World War I and the current war in Ukraine

It’s Friday the 13th, an unlucky day. Let’s talk about an unlucky human experience: war. For some potentially relevant background on the current war in Ukraine, I decided to read Keegan’s The First World War.

How can a 100-year-old war be relevant to anything that is happening today? The author says that World War I is highly relevant to World War II:

… no explanation of the causes of the Second World War can stand without reference to those roots. The Second World War, five times more destructive of human life and incalculably more costly in material terms, was the direct outcome of the First. On 18 September 1922, Adolf Hitler, the demobilised front fighter, threw down a challenge to defeated Germany that he would realise seventeen years later: “It cannot be that two million Germans should have fallen in vain … No, we do not pardon, we demand—vengeance!”

(for those who aren’t familiar with Adolf Hitler, he was the Donald Trump of his day)

Just as the Ukraine war arrived in a Europe that was not mentally prepared for the idea, so did World War I:

In 1939 the apprehension of war was strong, so was its menace, so, too, was knowledge of its reality. In 1914, by contrast, war came, out of a cloudless sky, to populations which knew almost nothing of it and had been raised to doubt that it could ever again trouble their continent.

Just as folks who’ve started wars recently have been overly optimistic about the timeline and the results (the U.S. being a notable example going back to Vietnam), the Germans had a detailed plan in which the war would be won within about 40 days:

“It is the thirty-fifth day,” the Kaiser exulted to a delegation of ministers to his Luxembourg headquarters on 4 September, “we are besieging Rheims, we are thirty miles from Paris.”94 The thirty-fifth day had an acute significance to the German General Staff of 1914. It lay halfway between the thirty-first day since mobilisation, when a map drawn by Schlieffen himself showed the German armies poised on the Somme to begin their descent on Paris, and the fortieth, when his calculations determined that there would have been a decisive battle.95 That battle’s outcome was critical. Schlieffen, and his successors, had calculated that the deficiencies of the Russian railways would ensure that not until the fortieth day would the Tsar’s armies be assembled in sufficient strength to launch an offensive in the east. Between the thirty-fifth and the fortieth day, therefore, the outcome of the war was to be decided.

Russia got off to a bad start in World War I, but ramped up eventually:

Russia, despite the terrible fatalities of 1914–15 and the large loss of soldiers to captivity after Gorlice-Tarnow, had been able to fill the gaps with new conscripts, so that by the spring of 1916 it would have two million men in the field army. Almost all, moreover, would be properly equipped, thanks to a striking expansion of Russian industry. Engineering output increased fourfold between the last year of peace and 1916, chemical output, essential to shell-filling, doubled. As a result there was a 2,000 per cent increase in the production of shells, 1,000 per cent in that of artillery, 1,100 per cent in that of rifles. Output of the standard field-artillery shell had risen from 358,000 per month in January 1915 to 1,512,000 in November. The Russian armies would in future attack with a thousand rounds of shell available per gun, a stock equivalent to that current in the German and French armies, and its formations were acquiring plentiful quantities of all the other equipment—trucks, telephones and aircraft (as many as 222 per month)—essential to modern armies.

Then as now a respiratory virus was an important consideration:

The German inability to sustain pressure was also hampered by the first outbreak of the so-called “Spanish” influenza, in fact a worldwide epidemic originating in South Africa, which was to recur in the autumn with devastating effects in Europe but in June laid low nearly half a million German soldiers whose resistance, depressed by poor diet, was far lower than that of the well-fed Allied troops in the trenches opposite.

(The book was written at the end of the 1990s. Science then said that the flu originated in South Africa. Wikipedia today says that Science has narrowed things down to just three possibilities for the origin of the influenza that was so much more lethal than SARS-CoV-2: the U.S., Europe, and China.)

The author, writing in the 1990s, might have been a little too optimistic about Europe!

The legacy of the war’s political outcome scarcely bears contemplation: Europe ruined as a centre of world civilisation, Christian kingdoms transformed through defeat into godless tyrannies, Bolshevik or Nazi, the superficial difference between their ideologies counting not at all in their cruelty to common and decent folk. All that was worst in the century which the First World War had opened, the deliberate starvation of peasant enemies of the people by provinces, the extermination of racial outcasts, the persecution of ideology’s intellectual and cultural hate-objects, the massacre of ethnic minorities, the extinction of small national sovereignties, the destruction of parliaments and the elevation of commissars, gauleiters and warlords to power over voiceless millions, had its origins in the chaos it left behind. Of that, at the end of the century, little thankfully is left. Europe is once again, as it was in 1900, prosperous, peaceful and a power for good in the world.

The author hatefully says that diversity is not anyone’s strength and, in fact, is a huge threat to political stability.

The liberation of the peoples of Eastern Europe from the imperial rule of German-speaking dynasties, Hohenzollern or Habsburg, brought equally little tranquillity to the successor states they founded. None of them—Poland, Czechoslovakia, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes or, as it became known in 1929, Yugoslavia—emerged into independence with sufficient homogeneity to undertake a settled political life.

According to one of the foremost historians of the past 100 years, a country with a mixture of ethnicities and religions will eventually become too weak to defend itself:

Czechoslovakia’s inheritance from the Habsburgs of another German minority in the Sudetenland equally robbed the new state of ethnic equilibrium, with fatal consequences for its integrity in 1938. Yugoslavia’s unequal racial composition might have been brought into balance with good will; as events turned out, the determination of the Orthodox Christian Serbs to dominate, particularly over the Catholic Croats, undermined its coherence from an early date. Internal antipathies were to rob it of the power to resist Italian and German attack in 1941.

Even one of the world’s best historians can’t figure out the “War, what is it good for?” question:

But then the First World War is a mystery. Its origins are mysterious. So is its course. Why did a prosperous continent, at the height of its success as a source and agent of global wealth and power and at one of the peaks of its intellectual and cultural achievement, choose to risk all it had won for itself and all it offered to the world in the lottery of a vicious and local internecine conflict? Why, when the hope of bringing the conflict to a quick and decisive conclusion was everywhere dashed to the ground within months of its outbreak, did the combatants decide nevertheless to persist in their military effort, to mobilise for total war and eventually to commit the totality of their young manhood to mutual and existentially pointless slaughter?

Do I recommend the book? Not as a way of understanding the action of the World War I. There are so many battles that I think that story of the war needs to be presented as a video animation with voiceover to explain which armies are moving and why. Nobody has sufficient memory plus spatial thinking skills to follow a text narrative of the entire war. Here’s how the grand 40-day plan to beat France is presented in the Windows Kindle app:

Clear as mud! Still, the book has a lot of interesting and surprising facts. Mostly, the reader is left amazed that so many people sacrificed their lives for nothing. See, for example, “Britain entering first world war was ‘biggest error in modern history” (The Guardian):

Ferguson is unequivocal: “We should not think of this as some great victory or dreadful crime, but more as the biggest error in modern history.”

He continued: “The cost, let me emphasise, of the first world war to Britain was catastrophic, and it left the British empire at the end of it all in a much weakened state … It had accumulated a vast debt, the cost of which really limited Britain’s military capability throughout the interwar period. Then there was the manpower loss – not just all those aristocratic officers, but the many, many, many skilled workers who died or were permanently incapacitated in the war.

More: Read Keegan’s The First World War.

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Book recommendation: River of Doubt

Christmas gift idea: The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, a new-to-me 2005 book by Candice Millard. I listened to this as an Audible book so I can’t include excerpts. The story is about an exploration and mapping journey down what was then the Rio da Dúvida and is today the Roosevelt River. Teddy Roosevelt and one of his sons went down the river in 1913-14, whose course and rapids were unknown. The co-leader was Cândido Rondon, Brazil’s greatest explorer and friend to the indigenous (after a lifetime spent under hazardous conditions, he died in 1958, age 92).

I couldn’t help thinking about the unnecessary nature of the hardships that the men endured (no expedition member identifying with any other gender is identified by the author). By 1924 or so, the river could have been surveyed without risk via airplane, e.g., the mass-produced Bréguet 19 (presumably with ferry tanks, flown in 1925 on a non-stop 2,800 nm. flight). Being on the surface might have been useful for diplomacy with the Cinta Larga, but these people were not interested in interacting with the former U.S. president or his Brazilian partners.

The story combines adventure, conflict, family loyalty and sacrifice, tragedy, and a reminder that there are a lot of diseases far worse than COVID-19.

A 2021 journey down part of the river by whitewater nerds with modern equipment who nonetheless had to do some portaging:

I’m now interested to read the author’s 2022 book, River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile. Of course, during the interval between 2005 and 2022, the standards of what has to go into a successful book have changed. Part of the Amazon description of the new book:

Yet there was a third man on both expeditions, his name obscured by imperial annals, whose exploits were even more extraordinary. This was Sidi Mubarak Bombay, who was enslaved and shipped from his home village in East Africa to India. When the man who purchased him died, he made his way into the local Sultan’s army, and eventually traveled back to Africa, where he used his resourcefulness, linguistic prowess and raw courage to forge a living as a guide. Without Bombay and men like him, who led, carried, and protected the expedition, neither Englishman would have come close to the headwaters of the Nile, or perhaps even survived.

In River of the Gods Candice Millard has written another peerless story of courage and adventure, set against the backdrop of the race to exploit Africa by the colonial powers.

The white exploiters are saved from their own greed and stupidity by a person of color, in other words.

Finally, River of Doubt might be a good name for a book about the Deplorables who reject Science, e.g., that cloth masks protect against an aerosol virus or that vaccinating 6-month-olds with a medicine that does not stop infection/transmission is the obvious answer to a virus that kills 80-year-olds. Titles can’t be copyrighted!

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Economic bubble reading list: The Lost Bank

Today is the beginning of the big GDP statistics update from the BEA:

At the end of September, BEA will update five years of U.S. gross domestic product and related statistics, as well as GDP statistics for industries and for each state.

Maybe we’ll get some insight into how badly we fooled ourselves in imagining that people sitting at home scrolling Facebook and playing Xbox were as productive as if they’d continued to go to the office. The latest from the BEA:

Speaking of fooling ourselves, let me recommend The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual – The Biggest Bank Failure in American History by Kirsten Grind, a Wall Street Journal reporter. The Collapse of 2008 has been covered at a high level in a lot of books, but this one manages to touch on all of the big issues in the context of a single enterprise and group of people. As with “A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic,” a narrative about one company is more compelling and easier to follow than a story about the entire U.S. economy.

The book explains how our modern world of a handful of enormous banks came to be. When there are no limits on how big a bank can get, small variations in bank health lead to enormous concentration. Due to being slightly larger, WaMu might have slightly lower costs per customer than a smaller bank, e.g., with information systems being spread across a larger base, thus making an acquisition sensible on both sides. WaMu would buy banks after the CEO got sued for divorce, leaving the target without effective leadership while the CEO was defending the lawsuit. WaMu would ultimately buy banks to feed its own executives’ egos, particularly Kerry Killinger’s, regarding its size rank among U.S. banks (when you’re #4, the desire to become #2 or #1 becomes tough to resist).

The book explains the roots of the Collapse of 2008. At a high level, the book identifies the following culprits:

  • the federal government, starting with Bill Clinton, pressuring banks into lending big money to Americans with low income and bad credit history to serve a social justice goal of achieving a desire mix of skin colors among borrowers (regulators could simply shut down a bank that didn’t lend enough money to the groups of interest to the government)
  • Fannie Mae, which abandoned its insistence on high quality mortgages and, partly due to pressure from the government, started buying low quality mortgages issued to home buyers/flippers who could not be expected to pay back loans if house prices flattened
  • New York City, whose investment banks sold mortgage-backed bonds to investors worldwide and, also, those investors. The book describes people on the ground at subprime lenders, e.g., Long Beach Mortgage (acquired by WaMu in 1999), recognizing that the borrowers would never pay but assuming that if Wall Street kept buying the mortgages the investors must know something that they didn’t.
  • California, where most of the fraudulent practices originated.
  • the issuance of complex variable rate mortgages, such as Option ARM, to consumers who lacked the sophisticated or, in many cases the English language skills, to understand them (it didn’t help that these folks had the financial capacity only to pay the initial teaser monthly payments and were guaranteed to default if a house price didn’t go up enough to enable a refinance; Federal regulators at the Office of Thrift Supervision approved the practice of issuing a $4000/month mortgage to a consumer who could afford only the $1000/month teaser rate)

As in Bubble in the Sun book: even those with the best information can’t predict a crash, those on the inside did not always see crash coming. In early 2007, for example, as investors were fleeing from high-risk mortgages and as some of his junior executives warned of impending doom, Kerry Killinger tried to buy a huge California-based subprime lender, Ameriquest, which went bankrupt shortly afterwards. Questioned regarding why he would want to pay for Ameriquest while the crash appeared to be underway, Killinger responded “They don’t ring a bell at the bottom.”

Kirsten Grind references Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom?: The Boom Will Not Bust and Why Property Values Will Continue to Climb Through the End of the Decade, by David Lereah, Ph.D., the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. The 2005 book was rereleased in February 2006 just as the market for subprime mortgage-backed securities began to collapse (but Fannie Mae kept buying!).

The book is a great lesson in what we might call “success disease.” Executives who take risks when everything is going up imagine that they have some special talents. Like individual investors in high-beta stocks, they don’t risk-adjust their high historical returns for the fact that they took a lot of risk and that it could easily have gone in the other direction.

The book answers the question Why did banks work so hard to lend money to people who obviously weren’t going to pay? Due to the higher interest rates on subprime, and the assumption that almost all of the low-income folks who took out subprime loans would actually pay, it was 5-10X more profitable to lend money to someone with no job than it was to lend money to a person with a job and a history of paying his/her/zir/their bills. The book doesn’t say so explicitly, but this also explains why banks couldn’t easily abandon their subprime practices in 2005 when the problems were already obvious. If they had done so, they would have needed to fire half of their employees (since the revenue from being a mortgage lender to those who could actually afford houses was such a small fraction of the subprime revenue stream).

Those passionate about social justice will be pleased to learn that the one voice of praise from a shareholder at the April 2008 meeting was from a Ph.D. economist who was also and employee. She expressed confidence in the Board and executive team, thanking them for their focus on diversity in hiring and lending to minorities (“community”). WaMu had recently rejected an $8/share buyout offer from J.P. Morgan Chase and also recently obtained $7 billion in smart money from the private equity geniuses (WSJ, Sept 2008 describes all $7 billion being lost). The private equity investors got half the company and let the Board and executives keep their jobs.

The book is also a cautionary reminder that it can take a while for bad decisions to work their way through the system. The California-style lending practices first reached the rest of the U.S. perhaps in 2003. It wasn’t until four years later that the subprime lenders began to go bankrupt, in mid-2007. And it was more than a year later before the broader U.S. markets and economy collapsed. If you think that U.S. economic policy has been misguided since March 2020 (as I do, because the rewards have been tilted in favor of those who don’t work or who engage in counterproductive activities), it could be a few years before the consequences of this policy become apparent.

Don’t forget that a disaster for ordinary folks, investors, etc. may be only a minor problem for the executives who caused the disaster. Kerry Killinger took so much money out of WaMu on the way up that he could pay off Wife #1 while also building and enjoying a dream lifestyle with Wife #2 that apparently persists to this day. The Latinx subprime borrowers lost everything, but Killinger still had his collection of $6 million houses (worth $20 million each today?). Killinger’s epic risk-taking would have been rational, even with full advance knowledge that it would render the bank’s shares worthless. If he had managed the bank conservatively, nothing dramatic would have happened either to the shares or to his own net worth.

I’ve actually been listening to The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual – The Biggest Bank Failure in American History via Audible, but don’t love the narrator so perhaps the Kindle or print versions would be better.


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Book recommendation: Anatomy of a Murder

Here’s a book that I recently enjoyed, loosely related to my slavery as an expert witness: Anatomy of a Murder. It was turned into a 1959 film with some added twists (Jimmy Stewart, a combat B-24 pilot in World War II, is the star). Although the subject of the trial in the book/movie is a murder, which is a little more dramatic than the typical patent infringement lawsuit, many of the ideas and concepts are similar.

Due to its age, the book contains no 2SLGBTQQIA+ angle. What if you need a book that is more up to date? The Barnes & Noble in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida is ready to meet your needs. Some photos from an August 13, 2022 visit that I think our loyal reader/commenter Mike will appreciate:

Need some tips on Zoom etiquette? The store carries this masterpiece by Jeffrey Toobin:

One book is not enough about our fellow Palm Beach County resident?

Prefer to ponder what happens after a few more years of open borders?

Passionate about the skin color of the person who wrote the text on the page?

Who else has a book to recommend? What have you all been reading?

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Book recommendation: All the Flowers of the Mountain

Today we celebrate the traitorous rebellion of slaveowners and land-stealers against the legitimate authority of the British government.

Today our family also celebrates a cousin’s wife’s novel, five years in the works, being released. I managed to read the first 60 pages via a preprint and can vouch for it being well-crafted. At the risk of sounding too much like an Oprah copycat, it contains richly imagined characters. The chapters also have an interesting back-and-forth sequence that does not feel like a gimmick. At least in the first 60 pages there are no 2SLGBTQQIA+ characters of color so I don’t expect this book to be featured in the New York Times. I was engaged, despite the romance angle. My only criticism so far is that the main male character seems unrealistically emotional. I’m not sure that the author fully appreciates the “one mood all the time” principle of cisgender masculinity.

The book is All the Flowers of the Mountain. My Kindle copy arrives today and I’m going to be anxious to see how it turns out. A good beach or lake vacation read, certainly!

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Memorial Day reading: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors

For Memorial Day, let me recommend The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, a book about the Battle off Samar, in which puny destroyer-escorts and destroyers charged heavy Japanese cruisers and battleships in an attempt to prevent destruction by surface fire of American escort carriers (cargo ships with a flight deck, essentially).

The situation was the opposite of the typical American military engagement, in which we enjoy an overwhelming advantage in numbers and equipment. Most of the American fleet had steamed far away, distracted by a Japanese decoy force.

The book is also timely because the events are the opposite of what happened in Uvalde, Texas. There, the heavily armed, full armored, and numerous police were so intimidated by a single teenager that they took no action. Off Samar, however, captains of absurdly small vessels steamed forward into what they expected to be near-certain death in order to protect the escort carriers and their crews.

Here’s the Samuel B. Roberts, at 1350 tons:

She was sunk by the Kongō, 36,600 tons.

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Bubble in the Sun book: even those with the best information can’t predict a crash

Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How It Brought on the Great Depression (Christopher Knowlton) explains how Miami Beach was essentially the vision of a single individual, Carl Fisher (a pioneer in automobile headlights, highway development, and co-founder of the Indy 500).

Jane believed the project would be an expensive mistake. When Fisher took her to inspect the property by boat, they entered from the bay side, rowing up a channel lined with dense mangroves. “Mosquitos blackened our clothing,” she wrote. “Jungle flies, as large as horse flies, waited for our blood.… Other creatures that made me shudder were lying in wait in the slimy paths or on the branches of overhanging trees. The jungle itself was as hot and steamy as a conservatory.… What on earth could Carl possibly see in such a place?” But Fisher insisted that he knew what he was doing. Standing with her on the soft sand on the ocean side of the long neck, the surf breaking toward them in slow, white rollers, he sketched out his vision for the area. It would be half beach resort and half playground. “In that moment, Carl’s imagination saw Miami Beach in its entirety, blazing like a jewel with hibiscus, oleander, poinsettia, bougainvillea, and orchids, feathered with palms and lifting proud white towers against the sky,” Jane recalled. “But I looked at that rooted and evil-smelling morass and had nothing to say. There was nothing a devoted wife could say.”

As 1919 unfolded, Carl Fisher made two final and critical changes to his business strategy. The first was to switch his target audience, which had always been the elderly and the retired rich, most of whom still favored Palm Beach over Miami, and always would. As he told Business magazine a few years later, “I was on the wrong track. I had been trying to reach the dead ones. I had been going after the old folks. I saw that what I needed to do was go after the live wires. And the live wires don’t want to rest.” He would concede the superrich and the old money to Palm Beach. Instead, Miami Beach would be for the nouveau riche; for men like Fisher himself, especially those from the industrial Midwest; men who were younger, still making their fortunes, and looking for fun ways to spend their new wealth. He would appeal to them with the sort of activities that appealed to him: contests, races, and other events that featured sports celebrities. Henceforth, Miami Beach would become “a youthful city of indeterminate social standing,” in the words of social historian Charlotte Curtis. Fisher’s second change in tactics was equally radical: he raised his land prices by 10 percent, in part to give the appearance that his lots were appreciating rapidly in value. And to further promote that perception, he offered a return guarantee of 6 percent “to any customer in Miami or elsewhere who purchased lots from us and are not well pleased with their investment.” He assured his buyers that, from then on, he would be raising prices by 10 percent every year. Ten percent was an exceptionally attractive rate of return; 10 percent that seemed virtually guaranteed was even more attractive. Fisher, in trying to stoke a small fire, was about to fuel a conflagration. Behind the scenes, other factors had contributed to the marked improvement in sales. Chief among these was the wide proliferation of the automobile. The machines that Fisher had raced, sold, and promoted back in Indiana had evolved into bona fide consumer products, viable and cost-effective substitutes for the horse and buggy. The automobile, more than the railroad, the streetcar, or any other factor, turned the American landscape from raw land into real estate. It did so by making the land accessible and thus developable: its value could be easily established, enhanced, and commodified. Land then became a far more salable product, one that benefited landlords, lenders, contractors, and real estate agents, to say nothing of the purchasers and renters of that property. Nowhere was this truer than in Florida. And nowhere in Florida was it truer than in Miami Beach, where the road built over the Collins Bridge and the new County Causeway (renamed MacArthur Causeway in 1942) at last made the resort developments there commercially viable—by making them accessible to cars. Miami Beach was on its way to becoming the most widely publicized and most famous resort destination in the country. Fisher was now forty-three years old but still full of vitality. “This is only the beginning,” he announced presciently in an ad that appeared in the Miami Metropolis newspaper late in 1919, adding that he planned to further enhance Alton Beach the following year with “a polo club house, a church, theater, schoolhouse, six store buildings, and ten Italian villas ranging from $10,000 to $35,000 each.”

By the mid-1920s, Fisher’s vision was more or less realized:

In her memoirs, Fabulous Hoosier, Carl’s first wife, Jane, captures the surreal nature of the late boom years and how the clientele of their once sleepy resort town had changed: “Pouring into Miami Beach they came, fantastic visitors to a fantastic city. The gold diggers and the sugar daddies, the gigolos, the ‘butter and egg men,’ the playboys and the gilded heiresses, the professional huntresses, the tired businessmen who never grew tired, the gentlemen who preferred blonds. Miami Beach was the playground of millionaires and the happy hunting ground of predatory women.”

Then he tried to do it all over again in Montauk, Long Island and, due to leverage, blew up. The book chronicles the fate of other folks who became billionaires (in today’s debased money) from their efforts in Florida real estate, e.g., George E. Merrick who planned and built Coral Gables and Addison Mizner who is responsible for the Spanish-style architecture that we now see all over Florida. Essentially all of them went bust after staking their fabulous riches on yet more expansion.

What’s the worst that can happen in our current real estate and stock market boom? A retired hedge fund manager friend says that he wouldn’t be shocked to see a 90 percent crash. I think that this is excessive given that Manhattan real estate crashed by only 67 percent from 1929 to 1932 (HBS) and this was much steeper than the nationwide decline.

The book should be an inspiration for more diversification, though 2008 showed how tough that can be to achieve. Here are some $5-12 million houses (Jupiter Inlet Colony) to enjoy while the good times last…


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Philip’s Book Club: Bubble in the Sun (about the Florida real estate boom 1895-1926ish)

The latest book… Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How It Brought on the Great Depression (Christopher Knowlton). I’m enjoying it so far (listening via Audible). Timely, considering that home prices in the decent neighborhoods of Florida have roughly doubled since the lockdowns began in the Northeast and California.

The author notes that at some point in the 1920s, Florida had 60 million single-family house lots mapped out and ready to sell.

Chart of Florida population growth from 1900-1930 (source):

For context, here’s Maskachusetts v. Florida over 120 years:

Note that 1947 is highlighted as an important year for window air conditioners and the 1960s as when home central A/C become standard (

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Book recommendation: The Great Siege, Malta 1565

Sadly topical, let me recommend The Great Siege, Malta 1565 by Ernie Bradford. For Americans softened by 150+ years without war on our soil, this is a sobering reminder of the nature of war and life in a besieged city. For those who are concerned about the fighting abilities of the innumerate 79-year-old whom Americans elected as our Commander in Chief, the book may provide some comfort. Suleiman the Magnificent, who ordered the siege, was nearly 71 years old at the time. Dragut, “The Drawn Sword of Islam”, who proved to be Suleiman’s best military leader, was 80 years old. Jean Parisot de Valette, who led the defense and gave his name to Malta’s capital, was 70.

Trigger Warning: the book’s author died in 1986, when Science was but poorly understood, and thus the book lacks coverage of how the 2SLGBTQQIA+ and BIPOC communities experienced the siege.


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What are folks reading in Boulder?

Pictures from the Boulder Book Store.

SARS-CoV-2 has achieved much more mindshare in Colorado than in Florida. Boulder and Denver are the centers of concern regarding COVID-19. As you enter the store…

The #1-selling book is The 1619 Project, which “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States’ national narrative.”

(Black Americans may be at the very center of the United States national narrative, but I did not see any employees or customers at the bookstore who appeared to identify as “Black”)

Another prominently displayed book reminds customers that there wouldn’t be any Black or white people here if the Native Americans had been more successful militarily.

Joe Biden might be able to find his next Supreme Court nominee in the children’s section:

Speaking of the Supreme Court, AOC stands next to RBG. Perhaps my dream that Joe Biden will nominate thought-leader AOC to the Supreme Court is shared by others?

(Fortunately, no Deplorable had snuck in to set up a Willie Brown action figure next to Kamala.)

The best way to deal with climate change is stoned and drunk:

If you need pocket-sized constant inspiration:

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