Saturday, July 28, 2012

Is Charles Murray trying to prove his ignorance?

Charles Murray: Why Capitalism Has an Image Problem -

Not only does this column not reflect well on the WSJ op-ed pages, which of course bothers them not in the least, but it should make one wonder if Murray is in some kind of contest to show how little he understands of modern America and what its people think. First, he constantly refers to capitalism as some kind of monolithic system, which it is not, and praises it as an unmixed blessing. Wherever people critique it, it's because they don't understand it. No mention of shadow economies of unregulated derivative systems that dwarf many country's budgets. The crash caused by many bad practices in the financial sector apparently doesn't exist in his mind. There is not one mention of the corruption represented by Enron, Dennis Kozlowski, Bernie Ebbers or Bernie Madoff, among others. What blame he does recognize as "legitimate" lies with the government. Oh, and of course he never mentions the fact that modern businesses work as hard as they can to eliminate every job possible. There is no such thing as offshoring jobs to cheap labor markets. And no, I freely admit that I don't buy into the arguments that offshoring is another unmixed blessing of capitalism, which is not uncommon among economists, especially those of the right wing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No, A Former Publisher Doesn't Know More About the Internet Than Techies

Vint Cerf is a well known name in computer geek circles for very good reasons. If anyone knows the events that led to the internet as we know it, he does. Yet a former publisher of the Wall Street Journal decided to revise history a bit in a column for the WSJ that once again shows why those pages have so little to do with facts, even when compared to other op-ed sections. In it he tries to claim that the role of the government was limited to a modest contribution backed by ARPA. He admits that Vint Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocols but claims that "the Ethernet", developed at Xerox PARC, was in fact the invention that first connected different computer networks and served as the basis for the internet. He bases his claims, which contradict everything I ever read about the history of the internet, on a book by Michael Hiltzik, who was at Xerox PARC back then and a quote from a former top official of ARPA that he doesn't understand.

He made a very foolish mistake, though, by getting his "facts" flagrantly wrong while some of the people involved are still alive. And they're not very happy with Mr. Crovitz for hosing history. Vint Cerf refutes Crovitz's column in an interview with CNet. Michael Hiltzik corrects Mr Crovitz in a column in the L.A. times. In fact, Cerf points out that not only was ARPA involved in the development of the Internet but so were the NSF, NASA, DOE and other government agencies as well. Hiltzik points out how Crovitz misinterpreted the quote from his friend, Robert Taylor.

I think that Crovitz, like far too many who drift too deeply into an ideology, interpreted things he found to support what he wants to believe and ignored the larger body of evidence that contradicted him. Think of him and others trying to revise the history of technology to minimize government involvement for ideological reasons as the David Bartons of tech history.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Oil Drum | Ruthless Extrapolation

This site is about energy and our future, as per the subtitle. I really enjoyed this article and the physics discussion the comments thread turned into.

The Oil Drum | Ruthless Extrapolation