Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Stocks, Gold and War

My Research magazine article "Stocks, Gold and War," on how World War I's outbreak transformed American finance, is now online. It's a story I find quite relevant to the present. Excerpt:
During World War I, the U.S. became, as William Silber puts it, “a financial superpower.” For a while, the U.S. and Great Britain shared that status. But by the 1920s, the U.S. was looking like the top dog on the financial heap. Britain, its wealth depleted by the war, suspended its gold standard in 1919 and then restored it in 1925. The overvalued pound had to be propped up with high interest rates, further damaging Britain’s economy.
A crucial element of [Treasury Secretary William] McAdoo’s success in handling the financial crisis of 1914 is that his actions were temporary. Emergency currency was issued, but with a tax on banks to ensure they didn’t hand out too much of it. The stock exchange was closed, but only for long enough to allow the dollar to be stabilized and the gold standard secured. Thus, investors were reassured that they were seeing a crisis response, rather than a permanent shift to big government dominating the financial sector.
William Silber, by the way, is no relation. I recommend his book When Washington Shut Down Wall Street: The Great Financial Crisis of 1914 and the Origins of America's Monetary Supremacy, which provided much useful information for my article.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fact checking Krauthammer

"Yes, he was elected, but Hitler was as well." - Charles Krauthammer on Fox News just now, speaking about what's-his-name in Honduras. I'm surprised to hear Krauthammer make this mistake; Hitler was never elected.

UPDATE 5 minutes later: Time to change the channel. Michael Jackson again.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Birchite Paulism

The Times has a piece noting the John Birch Society's claims of a membership surge. (Which may or may not be true. Way back when, the Times credulously reported the Hells Angels' claims of a membership surge, which helped create that very thing.) Reason's Michael C. Moynihan is bemused at the Birchers' paranoid conspiracism. Less funny is that Ron Paul, the politician most associated with libertarianism today, was the John Birch Society's keynote speaker last October; see full video of his speech here.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lolita economic doom debate

Next Lolita Bar debate: Is America Economically Doomed? I suspect the question may boil down largely to Is the Obama Program Economically Destructive?, to which one could say yes even without agreeing that we're doomed. Or one could take the question with strict literalism.

Update: Audio here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Free-market ennui

Via Instapundit, Eric Dondero is complaining about movement libertarian responses to the Iranian resistance, which mostly range from low interest to active disapproval. I agree with the complaint, but can't say I'm much surprised. Isolationism (punctuated by occasional denials that it is isolationism) is the libertarian default position these days, and why would you want a democratic government in Iran if you think all governments are incorrigibly evil anyway?

UPDATE: I'd missed this vacuous phrase from Matt Welch: "rehabilitating the world's responsibility for its own affairs." There's a slogan; just don't think too hard about the abstraction of "the world" and when or how it used to take "responsibility for its own affairs." Meanwhile, Will Wilkinson explains that he won't turn his avatar green because "I have no idea what I’m talking about." (Emphasis in original.) Fine, but it didn't stop him from making a spurious distinction recently between "Nixonites" and free-market types who want a less aggressive foreign policy (who was it who disliked detente and the China opening?).

Sanford story

The shifting and murky story about Gov. Mark Sanford's recent absence is increasingly bizarre. Until not long ago, I would've been disappointed to see what I considered a promising Republican presidential prospect marginalizing himself. However, having read his inane comments about evolution, I'm not too invested in his future career.

UPDATE: "Sanford admitted later Wednesday that his secret trip to Argentina over Father's Day weekend was to visit a woman he is having an affair with." To do some amateur psychologizing, I wonder if that guy might have been afraid to be governor, or president.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pedicab update

A few years ago, Mitch Johnson and I wrote about New York City's misbegotten regulatory proposal to limit and restrict pedicabs. Now, following a recent accident, the city is implementing a regulatory regime that's less obviously anticompetitive than the previous proposal; gone is a limit of 325 licenses that would have automatically excluded hundreds of operators, though it will be interesting to see whether the new system in practice poses high barriers to entry. Richard Epstein makes an effort to sort out reasonable from unreasonable pedicab regulations here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Space commercial

I'm a fan of this ad, which I first saw at Deep Glamour a few weeks ago. It probably doesn't make me much more likely to buy Louis Vuitton products though (what do they make, again?). As for Virginia's question, "Communications satellites aside, how much has space exploration really changed human life?," I'd give Zhou Enlai's answer about the French Revolution's importance: too early to say. And I don't think all space glamour is necessarily retro; this chick would fit in pretty well on the ski slopes today.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Monarchism watch

"I don’t believe there’s a great salvation in the political process at all. I believe in different, far different things. I mean I put democracy far down the line, in the ... I think a devoutly Christian, conservative, traditionalist country, even if it’s a monarchy, is fine with me." -- Pat Buchanan, espousing some of the enlightenment values that I recently read define the current-day right. Or would he be right-wing only if he were an anarcho-monarchist?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kangra Fort

The Kangra Fort is in the Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh province, northern India. The pic was taken during our trip in March 2009. The fort is about 1,000 years old and was used as an outpost by successive empires, including the British up to half a century ago. Well worth a visit.

The doubts grow

WSJ: "Public Wary of Deficit, Economic Intervention." I've noticed, in speaking with people who are broadly pro-Obama, that often they do harbor some nagging worry that maybe, just maybe, this massive expansion of debt, spending and regulation will have some unpleasant consequences at some point. The thought gets puts aside for now, but it's there.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

By His Own Rules

Current reading: By His Own Rules: The Story of Donald Rumsfeld, by Bradley Graham. It's an awfully long book on Rumsfeld's career, a subject I find important but depressing. So if I do manage to finish the book, that alone would count as a positive review.

UPDATE 6/26: Still reading it. Don't rush me.

UPDATE 7/4: Review here.

Disciplinary differences

Some interesting research on "Why do students in different disciplines have different political attitudes?" (Found via Ryan Sager's Neuroworld.) The upshot of one study is that self-selection is the major effect; students go into sociology, say, because they're left-leaning, more than that they become left-leaning because they go into sociology. That jibes with my own experience. I would never have majored in sociology, and chose economics and history instead partly on the expectation that they were less prone to leftism than some disciplines (a plausible view, particularly regarding economics).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gone green

Yes, it's a crummy look, but I'll keep it for a while. I don't want to be outdone by Eliza Dushku.

UPDATE: On second thought, I think making just the word "Quicksilber" green works nicely.

Iran pictures

A must-see.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Right, left and wrong definitions

At New Majority, I say this: "Yes James von Brunn Was Right Wing." Excerpt:

An unfortunate tendency on the right these days is to attempt to win arguments through tendentious and shallow redefinitions of what constitutes “left” and “right.”

That tendency flared up in recent days with efforts to rebut any notion that the Holocaust Museum shooter was a right-wing extremist and, instead, to rebrand him as a leftist – or “vile leftist monster,” as Rand Simberg put it in one such creative feat of ideological legerdemain at Pajamas Media.

Whole thing here.

UPDATE: The piece's title has been changed to say "... Is Right Wing," because von Brunn, undeservedly, lives.

UPDATE 6/16: James Taranto had some comments at WSJ's Best of the Web yesterday.

We'd say Silber is mostly right--that is, correct--about this. It is silly to characterize von Brunn as a man of "the left," even if his views and hatreds do converge with those of some extreme leftists.

But we quibble with Silber's assertion that "it does no credit to current-day conservatives" to attempt "to redefine the extreme right out of existence." For all its taxonomical dubiousness, the effort is a morally defensible one. In fact, it would do modern-day liberals credit if they were as eager to dissociate themselves from the hateful elements of the extreme left.

I agree with the last sentence, but not the penultimate one.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wrong right definition

Rand Simberg has an interesting article on "A 'Right-Wing,' 'Christian' Hate Crime." I also think it's basically wrong in its presentation of what constitutes right and left, and commented so here and here.

UPDATE: Charles Johnson makes a similar point (to mine) here.

UPDATE: Rand continues contending with critics, including me, here.

UPDATE: More above.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Obama rate spike

"Rate Rise Clouds Recovery." So much for refinancing. And so much for the Obama team's boasts that their policies were bringing mortgage rates down. There was no way the government could quadruple its deficit without raising inflationary expectations and driving long-term interest rates up. It's something the Clinton administration, famously focused on the bond market, would have understood.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Worst von Brunn post

David Klinghoffer should be ashamed of himself for writing this: "James von Brunn, Evolutionist." I'm glad to see his commentors rip the post apart. As one points out, it's like saying "Dr. Baruch Goldstein, Jew." It's also like tarring all anti-abortion advocates with the murder of Dr. Tiller. And, even if von Brunn were motivated by evolution -- a theory he shows no sign of actually understanding -- that wouldn't have the slightest bearing on whether evolution is true.

UPDATE 6/11: Curiously, a number of the comments criticizing Klinghoffer now have vanished. Is that a glitch or a policy?

I don't tweet

Lest there be any confusion, I'm not the Ken Silber who's writing here.

UPDATE: As for other social networks, I am the Ken Silber who can be found here and here.

UPDATE 6/13: And here.

UPDATE 12/4/09: Changed my mind.

Japan radio redux

My radio interview from last night, about Japan's stock market history, is currently available here. In due course, it will also be found here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stimulus update

by Gil Weinreich
On Monday President Obama lamented that the U.S. has only spent $44 billion of the $787 billion stimulus in the past four months (during which time unemployment and U.S. indebtedness have only shot up). It takes time to funnel taxpayer dollars to worthless spending projects. Let's give the president a little more time to dissipate the remaining $743 billion. But what will he say when it turns out that shovel-ready midnight basketball does not make an economy grow?

Monday, June 8, 2009

"Surrounded by paganism"

Newt Gingrich: "I think this is one of the most critical moments in American history. We are living in a period where we are surrounded by paganism."

Here are a few pagan quotes I recommend to Newt:

"Orators are most vehement when their cause is weak." -- Cicero

"Whatever fortune has raised to a height, she has raised only to cast it down." -- Seneca

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

Radio note: Japanese stocks

I'm slated to be on the Gabe Wisdom Show on Tuesday, June 9 at 7:30 pm ET to talk about Japan's stock market history and the cautionary tale it offers.

UPDATE: Audio is currently available here.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Sky Has Fallen film

A young man and woman, looking good despite it all, wander through a wooded area shooting and stabbing shadowy figures who have killed or zombified almost all of humanity. In retrospect, it occurs to me that before I purchased tickets for an 11:55 p.m. showing of this film at the Lighthouse Film Festival, I might have done some research and considered just how bad such a movie could be. But I didn't. Here's the teaser. If I had even seen this much, I might have spared myself, and my friends. On the other hand, we all got some deep, intense belly laughs.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Everest from the air

That's Mount Everest (on the left), as taken in late March from a Buddha Air "mountain flight" that does a circle over the area. The crew lets you go to the cockpit, where the copilot will point out Everest and other mountains.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tank Man

Hard to believe This was 20 years ago. I was in high school at the time, and still remember reading about Tianenmen square. Training in Drama therapy and being an art therapist I'm intrigued by the affect of the folks in the picture as well as the dialogue that would ensue afterwards. The man in the back left is about to take on the upcoming Tank. The tank doesn't know what its up against. TANK MAN! Motion picture in the works(alright, thats my fantasy) but still impressive man vs machine in real life.

Posted by Dan Summer

More on who Tank man may be is here

Zionist Lolita debate

I attended and recorded last night's Debate at Lolita Bar, on "Is Zionism Racism?," between Saif Ammous and my friend Abe Greenwald. The audio is here (at least temporarily; it will be there as long as someone downloads it at least once a month).

Ammous "won" the debate, by being louder, using rhetoric such as "Zionist criminal pigs," and having vocal supporters in the audience. He grossly distorted the situation of land ownership in Israel, stating that 97 percent is owned by the Jewish National Fund (it's actually about 13 percent) and falsely claiming that almost all land in the country cannot be leased to Arabs. He also presented a hazy view of a non-sectarian, free-market democracy as the alternative to a Jewish state, without discussing what a real, e.g. Hamas-led, alternative would be like. Altogether, the debate cast a great deal more heat than light. But if you're interested, here it is.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Mars tips

For my reading list: IEEE Spectrum has a massive special report on going to Mars, including what to wear there.

Words I never thought I'd write

"Androgyny-producing inhalable hormones became a staple of mid-21st century retro-gangster chic." Or at least, that's my take on this. Go there and write your own caption if you like.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Africa Abortions

Obviously we all have our thoughts on abortion. What happened to the Doctor in Kansas, has people cheering or jeering. Whatever you believe, religion comes into play, especially regarding thou shall not kill, thou shall not sin, etc. This of course is not a religious blog by any amount of imagination. I was struck by this article in the Times about Abortion in Africa which talks about the Mortality rates for woman who are delivering, but also the secret lives many women have to leave when it comes to having "miscarriages" instead of abortions. This of course is a battle that will wage til the end of time, or my life time at least. The struggle between life and death, church and state. It goes on and on.

By Dan Summer

Right Time, Right Place

Current reading: Right Time, Right Place: Coming of Age with William F. Buckley Jr. and the Conservative Movement, by Richard Brookhiser. Fascinating, for anyone who's had a serious interest or involvement with conservative journalism. I did not know (and don't know if it was previously public) that Buckley had tapped Brookhiser (in his early 20s, no less) to be Buckley's successor at National Review, and later rescinded the decision. It makes for an interesting what-if. It also helps explain an aspect of the book's tone -- that it reads like Brookhiser regrets not having accomplished more, although his career has been, by any reasonable standard, quite successful. Then again, being unreasonable in one's self-expectations could be the key to success.

I may have more on the book once I've finished reading it. For my own, not particularly dramatic, encounter with WFB, see here. Also, many years earlier I saw Buckley and wife in the audience of Breaking the Code, the play about the WWII genius Alan Turing, which had been advertised as a spy thriller but was primarily about Turing being persecuted as a gay man. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Buckleys' seats were empty after intermission.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fishtail Mountain

That's Machapuchare, or Fishtail Mountain, photographed during our recent trek in the Annapurna region of the Himalayas. Officially it has never been climbed to its summit, and it has been off limits as a sacred mountain for decades, though there were rumors of an illegal expedition in the late 1970s.