Monday, July 26, 2010

Reading NYT Today: Sunday July 25, 2010

Several interesting pieces in the paper today, so for a bit of a pourpouri (and you thought only Jepordy! Used that word), here goes:

  1. A fun but worthwhile piece by UC economist Richard Thaler comparing soccer officiating to financial regulation. A fine demonstration of the use of economic logic and thinking that applies well to two completely different fields.
  2. Pankraj Mishra, whose book on the Buddha, Buddhism, and his own life provides an outstanding read, reviews two new books on the history of yoga. For yogi readers, the review is a must, and the books look promising as well.
  3. Also for yogis, a very interesting article in the NYT Magazine profiling yoga practitioner John Friend, the developer of Anusara yoga. For our crew in Santa Fe, who attended two Anusara classes, it should prove especially interesting. I really enjoyed the yoga, so I looked forward to the article. I found the article well written and informative. The issue that always arises with yoga, and most any religion (not to say that yoga, as practiced by most, is a religion!), is whether the practice should remain pure and connected to its roots (the traditionalists) or whether it should adopt to new times and cultures (the adaptationists). In fact, I'd argue that the adaptationists always win. Christianity, whenever we say it began (with Jesus? with Paul?) has been repeatedly altered through the centuries, first and foremost by Greek philosophy, to mention only one example. Buddhism came to China and immediately changed, and then it moved to Japan, where one manifestation became Zen Buddhism. Going back to the question of yoga, it's hard to say in a prima facie way what is a bastardization and what is an adaptation. Certainly, yoga is intended, or we may say allows, more than just exercise. In the end, like most things, it's what we want and make of it. Friend's enterprise seems genuine and not too carried away with guru worship, which he apparently eschews. Anyway, worth a read. (I wish they'd said more about he altered his predecessors, such as Iyengar, but that's probably too technical.)
  4. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert reviews Kathryn Schulz's Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error (2010). The book looks promising, and I include it because of professional interests (either my client or the other party was somehow "wrong"). The issue arises everywhere, so it certainly must address the issue of human foibles, which provides an endlessly fascinating subject.
  5. Tom Friedman writes today that Senate Democrats are dropping any effort to pass a climate and energy bill this session. I agree with Friedman: foolish and disheartening, if not downright depressing. However, beyond that, he wrote about China, and I'll quote what he wrote:

    Just as the U.S. Senate was abandoning plans for a U.S. cap-and-trade system, this article ran in The China Daily: "BEIJING — The country is set to begin domestic carbon trading programs during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target. The decision was made at a closed-door meeting chaired by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission ... Putting a price on carbon is a crucial step for the country to employ the market to reduce its carbon emissions and genuinely shift to a low-carbon economy, industry analysts said."

    Here we have China, hell bent on development and a "communist" country, out in front of us on using the market to control carbon emissions and showing some recognition of the need to limit carbon output. Now, I understand that there may be a yawning chasm between the word and the deed; but still, how can this be? It certainly makes the U.S. political system seem further out of sync with current realities.

  1. I haven't read the front page yet, but the cover story appears to be that the Roberts court is very conservative. Duh. I thought that this was a newspaper!
  2. On the online edition that I've just read headlines suggesting that the war in Afghanistan isn't going as well as officially portrayed. Perhaps a hint of the Pentagon Papers for the Afghanistan war? As one who has listened to original tapes of Lyndon Johnson speaking about the war to his advisors and friends, as well as having seen The Fog of War, none of this comes at a surprise. Perhaps paragraph 4 above could provide us some insights. Bummer.