Monday, October 29, 2007


Following the current situation in Sudan one can't but be overwhelmed with the complexity of the situation. It's remarkable and frustrating how unwieldy seemingly simple issues become upon further inspection.

Rebels refusing to attend peace talks makes the international prescription far from clear.

Obviously, the U.S. is in no position to unilaterally intervene (even if the political will did exist, the thought of invading another sovereign Muslim country, especially to aid a Christian minority, makes me shudder).

If the U.S. were to invade, who has any real idea what the situation would appear like on the ground. Obviously, there are two warring parties, and if neither party is prepared to come to the table is an intervening force meant to not only keep the peace, but also make the peace?

Intervention from the UN seems like the ideal situation, but as always complexities abound. First, the legality of a forced intervention (a military presence without the explicit approval of Sudan) would be incumbent not only on successfully determining that the conflict meets the necessary criteria, but also on convincing China and Russia that it is in their best interest. Not only has Russia turned out to be a snot-nosed problem child with an inferiority complex, but China has every reason to not put pressure on Sudan. So, a UN resolution with teeth seems inestimably far away.

Is the AU peacekeeping force really the best and most realistic option?

Is it possible to fund them to the point of approximating effectiveness?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


A decent exposition of supply-side economics and what the econ profession actually thinks.

Also prompts the reader to ask, "What the hell is wrong with Republicans?"

Why is it called economics?

A nice introduction to a...discipline(?) known as feminist economics. Several observations:

-Why bother attacking an introductory textbook? It's understood within the economics profession that ALL of these issues are more complicated and that economics can only hope to approximate a description by simplification through models. No one believes that the Phillips curve is absolute fact, but it's still useful to think about in order to gain an understanding of how inflation and unemployment might interact. In your introductory political science course (Robert Dahl anyone?) a survey of democracy can't always be expected to discuss how poll-taxes were used to prevent poor people from voting or how ignorant people can be manipulated.

Also, there are plenty of economists (here's a fantastic example) who are extremely concerned with values insertion in economics research and theory. However, they seem to be significantly more careful in their analysis.

-Second: Related to my previous post regarding moral perspectives about markets, the feminist critiques include so many assertions it's astounding. Women's caring natures? I've some anecdotal evidence to the contrary. And here is where economics and feminomics diverge. One shouldn't castigate an extremely rigorous discipline for working within its stated assumptions and context by spewing any assumption and generalization that occurs to one's pretty little progressive head.

-They mistake theory for practice. The literature on the theory of trade is far different from the literature on the practice of trade as it has transpired. Moreover, it is an almost universal convention to include in intro textbooks qualifiers to the effect that while a trade can increase the pie overall, it can certainly cause some to lose their spot at the table.

The ultimate conclusion being that it would be better to get the bigger pie and figure out a way to find a few more chairs. This qualification, however, receives no mention.

Anyway, I thought it was an interesting, though mildly frustrating, read.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Good Market?

"Moral Views of Market Society"

The above links to a very interesting paper (actually, only read the first half, after that it became too sociological) that provides a balanced overview of three basic approaches to determining the moral consequences and identity of markets.

Obviously, I would tend toward a certain perspective (guess!), but I might add that I find that perspective most compelling in part as it would seem to necessitate the fewest assumptions or argumentation regarding what is a desirable and what isn't. Essentially, to let people decide for themselves.

I am no anarchist, so let me explain. I believe that people are best positioned to define what their "goods" are (and I mean that in the ethical sense) and that the free market system is, ideally, best suited to allowing people the ability to pursue their ends.

A Marxist critique might be that free market systems alienate people from the fruits of their labor by dehumanizing the inherently personal production and transaction process. One can reasonably argue this (obviously it isn't necessary for me to legitimize Marx). However, my argument is that such a perspective necessarily burdens itself with deeper assumptions that require difficult justification.

That there exists a meaning in labor beyond the exchange of time for goods is not self-evident. The fact that there exists a wage and a product which are exchanged is all the justification necessary for the conclusion (perhaps incomplete) that the laborer devoted his or her time for a reasonable (as perceived by the laborer) compensation.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


It's not that I care so much about football, rather it's that I despise being tacitly associated with a losing team.

I have compiled a collection of blogs that I find to be consistently interesting and (more often than not) thoughtful:

Enjoy, I hope to post something original soon. But the spirit hasn't quite captured me lately.

My current read "A History of Modern Russia" is somewhat disappointing. I find the wide generalizations made in much history writing extremely distressing.

But not quite as distressing as losing to NDSU in football.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


Depending upon your point of view, either the best or worst study ever:

The visits will be scheduled in the morning and will need
an overnight fast. Each visit will last for 1 hour 1.5 hours.
At each visit we will ask you for a 24-hour urine collection,
blood and semen. At the second visit prostatic secretion will
be obtained from you via a prostate massage. You will be
asked to collect urine after the prostate massage.
Trained personnel will perform all these procedures.
Participants will be paid up to $100 for the proper completion
of the study. You will also be asked to keep a record of
your diet for 3 days before each study visit.
Detailed information will be provided at the orientation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

(Billy Collins