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May 31, 2012

Tax Hikes Punish Hard Work and Reduce Incentives to Invest




(p. A15) The supply-sider has a different view from both the Keynesian and the budget balancer. Fundamentally, supply-side advocates focus on the harmful effects of tax increases. Raising tax rates hurts the economy directly because tax hikes reduce incentives to invest and because they punish hard work. As such, tax increases slow growth. But budget cuts work in the right direction by making lower tax revenues sustainable. If spending exceeds revenues, then the government must borrow and this commits future governments to raising taxes in order to service the debt.


. . .


On the tax side, there is strong evidence that supports the supply-siders. Christina Romer, President Obama's first chairwoman of the President's Council of Economic Advisers, and David Romer document the strong unfavorable effect of increasing tax rates on economic growth (American Economic Review, 2010). They report that an increase in taxes of 1% of gross domestic product lowers GDP by almost 3%. The evidence on government spending also suggests that high spending means lower growth.

For example, Swedish economists Andreas Bergh and Magnus Henrekson (Journal of Economic Surveys 2011) survey a large literature and conclude that an increase in government size by 10 percentage points of GDP is associated with a half to one percentage point lower annual growth rate.



For the full commentary, see:

EDWARD P. LAZEAR. "OPINION; Three Views of the 'Fiscal Cliff'; It's the tax increases we have to fear. Spending cuts won't hurt the economy." The Wall Street Journal (Mon., May 21, 2012): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated May 20, 2012 and has the title "OPINION; Edward Lazear: Three Views of the 'Fiscal Cliff'; It's the tax increases we have to fear. Spending cuts won't hurt the economy.")



The Romer and Romer paper mentioned is:

Romer, Christina D., and David H. Romer. "The Macroeconomic Effects of Tax Changes: Estimates Based on a New Measure of Fiscal Shocks." American Economic Review 100, no. 3 (June 2010): 763-801.


The Bergh and Henrekson paper mentioned is:

Bergh, Andreas, and Magnus Henrekson. "Government Size and Growth: A Survey and Interpretation of the Evidence." Journal of Economic Surveys 25, no. 5 (Dec. 2011): 872-97.






May 30, 2012

"Innovation" Should Be Reserved for Electricity, Printing Press, Telephone and iPhone




LightBulbInnovationGraphic2012-05-29.jpg Source of graphic: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. B1) "Most companies say they're innovative in the hope they can somehow con investors into thinking there is growth when there isn't," says Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School and the author of the 1997 book, "The Innovator's Dilemma."


. . .


Scott Berkun, the author of the 2007 book "The Myths of Innovation," which warns about the dilution of the word, says that what most people call an innovation is usually just a "very good product."

He prefers to reserve the word for civilization-changing inventions like electricity, the printing press and the telephone--and, more recently, perhaps the iPhone.


. . .


Mr. Berkun tracks innovation's popularity as a buzzword back to the 1990s, amid the dot-com bubble and the release of James M. Utterback's "Mastering the Dynamics of Innovation" and Mr. Christensen's "Dilemma."


. . .


(p. B8) Mr. Christensen classifies innovations into three types: efficiency innovations, which produce the same product more cheaply, such as automating credit checks; sustaining innovations, which turn good products into better ones, such as the hybrid car; and disruptive innovations, which transform expensive, complex products into affordable, simple ones, such as the shift from mainframe to personal computers.

A company's biggest potential for growth lies in disruptive innovation, he says, noting that the other types could just as well be called ordinary progress and normally don't create more jobs or business.

But the disruptive innovations can take five to eight years to bear fruit, he says, so companies lose patience.

It is far easier, he adds, for companies to just say they're innovating. "Everybody's innovating, because any change is innovation."



For the full story, see:

LESLIE KWOH. "You Call That Innovation? Companies Love to Say They Innovate, but the Term Has Begun to Lose Meaning." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., May 23, 2012): B1 & B8.

(Note: ellipses added.)






May 29, 2012

"I Can't Explain Strategy at the Same Time that I'm Inventing It"




(p. 75) I felt deceived. I felt betrayed. Their 51 percent control could be like working for IBM or Honeywell again. I felt a threat to the most important value I was seeking: independence. I had to ask myself "Do I say no? Or do I say yes and accept their contract, even though it isn't what we shook hands on and it makes me uncomfortable?" "This was a major difficulty for me. The 51 percent issue is at the very core of what every entrepreneur is trying to do: control his own destiny.

We were talking about my company. I dreamed it up. I put it together and I was going to run it. I was not going to hand it over to some committee of lawyers and accountants. But neither could I let anger get hold of me.

I knew that "those whom the gods would destroy, they first make angry." That said, not getting angry does not mean not being firm. So I firmly told Jerry, "I want to run this company. I don't have time to sit around and explain to your staff what I'm doing. No offense, but they don't know beans about what I'm (p. 76) trying to do, and neither do you, for that matter. I've got to be able to run this business. I can't explain strategy at the same time that I'm inventing it."



Source:

Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.





May 28, 2012

Proof of Concept: "A Determined Entrepreneur Can Start a Rocket Company from Scratch"




Falcon9RocketLiftoff2012-05-27.jpg 'The Falcon 9 rocket seen in a time-exposure photograph during liftoff." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.



(p. A13) CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- He does not have the name recognition of some other space entrepreneurs, people like Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin empire, or Paul Allen of Microsoft fame, or Jeff Bezos, the Amazon.com billionaire.

That will probably change if things keep going his way. Elon Musk, a computer prodigy and serial entrepreneur whose ambitions include solving the world's energy needs and colonizing the solar system, was the man of the hour -- or of 3:44 a.m. Tuesday, Eastern time -- when the rocket ship built by his company, SpaceX, lifted off gracefully in a nighttime launching and arced off in a streak of light amid loud applause.


. . .


If all goes as planned, his unmanned Dragon capsule, lifted into orbit by his Falcon 9 rocket, will berth at the International Space Station on Friday bearing a modest cargo: 162 meal packets (45 of them low-sodium), a laptop computer, a change of clothes for the station astronauts and 15 student experiments.

Far more important than the supplies is the proof of concept. Mr. Musk is trying to show the world that a determined entrepreneur can start a rocket company from scratch and, a decade later, end up doing a job that has until now been the exclusive province of federal governments.


. . .


Just four years ago, SpaceX went through a near-death experience. The first three launchings of the company's small Falcon 1 rocket failed. One more failure, Mr. Musk said, and he would have run out of money. As he went through a divorce from his first wife, with whom he has five sons, he had to borrow money from friends.

The fourth launching succeeded. Late in 2008, NASA awarded SpaceX the cargo contract. The first two Falcon 9 launchings, in 2010, also succeeded.

Early Tuesday morning, the success streak continued. As the countdown clock hit zero, the engines remained ignited. Less than 10 minutes later, the Dragon was in orbit. It then aced several other early tasks like the deployment of solar arrays and navigational sensors and the testing of GPS equipment.

"Anything could have gone wrong," Mr. Musk said. "And everything went right, fortunately."



For the full story, see:

KENNETH CHANG. "Big Day for Entrepreneur Who Promises More." The New York Times (Weds., May 23, 2012): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated May 22, 2012, and has the title "Big Day for a Space Entrepreneur Promising More.")



MuskElon2012-05-27.jpg











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








May 27, 2012

Private Equity Firms Increase Efficiency and Create as Many Jobs as They Destroy




(p. A23) Forty years ago, corporate America was bloated, sluggish and losing ground to competitors in Japan and beyond. But then something astonishing happened. Financiers, private equity firms and bare-knuckled corporate executives initiated a series of reforms and transformations.

The process was brutal and involved streamlining and layoffs. But, at the end of it, American businesses emerged leaner, quicker and more efficient.


. . .


As Reihan Salam noted in a fair-minded review of the literature in National Review, in any industry there is an astonishing difference in the productivity levels of leading companies and the lagging companies. Private equity firms like Bain acquire bad companies and often replace management, compel executives to own more stock in their own company and reform company operations.

Most of the time they succeed. Research from around the world clearly confirms that companies that have been acquired by private equity firms are more productive than comparable firms.

This process involves a great deal of churn and creative destruction. It does not, on net, lead to fewer jobs. A giant study by economists from the University of Chicago, Harvard, the University of Maryland and the Census Bureau found that when private equity firms acquire a company, jobs are lost in old operations. Jobs are created in new, promising operations. The overall effect on employment is modest.



For the full commentary, see:

DAVID BROOKS. "How Change Happens." The New York Times (Tues., May 22, 2012): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated May 21, 2012.)



The "giant study by economists" mentioned by Brooks is:

Davis, Steven J., John C. Haltiwanger, Ron S. Jarmin, Josh Lerner, and Javier Miranda. "Private Equity and Employment." National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, NBER Working Papers: # 17399, Sept. 2011.






May 26, 2012

Middle Class "Doesn't Want to Fight Wars. It Has Other Things to Do."




IndiaTradeShowInPakistanCloseShot2012-05-25.jpg "A booth for Motherson International, an Indian company that produces clothes and costume jewelry, at the Indian trade show in Lahore, Pakistan, in February." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.




(p. 6) LAHORE, Pakistan -- On the day the Indian trade delegation came across the border, Pakistan was having another political crisis. The prime minister was embroiled in a showdown with the country's Supreme Court. Early elections were rumored. And Islamists had just staged a rally in Karachi to protest "foreign intervention" on Pakistani soil.

Not, perhaps, the perfect moment to hammer out closer trade ties.

Yet Rajiv Kumar, a leader of the Indian delegation, was pleased. It was mid-February, and his business group was staging the first Indian trade show ever held in Pakistan. Tens of thousands of visitors would attend during three days. And Indian and Pakistani business leaders, as well as both countries' commerce ministers, swapped cards, sipped tea and feasted at lavish banquets.

"Look at this!" Mr. Kumar exclaimed as his car rolled up to the convention center here in Lahore, where crowds were thronging for the trade show. "My God! Quite good, I'd say."


. . .


(p. 12) Ashok Malik, a journalist who was one of the writers of an academic analysis of India's private sector diplomacy, said the influence of Indian business is evident beyond the changed relationship with the United States.


. . .


Mr. Malik noted that the rise of India's middle class, as well as the growing domestic influence of the private sector, has created a quiet constituency for easing hostilities with Pakistan. "The growth phenomenon has made the Indian middle class less tolerant of adventurism, lawlessness and war," he said. "It is still worried about terrorism. But it doesn't want to fight wars. It has other things to do."



For the full story, see:

JIM YARDLEY. "INDIA'S WAY; Propelling a Nation Onto the World Stage; Industry Opens Doors to India's Neighbors and Rivals, Including Pakistan." The New York Times, First Section (Sun., April 1, 2012): 6 & 12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated March 31, 2012 and has the title "INDIA'S WAY; Industry in India Helps Open a Door to the World.")



IndiaTradeShowInPakistanWideShot2012-05-25.jpg "India held its first trade show in Pakistan in Lahore." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.







May 25, 2012

Wise and Wyly Words on Air Conditioning




(p. 42) It was February 1958. I got myself a room, not far from the office, in a little house built in the 1920s owned by a seventy-five-year-old woman named Mrs. Thompson. I lived in her "in-law's room," which meant I had my own front door, but I had to share the bathroom with her and, because I did not have a kitchen, I had to eat out. My rent was $10 a week.

I had my car, which meant I could get around, and the training school was air-conditioned, which meant my second summer in Dallas was a lot more pleasant than my first.

Thank you, Willis Haviland Carrier, for inventing air-conditioning. I owe you one. And I'm not the only one. At the height of the dot-com stock market bubble of 1999, Barton Biggs--the wise, graying investments guru at Morgan Stanley--posed this question to seventy-one people: which invention is more important, the Internet or air-conditioning? Barton was on the losing side of the vote, 70-2.

Obviously, he'd found seventy people who'd never spent an August in Texas.




Source:

Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.





May 24, 2012

Emperor Penguins Thrive in Antarctica




PenguinsGaloreInAntarctica2012-05-17.jpg "Using satellites, researchers counted Antarctica's emperor penguins at 46 colonies like this one near the Halley Research Station, finding numbers twice as high as previously thought." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. 2) Antarctica has twice as many emperor penguins as scientists had thought, according to a new study using satellite imagery in the first comprehensive survey of one of the world's most iconic birds.

British and U.S. geospatial mapping experts reported Friday in the journal PLoS One that they had counted 595,000 emperor penguins living in 46 colonies along the coast of Antarctica, compared with previous estimates of 270,000 to 350,000 penguins based on surveys of just five colonies. The researchers also discovered four previously unknown emperor-penguin colonies and confirmed the location of three others.

"It is good news from a conservation point of view," said geographer Peter Fretwell at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England, who led the penguin satellite census. "This is the first comprehensive census of a species taken from space."

Although all of Antarctica's wildlife is protected by international treaty, the emperor penguins are not an officially endangered species. But they are considered a bellwether of any future climate changes in Antarctica because their icy habitat is so sensitive to rising temperatures.



For the full story, see:

ROBERT LEE HOTZ. "Emperor Penguins Are Teeming in Antarctica." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., April 14, 2012): A13.

(Note: the online version of the interview is dated April 13, 2012.)






May 23, 2012

First Principle for Trustbusters Should Be "Do No Harm"




(p. A2) In essence, Justice says that, beginning in 2008, several plankton, in the form of five publishers, conspired against a whale, Amazon, whose monopoly clout had imposed a $9.99 retail price for e-books.

The deal the publishers eventually reached with Apple unfixed the price of e-books by linking their prices to the cover price of the print version. More importantly, publishers could begin to reclaim the right to set e-book retail prices generally.


. . .


Apple, with 15% of the e-book market, is no monopolist. The five publishers, though Justice insists they dominate trade publishing, account for only about half of e-book sales. Crucially for antitrust, the barriers to entry are zilch: Amazon, with 60% market share, could create its own e-book imprint tomorrow and begin bidding for the most popular authors.


. . .


Let's go back to "per se" vs. "rule of reason." Because the 1890 Sherman Act is so sweeping and almost any business arrangement could be read as prohibited, courts understandably evolved a "rule of reason" to distinguish the permissible from the impermissible. Unfortunately, the result has been antitrust as we know it: wild and fluctuating discretion masquerading as law. Retail price maintenance alone has been embraced and dumped so many times by the courts that it must feel like Jennifer Aniston.

"Do no harm" would be a better principle for trustbusters.



For the full commentary, see:

HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR. "BUSINESS WORLD; Washington vs. Books; What about piracy, low barriers to entry and the fact that literature isn't chopped liver?" The Wall Street Journal (Sat., April 14, 2012): A15.

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated April 13, 2012.)






May 22, 2012

Entrepreneur Krupp Was Paternalistically "Benevolent" and Was Skeptical of Capitalism




KrupBK2012-05-17.jpg











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








(p. A13) Harold James, professor of history and international affairs at Princeton University, portrays a vastly different organization in "Krupp," a painstaking chronicle of a company that traces its roots to a steel foundry in Essen in 1810. Mr. James's Krupp is a company for which the manufacturing of war matériel was always of secondary interest to that of civilian production. The company might have preferred to concentrate on manufacturing railroad equipment and consumer goods, but in the developing and expansionist German empire of the 19th century, state requirements for the tools of power dovetailed with Krupp's desire for regular long-term contracts. The result for Krupp was a practical, if not deliberate, focus on armaments.

From the manufacturer's perspective, the emphasis on war matériel did not consign Krupp to the ranks of belligerent militarists; it was just smart business. "The purpose of work should be the common good," founder Alfred Krupp once said, or at least that quote graces a statue the company erected after his death in 1887. All through the 19th century, Mr. James says, the pursuit of profit was less central to the Krupp mission than building a solid enterprise within a framework of social responsibility. As early as 1836, Krupp established a voluntary health-insurance program for its workers. By the middle of the century, life-insurance and pension plans had been instituted. Workers' hostels and company hospitals were constructed. In exchange for this paternalistic benevolence, Krupp expected complete loyalty from its work force and vehemently opposed the slightest hint of union organization or political activity among its employees.

"Alfred Krupp perfectly fits the mold of the heroic entrepreneur," Mr. James writes. "Profoundly skeptical of joint-stock companies, banks, and capitalism in general, but also of big-scale science and modern research methods, he was a genius at extending to its utmost limits the possibilities of the craft entrepreneur."



For the full review, see:

JENNIFER SIEGEL. "BOOKSHELF; Heavy Industry, Burdened Past; The company's 19th-century founder said it was devoted to the "common good." In World War II, it worked hard for the Third Reich." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 17, 2012): A13.

(Note: the online version of the interview is dated April 16, 2012.)






May 21, 2012

Texas Was a Place Where It Was OK for an Entrepreneur to Be Poco Loco




(p. 42) Today, everybody knows something about Texas, but in those days Texas was still like an undiscovered oasis of freethinking, individualistic, action-oriented, business-minded people. It was a place where gut American characteristics were concentrated and magnified. A place where you could taste the frontier spirit that is part of our national heritage. There was a feeling in the air that you could invent yourself as any character you chose, and that your neighbors would leave you alone to be whoever you wanted to be. I liked the aggressiveness of the people in pursuing their goals, and the fact that you could be poco loco, as Spanish speakers say: a little crazy. This quality is a big help when you're an entrepreneur. I felt that, in Dallas. there was extra oxygen in the air.


Source:

Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.

(Note: italics in original.)





May 20, 2012

"An Entrenched Favors-for-Votes Culture Is Now Coming Unglued"




TsochatzopoulosAkisGreekOfficial2012-05-07.jpg








"Akis Tsochatzopoulos on April 11 became the highest-ranking Greek official ever to be detained on corruption charges." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.





(p. A6) Prosecutors accuse the former defense minister, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, 73, a founding member of the Socialist Party and the highest-ranking Greek official ever to be detained on corruption charges, of pocketing at least $26 million in kickbacks for Greece's purchase of submarines and missile systems and funneling the money through offshore accounts to buy property.


. . .


The case of Mr. Tsochatzopoulos (pronounced zok-at-ZOP-ou-los) marks the rise -- and perhaps fall -- of a political culture that has dominated Greece for decades, in which alternating Socialist and center-right New Democracy governments helped spread the spoils and, critics say, the corruption, during the boom years. That system helped drive up Greece's public debt to the point that it was forced to seek a foreign bailout in 2010.

As the money has run out, an entrenched favors-for-votes culture is now coming unglued, and Greeks have become less forgiving of high-level missteps.



For the full story, see:

RACHEL DONADIO and NIKI KITSANTONIS. "Corruption Case Hits Hard in a Tough Time for Greece." The New York Times (Thurs., May 3, 2012): A6 & A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated May 2, 2012.)






May 19, 2012

Observed Climate "Not in Good Agreement with Model Predictions"




The author of the following commentary is a Princeton physics professor:


(p. A13) What is happening to global temperatures in reality? The answer is: almost nothing for more than 10 years. Monthly values of the global temperature anomaly of the lower atmosphere, compiled at the University of Alabama from NASA satellite data, can be found at the website http://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/. The latest (February 2012) monthly global temperature anomaly for the lower atmosphere was minus 0.12 degrees Celsius, slightly less than the average since the satellite record of temperatures began in 1979.

The lack of any statistically significant warming for over a decade has made it more difficult for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its supporters to demonize the atmospheric gas CO2 which is released when fossil fuels are burned.


. . .


Frustrated by the lack of computer-predicted warming over the past decade, some IPCC supporters have been claiming that "extreme weather" has become more common because of more CO2. But there is no hard evidence this is true.


. . .


Large fluctuations from warm to cold winters have been the rule for the U.S., as one can see from records kept by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA. For example, the winters of 1932 and 1934 were as warm as or warmer than the 2011-2012 one and the winter of 1936 was much colder.


. . .


It is easy to be confused about climate, because we are constantly being warned about the horrible things that will happen or are already happening as a result of mankind's use of fossil fuels. But these ominous predictions are based on computer models. It is important to distinguish between what the climate is actually doing and what computer models predict. The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with model predictions.


. . .


. . . we should . . . remember the description of how science works by the late, great physicist, Richard Feynman:

"In general we look for a new law by the following process. First we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right. Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience; compare it directly with observation, to see if it works. If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong."



For the full commentary, see:

WILLIAM HAPPER. "Global Warming Models Are Wrong Again; The observed response of the climate to more CO2 is not in good agreement with predictions." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., March 27, 2012): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)





May 18, 2012

Asteroid-Mining Start-Up Hopes to Launch First Spacecraft within Two Years




AsteroidMining2012-05-07.jpg

"A computer image shows a rendering of a spacecraft preparing to capture a water-rich, near-Earth asteroid." Source of caption: print version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below. Source of photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. B3) SEATTLE--A start-up with high-profile backers on Tuesday unveiled its plan to send robotic spacecraft to remotely mine asteroids, a highly ambitious effort aimed at opening up a new frontier in space exploration.

At an event at the Seattle Museum of Flight, a group that included former National Aeronautics and Space Administration officials unveiled Planetary Resources Inc. and said it is developing a "low-cost" series of spacecraft to prospect and mine "near-Earth" asteroids for water and metals, and thus bring "the natural resources of space within humanity's economic sphere of influence."

The solar system is "full of resources, and we can bring that back to humanity," said Planetary Resources co-founder Peter Diamandis, who helped start the X-Prize competition to spur nongovernmental space flight.

The company said it expects to launch its first spacecraft to low-Earth orbit--between 100 and 1,000 miles above the Earth's surface--within two years, in what would be a prelude to sending spacecraft to prospect and mine asteroids.

The company, which was founded three years ago but remained secret until last week, said it could take a decade to finish prospecting, or identifying the best candidates for mining.



For the full story, see:

AMIR EFRATI. "Asteroid-Mining Strategy Is Outlined by a Start-Up." The Wall Street Journal (Weds., April 25, 2012): B3.

(Note: the online version of the story is dated April 24, 2012, and has the title "Start-Up Outlines Asteroid-Mining Strategy.")







May 17, 2012

Quick Computing If Air Conditioning Worked




(p. 36) Using those IBM 650s was no easy feat. You had to take your turn in line with the other students, write your program, key punch it onto a big stack of cards, do your proofs to make sure it was accurate, and feed it into the computer. If you were lucky and the air-conditioning did not malfunction, you'd get your results back quickly. But there would be errors, which you had to correct, and then you had to repeat the process over and over again until the 650--working on the data with the program that you wrote--came up with the right answers.


Source:

Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.





May 16, 2012

"Birdseye Coaxes Readers to Re-examine Everyday Miracles"




BirdseyeBK.jpg

















Source of book image: http://media.miamiherald.com/smedia/2012/05/04/10/50/13z9ot.Em.56.jpg



(p. C7) Birdseye made and lost money, went west to search for the cause of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and hunted fox for furs in Labrador, where he took his wife and infant son to live 250 miles by dogsled from the nearest hospital. He harpooned whales near his home in Gloucester, Mass., and wore a necktie while doing it. And he designed the industrial processes that made it possible to fast-freeze food, thus rendering obsolete much canned, dried, salted and smoked food and the musty basement bins that once held a winter's diet of turnips, onions and potatoes.

Food had been frozen earlier but more slowly. Crystallization turned it mushy and tasteless. It was poor man's food. In Labrador, fishing with the Inuit, Birdseye noticed that when a fish was pulled from a hole in the ice and into minus-40-degree air, it froze instantly, staying so fresh that when it was thawed months later, it would sometimes come alive.

He spent years putting together modern mass production with what he had seen in Labrador. By the 1920s, he was fast-freezing food that was far closer to fresh than any competition. "Today's locavore movement--the movement to shun food from afar and eat what is produced locally . . . would have perplexed him," Mr. Kurlansky writes. After all, "consumers could go to a supermarket and buy the food of California, France and China for less money."


. . .


The author makes a telling point about locavores: "We need to grasp that people who are accustomed only to artisanal goods long for the industrial. It is only when the usual product is industrial that the artisanal is longed for. This is why artisanal food, the dream of the food of family farms, caught on so powerfully in California, one of the early strongholds of agribusiness with little tradition of small family farms."

Birdseye's heroism has been forgotten, and his frozen food is taken for granted, the way all inventions are taken sooner or later. He sold his business for $23.5 million in 1929 to what would become General Foods. He stayed on as a consultant and also ran his light bulb company, which he would sell too.



For the full review, see:

HENRY ALLEN. "The American Way of Eating; Harlan Sanders and Clarence Birdseye, just like today's locavores, saw a meal as a way to improve people's lives." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., May 5, 2012): C5 & C7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review is dated May 4, 2012.)




(p. C6) "Birdseye" is a slight but intriguing book that raises far more questions than it answers. But it indeed coaxes readers to re-examine everyday miracles like frozen food, and to imagine where places with no indigenous produce would be without them. It emphasizes the many steps that went into developing such a simple-seeming process.


For the full review, see:

JANET MASLIN. "BOOKS OF THE TIMES; The Inventor Who Put Frozen Peas on Our Tables." The New York Times (Thurs., April 26, 2012): C6.

(Note: the online version of the review is dated April 25, 2012.)



Book reviewed:

Kurlansky, Mark. Birdseye: The Adventures of a Curious Man. New York: Doubleday, 2012.



KurlanskyMark2012-05-07.jpg











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







May 15, 2012

Cuban Dissident Dies after Communist Police Beat Him in Park




(p. 12) Havana

OUTSIDE the sun is blindingly hot, and in the immigration office 100 people are sweating profusely. But no one complains. A critical word, a demanding attitude, could end in punishment. So we all wait silently for a "white card," authorization to travel outside Cuba.

The white card is a piece of the migratory absurdities that prevent Cubans from freely leaving and entering their own country. It is our own Berlin Wall without the concrete, the land-mining of our borders without explosives. A wall made of paperwork and stamps, overseen by the grim stares of soldiers. This capricious exit permit costs over $200, a year's salary for the average Cuban. But money is not enough. Nor is a valid passport. We must also meet other, unwritten requirements, ideological and political conditions that make us eligible, or not, to board a plane.


. . .


Thousands of Cubans have been condemned to immobility on this island, though no court has issued such a verdict. Our "crime" is thinking critically of the government, being a member of an opposition group or subscribing to a platform in defense of human rights.

In my case, I can flaunt the sad record of having received 19 denials since 2008 of my applications for a white card.


. . .


That same afternoon, as I was issued one more denial, my cellphone rang insistently in my pocket. A broken voice related to me the last moments in the life of Juan Wilfredo Soto, a dissident who died several days after being handcuffed and beaten by the police in a public park. I sat down to steady myself, my ears ringing, my face flush.

I went home and looked at my passport, full of visas to enter a dozen countries but lacking any authorization to leave my own. Next to its blue cover my husband placed a report of the details of Juan Wilfredo Soto's death. Looking from his face in the photograph to the national seal on my passport, I could only conclude that in Cuba, nothing has changed.



For the full commentary, see:

YOANI SANCHEZ. "The Dream of Leaving Cuba." The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., April 22, 2012): 12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated April 21, 2012.)






May 14, 2012

Warming Planet May Cause Fewer High Clouds in Tropics, Allowing Heat to Escape into Space




CloudWeatherBalloon2012-05-03.jpg "A technician at a Department of Energy site in Oklahoma launching a weather balloon to help scientists analyze clouds." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A1) Richard S. Lindzen, a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the leading proponent of the view that clouds will save the day. His stature in the field -- he has been making seminal contributions to climate science since the 1960s -- has amplified his influence.

Dr. Lindzen says the earth is not especially sensitive to greenhouse gases because clouds will react to counter them, and he believes he has identified a specific mechanism. On a warming planet, he says, less coverage by high clouds in the tropics will allow more heat to escape to space, (p. A14) countering the temperature increase.


. . .


Dr. Lindzen accepts the elementary tenets of climate science. He agrees that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, calling people who dispute that point "nutty." He agrees that the level of it is rising because of human activity and that this should warm the climate.

But for more than a decade, Dr. Lindzen has said that when surface temperature increases, the columns of moist air rising in the tropics will rain out more of their moisture, leaving less available to be thrown off as ice, which forms the thin, high clouds known as cirrus. Just like greenhouse gases, these cirrus clouds act to reduce the cooling of the earth, and a decrease of them would counteract the increase of greenhouse gases.

Dr. Lindzen calls his mechanism the iris effect, after the iris of the eye, which opens at night to let in more light. In this case, the earth's "iris" of high clouds would be opening to let more heat escape.


. . .


"If I'm right, we'll have saved money" by avoiding measures to limit emissions, Dr. Lindzen said in the interview. "If I'm wrong, we'll know it in 50 years and can do something."


. . .


"You have politicians who are being told if they question this, they are anti-science," Dr. Lindzen said. "We are trying to tell them, no, questioning is never anti-science."



For the full story, see:

JUSTIN GILLIS. "TEMPERATURE RISING; Clouds' Effect on Climate Change Is Last Bastion for Dissenters." The New York Times (Tues., May 1, 2012): A1 & A14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated April 30, 2012.)






May 13, 2012

A "Boring" and "Excellent" Business Education




(p. 34) Most of what they taught us in those days was functional. This was before they added "entrepreneurship" to business courses. It was all about manufacturing, marketing, and personnel. I found that somewhat boring. I had two favorite courses. The first was Small Business. It was the only course where all the pieces carne together. The other was Computing, which was the first computer course that the Michigan Business School had ever taught. I had a feeling that this was the big new thing. But, more important, it was what IBM did. I had never seen a computer lab before. This was soon after Remington Rand made headlines with its UNIVAC I, the world's first commercial computer.


. . .


(p. 59) The University of Michigan is an excellent school. I loved being there and I am proud to have earned an MBA. When I was there, I noticed that the fìve-and--ten-cents-store founder, Sebastian S. Kresge--the man who invented the Kmart chain--had given them Kresge Hall. When I could afford to, I figured, why not do the same? I have always been so grateful for what I learned there. In 1997 I gave the school funding for a Sam Wyly Hall. (A few years earlier, Charles and I had helped to build Louisiana Tech's 16-story Wyly Tower of Learning.) It's fulfilling to me that today Paton Scholars study at Sam Wyly Hall on the Ann Arbor campus.



Source of both quotes:

Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.

(Note: ellipsis added.)





May 12, 2012

Some Tasks Are Done Better in Private Offices




QuietBK2012-05-03.jpg
















Source of book image: http://timeopinions.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/quiet-final-jacket.jpg



(p. 4) When the R.C. Hedreen Company, a real estate development firm based in Seattle, commissioned a renovation of a 10,800-square-foot floor in an old downtown office building five years ago, it specified a perimeter of private offices. Collaborative spaces are provided for creative teamwork, but the traditional offices remain the executives' home ports.

''Individually, a lot of our workday is taken up with tasks that are better served by working alone in private offices,'' says David Thyer, Hedreen's president.

Susan Cain, author of ''Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking,'' is skeptical of open-office environments -- for introverts and extroverts alike, though she says the first group suffers much more amid noise and bustle.

Introverts are naturally more comfortable toiling alone, she says, so they will cope by negotiating time to work at home, or by isolating themselves with noise-canceling headphones -- ''which is kind of an insane requirement for an office environment, when you think about it,'' she says.

Ms. Cain also says humans have a fundamental need to claim and personalize space. ''It's the room of one's own,'' she says. ''Your photographs are on the wall. It's the same reason we have houses. These are emotional safety zones.''



For the full story, see:

LAWRENCE W. CHEEK. "Please, Just Give Me Some Space: In New Office Designs, Room to Roam and to Think." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., March 18, 2012): 1 & 4.



The book mentioned is:

Cain, Susan. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. New York: Crown, 2012.






May 11, 2012

Harvard and M.I.T. Free Online Courses May Disrupt Mid-Tier Universities




(p. A17) In what is shaping up as an academic Battle of the Titans -- one that offers vast new learning opportunities for students around the world -- Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Wednesday announced a new nonprofit partnership, known as edX, to offer free online courses from both universities.

Harvard's involvement follows M.I.T.'s announcement in December that it was starting an open online learning project, MITx. Its first course, Circuits and Electronics, began in March, enrolling about 120,000 students, some 10,000 of whom made it through the recent midterm exam. Those who complete the course will get a certificate of mastery and a grade, but no official credit. Similarly, edX courses will offer a certificate but not credit.

But Harvard and M.I.T. have a rival -- they are not the only elite universities planning to offer free massively open online courses, or MOOCs, as they are known. This month, Stanford, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan announced their partnership with a new commercial company, Coursera, with $16 million in venture capital.


. . .


Education experts say that while the new online classes offer opportunities for students and researchers, they pose some threat to low-ranked colleges.

"Projects like this can impact lives around the world, for the next billion students from China and India," said George Siemens, a MOOC pioneer who teaches at Athabasca University, a publicly supported online Canadian university. "But if I were president of a mid-tier university, I would be looking over my shoulder very nervously right now, because if a leading university offers a free circuits course, it becomes a real question whether other universities need to develop a circuits course."



For the full story, see:

TAMAR LEWIN. "Harvard and M.I.T. Join to Offer Web Courses." The New York Times (Thurs., May 3, 2012): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated May 2, 2012, and has the title "Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses.")






May 10, 2012

Four Million Former Californians Voted with Their Feet




KotkinJoel2012-04-30.jpg










Joel Kotkin. Source of image: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.






(p. A13) 'California is God's best moment," says Joel Kotkin. "It's the best place in the world to live." Or at least it used to be.


. . .


Nearly four million more people have left the Golden State in the last two decades than have come from other states. This is a sharp reversal from the 1980s, when 100,000 more Americans were settling in California each year than were leaving. According to Mr. Kotkin, most of those leaving are between the ages of 5 and 14 or 34 to 45. In other words, young families.


. . .


"Basically, if you don't own a piece of Facebook or Google and you haven't robbed a bank and don't have rich parents, then your chances of being able to buy a house or raise a family in the Bay Area or in most of coastal California is pretty weak," says Mr. Kotkin.


. . .


And things will only get worse in the coming years as Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown and his green cadre implement their "smart growth" plans to cram the proletariat into high-density housing. "What I find reprehensible beyond belief is that the people pushing [high-density housing] themselves live in single-family homes and often drive very fancy cars, but want everyone else to live like my grandmother did in Brownsville in Brooklyn in the 1920s," Mr. Kotkin declares.

"The new regime"--his name for progressive apparatchiks who run California's government--"wants to destroy the essential reason why people move to California in order to protect their own lifestyles."

Housing is merely one front of what he calls the "progressive war on the middle class." Another is the cap-and-trade law AB32, which will raise the cost of energy and drive out manufacturing jobs without making even a dent in global carbon emissions. Then there are the renewable portfolio standards, which mandate that a third of the state's energy come from renewable sources like wind and the sun by 2020. California's electricity prices are already 50% higher than the national average.

Oh, and don't forget the $100 billion bullet train. Mr. Kotkin calls the runaway-cost train "classic California." "Where [Brown] with the state going bankrupt is even thinking about an expenditure like this is beyond comprehension. When the schools are falling apart, when the roads are falling apart, the bridges are unsafe, the state economy is in free fall. We're still doing much worse than the rest of the country, we've got this growing permanent welfare class, and high-speed rail is going to solve this?"



For the full interview, see:

ALLYSIA FINLEY, interviewer. "THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW with Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus; A leading U.S. demographer and 'Truman Democrat' talks about what is driving the middle class out of the Golden State." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., April 21, 2012): A13.

(Note: ellipses added; bracketed words in original.)

(Note: the online version of the interview is dated April 20, 2012.)






May 9, 2012

Capitalism More about Creating New Markets than about Competing to Dominate Old Ones




(p. A21) As a young man, Peter Thiel competed to get into Stanford. Then he competed to get into Stanford Law School. Then he competed to become a clerk for a federal judge. Thiel won all those competitions. But then he competed to get a Supreme Court clerkship.

Thiel lost that one. So instead of being a clerk, he went out and founded PayPal. Then he became an early investor in Facebook and many other celebrated technology firms. Somebody later asked him. "So, aren't you glad you didn't get that Supreme Court clerkship?"

The question got Thiel thinking. His thoughts are now incorporated into a course he is teaching in the Stanford Computer Science Department. (A student named Blake Masters posted outstanding notes online, and Thiel has confirmed their accuracy.)

One of his core points is that we tend to confuse capitalism with competition. We tend to think that whoever competes best comes out ahead. In the race to be more competitive, we sometimes confuse what is hard with what is valuable. The intensity of competition becomes a proxy for value.

In fact, Thiel argues, we often shouldn't seek to be really good competitors. We should seek to be really good monopolists. Instead of being slightly better than everybody else in a crowded and established field, it's often more valuable to create a new market and totally dominate it. The profit margins are much bigger, and the value to society is often bigger, too.

Now to be clear: When Thiel is talking about a "monopoly," he isn't talking about the illegal eliminate-your-rivals kind. He's talking about doing something so creative that you establish a distinct market, niche and identity. You've established a creative monopoly and everybody has to come to you if they want that service, at least for a time.



For the full commentary, see:

DAVID BROOKS. "The Creative Monopoly." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., April 24, 2012): A21.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated April 23, 2012.)


The online Peter Thiel notes are at:

http://blakemasters.tumblr.com/post/21169325300/peter-thiels-cs183-startup-class-4-notes-essay





May 8, 2012

Entrepreneur Sam Wyly Hard to Classify




1000-dollars-and-an-ideaBK.jpg











Source of book image: http://www.charlesandsamwyly.com/images/1000-dollars-and-an-idea.jpg



I sometimes divide entrepreneurs into two broad types: free agent entrepreneurs and innovative entrepreneurs. Free agent entrepreneurs are the self-employed. Innovative entrepreneurs are the agents of Schumpeter's process of creative destruction.

Then there are entrepreneurs like Sam Wyly who don't fit very well in either category.

He built or improved businesses in ways that made the world better, but usually did not involve breakthrough innovations.

Like many of the entrepeneurs considered in Amar Bhidé's main books, Wyly grew businesses that served consumers, enriched investors and created jobs. Some of his most important start-ups, especially early-on, involved computer services. And his efforts to compete with the government-backed AT&T monopoly, were heroic.

I read the 2008 version of his autobiography a few months ago, and found that it contained a few stories and observations that are worth pondering. In the next few weeks I will briefly quote a few of these.


The 2008 Wyly autobiography is:

Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.


I have not read the 2011 version of Wyly's autobiography:

Wyly, Sam. Beyond Tallulah: How Sam Wyly Became America's Boldest Big-Time Entrepreneur. New York: Melcher Media, 2011.


The dominant examples in Bhidé's two main books are entrepreneurs like Wyly. The two main Bhidé books are:

Bhidé, Amar. The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Bhidé, Amar. The Venturesome Economy: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.






May 7, 2012

"Environmentalists" Yawn at Windmills Killing Thousands of Migratory Birds




(p. A15) Last June, the Los Angeles Times reported that about 70 golden eagles are being killed per year by the wind turbines at Altamont Pass, about 20 miles east of Oakland, Calif. A 2008 study funded by the Alameda County Community Development Agency estimated that about 2,400 raptors, including burrowing owls, American kestrels, and red-tailed hawks--as well as about 7,500 other birds, nearly all of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act--are being killed every year by the turbines at Altamont.

A pernicious double standard is at work here. And it riles Eric Glitzenstein, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who wrote the petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He told me, "It's absolutely clear that there's been a mandate from the top" echelons of the federal government not to prosecute the wind industry for violating wildlife laws.

Mr. Glitzenstein comes to this issue from the left. Before forming his own law firm, he worked for Public Citizen, an organization created by Ralph Nader. When it comes to wind energy, he says, "Many environmental groups have been claiming that too few people are paying attention to the science of climate change, but some of those same groups are ignoring the science that shows wind energy's negative impacts on bird and bat populations."



For the full commentary, see:

ROBERT BRYCE. "Windmills vs. Birds; About 70 golden eagles are killed every year by turbines at California's Altamont Pass, reports the LA Times.." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., March 8, 2012): A15.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated March 7, 2012.)





May 6, 2012

Entrepreneurs Will Mine Asteroids to "Help Ensure Humanity's Prosperity"




CameronJames2012-04-30.jpg "Space mining has captivated Hollywood. Director James Cameron is a backer of the new venture." Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.


(p. B1) A new company backed by two Google Inc. billionaires, film director James Cameron and other space exploration proponents is aiming high in the hunt for natural resources--with mining asteroids the possible target.

The venture, called Planetary Resources Inc., revealed little in a press release this week except to say that it would "overlay two critical sectors--space exploration and natural resources--to add trillions of dollars to the global GDP" and "help ensure humanity's prosperity." The company is formally unveiling its plans at an event . . . in Seattle.


. . .


[The] . . . event is being hosted by Peter H. Diamandis and Eric Anderson, known for their efforts to develop commercial space exploration, and two former NASA officials.

Mr. Diamandis, a driving force behind the Ansari X-Prize competition to spur non-governmental space flight, has long discussed his goal to become an asteroid miner. He contends that such work by space pioneers would lead to a "land rush" by companies to develop lower-cost technology to travel to and extract resources from asteroids.



For the full story, see:

AMIR EFRATI. "A Quixotic Quest to Mine Asteroids." The Wall Street Journal (Sat., April 21, 2012,): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses and bracketed word added.)

(Note: the online "updated" version of the article is dated April 23, 2012.)






May 5, 2012

The One Percent's Quick History: "We Worked Hard, We Went to College, We Tried to Better Our Lives"




(p. F1) SOON after the Occupy Wall Street encampment was set up at Zuccotti Park in Manhattan last fall, 26-year-old Ryan Quick told his father, Leslie C. Quick III, a financier, that he might drop by the site.

"Don't you even let me see you over there," the father replied.

The senior Mr. Quick later said that he and his son were both "half-kidding" each other. But he need not have worried about any class rebellion. According to Mr. Quick, his son came back from his visit and said: "It just looks like a Phish concert. It's difficult to get engaged by something that doesn't really have a purpose."

As scions of a family that co-founded Quick & Reilly, a pioneering discount brokerage firm acquired for $1.6 billion by another company in 1997, the Quicks are undoubtedly among the "1 percent" -- the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Indeed, having made their fortune in finance, the Quicks might be particular targets.


. . .


(p. F5) "Almost all my clients are self-made," said Christopher J. Cordaro, chief executive of RegentAtlantic Capital, a wealth management firm based in Morristown, N.J., whose clients have at least $2 million in investable assets. "They're saying, 'We worked hard, we went to college, we tried to better our lives. Isn't that what I'm supposed to do?' "

That is also the Quick family's history. When he joined the year-old family firm after graduating from college in 1975, Leslie Quick recalled, "we didn't know if my father was going to declare bankruptcy or this discount brokerage thing was going to work."



For the full story, see:

FRAN HAWTHORNE. "Color the 1 Percent 99 Percent Conflicted." The New York Times (Thurs., February 9, 2012): F1 & F5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 8, 2012.)






May 4, 2012

Innovation Took "Three Years Working through the Bureaucratic Snags"




FlyingCar2012-04-30.jpg "FULL FLEDGED; The production prototype of the Terrafugia Transition, with its wings folded and road-ready." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 13) THE promise of an airplane parked in every driveway, for decades a fantasy of suburban commuters and a staple of men's magazines, resurfaced this month in Manhattan. On display at the New York auto show was the Terrafugia Transition, an airplane with folding wings and a drive system that enabled it to be used on the road.


. . .


But there can be many delays along the road from concept to certification. For instance, government officials and the designers have had to determine which regulations -- aircraft or automotive -- take precedence when the vehicle in question is both.


. . .


In 2010, the $94,000 Maverick, a rudimentary buggy that takes to the air under a powered parachute, earned certification as a light-sport aircraft. Troy Townsend, design manager and chief test pilot for the company, based in Dunnellon, Fla., said he spent spent nearly all of his time over the course of three years working through the bureaucratic snags.

"There was a lot of red tape," Mr. Townsend said. "The certification process went all the way to Oklahoma and Washington, D.C."



For the full story, see:

CHRISTINE NEGRONI. "Before Flying Car Can Take Off, There's a Checklist." The New York Times, SportsSunday Section (Sun., April 29, 2012): 13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated April 27, 2012.)



FederalRegsFlyingTable.pngSource of table: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.






May 3, 2012

Steve Jobs Channels Ellis Wyatt




(p. 260) In 2007 Forbes magazine named Steve Jobs the highest-paid exec-(p. 261)utive of any of America's five hundred largest companies, based on gains in the value of stock granted to him at Apple. He was on the board of directors of the Walt Disney Co. Yet his former residence in Woodside, where he had once met with Catmull and Smith and mused about buying Lucasfilm's Computer Division, was now in a state of decay under his ownership.

He had wanted to demolish it; after a group of neighborhood residents opposed his plan to do so, he left the house open to the elements. The interior suffered damage from water and mold. Vines crept up the stucco walls and wandered inside.

The memories that haunted its hallways were those of Jobs's darkest times. He had bought the house only months before the humiliation of his firing from Apple; he lived in it through that firing and through the hard, money-hemorrhaging years of Pixar and NeXT. He left it as his fortunes were about to change, as he was sending Microsoft away from Pixar, convinced that he had something he should hold on to.

When a judge ruled against his quest for a demolition permit, Jobs appealed in 2006 and 2007 all the way to the California Supreme Court, but he lost at every stage. He received proposals from property owners offering to cart the house away in sections and restore it elsewhere; he rejected them. One way or another, it seemed, he meant for the house to be destroyed.



Source:

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

(Note: italics in original.)

(Note: The passage above is from the Epilogue and the pages given above are from the hardback edition (pp. 260-261). The identical passage also appears in the 2009 paperback edition, but on p. 265.





May 2, 2012

"There Was Never a Plan . . . Just a Series of Mistakes"




CaroRobert2012-04-30.jpg "Robert Caro in his Manhattan office. The later volumes of his L.B.J. biography have taken more years to write than it took the former president to live them." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. 37) "There was never a plan," Caro said to me, explaining how he had become a historian and biographer. "There was just a series of mistakes."


. . .


(p. 38) Caro had a[n] . . . epiphany about power in the early '60s. He had moved on to Newsday by then, where he discovered that he had a knack for investigative reporting, and was assigned to look into a plan by Robert Moses to build a bridge from Rye, N.Y., across Long Island Sound to Oyster Bay. "This was the world's worst idea," he told me. "The piers would have had to be so big that they'd disrupt the tides." Caro wrote a series exposing the folly of this scheme, and it seemed to have persuaded just about everyone, including the governor, Nelson Rockefeller. But then, he recalled, he got a call from a friend in Albany saying, "Bob, I think you need to come up here." Caro said: "I got there in time for a vote in the Assembly authorizing some preliminary step toward the bridge, and it passed by something like 138-4. That was one of the transformational moments of my life. I got in the car and drove home to Long Island, and I kept thinking to myself: 'Everything you've been doing is baloney. You've been writing under the belief that power in a democracy comes from the ballot box. But here's a guy who has never been elected to anything, who has enough power to turn the entire state around, and you don't have the slightest idea how he got it.' "

The lesson was repeated in 1965, when Caro had a Nieman fellowship at Harvard and took a class in land use and urban planning. "They were talking one day about highways and where they got built," he recalled, "and here were these mathematical formulas about traffic density and population density and so on, and all of a sudden I said to myself: 'This is completely wrong. This isn't why highways get built. Highways get built because Robert Moses wants them built there. If you don't find out and explain to people where Robert Moses gets his power, then everything else you do is going to be dishonest.' "



For the full story, see:

CHARLES McGRATH. "Robert Caro's Big Dig." The New York Times Magazine (Sun., April 15, 2012): 34-39 & 52.

(Note: ellipses and bracketed letter added.)

(Note: the online version of the story is dated April 12, 2012.)


Caro's book on Robert Moses is:

Caro, Robert A. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1974.





May 1, 2012

Global Warming Would Reduce Deaths from Flu




(p. 4) According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this January was the fourth warmest in the documented history of weather in the contiguous United States.


. . .


. . . , our warm winter may have one unforeseen and felicitous consequence: a drastic reduction in the incidence of influenza.


. . .


This year's flu season, . . . , didn't officially begin until late last month. And while a true number is difficult to reach -- not every sick person is tested, for instance, and the cause of a death in the hospital can be clouded by co-morbidities -- it is likely that no more than a few hundred people in America, and possibly far fewer, have died of the flu this winter. Indeed, by any measurement, the statistics are historic and heartening. For every individual who has been hospitalized this season, 22 people were hospitalized in the 2010-11 flu season. Even more strikingly, 122 children died of flu last season and 348 during the flu outbreak of 2009-10 -- while this time around that number is 3.



For the full commentary, see:

CHARLES FINCH. "OPINION; The Best Part About Global Warming." The New York Times (Tues., March 4, 2012): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review is dated March 2, 2012.)





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