Barry Goldwater’s wisdom

June 1, 2011

“You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.”

“When you say ‘radical right’ today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”

–Barry Goldwater, “Mr. Conservative”, father of the modern conservative movement in the United States.

The political positions held by the Democratic and Republican parties in today’s modern America are fiscally and socially center-left, and fiscally and socially center-right, respectively. In recent years, the Republican party has probably abandoned its “center-right” status for sharper political positions and rhetoric. But that’s not important.

Two things are astounding to me. Firstly, the gradual alienation of Goldwater from the movement he himself precipitated (Reagan rose to prominence during Goldwater’s failed ’64 presidential campaign) because of the clash of the Religious Right and Goldwater’s libertarian views, and a statistic that I came across the other day:

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From the New York Times: “Games of Chicken”

May 31, 2011

Looks like my views are not unique.  I posted earlier on the subject of two-player games and the US debt ceiling situation. It must be an effective analogy, since the New York Times references it:

From the article:

Investors have grown accustomed to partisan games of chicken that always end with the needed increase in the government’s borrowing authority. But this showdown, many say, is riskier because of the strongly held antispending, antitax views of the many freshman House Republicans combined with the fragility of the economic recovery.

Source: In Showdown Over Debt, Neither Party is Blinking, The New York Times

Palin’s Presidential Run?

May 30, 2011



From the New York Times:

“Palin’s Path May Be Unclear, but her Ride is Revved up”

Wow, not much to say to this. I am eerily reminded of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America in which Charles Lindbergh, a known Nazi sympathizer, was elected president in 1940. I’m not saying that Palin is an anti-Semite, but much of the book’s political message rested on the idea that Americans are more likely to vote for a glamorous candidate or a “Joe Six-Pack” kind of guy than a qualified candidate.

Just as with the novel, in which Lindbergh made no political comments other than vague statements about peace and freedom and staying out of the second World War, the article mentions that Palin made no political statements either. To quote directly:

“We encourage you to support the pro-America events we’ll be privileged to participate in during these coming weeks,” she said in a written statement. “Discover the ties that bind Americans, our history, our traditions, and the exceptional nature of our country!”

This is a topic of some fascination. I wrote an essay about it on my AP United States History test. Of course, it’s also an area that’s been essentially strip-mined by liberal pundits, so I won’t go any further with it. Just wanted to point out that particular resemblance, for those of you who have read Roth.

The flip-side is that we may get to have more Tina Fey as Sarah Palin now!

Got 5 minutes? Some gems from “The Daily Show”

May 24, 2011

It’s getting pretty tiring to hear all those critics of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin. No matter how correct it is, it’s usually self-defeating because their targets tend to reject rational argument.

Fortunately for the rest of us, there’s these guys:

Jason Jones visits “The Real America”:

John Oliver reports on a Tea Party rally:

Politics and “Chicken”

May 24, 2011

Game theory, for all of its hype, isn’t all that great at telling us what to do in real life. When Morgenstern and von Neumann originally published the magnus opus of game theory, Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, one buyer falsely got his hopes up in believing that it might help him manipulate the stock market. Others expressed scorn at the field’s shortcomings and distance from application – game theory could conveniently prove already intuitive results, but it couldn’t tell us how to win at chess.

Despite the fact that game theory is not a panacea for the world’s economic problems, it can still be extremely useful. The telecom auction in the 1990’s, designed by game theorists, saved the US and UK public billions of dollars (a cumulated 35 billion, to be exact). The powerful notion of a Nash equilibrium in multiplayer-games helps break out of the self-referential “I think that-my opponent thinks that-I think that-my opponent thinks that …” infinite loop and identify natural strategies in non-cooperative games.

However, there are many two-player games in which the Nash equilibrium is not a useful concept, because a particular game might have two of them. The famous example is prisoner’s dilemma (read more here: Another example is highway chicken:

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