Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise
-- Golden Gate Bridge at dawn. By Dennis Callahan.

RANDOM JOTTINGS a weblog by John Weidner

Main Page Archive

Natalie Solent
Dave Trowbridge
Betsy Newmark
Bill Quick
Suman Palit
Moira Breen
Andrea Harris
Richard Bennett
Iain Murray
Joanne Jacobs
Craig Schamp
Dean Esmay
Brothers Judd
Doctor Frank
Rand Simberg
Punning Pundit
Right Wing News
Brian Tiemann
Henry Hanks

Iraqi Democracy graphic

Powered by Blogger Pro™

Index to Krugman posts

Index to World War One posts


Saturday, May 04, 2002

"What I wonder is, maybe the world is growing older. Less all alive. Or is it only my growing older?"

"Everybody always wonders that. I don't think, really, anyone could feel the world grow older. Its life is far too long for that." ... "What maybe you learn as you grow older is that the world is old—very old. When you're young, the world seems young. That's all."

That made sense, Daily Alice thought, and yet it couldn't explain the sense of loss she felt, a sense that things clear to her were being left behind, connections broken around her, by her, daily. When she was young, she had always the sense that she was being teased: teased to go on, ahead, follow somewhere. That was what she had lost. She felt certain that never again would she spy, with that special flush of sensibility, a clue to their presence, a message meant only for her; wouldn't feel again, when she slept in the sun, the brush of garments against her cheek, the garments of those who observed her, who, when she woke, had fled, and left only the leaves astir around her.

Come hither, come hither, they had sung in her childhood. Now she was stationary...

"Well, do you do that consciously?" Daily Alice asked, only partly of Cloud.

"Do what?" Cloud said. "Grow up? No. Well. In a sense. You see it's inevitable, or refuse to. You greet it or don't—take it in trade, maybe, for all you're going to lose anyway. Or you can refuse, and have what you've got to lose snatched from you, and never take payment—never see a trade is possible..."

from LITTLE, BIG, by John Crowley

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Take away number in all things, and all things perish. Take calculation from the world and all is enveloped in dark ignorance, nor can he who does not know the way to reckon be distinguished from the rest of the animals.
-- St. Isidore of Seville (c. 600)

Quoted in a book I'm reading, The Measure of Reality : Quantification and Western Society, 1250-1600, by Alfred W. Crosby
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Y'know, I'm really old fashioned. My sympathies are with the places where people work hard and save and invest ... where technology and invention flourish and people look confidently to the future ... where people VOTE in free elections ... where people love their country and are willing to serve honorably in the armed forces, but prefer peace and prosperity if possible ... (SO politically incorrect -- thousands of Liberal Arts professors would hate me if they knew I existed. )

So how many places like that are there? Not many these days. Hmm, let's see ... well, there's us ... and there's ... Oh yeah, them guys! Yes. They're a lot like us. And they could use some encouragement right now. If you go to this web site you can, for as little as $16.95, have Pepsi and pizza (kosher) delivered to a squad of IDF soldiers on active duty. You can not only do a good deed, but do one totally lacking in pomposity!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Friday, May 03, 2002

P. Krugman
#7, From a secret posse of straight-shooting economists.

The frustration over in the Krugman corner at the NY Times is growing palpable. In today’s column “Window of Ignorance” (05/03/02) we learn it is none other than J. Q. Public who is ignorant, because he refuses to listen to Paul Krugman. Actually, this is another one of Krugman’s formula pieces in which a non-existent problem is hyped to near hysterical levels, e.g., “how did a huge surplus turn into a huge deficit?” and then attributed to his own “axis-of-evil” namely, (1) Bush, (2) the tax cut and (3) the rich.

What really caught our eye today was his dismissal of the thought that an economic recovery could restore the surplus. As he put it:

“Won’t a rebounding economy help? Yes, but not nearly enough. Even a dramatic recovery probably wouldn’t be enough to put us in the black”
This is just plain nuts! There are no other words for it. We will cite just two of many knowledgeable opinions to the subject. First there is Brad J. DeLong, Berkeley economist, political liberal and Democratic partisan. How does he differ from Krugman, you may ask? He still does research! His latest major paper is a thorough review of the outlook for U. S. productivity over the next decade. It can be found on his web site. His main conclusion is that the productivity breakthrough of the late nineties has been minimally impacted by the recession and that it will be alive and well for many years to come.
“Thus the most standard of simple applicable growth accounting approaches predicts a bright future for the American economy over the next decade or so. Continued declines in the prices of information technology capital mean that a constant flow of savings channeled to such investments will bring more and more real investment.”
Such technology investments gave us the surpluses of the 1990s. Further, they cushioned and shortened the recession. When the full employment U.S. growth machine cranks up again the surpluses will reappear. They may even require Krugman’s worst nightmare–additional tax cuts.

The other source that we will cite is the Congressional Budget Office It is non-partisan and about a middle-of-the-road as one can get. The CBO has already begun to raise its 10-year budget surplus projections based in part on productivity analysis similar to DeLong’s (though not as optimistic). True, all of the CBO surplus is projected in Social Security, but that is where is should be. The whole idea of the tax cut was to give the on-budget surplus back to the tax payers. All the details of the recent (March 2002) CBO revisions can be found here.

Our guess is that Krugman is aware of all these positive developments and outlooks and is desperately trying to put the best (most negative) spin on them he can. But he is holding a losing hand–as we will continue to point out in the coming months.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Men of 16th Infantry, 1st Div.; with a captured piano

The United States in World War One #7

I mentioned once before that much of what characterizes 20th Century life comes from young men who served in WWI, and vowed to make a better job of things, if ever they got the chance. (Of course there were also chaps like Adolf Hitler, who vowed to fight the war over again, and win.)

One difference for us Americans was in the way officers were chosen. In both the World Wars, millions of men under arms meant that hundreds of thousands of officers had suddenly to be produced. In WWI it was just assumed that the new officers would be comissioned from that small portion of the population who were college educated. (Which also meant prosperous -- ordinary folk didn't go to college then) The majority of recruits were 'working class,' and would automatically join the ranks of the 'enlisted men.'

Most of the new American officers received just 6 weeks of training, in Plattsburg Camps, named for the first camp in Plattsburg, NY. This meant they still had much of their craft to learn when they got to France. It could hardly be otherwise, no one in America knew enough about modern war to teach them.

One of the pernicious myths that haunts our world is that WWII proved that big government can work wonders and solve colossal problems. I can't prove the contrary, but if you dig into history you will find that many a battle was 'won' before the war, by the individual initative and planning of a few men, often at odds with official policy. (This is reason #17 why leftists don't encourage the study of history.)

Much of our success in WWII stems from a few people who, during the inter-war years, were planning and thinking and organizing. The most important of them was General George Catlett Marshall. And when he bacame Army Chief of Staff, and presided over the enormous army expansion of WWII, one of the plans he put into action was: No Plattsburg Camps. Where were the needed officers to come from? From the ranks of enlisted men!

After 6 months of service, any soldier could apply for Officer Candidate School. Of course in practice college men were more likely to become officers, and the colleges themselves still had officer training programs. But the whole flavor of the thing was different. A college grad would be drafted like any farm boy. He might well later become an officer, but he wasn't considerd to be part of some upper class that would automatically be in charge.

* Answer to a previous trivia question: Every officer had a servant, an enlisted man called a striker. The Doughboys called them dog robbers.

* Trivia question: Who was Captain Billy (Of Cap'n Billy's Whizz-Bang)? And what was a Whizz-Bang? (Actually, I don't know what a Whizz-Bang was -- some sort of German artillery ... )
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I believe the original formula was Life, Liberty and Property. The change to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness made for much sweeter prose, but obscured the important fact that without secure Property, there isn't much Liberty. It's a truth that needs to be re-affirmed again and again. Especially now, when there seem to be a peculiarly large number of people who think we would all be better off if property were under the control of wiser people than you or I; wiser and untainted by the profit motive.

I'm intrigued by The Space Settlement Initiative, a plan to have the US recognize property rights on the Moon, with the requirement that those holding property develop a useful transportation system allowing people to get there.

...It sounds strange because we haven't done it yet, but there is growing sentiment for extending private property and the benefits of free enterprise to space. Former House Science Committee chair Bob Walker has suggested that the Bush administration would like to develop such a legal structure.

Before copyright and patent laws, no one could own songs, stories or ideas. The passage of those laws, creating intellectual property, made whole industries possible and added greatly to the world's wealth from things that had previously been valueless. Creating lunar property could be the incentive to open the space frontier to everyone, thus benefiting all of humanity...
It's a detailed and thought-provoking proposal, go take a look ...

Thursday, May 02, 2002

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

These wet rocks where the tide has been,
Barnacled white and weeded brown
And slimed beneath to a beautiful green,
These wet rocks where the tide went down
Will show again when the tide is high
Faint and perilous, far from shore,
No place to dream, but a place to die,--
The bottom of the sea once more.
There was a child that wandered through
A giant's empty house all day,--
A house full of wonderful things and new,
But no fit place for a child to play.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Do take a look at happyfunpundit for Dan's roasting and toasting of Fukayama, plus Steve's look at new talk show host Bill Clinton with special guest Yasser Arafat...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Joe Katzman has some good thoughts about a memorial to Flight 93. I noticed this quote:

You do not know what freedom is," Herodotus reports a Greek saying to a Persian. "If you did, you would fight for it with bare hands if you had no weapons."

That's it precisely.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Arnold Kling, writing at Econoblog, posts this quote from a new book, and pokes some fun at the book.

Government R&D laid the groundwork for some of the most significant innovations in computing - the original Internet architecture and protocols, e-mail, the Mosaic software that gave rise to the Netscape browser, among others -- but these investments have essentially been privatized and recast as the singular product of entrepreneurial vision.
I would just add to what Arnold wrote, that the statements in the quote, while technically true, are also wildly misleading.

It's true that the government funded the creation of what became the Internet. But ARPA intended it as a way to share computer resources, so they would not have to buy new computers for each research initiative (back when computers cost millions of dollars each). That never happened to any significant extant! The stuff that did happen, like e-mail, was not planned. E-mail was fudged-up by various computer-science grad students. The guys who wrote Mosaic were on the Government payroll, but did it on their own initiative, because they had time on their hands. Berners-Lee was at CERN, but no one there planned the World Wide Web. (There's a very good book about all this: Where Wizards Stay Up Late.)

If the Internet has any lesson for us about government funding of research, it is that good things can happen when bright people are given money and allowed to follow their noses. It's definitely not that wise government agencies can plan and create the future.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

From all that terror teaches
From lies of tongue and pen
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men
From sale and profanation
Of honor and the sword
From sleep and from damnation
Deliver us, good Lord!
--G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

Bill Allison responds to a piece in the Arab News:

I wish Mr. al-Maeena had taken the time to spell out the political principles of the Founders that he admired before suggesting that those principles are irrelevant now. Let's see...could he be referring to Washington, who -- not once, not twice, but thrice resisted the temptation to turn military power into political power, who could have been king but chose instead first his Mount Vernon farm and then to stand for election as President? Perhaps John Adams, the colossus of independence, who as an attorney defended the British soldiers accused of committing murder in the Boston Massacre because he believed that every defendent had the right to a fair trial? (Adams won the acquittals of some and avoided murder charges for the remainder.)

Perhaps Thomas Jefferson, who was a careful reader of the Bible and the Qur'an, and who thought so little of the sacredness of such texts that he edited the Gospels to produce a version consonant with his own religious convictions? The same Jefferson who wrote of the men who passed his Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, "...they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination." That same Jefferson who refused to put up with the extortions of the Barbary Pirates , and, unlike his European contemporaries, launched a military action against them?
There's more ...

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Steve has posted another picture of the get-together here. The problem with having kids is that we always leave too soon -- we missed Christina's grilled shrimp !... last time we passed up an opportunity to stay up late and drink with Matt and Ken ('till 7AM ... egad.)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

P. Krugman
#5, A small but telling admission ...

There is only one point worth commenting on in today's Paul Krugman column "Herd on the Street" (04/30/02) and it has nothing to do with his main thesis. He may well be right that the recovery will be slower than the Wall Street hysterics have been touting. However, the much more interesting point is that three-quarters of the way through the column and without any ceremony, Krugman endorses the "new economy." This is big news!

His "even odds" economic growth rate of 3.5% (which he implies is barely adequate to stabilize employment) is in fact a fabulous growth rate. If the labor supply grows at 1% per annum then the implied growth rate in labor productivity must be 2.5% per annum. This is "golden age" stuff. The U.S. standard of living could double in something like 25 years. Why is he revealing this conversion (or is it a confession?) in such a ho-hum fashion?

Probably because it’s bad news for Krugman and the other class–warfare warriors in the Democratic Party. It’s tough to make political hay over "tax cuts for the rich" when most people are feeling richer every year. Likewise, scaring seniors over Social Security "cuts" is a hard sell when the CBO is projecting budget surpluses for as far as the eye can see. In fact, spinning this kind of growth into a Democratic issue of any sort will require some real ingenuity. But we suspect Krugman is up to the task.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I always enjoy Rand Simberg's discussions on Space. (Do write the book, Rand, we need it ...) He is dead-on that we need to decide what it is we actually want to DO in space; rather than assuming that we've already figured that out, and just quarreling about the existing programs. And I think somewhere he said that, for his own personal opinion, our goal ought to be to get as many people as possible into space.

That makes a lot of sense. Why? Because the idea that experts can predict where some new technology or discovery or frontier will lead is utterly wrong. The idea that we can sit on Earth and rationally decide what about space might be useful is humbug. Never works! Think of any new technology or science, or any new country or city, or new idea. If you dig into the history, beneath the glib surface layer, you will always find that the experts did not understand or predict where it was going. It's only when the new thing gets into the hands of people -- lots of people -- that we find out what it really is.

I could give you scores of examples of experts getting new things wrong without even working up a sweat. (That's one of the advantages of being a bookworm and a generalist. My head is stuffed with these and many other oddities. And, due to the wonders of weblogging, I can, for the first time in my life, inflict them on the world! On you, O patient readers. Now if I could just get paid for it... )

I'll settle for one example, because it shows how some of the most successful visionaries and prognosticators of modern times found their new realm very different than expected, once they actually got some hands-on experience.

I'm referring to those dreamers who created (to oversimplify) the personal computer that we know. They believed, against most expert opinion, that computers could be something much much more interesting that the batch-processing mainframes then in use. Something you and I could play with, that could expand our capabilities in a hundred ways. (See here for a very good book on this) They focused, of necessity at that time, on Time-Sharing, which could allow a big computer to pretend to be many small 'personal' ones. This quote is by Butler Lampson, who was one of the researchers at Xerox PARC.

In fact, said Lampson, he and his colleagues were increasingly coming to realize that the decision to focus on graphics displays undermined the most fundamental premise of time-sharing--namely, that computers are fast and humans are slow. . ."This relationship holds only when the people are required to play on the machine's terms, seeing information presented slowly and inconveniently, with only the clumsiest control over its form or content.

When the machine is required to play the game on the human's terms, presenting a pageful of attractively (or even legibly) formatted text, graphs, or pictures in the fraction of a second in which the human can pick out a significant pattern, it is the other way around: People are fast and machines are slow."
We won't find out what space really is to us, until we have people there. Not just a few highly-trained astronauts, with their precious time scheduled and rationed by controllers on earth. People with time to play and dream. People with time and resources to do the things that really energize them, like trying to get rich and trying to be famous and trying to impress the opposite sex! Enough people so some will slip in who don't have the appropriate score on the aptitude test. Enough people so that they aren't all screened to weed out any oddballs and introverts.

Monday, April 29, 2002

Andrea Harris was good enough to remind us that USS Cole is back in business, after some interesting repairs .

The Cole was named for Sergeant Darrell Samuel Cole, USMC. He enlisted on August 21, 1941, and was trained as a bugler. When war came, he repeatedly requested a combat assignment, but was refused because there was a shortage of buglers. But when the fighting started, he would jump in anyway -- he fought at Guadalcanal, Roi-Namur (Kwajalein), Saipan, and Iwo Jima, where he was killed, earning the Medal of Honor.

Andrea also had this, a good thing to remember

We sleep safely in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm. --- George Orwell

Of course, more and more they are not so much rough, as just clever. They deal out violence by calling down smart bombs via satellite link...
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Fascism and Communism, like all other evils, are potent because
of the good they contain or imitate.... And of course their
occasion is the failure of those who left humanity starved of
that particular good. This does not for me alter the conviction
that they are very bad indeed. One of the things we must guard
against is the penetration of both into Christianity.... Mark my
words: you will presently see both a Leftist and a Rightist
pseudo-theology developing -- the abomination will stand where
it ought not....

--C.S. Lewis

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Patrick R. Sullivan writes, re the quote by Brad de Long on Friday,

Stick to your guns, your instinct was correct. While DeLong is a competent economist and has done much good work, he has a streak of intellectual dishonesty a mile wide. And he panders to people with the same snobbishness as Krugman does-- (in fact, he just posted Krugman's "Bad Air Day" screed on his weblog)...

...Remember that Clinton inherited a defeated Iraq, that was submitting to UN weapons inspectors. But Clinton got OUTSMARTED by Saddam every step of the way. (The Washington Post has an Iraq Timeline 1992-1999 online, that shows how)

Now we have no way to stop Iraq from getting nuclear weapons (if he doesn't have them already) except going to war. Similarly, Yasser Arafat snookered Clinton six ways from Sunday, beginning with the Oslo Accords, through Wye, and Camp David. With the result being the latest Intifada.

Anyone who had bothered "to crack a book" on the Mideast would have known that Clinton's approach would appear to the Arab culture as weakness to be exploited, not as conciliation.

Another hilarity in this regard (who is smart v. who is not) is that photo of Condi Rice playing with Yo Yo Ma recently. Bush II = Camelot II ?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

In the writing of novels, it seems like the easy way to be "moving and profound" is to heap disasters and grief upon your characters. It is much harder to write an interesting story with subjects who are happy, who are joyful.

Patrick O'Brian, in his twenty-odd books, lays many a shipwreck and sad calamity upon his heroes. But we also get to share some remarkably sunny moments of triumph or joy. Here's one of my favorites. As the series opens, Jack Aubrey, a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, is on the beach, in Port Mahon, Minorca, in 1802. He is deeply unhappy, unemployed and in debt. The war against Napolean is raging, and he has no ship, no task and little hope. Returning to his inn, he finds orders giving him command of the Brig Sophie.

...His eyes took in the whole of this in a single instant, yet his mind refused either to read or to believe it: his face went red, and with a curiously harsh, severe expression he obliged himself to spell through it line by line. The second reading ran faster and faster: and an immense delighted joy came welling up about his heart. His face grew redder still, and his mouth widened of itself. He laughed aloud and tapped the letter, folded it, unfolded it and read it with the closest attention, having entirely forgotten the beautiful phrasing of the middle paragraph. For an icy second the bottom of the new world that had sprung into immensely detailed life seemed to be about to drop out as his eyes focused upon the unlucky date. [April 1 ] He held the letter up to the light, and there, as firm, comforting and immovable as the rock of Gibraltar, he saw the Admiralty's watermark, the eminently respectable anchor of hope.

He was unable to keep still. Pacing briskly up and down the room he put on his coat, threw it off again and uttered a series of disconnected remarks, chuckling as he did so. 'There I was, worrying . . . ha, ha . . . such a neat little brig - know her well . . . ha, ha . . . should have thought myself the happiest of men with the command of the sheer-hulk, or the Vulture slop-ship . . . any ship at all . . . admirable copperplate hand - singular fine paper . . .
At a concert the previous day he had quarreled with another unhappy young man, a small pale Irish physician who is similarly adrift and in debt, and who had objected to Jack's tapping his foot with the music. They parted with the apparent intention of fighting a duel, but now Jack sees the man again.
As the door closed behind him Jack saw the man in the black coat on the other side of the road, near the coffee-house. The evening flooded back into his mind and he hurried across, calling out, 'Mr - Mr Maturin. Why, there you are, sir. I owe you a thousand apologies, I am afraid. I must have been a sad bore to you last night, and I hope you will forgive me. We sailors hear so little music - are so little used to genteel company- that we grow carried away. I beg your pardon.'
Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are destined to become fast friends, to sail to the Antipodes, the Spice islands, and several times around the globe...

Sunday, April 28, 2002

webloggers get-together
In front, our host Steve, then clockwise, Joanne Jacobs, Charlene Weidner, Edie and Craig Schamp, Richard Bennett, Peter Pribik, Christina Tosti.

Here are some war-profiteers laughing about their illicit gains: I heard this big BOOM, the building rocked, and before I headed for the stairs I put in a Buy Order for General Dynamics... Actually, a very pleasant time was had with a lot of good talk and good chow. We hadn't met the Schamps, we liked them a lot -- Craig has a weblog here. And it was a treat to meet Joanne Jacobs. Who would have imagined she would be pals with Justin Raimondo? Not to mention various Libertarian drug dealers ... (just kidding, Joanne). Richard, Peter and Christina were like old friends, and Steve's a fellow woodworker, so I gave him the secret handshake, and there we were.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention Anton Sherwood, who arrived just as we were leaving . (Sorry, Anton, brain cells getting stiff -- got to eat more Tumeric.) He's an interestin' fellow, hangs out at Plato's Cave
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _