A brief gallivant about the marketplace of ideas.

Month: November, 2018

Read : 2018-11-30

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Amazon is hiding a big surprise“, by Bluesea Research (Seeking Alpha, 2018-11-29).

Read : 2018-11-29

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Women may earn just 49 cents on the dollar“, by Annie Lowrey (The Atlantic, 2018-11-28).
  2. In Nafta rewrite, Canada took cue from Mexico: make a big concession“, by Kim Mackrael, Santiago Pérez, & Jacob M. Schlesinger (Wall Street Journal, 2018-11-29).
  3. Magnus Carlsen wins World Chess Championship“, by Joshua Robinson & Andrew Beaton (Wall Street Journal, 2018-11-28). Could Carlsen’s “decision” to draw in the twelfth and final regulation game have been a strategic decision to open up the Elo rating differential with the (much) faster tiebreak play?
  4. Here’s the first thing Bill Gates did with his money after making over $350 million from Microsoft’s IPO“, by Emmie Martin (CNBC, 2018-11-28). Buying the (used) Porsche was the zeroth thing, and before he got rich from the IPO (if that helps the matter).

Read : 2018-11-28

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. The monopolization of America“, by David Leonhardt (NY Times, 2018-11-25).
  2. Tweet by NCAA Volleyball (Twitter). A one-minute video showing teams’ reactions to being announced in the tournament selection show on Sunday.

Read : 2018-11-27

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. 2018 NCAA volleyball tournament: Bracket, analysis, schedule and how to watch the DI championship“, by Jacob Myers (NCAA, 2018-11-26).
  2. Why are tech companies making custom typefaces?“, by Arun Venkatesan (, 2018-11-09).

Read : 2018-11-23

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Diary of a concussion“, by Elizabeth Lopatto (The Verge, 2017-09-27).

Read : 2018-11-19

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. 5 Warren Buffet principles to remember in a volatile stock market“, by Matthew Frankel (The Motley Fool, 2018-06-19). Keep equanimous, keep some cash (so you can capitalize on “sales”, i.e. market downturns), and keep away from debt.

Read : 2018-11-12

A great article:

  1. De Tocqueville and the French exception” (The Economist, 2018-08-09).

Today’s selection of (other) articles:

  1. A lifetime of negative self-talk“, by John Gorman (Medium, 2018-07-13).
  2. Let the people vote“, by David Leonhardt (NY Times, 2018-11-11).
  3. Cocoa hot fudge sauce” (Chocolate, Chocolate and More, 2014-08-31). A recipe.

Read : 2018-11-11

I wish you a peaceful Armistice Day.

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Sundar Pichai of Google: ‘Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems’“, by David Gelles (NY Times, 2018-11-08).
  2. Why I dread returning to an American public school“, by Firoozeh Dumas (NY Times, 2018-11-10). Ms. Dumas raves how a little more in taxes can go a long way in education. Her article also raises the question, even though Americans often view European governments as paternalistic, are Americans’ fear for their children and the measures that individuals take to keep them safe (from both physical and mental harm) also paternalistic, and stunting Americans’ independence?
  3. Do you keep dreaming you forgot your pants? It’s science“, by Alice Robb (NY Times, 2018-11-10). This article discusses an evolutionary theory that dreams are a “safe-space” practice ground, and the (perhaps) unexpected internal consistency of the dream world.
  4. How safe is your airline?“, by Elaine Glusac (NY Times, 2018-10-29).
  5. Gillian Flynn peers into the dark side of femininity“, by Lauren Oyler (NY Times, 2018-11-08).

Representation in the U.S. Senate

This post is motivated by two op-ed political pieces in the NY Times:

  1. Real America versus Senate America“, by Paul Krugman (NY Times, 2018-11-08). Paul Krugman is a Nobel laureate in economics, a certification of his perspicacity. This article, however, belies the fact that even highly educated people can be bested by their biases.
  2. What the working class is still trying to tell us“, by David Brooks (NY Times, 2018-11-08).

Dr. Krugman opens his article by freely admitting he is attempting to “explain those Senate losses”. He never does this — perhaps I misunderstand what he means by “post-mortem”? In any event, from the end of his second paragraph onward, Dr. Krugman rails against the inequities of representation in the Senate. His animus appears to be rooted in the belief that proportional representation is undebatably the best. In this respect, Dr. Krugman is in good company: Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, two influential political thinkers (and active politicians) in the early U.S., apparently felt the same way (see references below). Messrs. Hamilton and Madison presented some arguments for their belief (see The Federalist Papers, e.g. “The Federalist No. 22“); Dr. Krugman says nothing here to justify this implicit belief. I have not read anything from any of these men considering (or refuting) arguments in favor of the present system of representation in the U.S. Senate, though in fairness, I have not looked hard. Dr. Krugman also remains silent on the fact that this system of representation has been in place since the Constitution first went into effect in 1789. This is not to say that the system is a good one; I only wish to point out that more political-theory oriented (and perhaps level-headed) minds have had ample time to consider the issue. Their thought might be a better use of our time.

It’s also worth noting that, as per Article V of the U.S. Constitution, “no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate”. Again, this is not to say that the system is a good one; I only wish to point out that the politicians at the time must have considered the system of representation in the U.S. Congress an issue of paramount importance, and they must have had reasons (good or bad, fair or selfish) for insisting for such special treatment of this provision. It would be interesting to consider how, absent accidents of history, one would design one’s ideal political system today.

David Brooks writes a more open-minded article. He seems less intent on forcing an outcome into his own predetermined, politically motivated paradigm. Mr. Brooks draws on (and concretely cites) the insight of others, who may have more-developed and more-informed ideas on certain issues. For many pundits, elections are a process by which tens of thousands of ballots are reduced into a binary outcome: Democrat or Republican. Mr. Brooks attempts to trace back from that binary outcome to the issues the voters are trying to voice. This reverse engineering is messy, and almost surely wrong at places. But to respect everyone in a democracy, it seems a useful approach.

In the end, both authors (and the author of this post) are surely influenced and perhaps carried away by their personal biases. It’s helpful for all of us to remain aware of our biases, carefully consider when others point out possible biases to us, and do our best to truly listen to and consider others’ points of views, not pretend that we know everything.

Additional articles include the following:

  1. The House, the Senate and the historical reasons for (un)equal representation“, by Eric Black (Minn Post, 2018-07-20). An illuminating article, if for nothing else, for presenting historical compromise clearly. What the article doesn’t address is what exactly small states were giving up in passing from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution. OK, yes, political power, but can we analyze this tug-of-war more carefully? Was it just a selfish desire to preserve power, even recently acquired power? (In 1787, when the Constitution was first being debated, the Articles of Confederation had been in force for only six years.) Was there a mistrust among states? Was this mistrust founded? Is it still?
  2. Alexander Hamilton speaks out (III): Two senators per state, regardless of population?“, by Hendrik Hertzberg (The New Yorker, 2011-01-08). Hertzberg argues that Hamilton and James Madison — along with John Jay the authors of The Federalist Papers — “strongly favored…’proportional representation'”, and that two senators per state was the price they paid to convince small states to go along with the (then new) Constitution.
  3. Democrats’ horrible 2018 Senate map couldn’t have come at a better time“, by Nathaniel Rakich (FiveThirtyEight, 2018-05-01).

Read : 2018-11-09

Today’s selection of articles:

  1. Google announces changes to sexual misconduct procedures“, by Rachel Kraus (Mashable, 2018-11-08).
  2. Macron hopes WWI ceremonies warn of nationalism’s dangers. Is anyone listening?“, by Alissa J. Rubin & Adam Nossiter (NY Times 2018-11-08).
  3. At China’s internet conference, a darker side of tech emerges“, by Raymond Zhong (NY Times, 2018-11-08).
  4. 5 tactics used by passive-aggressive arguers (and the best forms of defense)“, by Robert Greene (The Mission Podcasts, 2018-11-05). In a nutshell, call out the rhetorical chicanery, and calmly but crisply bring the discussion back to its main point.
  5. New proof shows infinite curves come in two types“, by Kevin Hartnett (Quanta Magazine, 2018-11-07). Graduate student Alexander Smith proves (via the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer, or BSD, conjecture) the Goldfeld conjecture for a specific family of elliptic curves.