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Dec 11

Odds and Ends Vol 7

Odds and EndsIs it just me or am I writing longer articles recently? I can’t help it. For the last couple of days, I’ve been so angry about the state of this nation. It all started this weekend when I took a big plunge into my long thought about book-length essay, “How to Cross a Street.” The truth is that I have no idea what it is about except in the vaguest of terms. It is about the one thing that I think matters: community. But our cultural trend is disastrous. And my personal history is none too great either. And that’s the part that makes me mad. If I can’t help to create community in my little part of the world, what hope is there generally? But from a writing standpoint, it’s all good. An honest look at one’s failings can work very well. Or so I tell myself. Because no one else is here.

  1. Paul Krugman recently wrote, Empty Boxes of Political Economy. In it, he points out that more or less sensible economics are coming entirely from the Democrats and all the charlatans and cranks are Republicans. That’s correct. And I would put it even stronger than he does. But there is something that I think he is missing. He noted:
    In practice, left-wing cranks have never played a significant role in US politics, while right-wing cranks always have. Still, back in the days of George HW Bush—and even, to some extent, in the days of Bush the lesser—there were politicians in the lower left box.

    Sigh. Can he really be so naive? When Republicans are in the White House, they are Keynesians. They believe in stimulus and monetary policy. They aren’t worried about debt, because mostly debt is never that big a deal. It’s only when a Democrat is in the White House that suddenly the Republicans forget everything they learned in Econ 101.

    Look at Greg Mankiw — by all accounts a great economist who is conservative. Under Bush Jr, he was all for stimulus. Under Obama, he came up with some complicated ideas as to why stimulus wouldn’t work. And then, as the 2012 election was approaching (he was Mitt Romney’s economic adviser), suddenly he was walking back his anti-stimulus rhetoric to prepare for more Keynesian stimulus once Romney was president. It’s a game that all politicians play. But it is one that only conservative economists play.

    Krugman knows that, but obviously can’t say it. Earlier, he wrote, “There are liberal professional economists; there are conservative professional economists; and there are professional conservative economists (aka right-wing hacks).” I think that “conservative professional economists” have shown themselves to be largely right-wing hacks as well.

  2. German President Joachim Gauck has announced that he will boycott the Olympic games in Sochi over Russia’s human rights abuses and it’s “gay propaganda” law. The position of president in Germany does not have much power, but it is an important stand. Chancellor Angela Merkel is still the one with all the power. Although I have major problems with her, I think her position that going to the games and highlighting the Russian abuses is a defensible one. Still, I think it is the wrong one. To a very large extent, I think that the Olympics are a crock. We aren’t one big happy world. There are currently at least 12 major wars being fought and at least another 29 smaller ones.

    Look: I’m not against the games as games. I don’t, for example, think that international chess tournaments should be stopped. But the Olympics has this whole “we are the world” symbolism going on. It seems to be a way for big countries like the United States to sit back and feel good about themselves while the drone killing of civilians continues on. So I say fuck the Olympics regardless. But Gauck is right to boycott the Sochi games over the gay rights issue. This is Russia after all—not Saudi Arabia.

  3. This is an interesting optical illusion. These square flat surfaces of these two blocks are exactly the same color. They don’t appear that way because our brains still think of the bottom block as being white, but poorly lit, whereas the top block is black, but well lit. You can see this by covering up the seam. But even when you do this, it will take your brain some time to get used to it. The lesson here is that we don’t see colors in an absolute sense. We are forever making calculations about light and angles. This is how a lot of optical illusions work. Anyway, this one is fun:
    Optical Illusion Blocks

Until next time my friends!

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