Saturday, November 18, 2017


"It was the experience of the Republic here which decisively shaped her political thinking, tempered as it was in the fires of European tyranny and catastrophe, and forever supported by her grounding in classical thought. America taught her a way beyond the hardened alternatives of left and right from which she had escaped; and the idea of the Republic, as the realistic chance for freedom, remained dear to her even in its darkening days." This was said at the funeral of Hannah Arendt by her friend, the philosopher Hans Jonas. 


Department of Life-Imitating-Art: Since the 1970s, The Godfather (1972) has been a perennial source of inspiration for real-life mobsters. Louie Milito, a member of New York’s Gambino crime Family, killed in 1988, “watched the movie six thousand times” according to his wife’s autobiography. Ms Milito reports that, after seeing the film, her husband and his crew were “acting like Godfather actors kissing and hugging . . . and coming out with lines from the movie. A couple of them started learning Italian”.

Drivers are already charged 11.50 pounds ($15) to enter the financial district and parts of west London under a congestion charge. But those driving petrol and diesel vehicles typically registered before 2006 will need to pay an additional 10 pounds.
Bezos is a global warming guy; I wonder if Pittsburgh's location and water gives it an advantage with Amazon.

“Branded generics” have given Abbott and a handful of other players a relatively cheap font of growth, allowing them to repackage off-patent drugs and extend their commercial lifespan. (wsj)

Who is....Rosatom?

One of the truly amusing elements of the tax debate is the emergence of Democrats as deficit hawks. Maybe the country has Alzheimer's and has lost its memory.

Of all the residential floor space sold in China last year, 18% was purchased by the government. The share could reach 24% this year - an unprecedented government bailout scheme - which is taking place even as Chinese property sales posted their first decline since March 2015.

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), approved the Uranium One transaction in October 2010.  According to new emails revealed by The Hill, just months before that approval, Bill Clinton sought permission from the State Department, run by his wife at the time, to meet Arkady Dvorkovich, a top aide to then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and one of the highest-ranking government officials to serve on Rosatom’s board of supervisors, the company which was ultimately approved to purchase Uranium One.
We are a very tolerant nation, or a poorly informed one.

Fidelity Investments is moving to address long-simmering problems with workplace conduct following allegations of sexual harassment and bullying that led to the ouster of some high-profile employees at the mutual-fund giant. (wsj)

The "MeToo" hashtag and related posts on Facebook are intended as a feminist rallying cry. The Feministing website explains, "Gender violence doesn't exist without white supremacy (such as racism, colonialism, zionism (sic), militarism."

"[Adam] Smith envisioned a system that would give people the incentive to better themselves through economic activities where they would create wealth by serving others through market exchange rather than through political activities, where they might seek to redistribute existing wealth through brute force or legal restraints on competition.  Under such a system, the political motivation of self-interest could be channeled toward socially beneficial activities that would serve the general interest rather than toward socially unproductive activities that might advance the interests of a select few but would come at the expense of society as a whole.
Free trade is an important component of this system of economic liberty."--Irwin
In China, according to a UN study, 23% admit to rape. In Papua New Guinea, 61% of men say the same. Huh?
There is an argument over controlled immigration that the citizen of a country is its owner. So control is justified. But that makes any control justified. The problem seems to be the circumstance of the nation: Is the nation nothing more than geography? For example, can an entity that believes meat-eating to be evil allow meat-eaters to swell the population until meat-eating is encouraged? In this view, the nation would be a voluntary association with a geography, not just a geographic entity. So admittance would be more than a simple libertarian free movement, it would entail an acceptance of some rules, some limits. A geography constituted as an Islamic State would be within its rights to discourage Christians or Jews from entering. So an entity could not logically encourage the immigration of people opposed to its existence.
Another very worrisome notion was raised by Freidman who said,  "You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state." This means that the state entity could not financially survive with an unlimited social welfare demand.

Warren Buffett still lives in his $31,000 starter house in Omaha.

Golden oldie:
On this day in the year 365, a powerful earthquake off the coast of Greece caused a tsunami that devastated the city of Alexandria, Egypt. ...
For Mark Cuban, reading sparks inspiration. He tells Vanity Fair: "I'll read hours every day because all it takes is one little thing to propel you to the next level." 

The key to wisdom, according to Buffett's right-hand-man Charlie Munger, boils down to one, simple habit: reading. "In my whole life, I have known no wise people who didn't read all the time — none, zero," says Munger.

On October 25, 1917, the precursor to the Communist Party in Russia launched a 24-hour revolution against the revolutionary government of socialist Alexander Kerensky. This became known as the October Revolution in order to distinguish it from the revolution that had overthrown the Czar the previous February. In the October Revolution, two people were killed while the revolutionaries were capturing the Winter Palace, where the Provisional Government met. ..
On August 21, 1991, eight leaders of the tattered remnants of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union launched a coup against the government of Communist Mikhail Gorbachev. They had placed him under house arrest at his dacha 900 miles away. Boris Yeltsin was visibly in charge of the existing government at what was known as the White House: the parliament building. The Communists sent in troops to remove him and his supporters. Thousands of citizens then lined up to resist the troops. The troops refused to fire on them. That ended the Communist Party's power. Three civilians were killed by armored personnel carriers...
A total of five people were killed at the beginning and the end of the Bolshevik revolution. In between, Lenin and Stalin (mainly Stalin) executed or starved at least 15 million people, according to the 2007 edition of Robert Conquest's 1968 book, The Great Terror. Conquest had initially estimated 20 million. We will never know for sure, he said in 2007. (from North)
At what point will the growth and expansion of Amazon, or Google or Apple start to look like monopoly?

Modern Healthcare (10/23, Livingston, Subscription Publication) reports that “an analysis by the American Medical Association” indicates “a single health insurance company dominates the commercial insurance market in more than 4 in 10 of the nation’s metropolitan areas.”

Yale professor Samuel Moyn and Oxford professor David Priestland recently declared in a New York Times op-ed that “there is no real evidence that Mr. Trump wants to seize power unconstitutionally, and there is no reason to think he could succeed.”

Quantitative easing, the once-unconventional monetary policy in which a central bank creates new money to buy financial assets, will most likely start winding down next year in Europe and has ended in the U.S. These moves are the beginning of the end of an extraordinary period of central-bank innovation. (wsj)

"Former President Obama’s drone assassinations of American citizens were non-issues because observers knew Obama “meant well.” When Obama decided to bomb Libya in 2011, his appointees made it clear that he would ignore the War Powers Act of 1973, enacted to prevent presidents from launching wars on their whim. When a federal judge ruled in May 2016 that the Obama administration’s consumer subsidies under the Affordable Care Act violated the Constitution, the decision was almost completely ignored — perhaps because Obama’s illegalities were progressive. When President Trump ended the subsidies, he was denounced for trampling Congressional prerogatives. 
This is possible only if people are not paying attention or do not care.

It was George W. Bush’s White House, not Trump, which asserted a “commander-in-chief override” that entitled presidents to ignore the law and the Bill of Rights." This is from Bovard who concludes with a funny line: " Many Trump opponents are not opposed to dictators per se — they simply want different dictates."

A Wall Street Journal analysis of Morningstar mutual-fund ratings over 14 years found that top-rated funds drew the vast majority of investor dollars, but most didn’t continue performing at that level. Morningstar said it has never billed its ratings as predictive and they should be a starting point for investors selecting funds.

Charen wrote this: "Feminists set themselves a contradictory task — to insist that men and women were indistinguishable in their sexual tastes and appetites but then to demand that men respect women's particular reserve." And then this: "Male sexual aggressiveness has been a challenge every civilization has had to manage. Among some Orthodox Jews, one answer is to set such strict limits on contacts between the sexes that men do not even touch women they are not related to — not even to shake hands. This can lead to other problems when Orthodox men's reticence is misunderstood by others, but it isn't crazy. How many of us have been hugged a little too long and a little too aggressively by men taking advantage of the fact that they can get away with it?"

So people who pay taxes benefit from tax cuts. Amazed by the obvious.

The AP (10/20, Alonso-Zaldivar) reported on Friday’s release of the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, based on a 500 person daily sample, finding, “the number of U.S. adults without health insurance is up nearly 3.5 million this year” or 1.4 percentage points to 12.3 percent of US adults in the three months ending September 30. The increase in uninsured is attributed to a number of changes President Trump made to healthcare policy including having “stopped federal payments that reimburse insurers for lower copays and deductibles,” and “slashed the advertising budget for 2018 sign-ups,” while having “cut the length of open enrollment in half, and sharply reduced federal grants to groups that help consumers navigate the process.” Advertising? Navigating groups?
Comparing the 1955 Fortune 500 companies to the 2017 Fortune 500, there are only 59 companies that appear in both lists. 
The protectionist  argument is that free trade works only if the worker displaced by foreign competition moves at least laterally. But most do not. His opponents argue that trade wars damage everyone, individually and collectively. In a way, protectionism turns the protected group into a dependent sub-class, like zoo animals, dependent upon the largess of those less damaged by the protectionism. Until It fails.
 AAnnnnndddddddd....a graph (the market goes up and down except when it goes down and stays down):

Friday, November 17, 2017

Binge Drinking


While it is axiomatic among medical personnel, it is not widely known that the levels of alcohol for unconsciousness and death are fairly close.
Of the nearly 90,000 people who die from alcohol each year, more than half, or 50,000, die from injuries and overdoses associated with high blood alcohol levels.

New research from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) looked at the extent of what people are actually doing when they drink. Researchers looked at two sets of data, one from 2001-2002 and the other from 2012-2013; these surveyed 42,748 and 36,083 US adults respectively.

Participants were asked the maximum number of drinks they'd consumed on any day in the past year. Researchers used their responses to analyze three levels of binge drinking. Five to nine drinks for men and four to seven for women per occasion was defined as Level I—standard binge drinking. Level II was 10 to 14 drinks for men, eight to 11 for women, over the same time span; Level III was 15 or more drinks for men, 12 or more for women.
That's a lot of numbers, but the goal is to better quantify binge drinking.
It's more nuanced than simply having five or more drinks, because anyone familiar with alcohol can tell you there's a big difference between six drinks and 15. The survey showed that people who'd reached the Level III threshold had higher odds of driving after drinking, getting into fights or getting injured, and being arrested. (That was after adjusting for alcohol use disorder, which strongly predicted binge drinking.)
In other words, they were more likely to experience all of the negative consequences associated with extreme drinking. The researchers seem to have been surprised.

But researchers also found an increasing percentage of respondents describing extreme binge drinking. In 2001-2002, 23 percent of adults reported binge drinking in the past year; 15 percent of those peaked at Level I, 5 percent at Level II, and 3 percent at Level III. In 2012-2013, those percentages increased significantly: 33 percent were bingeing, with 20 percent, 8 percent, and 5 percent bingeing at Levels I, I, and III, respectively. That means 13 percent of the respondents had consumed more than twice the number of drinks that qualifies as binge drinking. Apply that percentage to the US population of adults 18 years and older, and you get 32 million people.

"This important study reveals that a large number of people in the United States drink at very high levels and underscores the dangers associated with such 'extreme' binge drinking," said George F. Koob, director of the NIAAA. 
Researchers also note that while we're justifiably concerned about binge drinking among college students and those underage, the survey suggests binge drinking is a wider problem than that. And it seems to be getting worse.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

de Man

The Ambivalence of Nihilism

Belgian literary theorist Paul de Man was the champion of the deconstructionist movement at Yale and its Sterling Professor of the Humanities before his death in 1983. He also taught at Cornell and Johns Hopkins. In October, 1966, at a symposium at Johns Hopkins he met Jacques Derrida in his American debut where he introduced "deconstructionism." Derrida, de Man, Hartman, and Miller became  “the Yale school of criticism.” “Deconstructionism views language as a slippery and inherently false medium that always reflects the biases of its users,” explained the Times. Objectivity and truth are difficult to discern.
"The simplest and best-known illustration of the de Manian method involves the line that ends Yeats’s poem “Among School Children”: “How can we know the dancer from the dance?” We naturally read that question rhetorically, to mean “We cannot know the difference.” But, de Man points out, in “Semiology and Rhetoric,” grammatically the sentence is a question, and it means “Please tell me, how can I know the difference?” The meanings are contradictory, but there is nothing in “what the text really says” that tells us which one is correct." (New Yorker)
Next semester, Where Brothels Are Located 101 and the Angels on the Head of a Pin Seminar.

In the spring of 1987, three and a half years after de Man’s death, articles he had written during the war for two Belgian newspapers controlled by the Nazis appeared. The articles were found by a Belgian graduate student named Ortwin de Graef. The record showed that, for all intents and purposes, the young de Man was a fascist. Further investigations suggested bigamy, forgery, theft and embezzlement. Even the Nazis thought he was a creep. Convicted in Belgium, he escaped through South America to the U.S.. Amazingly his history never caught up with him until he had died.

But the milling, searching torchlights of puritanism never sleep.
At a conference at the University of Alabama in October, 1987, a group that included some of de Man’s former students and colleagues decided to publish all the wartime journalism—some two hundred articles, most of them column-length, that de Man wrote for the two German-controlled papers, plus pieces he published in other venues between 1939 and 1943—along with a companion volume of thirty-eight scholarly responses.
For decades de Man had been an avatar not just of leftist politics but also of the leftist war on truth, the never-ending campaign to recast objective fact as subjective and open to question. And here he was, proven to have written 200 pieces for a collaborationist newspaper. 

"Hartman had been in the Kindertransport, the program that evacuated Jewish children from Nazi Germany and resettled them in England. He left Germany in 1939, when he was nine years old. His mother had already emigrated to the United States (his father had left the family), and he did not see her again until 1945. During the war, Derrida had been expelled from his school in Algiers when the quota for Jewish students was reduced, and Algerian Jews were stripped of French citizenship. Both men were devastated when they learned that de Man had written anti-Semitic articles, and both published responses. Hartman argued that de Man’s later criticism could be understood as a kind of atonement for his youthful errors. Derrida’s meditation on the case tried to interpret the collaborationist writings in an exculpatory way. That piece may have done more to discredit deconstruction than anything in de Man’s past." (New Yorker)
So Derrida deconstructed de Man's work to excuse him. Perfect.

De Man is the subject of Jonathan Leaf’s  new play Deconstruction. It starts with De Man’s rumored affair, as a young man, with the author and critic Mary McCarthy , then celebrated for her writing in Partisan Review, the New York Review of Books, and other esteemed journals. The public intellectual Hannah Arendt appears and she is suspicious of his history as a member of the French Resistance in WW11. Gradually De Man is unmasked in their discussions about the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, Arendt’s former professor and lover and a onetime member of the Nazi party.

“He is a connoisseur of nothingness,” Hartman wrote of de Man the critic. De Man took the train to the end of the line. It may be that he was able to write what he did, both the chillingly deplorable things and the chillingly inspiring ones, because he believed in nothing. (New Yorker)

The real problem is that people are surprised.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.--deTocqueville  

Modern Healthcare (10/23, Livingston, Subscription Publication) reports that “an analysis by the American Medical Association” indicates “a single health insurance company dominates the commercial insurance market in more than 4 in 10 of the nation’s metropolitan areas.”

        HealthDay (10/23, Preidt) reports, “Analyzing 2016 data, researchers found that in 43 percent of 389 cities, just one health insurer had at least a 50 percent share of the market.” HealthDay points out, “That compares with 40 percent of cities in 2014.” Meanwhile, “69 percent of health insurance markets in those 389 cities were “highly concentrated” in 2016, meaning there was a significant lack of competition.”

        Healthcare Finance News (10/23, Lagasse) reports that “the 10 states with the least competitive commercial health insurance markets were Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, South Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Vermont, Alaska and Illinois.”

Navarro is the much-criticized Assistant to the President, Director of Trade and Industrial Policy, and the Director of the White House National Trade Council. A former professor of economics and public policy at the Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine, Navarro is the author of over a dozen books, including Death by China. He is an opponent of unfettered free trade. His arguments are not precisely economic but rather soft/sociological.
Last week, the news media obtained a slide presentation by Navarro that earned immediate ridicule. Here’s the most-shared slide.

Navarro's argument is that free trade works only if the worker displaced by foreign competition moves at least laterally. His opponents argue that trade wars damage everyone, individually and collectively. In a way, protectionism turns the protected group into a dependent sub-class, like zoo animals, dependent upon the largess of those less damaged by the protectionism. Until It fails.

There is an argument over controlled immigration that the citizen of a country is its owner. So control is justified. But that makes any control justified. The problem seems to be the circumstance of the nation: Is the nation nothing more than geography? For example, can an entity that believes meat-eating to be evil allow meat-eaters to swell the population until meat-eating is encouraged? In this view, the nation would be a voluntary association with a geography, not just a geographic entity. So admittance would be more than a simple libertarian free movement, it would entail an acceptance of some rules, some limits. A geography constituted as an Islamic State would be within its rights to discourage Christians or Jews from entering.

Who is...Leon Wieseltier?

"....almost never does the economic thinker feel it necessary to offer evidence that his proposed state intervention will work as it is supposed to, and almost never does he feel it necessary to offer evidence that the imperfectly attained necessary or sufficient condition for perfection is large enough in the actual world such that its imperfect fulfillment reduces by very much the performance of the economy in aggregate."--McCloskey  

I must admit I  am overwhelmed by the Newsweek article about $145 million being transferred to the Clintons from the world/Russian uranium interests. I am just astonished it happened and that no one cares. But on the drive to work Friday, NPR thanked their sponsors. One was Kasperski. This is all getting just unbelievable. Kasperski!
(Incidentally, a well regarded popular novelist has a story-line where the PM of Great Britain is blackmailed into approving a Russian bid for drilling rights in the North Atlantic.)
Maybe this means that voting is just a placebo.

Machiavelli criticizes Christianity for having “rendered the world weak, and given it in prey to wicked men, who are able to manipulate it securely, since mankind, in order to go to Heaven, thinks how to endure the beatings they receive, rather than how to avenge them”. But he also believed the worst instincts of the populace could be managed by means of religion and the requirement of military service.

Is the Multiverse what is meant by "free will?"

Golden oldie:
Today's gospel is the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite pass by the damaged man and an outcast stops and saves him. Christ is deliver...

According to, the Penguins opened the season as Stanley Cup co-favorites with Edmonton with 8-1 odds.

After a 4-2-1 start, the Penguins dropped to third on the list, tied at 12-1 with Edmonton and Chicago. A hot start has Toronto (6-1-0) the favorite at 8-1 and Tampa Bay (6-1-1) right behind at 9-1.

From Quora: An old man finds a young woman weeping on the steps of an apartment and asks, “What in the world could have happened to make you cry so much?” The woman answered “my boyfriend just dumped me. I just moved in and he dumped me. He said he didn’t love me anymore” and then the man said “the only love that matters is how you love yourself”.
Is that true?

Trump is in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. Before you say, "Oh, sure," you should know there is a movement to throw him out! But Trump has good company:...Lincoln is in it too, although he was not alive to approve it.

Yikes! Leon Wieseltier, a prominent editor at The New Republic for three decades who was preparing to unveil a new magazine next week, apologized on Tuesday for “offenses against some of my colleagues in the past” after several women accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate advances.
As those allegations came to light, Laurene Powell Jobs, a leading philanthropist whose for-profit organization, Emerson Collective, was backing Mr. Wieseltier’s endeavor, decided to pull the plug on it.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee were among those who paid a firm for research that led to a dossier of unverified allegations about President Trump’s activities and connections in Russia. (wsj)
If that is true, does that mean that the Special Prosecutor is the result of disinformation?

What is the purpose of an Intelligence Department? To perceive the truth that benefits the state. Or to create a mythology that benefits the state.

Iowa's (!) Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter called for the hanging and extermination of all “capitalists.”
I love to hear people who think that "capitalism" is a philosophy. And it confirms my opinion to see the shameless homicidal consistency of these people.

Everyone thinks they can sing; academics think they can govern.

In 1800, 75% of [an American's] working man's expenditures went for food alone. By 1850, that had dropped to 50%. Today it is a little more than 11%.

New money is being created in India and North Korea which makes the old money worthless. Should any entity have that much power?

Groupings and Identity are convenient shorthand for pollsters, politicians and ad men. But are they  basic?

Following years of delays, President Trump announced on Twitter on Saturday morning that he will allow the release of more than 3,000 of classified documents from the FBI, CIA, and Justice Department on the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Probably many will look bad here. I wonder if the destruction of faith in the U.S. government is going to be this president's legacy.

Professional athletes pay city and state taxes everywhere they play.

118,000 social security checks last month were garnished by the government from grandparents who countersigned a student loan whose grandchild defaulted.

Catherine Keating, CEO of Commonfund, said: "Don't count too much on your plan. The world just moves too fast today." It used to take 25 years for a new product, like the automobile or the TV, to reach 25% of the U.S. population. "Facebook did it in five years, and some mobile games have done it in months. It took Hilton Hotels almost 100 years to acquire 800,000 hotel rooms. Airbnb acquired a million rooms in just six years. How do you plan for that? You can't. Don't even try."
Don't even try?

AAAAAaaaaannnnnnddddd...a chart of Portfolios: left to right: 100% stocks, 80% stocks and 20% bonds, 60% stocks and 40% bonds:.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Government Assets

While it is a bit hard to explain why, the U.S. government owns a lot of things.

A 2013 report from the Institute for Energy Research (understandingly writing about energy), states that the government owns “above ground” assets such as “buildings, lands, roads, railroad infrastructure, levees, dams, and hydroelectric generating facilities, to name just a few, many of which are underutilized,” and “below ground” assets such as “rights to mineral and energy leases, from which they receive royalties, rents, and bonus payments.” The IER report said  the mineral rights for oil and gas reserves are  worth $128 trillion.
128 TRILLION dollars!

Every once in a while, when William Devane somberly announces an update of the national debt, currently 19 trillion(!) dollars, it is reassuring to know that all these underutilized resources exist and that even a government official could, with a modicum of good sense and a smidgen of public responsibility, exploit to the nation's advantage

Monday, November 13, 2017

Organizing Principles

From Weaponry to Market Cap

Influences on our lives change rapidly. We were once in thrall to family or tribe. Then it became states and then nations. Now look:
Apple’s market value of $868 billion is almost as much as the value of the entire stock exchange of Spain ($894 billion) which lists and trades more than 3,200 publicly traded companies. 
Alphabet (formerly Google) is now worth $716 billion, which is almost as much as the $752 billion market cap for the Singapore Exchange, where more than 750 companies are traded.

The four companies above approximate the value of all the companies traded on Canada's Toronto Exchange.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


The Old Testament reading for today is from the Book of Wisdom, where it defines itself:

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom,
and she is readily perceived by those who love her,
and found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire;
Whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed,
for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
For taking thought of wisdom is the perfection of prudence,
and whoever for her sake keeps vigil
shall quickly be free from care;
because she makes her own rounds, seeking those worthy of her,
and graciously appears to them in the ways,
and meets them with all solicitude.

Compare that to Friedrich Nietzsche in Zarathustra:

Carefree, mocking, violent--
That is what Wisdom wants us to be.
She is a woman. She loves
Only a man of war.