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 25, 2002

Jay Manifold writes movingly about the Rededication of the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City. It is the only major memorial and museum in the US dedicated to the First World War.

The American participation in WWI was savage and bloody, but only lasted a short time. Most of us quickly put the war behind us. This is something very different from Europe, where every small village seems to have its war monument, with shockingly long lists of names from both World Wars. (If Europeans seem to us too pessimistic and fearful of change, well, there are some reasons.)
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


It would be appropriate for Memorial Day to tell a tale of heroism and sacrifice. The Lost Battalion would fit. But I find I'm not very good at that. Also, not all the heroes are found on the battlefield.

I'm no fan of Woodrow Wilson, but he did some things right. One of them was to make Newton Baker his Secretary of War. (A title which seems to me much more forthright and honest than the modern Secretary of Defense.)

Baker was an ideal man for the job. He had been in his position about a year when the United States entered the war, and before coming to Washington he had been a successful lawyer, a solicitor of the city of Cleveland, and later an extremely effective mayor of the same city. He was devoted to Woodrow Wilson and had been Wilson's avid supporter in the presidential election in 1912. The pacifism he shared with the President was mitigated by his advocacy of military preparedness. Above all, Baker had earned a reputation for an ability to work with others.

He did not look the part of the man of Mars. Only forty-six years old, small of stature, and unpretentious, his prominent eyeglasses gave him the appearance of a schoolmaster. But by the time war came, this quiet little man had proved to be quite capable of directing armies and headstrong commanders.--John S.D. Eisenhower
He needed all his skills, the War Dept. was a collection of moribund fiefs in desperate need of shakeup. The General Staff was excellent, but, up to then, had by law been kept tiny -- only 55 officers, with only 29 allowed to serve in Washington! When Army Chief of Staff Gen. Tasker Bliss retired, it was Baker who demanded that Pershing send his chief of artillery, the brilliant and innovative (but also abrasive and ruthless) Gen. Peyton March home to replace him.

Wilson was never interested in military matters, and it was Newton Baker, perhaps more than anyone, who made it happen -- creating a massive war machine with millions of men under arms in little more than a year. A prodigious achievement, and done with never the least bit of personal aggrandizement or egotism. There is a story I once read, about when Baker went to France to inspect in March 1918. He happened to mention that it would be 'kinda nice' to see a young man who had lived across the street from him in Cleveland. General Harbord bullied the French liaison officers into spending most of the night battling the primitive phone system so they could find that boy, who was "somewhere in France." Why? Because, "It was the only favor Newton Baker, Secretary of War, ever asked from two million Doughboys."
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Dr Weevil speaks firmly on the subject of pies to some sort of foreigner who disdains our cuisine. I've baked quite a few pies myself, and he's giving you the straight dope....

I would just add that Dalrymple needs to stay away from restaurant and (especially) grocery-store pies and find someone who can bake him a traditional mom's (or grandma's) apple pie made with
(a) a pastry cloth and a rolling pin sleeve,
(b) lard in the crust, and
(c) Jonathan apples in the filling.
For devout Jews, Muslims, or vegetarians, and when Jonathans are out of season (49 weeks of the year), you can make the pie with Crisco and Granny Smiths, but it won't be quite as good. And then there are 'Dr. Weevil's date tarts' (miniature pecan pies with dates in the filling), but that recipe will have to wait for a less busy evening. The point is that even I -- a mediocre cook at best -- can make delicious American pastries. You just won't find them in stores, since they are labor-intensive and do not keep well.
A good pie has a flaky crust. The importance of this is impossible to overstate. No good pie can be an object of commerce, because the crust shatters at a touch. Also, berry pies (my favorites) should never be thickened into rigidity. The filling should stay liquid. This makes them impossible to serve neatly or divide equitably or transport safely.

I would guess that not only are foreigners unaware of American pies, many Americans likewise haven't experienced the real thing. You almost have to make them yourself.

And for peeling and coring apples, you might want one of these.

Friday, May 24, 2002

P. Krugman
#13, by the secret cabal of avenging economists!

Paul Krugman must have been too busy grading examination papers at Princeton this week to take his NY Times column very seriously. In “America The Scofflaw” (05/24/02) he tries to make international trade a partisan issue primarily based on the tariffs recently placed on foreign steel. But his case is impossible to make for plainly obvious reasons.

For example, how can the onus for steel tariffs be on the Republican Bush administration when even higher tariffs were overwhelmingly supported by congressional Democrats in both the House and Senate and, especially, by the Democratic leadership? Or how can Krugman ignore the fact that American labor is simultaneously the leading force for protectionism in the U.S. and the Democrat’s most important political constituency?

The facts are that free trade issues historically have been much more institutional, than partisan. As a broad generalization free trade is typically promoted by presidents because they represent the interests of the entire country, while protectionism arises mainly in the congress where sectional interests have relatively more clout. When congress is closely divided, as now, presidents often get drawn into the fray. The reason presidential “fast track” trade promotion authority (which Bush will soon have) is important is that it further insolates a president (any president) from congressional protectionist influences.

However, one would never learn any of this from reading Krugman’s quick, sloppy and careless column today. He further consolidates his reputation for mindless partisanship.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

For like as herbs and trees bringen
forth fruit and flourish in May, in
likewise every lusty heart that is in
any manner a lover, springeth and
flourisheth in lusty deeds.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Flight imagined in the year 1900
This is what a Frenchman in the year 1900 imagined how flying in 2000 would be. If only it were so ... From the book Futuredays, edited by Isaac Asimov.

What happens if you pop a water balloon in space? I found some movies on just that subject here (via a good weblog with a sub-optimal cognomen). What happens? If you pop the balloon adroitly, you can leave a blob of water shimmering and quivering in mid-air.

Watching those water blobs floating suddenly made Rand Simberg's writings on space tourism very compelling, very real. My head was filled with odd notions. I want to go to space, and right now I have no doubt that a lot of other people want to go too -- though they may not realize it yet.

Is it crazy to think that people, not just a few, but lots of people, will be willing to spend millions for a trip into space? Well, there's no shortage of people willing to spend millions for a house in the best neighborhood. Or for a yacht, or a private jet, or a small winery in Napa. And that's just ordinary Beverly-Hills-dentist stuff; the big boys try to win the Americas Cup, which makes even space tourism look cheap.

And what are you really buying when you buy a big sailboat, or house in an elite neighborhood? Psychic rewards! Something that says tangibly: I'm somebody, my life is meaningful and exciting... I have bragging rights! A trip to space would provide psychic rewards like few other things can. Plenty of people will consider it a bargain. Prestige-wise, it might be comparable to buying a good French Impressionist painting.

Me, I don't want a flight on the Space Shuttle. (I mean, I do, but it's not what I want the mostest). What I want is zero gravity. I want to fly! I want to sail through the air. I want to strap wings on my arms and see if I can propel myself about. When I said that people don't yet realize they want to go to space, I was thinking of what will happen when the first movies appear of humans effortlessly soaring or floating across, say, a hundred-meter open space. It will be a revelation!

I once saw a film clip made on Skylab. The astronauts were making a game of jumping the entire length of the station, (I'm not sure how far that was, but the outside length of Skylab was 36 meters.) It was like watching a high-diver, but in slow motion; a long slow graceful transit, turning somersaults all the way! Glorious. Unforgettable. (There is, by the way, an excellent book on Skylab: A House in Space, by Henry S. F. Cooper. It has a lot of fascinating stuff on how people react to living in a zero-gravity environment. )

SO, space tourism with a chance to make a loooong leap without gravity pulling you down splat. Is it possible? I suspect so. It would require a large enclosure. However, structures in orbit don't need to be massive. Something like a giant inflated balloon might be all you need for some zero-g gymnastics. I once read an interesting study on various space possibilities, and one of them was that the external fuel tank that goes up with the shuttle could, with a little extra effort, go all the way to orbit. Now there would be the makings of a real space station. Those things are huge. (Also, since they can never utilize all their fuel, you would have some Hydrogen and Oxygen to start out with.) I often wonder what happened to that idea...maybe it jeopardized jobs in some congressional district.

I strongly suspect that the idea that people in space must live like rats in a tin maze is outdated. Like so many things, it's done because it's always been done. And of course no one in NASA is going to push for anything intended for play or fun. Their careers would end right there. Congress would not be amused. But the potential for recreation is enormous. And perhaps enormously lucrative -- what would advertisers pay for slots during the Zero-G-Soccer World Cup? They pay millions now for a single minute of the Superbowl.

Also, remember those floating blobs of water in the movies that I started this post with? I wonder if a big blob would be feasible? Perhaps held in place by computer-controlled jets of air. A floating swimming pool...

One curious feature of modern tourism is that people sometimes pay for a chance to do interesting work, such as an archaeological dig, or hunting for dinosaur fossils. Holders of Astronaut Union cards aren't going to want to hear this, but I think there are people who will happily pay to do their jobs. I'm sure a lot of chores that are done on the space station are fairly simple and don't actually require trained astronauts.

There are also people who would pay to stay in space because they have handicaps. Imagine a billionaire who became crippled, and was confined to a wheelchair. How much might he pay to live somewhere where he could be fully mobile? Where a push with one finger could propel him across the room?

When I saw those waterblobs drifting like jellyfish, It all came clear to me -- space tourism isn't something that might eke its way. It's going to be bigger and wilder than we can imagine.

*UPDATE: Rob Schwarz writes: A large inflatable space station module. Sounds like the Transhab. I didn't know about the Transhab -- When I strike it rich, I'll buy one!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Robert Musil deconstructs that unctious little toad Jim "Uriah Heep' Jeffords. (Via Rand)

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Freedom is the right to question and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuing revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions. It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to dream--to follow your dream or stick to your conscience, even if you're the only one in a sea of doubters. --Ronald Reagan

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

P. Krugman
#12. "Generally Accepted by Gosplan"

Last week the Squad referred to Paul Krugman’s views on the role of government in “reforming” business accounting practices as worthy of an East German commissar in the old GDR. This week, in “Enemies of Reform” (05/21/02), he is at it again and this time he is really in a tizzy. He opens with an admirable quote from Lawrence Summers about the importance of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in the formation of American capital markets. True enough. But the trouble is this quote does not support Krugman’s position. In fact, it is just the opposite.

GAAP originated in the private sector and evolved overtime as adaptations were needed to changing capital markets, new investment instruments, new forms of financial information technology, etc. The key verbs here are “evolve” and “adapt.” GAAP must grow and flex with the needs of the day. The private sector is where both the expertise and incentives lie to consistently make these adjustments. Indeed they are currently underway, as Krugman pointed out himself last week, with S&P’s decision to revise the way it evaluates corporate earnings. Others in the financial industry will soon follow with revisions and innovations of their own. It is difficult to fool investors twice precisely because of this dynamism.

Let’s put the sense of the Summers quote the other way around and ask: What would be the state of American capital markets today if GAAP had been written 200 years ago by the likes of Sens. Sarbanes, Levin and McCain? The answer is a nightmare that should scare even Commissar Krugman.

Monday, May 20, 2002

Moira Breen writes:

...I certainly remember Walt Kelly. Born in '58, too young to really understand politics, but a comic strip reader old enough to glean something from the tensions and ferocious political arguments taking place above my head, I can't help but visualize that historical period as a Pogo strip.

But my husband's Pogo memories are more romantic. He discovered it around the same age you did, but at that time he was the only child living in an old British colonial mansion in Rangoon, his older brothers having been packed off to school in India. His dad was deputy chief of mission at the American embassy in Burma, and I get the impression that there was not much for a small boy to do but get chauffered to school in an antique Mercedes, inform his mother about the frogs in the toilets, or hole up in his vast bedroom/private kingdom with his books - among them a prized Pogo collection. We still have it - three volumes privately leather-bound and gold-stamped courtesy of a Yonggon bindery. (Little snot. I never had a comic I didn't have to share with my grubby siblings, let alone a personal leather-bound set...)

Oddly, neither one of us remembered that priceless "spankless child" line. Thanks for resurrecting it.

Thank you, Bree. Rangoon. OK, that tops everything.

Here's a page of Pogo, in case you don't know what we are talking about. Alas, the supple pen lines look fuzzy on a computer screen -- you can't get the whole effect...

For e-mails with no message, Jonathan Gewirtz writes: I suggest the self-explanatory term "(nm)," which is already used on at least one message board...

I like it. Asterisks may be too spam-like ... (nm) might go with (nr) for "no reply necessary..."

Natalie has a different suggestion. Any thoughts friends? Opinions? Send me an e-mail and you can use your preferred method in the subject line! ...

Also, while I don't much care for those Internet coinages like IMHO; I kind of like MEGO, for "my eyes glaze over." So if this whole subject seems boring, you can send that...

Sunday, May 19, 2002

Natalie Solent, on the subject of e-mail, quotes this:

...Why do bloggers insist on the need to read and respond to all email. Sgt Stryker demonstrates why this is a bad idea. I am more interested in what the bloggers I read have to say then having the bloggers feel they have a duty to respond to everything. Maybe the readers should find a way to indicate in the subject line how interested the readers are in a reply...
I think something like this would be useful. My experience has been that when I e-mail to some other weblogger to say, Great post today, Fritzi !, or some such, the very next thing they post says, Sorry I haven't answered e-mails folks, I've got 1,200 of them in my In-Box. Then I feel really stupid. (Especially since my In Box is filled with "Get paid to lose weight" or "Find out anything about anybody")

SO, it would indeed be nice to be able to indicate that an e-mail needs no reply. I propose that we start the subject line with: *.

To carry this a little farther, two stars (**) could indicate that the subject line is the whole message. If the subject line says: **I agree Glenn, blow their doors off !, then the recipient wouldn't even have to open it

Of course ** may already have some perverse meaning I know nothing about. I'm always the last to hear. Someone will say, You numbskull. Didn't you know that * means you're a Gay Presbyterian Anarcho/Republican ?? And you don't even wanna know what ** means !

UPDATE: If I had written something deep and meaningful, you would all yawn. But the very hour I suggest that there might be some perverse meaning in an asterisk, the Redwood Dragon zaps me with something ... well, something pretty funny.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _