Friday, May 29, 2009

Bush closer to Cheney than expected

New York times columnist and "The News Hour" analyst David Brooks made the point recently that the Obama administration has essentially taken the same policy on Iraq and terrorism as the second half of the George W. Bush administration, when Dick Cheney's views were out of favor. I would pretty much buy into this, and I felt that Cheney's recent defense of torture tactics would not be supported by Bush now. However, George W. Bush gave some defense of these in a recent speech, saying that he believed they were legal at the time and that they made us safer.

Brooks also made the point that unlike Bush, President Obama gave a clear articulation of the reasons for his policy. While the policy changed in Bush's last few years, he did not emphasize this or build a case for it; instead he continued the approach of never admitting a mistake.

Monday, May 18, 2009

How do we know what's real?


describes an epochal shift in the world economy, taking place before our eyes. During this time, the old economic indicators are unreliable, and what's worse, they have been doctored by large-scale intervention so that they say what we want to believe. Below from their May 15 post:

"Of course, everyone is free to think that a few points’ monthly variation of a particular economic or financial indicator, itself largely affected by the multiple interventions of public authorities and banks, carries much more value on the evolution of the current crisis than those stepping out of century-old referential frameworks. Everyone is also free to believe that those who anticipated neither the crisis nor its intensity are now in a position to know the precise date when it will end.

Our team advises them to go see (or see again) the movie Matrix [5] and to think about the consequences of manipulating the sensors and indicators of one’s perception of given environment. Indeed, as we will examine in detail in our special summer 2009 GEAB (N°36), the coming months could be entitled « Crisis Reloaded » [6]"

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Musings on Capablanca vs. Alekhine and the nature of the universe

Jose Raul Capablanca was World Chess Champion from 1921 to 1927. During that time he was considered unbeatable in a match and dominated tournament play. Nevertheless, Alexander Alekhine defeated him in the Buenos Aires title contest by 6 wins, 3 losses and 25 draws. Alekhine, who had never won a game against Capablanca before, prepared extensively for the match, poring over Capablanca's games looking for a weakness. To his surprise he discovered that upon closer examination the seemingly strong moves of the champion overlooked certain possibilities. The challenger also altered his attacking style to a more patient, positional style more like Capablanca's.

So was Alekhine's victory a vindication of his baroque, inventive, chaotic play, and a refutation of Capablanca's simple, logical, positional buildup? Fischer said of Capablanca that he won his games by outmaneuvering his opponents in the middle game, so that the game was over when he simplified to end game, his opponents just didn't know it yet. Of Alekhine, Fischer said that his whole approach was wrong. Interestingly enough, Bobby Fischer combined the will to win of Alekhine with the classical simplicity of Capablanca.

Was Capablanca like Newtonian physics, true as far as it went, but lacking the deeper truth of chaotic quantum mechanics? Was Alekhine the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal over the board?

After the match Alekhine admitted that he was honestly surprised that he won, and felt that he benefitted from overconfidence on Capablanca's part. In spite of a prior agreement, Capablanca was never given a rematch, and the two were bitter enemies until Capablanca's death, at which point Alekhine praised his former opponent.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Local real estate development mostly gone

This may not be a news flash, but I think it is a good reminder about the big change our economy has gone through, and the repercussions that we have just begun to see.

The Statesman/Journal ran a front page story today on the Salem City Council's proposal to cut back it's regular meeting schedule from once a week to two days a month. The reason: lack of "residential and commercial development issues". So clear evidence here that things have changed a lot, and an unintended revelation that our city's leadership has been spending half their time on real estate development. The other issues for next week's meeting are deciding how to spend some federal stimulus money, discussing cameras at red lights, and choosing a name for a fountain.

Salem has a population of about 150,000 according to wikipedia. I believe the state of Oregon is the largest employer in the area, with Salem Hospital also employing a significant number of people. After that, not much in the way of industry or large businesses. What will become of all the people who were involved in construction, real estate, and related services, and what will be the further impact on the local economy?