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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Semi-hiatus

Expect some quiet times at this blog in the near term. As you can see at the post below, I've got plenty to read, among things to do. My Twitter feed may be relatively active at times, and if you know me, I can be found via Facebook.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Varied & misc.

Some items I found interesting, in no particular order:

Notices and remembrances of recently deceased Reason magazine founder Lanny Friedlander by Nick Gillespie and Bob Poole. Justin Raimondo conscripts Friedlander as antiwar pioneer, doesn't mention his Navy service.

Review copy received: The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch.

Review copy received: First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth, by Marc Kaufman.

Review copy not requested (though I'm tempted): Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore, by Benjamin Radford.

"Creationism Makes a Comeback," by Noah Kristula-Green at FrumForum.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Welcome, Gus

On a personal note, huge congratulations to co-blogger Dan and wife Marg on the arrival of Gus!

Women's work

Some notes regarding women in the workforce:

"Mommy Track Without Shame," by Virginia Postrel, on how flexible arrangements are gaining favor.

But: "CareerBuilder: More Women Perceive Pay and Career Advancement Disparity."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Financial talent drain

A new study from the Kauffman Foundation argues, quite plausibly, that the financial sector's draw on talent is impeding entrepreneurship and economic growth. Drawing on this study, Time magazine columnist Rana Foroohar sketches out the problem. Why should a highly skilled graduate develop new technologies or life-saving drugs instead of making five times the income modeling the stock market?

I am not one to denigrate the value of an innovative financial sector (and if I did, it would be harder to explain why I continue to work at a financial magazine). I've long admired Alexander Hamilton's emphasis on developing a sophisticated financial system. But he also sought (with less success) to jump-start American industrial manufacturing with the Society for Useful Manufactures. He certainly recognized that the U.S. needed to be adept at more than just managing money.

What's the answer? Foroohar's is that we shouldn't curtail funding for the financial regulatory agencies. That's fair enough as far as it goes, but this is a subject I hope to think and write about more extensively.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Shrinking dollar?

"The dollar has lost 95 percent of its value" since the Federal Reserve began in 1913. I analyze this "damning statistic" at FrumForum.

Manhattan street grid

It's the 200th anniversary of Manhattan's street grid, and the New York Times covers it at some length while somehow omitting any mention of DeWitt Clinton, who as mayor in 1811 played a crucial role in overseeing the street grid commission. Nonetheless, the NYT items are worth reading, here, here and here. Note the beautiful "Manhattan solstice" picture in the first NYT piece; I've seen such a scene myself, and have good reason to remember it well. For my own DeWitt Clinton coverage, see here and here and the picture here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Notes toward a future alien article

Time magazine lists as one of "10 Ideas That Will Change the World" (for the better): "Relax: You Don't Need to Worry About Meeting E.T."

Pete Worden, NASA/former Air Force official, jokes: "Conservatives worry about life on Mars killing us, liberals worry about us killing life on Mars."

SETI Institute: "Internet Rumor of Inbound 2012 Spaceships Untrue."

UPDATE 5 PM: "Mars Needs Moms" flops.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Financial crisis video

I interview Greg Farrell, author of Crash of the Titans: Greed, Hubris, the Fall of Merrill Lynch, and the Near-Collapse of Bank of America on some key events of the financial crisis.



UPDATE: Video is also now here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Solar system politics

My latest at FrumForum: "NASA Budget Grounds Space Probes." Excerpt:
For decades, there was debate among space exploration proponents about the relative merits of manned versus unmanned missions. Enthusiasts of sending astronauts argued that manned missions captured the public imagination in a way that robotic probes never could, besides serving the grand purpose of building a human future in space.

Space probe proponents, including many scientists, emphasized the lower costs and far greater scientific payoff of robotic missions. They also noted the daunting difficulty of sending humans to Mars, let alone to the outer solar system where probes already travel.

The debate is now effectively over, and both sides have lost.
Whole thing here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Radio note

My radio interview with Gabe Wisdom, on my article about anti-financial populism, "Furious at Finance," is available here.

Beleaguered space probes

I've written about the robotic space program many times in the past (eg, here and here) and hope to do so again before long. Right now, its prospects are alarmingly dim, as these posts by Alan Boyle and Lou Friedman describe. And it's a subject that barely registers on the political radar screen -- for now.

UPDATE: More here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tax simplification and other topics

An interesting chat with David Frum at FrumForum today. Go to time 11:08 to see my excuse for my lack of productivity (today).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Some mostly convincing optimism

At Reason, Shikha Dalmia has a nice corrective to rampant pessimism about U.S. prospects versus those of China and India (and I'm not these days in a mood of knee-jerk optimism, I might add): "Long Live the American Dream: Why India and China have nothing on America." Excerpt:
An important reason why the gloom-and-doom about America is unjustified is precisely that there is so much gloom-and-doom. Indians and Chinese, by contrast, have drunk their own Kool Aid. Their moribund economies have barely kicked into action and they are entertaining dreams of becoming the next global superpower. This bespeaks a profound megalomania—not to mention lopsided priorities. There is not a culture of hope in these countries, as Giridhardas told Jon Stewart. There is a culture of hype.
What I find least convincing in the piece is the part where she identifies seasteading as an example of what's right with America:
Pay Pal founder Peter Theil has even given close to a million dollars to the Seasteading Institute to establish new countries on the sea to experiment with new forms of government. This might be wacky but it puts an outside limit on how out-of-whack Americans will let their institutions get before they start fixing them.
As I like to point out, I wrote about seasteading before it was cool or even called seasteading. But I don't see how fantasizing about starting your own country on the sea suggests any capability or inclination to fix real institutions.