September 29, 2003

To interpret and admire   {Comments: 2}

My first day back on campus (we're on the quarter system here) and they've finally started filling in the steel frame of the new business school. It was a gaping hole in the middle of campus for most of last year, but now my hopes have been confirmed - the design will echo Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece across the street. Here's a little bit about the architect, Rafael Viñoly (requires Flash).

Prying eyes   {Comments: 1}

Here's the latest feature on radio frequency identification, or RFID. This technology has been getting a lot of press lately, with the new Wal-Mart directive requiring suppliers to adopt it. But the privacy concerns are serious:

"Very few people grasp the enormity of this," said Katherine Albrecht, director of Citizens Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering, a group that was founded in 1999 to protest the use of frequent shopper cards and credit cards to collect data on individual consumers' purchasing habits.

Ms. Albrecht and other critics say that companies and government agencies will be able to monitor what people read or where they assemble from radio tags embedded in their books or woven into clothing. Unlike bar codes, which cannot be scanned unless a laser has a direct line of sight to them, the radio tags can be read through walls, and multiple tags can be read in an instant.

It's especially troubling when you consider that RFID tags can be as small as a grain of sand, meaning they could be implanted in just about any product without the consumer's knowledge. The demand that chips be deactivatable upon sale at the consumer's request seems reasonable enough.
September 28, 2003

High stakes viticulture   {Comments: 1}

Mike Steinberger had an article on Slate last week about the problems with the California wine culture. I'm certainly familiar with the difficulty of finding a CA wine under $15 that's "merely inoffensive". One reason, apparently:

Napa Valley is the most fabled of California's wine regions, and the attitude-per-hectare there is particularly dense. Owning a Napa vineyard has long been a mark of prestige, but over the past 15 years or so, the area has seen an influx of wannabe wine barons who made their fortunes elsewhere (not least the tech industry) and transferred their alpha instincts to the wine business. This has created a neurotic atmosphere of perennial one-upmanship, in which the goal is not merely to make fine wine, but to make prohibitively expensive, virtually unobtainable wine - to create trophies for other plutocrats.
I guess this is part of the phenomenon that has so many folks leaving their jobs to attend culinary school? Or maybe not - maybe it's the sacrifices of those culinary defectors that give them all their charm...
Smack down your vote   {Comments: 0}

According to this article, candidates may have another voting block to worry about in 2004:

The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and World Wrestling Entertainment are joining forces under the name "Smack Down Your Vote," and aim to get 2 million more 18-to-30-year-olds to register for next year's presidential election.

The registration of young voters has become increasingly important in presidential elections as their number has dropped by roughly one-third since 18-year-olds got the right to vote in 1972, according to statistics from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

"We want to reverse the process where old people are the only ones who vote," said Russell Simmons, chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

My hunch is we'll see much better turnout of the 18-30 age group in 2004, and it'll have little to do with this good-hearted effort. Two phenomena: 1) like everyone else, youth are relatively more engaged by politics and world events after two wars, two election debacles, and a jobless recovery; and 2) Howard Dean, God bless him, has done an absolutely stunning job of turning the internet into a tool for grass roots organizing. That said, it won't necessarily help the Dems - check out this ominous report on the machine.
September 26, 2003

Baked goods   {Comments: 0}

Rice Grad links disapprovingly to this story about an affirmative action protest that was shut down by Southern Methodist Univeristy. He views it as a speech violation, and usually I would agree. But in this case, the protest was a bake sale with different prices for customers of different races. Surely, besides being morally offensive, this behavior offends some trade or commerce law about price discrimination.

What interests me about this is the way we turn so quickly to the First Amendment as a protection for all kinds of behavior, whether it's related to speech or not. I'm not suggesting it's unreasonable in every case - but can you imagine the horrific consequences of protecting commercial activity as speech? What kind of society treats buying and selling as protected expression? Next thing, we'll be arguing it's vital to the democratic process.

MORE: Rice Grad responds.

The prisons of Greece   {Comments: 0}

Some local news: the Social Security Administration is under fire after allegations of gross mishandling here in Chicago:

In June, the Journal Sentinel reported on an audit that found hundreds of backlogged cases and two full boxes of unopened mail that was several months old, including requests for congressional inquiries and medical updates. The story was based on an internal e-mail obtained by the newspaper.
As a former employee of SSA here in the Chicago area, I have to say that this kind of thing is not uncommon. Files are often lost, and unopened mail can be left sitting for months at a time. I wouldn't say it's the norm, and there are a great many competent and conscientious employees, but this kind of stuff does happen - and more often than the occasional bureaucratic nightmare expose would have you believe.

I will say, however, that I don't think it's any worse than you'd find in the private sector, especially as companies get bigger. The watchers just watch harder when it comes to the government. In fact, I'm willing to bet that SSA stacks up favorably against private insurance companies of comparable size in terms of accuracy and processing speed.

September 25, 2003

An exemplar of American multiculturalism   {Comments: 0}

Via Unfogged, I learn than Edward Said has died. Besides being a hugely controversial figure in the American politics of the Middle East, he was a major figure in Comparative Literature, and I had the opportunity to meet in that context when I was at IU. I remeber being, well, impressed by his agility. The New York Times has an extensive obit.

Politics and power   {Comments: 0}

PG has a skeptical post up about Daniel Drezner's capacity for writing an evenhanded "scholarly paper on the power and politics of blogging". I haven't been a consistent reader of Drezner, but I became interested this week when I noticed he's teaching a class on Global Governance here at U of C, which should be right up my alley. I contacted him for a syllabus yesterday, and as I should have expected, it's loaded up with theoretical political economy papers... which especially made sense when I saw this bit from PG:

I finally figured out what troubles me about Drezner's generally fair and intelligent blogging - he assumes that everyone is an old hand at politics, and that one ought to be able to see through any dissembling or deception easily.

I first noticed this when he wrote dismissively about concerns over the false claims that Saddam Hussein was buying uranium from Niger. The presumption was that because Drezner thought the war justified for reasons that didn't require the Bush Administration to have been strictly truthful in their case for Hussein's being a proximate threat, "righteous indignation" over this falsity was excessive.

Political economy is all about looking at political systems in terms of structures - all the assumptions about individuals consist of the same "rational actor" programming, so that "strategic misrepresentation" is expected. Nevermind for the moment that this might be a cynical view of human nature; the Bush Administration's ultimately false justifications for Iraq can be explained simply by looking at by the political structures we have and the incentives they create. I certainly don't mean to put words in Mr Drezner's mouth - just thought it added up well.

Meanwhile, I'm very interested in his project on the political relevance of blogs, and he's certainly in a unique position to do something interesting with it. But I do think his definition of weblog is imprecise:

A weblog is defined here as a web page with minimal to no external editing, dedicated to on-line commentary, periodically updated and presented in reverse chronological order, with hyperlinks to other online sources.
Online commentary? Maybe if you come at it from a poststructuralist angle blogs are commentary no matter what they say (or don't say), but I seriously doubt that's the intention of this definition. Especially after the experience I've had wading through the participants in the Chicago Blogmap, it's clear to me that many blogs aren't at all dedicated to commentary - there are some fiction and photography blogs, recipe blogs, and most of all there are confessional blogs, that aren't commentary in any but the widest possible (ie meaningless) sense.

What's much more important is the form itself - entries in reverse chronological order, links to other web locations (or sometimes not), and frequent updates. The fact that there are so many different kinds of blogs is a testament to the genius and flexibility of that form. I suspect that like all of us, Mr Drezner's understanding is mostly informed by the blogs he reads - which is fine, but not for a definition of weblog.

September 24, 2003

And dangerous things   {Comments: 2}

This article gives you permission to use they as a third person singular pronoun in written English:

Beyond the world of linguistics, it isn't generally known that singular they was once accepted usage in English writing and speech. There is no evidence that speakers of Middle English and early Modern English used gender-inclusive he as we know it today.
Other options mentioned by the article include of course he and he or she - but there's nothing about my preference, simply to use she. I've always liked this because it seems to force your mind open a little bit - despite what the article above may say, she is definitely the marked form in English, and forcing people around that grammatical imprecision is good enough reason for me. I know she is accepted in some academic writing, but it's not clear to me how widespread it is. I guess I need to hit those academic journals a little harder.

MORE: A friend who's working on her (yes, really her) dissertation in Slavics says she is nonstandard. I'm sure I've seen it in published psychology writing though.

MORE: Language Hat (also in comments) likes they as well. And Brian Weatherson has some interesting discussion of they as a singular pronoun, but in a different sense than I've discussed above.

Errata   {Comments: 1}

Brian Weatherson points me to Language Log, a new blog by four linguists. Naturally, it has more of a linguistic bent than some of the other language blogs out there, but the approach has its charm. My only complaint is that there are no comments yet.

Dale Chihuly, who did an installation at the Garfield Park Conservatory here in Chicago, has now created a 19 foot glass DNA sculpture for the IU medical school in Indianapolis. The sculpture is "a departure of sorts from Chihuly’s previous work." (Chihuly also did the ceiling of the lobby at the Bellagio, which I saw last week.)

The Washington Times has an affectionate article about the just finished Galileo mission, and apostronaut picks out some interesting Galileo trivia.

Blogmaps and other diversions   {Comments: 0}

The Chicago Blogmap is off to a great start - thanks to everyone who's linked to it. So far there are around 50 blogs listed, and the news is only just now spreading to the LiveJournal community. I also got my first big media link (sort of) - but all the credit should go to Don Bruns, the real man behind the curtains.

Also, while I haven't actually written anything yet, I'm going to be covering Indiana for the Political State Report from time to time.

September 23, 2003

The city of Chicago is a museum   {Comments: 0}

Here's an excellent page on Chicago and architecture - it's actually part of one of Ken Hope's classes at Truman college here in town. The discussion is about architectural principles, illustrated with examples from Chicago. If you're an architect or an architecture buff you'll find it pretty basic, but it's still cool to see the city of Chicago as the textbook...

I'd sit around and have a ball   {Comments: 0}

BigOldGeek links to this site that ranks countries along with US states and metro areas in terms of GDP. Chicago Metro has a bigger GDP than the Russian Federation, the Lafayette, IN area has a bigger GDP than Uganda, etc. Maybe this perspective-granting website (by way of Angie O'Neal) helps explain some of these disturbing discrepancies. Or maybe it's all those agricultural subsidies?

Then again, it's quite possible that some of your money isn't even real.

September 22, 2003

Get up, stand up   {Comments: 0}

My friend/colleague Breeze has a new biweekly radio show here in Chicago on WHPK 88.5FM (that's U of C Radio: "Pride of the Southside"). "Get Up, Stand Up" will air this Wednesday from 3-4PM. Breeze explains: "the show focuses on diverse issues facing Chicago and the young people working to address them." Tune in and check it out!

Word and deed   {Comments: 0}

Rice Grad, whom I've just added to the blogroll, jumps on Wesley Clark (also here) for the inconsistencies in his position on the Iraq war. Clark says he would have supported the resolution to authorize the president to use force if necessary, but he takes issue with the way the march to war played out. As Haggai Elitzur and Josh Marshall explain, there is not necessarily an inconsistency here. Authorizing the president to use force was a key negotiating step toward gettng Iraq to disarm - it was meant to bolster the president's hand before war became necssary. That Clark (or any other of the Dems who voted for it) supported a resolution to give the war powers doesn't somehow make him responsible for whatever heinous acts the president later perpetrated, nor should the president's illegal military adventurism have been predictable.

September 21, 2003

CHICAGO BLOGMAP   {Comments: 0}

I've just launched a new Chicago Blogmap based on the code for the successful DC Metro Blog Map. Do me a favor and post a link to it if you have a blog - it won't work unless people know it's there!

UPDATE: The excellent new Chicago Bloggers site also just launched.

Coding issues, etc.   {Comments: 0}

Just back from vacation and I've discovered a code problem with the template for this site that may have affected readers using Mozilla. The problem should be fixed now, but please email me if you happen to notice other problems.

Posting may be light this week since I'm way behind after being away, although I do have a lot to say about the collapse in Cancun, the Clark candidacy, and the pending 9th Circuit ruling on the Calfornia recall. In the meantime, the first article of the Economist's World Economy Survey is free, and the others are definitely worth the Economist's hefty cover charge.

September 15, 2003

No blogging this week   {Comments: 1}

Just a quick post to let you know that I'm on vacation this week, and probably won't get a chance to post again before the wknd. I'm in Phoenix now, headed to the Grand Canyon soon and then to Vegas...

September 12, 2003

A world of possibility   {Comments: 28309}

Something extraordinary is happening in Cancun this week. Much of the developing world has banded together (also here) in an attempt to bring about a fairer trading environment for agricultural goods.

The Group of 21 (G21), which includes China, India and Brazil, has threatened the traditional dominance of rich countries during world trade talks in Cancun, Mexico. The G21 is demanding the complete abolition of subsidies paid by rich countries to their farmers which, they say, locks the developing world out of international markets.
Agricultural subsidies in rich countries might be the single most important policy issue in the world today, and it's looking like this coalition might be able to do something about them. As I've discussed here before, getting rid of those subsidies would cut to the heart of the development problem - without them, farmers in developing countries could compete favorably in first world markets, and in their own.

The other side of this story is the coalition itself, which is unprecedented on the international stage. If this works, it could alter the way international trade decisions are made. It has the potential to create a new environment in which all countries have to work in coalitions in order to further their economic aims.

MORE: Rice Grad also posts on trade.

Economists anonymous   {Comments: 0}

The Economist reads the IMF's latest deal with Argentina as a kind of existential angst:

Argentina’s self-confidence in negotiations may reflect the IMF’s self-doubt. After the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, the Fund was roundly criticised for demanding too much fiscal austerity. After the Argentine default of 2001, it was criticised for demanding too little. Even as it negotiated specific conditions with Argentina, the IMF was asking itself a number of awkward questions about “conditionality” in general. How tough should its loan requirements be, and how strictly should they be enforced? Should the Fund, an outfit of technocratic macroeconomists, really be in the business of prescribing microeconomic reforms, such as cutting fuel subsidies or raising charges for public services?
But the New York Times calls the deal one of a kind:
[a]nalysts say that the Argentine deal was probably a one-time thing. Brazil has the clout - it is a big enough debtor - to play hardball with the fund, though it probably would not, analysts said. Smaller debtors like Ecuador, though, simply do not have the leverage to extract concessions from the IMF.
I don't have any insight into which analysis is more accurate, but it will be interesting to see how this latest deal affects the IMF's negotiating position in the future. I'm generally a proponent of strong international institutions, but in the case of the IMF it seems like a lot of the after-the-fact economic belt-tightening they impose is of the theoretical (ie sketchy) variety. Certainly sorting through the Asian financial mess and the Argentinian meltdown is a worthy endeavor.
Or you're part of the problem   {Comments: 0}

The big international news today is that Israel has announced its intention to expel Yasir Arafat. It's pretty obvious even to a casual observer (ie me) that Yasir Arafat isn't part of the solution. That said, getting rid of him by force looks like a pretty terrible alternative to having him around. He himself isn't executing terrorist attacks. He may approve of them, and he may be providing some political cover, but it seems unlikely he's involved in actually organizing them. Be assured, there are people who will remain to carry out attacks, and their numbers will probably grow.

Will the Palestinians be allowed to choose his successor? If not (and the answer is almost certainly no) then the successor can't possibly be a serious negotiating partner, because the Palestinian goal of self determination can't logically be achieved without a leader who represents the people.

Fratricide?   {Comments: 0}

This won't help:

About 10 Iraqi security personnel have mistakenly been killed by US soldiers outside the town of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, according to Iraqi sources.

Police and witnesses said US forces opened fire on Iraqi police chasing a car carrying gunmen as it passed through an American checkpoint.

Meanwhile, the story is hours old, yet many US news sources (incl the New York Times, the Washington Post, and MSNBC still aren't covering it. Talk about media bias!
September 11, 2003

The last days of disco   {Comments: 0}

cheesebikini reports that the last flashmob went down in New York last night - or at least, the last one organized by "Bill", the apparent source of the whole phenomenon. No doubt flashmobs will continue - here in Chicago all the gears are still turning - but it's nice to know somebody has the elegance to call it a day.

September 10, 2003

Classic misdirection   {Comments: 0}

Trade talks in Cancun are underway, and they're finally getting a little press - including a somewhat enlightened NYTimes editorial. Body and Soul has more.

Meanwhile there's this sideshow over whether US companies can continue to use European names on 41 products: Porto, Cognac, Bologna, Manchego, and Feta, to name a few. And unfortunately, it looks like they've managed to connect the issue to the problem of agricultural subsidies:

The issue is vital to Europe, which is under heavy pressure to slash its lavish farm subsidies. EU farm officials say they might be able to justify cutting subsidies if they can get protection for small producers of specialty products. A names registry also would protect consumers by guaranteeing authenticity and quality, they say.
One odd feature of this argument is the complete disconnect between these specialty products and the EU farmers who would go under if agricultural subdsidies were eliminated. Basically they're saying that if they could squeeze more out of their Parmagiano-Reggiano, they'd have the economic wherewithal to retrain their former farmers into something else - more specialty food producers, business consultants, professors of god knows what - or even just support them through the government.

But the whole reason for subsidies in the first place is to protect the jobs of those farmers. Basic trade theory tells us that if we open trade completely (ie get rid of those subsidies) then countries will produce the goods for which they have a comparative advantage. In practice this means some workers will be laid off or retrained - which is why in the US we see organized sugar, cotton, and steel lobbies and government subisidies and tarrifs to protect them. But if the EU is willing to concede that those farmers' jobs will be reallocated, there isn't really any argument left for a subsidy policy.

Glow in the dark   {Comments: 0}

Chris Gulker at Newsforge weaves an interesting theory about the genesis of last month's blackout. Thanks to BigOldGeek for the link.

Off the reservation   {Comments: 1802}

IU professor Eric Rasmusen has apparently survived an attempt by the university (also here) to take down his site, Rasmusen Web-log:

Indiana University is allowing a professor to continue posting through the school's Web site a personal log with criticisms of homosexuals despite complaints from some staffers.

A university attorney determined that the log did not violate any school policies, a day after the business school dean asked economics Professor Eric Rasmusen to remove it, IU spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said Friday.

In Rasmusen's Web log, which was linked to from his IU biography, he expressed his views about why homosexuals should not be teachers, elected officials and doctors.

I think IU probably made the right choice here, but I do think a university has the right to regulate content that appears on its servers, esp when there's an educational motivation. In this case, it's hard to see what kind of educational end could be achieved by taking the site down. Promoting diversity? That'd be a laughable paradox.

What's less clear is why Mr Rasmusen is hosting his site at IU. Aren't there other free alternatives all over the web? Is he using the server to underscore his credibility? If so - if it's particularly the IU name he's using, via the server - then maybe we have a different story. I suspect that's not the case here - that he's just camped out where he happens to have access.

(By the way, the site design of Rasmusen Web-log is definitely worth a look; it's about as bare bones as anything I've seen this side of Blogger. There's some explanation given for this, but there don't seem to be any permalinks to help you find it...)

MORE: Didn't notice these related posts the other day: Will Baude at Crescat Sentenia, Erin O'Connor at Critical Mass, Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy, and Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber. The first one is essentially a respons to the discussion between Eugene and Henry. Also, Twilight of the Idols had some interesting thoughts from Bloomington, but for the moment an error prevents me from viewing them.

September 9, 2003

Concerning this blog  

locussolus is my personal blog, where I write about pretty much whatever I'm interested in (you can read more about me here). It's changed a lot since it began in 2003; the subject matter, style, and tempo have all varied with my changing interests. Here are a few representative posts:

1. Ethical vegetarianism
2. The Dean model
3. Dreams of a final theory (and this follow-up)
4. The essence of bullshit
5. Undervaluing your spare kidney
6. And dangerous things
7. Hearing distinctions
8. Too many chiles
9. The aura of election (also this)
10. Grandmother tongue, or the tale of Gonya
11. Spinach mushroom quiche
12. Collective authority
I took the title locussolus from the novel Locus Solus by French author Raymond Roussel. The novel was originally published in 1914 and is widely available in French. An English translation by Rupert Copeland Cunningham is out of print and difficult to obtain in the US, but the first chapter, translated by Harry Mathews, appears in the Roussel anthology How I Wrote Certain of My Books, published in 1995 by Exact Change.

The site design was inspired in part by TokyoShoes. It's also indebted to Blogger for providing the template (in somewhat altered form) to painpill, on which this site was built.

The banner graphic is a detail from an untitled painting by Steve Snyder. The painting hangs above my piano; an amateur digital reproduction is available if you're interested.

locussolus is powered by Movable Type. It was launched on August 12, 2003 -- although the archives include posts from my previous blog, which go back to February 6, 2003.

[updated February 22, 2006]

A paper bag over his head   {Comments: 0}

Via Evan Garcia over at a The Scope: The Simpsons, that most wonderful of television programs, has somehow managed to get Thomas Pynchon to do a cameo on an upcoming episode. Pynchon isn't exactly the most gregarious literary personality out there, but he's certainly appropriate!

More on O'Bannon/Indiana politics   {Comments: 0}

According to the Indianapolis Star, Frank O'Bannon probably suffered some degree of brain damage during his cerebral hemhorrage yesterday. Cerebral hemhorrages are in general quite severe, and it seems unlikely O'Bannon will return to the governor's mansion. It's too bad - he seems to have been universally admired.

The politcal fallout will be an interesting story if you're following the Indiana governor's race, because Lt Governor Joe Kernan, who in all likelihood will now replace O'Bannon, indicated in February that he wouldn't be running in 2004 (O'Bannon couldn't run again because of Indiana term limits). That decision left Democrats scrambling to find a candidate to face probable Republican nominee and former White House budget secretary Mitch Daniels. Obviously it's not clear now what the implications are for 2004, but it'll definitely put the brakes on what was shaping up to be a vicious campaign.

Trade machinations   {Comments: 0}

My optimism about the current round of WTO talks may have been misplaced - here's the view from the third world. And this view from the British trade minister might be a little encouraging if you're looking of first world support - until you consider that Britain has a much smaller agricultural interest than some of the other first world players.

At any rate, this is where it's at this week in terms of news - what happens in Cancun will shape trade relations and the lives of billions for years to come... definitely something to watch.

Cost-cost analysis   {Comments: 0}

Rice Grad takes the relative failure of the Washington metro as a sign that Houston shouldn't experiment with light rail. I'm no expert on the Houston situation, but I will offer a couple of observations. Houston is the 4th largest city in the US, right on the heels of Chicago. It seems strange therefore to look at a city like Washington, which is much smaller, as an example of how such a system would work in Houston. Wouldn't Chicago - which btw has a much more successful rail system - be a better point of comparison?

The other beef I have with Rice Grad's argument is that he gauges the success of a rail system solely in terms of its financial solvency. While this is obviously important, there might be bigger goals in play. Just in terms of urban planning - do you want a city that continues to sprawl out into suburbs, or do you want to direct growth inward toward the city itsef? These questions have huge implications for life in the city and outside it, and different outcomes might be worth paying for, even if it means higher taxes. Again, I don't know Houston, but it seems like there might be other issues to look in this situation...

MORE: Houston blogger Charles Kuffner has semi-recent posts here and here about the light rail debate there. Unfortunately there isn't much that deals directly with Houston's lack of zoning laws and the implications for city "design" - BigOldGeek wisens me up in comments below. Meanwhile Courrèges has this old post on highways and suburbanization.

Mutual intelligibility   {Comments: 0}

Language Hat links to this somewhat surprising discovery (the paper itself is here) about accents and interpreting foreign languages. Apparently it's just as easy for non-native speakers of a language to understand other non-native spekers (ie people with accents) as it is for them to understand natives. This makes sense if you're talking about one language - just last week I noticed how much easier it was to understand my sister than her Italian boyfriend, even though they were both speaking Italian pretty fast, with dropped consonants etc, but this makes sense because my sister and I are both native English speakers, so we might both have a similar relationship with Italian. But according to the article, the increased intelligibility applies even when the non-native speakers come different native languages - a possibly significant result in terms of clarifying the way one person understands another.

September 8, 2003

Frank O'Bannon   {Comments: 0}

According to the Indianapolis Star (I actually just found the link over at Cooped Up), Indiana Governor Frank O'Bannon had a cerebral hemhorrage this morning while attending a conference here in Chicago. He's being operated on right now at Northwestern Memorial Hospital downtown. The transfer of power to Lt Governor Joe Kernan may already have been set in motion, which is ironic because Kernan recently opted not to pursue O'Bannon's job in 2004. More on that later... I can't write any more just now. Oddly enough, I'm headed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital to meet my friend, who's a doctor there.

But of all the Thompson gunners   {Comments: 0}

Warren Zevon was the best:

Warren Zevon, who wrote and sang the rock hit "Werewolves of London" and was among the wittiest and most original of a broad circle of singer-songwriters to emerge from Los Angeles in the 1970s, died Sunday. He was 56.
He'll be missed.

MORE: A sympathetic review of his latest album, The Wind; a segment of the VH1 interview earlier this year; and a feature from Rolling Stone late last year.

September 5, 2003

Mole for the masses   {Comments: 0}

Spent today with my friend John prepping dinner for tomorrow night. We have these little dinner parties occasionally, usually end up cooking way beyond our ken. Here's the current menu:

Tostadas with guacamole and homemade salsas

Tequilas, with sangrita as a chaser

Tortilla soup with pasilla chiles

Enchiladas verdes

Turkey with red mole OR Cheese and onion enchiladas with red mole

Mexican hot chocolate


Actually, if you're reading this and you'd like to join us, drop me a line and I'll send directions...
September 4, 2003

Government resources should be spent carefully   {Comments: 0}

Just Another Rice Grad (no permalinks, I guess) is duking it out with PG over PG's idea that the govt should offer tax breaks to businesses during recessions in an exchange for an agreement to hire new employees.

In principle I don't have a problem with the government subsidizing employment, but it seems like there are other ways of achieving the same result. Give the money to the states, they're laying off employees right and left. Hire some teachers. There's so much work to be done in this world, and paying corporations to keep the dead wood around is a waste of valuable human resources! This might seem unfair because of the way it moves jobs from one industry to another (ie lay off codemonkeys, hire teachers), but that's pretty much standard fare... Look at the way the Fed's tried to combat the recession - pushing down interest rates didn't help people who were laid off during the recession, but it sure created a boom in the housing market. A truly visionary policy would reallocate the abundant resource in order to achieve some neglected social good.

September 3, 2003

Not smart enough?   {Comments: 0}

I've been having a hard time wrapping my head around the latest national increases in overall SAT scores. I always understood that they score different individual tests differently depending on how test takers score. But if the test takers themselves are part of the metric, how can the average score go up? I don't doubt that statisticians could find out whether people were getting smarter by looking at answers to individual questions, but I was surprised to hear that the average scores changed. Can somebody assure me that this isn't a scam on the part of the people who put out the scores? My confidence isn't exactly inspired by the way they inflated the whole scale a few years back...

Free Trade   {Comments: 0}

All of a sudden international institutions are taking center stage. Just today the the Bush administration is finally taking the UN's peacekeeping and nation building expertise seriously. But the WTO talks next week in Cancun may be an even bigger deal.

Last week, the WTO struck a mighty blow against the pharmaceutical industry (and their main lobbyist, the Bush administration) by reducing patent restrictions on drug production for third world countries. This means third world "customers" who weren't able to purchase lifesaving drugs before can now get the drugs from generic producers in India and Brazil. While this might seem like a raw deal for Americans, who fund pharmaceutical research either through increased prescription drug costs or inflated insurance premiums, the fact is patients in the third world weren't able to buy the drugs at all before, so it shouldn't affect revenues. The problems now will revolve around enforcement - how do you stop rich Americans and Europeans from obtaining the cheap, generic versions? You need a central trade authority with teeth.

Talks next week should revolve around the much bigger issue of agricultural subsidies. For all the Bush administration's talk about free trade, there just hasn't been any movement on agriculture, which is really the dark center of American protectionism.

Developing countries argue that the more than US$300 billion spent each year by industrialized countries to help their domestic food producers prevents them competing on developed markets, but also on their home market.

"For us to have sustainable food security we have to be able to produce. The dumping of uncompetitive, subsidized agricultural produce has stolen our incentive to produce by denying us access to markets," Mohamed said.

Subsidies paid by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries per capita for cows and cotton bolls are "considerably higher" than OECD per capita aid for sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN Development Programme's Human Development Report last year.

I guess I'm pretty skeptical about the OECD countries yielding any ground - domestic political concerns, you know - but the decision on drug patents is glimmer of hope. These kinds of successes bring more prestige to the WTO's multilateral approach, which means more authority for international institutions.
Respublik svobodnyx   {Comments: 0}

Via Metafilter, here's small collection of Russian literature in translation, available thanks to some copyright loophole created by the collapse of the Soviet Union. Definitely worth a look around...

Miscellany   {Comments: 0}

Just wanted to point out that I've added a number of interesting sites (blogs and otherwise) to the sidebar over the past few days. Also, a couple things that should have been up before I even launched: a site description, a brief bio, and my email address. Still working on monthly archives...

September 2, 2003

Playing with power   {Comments: 0}

Here's Paul Krugman on the latest regulatory copout. I have to wonder if he isn't meaning to obliquely weigh in on the situation with current gas prices. Cruz Bustamante's unprecedented solution to that problem is getting mixed reviews.

In search of an author  

My name is Paul Goyette. For the moment I'm working as a researcher with Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago, where I also recently completed a masters in public policy. Prior to that, I spent a couple years working for the Social Security Administration; before that I did a degree in comparative literature and Russian at Indiana University.

My interests are wide ranging; I started this blog with the intention of writing mostly about politics (I was doing the public policy degree at the time), but I guess I'm easily distracted, so you'll find posts here about many other topics. The one major pursuit of mine that almost never gets mentioned on the blog though is music -- I spend a lot of time on a piano, playing jazz and blues, but also Bach; and of course I'm an avid listener as well.

I like to write (obviously!); besides blog entries, I also create lyrics and libretti for my good friend David Sasso; our first collaboration was on the children's opera The Trio of Minuet, and as of this writing a second major project is in the works.

[updated August 24, 2006]