Monday, December 18, 2017



On December 18, 1620, the British ship Mayflower docked at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, and its passengers prepared to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.

 The famous Mayflower story began in 1606, when a group of reform-minded Puritans in Nottinghamshire, England, founded their own church, separate from the state-sanctioned Church of England. Accused of treason, they were forced to leave the country and settle in the more tolerant Netherlands. After 12 years of struggling to adapt and make a decent living, the group sought financial backing from some London merchants to set up a colony in America. On September 6, 1620, 102 passengers–dubbed Pilgrims by William Bradford, a passenger who would become the first governor of Plymouth Colony–crowded on the Mayflower to begin the long, hard journey to a new life in the New World.

 On November 11, 1620, the Mayflower anchored at what is now Provincetown Harbor, Cape Cod. Before going ashore, 41 male passengers–heads of families, single men and three male servants–signed the famous Mayflower Compact, agreeing to submit to a government chosen by common consent and to obey all laws made for the good of the colony. Over the next month, several small scouting groups were sent ashore to collect firewood and scout out a good place to build a settlement. Around December 10, one of these groups found a harbor they liked on the western side of Cape Cod Bay. They returned to the Mayflower to tell the other passengers, but bad weather prevented them from docking until December 18. After exploring the region, the settlers chose a cleared area previously occupied by members of a local Native American tribe, the Wampanoag. The tribe had abandoned the village several years earlier, after an outbreak of European disease.

That winter of 1620-1621 was brutal, as the Pilgrims struggled to build their settlement, find food and ward off sickness. By spring, 50 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers were dead. The remaining settlers made contact with returning members of the Wampanoag tribe and in March they signed a peace treaty with a tribal chief, Massasoit. Aided by the Wampanoag, especially the English-speaking Squanto, the Pilgrims were able to plant crops–especially corn and beans–that were vital to their survival. The Mayflower and its crew left Plymouth to return to England on April 5, 1621.

Over the next several decades, more and more settlers made the trek across the Atlantic to Plymouth, which gradually grew into a prosperous shipbuilding and fishing center. In 1691, Plymouth was incorporated into the new Massachusetts Bay Association, ending its history as an independent colony. (From the History site)

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Bernard O’Donoghue was born in Cullen, County Cork in 1945. Many of his poems – notably in his most recent collection The Seasons of Cullen Church (2016) – offset the small histories of people from his childhood against grander mythological and literary precursors, since, as he observes, the same characters, stories and motifs occur in every place and era.
“Ter Conatus”, first published in the TLS in 1997, gives an account of two rural, proud lives that end with grief and regret: “Sister and brother, nearly sixty years / They’d farmed together, never touching once”. Although they “wondered”, “tried” and “might have”, they tragically miss their final chance to show each other affection before the sister dies. The speaker’s slow-paced, euphemistic lines mirror the hesitancy and frustration in their relationship: “When, / Finally, she went, it was too late, / Even for chemotherapy”. The title, ter conatus (“having tried three times”), is taken from two moments in the Aeneid when Aeneas tries and fails to embrace shades of lost loved ones: first, his wife Creusa; then his father Anchises. When the phrase appears in O’Donoghue’s poem, its repetition anticipates inevitable failure: “Three times, like that, he tried to reach her . . . / Three times the hand fell back”. The brother will never forget this moment of “Almost breaking with a lifetime of / Taking real things for shadows”. Here, O’Donoghue reverses Dante’s phrase from Purgatory on Statius’ reaction to Virgil (“Taking shadows for real things”), emphasizing the strain and sadness of a lifetime of repressed affection and physicality.(tls)

Ter Conatus

Sister and brother, nearly sixty years
They’d farmed together, never touching once.
Of late she had been coping with a pain
In her back, realization dawning slowly
That it grew differently from the warm ache
That resulted periodically
From heaving churns on to the milking-stand.

She wondered about the doctor. When,
Finally, she went, it was too late,
Even for chemotherapy. All the same,
She wouldn’t have got round to telling him,
Except that one night, watching television,
It got so bad she gasped, and struggled up,
Holding her waist. “D’you want a hand?”, he asked,

Taking a step towards her. “I can manage”,
She answered, feeling for the stairs.
Three times, like that, he tried to reach her.
But, being so little practiced in such gestures,
Three times the hand fell back, and took its place,
Unmoving at his side. After the burial,
He let things take their course. The neighbours watched

In pity the rolled-up bales, standing
Silent in the fields, with the aftergrass
Growing into them, and wondered what he could
Be thinking of: which was that evening when,
Almost breaking with a lifetime of
Taking real things for shadows,
He might have embraced her with a brother’s arms.


Saturday, December 16, 2017


“There are certain harms that are nonactionable and offense is one of them. If I say something that you find duly offensive, you may protest, you may speak—but what you may not do is to sue me in order to silence me, or to get compensation from me.” Counterspeech is “the appropriate ‘remedy’ under these circumstances; suppressing speech is not.”--Richard Epstein

An observation by Lemeiux on mass killings. Commenting on restraint of individuals in history, he writes, "Losers were humble. There is no doubt that today moral constraints have been weakened, if only through the decline of religion. There were exceptions to losers' restraint. In 356 BC, Herostratus burnt the temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Greece in order to immortalize his name. He succeeded, at the cost of torture and execution."

At the G-20, Obama said he spoke to Putin about cyberwarfare, amid revelations that Russian hackers have been interfering in our political campaigns. We are more technologically advanced, both offensively and defensively, in this arena than any of our adversaries, said Obama, but we really don’t want another Cold War–style arms race. Instead, we must all adhere to norms of international behavior.
It makes you want to weep. This KGB thug adhering to norms? He invades Ukraine, annexes Crimea, bombs hospitals in Aleppo — and we expect him to observe cyber-code etiquette? Rather than exploit our technological lead — with countermeasures and deterrent threats — to ensure our own cyber safety?
We’re back to 1929 when Secretary of State Henry Stimson shut down a U.S. code-breaking operation after it gave him decoded Japanese telegrams. He famously explained that “gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”
Well, comrade, Putin is no gentleman. And he’s reading our mail.
— Charles Krauthammer

This investigations over the Russians' influencing the election may reveal something. But some things are already undeniable. It appears that a huge wide hunt of national enemies has been initiated by a fake political  report created by one of the American political parties and this  may have been enhanced by a federal police force. This terrible disruptive and anxiety proving investigation was initiated on very thin information. And it has played upon a national fear, the fear of Russians, the likes of which has not been seen since McCarthy's Red Scare.

Who is...British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig?

And....Democrats plan to question Attorney General Jeff Sessions about whether he was truthful in previous testimony about the Trump campaign and the Russian government. Meanwhile, he has directed federal prosecutors to evaluate other Russia-related issues concerning Hillary Clinton.

On a sort-of-similar topic, a major turning point in The Americans was the assassination attempt of Reagan when Haig said "I am in control." I remember this and the liberals were very upset although most sensible people were not. The Russians in the storyline suspect it forecasts  a military coup.

According to federal data, “veterans are twice as likely as non-veterans to die from accidental overdoses of the highly addictive painkillers, a rate that reflects high levels of chronic pain among vets.” Drug overdoses killed more than 64,000 Americans in the prior 12 months ending last January, a 21 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In one year that is more than were killed in the entire Vietnam War.

One element of medical science is reproducibility of results. We demand a study be proven right with multiple corroborating tests. But is it ethical to do such a study when the first study shows an optimum therapy?
China now claims 202 systems within the Top 500 of the Top 500 Supercomputer List while the United States -- once the dominant player -- tumbled to second place with 143 systems represented on the list.

Many Americans insist on “reciprocity” — that U.S. tariffs and other import restrictions and export subsidies should be removed only if other governments remove theirs. Why stop at trade? The same logic can be extended indefinitely. For example, U.S. cops should not stop murdering residents of the USA until cops in other countries stop murdering people there.--Higgs
Here's a surprise. The FCC reports that in 2015 payphones made $286 million.

Even if only a few people are capable of living this life to the full, we all benefit from its results, in the form of knowledge, technology, legal and political understanding, and the works of art, literature and music that evoke the human condition and also reconcile us to it. Aristotle went further, identifying contemplation (theoria) as the highest goal of mankind, and leisure (schole) as the means to it. Only in contemplation, he suggested, are our rational needs and desires properly fulfilled. Kantians might prefer to say that in the life of the mind we reach through the world of means to the kingdom of ends. We leave behind the routines of instrumental reasoning and enter a world in which ideas, artefacts and expressions exist for their own sake, as objects of intrinsic value. We are then granted the true homecoming of the spirit. Such seems to be implied by Friedrich Schiller, in his Letters Upon the Aesthetic Education of Man (1794). Similar views underlie the German romantic view of Bildung: self-cultivation as the goal of education and the foundation of the university curriculum.--Roger Scruton on the purpose of culture.
As an aside, schole is the origin of our word school and is founded in the meaning leisure.

A theater critic recently wrote that he could not think of a case of stage fright in the theater that was not modern, contemporary--as if it is a new cultural and not a strictly personal problem. How is that?

An undercover FBI informant in the Russian nuclear industry who was made to sign an “illegal NDA” by former AG Loretta Lynch, claims to have video evidence showing Russian agents with briefcases full of bribe money related to the controversial Uranium One deal – according to The Hill investigative journalist John Solomon and Circa‘s Sara Carter. The informant, whose identity was revealed by Reuters as William D. Campbell, will testify before congress.
This is all going to be fascinating, if they have the guts to do it.

When British Commander in Chief Sir Douglas Haig called a halt to his army’s offensive near the Somme River in northwestern France, he ended the epic Battle of the Somme  after more than four months of bloody conflict. The initial advance was a disaster, as the six German divisions facing the advancing British mowed them down with their machine guns, killing or wounding some 60,000 men on the first day alone. In one day the British lost more men than the Americans did in the entire Vietnam War. Over the course of the next four-and-a-half months and no fewer than 90 attacks, the Allies were able to advance a total of only six miles in the Somme region, at the cost of 146,000 soldiers killed and over 200,000 more injured. (from history)
Periodically we need to be reminded of these kinds of things and how vulnerable the average believing citizen is to idiots.

Golden oldie:
A guy named Charles Hugh-Smith has a book called Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform and has a thesis: There are perverse incent...

The current narrative is that Franken will create more problems for Trump. Franken himself does not come up. That is really good because he is such a great leader, a great thinker and a profound positive influence on the culture we could not continue were we to lose him. What will occur is that gradations of abuse will appear with Franken. That will be messy because we now do not demand due process.

The basic idea behind tax cuts is to decrease the distortion the government brings to the national management of money; people simply spend their money better. So...why is anyone saying that the tax cuts have to be offset somewhere by increasing them elsewhere and why is the resulting increase of tax revenues that tax cuts create a good thing?
“The FBI says its investigation identified ‘13 total mobile devices’ associated with Hillary Clinton's ‘two known’ phone numbers, both in the D.C. area code 212.
“All 13 of those devices ‘potentially were used to send emails’ through Clinton's personal email server, but the FBI was unable to acquire or examine any of those devices, at least two of which apparently were smashed by a hammer.”--cns

"Gulag" has appeared in reference to Western institutions recently, the result presumably a poor understanding of history and the present.
The term “GULAG” is an acronym for the Soviet bureaucratic institution, Glavnoe Upravlenie ispravitel’no-trudovykh LAGerei (Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps), that operated the Soviet system of forced labor camps in the Stalin era. Since the publication of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago in 1973, the term has come to represent the entire Soviet forced labor penal system.
Concentration camps were created in the Soviet Union shortly after the 1917 revolution, but the system grew to tremendous proportions during the course of Stalin’s campaign to turn the Soviet Union into a modern industrial power and to collectivize agriculture in the early 1930s.
Gulag camps existed throughout the Soviet Union, but the largest camps lay in the most extreme geographical and climatic regions of the country from the Arctic north to the Siberian east and the Central Asian south. Prisoners were engaged in a variety of economic activities, but their work was typically unskilled, manual, and economically inefficient. The combination of endemic violence, extreme climate, hard labor, meager food rations and unsanitary conditions led to extremely high death rates in the camps.

AAAAAaaaaaaannnnnndddddd.....a graph:

Friday, December 15, 2017

Sacred Economics

Sacred Economics

Meeting with global-finance students recently at the Chartreux Institute in Lyon, France, Pope Francis warned them “to remain free from the lure of money, from the slavery in which money traps those who worship it.” He also counseled them not to “blindly obey the invisible hand of the market” but rather to become “promoters and defenders of a growth in equality.”
The Pope's venture outside of religion follows a history of significant world contributions of popes in the past, notably John Paul ll. And no one would argue with the poetic conclusion of the danger of the love of money. But as history has shown, this is a lot more complex than an aphorism.
In his treatise The Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith famously wrote, 
By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, [an individual] intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.
So  the government doesn’t need to promote domestic industry, because individuals who seek only their own narrow gain will do so on their own. Moreover the gain is not limited to the individual, it is communal.

Worse, almost every single bit of economic research and experience show the economy more complex than an administrator can predict. The great socialist experiments did not fail just because the government was run by homicidal thugs, they failed because even intelligent people can not control an economy's complexity and efforts to do so are damaging, not just neutral.

So in our uncertain world, even infallibility has its limits.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


Bitcoins are cryptocurrency. That is to say "Off the books." As can be imagined, that might be appealing to some people. The problem arises with the question, "You may have a bitcoin but does anyone else want one?" That is to say, can you trade a bitcoin for a tomato?
Bitcoins enter the digital world when someone “mines” them by solving certain math problems. Mining operations have turned from college students sitting at their laptops to huge enterprises that use massive computing power to run ever more complex math calculations. Some of the computers dedicated to solving those math problems fill entire buildings.
Or so it is said.

It is also said the problems become harder so there will be a decreasing amount of bitcoins mined, so dilution will not occur.

The Bitcoin protocol was first described in a 2008 paper by Satoshi Nakamoto. “Satoshi Nakamoto” is probably a pseudonym, so it’s not clear whether the protocol was developed by an individual or a group of individuals, and attempts to identify the developer or development team have been unsuccessful. What we do know is how the protocol works. 

At the core of the Bitcoin system is the blockchain, a ledger that records the rightful owner of every balance of Bitcoin in existence. When you make a Bitcoin transaction, you effectively announce to the system that you would like to transfer a balance of Bitcoin on the ledger from one owner to another. These transactions are grouped into a block and members on the system then compete to be the first person to confirm that the transactions in the block are legitimate. Once a block is confirmed, the ledger, or blockchain, is updated to reflect the most recent transactions.

Bitcoin owners are not identified by their name or location, but by a string of characters known as a digital address. In other words, bitcoin owners are pseudonymous. You can transfer a balance of Bitcoin from one address to another without revealing your actual identity in the physical world. You only verify that you own the address.

Science writer Eric Holthaus wrote at Grist last week. (Grist is a hyperventilating modish internet site):

In Venezuela, where rampant hyperinflation and subsidized electricity has led to a boom in bitcoin mining, rogue operations are now occasionally causing blackouts across the country. The world’s largest bitcoin mines are in China, where they siphon energy from huge hydroelectric dams, some of the cheapest sources of carbon-free energy in the world. One enterprising Tesla owner even attempted to rig up a mining operation in his car, to make use of free electricity at a public charging station.

I do not know if that is true so his next claim should make you want to sit down and rest a moment. (Crazy behavior has more "currency" if it connects with other nonparticipants):
In just a few months from now, at bitcoin’s current growth rate, the electricity demanded by the cryptocurrency network will start to outstrip what’s available, requiring new energy-generating plants. And with the climate conscious racing to replace fossil fuel-based plants with renewable energy sources, new stress on the grid means more facilities using dirty technologies. By July 2019, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses. By February 2020, it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.
This is an unsustainable trajectory. It simply can’t continue.
This creates some nice symbolic sci-fi disaster themes.
Some people have made a lot of paper profits in this. But who is going to accept them in trade?
And the Tulip Mania wrecked the lives of some very hardheaded Dutchmen.
(includes stuff from Grist and Luther. There is a good, if old, article in Wired.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Physicists are made of atoms. A physicist is the atom’s way of knowing about atoms. -George Wald, scientist and Nobel laureate (18 Nov 1906-1997)

One of the problems in the American Revolution was "Colony Rights." The colonies--which were really only vaguely constructed--objected to militia groups operating from other colonies on their turf. So the decision by the Massachusetts militia to raid the New York fort in Ticonderoga for cannon was opposed by the New York militia!

States Rights.

Ambiguity has become a fact of life from philosophy to physics. So the generic answer should gradually slip from our discussions. But it doesn't in politics. All answers suffice. For example, should we have a single trade policy? From Irwin: "For most of US history, however, there has not been a single, unified “capital” or “labor” interest regarding trade policy, because there are many different types of capital and labor that are affected by trade in different ways.  Capital owners and workers employed in industries that compete against imports (iron and steel, textiles and apparel) typically have a much different view of trade policy than the capital owners and workers employed in industries that export (agriculture, machinery, or aerospace)."
But the politician, like the headline, eschews nuance.
Before the Russian Revolution of 1917, "socialism" and "communism" were synonyms. Both referred to economic systems in which the government owns the means of production. The two terms diverged in meaning largely as a result of the political theory and practice of Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924). Like most contemporary socialists, Lenin believed that socialism could not be attained without violent revolution. But no one pursued the logic of revolution as rigorously as he. After deciding that violent revolution would not happen spontaneously, Lenin concluded that it must be engineered by a quasi-military party of professional revolutionaries, which he began and led. After realizing that the revolution would have many opponents, Lenin determined that the best way to quell resistance was with what he frankly called "terror"--mass executions, slave labor, and starvation. After seeing that the majority of his countrymen opposed communism even after his military triumph, Lenin concluded that one-party dictatorship must continue until it enjoyed unshakeable popular support. In the chaos of the last years of World War I, Lenin's tactics proved an effective way to seize and hold power in the former Russian Empire. Socialists who embraced Lenin's methods became known as "communists" and eventually came to power in China, Eastern Europe, North Korea, Indo-China, and elsewhere.--The opening paragraphs of Caplan's  "Communism," in David R. Henderson, ed., The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics.

Who is..... Belmont Partners?

In [Adam] Smith’s time, and now again in the regulatory state, few believed that a masterless society would be possible.  The haunting fear by governing elites supported by worried citizens stirred up by an antitrade clerisy was then, and still is, that ordinary people will do bad things if left alone.  Unless overawed by the threat of state violence in police or planning or regulation, ordinary people, especially the lower classes, will spurn priests, stop paying their rents and taxes, not save enough for old age, kill each other, not buy enough insurance, speak against the government, appear with hair uncovered, refuse military service, drink to excess, commit unnatural acts, use naughty words, chew gum, smoke marihuana – committing in sum, as Bill Murray put it in , “human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria.”  A progressive or a conservative program of heavy regulation is a first-night-in-Ferguson-Missouri notion of keeping order.  It is the justification of all tyranny, hard or soft. --McCloskey

Re: gospel about the five foolish and five wise virgins and their oil lamps: I cannot figure how to reach to the Saudis with this but it does seem socialism was not a high ideal in Christ's thinking.

The Saudi internal conflicts may be a very big deal. (One of the criteria is that if the Press ignores it, it is probably important.) It looks as if the Saudis are disenchanted with the U.S. in both their political stances and their seemingly insatiable  drive for independent petroleum production through fracking. This may result in the Saudis rewriting some of their assumptions: They may stop recycling their profits through U.S. treasuries and, two, they may want to shift to a new primary customer, China.
With these conjectures, the two indicators would be interest rates and oil prices.
An interesting little sideline story is this: The Bahrain government said that the explosion which ripped through a pipeline belonging to Bahrain's state-run oil company and sent flames shooting up into the night sky, was the result of an attack by militants guided by Iran. "This is a dangerous Iranian escalation aimed at terrorizing citizens" the Bahrain foreign minister tweeted.
Who thought owning oil might be a good idea.

A lot of colleges are moving their endowment funds off shore to avoid discovery and taxation.
You just have to love this stuff.

When Medicare rolled out in 1965, healthcare consumed just 5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Today, that number is 18%.

One of Bill Gates' investment firms has spent $80 million to kickstart the development of a brand-new community in Arizona's far West Valley. The large plot of land is about 45 minutes west of downtown Phoenix off I-10 near Tonopah. The proposed community, made up of close to 25,000 acres of land, is called Belmont. According to Belmont Partners, a real estate investment group based in Arizona, the goal is to turn the land into its own "smart city."
"Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs," Belmont Partners said in a news release.

A bar chart that should give hope to all:

When Coca-Cola, comic books, and Raymond Chandler murder mysteries invaded Europe, penetrating even into the British stronghold, radicals set up a great cry against American capitalism. What they chose not to see is that the real offender is not capitalism so much as the European masses, who have given an enthusiastic reception to these supposedly degenerate products of American capitalism. Europe's real complaint against America is not that America is exporting capitalist culture, but that it is exporting popular culture. --Himmelfarb

Pope Francis:
On gay priests:“If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"
On misogyny:“The fact is that the woman was taken from a rib [laughs loudly]. I'm joking. That was a joke”

On birth control:“Some think that… in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. We need responsible paternity”
On sexual orientation:“Every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration”
On ‘imperfect’ Catholics:“No one can be condemned forever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel! Here I am not speaking only of the divorced and remarried, but of everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves”

Golden oldie:

AAAAAAAaaaaaaannnnnddddd.......a graph:

Tuesday, December 12, 2017



One argument over the impact of technology is that it historically has always allowed for economic expansion and increased employment opportunities. So the automobile caused a decline in buggy whip manufacturing but increased opportunities for car builders and engine mechanics. In the new robotic age, one hears the same thing: If new robots take existing jobs, someone will have to make the robots.

But published reports do not reflect this optimism.

A 2017 study from MIT  looked at the impact of just industrial robots on jobs from 1993 to 2007 found that every new robot replaced around 5.6 workers. And that every additional robot per 1,000 workers reduced wages by 0.5%.
The study also found that the industrial robot workforce in the US will quadruple by 2025. That translates to a loss of up to 3.4 million jobs by 2025, alongside depressed wage growth of up to 2.6%.
But it’s no longer just factory workers being replaced. A widely-cited study from the University of Oxford found that 47% of US jobs could be automated over the next 20 years.