Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals, the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great creative scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned if at all. -Martin Gardner, mathematician and writer (1914-2010) 

FactSet Research estimated that combined profits in the S&P 500 companies will rise 6.5% in this year’s second quarter. But the 6.5% average disguises considerable variation. Five of the 11 sectors have 1.3% earnings growth or less. Two are actually declining. Then there’s energy, where earnings growth is not just above above-average but 61 times more than average.
Needless to say, earnings growth is way out of balance. The energy sector’s big recovery skews the average—remove it and the average drops from 6.5% to 3.6%, according to FactSet.
So, does an index fund make sense?

Seven thousand Dutchmen volunteered for the SS, and a higher proportion of Dutch Jews died in the Holocaust—three-quarters of them, more than twice the proportion in Belgium, for example, and three times more than in France—than in any other occupied country of Western Europe. Whatever the reasons for this disproportion—the relatively unpropitious Dutch landscape for a life of clandestinity is surely one—unease about it is inevitable. According to one historian of the Holocaust in the Netherlands, Marnix Croes: the Dutch reacted to the German occupation, including the persecution of the Jews, with a high degree of cooperation, following their reputed tradition of deference to authority. This did not change when the deportations started, and it lasted until the beginning of 1943. . . . [T]here was for a long time little doubt that the bureaucracy would not sabotage German-imposed measures, and in fact these were thoroughly implemented.

Who is....Deep Blue?

The heart of the left isn’t helping the poor, or reducing inequality, or even minority rights.  The heart of the left is being anti-market.  With some honorable exceptions, very few leftists are capable of being excited about deregulation of any kind.  And even the leftists who do get excited about well-targeted deregulation get far more excited about stamping out the hydra-headed evils of market.--Caplan
This is more than the their confidence in their ability to control complex systems, it is also a disdain for spontaneous and beneficial order.

Will has an article on baseball and the changes in the game. One point, two pitchers in the 1960 World Series final game game, the Yankees' Bobby Shantz and the Pirates' Elroy Face, were 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches, respectively.

According to the 2010 Contaminated Water report from the United Nations Environmental Programme, more people die from contaminated and polluted water than violence and war.  

The second to last thing China wants is a new Korean war. But the last thing China wants is a united Korea under South Korean leadership. China's Communist Party leadership has learned the lessons of 1989-1991, when German reunification ultimately pushed the borders of NATO some 1000 kilometres to the east and Soviet communism was thrown into the dustbin of history. --Barbanes

NBC Sports on the deterrent effect Reaves might bring--or not bring--to the Pens:
Over the past four seasons the St. Louis Blues — Reaves’ former team — were on the receiving end of eight incidents that resulted in supplemental discipline from the NHL (suspension or fine), typically reserved for the dirtiest plays. The only team that was on the receiving end of more during that stretch was the Boston Bruins (10 –and keep in mind, this was a team that had Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic for most of those years)

House Republicans are proposing eliminating the deduction that companies get for interest they pay on debt, a move that would alter modern finance. (wsj)

Golden oldie:

The Enigma coding machine, invented in 1919 by Hugo Koch, a Dutchman, looked like a typewriter and was originally employed for business purposes. The German army adapted the machine for wartime use and considered its encoding system unbreakable. They were wrong. The Brits had broken the code as early as the German invasion of Poland and had intercepted virtually every message sent through the system. Britain nicknamed the intercepted messages Ultra.

The market's long-run effect on people's standard of living is probably the most successful economic argument of the last fifty years.

A network of seven internet sites in Europe to sell items including fabric, DVD cases, and maps are fake outlets. The faux store fronts are a multinational system to disguise payments for the $40 billion global online gambling industry. Online gambling is illegal in many countries and some U.S. states. The dummy sites underline a strategy which regulators, card issuers and banks have yet to tackle head-on. The scheme found by Reuters involved websites which accepted payments for household items from a reporter but did not deliver any products. Instead, staff who answered helpdesk numbers on the sites said the outlets did not sell the product advertised, but that they were used to help process gambling payments, mostly for Americans.

James Otis, a Massachusetts lawyer, came to prominence in his impassioned speech against the Writs of Assistance in 1761, centering his arguments on natural law. Struck by lightning in 1783, James Otis did not live beyond the Revolution. But John Adams remarked that he had never known a man “whose service for any ten years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.”

A warning issued by the head of a mosque-seminary in Pakistan's capital city: "The government should abolish co-education. Quaid-i-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses ... Sportswomen are spreading nudity. I warn the sportswomen of Islamabad to stop participating in sports ... Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it. There are far more horrible punishments in the hereafter for such women."

What does this mean for the future voting? A new poll released exclusively to the Hill shows that most Americans feel the investigations into alleged collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign are a distraction. The poll found that 64% of Americans believe the investigations are hurting the country, and 73% believe that the focus on Russia is distracting Congress from important issues like health care and tax reform.

The so-called Institute on Inequality and Democracy at the University of California Los Angeles, a publicly funded institution, recently released  a 'Resistance' handbook for their students.  Among other things, the handbook specifically defines "Trumpism" as a movement that "consolidates power through white supremacy, misogyny, nationalism, xenophobia, corporatism, and militarism."
And here I thought he was just a jerk.

Apart from this principle there would be no basis for general public support for economics as a legitimate academic discipline, no place for economics as an appropriate part of a liberal educational curriculum.  I refer, of course, to the principle of the spontaneous order of the market, which is the great intellectual discovery of the eighteenth century. --James Buchanan

Good news: More than 200 colleges and universities have set up Bias Response Teams.

I can’t talk about the details of the intelligence, but we have, the intelligence community has said, that this election was meddled with by the Russians in a way that is frankly not particularly original. They’ve been doing this for an awfully long time. And we are decades into the Russians trying to undermine American democracy. So in some ways, there’s no news, but it certainly puts a heightened emphasis on our ability to figure out how to stop them. --CIA Director Mike Pompeo

Uh oh. In a new report, Circa reveals why the Michael Flynn investigation may be nothing more than an act of retaliation orchestrated by Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe after Flynn personally supported an FBI agent that filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against McCabe back in 2012. 

Petrochemicals, once a cheap byproduct, are powering a U.S. manufacturing boom and export bonanza. The new investment will establish the U.S. as a major exporter of plastic and reduce its trade deficit, economists say. (wsj)

AAAAaaaannnnndddddd.....a picture of another of our animal friends, Deep Blue, believed the largest great white ever seen:
Largest Great White

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Burnout and Loneliness
The General Social Survey of 2016 found that, compared with roughly 20 years ago, people are twice as likely to report that they are always exhausted. Close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work. This is a shockingly high statistic — and it’s a 32% increase from two decades ago. The book The Happiness Track reports that 50% of people — across professions, from the nonprofit sector to the medical field — are burned out. This isn’t just a problem for busy, overworked executives. Rather the problem is pervasive across professions and up and down corporate hierarchies.
One element that pops up in these discussions is, surprisingly, loneliness

This is particularly true in Medicine.

The consolidation of medical care, the loss of independence and the drive for productivity has had its effect. Meetings and conferences within hospitals and among different groups have almost disappeared.  And with it goes that collegiality, that social framework embedded in the professional work. The horizon for medicine has retracted to the exam room and the dictating office. And among the less clinical subsets, like radiology, it is worse. Some specialties work in solitary confinement.  

The old adage has proven true: "If you can't bill for it, it will vanish."

Monday, July 24, 2017


Untended Consequences in The Congo

A story of unintended consequences created by people who believe they can control complex systems.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has vast mineral reserves; the value of their reserves is estimates at 24 Trillion Dollars. Needless to say, this has attracted financial predators, militias who act like the Mafia at mining sites, demanding payment for access to work sites and portions of paychecks to allow the miners to work. The products of these mines are bought and used by sophisticated electronics companies.

In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Bill--eager to do good for all men everywhere--included a provision that mandated the purchasing company note where the minerals came from and who benefitted. The hope was to shame the companies or to influence them from outside criticism so they might influence the banditry. So exposing the sources of Apple's or Intel's  tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold would somehow influence the criminal militias. Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) famously said at the time that the bill was supposed to “cut off funding to people who kill people.”

So what happened? The companies could not be sure of their sources or the local economics so, fearful of coming under government criticism and action, they abandoned the Congo and went to other states. Companies avoided the extra costs and red tape by boycotting tantalum, tin and tungsten mined in the Congo and instead looked to suppliers in Australia and Brazil. Congolese mineral exports plunged by 90% in the wake of the legislation, according to DRC mining officials. Consequently, income to militias from such mines either plunged or vanished entirely.

In a   study in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists Dominic Parker and co-author Bryan Vadheim document that while the law may have cut off one source of revenue to armed groups, it led them to intensify their plundering of civilians in the region—exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. By their estimates, violent incidents more than doubled after the law was implemented. Impact on miners was not included.

The economists assert that before Dodd-Frank, Congolese militias acted as “stationary bandits.” The idea is that a strongman who seeks to rule for years won’t use his iron fist to crush the people entirely—and he may even invest a bit in roads, security and other provisions to ensure he avoids an uprising that could loosen his control. Messrs. Parker and Vadheim stress that stationary bandits are no saints, but the arrangement “may be safer and more economically productive than anarchy.” Messrs. Parker and Vadheim found that armed groups specifically targeted farmers during harvest time—especially after bumper crops.

But certainly the politicians rest comfortably with the assurance they have done their part to improve the state of mankind. At least they tried.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


The last several Gospels are filled with parables, so many that the Apostles finally ask Christ why he speaks in parables. He replies,
"Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."
So is Christ saying that the human brain ruminates on concepts and works through them with more positive results than simply hearing a didactic lesson or a convincing argument?
That seems to have a lot of implications to education and to creative writing.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


"The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition." --G K Chesterton

A new study by Concordia economics professor Ian Irvine shows that subsidizing EVs in the North American context will not reduce GHG emissions in the short-term, and may even increase them—at a cost to taxpayers.
Recently published in Canadian Public Policy, Irvine's study compared the incentives for producing EVs that are found in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, North America's fuel-efficiency regulations, with new EV subsidy policies in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
He found that, while the subsidies encourage the production of more EVs, they undermine the efficiency requirements of existing incentives for conventional vehicles. This results in a zero or negative near-term GHG benefit.
"Sometimes you have more than one policy aimed at a particular goal, and usually those policies are complementary," Irvine notes. "But in this case, they work at cross purposes."

And another Canadian report:
Subsidizing the purchase of electric cars in Canada is an inefficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that is not cost effective, according to a Montreal Economic Institute study released Thursday.
"It's just a waste," said Germain Belzile, one of the authors of the study, which examined electric vehicle subsidies offered by Canada's two biggest provinces Ontario and Quebec, which can rise to as much as a third of a vehicle's purchase price, depending on the model.
"Not only do these programs cost taxpayers a fortune, but they also have little effect on GHG emissions," he said.

Who is...David Gelernter?

"Life has no meaning a priori. ... It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose." - These are the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, writer and philosopher. It is a belief that creates a rat's nest of options. People, of course, can not live this way but he is taken quite seriously. The French never have recovered from the Second War. It drove them all nuts.

Speaking of nuts, here is a quote from Bernie Sanders: “The American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina.”
Some people can just say these things. Ditto the writings of Trinity College Professor Johnny Eric Williams. He's from Trinity College!

An interesting question was asked in the hearing yesterday about the Russians' hacking the DNC: If this was such a big deal, why did the DNC refuse to allow the feds to examine the hacks?

Garry Kasparov, the international chess champion who was beaten by an AI machine, has given the issue of AI a lot of thought. Last month he released a new book called Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. He says that the IBM machine that beat him "was anything but intelligent. It was as intelligent as your alarm clock. A very expensive one, a $10 million alarm clock, but still an alarm clock. Very poweful -- brute force, with little chess knowledge. But chess proved to be vulnerable to the brute force. it could be crunched once hardware got fast enough and databases got big enough and algorithms got smart enough."

A guy ran through a group of people at a London mosque in a car. This will, as usual, be taken seriously when it is just another wacko in religious/political drag. Fear the Bell Shaped Curve!

Golden oldie:

A 36-year-old Spanish bullfighter died after he tripped on his cape in the ring and was gored by the bull during an event in France, according to the Guardian. Ivan Fandino was hospitalized, but later died from his injuries.

The damage to human society, and to “the planet”, from the projected rise of a few degrees of global temperature, while commonly described as apocalyptic, would be minor compared to the results of all-out nuclear war.  More to the point, the degree of human responsibility in climate change is more disputed among serious scientists than the public is aware, due to the role of such contributing factors as solar variations.  But the degree of human responsibility for nuclear weapons is unquestionably total.--Diana Johnstone

A case of malpractice recently concerned the removal of the wrong testicle (the good one removed, the diseased one left behind).
A 2006 study supported by the public Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality analyzed nearly 3 million operations over nearly two decades, and found that wrong-site surgery occurred in "only" about 1 in 112,994 cases.

Rizzo injured catcher Austin Hedges during a home plate collision recently. Rizzo is getting justified criticism but it is the exact kind of play Pete Rose was famous--and revered--for.

Carrie Fisher had cocaine, heroin and ecstasy in her system when she died last December, according to an autopsy report obtained by The Associated Press. "Sleep apnea."

In a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases in future, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks as a constitutional violation in a ruling involving a band called The Slants. From a report: The opinion in Matal v. Tam means that Simon Tam, lead singer of an Asian-American rock band called "The Slants," will be able to trademark the name of his band. It's also relevant for a high-profile case involving the Washington Redskins, who were involved in litigation and at risk of being stripped of their trademark.

Israel has been secretly supplying Syrian rebels near its border with cash as well as food, fuel and medical supplies for years, a "secret engagement in the enemy country’s civil war" aimed at carving out a buffer zone populated by friendly forces, the WSJ reported.
And, if that were not enough madness, the Saudi information ministry said the Saudi Royal Navy allegedly stopped an attempted terrorist attack on a major offshore oilfield in the Persian Gulf on June 16, when it captured three members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps from a boat as it approached the kingdom's offshore Marjan oilfield. The Saudi Center for International Communications added that the boat carried explosives, and the Iranians aboard "intended to carry out terrorist act in Saudi territorial waters."
Something is going on with the Saudis.

The worst thing you can do is to convince yourself, or be convinced by others, that you are somehow a victim and therefore  unable to achieve success through your own effort and initiative.  Some people start out with fewer advantages than others, but even those who are less advantaged can do extremely well if they make the effort and apply themselves intelligently….  No one cares more about your personal success than you do.  Neither does anyone else know more about your interests, skills, and goals. (From Common Sense Economics)

[E]nvironmentalism has become a dogmatic, fundamentalist, persecuting religion that will keep us from ameliorating our environmental problems. --Paul Heyne


On Thursday, the country’s military said that a Canadian Special Operations sniper had shot an Islamic State fighter in Iraq from more than two miles away, purportedly breaking a world record for the longest confirmed kill shot in history, according to the Globe and Mail. The Murder Olympics.

In 1993, Yale University computer science professor David Gelernter was seriously injured while opening his mail when a padded envelope exploded  in his hands. The attack just came two days after a University of California geneticist was injured by a similar bomb and was the latest in a string of bombings since 1978 that authorities believed to be related. This bomb went off in his kitchen, in his family's home. The perpetrator was Theodore Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber.” These bombings were included with 14 others since 1978 that killed 3 people and injured 23 others. A close reading of this story is interesting. The Left has always held Kaczynski in some regard because they agree with his environmental position and he was an academic. It is worth reading about, more for the surrounding politics than the madman himself.
Gelernter wrote a book called Drawing Life about this and it gave several academics the opportunity to savage him.

According to the website Wired UK, as of June 5, there were 535 terrorist attacks around the world -- with 3,635 fatalities -- since the beginning of 2017 alone.

"...the great divide in America today is between those who do believe, as the founders did, that “first come rights and then comes government,” and those who believe, as progressives do, that “first comes government and then comes rights.”--Will's intro to Barnett's Our Republican Constitution

Several of his former law clerks have said they think Justice Kennedy is contemplating stepping down in the next year or so.

AAAAAaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnndddddd.....a graph:

Friday, July 21, 2017


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. Although there were no measuring tools at the time, scientists now estimate that the quake was actually two tremors in succession, the largest of which is thought to have had a magnitude of 8.0.  The quake was centered near the plate boundary called the Hellenic Arc and quickly sent a wall of water across the Mediterranean Sea toward the Egyptian coast. Ships in the harbor at Alexandria were overturned as the water near the coast receded suddenly. Reports indicate that many people rushed out to loot the stranded ships. The tsunami wave then rushed in and carried the ships over the sea walls, landing many on top of buildings. In Alexandria, approximately 5,000 people lost their lives and 50,000 homes were destroyed.

The surrounding villages and towns suffered even greater destruction. Many were virtually wiped off the map. Outside the city, 45,000 people were killed. In addition, the inundation of saltwater rendered farmland useless for years to come. Evidence indicates that the area’s shoreline was permanently changed by the disaster. Slowly, but steadily, the buildings of Alexandria’s Royal Quarter were overtaken by the sea following the tsunami.

It was not until 1995 that archaeologists discovered the ruins of the old city off the coast of present-day Alexandria.
(from This Day in History)

Thursday, July 20, 2017


History as DNA

One of the aspects of the thinking, or non-thinking, on the political Left is their obsession with the past.

The Left, since Hegel, are people of history. The Dialectic shapes our lives. (Hegel thought the battle was one of ideas, Marx thought it of economics.) The present is the inevitable product of the past. Perhaps this is the reason the Left is so preoccupied with the past.
Each dialectic strand collides and combines with its opponent strand to create a new strand, like DNA, which moves on to the present, in search of a new opponent. That makes the present--rather than a solution of the past--a new strand soiled by one element of the past. The revolution is never enough; the past must be purified. So an American immigrant of Polish ancestry finds himself the modern personification of ancient English slaveholding planters, a second generation American of Irish grandparents becomes a representative of the Spanish Inquisition.
For this reason, the revolutionary Marxist does not defeat his opponent, he is obligated to deracinate him, to kill his family, friends and associates.

Theirs is not a war of ideas, it is a war against the Past. And, as such, they can never be successful. Or appeased.