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User Journal

Journal Journal: President Warren G. Harding 2

The answer to my last journal entry was the 29th President of the United States Warren G. Harding. His cabinet, known as the Ohio Gang, was widely perceived to be corrupt, mostly due to involvement in the Teapot Dome Scandal. Harding was an isolationist and some scholars believe that the tariffs enacted under his administration prevented worldwide economic recovery from WWI and led to the Great Depression. Many consider him to have been the worst American President ever.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Which American President Am I? 2

I was President of the United States of America. I was a people person and liked by most people. However, I had a mediocre mind and quickly found myself beyond my depth in the presidency. "God! What a job!" was my anguished cry on one occasion.

I was "one of the boys", but had trouble detecting moral halitosis and saying "no". While I attempted to gather the best minds of my party to server in my cabinet, designing political leeches capitalized on my weaknesses to secure positions of power. Some of these crooks were able to defraud the government out of $200 million building government projects and allowing businesses to develop government owned mineral resources in exchange for bribes. The aquittal of these crooks did not improve the American public's confidence in their legal system.

I was a strong proponent of business and a laissez-faire economy. I acheived my ends by filling the courts and administrative bureaus with fellow standpatters. I was especially effective in stacking the Supreme Court in this regard. My appointees killed federal child labor law, stripped away many of labor's hard won gains, minimum wage laws, and rigidly restricted governmental intervention in the economy. Anti-trust laws were ingored, circumvented, or feebly upheld by friendly prosecutors in the attorney general's office. In response, large industries set up trade associations to limit competition. The agreed upon standards made by these associations greatly reduced waste and sped up engineering progress. I privatived industries under government managment and ended government subsidies to other industries. When unions striked under the hardships the withdrawl of government support created, I placed clamped sweeping injunctions on the stikers. Unions wilted under my policies with membership dropping 30%.

Under pressure from business to protect the prosperous home market from cheap foreign goods, I raised high, virtually unclimbable, tariff walls around the United States. Foreign companies felt this squeeze and raised their own tariffs against US goods. While I was able to keep foreign goods out, I also prevented American businesses from exporting their own goods. This led to a viscous circle that worsened the current international economic distress.

While I took care of business, I also took care of US veterans. I formed a veteran organization to administer benefits that became a powerful lobbying force.

I was able to secure rights to drill for oil in middle eastern countries. I also negotiated an armament treaty to keep America safe. Unfortunately, the new parchment peace was delusory in the extreme. Lacking both muscles and teeth, the pact was a diplomatic derelict -- and virtually useless in a showdown. Yet it accurately -- and dangerously -- reflected the American mind of the time which was all too ready to be lulled into a false sense of security.

Which American President Am I? (1)

(1) facts paraphrased from Bailey and Kennedy. The American Pagent. D. C. Heath and Company. 1987. ISBN 0-669-10810-3

User Journal

Journal Journal: Political Stuff

Some time ago I learned about Tom Dispatch from the Al Franken Show. I thought I would share these two posts.

The first one deals with the hunting accident in which Cheney was involved. RW posted about this event, and for some reason I thought people might be interested in this article. From the article:

Here, you had the unexpected, farcical uprising of a long-frustrated and sidelined Washington press corps not over secret prisons, or torture, or NSA spying, or the most recent revelations that the Vice President and others had cooked the books before the invasion of Iraq, but over the fact that they were not informed about the shooting of Whittington. In Iraq, there was nothing farcical about the unexpected, largely Sunni insurgency that has bedeviled this administration since soon after major combat operations supposedly ended in early May 2003.

The second article talks about Wal-Mart. The US Constitution does not include checks and balances against private power and I sometimes wonder what will happen with corporations whose resources rival that of nations. From the article:

Imagine if Walton were more like Sturges, supporting the art of her time. Imagine if she were supporting artists who actually had something to say about Wal-Mart and America (and Mexico, and China). Imagine if, in the mode of the Venice Biennale or the Sao Paolo Biennale, there was a Wal-Mart biennale. After all, Wal-Mart is itself China's seventh-largest trading partner, ahead of Germany and Russia and Italy; if it were a nation, it would be the world's nineteenth biggest economy. If it's on the same scale as those countries, why shouldn't it have its own contemporary art shows? But what would the Wal-Mart nation and its artists look like?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Shameless Self Promotion

Several years ago I wrote, directed and edited a fifteen minute narrative film. I showed it at the UT Computer Science film festival last year (although I didn't get to participate in the competition it because it was too long). They were kind enough to move it to computer and put it on the web. I don't know if they will be keeping it up after this year's competition, so it may not be available much longer. Comments are always appreciated.

The mpeg version is 150 MB.
The Quicktime version is 60 MB.

The mpeg version is better quality.

I also wrote about the film's history on my blog.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A Question of Ethics 1

I have a few questions for the few people who read my journal.

1. Which statement best reflects your beliefs:
a) "Finders keepers, losers weepers."
b) "Finders returners."

2. If you lost something and saw someone else in possession of the item you lost (with 100% certainty that it actually is the item you lost), do you think it attempting to take it back would be socially correct behavior? If so, what types of behavior during the repossession would be justified?

3. Would it make a difference if the item had information on it that would have allowed the finder to locate you and return it?

4. Do you consider these belief to be part of your culture, and do you consider your culture to be American?

User Journal

Journal Journal: 2008 Presidential Election Predictions

From my blog...

Hillary Clinton vs. Condoleezza Rice.

Well, maybe not Clinton. I just think that a guaranteed election of a woman to our highest office would be neat. However, I'm pretty sure that Rice is being set up for the job. Bush recently made a statement after appointing her to Secretary of State that was something like "Her ambitions are beyond my ability to grant." (not an exact quote)

Apparently I'm not the only one to think this.

My wife thinks the Republican ticket should Rice/Powell. She would be both the first female President and the first black President.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Did you know... 1

Did you know that in the 1988 Presidential election Republicans were blue and Democrats were red?

Look at this map.

Anyone have an idea why they were switched?


Journal Journal: Prisoner's Dilemma

This is my first sd journal entry. I'm taking a class on agent based electronic commerce and we spend a fair amount of time on ame theory. I posted the following as a response to a comment about the traffic light switchers. I know it is going to get buried, and I thought I'd save the post here.

Classic prisoner's dilemma has a dominant strategy. If you are only playing one game against one opponent, your best strategy always to defect (vs cooperate).

_____C D
you C 2 0
___ D 3 1

If you are playing multiple times against the same opponent, then the game is called Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. The analysis here is a little trickier since it depends on the strategy that your opponent is playing.

If your opponent always cooperates, you should always defect.
If your opponent always defects, you should always defect.

Pure strategies are not very interesting in this game.

There are a LOT of other strategies.

Unforgiving strategy: Cooperate until your opponent defects, and then always defect. If you know this is your opponent, then your best strategy is to always cooperate. This strategy has problems in noisy environments (where you might THINK your opponent defected, but he didn't really)

Tit for Tat: Do whatever your opponent did in the last round. Start with cooperate. If you know that this is what your opponent does, then you should always cooperate until the last round. There is no penalty to defect in the last round. However, if your opponent knows you know this, then they will defect in the last round too. So that means you should defect in the second to last round. Repeat until you are both defecting.

How does this relate to driving? In most large cities, driving interactions are anonymous. If someone defects, you don't get to 'punish' them by defecting the next time. The game is always a one-shot prisoner's dilemma and the best strategy is to always defect.

There are two ways to fix this:
1) Make the interactions so they are not anonymous, or so that defectors can be identified. The paint-balls on top of the fire truck are a good example of this. Another way would be to have some sort of p2p network where you could enter the offending vehicle and identify offending vehicles (not really practical given today's technology, but with good machine vision and smart HUDs then maybe)
2) Change the utility function of the game by adding punishments for defecting. The problem here is that it is usually done with fines. People have different utility curves for money (if you make 7 figures, a $100 fine probably isn't going to phase you much). It is difficult to set up a market mechanism that significantly lowers everyone's payoff for defecting against cooperation.

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