Archive for March, 2008

A local deliberative poll

March 19th, 2008

We’ve just completed another successful deliberative poll this past weekend. This time, I did not have to travel to a far away place; the poll was in my own county, San Mateo, CA. The topic: housing. I do however see a parallel with the EU poll. In the EU, the deliberators had to consider what expansion would mean to Turkey and the Ukraine even though people from those countries weren’t invited. In the San Mateo poll, residents were asked to consider how housing policy affects commuters from the Central Valley, SF and SJ.

Here is a 2 minute news piece on the poll, uploaded by a participant of our poll. Enjoy!

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The Theory of Interstellar Trade

March 12th, 2008

Although I frequently disagree with Krugman’s approach to politics, he is a brilliant economist. Here is a funny paper he wrote on “The Theory of Interstellar Trade” (via slashdot):

Abstract: This paper extends interplanetary trade theory to an interstellar setting. It is chiefly concerned with the following question: how should interest rates on goods in transit be computed when the goods travel at close to the speed of light? This is a problem because the time taken in transit will appear less to an observer traveling with the goods than to a stationary observer. A solution is derived from economic theory, and two useless but true theorems are proved… This paper, then, is a serious analysis of a ridiculous subject, which is of course the opposite of what is usual in economics.”

The two “useless” but fundamental theorems are: (1) return on investment is calculated in the home inertial timeframe, not the voyagers timeframe and (2) interest rates on two planets separated by light years should still be the same.

Two comments on these theorems. First, the first one implies that the profits on interstellar trade must be enormous, because there is so much time elapsed to make a return trip. And this is not including any of the “real” costs, like fuel, building the ship or paying people to go on a voyage where all their loved ones will be gone.

Second, I think the second theorem may be wrong. If the interest rates *have* to be identical, does that mean that there is action at distance? In other words, should it be possible to infer what the interest rate on Trantor is based on the current interest rate on Earth? Of course, I could be wrong since I don’t really understand special relatively very well (nor instellar trade theory for that mattter).

It’s sad to know that even if the engineering hurdles could be crossed, financial theory poses serious barriers as well to interstellar trade. Sigh.

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Justifying my life

March 6th, 2008

Here are two great cartoons that just about sum up my work on this blog and on Enjoy!



(via this article on

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On Texas and Ohio

March 6th, 2008

As an Obama supporter, I was disappointed that Barack did not seal the deal yesterday. I have been reflecting on the delegate stalemate and the PR loss, and I have a few thoughts.

1) Identity politics: Obama has made massive progress in demonstrating that equality for all is a powerful message for whites and blacks. I am surprised that he wasn’t able to carry that message to the Hispanic communities in Texas. I dislike Clinton’s direct approach at appealing to women, and I don’t think it is working well with younger women. I much prefer Obama’s President for all Americans message and policies.

2) Generational warfare: Clinton is for old people and Obama is for young people. The candidates appeals are *not* personality-based but policy-based . Clinton wants to mandate that young people pay more money into health care in order to pay for more benefits for older people. Obama wants to lower health care costs–which may very well end up in less health care services for old people. Again, I think Obama has to devise a message of equality for all and policies that support it. But the worst is this aweful “experience” debate. It’s really just a thinly veiled ageist argument that anyone born after the baby boom can’t be President. Hasn’t 8 years of Bush/Cheney proven that ‘adult’ supervision isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be?

3) Tired solutions vs Fresh Solutions: Hillary I think has a slight advantage framing the election as solutions vs. rhetoric. For awhile, I favor a direct defensive maneuver by Obama: publishing policy papers, holding smaller events, etc. But now I think that is wrong. Obama has plans that are just as detailed as Clinton. It is really a battle of “tired solutions” versus “fresh solutions.” I mean she is just re-treading past political battles, whereas Obama wants to move us forward.

Well, that’s it for now. If you want more great Obama commentary, check out Marc Andreseen’s excellent endorsement of Barack Obama.

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Jack is for Hillary

March 3rd, 2008

Jack Nicholson has made this short video ad for Hillary. It’s pretty good: it draws on short clips from some of his best movies to help raise Hillary’s issues:

But Hillary’s video still doesn’t hold a candle to Huckabee’s classic spot from a month or so ago. I think the difference: Huckabee demonstrates a sense of humor by describing Chuck Norris, whereas Clinton’s own messages are purely serious. To be fair, I suppose they had different goals with their videos. Huckabee’s video is a tour de force and a truly funny 30 seconds of entertainment. Enjoy:

I suppose Obama could counter Hillary’s ad with a clip from the Shining: “All work and no play makes Hillary a dull girl. Red rum! Red rum!”

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