Source of the book image: http://thecommentary.ca/images/books/Reagan2.jpg
(p. 10) For better or worse, Reagan’s ability to spin yarns out of everything that ever went into his mind is on display in ”Reagan’s Path to Victory,” the fourth volume in a series of collected speeches, letters and scripts published over the past four years. This one, edited like the others by Kiron K. Skinner, Annelise Anderson and Martin Anderson, is a chronological compilation of the syndicated radio talks Reagan delivered from 1975 to 1979.
. . .
In 1980, as a reporter freshly hired by Time magazine, I was assigned to Reagan’s campaign plane. My first week on the road, while listening to him give a speech in which he talked about how trees cause pollution and other quirky notions, an aide turned to me and said, ”Where did he get those facts?” I wrote a story, parsing the misleading little factoids that studded his stump speeches; the headline was that quote. The afternoon the article appeared, I was invited to sit next to Reagan on his campaign plane. I was braced for a rough lecture, but none came. I realized that he was either smart enough not to have read the article, or smart enough to pretend he hadn’t — or merely smart enough to know it wouldn’t matter. I also learned, when I started to play the old journalistic gotcha game by questioning him on issues ranging from Taiwan to his affection for the gold standard, that he was able to flea-flick the subjects away by launching into some amusing but irrelevant anecdote. At first I thought he was a bit oblivious. Eventually, I realized I was the oblivious one. He knew exactly what he was doing.
Now, having read the collection of his radio addresses, I even know what he was thinking when he proclaimed that most pollution is caused by trees. In a rather convoluted talk, in which he identifies the main pollution problem as oxides of nitrogen, he grandly declares: ”Nature it seems also produces oxides of nitrogen. As a matter of fact, nature produces 97 percent of them. If we could successfully eliminate 100 percent of all the man-produced polluting oxides of nitrogen, we’d still have 97 percent of what we presently have.”
So we’re a little closer to knowing where Ronald Reagan got his facts, and even a bit closer to knowing where he got his beliefs. And that’s not a bad step toward understanding the deeper questions and mysteries about him.
For the full review, see:
Walter Isaacson. “The Reagan Evolution.” The New York Times Book Review (Sun., October 31, 2004): 9-10.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the title “‘The Tycoons’: Benefactors of Great Wealth.”)
Book discussed in passage quoted above:
Skinner, Kiron K., Annelise Anderson, and Martin Anderson, eds. Reagan’s Path to Victory; the Shaping of Ronald Reagan’s Vision; Selected Writings. New York: Free Press, 2004.
(p. C7) In chronicling the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon declared that “if a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.” Gibbon himself elegantly narrated how happiness and prosperity withered after this flowering between 96 and 180 A.D. But what about the near-millennium of Roman history that came before? “What was it,” as Anthony Everitt asks in “The Rise of Rome,” “that enabled a small Italian market town by a ford on the river Tiber to conquer the known world” and thereby made Gibbon’s golden years possible?
. . .
Most of that economic activity, whether it developed autonomously as a result of lower costs or was driven by the coercive rule of the state, was catalyzed by the Mediterranean, with which even the sophisticated Roman road network could not compete. Yet in the period from the middle of the third century B.C. to the middle of the first, Mr. Everitt, following his literary sources, directs our attention to Hamilcar, the Carthaginian general; and to Hannibal, his hot-tempered son, leading elephants first across the Pyrenees and then the Alps. Both are important, and, had they not been defeated, Rome would have had a very short “rise” indeed. But the real action was on the Mediterranean. As the number of shipwrecks datable to these years attests, it was being crossed by trading vessels with a frequency never yet seen and never again matched–including the halcyon years hymned by Gibbon.
Sometimes the data can preserve an astonishingly precise record of a trade route. For example, storage containers–probably for wine–salvaged from the spectacular wrecks at Grand Congloué, off Marseilles, bear the stamp “SES.” Archaeologists have confidently linked this mark with a certain Sestius, who must have manufactured the wares at the villa we know he owned in southwestern Tuscany, no mean distance away.
When the shipwreck data, which suggest increased economic activity, are considered alongside the population contraction that Rome suffered in its bloody military campaigns, a tentative but rich answer to Mr. Everitt’s question begins to emerge: Rome’s rise is a story of economic growth, not divine intervention or native virtue. And although even this account, like all our conclusions about the distant past, must be provisional, it is at least anchored in an empirical model of how income gains from trade and lowered transaction costs were not swallowed up by an ever-expanding population.
For the full review, see:
BRENDAN BOYLE. “BOOKSHELF; The Economy of Empire; The rise of the world’s greatest empire is as much a story of shipping and markets as of divine providence and individual virtue.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., September 22, 2012): C7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article was dated September 21, 2012.)
Source of graphic: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.
(p. A2) . . . research has shown that even those who should be especially clear-sighted about numbers–scientific researchers, for example, and those who review their work for publication–are often uncomfortable with, and credulous about, mathematical material. As a result, some research that finds its way into respected journals–and ends up being reported in the popular press–is flawed.
In the latest study, Kimmo Eriksson, a mathematician and researcher of social psychology at Sweden’s Mälardalen University, chose two abstracts from papers published in research journals, one in evolutionary anthropology and one in sociology. He gave them to 200 people to rate for quality–with one twist. At random, one of the two abstracts received an additional sentence, the one above with the math equation, which he pulled from an unrelated paper in psychology. The study’s 200 participants all had master’s or doctoral degrees. Those with degrees in math, science or technology rated the abstract with the tacked-on sentence as slightly lower-quality than the other. But participants with degrees in humanities, social science or other fields preferred the one with the bogus math, with some rating it much more highly on a scale of 0 to 100.
“Math makes a research paper look solid, but the real science lies not in math but in trying one’s utmost to understand the real workings of the world,” Prof. Eriksson said.
For the full story, see:
CARL BIALIK. “THE NUMBERS GUY; Don’t Let Math Pull the Wool Over Your Eyes.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., January 5, 2013): A2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date January 4, 2013,)
A pdf of Eriksson’s published article can be downloaded from:
Eriksson, Kimmo. “The Nonsense Math Effect.” Judgment and Decision Making 7, no. 6 (November 2012): 746-49.
(p. 512) . . . Apple filed suit against HTC (and, by extension, Android), alleging infringement of twenty of its patents. Among them were patents covering various multi-touch gestures, swipe to open, double-tap to zoom, pinch and expand, and the sensors that determined how a device was being held. As he sat in his house in Palo Alto the week the lawsuit was filed, he became angrier than I had ever seen him:
Our lawsuit is saying, “Google, you fucking ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off.” Grand theft. I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death, because they know they are guilty. Outside of Search, Google’s products–Android, Google Docs–are shit.
A few days after this rant, Jobs got a call from Schmidt, who had resigned from the Apple board the previous summer. He suggested they get together for coffee, and they met at a café in a Palo Alto shopping center. “We spent half the time talking about personal matters, then half the time on his perception that Google had stolen Apple’s user interface designs,” recalled Schmidt. When it came to the latter subject, Jobs did most of the talking. Google had ripped him off, (p. 513) he said in colorful language. “We’ve got you red-handed,” he told Schmidt. “I’m not interested in settling. I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.” They resolved nothing.
Isaacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
Source of book image: http://media.cleveland.com/books_impact/photo/ironjpg-2761d5de1590effb.jpg
(p. C12) In a stunning follow-up to “Gulag,” Anne Applebaum takes readers back to the events that triggered the half-century-long standoff between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Instead of the usual aerial view, “Iron Curtain” re-creates what it was like on the ground for those who became the lab rats in Stalin’s monstrous social experiment.
For the full review essay, see:
Sylvia Nasar (author of passage quoted above, one of 50 contributors to whole article). “Twelve Months of Reading; We asked 50 of our friends to tell us what books they enjoyed in 2012–from Judd Apatow’s big plans to Bruce Wagner’s addictions. See pages C10 and C11 for the Journal’s own Top Ten lists.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 15, 2012): passim (Nasar’s contribution is on p. C12).
(Note: the online version of the review essay has the date December 14, 2012.)
The book under review, is:
Applebaum, Anne. Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956. New York: Doubleday, 2012.
(p. 686) An empirical review of the three fiscal stimulus packages of the 2000s shows that they had little if any direct impact on consumption or government purchases. Households largely saved the transfers and tax rebates. The federal government only increased purchases by a small amount. State and local governments saved their stimulus grants and shifted spending away from purchases to transfers. Counterfactual simulations show that the stimulus-induced decrease in state and local government purchases was larger than the increase in federal purchases. Simulations also show that a larger stimulus package with the same design as the 2009 stimulus would not have increased government purchases or consumption by a larger amount. These results raise doubts about the efficacy of such packages adding weight to similar assessments reached more than thirty years ago.
Taylor, John B. “An Empirical Analysis of the Revival of Fiscal Activism in the 2000s.” Journal of Economic Literature 49, no. 3 (September 2011): 686-702.