Links and Brew

 

http://blogs.agu.org/mountainbeltway/2012/01/26/the-mixed-up-quartzites-of-cape-agulhas/ Check out this crazy earth shit happening in South Africa

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2012/01/26/could-a-balloon-fly-in-outer-space/ Could a balloon float in outer space? Simply having that sentence on my blog should get me 100 google hits a week for the rest of internets.

http://www.people-press.org/2011/12/28/little-change-in-publics-response-to-capitalism-socialism/?src=prc-headline I was told OWS changed public discourse about capitalism and socialism, but according to Pew? Nada.

http://crunkfeministcollective.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/white-womens-rage-5-thoughts-on-why-jan-brewer-should-keep-her-fingers-to-herself/ Finally, a post on white woman rage.

http://phillisremastered.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/a-teachable-racial-moment-on-fingers-pointed-in-black-faces/ More on Obama and Brewer. Don’t point fingers!

http://www.afriquejet.com/new-york-unicef-appeals-for-usd128-billion-to-assist-children-in-2012-2012012832312.html UNICEF is asking for 1.28 billion. Make it happen.

http://mashable.com/2012/01/27/twitter-censorship-activism/ How twitter censorship is good for activists.

 

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Game Theory Might Be Cooler Than I Thought

Found over at The Quantitative Peace. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita explains how he purchases a car.

This is amazing. He already has multiple examples of it working as well. I’m imagining Bruce first deciding he wanted to employ game theory to buy a car, and the biggest issue that comes to mind is not a complete or incomplete information model. What strikes me first is he decided to be the guinea pig in this experiment; being first means the potential for immense embarrassment was there. Was Bruce that certain in being a god of game theory, or did he ever think,

“I’m about to look like the biggest douche-bag  or homo economicus. Homo economicus douche-baggicus?”

Lets not kid ourselves, you’re gonna come off as an asshole to get this done. It also made me wonder what other aspects of life has Bruce taking advantage of game theory. This led me to brainstorm every day actions where one could benefit from placing people into your model(with or without them knowing), where you set the parameters that is likely to poop out a favorable outcome for you. I’d be lying if I said that dealings with the opposite sex and game theory didn’t come to mind, but that was even before I saw this YouTube. This is what I’m assuming Bruce is doing. A man who just wrote a book letting us know just how rational it is to be a dictator. Bruce isn’t interested in morality, just getting stuff done! It makes you wonder how many people and institutions he’s game theory fucked over the years. He clearly has no qualms about abusing his power. Keep thinking Bruce doesn’t account for the baby’s tears as he rips the candy away from its tiny pathetic hands. One can can certainly make the case that game theory can be employed as modern day dark arts. The more I think on the subject, the less I start to understand it myself. My brain is actually starting to hurt. Is this why people people scoff at rational choice theorists but stay clear of naming Mesquita? I clearly don’t have the tools necessary to unravel god tier game theory. Mesquita is the king. Someone should make him do more videos like this or quarantine him before he games his way into a one world dictatorship.

Run Tell Dat: SOTU Response

The quoted text below is from Greg Mankiw’s blog, his response to the president’s state of the union address. I’d have to say I agree with Mankiw on his second item. Yes, I am aware that he was a Bush adviser, it says it right in the quote. I’m pretty sure Mankiw didn’t do a 9/11 though; nor did he throw our economy under the bus with a sick jutsu. I will assume anyone reading this has a good idea how that happened. Yes, I am aware that he advised or currently advises Mitt Romney, on matters of the economy and possibly the heart. These revelations in no way imply that this man is ass backwards, as a person or economist. Mankiw is not some monstrous entity leading the charge against all that is right in the world, crushing the little pea heads at OWS with mean math. I consider myself to be pretty far left, with an appetite for Marxist critique. At the same time, there’s still an actual real world to operate in, with conditions that won’t change any time soon. Our country’s prevailing ideas lean heavily towards,  if not a reflection of a world ideal for those with capital. With that said, there are still ways to care, understanding the current system and figuring out works best for people. Protectionism in America, is not in the least bit appealing to me or the developing world.

2. I was disappointed, and even a bit surprised, that the President adopted the xenophobic approach to outsourcing and international trade.  Usually, on issues of international trade, the President plays the role of grown-up and leaves it up to Congress to gin up populist ire.  That is true of both parties.  Recall that President Clinton pushed NAFTA through.

When President Obama bragged that his administration had substantially increased trade cases against China compared with his predecessor, it made me proud to be one of President Bush’s advisers.  (Not that the Bush administration was perfect on trade issues.  It is just good to know we were better.)  These trade cases include such things as anti-dumping claims, which in many cases are just the modern face of protectionism.  Phill Swagel and I wrote about anti-dumping laws here.

If it’s any consolation, America isn’t the only country getting petty with protectionism. Brazil churns out anti dumping cases against China at an alarming(yet funny) rate. It might actually be its biggest export when it comes to the Brazil-Sino relationship which is still somehow blooming. The nature of anti-dumping(As described in the piece Mankiw links) has gotten to the point that I’m not even sure if the Chinese even take offense to it. All cases are met with a sagely bro nod, it knows better.

Since this is a blog, and I’m allowed an informal nature as long as I can stand my own writing, I’d like to add my own quick reaction to part of Obama’s SOTU. I recall Obama talking about “deepening” or perhaps he said “strengthening” America’s ties with Latin America. As the honorable Jay-Z once said,

“We don’t believe you, you need more people”

The US relationship with Latin America can be described as tepid at best. From Brazil claiming to be in a currency war that involves the dollar, to the death of the DREAM act, and the continued failure to properly understand the American consumer’s role in a drug war that has many in Mexico and Central America, living in fear. There are also several state level laws passed, most notably in Arizona and Alabama, that has put a strain on the US relationship down South. Obama has to do better in 2012, there’s no excuse for so little progress.

Help! She’s Broken And I Can’t Get Up!

Possibly in anticipation of having the world’s lustful gaze set upon it – the Brazilian government has decided it will come out its own pocket to replaced ruptured implants. Deus forbid, tourists from all over the world come for the Olympics and sex tourism, only to find a wasteland of broken tits and asses. The most sacred symmetry, ruined.

Yes, there are health risks involved, but most would figure if you have the privilege of tricking out your god given ride of the physical realm –  then you likely have the privilege to deal with the risks. Why put this bunda burden on the tax payer? These cosmetic changes are optional and provide zero health benefits outside an improvement in quality of life. That’s a very reasonable response, but in a place like Rio De Janeiro, the plastic surgery capital of the world – going under the scalpel for the aesthetic is a civil liberty. Us morbidly obese Americans will never understand; some of us(horrible people) are still pissed at the idea of robust government healthcare for all. This is partially why, in my expert opinion, the people of Brazil are much hotter than us. Kudos to Rouseff for recognizing the culture and fixing the cutlets.

Insufficient Funds: Political Capital and Syria

I’ve steered clear of reading too much on Syria because the situation is too depressing –  there is little hope to be found and confident that the prospects for intervention is nil, for a variety of reasons. Today I came across one of the more interesting takes on why there won’t be an intervention. There’s a new UN Dispatch piece by Mark Leon Goldberg where he makes the case that the west’s venture in Libya, somehow depleted its political capital. This capital was spent nudging BRIC states and anyone else with reservations(Germany), to abstain from voting UN resolution 1973. The remaining political capital makes it difficult to pass anything in the UN regarding NATO and the responsibility to protect Syria.

I would like to believe this, because in doing so, I would have to assume that the UN is a legit check on American hegemony. This scenario also implies that the current political capital account of the west is at an all-time low. The idea of an attempt to perform a regime change on the piddling state of Syria and they’re experiencing the humbling account status of insufficient funds? It also allows for the argument that the west are good world police and the bad non-western states would be sympathetic to a “stop snitching” campaign, possibly in fear of being next to get justice. If I am to believe the west lacks the political capital to perform some type of NATO backed regime change in Damascus, it would be under two conditions.

First, I would have to believe the west is even interested in a new quagmire. The words “boots on the ground” needs out of Susan Rice’s mouth, because that is a must. Anything less than boots on the ground does not get the job done. The requirement of the west’s physical presence on Levantine soil is just one of many differences from Libya. The reality on the ground is that there is that the Free Syria Army is an army in name only.  How do we provide air support to a group of guys at the mercy of a curfew? Assad still enjoys a monopoly on the use of force within his country. Unlike Libya, there are no troops advancing across Syria or even a group of formidable troops simply being stationary. Syria also doesn’t border temporarily benign states overwhelmed with the spirit of revolution. It does touch the NATO member state of Turkey, but to ask for the support of Iraq after troops just left at Baghdad’s request, good luck. There’s also the issue of a power vacuum and the possibly tragic fate of the Alawites in the  post Assad Syria. This is hardly a full assessment, I’m just throwing shit out that should seem obvious. What nation would look at this situation and think it worth the trouble just because of the responsibility to protect? The United States led from behind on the sure-thing of Libya, that was a good deal. To make something happen with Syria, US would certainly be required to lead; however, the west has shown very little interest in intervention in Syria, for these reasons, and dozens more.

The second condition is understanding that the political capital needed for regime change in Syria is a massive amount. Even if the west never bothered in Libya, the price continues to be astronomically high and rightfully so. An exhaustive amount of soft and hard power comes into play when removing a man who claims to be ready for reform. A man who, with the help of a minority(better than nothing), has virtually full control of his state. Homs enjoys nowhere near the level of autonomy that Benghazi possessed. This is what makes intervention in Syria, war with Syria. It is not simply an act of war in providing the revolutionary forces with arms and air support. Declaring war with Syria does not follow the US policy of “smart power” that Hillary Clinton intends to use. Foreign ministries world-wide understand Assad’s current level of control; to recognize anyone else in Syria is a potentially stupid move that can haunt diplomatic relations for years to come. Going to war with current regime in Syria is a major purchase, and if  the west lacked capital from anything it is the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. This is not a collateral victim of Libya, that some have claimed

 

“Syria is the collateral victim of Libya the same way that Rwanda was the collateral victim of Somalia,”  said Jean Marie Guehenno, the longtime head of UN Peacekeeping.  In other words, just as the Black Hawk Down made western powers wary of  even contemplating a humanitarian intervention in Rwanda three years later, the steamrolling of non-western interests in the execution of the Libyan intervention is coloring Russia, China other non-western powers’ approach to Syria.  From their perspective, they just don’t want to get played like that again.

 

This is a really interesting way to look at a failure in R2P. To think that the West would have helped Rwanda if it didn’t spend political capital elsewhere.  Some call this catastrophic failure a result of the Somalia syndrome. I can understand how a policy maker made that connection of failure in Somalia- to the decision to ignore a crisis elsewhere within that period of time. However fucked up it may be. How does the same mode of thinking apply when NATO has found recent success in Libya? I would imagine that the closer you are to the Middle East(emotionally) the more likely you are to call what’s happening in Syria a large humanitarian crisis. The Somalia Syndrome apprehension comes from the blow-back of intervening militarily to the crisis. In this case – the international force is considered needed to ensure the safety of internally displaced persons, ethnic groups at risk of pogrom, the starving, etc amid chaos. This is not the issue with Homs. The scale of the crisis isn’t large enough when you consider how much of it could be avoided. Yes, I’m talking about tucking your tail in and running, shutting down shop, obeying curfew and being subservient to the state once more. The people of Somalia and Rwanda never had this option. The people of Libya lost this option when Gadaffi was considered to be closing in on Benghazi for a massacre. A stable, business as usual approach is still an option for many Syrians. How horrible that sounds is not lost on me. My point in saying that is explaining how the Somalia Syndrome does not apply to Syria. The statement by Jean Marie Guehenno does not stand after minor blogger scrutiny.

It’s narratives like that helping maintain a status quo that would allow for the misunderstanding of the world’s response to crises. The heavy handed hegemonic do gooder and its subalterns fighting the good fight, coming up short in convincing evil states like Russia and China to allow them to save everyone. It is not national interests keeping us from tearing Assad limb from limb, it’s actually Germany! Nein! Nein! Nein!