Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Markets, Complexity, Greenspan, Taleb ...

JIM LEHRER: Speaking of money, another subject, David. Alan Greenspan's testimony (.pdf) this day before yesterday before Congress, what did you think of that?
DAVID BROOKS: Well, first of all, I admired him for saying that. We often are in a political culture where nobody admits a mistake, and he admitted a mistake. And the question is, why? What did he get wrong about the economy?

And I think what he got wrong is -- Paul Solman had a guy named Nassim Taleb on the show not long ago who got it right, who picked Fannie Mae, who talked about the banking collapse.

And the difference between the two worldviews is Greenspan relied on quantitative models of risk analysis, where Taleb is the product of behavioral economics, which talks about the psychology of perception and the perception of risks, and the biases we make in assuming the future will be basically like the past, and the way we look for evidence that confirms our prejudices.

And if you looked at the risk analysis through the frailty of human perception, as Taleb did, you can say this risk was out of control. People did not understand what was happening.
And all these bogus economic models that the quantifying people believed in just were bogus. And I think that's the two mental frameworks that allowed some people to understand what was going to happen and so many, so many experts not get it.

. . .. ... .. . .

Henry Farrell & Dan Drezner
bh.tv 10.29.2008

& 4.22.2010 C&L

Synchronized Presidential Debating


Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Obama's Closing Argument

Canton, Ohio
October 27, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008


SNL via Huffington Post

Ron Howard's Call For Obama

From Huffington Post: Ron Howard's Call For Obama

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

The emergence of a culture

Bloggingheads.tv - diavlogs

What I found interesting, as I listened to this 6:32 video, was contemplating the sorts of interactions that might have taken place between each of the boys in the experiment David Berreby discusses here.

Nancy Pfotenhauer on Hardball

duration 9:34

What if television talk show hosts didn't allow guests to go off the merits?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wondering about how to vote for judges in Los Angeles County?

Los Angeles County Bar Association judicial ratings and short videos with each candidate from the League of Women Voter's of California Education Fund website.

Superior Court office 72:

League of Women Voters Summary page

*Hilleri Grossman Merritt (Well qualified)

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

*Steven Simons (Qualified)

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

Superior Court office 82:

League of Women Voters Summary page

*Cynthia Loo (Qualified)

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

*Thomas Rubinson (Well qualified)

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

Superior Court office 84:

League of Women Voters Summary page

*Lori-Ann C. Jones
(Not qualified)

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

*Pat Connoly
(Not qualified)

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

Superior Court office 94:

League of Women Voters Summary page

*C. Edward Mack

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

*Michael J. O'Gara
(Well qualified)

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

Superior Court office 154:

League of Women Voters Summary page

*Rocky L. Crabb
(Well qualified)

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

*Michael V. Jesic
(Well qualified)

**see 1-minute statement

***see 6-minute interview

Update: also check out Ballotpedia.org

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell endorses Obama


later ...

and the instamash version ...

. . .. ... .. . .

flash forward 2010.02.21

The Art of Learning

Josh Waitzkin
The Art of Learning P. 112-113:

"Thinking back on my competitive life, I realize how defining these themes of Beginner's Mind and Investment in Loss have been. Periodically, I have had to take apart my game and go through a rough patch. In all disciplines, there are times when a performer is ready for action, and times when he or she is soft, in flux, broken-down or in a period of growth.

Learners in this phase are inevitably vulnerable. It is important to have perspective on this and allow yourself protected periods for cultivation. A gifted boxer with a fabulous right and no left will get beat up while he tries to learn the jab. Or take the talented high school basketball player learning how to play point guard at the college level. He may have been able to dominate schoolyards in his past, but now he has to learn to see the whole court, share the ball, bring the best out of his teammates. If a young athlete is expected to perform brilliantly in his first games within this new system, he will surely disappoint. He needs time to internalize the new skills before he will improve. The same can be said about a chess player adjusting to a new opening repertoire, a martial artist learning a new technique. Or a golfer, for example Tiger Woods, taking apart his swing in order to make a long-term improvement.

How can we incorporate these ideas into the real world? In certain competitive arenas -- our working lives, for example -- there are seldom weeks in which performance does not matter. Similarly, it is not so difficult to have a beginner's mind and to be willing to invest in loss when you are truly a beginner, but it is much harder to maintain that humility and openness to learning when people are watching and expecting you to perform. True enough. This was a huge problem for me in my chess career after the movie came out. Psychologically, I didn't give myself the room to invest in loss.

My response is that it is essential to have a liberating incremental approach that allows for times when you are not in a peak performance state. We must take responsibility for ourselves, and not expect the rest of the world to understand what it takes to become the best that we can become. Great ones are willing to get burned time and again as they sharpen their swords in the fire.

Consider Michael Jordan. It is common knowledge that Jordan made more last-minute shots to win the game for his team than any other player in the history of the NBA. What is not so well known, is that Jordan also missed more last-minute shots to lose the game for his team than any other player in the history of the game. What made him the greatest was not perfection, but a willingness to put himself on the line as a way of life. Did he suffer all those nights when he sent twenty thousand Bulls fans home heartbroken? Of course. But he was willing to look bad on the road to basketball immortality."

Josh Waitzkin
The Art of Learning P. 112-113

McCain again relying on Schopenhauer's 38 dishonest rhetorical tricks : trick #6

Talking Points Memo | Distorting the Distortions

Schopenhauer's 38 dishonest rhetorical tricks

#6: Diversion to another question, to a side issue, or by irrelevant objection

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain, Obama At Al Smith Dinner: Candidates Spar With Jokes

McCain, Obama At Al Smith Dinner: Candidates Spar With Jokes

Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense (archiving magazine articles 7/2007)

Clive Thompson on How Twitter Creates a Social Sixth Sense:

"When I see that my friend Misha is 'waiting at Genius Bar to send my MacBook to the shop,' that's not much information. But when I get such granular updates every day for a month, I know a lot more about her. And when my four closest friends and worldmates send me dozens of updates a week for five months, I begin to develop an almost telepathic awareness of the people most important to me."

It's like proprioception, your body's ability to know where your limbs are. That subliminal sense of orientation is crucial for coordination: It keeps you from accidentally bumping into objects, and it makes possible amazing feats of balance and dexterity.

Twitter and other constant-contact media create social proprioception. They give a group of people a sense of itself, making possible weird, fascinating feats of coordination.

For example, when I meet Misha for lunch after not having seen her for a month, I already know the wireframe outline of her life: She was nervous about last week's big presentation, got stuck in a rare spring snowstorm, and became addicted to salt bagels. With Dodgeball, I never actually race out to meet a friend when they report their nearby location; I just note it as something to talk about the next time we meet.

It's almost like ESP, which can be incredibly useful when applied to your work life. You know who's overloaded — better not bug Amanda today — and who's on a roll. A buddy list isn't just a vehicle to chat with friends but a way to sense their presence. Are they available to talk? Have they been away? This awareness is crucial when colleagues are spread around the office, the country, or the world. Twitter substitutes for the glances and conversations we had before we became a nation of satellite employees.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008

After Finance


I think Fareed Zakaria’s efforts to look on the bright side of the economic crisis probably go too far, but I certainly agree with this point:

The financial industry itself is likely to shrink, and that’s not a bad thing, either. It has ballooned dramatically in size. Curry points out that “30 percent of S&P 500 profits last year were earned by financial firms, and U.S. consumers were spending $800 billion more than they earned every year. As a result, most of our top math Ph.D.s were being pulled into nonproductive financial engineering instead of biotech research and fuel technology. Capital expenditures went into retail construction instead of critical infrastructure.” The crisis will stop the mis-allocation of human and financial resources and redirect them in more-productive ways. If some of the smart people now on Wall Street end up building better models of energy usage and efficiency, that would be a net gain for the economy.

Indeed. I mean, in principle taking a large proportion of quantitatively skilled people and having them apply their technical chops to the financial markets could be a good thing if doing so ushered in an exciting new era of genuinely superior financial wizardry. But instead, Keynes observation that “The game of professional investment is intolerably boring and over-exacting to anyone who is entirely exempt from the gambling instinct; whilst he who has it must pay to this propensity the appropriate toll” seems just as true today as it was two or eight decades ago. Meanwhile, smart scientists and engineers are still producing useful stuff.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Talking Points Memo | McCain Today

Talking Points Memo | Trying to Snuff Out the Flame

Franken Ad


.... The GOP's harsh negative ads could also be creating a backlash in a Midwestern state that's known for clean politics. Recently, the NRSC were caught twisting around footage of Franken doing a humorous impersonation of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, in order to make Franken look manic and angry -- a move that drastically undercuts the credibility of all their other attacks.

Franken was quick to jump on this mistake, releasing a new one-minute TV ad yesterday, hammering the GOP on exactly this point:

Duration: 1:02

i'd be glad to


Watch as John McCain responds to Obama's taunt that McCain isn't raising Bill Ayers and other over-the-top attack lines in Obama presence -- or as Obama put it, "say it to my face":

& Frank Schaeffer, Baltimore Sun c/o tpm

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Howard Rheingold's Vlog: Vernacular Video

Howard Rheingold's Vlog

More Letterman

Letterman calls McCain's attempts to return 'squirrely' | Show Tracker | Los Angeles Times

Now here’s this thing with John McCain…you know a couple of weeks ago, John McCain was supposed to be on the show. And at the last minute he calls me up –- and I’ve got a lot of respect…you get a call from a senator –- you get a call from a guy who is a bona fide war hero –- all of a sudden, you know, your lips start to vibrate. So I said “Sure, whatever you want.” And he says, “Look, Dave, the economy is about to crater.” It’s about to “crater,” his word. “And I have to rush back to Washington to save the economy.” And so it made me feel puny. So I said, “OK, Senator, do what you have to do. Rush right back to Washington.”

And then I hung up and I felt like a patriot. I felt like I had done my part. And he was supposed to be on the show like an hour later. So now, we’re in a hole but everybody has to pull together in economic hardship times. So we all pull together and we get that guy with the big head from MSNBC. What’s his name? Keith Olbermann, yeah. Giant head. So he comes over. He’s good. He’s very good.

So now it turns out, not only did he not rush back to Washington, he spent the night here in New York City. He went on Katie Couric…he was on Conan…he was on Regis…he was everywhere. So now, in an attempt to save his campaign, they’re talking about coming back. You see what I’m saying? So we said, “Sure, we would love you to come back.” And even on the phone, he said, “I’ll bring….Sarah.”

But they’re being squirrely. Politicians can be squirrely. Because we have a date picked. We do this show every afternoon at 5:30. He wants to do the show at 5. So one –- we have no guarantee he’s going to show up, period. And we’ve kind of already rearranged our schedule on his behalf to save the economy, right? By getting that big-headed kid in here to talk about the politics. You know what I’m driving at? I just don’t know if we can trust him. And by the way, I don’t need to remind you that the road to the White House runs right through here."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (October 07, 2008) - It's Cloudy Outside

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (October 07, 2008) - It's Cloudy Outside

From a profile on CNN anchor Campbell Brown:

...when you have Candidate A saying the sky is blue, and Candidate B saying it’s a cloudy day, I look outside and I see, well, it’s a cloudy day. I should be able to tell my viewers, ‘Candidate A is wrong, Candidate B is right.’ And not have to say, ‘Well, you decide.’ Then it would be like I’m an idiot. And I’d be treating the audience like idiots.

Good for Brown. But how far have we sunk when the press reporting reality is an actual story?

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Increasing Viscosity of History

Keating Inquiry Appears Different, 17 Years Later | The Trail | washingtonpost.com

via TPM

In a conference call with reporters, attorney John Dowd was asked about a specific part of the Keating Five inquiry, the fact that Cindy McCain and her father had invested in a Keating strip mall.

"It was part of the inquiry, but it did not -- John was unconnected to that and unaware of it at the time, and did not participate in it," Dowd said.

But thanks to the quick research skills of Democratic partisans, here's John McCain's answer to an attorney who asked him about that very investment during the ethics committee hearings in 1991.

"Sometime in 1986, I was told by Mr. Delgado, who was Executive Vice President of my father-in-law's company, that they were going to invest in a shopping center and that the investment -- the project -- was being put together by a subsidiary of American Continental," McCain said. "He later told me that they -- that that had happened. And I had no interest in it and just noted in passing that this investment took place."

The attorney asking the question during the hearing? John Dowd.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Newsweek's Sam Harris on Sarah Palin and Elitism

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin and Elitism | Newsweek Politics: Campaign 2008 | Newsweek.com

What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"

"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."

"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."

The prospects of a Palin administration are far more frightening, in fact, than those of a Palin Institute for Pediatric Neurosurgery. Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us. When asked why she is qualified to shoulder more responsibility than any person has held in human history, Palin cites her refusal to hesitate. "You can't blink," she told Gibson repeatedly, as though this were a primordial truth of wise governance. Let us hope that a President Palin would blink, again and again, while more thoughtful people decide the fate of civilization.