Saturday, April 30, 2005
Why See Under: Love was so hard to read
The authour said that the play should differ widely from the book, and clearly it did. So far, the 80 page intro is not that interesting, but now that I've picked up the rambling style slice-of-life about Israel in the mid-50's as a boy is trying to understand the Nazis from his parents cryptic references and whatever tidbits he can glean from other adults. In his mind, he'll battle "the nazi beast" so needs to learn more.
Time to sip rusty nails & head off to check out The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, so will insert my review tomorrow. So far mixed reviews, but should be fun to see with friends anyway.
Friday, April 29, 2005
Friday Night Wine Blogging
Thursday, April 28, 2005
How prescient Graham Greene was
Thought the best line of the book was a South Vietnamese soldier commenting that the war would end with roughly the same peace treaty they would have had years earlier. That was the same comment made after we left - Paris peace accord of 1973 was roughly the same as the Geneva peace accords of 1954.
Just mind boggling reading the estimated 5 million! Vietnamese casualties and how 1.5 million Vietnamese left after the war. How much better our history would have been if we had recognized after WWII that the colonial era was at an end, and how we should not be providing any support at all to the French to maintain their colonies in Indo-China - instead encouraging the French to transition their colonies to self-rule.
No tens of thousand US dead. No millions of Vietnamese dead. No boat people. And no Khymer Rouge.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Will not be defeated again
There are certain books that I haven't mentioned to read. Anything by Jane Austin or Henry James, though I do like movies from some of their books. At least with James, I managed to listen to an abridged version of Portrait of a Lady on tape, but when I tried to listen to Emma on tape, I couldn't manage it.
In those cases, I simply didn't like the book - hated the victimhood in James & Edith Wharton and Austin's books are all the same "when will i get married. who will i marry. how will i get married." With Proust, his characters are so insipid, I couldn't care less what happened to them, though I still feel the challenge of actually getting all the way through one part of his memoirs.
There are a few cases where I feel defeated by the book and See Under: Love is one of them. Originally I saw the play at the Traveling Jewish Theatre - a great playhouse in San Francisco that puts on very imaginative stagings of jewish themed plays (have seen 2 plays there) - bought the book there at the theatre, but never managed to finish it. Now that I've caught up on comic books & given Before the Storm all the attention it deserves, oh, and all the attention that A New Kind Of Science deserves, it's time to make the effort to fully read See Under: Love. Not a light read at all, so the challenge is there, but given how worthwhile the play was, and how I've read parts of two undeserving books recently, I feel obliged to prevail.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Amazon 1 - Kevin Drum 0
Was hoping for a better understanding of how the GOP eventually became the dominant party, but this is not the book. A bit more tempted now to check out the Volokh Conspiracy recommendations, or rather Todd Zywicki's recommendations in yesterday's VC to answer: how did the GOP go from a very minor congressional party both in 1964 and post-Watergate to being firmly entrenched in the House? The major GOP players from the 60's: Nixon, Goldwater, and Reagan were all from out west, so why is the southern wing so dominant now?
Perlstein has obviously drunk deep at the David Halberstam well. He can rattle off an anecdote, but he is dreadfully prolix. The book is at least two hundred pages too long. ...Perlstein has also made a mess in organizing his material; he leaps back and forth, from person to person, without ever stitching the requisite parts together....A more thorough editor and an author more intent on telling the story carefully and well would have made 'Before the Storm' a much better book than it is. Ed Hawkins
There isn't even a conclusion; the book disappointingly and abruptly ends in midstream immediately after LBJ's landslide. Thus, the title and subtitle are misleading. What is the "storm"--the consequent rise of conservatism and the triumph of Reagan in 1980? We're never told. And how did Barry Goldwater unmake the American consensus? thucydides20
Ginger-haired yank just gave me my 2-minute
warning, so time to post & double check links.
Monday, April 25, 2005
Initial impressions of "Before the Storm"
Might want to scan a couple of recommendations from the Volokh Conspiracy The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 which sounds like the same story from the conservative viewpoint. If I stumble across them in a library, they might be worth speed reading through.
Why the Wire is such a fine show...
The best of TV truly is on par with the best of films now. The ginger haired yank pointed out what a nothing role Gareth Keenan had in Pirates of the Caribbean in contrast to what an annoying, but distinctive character he was in The Office.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
"Reading" a book after seeing the movie
Usually I have to learn something new when I read the book, so The Sweet Hereafter was well worth reading - partly because of the internal monologue style - but also because it filled in (fleshed out?) the movie.
The same was true for Death and the Maiden. Like Sweet Hereafter, i enjoyed the movie so much, I read the book and bought (or was treated) the the soundtrack.
Now I'm listening to The Quiet American and have to view it as superior both to the movie and to the other Greene novels I've read: Heart of the Matter and Travels with my Aunt (too slight to be worth a link). What jumps out at me beyond the richness of the characters is how foolish the French were for even being there. Why couldn't they see that the colonial empire was coming to an end? How was maintaining their presence in Indo-China helping them? Was is just pride of the empire that caused them to stay in Vietnam for 10 years longer than they should have and in Algeria for even longer. Obviously the same question occurs for the U.S. - why we paid 80% of the French effort when the colonial era was so clearly coming to an end. Nothing worse than being on the wrong side of history in a war.
I've finished listening to 2 tapes out of 5. Favourite bit of trivia so far is the Black Prince's slaughter of 3,000 civilians at Limoges. Not that familiar with his history, so appreciate how slyly Greene & his stand-in Thomas slipped in the ugly truth to contrast with the noble image afflicting the Quiet American Pyle.
Behind the orchestra is the place to be
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Looking for that Goldwater moment
This last presidential race was just one more example of the Dems being undecided about their identity. The true war candidate Lieberman polled less than 10% and the true peace candidate Kucinich polled less than 10% (may add links later) while the sort-of for/sort-of against candidate won the nomination & added a VP who was another sort-of candidate.
Partial reviews to start tomorrow.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Friday Night Wine Blogging
Wyalla Cove - Shiraz (mystery vintage from South Eastern Australia)
Lacks depth spake the Ginger Haired Yank
Lacks refinement spake the spouse
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
3 down - 45 to go
Next year tax reform is a possibility, but if Bush is accurate that he only has 30 months, then roughly ½ of his effective time will have dissipated by the time Breaux & friends are ready with their suggestions. There will be other mid-level legislative successes such as the Bankruptcy Bill & maybe ANWR drilling with some energy bill (both of which were passed over a month ago), but my sense is that Bush is following events, not leading them now.
Updating my metrics to judge Bush:
- Trade - have heard nothing on Doha, so have no expectations that it will regain any political interest.
- Deficit - the most recent "emergency" supplemental funding for Iraq/Afghanistan is $81.4B so expect the deficit to stay 3.5% of GDP for this fiscal year.
- Iraq - the death toll has decreased to 30+ last month and it looks to be the same this month (24 month to date) - a death rate I expect to remain steady-state for the foreseeable future. The 'emerging conventional wisdom' is that the insurgents have changed targets to the indigenous forces. Via Today in Iraq (a daily must read), here's a web site tracking deaths of Iraqi police/military. It appears that their deaths are a stead-state 200/month. Also after the post-election lull, the insurgency appears to be back to its lethal effectiveness.
Two other areas that Bush deserves to be graded on are Human Rights of detainees and release of detainees. Monitoring the left wing sites, the abuses in prisons that I read about today occur mostly in 2003. Of course, accountability and justice will never be served, but at least the egregious abuses have diminished (gone away?). For release of detainees, hopefully yesterday's release of 17 afghan detainees is a harbinger of things to come.
- 2 wagers that OBL will not be caught: still very safe - 1,000,000:1. Have not even heard any talk of "we may be getting close for sometime).
- 1 wager that the draft will not be renewed: still extremely safe - 200,000:1.
- 1 wager that our troop level in Iraq will not go below 50,000 (still the least safe - 3:2), but there's no sign that our troop levels will go down this year.
- Mark Warner vs. Hillary. Most recent Wall Street Journal criticism seems on the mark to me. Hillary is just too obvious a politician, not slick like Bubba, and doesn't possess the faux common man touch like W. If anything, right now, I would not predict either one, but it's too late to switch to Richardson with his shuffled persona.
Bottom line: my prediction that Bush's 2nd term would be less worse than his first is proving a reality.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Water on the knee, more "The Wire" & finishing "Franklin"
The Wire (episodes 1-7)
Thoroughly enjoying this 2nd season of The Wire. Would say that it's as good as the first season - amazing how multiple story lines (6) can be advanced in 1 hour. Started to think back of what the first ensemble drama on TV was. Hill Street Blues back in '81 is the oldest that I can recall. Guess they've become fairly common since with Bocho's multiple successes being the trendsetter for so many other shows since.
Famous Franklin Quote
The above quote from Franklin has been making the rounds since at least the build-up to GWII. Believe it is timeless as each generation will experience its build-up of fear because of a Pearl Harbor or Red Scare or now G.W.O.T.
The Book On Tape I listened to was abridged. That seems to be more common - maybe producers realize that folks in cars listening to books want "just the plot" of The Iliad (abridged to 3/16th) or Portrait of a Lady (2/7) and now Benjamin Franklin (4/??). Isaacson's book devotes a great deal of time to Franklin's experiences in France. Had not realized that he spent 8 years there negotiating loans & arms & of course the Treaty of Paris or that he was the only signer of the Treaty and the declaration of independence and our Constitution. View the book as typical of modern history best sellers - breezy, very readable, quick summary of facts, somewhat superficial and forgettable. Would place Founding Brothers in the same category and Titan in the same category.
At the end, Isaacson spends pages discussing how Franklin's reputation rose & fell over the centuries since his death. Had heard that the Civil War generation faulted our founders for not resolving slavery at the time (gaining consensus for our nation was quite an achievement on its own). In my lifetime, our founders have maintained high standing in the pantheon. Fully believe that Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Hamilton were giants fully deserving of their place on our currency. The criticisms seemed to be against the homilies of Poor Richard's Almanac, but those good life words have largely passed away while his more substantial quotes as above are still with us, so will end with my personal favorite of all Franklin's quotations
Addendum: Had also meant to say that I view the criticism of Franklin to be the criticisms of America. True we're a Philistine nation, but there are worse things to be.
Friday, April 15, 2005
Update: Ginger-Haired Yank thinks it was not advertisment. Believe it was borderline. Someone working for the Franklin 300th celebration searching the net & stumbling across my blog entry & providing the Franklin 300th info.
Friday Night Red Wine Blogging
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Still drained from recovery
Decide to quit the Wolfram book after about another 10 pages. I got it. Simple rule sets can create complex patterns. He could have put that into 1 article & saved 10 years of your life.
Started listening to Isaacson's Benjamin Franklin - abridged B.O.T. - initial impression is the my fellow native spends way to much time on the unimportant aspects of Franklin's life (printer & jack-of-all-trades). Almost ½ way through the tapes & we're only on the French-Indian War.
Did strike me once again how fortunate our nation was to have such giants as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and Hamilton as our founders, and how the founders were the perfect ages at the right time. Washington & Franklin were both old enough to be seasoned by the 7 years war (French-Indian War) so were fit for their roles as commander of the army & commissioner to France during the Revolutionary War.
Well energy running down, so will leave with a link to my alma mater.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
What hath Revelations Wrought?
Watched revelations tonight - struck me once again how many movies, TV shows, and albums owe their existence to Revelations. The left behind series of course, 7th sign, Lost Souls, and of course the concept album from Aphrodite's Child - would be curious to listen to it again, though it would probably be mostly hokum today & can only recall one song striking me - some rocked up tune about the lamb & one of the seals.
Fun enough to watch another apocalypse being averted, though would have to go along with Tim LaHaye - if an apocalypse if coming, no humans are going to avert it & certainly not a nun & a grieving astrophysicist hop scotching the planet. Not even we deists could believe that story line.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
A worthy sequel
A worthy successor to the first season. The main plot with McNulty was spot on - his petty vindictiveness is something we can all identify with. He picks up a dead body & then spends 3 hours looking at tide tables & maps just to make sure that his old boss who screwed him over would be assigned an unsolved murder & experience a lowered clearance rate. Later when investigating the other 13 associated deaths, he can't let the case go - originally the deaths are classified accidental but he makes sure they get reclassified as homicide & so once again puts it too his old boss. That obsession with evening the score strikes a universal chord.
After the first disk (2 episodes) I thought it would be a bit weak because too much time was spent on the minor characters from season 1. Not sure if it was loyalty or a contract with the actors, but the show stopped in on the lessor characters for ~3 minutes per episode at the beginning. Now through a slight plot contrivance, the characters' story lines are all coming together again. Even the side plot with the drug godfather from the previous season is picking up steam.
Hats off to David Simon for putting together two good cops-and-robbers shows in Baltimore without feeling like he's just repeating himself.
Monday, April 11, 2005
A review of 1.8% of a massive Egotistical work
In the Relations to Other Areas portion of Chapter 1, the full import of the book is presented for all readers to appreciate:
- Mathematics - ..there are actually a vast range of abstract systems based on simple programs that traditional mathematics has never considered.....And indeed the core of this book can be viewed as introducing a major generalization of mathematics - with new ideas and methods, and vast new areas to be explored.
- Physics - ...with the approach of thinking in terms of simple programs that I develop in this book it finally seems possible to make some dramatic progress.
- Biology - But the discoveries in this book show that simple programs can produce a high level of complexity.
- Social Sciences - But I suspect that one will often have a much better chance of capturing fundamental mechanisms for phenomena in the social sciences by using instead the new kind of science that I develop in this book based on simple programs.
- Computer Science - But in this book what I show is that even systems with extremely simple construction can yield behavior of immense complexity.
- Philosophy - But my discoveries in this book lead to radically new intuition.
- Art - But looking through this book it becomes clear that even a program that may have extremely simple rules will often be able to generate pictures that have striking aesthetic qualities...often unlike anything ever seen before.
- Technology - But what the discoveries in this book now show is that by using the types of rules embodied in simple programs one can capture many of the essential mechanisms of nature...I have little doubt that within a matter of a few decades what I have done will have led to some dramatic changes in the foundations of technology.
Hands down the most egotistical into to a book I've ever read - topping even Codd's ego. I'm guessing that after spending 10 years working on his magnum opus, Wolfram felt obliged to insert every insight he possessed into it. The 5 pages exerted above could easily have been condensed into 1 paragraph - complex phenomenon in nature are caused by simple underlying patters - how hard would that have been?
Newsweek's review implied that Wolfram expected to enter the pantheon of Newton, Darwin, and others of equal stature. The first 22 pages of egoism belie that expectation. Not sure if how many of the remaining 1175 pages I'll slog through, so will leave the last word to leander's review on Amazon:
There are three big problems with this book (1) He pretends to present new, big ideas, but instead just re-hashes old concepts; (2) He has a huge ego and refuses to acknowledge others who have walked before him; and (3) the book is virtually impossible to read.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
The Good Brooks
Being conservative, the American people don't want leaders who perpetually play it close to the ethical edge. They don't want leaders who, under threat, lash out wildly at beloved institutions like the judiciary. They don't want leaders whose instinct is always to go out wildly on the attack. They don't want leaders so reckless that even when they know they are living under a microscope, they continue to act in ways that invite controversy.
His other paragraph that caught my interest:
This does not mean good news for Democrats. That party is at risk of going into a death spiral. The Democrats lost white working-class voters by 23 percentage points in the last election, and now the party is being led by people who are guaranteed to alienate those voters even more: the highly educated and secular university-town elites who follow Howard Dean and believe Bush hatred and stridency are the outward signs of righteousness.
Don't agree with all of his judgments (it is good news for the Dems because it prevents the GOP from achieving their goals), but do believe that the Dems are still the party bereft of ideas. If by some miracle, the Dems returned to majority status in 2007, what would their legislative agenda be? I have no idea & I'm a political junkie. The Dems remain the party of status quo. I keep hoping that they will put out a statement of legislative goals & my preferences would be:
- Change marijuana to a Schedule 2 drug
- Push for gay civil unions on a state-by-state basis
- Eliminate the Byrd amendment
- Institute Pay-Go rules for spending
- Give Mubarak some carrots for additional liberalization (up his foreign aid in return)
- Additional funding for alternative energy sources
These don't match my ideals (would prefer cutting off foreign aid to Egypt & pushing for marijuana legalization), but believe these items are politically feasible. Even if these aren't the legislative goals the Dems want, then they should put together some other slate. For all the talk I've read of the Dems creating think tanks to match AEI or Heritage or Cato, I still haven't seen any list of goals coming from the Democratic party.
For the first two items, I believe the Dems have been cowed by the GOP and that's a shame. You need to stand up for what you truly believe regardless of the demagogues on the opposite side. To me that is the lesson from the 1964 election that's been given so much attention on the left side of the blogosphere recently when discussing Before the Storm. If you're the party of passively supporting ideas/goals/agendas, how do you ever expect to become the majority? Americans ultimately will not vote for wafflers.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Friday Night Red Wine Blogging
Pinot Noir (2002) - Rex Goliath
it doesn't taste as refined as some of our other wines - Taryl Cabot
that's because you drank two Rusty Nails - Ginger Haired Yank
Kudos to Ted Barlow
Was receiving ~5 hits a day, so a nice surprise to receive ~150 today, so thanks once again.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Outsourcing & layoffs
Congressional Advisors: Exempt "Foreign" Dividends from Income Tax
The staff of the Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation Thursday recommended exempting dividends earned by "foreign" subsidiaries of U.S. companies from income taxation.
The proposal could have major implications for Puerto Rico’s economy and its future political status. Forty-two percent of the economy is attributable to manufacturing by operations of companies based in the States. Most of the operations are, or are planning to be, organized as foreign subsidiaries.
The recommendation came in a package of options, others of which would also have substantial implications for Puerto Rico’s economy. The Joint Tax Committee staff act as advisors to the congressional committees that determine taxes, the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.
Earnings from "foreign" subsidiaries -- including those in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories -- are currently subject to U.S. income tax when "repatriated" to parent companies. Until then, income tax is "deferred."
The recommendation to exempt foreign dividends from the income tax did not note that income from Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories is considered to be "foreign." If the proposal is applied to income from Puerto Rico -- as it would be under current law, in addition to economically affecting companies operating or locating in the territory, it could be used as an argument in the debate over Puerto Rico’s status as a U.S. territory.
At the same time, by applying to dividends from foreign countries, the proposal would not provide Puerto Rico with a competitive advantage over foreign countries as a location for subsidiaries. Many foreign countries offer companies lower labor and other costs of doing business. They have posed increased competition to Puerto Rico as a location for manufacturing as the U.S. has lowered or eliminated tariffs on their products.
The exemption would not apply to income from: "passive" investments, such as interest from bank deposits; royalties subsidiaries pay parent companies for assets such as patents; and intra-company sales. It would also be accompanied by tightened rules on shifting of income from taxed U.S. companies to untaxed foreign subsidiaries. These limitations would also likely affect companies in Puerto Rico which have used such devices to avoid U.S. income tax.
The proposal would go beyond a one-time, one-year 85 percent cut in taxes on income that companies in the States receive from "foreign" subsidiaries enacted into law last year. That tax cut is expected to encourage companies to repatriate hundreds of billions of dollars of income, including income from Puerto Rico.
The new proposal would tax some companies more and some companies less. Overall, it would increase domestic income, which would be taxed. It was estimated that the proposal would generate $54.8 billion for the federal treasury, including $2.7 billion next year and $5.3 billion in 2007.
Manufacturers that have operated in Puerto Rico since 1996 and have not become foreign subsidiaries currently enjoy one of two expiring tax advantages over manufacturers in the States as well as foreign countries. One that engendered overwhelming opposition in the federal government, provided by Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 936, exempts 40 percent of income attributed to Puerto Rico from the income tax.
The other advantage, provided by IRC Sec. 30A, gives companies a tax credit for wages, investments in plants and equipment, and local taxes in Puerto Rico. Both advantages expire this year, although there have been proposals to extend Sec. 30A for a few more years.
Puerto Rico’s last governor, Sila Calderon proposed tax exemption for earnings that "foreign" subsidiaries in U.S. territories -- but not foreign countries -- "repatriated" to their parent companies in the States. One goal was to provide Puerto Rico with a competitive advantage as a location for manufacturing over foreign countries. But the proposal was rejected by the federal government for reasons that included the fact that the proposal would also have given Puerto Rico a substantial advantage over the States.
Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in the States, Luis Fortuno has proposed that Sec. 30A be extended for a few years and that tax benefits for underdeveloped areas of the States be extended to Puerto Rico.
Another Joint Tax Committee staff proposal Thursday that could affect Puerto Rico would consider companies to be U.S. or "foreign" depending upon where their active management is conducted. Currently, businesses avoid income taxation by establishing "shell" corporations in foreign locations, especially foreign tax havens that impose no or few taxes and, sometimes, allow companies to hide information from U.S. tax authorities. The shell corporations primarily exist on paper with all real operations conducted in the States.
According to a tax expert, most if not all of the foreign manufacturing subsidiaries in Puerto Rico have been organized in foreign tax havens so that companies can avoid Puerto Rico income tax as well as defer payment of U.S. income tax.
Here is another article on the tax code including this item:
Certain industrial projects that are considered as core pioneer industrial activities by PRIDCO could be eligible for a corporate income tax rate ranging from 2% to 0%. Core pioneer industries are those that employ innovative technology never used in Puerto Rico before January 1, 2000.
Hmmm. I guess we could argue that we are a core pioneer. Not a bad tax rate.
Not very comforting information. Of course what's a bit odd is that the 4% laid off are having their jobs outsourced to Chicago & not Puerto Rico.
- If the tax code difference did not exist, would we be outsourcing to Mexico or Ireland like our other divisions?
- How many layoffs beyond this calendar year - the 4% should be good enough for this calendar year given that all temps are gone & folks have been bolting for the exits about a year now, but what happens once the outsourcing is complete at the end of the year?
Some folks of course fear the worst - that the entire plant will be shut down. I can't see that anytime soon - we still generate revenue, though no income - but I'm not going to find out any answers from "all hands meetings" that don't allow Q&A.
Friday, April 01, 2005
Friday Night White Wine Blogging
2002 - Sanford Sauvignon Blanc
the aroma has a very, a very young green grass with a slight sense of lemon....the palate? a tart citrus, a hint of lemon...now that it's been open a little bit of honeysuckle aroma. At the very End, you can taste Pineapple on the palate - Ginger Haired Yank