Krugman Says Economic Policy of Past Two Years “Isn’t Working”

(p. A21) . . . we already know what isn’t working: the economic policy of the past two years — and the millions of Americans who should have jobs, but don’t.

For the full commentary, see:
PAUL KRUGMAN. “The Wrong Worries.” The New York Times (Fri., August 5, 2011): A19.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated August 4, 2011.)

“A Colossal Investment Project, Born of the State, Steeped in Corruption”

CandlesChinaHighSpeedTrainCrash2011-08-06.jpg“Online critics have scornfully contrasted the difference between government rhetoric about the promise of high-speed rail and the reality of the troubled network. Local residents mourned victims of the train crash in Wenzhou on July 26.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. C1) China’s high-speed rail system is an apt metaphor for the country’s hurtling economy over the past decade: a colossal investment project, born of the state, steeped in corruption, built for maximum velocity, and imposed paternalistically on a public that is at once amazed and skeptical. The rail system has married foreign technology with national ambition in a network billed as the biggest and most advanced in the world, in a country whose per capita income ranks below that of Jamaica.

For the full commentary, see:
JASON DEAN And JEREMY PAGE. “Trouble on the China Express; The wreck of a high-speed train has enraged the Chinese public and focused attention on the corruption and corner-cutting behind the country’s breakneck economic growth.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., JULY 30, 2011): C1-C2.

Gas Lighting Did Not Appeal to Those Who Had Servants to Light Their Candles

(p. 123) Gas was particularly popular in America and Britain. By 1850 it was available in most large cities in both countries. Gas remained, however, a (p. 124) middle-class indulgence. The poor couldn’t afford it and the rich tended to disdain it, partly because of the cost and disruption of installing it and partly because of the damage it did to paintings and precious fabrics, and partly because when you have servants to do everything for you already there isn’t the same urgency to invest in further conveniences. The ironic upshot, as Mark Girouard has noted, is that not only middle-class homes but institutions like lunatic asylums and prisons tended to be better lit – and, come to that, better warmed – long before England’s stateliest homes were.

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.

Jon Stewart Skewers Media Bias Against Libertarian Ron Paul

The hilarious (but also seriously sad) clip above is embedded from the Mon., August 15, 2011 “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
(Note: I thank Deirdre McCloskey for letting me know about the clip.)

Cougar Dies in Connecticut Three Months AFTER Government Declares It Extinct

(p. A19) Boulder, Colo.
You have to admit, the cat had moxie.
The 140-pound cougar that was spotted last month among the estates of Greenwich — and was later struck and killed on the Wilbur Cross Parkway — has been the talk of southern Connecticut. New England, along with most of the Eastern United States, hasn’t been cougar country since the 19th century, when the animals were exterminated by a killing campaign that started in colonial times. So where had this cougar come from?
Now we know the answer, and it couldn’t be more astonishing. Wildlife officials, who at first assumed the cat was a captive animal that had escaped its owners, examined its DNA and concluded that it was a wild cougar from the Black Hills of South Dakota. It had wandered at least 1,500 miles before meeting its end at the front of an S.U.V. in Connecticut. That is one impressive walkabout.
You have to appreciate this cat’s sense of irony, too. The cougar showed up in the East just three months after the Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar extinct, a move that would exempt the officially nonexistent subspecies of the big cat from federal protection. Perhaps this red-state cougar traveled east to send a message to Washington: the federal government can make pronouncements about where cougars are not supposed to be found, but a cat’s going to go where a cat wants to go.

For the full commentary, see:
DAVID BARON “The Cougar Behind Your Trash Can.” The New York Times (Fri., July 29, 2011): A19.
(Note: the online version of the commentary is dated July 28, 2011.)

“A Brilliant and Exhilarating and Profoundly Eccentric Book”


“David Deutsch.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT review quoted and cited below.

(p. 16) David Deutsch’s “Beginning of Infinity” is a brilliant and exhilarating and profoundly eccentric book. It’s about everything: art, science, philosophy, history, politics, evil, death, the future, infinity, bugs, thumbs, what have you. And the business of giving it anything like the attention it deserves, in the small space allotted here, is out of the question. But I will do what I can.
. . .
The thought to which Deutsch’s conversation most often returns is that the European Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries, or something like it, may turn out to have been the pivotal event not merely of the history of the West, or of human beings, or of the earth, but (literally, physically) of the universe as a whole.
. . .
(p. 17) Deutsch’s enthusiasm for the scientific and technological transformation of the totality of existence naturally brings with it a radical impatience with the pieties of environmentalism, and cultural relativism, and even procedural democracy — and this is sometimes exhilarating and sometimes creepy. He attacks these pieties, with spectacular clarity and intelligence, as small-­minded and cowardly and boring. The metaphor of the earth as a spaceship or life-­support system, he writes, “is quite perverse. . . . To the extent that we are on a ‘spaceship,’ we have never merely been its passengers, nor (as is often said) its stewards, nor even its maintenance crew: we are its designers and builders. Before the designs created by humans, it was not a vehicle, but only a heap of dangerous raw materials.” But it’s hard to get to the end of this book without feeling that Deutsch is too little moved by actual contemporary human suffering. What moves him is the grand Darwinian competition among ideas. What he adores, what he is convinced contains the salvation of the world, is, in every sense of the word, The Market.

For the full review, see:
DAVID ALBERT. “Explaining it All: David Deutsch Offers Views on Everything from Subatomic Particles to the Shaping of the Universe Itself.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., August 14, 2011): 16-17.
(Note: ellipses between paragraphs added; ellipsis in Deutsch quote in original.)
(Note: the online version of the review is dated August 12, 2011 and has the title “Explaining it All: How We Became the Center of the Universe.”)

Book under review:
Deutsch, David. The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World. New York: Viking Adult, 2011.

“How Painfully Dim the World Was before Electricity”

(p. 112) We forget just how painfully dim the world was before electricity. A candle – a good candle – provides barely a hundredth of the illumination of a single 100-watt light bulb. Open your refrigerator door and you summon forth more light than the total amount enjoyed by most households in the eighteenth century. The world at night for much of history was a very dark place indeed.

Bryson, Bill. At Home: A Short History of Private Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.