Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Obama’s Worst Nightmare

January 13, 2009

Having narrowly escaped catastrophe several times has made us, perhaps, too complacent about nuclear security.  This NYT Magazine piece about Pakistan is a must read.


A Thought

January 6, 2009

People should really treat each other better.

New Year’s Resolutions

January 5, 2009

Actually, these are for the first 6 months of 2009 . . .

1. call grandmother more often.

2. limit caffeine consumption.

3. get finances in order – taxes, savings accounts, retirement investment plans, insurance, tuition payments, entrepreneurial efforts, personal investment vehicles – and start paying more attention to tax-efficiency.

4. enjoy my classes, learn something, graduate.

5. pass rrt4 & rrt5 (work-related).

6. give more to charities.

7. be generally more relaxed and happy, and be nicer / more helpful to other people.

On Limits of International Law

January 4, 2009

Pretty much the beginning and the end, so far as I’m concerned.

Required Reading by Michael Lewis

January 4, 2009

The End of the Financial World as We Know It

How to Repair a Broken Financial World

I disagree with Lewis’s support for subsidizing loans to underwater home-owners, along with his (bizarre) assertion that lenders “who issued second mortgages should be forced to release their claims on [collateral] property.”  But for everything else, we’re in perfect agreement.

Israeli-Palestinian Situation

January 4, 2009

Following a week-long aerial bombardment, an intense ground assault on Gazan military installations by Israeli troops is now underway.  The NYT (along with other outlets) is reporting the effective sectioning-off of Gaza, which allows only restricted humanitarian passage between north and south.  Commentary has split along predictable lines, and some people have (rather strangely) asked me what I think.

Frankly, I think Israel’s making a terrible mistake along the two important dimensions involved, security and morality.

The assault, ostensibly targeting Hamas’s capacity for firing rockets into Israel, can’t possibly satisfy Israel’s stated objective of stopping all such attacks.  (Far more likely is that it will prove specifically counter-productive in this regard, engendering more anger and increased rocket attacks; increased both in frequency and intensity.)  It will promote broader support for the Palestinian cause on the Arab street, which will limit the power of (relatively) America- and Israel-friendly governments in nations like Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, while emboldening hostile regimes like Syria and, more importantly, Iran. European and American popular support (and concomitant military and financial support) for Israel will be almost certainly diminished.

From a moral perspective, I simply cannot support the inevitable Palestinian civilian deaths (“collateral damage”) in pursuit of Israel’s objective of limiting what began as sporadic rocket fire.  I also don’t place much stock in the idea of its being necessary for Israel to regain some of the “deterrant” power it supposedly lost in 2006’s botched war with Lebanon.  (This is not, of course, to dismiss or excuse the actions of Hamas, which are, arguably, far worse than anything Israel has done.)

I’m choosing not to address the elephant in the room, politics.  True, the majority of Israelis seem to support this assault, and Israel is a democracy.  (The political timing is unsavory at best, and I would prefer to ignore it.)  Some have objected that any capable nation would respond forcefully to military attacks on its sovereignty, which I don’t doubt.  However, for reasons involving Israel’s unique history and religious foundation, I tend to hold this one small country to a higher standard of conduct than I do most other nations, the United States included.

In a future post, I hope to address what I see as possible ways for Israel and the Palestinians to achieve a peaceful 2-state settlement.


December 31, 2008

A great post by Gil Kalai on the importance (or at least coolness) of mathematical results about impossibility.

Of course, one can frame pretty much any mathematical result as an impossibility statement.  Math theorems are generally of the form a implies b, which can be read as it’s impossible to have a and not b.  That said, the real impossibility results are like obscenity; I know them when I see them.

One minor bone of contention: Kalai invokes the P vs. NP problem needlessly, as (e.g.) the time hierarchy theorems are more than sufficient. Of course, there really are important problems that aren’t computable using standard models, such as the famous Post Correspondence Problem.