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Saturday, August 17, 2002

Strange bedfellows...

Dean Esmay points out that this pro-globo article by Virgina Postrel appeared ... where? In The New York Times!!
  ..."Treating countries like China and Grenada as two data points with equal weight does not seem reasonable because there are about 12,000 Chinese citizens for each person living in Grenada," writes Professor Sala-i-Martin in "The World Distribution of Income (Estimated from Individual Country Distributions)." That is one of two related working papers for the National Bureau of Economic Research. (The papers are available on Professor Sala-i-Martin's Web site at

Counting by countries misses the biggest economic advance in history, completely distorting the record of the globalization period.

Over the last three decades, and especially since the 1980's, the world's two largest countries, China and India, have raced ahead economically. So have other Asian countries with relatively large populations.

The result is that 2.5 billion people have seen their standards of living rise toward those of the billion people in the already developed countries — decreasing global poverty and increasing global equality. From the point of view of individuals, economic liberalization has been a huge success.

"You have to look at people," says Professor Sala-i-Martin. "Because if you look at countries, we do have lots and lots of little countries that are doing very poorly, namely Africa — 35 African countries." But all Africa has only about half as many people as China...

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Good joke re-told...

Fellow San Franciscan Toren Smith has a good joke about Iraq. As it happens, I told the same joke about Afghanistan. I think my version, with the bicycle repairman, was a teensy bit funnier, probably because I like jokes that are teetering on the edge of lunacy, and threatening to bring the reader down with them...

Thursday, August 15, 2002

For a Krugman fix, try...

The Krugman Truth Squad is away for August, but you might try Robert Musil (Aug 13 post):
...It is not an accident that my discussion above does not say that "Mr. Krugman believes" anything at all, only that he appears to want his readers to believe various things: things a serious economist would have serious trouble accepting. In fact, Mr. Krugman's entire column is a fascinating exercise in watching a writer advance proposals to his readers from which the writer simultaneously distances himself. So it is also not an accident that Mr. Krugman quotes the unknown Mr. Wien - who the heck is he, anyway? - rather than reveal Mr. Krugman's own beliefs on this matter. ..

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Do not miss this article: The Ideological War Within the West, by John Fonte

Also, Steven Den Beste has written about it and summarized it...
  The very best analysis articles are those which take a lot of things which seem unrelated and show how they're actually part of the same thing, and what that implies. I try to do that here, but I've never written anything as profound as Fonte has. This article shows that a completely new international political movement has formed, which opposes liberal democracy as we in the US practice it. He refers to it as transnational progressivism and makes a persuasive case that it is the underlying philosophy behind such apparently disparate phenomena as the anti-globalist movement, the "sustainable development" movement, those who support the International Criminal Court, much of forces supporting "multiculturalism" in the liberal academia, the apparent hypocrisy of international human rights organizations who are eager to condemn the US while ignoring much worse abuse by third world nations, and the formation of the European Union and the structure of the European Commission in Brussels. It ties in the clear elitist elements that all of these demonstrate and the way that all of them are fundamentally undemocratic and demonstrably contemptuous of the opinions of the "common man". It also ties in with the entire idea that nations should have high taxes, central control and heavy social spending. These things don't seem to be related, but they all express the same fundamental political philosophy...

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Turbulent years...

From John McCaslin's Inside the Beltway  
War story

     Word that Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle landed a $500,000 book advance to reflect on his two "turbulent" years as majority leader has led a few helpful Senate Republican aides to develop some appropriate chapter titles:

Chapter One: Constant Disappointment Can Get You Down;
Chapter Two: 12 Senate Democrats Between Me and My Tax Increase;
Chapter Three: I'll Have Syrup on My War Waffle;
Chapter Four: Homeland Security in "The Byrd Cage";
and Chapter Five: Class Warfare is a Positive Agenda...

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

8 glasses of malarky...

Richard Bennett mentions that the commonly-heard advice to drink 8 8oz. glasses of water a day is apparently an urban legend, with no scientific basis at all.

I kinda wondered about that; one would expect a person's water-need to vary enormously between, say, someone laboring in the hot sun, compared to someone sitting indoors in cool weather. A single formula makes no sense. I once suffered from a Kidney Stone, and after Charlene had rushed me to the hospital, an ER nurse told me that 8 glasses stuff, as though it were holy writ. Ha.
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Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Good book for a lazy day...

For a fun summer read, I recommend Darwin's Blade, by Dan Simmons. I'm in the middle of it -- it's exciting, gruesome, and funny enough to have me laughing out loud several times. Darwin Minor is an accident reconstructionist; the best in the business. He can insprect a mangled car, and show just how the accident transpired. He's learned something he shouldn't, and the bad guys are on his trail -- but he's the sort who can give them some nasty surprises. Here's a little piece:
"Well," said Dar,"you can't say it's dull reading.''

Syd nodded.'`These accident victim reports are masterpieces, all right. Listen to this one—'The telephone pole was approaching fast. I was attempting to swerve out of its way when it struck my front end.' "

Trudy opened a file. "Here's one of my favorites-- I had been driving my car for forty years when I fell asleep at the wheel and had an accident.' "

Dar pulled an old file out. ' This fellow's never heard of the Fifth Amendment—'The guy was all over the road. I had to swerve several times before I hit him.' "

Lawrence grunted and flipped through the file he had been skimming."My claimant's been watching too many X-Files episodes—'An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my vehicle, and vanished.' "

"I had an X-File one," said Syd, flipping through the thick blue folders."Here—'The accident happened when the right front door of a car came around the corner without giving any signal.'"

"I hate it when that happens," said Dar.

"Notice how accident victims love passive voice in their depositions?" said Trudy. "Here's a typical one—'A pedestrian I did not see hit me, then went sliding under my car.' "

"But they're honest, in a stupid way," said Lawrence. "I remember taking this bozo's statement—'Coming home, I drove into the wrong house and collided with a tree I don't have.' "

Trudy was giggling as she read." 'I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law in the other seat and headed over the embankment.' "
(Charlene is involved in work like this; she occasionally hires accident reconstructionists. She says she's heard some of those lines before. She calls them urban legends of the Insurance Defense field.)

Monday, August 12, 2002

E-MOO comments on SFSU

Remember the old Bizarro universe from the Superman comics? In that alternate world, everthing was backwards. Good deeds were punished while vile acts were heralded. Honest people went to prison while law breakers were heroes.

Well, apparently in some sort of cosmic rift of space-time, the bizarro universe has started to merge with our own in parts of Northern California. How else to understand the following story in Saturday's San Francisco Chonicle about the aftermath of the anti-semitic rioting at SFSU?

"Trying to improve relations between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli students at San Francisco State University, a task force has recommended that the college create an Arab and Islamic studies program."
I bet the real reason for an "Islamic Studies" Dept is to make the ethnic studies and women's studies departments look scholarly and credible by comparison.
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You guys won't be amazed...

Glenn Reynolds said he was amazed by this news from Brad DeLong. He hasn't been paying attention; Random Jottings and the Krugman Truth Squad have been covering this for months. but it's good to know that the numbers have held up as better data has come in.
New Data Confirm Amazingly Strong Productivity Trend

Usually reliable sources report that as the preliminary estimates of productivity growth were reported over the past year, Alan Greenspan was dumbfounded. "I don't believe it," he is supposed to have said. "You just can't get such high productivity growth in a recession. It will be revised down." And I don't know anybody who didn't agree, to some degree at least.

Well, the revisions are in, and the productivity growth trend is a little bit weaker, but only a little bit.

This leaves one big question: if this is productivity growth during a recession, what is the underlying trend rate of productivity growth now? I find it hard to think of a scenario in which trend productivity growth is not continuing the acceleration that began in the mid-1990s--and thus there is reason to think that the next eight years will see more rapid productivity growth than the past seven.

One caveat: with productivity surging, it's hard to be pessimistic about GDP growth, but it's easy to be pessimistic about unemployment...
The Truth Squad, by the way, are taking a break during August.
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Sunday, August 11, 2002

Thinking about tear-gas days...

The previous post took me back to when I was in college, at UC Berkeley, during the time of the Vietnam War. I remember the protests, and how the activist types would refer to The People of Vietnam, or People's War, with a bit of extra emphasis, a deeping of the voice, as if to show that they were deeply sympatico with the people, rather than the oppressors. It was almost one word: ThePeopleOfVietnam. And I assumed they were perfectly sincere.

But guess what? As soon as the United States pulled its forces out, I heard no more of ThePeopleOfVietnam. Their fate no longer mattered. They were packed up in their box again and put on a high shelf. and nobody thought it odd. Red Jane moves on to other things, and no one says, "I thought you cared about ThePeopleOfVietnam, what have you done for them lately?" The Archbishop of Bormeenia is noted as having been a protestor against the war, but no one opines that he was also a hypocrite who was only interested while the Americans were there.

Leftizoids of every sort still wear it as a badge of honor that they opposed the War in Vietnam. But they didn't, the war started in the 40's, and continued after the US pulled out (and anti-war protests all over the globe stopped as if turned off with a switch), until Vietnam was totally under the control of a brutal totalitarian regime. All they were protesting was the US of A, and few of them cared a fig for ThePeopleOfVietnam. But no one calls them on this, they continue to claim anti-war activist as some sort of emblem of moral superiority.

If I had magical powers I would love to pluck a bunch of those smug phoneys out of their soft berths and let them spend some time in a Re-Education Camp, getting a taste of the medicine they were so eager to give to ThePeopleOfVietnam.
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Something to remember

When you're told the United Stares is just a big selfish bully, and ought to leave little countries alone, you might ponder this, by Dean Esmay, about a time when we followed such advice, and walked away from a litle country called Cambodia.
... When the Communists came for Prime Minister Matak, they shot him in the stomach. They allowed him to die slowly of his wounds over the next three days.

In 1975, about two weeks before the fall of Saigon, U.S. military advisors...

...and diplomats fled from nearby Cambodia. The U.S. had given substantial support to the Cambodians in their fight against the Communists. But that year, the U.S. Congress, over the pleadings of President Ford, cut all further funding for efforts to help South Vietnam, Cambodia, or almost anyone else in Southeast Asia. Having broken our promises, America looked away as, one after the other, the dominos fell: Cambodia, then South Vietnam, then Laos. Other threatened nations, like Thailand, did their best to avoid that fate, knowing that any promises from the U.S. were an empty, hollow thing.

The U.S. had offered to evacuate Cambodian leaders like Matak. But, as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote, "to our astonishment and shame, the vast majority refused."

In the next few years, the entire nation of Cambodia was literally turned into a gigantic concentration camp. In a tiny country of only 7 million people, about 1.5 million were killed. Countless others were starved, savegely beaten, raped, tortured. Children were torn from parents and never allowed to see them again. Those who survived remember it as an entire nation turned into a madhouse.

As we embark, soon, on our mission to liberate Iraq from its despot, and perhaps to help the Iranians free themselves, let's try to remember such things. Let's also try to remind our Dovish friends, who claim we are a warlike people, an "imperialist" people, an "arrogant" people, about what history teaches about half-measures and "sophisticated" and "nuanced" politics in war...