Leutze Got Right, What Was Important About Washington Crossing the Delaware

   Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s 1851 "George Washington Crossing the Delaware."  Source of the photo:  http://www.metmuseum.org/explore/gw/art_gw/ap97.341.jpg

 

Besides Fischer’s book, there was a modest, but quite good, movie made by the History Channel a few years ago called "The Crossing" and starring Jeff Daniels as George Washington.  From Daniels’ comedy roles, I was surprised that he could portray Washington with such understated intelligence and humanity.

 

(p. B5)  The painting, with its life-size figures, “is one of the most frequently reproduced images in American culture,” said David Hackett Fischer, Warren professor of history at Brandeis University and author of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Washington’s Crossing.” Leutze’s highly romanticized rendition captures a desperate effort, a turning point in American history, when on Christmas night in 1776 George Washington crossed the Delaware River with 2,500 troops in a surprise attack on Hessian soldiers.

“The crossing was a pivot point in a crucial campaign that rescued the revolution from failure,” Professor Fischer said, adding that it burnished not only Washington’s reputation as a leader, but also brought foreign support for the rebels’ cause.

Through the centuries the painting has been criticized aesthetically and for historical shortcomings. (The design of the fluttering American flag, for example, was not yet in use.) “You can add one inaccuracy to another, but Leutze understood the air of desperation, the small scale of the event and the very large meaning,” Professor Fischer said. “He got all of that right.”

 

For the full story, see: 

GLENN COLLINS.  "What Surrounds a Legend? A 3,000-Pound Gilt Frame."  The New York Times  (Mon., February 19, 2007):  B1 & B5.

 

The reference for the Fischer book is:

Fischer, David Hackett. Washington’s Crossing, Pivotal Moments in American History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

 

   Source of book image:  http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/10670000/10672110.jpg

 

Kodak Tries to Survive Creative Destruction

   A Kodak digital production printer.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article cited below. 

 

Digital photography replacing film technology is an example of Schumpeter’s process of creative destruction, and maybe also of the gradual growth of a disruptive technology.  Leading incumbent firms frequently have trouble prospering, or even surviving, during such a change.  Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times had articles on the latest news from Kodak.  Here is an excerpt from the New York Times version:  

 

On Tuesday, as the Eastman Kodak Company unveiled its long-anticipated consumer inkjet printer in New York, the mood at the company’s Rochester headquarters could not have been more positive.

“People know we are back on the offensive,” said Frank Sklarsky, Kodak’s chief financial officer.  “And that’s making them a lot more charged up about coming to work.”

But yesterday, Kodak gave them reason again to feel depressed.  The company said it would cut 3,000 more jobs this year, on top of the 25,000 to 27,000 it had already said would be gone by the end of 2007.  At that rate, Kodak will end the year with about 30,000 employees, half the number of just three years ago and a fraction of the 145,000 people it employed in 1988, when its brand was synonymous with photography.

Kodak executives insist that the new cuts do not indicate any snags in the continuing struggle to transform itself from a film-based company into a major competitor in digital imagery.  And analysts, too, say the cuts are inevitable, and probably healthy.

 

For the full NYT story, see: 

CLAUDIA H. DEUTSCH.  "Shrinking Pains at Kodak."  The New York Times   (Fri., February 9, 2007): C1 & C4.

 

For the related WSJ story, see: 

WILLIAM M. BULKELEY and ANGELA PRUITT.  "Kodak Sees More Job Cuts, Higher Restructuring Costs."  The Wall Street Journal  (Fri., February 9, 2007):  B4.

 

 

 KodakJobsBarGraph.gif KodakJobsGraph.gif PrinterMarketSharePieChart.gif   Source of the first and third graphic:  the WSJ article cited above.  Source of the second graphic:  the NYT article cited above.

 

Woodrow Wilson: The Automobile is “a Picture of the Arrogance of Wealth”

It is the common characteristic of new products from creative destruction that new products are first so expensive that only the rich can afford them, but then fairly soon, usually within a few years at most, the price falls to the level that ordinary people can afford.  At that point, what the rich gets are added features, at a high premium, but the basic product is widely available.  Consider the automobile:

 

(p. 193)  The autos of the time were a luxurious novelty.  One model even offered electric curlers in the back seat for on-the-go primping.  They were unreliable and expensive, costing around $1,500, twice the average annual family income.  And they were enormously unpopular.  Anticar activists tore up roads, ringed parked cars with barbed wire, and organized boycotts of car-driving businessmen and politicians.  Public resentment of the automobile was so great that even future president Woodrow Wilson weighed in, saying, "Nothing has spread socialistic feeling more than the automobile . . . a picture of the arrogance of wealth."  Literary Digest suggested, "The ordinary ‘horseless carriage’ is at present a luxury for the wealthy; and although its price will probably fall in the future, it will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle."

 

Source:

Kim, W. Chan, and Renée Mauborgne. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2005.

(Note:  ellipsis in original.  Also, the book provides sources for each quote in the passage above.)

 

Morales Slaughters Snow-White Llama to Celebrate Nationalization of Tin Smelter

   A snow-white llama that has not yet been symbolically sacrificed by Bolivian President Evo Morales.  Source of the photo:  http://www.staff.stir.ac.uk/f.r.wheater/images/25%20Llama%205_8_04.JPG

 

Picture it, in President Evo Morales’ Bolivia:  a peaceful, innocent-looking, snow-white llama slaughtered in homage to a barbaric mystical ritual, and in celebration of the slaughter, through nationalization, of private property and economic growth.  And afterwards, one imagines the visitng French brass band played on. 

 

VINTO, Bolivia: The ritual sacrifice of a snow-white llama provided a symbolic completion Friday to President Evo Morales’ nationalization of Bolivia’s lone operating tin smelter.

Swiss mining giant Glencore International AG owned the plant until last week and has threatened to seek compensation through international arbitration. Morales still says his government will not compensate Glencore for the Feb. 9 nationalization of the Vinto plant, located on a high Andean plain 180 kilometers (110 miles) southeast of the capital of La Paz.

. . .

After the ceremony, Morales hosted plant workers, a troupe of Andean pipers and a visiting French brass band to an outdoor supper of fried chicken and chuno, a traditional Bolivian dish of dehydrated potatoes.

While the nationalization retained all but a handful of smelter employees, workers remained divided over the change in management. Some rushed to greet "Companero Evo" as he toured the plant; others hung back and wondered about the future.

"Anywhere in the world they’ll tell you the government can’t be a good administrator," said plant employee Oscar Leyton. "But we’ll just have to wait and see how they do it. If they screw up here, they’ll screw up the whole country."

 

For the full story, see: 

"In Bolivia, llama sacrifice completes Morales’ tin smelter nationalization."  International Herald Tribune  February 16, 2007.

(Note:  ellipsis added.) 

 

Jim Collins on How Boeing Leapfrogged McDonnell Douglas

(p. 202)  Wisely, through the 1940s, Boeing had stayed away from the commercial sphere, an arena in which McDonnell Douglas had vastly superior abilities in the smaller, propeller-driven planes that composed the commercial fleet.  In the early 1950s, however, Boeing saw an opportunity to leapfrog McDonnell Douglas by marrying its experience with large air-(p. 203)craft to its understanding of jet engines. 

 

Source:

Collins, Jim. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap. And Others Don’t. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2001.

 

Preventing Creative Destruction Slows Economic Growth

 

GrowthRatesUS-Eur-JapanGraphic.jpg   Source of graphic:  online version of the NYT article cited below. 

 

It would be interesting to explore why the gap in growth rates was smaller last year than previously.  Was it a statistical fluke?  Or did the U.S. labor market become somewhat less flexible?  Or maybe the job market in Europe and Japan became somewhat more flexible? 

 

FOR more than a decade, many American economists have pointed to Europe and Japan as prima facie evidence that layoffs in the United States are a good thing. The economies in those countries were not nearly as robust as this country’s. And the reason? Too much job security in Europe and Japan, the economists said.

American employers, in sharp contrast, have operated with much more “flexibility.” Hiring and firing at will, they shift labor from where it is not needed to where it is needed. If Eastman Kodak is struggling to establish itself in digital photography, then Kodak downsizes and labor moves to industries and companies that are thriving — software, for example, or health care, or Wal-Mart Stores or Caterpillar.

This shuffling out of one job and into another shows up in the statistics as nearly full employment. Never mind that the shuffling does not work as efficiently as the description implies or that many of the laid-off workers find themselves earning less in their next jobs, an income roller coaster that is absent in Europe and Japan. A dynamic economy leaves no alternative, or so the reasoning goes among mainstream economists.

“Trying to prevent this creative destruction from happening is a recipe for less economic growth and less productivity,” said Barry Eichengreen, an international economist at the University of California, Berkeley.

 

For the full commentary, see: 

LOUIS UCHITELLE.  "ECONOMIC VIEW; Job Security, Too, May Have a Happy Medium."  The New York Times, Section 3 (Sun., February 25, 2007):  5.

 

For Better Jobs, Immigrants Voluntarily Line Up to Learn English


          In Mount Vernon, New York, Maria de Oliveira (center) waited three months for an opening in this English class.  Source of photo:  online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

 

In the United States, other things equal, those who speak English earn more than those who do not.  So there is a substantial incentive for immigrants to learn English, even in the absence of the much-debated proposed laws to mandate English in various ways.  Consider the evidence in the article excerpted below: 

 

(p. A1)  MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. — Two weeks after she moved here from her native Brazil, Maria de Oliveira signed up for free English classes at a squat storefront in this working-class suburb, figuring that with an associate’s degree and three years as an administrative assistant, she could find a good job in America so long as she spoke the language.

The woman who runs the classes at Mount Vernon’s Workforce and Career Preparation Center added Ms. Oliveira’s name to her pink binder, at the bottom of a 90-person waiting list that stretched across seven pages. That was in October. Ms. Oliveira, 26, finally got a seat in the class on Jan. 16.

“I keep wondering how much more I’d know if I hadn’t had to wait so long,” she said in Portuguese.

. . .

Luis Sanchez, 47, a Peruvian truck driver for a beer distributor in New Brunswick, has been in this country (p. C14) 10 years — and on the waiting list for English classes in Perth Amboy five months. “You live from day to day, waiting to get the call that you can come to class,” Mr. Sanchez said in Spanish, explaining that he knew a little English but wanted to improve his writing skills so he could apply for better jobs. “I keep on waiting.”

. . .

In Newburgh, N.Y., an Orange County town where one in five of the 29,000 residents are immigrants, Blanca Saravia has amassed an impressive portfolio of odd jobs since arriving from Honduras in 2004: gas station attendant, office janitor, cook’s helper, and, for the last 14 months, packager at a local nail-polish factory. Speaking in her native Spanish, Ms. Saravia said that she has been able to get by with co-workers’ translating, but that “when the boss gives orders, I don’t understand.”

. . .

. . .   Ahmed Al Saidi, 49, who works at a gas station and moved from Yemen in 1994, said in halting English that he wants to learn the language “for better work and to talk to people when I go to the store.”

Ms. Oliveira, the immigrant from Brazil, said she still knows too little English to venture into the marketplace; her husband, who is American born and supports the couple financially, encouraged her to enroll in the classes, held five mornings a week.

“I hope that when I’m speaking a little better, I’ll be able to find a job where I can use the English I learned here and the skills I have from back home,” she said in Portuguese. “When I was on the waiting list, there were times I thought this time would never come.” 

 

For the full story, see: 

FERNANDA SANTOS.  "Demand for English Lessons Outstrips Supply."  The New York Times  (Tues., February 27, 2007):  A1 & C14.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

 

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