Sunday, March 30, 2014

Interesting information on the age distribution of wealth in 2010

I suspect that the values for wealth shown here may be the median values for the ten percent of families, and the top one percent may be a lot richer than the top line would suggest. The younger members of the top ten percent can expect to inherit wealth when their parent's generation passes away.

The data are from 2010, near the bottom of the Great Recession. The wealthy have gotten a lot more wealthy since then, as the stock market and real estate values have rebounded.

As one might expect, in the USA some 60 percent of households accumulate wealth during their working lives, but the difference in wealth increases in older age groups.  Thus households with heads in their 60s in the top ten percent had median worth of nearly $2 million, while those in the median wealth group had about $200,000,

I assume that the middle class was able to buy a home by retirement, and would pull down any additional savings over time. The bottom groups probably never owned a home, and lived in retirement on pensions. The rich owned expensive homes, perhaps second homes, and lived on dividends, interest and pensions in retirement.

Note that someone who was 75 in 2010 was born in 1935. His/her first years were lived during the depression, and they also lived through World War II. The heads of those households may not have had the educational opportunities of later generations, nor perhaps the earning opportunities of the boomers. So the drop off in wealth of these oldest generations in wealth may be more a result of less wealth accumulation during their lifetimes, and not so much a draw down of wealth during old age.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Did you know this about American Voting?

There is a wonderful website that shows the growth of the United States and the creation of the states themselves.

These two maps show that between 1876 and 1890, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado were all made states. They all had small populations. Five still dependably vote Republican and one, Colorado, is a "purple" state, in play between Democrats and Republicans. We still live with an Electoral College with ten senatorial votes from tiny states that are almost sure to vote for Republican presidential candidates as a result of the action of the Republican Congresses in the latter part of the 19th century.

Top U.S. Decile Will Probably Return to Capturing Half U.S. Income.

An article in The New Yorker by John Cassidy provides the graph shown above in a description of how the USA got back to the current levels of economic inequality.

Western Europe did better than the Euro area in recent yeats.

This is from a very nice power point presentation on the economic crisis in the Euro area. The presentation was attributed to Krugman.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ukraine -- the Borderland

I recently finished reading Borderland: A Journey through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid. The book in 233 pages of text provides a brief history of Ukraine as well as accounts of experiences the author had reporting for two years (in the early 1990s) while living there. The book is organized by the places she visited as a reporter for the Daily Telegraph, and the interviews she conducted; historical sections are introduced sequentially in the chapters.

I also read the Ukraine sections of the CIA World Factbook and the Wikipedia entry for Ukraine.

Ukraine has existed as a country only since 1991. Immediately before that it was one of the republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. It looks to me as if Ukrainians have created a story of their past from the Kievan Rus, through eastern Slavs, Cossacks, and others who lived in the region. The country now consists of areas once dominated by Lithuania, Poland, Austria, the Crimean Khanate, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and of course, Russia, and different parts have different cultures and different views of the "nation" based on their local histories. Most of Ukraine was a part of the Russian empire for hundreds of years before the country became part of the USSR.

Historical Regions of the Ukraine
The book presents a dismal picture of a century of trials leading to today. During World War I, Ukraine was a portion of the Russian empire that saw fighting in the last year of the war. Bolsheviks and White Russians then fought there as part of the larger war for control of Russia. Then there was famine in the 1920s and a Stalinist purge of intellectuals. In the 1930s there was a famine due to crop failures, massive disruption due to collectivization of agriculture and the elimination of the Kulaks, and a deliberately imposed famine by the Stalin regime; millions died. The Axis occupied most of Ukrainian territory during World War II, and millions were killed in the Holocaust, in battle, and in the massacre of prisoners of war. After the war, Stalin imposed sanctions on Ukrainian ethnic groups he accused of consorting with the enemy. The Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986 and no one knows the morbidity and mortality it caused.

In the first decade after independence, the Ukrainian economy contracted by 60 percent, and it has still not fully recovered. The death rate has exceeded the birth rate during more than two decades of independence; there has been substantial migration, but the population has decreased overall since 1991. The country has been described as a kleptocracy, with government plagued by corruption, and a small number of oligarchs gaining great wealth. Massive popular demonstrations -- the Orange Revolution of 2004 and Euromaidan in 2013-14 -- attested to massive popular disapproval of government and economic conditions and each led to regime change.

It was the current dangerous situation that caused my history book club to choose to read about Ukrainian history, and the recommendation of a former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine that led me to choose this book. The book in describing the disasters of the last century is sometimes hard to take, but is a worthwhile read. The author manages to combine an overview of Ukrainian history with a feel for the human impact, the latter based on her accounts of interviews with people who shared memories of the hard times.

It is well known that there is a divide in the country, with the western population more oriented toward western Europe, more likely to speak Ukrainian, more likely to belong to the Ukrainian oriented churches, while the east and south, (and especially Crimea) were more oriented toward Russia, more likely to speak Russian, and more more likely to belong to the Russian Orthodox church. The regions bordering on Russia appear to have had more industry and more mining. The following map illustrates an aspect of this regionalism:

Ukrainian Salary Map (2007)
Anna Reid has done a good job providing the average American reader with a basis for understanding the current crisis. Indeed, in her chapter on Crimea, she as much as implies that there would be a future Crimean crisis. One of the translations of Ukraine is "Borderland", and Ukraine is now a borderland between the European Union, the European Common Market and NATO on the one side, and on the other the Russian sphere of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization. That is a tough place to be!

Tribute to Jimmy Carter -- Energy and Human Rights

Two of the major initiatives of Jimmy Carter's presidency focused on Human Rights and Energy. He was right both times, but the nation was too short sighted to recognize his wisdom and follow through on his initiatives;


We should have emphasized energy conservation, a win-win proposition. We should now be world leaders in renewable energy technology. I am glad that we have developed fracking technology and are beginning to exploit oil and gas reserves that were not previously available, and I wish that the western Europeans were also exploiting their oil and gas reserves available through fracking. And I wish we had continued a vigorous program of research and development to develop safe nuclear reactors. I think the long run focus of the world might require fusion energy, and I hope that that technology is high on the list of priorities -- it will be a big step, but it may be a necessary one.

If we and western Europe were more energy self sufficient, think of how the foreign policy problems with Russia, the Gulf States, and Venezuela would be simplified. Think how much better our economies and lives would be.

Human Rights

I realize that American attitudes towards human rights are not universally shared, but we have some fundamental values in the area. At the least we can speak out for human rights, and we can work at home to guarantee human rights for all Americans.

Carter maintained that human rights should be important in U.S. foreign policy decision making. I worked in the first year of his administration to try to define American policy to promote health and fight hunger as part of our foreign policy -- and I am proud of having had that opportunity.

He maintained that undemocratic, coercive governments should be challenged on human rights grounds, even if they were otherwise important to the United States. American policy has been less likely to support dictators, oligarchs and kings since, and that is to the good.

Carter is not putting his efforts to the rights of girls and women. He points to the abortions of female fetuses, to the killing of female infants. These are scandalous per se, but are also likely to cause serious social problems in societies with few females.

He points to the sex industry and the involuntary servitude imposed on female sex workers worldwide, including in the United States.

We also know that in many countries, half of the human resources are essentially discarded. This is wrong per se, but all the people suffer from homes that function less well than they might, as does the economy and political institutions.

Jimmy Carter is acknowledged as having achieved greatness as a former president, but I think his stature as a president will improve as historians of the future put his accomplishments into the proper perspective.

Guidance from Professor Einstein

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Bill Gates likes this graph. So do I.

Perhaps the greatest success of international health and development.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Difference Between Decision Making Model and Multisectoral Model

I have no real idea if it is true, but I have heard it suggested that:

  • The Russian Government led by President Putin made an opportunistic decision to absorb Crimea into Russia, needing a perceived victory to counterbalance the failure of the government it supported in Ukraine, the related failure of the negotiations to incorporate Ukraine into a customs union led by Russia, and the preference of the ethnic Russian Crimean majority.
  • Very competent Russian special forces were able to move relatively unobserved into Russian military bases in Crimea and from there implement a program to take control of Crimea with the support of existing Russian forces and with the support of local factions.
I think this scenario illustrates, whether or not it is in fact true, illustrates something that may well be true in a larger sense. Governments are complex things. It is quite possible for the military to have very competent units with detailed contingency plans and relevant training and practice, while at the same time central policy makers are acting without much planning and making decisions that may or may not be good or even well thought out. In such situations, a bad decision may be effectively implemented.

This is my scenario for the Iraq war.
  • The Bush administration to invade Iraq was made on the basis of poor intelligence and poor understanding by the decision makers of Iraq and the Iraqis.
  • The U.S. military conducted a brilliant campaign to quickly destroy the Iraqi defenses and conquer the country.
  • State Department contingency planning for post conquest U.S. policy in Iraq was ignored, and fatally bad decisions were made in the early stages of the occupation that led to a long term insurgency.

Whether this scenario is true or not, it illustrates the possibility that a complex government may act very effectively in some aspects of implementing a policy and very ineffectively in other aspects. This is true whether or not the policy is a good one.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Innovate by Nature: Sujata Bhatia at TEDxUNC

Interesting talk. I have tried the technique of providing one-on-one and one-on-small team projects to help students learn to innovate, and I like the process. Of course, innovation is often the combination of a new idea with an old idea. Indeed, that is why innovations often come from collaborations between people from different fields -- where each brings an idea from his/her own field that is new to the other. Sorry for the bad sound quality.

The World is Going To Need a Lot of Engineers, Soon!

I quote from The Economist:
It will cost $57 trillion to build and maintain the world’s roads, power plants, pipelines and the like between now and 2030, reckon consultants at McKinsey (see chart). That is more than the value of today’s infrastructure. By one estimate, infrastructure spending currently amounts to $2.7 trillion a year (about 4% of global output), yet $3.7 trillion is needed.
That also means we will need engineers to build that infrastructure -- Civil Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Electronics Engineers, and Agricultural Engineers. We will also need engineers to work on the factories and homes that will be served by that infrastructure, and engineers to develop the mechanical, electrical and electronic machines that will utilize the infrastructure.

Recall that to increase the number of working engineers, the world has to accumulate their number over the years, providing each cadre with opportunities for professional growth during its career. If more graduates are needed each year, then the engineering schools will need to build the added capacity to train those engineers, which in turn means that the world will need to educate the engineering educators. It takes time to produce an engineering profession and there is barely enough time to do the necessary by 2030.

A thought about Ukrainian Decision Making

I quote from the CIA Factbook on Ukraine:
Although final independence for Ukraine was achieved in 1991 with the dissolution of the USSR, democracy and prosperity remained elusive as the legacy of state control and endemic corruption stalled efforts at economic reform, privatization, and civil liberties. A peaceful mass protest "Orange Revolution" in the closing months of 2004 forced the authorities to overturn a rigged presidential election and to allow a new internationally monitored vote that swept into power a reformist slate under Viktor YUSHCHENKO. Subsequent internal squabbles in the YUSHCHENKO camp allowed his rival Viktor YANUKOVYCH to stage a comeback in parliamentary elections and become prime minister in August of 2006. An early legislative election, brought on by a political crisis in the spring of 2007, saw Yuliya TYMOSHENKO, as head of an "Orange" coalition, installed as a new prime minister in December 2007. Viktor YANUKOVYCH was elected president in a February 2010 run-off election that observers assessed as meeting most international standards. The following month, Ukraine's parliament, the Rada, approved a vote of no-confidence prompting Yuliya TYMOSHENKO to resign from her post as prime minister. In October 2012, Ukraine held Rada elections, widely criticized by Western observers as flawed due to use of government resources to favor ruling party candidates, interference with media access, and harassment of opposition candidates. President YANUKOVYCH's backtracking on a trade and cooperation agreement with the EU in November 2013 - in favor of closer economic ties with Russia - led to a three-month protest occupation of Kyiv's central square. The government's eventual use of force to break up the protest camp in February 2014 led to all out pitched battles, scores of deaths, international condemnation, and the president's abrupt ouster. An interim government under Acting President Oleksandr TURCHYNOV has scheduled new presidential elections for 25 May 2014.
And from UPI on Marcy 12th:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will tell his Russian counterpart the Ukrainian people must decide their own future, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
It took many decades for the United States of America to develop an adequate democracy. Recall that President Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address that four score and seven years had passed and the nation was still involved in a great war to determine whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, could long endure.

I wonder whether the democratic institutions are sufficiently well developed in Ukraine to allow the Ukrainian people "to decide their own future" with any satisfactory level of participation.

If the Ukrainian people can not reach a reasonable level of consensus relatively soon, what will the world do?

Ukrainian Election 2012: A map of political preferences
Source: Kyiv Post

Maps: Russia, after the breakup of Communism, faces a bigger EU and a bigger NATO

In 1991 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics dissolved. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan became countries separate from the Russian Federation.  The members of the Warsaw Pact (Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania) and Yugoslavia were relieved of Soviet domination.

Former USSR, Warsaw Pact Nations and Yugoslavia
There has been a comparable expansion of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The animated maps shown in the linked Wikipedia articles show the expansion of these institutions clearly.

A thought about cultural differences and working internationally

Homo sapiens are a single species, as we have proven by enthusiastically interbreeding. Most people all over the world can pretty much interpret each others facial expressions.  We seem to have the same organs, the same senses. As a species we have a rather narrow genetic variation, consistent with have been few in numbers a couple of hundred thousand years ago.

On the other hand, we are culturally diverse. We speak thousands of different (native) languages. We dress differently, have different food preferences, different kinds of houses, different religions, different ways of governing ourselves, different ways of organizing our economies, etc.

I just read this article that indicates how much of Social Science is based on studies of subjects from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Developed (WEIRD) populations. Indeed, a large portion of the research published in social science journals seems to be based on American college students, and most of them in psychology courses. The problem noted in the article is that the WEIRD population is an cultural outlier yet many of the results observed in WEIRD populations are assumed to be representative of universal human behavior.

The article gives an example of "the ultimatum game". Here is the Wikipedia description:
The ultimatum game is a game often played in economic experiments in which two players interact to decide how to divide a sum of money that is given to them. The first player proposes how to divide the sum between the two players, and the second player can either accept or reject this proposal. If the second player rejects, neither player receives anything. If the second player accepts, the money is split according to the proposal. The game is played only once so that reciprocation is not an issue.
Extensive form representation of a two proposal ultimatum game. Player 1 can offer a fair (F) or unfair (U) proposal; player 2 can accept (A) or reject (R).

  • People in industrialized societies tend to make offers to split the money fairly evenly and to reject offers that keep most of the money for the offerer.
  • People in small scale societies with only face to face transactions tend to offer small portions of the money, and to accept small portions of the money.
  • In some societies, those where gift giving typically involves reciprocal responsibility to return favors with future favors, large portions of the money were often offered and often rejected.

At one time it was assumed that the response of people in industrialized societies was a universal response. It now appears that the response is culturally determined.

  • In industrialized societies, economic transactions are formalized by the economic institutions which in turn depend on high levels of trust. People from those societies apparently act in accordingly.
  • In the small scale societies, offerers realize that they can keep most of the money since almost any offer will be accepted; recipients choose to accept whatever is offered on the basis that something is better than nothing.
  • In societies with institutionalized reciprocal giving, offerers apparently assume that by giving a lot they can expect a lot in return; recipients choose to reject even generous offers assuming apparently preferring to avoid the burden of some future unspecified reciprocal gift.
I note that on one level, the behavior of the offerers and recipients in the ultimatum game is culture dependent, as described. However, at another level it seems to be common -- people in each culture seem to make decisions that are rational given the institutional framework of their own culture, and the way that they expect others to act.

So What

I have worked in more than 35 countries. In some of those I have lived for years and gained some intuitive feel for the ways of the culture. Moreover, I worked a long time in Latin America, and there are some similarities among the cultures of the Latin American nations. However, in others I had only the most limited understanding of culture, perhaps based on a bit of reading.

Some places I think I have pretty good intuition as to how people will make their decisions most of the time; in other places, not so much. The problem is to know in which kind of place one is working at the moment.

I suppose the lesson of that experience is "don't assume", be humble, and be polite.

I tend to feel that there will be common grounds -- that people will prefer health to sickness, will avoid pain and hunger. But even those ideas may not hold up everywhere; there are even times and places where parents will prefer the death to the survival of normal infants.

Thus it is important to recognize that in other cultures, values may be different than one's own. Slavery is still with us, as are prejudice and war. In some cultures, corruption is all but universal where it is possible. For the international worker, I suppose the key is to maintain one's own important values, recognizing that they may not be shared by those with whom one is working.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Interesting result on economic mobility

Source: Pew Research Center
Planet Money used data from the National Longitudinal Surveys, which has been following a nationally representative sample of 12,686 men and women since 1979, when they were 14 to 22 years old. For those in 30 occupational categories (chosen because “we thought [they] would be interesting and understandable”), Planet Money plotted their current income against their median family income in 1979, adjusted for inflation.
There may be a bias in the data. Police officers and fire fighters may be paid a risk premium, and may have shorter working lives, and as a consequence lower lifetime earnings that people with jobs requiring similar training and experience but without comparable risk.

The upper income seem to be reserved for knowledge workers, whose families were generally in the upper middle class. However, knowledge workers may have longer and more expensive training, and thus less disposable lifetime income than would appear from the graph.

Still, the general trend is clear -- there is not as much mobility in American society as we think. Poor families produce new generations of low paid workers; well to do families produce new generations of well paid workers.

ANAC CUAN by Anthony Raftery

Today is World Poetry Day -- Proclaimed by UNESCO

Here is a version of the lyrics in English (and from the source in Irish).
If my health is spared I'll be long relating,
Of the boat that sailed out from Anac Cuan,
And the keening after of mother and father,
As the laying out of each corpse was done.
Oh King of Graces, who died to save us,
It was a small affair but for one or two,
But a boat-load bravely on a calm sailing,
Without storm or rain to be swept to doom.

The boat sprang a leak and left all those people,
And frightened sheep out adrift on the tide,
It beats all telling what fate befell them,
Eleven strong men and eight women died.
Men who could manage a plough or harrow,
For to break the fallow or scatter seed,
And the women whose fingers could move so nimbly,
To spin fine linen or cloth to weave.

Young boys they were lying where crops were ripening,
From the strength of youth they were borne away,
In their wedding clothes for their wake they robed them,
Oh King of Glory man's hope is vain.

May burning mountains come tumbling downward,
On that place of drowning may curses fall,
Full many the soul it has left in mourning,
And left without hope of a bright day's dawn.
The cause of their fate was no fault of sailing ,
It was the boat that failed them the Caislean Nuadh,
And left me to make with a heart that's breaking,
This sad lamentation for Anac Cuain.
 I ran across this thesis on Blind Raftery, a direct ancestor of my great grandfather.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Do I Understand the Roots of Russian Absorption of Crimea?

I normally try to avoid posting on things on which I don't know much. This is an exception, as I really don't know much about Russia, Ukraine or Crimea. Readers might comment to correct me, as this post is my trying to thing through the current news stories.
Do I have the chronology correct?
Recall that the Sochi winter Olympics took place between February 7 and February 27. It was a very expensive effort that involved President Putin's personal attention during its operation. Almost certainly intended to improve the image of Russia worldwide, its impact on global public opinion was dramatically reduced by the Euromaidan demonstrations.

Why Did the Russian Do What They Did?

A possible explanation of Russian actions here seems to me to be one of responses to rapid events of others.
  • The creation of an common market involving Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan would have both economic value to Russia and political value to Putin.
  • Were Ukraine to have links to both the EU and the CES it might have been a bridge between the two economic zones; the refusal of the EU to allow Ukraine to belong to both, had EU membership gone through, would have had the effects of  weakening the CES from what had been hoped by Putin; Russians might have feared the Ukraine would become a pro-NATO force on Russia's border.
  • The Russian counter offer to EU support was perhaps meant as a means to revise Ukrainian linkages weakening its approach to the EU and strengthening its linkages with Russia and the CES.
  • The fall of Yanukovych and his government was a significant defeat for Putin and the Russian initiative. It probably had not been predicted long in advance.
  • The aborted repeal of the law allowing Russian to be used as a regional language would probably have been perceived in Russia as a significant sign of anti-Russian animus on the part of the interim Ukrainian government.
  • The demonstrations of the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea illustrated a willingness in that area to leave Ukraine and join Russia. The area was important to Russia because it was the home of the Russian Black Sea fleet, and because much of Russian exports moved through Crimean ports.
  • Putin encouraged the secession of Crimea from Ukraine and its accession to Russia, accepting the costs in worsening relations with Ukraine, the EU, and the USA, because the move was popular in Russia, because it showed Russian power counteracting the apparent weakness in the loss of its ally in Kiev, and because it was consonant with his vision of Russia as a global economic and political power with deep historical roots.
The Russian government seems to have long term plans to improve the Russian economy and to assure Russian security by maintaining strength and preventing threats from rising in a region of influence, especially the adjoining countries.

However, the decisions made this month may have been tactical responses to the actions of others in Ukraine, Crimea, and the west.

Source: "This one map helps explain Ukraine’s protests", The Washington Post

Monday, March 17, 2014

We should demand that our Congresspeople act like adults!

I was just listening to David Wessel, author of Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget.

He pointed out that a large portion of the U.S. federal budget goes to health care. The Congress has been expanding coverage of health care for a long time -- Medicare, Medicaid, drug coverage, the Affordable Care Act.

The United States has a historically unique system of financing health care costs, since a large portion is financed by health insurance paid for or at least subsidized by employers. As is usually the case, providers tend to decide how much health service a patient needs, and to charge for each service. Employers see the insurance costs as part of the cost of doing business (and do not pay taxes on those costs). Employees do not pay taxes on the employer subsidy for their health insurance. Thus the government subsidizes expensive health insurance.

As people get older, they have more chronic illness, and use more health services. The average age of the population is increasing, and the number of people qualifying for Medicare is increasing rapidly. Other government programs also tend to increase the demand for health services.

The supply of health service professionals is limited as the number of medical and nursing schools is kept low, and as the construction of medical facilities is limited.

If demand increases and supply does not increase, and there is no rationing of care, the cost of services goes up. Other countries deal with the problem by having a single payer health care system which limits the rate of increase of cost of service.

Of course, as medical technology advances, new services become possible, adding to the demand for service. Often the new technology is expensive, so the increase in cost comes both from the intrinsic costs of the new technology and the fundamental economics of supply and demand.

Now comes the weird part!

The costs of health services are increasingly shifted to the government.

The Congress refuses to increase taxes to pay the increased costs to the government of health services.

The Congress refuses to give the government price control authority to limit inflation of health care costs.

So health care costs are being funded by borrowing, increasingly from abroad, and are squeezing every other element of the federal budget.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Just noting

I quote from the U.S. State Department:
The United States recognized South Sudan as a sovereign, independent state on July 9, 2011 following its secession from Sudan. The United States played a key role in helping create the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that laid the groundwork for the 2011 referendum on self-determination, through which the people of South Sudan overwhelmingly voted to secede. 
Quoting from Wikipedia:
The United States officially recognized the Republic of Kosovo[a] – the south eastern European state which declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008 – as an independent nation on February 18, 2008.
And from another Wikipedia article:
In December 2007, the United States government discussed whether to back the shaky transitional government in Mogadishu or to acknowledge and support the less volatile Somaliland secessionists. 
On 24 September 2010, Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, stated that the United States would be modifying its strategy in Somalia and would seek deeper engagement with the governments of Somaliland and Puntland while continuing to support the Somali Transitional Government.
From still another Wikipedia article:
In 1947 Eritrea gained its independence from European powers and became part of a federation with Ethiopia, the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Subsequent annexation by Ethiopia led to the Eritrean War of Independence, ending with Eritrean independence in 1991.
Wikipedia on U.S. relations with Bangladesh:
After the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1971, the United States formally recognized the newly independent country in April 1972 and pledged US$300 million in aid.
Will these historical precedents (and others) influence U.S. policy with respect to today's Crimean vote?

Source of the map.

Video History -- I don't guarantee accuracy

Saturday, March 15, 2014

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Obama Administration Abandons Monroe Doctrine, but Keeps Bush II Human Rights Policy

Slate quoted this from Secretary John Kerry's November 2013 speech at the Organization of American States:
When people speak of the Western Hemisphere, they often talk about transformations that have taken place, but the truth is one of the biggest transformations has happened right here in the United States of America. In the early days of our republic, the United States made a choice about its relationship with Latin America. President James Monroe, who was also a former Secretary of State, declared that the United States would unilaterally, and as a matter of fact, act as the protector of the region. The doctrine that bears his name asserted our authority to step in and oppose the influence of European powers in Latin America. And throughout our nation’s history, successive presidents have reinforced that doctrine and made a similar choice. 
Today, however, we have made a different choice. The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over. (Applause.) The relationship – that’s worth applauding. That’s not a bad thing. (Applause.) The relationship that we seek and that we have worked hard to foster is not about a United States declaration about how and when it will intervene in the affairs of other American states. It’s about all of our countries viewing one another as equals, sharing responsibilities, cooperating on security issues, and adhering not to doctrine, but to the decisions that we make as partners to advance the values and the interests that we share.
The New York Times reported on March 13, 2014 that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "imposes no human rights obligations on American military and intelligence forces when they operate abroad, rejecting an interpretation by the United Nations and the top State Department lawyer during President Obama’s first term."
The administration affirmed that stance in a meeting in Geneva of the United Nations Human Rights Committee on Thursday. The United States first expressed the stance in 1995 after the Clinton administration was criticized for its policy of intercepting Haitian refugees at sea, and the Bush administration later amplified it to defend its treatment of terrorism suspects in overseas prisons.
So Secretary Kerry reminded Russian President Putin (who admittedly needed no reminder) and EU allies that U.S. foreign policy had been based on a Sphere of Influence theory since the early in the 19th century. Then this week, our representative reaffirmed that we did not feel constrained by treaty obligations on human rights in foreign policy. Now we are negotiating with Russia over Ukraine and Crimea.

U.S. Precedents to Consider when Thinking About Crimea.

The United States purchased the Louisiana territory from France in 1803. It purchased the Florida territory from Spain in 1819. It made the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico in 1853-54. It purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867. It purchased the U.S. Virgin Islands from Denmark in 1917.

Territories were acquired from Great Britain in 1818 and 1842 by treaties.

Texas and Hawaii were acquired by the United States after their residents had overthrown existing governments, established new states, and then applied for admission to the Union.

The United States acquired much of the southwest, Puerto Rico, and Guam by conquest (in the war with Mexico in the 1840s and the Spanish-American War of 1898). It also obtained sovereignty over the Philippines and protectorate status over Cuba in the Spanish American War.

Note that the administration of Puerto Rico has changed over the long period in which it has been U.S. territory.

According to Wikipedia:
An American Indian reservation is an area of land managed by a Native American tribe under the United States Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs. There are about 310 Indian reservations in the United States, meaning not all of the country's 550-plus recognized tribes have a reservation—some tribes have more than one reservation, some share reservations, while others have none.
Also according to Wikipedia: The
United States Naval Station Guantanamo located on 45 square miles (120 km2) of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which the United States leased for use as a coaling and naval station in the Cuban–American Treaty of 1903. The base is on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas U.S. Naval Base, and the only U.S. military installation in a country with whom the United States has no diplomatic relations. Since 1959 the Cuban government has consistently protested against the US presence on Cuban soil and called it illegal under modern international law.
 According to UNESCO:
In 1932 Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada) was combined with the Glacier National Park (Montana, United States) to form the world's first International Peace Park. 
Both parks were designated by UNESCO as Biosphere Reserves in the global network of reserves in 1976, and in 1995 as World Heritage sites. The two parks are administered separately; Glacier National Park is administered by the federal National Park Service under federal legislation.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Did You Know 2014

An update from earlier versions of "Did you Know" …fascinating

 Thanks to my friend Darrell for pointing this out to me.

Rates of adoption of electrical, media and ICT technology in the USA.

The graph is interesting. It suggests that it took 46 years after the introduction of electric lights in the 1870s for one-quarter of the American population to be wired, but only seven years for one quarter of the population to sign up for the World Wide Web after it was introduced a little more than two decades ago.

Of course, to hook up to the web via the existing telephone system using the existing computer infrastructure was perhaps easier than building the electrical network out to the population.

Michael Specter: The Danger of Science Denial

Vaccine-autism claims, "Frankenfood" bans, the herbal cure craze: All point to the public's growing fear (and, often, outright denial) of science and reason, says Michael Specter. He warns the trend spells disaster for human progress.

Joan Baez - House of The Rising Sun, 1960

 I just recommended this to a friend who said he did not like folk music.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Three Great Travelers from the Middle Ages

Go to the Time magazine site for this wonderful map, where you can click on the map and follow the routes of the three travelers:

The Higher the Family Income, the Higher the SAT Scores.

Source: MSNBC
On the of the current 2,400-point scale (which will return to 1,600 as part of the reform), students from families making less than $20,000 a year averaged a combined score of 1,326 –whereas students with a family income of more than $200,000 a year scored an average of 1,714 points. 
The average score overall should be about 1,500 point. Should we be more worried about the very low scores of poor kids, or the vast differences in scores between kids from rich families and those from poor families.

How much of the difference is geographic? Are kids from the states with the worst public school systems greatly disadvantaged as compared with kids from states with the best public schools?

The SAT is designed to predict the success of students in the first year in college. Of course, it makes sense that ability in mathematics, reading and writing should help students do well. I suspect that a dozen years of good  schools and friend with academic aspirations helps the kids from high income families do well on the tests.

I also note that early child development seems to count, and a mother who talks to her infant and a good nursery school - preschool experience may carry an influence; these might be better provided by more affluent families. So too, a family that reads and that expects children to study and prepare for academic success should have children with such success, and those families might be more likely found among those with high incomes.

Genetics? Perhaps smarter parents and grandparents are more likely to have smarter children and grandchildren and to be more affluent.

Do more affluent families send kids to colleges that assure the kids do well? Seems likely. So do the SATs have some hidden aspects that predict if kids are likely to get to those colleges? Maybe.

And, as the MSNBC article suggests, high income families may pay for their kids to get special help preparing for the SATs, and perhaps that training pays off in better scores.

Thinking about the use of historical analogies in foreign policy decision making.

I recently read "Lessons" of the Past: The Use and Misuse of History in American Foreign Policy by Ernest R. May.  He focuses on the use of historical analogies in foreign policy decision making. I posted several times while reading the book. (Here is my most recent post, which has links to the earlier ones.) I want to expand my thoughts on thinking about foreign policy using (historical) analogies.

Kinds of Foreign Policy Thinking

There are some 200 countries in the world, many regional bodies, and more than a thousand international bodies. Now the United States with more than 300 million people and millions of people in government can do thousands of things at one time. The White House, however, has to triage.

Some issues, such as Latin American Policy or the negotiations of the Atlantic and Pacific Trade Agreements are long term efforts. You might think of them as analogous to a person managing an investment portfolio. Every once and a while a change will be made, but generally investments should be made for the long term; monitoring can be occasional and to some degree delegated to others.

On the other hand there are things that demand immediate, intensive attention:

  • Crises such as those now occurring in Ukraine and Syria;
  • Important, long-standing situations where we have initiated substantive efforts, such as the efforts to promote peace talks between Israel and Palestine, or the negotiations with Iran to prevent nuclear armament;
  • Situations with significant changes, as happened with the change of leadership in North Korea, a country which might be a significant threat to our Asian allies.
The decision making in these cases might be more akin to betting on a horse race -- you make your bet and see how it turns out relatively quickly.

A Thought About the Race Track Analogy

A child taken to the horse races might think that since a black horse won the previous race, a black horse would be likely to win the next; if a jockey in green silks won a race, a child might expect the jockey in green would win the next. A child might take the color of the horse or the silks as important aspects of a race on which to chose appropriate analogies.

The experienced punter would look at variables such as performance (time, final position, problems in the race) in similar races in the past, weight carried, and the skill of the jockey; he might look at the condition of the track for the coming race, and look for analogous races under similar conditions. My father, who grew up around race tracks and had been a jockey, could look at the horses being saddled and moving onto the track, and make some estimate of the animals' condition.

The serious and successful punter will realize that he/she will not win every bet. Rather he/she will look for bets where the odds at the track are better than he/she thinks they ought to be, avoiding betting where the odds are worse than his/her estimates. A punter that consistently does a much better job estimating the odds than the majority of betters will often come out ahead over time.

What Does This Mean for the Use of Historical Analogy in Dealing with Foreign Policy Crises?

Foreign Policy officials need to choose the right aspects of the current crisis and past crises on which to judge whether something is or is not a useful analogy. Must analogies be drawn from the same cultural context or similar epochs, or might the Arab Spring be usefully compared to the contagion of revolutionary movements in western Europe in 1848? Does the party of the administration and the current domestic political climate matter; Is President George Bush' Chicken Kiev speech a useful analogy for the Obama administration to study today?

The experienced punter can find a wealth of information in the racing form. It is not clear that there is comparable accurate information available on the relevant aspects of either the current situation or the various possible historical analogies. If you don't know what the situations really were, what alternatives were considered, or how the decisions really worked out, then the analogous situation is not very useful.

Betters know that they deal with probabilities. They want information on a number of comparable races for each horse so that they can make an estimate of the reliability of the animal as well as of its likely competitive performance against others. So too, I think the foreign policy decision maker would be well advised to consider a number of historical analogs to the current problem, to get some idea of the range of likely outcomes.


We know that there is a real problem in foreign policy decision making when people at the table are too much alike, one to another, and not enough diversity is included in the advisory groups. So too, we know of the problem where advisers fear to tell a decision maker what he/she doesn't want to hear.

May focuses on a few biases. One is the tendency to rely on a single analogy, usually relating to an important foreign policy event that occurred when the policy maker was already in senior government office. 

One might be concerned with the selective use of analogies, or selective facts from the analogy as part of a rhetorical argument to convince, rather than a scholarly analysis to aid decision making.

Perhaps of equal importance there are a number of bodies of knowledge that bear on decision making in political, bureaucratic, group and individual decision making that might help to make foreign policy decision making better.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Eva Cassidy Over The Rainbow - LIVE

 Thanks Allen for showing me this!

More About the Reformation and Cultural Change in Europe

I have been reading The Reformation: A History by Diarmaid MacCulloch on a part time basis since November, and I finally finished it. This book won several major rewards, and contains an exhaustive intellectual history of the Reformation and Counter Reformation, covering the 16th and 17th centuries. It also briefly discusses the situation prior to the Martin Luther's posting of his 95 Theses on the church door, and provides a brief discussion of some of the aftermath of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. It also discusses some of the cultural impacts of the religious ferment.

I wrote one post on this blog on the book in January. There is also a post from the history book club to which I belong, summarizing the discussion of the book.

A major change due to the Reformation was the acceptance of Cuius regio, eius religio as a principle -- the ruler could impose his religion on the people he ruled. There had of course been tension between the church and civil authority before, but in previous centuries European kings and princes had not been able to leave the Roman Catholic Church and take their subjects with them. Thus after the Reformation one found a Church of England, a Church of Scotland, etc. The Catholic Church still remained in control of religious activity in a large part of (mostly southern) Europe, but Protestant Churches became the state religions in Scandinavia, much of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Great Britain.

The changes in religious institutions were only part of the cultural change that was going on during the period. Indeed, there were physical changes as well. Wikipedia quotes H. H. Lamb stating:
Evidence has been accumulating in many fields of investigation pointing to a notably warm climate in many parts of the world, that lasted a few centuries around A.D. 1000–1200, and was followed by a decline of temperature levels till between 1500 and 1700 the coldest phase since the last ice age occurred.
With Columbus' voyages starting in 1492, the Colombian Exchange began. (See 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles Mann.) Potatoes, tomatoes, maize, and various beans made their way to Europe, where they would eventually not only change the menu, but increase farm productivity. Of course, the Exchange also brought syphilis to Europe, and eventually quinine for the endemic malaria that reached from southern Europe to southern Britain. Slave labor would bring sugar, tobacco and coffee to Europe from colonies in warmer climates, while new routes to Asia would bring spices to European kitchens and tables.

The Spanish would exploit Mexico and Peru, among other places, to bring huge amounts of silver and gold to Spain and to the House of Habsburg. Some of that would go to bring Asian products to Europe, silk for example, some would pay for the expansion of the state, and ultimately it would create economic problems as the available stocks devalued money.

The Reconquista of  Spain was also completed in 1492 and the final threat of the Ottoman Empire to western Europe was ended by the end of the 17th century, but during most of the 16th and 17th centuries Islam seemed to many Europeans to be a very real threat.

The 16th and 17th centuries were also the period in which European nations began the construction of global empires. Acemoglu, Johnson and Robinson write:
The rise of Western Europe after 1500 is due largely to growth in countries with access to the Atlantic Ocean and with substantial trade with the New World, Africa, and Asia via the Atlantic. This trade and the associated colonialism affected Europe not only directly, but also indirectly by inducing institutional change. Where “initial” political institutions (those established before 1500) placed significant checks on the monarchy, the growth of Atlantic trade strengthened merchant groups by constraining the power of the monarchy, and helped merchants obtain changes in institutions to protect property rights. These changes were central to subsequent economic growth.
Thus the period saw economic growth in Europe, the initial growth of capitalist institutions, and the development of mercantilism,

Circa 1700 World Map Showing Colonies of European Powers
In their paper Acemoglu et al indicate that the Atlantic trade began about 1500 significantly surpassing Mediterranean trade by 1700 (and growing even more rapidly after 1700, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain, the nations most directly involved in trade, also urbanized during this period, Their urban population increased from about 10 percent of the total to almost 15 percent.

According to Wikipedia, the Spanish Armada sailed in 1588 with 22 galleons and 118 armed merchant vessels. It was met by a combined English-Dutch fleet of 34 warships, 163 armed merchant ships, and 30 flyboats. The size of the force indicates both the volume of shipping owned by these countries, and the ability of these states to mobilize naval forces.

Christian Spain had developed a strong state in the process of the long struggle between Muslims, and the state was further strengthened as Spaniards took control of large areas of South and Central America. However, England and France emerged as the strongest European monarchical nation states in the 17th century, strengthening state finances via more effective systems of taxation, centralization and the development of bureaucracies to deal with the increased central managerial needs, and the creation of standing armies and navies. The Holy Roman Empire during the period consisted of hundreds of semi-independent parts, and like Italy was not to be united into a modern nation state for centuries. Machiavelli, whose guidance for princes is still studied today, published his Discourses in 1531.

Cultural Change in Intellectual Institutions

Paper had long been available in Europe and the printing press with movable type was invented in the mid 15th century, but the rate of publication of printed materials increased over the 16th and 17th centuries, as did literacy in Europe. While MacCulloch emphasizes the writings of religious leaders, this was also the time in which Cervantes (1547-1616) and Shakespeare (1564-1616) produced great literature that is still with us.

The Italian High Renaissance, with the explosion of great art, is considered to have taken place from the 1490s to 1527. Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) was a contemporaneous German master.  However, Michelangelo did not die until 1564, Titian until 1576 and Tintoretto until 1594. Rembrandt (1606-1669)

Humanists had been active before the 15th century, benefiting from the new availability of classic Greek and Roman texts and developing the means for textual analysis; their work was continued and adapted to religious ends in the Reformation and to a lesser degree the Counter Reformation.

Universities had been established in Europe from the 11th to the 15th century, and those earlier universities not only continued in existence during the 16th and 17th centuries, but new institutions of higher education were created at an increasing rate.

The Age of Enlightenment is considered to have begun in the late 17th century, and continued through the 18th century. According to Wikipedia it emphasized reason and individualism rather than tradition.
Its purpose was to reform society using reason, to challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and to advance knowledge through the scientific method. It promoted scientific thought, skepticism, and intellectual interchange.[2] The Enlightenment was a revolution in human thought. This new way of thinking was that rational thought begins with clearly stated principles, uses correct logic to arrive at conclusions, tests the conclusions against evidence, and then revises the principles in the light of the evidence. 
Enlightenment thinkers opposed superstition and intolerance. Some Enlightenment thinkers collaborated with Enlightened despots, absolutist rulers who attempted to forcibly put some of the new ideas about government into practice....... 
Originating in the 17th Century, it was sparked by philosophers Francis Bacon (1562-1626), Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), John Locke (1632–1704), Pierre Bayle (1647–1706), Voltaire (1694–1778) and physicist Isaac Newton (1643–1727).
In my previous post, I noted the development of natural philosophy in the 17th century, and especially the development of Astronomy.

This was also a period of technological development. The 16th century saw the invention of the wheel lock musket, the pocket watch, a knitting machine called the stocking frame, the microscope and the water thermometer. Further, the 17th century saw invention of the telescope, the slide rule, steam turbines, the micrometer, an adding machine, the barometer, the air pump, the reflecting telescope, Leibnitz' calculating machine, Huygens' improved pocket watch, the universal joint, and the pressure cooker. This of course was to be followed in the 18th century by the Industrial Revolution.

How did Religious Culture Change

If one can judge by the frequency and violence of religious themed wars over the two centuries, people took the adherence to Lutheranism, Calvinism, Roman Catholicism or other churches very seriously. Not only did people die in large numbers in these wars, but heretics were killed (for whatever ideas were judged locally to be heretics) as were witches by the thousands. Yet by the turn from the 17th to the 18th century, religious tolerance seemed to be appearing.

It seems to me that changes in religious institutions was not new in the 16th century, nor was it finished by the end of the 17th century. There had been churches that broke off from the state Christian church of the Roman Empire, heretical sects, and the schism between the Greek and Roman churches, not to mention the schism that had resulted in three men simultaneously claiming the papacy, with the Church of Rome relocated to France. Today there is a huge array of Protestant denominations. Ferment seems to be a continuing feature of Christianity, although it reached levels of lethal violence during the Reformation and Counter Reformation.

In many ways, from today's perspective, little had changed. Most people in Europe were Christians in 1700 as they had been in 1500. They worshiped in churches on Sundays. Most lived in families (nuclear in some places, extended in others) much as families had long lived in their (mostly rural) places. The decorations and liturgical music had changed in Protestant churches, but often the buildings were the same.

On the other hand, priests and ministers were better educated. Catechism had been widely introduced and preaching improved, leading to a more informed laity. Printed materials -- the bible, and other materials -- were widely available by 1700, and many could and did read them. Ministers in the Protestant denominations were married, but the common practice of Catholic priests living with "significant others" and their children had been largely abolished and priests made celibate. Religious institutions all over Europe were probably better managed.

Final Comment

This very brief post can not do justice to the cultural change that occurred in Europe over two centuries, but I hope it will indicate that the religious ferment was only one aspect of the cultural ferment that was happening at the time.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A thought on the development of means to measure longitude.

I have been reading Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel. This is a fun read. It focuses on John Harrison as a lone genius who (with helpers) in the 18th century created a solution to the technical problem of accurate time keeping at sea (in the small, unstable ships of the time). I first read and commented on the book in 2003. I recently saw and commented on the film made based on the book.

It occurs to me that there is a deeper story.

Part of that story is the development of long voyages from 1500 on from ports in Britain, France, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal. This was the time when those countries developed global networks of colonies. There was a huge and profitable trade from Asia, and a trilateral trade in the Atlantic -- slaves, sugar, and rum, not to mention the gold and silver. These nations developed navies to protect their shipping, to attack the shipping of other nations, and to conduct war. As Dava Sobel points out, the cost of the inability to accurately determine latitude included an increasing number of ships lost and deaths at sea. It also included huge financial losses. No wonder that these governments offered incentives to develop a means for measuring longitude -- a means I suspect that they would all intend to keep as state secrets.

My mother was from England and I suppose that I am more aware than of English class consciousness than most of my fellow Yanks. The importance of class would have been much greater in 18th century England that it is today. John Harrison was originally a carpenter, someone who worked with his hands. The astronomers of his time would have been gentlemen who had attended universities. There would have been a huge class difference. Indeed, the ships officers in the British navy would have been gentlemen, while the navigators (who supported Harrison) may well have been from the working class. The importance of King George III intervening on the part of the Harrisons, requesting that the Prime Minister see justice done for them, would have been huge in status conscious England.

Astronomy, from about 1650 to about 1750, was probably the highest prestige area of science or natural philosophy. There was a chain of astronomers from Copernicus (1473-1543) to Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) to Kepler (1571-1630) to Galileo (1564-1642) to Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695) to Isaac Newton (1642-1727) to Edmund Halley (1656-1742) who each contributed greatly to the understanding of astronomical observations. Galileo and Huygens made important contributions to the understanding of the pendulum, and thus to the technology of pendulum clocks. Technology advanced with the development of telescopes, sextants and other instruments. Newton, with the theory of gravity developed a theory that with his invention of calculus allowed for calculation of orbits. His work in the study of light and optics led to the invention of the reflecting telescope. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) and Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) developed mathematical techniques used by Newton and other astronomers. The Gregorian Calendar was introduced in 1582, based on the recognition that the Julian Calendar had an inaccurate measure of the length of the year, based on the work of the Church's observatory, and that a new calendar was needed to restore important religious events to their intended place in the seasons.

I suppose that physics in the 20th century was comparable in the prestige of physicists, the flow of new science from their work, and the public appreciation that their findings created. The thought is supported by the fact that Newton and Halley were sequentially the presidents of the Royal Academy.

As physics in the 20th century led to new technologies, so did astronomy in the 18th. Astronomers developed means of measuring time by observing astronomical events such as the occlusions of the moons of Jupiter, and tables that would allow determination of exact Greenwich time from that observation. Comparing Greenwich and local time allowed calculation of the local longitude. While the method was of limited practicality at sea, it was used in terrestrial surveying. Indeed, determination of longitude by lunar observation at sea existed in parallel with the use of marine chronometers for many decades.

Ultimately the development of the marine chronometer solved the problem of measuring longitude at sea. As expected, it was not the pendulum clock developed in the 17th century that sufficed as it was too sensitive to ships' motion and temperature change.

I accept Sobel's analysis (and apparently the judgement of the Parliament) that Harrison deserved the prize. Still, there was a great body of mechanical technology developed in the 18th century that must have contributed to his invention, and perhaps equally important to the ability to manufacture hundreds of chronometers based on his designs. Of course, as Sobel notes, there were watch makers who had their own techniques and who helped Harrison; pocket watches had been available from the 17th century. But this was also the time when the mechanical means of manufacturing cotton cloth were being developed, as were steam engines and the machine tools for their production. I can only suppose that the people who developed the commercial marine chronometers based on Harrison/s ideas, did so using techniques that had been developed by others, much as Harrison himself used scientific knowledge developed by the natural philosophers working on mechanics. (Sobel discusses the development of manufacture of marine chronometers by commercial watchmakers in her penultimate chapter.)

Thus there was an important and growing humanitarian and economic need for a technology, a scientific basis for development of that technology, a body of related technologies that could be applied in developing a prototype and then a commercial product with its manufacturing processes, and finally a man of inventive genius, passion for the task, and almost inhuman persistence.

A Harrison type Chronometer from after 1800.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

There is too much hate in the USA

I quote from the Business Insider article:
The SPLC found 939 hate groups were active in America, and it defined these groups as those that aren't necessarily violent but have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people. SPLC made the list using hate group publications and websites, citizen and police reports, field sources, and news reports.
Mark Potok, the author of the report and senior fellow at the SPLC, told Business Insider that the number of hate groups in each state more or less correlates with the state's population.
"Another thing to consider when analyzing this data is that certain hate groups reside in particular areas. The Klan will almost always be in rural areas whereas, the Black Separatists are mostly in the cities," Potok said.
There are two hate groups to watch in 2014, Potok says — the white supremacists in the American Freedom Party and the small but violent racist skinhead gang called Crew 41.