Chess is often a potent (however hackneyed) metaphor in films because of the many ways it provides insight on the human mind, human interaction, and humans’ relationship with machines. In his 1750 article, “The Morals of Chess”, Benjamin Franklin argues that chess teaches man the value of circumspection. Today, neuroscientists like Jonah Lehrer, argue that chess can teach us something about the nature of intuition.
The number of legal chess positions is 1040, the number of different possible games, 10120. Authors have attempted various ways to convey this immensity, usually based on one of the few fields to regularly employ such exponents, astronomy. In his book Chess Metaphors, Diego Rasskin-Gutman points out that a player looking eight moves ahead is already presented with as many possible games as there are stars in the galaxy. Another staple, a variation of which is also used by Rasskin-Gutman, is to say there are more possible chess games than the number of atoms in the universe.
Democracy is a morally necessary tool for a legitimate state and social contract, but the reality is that it is also a mechanism for choosing irrational policies. As Andreas Kluth, a correspondent for The Economist, said about democracy in a debate on if California is failed state, “James Madison didn’t want [the word] even used in the constitution of the country, because he was afraid—they had studied ancient Athens which was a failure because of direct democracy. They had studied Republican Rome, which was very stable, they wanted Rome, not Athens.”
What Bryan Caplan argues for voters applies to the religious, “If agents care about both material wealth and irrational beliefs, then as the price of casting reason aside rises, agents consume less irrationality (p. 123).” The price for an individual consuming irrationality, whether it is in the voting booth or the church pew is often small, but in aggregate for society the cost can be very high. Although Caplan’s book is about political beliefs he, to his credit, spots the connection with religion. He writes, “Human beings want their religion’s answers to be true. They often want it so badly that they avoid counterevidence, and refuse to think about whatever evidence falls in their laps[...] Once you admit that preferences over beliefs are relevant in religion it is hard to compartmentalize the insight (p. 15).”
I love this idea. Some clever Brits are staging a mass “overdose” of homeopathic remedies at 10:23am on January 30th. This highlights the fact that NO ACTUAL MEDICINE is in these pills. They are sugar pills and at best aspire to be placebos.
What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is an unscientific and absurd pseudoscience, yet it persists today as an accepted complementary medicine.
Ask many people what they think homeopathy is, and you’ll be told “it’s herbal medicine” or “it’s all-natural”. Few realise that it’s been proven not to work; even fewer know it involves substances so dilute that there’s nothing left in them.
The President visited House Republicans on Friday to have an exchange on their differing views on a host of issues and to try to get past the bitter partisanship gridlocking Washington. Please watch these videos, the first is President Obama’s introductory speech and the second is a revealing Q&A with the Republicans. Once again, the President acts like a serious adult ready and willing to honestly tackle the problems facing our nation.
[update]: I tracked down the poll Obama references in these videos about the popularity of the component parts of the (unpopular) stimulus package. The tax cuts were a little less popular than he stated, but his main point remains. If you break it down, all the parts are greatly more popular than the whole; I can’t help but see this as another example of our sad political/media reality.
He may not be perfect but he’s the best choice for continuing on the path away from economic collapse. In a New York Times op-ed, Alan Blinder advocates support for his friend and former colleague.
[H]is job performance since, say, October 2008 has been superlative. To cite just a few examples, Mr. Bernanke led the Fed to lower its interest rates to virtually zero in December 2008 and then to hold them there. The central bank also invented approaches to lending and purchasing assets that breathed some life into moribund markets like commercial paper and mortgage-backed securities. It led the highly successful “stress tests” of 19 large financial institutions last spring.
The success of these policies is demonstrable. The simplest and most objective measures of financial distress are the differences, or “spreads,” between various (risky) interest rates and the corresponding (risk-free) Treasury rates. During the worst of the crisis, in September to November 2008 and again in February to March 2009, these spreads skyrocketed to dizzying heights. Since then, they have fallen remarkably, providing direct evidence that the Fed’s cure is working.
If the Senate fails to confirm Bernanke, it will further politicize the Fed and disrupt the growing confidence in the financial markets that underpin a healthy economy. People who expect instant gratification and instant recovery from one of the worst potential recessions in modern global history shouldn’t be given the encouragement that is better placed with the leaders our precarious recovery.
I recently finished reading The New American Economy by Bruce Bartlett, a former advisor to Ronald Reagan. Read it if you get the chance – it offers serious thinking from a real conservative on our current economic situation and some of his ideas to move forward. I won’t do a full book review but in it he explains the shift in economic thinking from pre-Keynes to today. As an intellectual father to supply-side economics he concludes that the original intent of the movement has been accepted into mainstream economics while the wild all-tax-cuts-are-good-and-lead-to-increased-revenues bastard child should be marginalized and left behind. It is also interesting to read a conservative defend the idea of fiscal stimulus in the face of a severe recession and liquidity trap.
Few things aggravate me more than pure partisanship. People who only side with the Democrats or Republicans make politics into a football match rather than a governing process to best serve the interests of the nation. However the reality is that even among self-identified “independents” astonishingly few actually are independent. Other than about 10% of the US population most “independents” really act just like partisans. A blog post at The Monkey Cage fills us in on what political scientists have known for decades.
The number of pure independents is actually quite small — perhaps 10% or so of the population. And this number has been decreasing, not increasing, since the mid-1970s.
Again, there is really no difference between partisans of either stripe and independent leaners. As far as their views of Obama are concerned, it doesn’t really matter whether you say you’re a Democrat or an independent who leans Democrats, and the same is true on the other side of the aisle. Only “pure” independent appear to have evenly divided attitudes as of November, but, as above, these people are only a very small part of the sample — 7% overall.