An invitation to hold a debate about education

Dear Chancellor Christ,

I hope you are well, and before turning to more substantive matters, I would like to congratulate you and welcome you to your new role as Chancellor of UC Berkeley, widely regarded as the number one public university in the world

I know you are a strong proponent of free speech and open dialogue, and applaud you for taking a strong stand on the importance of protecting university campuses as places for robust debate. As you stated on Berkeley Free Speech, "Free speech doesn’t come from a simple declaration. It is a process of engagement.” I couldn't agree more. 

Read More

Brexit, bluster and the birth of the United States of Europe.

Donald Tusk looked rather glum last week as he brandished the United Kingdom's Article 50 notice that had been presented to him earlier that day by Her Majesty's ambassador to the European Union. "Here it is - 6 pages," he said, with a look of disgust not unlike that you might find on a man who'd been presented with divorce paperwork after a long and mostly happy marriage.

Read More

Blowing the Whistle on the UC Berkeley Mathematics Department

In response to the many people who have asked me whether I am leaving Berkeley, it is true that the UC Berkeley Mathematics Department has fired me. More precisely, the then Chair of the Mathematics Department, Arthur Ogus, emailed me on October 31st 2014 saying that my employment would be terminated in June 2016. I have asked the campus authorities to review the circumstances leading up to that decision and overrule it. I have filed a formal grievance, viewable here, with the aid of my union representative, and a meeting is scheduled for October 20th, 2015 with representatives from the UC Berkeley campus administration. My contract entitles me to a written response within 15 days of that meeting, by November 4th, 2015. I will be communicating the response I receive at this URL when I receive it.

Read More

Romney’s Tax Plan: Bad Math and Terrible Economics

There is a lot of talk this election cycle about the Romney tax plan. Is it a huge unpaid-for tax cut skewed to the wealthy that must either blow up the deficit or necessitate an as-yet unspecified tax increase on the middle class, or is it a revenue neutral simplification of the tax code that will encourage growth and prosperity. Do the numbers simply fail to add up, or is it a well crafted vision for a different type of relationship between the individual and government. One side says one thing, the other side says the other. They both say they have studies to support their views, so what is the average voter to do?

Read More

Letter to Vietnam

Dear Hung and Dung,
I have just arrived safely back home in Davis. It feels very strange to be back.
Hung you asked me to write a few words about my experiences of the past month, and Dung you put it slightly differently saying that I might let you know my feelings about leaving Vietnam, at least for now. I wrote the following while I was on the plane. I apologize if my English is a little complicated in places.
I feel very sad to be leaving Thai Nguyen. I think I have grown to like Vietnam, and Thai Nguyen in particular, more and more, and perhaps because I always leave my packing to the last minute (many many thanks for the help with that!) it is always a jolt to one minute be living the life I was beginning to feel quite settled in, to the next minute traveling around the world to a different life.

Read More