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It's Sunday time for fire and brimeston :D

Discussion in 'Politics (deprecated)' started by atbell, Apr 18, 2010.

  1. atbell

    atbell TRIBE Member

    Been to busy to read or write much outside of a rather limited set of media related things articles and what have you, yet the world continues! :eek:

    There seems to be a lot going on right now. Goldman has been charged, Iceland is belching fire the likes of which hasn't been seen since the gates of Mordor opened wide (friends visinting Iceland last summer felt the easiest way to describe the geography was to talk of Mordor because of the barren rock covered in scattered pools of steaming water), and even other news worthy things have the gaul to try and steal some attention from these clearly pope insultingly good stories (oh, random irrational reference)...

    So here's the other stuff that I'm seeing:

    Saudi Arabia announces nuclear center
    FT.com / Middle East - Saudi Arabia announces nuclear centre

    This is not the only Arab state looking to expand into 'civilian' power generation. Kuwait, Egypt, Quatar, and the UAE are looking to join Isreal, Saudi, and Iran as civilian nuclear powers.

    France has been working with Kuwait (deal inked) and is talking with Saudi. The UAE has been working with South Korea.

    For Saudi the investment is a part of a $80 bn infrastructure project (estimated to last 8 years) as the country ramps up non-oil power generation and transmission capacity. This is in response to high demand in Saudi for power and de-salinated water (both subsidised comodities I beleive). It's not surprising that both items make the same list, getting the salt out of water is currently a very power intensive task.

    As much as I'd like to break out end of the world talk on a grey Mtl day, I'm not feeling it for this article.

    It is rational for all of the Arab states to want to develop power generation capacity which doesn't rely on oil. I'm especially imprssed that Saudi has the foresight to ear mark funds for transmission infrastructure as well as generation infrastructure.

    I like that the Arab nations are dealing with different non-Gulf states for the technology. From an international relations stand point it's nice to get other countries interested in the maintenance of peace in the region so that the US doesn't continue to bear the brunt of that cost.

    I would like to know who Qutar and Egypt are working with, if anyone.

    I'm also thinking that the transfering of nuclear technology is also a very large and important investment in education for the gulf region. Nuclear technology is not all that 'hard' conceptually and the more people that are given access to the science behind it the more people will be able to build on those innovations.

    I don't see the geo-political risk as excessive. Weaponizing uranium from civilian reactors takes a long time and the intenegence comunity is well versed in identifying possible moves a nation makes toward these ends (er hum, well they should be better versed now) I also see the transfer of such a destructive technology as a belated act of accepting the nations who are looking to gain access to the nuclear power generation club. There is an amount of responsibility that nuclear nations have to others which, hopefully, will be well understood by the gulf nations. Past blockades of this technology implied that the non-nuclear countries were not 'mature' enough to be trusted with that knowledge, I think that's been out dated thinking for a long time. ... yet I'll still say loud and clear that the Taliban have not proven themselves mature yet.

    As a finishing note, how are these costs being paid? Is Saudi using US$ reserves built up from years of oil exports to go nuclear? ... if so, smart Saudi's ... sucks to be holding US$, US bonds, US stocks ...
  2. atbell

    atbell TRIBE Member


    Initially I'd intended to go over a whole serries of links I've marked but it turns out that life does these odd things from time to time that make you change plans.

    Despite this, all of these articles are ones I found on Sunday.

    "Mathematicians must get out of thier ivory towers"

    FT.com / Columnists / GillianTett - Mathematicians must get out of their ivory towers

    After having read so much of the Financial Times, espesially as the current crisis really began to unfold in the fall of 2008, I've become more familiar with some of thier regular journalists. Both Martin Wolf and John Authers consistently worte excelent and insightful articles but Jillian Tett has stood out as one of the best / most observant writers that I've noticed at the publication.

    In this article about the part played by math, mathematicians, and the use of both by financial institutions she does a great job of covering all the bases in a critical but rational way.

    Out of date or out of touch?

    The reason I ended up outside of corporate America and Western Academics back in 2004 / 05 was because when I tried to address my concerns with the practices of corporate America, and the company I was working for in particular, my CEO told me very clearly that his hands were tied and the company had to work for constantly growing quarterly targets to appease investors while keeping in mind that yearly reports were also important.

    This was the CEO for the worlds biggest copper and nickel producer in the world (Noranda / Falconbridge) saying how his hands had been tied by investors. This was a man who had been hired to do everything he could to further the interests of his company as measured by profitability and adherance to the law, had risen to the position because he had repeatedly proven that he knew how to do this, and yet his time was being consumed with appeasing the market demands of the market.

    To make matters worse, from my perspective, I was well aware of the fact that the time lines which planning for mine construction, operation, and eventual closure are measured in years and decades, not in quarters of accounting profitability.

    After my early morning meeting that day I signed up for the LSAT, the first of my attempts to get the hell out of that sinking ship.

    The LSAT was a drunken sleepless unstudied disaster (still got better than 53% of the people that wrote that one though ;) ) and is a story for another time.

    As another avenue for looking at what to do with my life I turned to academics. My interest (obsession) with macro economics had grown to the point where I was pretty certain I knew what gaps in traditional understanding drew my attention. When explaining these interests to some of the economics professors I know I was met with a surprise: "What you're describing is 'political economics', no one studies that."

    Are you serrious???? So no one in academics has read any of the land mark books of the fathers of economics, say Ricardo, Keyens, or Smith???

    No, it turns out when the favour of the populus changes so does the direction of economic research. Obsurd imo.

    Further investigation into possible graduate work in economics revealed: Economics departments at the world's 'leading' academic institutes do not consider work experience when evaluating masters student applications.

    So this means that after working for years in the international resource trade and gaining a specialty in ocean shipping and the associated understanding of how the resource trade actually worked, my resume would be looked over in favour of a recent economics undergraduate student who'd done particularily well on the last set of multiple choice questions ....

    Even later I was able to meet with the head of the UBC economics department to look into pursueing political economics. He was understandibly curt, who knows how many pie in the sky people he has to deal with trying to get into economics after reading ... a book. What I found most disturbing was that he pointed to a text book and said [paraphrasing]: "There's a lot of math in economics, look at this book, this is what we do."

    The amount of different ways that this offended me was to many to even be able to respond. The head of one of Canada's leading Universities economcis departments was trying to scare me off with MATH? I'd already told him how I was an engineer originally not to mention the ring is pretty distinctive.

    Using math as a filter for potential applicants asside, what is more troubling is the way he seemed to assume that I would just look at it and make my decission or anything like that. Instead I took the book to see what kind of math it was. I'd like to say 'the dumb kind' but that is simplistic. The math that was present was calculus, being used in a way in which I wasn't instantly familiar, but it was clearly nothing like advanced calculus.

    Which gets back to the article about maths and finance.

    Yes, calculus is math; yes, it is useful, difficult, and time consuming to learn; no - it is not cutting edge by any stretch, especially in the menial aplications which financial institutions have been using to fradulently reasure investors of the validity of economic models.

    Tett is quite accurate in bringing up the fact that the addopted maths and sciences are way way out of date. Calculus is a Newtonian tool, (that's 1643 - 1727 for those who care). Calculus was used by Einstien in his work with relativity, circa 1940s, but, as Tett points out, the theories of relativity have yet to even breach the surface of finace and economics. This is a shame because even the simple notion that absolutes are a fiction, even in the physical 'real' world, might well have helped financial 'professionals' (drones?) understand how 'value' is another intangible without absolutes.

    Of coures a reading of Smith, Ricardo, or Keyens would have helped with this too ... oh ... but no one was studying that.

    Being 'out of date' is a problem but it only gets catestrophic when 'being up to date' means ignoring the past.

    The way in which ideas were addopted from feilds is not surprising, people took what they could understand and used it experimentaly in application to economics, finance and business. What's unfortunate is that the people in the positions most able to apply new ideas have a limited understanding of non-financial feilds (broadly speaking). Newtonian phisics represents the low hanging physics fruit (apples?) if you will. It is a model which describes intuitive physical phenomenon with almost exact percision, failing anything Einstein later demonstrated. This makes the physics of Newton exceptionally easy to explain to others but it also makes it exceptionally vulnerable to the difficulties of describing the tails of the model, when things get moving 'really fast', become 'really big' or 'really small'. These are the problems that Einstien addressed and they are the problems that are oft sighted as key elements in the (atomic?) explosion of finance.

    Once again I am struck by the insight with which Tett puts together her articles.

    If we, the public, are interested in finding scape goats, people to burn at the stake, there will definately be a number to be found in the body of North American accademics who have contributed, at times agresivley, to the supression of innovative and creative thought. This response appears to have been taken in the interest of maintaing the positions of pre-eminance, authority, and prestigue which these lazy academics hold. Positions which, arguably, they never EVER should have achived.

    Right about now, fired up with my own writing, I'm rather certain that these people need to be rooted out and removed, named, and shamed.

    The pure facts which are starting to come out (ah, an absolute, burn me!) are showing quite clearly that the maintenance of position, power or prestigue is not an act of calculated self interest as much as it is an act of ignorance and insecurity. Pure self-interested actions on the part of academics and financial workers must first and foremost consider the long term stability of the system they claim to have an understanding of. Actting in purely self interested ways means knowing that the catastrophic failure of a system will be more detrimental to one's own ability to maintain any standard of living than the reality that one has been trying to overstep thier bounds and trying to beat down any that would point this out.

    Now that the economic atomic bomb has gone off and the fallout is settling around the world, it is time for ECONOMICS to be updated to include nuclear science, relativity, and a nubmer of other concepts that have been ignored by the ignorant and the stupid as they claim to be omnipotent and brilliant.

    Many developments, even if limiting the plagarized feilds to physics, math, and statistics, have been made since the time of Newton and Einestine. These need to be evaluated.

    This isn't going to be easy, as Soros seems to understand all to well. Economics, after all, continues to use a single theory from a single book of a near masaonic figure to under pin even the most recent arguments (if I read another article with some prick trying to sound smart by invoking Smiths invisible hand I think I'm going to be sick. READ his fucking book before quoteing, or even paraphrasing him!!!)

    After all, Smith (1723 - 1790) wrote on the heels of Newton. Even slow moving physics has grown up, why hasn't economics?

    If we can continue to claim that some knowledge should only be imparted on those responsible enough to handle the dangers it's miss-use can bring (nuclear power *cough*) how is it that other knowledges don't carry these same restrictions? ... especially after the radioactive way in which CDOs have spread pain around.

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