Thursday, August 17, 2017


"Dunkirk:" A Review

"Dunkirk" is a high profile, high budget film about the retreat of British and French forces to the beaches of Dunkirk, France in the early days of World War Two. It was a pivotal several days in history with 450,000 British soldiers trapped against the sea as German troops slowly advanced to destroy the existing British army. The next step would be the British island itself with complete control of the Western Front. Hitler could then turn his attention to the East.

What prevented this logical sequence was astonishing, heroic and world-changing. The British dug in to await their fate; on the periphery vicious fighting, massacres of prisoners, incredible tactical decisions were routine. French forces were particularly heroic in holding the Germans at bay.
Eventually 330,000 British troops were rescued by fishing boats and private ships from the small ports all across England in one of the most astonishing defeats and rescues the world has ever seen. It kept the British army intact and completely changed the War.

The movie treats these events with a curious eye. It is less interested in the big picture of the story and seems to be sympathetic to the travails of individual soldiers teetering on the abyss. It opens  with several soldiers desperately fleeing the German advance and follows one of them throughout his several days escape. The face of the enemy is never seen but the effect of their long rang war is brutal and devastating. Time and again soldiers come close to escape only to be denied and to try again. As the movie progresses one begins to feel as if you are watching "Into Thin Air" or "Revenant." It is a story of suffering, endurance and luck. One young man singled out as a hero by his hometown paper
was killed by accident by one of his fellows. A telling element is the British pilot who is involved in much of the action; his face is never seen until the very last moment of the story when he is revealed to be Tom Hardy.

In this story, even the stars are ciphers. And there is no Big Picture.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


"The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one." - Albert Einstein

James M. Buchanan’s political economy should be read as part of a big European tradition in political philosophy following Alexis de Tocqueville (Democracy in America) and John Sturt Mill (On Liberty ) on the nature of democracy who feared that democracy may threaten liberty. Mill and Tocqueville feared the democratic revolution and particularly the modern passion for equality may threaten liberty. Tocqueville asks what becomes of people when they are overcome by this passion? The growth of state power and the homogenization of state power society as results of homogenizing of society as two consequences of equalizing conditions. The growth of government inspired many of Buchanan’s earlier writings. What Mill, Tocqueville and James Buchanan teaches us is that to love democracy well, we must love it moderately.--Foss

The health care debate is confusing. Is the Affordable Care Act a success or not? The U.S. has always had its health care system criticized by outsiders; is that criticism over now that ACA is in place? If the ACA actually is a failure and the Rube-publicans are unable to fashion a new plan, why would anyone have optimism that the central government will do a better job the next time it tries?

Who is...John Newton?


In 2013, a team of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors confirmed that sarin had been used in an attack that killed as many as 1,400 men, women and children in Ghouta, a suburb on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria. The Syrian government denied responsibility for the attack, as they did for the most recent incident. That 2013 attack was the most lethal use of chemicals in global warfare since the 1988 Halabja massacre, where Iraqi forces led by dictator Saddam Hussein killed thousands of their own civilians by using the gas.
Sarin was also used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack by Shoko Asahara's cult, which killed 12 and sickened thousands. Members of the cult used the tips of their umbrellas to puncture plastic bags filled with liquid sarin on five crowded subway cars before hurrying off — leaving their fellow riders trapped with the toxic gas.
The U.S. says  sarin was the chemical behind the attack that killed more than 80 people, including at least 27 children, in Syria's Idlib province earlier this year.

The number of colleges in the U.S. declined by nearly 6% since the 2015-16 academic year, with the drop largely from closings of for-profit colleges that had low graduation and high student-loan default rates. (wsj)

“A lawyer, a spy, a mob boss, and a money launderer walk into a bar. The bartender says: you guys must be here to talk about adoption.” — Some guy on Twitter

Golden oldie:
In a tight pennant race, the two contending teams met on a Saturday for the "Game of the Week." Both teams were talented, the race had dr...

Polemic: n:
1. a controversial argument, as one against some opinion, doctrine, etc.
2. a person who argues in opposition to another; controversialist.
Example: The second [book] is an angry polemic against the pervasive corruption of representative democracy wrought by economic inequality.
-- Jonathan A Knee, "The New Gilded Age in Philanthropy," New York Times, May 1, 2017
An interesting origin:
Polemic comes from the Greek adjective polemikós, a derivative of the noun pólemos “war, battle” in the strict sense and not as in, say “war of words.” The adjective is also restricted to warfare. The current (and only) senses “controversial, controversialist,” first appear in Middle French in the late 16th century and in English as an adjective and noun in the early 17th century.

John Newton was a slave-trader-turned-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace."
He went to sea with his merchant marine father at the age of eleven; sent to Spain as a shopkeeper's apprentice at fifteen; another try as sailor in Venice at seventeen; press-ganged into service aboard an English man-of-war but such a trouble-maker that he was released to a slave-trader; abandoned by the trader to the whims of his "African princess" concubine, who starved him, and encouraged the natives to jeer and throw rocks at her white slave; a sequence of better or worse treatment by other captain-traders, and a series of broken pledges to reform a life "big with mischief"; finally, at age twenty-two, a passage home to England and, during a savage storm off the coast of Newfoundland, a born-again deliverance into evangelical Christianity.
Newton eventually became a passionate abolitionist; his famous hymn eventually became popular in the slave-bound American South. In the 1830s, decades after Newton had died, Southern hymnbooks began to include "Amazing Grace" -- now so re-titled from Newton's original "Faith's Review and Expectation," and sung "shape-note" fashion to the anonymously-written tune the world now knows. The lyrics, too, had a life of their own: in Uncle Tom's Cabin, for example, lines were added to emphasize the religion; other, "disrobed" versions, such as the one made popular by Judy Collins, represent "the transmogrification of the hymn into a self-help anthem" and do not, complain some Christians, represent Newton's intent. (steve king)

Real GDP has grown 1.97%, .83% and .69% over the last 3, 5, and 10 years respectively. are generally more honest in their private than in their public capacity, and will go to greater lengths to serve a party, than when their own private interest is alone concerned. Honour is a great check on mankind: But where a considerable body of men act together, this check is, in a great measure, removed; since a man is sure to be approved by his own party . . . and he soon learns to despise the clamour of adversaries."--David Hume
Laura June, writing for The Outline: It's a well-known, well-documented fact that women entrepreneurs face an uphill battle in the fight to get funding for their businesses. But a new study suggests that it can actually be almost impossible. According to the study, published Tuesday in the journal Venture Capital,  an all male team is about four times more likely to get funding than teams with any women on them

From 2002 to 2012, the arrest rate fell by 11 percent among those ages 18 to 64, according to federal data analyzed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.
But the arrest rate rose by 23 percent for people over 55. It rose even more markedly — by 28 percent — among those over 65, more than 106,000 of whom were arrested in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available.
This may not be an indicator of growing criminality among the elderly but rather simple dementia. That sounds great.

“...since the effect of any individual vote is so very small, it does not pay a voter to acquire information unless his stake in the initial issue is enormously greater than the cost of information.” --Arrow

CIA Director Mike Pompeo with a remarkable opinion:
“Wikileaks will take down America any way they can and find any willing partner to achieve that end,” Mr. Pompeo said Thursday at a security summit in Aspen, Colorado, where questions concerning the website’s publications and the Trump administration’s intended reaction peppered an hour long discussion on subjects ranging from Wikileaks and its publisher Julian Assange to Russia’s role in last year’s election and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
“This is the nature of these non-state hostile intelligence services,” he added. “I think our intelligence community has a lot of work in figuring out how to respond to them.”

The dictatorship of the [Communist] Party once established, and given a monopoly of propaganda, the problem of controlling the proliferation of romantic myths, of unifying and stabilizing and concentrating on one system at a time should be simple in the extreme. One of the greatest of modern scientific developments is waiting to serve the regime in this regard and save the world from turmoil. I refer, of course, to psychology in its applied aspect. In this connection we may thrill with patriotism as well as hope. No other country has approached our own in the succession of peerless psychologists we have given to the world. To name but a few: P.T. Barnum; Jay Gould; Mrs. Mary B.G. Eddy; Mrs. Aimee S. McPherson (notice the due representation of both sexes); Billy Sunday; Goat-gland Doc Brinkley; and coming to our own home town, our own dear Big Bill Thompson, Balaban, and Katz, and WGN.
As a climax to this glorious series I would name Dr. John B. Watson. It is not necessary to prove that he is the world's greatest psychologist; he admits it. And besides, doesn't he draw $40,000 a year [note: this is over $700,000 in 2017 dollars] for his psychologizing? Speaking for myself, I must express chagrin that it is so little. A man who can stand before the cream of the intelligentsia and exhort them to believe that they do not believe, but only react, to think that there is no such thing as thinking, but only muscle-twitching, that the whole idea of struggle and error is an error against which we must struggle until we see that seeing is an illusion, and illusion likewise an illusion--in short, one who repeats that "I am not saying anything, and you are not hearing anything, the gears are in mesh, nothing more," and makes them like it and pay to hear it--I say such a man should be worth at least $1,000,000 in any properly ordered civilization. One of the first acts of justice of the Communist dictatorship will undoubtedly be to give such a man a task which is not an insult to his powers. . . .--Frank H. Knight in "The Case for Communism: From the Standpoint of an Ex-Liberal."

Who could have imagined that Russian disinformation efforts would be more successful exposed than clandestine?

In 1967, Timothy Leary told Allen Ginsberg to drop out. "What can I drop out of?" Ginsberg asked. "Your teaching at Cal," Leary said. Ginsberg chuckled. "But I need the money."
Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.--Marechal Ferdinand Foch, Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

AAAaaaannnndddd....a funny line:

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Theo Epstein has an interview with an interesting insight to his view of career management:
As president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs, he became one of the most important people by following a rule that fast-tracked his career, including what many thought was impossible, a resurrection of the Chicago Cubs. After 108 years, the team won the World Series again in 2016. "Whoever your boss is, or your bosses are, they have 20 percent of their job that they just don't like," Epstein tells David Axelrod on his podcast, "The Axe Files."
"So if you can ask them or figure out what that 20 percent is, and figure out a way to do it for them, you'll make them really happy, improve their quality of life and their work experience."
In other words, take on the aspects of your boss' job that he or she hates.
By diving into the less glamorous work, you will gain respect as well as "invaluable experience for yourself," Epstein says. (from Yahoo)

Monday, August 14, 2017


It is hard to understand what is going on in the country now. And that difficulty is apparent in the commentators who presume to understand it. We seem to be generally intolerant of diverse opinions but take all opinions deadly seriously, as if they all have great inherent power.

The Charlottesville fiasco was the meeting of a few hundred neo-Nazi outliers, concentrated and brought to a boil. They were opposed by a few hundred outliers who thought the incoherent message of the neo-Nazi outliers needed countered. Two totally insignificant elements were added together resulting in combustion.

Neither of these two groups are a movement, they are a spasm.
What is worse is confusing these morons as a base of anything. The disaffection in this nation is real and profound. These people have little or nothing to do with it.

It was commented recently that there are more dwarves than transgenders in this country but we have included them at the center of our national discussion. So it is that we seemed doomed to focus in on the peripheral and try to learn and govern from intimations gleaned from the edge of the bell curve.

Sunday, August 13, 2017


George Loveless, a Methodist Lay preacher, was one of the six Tolpuddle Martyrs (a group of farm labourers who were convicted of swearing an oath to a trade union) transported from Dorset to Australia in 1834, before being pardoned and returned to England three years later. In his collection The Loveless Letters (1981), in which the poem “Mt. Wilson, NSW” appeared, the poet, translator and dramatist Rodney Pybus (b.1938) sets a sequence of letters from Loveless to his wife in England against poems about his own experience of living in Australia for three years.
Like Loveless, the poet too is caught “between recollection and immediacy, homesickness and absorption in the making of a new home” in a land from whose dazzle he is afraid he may never recover.
“Mt. Wilson, NSW”, first published in the TLS in 1977, is full of a similar ambivalence. In November, the speaker sees bunches of Spring daffodils, “flush with the dulled yellow / of a northern sun”, in flower and for sale outside a house whose original occupants, he suggests, used them to help landscape “their dreams of home”. The incongruity of their pale “sprinkled glow” against the “grey-green cyclorama of the Bush” is sharpened by a notice at the gate that reads “Australian natives . . . one dollar each”: a reminder of colonial brutality, and all those other long shadows of empire.(TLS)

Mt. Wilson, NSW

Some of those who settled
this Blue Mountain Country
landscaped their dreams of home
and planted out their continuing pain.
Now beneath the eucalypts
the sprinkled glow of herbaceous borders
against the grey-green cyclorama of the Bush.
It is November and the Spring daffodils
are flush with the dulled yellow
of a northern sun.
On the garden wall some are left, fresh-cut
for sale, with bunches of tidy primroses,
and a trusting bowl for payment.
A notice by the gate will stop
the stranger short:
‘Australian natives,’ it says,
‘one dollar each.’


Saturday, August 12, 2017


My John didn't go to college, why should my John pay your tuition?---Graffito

There is a growing assumption in public discourse that not having equal access to medical care is a breach of the faith of the democracy. While health care is an admirable desire, is its availability to the people as important as the equal administration of the democracy's laws? It seems to me that the single payer law services would be much more in tune with the aims and responsibilities of a representative government, or at least higher on the list of democratic desires than health care. 40% fee sounds like a lot to pay for justice.

A Food and Drug Administration panel opened a new era in medicine on Wednesday, unanimously recommending that the agency approve the first-ever treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own cells to fight cancer, transforming them into what scientists call “a living drug” that powerfully bolsters the immune system to shut down the disease.
If the F.D.A. accepts the recommendation, which is likely, the treatment will be the first gene therapy ever to reach the market.(nyt)

Japanese wartime secret police literally arrested Japanese citizens for having “unpatriotic thoughts.” Their official name was the Kempeitai, and they officially named their pursuit the “Thought War.”

Who is...Anne Elliot?

The U.S. has some 160 million workers. The method for measuring employment and unemployment is not to count them all but to use a sample. Sampling is a method that selects a small group believed to be a representative sample to survey, and then generalizes from that sample. The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains a list of 60,000 households it calls monthly to determine who is employed, who isn’t, who has gotten a job that month, who had their hours cut or increased, and so on. Each month one quarter of this sample group is replaced, and after eight months, those who were dropped return to the rotation. This is where employment and unemployment numbers come from. 

 A pair of Apollo-era NASA computers and hundreds of mysterious tape reels have been discovered in a deceased engineer's basement in Pittsburgh  ... Most of the tapes are unmarked, but the majority of the rest appear to be instrumentation reels for Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, NASA's fly-by missions to Jupiter and Saturn... At some point in the early 1970s, an IBM engineer working for NASA at the height of the Space Race took home the computers -- and the mysterious tape reels. A scrap dealer, invited to clean out the deceased's electronics-filled basement, discovered the computers.

A majority of Republicans and right-leaning independents think higher education has a negative effect on the country, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center on Monday. The same study has found a consistent increase in distrust of colleges and universities since 2010, when negative perceptions among Republicans was measured at 32 percent. That number now stands at 58 percent. By comparison, 72 percent of Democrats or left-leaning Independents in the study said colleges and universities have a positive impact on the United States.

Golden oldie:
Sarin--500 times more toxic than cyanide--was named in honor of the people who first discovered it: S chrader, Otto A mbros...

"Literature encourages tolerance -- bigots and fanatics seldom have any use for the arts, because they’re so preoccupied with their beliefs and actions that they can’t see them also as possibilities."  So wrote Northrop Frye, writer and critic (14 Jul 1912-1991) Regrettably, this is clearly not so. The arts are not sacred nor are humanity's enslavers always blindly nuts.  Adam Hochschild, in “To End All Wars,” wrote extensively about the manner in which British authors were co-opted to generate support for the British war effort, soon after the outbreak of war in 1914.
Before he wrote 1984, Orwell worked for the British government during World War II as a propagandist at the BBC. Ezra Pound was an eager collaborator with the Fascists. Fascists and communists always co-opt the arts for homicidal ends. Nor are artist so saintly as to reject their efforts. Indeed they might have a more than average faith in governmental power. Academics are unjustifiably confident and self-congratulatory.

From an interview with Elon Musk:Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”
“Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry,” he continued.
“It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

The European Union is:

  • 7.2% of the World Population.
  • 23.8% of the World’s GDP.
  • 58% of the World’s Welfare Spending.

Today it's official: "the 13th incarnation of Doctor Who will be portrayed by an actress,"   -- specifically Jodie Whittaker, who American viewers may remember from her performance as CIA officer Sandra Grimes in the 2014 mini-series "The Assets."

Empyrean:  adjective: 1. Relating to the highest heaven, believed to contain pure light or fire. 2. Relating to the sky; celestial. 3. Sublime; elevated. Ety: From Latin empyreus, from Greek empyrios (fiery), from pur (fire). Other words derived from the same root are fire, pyre, pyrosis (heartburn), and pyromania (an irresistible impulse to set things on fire). Earliest documented use: 1500. A synonym of the word is empyreal.
This is where the idiom “to be in seventh heaven” (a state of great bliss) comes from. In many beliefs, heavens are a system of concentric spheres, the seventh heaven being the highest and a place of pure bliss.

Dr. Amy Reed, an anesthesiologist and patient-safety advocate, died in May 2017 after a four-year battle with leiomyosarcoma of the uterus. The cancer was spread by a power morcellator, the medical device used for her 2013 hysterectomy.
The surgical tool, released in 1995, was once lauded for facilitating minimally invasive surgery that decreased recovery times and minimized the risk of post-surgical infections. Morcellation, used to remove uterine fibroids or conduct complete hysterectomies, was performed on approximately 50,000 women a year in the U.S. in the early 2010s.
Yet for patients like Dr. Reed, whose uterine fibroids appeared benign but hid an aggressive type of cancer, morcellation can become a death sentence. The device is equipped with a spinning blade, which slices up tissue for removal piece by piece through small incisions. When the blade cuts through a cancerous tumor, it sprays malignant cells around the body, spreading the disease. Following her procedure, Dr. Reed, a mother of six, was left with advanced, Stage 4 cancer.
Not only do we treat on the margins, we ban on the margins.

A $2 billion private-equity fund that borrowed heavily to buy oil and gas wells before energy prices plunged is now worth essentially nothing, a debacle that is wiping out investments by pensions, endowments and charitable foundations. (wsj)

Darwin confidently asserted towards the end of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) that whatever a man did, he did it better than a woman, therefore “the average standard of mental power in man must be above that of women”.  But Anne Elliot, the heroine of Persuasion by Jane Austen, one of Darwin’s favorite authors says. "Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. The pen has been in their hands."
Geographers Carrie Mott and Daniel Cockayne argued in a recent paper that citing the work of straight white males perpetuates what they call “white heteromasculinism,” which they defined as a “system of oppression” that benefits only those who are “white, male, able-bodied, economically privileged, heterosexual, and cisgendered.” (Cisgendered describes people whose gender identity matches their birth sex.)

Mott, a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, and Cockayne, who teaches at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, argued that scholars or researchers disproportionately cite the work of white men, thereby unfairly adding credence to the body of knowledge they offer while ignoring the voices of other groups, like women and black male academics. Although citation seems like a mundane practice, the feminist professors argue that citing someone's work has implications on his or her ability to be hired, get promoted and obtain tenured status, among others.
Ms. Mott describes herself as a “feminist political geographer,” who's interested in “how resistance movements mobilize to fight against state-sponsored violence and marginalization.” 
Bias lurks everywhere, even in the geography of Mother Earth. Fortunately bias does not exist in climate research.

In 2004, the neurotoxin Sarin was used by Iraqis against U.S. troops in a shell fired at them. The Sarin was to be created from precursors by the spin of the shell but the effort failed as the chemicals did not mix. 

AAAAaaaannnnnddddd....a graph:

Friday, August 11, 2017