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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Omar at MoMA! (+ other "The Wire"-NYC connections)

Following up on my previous post about MoMA, here is the 5th of 6 holiday e-mails the museum is sending out..with Omar from "The Wire"!  What better way to get in the holiday spirit.

I'd seen on their schedule that they are screening these 3 episodes of "The Wire", as part of a MoMA film exhibition about Polish director Agnieszka Holland

Also on "The Wire" tip..I was walking down Flatbush Ave here in Brooklyn Monday afternoon, and passed by Chad Coleman--the actor who portrayed Cutty.  In retrospect, it wasn't so surprising to see him there--I'd seen this NYT mini-profile of Coleman, back at the beginning of '08, which mentioned that he lives in Flatbush--and does a volunteer shift at the Park Slope Coop!

Moreover, this associated City Room blog post detailed "The Wire"'s NYC connections (with some good links):

Michael K. Williams and Jamie Hector, who play the nemeses Omar Little and Marlo Stanfield, are both from central Brooklyn — the former from East Flatbush and the latter from Flatbush and Crown Heights.

Andre Royo, who plays the heroin-addicted police informer Bubbles, grew up in the Bronx. And as everybody knows, Method Man, the Wu-Tang Clan member who plays a drug dealer named Cheese, is a proud Staten Islander.

Besides them, Wood Harris, a Chicago resident who studied at New York University, was involved with the city's underground poetry scene while he lived in Brooklyn before going on to play drug lord Avon Barksdale. Clarke Peters, who plays Detective

Lester Freamon, was born in New York and has said he gets recognized whenever he comes back.

And finally, Gbenga Akinnagbe, who plays the assassin Chris Partlow, grew up in Montgomery County, Maryland, but you might recognize him from the 2003 Shakespeare in the Park production of Henry V.

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: The Museum of Modern Art <>
To: Me
Sent: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 8:05:32 AM
Subject: Holidays at MoMA: Five of Six Highlights

MoMA E-News
This message contains graphics. If you do not see the graphics, click here to view.


Come early and stay late! We are open on New Years Eve and New Years Day from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Above: The Wire. 2004–08. USA. Directed by Agnieszka Holland


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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Brad Delong - Berkeley economist, "Grasping Reality"

A friend had noticed that I was posting stuff from a number of economists on facebook, and asked what sorts of ideological views they have. He posted that as a comment to an item I'd posted from Brad DeLong's blog, which is titled "Grasping Reality" (and which is subtitled "The Semi-Daily Journal of Economist Brad DeLong: A Fair, Balanced, Reality-Based, and More than Two-Handed Look at the World" :)

DeLong is a macroeconomist at the University of California (Berkeley). The item I'd posted on facebook was his "Talking Points for Asia Trip" which is literally a list of bullet points--looks like something Delong typed up in about 10 minutes (typos and all), while sitting in his office in Evans Hall (great location, not-so-great building, imho).

It's worth quoting in full, for those of you too lazy to click thru; plus, for a tiny bit of "value add" (on top of merely pointing this out to you), I've inserted a couple thoughts/comments of my own:


  • America has only one president at a time.
  • The genius of the British Empire was that Britain used its time as the world's hyperpower to make a world in which Britain could live comfortably after other superpowers had arisen.
  • Richard Cheney and George W. Bush are not geniuses.
  • Barack H. Obama and Joe Biden ate not fools.

[I had never heard that take on the genius of the British Empire. I just started reading Niall Ferguson's "Empire"; I'm curious to find out if Ferguson concludes similarly.]

International Trade:

  • In the United States we--that is, my faction within the Democratic Party--have lost the argument over whether trade is good for America's middle class.
  • This is very frustrating: trade is good for America's middle class.
  • But the era of increasing globalization has also been an era of rapidly-increasing income inequality--and people think that there is a connection.
  • So for the next decade free trade will have to be sold within the U.S. as part of broader foreign policy--free trade as a soft-power tool for security and global environmental goals.
  • Nevertheless, the Obama-Biden administration is certain to be better on free trade than the Cheney-Bush administration.

[DeLong's faction within the Democratic Party is, as you can see, the free trade faction. My understanding is that this is the "Rubinomics"/Summers faction of the party, as opposed to the protectionist faction(s)--labor unions, and perhaps the economic faction that's identified with Robert Reich; but that's a breakdown I need to verify.

Interesting that he says Obama/Biden will be better on free trade on Cheney-Bush; I don't understand the reasoning behind that.]

Financial Crisis:

  • Since 1844 and the Westminstet debate over the renewal of the Bank of England charter, it has been accepted doctrine that avoiding deep depression requires that central banks keep financial assets from collapsing.
  • At least one price is too important to be left to the market.
  • Delicate issues of moral hazard: seek also to minimize "Greenspan puts."
  • Kindleberger: the lender-of-last-resort must always arrive, but its arrival must never be relied on in advance; this is a tricky business.
  • Usually central banks can manage asset prices in a crisis sufficiently by managing the price of duration--buying safe but longer-term assets in exchange for cash that served as reserves and means of payment.
  • Sometimes not: default, risk, information. What then?
  • Keynes:
  • Government spending.
  • Tax cuts.
  • Danger: debt accumulation can crack government's status as provider of safe assets...
  • Bernanke--and Trichet, and King
  • Making it up as they go.

[This is where it gets heavier. I had never heard of 1844 or the Westminster debate; here is a book that seems to cover it.)

I'm not sure what the "too important" price is; the short-term price of money? (That is to say, the short-term interest rate = the fed funds rate in our banking system.)

The Kindleberger insight is great; makes the case even stronger for getting a copy of his classic book asap.

Wish DeLong had fleshed out his latter points more. The "default, risk, information" topic is perhaps covered (in wonkier detail) in this recent essay of DeLong's:

It does certainly seem that the central bankers of the world--Bernanke, and Trichet (ECB), and King (BoE)--are making it up as they go along.]

[Finally, DeLong closes with some sobering points:]

Global Imbalances:

  • All the issues of global imbalances we used to worry about remain.
  • As do all the long-run global warming issues.
  • As do all the long-run global aging issues.

This is why the web is brilliant--we can have nearly instantaneous access to the thinking of our best intellectuals.

I was reminded to post this b/c I saw one of my Berkely MFE buddies is going to attend a reception this Sunday for DeLong, hosted by the Berkely Club of Singapore..and thought this would be good prep for him going into the reception!

Economist of the Year: John Maynard Keynes?

With all the end-of-the-year/best of 2008 lists coming out this week, and with an economic crisis upon us, the question naturally arises: who is the economist of the year?  

It seems like a lot of our most prominent economists think it's John Maybard Keynes.  Which may seem at first somewhat surprising, given that Keynes did his work in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s; but when you think about the global economic situation in those decades, which is precisely what Keynes concerned himself with, it starts to make more sense..

(Here is one line from the wikipedia bio that jumped out at me, given that I used to be something of a logician:
Bertrand Russell named Keynes the most intelligent person he had ever known, commenting, "Every time I argued with Keynes, I felt that I took my life in my hands and I seldom emerged without feeling something of a fool."
For more on biographical details, see this 1985 NYT review of a biography of Keynes.)

Below are some things to read by and about Keynes, if you're so inclined:
  • A short piece that ran in the Financial Times in October: "Man in the News: John Maynard Keynes"
  • A blog post from last week by Princeton economist, NYT columnist, and 2008 Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, titled "Keynes's Difficult Idea", which is about a essay by FT columnist Martin Wolf: "Keynes offers us the best way to think about the financial crisis"
  • This post was largely inspired by a blog post by Berkeley economist Brad DeLong, titled "Things to Read by Keynes", which consists of an extensive and partially hyperlinked reading list of, well, things to read by Keynes.  Included are two letters Keynes wrote to FDR, in 1932 and 1938 (the latter DeLong discusses briefly here).  DeLong's post was in turn inspired by the following:
  • George Mason economist Tyler Cowen's "New MR book club - Keynes's General Theory", which he initiated about a month ago; Cowen has already posted on chapters one and two, three, five, and six (didn't see one for ch four).  Cowen is taking a break between semesters, but will start back up again in January.  I just ordered a copy of the book off Amazon, and hope to catch up to him!  (For a taste of the General Theory, DeLong posts an excerpt here)
  • Cowen mentions that the book club selection was inspired by this column by Harvard economist Greg Mankiw: "What Would Keynes Have Done?"  Krugman blogs Mankiw's column, under the title "The Keynsian Moment?" (That Mankiw and Cowen are both looking to Keynes is telling, since both fall to the right of the ideological spectrum, whereas Keynes is considered to fall on the left--as are Krugman and DeLong.)
  • Bruce Bartlett (as a member of the Reagan Adminstration, an architect of supply-side "Reaganomics") also published an essay (in Forbes) titled "What Would Keynes Do?" (which DeLong posts and discusses here)

That is more than enough to get us started.  I haven't read through most of the links above in detail--one motivation for this post was simply to collect them all in one place.

One last Keynsian quote.  Yale economist Robert Shiller's latest book "The Subprime Solution" opens with a timely passage from the Keynes's 1919 account of the Versailles Peace Treaty, "The Economic Consequence of the Peace":
A general bonfire is so great a necessity that unless we can make of it an orderly and good-tempered affair in which no serious injustice is done to anyone, it will, when it comes at last, grow into a conflagration that may destroy much else as well.
Much more on Shiller to come, as I finally finished "The Subprime Solution" last weekend, and hope/plan to post some summaries of Shiller's points.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Fw: Holidays at MoMA: Four of Six Highlights

I'd decided I wouldn't do these cheap posts where I simply forward an e-mail from my inbox..but this one seemed like it's worth posting.  The 4th of 6 "holiday highlights" e-mails that MoMA has sent.  

We sprung for a membership to MoMA in November, which might be the best $125 we've spent since coming to NYC.  I feel like we've already got our money's worth, with about 4 visits to the museum, plus a couple movies (both of which included the filmmaker speaking: Nina Paley taking questions after "Sita Sings the Blues"; and the man, the myth, the legend Melvin van Peebles introducing his very first feature film, The Story of Three Day Pass!)

We walked through the Miro exhibit featured below in November.  Actually, I walked through twice, once with Anj and then again with a friend who was in town visiting from SF--and who is an artist and counts Miro among his influences, so it was informative and eye-opening to walk through with him..

More on MoMA in the future--I had been thinking it would be fun to write up my own idiosyncratic guide to visiting MoMA..

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: The Museum of Modern Art <>
To: Me
Sent: Monday, December 29, 2008 8:05:01 AM
Subject: Holidays at MoMA: Four of Six Highlights

This message contains graphics. If you do not see the graphics, click here to view.



Above: Joan Miró. Rope and People, I (detail). 1935. Oil on cardboard mounted on wood, with coil of rope. MoMA. Gift of the Pierre Matisse Gallery. © 2008 Successió Miró/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

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