Archives for July 2009

Good news — Bob Shiller declares “The day will come when Timothy Geithner sells his house.”

Timothy Geithner is having trouble selling his house. The Daily Show calls upon “legendary housing economist” Bob Shiller, author of The Subprime Solution and Animal Spirits for advice… on Geithner’s bathroom tiles. Enjoy the clip below.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Home Crisis Investigation
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Joke of the Day

“Broadening the Fed’s responsibilities won’t help…we should think of how best to dismantle an overextended Fed” writes Amar Bhide in WSJ

What we need now is a debate about how to break up the Fed—and some of the sprawling financial institutions it supervises—in order to make both the regulator and the regulated more manageable and accountable,” writes Amar Bhide in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal.

Read the piece and then click over to Fox Business to watch Amar on today’s Opening Bell talking about the article and the future of the Fed.

Lopate interviewed on B&N’s Unabashedly Bookish blog

Phillip Lopate talks about his new book and Susan Sontag at the Barnes and Noble blog Unabashedly Bookish.

Join the discussion here.

Chinese Repression in Urumqi and World Appeasement by Christopher Beckwith

Christopher Beckwith has recently published a new book on the history of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the present titled EMPIRES OF THE SILK ROAD. He recently penned an op-ed on the situation in Urumqi, providing insight into the past and present of the Uighur people.

Chinese Repression in Urumqi and World Appeasement

The recent news has rightly been focused on the riots in Urumqi. But what do we
actually read? The headline of a recent AP release on Yahoo! News calmly states, “Communist leaders vow stability after China riots.” It adds the veiled Chinese threat to the United Nations to butt out, in the statement of the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang, “The Chinese government has taken decisive measures according to law. This is totally China’s internal affair. There’s no reason for Security Council discussion.”
Well, that sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Stability is good, riots are bad, and we know about China,
the place where everything is made. Urumqi (pronounced “Oo-room-chee”), the Uighur capital, is just
another obscure “Chinese” city, so who cares, right?
Let’s back up just a little, though. Imagine how you would feel if the international news were instead
about troops quelling rioting in Paris and the headlines read, “Nazi leaders vow stability after Third Reich
riots.” The pictures would be of truckloads of SS troops riding into Paris, troops marching down the
streets, and so forth, to quell “ethnic separatism” and take the French “terrorists” off to prison or
execution. Because the French have become a small minority in their own capital city, they can do
nothing but protest. This is an exact parallel to what has happened, and is still happening, in the Uighurs’
In fact, the Uighurs (pronounced “Oo-ee-goors”, _not_ “Wee-gers”) of Urumqi are overwhelmingly
innocent, peaceful people like the people of Paris, like you and me. But they have been invaded by an
enormous army and a sea of attendant alien Chinese people with a completely different culture and
language, all intent on making themselves at home. The days of appeasement are long gone in Europe, but
what about Asia? Is it that the Uighurs don’t look like Europeans, so they don’t count? Or, they’re
Muslims, and Islam is bad? When talking about Hitler and the Third Reich we say France was “occupied”
by German troops, we do not say Paris was a city in “Germany”. We talk about French “patriots,” not
French “terrorists.” What about the Uighurs? The news reports calmly repeat the euphemisms of the
brutal Chinese Communist regime: “defeat the terrorists,” “oppose ethnic separatism,” “attack splittist
forces,” and so forth, as if these were all righteous, justifiable actions to carry out against the accused.
Could the Chinese propaganda machine actually be in the right for once?
The truth is that East Turkistan has been a civilized, peaceful land for over two thousand years of
recorded history, in which the native East Turkistani people seem never to have attacked or invaded their
Chinese neighbors. The Uighurs are a cultured people with a rich native literature, music, and art, all of
which is completely un-Chinese and unrelated to anything Chinese. Their homeland, East Turkistan, is
the eastern part of Central Asia, the heartland of the Silk Road civilization of Central Eurasia. It has been
called “Turkistan” internationally since at least the seventh century. The Chinese now call it “Xinjiang”,
which means “New Territory” in Chinese. Could their intentions be any more obvious?
The news media have not hidden the fact that the Uighurs and other native peoples of East Turkistan,
who are reviled by the Chinese as “terrorists,” have seen their country occupied by overwhelming
Chinese armies, political agents, secret police, and other forces of repression. In recent decades it has
been colonized by millions of “Han” Chinese, who have taken over, just as they have in Tibet and Inner
Mongolia, two other foreign countries where Chinese have no right to be. But that is as far as the news
has gone. Is it because no one wants to offend the Chinese dictators? Is this not appeasement?
The simple historical truth is that East Turkistan and Tibet are _not_ rightfully “parts of China,” any
more than France and Poland were rightfully parts of Hitler’s Third Reich. The Second World War had at
least one good effect—it established once and for all that conquest was no longer a legal means of
establishing sovereignty over a foreign country. This is true for Europe, certainly, but it is true even for
East Asia; Japan’s conquests in the 1930s and 1940s were all denied legitimacy. So East Turkistan does
not “belong” to China any more than Uzbekistan “belonged” to Russia, or France to “belonged” to the
Third Reich, or Manchuria “belonged” to Japan.
Today Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, part of Mongolia, and several other major Central Eurasian countries
are free again. But not East Turkistan and Tibet. The Communist dictatorship established by Mao—a
mass-murderer who is thought to have far exceeded Stalin and Hitler—remains in power, and its brutal
repression of these _non-Chinese_ countries continues unabated.
The Tibetans have the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, to speak for their people and hold the
flame of freedom aloft to inspire them. The Uighurs do not have a comparable international figure to
represent them. But they are a people who deserve justice and self-determination too, just as much as we
do, just as much as every nation does. Some of the Chinese people, surely, must have a sense of morality
and justice in general, not only for “Han” Chinese. It is the their responsibility, and that of the
international community as a whole, to repudiate China’s mistreatment of the Uighurs.
It is long past time for the world to call upon the Chinese government to reverse its pernicious
policies in East Turkistan (“Xinjiang”) and for China, a United Nations member, to finally accept the
principle of self-determination enshrined in the UN charter.

Mark Kleiman’s New Book Generating Discussion Online

Mark Kleiman‘s new book WHEN BRUTE FORCE FAILS: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment officially publishes in September, but that hasn’t stopped the information contained within the book from generating interest and debate in the news in the past week or so. Kleiman is professor at UCLA and main blogger on the Reality-Based Community site, and in the new book proposes a real solution to the vicious cycle of crime and punishment in our country.

Kleiman recently weighed in on a New York Times article about the newly reported dangers of marijuana use in the Times‘s blog “Room for Debate.” In addition, Ezra Klein mentions the book on his Washington Post blog. Matthew Yglesias discusses the data on crime decline in major U.S. cities, and mentions the book on his Think Progress blog. And finally Patrick Appel, who blogs on The Atlantic Daily Dish site, has mentioned the book twice.

Portrait-of-the-Day from Mariana Cook’s MATHEMATICIANS

Another “DeSio Pick” from Mariana Cooks’s new book MATHEMATICIANS: An Outher View of the Inner World Princeton University mathematician JÁNOS KOLLÁR poses here amongst the ivy, probably somewhere on the Princeton campus.  This photograph captures what I envision many mathematicians to be–perfectly happy sitting alone with their thoughts, thinking of new equations (and in Janos’s case, algebraic geometry!)

Peter Moskos on Racial Profiling at “Room for Debate”

Princeton author and former Baltimore police officer Peter Moskos gives his expert opinion on the politics of racial profiling and the arrest last week of prominent Harvard history scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. outside of his home in Cambridge, Mass., on the New York Times “Room for Debate” blog.

Read the entire discussion here.

Christopher Eisgruber writes about The Next Justice over at Rorotoko

“The heart of The Next Justice is its effort to clarify the idea of a judicial philosophy. It does that by describing what the Supreme Court actually does when it confronts hard cases. Drawing on both historical research and personal observation, the book takes readers behind the scenes at the Supreme Court to show how the justices reach conclusions and assemble majorities.

“What happens at the Court is both genuinely political and genuinely principled. Values matter, as they do in the legislature, but the justices honor procedural constraints very different from those that apply in Congress. They do not trade votes across cases, for example. They also recognize that their role sometimes requires them to defer to other branches even when they disagree with what those branches have done. At the end of the day, though, they often end up disagreeing along recognizably political lines. For that reason, the appointments process—in the White House and in the Senate—needs to focus on nominees’ values, not just their professional credentials.”

Read the rest at Rorotoko.

Mariana Cook’s portraits of renowned MATHEMATICIANS, on SEED

Just getting in the spirit over the publication of Mariana Cook’s moving new book MATHEMATICIANS: An Outer View of the Inner World, a remarkable collection of 92 black-and-white photographic portraits of some of the most renowned mathematicians of our time.  Our friends at have posted a multimedia slideshow featuring text to accompany each portrait and 5 audio interviews with select mathematicians.  Great stuff!

I also wanted to post a few of my personal favorites from MATHEMATICIANS (which, by the way, would make a great gift for any budding math enthusiast!)  Today’s selection is a portrait of Shing-Tung Yau, Fields Medal winner and professor of mathematics at Harvard University.

Stefan Szymanski on Pro Sports: Money Buys Success

Stefan Szymanski, author of PLAYBOOKS AND CHECKBOOKS: An Introduction to the Economics of Modern Sports writes a compelling article in England’s Telegraph discussing how the U.K. football leagues could learn a lesson from U.S. pro sports:

“Many fans are in denial, but the reality of professional sport is that money buys success: spend enough and the balance will tip in your favour. Of course, there are no guarantees, but year after year the teams that spend the most on player salaries tend to end up at the top of the league and those that spend the least end up at the bottom. This is not only true for football. The New York Yankees have won baseball’s World Series 26 times (the nearest rival has won it only 10 times) and no one doubts that the financial muscle of the Big Apple lies behind this feat.”

Read the entire article here.

In another realm of the online world, David M. Gordon, reviews the book on The Deipnosophist, remarking after including a quote from the book:

“And with that last quotation, you have the first glimmerings of what elevates this book above others — the economics of sport (and, I dare add, all economics) does not rise from a vacuum, but is of a piece with the prevailing social, spiritual, financial, and moral zeitgeist. Szymanski’s non-elaborated notion places his book with the best art history, for art also is a creature of its time.

Read David Gordon’s review here.

Brotherly Love: Phillip Lopate discusses his latest book with Leonard Lopate on WNYC.

Click here to watch and listen to this wonderful conversation on the nature of brotherhood and the cultural impact of Susan Sontag.

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John Postill on Coming of Age in Second Life

For the last week or so, John Postill has been carefully examining Tom Boellstorff’s Coming of Age in Second Life — an ethnographical work that takes the world of Second Life as its subject. Postill provides a useful summary, though if you backtrack through his posts you can read about each chapter in greater detail.

The book is also winner of the Media Ecology Association’s 2009 Dorothy Lee Award for Outstanding Scholarship in the Ecology of Culture and received an honorable mention for the 2008 PROSE Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence in Media and Cultural Studies from the Association of American Publishers.