I just got my first good look at Howard Dean at the Harkin Steak & Fry broadcast on CSpan. Holy shit. Electric. And two words for why Dean is doing so well: in charge. I'm amazed, now having seen him, that I've heard so much about the ultimate weakness of a campaign fueled by anger. That's not an issue here. Dean comes across as less angry than driven. No doubt he's tapping into the anger his audience feels, but he doesn't have anything like McCain's unpredictability. He remains in control.
And that--control, self-assurance, confidence--is what I think really attracts people to Dean. He doesn't seem like one to cower. And, frankly, he doesn't seem like he'd be diminished by losing. I remember when another Northeasterner, William Weld, was up for an ambassadorship and Jesse Helms blocked his nomination because Weld hadn't vilified homosexuals enough for Helms' taste. Weld didn't get the nomination, but when it was all over, he said "I did not go on bended knee," and he returned a whole, not defeated, person. So it goes with Dean: if you see his knee bent, it's probably headed for your groin.
Was out riding my bike today and brought my camera along. Since there's been so much rancor on the blog of late, I though a pretty picture might be a nice change of pace.
Just got this in an email.
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteesr are in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by istlef but the wrod as a wlohe.
(I'm aware that there's a heated whole-word vs. phonics issue in elementary education, so let me add that it should be clear that how adults read is not necessarily a guide to how children should learn to read. Sheesh, special interests.)
Maybe I'm a sucker, but I found this rather affecting.
I haven't eaten anything aside from a punnet of strawberries in thirty six hours. And I've also had cause to remember that the defining feature of being an adult is that when you're sitting on bathroom tiles at four in the morning, you're doing so alone.
Except when you make too much noise, then people get up to shut doors.
(I think Michael Bowen posted this link a while back, but an email just reminded me.)
Amity Wilczek's roundup of strange science news was buried in the September 11 rush: it's worth checking out.
If you were to pick a presidential candidate on the basis of social standing — and really, darling, who doesn't — you'd have to pick Howard Brush Dean III over George Walker Bush. The Bush lineage is fine. I'm not criticizing. But the Deans have been here practically since Mayflower days and in the Social Register for generations. It's true Bush's grandfather was a Wall Street financier, a senator and a Yale man, but Dean's family has Wall Street financiers going back to the Stone Age, and both his grandfathers were Yale men ... Again, I'm not suggesting the Bushes are arrivistes. Howard Dean's grandmother asked George Bush's grandmother to be a bridesmaid at her wedding, and she wouldn't have done that if the family were in any way unsound. I'm just pointing to gradations. Dean even went to a slightly more socially exclusive prep school, St. George's, while Bush made do with Andover before they both headed off to Yale.Which I read as: "Populist" Howard Dean is just as much the scion of privilege as George Bush. So forget the criticism of Bush that he, despite his rhetoric, is the one who's out of touch with the common man.
On the other hand, both boys have lived along parallel tracks since they went out on their own. Both went through their Prince Hal phases. Bush drank too much at country clubs. Dean got a medical deferment from Vietnam and spent his time skiing in Aspen. Both decided one night that it was time to get serious about life and give up drinking. Dean was 32; Bush was 40.Again: They both partied; ignore the fact that Bush also likely was using cocaine and was, from what we know, an alcoholic with a DUI arrest. Also (and here Brooks descends, if I may pay him that compliment, into hackery) Dean's "deferment" was a simple medical diagnosis made by the military. Dean did not request a deferment. He showed up and was told he couldn't serve; what he did after that is irrelevant. This contrasts with the Bush family's efforts to keep George Jr. from risking his life by pulling strings to keep him out of Vietnam and in Texas instead.
Both seemed to have sensed early on that their class, the Protestant Establishment, was dissolving ... Both, impressively, adapted to the new society. Dean married a Jewish doctor, raises his kids as Jews, lives in Burlington, Vt., and has become WASP king of the peaceniks. Bush moved to Midland, Tex., became a Methodist, went to work in the oil business and has become WASP king of the Nascar dads.The omission of the fact that Dean didn't just marry a doctor, but became one, is, to say the least, curious. Perhaps the contrast between Dean's medical training and George Jr.'s "went to work" (on the back of favors owed his father, Brooks does not add) is too much. The rest of the piece is devoted to Brook's trademark armchair sociology, which one either finds congenial or, uh, rather armchairish...a very comfortable, downright soporific armchair. MORE: I don't recommend that you wade into the thread about this article at Lucianne.com (that link won't work for long), but the author of Reply 8 advises his mates,
SAVE THIS PIECE, EVERYONE -- it is a useful counter to all of the garbage we will surely hear next year about how W. can't relate to average people because he is from a rich, privilaged upper-class background.
If you're going to make a complete fool of yourself, don't do it in an email that you send to thirty people. And if you're going to call an international authority an idiot regarding his topic of expertise, be exceedingly sure that you have your facts straight.
Reader Lassen sends along the following exchange between one Dmitry Alimov, student at Harvard Business School, and Jim Rogers, partner to George Soros and rather impressive man about planet. I fear Mr. Alimov is destined to join Peter Chung in peculiar infamy.
UPDATE: Alimov has responded to Rogers and I've appended his latest email below. Given that Alimov maintains a civil tone in his response, I have to agree with the commenter who says that Rogers also doesn't come off well in this exchange.
UPDATE II: Mr. Alimov has more to say in the comments to this post.
From: Dmitry Alimov [mailto:XXXXX@mba2004.hbs.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 9:08 PM
Cc: [email addresses of other recipients omitted]
Subject: The real facts about Russia
Dear Mr. Rogers:
I am the "lad" who disputed your factual claims with regard to Russia
today. First of all, I would like to thank you for speaking to us at
the Harvard Business School. I think I speak for my fellow HBS
students when I say that we enjoyed your original views and
interesting stories today. However, I must address the unfortunate
reality that your facts about Russia are plain wrong. You made three
principal inaccurate claims today - I will deal with all of them in
Claim #1. People are leaving Russia
Wrong. In fact, according to Financial Times, your favorite
newspaper, Russia turns out to be the second largest recipient of
immigrants after the US (see attached FT article). Oops. While it is
true that Russia's population is declining but the reasons for that
have nothing to do with people leaving the country, it is things like
low birth rate (only 1.2 per woman), which is an issue that confronts
many European states.
Claim #2. Russia's production of oil is declining, oil companies do
not reinvest in production
Wrong and wrong. Russian oil production has increased for the fifth
year in a row (see attached Reuters article), and Russian oil majors
are reinvesting in production (many of them have US GAAP accounts
audited by Big Four firms you could easily have access to if you
chose to look).
Claim #3. Investors are leaving Russia
Wrong again. Equity indexes (US Dollar denominated) are trading
around their all time highs (see attached Barrons article), Russian
bond yields are at historical lows. As an experienced investor,
surely you will recognize these as pretty convincing signs of
Overall state of the economy
Finally, I would like to quote World Bank's recent report on Russia:
"The Russian Federation has made remarkable progress in
tackling crisis and moving towards sustainable development
between 1999 and 2002. With a much more stable political
environment, the government has been able to build on
experience gained in the 1990s and implement a sound reform
agenda, in addition to maintaining macro-economic stability.
Since 1999, assisted by high commodity prices, the economy has
recorded strong growth, business confidence has revived, and
poverty has declined. Russia's sovereign credit rating has
improved, although it has yet to reach investment grade. The
speed and extent of recovery has taken most observers by
surprise. Between early 1999 and end 2001, GDP grew by 21
percent, inflation fell from 86 percent to 18 percent, the
fiscal situation turned around from a deficit of 5 percent of
GDP to a surplus of 3 percent of GDP, and barter and arrears
GDP growth of 21%? Hardly a picture of total collapse, don't you
I believe the facts speak for themselves. I have no time or desire to
try to convince you to invest in Russia. However, I do kindly ask you
to abstain from spreading inaccurate information. You are a public
figure and many people including future leaders at Harvard Business
School listen to you; it would be very unfortunate if they were
misled by your inaccurate statements. Finally, if nothing else, it
is not good for your own public image.
Dmitry Alimov, CFA
MBA Class of 2004
Harvard | Business | School
P.S. I took the liberty of sending a copy of this email to my fellow
students so that we can set the record straight.
From: James Rogers [mailto:XXXXX@jimrogers.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2003 9:23 AM
Cc: [email addresses of other recipients omitted]
Subject: RE: The real facts about Russia
Thank you for coming and for writing.
I rarely suffer fools gladly and even more rarely bother with chauvinistic
know nothings, but since you sent this ludicrous canard:
 My goodness. Not only do you have no idea about what you are speaking,
we now know you cannot read. The "immigration study" you mention was a
bunch of estimates for the years 1970 to 1995. What the hell does that have
to do with Russia in the past 8 years? Many were forced to go into Russia
from the Soviet Republics under the Communists, but that was hardly free
immigration as in the other countries. Even if people were going into
Russia in the early 1990s, they were Russians being forced to leave the old
USSR republics as the USSR dissolved in the early 1990s and those Russians
fled back into Russia.
You have demonstrated you cannot read nor analyze nor have any concept of
what is happening in Russia today, but do you not at least know a little
 Oh my. You really should have kept your mouth shut and stopped long
ago. This is not from "Reuters". It is from the Russian government - the
same group which claims to have had a balance of trade surplus for the last
9 years. The same group of bureaucrats and charlatans who became a laughing
stock with their "facts" under the USSR. The same who say that the Russian
balance of trade in that period has been among the largest in the world. I
did not think even B school students fell for that claptrap any more. But
then you are the one who says the ruble is a good buy and that "it is a
strong currency". I suggest you check your facts on what has happened to
the ruble in those 9 years when Russia "had the strongest balance of trade
surplus in the world". And that was a period when huge sums were also
flowing in from the World Bank, IMF, etc, etc. "Inflows from the strongest
balance of trade in the world and billions from the World Bank, etc" yet
the currency kept declining. I and most others find that extremely strange.
Somehow or another the currency kept falling since most of us realized the
same old bureaucrats were spewing out the same old garbage. I guess you
were buying rubles all that time. No wonder you are in school rather than
making it in the real world. You must have gone broke buying all those
And if Russian oil production is really up so much, why is the price of oil
still so high? So you are indeed a gullible lad, but fortunately the market
knows a lot more than you and your wailing into the wind.
You might read the section of my book about Russia's reported figures -
especially the trade figures. Or get some one to read it to you and explain
it to you.
I know you said you have driven across Russia from the Pacific to Europe,
but I'd like to know your route and which border crossings you used and who
you found out there counting all this stuff.
 You really should have kept your mouth shut, but since you opened it:
What balderdash. Now we know you have no understanding of markets in
addition to being unable to read or comprehend. The Russian "market" is
tiny and is insignificant compared to GNP so it is meaningless. Even your
article points out that the few big hydrocarbon companies account for 70%
of the stock market. [a] The price of oil more than doubled in the period
the article discusses and [b] those stocks went up because of that and
because of the manipulation by the oligarchs. Perhaps you did not notice
your article mentioned the "murky" dealings in Russia?
I hardly consider 2 mutual funds and 4 or 5 manipulated oil stocks "as
pretty convincing signs of investor confidence".
But if you really believe all this codswallop, why are you in business
school? Why aren't you there making your fortune?
I presume you are long the Russian stock market?
For what it is worth, I was short the ruble and the Russian market in the
summer of 1998 and back in the earlier bubble in the mid 1990s when Russia
and its bureaucrats were going on and on with the same absurdity. Go back
and look up what happened both times. Or perhaps you were long then too and
got wiped out which is why you had to go to b school.
 "Overall state of the economy": Now we are getting really embarrassed
for you! The World Bank also praised Russia in 1998 just before the last
collapse and in the mid 1990s just in time for that collapse. They also
wrote in rapturous terms about all the Asia Tigers in mid 1997 just in time
for the Asian Crisis [I was short Hong Kong back then too right into the
World Bank's rapture.] And the World Bank could not give Argentina enough
money in the summer and fall of 2001 because of "its progress" when I was
getting all my money out. [All this is very much on the public record so
you do not need to fret about my image.]
Need I go on? No one has ever stayed solvent much less made money
listening to the World Bank [except business school professors who
"consult" for them].
Oh dear, you get your information from the Russian government and the World
Bank!? Are you mad? I know you say you have driven across Russia, but who
do you really think is out there in those 11 time zones and tens of
thousands on kilometers of Russia collecting all this "reliable data"?
And thanks for your advice about my analysis, facts and my "public image".
If you had done your homework, you'd know the public was and is extremely
aware that I had shorted the ruble in 1998 and back in the mid 1990s [when
I guess you were long]. It was the same kind if misinformation back then
too that gullible souls like you swallowed.
And the public is extremely aware of my record of investing in many markets
all over the world for many years. You might read John Train's Money
Masters of Our Time or one of several other books. I do not worry about it,
but you should worry about yours.
But as for public image and inaccurate statements, you have demonstrated
quite publicly and vocally that you can neither read nor comprehend what
you read nor can you analyze anything in front of you and that you fall for
anything someone tells you and that you have absolutely no knowledge of
even recent Russian history. I was terribly embarrassed for you when you
stood there babbling on in front of the others about the strong ruble - a
currency which has been nothing but a catastrophe for a decade [despite
your painfully absurd statements], but now you have shouted your
hopelessness from the roof tops for all to see.
I hope your classmates will pull you aside and pass on this word of advice:
It is better to remain silent and have people wonder if you are an idiot
rather than to open your mouth and prove to everyone in sight that you are
an idiot beyond all doubt. And one should never, ever go shouting from the
rooftops when one is a total idiot because then the entire school knows it.
It's the ultimate road trip. Legendary investor Jim Rogers and his fiancé
travel to 116 countries in a custom-built four-wheel-drive bright yellow
Mercedes. Over three years, they make their way through war zones, are
guarded by military convoys, observe a fifty-million-person pilgrimage, eat
disgusting food, put the car on barges for transport between countries, and
have their lives threatened at every turn. As well as describing his
adventures, Rogers has plenty to say about the economies and roads he
encounters on his journey. (Naturally, he's driven on the best roads and
the worst.) With his keen financial acumen, he picks out those countries
with the highest prospective economic success and which ones are headed for
disaster. All in all, a wonderful trip.
"If Warren Buffett and Bill Bryson were trapped in a car with each other
for three years, they might write like Jim Rogers." (B.O.T Editorial Review
You can order my new book ADVENTURE CAPITALIST [Random House 2003] from
or on my own website if the link above does not work.
UPDATE: Alimov responds. [Alimov's excerpts from Roger's email are in italics][headers removed--email was sent to Rogers and the original score of CC recipients]
Dear Mr. Rogers:
I see that you prefer the language of personal insults instead of informed polite discussion. Well, this is your choice and I hope this is not consistent with your sense of style – you are a successful individual (as you mentioned many times) and it would be a shame to tarnish that with this sort of attitude. Also, apologies for getting you a little riled, I didn't mean to, nor did I expect you to. I am enjoying the discussion and would like to just rebut some of your remarks.
Thank you for coming and for writing. I rarely suffer fools gladly and even more rarely bother with chauvinistic know nothings, but since you sent this ludicrous canard:
 [immigration] My goodness. Not only do you have no idea about what you are speaking, we now know you cannot read. The "immigration study" you mention was a bunch of estimates for the years 1970 to 1995. What the hell does that have to do with Russia in the past 8 years? Many were forced to go into Russia from the Soviet Republics under the Communists, but that was hardly free immigration as in the other countries. Even if people were going into Russia in the early 1990s, they were Russians being forced to leave the old USSR republics as the USSR dissolved in the early 1990s and those Russians fled back into Russia.
You have demonstrated you cannot read nor analyze nor have any concept of what is happening in Russia today, but do you not at least know a little Russian history?
For your viewing pleasure, below are the actual numbers of net migration (immigration less emigration) through 2001. As you can see, there is a net inflow in every single year for the past two decades. This does not even include an estimated 1-1.5 million of illegal immigrants to Russia.
Net Migration and Natural Increase in Russia, 1980–2001
Source: State Committee of the Russian Federation on Statistics, Goskomstat Rossii
As you correctly point out, much of the immigration comes from the states of the former Soviet Union (although a very large part of the immigrants are Ukrainians and other CIS nationals). However, the fact remains that before and after 1995, immigration to Russia far exceeded emigration from Russia, which is the opposite of your original claim.
 [oil production] Oh my. You really should have kept your mouth shut and stopped long ago. This is not from "Reuters". It is from the Russian government – the same group which claims to have had a balance of trade surplus for the last 9 years. The same group of bureaucrats and charlatans who
The quote below is taken directly from US Department of Energy website (I hope you at least believe your own government):
"A turnaround in Russian oil output began in 1999, which many analysts have attributed to rising world oil prices during this period (oil prices tripled between January 1999 and September 2000), as well as a number of after-effects of the 1998 financial crisis and subsequent devaluation of the ruble in August. Today, Russian oil fields are maintained using modern technologies from around the world, and many of the old command economy institutions have been streamlined. The rebound in Russian oil production has continued since 1999, resulting in 2002 total liquids production of 7.65 million bbl/d (7.4 million bbl/d of which was crude oil)--a 26% increase over the 1998 level. Accordingly, Russia is now the world's second largest crude oil producer behind only Saudi Arabia.
Or do you think the US government is also lying?
became a laughing stock with their "facts" under the USSR. The same who say that the Russian balance of trade in that period has been among the largest in the world. I did not think even B school students fell for that claptrap any more.
I don't think my fellow students deserve this condescending treatment. You should also know that my other Russian speaking HBS classmates were appalled by your comments in and after class. In addition to misstating the facts, you also characterized the country in an offensive manner. We are all rational people and are prepared to discuss the Russian economy and culture on merits (clearly, there are many negative things, particularly in the recent past) but it's a very different matter when someone starts insulting a nation.
But then you are the one who says the ruble is a good buy and that "it is a strong currency".
This is not quite the statement I made, but nice try at remembering. What I said was that this year, Russian currency appreciated and I stand by my statement. From 31.7 rubles/US$ at the end of 2002 it appreciated to 30.7 rubles/US$ now. I did not say it is a strong currency and I certainly don't think that any currency is a good investment given that currencies are not interest bearing.
I suggest you check your facts on what has happened to the ruble in those 9 years when Russia "had the strongest balance of trade surplus in the world". And that was a period when huge sums were also flowing in from the World Bank, IMF, etc, etc. "Inflows from the strongest balance of trade in the world and billions from the World Bank, etc" yet the currency kept declining. I and most others find that extremely strange. Somehow or another the currency kept falling since most of us realized the same old bureaucrats were spewing out the same old garbage. I guess you were buying rubles all that time. No wonder you are in school rather than making it in the real world. You must have gone broke buying all those rubles.
And if Russian oil production is really up so much, why is the price of oil still so high? So you are indeed a gullible lad, but fortunately the market knows a lot more than you and your wailing into the wind.
I find it amusing that you would ask this question. Surely you know that market prices are determined by many factors including demand (which, as you correctly pointed out in your speech, is on a secular upward trend), supply by other players (think Latin American and Middle East supply problems). Russia is one of the global energy suppliers and certainly cannot by itself control world energy prices. Surely you must know this?
You might read the section of my book about Russia's reported figures – especially the trade figures. Or get some one to read it to you and explain it to you. I know you said you have driven across Russia from the Pacific to Europe, but I'd like to know your route and which border crossings you used and who you found out there counting all this stuff.
 You really should have kept your mouth shut, but since you opened it: What balderdash. Now we know you have no understanding of markets in addition to being unable to read or comprehend. The Russian "market" is tiny and is insignificant compared to GNP so it is meaningless. Even your article points out that the few big hydrocarbon companies account for 70% of the stock market. [a] The price of oil more than doubled in the period the article discusses and [b] those stocks went up because of that and because of the manipulation by the oligarchs. Perhaps you did not notice your article mentioned the "murky" dealings in Russia?
I hardly consider 2 mutual funds and 4 or 5 manipulated oil stocks "as pretty convincing signs of investor confidence".
If the stock and bond market three year rally is not sufficient evidence for you, what about the fact that scores of major Western companies made significant capital commitments to Russia in the past few years? Here is just a sample of recent investments:
Pepsi $1 bn
Coca Cola $750 mln
Metro (Germany) €1 bn
United Technologies Corp. $400 mln
Mars LLC $500 mln
Procter & Gamble $150 mln
Boeing $1.3 bn
ExxonMobil $1.4 bn
BP $3 bn
If this is not a reliable sign of investor confidence, I don't know what is. But you probably think these companies are lying, too? Or are they also being manipulated by evil oligarchs?
But if you really believe all this codswallop, why are you in business school? Why aren't you there making your fortune?
Let me know if you desire to see my bank statements and resume, I'll email them to you. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, maybe even compare them to yours when you were my tender age, for a real awakening. Maybe we can do the same when I am your age now, and we can revisit this cute discussion.
Rest assured, I certainly plan on continuing my career in Russia because I love the place, I am good at what I do and I will have a positive impact on the country. Surely, there are challenges and problems (name a place in the world that does not have a set of problems to deal with) but the opportunities are amazing. I find it extremely satisfying to be able to effect real change in the largest country in the world.
I presume you are long the Russian stock market? That's correct.
For what it is worth, I was short the ruble and the Russian market in the summer of 1998 and back in the earlier bubble in the mid 1990s when Russia and its bureaucrats were going on and on with the same absurdity. Go back and look up what happened both times. Or perhaps you were long then too and got wiped out which is why you had to go to b school.
 "Overall state of the economy": Now we are getting really embarrassed for you! The World Bank also praised Russia in 1998 just before the last collapse and in the mid 1990s just in time for that collapse. They also wrote in rapturous terms about all the Asia Tigers in mid 1997 just in time for the Asian Crisis [I was short Hong Kong back then too right into the World Bank's rapture.] And the World Bank could not give Argentina enough money in the summer and fall of 2001 because of "its progress" when I was getting all my money out. [All this is very much on the public record so you do not need to fret about my image.]
While one may or may not agree with the World Bank's adjectives and characterizations, there are objective facts and figures that speak for themselves. Do you think that 21% real GDP growth is a sign of total collapse of the economy or do you think that the government and international finance organizations are lying about the figures?
Need I go on? No one has ever stayed solvent much less made money listening to the World Bank [except business school professors who "consult" for them]. Oh dear, you get your information from the Russian government and the World Bank!? Are you mad? I know you say you have driven across Russia, but who do you really think is out there in those 11 time zones and tens of thousands on kilometers of Russia collecting all this "reliable data"?
And thanks for your advice about my analysis, facts and my "public image". If you had done your homework, you'd know the public was and is extremely aware that I had shorted the ruble in 1998 and back in the mid 1990s [when I guess you were long]. It was the same kind if misinformation back then too that gullible souls like you swallowed.
Every "babushka" shorted ruble during that time period; it was a highly inflationary currency.
And the public is extremely aware of my record of investing in many markets all over the world for many years. You might read John Train's Money Masters of Our Time or one of several other books. I do not worry about it, but you should worry about yours.
But as for public image and inaccurate statements, you have demonstrated quite publicly and vocally that you can neither read nor comprehend what you read nor can you analyze anything in front of you and that you fall for anything someone tells you and that you have absolutely no knowledge of even recent Russian history. I was terribly embarrassed for you when you stood there babbling on in front of the others about the strong ruble – a currency which has been nothing but a catastrophe for a decade [despite your painfully absurd statements], but now you have shouted your hopelessness from the roof tops for all to see.
I hope your classmates will pull you aside and pass on this word of advice: It is better to remain silent and have people wonder if you are an idiot rather than to open your mouth and prove to everyone in sight that you are an idiot beyond all doubt. And one should never, ever go shouting from the rooftops when one is a total idiot because then the entire school knows it.
I will leave it up to my classmates to make characterizations in this case. Again, I will not dignify your insulting comments with a response. If you are interested in what impression your email made on my classmates, please read this sample email - one of many similar emails I received today:
"Dmitry, I was shocked by the letter that Jim wrote you. I am sorry that you had to read that. It was totally ridiculous. I thought you wrote him a respectful and well argued letter and for some reason he decided to tear into you. I am not sure who is on the right side of the facts, but I do know that I talked to the top guy at Morgan Stanley Private Client last week and he said that Russia is one of their top picks going forward. All the best, John"(name is changed for privacy reasons)
Dmitry Alimov, CFA
MBA Class of 2004
Harvard | Business | School
Posts like this are one of the reasons Brad DeLong is so much fun to read.
What Does Alan Greenspan Know That I Do Not?
That was a question I asked Don Kohn at Jackson Hole. I did not get an answer.
Let me explain. Eight times since his appointment to his post as Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve, I have thought that Alan Greenspan has made a significant monetary policy mistake. Eight times. And at least six of those eight times, I have been wrong.
I conclude that Alan Greenspan knows things--important things--about macroeconomics, about monetary policy, and about the relationship between economic structure and macroeconomics that I do not.
Would that more people concluded thus when they were wrong. So, today, I make a vow that should I ever say something disprovable that is then disproved, I will unhesitatingly deny that I said what you thought I meant. Count on it.
There is a war going on in the Middle East, and members of Hamas are soldiers in that war.Here's the Drudge Headline.
Dean Called Hamas Members 'Soldiers,' Not Terrorists...And here's the Fox News interpretation.
Dean condemned terrorism but his description of Hamas — designated by the United States as a terrorist group — as "soldiers in a war" conflicts with U.S. policy. The European Union also approved last week the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization.Of course, it's clear to any fair reader that, by calling them soldiers in a war, Dean is saying that members of Hamas are particularly dangerous. But "soldiers" is being dishonestly taken in this instance as an honorific. One expects these things from Fox and Drudge. If, in the next few days or in the next Democratic debate, you hear one of the other candidates using this comment against Dean, you'll know that person's unscrupulous.
While we're on the topic of smears (one more, and then I'll stop), Jack O'Toole has a measured and thorough dissection of Andrew Sullivan's latest.
Fortunately, while in public members of the administration emphasize their own incredible foresight, in private they are able to face unpleasant facts and pivot in response. Sometime around the middle of August, while the president was on the ranch, members of the Bush team must have done a candid and scathing review of how things were going in Iraq.And today, Paul Krugman writes,
The administration's infallibility complex - its inability to admit ever making a mistake - will get even worse. And I disagree with those who think the administration can claim infallibility even while practicing policy flexibility: on major issues, such as taxes or Iraq, any sensible policy would too obviously be an implicit admission that previous policies had failed.A civil disagreement! In the New York Times! Here's hoping for more.
John Ritter's death must have caught even the NYT obit editors off guard -- their obit is actually from Reuters, and it doesn't do him justice. When other TV bachelors were eating frozen pizzas and chasing stewardesses, Jack Tripper cooked well and kept a neat apartment -- oh, and occasionally claimed to be gay. And he still got his share of stewardesses. Later in his career he specialized in mildly sad-sack comic characters on mildly sad-sack comedies like "The Cosby Show" (remember? -- he kept kneading bread dough), "Ally McBeal," and "Scrubs," and characters with hidden demons, like Ted Buchanan, who dated Buffy's mom on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Ritter was an athletic man who tripped over couches -- like Chaplin or Keaton, but brawnier. His professional strength was the gentle reconciliation of contradictions -- and he was well into a comeback with his pretty-good show "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter." But he had an undetected aortal defect, collapsed during filming, and died at the hospital in which he was born.
What is James Lileks doing?
Two years later I take a certain grim comfort in some people's disinterest in the war; if you'd told me two years ago that people would be piling on the President and bitching about slow progress in Iraq, I would have known in a second that the nation hadn't suffered another attack. When the precise location of Madonna's tongue is big news, you can bet the hospitals aren't full of smallpox victims. Of course some people are impatient with those who still recall the shock of 9/11; the same people were crowding the message boards of internet sites on the afternoon of the attacks, eager to blame everyone but the hijackers. They hate this nation. In their hearts, they hate humanity. They would rather cheer the perfect devils than come to the aid of a compromised angel. They can talk for hours about how wrong it was to kill babies, busboys, businessmen, receptionists, janitors, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers - and then they lean towards you, eyes wide, and they say the fatal word:
And then you realize that the eulogy is just a preface. All that concern for the dead is nothing more than the knuckle-cracking of an organist who's going to play an E minor chord until we all agree we had it coming.
some people are impatient with those who still recall the shock of 9/11
Who? I know James Lileks is old enough to have learned that just about anything can be truly said of "some people." I want an example. Who is this?
They would rather cheer the perfect devils than come to the aid of a compromised angel.
They sound like awful people. They sound like people I should avoid. Who are they?
Caricature, let it hang in the air, let it become the mist that settles on everyone who utters a reservations or suggests that a more restrained response may be a more effective response. Suggest that disagreement about the means is in fact a disagreement about ends and, while you're at it, suggest that disagreement indicates a hatred for all humanity. Why not? It's not like we're talking about real people here.
Killing Arafat, more than any other act, would demonstrate that the tool of terror is unacceptableI can't help but smile. How about those folks who think the Palestinians are a "death cult" and that Arabs should be "wiped out," admit that perhaps many people in Israel have become, simply, homicidal. Of course, while the JPost means what it says, I don't believe that their motivation is to convince anyone to kill him. Now that "expulsion" is being considered, the JPost is doing what the House Republicans and the President often do: proposing a radical idea so that a slightly less radical one appears to be a compromise.
Brett Marston has sane and reasonable thoughts about days of remembrance. I've been getting angrier and angrier today at the insular, smug rhetoric coming from all directions. But I'm afraid I'm at risk of becoming smug and self-involved. Thanks to Brett for some perspective.
Looks like Wesley Clark is going to run. (via Drudge)
Matthew Yglesias has cogent and personal reflections on what he's learned about foreign policy in the last two years.
I had something of a neocon flight of fancy, a vision of America as a great beacon of hope to the world, smiting the bad guys and bringing freedom, good government, and democracy to all God's children.
I've come to see, though, that it's just not going to happen. Winning wars is hard and the American people aren't interested in paying a crushing tax burden to support a huge army and I'm not interested in wracking up a huge quantity of debt. So you really do need allies to get this stuff done. That doesn't necessarily mean the UN needs to authorize everything (they didn't authorize Kosovo) but it does mean that you can't just buck all of world opinion. And world opinion is frankly suspicious of the exercize of American power, so you need to be circumspect. And maybe from now on you'll need to go through the UN for everything, which would frankly be a shame. Hopefully not, though, hopefully as with Kosovo most people won't see the endorsement of the government of China as crucial to the moral legitimacy of military action and we can get allies (real allies, not just Poland) without it.
Either way, it means rather modest horizons. It means promoting human rights and democracy around the margins and it means, more or less, endorsing the much-maligned Clinton policy of crisis-management rather than grand strategy. You try to keep the country strong, the alliances firm, and when something goes wrong to try to set it right. That's pretty vague, but I think it should be. I don't know that there's really much of anything to be said in general about foreign policy since there are so many variables in play and the dynamic is always changing.
Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean has asked retired Army general Wesley Clark to join his campaign, if the former NATO commander does not jump into the race himself next week, and the two men discussed the vice presidency at a weekend meeting in California, sources familiar with the discussions said.Or is the Dean camp just setting Clark up?
This piece in today's Post says Dean and Clark "discussed the vice presidency at a weekend meeting in California." Read down into the article and there doesn't seem to be that much there there ... now the story of the day is not those very active discussions Clark is having about his own presidential run, but the potential 'Dean/Clark alliance'. And if Clark decides to get into the race after all, doesn't that mean that he wobbled, that as recently as this week he was thinking of taking the number two slot from Dean, or endorsing Dean? (His opponents want to play to the 'indecision' meme, remember.) I think that's what some people would like us to think.If it's the latter, Dean is really hurting himself. Part of Dean's appeal is that he's a real person driven by real anger, not a politician so calculating that he'll befriend someone just to stick a knife in his back. Let's hope it's the former, because it would be a very strong ticket.
Israel's security Cabinet on Thursday decided in principle to expel Yasser Arafat, but put off immediate actionI realized this week that I've lost hope for the Israeli / Palestinian situation. Really. And now, I don't know why I ever assumed that a "solution" was possible. I think Israel will be overrun--demographically or militarily--and before it is, uncountable people will die.
Paul Krugman (pronounced kroogman...who knew?) was on Fresh Air yesterday. I believe him.
Let's take the evil and sadness of September 11 and conflate it with other nasty things so that we can cheapen the cause and celebrate our blinkered anger. All hail the emotional tyranny of the fight against tyranny!
Julie (blogged about here), who has now finished making all the recipe's in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, decided that the Smithsonian exhibit on Child really wanted a stick of butter. She went to DC to put it there.
From the management company that owns the building I work in, we all just received a piece of paper and an american flag pin. This is what's written on the paper.
Please take a moment today to remember all those who lost their lives to the tragedy on September 11, 2001 and the families and friends who mourn their lives. In your reflection, renew your commitment to your faith and to the principles in which our country is founded. When we hear or see the phrase "We will never forget," let it remind us of our responsibility to build a better world for future generations of Americans.
Oh yes, "for Americans." I had almost forgotten.
The allegory of the baby turtles and the disco. Moths who can't breed because there's too much sex in the air. Pheromones: do we or don't we? Nature is Profligate has the roundup.
So I thought this post and Magik's comments thereon were very insightful. Gerrymandering has always been a favorite puzzle of mine, and I was in the midst of writing a very long post with all of my thoughts on it, when I ended up getting trapped in a conference room in NYC for three days. Oh well.
Which leads me to my general theory of blogging success (patent pending). To be a successful (someone who writes a lot, and can thus attract a lot of readers) blogger, you must be 1) a tech person, 2) a professor, 3) a grad student or 4) a freelance writer. I think proposition is clearly supported by the data - look at who posts the most on this blog, and look at the people who run the most visited blogs generally. Why must this theory be true? Because only these kind of people have the kind of free time to devote to a blog. The rest of us with real jobs have too much to do.
For a second year, U.S. government screeners have failed to detect a shipment of depleted uranium in a container sent by ABCNEWS from overseas as part of a test of security at American ports.Something like 3% of the documents for shipped material gets checked. Our ports are almost completely porous.
Forget who it is, this is just bizarre. Have you ever seen that expression elsewhere?
I ran across this today in the 1989 OED:
In Japanese cookery: quick-cooking Chinese noodles, usu. served in a broth with strips of meat and pieces of vegetables. Occas. const. as pl.
1972 NAGASAWA & CONDON Eating Cheap in Japan (1977) 32 Chinese noodles in pork broth seasoned with soy sauce... Thinly sliced pork and ham strips, a bit of spinach and sliced leeks are usually on top... Ramen is the most popular and cheapest Japanese style Chinese food. 1978 Washington Post 30 Nov. E1/3 The Japanese eat a lot of rice, but they love noodles, including the quick-cooking flavored ramen noodles first introduced in that country in the 1950's. 1980 E. ANDOH At Home with Japanese Cooking 96 Sapporo (the largest city of Hokkaido island) is famous for its Chinese-style soup noodles, known as ramen. Ibid. 223 Ramen..are sold as fresh, fresh-dried and instant noodles at almost every Oriental grocery in the U.S. 1986 V. SETH Golden Gate xii. 269 For John and Jan a bowl of ramen Capped with a raw egg serves for brunch. 1989 Los Angeles Times 9 July (Book Rev.) 15/4 That crazy, singsong, nonsensical English that one used to see on packages of ramen and in instruction manuals for rice cookers and radios.
I love the progression -- people generally think of the late-1980s food revolution as being entirely about arugula and Alice Waters, but it was also about little foil envelopes of MSG. In particular I like the early reference to ham and sliced leeks (I know there were chop suey restaurants even in Colorado by the late 1960s -- did Americans really not know about green onions?) and the fact that "crazy, singsong" English is no longer the norm on ramen packaging by 1989. In 1989 Dukakis had just introduced Middle America to the Belgian endive, and I had my first maguro nigiri.
"These revealing clothes will be imprinted in their minds and they will refuse to wear the clothes we are used to as Muslims," the sheik said.The sheik knows his business. Get the minds while they're young and shape them to reject all ideas save your own. In this, the Saudis seem to have been successful. But only in part; otherwise, what need for "The Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice?" When Saudi Arabia has it's inevitable collapse (many years hence) will we hear the stories of their dissidents?
The ratio of spam to real mail that I get nowadays is about 10:1. I hate it. But still, isn't this kind of true?
Arguments that it "injures productivity" are bogus since that presumes that employees don't spend a good part of their day injuring productivity on the job by reading web pages such as Politech. White collar employees will, when given a net connection, always fritter away hours of their day. To presume otherwise is to presume they are all on some sort of cyberassembly line where if the next email message isn't right on target our massive economy is headed down the drain. Some people making their living selling consulting services on productivity to underworked executives may like to pretend otherwise, but the fact of the matter is that there's always been a huge amount of slack in office jobs and SPAM elinination won't make it stop. It will merely be spent on some site that offers flash Tetris.
The "productivity" argument has always seemed a bit dodgy to me. Of course, unlike the site that this is taken from, I think the "this is really friggin' annoying" argument is plenty justification to pass a law.
Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh has been repeatedly stabbed in an attack in a Stockholm department store..."She has stab wounds in the chest, stomach and arms and is being operated on now, but the wounds are not life-threatening," police spokeswoman Stina Wessling told Reuters.Very disturbing.
I know I'm old-fashioned and don't understand kids today, but back in my day, when you posted an online personal, you didn't include a picture of yourself holding hands with a tall, good-looking guy.
totally agrees with me understands presidential politics.
But [the Democratic primaries leave] one feeling like a kibitzer at a chess game: the lethal move is so obvious, but your guy just can't see it. The Democratic candidate for president should appropriate the traditional Republican values of limited government, individual liberty, and fiscal responsibility.
Because these Republican positions are up for grabs. George Bush, no doubt egged on by his political advisers, has out-pandered the Democrats in providing prescription drug benefits to pensioners, agricultural subsidies to farmers and protection to steelworkers. In so doing, however, he has given the Democrats arguments to present to the moderate suburban voters who are the largest voting bloc in American elections.
These are great issues for a Democrat because most people agree with the principles and don't much care about the details. Bush is vulnerable on these points, as Nick explains in his post. Maybe the current Democratic candidates are too closely identified with their positions to take these up now, maybe, as Nick says, a Democrat couldn't win the primaries on these issues. But what if there were a candidate who was, more or less, a blank slate, and what if that candidate could win the primaries on swoon alone? What if...dun dada dun...I don't know, what do you all think of Wesley Clark anyway?
He tells us terrorists are trying to "inflict harm on Americans" to make us "run from a challenge" in Iraq. He tells us we must be "resolute in our own defense." He tells us we must "spend what is necessary to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror." He conflates enemies. He spins circular logic. He appeals to our pride. He continues to misrepresent the terrorist connections on the basis of which he justified the Iraq invasion, and he expands the definition of the "war on terror" so that Iraq can be crammed into it anyway, along with dozens of other countries. Two years after 9/11, he has so thoroughly twisted the meaning of what happened that day that, in effect, he has forgotten what it was.And Saletan supported the war.
The music industry has turned its big legal guns on Internet music-swappers — including a 12-year-old New York City girl....Oops. But, before you expend too much sympathy, there's this from the girl's mother.
"It's not like we were doing anything illegal," said Torres. "This is a 12-year-old girl, for crying out loud."It's true, downloading music doesn't feel like stealing. And it seems to be true that "this" is a 12-year-old girl, but the thread on Slashdot, where I saw this, about finding minors to do one's downloading, should convince anyone that the legal angle doesn't favor mom. It seems pretty clear that the best solution to the music-swapping problem is to let users download a song for a fee (like iTunes does) but also to give them the option to email the musician their opinion of the song, which the musician must read before pocketing any of the money. For that, anyone would pay a buck. AHEM: Are we all clear now?
Young women in Norway make their sexual debut at an earlier age than men.
Young women tend to enjoy sex more than young men.
Young Norwegian women have had more sex partners than young Norwegian men.
Women have become more aggressive in bed than their male partners.
"What's worrisome is that young men are now more likely to sit alone in their rooms and masturbate while young women go out in the world and live out their newly liberated sexual lives," said Pedersen, who was responsible for the study.
It also found that men now are the ones who crave more intimacy, kissing and hugging, long considered to be what women wanted most.
If this is all true, there are five or six very happy guys in Norway.
By the time the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was bombed on Aug. 19, President Bush was willing to strike out on a new course. It was in a phone call that day with Condoleezza Rice, a close Bush adviser reports, that Bush observed that the tragedy of the bombing might be turned into an opportunity to internationalize the rebuilding effort.Ok, how long before this is turned into, "the US bombed the UN headquarters in Iraq because they needed an excuse to bring other countries in?" I give it two weeks. Keep an eye on MEMRI. And, for all my bashing of Brooks, this, his first NY Times Op-Ed, was excellent. UPDATE: Brad DeLong, on the other hand, is not impressed with Brooks column.
Can you believe we let you read these posts for free?
But the folks at RedPaper [thanks to the reader who pointed me to this] have set up a site where people can post whatever they want and set a price for viewing (starting at around 3 cents per item). RedPaper collects about 5% of the take. As far as I can tell, the content isn't always exclusive: I've seen it elsewhere for free. But some posters have developed a following and made a few hundred dollars.
But maybe someone can tell me how RedPaper hopes to survive, given that there are excellent blogs and plenty of free professional sources of content available online. Well, save yourself the trouble. The founder of RedPaper puts it thus.
We have no idea how this thing is ever going to make any serious money for us or anybody else. We have no idea why people participate other than the fact that it seems to be kind of fun and very addictive.
I'm guessing the people paying just haven't heard of blogs.
I haven't been paying much attention to the Texas redistricting drama, in part because it just seemed like a political game and in part because the Democrats were, in some sense, winning. But Patrick at JUSIPER, following up on a Salon article, explains that the redistricting is really an attempt to keep ethnic minority voters from having political influence proportionate to their numbers.
I can't help but hear echoes of the ghosts of Mississippi - the Mississippi of the mid-1980s, when white state legislators engaged in a campaign of "massive resistance," doing all they could to crack, pack, and stack black majority districts in order to deny blacks the fruits of hard-won voting rights.
Sigh, even lawyers, guns, and money don't cure cancer.
Some prayers never reach the sky
Some wars never end
Some dreams refuse to die
Next time I would rather break than bend
A relative of Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant implicates two friends in the 1975 murder for which Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel was convicted, a lawyer for Skakel said Saturday.
Should Iran have nukes? I have my own biases on that score, so I've kept my mouth shut. But there is one thing of which I'm certain, the translation of the quotation in this passage stinks.
Faced with rising suspicions over its nuclear ambitions, Iran's clerical regime has adopted a strange defence: nuclear weapons, says the government in Tehran, are un-Islamic and therefore cannot be pursued by the Islamic Republic.
Some take the curious argument even further: "It's not human to have the atomic bomb," declares Amir Mohebian, a newspaper columnist who is considered an ideologue for the conservative faction in Iran's political establishment. "We want to follow policies that are in line with morality."
This isn't a defense of Mohebian, but I'll bet a thousand Rials that the word translated here as "human" was ensani. The Farsi word for "human" is ensan. But ensani doesn't mean "like human" or "of the human," it means "humane."
One should always keep the vagaries of translation in mind, but when dealing with the Middle-East, one should also keep in mind that usage that has passed into metaphor in one culture probably hasn't in other cultures. Of course, people end up sounding like blood-crazed maniacs to one another. "We will cut off the hands of the invaders" sure sounds brutal, but cutting off the hands is an emphatic way of saying "render ineffective." (Granted, it doesn't help that the cutting of off hands actually happens in places....) But this misunderstanding happens in the other direction too. "The noose is tightening" is a phrase that doesn't conjure images of broken necks and bulging eyeballs here, but, translated, it sounds downright murderous.
Of course, the Middle-Eastern theocracies really are more brutal and their rhetoric reflects that. But when they seem to have crossed the line from brutality to complete derangement, it's a good bet the translation pushed them over.
Sometimes we forget to ask the basic questions when we evaluate candidates. Questions like, "is it human?"
The answers to these interview questions, based on the Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep / Blade Runner method of distinguishing humans from replicants, and asked of the San Francisco mayoral candidates, are pretty revealing. I wonder if an enterprising blogger could get the Democratic presidential candidates on the horn to answer a few of these...
(via Charles Murtaugh)
This neighborhood blogger, to his own surprise, is a "liberal" on foreign policy.
I can't very well neglect my own blog while I'm commenting elsewhere. John Holbo was wondering about rationales for opposing homosexuality and asked me, in response to a question I posed, whether I could think of a plausible non-religious argument against homosexuality. I gave it a shot.