Sat Apr 20th, 2013 at 03:08:48 PM EST
The cover of Sport's Illustrated has this:
image on the front cover.
I got interested and dug a little deeper.
Fri Apr 19th, 2013 at 02:29:37 PM EST
The stories I bring this time: a Spanish TGV in France (below), Jaén tram woes, Stuttgart S-Bahn extension success, LEDs light the Paris Metro, propaganda war in Italy, and a project suspension in Venezuela.
In RNB20, I reported on plans to finally launch direct connections between Barcelona and French cities using French and Spanish high-speed trains on 1 April. There was scepticism in the comments about the start date, which proved entirely justified, but at least tests have now been conducted with a Spanish train, too:
FRANCE: A RENFE Series 100 high speed trainset undertook trial running at 300 km/h on LGV Est between Paris and Lorraine-TGV station during the week of March 18.
That's a beautiful line-up of trains from three countries which probably never met before (click for large version): the RENFE S-100 train (an export version of the second-generation TGV) is on the left, in the middle a German Railways (DB) ICE3, and a French State Railways (SNCF) TGV POS (fourth-generation TGV) is on the right.
Wed Apr 17th, 2013 at 02:20:08 AM EST
See comments for discussion of Reinhart/Rogoff [ed comment by afew]
An old, but interesting paper:
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False - Public Library of Science (PLOS) Medicine
There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research.
front-paged by afew
by Ted Welch
Tue Apr 16th, 2013 at 06:59:08 PM EST
A good article by Glenn Greenwald on the Boston bombs. It's quite brave, given the hysterical reaction after 9/11 when Chomsky pointed out that it was not surprising this kind of thing happened given US foreign policy for decades - "You're justifying murder!"
One particularly illustrative example I happened to see yesterday was a re-tweet from Washington Examiner columnist David Freddoso, proclaiming:
"The idea of secondary bombs designed to kill the first responders is just sick. How does anyone become that evil?"
I don't disagree with that sentiment. But I'd bet a good amount of money that the person saying it - and the vast majority of other Americans - have no clue that targeting rescuers with "double-tap" attacks is precisely what the US now does with its drone program and other forms of militarism.
There's nothing wrong per se with paying more attention to tragedy and violence that happens relatively nearby and in familiar places. Whether wrong or not, it's probably human nature, or at least human instinct, to do that, and that happens all over the world. I'm not criticizing that. But one wishes that the empathy for victims and outrage over the ending of innocent human life that instantly arises when the US is targeted by this sort of violence would at least translate into similar concern when the US is perpetrating it, as it so often does (far, far more often than it is targeted by such violence).
Regardless of your views of justification and intent: whatever rage you're feeling toward the perpetrator of this Boston attack, that's the rage in sustained form that people across the world feel toward the US for killing innocent people in their countries. Whatever sadness you feel for yesterday's victims, the same level of sadness is warranted for the innocent people whose lives are ended by American bombs. However profound a loss you recognize the parents and family members of these victims to have suffered, that's the same loss experienced by victims of US violence. It's natural that it won't be felt as intensely when the victims are far away and mostly invisible, but applying these reactions to those acts of US aggression would go a long way toward better understanding what they are and the outcomes they generate.
(2) The rush, one might say the eagerness, to conclude that the attackers were Muslim was palpable and unseemly, even without any real evidence. The New York Post quickly claimed that the prime suspect was a Saudi national (while also inaccurately reporting that 12 people had been confirmed dead).
Of course there were the usual "exploiting tragedy for propaganda" comments, but a lot rejecting that:
16 April 2013
I thought that would be your response. I note how at the end of your current comment you insist that I hadn't read it. That's typical of your style - ignore evidence to the contrary and snap back like a rubber band to the propaganda.
But even you admitted that you had only "waded" through half of it! And considering that your post was only 6 minutes after the article went up, and it's rather unlikely you would have seen it the moment it went up, it's perfectly reasonable to suggest that you didn't read it at all, or at very best, read only a very small amount.
As I said, I'd read enough to see where you were coming from and was disgusted enough with that cheap propaganda trick to comment.
What cheap propaganda "trick"? Just saying something like that doesn't make it fact.
Seriously Greenwald, when are you going to stop cherry-picking anything you can find to try discredit your country?
In what way is it cherry-picking? Do you give a damn about America's "double-tap" attacks? Do you have anything at all to say about them? Or separately, what about the fact that 42 people were killed in Iraq yesterday?
The "double-tap" drones attacks link:
Tue Apr 16th, 2013 at 12:20:18 PM EST
In The Guardian, Lucy Mangan has a good column on her personal experience of growing up in the Thatcher era. It's worth reading in full, but I'd like to draw attention to one little section:
Lucy Mangan: why I won't forget Margaret Thatcher in a hurry | Life and style | The Guardian
At school, things started disappearing. Milk, obviously. Playing fields. Sports and science equipment, overhead projectors, art materials broke, wore out, got used up and weren't replaced. When I started school, there was a textbook per pupil. By the time I left, we were down to one for every two or three.
by Ted Welch
Fri Apr 5th, 2013 at 09:15:36 AM EST
The varied thinkers of the Enlightenment and the continuing relevance of their heritage
The delay in finishing my reply to de Gondi about dialectic - "Dialectic and the defense of reason" - had the positive effect of allowing a kind of internal dialectic to develop, moving on from debate to the resolution of some differences at a more general level. The significance of some things that united Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca, Burke, Rescher, Johnson, Walton, Lakatos, Chomsky, Ollman and Bourdieu became more apparent and more important. So let me suggest a path forward and also a wider horizon.
What unites these intellectuals is the defense of reason, as developed and defended by Enlightenment thinkers. I say "Enlightenment thinkers" rather than "THE Enlightenment" because of the widespread tendency; including by many on the Left, to see it as a monolithic entity and to accept a rather negative, caricatured version of it. In fact it included a range of differing thinkers:
by Ted Welch
Fri Apr 5th, 2013 at 08:55:42 AM EST
De Gondi: "I always look forward to your diaries as a source of pleasure and controversy, often through unexpected themes."
Thanks for your kind words about my diaries, de Gondi, I have ideas for a couple more, but, unfortunately, I have had to get mired in this detail about dialectic again, since you've chosen to try to defend your generalised abuse about people using the term - while uncritically preferring rhetoric.
Plato and Aristotle in Raphael's School of Athens
However, there has been some interesting reading along the way, including information about Lakatos's background and political development. I didn't know about this, though I had read his work and that of Feyerabend at the time of their debates. As it happens, Lakatos is an excellent example of the value of dialectic, so you shot yourself in the foot again by citing him.
I'm also happy that my reading around this already very varied set of subjects led me to Kenneth Burke, who I knew about vaguely as a literary critic, but again I didn't know about his political involvement - funny how such things are less emphasized in our culture. Burke highlights the dangers of rhetoric, which you blithely ignore, as if there haven't been plenty of "wankers" using rhetoric for "intellectual sham". It was therefore another bit of serendipity to find that this expert on rhetoric was a strong advocate of the value of dialectic as a defense against extreme rhetoric.
From debate to dialectical connections
This reading around the subjects, my Roman holiday, putting together the diary about Rome, and helping a couple of friends with websites, has delayed this response. However the delay in finishing this allowed time for a sort of internal dialectic to develop, moving this on from debate to the resolution of some differences at a more general level.
Thu Apr 4th, 2013 at 04:52:52 AM EST
This is interesting.
Leaks reveal secrets of the rich who hide cash offshore
by Frank Schnittger
Wed Apr 3rd, 2013 at 02:17:46 AM EST
Paul Krugman keeps writing piece after piece lamenting how stupid politicians are to be heaping austerity policies onto already depressed economies and then wondering why the outcome is ever more depression. He heaps scorn on discredited theories of "expansionary austerity" or that excessive public borrowing might "crowd out" private investment pointing out that all the macro-economic evidence is to the contrary.
Absent from his analyses, however, is any theory as to why political leaders (and many of their economic advisers) might be following such counter-intuitive policies, other than the implied or explicit notion that these people must be really stupid. I want to begin the process of offering a more rigorous theory here, and it is in two parts:
Part 1 is a variant of our old friend competitive devaluations: In the days of floating currencies many countries sought to improve their short run competitive position by allowing or encouraging their currency to devalue relative to their trading partners. In the longer run of course, this resulted in inflation which tended to erode this advantage, and it only works in the short term if your country manages to devalue more than your trading partners.
Of course in a currency union this is no longer possible relative to your fellow currency members, and so the only way to improve your relative competitive position is to deflate your economy more than your "partners". This leads to two problems: Deflation is much more economically damaging than external currency devaluation, and if every country in a currency Union deflates at the same time, they achieve no competitive advantage relative to each other, but manage to massively deflate the currency area as a whole. Indeed one country's deflationary policies exacerbates deflation in their neighbours. This is what is currently happening in the Eurozone with record unemployment and forward economic indicators sufficiently bad to strike terror into the hearts of anyone likely to be looking for a job in the future - itself a cause of further depression.
But part 2 of the explanation is perhaps more insidious still, and it is to Marx rather than Keynes that we have to look for inspiration: What if the current depression is also being caused by an inter-generational and class war - currently really only being effectively fought and won by the older and wealthier classes? Not all older people are wealthier, I know, but there are inter-generational as well as class aspects to this divide. Follow me below the fold if you feel this hypothesis merits further exploration and elucidation.
front-paged by afew
Sun Mar 31st, 2013 at 04:31:24 PM EST
Funding film making has always been a challenge. Government assistance is welcome, but opens up possibilites for some interesting scams :
Film tax-credit fraudsters jailed | UK news | guardian.co.uk
Five fraudsters who pretended to be making a Hollywood blockbuster as part of a £2.8m VAT and film tax credits scam have been jailed.
Tax inspectors were told that A-listers from Hollywood were starring in a £19.6m production that would be shot in the UK.
But the film, Landscape of Lies, was never made and the only footage shot was seven minutes of "completely unusable quality" filmed in a flat and costing just £5,000.
In the USA, copyright trolling appears to be a viable way to extract a revenue stream from any film that people can be persuaded to download; and circumstantial evindence suggest that there exists an industry of producing industrial-grade movies for the sole purpose of sending people threatening letters to obtain money.
It is pretty much the conventional wisdom that downloading films on the internet is damaging to the "film industry". Is it damaging to the art of film? That's less clear. The internet is also, of course, immensely enriching for cinema fans, and for all who work in the medium.
One of the most transformational ways the internet is useful to cinema is as a means of raising finance.
This diary is basically a plug for a film which needs funding if it is to be completed : Je suis une peau rouge [I am a redskin] by Virginie Valissant-Brylinski.
Sat Mar 30th, 2013 at 11:36:43 AM EST
I have an analysis piece up on Eurointelligence: thoughts on banking union and the Cyprus 'solution' (28.03.2013)
"The central bank defends the payment system every day, every hour, every minute." Scott Fullwiler calls this "the fundamental truth of central bank operations" and I will call it the essence of monetary union.
In sum, the case seems compelling for a Eurozone-wide clearing system, liquidity provision, deposit insurance, banking regulation and supervision, and a special resolution scheme for banks. The case is underpinned by the necessity to provide a unified and efficient payments system for the currency area, and the need to ensure its safety and defend its integrity. Arguments against joint supervision hinder the Central bank in distinguishing between illiquid and insolvent institutions. Polemics against joint deposit insurance actually foster cross-border deposit runs. And rhetoric against Target2 undermines the integrity of the payments and clearing system itself.
In conclusion, even if an immediate bank run due to Cyprus is avoided in the rest of the Eurozone, will all of Draghi's horses and all of Draghi's men be able to put together the broken egg of public confidence in deposit insurance, and more generally in the Eurozone's commitment to the integrity of its payments system?
You can read the full article over there, and comments are enabled on the site.
front-paged by afew
Fri Mar 29th, 2013 at 11:55:11 AM EST
Saving data donkeys in quicksand is an interesting BBC article in relation to the phenomenon of data tagging.
A friend of mine worked out the importance of generic subjective tagging for messaging (of all types) about 10 years ago, but could never engage with anyone to develop the resulting applications he also developed. Among other things, these would essentially finish off what's left of the existing business model of advertisers, and in turn mean that the likes of Google and Facebook would have to move on from their existing business models.
But because of the voracious and ruthless nature of the corporate players involved and the pernicious regime of IP rights and law, the concepts were not implemented, although the elements which he had far-sightedly analysed are now beginning to emerge.
From that perspective and experience, I think that where tagging will lead is to a simple 'personal operating system' resident on personal devices, and which will connect - with the minimum of complex code - directly to decentralised/distributed data-bases.
The only central assets would be servers which resolve:
(a) basic personal identity to a market/enterprise/group identity ; and
(b) machine identity to market identity ie what I have for years termed a 'Dot Market' model with a market-specific domain such as Dot Oil, or Dot Gas.
This raises the Big Brother issue of who can be trusted with such servers, and maybe the former might be domiciled in (say) Iceland, and the latter in (say) Switzerland.
Individuals only have one basic personal ID, but they may potentially have thousands of market-specific, enterprise-specific and group-specific IDs.
Their basic personal ID is only physically located in one place at one time, which adds in the possibility of generic geo-authentication of transactions - ie mapping mobile device locations to static machine locations. This brings another Big Brother issue of who can be trusted with that data.
Attempting to create a Semantic Web on an object-oriented machine-centric basis has always seemed to me to be a dead end, where increasingly sophisticated algorithms have attempted to derive meaning from data objects by reference to experience. But tagging is different and subjective or subject-oriented, because only you know what you mean, and will tag using language as you see fit.
I believe that we are in a transition from a complex, centralised, fragile, machine-centric Web 2.0 to a simple, decentralised, resilient, people-centric Web 3.0.
Thu Mar 28th, 2013 at 03:35:54 AM EST
Reuters: EU in "denial" that sick economy costs lives, health experts say (March 27, 2013)
"There is a clear problem of denial of the health effects of the crisis, even though they are very apparent," said lead researcher Martin McKee of the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies, a group backed by the World Health Organisation.
"The European Commission has a treaty obligation to look at the health effect of all of its policies but has not produced any impact assessment on the health effects of the austerity measures imposed by the troika."
Despite a devastating financial crisis, Iceland rejected austerity, following a referendum, and instead continued to invest in its social welfare system. As a result, the researchers found there had been no discernible effects on health since the crisis.
Iceland's economy has now returned to growth, but the recovery is patchy and inflation has remained stubbornly high.
The Lancet study is here
Wed Mar 27th, 2013 at 06:30:22 PM EST
Yesterday I had a guest post on the FT Alphaville Blog
Cyprus - the Case for Cypriot National Equity
The second attempt to resolve the unsustainable debt burden of Cyprus's over-leveraged banks spreads the pain differently to the disastrous initial attempt, but looks likely to leave Cyprus as an economic wasteland for generations. Frances Coppola outlined brilliantly yesterday the sort of financial disaster zone which Cypriots can expect.
Cyprus, in common with many other countries, but far more urgently, requires resolution and transition: Resolution of existing debt; and transition to a sustainable and low carbon economy. Surely there must be a better way of achieving this?
Well, my research leads me to conclude that there was; there is; and there will be again; if Cyprus ceases to attempt to resolve 21st century problems with 20th century solutions and instead uses an updated version of a financial instrument which pre-dates modern debt and equity finance capital.
In this post I will suggest how the Cyprus National Debt may be resolved into a Cyprus National Equity... but not equity as we know it.
Wed Mar 27th, 2013 at 06:35:16 AM EST
Over the past several months we have had the [UK] press complaining bitterly about the introduction of new regulation. This is both unnecessary and unwanted in their eyes. Depending on the argument deployed, either an outrageous attack on investigative journalism to hide the crimes and misdemeanours of the rich and powerful (which several investigative journalists have said is untrue); or, if you follow their other line of reasoning, entirely unnecessary because due to the loss of readership, there will be no papers in ten years. So any legislation will be a waste of time, and we may as well not bother.
This second argument has a particular, painful moral flaw. As the readership numbers have been falling, the tabloid press has slowly shifted its story-generated attack from those with cash and and expensive publicity machine to those without. Simply put it is easier and cheaper to train their sights on those unable, unwilling, or too far out of their depth to fight back.
Tue Mar 26th, 2013 at 09:54:09 AM EST
Concluding the round-up of news since December, this time, the themes are financing, new rolling stock with technological novelties, the use of renewables, and various conflicts and problems.
Let's start with financing. London is currently building Crossrail, a new rapid transit system with an east-west tunnelled central artery which shall create a faster connection between suburban networks into various terminus stations and relieve parallel Underground lines (comparable to Paris's RER but integrated with existing services with less consequence). Crossrail services are to be operated with new trains, altogether 600 cars. The sizeable price tag of £1 billion was seen as an opportunity to launch another experiment into the involvement of private capital: last year the UK government initiated a procurement scheme in which train manufacturers were to finance the trains themselves and then let operator Transport for London lease them. But, as was often the case with PPP infrastructure projects, private investors faced risk premiums and had greater difficulty gathering capital on financial markets, leading to delays. Then on 1 March, amazingly, the government pulled the plug on the idea and reverted to procurement from public sources only, openly admitting that this method ensures speedier delivery (my emphasis):
The Government, the Mayor of London and Transport for London have today announced a move to a fully publicly funded procurement for the delivery of the new fleet of trains and maintenance facilities for Crossrail thereby helping to ensure that passenger services can open as scheduled in late 2018. This change was proposed by the Mayor of London and agreed by the Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin.
Sometimes Boris Johnson makes sense.
by A swedish kind of death
Mon Mar 25th, 2013 at 04:41:29 PM EST
Saturday the 16th of March, the first Cyrprus bail-in was announced. Since then accounts has differed on what really happened, and whose fault the results were. I figured we can collaborate in creating a record, since actual minute meetings apparently does not exist at this refined a level in politics.
At this blog we have together a large span of languages and I suppose most finance ministers must have commented the news in their home press. Collecting the pieces can be interesting and above all practical in the discussions about how the whole structure works.
Sun Mar 24th, 2013 at 09:54:50 AM EST
This has been a great week for Turkey. I won't say 'let me explain' because it explains itself:
Jerusalem Post: 'Syria crisis necessitated Turkey apology' (03/24/2013)
Netanyahu says fear that Damascus's chemical weapons will fall into the hands of terror organizations led to apology.
Take that, Avigdor Lieberman
Then there was the Persian new year announcement:
Hurriyet: Leader of PKK in northern Iraq declares cease-fire (March/23/2013)
The jailed leader of the PKK in Turkey, Abdullah Öcalan, declared a cease-fire in a message conveyed during Nevruz festivities in Diyarbakır on March 21, to hundreds of thousands people. He also called on armed militants to withdraw from Turkish soil, indicating that these moves would mark a milestone for "a new era" and herald the building of a "new Turkey."
And the European Union's handling of Cyprus presents an opportunity for Turkey to advance its interests there, too.
(more below the fold)
Sat Mar 23rd, 2013 at 03:50:06 PM EST
We Arenít the World.
Joe Henrich and his colleagues are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics--and hoping to change the way social scientists think about human behavior and culture.
by Frank Schnittger
Wed Mar 20th, 2013 at 10:11:21 PM EST
The Irish Times recently launched a redesigned version of its online edition to almost universal criticism from its online users. I took part in some of those online debates and, as a result, have been asked by the Village Magazine to write an article on the redesign. The article is still being fact checked, but I thought it might be useful to put a draft of it online here to get ET users reactions to the article and the Irishtimes.com redesign itself. Given that ET is also going through a redesign process some of the issues may also be of relevance here, although please keep in mind that the article is written for a general audience in Ireland.
Amazingly, the screen-grab above shows three and a half full screens of content displayed on Irishtimes.com when the site is being viewed at full width on a laptop. The first screen really only shows you the top banner ad, the Irish Times Logo, and the top level menu. A drop down menu appears if you hover your mouse cursor over one of the menu options, but you can only read and select from the full menu if you scroll down the page first, and then hover back over the menu. Note the advertisements are in French, even though the website is being viewed from Spain (I.e. the Laptop IP address is in Spain).
For the complete text of the proposed article, please follow me below the fold.