Risks and Riddles

Risks and Riddles” by Gregory F. Treverton (Smithsonian Mag)


Former National Security advisor Gregory Treverton explains why there is a difference between mysteries and puzzles. Puzzles are problems that have a solution, you just might not know what it is yet. Mysteries are problems with no clear solution, and it might not even be clear that there is no clear solution. Treverton contends that the Soviet Union was a puzzle, and Al Qaeda is a mystery.


“Risks and Riddles” references an article by Malcolm Gladwell that he wrote about Enron. Gladwell wondered which elements of the Enron scandals were puzzles, and which were mysteries. While I don’t generally like Gladwell’s writing, this strikes to the core of my interest in finance: how financial tools (like the tools that Enron abused) can become so complicated that even the people who created them don’t understand how they work. I see a parallel with art here. Artists often makes things that they don’t completely understand. (Often the best art is like this.) In this case, the artist has made a mystery. The worst art is often a puzzle, one that once solved, ceases to be interesting. Abstract painting used to be a mystery, now it is often a puzzle.


Midwestworld by Meghan O’Gieblyn (The Point)


This essayist visits a living history museum in Michigan. What she finds is an undefrostable delusion.


Eberhard Faber Mongol (Pencil Pages)


Images of a great pencil, the Mongol, that used to be produced in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.


It’s Good to Be Michael Lewis by Jessica Pressler (NY Mag


Michael Lewis gets paid $10 a word, and imagines, while writing, that everyone loves him.


The Secret Lives of Central Bankers By Annelise Riles


Central Bankers all love the arrogant, patrician Sherlock Holmes!


If the US unemployment rate included everyone who says they want a job, it would be nearly double by Dan Kopf (Quartz)


The unemployment rate is not what you think it is.


We’re Measuring the Economy All Wrong By David Leonhardt (NYT)


More proof. Don’t listen to the unemployment rate.


Trump wants to slash welfare with stricter work requirements (Vox)


The diminution of the welfare state, unilateral tax cuts for the rich: are we speeding a tad faster down the road to plutocracy that we turned on to during the Reagan era?


Taxpayer dollars fund most oversight and cleanup costs at Superfund sites (Washington Post)


Why would it be in the interest of the public to pay for the clean-up of toxic-waste, when a tax that fed a trust fund was established in 1980? Wouldn’t the public love a trust, that grew as the economy grew, and would pay for pollution clean up on the dividends of growth?


How the Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects Around the Country (New York Times)


Again, why would the public want less public transit? They wouldn’t! So there must be a vested interest, doing information warfare to destroy the plan. More corporate information warfare, pitting individuals against each other, ultimately winning in the end.


Taxing the Poor by David Cole (The New York Review of Books)


Equality is good for democracy. But is democracy dangerous for the rich? The founding fathers solution to the question of whether the poor would vote to take the money of the rich away was to suppress voting. Still happening!


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