December 31, 2008
Deborah Yedlin (2008-12-30) of the Calgary Herald’s Business section succinctly summarized the economic nightmare of 2008 in which the investment banking industry collapsed, Chicago school economics theories were debunked and their heroes dethroned, trusted risk management managers were vilified, and the axis of financial power shifted from the West to the East.
“The consequences of the lack of regulation in the shadowy subprime housing market, and the ability of banks to get loans off their balance sheets and have investment banks repackage them as rated securities, allowed for the spreading risk. It was a practice that was supposed to ensure if something went bad, the damage would be contained because the exposure would be spread out. It was an axiom that was lent an even greater reliability because U. S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greens-pan was a believer in it. As many are now painfully aware, the dominos began to fall when two hedge funds at Bear Stearns collapsed in late 2007. This started the clock ticking on the 84-year-old investment bank, which proceeded to lose the confidence of investors and counterparties and was sold post-haste to JP Morgan Chase in March for $10 a share with the “help” of the U. S. Federal Reserve and its investment banking veteran, Hank Paulson (Yedlin 2008-12-30).”
“Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, in opining on the multi-billion fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff, suggested one of the reasons he was not discovered was because of society’s worship of the wealthy. Too many, he said, have drawn the conclusion that people who have made huge sums of money must be very smart and to question these individuals would be to insult them (Yedlin 2008-12-30).”
Webliography and Bibliography
Yedlin, Deborah. 2008-12-30. “Storybook year ends in economic nightmare.” Calgary Herald.
June 17, 2007
Fraser Los (2007) reviewed recent publications by two “religious insiders with long political memories.” He describes Bill Moyer and Garry Wills as sober thinkers with mature experience. Yet they are both stating the urgency to revisit the issue of separating church and state. Debates between secular humanism and religions have been going on for decades but they have taken a strange and serious turn according to Moyer and Wills.
Wills (2006) is concerned with the most conservative fringes of evangelical Christians and Catholics who have aligned themselves politically under the Bush administration to promote extreme views on “education, the environment, the family, gun control and regulation of any kind (Los 2007).” Moyer (2004, 2006) primarily focuses his concern on the concept of the Rapture, a bizarre belief of fundamentalist evangelicals, who believe in literal, temporal and physical salvation and damnation. In their most extreme form this allows them to justify unsustainable ecological behaviour because divine intervention will protect them regardless of their environmental actions.
“As difficult as it is, however, for journalists to fashion a readable narrative for complex issues without depressing our readers and viewers, there is an even harder challenge – to pierce the ideology that governs official policy today. One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the oval office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a world view despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts (Moyers 2004).
Monbiot, author and columnist for the London Guardian, published Manifesto for a New World Order (2004) which unsettled the concept of the new world order as proposed by the first President Bush in which he envisioned the future of the United States after the collapse of the socialist camp. Monbiot (2003, 2004) described how in order to understand the US attitude towards the Middle East you have to understand politics in Texas. Monbiot’s work has been compared to that of Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E.Stiglitz, who published Globalisation and its Discontents (2002). Whereas Stiglitz is described as a disillusioned academic, Monbiot is described as a cool-headed revolutionary who calls for action (Morag 2003).
Where does this leave moderate civil religions according to Moyers, Monbiot and Wills?
Fraser, Morag. 2003. “Review of The Age of Consent: A Manifesto for a New World Order.“ July 12.
Los, Fraser. 2007. “God and Government.” Alternative Journal. 33:1:36-7.
Monbiot, George. 2003. Manifesto for a New World Order. Flamingo.
Monbiot, George. 2004. “Apocalypse Please. ” The Guardian. April 20.
Monbiot, George. 2004. “Religion of the Rich.” The Guardian. November 9.
Monbiot, George. 2005. “My heroes are driven by God, but I’m glad my society isn’t.” The Guardian. October 11.
Moyers, Bill. 2004. “On Receiving Harvard Med’s Global Environment Citizen Award.”t r u t h o u t | Perspective. December 1.
Moyers, Bill. 2006. Welcome to Doomsday. New York: New York Review Books.
Stiglitz, Joseph E. 2002. Globalisation and its Discontents. Penguin.
Wills, Garry. 2006. Bush’s Fringe Government. New York: New York Review Books.
December 30, 2006
“It’s just the way it is,” isn’t anymore. As I read the Nasar and Grubermanifold New Yorker article (2006) I was deeply moved by the life story of Gregory Perelman who can live on a $100 a month and who managed to wipe out an entire branch of pure mathematics in a few years by working alone, even isolated in the slow world. He is described as an idealist, an ascetic, a Russian Jew who lives with his mother in a gray neighbourhood of gray apartment buildings. But in this article he shines brilliantly. He may be part of the answer to my own puzzle, the ethical dilemma of being an academic in the 21st century.
Henri Poincaré created a True Knowledge Gap in mathematics, giving rise to an entire branch in his discipline when he slipped in an offhand question that became the legendary problem of the 20th century (Nasar and Grubermanifold 2006).
By the nineteen-sixties, topology had become one of the most productive areas of mathematics, and young topologists were launching regular attacks on the Poincaré. To the astonishment of most mathematicians, it turned out that manifolds of the fourth, fifth, and higher dimensions were more tractable than those of the third dimension. By 1982, Poincaré’s conjecture had been proved in all dimensions except the third. In 2000, the Clay Mathematics Institute, a private foundation that promotes mathematical research, named the Poincaré one of the seven most important outstanding problems in mathematics and offered a million dollars to anyone who could prove it.
In 1992 when Gregory Perelman (b. 1968) posted his solution to the problem on the Internet on a site used by mathematicians working with advanced concepts, he supplied enough information for the handful of minds capable of understanding to know that he had cracked it.
It took me a few days to feel I had understood enough of their article to appreciate it. I used my new Firefox add-on Gnosis.
Why then did this story continue to unfold on some very messy battle Fields? Politics, power and control. To understand more fully, I worked out some of the ideas at Tim’s and in an easy chair playing with pictures. I also had to map out a brief timeline and the biographies of the main characters: Perelman, Hamilton, Yau, Tian, Zhu, Cao, Ball and Thurston. I played with the concepts of Knowledge Collisions in the Battle Fields of Mathematics but this was not about knowledge collisions on a level playing field.
Poincaré’s bagel, coffee mug handle, soccer ball and noose knot were great for starters. The table itself was easily transformed into a topology of Battle Fields. Cigars and necks protruded on the topological landscape like stalagmites. I laid a silk cloth over it all so it could drape over the edge of the table. I left a space on the table edge for a dented fender. The True Gap gaped like a crevice in an otherwise relatively level playing field. The coffee mug with its insignia of Stephen Hawkings casts a long shadow and the handle represented the branch of mathematics called topology. Since we are looking at a cross section of topological field the branch that has disappeared over the edge represents a small sorrow 
I didn’t know where to put Gregory Perelman my new hero, so I put a spoon in the coffee mug which he of course had stirred up. Then I balanced a swing at the top of it giving him a higher vantage point from which he can quietly survey the field. He swings slowly back and forth without those below noticing. All they can see is the spoon and the bottom of his swing. I turned him into a pearl and remembered a quote, “Not every sea has pearls . . .”
My early experiences in academia were entirely positive. It was only when I was in my fifth year of graduate studies, my second in my PhD that I began to realize the hidden power and politics behind the scenes in the ivory towers as one professor after another sought to gain control over academic and/or grant capital at any cost. I caught myself transforming campus towers into Freudian phallic symbols as I watched with dismay my PhD slipping away from me. I was disgusted mainly with my own naïvity, my lack of campus street-smarts but by then it was too late. It seems my university students in their twenties had figured it out long before I did. No wonder we all make fun of Ph.D.s!
So here I am typing away in my living room office with my old PC perched on this great glass-topped Business Depot computer desk, reflecting Mount Tzuhalem with the fire crackling off to my left and our family sound asleep. I’m emptying my PC into a dozen or more free Web 2.0 sites.
I’m not a Perelman but he is my hero. If you can only learn to live on $100 a month, keep access to the Internet, connect one’s PC’s memory to the free Web 2.0 you can sit back in the slow world and quietly watch a lifetime of experience upload to this strange virtual space we call the Internet.
Perelman’s copyright took the risk of losing his intellectual capital. For some Yau and his students really did deserve the Fields Award he received from Ball.
But for me I would rather face the perils of a Perelman Risk, tie my intellectual capital to my Creative Commons stake and at least let people share some of the amazing experiences I was privileged to have before the Fawlty Towers crumbled around me.
 See the article on ClearForest. I had to select a chunk of the article at a time for Gnosis to do its magic but undeniable it makes digesting lengthy, complex articles less cumbersome. At the most elemental level it is similar to the Google generated highlighted key words in .pdf files found in response to a user’s Google search inquiry. Gnosis uses a number of colour codes to highlight a number of themes which I am just trying to work out now.
 Its a bit like the death of a meteorite in a fiery explosion would be to the person who had named and followed the passage of the meteorite for decades.
[I have even heard on academic hearsay which is as reliable as Frank I suppose, so I should not repeat this but . . . this is not a journal it is a blog . . . an archaeologist explained to his First Nations guide (who later whispered this to me) that he would not reveal their findings in the field since it would be so hotly contested by his colleagues in his branch it would consume his entire career to defend it. Academic hearsay. Fireworks, not a meteor. Take away 5 credibility, legitimacy points from this author immediately!]
For more reading on science on Web 2.0 see yanfeng.org
Swaminathan, Nikhil. 2006. peer_review_is_sooooo_old_school
Scientific American Blog. December 22, 2006.
Nasar, Sylvia , Grubermanifold, David. 2006.”Manifest Destiny.” The New Yorker: Fact. Annals of Mathematics. A legendary problem and the battle over who solved it. Issue of 2006-08-28; Posted 2006-08-21; accessed December 22, 2006.