Passion of the present

by Chris Bertram on May 26, 2004

Via “Lance Knobel”:http://www.davosnewbies.com/2004/05/24 I see that Jim Moore has started a blog to encourage more coverage of the unfolding tragedy in the Sudan, “The Passion of the Present”:http://passionofthepresent.org/ .

Amnesty annual report

by Chris Bertram on May 26, 2004

“Amnesty International’s annual report for 2004”:http://web.amnesty.org/report2004/index-eng is now out. A sobering reminder of how bad things are out there. It is also a reminder of how bad things are in world of chatterers, op-ed columnists and bloggers that we can expect (a) a great deal of moaning about how Amnesty has failed to treat country X (of which the writer approves) with due understanding, context, perspective etc; and (b) much noise about how the activites of country Y (of which the writer disapproves) are demonstrably condemned by the same report. Human rights are indivisible, and in my view, the burden of proof is on those whom Amnesty condemns to show their innocence.

The point of paradox

by John Quiggin on May 26, 2004

Suppose you have encountered Zeno’s Achilles paradoxfor the first time. Zeno offers a rigorous (looking) proof that, having once given the tortoise a head start, Achilles can never overtake it. Would you regard this as[1]

# A startling new discovery in athletics;
# A demonstration of the transcendent capacity of the human spirit – although the laws of logic forbid it, Achilles does in fact catch and overtake the tortoise; or
# A warning about how not to take limits?

[click to continue…]

On the bezzle

by Daniel on May 26, 2004

John Kay has a pretty decent column in the FT today. The actual message will eb pretty familiar to anyone who’s been folowing the Cassandra-like wailings of people like Wynne Godley and (on some occasions) me about the unusustainability of the US current account deficit, but he has some quality jokes in it. In particular, he recruits JK Galbraith’s concept of “the bezzle” to illustrate his thesis about overconsumption and asset price inflation:

John Kenneth Galbraith’s greatest contribution to economics is the concept of the bezzle – the increment to wealth that occurs during the magic interval when a confidence trickster knows he has the money he has appropriated but the victim does not understand that he has lost it. The gross national bezzle has never been larger than in the past decade.

Your Commencement Speaker Roster

by Kieran Healy on May 26, 2004

Successful commencement speakers are notoriously difficult to find. If you’re not “boring people to death”:http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2004/05/25/russert_bc_speech_stresses_values/ you are likely to be “ticking someone off”:http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2004_05_21.shtml#1085451256. With this in mind, the *Crooked Timber Talent Agency* is pleased to announce its list of *2004-2005 Commencement Speakers* to the Administrations of all interested degree-granting institutions of higher learning, high schools, kindergartens, day-care centers and also right-wing think-tanks posing as any of the above. A brief selection of our speakers follows.

*Saddam Hussein*. _Bio_: Former President of Iraq. _Speech topics_: The glorious history of Iraq; the importance of law and order; outdoor living and survival skills. _General theme_: The importance of following your dreams; bouncing back from unexpected adversity. _Special Appeal_: Like Ted Nugent, but with broader musical fan base.

*Paul O’Neill*, *Richard Clarke*, *Richard Foster* and *Larry Lindsey.* _Bio_: Former administration officials now collectively known as “The Mayberry Quartet.” Group bookings only. _Speech topics_: The meaning of loyalty; public service as its own reward; starting a new career later in life. _General theme_: The importance of following your dreams; bouncing back from unexpected adversity. _Special Appeal_: Barbershop quartet numbers at post-commencement reception.

*John Lott*. _Bio_: At various times very nearly on the faculty of several major universities, currently at the _American Enterprise Institute_. _Speech Topics_: Gun control in the United States and elsewhere; public policy; the dangers of the Internet. _General theme_: The importance of believing your dreams rather than the evidence, or presenting the former as the latter; bouncing back from unexpected adversity. _Special Appeal_: Much loved by graduands who faked all their physics problem sets in sophomore year.

*Ahmed Chalabi*. _Bio_: Future President of Iraq. _Speech Topics_: The glorious history of Iraq; the importance of law and order; indoor living and survival skills. _General theme_: The importance of being able to get other people to follow your dreams; causing unexpected adversity. _Special Appeal_: None.

*Judith Miller*. _Bio_: _New York Times_ reporter who as recently as a month ago was personally storing Saddam Hussein’s WMD stocks in her basement at home, according to one Iraqi scientist. _Speech Topics_: The overwhelming danger posed by Iraq; compromised sources I have known but not suspected. _General theme_: The importance of believing other people’s dreams; bouncing back from unexpected adversity. _Special Appeal_: Sincerity above all.

Many other speakers available for booking, most at short notice. Reasonable rates. Speeches guaranteed short. Email for details today.

Rights-based lending in action

by Daniel on May 26, 2004

Further to my comments last week on this subject, an update on Mr Wolfensohn’s progress toward the holy grail of Rights Based Lending. As of yesterday, China has a “winning formula” that the rest of the world ought to copy, while Israel can go screw itself. Something for everyone here, I think.

(The second of those two links is, IMO, disgraceful. Lord knows I’m not exactly a fan of the actions of the State of Israel in the territory it has annexed, but where the heck does Wolfensohn get off deciding to have a Middle East policy? Note that his comments appear to have no relevance to the action project involved; the Gaza Palestinians are just going to be made to wait for their new houses because of Wolfensohn’s amour propre, “as a Jew”. OTOH, it looks like he flip-flopped again shortly after that Ma’ariv interview and the discussions are still live after all. Lord, what a clown show)

The Paper of Record

by Kieran Healy on May 26, 2004

The _New York Times_ “hangs Judith Miller out to dry”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/26/international/middleeast/26FTE_NOTE.html?pagewanted=1&8dpc though it doesn’t mention her by name, preferring to spread the blame for its “credulous reporting”:http://slate.msn.com/id/2101124/ on Iraq around to other reporters and editors, whom it doesn’t name either. At least they come out and say, in an official capacity, that they were spun like a top by Chalabi and his buddies, and that if they’d been less excitable then they might not look so bad now.