Al Newman

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Recent posts by Al Newman

Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

And of course the effect on the economy was different. The crash of '87 did not spin the country into a recession and the markets stableized quickly after the crash. The Dow regained all of its lost wealth within two years. Why the difference? The major difference was that the markets were not heavily margined as in 1929. Also, the Fed tightened the money supply after the 1929 crash making things even worse.

The Fed tightened the money supply before, during, and after the 29 crash, a major contributing factor in the loss of confidence which caused the enormous drop over 3 years. I don't say that was the only factor, but it did subvert the market's normal recovery mechanisms over time. The stock market fell something like 87% all in between 1929 and the depths of 1932, I think.
I think the margining had a large effect in 1929, but most of the heavily-leveraged investors were swept out by the end of 1929. Reverse-gearing had a major effect. But why the continuing fall in 1930 and 1931? Loss of confidence perhaps, but also lack of liquidity. The money wasn't there to buy assets at decent prices, so the few who had the money could wait until prices became absurdly low. The NYSE went from a PE of 28 to something like 5 in the early 30's. Combined with falling corporate profits this dropped values to 13% of their peak.

Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

So the difference is that with a 20% drop in the market, the person who invested on margin is wiped out. The person who didn't invest on margin still has 80% of their wealth.

A non-leveraged investor who bought and held the average stock in 1929 lost 87% of their investment by 1933. 13% is better than 0, but not much better. I suspect that was where the real damage occurred.
In the internet age I have to wonder whether the regulation will work anymore. What can the SEC do to brokers operating out of the Grand Cayman islands on the internet, for example? Nothing I suspect. So if people want to use 20's-style gearing today they probably can. Easily. Then there are derivatives. Casino gambling is still with us.....

Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
Personal note: I remember Black Monday very well. I was a COBOL porgrammer for Dean Witter, Reynolds Inc. at the time. We spent the entire day staring at the tickers. We knew we were watching history. I was interviewed for TV (one of those "man on the street" things) on the Friday before Black Monday after the market had dropped 100 points. I said that the market was made of sheep and the sheep were panicking.

You're that old, Tom?!!! Did you know Irving Fischer? How about Tom Watson, Senior? ;-)
Didn;t know they had COBOL and TV back then, Tom. I know COBOL is ancient, but that ancient?
20 years ago
Perhaps he has very, very deep feelings about bike paths?
I admit that the impression he conveyed is not one of great depth religiously speaking. Or (possibly) of depth in any human endeavor. Personally I would not change religions outside of a major moral issue which could not be worked out or ignored.
I doubt it will play well in the Land of the Confederate Flag, much as Dr. Dean may hope to appeal down there.
20 years ago

Originally posted by Axel Janssen:

so US again locomotive of world economy.
Countries like France and especially Germany should really start to ask themselves how the US gets those revive-economy-capacities.
At least since november our politicians show some signs that now they are really starting to switch from permanent analysis mode towards really doing some usefull reforms.

I see some signs in Germany with the Schroeder reforms. Just a first step of course. Germany's plight reminds me intensely of the 'stagflation' economic crisis in the US during the late 70's. It took new thinking and a new President to get the US out of that one. But Carter made a start in some small ways before Reagan came in and shook things up.
What I'm afraid of is that the EU and it's 'processes' will keep Germany from doing what needs to be done. I hope not and wish Germany well. It's tough, dude....
France I'm less sure about. From my POV Chirac looks a lot like Louis XVth Apres moi, Le Deluge. I suppose every French President tends to look that way toward the end of his tenure. With the political fracturing shown in the last election perhaps France has a chance of electing an iconoclast next time around.

Originally posted by Axel Janssen:
Hope for an even stronger Euro. Otherwise good exports might dilute reform impetus one more time.
Last week back from Dresden I stoped for a cofee in one of those towns in the east with >25% unemployment. I felt ashamed of german reunification. You can smell the subventioniced desperation there.

I doubt a weaker Euro will delay things for long if at all, but I understand your despair. In 1979 I thought that Jimmy Carter had finally grasped that inflation had to be fought but then he eased monetary policy during the 1980 election. I voted for the first time in 1980 (for Reagan) because I could not stand the thought of 4 more years of Carter. Later I learned to like Reagan, but in 1980 he was merely the lesser of two evils for me.
I wouldn't be ashamed of German Unification, Axel, but merely of the way it was botched. Buying able-bodied people off with free money is almost always bad in the long term. You rob them of part of their being by taking away their economic function.
The answer is reforma and more reform. Schroeder started out getting as much as he could. If there is improvement he or his successor can use that
success as a compelling argument for more reforms. And so on.
Good luck to Germany, I say. Even if they don't like us Yankee Warmongering swine much.....
20 years ago
I don't believe that anyone knows exactly what is going on in the jobs market, but one thing that years of observation has taught me is that there are yearly cycles in the market. Each year there is a drop-off in activity beginning in November and continuing through the new year. November-December is a lousy time to look for work. Has always been. If you think about it you'll understand why.
Another drop-off is during the late summer, July and August. I've seen only two exceptions to this in 20 years, in 1987 and during the palmiest of dot-com days in 1999-2000. The two hottest employment markets I've seen yet.
I don't know whether the job market is down or whether it's the usual seasonal thing. I suggest we suspend judgement until mid-January at the earliest....
[ December 29, 2003: Message edited by: Alfred Neumann ]
20 years ago

Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
Those are merely forward-looking statements and not intended as assurances of any sort that they contain fact or reasonable assumptions of market realities.

The 1929-31 stock market crash was unprecedented in many ways. It was not based upon a speculative bubble akin to the Tulip Bulb craze or the South Seas bubble. Overoptimism, yes. To be sure. But the PE (Price to Earnings) ratio of the New York Stock Exchange at the 1929 peak was about 28, about twice the historical average. To contrast, the average PE of Nasdaq at the peak of the craze was about 70. The current recession should have been much worse than the Great Depression.
The difference was the policy of the US Federal Reserve in 1929 and in crashes since then. The Fed clamed down heavily on liquidity, on the money supply between 1929 and 1931, a policy which was not reversed until the late 30's or early 40's. Since then the Fed has pursued a short-term expansion in the money supply at every mnarket crash, which prevented the market from falling catastropically and forcing the sale of other assets (such as real estate) at ruinous prices.
20 years ago

Originally posted by Michael Ernest:
My apologies: I didn't read very carefully the first time around.
As silly as it might sound, I got my first break in this business by a) being nominally qualified and b) submitting my resume on a heavier stock of colored paper. I also mailed it flat so it wouldn't have any crease lines.
When you're dumping in your resume with possibly dozens or hundreds of others, anything you can do to stand out is important. I wouldn't do it for a position for which relatively few people would be considered, but for a cattle call, hey, anything that gets someone to read your resume or pull it from a large stack counts.

I did something similar. I used a cream-color heavy paper and actually mailed the resume in it's own clear plastic folder (about $0.12 apiece as I recall). I think it worked because I started getting a better response rate from resume submissions.
When you're poor resume is in a pile of 300 you have to do something to give it a chance....
20 years ago

Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
Some interesting things I've noted recently.
1. An article at on expected rises in IT salaries has some interesting commentaries attached. More than one responder is claiming over 20 months out of work and counting. As one who is very happy to have departed that august body, I sympathise with them. The fact that they're claiming to still be out of work even as the economy is supposed to be recovering (hey, I finally got hired) is rather scarey.
2. Some really strange help wanted ads in the local newspapers lately. One is for an IT manager for a small but growing chain of sandwich shops. The other was for a full-time programmer at a fish camp restaurant. Not a chain of restaurants. There's just one restaurant (admittedly one of the best in town, if you like fish camps).
3. Just heard this morning. Another local IT massacre. The entire 40+/- IT staff at a local mortgage company to hit the streets in January. They'll have plenty of company at the unemployment office, since the country's 3d-largest railroad is supposed to jettison 1000 mostly local employees.
Where it all leads remains to be seen, but it's beginning to look like we'll know by Election time. If things haven't recovered by then, someone's going to have a real mess to handle.

Where the heck are you, Tim? Somewhere in the Carolinas? Or maybe Georgia? I used to visit Fish Camps when I lived in North Carolina....
I'd expect the number of programmers more than 20 months out of work to keep climbing for a little while, together with the number of graduates seeking to enter the field. The reason being that while employers are hiring to some extent they are very much targeted upon people who can come in and help *right away*. The long-term unemployed aren't perceived that way.
A really good reason to avoid long-term unemployment during a tech depression if you can. I clamped onto a really lousy job like a leech for about 13 months for just that reason, and then took an offer for less than I was worth a few months ago.
If my current project is any indication there should be a increase in hiring in the new year. We partnered with IBM on this project, and IBM GCS had extreme difficulty coming up with enough qualified people. They finally hired a bunch of contractors, but by that time the project was in major crisis. Employers are extremely wary of hiring people on the speculation that they will be able to grow into the role and contribute right now. But they will have to do it in the new year, because all indications in my local market is that it's next to impossible to lure people with 'hot' skill bases. At least at the lousy salaries which they wish to pay.....
20 years ago
Suharto? How bloody was that Indonesian war in the 60s?
20 years ago

Originally posted by Edy Yu:
Another interestign question regarding the resume is how to catch the eyes of the recruiter. I know there must be millions of Java/J2EE centric resumes flying around in the market.
How to distinguish between you and any other person in the resume?

You cannot write a CV to catch the eye of a recruiter. No way, apart possibly from writing several books and highlighting them.
You catch the eye of a recruiter (sometimes) by writing a good cover letter. More predictable you catch their eye by following up with a phone call. Every time you send a CV, follow up. After a while the more active recruiters may recognize you and start calling you when they get something....
20 years ago

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
Certifications do not make you an architect. Generally speaking, a good architect possesses the following:
- strong technical ability
- leadership
- good communication skills (oral and written) and can interact with engineers, managers, sales, customers, etc.
- knowledge of technologies
- business skills--both understanding the industry you are in as well as understanding how your company works and where engineering fits in
- presentatibility (can be shown to people outside the company)
Which of those skills do you have? And keep in mind, it's not enough to simply say "I'm a leader" or "I have good communication skills." You can demonstrate leadership by having lead a project. For communication skills, I note on my resume that I've written hundreds of pages of documentation.
Figure out in which areas you are weak, and make sure your jobs (current and future) help strengthen you in those areas.

Architects come in at least two flavors, I've found. The first is the 'Technical Architect', which tends to have the strong technical ability and one or more of the other skills you listed. More likely to have the skills at the top of your lists & less likely as you go down the list. TA's are generally pretty worthwhile team members if not the entire package.
The second kind of Architect is the 'Solutions Architect'. A good one is a pearl beyond price but I've seen few good ones in my career. Most SA's I've seen have 'presentability' to a very high degree. That is often about the extent of it, though some have technical ability with (usually obsolete) technology as well. Some have the business knowledge but surprisingly few. Leadership? What's that? Communication? They don't tend to listen to the peons (senior developers) nor to be anywhere around when the excrement hits the impeller. Their job tends to rot away whatever 'strong technical ability' they ever had, and 'knowledge of technologies' tends to be very high-level or become so over time.
For a good solutions architect to stay good requires a degee of hands-on hard work which is almost impossible to achieve. They must stay with a project through delivery and testing and their employer needs to allow them plenty of learning time to keep up. Perhaps as much as 25-30% of their time.
Absent that they have a hard time staying current and relevant. Most don't even try. They focus on the presentation and political skills and let the rest go to the devil. Credit-grabbers for all they are worth.....
20 years ago

Originally posted by HS Thomas:
Note : That there are no American Evil Dictators on that comprehensive list.
Let's see if I can find some....
General George Armstrong Custer OR Chief Sitting Bull and Chief Crazy Horse of the Sioux Indians
Or have we all become apathetic about the whole story, watching favourite actors playing Cowboys and Red Indians and made heroes of them all.
The fact remains that one lot were all but annihilated... There were factors like small-pox and I suppose lack of education may explain the uneven distribution of deaths,and the fact that Europeans brought the disease with them not with standing.

Some points:
The annihilation of the American Indian had many authors over a long period of time. The number of deaths is uncertain (I have read as many as 40 million) but if it was that high then disease was almost certainly the largest factor.
The indian nations were a curious mixture of innocents and the extremely agressive and points between. Custer, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse weren't dictators and as the numbers killed on both side weren't high they don't count as among the greatest butchers of history.
The biggest european butchers were possibly Cortes and Pizzaro who extinguished the Aztec and Inca nations, respectively. Apart from thos episodes it's difficult to call the massacre anything but several 'collective responsibility'. Given that the Aztec and Incas were both vigorous warlike societies who had expanded at their neighbor's expense it's difficult to find too much difference between them and their conquerors.
An 'American' list:
1) Cortes
2) Pizzaro
3) several 'Manifest Destiny'-style movements of which the US one was merely the last.
Add in the American Tories and I suppose you could include Washington on the list. But his 'sin' wasn't so much killing as dispossession.
20 years ago

Originally posted by Paul McKenna:

My list of top 10 "Evil" Dictators:
1. Adolf Hitler - Undisputed leader of the pack
2. Kim Jong-il - Reports by German doctors who worked in N.Korea state the conditions in N.Korea are as bad as Nazi Germany
3. Pol Pot - Probably the worst genocide since WW2
4. Stalin - He's #4 because he showed to decency to participate in the allied coalition during WW2
5. Ayatollah Qhomeni - Probably the icon of Islamic fundamentalism
6. Saddam Hussein - Unconfirmed reports state that he used a human "shredder" on his enemies
7. Robert Mugabe - Leading a civil war under the facade of justice. I have no sympathy for this man
8. Fidel Castro - Stubborn idiot who would rather stick up for his extinct ideals rather than let his people prosper
9. Zia Ul-Haq - Brutal coup leading to the public execution of an elected leader of Pakistan
10. Your choice...

Originally posted by Steve Wink:

You missed some biggies:
Mao TseTung - he probably is responsible for more deaths than any of the others, and when you consider you've got Hitler ( 15M?? ) and Stalin ( 20M?? ) in there thats quite an achievement
Idi Amin - apart from killing lots of people in very nasty ways, wasn't he a cannibal as well?
Papa Doc Duval in Haiti
Slobodan Milosovic - popularised the phrase 'ethnic cleansing', AKA genocide, in the Balkans
General Pinochet - brought death squads to Chile
And if you're going to include
"9. Zia Ul-Haq - Brutal coup leading to the public execution of an elected leader of Pakistan"
you may as well have Oliver Cromwell, Lenin and Robspierre. ( ok, I know they were regicides rather than killing elected leaders, but in their day it was the equivalent, and they did all have their reigns of terror afterwards)
I'd probably edge out your 7, 8, 9 ( not cos they were nice people by a long shot) and put in Mao, Amin and Milosovic with Mao in the top 3. Phew.

This is a rather confusing topic because our view of this tends to be rather 20th-century centric and we tend to forget some truly appalling men from the past. It's also confusing because some or many of these men also did some good or at least held decent motives. There are dictators who are tremendously overrated because of the publicity they received. There were men who killed lots of people through negligence. Finally there are the tyrannies not attributable to a single figure, such as some on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War.
Some who killed a LOT:
1) Tai-Ping Rebellion China 1850s & 60s 60 Million dead???!!!
2) Genghis Khan
3) Mao
4) Hitler
5) Stalin
6) Tamerlaine
7) Napoleon???
8) Kublai Khan
9) Lenin/Trotsky/Old Bolsheviks
10) Moghuls? Some of our Indian and Pakistani colleagues might help here?
11) First Emperor of China???
12) Atilla the Hun???
Evil Dictators:
1) Hitler
2) Stalin
3) Pol Pot
4) Kim Il Sung
5) Saddam Hussein
6) Slobodan Milosovic
7) Mao
8) Lenin
9) Moghuls?
1) Pinochet (3000 dead??? Cmon.....)
2) Mugabe
3) Papa Doc & Baby Doc Duvalier (Voodoo & what else?)
4) Castro (well, maybe. Thousands, not millions).
5) Marcos
6) Ayatollah Qhomeni (was a leader not a dictator, and did not kill a lot).
7) Zia Ul-Haq (Brutal, yes. So was Pinochet. But how many actual deaths?)
8) Idi Amin (nutcase, but how many? Not sure about this one).
Mixed Bag (some good, some bad)
1) Kemal Ataturk
2) Julius Caesar (has anyone given the Gaulish POV?)
3) Franco
4) Tito
5) Kublai Khan??? Good Press from Marco Polo....
6) Alexander the Great???
Some would put Napoleon, Lenin, Mao and Castro on this list. I don't think any of them did enough good to qualify.
Collective responsibility:
1) Tai-Ping Rebellion
2) Republicans in Spanish Civil War
3) Armenian Massacre (Ataturk bears some but not all responsiblilty for this one)
4) Rwanda
Screw-ups (Killed a lot without meaning to...)
1) Neruh/Jinna
2) Tai-Pings (???)
3) Mao???
Big killers in self-defence:
1) Gaius Marius (Rome, about 100 BC)
2) Emperor Claudius Gothicus
3) Emperor Aurelian
4) Mao?
5) Manchus in Tai-Ping Rebellion?
Any comments and additions welcome....
[ December 19, 2003: Message edited by: Alfred Neumann ]
20 years ago

Originally posted by Frank Silbermann:
One other thing to think about is that many of the Frenchmen on the lists of great 20th century writers were communists. Therefore, we must consider much of their work discredited and their early popularity embarassing, much as we would view the late 19th-century racial-hygene theorists.
Derrida, founder of Deconstructionism, likewise did more harm than good to scholarship. How many post-WWII Europeans were intellectually prominent in a _positive_ way? Not many, I think.
(I cannot think of many recent great Americans in literature, either, by the way. At least in economics, the Chicago school made great strides.)

I'm not sure I agree that Karl Marx is completely discredited, Frank. His economic conclusions were flawed by his imperfect understanding of economics but his philosophical work retains some importance. Dialectical Materialism has not been discredited by the fall of Marxism because it had nothing to do with Marxism in the first place. We should not assume that a theory is invalidated by the mistakes of the author in other areas.
Derrida apparently doesn't view Deconstructionism as a school of thought. He sees it as more of a school if I understand correctly. I agree that he's done a lot of damage, but sometimes I wonder whether it's not a mass abdication by an entire class rather than something which can be ascribed to any individual.
You note the success of the Chicago School of Economics. I agree, and I think that success is precisely because the major figures in the Chicago School did NOTabdicate from being public intellectuals. Almost every major economist of the past 50 years has made his/her ideas publically accessable to the educated population. Isolationhas never caught on in economics and mostly hasn't happened in history, one reason why those two disciplines remain healthy, I think.
20 years ago

Originally posted by Michael Ernest:

I neglected to mention earlier, in response to the Nobel Prize litmus test, that Sartre was not awarded the Nobel Prize until 1964. Camus won in 1957.
Given the distribution among other prize winners, I'd be hard-pressed to called Sartre and Camus widely-known and highly-regarded by their peers, if the point in their careers at which they were acknowledged by the Nobel Committee is any indication.

I think you are mistaken, Michael. It is my distinct impression that important scientists and writers are recognized as important (and indeed as future Nobel winners) many years before they are actually awarded the Prize. A contemporary example might be V.S Naipaul, who won the Nobel only in 2001 at the age of 70. The bulk of Naipaul's best work was written during the 60's and 70's and he was knighted in 1989.
It is my belief that both Camus and Sartre had become famous in France well before 1950 and remained so until after their deaths, Camus' in a car crash in 1960. Sartre lingered until 1980 and his funeral was attended by 25,000 people. These men (and others in their circle) were certainly very famous in educated circles in the US by the late 50's, and their influence certainly had spread in western circles by that time. Perhaps not in China, I'm not sure.
One way I measure these things is the availability of their works. There is a series of �1 books sold widely in the UK by a series of influential and 'lasting' writers. Most of the names I cited can be found in this series, and I've read many of these books with pleasure and some understanding. They are accessable in more than one sense. Even the Existentialists are accessable with some work on the reader's part.
I cannot think of a major French intellectual who made their name post-1960 who fits the criteria of availability and accessability.
You pointed out in an earlier post that the 'canon' has gone out of fashion. This may be part of the problem here. When our teachers cease to provide an index of what is truly important in any generation, presumably because there are no 'absolutes' and the student's opinion may be as valid as that of the teacher, something is lost. That opinion may be valid enough once the mind is trained. How can you and I debate the validity of Derrida's thought when I know next to nothing about him while you may believe he is one of the giants of the century? My uninformed opinion is as good as your informed one in the absence of such a canon.
This may help to explain why there is a seeming dearth of dominant literary figures within the past 50 years in France and elsewhere, but I think there may be something else going on here. I think the very idea of the public intellectual has gone out of fashion.
Victor Hugo expressed important ideas in a form accessible to the educated person of his and future ages. So did Sartre and Camus. Derrida doesn't seem to see the necessity to do so.
From my POV that seems to be a profound abdication. It's the question of whaether a tree falls in the wood and nobody hears it, did it happen? If an idea is formulated but never put into accessible form, does it have any importance? The canon may be something of a straightjacket but it also gives a structure against which new ideas can be measured and argued about. Any idea of worth should arouse some passions. Absent a canon that is not a public argument, just a vast 'Whatever'.
[ December 18, 2003: Message edited by: Alfred Neumann ]
20 years ago
I don't believe that Harvard is a proper comparison. There is another school in Cambridge which is much better at producing programmers.
MIT. To be honest, based upon what I've seen I'd take a long look at someone from MIT or Berkeley or Carnegie-Mellon before I'd look at anyone from Harvard or any of the Ivies other than Cornell or maybe Penn. People from these places are more likely to know how to program than a Harvard grad. Most of the Big Ten schools are pretty good and I'd look at anyone from most of the University of California campuses, or Texas Austin.
The prestigious universities tend to specialize in other things than programming.
20 years ago