Is the Rumsfeldian Rubik solved?

Perhaps the Fort Hood murders are unrelated to the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism and it’s just another disgruntled postal worker or three run amok, but it would appear that after only eight years, the terrorists have finally figured out the flaw in the clever Rumsfeldian strategy of fighting them there so we don’t have to fight them there.

A mass shooting at Ft. Hood military post in Texas has left at least 7 dead and 20 wounded [MSNBC is reporting 12 and 31 now -VD] and one suspected gunman is on the loose, officials told Fox News. A massive manhunt was under way for the suspect at large, Fox News confirmed. One person was in custody. The New York Post said that there were two shooters at the Army post massacre; other reports said there were three.

I wouldn’t bet on the postal workers, though.

UPDATE – the attempted PC spin never fails to amuse: “The official said the shootings could have been a criminal matter rather than a terrorism-related attack and that there was no intelligence to suggest a plot against Fort Hood.”

Or, it could have been an attack by aliens who have secretly infiltrated the U.S. military disguised as humans as part of their master plan to steal Earth’s water. Or perhaps highly evolved land sharks. But surely not Islamic terrorism, since we’re, you know, fighting them over there.

UPDATE II – I’m sure we are all shocked: “The suspected gunman was identified as Major Malik Nadal Hasan.” More of the joys of multiculturalism.

Errata

In any book full of statistical minutia, it’s highly probable that the author will make the occasional dumb mistake. Sometimes it’s a typo, sometimes it’s a failure of research, sometimes it’s a misstatement, and sometimes it’s just an inexplicable error. This doesn’t make you feel any better when you catch your own dumb mistakes, or worse, have to rely upon other people catching them for you. But this historical howler, I have to confess, makes me feel rather better about my own 1931-related error. It also may help explain my low opinion of certain mainstream economists for those who think I show insufficient lack of respect for fame and professional credentials. And while I’m inclined to give authors the benefit of the doubt when it comes to statistical citations, I’m not sure this one can be considered an excusable error, especially since it was made by an economist who has often written about the Great Depression as if he knows a great deal about it.

“Back to bank runs: in 1931, about half the banks in the United States failed. These banks were not all alike. Some were very badly run; some took excessive risks, even given what they knew before 1929; others were reasonably well, even conservatively managed. But when panic spread across the land, and depositors everywhere wanted their money immediately, none of this mattered: only banks that had been extremely conservative, that had kept what in normal times would be an excessively large share of their deposits in cash, survived.”
– Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics, p. 100 (1999)

I found myself wondering if he’d figured out his tremendous mistake or if anyone had bothered to point it out to him at some point in the ten years between editions. Fortunately, I also happen to have his revised edition. The answer: apparently not.

“Back to bank runs: in 1931, about half the banks in the United States failed. These banks were not all alike. Some were very badly run; some took excessive risks, even given what they knew before 1929; others were reasonably well, even conservatively managed. But when panic spread across the land, and depositors everywhere wanted their money immediately, none of this mattered: only banks that had been extremely conservative, that had kept what in normal times would be an excessively large share of their deposits in cash, survived.”
– Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008, pp 96-97. (2009)

If you should happen to consult RGD, you’ll see that 2,293 of the 20,367 banks in the United States failed. That’s 11 percent, which is not even close to “about half”. You can also check Banking and Monetary Statistics 1914-1941 or Friedman and Schwartz’s A Monetary History of the United States 1857-1960 if you don’t wish to take my word for it. The problem is that repeating this erroneous historical “fact” twice in ten years isn’t merely an error, it tends to suggest that Krugman really doesn’t know all that much about the Great Depression, and even worse, hasn’t read Milton Friedman.

Going academic

While my contempt for the present university system, such as it is, runs both deep and wide, I was nevertheless pleasantly surprised to be informed by a professor at a large university of his intention to make use of RGD in one of his upper-level economics courses. So, at least one group of economics majors won’t graduate without ever having heard of the Austrian School or learning about the intrinsic unreliability of macroeconomic statistics.

UPDATE – In other book-related news, a Muslim reader has informed me of his intention to translate TIA into Arabic; apparently someone has translated the first four chapters of Dawkins’s The God Delusion and he decided to see that the other side was represented. He said he’ll send me a PDF when he finishes, and I’ll post it here for download. I think it’s great, but I have to confess that it never occurred to me that the first language any of my books would be translated into would be Arabic. Go figure.