The academic two-step

Carmen Reinhart has written yet another defense of the discredited study that she and fellow Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff wrote. This one takes the form of an open letter to Paul Krugman, one of her harshest critics in academia. She says that it was not their fault if policymakers misread their statements about the impact of debt reaching 90% of GDP and arrived at an alarming conclusion that resulted in them pursuing the debt-reduction austerity programs that have caused such hardship around the world. [Read more…]

The secret of Obama’s success

I stopped listening to the speeches of George W. Bush because I hated listening to their huge helpings of arrogance and braggadocio. I long ago stopped listening to president Obama’s speeches but for different reasons, because his speeches seemed to be an exercise in preening self-aggrandizement masked as humility and thoughtfulness. It seemed like a waste of time to listen to them unless you enjoy listening to good speeches for their own sake, to see how to deliver a well-crafted speech effectively, while ignoring the content. He undoubtedly has good speechwriters and does justice to their efforts so I would recommend listening to him for anyone seeking to become a good public speaker. [Read more…]

Are we living in a computer simulation?

Anyone who has played even a little of modern video games would be impressed at their realistic quality. The avatars on the screen have been programmed to look almost human. Now what if the designers could program the avatars to have thoughts as well, and that we make them do things by affecting their thinking and putting thoughts in their heads. So rather than making them do things, we give them the thought that makes them do things, as if they had decided to do so themsleves. Then the avatars might think that they are real and acting on their own volition and not being manipulated by an outside agency. [Read more…]

The infamous AUMF law

Stephen Colbert carefully walks us through the Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) legislation that enabled presidents Bush and Obama to take all the actions they have taken in the so-called war on terror and has given us torture, indefinite detention, drone murders, and the like. I had not realized that the operational part of this legislation, passed just one week after the events of 9/11, was so brief, consisting of just 60 words. Here is the relevant part: [Read more…]