Saturday, March 6, 2010
One of the key arguments of Barack Obama's Presidential campaign was that he would improve America's image around the world. This idea was based on the false assumption that anti-Americanism was due to factors peculiar to the Bush administration, as opposed to the basic realities of America's role in the world and the hostility that many feel toward our values and interests. Thus, anyone foolish enough to believe that electing Obama would transform our international relationships must be disappointed.
Most recently, student protests have broken out in Indonesia against Obama's planned visit to the land of his youth. One might think that Indonesia, especially, would welcome Obama as a favorite son. Here, protesters hurl shoes at a picture of Obama:
Most liberals liked it when an Islamic militant threw his shoe at George Bush. I've seen no comment on their feelings about having the same courtesy extended to Obama.
No one made an entrance quite like Peter O'Toole did (youtube.com)http://www.fark.com/cgi/vidplayer.pl?IDLink=5082165
Public relations manager
Laundry, dry-cleaning worker
A fable agreed upon
- Are totally unpredictable by mortal minds.
- Have a disproportionately large impact.
- Have retroactive predictability imposed on them through the foresight of 20/20 hindsight.
Taleb frequently points to the outbreak of World War I as an example of a black swan. He scoffs at historical accounts that present the outbreak as the result of trends that built up over the preceding decades, dismissing them as manifestations of the narrative fallacy:
Narrative fallacy: our need to fit a story or pattern to a series of connected or disconnected facts.
As evidence of the narrative fallacy in histories of World War I, Taleb cites Niall Ferguson’s The Pity Of War on the failure of bond investors to price the possibility of war into their trades right before the war broke out. Ferguson now returns the favor in Complexity and Collapse, citing Taleb in his excoriation of historians who peddle epic theories of social collapse like Giambattista Vico, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, Oswald Spengler, Arnold Toynbee, Paul Kennedy, and Jared Diamond. After any major historical event, Ferguson complains:
…historians arrive on the scene. They are the scholars who specialize in the study of “fat tail” events—the low-frequency, high-impact moments that inhabit the tails of probability distributions, such as wars, revolutions, financial crashes, and imperial collapses. But historians often misunderstand complexity in decoding these events. They are trained to explain calamity in terms of long-term causes, often dating back decades. This is what Nassim Taleb rightly condemned in The Black Swan as “the narrative fallacy”: the construction of psychologically satisfying stories on the principle of post hoc, ergo propter hoc.
Drawing casual inferences about causation is an age-old habit. Take World War I. A huge war breaks out in the summer of 1914, to the great surprise of nearly everyone. Before long, historians have devised a story line commensurate with the disaster: a treaty governing the neutrality of Belgium that was signed in 1839, the waning of Ottoman power in the Balkans dating back to the 1870s, and malevolent Germans and the navy they began building in 1897. A contemporary version of this fallacy traces the 9/11 attacks back to the Egyptian government’s 1966 execution of Sayyid Qutb, the Islamist writer who inspired the Muslim Brotherhood. Most recently, the financial crisis that began in 2007 has been attributed to measures of financial deregulation taken in the United States in the 1980s.
Ferguson proclaims that the real truth is found in the opposite direction:
In reality, the proximate triggers of a crisis are often sufficient to explain the sudden shift from a good equilibrium to a bad mess. Thus, World War I was actually caused by a series of diplomatic miscalculations in the summer of 1914, the real origins of 9/11 lie in the politics of Saudi Arabia in the 1990s, and the financial crisis was principally due to errors in monetary policy by the U.S. Federal Reserve and to China’s rapid accumulation of dollar reserves after 2001. Most of the fat-tail phenomena that historians study are not the climaxes of prolonged and deterministic story lines; instead, they represent perturbations, and sometimes the complete breakdowns, of complex systems.
Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many, or more important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 42 Presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.
The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri . His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.
When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.
After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service following them.
When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale.."
Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."
As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.
A remarkable and true story of betrayal, love and grace by the son of the founder of Hamas. Three things changed his life - the horrific violence of Hamas, the words of a British cabbie and the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Now 32, Mosab is the son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a founder and leader of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Throughout the last decade, from the second Intifada to the current stalemate, he worked alongside his father in the West Bank. During that time the younger Mr. Yousef also secretly embraced Christianity. And as he reveals in his book "Son of Hamas," out this week, he became one of the top spies for Israel's internal security arm, the Shin Bet.
Critics say Obama's deficit panel appointee is a radical, should be investigated for failure to register as lobbyist.
Was the Truther Democrat who shot those cops at the Pentagon a “right-wing extremist”?
Great! "Only" 36,000 Jobs Lost! (Remember, the “unemployment rate” is only those drawing benefits, it is not everyone out of work.)
"Today is a big day in America. Only 36,000 people lost their jobs today, which is really good."--Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, March 5