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I tread warily on Eric’s turf, but this is too much to resist. David Leonhardt lays out, in today’s Times, the gamble which most of the world is about to undertake:

The world’s rich countries are now conducting a dangerous experiment. They are repeating an economic policy out of the 1930s — starting to cut spending and raise taxes before a recovery is assured — and hoping today’s situation is different enough to assure a different outcome.

The risk, of course, is that the same thing will happen that happened in the period 1936-1938. Then, premature fiscal tightening put a bullet in the head of the still shaky recovery, and the world economy collapsed back into depression. There is, now that you mention it, a book about this.

But now Things Are Different. For example, “Back then, however, European governments were raising their spending in the run-up to World War II. This time, almost the entire world will be withdrawing its stimulus at once.”

Ah. Well, but some things are different and improved, right? “The initial stages of our own recent crisis were more severe than the Great Depression.”

Hmm: still looking. No, wait! Leonhardt quotes Adam Posen, an economist working for the Bank of England on potential strengths of the system now that didn’t exist then. They are “China, India, and the relative health of the financial system today versus the 1930s.” This leads Posen to the ringing endorsement that “The chances we’re going to come out of this O.K. are still larger than the chances that we aren’t.”

Whew, I feel better. China will rescue us!


Tensions are rising over Chinese economic policy, and rightly so: China’s policy of keeping its currency, the renminbi, undervalued has become a significant drag on global economic recovery.

Is it too late to buy gold?


So England scored a goal that didn’t count because the referee didn’t see it and now my English friends are suddenly of the opinion that perhaps a smidgen of technology might not be the end of the beautiful game.

But… I have to say that this case isn’t the best for either introducing video refereeing or sexy be-chipped soccer balls.   The ball was in by about two yards.  There wasn’t a tough judgment call that needed to be made here that could have gone either way.  They just needed someone on the field seeing the goal!  So we need some line judges, with flags.  Their only job would be to raise the flag when the ball crosses the line; the head referee would still sort out whether someone was offsides, diving, or American* when figuring out whether he should disallow the goal.

I get that the simplicity of soccer is something a lot of people value, and that there’s something to be said for not chasing down every new whizbang technological solution, but I think colorful flags on sticks are proven technology.

*I know, I know.  It’s not prejudice against Americans, but global incompetence, but it was too much fun to type.

I don’t know how often a sidewalk needs repaving. But this certainly looks like a WPA signature on a sidewalk in Davis, on the north side of First Street between B and C.

If that’s what it is, it’s a nice illustration of the scope of the WPA; it’s a point that can’t be made frequently enough and is nicely made in Jason Scott Smith’s book, that the WPA’s reach was one of the things that made it simultaneously so popular and so unpopular. The project for Dixon was a boondoggle, of course, but the project for Davis was vital to the improvement of infrastructure.

From Noah Feldman’s “The Triumphant Decline of the WASP” in today’s New York Times:

But satisfaction with our national progress should not make us forget its authors: the very Protestant elite that founded and long dominated our nation’s institutions of higher education and government, including the Supreme Court. Unlike almost every other dominant ethnic, racial or religious group in world history, white Protestants have ceded their socioeconomic power by hewing voluntarily to the values of merit and inclusion, values now shared broadly by Americans of different backgrounds. The decline of the Protestant elite is actually its greatest triumph.

To illustrate this, I include a picture of that “Protestant elite” ceding their socioeconomic power:

It’s an odd op-ed all around, writing out all the people and groups who forced open the door of opportunity, often at risk of their own lives. Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, and a host of others simply evaporate from the record, leaving behind only the wise white (male) Protestants sagely extending privilege to all: the Founding Fathers of myth writ large over the entirety of the American experience. It’s a version of history to which no Irish (or Jewish or African-American or women or so on) need apply. They are, in Feldman’s formulation, eternally the beneficiaries of wisdom, but never its holders.

Dsquared posits,

I think we can all agree that things will go better if all currently working monetary economists stop teaching their models to undergraduates and instead adopt my modelling approach:
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OK Go’s drummer has a staring contest with Animal, overseen by Ira Glass of This American Life.

There oughta be an axiom of regulation, that if you’re changing the rules in such a way that will make you sound grossly culpable when something goes wrong, you shouldn’t do it.
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I had a vaguely negative impression (mainly received rather than first-hand) of Herman Melville’s abilities as a poet; but “Shiloh” is pretty strong.

Skimming lightly, wheeling still,
    The swallows fly low
Over the field in clouded days,
    The forest-field of Shiloh —
Over the field where April rain
Solaced the parched ones stretched in pain
Through the pause of night
That followed the Sunday fight
    Around the church of Shiloh —
The church so lone, the log-built one,
That echoed to many a parting groan
        And natural prayer
    Of dying foemen mingled there —
Foemen at morn, but friends at eve —
    Fame or country least their care:
(What like a bullet can undeceive!)
    But now they lie low,
While over them the swallows skim,
    And all is hushed at Shiloh.

A military sentimentality I can get behind. The density of rhyme is certainly artificial, and the specific rhymes could be criticized as “easy”; but they’re effective nonetheless. For example, in lone/one/groan, the weak word is “one”, but since it’s weak both semantically and phonetically, there’s a harmony to the choice; the result is almost as if the line division had fallen four syllables earlier. And I always appreciate a layered temporal perspective: the foreground, so to speak, is the present, with swallows in clouded days, and the background is the famous battle, but the focus of the poem is on a middle ground, the night after the battle, in which the foemen painfully died.

(I have no special occasion to post this — I happened on an old bookmark.)

UPDATE: Restored thanks to Eric’s quick warning and Google’s all-seeing cache.

As my grandfather used to say of his time in the Army, you learn very quickly on a bad posting that the fish rots from the head down. General McChrystal is at the very least guilty of fostering a culture of disrespect for civilian authority among his staff, which is not something generals should do.

But in doing so it might be worth noting he is only reflecting our broader culture,1 in which we appear to have determined that military service is honorable and civil service is dishonorable. This was not always the case; the US military used fairly regularly to be regarded as a home of reprobates and jobbers of the worst sort. I’m not sure exactly when the shift began to happen, nor do I know of any scholarly work on the subject, but at an educated guess I would say it traces to the turn of the twentieth century, and the relative success of the Root reforms at professionalizing the military and the relative failure of contemporary progressive reforms at rooting business corruption out of civilian politics.

UPDATE: And there he goes, replaced by Petraeus.

1Which doesn’t let him off the hook; the military are supposed to be better behaved than the broader culture.2
2And even in the broader culture Bud Light Lime is a vile decoction that all right-thinking people deplore.

Perhaps you were wondering, “What music best exemplifies the Banana Republican experience?” Perhaps you weren’t, but now that I’ve suggested it, you’re curious. You can find me trying to answer this question here.

In response to the Mississippi River flood of 1927, the administration of Calvin Coolidge dispatched Herbert Hoover to serve as what we would nowadays call the “czar” of the flood relief effort. Among other tasks, Hoover set about raising money for a cleanup and reconstruction fund. From John M. Barry, Rising Tide:

On May 24, he [Hoover] called a meeting of thirty Memphis bankers and businessmen at the Peabody and told them their quota was $200,000…. Those assembled shifted uncomfortably. One man protested. Suddenly, Hoover began to curse, his words as rough as those he had used decades before to miners a thousand miles from civilization. Then he made a simple promise. About 25,000 black refugees were in camps in Memphis. It was 2 P.M. He gave them to 5 P.M. that day to deliver pledges for the money. “If not,” he warned, “I’ll start sending your niggers north, starting tonight.”… By five o’clock he had his $200,000. (367-368)

Now, that’s a real shakedown (unlike those described here): Hoover threatened to accelerate the great migration of African Americans out of the South, depriving local business of needed labor, if he didn’t get subscriptions to his relief funds. And he got those subscriptions from Memphis businessmen who bore no direct responsibility for the catastrophe.

But here’s the other thing: the funds were designated for lending based on standard criteria for lending, i.e., available collateral. “[H]is massive financing effort accomplished next to nothing,” Barry writes (377), because little—maybe 5%—of the money ever got disbursed.

So there’s getting the money and there’s getting it out to where it can do some good. Hoover was aggressive about the former and lackluster at the latter. Let’s see what happens with the current efforts.

We learn today that one can download a free sample of Banana Republican to one’s iPad from the iBook store. The sample ends with the phrase, “… compromised by the distraction of my trousers being down around my ankles.”

An excellent chronicle by Sean Flynn in the July GQ of the events on and around the Deepwater Horizon just before and just after the explosion. I’ve put some excerpts below the fold but the whole thing is worth reading.

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I can’t decide if the vuvuzelas are a war crime or a just retaliation for colonialism.

Also, in case your website needs more vuvuzela.

Questions from the Chronicle, answered here.

Someone here has discovered the vuvuzela iPhone app.

It’s that time again, once every four years, when nations from around the globe gather…

… to ponder why Americans don’t like soccer.*  None of the typical explanations are compelling.  Thus I rant, first in a series, in part because it will tweak eric, tongue firmly in cheek, and you may talk about games that you’re watching in comments if you like, or you may rant back:

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Or the American media? Or the Internet? Somehow I’m suspicious, but I’m too tired to think it through

The predicted fatalities are based on an extremely rough and ready calculation. Fatalities from Spring 2009 to Spring 2010 nearly doubled (1.78, actually), so I applied that same increase to the Summer 2009 figures to get to Summer 2010 estimates. I make no claims to any particular analytical value for this.


A reader kindly points me to the essay “False Documents,” by the great E.L. Doctorow. It is of course through Doctorow that many readers now know of Sherman’s march or the Rosenberg trial; which is to say that Doctorow’s gripping narrative of these events has in those readers’ imaginations a place that is somewhat surer than the pure recitation of known historical facts. This is of course just as Doctorow would want it.
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This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."