, which is making incredible sounds with great musicians who really feel what they play. It's because in Reich's world there was no real feedback. What was interesting to them in that world was merely the diagram of the piece, the music merely existed as an indicator of a type of process. I can see the point of it in one way, that you just want to show the skeleton, you don't want a lot of fluff around it, you just want to show how you did what you did.As a listener who grew up listening to pop music I am interested in results. Pop is totally results-oriented and there is a very strong feedback loop. Did it work? No. We'll do it differently then. Did it sell? No. We'll do it differently then. So I wanted to bring the two sides together. I liked the processes and systems in the experimental world and the attitude to effect that there was in the pop, I wanted the ideas to be seductive but also the results."

(via DM)

Consciousness and the Brain

Ray Tallis makes a singularly unconvincing argument that consciousness cannot be described in terms of the activity of the brain, because the assessment of the question presupposes consciousness. It is as if the ability to defend a Theory of Gravitation depended on whether the observer was at the bottom of a gravity well.

Countering that objection by claiming that, say, activity in the occipital cortex and the sensation of light are two aspects of the same thing does not hold up because the existence of "aspects" depends on the prior existence of consciousness and cannot be used to explain the relationship between neural activity and consciousness.
His argument begins well enough, with two well-chewed-over problems of neurophilosophy: namely, the binding problem (how do disparate phenomena get integrated into a unified whole through consciousness?) and the qualia problem (what causes things to seem a certain way to a subjective observer? For example, the color red has a particular character to it.) He then proceeds to a nice summation of several interesting issues in the translation between psychology and neuroscience. There's also a note about the recent finding that many fMRI studies have suspiciously high correlations between brain states and behavior, higher than would be expected based on the technical limitations of the machines themselves.

Where he falls down is in the strange belief that...
"To do its work, physical science has to discard "secondary qualities", such as colour, warmth or cold, taste - in short, the basic contents of consciousness. For the physicist then, light is not in itself bright or colourful, it is a mixture of vibrations in an electromagnetic field of different frequencies. The material world, far from being the noisy, colourful, smelly place we live in, is colourless, silent, full of odourless molecules, atoms, particles, whose nature and behaviour is best described mathematically. In short, physical science is about the marginalisation, or even the disappearance, of phenomenal appearance/qualia, the redness of red wine or the smell of a smelly dog."
What's wrong with this is that it confuses a method of description with a point of view. Yes, in physics, we describe light in terms of wavelengths, sound in vibrations, and so forth. But the world that is described by these things is still described on our behalf; it is a parallel description of the qualia and other phenomena we are observing subjectively. It is still conscious beings who are doing the observing, whether we are observing brains or quasars. The world is not silent or colorless because we observe these phenomena using the language of mathematics or physics. Nor do brain studies, which are trying to describe our subjective experience in experimental terms, produce an insurmountable, self-contradictory state of affairs.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Neil Gaiman in the New Yorker

A sort of strange profile of N. Gaiman in this week's New Yorker occasionally gives me the impression that the writer interviewed a Neil Gaiman impersonator (perhaps a version with a goatee), rather than the man himself. Somehow, many of the quotes come out sounding like someone else said them. Although it does include the great line, "At the age of four, I was bit by a radioactive awesome."

Also, there's the bit about NG's alternative career as a bespoke religion designer.

The High Line Park

New York's High Line Park.

A very BLDGBLOG "tunneling through the urban environment" space, and a winner of Wallpaper*'s Design of the Year Awards. Wish we had something like this in Chicago.

Guantanamo, the Crime and the Cover Up

There is no bottom to this. It just keeps going down, down, down. Harpers:

The Pentagon declined to make the NCIS report public, and only when pressed with Freedom of Information Act demands did it disclose parts of the report, some 1,700 pages of documents so heavily redacted as to be nearly incomprehensible. The NCIS report was carefully cross-referenced and deciphered by students and faculty at the law school of Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and their findings, released in November 2009, made clear why the Pentagon had been unwilling to make its conclusions public. The official story of the prisoners’ deaths was full of unacknowledged contradictions, and the centerpiece of the report—a reconstruction of the events—was simply unbelievable.

According to the NCIS, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Music Video: The Big Pink

Dominos. I'd put this on the soundtrack to my film full of guns, gals and explosions.

Swinton, McGinley, Pringle & Co.

Sounds like a Yes-derived band name, but is instead a really nice video collaboration from a fashion line, a photographer and an eminently sexy-cool actress.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Five "New" Emotions You've Always Had

Elevation, Interest, Gratitude, Pride and Confusion

How about boredom, whimsy, sublimity, and that odd feeling which you don't quite have a name for, but which appears from time to time as a sort of feeling of hmm-uhh-aah?

Eyeglass Tattoo

A novel aesthetic choice, to say the least.

More: Or maybe just a viral marketing campaign?
(via Dangerous Minds)

George W. Obama

Nat Hentoff reviews the dismal civil liberties performance of the Obama Administration:
After the obedient Holder rang the "state secrets" closing bell in the San Francisco case, Jaffer described the link between the Bush and Obama presidencies: "The Bush administration constructed a legal framework for torture, but the Obama administration is constructing a legal framework for impunity."

It's become an Obama trademark: reversing a vigorous position he had previously taken, as when he signed into law the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act that, as a senator, he had vowed to filibuster as a protest against their destruction of the Fourth Amendment. And now he's done it again. His government is free to spy on us at will.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Quote of the Day

I don't trust algorithm like I trust intuition.

Robert Sapolsky

Why humans are not as "uniquinest" as we think. (Hint: similar equipment, different uses)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Sleeptalkin' Man

Maybe the best new site of the new year. Wife records husband's unconscious utterances, brilliance ensues.
Jan 4 2010

"Let me hold you in my arms. Feel me squeeze the living fucking breath out of your bastard body. Bliss. Lovely."

"Skipping to work makes everything better."

"I haven't put on weight. Your eyes are fat."

"I'd rather peel off my skin and bathe my weeping raw flesh in a bath of vinegar than spend any time with you. But that's just my opinion. Don't take it personally."

"Elephant trunks should be used for elephant things only. Nothing else."

"Lentils are evil. Pure fucking oozing evil. Take them away from me."

"My vision of hell is a lentil casserole."

"By the way, washing in rose water doesn't stop you smelling like a piece of shit."

"Avocados? You can shove them up your ass as well."

"Be happy happy happy happy."

"Now fuck off and let me bask in the glory of being me."

Wife's note: Wow. This was a goldmine of a night. Eleven entries, a new record!

I apparenly sleep SHOUT and say things of similar hilarity on a regular basis. Fortunately, all records of this (and witnesses) are instantly destroyed by the awesomeness of my speechifyin'.

(link via tr)

Quote of the Day

Joan Robinson once described Milton Friedman as a magician who would put a rabbit into a hat in full view of the audience, and then expect applause when he pulled it out again sometime later.

(via Felix)

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Return to Biosphere 2

What happens to a building designed as a science experiment on sustainable habitats after 25 years? It slowly but surely falls apart. Sustainability exists only under two support models: total reliance on nature and high-technology-high-maintenance. Biosphere 2 was a case for the latter, and is swiftly being reclaimed by the former model. Although the Fulleresque skeleton seems to be holding up nicely, the carefully cultivated plantlife succumbed to the desert environment. Keep that in mind if you're launching yourself on a 250kiloton asteroid for a 1,000 year journey a la Charles Stross.

The Hazara Resurgence

In Afghanistan, the Hazaras are a minority population, historically looked down on by the majority populations. Now, they're experiencing an upswing in prosperity due to better eductational opportunities. Knowledge really is portable wealth:
The Hazara resurgence is not so geographically concentrated. The principal Hazara provinces, while relatively safe, remain impoverished and, their leaders complain, are bypassed by the foreign aid sent to Pashtun areas as a carrot to lure people from the insurgency.

Instead, it is a revival built largely on education, an asset Hazaras could carry with them during their years as refugees.

“With education you can take everything you want,” says Qasim, one of Mustafa’s classmates, a 15-year-old Hazara who moved to Kabul, the Afghan capital, from the northern city of Kunduz five years ago because his parents wanted better-educated children.

The old Afghan rulers “wanted to e xploit Hazara people, and they didn’t want us to become leaders in this country or to improve,” he said. But that will change. “By studying we can dictate our future.”

It's worth noting that this emphasis on education as a path to power and success mirrors that of any number of minority populations, religious or ethnic, in Western civilization.

What does Equality Cost?

Not much, if you compare across the major economies' GDP growth rates. Moderate policies in favor of greater equality seem to have little or no impact on average growth. I wonder if they also diminish the variance of growth (which would be a good thing)?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

What Makes Great Teachers?

Or for that matter, great leaders? Steven Farr visited a large number of teachers to find out:

Right away, certain patterns emerged. First, great teachers tended to set big goals for their students. They were also perpetually looking for ways to improve their effectiveness. For example, when Farr called up teachers who were making remarkable gains and asked to visit their classrooms, he noticed he’d get a similar response from all of them: “They’d say, ‘You’re welcome to come, but I have to warn you—I am in the middle of just blowing up my classroom structure and changing my reading workshop because I think it’s not working as well as it could.’ When you hear that over and over, and you don’t hear that from other teachers, you start to form a hypothesis.” Great teachers, he concluded, constantly reevaluate what they are doing.

Superstar teachers had four other tendencies in common: they avidly recruited students and their families into the process; they maintained focus, ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they planned exhaustively and purposefully—for the next day or the year ahead—by working backward from the desired outcome; and they worked relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty, bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls.

  1. Big goals
  2. Continuous improvement & reinvention; seen another way, relentless self-editing
  3. Alliance building, relationship management
  4. Focus
  5. Planning, using the reverse sequencing method
  6. Grit, determination

And one more:

But when Farr took his findings to teachers, they wanted more. “They’d say, ‘Yeah, yeah. Give me the concrete actions. What does this mean for a lesson plan?’” So Farr and his colleagues made lists of specific teacher actions that fell under the high-level principles they had identified. For example, one way that great teachers ensure that kids are learning is to frequently check for understanding: Are the kids—all of the kids—following what you are saying? Asking “Does anyone have any questions?” does not work, and it’s a classic rookie mistake. Students are not always the best judges of their own learning.

  1. Good tactics make for good strategy.

(via mr)

The Knife's Charles Darwin Opera

Heads will explode, and evolution will move forward.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Latest Dispatches from the Democratic Civil War

Kai Wright's "All together now, Shut up you Lefties!" gathers the latest volleys between the Villagers/Kool Kids, Centrocons, Dirty Hippies and Blognets.

The left-wing critics are right about the conspicuous flaws of the pending health-care reform--its lack of even a weak "public option," its too meagre subsidies, its windfalls for Big Pharma, its capitulation on abortion coverage, its reliance on private insurance. And there are surely senators and representatives whose motives are base or, broadly speaking, corrupt. But it is nonsense to attribute the less than fully satisfactory result to the alleged perfidy of the President or "the Democrats."

You see, lefties? You can't hold your leaders accountable, because it's the nameless, faceless "system" that's to blame. Which is pretty much the same street-corner logic that leads millions of people to opt out of democracy altogether. Either the presidency matters or it doesn't. Either our leaders are accountable for the policies they create or they are not. And if they are not, let's drop the conceit of democracy and take the reform debate from there.
How about we drop the infighting and try to pass the agenda we came in on, before the crazies regain some seats?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Sunday, January 03, 2010

How Cheap are Economists?

"You might be an economist if you refuse to sell your children because they might be worth more later."

State of the World 2010

Bruce Sterling gives his annual State of the World interview on the Well.

Quick summary: Something of a downer--we aren't facing groovy teenage problems like a war or a natural disaster, so much as we're facing middle aged crises of befuddlement and general worn-down-ness. Your best option is to move to Brazil and join some kind of post-post-modern tribe of artisans and disaster recovery experts.

Friday, January 01, 2010


Welcome to the new year, people.

Look sharp, and remember to be kind.