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Friday, June 28, 2002

There is an update to Macintosh OS-X due around August, code-named Jaguar. Apparently it's going to be much faster and have lots of frabjix new features. (Beyond the ones already announced by Apple)

I just read an account by someone with a developer release, and I was all agog over one of the new widgets. In Jaguar it's possible to shrink any window to the size of a postage stamp with one click, and put them anywhere on the Desktop. As one who often has 10 or 20 windows open, and the one I need buried at the bottom of the heap, I just can't wait.

Also, graphics tablets will be able to input text to any app. Also, there's seamless automatic connection to any available network. If you are in range of a wireless network it will just show up on your computer. Also seamless Bluetooth file exchange with no set-up of any kind.

Will any of this make a difference in Apple's market share? Probably not much; as someone commented, ...At this point, Apple could make a computer and OS that responded to brain waves and eye movements, but it wouldn't make a difference to the majority of Windows users... In the country of the blind, the one-eyed-guy can hardly be considered trustworthy...

And John Dvorak will heap scorn on these namby-pamby features that no red-blooded computerman would want -- that is until Microsoft brings out an inferior copy --then he will scorn Macs because they only do what Windows does...
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P. Krugman

In "Flavors of Fraud" (06/28/02) Paul Krugman devotes most of his column to a recap of recent business scandals using a hypothetical ice cream parlor as an expository device. It works pretty well for Enron and WorldCom, less so for Adelphia. But for those who have been on Mars the last six months or for those who need things explained really, really simply, this may have been a useful exercise.

However, what caught our eye was the last paragraph in which Krugman returned to an earlier theme first expressed in "The Great Divide" (01/29/02) to the effect that Enron, not 9/11, would be the greater turning point in U.S. society. He was a little vague about exactly what that meant but implied that when an admired company is revealed to be a fraud; it can damage the national psyche. There was also some psycho-babble about a changed self-perception and an end to the "blind innocence" in which we had been living. He then went on to list the national figures who did not "get it" and, naturally, most were in the Bush administration.

In today's column he repeats this earlier suggestion "that in the end the Enron scandal [will] be a bigger turning point for America's perception of itself than Sept 11 did." He did not update the "don't get it" list, but we suspect it remains the "usual suspects." We include ourselves among them. In fact, we do not even understand what there is to get. Historically business scandals are nothing new in the U.S. and there have been some big ones. Krugman implies that the latest spate is of unprecedented in size, but he never really backs that claim up.

If impacting the real economy is to be the criterion, then these recent events have been negligible. By all measures, the current slump is the mildest in post war history. While Krugman and the Democrats are hoping for a double dip recession, many economists are wondering whether we've had even one dip. The main question seems how strong the recovery will be.

If impacting the stock market is the criterion, then it's the same answer as above. The current DJ Industrial Average is above its 9/11 lows, but slightly below the level when the Enron news first broke. Krugman has been using terms like plunge and dive to describe the market lately. Not happening!

One thing Krugman and the Democrats have going for them is that share holding in American is deeper than ever before. Since the majority of shareholders are likely to be Republicans, if their confidence can be shaken in Bush's corporate crackdown, then they could become Democratic pickups. Who knows?

Hey. They've tried everything else. Why not give it a shot?

Thursday, June 27, 2002

When I was a Boy Scout, I learned a good many rules about how to handle the flag with proper respect. But, as one who bookworms through a lot of history, I strongly suspect that those rules do not date from the early days of the republic. (I have no scholarly references to offer -- let me know if you think I'm wrong)

I think they were mostly fudged-up around the Turn of the Century (that is, the last century, around the year 1900) by the sort of people who thought we ought to be more disciplined and Prussian. (I'm afraid Teddy Roosevelt was the very type of that.) And the Boy Scouts themselves were invented in the same period.

I'm pretty sure that before then our attitude towards our flag was much more relaxed. We loved it, but didn't feel obliged to be deferential towards it.

I think that's a better attitude. Marching and saluting and clicking our heels is not what the American experiment is about. As someone said about (I think ??) Abraham Lincoln: He loved his country because it was his country, but mostly because it was free.
(This post was inspired by some flag pledge thoughts by Dave Trowbridge)
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Moe Freedman at Occam's Toothbrush thinks that American media coverage of the Israel/Palestine conflict is become more even-handed, just because reporters are covering this so intensively that they are actually starting to learn a lot about the subject...

...This turnaround is happening slowly, but I would bet that these reporters would not recognize the stuff they wrote during the Jenin frenzy. The editors back home meanwhile, are actually being forced (by pressure from both sides) to examine carefully the way they report these stories. The CNN producers were probably surprised to find out exactly how much more time they spent talking about the suicide bombers and their families then they spent on the victims. After all, reporters while they might be soft brained, are people too. They were biased at the start because they didn’t know any better. They are learning. The more the Arab Israeli conflict remains front-page news, the better Israel looks. This unfortunately doesn’t apply to the Euros, as they’ve got too much real Anti-Semitism bouncing around that place to chalk up their sympathy for the Palestinians to Ignorance.

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The recent Krugman Truth Squad contrasted Krug's needs-a-vacation ravings with the good sense of an adjacent article:

...Meanwhile, on the other side of the Times op-ed page, Nicholas Kristof wrote an excellent column entitled "Let Them Sweat" in defense of low-wage sweatshops in poor countries. As he points out, all economic logic supports an international campaign to promote sweatshop imports, perhaps with labels reading "Proudly Made in a Third World Sweatshop." This is the sort of insightful column Krugman could be writing and perhaps "pre-meltdown" he might have...
Bill Woods writes: In fact Krugman *did* write it, five years ago: In Praise of Cheap Labor: Bad jobs at bad wages are better than no jobs at all.
...Such moral outrage is common among the opponents of globalization--of the transfer of technology and capital from high-wage to low-wage countries and the resulting growth of labor-intensive Third World exports...


... And as long as you have no realistic alternative to industrialization based on low wages, to oppose it means that you are willing to deny desperately poor people the best chance they have of progress for the sake of what amounts to an aesthetic standard--that is, the fact that you don't like the idea of workers being paid a pittance to supply rich Westerners with fashion items.

In short, my correspondents are not entitled to their self-righteousness. They have not thought the matter through. And when the hopes of hundreds of millions are at stake, thinking things through is not just good intellectual practice. It is a moral duty...
It's a good article. Amazing how sensible Krugrum can be when he's not grinding his ax 'till the sparks fly...

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

More fiddling with my blog-title. Reader Frank Vannerson applied a Photoshop filter (Pallet Knife) to my fern picture ... I like it... If it looks like gibberish to you, please let me know ...
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It was the Israelis who sympathized with the murder of 3,000 of our citizens. It was the Palestinians celebrating and dancing in the streets."
--Rush Limbaugh

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Rand Simberg pointed out this article: Way of the Gun: Al Qaeda Training for Small-Arms Massacre, from, of all places, The Village Voice.

...But the damage could come in the form of a much more conventional attack. An e-mail recently making the rounds of military and law enforcement circles describes a captured Al Qaeda training tape said to reveal the group's expertise in small arms and close commando situations in urban settings like New York, Washington, and Chicago. The people seen training are skilled at handling rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, and at making quick attacks and retreats. The footage may be fake, although the people sending the tape around are military veterans with extensive combat experience... [There's no explanation for why the tapes "may be fake."]

...For bigger raids, terrorists carry concealed weapons into a building, say a school or a financial institution, then in a swift show of violence take over the room, marching people up to the roof. TV reporters and photojournalists are allowed in. The kidnappers then begin to execute prisoners one by one in front of the cameras. The tape suggests planning several simultaneous raids to gain maximum exposure. The key point is that absolutely no one is left alive—men, women, children, all are killed.

In advice to law enforcement, one analyst of this training tape urges cops to begin shooting as soon as they recognize what's going on, and not to wait for any SWAT team or other support. Complying at any point is useless, since everyone will be ritually executed on the roof...
If this happens I make bold to predict that it will be somewhere where citizens are not allowed to carry firearms. Say, San Francisco... (or London)

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

P. Krugman
#22. CHINA SYNDROME: Meltdown at Krug Central

Today's column "The Reality Thing" (06/25/02 would be better titled "China Syndrome." There is definitely some sort of meltdown going on in the reactor-core over at Krugman HQ. Those who are life-long, straight ticket Democrats might think today’s message was right on target, but all others are probably wondering what the hell is going on with this guy. June is a little early in the election cycle for a political Hail Mary and preaching to the choir is a poor use of valuable space on the New York Times op-ed page.

One thought we had was that Krugman needs a vacation–badly. Then we considered that perhaps he is already on vacation and wrote the column while waiting in a 2-hour security line at JFK. In any case "The Reality Thing" is basically a laundry list of every conceivable problem in the world followed by some really desperate one-liners accusing the Bush White House of either a) neglecting the problem, b) exploiting the problem for political gain, c) making the problem worse, or d) any or all of the above. He even sticks his nose in the Middle East; apparently it is drifting.

Our favorite howler is where he asks the White House to put aside partisanship and do something not on the preconceived Bush agenda. We can only wonder what that might be.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Times op-ed page, Nicholas Kristof wrote an excellent column entitled "Let Them Sweat" in defense of low-wage sweatshops in poor countries. As he points out, all economic logic supports an international campaign to promote sweatshop imports, perhaps with labels reading "Proudly Made in a Third World Sweatshop." This is the sort of insightful column Krugman could be writing and perhaps "pre-meltdown" he might have. Now, it just makes us wonder whom the real economist is over at the Times.

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From a NewsMax article:

...New York Sen. Hillary Clinton surely hopes that history [Whitewater] isn't repeating itself with the raid conducted by the FBI last month on another warehouse; this one chock full of documents from her 2000 Senatorial campaign.

"The documents were seized in a May 30 raid of a California storage facility containing documents of Peter Paul, the entrepreneur who funded Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign with over $2 million dollars in direct, in-kind contributions which were never reported by Hillary Clinton or her Senate campaign, as required by law," revealed the public interest law firm Judicial Watch in a press release late last week...

...he FBI raid may also be a sign that the reported no prosecution deal for the Clintons, demanded by Democrat leaders as the price for President Bush getting some of his legislative agenda implemented, is beginning to unravel - since Democrats seem to have kept little if any of their part of the bargain....

Monday, June 24, 2002

From a story in this weekend's Los Angeles Daily News. By Chris Weinkopf (via

...The [Oracle] scandal even led one of Davis' Democratic partisans, state Assemblyman Dean Florez of Bakersfield, to declare last week that Davis administration officials "abdicated their duties, to the detriment of taxpayers and to the benefit of the corporate interests."

That's one of Davis' friends speaking.

The combination of incompetence and sleaze makes Davis something of a unique specimen for someone at his level in politics, which usually requires some degree of skill, likability or both. Some leaders are talented but unscrupulous (Bill Clinton) or honest but inept (Jimmy Carter), but to be neither able nor trustworthy puts Davis among a rather select (Richard Nixon) crowd.

Yet in Davis' case, sleaze and ineptitude are two sides of the same coin. Both are the product of a lack of principles on which to govern. Davis is motivated by the singular pursuit of power, marked by a callous indifference to how that power is obtained, whether it's through shady fund-raising or shortsighted, politically motivated policy.

The end result is that as doggedly as Davis worked to help Simon win the primary, he now unwittingly contributes as much to the possibility of a Simon upset in November.

Still, it's too early to make any predictions. The Tenth Commandment of political campaigning: It ain't over till it's over.
(Actually I think Richard Nixon was a very able man. But he squandered his talents rolling large rocks up steep hills...)

Sunday, June 23, 2002

My Series on World War One: #10
But this one's about the CANADIANS

Col. John McCrea, a Canadian Doctor,
wrote the poem In Flanders Fields
during the Second Battle of Ypres

In number 3 of this series, I wrote: ...the French and British never ceased, until the last weeks of the war, pressuring General Pershing to give them his men to be incorporated into their own units. Now this was ridiculous. General Haig would never have asked Canadians or Australians to serve in British battalions; he knew they would fight best under their own officers and traditions.

Xavier Basora has written to correct me:

Mr Weiders:
I was reading through your posts on America's role in WW I and I simply wanted to make a correction about the Canadian and Australian troops in WW I. In fact, the Imperial Chiefs of Staff facilely presumed that the colonials would be integrated in the British units, and tried for the first year of the war (1914-15) to put them under British command. Sam Hughes, War Minister until 1915 fought tooth and nail to prevent the Canadian divisions to be broken up. Hughes even threatened at one time to pull the Canadians out.
Not just Hughes but the Canadian generals too. They wanted to keep the Canadian units together to create unit cohesion as well as a growing mistrust that manifested itself in the Boer war.
They were vindicated because Canadian troops were well regarded and more importantly Generals Currie and Byng were obsessed with ensuring their soldiers' welfare. Something that neither French nor Haig ever showed. Frankly both British generals couldn't've cared less about them I think.
For the Canadians, far more than for the US, the First World War was a defining moment. The confidence gained by Canadian fighting men, who took on the best the Germans had, and won, led directly to Canada becoming an independent nation. M. Basora writes:I should note that Vimy [the splendid victory of Vimy Ridge] is to Canadians what Gallipoli is for the Australians. Each battle defined respectively each country and imbued them with a sense of independence that led to the 1931 Westminister conference and de facto autonomy to conduct their international and defense affairs as they saw fit.

Canadian soldiersVimy Ridge was an important fortified position in Flanders. Several previous Allied attacks on it had failed with heavy casualties. It was captured by the Canadian Corps in April, 1917; the only time the Canadian divisions all fought together and on their own. The corps was led by Gen. Julian Byng, a British officer, but one very much in tune with the Canadians, (he later became Governor-General of Canada) and under him Canadian General Arthur Currie. The battle was a triumph of meticulous preparation. Everyone involved had rehearsed on a simulated battlefield, and knew exactly what was planned.

General Currie subsequently commanded the Canadian Corps and won the Battle of Amiens. An unsuccessful real estate agent and former school teacher when war broke out, Currie was also a keen amateur soldier holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel after fourteen years of militia service. As Major General, less than three years later, he commanded his division so well at Vimy that, when Byng was promoted to command one of the five British armies on the Western Front, he strongly urged that Currie, instead of another British general, succeed him as commander of the Canadian Corps.