Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Have A New Crush

Wow, I have not heard of her before, but this Molly Webb lady has got all the right ideas in why smart cities will help save the world.

I did a quick image search on her there are a lot of pictures of her. Is that stalking?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

The (Sad) State of Socializing

It is pretty sad how rarely I have put thoughts up here. Also pretty sad to see the aftermath of the US election. My despondency is not so much about the size of the swing to Republications, but the growth moronic truisms that pass as debate these days.

Generally I love NPR, but they have been irritating me this week. This whole Tea Party thing is just plain anti-thinking and even NPR has been giving them a platform without challenging them sufficiently. For example, Tea Party Leaders Go Over Election Wins, Losses, we get the excellent commentary from Matt Kibbe, CEO of FreedomWorks, whose motto is "Lower Taxes, Less Government, More Freedom".
I really think that even before November 2nd, the Tea Party had defined this election by driving the issues that mattered in this debate. And virtually every Republican and most Democrats - certainly, the Democrats that won in battlegrounds like West Virginia - literally ran on the Tea Party agenda.

Ran on the Tea Party agenda? How about a question like, "Where can I find the Tea Party agenda?" Maybe, where I can buy "Partner With Beck" and get my free copy of Rules for Patriots Handbook.

Another comment by Kibbe, this time in relation to Republicans willingness to "compromise".
If the question is government-run health care, I don't understand what the compromise would be between a bad idea and half a bad idea.

And the interviewer, Steve Inskeep, ignores the quip on "government-run health care" and just goes right to the next question.

Look, I got no problem with people like Kibbe being on NPR. In fact, let them on all the time, but please make them defend their moronic statements. Ask a follow on question. It's your job.

Sadly, also, is the fact the person most actively doing the job of the journalist is a comedian. It still is Jon Stewart who highlights the absurdity of our declining debate. Watch his interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News. Wallace doesn't even understand the point Stewart is making - that he too criticizes MSNBC, which he says is a pathetic attempt to fight Fox by being "double AA ball" partisan next to major league Fox when what is should do is get some "earned credibility" by becoming a "brand new journalistic organization".

Listen, Mr. Wallace, did you get it? Think...think...oh, no, right over your head and on to your talking points about the latest poll.

Where have all the good journalists gone?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Mosque" Maddness

I have gasped at the quotes I have read over recent weeks from the opposition to the Islamic community center in New York. One thought such overt statements of bigotry were long gone, but sadly, that is not true.

Thank Goodness, God and Allah (I am being secular here on purpose) for Jon Stewart.

Part one.

Part two.

Part three.

Certainly to be continued...

What's the point of Fox News?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Had A Farm In Africa

Social change, for sure, but to what end? I just watched When China Met Africa, a short film with no commentary. Just images and exchanges. Very intense images.

A historic gathering of over fifty African heads of state in Beijing reverberates in Zambia where the lives of three characters unfold.

Mr Liu is one of thousands of Chinese entrepreneurs who have settled across the continent in search of new opportunities. He has just bought his fourth farm and business is booming.

In northern Zambia, Mr Li, a project manager for a multinational Chinese company, is upgrading the country's longest road. Pressure to complete the job on time intensifies when funds from the Zambian government start running out. Meanwhile, Zambia's trade minister is en route to China to secure millions of dollars of investment.

Through the intimate portrayal of these three characters, the expanding footprint of a rising global power is laid bare - pointing to a radically different future not just for Africa but also for the world.

Available until July 22, 2010.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Randomizing Hits The New Yorker

"The Poverty Lab" in the May 17 New Yorker brings aid effectiveness further to the public discussion. It is a profile of Ester Duflo, who is one of the co-founders of the Poverty Action Lab.

TED presentation on social experiments too. Largely an intro into randomized trials.

I don't think the article's selected metaphor from Angus Deaton is really substantial. It recalls his powerpoint presentation with two people jumping out of an airplane, one with a parachute and one without - Do we need to test the idea that parachutes are useful to people who jump out of planes?

Over simplistic. I like Duflo's response to Deaton's criticism of randomized trials tendency to generalize.

"We are not just evaluating a program and attaching some larger thoughts at the end, but finding ways to use evaluation to explore theories."

By explore theories, I understand this to mean "challenge assumptions", which is really useful, albeit not as prone to silver bullet solutions and sexy campaigns that make rock stars out of economists and vice versa.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Promise

The New Yorker's photo essay, The Promise, is fantastic. "An interactive portfolio about the civil-rights era, with contemporary portraits by Platon, historical photographs, interviews, and audio commentary by David Remnick."

The online version with interviews is a great way to spend a cold February hour and particularly helpful in gaining perspective after saturating your brain with Tea Party sound bites and contemplation of the problems facing the US today.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


I enjoyed this review of Going Rogue: An American Life in The New York Review of Books.
In our present neo-Keynesian moment, economics has never seemed more bewildering and arcane, or more the exclusive preserve of hated "experts" from the "East Coast elites." Most people I know, myself included, can't readily follow the algebraic equations that explain the "Keynesian multiplier," which, in its turn, is needed to explain TARP and the stimulus package. Belonging to a tribe different from Palin's, I simply take it on trust as a matter of faith that Paul Krugman, in his columns for The New York Times, is more likely to be right about such things than, say, Lou Dobbs or Senator John Thune, but I share in the general apprehensive fogginess about what's happening.

For Palin, it's simple. The national economy is a straightforward macrocosm of the domestic economy of the average god-fearing family of four. What's good for the family is good for the nation, and vice versa; and the idea that the family should spend its way out of recession is an affront to common sense, conservative or otherwise. On December 3, she tweeted: "Baffling/nonsensical: Obama's talk of yet another debt-ridden 'stimulus' pkg. Fight this 1, America, bc after last 1 unemployment rose, debt grew." Five days later, while Obama was speaking at the Brookings Institution about the economy, Palin wrote, "Quik msg b4 book event: Prez pls pay down massive, obscene U.S debt &/or give 'stimulus' $ back to Americans b4 propose spending more of our $."

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Fiscal Conservative In Name Only - FCINO

I gasp at Carly for California. Please, keep making shit like this so we can identify those who want to have an adult conversation and those who want to make a complete mockery of the challenges facing California and the world. Lions and tigers and bears and wolves increasing taxes! Oh, my!

Wonkette (thanks Tom) had the appropriate response, but please...that's a Kiwi film, I believe. Get the Flock Out of Here, indeed.

Mr. Krugman had some words about the impending doom of wolves earlier in the week - Fiscal Scare Tactics:
...there’s no reason to panic about budget prospects for the next few years, or even for the next decade. Consider, for example, what the latest budget proposal from the Obama administration says about interest payments on federal debt; according to the projections, a decade from now they’ll have risen to 3.5 percent of G.D.P. How scary is that? It’s about the same as interest costs under the first President Bush.

Why, then, all the hysteria? The answer is politics.

The main difference between last summer, when we were mostly (and appropriately) taking deficits in stride, and the current sense of panic is that deficit fear-mongering has become a key part of Republican political strategy, doing double duty: it damages President Obama’s image even as it cripples his policy agenda. And if the hypocrisy is breathtaking — politicians who voted for budget-busting tax cuts posing as apostles of fiscal rectitude, politicians demonizing attempts to rein in Medicare costs one day (death panels!), then denouncing excessive government spending the next — well, what else is new?
I know, I know...he's a wolf in bears clothing, right?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Getting A Rise Out Of People

This Tea Party thing is just moronic. I fear it has to be covered, sadly taking time from the pressing and complex issues of the world, and I certainly welcome any and all supporters to make their case, debate and put forward their "solutions". Good article on the New Yorker that helps explain it a bit - The Movement. The Ask the Author chat session is illuminating as well.

Keli Carender, someone often mentioned as a agitator, is quoted on NPR as saying, "I tried to boil down in essence what makes me so angry about [the health care plan]. And it was this idea that he [the leader of the US, I think] and other people decide what the needs are in society. They get to decide. But in order to fund those things, they have to take from some people in order to give to the other people."

First, "he and other people" were elected by we, the people who vote in the US, to serve in the function of deciding what the needs are in society. By another name, I call that "democracy". I kindly invite Keli and her supporters to live in countries where elected leaders do not get together and decide how to tax and spend money on public goods and services. Or, share with me which US president and congress hasn't taxed and spent people's money in US history?

Yes, this woman does "appear to like getting a rise out of people". Well, done, your famous; famous for leading the rebels to revolution. "Knowledge is the only commodity that needs redistributing"? Yes, how dare you people...who won the last dare to do your best to maintain a civil service, laws, public goods or help/health care for the needy!

Everyone should read the call for a Solution Revolution, Carender's first post. We should also refresh our memories about the definition of the word socialism. I can't seem to find the word "tax" in the definitions I found.

Charge, Tea Party rebels!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

NYT 2009 Year In Ideas

I like reading the NYT Year in Ideas, even if I am slow and only get to it in 2010. I've taken the liberty to copy all the topics in the annual review for my blog, which still needs a boost to get back in gear.

There were some interesting ideas. Forensic Polling Analysis reminded me of the blog, whose missing is to "to accumulate and analyze polling and political data in way that is informed, accurate and attractive. Most narrowly, to give you the best possible objective assessment of the likely outcome of upcoming elections". Why I forgot that I needed that is a mystery that I hope I can answer by reading more objective poll data. (Or for the subjective and non-quantitative thinkers among us, another good way to make objective assessments these days is to watch Obama field questions from House Republicans at their own meeting on Friday. Well worth 90 of anyone's time! This articulate, respectful and well-informed exchange is exactly what I dreamed of when I first heard President Obama's announcement of running for office. Fox "news" would do well to play some extended clips of this video.)

In other thought-provoking ideas, I think my colleagues in environmental assessment may soon be studying the Google Algorithm as Extinction Model. Yikes, what if you can start using these models and they indicate people are soon going to be extinct?

Always a sucker for a story on ICT, I believe in Social Networks as Foreign Policy. I'd go a step further than Robert Gates when he says "The freedom of communication and the nature of it, is a huge strategic asset for the United States" and add that it's an asset for social change, even in Karakalpakstan.

Has anyone read an Undead-Austen Mash-Up? I thought you could only do that with Queen vs. Fela. If Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is that good, I might be re-reading my Austen.

An illustration by Roberto Parada from the deluxe gift edition of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

You Can't Be Neutral On A Moving Train

Howard Zinn died yesterday. He was a man I had never heard of when I heard him speak at University of Oregon in 1994. His lecture that day was an eye-opener as much as A People's History of the United States was a page-turner for me. I have been flipping through my old copy tonight and recall that I had been pretty moved by this:
Around 1776, certain important people in the English colonies made a discovery that would prove enormously useful for the next two hundred years. They found that by creating a nation, a symbol, a legal unity called the United States, they could take over land, profits, and political power from favorites of the British Empire. In the process, they could hold back a number of potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership.

When we look at the American Revolution this way, it was a work of genius, and the Founding Fathers deserve the awed tribute they have received over the centuries. They created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times, and showed future generations of leaders the advantages of combining paternalism with command.
While I can now say I moved away from some of Zinn's ideas, I will always appreciate the way he made me consider another side starting with Columbus and the native Americans through all the US wars and within the struggles for racial, gender and class justice. His writing made me more critical and empathetic.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Living and Loving Out Loud

Always nice to see Dr. West on the NYT homepage to re-activate the more radically democratic corners of the mind.

Animated as always on the Today show...

And in the New Yorker...

And on new website, with new book to get...