« July 2010 | Main | September 2010 »


August 31, 2010

Legalizing Drugs in U.S. Would Reduce Mexican Crime Wave




FoxVicente2010-08-29.jpg

Vicente Fox. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 14) Is there anything to be done about the drug wars that are terrorizing Mexicans today and that have reportedly caused 25,000 deaths in the past three years?
That has to be dealt with together by the United States and Mexico. It's a joint problem and a joint challenge. The U.S. provides the markets and guns that come back to Mexico and allow the cartels to be active.

You think the United States is causing Mexico's crime wave?
Absolutely, yes. The cartel gangs are nourished through the drug consumption in the United States. That's why my position is that we should move as fast as possible into legalizing drug consumption.




For the full interview, see:

DEBORAH SOLOMON. "QUESTIONS FOR VICENTE FOX; Border Rap." The New York Times, Magazine Section (Sun., July 25, 2010): 14.

(Note: bold in original, to indicate questions by Deborah Solomon.)

(Note: the online version of the interview is dated July 23, 2010.)


.




August 30, 2010

Districts with More Government Pork Have Less Private Hiring




(p. A19) You can't read models, but you do talk to entrepreneurs in Racine and Yakima. Higher deficits will make them more insecure and more risk-averse, not less. They're afraid of a fiscal crisis. They're afraid of future tax increases. They don't believe government-stimulated growth is real and lasting. Maybe they are wrong to feel this way, but they do. And they are the ones who invest and hire, not the theorists.

The Demand Siders are brilliant, but they write as if changing fiscal policy were as easy as adjusting the knob on your stove. In fact, it's very hard to get money out the door and impossible to do it quickly. It's hard to find worthwhile programs to pour money into. Once programs exist, it's nearly impossible to kill them. Spending now creates debt forever and ever.

Moreover, public spending seems to have odd knock-off effects. Professors Lauren Cohen, Joshua Coval and Christopher Malloy of Harvard surveyed 42 years of government spending increases in certain Congressional districts. They found that federal spending increases dampened corporate hiring and investment in those districts.



For the full commentary, see:

DAVID BROOKS. "A Little Economic Realism." The New York Times (Tues., July 6, 2010): A19.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 5, 2010.)


The research referenced is:

Cohen, Lauren, Joshua D. Coval, and Christopher J. Malloy. "Do Powerful Politicians Cause Corporate Downsizing?" NBER Working Paper No.15839, March 2010.





August 29, 2010

Cro-Magnon Provides Baseline to Measure Our Progress




Cro-MagnonBK.jpg















Source of book image:
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51BS%2BtGJZ8L.jpg



Biologically modern humans have inhabited the world for at least 50,000 years, and maybe for 100,000 years or more.

Only in the last 200 years, and especially the last 100 years, has humanity made substantial progress in the quality and quantity of life.

Usually the most recent 200 years are compared with the previous few thousand, because conditions in the previous few thousand years are much better known than those in the tens of thousands of years further in the past.

But comparisons further back are of interest, and Brian Fagan's book Cro-Magnon is a source of some information that allows us to do so to some extent.

In the next few weeks, I will occasionally be quoting a few passages from Fagan that I believe are suggestive.


The reference for the Fagan book is:

Fagan, Brian. Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010.





August 28, 2010

Cuban Health Care Checkup




(p. A17) . . . it's a good time to check in on the state of the Cuban health-care system. That's just what Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, does in the current issue of Foreign Affairs magazine.


. . .


Slightly more than half of all Cuban physicians work overseas; taxed by the Cuban state at a 66% rate, many of them wind up defecting. Doctors who remain in the country earn about $25 a month. As a result, Ms. Garrett writes, they often take "jobs as taxi drivers or in hotels," where they can make better money. As for the quality of the doctors, she notes that very few of those who manage to reach the U.S. can gain accreditation here, partly because of the language barrier, partly because of the "stark differences" in medical training. Typically, they wind up working as nurses.

As for the quality of medical treatment in Cuba, Ms. Garrett reports that hospital patients must arrive with their own syringes, towels and bed sheets. Women avoid gynecological exams "because they fear infection from unhygienic equipment and practices." Rates of cervical cancer have doubled in the past 25 years as the use of Pap tests has fallen by 30%.

And while Cuba's admirers love to advertise the country's low infant mortality rate (at least according to the Castro regime's dubious self-reporting) the flip-side has been a high rate of maternal mortality. "Most deaths," Ms. Garrett writes, "occur during delivery or within the next 48 hours and are caused by uterine hemorrhage or postpartum sepsis."



For the full commentary, see:

BRET STEPHENS. "Dr. Berwick and That Fabulous Cuban Health Care; The death march of progressive medicine." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., JULY 13, 2010): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)


Reference to the Garrett article:

Garrett, Laurie A. "Castrocare in Crisis; Will Lifting the Embargo Make Things Worse?" Foreign Affairs 89, no. 4 (July/August 2010): 61-73.





August 27, 2010

Government Protects Us from Julie Murphy's Lemonade Stand




JulieMurphyLemonadeStand2010-08-16.jpgJulie Murphy and her lemonade stand. Source of photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A8) When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

When health inspectors cite you for it, get famous.

Julie Murphy, a 7-year-old Oregonian, set up a lemonade stand on July 29 at an art fair in northeast Portland. County health inspectors shut her down, however, telling Julie and her mother, Maria Fife, that they needed a temporary restaurant license, which costs $120. The penalty for selling food without a permit, they warned, was $500. At 50 cents a cup, that's a lot of lemonade.

Others at the fair urged the family to give away the lemonade, and they wrote "free" and "suggested donation" on Julie's sign with a marker. But the inspectors were unmoved.

Julie left the fair in tears.



For the full story, see:

JOHN SCHWARTZ. "Sorry, Kid: No License, No Lemonade." The New York Times (Sat., August 7, 2010): A8.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated August 6, 2010.)





August 26, 2010

Air Conditioning as "the Antithesis of Passive Resignation"




In the passage quoted below, Severgnini captures something of the truth. Americans, at their best, have sought to control nature in order to make life longer and happier.

But Severgnini does not see that there is a difference between seeking to control nature and seeking to control other people. At its best, America excels at the former, and refrains from the latter.


(p. W9) A few years ago, Italian journalist Beppe Severgnini recounted his adventures in the U.S. in the book "Ciao, America!" in which he offered up humorous musings on many of the standard European complaints about the American way of living. Mr. Severgnini allows that he rather admires the Yankee "urge to control the outside world," whether that means sending planes off an aircraft carrier or sending out technicians from Carrier.

He notes that the refusal to suffer the sweaty indignity of equatorial heat is "the antithesis of passive resignation," and thus a perfect expression of the can-do American character. "In America, air-conditioning is not simply a way of cooling down a room," Mr. Severgnini writes. "It is an affirmation of supremacy."



For the full commentary, see:

ERIC FELTEN. "DE GUSTIBUS; The Big Chill: Giving AC the Cold Shoulder." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 23, 2010): W9.






August 25, 2010

Lux et Veritas





japan_korea_lights2010-08-05.jpgSource of photo: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/EarthPerspectives/


What is the extended island-country on the right side of the photo above?

OK, if you got that one, here's a harder question: What is the smaller island-country to the left of the extended island-country?

Stumped? Well it's a trick question. The island-country to the left is South Korea.

But, you say, South Korea is no island.

You are right. (But then ponder why it looks like an island.)



Credits:

I first saw a version of the above photo, and heard a version of the above interpretation, in a wonderful presentation by Tony Woodlief at the MBM University at Wichita in July 2010.

The photo is a satellite composite from NASA.

"Lux et Veritas" is the motto of Yale University and is Latin for "Light and Truth." (Three years of high school Latin pay off again---thank you Miss Noble and Miss Rohrer!)





August 24, 2010

Wozniak "Lucky" to Be Young "Just as a Revolution Is About to Take Off"




(p. 299) If you're as lucky as I've been, then you'll get to live in a time when you're young just as a revolution is about to take off. Just like Henry Ford was there for the automotive industry, I was there to see and build the first personal computers.

Back in the mid-1990s when I was teaching school, I thought one time to myself, Wow, I wish I could be twelve now, look at the things I could do with what's out there now.

(p. 300) But then I realized I was lucky. I got to see the before, the during, and the after of some of those changes in life. I got to be one of those few people who could effect some of those changes.

Excellence came to me from not having much money, and also from having good building skills but not having done these products before.

I hope you'll be as lucky as I am. The world needs inventors--great ones. You can be one. If you love what you do and are willing to do what it takes, it's within your reach. And it'll be worth every minute you spend alone at night, thinking and thinking about what it is you want to design or build. It'll be worth it, I promise.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





August 23, 2010

"The Survival of Freedom and Accountable, Limited Government Is an Enormously Important Value"




GellnerErnest2010-08-05.jpg "Ernest Gellner in his office at the London School of Economics in 1979." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. W8) 'I am sorry, I have written another," Ernest Gellner used to say in his later years before publishing a new book. "I just couldn't help it." Not even his death in 1995 stopped the flow. The last of his posthumous works, "Language and Solitude," appeared in the late 1990s. Now Gellner has been brought back to life--alongside his combative ideas and his maverick approach to intellectual combat--in a sympathetic but by no means reverential biography by his former pupil John A. Hall.


. . .


Many of the problems that Gellner addressed during his long intellectual career--such as the roots of nationalism and the role of contemporary Islam--are obviously of direct relevance today. But the most pertinent part of his legacy lies in his fearless endorsement of Western modernity at a time when it was becoming increasingly embattled in the academy and elsewhere.

As Mr. Hall demonstrates, Gellner believed that there really was a clash between "liberty and pluralism," on the one hand, and "authoritarianism and oppressiveness" on the other. In a passionate riposte to Noam Chomsky, who had accused him of ignoring Western crimes, Gellner charged that his critic had "obscured" the fact that "the survival of freedom and accountable, limited government is an enormously important value even when some of its defenders are occasionally tarnished."

This was the authentic voice of Ernest Gellner: honest, cool and reasonable. Mr. Hall is to be congratulated for reminding us of how much we miss it today.



For the full review, see:

BRENDAN SIMMS. "A Combatant in the Battle of Ideas; A defender of the West when it was most embattled, a defender of reason at a time of dangerous irrationality." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., JULY 23, 2010): W8.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 30 (sic), 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The book under review, is:

Hall, John A. Ernest Gellner: An Intellectual Biography. London, UK: Verso, 2010.


ErnestGellnerBK.jpg













Source of book image: online version of the WSJ review quoted and cited above.












August 22, 2010

"Pork Actually Pushes Private Investment Out of a State"




Some West Virginia miners may have faced unemployment due to technological progress. But what they needed to improve their situation was economic growth from private enterprise, rather than Senator Robert Byrd's federal pork.


(p. A11) . . . mining companies developed more efficient techniques for extracting coal and natural gas, which eliminated the need for many blue collar jobs. Laid-off workers lacked the skills to attract other types of businesses and college students couldn't find jobs after graduation, so they left. Such dramatic changes would be serious obstacles for any politician.

. . .


By contrast, Byrd's solution was to steer federal largess to his state.


. . .


Take Route 50. Thirty years ago, the federal government extended the route from two lanes to four with the hopes of spurring development. But hit the open road today and you'll notice it's just that--open. "You won't see another car for two hours," says Russell Sobel, a professor of economics at West Virginia University. "You can't just build roads and expect that things will happen. People who want to transport goods and services need to be there."


. . .


"We've created this culture of dependency," warns Mr. Sobel, "Our human capital is not good at competing in the marketplace; it's good at securing federal grants."

Federal funding is a shaky foundation for an economy because no one can replace Big Daddy. In their recently released paper "Do Powerful Politicians Cause Corporate Downsizing?" Harvard professors Lauren Cohen, Joshua Coval and Christopher Malloy found that states that lose chairmanships on important congressional committees lose 20% to 30% in earmarks.

Even worse, they found that pork actually pushes private investment out of a state. When the federal government intrudes, it raises demand for the state's workers and real estate, jacking up prices. Often, companies can't compete, so they flee.



For the full commentary, see:

BRIAN BOLDUC. "CROSS COUNTRY; Robert Byrd's Highways to Nowhere; Government pork hasn't made West Virginia prosperous." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., JULY 10, 2010): A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)


The research referenced is:

Cohen, Lauren, Joshua D. Coval, and Christopher J. Malloy. "Do Powerful Politicians Cause Corporate Downsizing?" NBER Working Paper No.15839, March 2010.





August 21, 2010

Feds' Sugar Quotas Lead to More Demand for Obesity-Causing Corn Syrup




CornSyrupGraph2010-08-05.jpgSource of graph: online version of the Omaha World-Herald article quoted and cited below.


The federal government puts quotas on the amount of sugar that can be imported from abroad, with the result that U.S. consumers pay higher prices for sugar. One result, as taught in economics micro principles courses, is that demand increases for sugar substitutes, such as corn syrup.

Evidence is accumulating (see below) that corn syrup is worse for our health than sugar.

Michelle Obama is leading a drive to reduce obesity. If she is serious, she can begin by asking her husband to ask his congress to remove import quotas on sugar.


(p. 2A) Well-publicized research also has suggested that high fructose corn syrup poses an even greater threat of obesity and other health problems than regular table sugar.


. . .


Researchers at Princeton University made headlines earlier this year when they released the results of a study that found rats drinking a high fructose corn syrup beverage for six months showed abnormal weight gain and other factors indicating obesity. The study concluded that overconsumption of the sweetener "could very well be a major factor in the 'obesity epidemic,' which correlates with the upsurge in the use of HFCS."

A related study found that rats drinking the high fructose corn syrup solution gained more weight than rats drinking a basic sucrose solution.

"The conclusion from that is that high fructose corn syrup and sucrose are not the same after all," said Bart Hoebel, the professor who worked on the study.



For the full story, see:

Ross Boettcher and Joseph Morton. "Is Corn Syrup Slump Healthy? ConAgra, Farmers Divided." Omaha World-Herald (Wednesday, July 26, 2010): 1A-2A.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 26, 2010 and has the title "Consumers sour on sugars.)





August 20, 2010

Wozniak on Borrowing Xerox Parc's Graphical User Interface (GUI)




(p. 293) But there was one exception. Right around 1980, Steve and a bunch of us from Apple got to tour the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) facility, which is one of Xerox's research and development labs.

Inside, for the first time ever, we saw real video displays--computer monitors--and they were showing something entirely new They were showing the first graphical user interface (GUI)--art interface that lets you interact with icons and menus to control a program.

(p. 294) Up to this point, everything had been text-based. That's going to sound odd to all the people who don't remember it, but that's how everything worked back then. A computer user had to actually type in text commands--long, complicated ones--to make something happen.

But this experimental Xerox computer had windows popping up all over the place. And they were using this funny-looking device everyone now knows as a mouse, clicking on words and small pictures, the icons, to make things happen.

The minute I saw this interface, I knew it was the future. There wasn't a doubt in my mind. It was like a one-way door to the future--and once you went through it, you could never turn back. It was such a huge improvement in using computers. The GUI meant you could get a computer to do the same things it could normally do, but with much less physical and mental effort. It meant that nontechnical people could do some pretty powerful things with computers without having to sit there and learn how to type in long commands. Also, it let several different programs run in separate windows at the same time. That was powerful!

A few years later, Apple designed the Lisa computer, and later the Macintosh, around this concept. And Microsoft did it a couple years after that with Microsoft Windows. And now, more than twenty-five years after we saw that experimental computer in the Xerox PARC lab, all computers work like this.

It's so rare to be able to see the future like that. I can't promise it'll happen to you. But when you see it, you know it. If this ever happens to you, leap at the chance to get involved. Trust your instincts. It isn't often that the future lets you in like that.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





August 19, 2010

Employment Further Below Trend than Any Time in Half Century




EmploymentRelativeToJobGrowthTrendGraph2010-08-05.gif

















Source of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A15) The number of nonfarm private jobs has been growing steadily since the 1950s. That number reached a peak at the end of 2007. Between 1958 and 2007, the number of U.S. jobs grew to 115.4 million from 43.5 million--about 2% per year on average. The steady upward trend reflects the long-run growth of the economy and increased participation in the labor force.

The nearby chart compares employment and that trend. It shows the percentage difference between employment and the trend line generated from monthly employment figures over the past 50 years (July 1960 through June 2010).

What we see is astounding. For almost 25 years--between 1984 and late 2008--the level of employment never fell to more than 3% below the trend line. Over that period, total employment grew by more than 36 million.

Employment fell briefly to about 6% below the trend during two previous recessions: in 1975 and again in 1982-1983. During those periods, the unemployment-rate peaks were 9% (in 1974) and 10.8% (in 1982). The unemployment rate in 2009 peaked at 10.1%.

By 2010, however, employment had fallen to about 10% below the trend, far below any previous level in the last half-century.



For the full commentary, see:

PAUL GODEK. "Jobless Numbers Are Worse Than You Think; The situation is much more dire now than it was during the 1980s." The Wall Street Journal (Fri., JULY 23, 2010): A15.





August 18, 2010

Carbon Dioxide Increased After the Globe Warmed, Not Before




The passages quoted below are from an opinion piece by retired physicist Jack Kasher who was a colleague of mine at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.


I was pleased to see that the Millard school district pulled Laurie David's book, "The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming," due to "a major factual error" in a chart that shows rising temperatures and carbon dioxide levels dating back 650,000 years. The chart claims to show that global warming is caused by increases in carbon dioxide levels, but the facts show that this is not the case.

In May, I attended an international conference on global warming in Chicago, with 73 speakers from 23 countries. The book and its erroneous chart were discussed there. (Go online to http://www.heartland.org/events/2010Chicago/index.html and click on "proceedings" to see most of the talks and PowerPoint presentations.)

When the error is corrected, the chart will show that in every single case over this time span the Earth warmed up first, followed by a later increase in carbon dioxide. This is clear proof that in the past global warming was not caused by an increase in CO2. If anything, it is the other way around. In each instance, something other than CO2 caused the temperature increase, which then might have made the CO2 rise. This chart shows that past history actually contradicts David's main assumption in her book -- namely that man-made carbon dioxide is causing global warming.



For the full commentary, see:


Dr. Jack Kasher. "Midlands Voices: Let's include uncertainties in global-warming lessons." Omaha World-Herald (Wednesday June 30, 2010): ??.






August 17, 2010

"Portland Sucks" Pokes Fun at Angry, Elitest Localism




BechardEric2010-08-04.jpg"Mr. Bechard came to blows when he encountered the organizer of a national culinary contest held in Portland, over the winning pig from Iowa. He objected to the pig's origin because the flier he received from the event advertised local farms and local chefs." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A9) In its song "Portland Sucks," the local band White Fang pokes profanely at everything from the city's joblessness to its self-obsession and sometimes counterintuitive rigidity, from "angry vegans" to outspoken disciples of do-it-yourself ("DIY") culture (p. A12) -- localism in the extreme.

"Being elitist about it is kind of counterproductive," said Erik Gage, 21, the band's lead singer, . . .


. . .


For Mr. Bechard, it came down to this: never should a pig from Kansas or Iowa have even been entered in the contest; it only made it worse that the Iowa pig won. After all, there are Red Wattle heritage pigs raised right here in Oregon. The chefs who competed work in Oregon, and most promote locally produced food.

"I get there and I get the flier and I'm immediately sickened because I'm seeing 'local,' 'sustainable,' 'local farms,' 'local chefs,' 'local wine,' " Mr. Bechard recalled, "and then two of the pigs are from Kansas and Iowa? I'm looking at my friend and he said, 'Eric, just let it go.' "

Many hours and drinks and insults later, witnesses told police Mr. Bechard was the aggressor when he encountered Brady Lowe, the event's Atlanta-based organizer, outside a bar. Words were hurled and fists flew. The police came, firing Tasers and pepper spray.

Mr. Lowe, who said his leg was fractured in the fight, said Mr. Bechard "missed the big picture" . . .

"To grow you need to bring in ideas from the outside or you're just living in a closed community," he added.



For the full story, see:

WILLIAM YARDLEY. "Portland Journal; The Pride and Prejudice of 'Local'." The New York Times (Fri., July 9, 2010): A9.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 8, 2010.)

(Note: ellipses added.)


WhiteFang2010-08-04.jpg"In its song, "Portland Sucks", the local band White Fang pokes profanely at everything from "angry vegans" to outspoken disciples of do-it-yourself culture--localism in the extreme. "Being elitist about it is kind of counterproductive," said Erik Gage, right, the band's lead singer. "You can argue about it, but I think one of the most important things about localism is getting along with the locals."" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





August 16, 2010

Wozniak Could Only Predict a Year or Two Ahead in Technology




(p. 293) If you could easily predict the future, inventing things would be a lot easier! Predicting the future is difficult even if you're involved with products that are guiding computers, the way we were at Apple.

When I was at Apple in the l970s and 1980s, we would always try to look ahead and see where things were going. It was actually easy to see a year or two ahead, because we were the ones building the products and had all these contacts at other companies. But beyond that, it was tough to see. The only thing we could absolutely rely upon had to do with Moore's Law--the now-famous rule in electronics (named for Intel founder Gordon Moore) that says that every eighteen months you can pack twice the number of transistors on a chip.

That meant computers could keep getting smaller and cheaper. We saw that. But we had a hard time imagining what kinds of applications could take advantage of all this power. We didn't expect high-speed modems. We didn't expect computers to have large amounts of hard-disk storage built in. We didn't see the Internet growing out of the ARPANET and becoming accessible to everyone. Or digital cameras. We didn't see any of that. We really could only see what was right in front of us, a year or two out, max.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





August 15, 2010

artdiamondblog.com Turned 5 on July 15th





DiamondBlogArticle2010-07-24.jpgThe article image above is a screen capture from the online PDF of the article cited below.



I usually celebrate the birthday of this blog with a few comments, and sometimes statistics, about blogging, and this blog in particular.

I had thought once or twice about the impending birthday, but as the day approached had forgotten about. On July 15th my former student, loyal reader, and friend, Aaron Brown sent me an email reminding me of the date (thanks Aaron!).

For the month of June 2010, Gongol.com's ranking of economics blogs ranks my blog 43rd in terms of "average daily pageviews" and 39th in terms of "average daily visits."

In the spring the blog was receiving roughly 2500 - 3000 visits a day. In June and July, as of this writing on 7/24/10, it has been receiving 1500 - 2000 visits per day. (This is consistent with my guess that students are a large part of my viewers.)

The blog occasionally receives recognition. I was invited by the Kauffman Foundation to participate in their quarterly survey of influential economics blogs, and have participated in three of their surveys so far.

A small article appeared on the blog in the Summer 2010 UNO Magazine. A reference to the article is:

Townley, Wendy. "UNO Economics Blogger Gains National Recognition." UNO Magazine (Summer 2010): 15.



DiamondBlog2010-07-24.jpg




Tim Fitzgerald took this photo which can be found online at: http://unoalumni.org/unomags10-thecolleges







August 14, 2010

Both New York City and Cars Assert Individuality and Enterprise




(p. C5) If the culture and character of some cities are closely associated with modes of transportation (gondolas in Venice, bicycles in Amsterdam), the automobile may be the defining force in New York, not because it decreed the layout of streets or because it is essential (as in Los Angeles), but because its assertion of individuality and enterprise and its readiness to expand beyond assigned boundaries had so much to do with the city's spirit.


For the full review, see:

EDWARD ROTHSTEIN. "Last Chance; Exhibition Review; The Anatomy of a Citywide Traffic Jam." The New York Times (Tues., July 20, 2010): C1 & C5.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 19, 2010.)






August 13, 2010

"Intimidation, Threats and Violence Against the White Farmers" in Zimbabwe




ForcingWhiteFarmerOffLand2010-08-04.jpg"A man tries to force a white Zimbabwean farmer off of his land in "Mugabe and the White African."" Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. C9) Lucy Bailey and Andrew Thompson's "Mugabe and the White African" is a documentary account of the efforts of Mike Campbell and his son-in-law, Ben Freeth, to hold onto their farm. It tracks their precedent-setting lawsuit against Robert Mugabe, the authoritarian Zimbabwean president, in a regional African court, as well as events on the ground in Zimbabwe: intimidation, threats and violence against the white farmers still holding out after a decade of land seizures by the government.

Many viewers will leave "Mugabe and the White African" thinking that they have seen few, if any, documentaries as wrenching, sad and infuriating, and those feelings will be justified. What has happened (and continues to happen) to the Campbells, the Freeths and some of their white neighbors is not only unjust but also a horrifying, slow-motion nightmare. That sensation is reinforced by the movie's political-thriller style, partly a result of the covert filming methods necessary in a country where practicing journalism can get you thrown in jail.



For the full movie review, see:

MIKE HALE. "Fighting His Country to Keep His Farmland." The New York Times (Fri., July 23, 2010): C9.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 22, 2010.)





August 12, 2010

Inventors Should Work Alone, Even If They Have to Moonlight




(p. 291) If you're that rare engineer who's an inventor and also an artist, I'm going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone.

When you're working for a large, structured company, there's much less leeway to turn clever ideas into revolutionary new products or product features by yourself. Money is, unfortunately, a god in our society, and those who finance your efforts are businesspeople with lots of experience at organizing contracts that define who owns what and what you can do on your own.

But you probably have little business experience, know-how, or acumen, and it'll be hard to protect your work or deal with all that corporate nonsense. I mean, those who provide the funding and tools and environment are often perceived as taking the credit for inventions. If you're a young inventor who wants to change the world, a corporate environment is the wrong place for you.

(p. 292) You're going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you're working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team. That means you're probably going to have to do what I did. Do your projects as moonlighting, with limited money and limited resources. But man, it'll be worth it in the end. It'll be worth it if this is really, truly what you want to do--invent things. If you want to invent things that can change the world, and not just work at a corporation working on other people's inventions, you're going to have to work on your own projects.

When you're working as your own boss, making decisions about what you're going to build and how you're going to go about it, making trade-offs as to features and qualities, it becomes a part of you. Like a child you love and want to support. You have huge motivation to create the best possible inventions--and you care about them with a passion you could never feel about an invention someone else ordered you to come up with.

And if you don't enjoy working on stuff for yourself--with your own money and your own resources, after work if you have to-- then you definitely shouldn't be doing it!

. . .


It's so easy to doubt yourself, and it's especially easy to doubt yourself when what you're working on is at odds with everyone else in the world who thinks they know the right way to do things. Sometimes you can't prove whether you're right or wrong. Only time can tell that. But if you believe in your own power to objectively reason, that's a key to happiness. And a key to confidence. Another key I found to happiness was to realize that I didn't have to disagree with someone and let it get all intense. If you believe in your own power to reason, you can just relax. You don't have to feel the pressure to set out and convince anyone. So don't sweat it! You have to trust your own designs, your own intuition, and your own understanding of what your invention needs to be.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.

(Note: Italics and centered ellipsis in original.)





August 11, 2010

Documenting Dangers of Growing Public Debt (and of Replacing History with Math)




RogoffReinhart2010-08-04.jpg "Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart at Ms. Reinhart's Washington home. They started their book around 2003, years before the economy began to crumble." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 1) Like a pair of financial sleuths, Ms. Reinhart and her collaborator from Harvard, Kenneth S. Rogoff, have spent years investigating wreckage scattered across documents from nearly a millennium of economic crises and collapses. They have wandered the basements of rare-book libraries, riffled through monks' yellowed journals and begged central banks worldwide for centuries-old debt records. And they have manually entered their findings, digit by digit, into one of the biggest spreadsheets you've ever seen.

Their handiwork is contained in their recent best seller, "This Time Is Different," a quantitative reconstruction of hundreds of historical episodes in which perfectly smart people made perfectly disastrous decisions. It is a panoramic opus, both geographically and temporally, covering crises from 66 countries over the last 800 years.

The book, and Ms. Reinhart's and Mr. Rogoff's own professional journeys as economists, zero in on some of the broader shortcomings of their trade -- thrown into harsh relief by economists' widespread failure to anticipate or address the financial crisis that began in 2007.

"The mainstream of academic research in macroeconomics puts theoretical coherence and elegance first, and investigating the data second," says Mr. Rogoff. For that reason, he says, much of the profession's celebrated work "was not terribly useful in either predicting the financial crisis, or in assessing how it would it play out once it happened."

"People almost pride themselves on not paying attention to current events," he says.


. . .


(p. 6) Although their book is studiously nonideological, and is more focused on patterns than on policy recommendations, it has become fodder for the highly charged debate over the recent growth in government debt.

To bolster their calls for tightened government spending, budget hawks have cited the book's warnings about the perils of escalating public and private debt. Left-leaning analysts have been quick to take issue with that argument, saying that fiscal austerity perpetuates joblessness, and have been attacking economists associated with it.


. . .


The economics profession generally began turning away from empirical work in the early 1970s. Around that time, economists fell in love with theoretical constructs, a shift that has no single explanation. Some analysts say it may reflect economists' desire to be seen as scientists who describe and discover universal laws of nature.

"Economists have physics envy," says Richard Sylla, a financial historian at the Stern School of Business at New York University. He argues that Paul Samuelson, the Nobel laureate whom many credit with endowing economists with a mathematical tool kit, "showed that a lot of physical theories and concepts had economic analogs."

Since that time, he says, "economists like to think that there is some physical, stable state of the world if they get the model right." But, he adds, "there is really no such thing as a stable state for the economy."

Others suggest that incentives for young economists to publish in journals and gain tenure predispose them to pursue technical wizardry over deep empirical research and to choose narrow slices of topics. Historians, on the other hand, are more likely to focus on more comprehensive subjects -- that is, the material for books -- that reflect a deeply experienced, broadly informed sense of judgment.

"They say historians peak in their 50s, once they've accumulated enough knowledge and wisdom to know what to look for," says Mr. Rogoff. "By contrast, economists seem to peak much earlier. It's hard to find an important paper written by an economist after 40."



For the full story, see:

CATHERINE RAMPELL. "They Did Their Homework (800 Years of It)." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., July 4, 2010): 1 & 6.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 2, 2010.)

(Note: ellipses added.)


The reference for the book is:

Reinhart, Carmen M., and Kenneth Rogoff. This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.



This-time-is-differentBK.jpg














Source of book image: http://www.paschaldonohoe.ie/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/This-time-is-different.jpg







August 10, 2010

We're from the Government, and We Are Here to Help




In February, I heard a wonderful presentation by Emily Chamlee-Wright on the recovery process from Hurricane Katrina. One of my favorite parts of her presentation was an account of how the federal bureaucracy hindered those whose entrepreneurship was needed for recovery. The account is included in her book The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery, that documents her research on Katrina:


(p. 142) . . . , the bureaucratic structure governing disaster relief can stifle, or at the very least frustrate local leadership driving community redevelopment. Doris Voitier's efforts to re-open the public school system in St. Bernard Parish illustrate this point. Voitier had initially assumed that FEMA's newly created task force on education would lend the support and expertise she needed. But she quickly learned that FEMA's role was not so much to lend support as it was to regulate the decisions coming out of her office.

VOITIER: [W]e had our kickoff meeting in September. We didn't even know what a kickoff meeting was nor did we know we were in one until after it was over . . . . In their little book, which I read later, they tell them, "meet in the person's home territory," basically. Now . . . we were operating out of Baton Rouge, and so were all of the people who attended this meeting. We all got rental cars and drove down [to St. Bernard Parish] and met on the third floor of the building over by Chalmette Refining at 2 o'clock in the afternoon in 100 degree heat with no air conditioning or anything. [M]y assistant superintendent and I walk into this meeting and there were 27 people in this meeting are sitting around this table . . . and we were going through the introductions. And the first two people said, "We're so and so. We are the FEMA historical restoration team" I said, okay, tell me what you do. "Well, we make sure any buildings that are 40 years old or more, they're designated a historical building, we make sure all of the rules and regulations are followed for that or if there are any historical documents, paintings, or whatever, that they're preserved properly, and that you do (p. 143) everything you're supposed to do . . . ." Now here we are just trying to, you know, trying to recover, not worrying too much about that sort of stuff, but . . . thank you very much. So the next two introduced themselves and I said, "Well who are you?" "We are the FEMA environmental protection team." I said, "Tell me what you do." Well, same thing. "We make sure all of the environmental laws are followed, that if there are any endangered species that they're protected," you know, yadda, yadda, yadda. Okay. The next two, "We are the FEMA 404 mitigation team." I'm looking at them and I'm thinking, what in the heck is 404 mitigation? Because the next two were the FEMA 406 . . . . So I'm looking at them, I'm thinking, I don't know what 404 was and I certainly don't know what 406 is . . . . And you know. . . [I'm thinking] can't somebody help me get a school started and clean my schools . . . ?


Source:

Chamlee-Wright, Emily. The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery: Social Learning in a Post-Disaster Environment, Routledge Advances in Heterodox Economics. London: Routledge, 2010.

(Note: first ellipsis added; other ellipses in original.)





August 9, 2010

Scientific Opinion Shifts to Galambos Who Was Fired for His Theory




GalambosRobertNerveScientist2010-08-04.jpg













"Robert Galambos, . . . , studied the inaudible sounds that allow bats to fly in the dark." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. 20) Dr. Robert Galambos, a neuroscientist whose work included helping to prove how bats navigate in total darkness and deciphering the codes by which nerves transmit sounds to the brain, died June 18 at his home in the La Jolla section of San Diego. He was 96.


. . .


In 1960, while on an airplane, Dr. Galambos wrote that he had an inspiring thought: that the tiny cells that make up 40 percent of the brain, called glia, are as crucial to mental functioning as neurons.

"I know how the brain works!" he exclaimed to his companion.

But his superiors at Walter Reed found the theory so radical that he was soon job-hunting. The view at the time was that glia existed mainly to support neurons, considered the structural and functional unit of the nervous system. But Dr. Galambos clung to his belief, despite the failure of three experiments he performed in the 1960s.

Since then, scientific opinion has been shifting in his direction. In 2008, Ben A. Barres of the Stanford University School of Medicine wrote glowingly in the journal Neuron about the powerful role glia are now seen to play. He concluded, "Quite possibly the most important roles of glia have yet to be imagined."




For the full obituary, see:

DOUGLAS MARTIN. "Robert Galambos, 96, Dies; Studied Nerves and Sound." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., July 18, 2010): 20.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated July 15, 2010 and has the title "Robert Galambos, Neuroscientist Who Showed How Bats Navigate, Dies at 96.")

(Note: ellipses added.)





August 8, 2010

"Vast Majority of People" Will Reject a New Idea at the Start




(p. 288) . . . , my advice has to do with what you do when you find yours elf sitting there with ideas in your head and a desire to build them. But you're young. You have no money. All you have is the stuff in your brain. And you think it's good stuff, those ideas you have in your brain. Those ideas are what drive you, they're all you think about.

(p. 289) But there's a big difference between just thinking about inventing something and doing it. So how do you do it? How do you actually set about changing the world?

. . .


Well, first you need to believe in yourself. Don't waver. There will be people--and I'm talking about the vast majority of people, practically everybody you'll ever meet--who just think in black-and-white terms. Most people see things the way the media sees them or the way their friends see them, and they think if they're right, everyone else is wrong. So a new idea--a revolutionary new product or product feature--won't be understandable to most people because they see things so black and white. Maybe they don't get it because they can't imagine it, or maybe they don't get it because someone else has already told them what's useful or good, and what they heard doesn't include your idea.

Don't let these people bring you down. Remember that they're just taking the point of view that matches whatever the popular cultural view of the moment is. They only know what they're exposed to. It's a type of prejudice, actually, a type of prejudice that is absolutely against the spirit of invention.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.

(Note: Italics and centered ellipsis in original; initial ellipsis added.)





August 7, 2010

Banks Try to Suppress Competition Through Federal Finance Regulations




Wal-MartBanco2010-07-24.jpg















"Banco Wal-Mart plans to open more than 160 branches in Mexico this year." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. B2) Banco Wal-Mart plans to open more than 160 branches in Mexico this year, nearly doubling its presence south of the border. Wal-Mart Canada Bank also opened this month. It is offering a credit card and may make loans, including mortgages.

As Wal-Mart has done with retail in America, a Wal-Mart bank could be a disciplining force in keeping down costs for customers. It could also act as an engine of credit creation for a significantly underbanked subset of the American populace.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimates that 60 million Americans, most of them low-income, are underserved by local community banks and wind up using usurious check cashers, payday lenders and pawnbrokers for financial services.


. . .


As part of the financial reform legislation, bankers have supported a three-year freeze on new applications for industrial loan corporations, the charter Wal-Mart would need.

That runs contrary to the supposed spirit of reform that seeks to empower and protect consumers. Greater competition, coupled with sounder regulatory supervision, would help accomplish that. And Wal-Mart could be its catalyst.




For the full commentary, see:

ROLFE WINKLER, ROB COX and MARTIN HUTCHINSON. "Reuters Breakingviews; The Halls of Finance Fear Wal-Mart." The New York Times (Thurs., June 24, 2010): B2.

(Note: the online version of the article has the date June 23, 2010.)

(Note: ellipsis added.)





August 6, 2010

Smithsonian and NIH Are Contributing to Wikipedia, But Will Professors?




(p. B2) Professor Jemielniak in the passage quoted below, asks why professors would ever contribute to Wikipedia since they already can get published in academic journals, and also have a captive audience at their lectures.

Based on that reasoning, Professors likewise would have little motive to blog---yet many do. Why? Perhaps because there is something satisfying in reaching a wide audience of readers who are not required to read, but who choose to read.

(Readers of academic articles are often few, and students at academic lectures are often captives whose bodies are present, but whose minds are somewhere else.)


(p. B2) In the United States, the Wikimedia Foundation has sponsored an academy to teach experts at the National Institutes of Health how to contribute to the site and monitor what appears there. And Mr. Wyatt said that other institutions including the Smithsonian had inquired about getting their own Wikipedian in residence to facilitate their staff members' contributions to the site.

One talk here by a Polish professor, Dariusz Jemielniak, took a jab at the idea of experts as contributors. He said he had noticed that students often remained contributors to Wikipedia but that professors left quickly. His explanation was that Wikipedia was really just a game for people to gain status. A teenager offering the definitive account of the Thirty Years' War gets a huge audience and respect from his peers. But, Mr. Jemielniak asked, why would a professor stoop to edit Wikipedia?

"Professors already get published and can lecture and force people to listen to their ideas," he said.



For the full story, see:

NOAM COHEN. "Link by Link; How Can Wikipedia Grow? Maybe in Bengali." The New York Times (Mon., July 12, 2010): B2.

(Note: the online version of the article is dates July 11, 2010.)





August 5, 2010

Driving Blind: Exploring the Unexplorable




BlindDriver2010-07-24.jpg"The National Federation of the Blind operates a science camp to inspire young blind students, such as the girl above [Addison Hugen]. The organization is working with Virginia Tech on a vehicle equipped with sensors for blind drivers." Source of photo: online version of the article quoted and cited below. Source of caption: print version of the article quoted and cited below. [Bracketed name from online version of caption.]



(p. 3A) WASHINGTON (AP) - Could a blind person drive a car? Researchers are trying to make that far-fetched notion a reality.

The National Federation of the Blind and Virginia Tech plan to demonstrate a prototype vehicle next year equipped with technology that helps a blind person drive a car independently.

The technology, called "nonvisual interfaces," uses sensors to let a blind driver maneuver a car based on information transmitted to him about his surroundings: whether another car or object is nearby, in front of him or in a neighboring lane.

Advocates for the blind consider it a "moon shot," a goal similar to President John F. Kennedy's pledge to land a man on the moon. For many blind people, driving a car long has been considered impossible. But researchers hope the project could revolutionize mobility and challenge long-held assumptions about limitations.

"We're exploring areas that have previously been regarded as unexplorable," said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind.




For the full story, see:

KEN THOMAS . "Blind Drivers Goal of High-Tech Car Project." Omaha World-Herald (Saturday, July 3, 2010): 3A.

(Note: the online version of the article has the title: "Driving while blind? Maybe, with new high-tech car.")





August 4, 2010

Inventor Wozniak Tries Entrepreneurship




(p. 247) In a way, that happened to me. The US Festival was exactly the opposite of the Apple experience for me. It didn't come easily. It involved having plans to get certain groups, and having those groups cancel. It involved having plans for sites, and having those sites cancel. It involved having plans for equipment, and having the equipment not come through. It was a costly battle to do all the right things, but we did them anyway.

I'd written a check. I had confidence in my people. I'd already taken a stand, and when you take a stand, you don't back away from it. Sometimes this has been a big problem in my life--especially marriage-wise--but if I'm in, I'm in. I don't back out. And by the time I could see this was a disaster, I had this guy, Pete Ellis, and all the people he'd hired, counting on me. I couldn't just (p. 248) all of a sudden pull the rug out. And we'd already planned the date: the first US Festival would be the Labor Day weekend of 1982, right after my first year back at school.


. . .


(p. 255) I loved that first US Festival concert, and I knew I'd made so many people happy doing it. We thought from press reports that enough people--nearly half a million--had shown up. So we thought that would make us money. But we lost money, nearly $12 million, because it turned out we didn't sell as many tickets as there were people.



Source:

Wozniak, Steve, and Gina Smith. iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2006.





August 3, 2010

Expert Says Australian Cow Burps Add to Global Warming




KlieveAtholCattleBurpExpert2010-07-23.jpg"Athol Klieve, an expert on cattle stomachs, with steers used for research on reducing methane emissions from belching cattle." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A14) GATTON, Australia -- To hear Athol Klieve tell it, a key to reducing Australia's enormous carbon emissions is to make a cow more like this country's iconic animal -- the kangaroo.


. . .


Australia contributes more greenhouse gases per capita than just about any other country, with its coal-fired power plants leading the way. But more than 10 percent of those gases come from what bureaucrats call livestock emissions -- animals' burping.

At any given point, after munching and regurgitating grass, tens of millions of Australian cattle, as well as sheep, are belching methane gases nonstop into the air. With methane considered 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the atmosphere, the burping has given ammunition to environmentalists, vegetarians and other critics of beef while initially putting the large meat industry on the defensive.


. . .


Ruminants release methane because of the peculiar way they digest their food. Inside a cow's foregut, which can contain more than 200 pounds of grass at any given time, fermentation of the food leads to the release of hydrogen, a byproduct that would slow down the fermentation. Microbes known as methanogens help the ruminants get rid of the excess hydrogen by producing methane gases that the animals release into the atmosphere.

In other animals known as hindgut fermenters, including humans -- in which food is fermented after going through their stomachs -- methane is sometimes released through flatulence, a fact that, Mr. Klieve said, has led to misunderstanding about his work

"We've had to put up with that all the time," Mr. Klieve said. "It comes from the front end! In the cow, it comes from the front end. But if you're a hindgut fermenter, it goes the other way."


. . .


Like cattle, kangaroos are also foregut fermenters. But instead of relying on methanogens to get rid of the unwanted hydrogen, kangaroos use different microbes that reduce hydrogen by producing not methane, but harmless acetic acids, the basis of vinegar.


. . .


"It's going to be very difficult to meet the current production needs, particularly for the current global population, with kangaroo," Ms. Henry said. "You need something like 10 kangaroos to produce the same amount of meat as one steer. You can't herd them or fence them in."

Undaunted, a few kangaroo meat entrepreneurs are pressing ahead, seeing methane emissions as a business opportunity.




For the full story, see:

NORIMITSU ONISHI. "Gatton Journal; Trying to Stop Cattle Burps From Heating Up Planet." The New York Times (Weds., July 14, 2010): A14.

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

(Note: ellipses added.)


GattonAustraliaMap2010-07-23.jpg










Source of map: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.





August 2, 2010

Obama Mentor Saul Alinsky on Chicago Reform Candidates




(p. A15) When Barack Obama came to prominence as a presidential candidate, his Chicago background--in particular, his efforts as a "community organizer"--reignited an interest in Saul Alinsky (1909-72), the hard-charging activist whose 1971 book, "Rules for Radicals," was said to have had a formative influence on Mr. Obama's thinking.


. . .


Hardscrabble though his youth had been, Alinsky managed to get into the University of Chicago, where his major was archaeology. When the Depression dried up money for digs, he wangled a fellowship to study criminology and began hanging out with gangsters as part of his study, including Al Capone's "enforcer," Frank Nitti.

Mr. von Hoffman tells us that one of Alinsky's favorite stories involved a meeting between Nitti and Anton Cermak just after Cermak had been elected Chicago's mayor in 1931. The meeting's purpose was to negotiate the money that Capone would pay the city to keep its speakeasies stocked with beer and liquor: "As Saul told the story," Mr. von Hoffman writes, "Cermak explained to Nitti, 'You know I was elected as a reform candidate.' To which Nitti replied, 'What the hell does that mean, Tony?' and waited for an answer. 'It means,' the mayor said after a suitable pause, 'that the price is double.' "

The anecdote nicely illustrates the cynicism that informed Alinsky's ideas about the way the world works.



For the full review, see:

CHRISTOPHER WILLCOX. "A Chicago-Style Peace Disturber; 'Community organizer' Saul Alinsky lumped politicians in with gangsters.." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., July 15, 2010): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)


The book under review is:

von Hoffman, Nicholas. Radical: A Portrait of Saul Alinsky. New York: Nation Books, 2010.





August 1, 2010

Jefferson "Was Experimental and Had a Lot of Failures"




JeffersonianGardeningA2010-07-12.jpg"In the vegetable garden at Monticello, his home in Virginia, Thomas Jefferson sowed seeds from around the world and shared them with farmers. He was not afraid of failure, which happened often." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


Steven Johnson has written an intriguing argument that the intellectual foundation of the founding fathers was based as much on experimental science as on religion. The article quoted below provides a small bit of additional evidence in support of Johnson's argument.


(p. D1) NEW gardeners smitten with the experience of growing their own food -- amazed at the miracle of harvesting figs on a Brooklyn rooftop, horrified by the flea beetles devouring the eggplants -- might be both inspired and comforted by the highs and lows recorded by Thomas Jefferson from the sun-baked terraces of his two-acre kitchen garden 200 years ago.

And they could learn a thing or two from the 19th-century techniques still being used at Monticello today.

"He was experimental and had a lot of failures," Peter Hatch, the director of gardens and grounds, said on a recent afternoon, as we stood under a scorching sun in the terraced garden that took seven slaves three years to cut into the hill. "But Jefferson always believed that 'the failure of one thing is repaired by the success of another.' "

After he left the White House in 1809 and moved to Monticello, his Palladian estate here, Jefferson grew 170 varieties of fruits and 330 varieties of vegetables and herbs, until his death in 1826.

As we walked along the geometric beds -- many of them planted in an ancient Roman quincunx pattern -- I made notes on the beautiful crops I had never grown. Sea kale, with its great, ruffled blue-green leaves, now full of little round seed pods. Egyptian onions, whose tall green stalks bore quirky hats of tiny seeds and wavy green sprouts. A pre-Columbian tomato called Purple Calabash, whose energetic vines would soon be trained up a cedar trellis made of posts cut from the woods.

"Purple Calabash is one of my favorites," Mr. Hatch said. "It's an acidic, al-(p. D7)most black tomato, with a convoluted, heavily lobed shape."

Mr. Hatch, who has directed the restoration of the gardens here since 1979, has pored over Jefferson's garden notes and correspondence. He has distilled that knowledge in "Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Garden," to be published by Yale University Press.



For the full story, see:

ANNE RAVER. "A Revolutionary With Seeds, Too." The New York Times (Thurs., July 1, 2010): D1 & D7.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 30, 2010 and has the title "In the Garden; At Monticello, Jefferson's Methods Endure.")





HP3D5006CropSmall.jpg






Most Popular Posts









If you value this blog, and want to help support the expenses of hosting and maintaining it, please consider making a donation through PayPal:










The StatCounter number above reports the number of "page loads" since the counter was installed late on 2/26/08. Page loads are defined on the site as "The number of times your page has been visited."


View My Stats