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January 31, 2010

TSA Hassles Cub Scout Mikey Hicks Who is 8 Years Old




HicksMichaelNoFlyList2010-01-23.jpg













"Michael Hicks, 8, a Cub Scout in Clifton, N.J., has the same name as a suspicious person." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.




(p. A1) The Transportation Security Administration, under scrutiny after last month's bombing attempt, has on its Web site a "mythbuster" that tries to reassure the public.

Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy.

Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list.

"Meet Mikey Hicks," said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. "It's not a myth."

Michael Winston Hicks's mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name "was on the list," she recalled.

The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried.

After years of long delays and waits for supervisors at every airport ticket counter, this year's vacation to the Bahamas badly shook up the family. Mikey was frisked on the way there, then (p. A3) more aggressively on the way home.

"Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch -- someone is patting your 8-year-old down like he's a criminal," Mrs. Hicks recounted. "A terrorist can blow his underwear up and they don't catch him. But my 8-year-old can't walk through security without being frisked."




For the full story, see:

LIZETTE ALVAREZ. "Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List." The New York Times (Thurs., January 14, 2010): A1 & A3.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 13, 2010.)

(Note: italics in original.)





January 30, 2010

50 Venture Capital Firms Turned Down Campbell's Chips & Technology




(p. 224) Campbell's idea for a company was to use a silicon compiler to put those boards into custom silicon and to provide a means by which scores of companies could produce AT clones faster, cheaper, better, and more reliable than IBM's.

Campbell drew up his business plan and brought it to some fifty venture capitalists. A moneyed yawn issued from Sand Hill Road, echoed down the canyons of San Francisco's financial district, and reechoed through downtown Manhattan. A jaded group that had funded some forty very hard disk projects and some fifty rather floppy computer firms within the previous two years, venture capitalists eyed Campbell's boyish manner and lightweight look and they contemplated his business plan (a personal computer chip project during a PC and semiconductor depression), and they identified the heart of his overall strategy (compete with IBM). They rolled the firm's proposed name over their tongues: Chips & Technologies. Wouldn't Microtech be better? Then they laughed nervously. Not this time, Gordy.

Finally, Campbell found a friend: Bill Marocco, who had built the SEEQ headquarters, and had once offered to support a future project. Marocco put up $1 million, and Chips & Technologies was off the ground.




Source:

Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.





January 29, 2010

Another Boeing BHAG Takes Flight




BoeingDreamlinerFirstFlight2010-01-23.jpg "Members of the public watched the first test flight of the Boeing 787 on Tuesday in Everett, Wash." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



In their stimulating business best-seller Built to Last Collins and Porrus have a chapter in which they argue that one way to attract and retain the best employees is to give them a difficult but important project to work on. They call such projects "BHAGs," which stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Among their main examples (e.g., p. 104) of BHAGs were Boeing's development of the 707 and 747.

Boeing's latest BHAG is the 787 Dreamliner.


(p. A25) EVERETT, Wash. -- The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner lifted into the gray skies here for the first time on Tuesday morning, more than two years behind schedule and burdened with restoring Boeing's pre-eminence in global commercial aviation.

"Engines, engines, engines, engines!" shouted April Seixeiro, 37, when the glossy twin-engine plane began warming up across from where spectators had informally gathered at Paine Field. Ms. Seixeiro was among scores of local residents and self-described "aviation geeks" who came to watch the first flight.

Moments after the plane took off at 10:27 a.m., Mrs. Seixeiro was wiping tears from her eyes. A friend, Katie Bailey, 34, cried, too.

"That was so beautiful," Ms. Bailey said.



For the full story, see:

WILLIAM YARDLEY. "As 787 Takes Flight, Seattle Wonders About Boeing's Future." The New York Times (Weds., December 16, 2009): A25.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title "A Takeoff, and Hope, for Boeing Dreamliner" and is dated December 15, 2009.)


The reference for the Collins and Porras book is:

Collins, James C., and Jerry I. Porras. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies. New York: HarperBusiness, 1994.





January 28, 2010

U.N. Glacial Melt Prediction Based on Decade-Old "Misquoted" Interview with One Scientist




In an earlier entry, evidence was quoted suggesting that many Himalayan glaciers are growing, rather than contracting as is widely claimed. Now The New York Times reveals that a "much-publicized" U.N. prediction of Himalayan glacier disappearance by 2035, was based on an old misquoted interview with a single scientist who now repudiates the prediction.


(p. A8) A much-publicized estimate from a United Nations panel about the rapid melting of Himalayan glaciers from climate change is coming under fire as a gross exaggeration.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in 2007 -- the same year it shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore -- that it was "very likely" that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 if current warming trends continued.

That date has been much quoted and a cause for enormous consternation, since hundreds of millions of people in Asia rely on ice and snow melt from these glaciers for their water supply.

The panel, the United Nations' scientific advisory body on climate change, ranks its conclusions using a probability scale in which "very likely" means there is greater than 90 percent chance that an event will occur.

But it now appears that the estimate about Himalayan glacial melt was based on a decade-old interview of one climate scientist in a science magazine, The New Scientist, and that hard scientific evidence to support that figure is lacking. The scientist, Dr. Syed Hasnain, a glacier specialist with the government of the Indian state of Sikkim and currently a fellow at the TERI research institute in Delhi, said in an e-mail message that he was "misquoted" about the 2035 estimate in The New Scientist article. He has more recently said that his research suggests that only small glaciers could disappear entirely.




For the full story, see:

ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. "U.N. Panel's Glacier Warning Is Criticized as Exaggerated." The New York Times (Tues., January 19, 2010): A8.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 18, 2010.)





January 27, 2010

Warming of Arctic Would Allow Faster, Safer Cable Route




NorthwestPassageFiberOpticCableRoute2010-01-23.jpg Source of map: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.


(p. 4A) ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Global warming has melted so much Arctic ice that a telecommunication group is moving forward with a project that was unthinkable just a few years ago: laying underwater fiber optic cable between Tokyo and London by way of the Northwest Passage.

The proposed system would nearly cut in half the time it takes to send messages from the United Kingdom to Asia, said Walt Ebell, CEO of Kodiak-Kenai Cable Co. The route is the shortest underwater path between Tokyo and London.

The quicker transmission time is important in the financial world where milliseconds can count in executing profitable trades and transactions. "Speed is the crux," Ebell said. "You're cutting the delay from 140 milliseconds to 88 milliseconds."


. . .


"It will provide the domestic market an alternative route not only to Europe - there's lots of cable across the Atlantic - but it will provide the East Coast with an alternative, faster route to Asia as well," he said.

The cable would pass mostly through U.S., Canadian international waters and avoid possible trouble spots along the way.

"You're not susceptible to 'events,' I should say, that you might run into with a cable that runs across Russia or the cables that run down around Asia and go up through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean Sea. You're getting away from those choke points."




For the full story, see:

DAN JOLING, Associated Press Writer. "Loss of Arctic Ice Opens Up New Cable Route." Omaha World-Herald (Fri., January 22, 2010): 4A.

(Note: the online version of the article had the title: Global warming opens up Arctic for undersea cable" and was dated January 21, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





January 26, 2010

Entrepreneur Gordon Campbell Was an Uncredentialed "Complex Man"




(p. 222) Among the entrepreneurs of the microcosm, none were nimbler than Gordon Campbell, the former founder and president of SEEQ. Taking Phillip Salsbury and other non-volatile memory stars out of (p. 223) Intel in 1981, Campbell had begun meteorically. But after a few years, SEEQ's E-square technology had slipped against Xicor and the industry went into its mid-eighties slump. While many experts bogged down in the problems of transition, however, Campbell seized the opportunities. In a new firm, he would demonstrate beyond cavil the new balance of power in electronics.

He left SEEQ in 1984 and at once steered his Ferrari back into the semiconductor fray. But few observers favored his prospects. If the truth be known, many semiconductor people thought they had already seen plenty of Gordon Campbell, company president.

Campbell is a complex man, with a rich fund of ego and a boyish look that belies his shrewd sense of strategy and technology. To a strong-minded venture capitalist such as Frank Caulfield of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield, & Byers--or even to a smooth operator such as John Doerr---Campbell appeared to be a pushover. A man with no money, no social ivy, no advanced professional degrees, no obvious scientific mastery, he was a disposable tool: some kid who had snuck into the E-square huddle at Intel and popped our into the end zone just in time to make a miracle catch of several million dollars in venture capital.




Source:

Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.





January 25, 2010

Like Cesar Chavez, Union Intimidates Its Own Members




FrankVitaleAmeliaUnionOrganizer2010-01-16.jpg "Amelia Frank-Vitale, a former union organizer, said the practice of pink sheeting sent her into therapy." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. B1) After six years working in the laundry of a Miami hotel, Julia Rivera was thrilled when her union tapped her to become a full-time union organizer.

But her excitement soon turned to outrage.

Ms. Rivera said her supervisors at Unite Here, the hotel and restaurant workers' union, repeatedly pressed her to reveal highly personal information, getting her to divulge that her father had sexually abused her.

Later, she said, her supervisors ordered her to recount her tale of abuse again and again to workers they were trying to unionize at Tampa International Airport, convinced that Ms. Rivera's story would move them, making them more likely to join the union.

"I was scared not to do what they said," said Ms. Rivera, adding that she resented being pressured to disclose intimate information and then speak about it in public. "To me, it was sick. It was horrible."

Ms. Rivera and other current and former Unite Here organizers are speaking out against what they say is a longstanding practice in which Unite Here officials pressured subordinates to disclose sensitive personal information -- for example, that their mother was an alcoholic or that they were fighting with their spouse.

More than a dozen organizers said in interviews that they had often been pressured to detail such personal anguish -- sometimes under the threat of dismissal from their union positions -- and that their supervisors later used the information to press them to comply with their orders.

"It's extremely cultlike and extremely manipulative," said Amelia Frank-Vitale, a Yale graduate and former hotel union organizer who said these practices drove her to see a therapist.

Several organizers grew incensed when they discovered that details of their history had been put into the union's database so that supervisors could use that information to manipulate them.

"This information is extremely personal," said Matthew Edwards, an organizer who had disclosed that he was from a broken home and was overweight when young. "It is catalogued and shared throughout the whole organizing department."


. . .


(p. B5) Several organizers likened pink sheeting to a practice that Cesar Chavez, former president of the United Farm Workers, used when he embraced a mind-control practice developed by Synanon, a drug rehabilitation center founded in Santa Monica, Calif. Union staff members were systematically subjected to intense, prolonged verbal abuse in an effort to break them down and assure loyalty.


. . .


Ms. Frank-Vitale, now a graduate student at American University, says she is still haunted by memories of pink sheeting.

"One night my supervisor pushed me and pushed me, and I started talking about being an overweight woman in America, what that was like in high school, that it was very difficult for me," she said. "I felt kind of violated."




For the full story, see:

STEVEN GREENHOUSE. "Some Organizers Protest Their Union's Tactics." The New York Times (Thurs., November 19, 2009): B1 & B5.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated November 18, 2009.)

(Note: ellipses added.)





January 24, 2010

"Better to Be Socrates Dissatisfied than a Fool Satisfied"




(p. 10) Happiness is, . . . , a complex concept and difficult to measure, and John Stuart Mill had a point when he suggested: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied."



For the full commentary, see:

NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF. "Our Basic Human Pleasures: Food, Sex and Giving." The New York Times, Week in Review Section (Sun.., January 16, 2010): 10.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated January 16, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)






January 23, 2010

Corrupt African Official Enjoys Malibu Estate, While "People Starve" and Obama State Department Sleeps




ObiangTeodoroMalibuEstate2010-01-16.jpg "The $35 million estate belonging to Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the agriculture minister of Equatorial Guinea and the son of its ruler, in Malibu, Calif., in the lower center of the frame." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) Several times a year, Teodoro Nguema Obiang arrives at the doorstep of the United States from his home in Equatorial Guinea, on his way to his $35 million estate in Malibu, Calif., his fleet of luxury cars, his speedboats and private jet. And he is always let into the country.

The nation's doors are open to Mr. Obiang, the forest and agriculture minister of Equatorial Guinea and the son of its president, even though federal law enforcement officials believe that "most if not all" of his wealth comes from corruption related to the extensive oil and gas reserves discovered more than a decade and a half ago off the coast of his tiny West African country, according to internal Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement documents.

And they are open despite a federal law and a presidential proclamation that prohibit corrupt foreign officials and their families from receiving American visas. The measures require only credible evidence of corruption, not a conviction of it.

Susan Pittman, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in the State Department, said she was prohibited from discussing specific visa decisions. But other former and current State Department officials said Equatorial Guinea's close ties to the American oil industry were the reason for the lax enforcement of the law. Production of the country's nearly 400,000 barrels of oil a day is dominated by American companies like ExxonMobil, Hess and Marathon.

"Of course it's because of oil," said John Bennett, the United States ambassador to Equatorial Guinea from 1991 to 1994, adding that Washington has turned a blind eye to the Obiangs' corruption and repression because of its dependence on the country for natural resources. He noted that officials of Zimbabwe are barred from the United States.

"Both countries are severely repressive," said Mr. Bennett, who is now a senior foreign affairs officer for the State Department in Baghdad. "But if Zimbabwe had Equatorial Guinea's oil, Zimbabwean officials wouldn't still be blocked from the U.S."

Shown the Justice Department (p. A19) documents that detail the accusations of corruption against Mr. Obiang, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who wrote the law restricting visas, expressed frustration and anger with the State Department, which is responsible for issuing visas.

"The fact that someone like Mr. Obiang continues to travel freely here suggests strongly that the State Department is not yet applying the law as vigorously as Congress intended," Mr. Leahy said. The law was partly inspired by the accusations of corruption surrounding Mr. Obiang's family and the Equatorial Guinean government, Mr. Leahy's staff said.

"There are many instances of corrupt foreign officials plundering the natural resources of their countries for their own use while their people starve," Mr. Leahy said. "The law states clearly that if you do that, you are no longer welcome in the United States."




For the full story, see:

IAN URBINA. "A U.S. Visa, Shouts of Corruption, Barrels of Oil." The New York Times (Tues., November 17, 2009): A1 & A19.

(Note: The title of the online version of the article is "Taint of Corruption Is No Barrier to U.S. Visa"; the online version of the article is dated November 16, 2009.)





January 22, 2010

Bert Sutherland Was the "Hero of Xerox PARC"




The failure of Xerox to take advantage of the innovations developed at Xerox PARC, is a legendary example of management failure. A couple of books have been written on the subject that I hope to read sometime.


(p. 194) Beyond his efforts in VLSI design, Bert Sutherland had supported the work at Xerox PARC that led to the "windows" and the "mouse" on nearly every workstation and many personal computers, from Apple and Atari to Apollo and Sun. He formed the research department that made Ethernet the dominant small computer network and that conceived the "notebook" lap computer. Xerox's lead in IC design gave the company the tools--if the firm had only understood them--to lend new special features to every copier and printer and even to create the kind of electronic "personal copiers" later pioneered by Canon.

Bert Sutherland was the hero of Xerox PARC: that is history. But that was not life. In real life, Xerox fired him in 1979. While he worked day and night on the novel projects in Palo Alto that were to give Xerox an indelible role in the history of computer technology, jealous rivals conspired against him at headquarters. They said that his research, which would fuel the industry for a decade, was irrelevant to the needs of the company. In corning years, the research leadership that replaced him would make the company nearly irrelevant to the needs of the world.




Source:

Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.





January 21, 2010

Green Danes Embrace Hot Air Escaping Through Open Doors




PedalPoweredSmoothies2010-01-16.jpg"Environmental displays in Copenhagen's City Hall Square include pedal-powered smoothies." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


I mainly liked the article cited below for the photo displayed above.

But there also was this bit, showing that beyond some silly green pretensions, not all is rotten in Denmark:


(p. A11) . . . , cracks in Copenhagen's green facade were easy to spot on Friday at the nearby Stroget, a popular car-free shopping area in the city center. In the late afternoon every shop door was propped open, sending clouds of heated air into the chilly street.

Some cities impose fines on shopkeepers who allow excess energy to escape through open doors.

But Jan Michael Hansen, the executive director of Copenhagen City Center, an organization representing shops along the three-quarter-mile-long corridor, was nonplused. A closed door keeps customers away, which is bad for business, he explained.

He seemed puzzled that the visitor brought it up. "I have never had an inquiry like this before," he said.




For the full story, see:

TOM ZELLER Jr. and ANDREW C. REVKIN. "Reporter's Notebook; Global and Local Concerns Meet in 'Hopenhagen'." The New York Times (Fri., December 10, 2009): A11.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated December 10, 2009.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





January 20, 2010

Global Warming "Consensus" Achieved by Suppressing Skeptical Research




(p. A25) When scientists make putative compendia of that literature, such as is done by the U.N. climate change panel every six years, the writers assume that the peer-reviewed literature is a true and unbiased sample of the state of climate science.

That can no longer be the case. The alliance of scientists at East Anglia, Penn State and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (in Boulder, Colo.) has done its best to bias it.

A refereed journal, Climate Research, published two particular papers that offended Michael Mann of Penn State and Tom Wigley of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. One of the papers, published in 2003 by Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas (of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics), was a meta-analysis of dozens of "paleoclimate" studies that extended back 1,000 years. They concluded that 20th-century temperatures could not confidently be considered to be warmer than those indicated at the beginning of the last millennium.

In fact, that period, known as the "Medieval Warm Period" (MWP), was generally considered warmer than the 20th century in climate textbooks and climate compendia, including those in the 1990s from the IPCC.

Then, in 1999, Mr. Mann published his famous "hockey stick" article in Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), which, through the magic of multivariate statistics and questionable data weighting, wiped out both the Medieval Warm Period and the subsequent "Little Ice Age" (a cold period from the late 16th century to the mid-19th century), leaving only the 20th-century warming as an anomaly of note.

Messrs. Mann and Wigley also didn't like a paper I published in Climate Research in 2002. It said human activity was warming surface temperatures, and that this was consistent with the mathematical form (but not the size) of projections from computer models. Why? The magnitude of the warming in CRU's own data was not as great as in the models, so therefore the models merely were a bit enthusiastic about the effects of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Mr. Mann called upon his colleagues to try and put Climate Research out of business. "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," he wrote in one of the emails. "We would also need to consider what we tell or request of our more reasonable colleagues who currently sit on the editorial board."

After Messrs. Jones and Mann threatened a boycott of publications and reviews, half the editorial board of Climate Research resigned. People who didn't toe Messrs. Wigley, Mann and Jones's line began to experience increasing difficulty in publishing their results.




For the full commentary, see:

PATRICK J. MICHAELS. "OPINION; How to Manufacture a Climate Consensus; The East Anglia emails are just the tip of the iceberg." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., DECEMBER 18, 2009): A25.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated DECEMBER 17, 2009.)





January 19, 2010

Microsoft Hired Good People and Gave Them the Space and Privacy to Think




OfficeSpaceShrinks2010-01-16.jpg Not Microsoft. "Mark Clemente, a Steinreich Communications vice president, in the firm's smaller Hackensack, N.J., office." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


The article quoted below documents the trend in business toward small, and more open offices. I believe that this trend is largely a mistake.

Another trend in business (see Levy and Murnane 2004) is for more jobs to involve thinking and creativity. Thinking and creativity are harder in an environment of noise and frequent and unpredictable interruptions.

David Thielen's book on the secrets of Microsoft's success that said that Microsoft emphasized hiring really good people, and then respected them enough to give them an office with a door, so they could have the space and privacy to think and create (e.g., pp. 17-35 & 147-150).

Microsoft had the right idea.


(p. B7) The office cubicle is shrinking, along with workers' sense of privacy.

Many employers are trimming the space allotted for each worker. The trend has accelerated during the recession as employers seek to cut costs and boost productivity.


. . .

Tighter quarters and open floor plans also can present challenges. David Lewis, president of OperationsInc LLC, a Stamford, Conn., provider of human-resources services to more than 300 U.S. companies, says open floor plans and low cubicle walls can create discord and lead to increased turnover.

"Now everybody knows everybody else's business," he says. "It actually starts to create a level of tension in an office that never existed before. People can't focus on work because they're on top of each other."




For the full story, see:

SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN. "THEORY & PRACTICE; Office Personal Space Is Crowded Out; Workstations Become Smaller to Save Costs, Taking a Toll on Employee Privacy." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., DECEMBER 7, 2009): B7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The Levy and Murnane book mentioned above, is:

Levy, Frank, and Richard J. Murnane. The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.


The Thielen book is:

Thielen, David. The 12 Simple Secrets of Microsoft Management: How to Think and Act Like a Microsoft Manager and Take Your Company to the Top. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1999.





January 18, 2010

Establishments Assume New Methods Are Unsound Methods




(p. 188) For the next two years, Conway coordinated her efforts under Sutherland at PARC with Mead's ongoing work at Caltech. But she was frustrated with the pace of progress. There was no shortage of innovative design ideas; computerized design tools had advanced dramatically since Mead's first efforts several years before. Yet the industry as a whole continued in the old rut. As Conway put it later, the problem was "How can you take methods that are new, methods that are not in common use and therefore perhaps considered unsound methods, and turn them into sound methods?" [Conway's italics].

She saw the challenge in the terms described in Thomas Kuhn's popular book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. it was the problem that took Boltzmann to his grave. It was the problem of innovation depicted by economist Joseph Schumpeter in his essays on entrepreneurship: new systems lay waste to the systems of the past. Creativity is a solution for the creator and the new ventures he launches. But it wreaks dissolution--"creative destruction," in Schumpeter's words-- for the defenders of old methods. In fact, no matter how persuasive the advocates of change, it is very rare that an entrenched establishment will reform its ways. Establishments die or retire or fall in revolution; they only rarely transform themselves.




Source:

Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.

(Note: italics in original.)





January 17, 2010

Paul Johnson's Defense of Winston Churchill




JohnsonPaul2010-01-16.jpg













British historian Paul Johnson. Source of caricature: online version of the WSJ conversation quoted and cited below.




(p. D6) Now, at 81 and after years of producing enormous, compulsively readable history books, Mr. Johnson has just written what, at 192 pages, is probably the shortest biography of Winston Churchill ever published.


. . .


He gives credit to his success as a historian to his simultaneous and successful career in journalism. "You learn all sorts of tools as a journalist that come in extremely useful when you're writing history," he tells me as we sit in the drawing room of the West London house he shares with his wife, Marigold, "and one is the ability to condense quite complicated events into a few short sentences without being either inaccurate or boring. And of course a lot of the best historians were also journalists."


. . .


The book includes refutations of many of the negative myths that have grown up around Churchill. For instance, that he was drunk for much of World War II. "He appeared to drink much more than he did," Mr. Johnson insists. "He used to sip his drinks very, very slowly, and he always watered his whisky and brandy."

Mr. Johnson certainly does not agree with the often-echoed criticism made by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin that Churchill had every gift except judgment: "He made occasional errors of judgment because he made so many judgments--some of them were bound to be wrong! . . . On the whole, his judgment was proved to be right. He was right before the First World War in backing a more decent civilized society when he and Lloyd George created the elements of old-age pensions and things like that. He was right about the need to face up to Hitler and he was right about the Cold War that the Russians had to be resisted and we had to rearm."

He is convinced that "Churchill was more than half American . . . all of his real qualities generally come from his mother's side." And despite Mr. Johnson's own Oxford education (he was there with Margaret Thatcher), he believes that Churchill benefited from never having gone to college: "He never learned any of the bad intellectual habits you can pick up at university, and it explains the extraordinary freshness with which he came to all sorts of things, especially English literature."




For the full conversation, see:

JONATHAN FOREMAN. "A Cultural Conversation with Paul Johnson; Winston Churchill, Distilled." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., DECEMBER 10, 2009): D6.

(Note: the online version of the interview is dated DECEMBER 11, 2009.)

(Note: ellipses within paragraphs were in the original; ellipses between paragraphs were added.)



The reference to Johnson's biography of Churchill, is:

Johnson, Paul M. Churchill. New York: Viking Adult, 2009.





January 16, 2010

Recession Is Prolonged By Doubts on Obama Policies




(p. A17) Several pieces of evidence point to extreme caution by businesses and households. A regular survey by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) shows that recent capital expenditures and near-term plans for new capital investments remain stuck at 35-year lows. The same survey reveals that only 7% of small businesses see the next few months as a good time to expand. Only 8% of small businesses report job openings, as compared to 14%-24% in 2008, depending on month, and 19%-26% in 2007.

The weak economy is far and away the most prevalent reason given for why the next few months is "not a good time" to expand, but "political climate" is the next most frequently cited reason, well ahead of borrowing costs and financing availability. The authors of the NFIB December 2009 report on Small Business Economic Trends state: "the other major concern is the level of uncertainty being created by government, the usually [sic] source of uncertainty for the economy. The 'turbulence' created when Congress is in session is often debilitating, this year being one of the worst. . . . There is not much to look forward to here."

Government statistics tell a similar story. Business investment in the third quarter of 2009 is down 20% from the low levels a year earlier. Job openings are at the lowest level since the government began measuring the concept in 2000. The pace of new job creation by expanding businesses is slower than at any time in the past two decades and, though older data are not as reliable, likely slower than at any time in the past half-century. While layoffs and new claims for unemployment benefits have declined in recent months, job prospects for unemployed workers have continued to deteriorate. The exit rate from unemployment is lower now than any time on record, dating back to 1967.

According to the Michigan Survey of Consumers, 37% of households plan to postpone purchases because of uncertainty about jobs and income, a figure that has not budged since the second quarter of 2009, and one that remains higher than any previous year back to 1960.

These facts suggest that it was a serious economic mistake to press for a hasty, major transformation of the U.S. economy on the heels of the worst financial crisis in decades. A more effective approach would have been to concentrate first on fighting the recession and laying solid foundations for growth. They should have put plans to re-engineer the economy on the backburner, and kept them there until the economy emerged fully from the recession and returned to robust growth. By failing to adopt a measured approach to economic policy, Congress and the president may be slowing the economic recovery, and thereby prolonging the distress from the recession.




For the full commentary, see:

GARY S. BECKER, STEVEN J. DAVIS AND KEVIN M. MURPHY. "OPINION; Uncertainty and the Slow Recovery; A recession is a terrible time to make major changes in the economic rules of the game." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., JANUARY 4, 2010): A17.

(Note: ellipsis in original.)





January 15, 2010

The Decline of Motive Power in Socialist Venezuela




VenezuelaEnergy2010-01-10.jpg"In Venezuela, which faces power shortages, blackouts have spurred protests like this demonstration in Caracas." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A11) CARACAS -- Venezuela, a country with vast reserves of oil and natural gas, as well as massive rushing waterways that cut through its immense rain forests, strangely finds itself teetering on the verge of an energy crisis.


. . .


The government has forced draconian electricity rationing on certain sectors, which could make matters worse for an economy already racked by recession. Critics say the socialist government is trying to snuff out capitalist-driven sectors with the rationing, while allowing government-favored industries in good standing to continue with business as usual.

Shopping malls, which analysts say use less than 1% of the power consumed in Venezuela, have nonetheless been a main focus for the government.

Malls have been told most stores can only be open between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.

"In a certain way, Chávez is attacking capitalism with the orders on shopping malls," said Emilio Grateron, mayor of Caracas's Chacao municipality, a bastion of those opposed to Mr. Chávez. "By limiting the hours we can go to malls, he is trying to slowly take away liberties, to create absolute control over things such as shopping."

In Venezuela, whose capital Caracas is consistently ranked among the world's most dangerous cities, residents see shopping malls as one of few havens in the country.

The government's rationing efforts are also hitting metal producers. Their production has already been cut as much as 40%. Mr. Rodriguez, the electricity minister, said they may have to be completely closed to save more electricity.




For the full story, see:

DAN MOLINSKI. "Energy-Rich Venezuela Faces Power Crisis." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., JANUARY 8, 2009): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





January 14, 2010

For 30 Years "Poincaré's Elegant Math Prevailed Over Boltzmann's Practical Findings"




(p. 182) . . . , Poincaré's elegant math prevailed over Boltzrnann's practical findings. For some thirty years, Boltzmann struggled to get his ideas across. But he failed. He had the word, but he could not find a way to gain its acceptance in the world. For long decades, the establishment held firm.

So in the year 1906, Poincaré became president of the French (p. 183) Académie des Sciences and Boltzmann committed suicide. As Mead debatably puts it, "Boltzmann died because of Poincaré." At least, as Boltzmann's friends attest, this pioneer of the modem era killed himself in an apparent fit of despair, deepened by the widespread official resistance to his views.

He died, however, at the very historic moment when all over Europe physicists were preparing to vindicate the Boltzmann vision. He died just before the findings of Max Planck, largely derived from Boltzmann's probability concepts, finally gained widespread acceptance. He died several months after an obscure twenty-one-year-old student in Geneva named Albert Einstein used his theories in proving the existence of the atom and demonstrating the particle nature of light. In retrospect, Boltzmann can be seen as a near-tragic protagonist in the greatest intellectual drama of the twentieth century: the overthrow of matter.



Source:

Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





January 13, 2010

Obama Leaves Exciting Global Warming Summit Early Due to D.C. Blizzard




CopenhagenClimateConferenceSleepC2010-01-07.jpg"A delegate from China sleeps during a break in an all-night plenary meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen." Source of caption and photo: http://img4.allvoices.com/thumbs/event/900/570/44914193-delegate-from.jpg.


(p. A17) COPENHAGEN -- The global effort to combat climate change is stuck in essentially the same place after a massive United Nations summit that it was before the confab: with major emitters deadlocked over how much each of them should have to do to curb the rising output of greenhouse gases.


. . .


Mr. Obama . . . left before the final vote to try to beat a snowstorm that pounded the Washington, D.C., area this weekend.




For the full story, see:

JEFFREY BALL. "Summit Leaves Key Questions Unresolved; U.N. Effort in Copenhagen Sets Stage for Further Haggling Over Emissions Caps, Funds for Poor Nations." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., DECEMBER 21, 2009): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)


CopenhagenClimateConferenceSleepB2010-01-07.jpg"A delegate sleeps during a break in an all-night plenary meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen December 19, 2009." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited above.


CopenhagenClimateConferenceSleep2010-01-07.jpg"A French delegate sleeps during all-night discussions at Copenhagen." Source of caption and photo: http://www.rfi.fr/actuen/images/120/FRANCECOPEN432.jpg.





January 12, 2010

World's Poor Care More About Food and Illness than Global Warming




(p. A21) The saddest fact of climate change--and the chief reason we should be concerned about finding a proper response--is that the countries it will hit hardest are already among the poorest and most long-suffering.

In the run-up to this month's global climate summit in Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Consensus Center dispatched researchers to the world's most likely global-warming hot spots. Their assignment: to ask locals to tell us their views about the problems they face. Over the past seven weeks, I recounted in these pages what they told us concerned them the most. In nearly every case, it wasn't global warming.

Everywhere we went we found people who spoke powerfully of the need to focus more attention on more immediate problems. In the Bauleni slum compound in Lusaka, Zambia, 27-year-old Samson Banda asked, "If I die from malaria tomorrow, why should I care about global warming?" In a camp for stateless Biharis in Bangladesh, 45-year-old Momota Begum said, "When my kids haven't got enough to eat, I don't think global warming will be an issue I will be thinking about." On the southeast slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, 45-year-old widow and HIV/AIDS sufferer Mary Thomas said she had noticed changes in the mountain's glaciers, but declared: "There is no need for ice on the mountain if there is no people around because of HIV/AIDS."




For the full commentary, see:

BJORN LOMBORG. "OPINION; Time for a Smarter Approach to Global Warming; Investing in energy R&D might work. Mandated emissions cuts won't.." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., DECEMBER 15, 2009): A21.





January 11, 2010

NSF Study Shows Many Himalayan Glaciers Growing Larger




HimalayasWesternIce2010-01-07.jpg"This photo taken from the International Space Station in 2004 shows the abundance of ice in the Himalayas, upon which much of the continent of Asia relies for water." Source of caption and photo: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.


(p. 1A) Two UNO professors have discovered that some glaciers in Pakistan are growing in size -- a discovery that could toss them into the center of a climate-change controversy.


. . .


(p. 2A) News of the research is beginning to leak into science publications. "Science" magazine, for instance, mentioned the as-yet unpublished University of Nebraska at Omaha research in a November story about the debate over Himalayan glaciers.

The UNO research team will attract more attention Friday, when Shroder and Bishop give their presentation at the American Geophysical Union's annual conference.

What they'll present is decades in the making: Shroder first received federal funding to study Afghanistan's geography and geology in 1977, and he has taken 20 research trips to Pakistan since then.

Using a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Shroder and Bishop and a team of graduate students trekked to a group of glaciers clustered around K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, in 2005.

What they found was startling: Their on-the-ground research and satellite images show that many of the glaciers are growing in the rugged, mostly uninhabited region on the Pakistani-Chinese border.


. . .


Shroder achieved brief fame in intelligence circles when he snuck from Kabul to the Salang Pass in northern Afghanistan in the 1980s. There, he took photos of North Korean troops who had crossed the border to support the Red Army -- knowledge that American intelligence agencies didn't have until Shroder handed over the photos.

Now the veteran professor is bracing himself for a potential backlash when the UNO team's research paper comes out in the next few weeks.




For the full story, see:

Matthew Hansen. "UNO Scientists Pinpoint Global Warming Oddity in Himalayas." Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., December 17, 2009): 1A-2A.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article had the title "These glaciers are growing.")



ShroderJack2010-01-07.jpg












Regents Professor Jack Shroder. Source of photo: http://www.unomaha.edu/glims/img/Portraits/Jack%20shroder-visa.jpg






January 10, 2010

"If I Listened to Logical People I Would Never Have Succeeded"




We may never know if Gilder's optimism about Takahashi's DRAM initiative was prescient or misguided. Takahashi died of pneumonia at at age 60 in 1989, the same year that Gilder's Mircocosm book was published. (Takahashi's successor abandoned the DRAM initiative.)


(p. 154) Many experts said it could not be done. DRAMs represent the most demanding feat of mass production in all world commerce. None of the complex procedures is easy to automate. Automation itself, moreover, is no final solution to the problems of dust and contamination. Machines collect and shed particles and toxic wastes nearly as much as people do. Chip experts derided the view that these ten-layered and multiply patterned electronic devices, requiring hundreds of process steps, resembled ball bearings in any significant way.

Takahashi knew all that. But experts had derided almost every decision he had made throughout his career. "Successful people," he says, "surprise the world by doing things that ordinary logical people (p. 155) think are stupid." The experts told him he could not compete in America with New Hampshire Ball Bearing. He ended up buying it. The experts and bankers had told him not to build his biggest ball-bearing plants in Singapore and Thailand. Those plants arc now the world's most productive. The experts told him not to buy two major facilities in the United Stares, full of obsolescent equipment and manned by high-priced workers. But those facilities now dominate the American market for precision ball bearings. Now the experts told him he couldn't make DRAMs. He knew he could. "If I listened to logical people," he says, "I would never have succeeded."




Source:

Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.





January 9, 2010

Bose Leapfrogs the Competition in Defense of Your Peace and Quiet




BoseQuietComfort15.jpg"The Bose QuietComfort 15 has refined circuitry and redesigned earcaps." Source of caption: print version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. B8) . . . , if your sales are getting eaten alive by cheaper rivals, and you don't want to play the price game, you have only one option: play leapfrog. Make your gadget so much better than the me-toos that people will be willing to pay your premium once again.

That's the idea behind Bose's new QuietComfort 15 model ($300), which replaces the QuietComfort 2.


. . .


First, the QC15 model really, truly does advance the art of noise cancellation -- big time. The QC 2 headphones and my Panasonics cut the airplane roar by half. But the 15 reduced it by, say, 85 percent, leaving only a distant, whispery whoosh to remind you that you're in an aluminum tube 39,000 feet up in the air. Taking them off after a while, as you'll want to do because your ears get sweaty, is like walking into a rock concert when you've been outside the building.




For the full story, see:

DAVID POGUE. "State of the Art; Ho Ho Ho? You Won't Hear a Thing." The New York Times (Thurs., December 3, 2009): B1 & B8.

(Note: the online version of the article is "State of the Art; Bose's Latest Headphones Can Quell the Clangor" and is dated December 2, 2009.)

(Note: ellipses added.)





January 8, 2010

Obama's Bigger Government Brings More Lobbyists to Washington




(p. A21) One insight distinguished Barack Obama from the other presidential candidates last year. While he lacked experience or a special grasp of issues, Mr. Obama said he uniquely understood what ails Washington, and what was causing the endless squabbling and bitter stalemate on important issues. If elected, he said he would change the way business is done in Washington, end the partisan deadlock and the ideological polarization.

"Change must come to Washington," Mr. Obama said in a June 2008 speech. "I have consistently said when it comes to solving problems," he told Jake Tapper of ABC News that same month, "I don't approach this from a partisan or ideological perspective."

Mr. Obama also decried the prominent role played by lobbyists. "Lobbyists aren't just a part of the system in Washington, they're part of the problem," Mr. Obama said in a May 2008 campaign speech.

I was reminded of this last statement by a recent headline on the front page of USA Today. It read: "Health care fight swells lobbying. Number of organizations hiring firms doubles in '09." The article suggested that what Mr. Obama had promised to fix had only gotten worse.


. . .


In Washington it's business as usual, except for one thing. The bigger the role of government, the more lobbyists flock to town. By pushing for his policies, the president effectively put up a welcome sign to lobbyists. Despite promising to keep them out of his administration, he has even hired a few. So nothing has changed, except maybe that Washington is now more acrimonious than it has been.




For the full commentary, see:

FRED BARNES. "OPINION; Why Obama Isn't Changing Washington; There is no way he can grow the government without attracting more lobbyists and more political acrimony." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., NOVEMBER 27, 2009): A21.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the date of the online version is given as NOVEMBER 26, 2009.)





January 7, 2010

"Today You Can Be What You Want to Be"




CzechDemonstrator1989-11-25.jpg"In this Nov. 25, 1989, file photo a Czech demonstrator overcome by emotion after hearing about the resignation of the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Prague." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A16) . . . Mirek Kodym, 56, a ponytailed former security guard who published illegal political and literary tracts before 1989 and marched on Tuesday as he had 20 years ago, said the Velvet Revolution had been a seminal moment in which a beleaguered nation had finally tasted freedom.

"Today you can be what you want to be and do what you want to do, and no one will interfere," he said. "The nostalgia for the past is a stupid thing."




For the full story, see:

DAN BILEFSKY. "Celebrating Revolution With Roots in a Rumor." The New York Times (Weds., November 18, 2009): A16.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated November 17, 2009.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)



CzechVelvetRevolutionCandles2009-12-20.jpg"The former Czech Republic's president Vaclav Havel, background center, with a red scarf, placed a candle at a commemoration of the so-called Velvet Revolution, in Prague on Tuesday." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






January 6, 2010

Replication Easier than "Sweat and Anguish" of First Discovery




(p. 137) No one will deny that Japan's triumph in semiconductors depended on American inventions. But many analysts rush on to a further theory that the Japanese remained far behind the United States until the mid- 1970s and caught up only through a massive government program of industrial targeting of American inventions by MITI.

Perhaps the leading expert on the subject is Makoto Kikuchi, a twenty-six-year veteran of MITI laboratories, now director of the Sony Research Center. The creator of the first transistor made in Japan, he readily acknowledges the key role of American successes in fueling the advances in his own country: "Replicating someone else's experiment, no matter how much painful effort it might take, is nothing compared with the sweat and anguish of the men who first made the discovery."

Kikuchi explains: "No matter how many failures I had, I knew that somewhere in the world people had already succeeded in making a transistor. The first discoverers . . . had to continue their work, their long succession of failures, face-to-face with the despairing possibility that in the end they might never succeed. . . . As I fought my own battle with the transistor, I felt this lesson in my very bones." Working at MITI's labs, Kikuchi was deeply grateful for the technological targets offered by American inventors.




Source:

Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.

(Note: ellipses in original.)





January 5, 2010

Heart Disease Is Not Just a Malady of Modern Societies, But "Is Part of the Human Condition"




MummyScanHeartDisease2009-12-21.jpg"Scientists scanned 20 mummies, and examined scans of two more, for the study." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A5) ORLANDO, Fla. -- Researchers said they found evidence of hardening of the arteries in Egyptian mummies dating as far back as 3,500 years, challenging longstanding assumptions that cardiovascular disease is mainly a malady of modern societies.

A team of heart-imaging experts and Egyptologists examined 22 mummies from the Egyptian National Museum of Antiquities in Cairo in a CT scanning machine, looking for evidence of calcium buildup that could indicate vascular disease.

They were able to identify the hearts, arteries or both in 16 of the mummies, nine of whom had deposits of calcification. An analysis determined the deposits were either definite or probable evidence of atherosclerosis, the condition that leads to heart attacks and strokes.

"Not only do we have atherosclerosis now, it was prevalent as long as 3,500 years ago," said Gregory Thomas, a cardiologist and imaging specialist at University of California, Irvine, who was principal investigator of the study. "It is part of the human condition."

The research was presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association scientific meeting here. A report is also scheduled to appear in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.




For the full story, see:

RON WINSLOW. "Heart Disease Found in Egyptian Mummies." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., NOVEMBER 18, 2009): A5.

(Note: the online version of the article has a date of NOVEMBER 19, 2009 and is titled "Heart Disease Found in Egyptian Mummies.")





January 4, 2010

"Claims that Climate Change Is Accelerating Are Bizarre"




The author quoted below on global warming is a Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


(p. A19) Is there a reason to be alarmed by the prospect of global warming? Consider that the measurement used, the globally averaged temperature anomaly (GATA), is always changing. Sometimes it goes up, sometimes down, and occasionally--such as for the last dozen years or so--it does little that can be discerned.

Claims that climate change is accelerating are bizarre. There is general support for the assertion that GATA has increased about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the middle of the 19th century. The quality of the data is poor, though, and because the changes are small, it is easy to nudge such data a few tenths of a degree in any direction. Several of the emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have caused such a public ruckus dealt with how to do this so as to maximize apparent changes.

The general support for warming is based not so much on the quality of the data, but rather on the fact that there was a little ice age from about the 15th to the 19th century. Thus it is not surprising that temperatures should increase as we emerged from this episode.




For the full commentary, see:

RICHARD S. LINDZEN. "The Climate Science Isn't Settled; Confident predictions of catastrophe are unwarranted." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., December 1, 2009): A19.

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated NOVEMBER 30, 2009.)





January 3, 2010

Castro Agents Beat Up Cuban Blogger




SanchezYoaniCubanBlogger2009-12-19.jpg"Blogger Yoani Sánchez speaks at home in Havana on Monday, days after she says she was beaten by Cuban agents." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. A14) Yoani Sánchez, Cuba's most prominent dissident blogger, was walking along a Havana street last Friday along with two other bloggers and a friend when two men she says were Cuban agents in civilian clothes forced her inside an unmarked black car and beat her, telling her to stop criticizing the government.

The assault, believed to be the first against the growing blogger movement on the island, has cast a spotlight on the country's record of repression, highlighting how little change there has been in political freedoms during the nearly three years since Raúl Castro took over as president from retired dictator Fidel Castro.

A decline in tourism revenues from the global recession and damage from several hurricanes last year have prompted the island's government to clamp down even harder on dissent and freedom of speech, according to a recent report by the Inter American Press Association, a watchdog group.

The group said Cuba currently has 26 journalists in jail, and it cited 102 incidents against Cuban journalists in the past year, including beatings, arbitrary arrests and death threats.




For the full story, see:

DAVID LUHNOW. "Beating Rattles Cuban Bloggers." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., NOVEMBER 11, 2009): A14.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated NOVEMBER 12, 2009.)





January 2, 2010

Entrepreneurial Innovation Comes from Diverse Outsiders Rather than Establishments




(p. 113) Firms that win by the curve of mind often abandon it when they establish themselves in the world of matter. They fight to preserve the value of their material investments in plant and equipment that embody the ideas and experience of their early years of success. They begin to exalt expertise and old knowledge, rights and reputation, over the constant learning and experience of innovative capitalism. They get fat.

A fat cat drifting off the curve, however, is a sitting duck for new nations and companies getting on it. The curve of mind thus tends to favor outsiders over establishments of all kinds. At the capitalist ball, the blood is seldom blue or the money rarely seasoned. Microcosmic technologies are no exception. Capitalism's most lavish display, the microcosm, is no respecter of persons.

The United States did not enter the microcosm through the portals of the Ivy League, with Brooks Brothers suits, gentleman Cs, and warbling society wives. Few people who think they are in already can summon the energies to break in. From immigrants and outcasts, street toughs and science wonks, nerds and boffins, the bearded and the beer-bellied, the tacky and uptight, and sometimes weird, the born again and born yesterday, with Adam's apples bobbing, psyches (p. 114) throbbing, and acne galore, the fraternity of the pizza breakfast, the Ferrari dream, the silicon truth, the midnight modem, and the seventy-hour week, from dirt farms and redneck shanties, trailer parks and Levittowns, in a rainbow parade of all colors and wavelengths, of the hyperneat and the sty high, the crewcut and khaki, the pony-tailed and punk, accented from Britain and Madras, from Israel and Malaya, from Paris and Parris Island, from Iowa and Havana, from Brooklyn and Boise and Belgrade and Vienna and Vietnam, from the coarse fanaticism and desperation, ambition and hunger, genius and sweat of the outsider, the downtrodden, the banished, and the bullied come most of the progress in the world and in Silicon Valley.





Source:

Gilder, George. Microcosm: The Quantum Revolution in Economics and Technology. Paperback ed. New York: Touchstone, 1990.





January 1, 2010

Castro's "Absolute Personal Dictatorship" Denounced By Former Member of Cuban Inner Circle




AutobiographyOfFidelCastroBK.jpg















Source of book image:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2575/4095461227_09463c5680.jpg



(p. C1) The plethora of dictators, despots and revolutionaries-turned-authoritarians south of the border has spawned a genre of literature that might be called the Latin American Strongman Novel -- a genre that includes harrowing novels based on real historical figures, like Mario Vargas Llosa's dazzling "Feast of the Goat" (which depicted Rafael Trujillo's devastating rule over the Dominican Republic) and more mythic creations, like Gabriel García Márquez's "Autumn of the Patriarch," that have employed the sorcery of magical realism to conjure larger-than-life fictional tyrants in a panoply of ruthlessness, audacity and corruption.

The latest in this tradition of books is Norberto Fuentes's fascinating new novel, "The Autobiography of Fidel Castro," which purports to tell the longtime Cuban leader's story in his own words. The "self-portrait" that emerges from these pages is that of a Machiavellian survivor: an egomaniac who identifies himself with the revolution but who is loyal not to a cause, not to an ideology, not to his compatriots, but only to his own ambition.

This Fidel is narcissistically longwinded, like his real-life counterpart. He is also a self-mythologizing change agent who succeeds in making himself "the neurological center of an entire nation" -- a wily Nietzschean operator who believes in the force of his own will, while sensing that "the chameleon is going to last longer under his rock than the lion, despite its roaring and lean muscles." He is a cynical master of manipulation and strategic maneuvering, a skilled practitioner of the black arts of propaganda and gamesmanship who always wants "to keep people guessing."

A journalist and Hemingway (p. C7) scholar, Mr. Fuentes was once a cheerleader of the revolution and part of Mr. Castro's inner circle himself. He grew disillusioned with the Cuban leader, however, after two army officers were executed in 1989 on what many believe were trumped-up charges. Mr. Fuentes fell out of favor, came under government surveillance and was detained after a failed attempt to flee Cuba by boat. After a hunger strike and the intervention of Mr. García Márquez, he was allowed to leave the country in 1994, and has since denounced Mr. Castro for his "absolute personal dictatorship" and willingness "to do anything necessary to stay in power."




For the full story, see:

MICHIKO KAKUTANI. "Books of The Times; Fiction Trying for Truth in Novel's View of Dictator." The New York Times (Tues., December 15, 2009): C1 & C7.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated Mon., December 14, 2009.)



FuentesNorberto2009-12-19.jpg





"Norberto Fuentes" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






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