Thursday, November 21, 2019

Job Interview

Monday, I had an interview that was 250 miles away. Well, I had an interview scheduled, along with a teaching demonstration, but it turned out to be just a 15-minute teaching demonstration, then a "we'll be in touch." Then I got to drive 250 miles back home.

Tuesday, they called me to see if I can do a phone interview with some higher-up lady on Friday. So we'll see how that goes tomorrow. Maybe it'll just be a 30-second "proof of life" call, if Monday was any indication of what to expect. But at least it won't involve seven hours of driving.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Drew Carey Watch

Remember how, starting about 10 years ago, people started telling me I look like Drew Carey? It died down so much that I'd sort of forgotten. Then, two weeks ago, I got in an elevator right as the doors were closing, and the guy already in the elevator said, "Man, I thought Drew Carey was in my elevator for a minute!"

Last week at church, a newer member of our ward said to me, "I expect you get the Drew Carey comparisons all the time."

Bonus weirdness to this story: he then said, "It's a funny story--actually, it's pretty tragic...." ?!?!?! That took a fairly quick turn! His story was that he used to have a bishop who looked just like Drew Carey, and then that bishop died from poorly managing his diabetes. Sooooo...I have THAT to look forward to?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Meaning of "Not Religious"

Scott Sumner recently asked ("How Do Conservatives Feel About This?" The Money Illusion, 11 Nov. 2019) how conservatives feel about the fact that an increasing proportion of the population in North Africa and the Middle East consider themselves "not religious." He wonders if conservatives would like this because it means fewer Muslims, or if they would not like this because it means more atheists.

I don't think we can take "not religious" to mean the same thing everywhere. In a one-religion state, "not religious" doesn't mean atheist as much as it means "not the state religion." With no other vehicle to express religiousness, becoming disaffected from the state religion is to become not religious. However, people become disaffected for two different reasons: either they lose religion, which is what Sumner is assuming, or they have religious ideas that are in conflict with the one allowed religion. Instead of rising atheism, this could just reflect rising dissatisfaction within Islam.

I'm not going to say it's impossible that atheism is increasing in the area; it's increasing everywhere else on Earth, so it's not that hard to believe that it would be on the rise here, too. But I think the assumption that "not religious" means the same thing in Algeria that it means in Alberta is a mistake.

Friday, November 08, 2019

"All I Wanted Was [Expletive] Bangs!"

Vine may have died years ago, and people might try to tell you that TikTok is "the new Vine" (which it isn't), but there are still touchstone Vines that encapsulate a certain feeling. Last night, while I was at an economics lecture about China, I kept thinking of the angry/sad girl who destroyed her hair and was coming to terms with the fact that she was going to be stuck with the consequences for a long time. I had signed up to attend this event because I thought, "Maybe I'll meet someone who is professionally involved in the Chinese economy and that will lead to a job." You know, like the person from The Smiths' song "How Soon Is Now?":

There's a club and you'd like to go

You might find somebody who really loves you

So you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own

And you go home and you cry and you want to die

I'm not sure why I ignored the fact that Morrissey told me how it would end up. Nevertheless, I went. And here's what I learned: I could give at least as informative a lecture on the Chinese economy as the speaker gave. More so, actually, because I wouldn't conflate Iceland with Greenland, which he did. And I would have spoken into the microphone instead of mumbling everywhere but AT THE MIC.

The speaker put a lot of stock into the post-development political liberalization experienced in places like Taiwan and South Korea, and although he was quite critical of American firms for investing in China without steering the Chinese system to more freedom, he still believes that a growing Chinese middle class will eventually result in political freedoms. Maybe it's because he's from Korea, so the Korean experience dominates his view. I, however, would argue that China cannot follow a Korean trajectory because it has Tian'anmen Square in its history.

Look at the current situation in Hong Kong: the reason the students feel they have the ability to demonstrate is because there's uncertainty whether Xi will use the PLA in Hong Kong. In that sense, they are in the same place that Chinese students were in back on 3 June 1989. But no one in China has any uncertainty about whether another Tian'anmen would happen today: is there anyone who thinks Xi is more liberal than Deng? And it was Deng who sent the troops in on June 4th. Prosperity leads to freedom when there is ambiguity about how far the newly-prosperous can push. There has been no ambiguity about that in China for over 30 years, now.

The talk was a bust. All I wanted was a job. Is that so much to ask?

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

The 2020 Republican Nominee

The impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump are picking up pace, and it seems just a few moments ago the president's star witness flipped on him. So why have I seen absolutely NO analysis of who the 2000 GOP nominee will be? Do we really think Republicans will renominate an impeached president? I've actually seen articles that speculate Trump will be removed from office AND THEN RE-ELECTED, but isn't it easier to believe that someplace between here and removal, he is seen as the political liability he is and the Republicans replace him?

Maybe if the guy had packed party officials with his people, but I don't feel like that's happened; for one thing, he doesn't really have enough people to pack a dance club, let alone a political party. Administrative positions are hard to fill. Most Republican leaders were Never-Trumpers until he won the nomination.

Second possibility: sure, they were Never-Trumpers, but then they held their noses and worked with him, and none of them has any remaining legitimacy. But there are still Never-Trumper GOP members out there. "Not many of the elected officials!" you say. True, but still not zero (e.g.: Mitt Romney).

I'll be honest, since I checked out on politics in 2016, I don't really know who could be a legitimate contender for the GOP nomination, but I think it's time we start looking into it. I just don't see Trump being the type of charismatic leader that will get the party to follow him off a cliff; Trump voters might, but party officials are much more self-seeking than committed to any Trumpian ideology.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Payroll Surprises

In other news, my work decided to not pay me on Friday. No warning, just a missing deposit and a pay stub that said I earned zero. That made for a frustrating weekend.

The good news is that my dean was very responsive and I should be getting paid tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

"Our Premier Is a Man of the People, But He's Also...a Man"

I'm nearing the end of John Lynch's Simón Bolívar: A Life, and although Lynch appears to be a big fan of Bolívar, I'm liking The Liberator less as I learn more about him, and I'm increasingly frustrated with Lynch's easy-going treatment.

On page 152, Lynch writes, "The Liberator was not a slave-driver and never a racist." But in writing about a violent uprising of free and enslaved blacks in 1811-2, Bolívar called the rebels an "inhuman and atrocious people" (p. 57). In 1813, Bolívar wrote "Spaniards and Canarians, know that you will die, even if you are simply neutral, unless you actively espouse the liberation of America. Americans, you will be spared, even when you are guilty" (p. 73). Hmm, killing people based on their race sounds--I don't know--kinda racist. And taking exile in Haiti in 1815, not that long removed from race-based massacres, probably did nothing to calm the Europeans' fears.

Bolívar wanted the glory (and, maybe even more so, the women) that came with liberation, but none of the responsibility. When he saw Colombia turning into a 19th-century version of a post-Soviet money grab, instead of staying in Bogotá and using his position to ensure the free society he envisioned, he went to Ecuador to use his position to bone Manuela Sáenz. The Father of Colombia couldn't stand that José de San Martín might be the Father of Peru. Bolívar had no contemporary philosophers of liberation, so when he left the stage, he allowed for a free-for-all kleptocracy that so soured the people to classical economics that you can't hardly heave a brick in Latin America without hitting a populist socialist.

Bolívar is responsible not just for the political liberty of Latin America, but also for its centuries of economic failure.

Post title from the Bolívar biopic Dr. Strangelove.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Plagiarists Who Aren't Even Trying to Hide It

I had students do a research project, and I had them submit the final paper in physical form. This removed my ability to run it through an anti-plagiarism program. But, to the surprise of two students (out of 13!), it didn't remove my ability to see what's smacking me in the face.

The first student turned in a paper with a lot of dated references to the Venezuelan political crisis, talking about "in May" and "this Wednesday" about stuff that happened in 2018. Ultimately, though, it was the sentence "You can read our previous report here" that sent me to a search engine. Ten seconds later, I was reading the exact same paper, only this time it was published 10 months ago in the New York Times.

The second student's paper had a section that was in different-sized font, a frequent effect of cut-and-paste jobs. The unusual country list of "China, India, Hungary, and Mexico" allowed me to search for that collection of words and find the original article immediately.

I shouldn't be able to catch 15% of the class cheating just based on a hunch and the first page of Google results. It's not even sporting of them to completely remove the thrill of the chase. It's just insulting.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Imagine How Angry This Blog Would Be If I Still Cared

Long-time readers will remember that this blog was much more political in the Aughts and the early Tens than it is now. I don't think I've written even once about this impeachment process we've got going on. (A Random Stranger on Trump's impeachment: we've known since Andrew Johnson that you can't impeach just because you don't like a dude.) So what's the deal?

For two different reasons, I've given up on politics. The first is that politicians are all uniformly terrible now. I'm not going to tell you "they're all the same," because they are idiosyncratically terrible, but they are uniformly terrible. Would things be any different with Hillary Clinton than they are now with Donald Trump? Yes, but they'd be just as bad. And next year, when the choice is between Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren, we'll be in exactly the same position.

I like Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard, as people. But there's no way the Democrat establishment will allow either of them to win the nomination. And I still haven't answered for myself whether I can support a politician with a campaign platform calling for the widest possible access to baby murder, but I suspect the answer is no.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Believe Everything You Read Online

I was searching the Internet for family history information regarding my dead great-aunt, and I came across her profile on one of these scam "personal info" sites. I looked myself up, and was amazed at how badly they had overestimated my yearly income. I mean, if I made as much money as they say I make, I wouldn't be writing this in a public library on free WiFi.

But then they also say I have a criminal record, which--sorry to say--is not true. But maybe this fake job I have that has such high fake income is in some shady field, like waste management or running a scam "personal info" website.