Consider some issues of the day: what is the proper balance of power and diplomacy in foreign affairs?
Love President Obama, hate him….you should realize that properly analyzing issues such as these requires education and knowledge.
Williamson has a lot of equations running around — fearful plumbing, as Rudi Dornbusch would have put it — but the essence of this story, whether he realizes it or not, involves movements in the Wicksellian natural rate of interest — the real interest rate that would match savings and investment at full employment.
Now, one way to think about how that natural rate interacts with monetary policy to determine the rate of inflation would be a figure like this:
Here WNR is a 45-degree line representing all the combinations of inflation and the interest rate at which the real rate equals the Wicksellian natural rate, while MP is a monetary policy reaction function — basically a Taylor rule in which interest rates rise more than one-for-one with inflation, but with the downside constrained by the zero lower bound.
As you can see, I’ve drawn this so that there are two equilibria: one with a relatively high inflation rate and a positive nominal interest rate, the other with low inflation and a zero rate.
What Williamson does is observe that we’re at the zero lower bound, so he concludes that we’re at an equilibrium like B.
He then asks what happens if the liquidity premium on government debt rises — which in this setting amounts to asking what happens if the real natural rate of interest falls. And he gets a result like this:
Surf to Professor Krugman’s site to read the analysis; let’s say that one has to be comfortable with graphs and their meaning to follow the argument (mathematically speaking: it has to do with how the “slanted” curve moves with the economic conditions, and if we stay at one of the equilibria, and how stable (attracting or repelling equilibria).
So, one needs some level of education to follow this.
So what are some colleges doing?
This isn’t a joke: The University of District of Columbia, which was desperate to cut costs, is eliminating 17 low-enrolled academic programs — including physics, history and economics — but is keeping for now an NCAA Division II athletics program that cost $3 million more last year than it generated in revenue.
That was the decision of the Board of Trustees, according to this report by my colleague Nick Anderson. The board took up a proposal to save money offered by UDC’s interim president, James E. Lyons Sr., as he tries to take the long-strugling school on a different path.
If you’re planning to attend either Minnesota State University Moorhead or the University of the District of Columbia, best get in your Romeo and Juliet now—and while you’re at it, you should probably learn the formulas for velocity and momentum, and study up on the Spanish-American War. Because soon, these regional public universities may have no departments of English, physics, or history—nor a host of other programs often associated with “college,” including political science (MSUM), philosophy (MSUM), computer science (MSUM), and even economics (UDC).
What is confounding about these universities’ plans to possibly obliterate nearly half of their departments is why both institutions, faced with budget crises, went straight for the academic jugular. And not just by cutting highfalutin artsy disciplines, but with an eye toward fields of study that are actually valued in today’s cruel and fickle market. Nobody seems to notice that the structure of today’s higher-ed “business” model is backwards: It’s far easier to cut academics than it is to cut anything else, so that’s what universities are doing. The irony that the very raison d’être of a university—education!—is also its most disposable aspect seems lost on everyone (perhaps because nobody studies English, philosophy, or French anymore, so nobody recognizes irony or knows what a raison d’être is).
UDC’s case is especially infuriating, given the trustees’ decision to gut departments in favor of a decidedly lackluster athletics program. However, MSUM’s situation is actually far more likely to be replicated around the country, and thus deserving of greater scrutiny. If MSUM could have made up the $5 million chasm in its budget by cutting its modest sports, it might well have gone the way of Texas’s Paul Quinn College, which turned its football field into an organic farm and now seems pretty pleased with the decision. But at MSUM, head coaches are paid about $70,000 a year and have teaching responsibilities; cutting athletics wouldn’t have come close to stanching MSUM’s gaping cash hole.
So that’s it: a strip mall with a gym. Hmmmm….
And they are also not going to reduce offices and amenities that boost enrollment. These days, no self-respecting undergraduate would think of matriculating somewhere without an indoor rock climbing wall, so MSUM has to have one of those. And without perky recruiters and extensive alumni outreach, matriculation and endowment will both crater even worse than they already have (declining enrollment is the source of the entire budget fracas in the first place). So, again, this would seem to reveal that amenities and administrators are indispensible, and thus the entire burden of the budget cuts rests squarely on the slouching, poorly clothed shoulders of the faculty, who are now to be foisted upon that dreaded “real world” they seem to hate so much.
And therein lies the rub. What is a university without departments? The MSUM and UDC decisions demonstrate something crucially important and monumentally depressing about the state of the American public university: It is an immaculately landscaped corporate park with its own apparel store, full of the sound of tuition money disappearing and the fury of a thousand feet on a rock wall, but signifying nothing.
So what is the purpose of a university?
There is one hopeful option though:
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem strengthened Tuesday his nation’s backing for a Russian proposal to see his nation turn its chemical weapons stockpiles over to international control to avoid a U.S. military strike, even as his Russian allies worked to hammer out the details of the proposal.
After meeting with the speaker of the Russian parliament, al-Moallem said his government quickly “agreed to the Russian initiative,” adding that Syria did so to “uproot U.S. aggression.” His statement sounded more definitive than his remarks Monday, when he said that Damascus welcomed Russia’s initiative.
I sure hope that this works out. As far as President Obama: he has always said that he doesn’t care who gets credit so long as good things happen. That is what I voted for.
The New York Times has an article. President Obama has decided to seek Congressional approval for airstrikes.
I am not sure as what to do here. Obviously the use of chemical weapons was wrong, but….if there is no way to attack the Syrian government without aiding the Al Qeada backed rebels.
Though I back President Obama in most things, in this area he needs to explain
1. Why it is in the interests in the United States to strike.
2. What expected good will come from this strike that wouldn’t have come had we not struck.
It is a high bar, and ought to be.
Secretary of State Kerry made a public statement; you can find it here. It appears as if the United States is attempting to justify a military strike of some kind.
President Obama is making a declassified report available to the public that shows that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against their opposition.
I am not sure as to what to make of this. I don’t have the negative feeling that I had about the Iraq war; this reminds me a bit more of President Clinton and Kosovo.
1. Forget about establishing a liberal democracy in that region (one in which minorities have guaranteed rights); we’ll end up with some flavor of a theocracy. There ARE no “good guys”/”bad guys” here.
2. But it appears that they did use chemical weapons. Via Doctors Without Borders:
Here is what we know: three hospitals in Syria’s Damascus governorate that are supplied by Doctors Without Borders reported to us that they received approximately 3,600 patients displaying neurotoxic symptoms such as convulsions, excess saliva, pinpoint pupils, blurred vision and respiratory distress, in less than three hours on the morning of Wednesday, August 21.
These patients were treated using Doctors Without Borders-supplied atropine, a drug used to treat neurotoxic symptoms. So far 355 of those patients reportedly displaying neurotoxic symptoms have died.
Due to security concerns, no Doctors Without Borders staff have been able to visit the hospitals who reported these symptoms to us, but the accounts come from medical facilities with which Doctors Without Borders has had strong, effective and reliable collaborative relationships. We are neither able to confirm the cause of the illnesses and deaths nor establish who may be responsible, but the reported symptoms, the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, and several other factors, strongly indicate mass exposure to a neurotoxic agent.
Unfortunately, when medical personnel treat patients exposed to a neurotoxic agent, they too are at risk of becoming ill. Sadly, the doctors in one of the hospitals reported that 70 out of 100 volunteers suffered symptoms after direct contact with patients and that one person has died.
I am not sure as to the right thing to do. I am a knee-jerk isolationist but, well, who knows.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
This is 25 minutes long. You see the river go from calm to a raging river in minutes, then you see it overflowing and bringing down stream debris and then, finally, calming and starting to reverse.
I understood a few words here and there.
This is an allied propaganda video made of the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Basically here is what happened (March 1943):
Over the course of the battle, aircraft of the U.S. Fifth Air Force and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) attacked a Japanese convoy that was carrying troops to Lae, New Guinea. Most of the task force was destroyed, and Japanese troop losses were heavy.
The Japanese convoy was a result of a Japanese Imperial General Headquarters decision in December 1942 to reinforce their position in the South West Pacific. A plan was devised to move some 6,900 troops from Rabaul directly to Lae. The plan was understood to be risky, because Allied air power in the area was strong, but it was decided to proceed because otherwise the troops would have to march through inhospitable swamp, mountain and jungle terrain without roads.
The battle was a disaster for the Japanese; 3000 of the 7000 or so troops were killed and only 1200 made it to their destination; the rest were returned. The troop transports that made it to the destination were so badly damaged, they had to be beached.
Note: the video claimed that 15000 Japanese were killed; there weren’t that many being transported to begin with.
Still, only the imagination can conceive of the hell-on-earth it was to be on the transports; they were hit by heavy bombs (think: humans being blown apart or just atomized), burned by the burning ship (nowhere to go!) or cut to pieces by machine gun and 20 mm cannon fire:
Garrett Middlebrook, a co-pilot in one of the B-25s, described the ferocity of the strafing attacks:
They went in and hit this troop ship. What I saw looked like little sticks, maybe a foot long or something like that, or splinters flying up off the deck of ship; they’d fly all around … and twist crazily in the air and fall out in the water. Then I realized what I was watching were human beings. I was watching hundreds of those Japanese just blown off the deck by those machine guns. They just splintered around the air like sticks in a whirlwind and they’d fall in the water.
Again, horror beyond belief; but that was war. What this battle was a bit more known for is what happened the following day:
On 4 March, another 1,000 or so survivors were adrift on rafts. On the evenings of 3–5 March, PT boats and planes attacked Japanese rescue vessels, as well as the survivors from the sunken vessels on life rafts and swimming or floating in the sea. This was later justified on the grounds that rescued servicemen would have been rapidly landed at their military destination and promptly returned to active service. While many of the Allied aircrew accepted these attacks as being necessary, others were sickened.
One justification I’ve heard for the attacks on the survivors was that this was in retaliation for the Japanese shooting at parachuting pilots and strafing of survivors.
But the quoted section makes sense to me. Think of it this way: this group of people is going to try to kill you. But you catch them when they are helpless…but they are not surrendering; they are going to regroup and, once regrouped, attack you. Do you “give them a sporting chance” or do you end the threat as soon as you can? I thought so.
War sucks….this is why I get angry when some people cheer war or see it as some sort of game. But yes, I can understand some being sickened too.
Now to the point of this post: of course, this theater of the war had a racial dimension to it; it grates on our present day ears. But watch the very end when they show footage of the strafing of lifeboats and rescue boats; they make a point of saying “no surrender was offered so no quarter was given”; there appears to be a need to justify the actions to the audience.
I noticed something similar when I saw a video of P-51′s strafing the Japanese mainland during B-29 raids; they showed a strafing attack on a beached fishing boat and the fishermen running out of the way. Had the axis powers done that, we would have screamed “war crimes”.
Note: yes, I know; we can ask Nanking about how humane the Japanese military was. But that isn’t the point of my post; the point was how the narrators sold the actions of the war to their audience.
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