Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Celestial nursery

Odd but intriguing analogy about the space program:

It’s like having a kid, really. There’s never a “good” time to start a family. No matter when you do it, there’s going to be sleepless nights and runny noses and attempts to stick non-food items in mouths. But it doesn’t stop us from doing it in the first place.

And much like starting a family, there’s never going to be a “good” time to ramp up the space program. There are always going to be Earth-bound problems that need attention and money.

But this should not stop us.

True. It shouldn't.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Dark economic, political thoughts

Worth a read because sadly plausible: Reihan Salam says the current much-touted economic recovery is bogus. I also note that e21, an organization with which Salam is now affiliated, looks like it's doing interesting work, with an emphasis on evidence over ideology.

From the archives: I reviewed Douthat and Salam's Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream for the New York Post. I must say, though, I was more enthused then than I'd be now about the idea that appealing to "Sam's Club" shoppers without college educations is the key to future Republican success. I hadn't thoroughly contemplated how damaging the I-don't-care-what-intellectuals-think style of politics could be.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Noble blog

Joe Marier, with whose thought I've previously been familiar only in 140-character increments, has a new blog: "Going Noble."

UPDATE 5/11: Not a whole lot going on at that blog, Joe. Change to "Going AWOL"?

Friday, April 23, 2010

May Day remembered

My latest at Research: "The Great Unfixing," about the end of fixed brokerage commissions 35 years ago May 1.

UPDATE: I'll be discussing this piece on the Gabe Wisdom Show on May 11 at 7 pm ET.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Annals of zealotry

I won't call it "epistemic closure," because I agree that's a term best retired. But if you want an example of the vehement close-mindedness of today's talk-radio-benumbed right, it would be hard to beat Mark Levin's characterization of Jim Manzi (who opposes cap-and-trade or carbon taxes but wants research on geoengineering in case climate change causes serious problems) as a "global warming zealot." (Via Conor Friedersdorf.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fading moon

I've watched the development of Obama's space policy with moderately optimistic ambivalence, torn between thinking commercialization of low Earth orbit is a good idea, and worrying that civil and deep-space activities will founder in this new focus. Whatever is of value in Obama's approach, his dismissive comments* about the moon are short-sighted in the extreme, as both Paul Spudis and Harrison Schmitt point out. (Latter link via Ann Althouse.) I interviewed both of them for my elegaic story on Apollo missions that never flew.

* "Now I understand that some believe that we should attempt a return to the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here: We've been there before. Buzz has been there. There's a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Brain blame

"My Brain Made Me Do It." Interesting SciAm interview with young neuroscientist Eliezer Sternberg. I took a look at the same subject, with a similar perspective, a few years ago in a piece titled "Are We Just Really Smart Robots?" back when I wrote for Reason.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unraveling fake history

Over at FrumForum, David Frum asks why Glenn Beck has a particular animus against Woodrow Wilson, and points to a Michael Lind piece at Salon tracing the highbrow conservative influences on Beck's and Jonah Goldberg's tendentious history (I'm not surprised that R.J. Pestritto is in the mix). For my part, I note, here and in the comments at Frum's piece, that Wilson was the president most vigilant and successful in defending the gold standard, which suggests things were a little more complicated than can be fit on Beck's chalkboard.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Efficient-markets radio

I'll be on the Gabe Wisdom Show tonight at 7 pm ET to discuss the efficient-markets hypothesis and ask whether the stock market knows what it's doing. One can listen by radio or Internet, and the segment in due course also will be available here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Authorship Controversy

by Gil Weinreich

With much gratitude to my friend Ken Silber for opening up his blog to me and now to my new book, I believe Quicksilber is a fit place to publicly announce its launch. (My publisher tells me that official launch activities commence in May, so you heard it here first.)

The book is called Who Really Wrote the Bible? and it should be of particular interest to those who appreciate literature and literary criticism. I personally find it fascinating to learn of the publication of another new book, cleverly titled Contested Will, that explores the controversy surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. The author, James Shapiro, puts to rest the nonsense that has surrounded the notion that Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere or others were the real Bard. I believe it is fair to say that my co-author Eyal Rav-Noy and I even more completely inter the notion that J, E, P and D were the writers of the Five Books of Moses (not because of any deficiency on Shapiro's part but because the case for the documentary hypothesis, or JEPD theory, that we write about is fatally flawed on logical grounds alone). Both books also note the cultural milieu that made authorship challenges trendy and seemingly relevant. Perhaps the publication of these two books signals a new trend favoring authenticity (or perhaps just sound reasoning).

Reading about Shakespeare, just like reading Shakespeare, is deeply rewarding because of the literary magnificence of his work. All the more so then should intellectuals concern themselves with the composition of the Bible, because the literary achievement it represents dwarfs that of William Shakespeare. And if you don't believe me, read the book and judge for yourself!

Who Really Wrote...

Gil Weinreich, my longtime friend, editor at Research magazine, and co-blogger, and Rabbi Eyal Rav-Noy have written an impressive book, Who Really Wrote the Bible? I believe it will be of interest to people of various viewpoints on religion, and will spark much debate. There will be more about it here at QuickSilber, and much more at the book's website.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Some links on libertarianism

Jonathan Chait says the voters, effectively, don't want it.

David Boaz says many of those who propound it engage in simpleminded nostalgia. ( erupts in rage.)

John Stossel proudly proclaims that he converted to it, and complains that people on street don't know what it is; doesn't mention the profound differences among its proponents as to what it is.

UPDATE: And some new polling data on what government spending people actually want to cut.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Financial fringes

Tonight's New York Historical Society event on "The Global Financial Crisis," with Paul Volcker and David Walker was marred by Volcker's mumbling, exacerbated by poor audio. But it had some interesting moments, as when in reply to a rambling and repeated question about whether Ron Paul's "radical solutions" such as a gold standard would be useful, Volcker said only "The short answer is no." That meant there was time for one more question, which came from a Lyndon LaRouchite babbling about "phony money" and "global Glass Steagall," to which moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin said "I don't know where to go with that." That meant there was time for one more question, but since it was something sane, no one can remember what it was.

Had I been given the mike, I'd have asked "Who has better solutions for America: Ron Paul or Lyndon LaRouche? I can't decide."

James Pethokoukis is displeased by Volcker's amenability to a VAT and an energy tax. He sees that as reflecting a new "Washington consensus" that America's undertaxed. I think the big fight will be over whether such new taxes are combined with getting rid of various existing taxes.

Iran insider

Recommended reading: Michael J. Totten's "Our Man Inside Iran's Revolutionary Guards."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Financial journalism

The New York State Society of CPAs (NYSSCPA) gives annual awards for Excellence in Financial Journalism. I'm very pleased to be a 2010 winner, pushing Research magazine's winning streak to seven years.

Drive review

The May 2010 issue of Scientific American Mind has my review of Daniel Pink's Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hope and change in NJ

Josh Barro has some good news about my adopted home state. Excerpt:

Since taking office, and in his budget address, Christie has repeated -- almost as a mantra -- that fixing New Jersey's budget will involve "shared sacrifices." The good news, though, is that the state starts from an extremely high spending baseline, which is how the tax burden got so out of control. Those "sacrifices" will involve dropping to a spending level that is merely above-average.

So, the next time someone tells you that Chris Christie wants to cut spending "through the bone," remember that New Jersey doesn't have to emulate Texas to shrink tax burdens. If Christie gets his way, the Garden State might someday be a libertarian paradise along the lines of the ("People's Republic of") Massachusetts.

Me: It will be nice to live in a libertarian paradise.