Saturday, December 31, 2016

In sync

I think it was the summer I turned 11, my parents rented a cabin on Cobboseecontee Lake in Maine, for a week's vacation. Each of us four kids brought a friend or two, so there were about 12 of us stuck in every which where.

The cabin itself was no frills, but it had a dock with a couple of canoes tied up. We passed the time swimming, boating, playing cards and board games when it was raining, eating, and enjoying the summer.

With Dad's Super 8 camera, we made a short silent movie, "Flaws," which aspired to be a parody of "Jaws." My brother Joe was the distressed mother of the shark's first victim. He was also the shark, swimming under water in his flesh-toned bathing suit, carrying a piece of a broken garbage-can lid as the shark's fin breaking through the surface of the water. My friend Ta was the might fisher who eventually captured the fiend, which turned out to be nothing but a small sunfish. I think I was a mighty-hunter-turned-hapless-victim.

One afternoon I decided it would be neat to check out an island that we could see from the dock, so I got in a canoe and paddled out to it. I don't remember if I made it to the island, or if it turned out to be further than I expected and turned back short of it. At any rate, when I got back, my parents were upset with me - and also relieved, though the "upset" part made the sharper impression at the time.

They were of course unhappy that I'd gone off without letting anyone know where I was going. They were also concerned that I could have gotten into real trouble if a contrary wind had come up. An 11-year-old usually doesn't have the strength to handle a canoe in adverse conditions, and on top of that, I didn't know what I was doing. I could paddle in the front when someone else was in charge, but I didn't really know how to control the boat.

Before the week was out, Dad made sure to teach me how to handle a canoe solo.

Friday, December 30, 2016

New domain name for 2017

In response to developments on the ground, the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has established a new top-level domain (TLD).

Effective April 1, 2017, new internet addresses will be allowed ending in the TLD .omg.

Applicants are encouraged to reserve the use of the new TLD for subject-matter that you just freakin' would NOT believe.

Examples of the sorts of sites envisioned:



Thursday, December 29, 2016


This is the last part of my narrative from the Moscow coup of 1991. For background, see here. For the seventh part, see here.

As with the sixth part, this piece narrative is headed "September 7" in my notes. That implies that I wrote it up two weeks after the events, whereas all the other days' accounts were written up on the day they happened. But the level of detail suggests I was working from notes of some kind.

I think it was when we were coming home from the victory meeting at the White House, Sasha mentioned that he didn’t like hearing the word “Junta” all over the place. It was embarrassing to hear it applied to his own country, because juntas are something they have in poor, chaotic, third-world countries that are hardly countries at all and can never get their act together. The fact that the term is accurate brings home just how bad things have gotten.

The Arbat, the pedestrian mall made famous in the US by Reagan’s visit, is lined from end to end with young people, mostly men, sitting behind tables laden with matryoshkas [the classic painted nesting Russian dolls], painted wooden bowls, amber jewelry, samovars—all the baubles a tourist is expected to take home with him.

These budding young capitalists sit huddled under plastic drapes against the rain, dressed in ostentatiously western clothing. Here and there a portable radio consoles a lonely, wet merchant with intrusive music. In the way these people address you, you feel you are there to serve them.

And in a way you are.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Not speaking the same language: the prequel

A few weeks ago I narrated an encounter with a fellow whose view of reality was significantly different from mine.

A couple of days later I followed up with a dive into how different people view the relative motion of the sun and the Earth.

The day before the incident in the first post, I was sitting at that same table in the Economics department.

Someone from facilities came by and went to check the documentation on the fire extinguisher to make sure its inspection was current - standard safety protocols, I assume, and it's good to know our facilities crew is diligent in the kinds of things to ensure safety, as best we can.

Trying just to be sociable, I quipped, "So, are we safe?"

"Only in Christ's arms," he answered.

And this is where mutual incomprehension set in, though I didn't yet realize it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How to steal a house: the wind-up

I just finished David Dayen's Chain of title. If you have any interest in the foreclosure crisis of the previous decade, I recommend it highly.

If you have any interest in learning about double standards in our economy, I recommend it highly.

If you have any interest in pursuing fairness in our economy, I recommend it highly.

The question is, How do you steal a few million houses and get away with it?

The short answer is, You make stuff up.

The slightly longer answer is, You play fast-and-loose with the law, and you prey upon politicians, some combination of their fears of tanking the economy, their willingness to be impressed by people with money, and their sense that the easiest path to re-election is to be nice to people who run the financial sector.

To understand both the shorter answer and the longer one, it's useful to have a condensed, but hopefully comprehensible, orientation in the area of mortgage securitization.

A mortgage is essentially a promise by a borrower (say, you) to make a series of payments to a lender, to pay off the loan you got from the lender - call them Friendly Bank. If it wants to, Friendly Bank can sell your mortgage to another financial institution, perhaps Big Bank. Big Bank pays a lump of money to Friendly Bank, and Friendly Bank transfers the mortgage to Big Bank. Now your monthly payments go to Big Bank, instead of Friendly Bank.

Monday, December 26, 2016

How to know

In fourth grade, Hyde Elementary School offered free lessons on any orchestral instrument. My friend Ta and I thought we wanted to learn trumpet.

This wasn't a well-informed decision - we weren't sure whether it was called "trumpet" or "trombone," but we agreed that we wanted to play the one where your fingers went up and down on some buttons, not the one where your whole arm goes back and forth.

For some reason I was under the impression my parents wouldn't be supportive. Perhaps because I'd taken piano and not kept on with it, and then drum lessons and hadn't played at all during the year we lived in Latin America, despite having brought along sticks and a practice pad.

So I brought it up in an offhand way: we were rolling down the driveway to go on a bike ride, and I said, "We can take instrument lessons for free for a year. Ta and I were thinking we'd like to play trumpet."


Having gotten their assent so easily, I realized I wasn't sure how much I actually wanted to do it, but at that point I felt like I couldn't back out, since I'd said I wanted to do it.

So I started playing trumpet.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

August 24, Saturday

This is the seventh part of my narrative from the Moscow coup of 1991. For background, see here. For the sixth part, see here.

Today was the funeral for the three people who died Tuesday night, one Russian, one Lithuanian, one Jew. Although it feels sick to say it, it may be for the best that a Jew was among the martyrs. Despite the Communists’ bouts of deadly anti-Semitism, there are those among the people who blame the Jews for all the ills Communism has wrought here.

Three years ago, a man who has since emigrated told me, “I have friends who are working for perestroika, which is very noble, but I think they’re stupid. Because it will end the same as all the other reforms in this country, only people will be worse off, and when they look for a scapegoat, who will it be? The Jews! ‘Look!’ they’ll cry, ‘all the early Bolsheviks were Jews!’ [not all, of course, but a lot were]. ‘Look what they did to Russia. They’ll pay!’ And I don’t plan to be here when that happens.”

And it has started. Moscow is still littered with monuments to the heroes of Soviet Communism (although they’ve already started taking them away), and these serve as targets for the people’s anger at their impoverished condition. Yesterday at Sverdlov’s statue there was a poster that said, “Hangman of the Russian People,” and the words were accompanied by a cartoon of a curly-haired man with glasses and a Star of David for a mouth. So to an extent my friend was right.

Sverdlov depicted as an obviously Jewish caricature,
Hangman of the Russian people”,
fake blood dripping down the pedestal of his statue.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

August 22, Thursday

This is the sixth part of my narrative from the Moscow coup of 1991. For background, see here. For the fifth part, see here.

This day's narrative is headed "September 7" in my notes. That implies that I wrote it up more than two weeks after the events, whereas all the other days' accounts were written up on the day they happened. But the level of detail suggests I was working from notes of some kind.

On Thursday Sasha and I went to the White House to see the barricades and to hear the victory speeches. After seeing barricades in other cities on TV, it’s very uncomfortable to see them in real life on familiar streets. The very word suggests noble but failed uprisings from the last century, when citizens tore up their own streets trying to win rights from repressive regimes.

In fact, the White House is in a neighborhood with a revolutionary history: this was where the Moscow workers made their last stand in the 1905 revolution. They blocked off their streets and turned their tenements into a fortress that held off the Czar’s troops for some days. The Bolsheviks of course glorified this, a true workers revolt that only failed because it was dialectically premature—all they lacked was the foresight and disciplined leadership of the Bolshevik party. The nearest subway stops are called “1905 St.” and “Barricade”; in the square next to the White House itself stands a statue in honor of the workers of 1905. So there is yet another irony (they seem to be everywhere these days), that this should be where the Bolsheviks finally fell.

On these new, victorious barricades, young men sit full of importance as they relay commands: “Let the black Volga come through!” Small piles of trash are all around, the grass has been turned to mud by the feet of 50,000 people on two rainy nights. The last of those who kept watch then are drifting home, their faces too tired to show any elation. As the crowd gathers for the noon meeting, a few people appear on the tribune and say a few words, including more than one call for outlawing the Communist Party, which draws from the crowd, “Down with the KPSS!” (the Russian acronym for the Communist Party of the Soviet Union). One man got a chuckle with his observation that, “It just worked out that we got the wrong sort of putschists.”

Friday, December 23, 2016

August 21, Wednesday

This is the fifth part of my narrative from the Moscow coup of 1991. For background, see here. For the fourth part, see here.

The coup has brought home the importance of information. I felt already the fog of ignorance on Pushkin Sq., and the manipulation on Vremya. Then today “Ekho Moskvy announced that in the small hours of the morning, while they weren’t broadcasting, “somebody” on a very close frequency had copied their music, their voices, their format, and spread disinformation that there was fighting and panic at the White House. Now (11:50 AM) they’ve turned off “Ekho Moskvy” and the one TV channel is broadcasting songs and dances with a folk troupe. We are cast back into darkness.

Yesterday at the visa office I spoke to a German woman who knew already Monday night that some troops had turned (she herself was in the area of the White House at the time), but she didn’t know the airports had been closed—no one called her host family with that information. The eerie spottiness of information is made more oppressive when they start messing with the telephone. A friend called Natasha at 11:00 last night, and after a couple minutes their conversation was cut off. He called back and they continued their conversation, but most likely not alone.

Now Natasha is preparing to go to the White House, and she’s trying to decide what medicine to take with her from Sasha’s supplies. Sasha called from work, he’s going too. Alyosha has the extra house key, so I can’t go out. In any case, Natasha says I would only get out today “over my dead body.” That’s not funny any more. She told me where her documents are, in case something happens. So I am to sit home alone with no radio and a phony folk dance on TV.

Before being cut off this morning, “Ekho Moskvy” reported the first bloodshed. Near the Arbat there’s an underpass where Kalinin Prospekt crosses the Garden Ring. Tanks were going through the tunnel when one driver got nervous and started turning around in the confined space. After he ran over a woman, an unarmed Afghan vet jumped on the tank and pulled open the hatch. He was shot through the head. People began throwing Molotov cocktails. Russian deputies intervened quickly and prevented a lynching.

So far 10 deaths have been reported around the city, according to “Ekho Moskvy”. (These early reports clearly suffered from the hectic atmosphere. On Saturday, August 24, there was a state burial for only three victims of the coup, and later a fourth man wounded in the coup was reported to have died in the hospital. I don’t know where I came up with the woman run over by the tank. 4.IX)

Throughout the crisis, Afghan vets have rendered great service. They have lent their expertise for the building of barricades that can really stop a tank. Now Parliament is relatively well protected, but the ambulances can’t get out.

Friend of one of the people killed, a veteran of the Soviet Union’s disastrous Afghanistan war.
“There it would have been understandable, but why did they kill him here?!”

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Varieties of faith

This afternoon was the memorial service for my father, who died November 30th.

Kate took this picture this past August at my parents' New Hampshire house.
The service was at Cambridge Friends Meeting. Dad had been a member of Cambridge Friends since moving to the Boston area in 1954. My parents were married there in 1958, and my sister in the same meeting house in 1993.

Following Quaker practice, the meeting was "unscripted." We entered into silence, then people rose and spoke about Dad, as the spirit moved them.

Near the end, I rose and spoke.
After high school, I launched myself off to southern Indiana for college, and experienced culture shock in multiple dimensions.
One of those was the religious fervor of many of the people I was around. This was a change for me, sort of Quaker, sort of Jewish, coming from a high school where you knew roughly what church or synagogue people went to, but it wasn't a big deal.
One evening, I was discussing religion with a dorm-mate, who said, "You must have faith in something."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Letter to a young graduate

A student recently emailed me his final assignment, and sent along with it a nice note thanking me for all I’d taught him.

I took the opportunity to share with him a few additional thoughts.

Hi ____,

Thank you for your note. Of course, our goal as faculty is to teach you, but we’re not always sure we succeed, so it’s good to hear about it when we do. And I’ll take your message as permission to try to have one last set of ideas stick with you before I recede into the haze of your college memories.

As you head off to make a career in finance, I find myself torn, wanting success for you but also nervous about where you might find yourself. My relationship with the workings of finance isn’t exactly love / hate. It's more like fascination-and-wonder / rage.

Let me explain.

I think it was in one of the classes you had with me that I addressed the idea of the “real” economy.

The standard terminology is that there’s the “real” economy, where goods are made and services are provided. And there’s the “financial” economy, where people trade stocks, bonds, derivatives, and whatever else they can think of. It’s not “real” because it’s just paper, it’s just ownership or claims on stuff. If you buy a car, you can touch the car, you can drive it. If you pay to go to the theater, or to college, you have the experience of seeing a play, or building your mind. So goods and services are “real,” and then there’s finance.

I understand what those terms are getting at, but I think the use of the word “real” in that particular way is unfortunate.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

August 20, Tuesday (evening)

This is the fourth part of my narrative from the Moscow coup of 1991. For background, see here. For the third part, see here.

Sasha called from work shortly after 2:00 PM. “Turn on the radio immediately, 1207 AM,” then he hung up. We found “Ekho Moskvy” (Echo of Moscow), that had somehow gotten ahold of a transmitter and was broadcasting news and defiant speeches.

The Ryazansky division has gone over to Yeltsin and left the city, flying Russian flags. (One persistent question after the failure of the coup was why the units that went over to Yeltsin didn’t stay in the city to defend him, since hostile units were still stationed in some parts of town. 5IX)

A man came on explaining what a bunch of clowns the putschists were proving to be. Leningrad, Kiev, Novosibirsk, and several other cities are ready to support the Russian government with a general strike.

Amazing how our mood changes. Yesterday we awoke to a sky black as pitch: in one day we seemed to have gone all the way back to Stalin. There is fear, quick submission to the iron hand. Six years have dissolved like a dream and we are back in the nightmare of Soviet reality. Then with this news from “Ekho Moskvy” the clouds part.

A friend who has dropped by listens for a stretch and leaves with the words, “Our side will win.”

The putschists really are a bunch of clowns. They didn’t get Yeltsin, they didn’t keep the Russian and Moscow governments from meeting. If they’d meant it, there’s a hundred people they should have (and could have?) arrested. (It surfaced later that they had printed up perhaps 300,000 forms with a space for anyone’s name, authorizing “administrative arrest” for an initial term of 30 days. I don’t know why hardly any were used. 5.IX) They also could have shut down the phone lines, although maybe they didn’t want people to think things were that extraordinary. In this mood I set out.

Monday, December 19, 2016

August 20, Tuesday (day)

This is the third part of my narrative from the Moscow coup of 1991. For background, see here. For the second part, see here.

It seems the usurpers had no concrete plans beyond the seizure of power, and now the army has split. This morning Alyosha called: Radio Rossiya is somehow broadcasting, and the division that we saw by the Bolshoi has gone over to Yeltsin. The junta has called in fresh troops. Alyosha is coming over with un-phone news.

This starts to have an unpleasant resemblance to Tiananmen, but Natasha disagrees. She says she’d somehow known there must be a split in the army; how can Russians shoot Russians? This one’s father works on a nearby street, another soldier’s brother goes to school in the neighborhood, and so on. “This is not yet ’17. The very fact that they (the putschists) keep silent in itself speaks of weakness. If they had anything to say they’d gab on all day, relentlessly. Instead they broadcast music [she point to the TV]. My God! a hundred times I’ve seen Swan Lake since yesterday! [she dances a step and sings the famous melody]”

She refers to the Russian saying, “The worse it gets, the better,” the sense here being that the harder the junta squeezes, the more certainly they will bring on a reaction that will sweep them away. The most dangerous element now is that they must certainly understand that they have nothing to lose, and all that awaits them is the prisoners’ dock. “And for what they have done they will be shot. That’s all there is to it.”

Sunday, December 18, 2016

August 19, Monday (evening)

This is the second part of my narrative from the Moscow coup of 1991. For background, see here. For the first part, see here.

Natasha and I left the house just before 1:00 PM to go register my presence in Moscow—not because of the coup, the procedure was required in any case, but with a certain urgency, lest anything be not as it should be. The careless mood of my last visit is a past luxury.

We did the paperwork without unusual hassles, by Soviet standards: there were only three different lines in two different buildings to get through, some of them twice, but nothing extraordinary. On all sides people go about their business without any visible expression that the party’s over. Natasha is sure that people’s faces are longer, duller today, but as I spent the weekend on the dacha circuit out of town I have no way of knowing. (It’s now 11:30 PM and Natasha is calling various people and swapping news—it may all be rumor, but the stuff on TV is certainly wrong.) My passport and visa stay with the registration office and I don’t pick them up until tomorrow afternoon, so in the meantime I have no documents.

After finishing at that office, the next affair is to get me a reservation out of here. I am torn between prudence and a desire to see what will happen. Natasha is pushing for an early exit, although she says it may already be a matter of taking whatever date they have. But first I want to see Red Square.

I think I imagined it would be open, with people milling around as on any other day, but of course at the end of Nikolskaya St. there are steel barriers. At the end of the square that I can see, a line of police and military vehicles is parked along the side of the Historical Museum. And at the barrier, people about three deep, huddled in small groups, talking. One man’s 18-year-old son is serving his two army years. When he realized he’d been sent to Moscow, he called Papa. The boys in the army don’t know what’s going on, they just go where they’re told.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

August 19, Monday (day)

This is the first part of my narrative from the Moscow coup of 1991. For the background, see here.

This morning I woke up early, got dressed, read a while, then felt tired, so I lay back down. Sasha came in to get some things before going to work. I heard the radio droning, it just sounded like a particularly dull announcer. Half asleep I had trouble making out the words, but they kept talking about the Union treaty and “SSSR” (the Russian acronym for the USSR). I got up. Natasha came in and said, “You don’t know anything. This morning there was a military coup.” The details of who replaced whom you’ve read by now in the paper.

After Sasha left, a friend came over to pick something up, and we sat a while in the kitchen. This Vanya says the coup was to be expected: where there is not power, power goes in. And certainly the government has no power—when occasionally there’s no bread in Moscow. (The alternative explanation of this is that in fact the government had too much power, and the people planning the coup were intentionally squeezing Moscow to make the democrats unpopular, and to put themselves on a white horse when they came to power blessed the city with all the goods they had hoarded. 4.IX)

Vanya also made light of an oversight: channel 3 was still broadcasting at 7:30: cartoons, adds, whatever—then suddenly a test pattern. We had fun imagining the expression of the man in charge of turning off all real TV when he realized he’d forgotten one station. As to whether there will be civil war, Vanya says yes, in a sense it already started this morning with the announcement of the state of emergency. The separatist republics have arms (although very few) and can’t accept this. Gorbachev, the radio says, has taken ill. So what? I, too, happen to have a cold.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Not speaking the same language: the sequel

Following up on my encounter with the young-Earth creationist, I got curious about whether the Bible takes a position on geocentrism (the Sun revolves around the Earth) vs. heliocentrism (the Earth revolves around the Sun).

As it turns out, it's complicated.

According to an article at Apologetics Press, "The medieval Catholic Church maintained that the Bible taught egocentricity." See, what happened was, Ptolemy of Alexandria made some pretty good predictions with his geocentric theory, enshrining that as scientific dogma, then "Somewhere along the line, scientific dogma became enshrined in theological dogma, and passages in the Bible were found to consecrate Ptolemy’s theory."

That article goes on to discuss various passages that have been cited as showing a geocentric view in the Bible, and in each case explains why that's not really what's meant.
In addition to Joshua 10, Calvin used Psalm 93:1 in defense of geocentricity. The verse simply suggests that the Earth is stable, and cannot be moved, but is it trying to say that the Earth is totally motionless in every sense? As the passage is primarily concerned with God’s majesty and power, it is more likely that the psalmist is saying, “Who but God could move the Earth?” Besides, the Earth is set in an unchanging orbit around the Sun, all the while rotating at a steady speed on a fixed axis.
(For reference purposes, the first verse of Psalm 93 is:
The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.)
Overall, the arguments seem reasonable: it's not clear that these statements are meant literally, rather than figuratively.

Of course, that goes down hard with the literalist interpretation of creation and the very short age of the Earth that this implies.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Not speaking the same language

A federal investigator stopped by the Economics department this afternoon, making routine inquiries about an alumnus who had applied for a job that involved some level of clearance.

He talked to two of my colleagues, then me.

An unremarkable process (I was quite direct about how little information I had about the student - basically, I wasn't aware of any negatives, but wasn't really in a position to vouch for much of anything).

As he was packing up, he was describing his day: this place, then over to that place, then back to Pennsylvania.

"You must put a lot of miles on the car."

"It's a diesel, so it's not so bad. I get 55 miles per gallon in the summer; in the winter it's in the low 40's."

And then some engineering talk that was interesting to me, about why diesels run more efficiently in warmer temperatures, which led him to describe how he tweaks some elements of the engine to increase the fuel efficiency. (I think it was the intake and something else, but I don't know enough about car engines to have retained what he said in passing.)

"And I figure, if I'm burning less fuel, I'm polluting less. If I was using a gallon to go 40 miles, and now I'm using a gallon to go 55 miles, that's got to be putting out less pollution."

In the back of my mind I'm wondering if his tweaks may result in more soot or certain other combustion products, but I don't know nearly enough of the details of how diesel engines work to know that - it's just a question that occurs to me. So I stick to what I do know:

"Well, at a minimum, you're emitting less carbon, since the CO2 is pretty much a linear function of fuel burned."

I thought I was building a bridge of common understanding. But it turned out, I had just started pulling the boards off of a bottomless chasm of mutual incomprehension.

"The plants could use the CO2," he responded.

"The plants have more than they can handle," I say - presumably, the rising levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are evidence that the plants can't keep up with what we're putting out.

His response is that, "I read that CO2 levels were higher in the Middle Ages than now."

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A small data point

There's a car on campus that I'd noticed during the fall, sporting a "Make America great again" bumper sticker.

I noticed it partly because I didn't see many bumper stickers around campus for either candidate.

And partly because there were other interesting bumper stickers on the car (and I mean interesting in a neutral sense, not "interesting").

And partly, of course, because I disliked the candidate whose slogan that was.

I saw the car today - I'm sure it's the same car, because of those other interesting bumper stickers.

And the "MAGA" sticker was gone.

The bloom didn't stay on that rose very long.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Grappling with bias

The following was written in response to a student's paragraph on this article. The student allowed as how economists likely knew more than him, but that he didn't agree with their negative assessment of Trump's fiscal proposals, as described in the article.

He also characterized the New York Times as incredibly biased against Trump, like CBS news.

I knew that my response would be longer than it was sensible to write in my red-pen chicken scratch, so I drafted an email. It came out longer than I expected.

You're right to recognize that professional economists may have an edge on you in this discussion.

At the same time, my profession hasn't exactly covered itself in glory in terms of seeing what was coming back in 2006-08, or in analyzing it since then. Paul Krugman recognized this back around 2005, when he took questions from the audience after a talk. The question was something like, "You say that current conditions suggest a devaluation of the U.S. dollar. When do you think that will happen?" And his answer was, "According to my model, about 18 months ago." In other words, our models are imperfect. And as it's impossible to completely separate economics from politics, we economists, of various political persuasions, are vulnerable to the risk of seeing things a certain way because we want them to actually be that way.

It's a matter of balance. On the one hand, recognizing that other people may have more experience and/or expertise than you in a given area. On the other, not giving anyone a pass and accepting what they say on their authority simply because they're an expert.

The key for the layperson is to try to understand the argument a given expert is making.

The key for the expert, when talking to the general public rather than to his or her peers, is to communicate in a way that can be understood by an intelligent reader / listener who isn't already initiated into the field's way of thinking and talking.

Then all that we can hope is that the public will be open to hearing different arguments and weighing them with an open mind.

Which brings us to the subject of bias.

There's a risk that the word comes to mean, "Presenting a view I don't agree with."

But if it's going to have any useful meaning, it has to be tied to issues of whether information is true, contextualized, and proportionate.