Saturday, November 30, 2013

Cab Thoughts 11/30/13

"Because my mother told me.”--The late Yale philosopher Paul Holmer answering how he, a professional philosopher, could believe in Christianity.

In 2011, the United States federal government spent $460 billion on Medicaid. With the passage of the ACA and an increasing number of states accepting the Medicaid expansion, state spending could increase by an additional $76 billion and the federal spending by up to an additional $952 billion over the course of 2013-2022. That potentially results in an additional $1,029 billion spent on the Medicaid expansion, which would round out the 2013-2022 decade’s total Medicaid spending to $7,368 billion. 

Contrary to popular perceptions that playing video games causes psychological and emotional problems in children, a study of 5-year-olds in the United Kingdom found no correlation between electronic gaming and behavioral issues. Good. A pre-testosterone study on aggression.

Robert Bolger, in his review of  God in Proof by Nathan Schneider, summarizes the philosophy of proofs presented in God in Proof by turning Einstein's famous saying that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” to  "one may say that religious proofs without a religious life are lame, a religious life without religious proofs is, well, still a religious life." The judge-less postmodern world allows for a lot.

ex·i·gen·cy  n. pl.ex·i·gen·cies; The state or quality of requiring much effort or immediate action;  A pressing or urgent situation. Crisis; Urgent requirements; pressing needs. Often used in the plural. ety: 1580s, from M.Fr. exigence, from L.L. exigentia "urgency," from L. exigentem (nom. exigens), from exigere "to demand" (see "exact").

Lake Baikal in southern Siberia is the deepest freshwater lake on Earth, reaching as far down as 5,387 feet (1,642 meters). With a surface area of 12,248 square miles (31,722 square kilometers) it is also, by volume, the world’s biggest freshwater lake. 20 percent of the planet’s unfrozen fresh water – and 90 percent of Russia’s – is to be found in Lake Baikal. If all the other water on Earth dried up, there would still be enough in Baikal for all of us to drink for half a century. At 25 million years old, it is also the world’s most ancient lake.
In excess of 330 rivers and other tributaries flow into the lake, although it is drained by only one, the Angara River.

Who was....Ellen Rometsch?

A Canadian study of ethnic groups in Toronto concluded that people of Japanese ancestry in that city were the most "privileged" group there, because they had the highest average income. These are the same people interned in Canadian camps during the Second World War and they are now "privileged" because we now think that that is a synonym for "success." Grotesque.
The proportion of slaves seldom dropped below 30 per cent of the population in early states, reaching 50 per cent in early South-East Asia and, in Athens and Sparta, as much as 70 and 86 per cent. What agrarian states needed above all else was manpower to cultivate their fields, build their monuments, man their armies and bear and raise their children.
243 million of the 320 million Americans live in 3 percent of the country's land.

Matthew D. Lieberman has a book out touting the "default network," the area of thinking our brains go when not otherwise engaged. This network is the social network, our relationship with others. And it sounds like more of a cause of our interest than an effect: Even newborns, who have no real input to react to, have a very high activity the the "default network" area of the brain.

The creating and breaking of habits is a provocative field and studies give some warning: It appears that self-control is extremely energy demanding and, over a day, is finite. You can run out of it over the time of the day.

When Reagan was running for reelection he had done poorly in a debate. Some questions began to be raised about his fitness for office; he was 73 and would be the oldest elected president if reelected. In the next debate, the moderator asked him if age was a concern in the election. Reagan replied, 'I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.' Mondale, not exactly a spring chicken at fifty-six, later commented that he knew at that very mo­ment he had lost the campaign.

Stratasys’ RedEye 3-D printing factory in Eden Prairie has built a car body with a 3-D printer. Computers read the design software and “printed” each car part layer by layer. A plastic bumper was born, then a hood and so on. While 3-D printing has long been used to make gears, grilles, tools, parts and prototypes for other manufacturers, it had never been used to build the entire body of a car.
Traditional prototyping takes years of altering designs, tooling and materials. With 3-D printing, designers can tweak details on a computer and click the Print icon.

Half of the roughly 250 Australian languages are extinct, one third of the hundreds of Native American languages spoken in 1492 have disappeared and another third are unlikely to survive another generation.

The wisdom of Charlie Munger:  "The best way to get what you want in life is to deserve what you want. "

AAAAAAnnnnnnnddddd.....a picture of the sunrise at Lake Baikal
Sunrise over Lake Baikal

Friday, November 29, 2013


A fire starts in a house kitchen.
The owner of the house calls 911.
The 911 operator puts the caller on hold and goes on break.
There is no response to the fire and the house burns to the ground.
CBS does a big story on a neighbor's attempt to rescue a kitten from the burning porch only to find out later that, during the fire, the neighbor was vacationing 1000 miles away in Florida.
CBS is mortified.
Does this make any sense? Isn't there a bigger, more important story here?
(News report: CBS News correspondent Lara Logan and producer Max McClellan will take leave of absence from the network in the wake of a flawed “60 Minutes” report on last year’s attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
The suspension was a result of CBS News’internal review of the Oct. 27 segment about Benghazi, which the network found to be lacking in its efforts to substantiate the assertions of a key source, security officer Dylan Davies, a guy with a book to sell. The review was disclosed in an internal memo from CBS News chairman Jeff Fager issued Tuesday.
The “60 Minutes” Benghazi controversy has spiraled during the past month into a major black eye for CBS News.)
Does this make any sense?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a tricky word. It means gratitude but it implies more than something to be grateful for, it implies something to be grateful to.

In the fall of 1621 the Plymouth settlers had a celebratory meal with a local Indian tribe as part of a traditional English harvest festival. There are two accounts; no mention is made of a Day of Thanksgiving but they were probably happy; since their arrival they had a 50% mortality. It lasted three days. A Day of Thanksgiving, a day the English would have considered religious, was first held in the new land in 1623 following a needed rainfall. Various days of thanksgiving were celebrated by the country over the years, the first in commemoration of the end of the Revolution by Washington. In 1863, in the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln formally made Thanksgiving an annual event.

It is interesting to see these two men, Washington suspicious of organized religion and Lincoln harder to read, celebrating an official Thanksgiving, but both seem heartfelt, Lincoln's surprisingly so. Washington's is almost a mirror of the mindset of the time. The two proclamations are below.

The Thanksgiving Proclamation
New York, 3 October 1789

By the President of the United States of America: a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor--and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me `to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.'

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be -- That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks -- for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed--for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted -- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions--to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually -- to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed--to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn [sic] kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord -- To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease [sic] of science among them and us -- and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day October 3, 1863

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence [sic], have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.

Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Cab Thoughts 11/27/13

“The Scots in general tend to be more intellectual than the English. Or better said, the English are usually not intellectual and almost all the Scots are.” --Borges, speaking about Carlyle's history.

In 1350, as Boccaccio was writing the Decameron, he met Petrarch, who at that time was the most famous writer in Italy and the foremost Italian representative of Renaissance humanism, the return to ancient values and ancient literature that in some measure unleashed the High Renaissance. Under Petrarch’s influence, Boccaccio became ashamed of the Decameron.

About 40% of those in the U.S. illegally came on visas they overstayed.

Two Belgian professors decided to run bacteriology and toxicology tests on the 10 most popular books in the Antwerp library. The results? All 10 had traces of cocaine, but only Fifty Shades of Grey tested positive for traces of the herpes virus.

An interesting study on the disparity of medical care realities. A study by Susan Diem and others of how CPR is portrayed on TV found that it was successful in 75% of the cases and that 67% of the TV patients went home. In reality, a 2010 study of more than 95,000 cases of CPR found that only 8% of patients survived for more than one month. Of these, only about 3% could lead a mostly normal life.

Who is....Inspector Clouseau?

The mystery novelist Martin Cruz Smith revealed that he has Parkinson's disease in a video on The New York Times website. He said he was diagnosed in 1995 but kept it secret. "I didn't want to be judged by that," he said. "Either I'm a good writer or I'm not. 'He's our pre-eminent Parkinson's writer.' Who needs that?"

On the difference between Li battery and NiMH:
Erik Spek, Chief Engineer at TÜV SÜD Canada: "With lithium-ion, there is a built-in fire triangle that we’re trying to overcome, and NiMH doesn’t have all three legs – fuel, heat, and oxygen. Lithium-ion has the fuel from the electrolyte (typically ethylene or propylene carbonate fluids that can be quite flammable), heat can be generated by a short circuit or other thermal event, and oxygen can be generated inside the cell, and is obviously present outside as well. You don’t have the fuel component in NiMH until much higher temperatures are achieved (the electrolyte is water based and does not act as a fuel). That’s the basic difference."

According to CBS News White House reporter Mark Knoller, the Cabinet met nineteen times in Obama’s first term.

harry: verb tr., intr.: 1. To harass, attack, or annoy, especially repeatedly. 2. To raid or pillage.
ETYMOLOGY: From Old English hergian. Ultimately from the Indo-European root koro- (war, host, army) which also gave us harbor, harbinger, herald, harness, hurry, and harangue. Earliest documented use: 1330.

In 1967, the Beatles released a collection of songs in an album entitled Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band — which would go on to be voted the number-one album of all time by Rolling Stone magazine (a position it retains to this day); The Rolling Stones released two albums, Between the Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request; Jimi Hendrix did Are You Experienced?; and The Doors unveiled their debut album. The number-one, top-selling album of 1967 was:...........More of The Monkees.

The cap for the Penguins is at $64.3 million. So, were they healthy, the Penguins would have committed about 85.2 percent of their cap space to 12 players. Even now, they have 10 players taking up about 76.8 percent of their space. And what is sacrificed? Depth.


Jonathon Gruber, one of the ACA designers:
"The only way to end that discriminatory system is to bring everyone into the system and pay one fair price. That means that the genetic winners, the lottery winners who've been paying an artificially low price because of this discrimination now will have to pay more in return." So they are going to tax the genetic winners. That's a real improvement. Years ago these guys used to kill or sterilize the genetic lottery losers.

Ethanol: Historically, the overwhelmingly majority of corn in the United States has been turned into livestock feed. Department of Agriculture data show that, this year, 43 percent of corn went to fuel and 45 percent went to livestock feed. The more corn that goes to ethanol, the more that needs to be planted to meet other demands. Using government satellite data — the best tool available — the AP identified a conservative estimate of 1.2 million acres of virgin land in Nebraska and the Dakotas alone that have been converted to fields of corn and soybeans since 2006, the last year before the ethanol mandate was passed. Before the government ethanol mandate, the Conservation Reserve Program grew every year for nearly a decade. In the first year after the ethanol mandate, more than 2 million acres set aside disappeared. Billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.

The Administration believes supporting corn ethanol is the best way to encourage the development of biofuels that will someday be cleaner and greener than today's. As a way to reduce global warming, they knew corn ethanol was a dubious proposition. Corn demands fertilizer, which is made using natural gas. What's worse, ethanol factories typically burn coal or gas, both of which release carbon dioxide. (From a Yahoo News article)
We are wrecking the land and water for an uneconomical fuel to pave the way for a technology that no one uses and does not exist.

There have been a total of 72 crashes involving Boeing 737 out of over 175 million flights. This statistic makes the Boeing 737 one of the safest planes ever made.

A take on changes in startup funding: "The cost of developing innovative technologies has dropped exponentially. What used to take millions of dollars of venture capital can now be done for tens of thousands of dollars very often, and you can solve big problems," says startup guru Vivek Wadhwa.

Counterfeiting coins is not a plan to get rich--how many bad dimes is enough?--but counterfeiting some coins is worth it, like a fake masterpiece painting. For example, the 1933 double eagle $20 coin can be worth millions to the right collector. A forger known only as “The Omega Man” has been known to produce near exact replicas of this coin. The coins are indistinguishable—except for a single mark; the Omega Man actually intentionally adds a trademark to the coin, a tiny omega symbol, visible only under a microscope. Flair? Pride? Arrogance? Without the mark, even coin experts can’t tell the difference.
These coins are becoming valuable in themselves.

Dr. Jeff Brenner in Camden, New Jersey was recently awarded one of this year's MacArthur Foundation grants, informally known as the “genius grants.” He found that 1% of the patients in Camden were responsible for 30% of hospitalization costs. By some estimates, 5 percent of patients account for more than 60 percent of all healthcare costs.

Golden oldie:

George Gilder writes: "Whether fueled by debt or seized by taxation, government spending in economic “stimulus” packages necessarily substitutes state power for knowledge and thus destroys information and slows economic growth." He believes there must be a reordering of the global economy and the only thing nimble enough to do this is capitalism, which embraces creative destruction.

AAAAAnnnnnddddd....Reminescent of Kennedy: a picture of Lord Byron, the man intertwined with the myth, who, according to Stott, "would be gazed at wonderingly, a freakish magnificence, as soon as he entered a room. Lady Liddell, panicking, yelled to her daughter, 'Don't look at him, he is dangerous to look at.'"

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Kennedy Legacy

Jack Kennedy will always be a controversial guy but he had a number of distinctive qualities about his presidency. Through the Bay of Pigs and Vietnam one can see he was aggressive militarily, a distinctive anti-communist,with a confidence in America's duty to influence international developments. He initiated the space program, an audacious decision that he hoped would define the exceptional qualities he saw in the nation. More, he thought the nation capable of this staggering ambition. He cut taxes to promote growth and the increased revenue for the government such growth would yield. And he was a man who was willing to expose his personal, religious beliefs: He was pro-life.

JFK: Tea Party Ancestor.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Conspiratorial Times

Brad Meltzer, is a prolific fiction writer with a new book called "History Decoded," a book on famous mysteries, each section with a goofy pocket with copies of your own personal evidence. He has been on a book tour, of course, and had some interesting things to say about conspiracy theories, using the Kennedy assassination as an example.

He feels that the conspiracies changed with the times. During the '60's, with the background of the Cold War, Bay of Pigs and the Cuban missile crisis the suspects were the communists, Russian and Cuban. During the '70's and the Watergate period the villains were the government itself. In the '80's the Godfather and the Mafia dominated the news and the assassination conspiracies. The conspirators always mirrored the social villain du jour, the feared group of the time.

It is an interesting thesis. If true, expect a closer look into the Bobby Kennedy killing.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Sermon 11/24/13

As so often occurs, someone rummaging through old papers found a treasure: Hitherto unknown writings by Flannery O'Conner, the American author. Not a journal or workbook, it can only described as a prayerbook, a personal Book of Hours.

One could only imagine what the personal prayers of an American Southern Gothic writer might be. Her creative style is dramatic and brutal. The southern farms and small towns where her dramas play out are more like rugged seascapes with terror--and purification--swimming below, waiting. As a young woman in school she aspired to be a cartoonist (a collection was published a few years ago) and she carried the exaggerated stylized cartoonist vision into her writing. How, you might wonder, did such a mind pray?

Surprisingly simply. Her prayers are remarkably tender, yearning and plaintive. There is some irony--not everyone is strong enough to joke with God--but the writing is always personal. And hopeful. Some might be attributed to youth but that is a difficult qualification for a genius who died at 39. This hard intense talent, with her hard intense vision of active evil and corruption, is surprisingly soft and yielding.

This disparity makes her writing all the more impressive. But perhaps that is the point. The wonderful British critic, V. S. Pritchett, said of her, "for her, the role of the diabolic is to destroy pride as a misconceived virtue." Perhaps simplicity is the starting point and the endpoint.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cab Thoughts 11/23/13

In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. --Michael Crichton

Dodd-Frank has 400 regulations; 77 have been enacted. It is estimated that 58 million man hours have been spent to comply with a cost/benefit of 376/1. The cost is estimated at 15.4 billion dollars this year.

Lamarck is famous in science for proposing a clever, wrong idea: the inheritance of acquired characteristics. A giraffe gets a longer neck, this is passed on to his progeny. But Darwin explains that the longer necked giraffe survives preferentially, therefor his long-necked progeny survive. Now there is some suggestion that some acquired phenotypic changes can be passed to a child. One is obesity in the father. Most neo-Darwinians consider such inheritance mechanisms to be little more than a specialized form of phenotypic "plasticity," with no potential to introduce evolutionary novelty into a species lineage. But it does appear as if immunological advantage acquired during life can be passed to a child.

Cleveland Clinic has cut 330 million dollars out of its budget. And the Federal Reserve is beginning to lengthen its debt maturities. What do you suppose these tidbits mean?

Car pooling has dropped from a high of 20% to 10%. 5% of people take public transportation.

Some interesting things about this word, "conspiracy" (plural conspiracies): The act of two or more persons, called conspirators, working secretly to obtain some goal, usually understood with negative connotations; (law) An agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future; A group of ravens.
From late 14c., from Old French conspirer (14c.), from Latin conspirare "to agree, unite, plot," literally "to breathe together," from com- "together" (see com-) + spirare "to breathe" (see spirit (n.)). Or perhaps the notion is "to blow together" musical instruments, i.e., "To sound in unison."

A newly released report finds that a number of American writers avoid or are considering avoiding controversial topics for fear of government surveillance.

94% of Chinese workers hate their jobs. Economic success does not always come with equal portions of contentment. But only a portion of citizens are working at all so they have a greater tolerance one would think.

Why do we have the right to make demands on Iran's way of developing energy--or even military--products? It seems to be assumed that our restrictions are reasonable. Could we make the same demands on France? We made similar demands on North Korea and they ignored them without a response. Will we be as measured with Iran? If we have the right to make these demands on other nations, can we make the same demands regarding a country's carbon output?

89% of on-line gamblers lose money.

Historically, college educated women had the lowest marriage rate, now they have the highest. This is in the U.S., not Pakistan where Malala Yousafzai's book, I Am Malala, has been banned "because it carries the content which is against our country's ideology and Islamic values," the chairman of All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, Kashif Mirza said. The group represents 40,000 private schools across the country. Yousafzai drew international attention to Pakistan's educational system after the Taliban shot her in the head last year for advocating education rights for women.

Golden oldies:

43% of 108 million people on welfare are not destitute, they have chosen to go on welfare because the benefits work out to about $15/hr and compete successfully with their regular job wages. They left the private world for a governmental support they felt was more lucrative and more safe. With all the financial pressures on government programs, why do they feel government programs more safe?

Who were....Pampinea, Filomena, Neifile, Fiammetta, Elissa, Lauretta, and Emilia?

The recent Kenneth Branagh "Macbeth" screening looked like a retiree convention. It is unlikely anyone there was under 50. There is probably not another great play in English so hostile to a short attention span. Maybe "Duchess of Malfi."

Loose money, i.e. quantitative easing, creates things. Money is available for things. The business community has decided they will not invest the money but instead buy back stock. $1.2 trillion, TRILLION, dollars have been used for buyback stock purchases. Why did they do that rather than invest the money in retooling and expansion? The government is furious that the loose money did not result in increased jobs. But the companies decided their own stock was the best investment they could make.

A 35 year old female employee was killed this weekend by a wildcat at an Oregon animal sanctuary, The WildCat Haven, home to more than 60 neglected, abandoned, and abused wildcats born into captivity. Among the types of cats housed there are tigers, bobcats, cougars, and lynx. In February, a 24-year-old Washington state woman interning at a California wild cat park was killed by a lion while she was cleaning the cage.

The 2013 deficit was $680 billion, or 4.1% of GDP, down from nearly $1.1 trillion and 6.8% of GDP a year earlier. In five years President Obama has borrowed roughly $5.7 trillion, which is more than the entire gross federal debt as recently as the year 2000. Debt held by the public as a share of GDP has nearly doubled in those five years to 76% from 40% in 2008.

AAAAAnnnnndddddd....a chart, an important one implying relentless growth in the U.S.. A question to ask is, why does the '22-'21 recession look so much worse than the Great Depression? Another way, why was the Great Depression so bad when the earlier one looks so much more severe, but wasn't?:
Chart of the Day

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kennedy and JFK

The Thanksgiving holiday, one of the best holidays and certainly the best secular one, has been spoiled for everyone who was awake and thinking in the mid 60's by the assassination of Jack Kennedy. That promising shift from the generation of Eisenhower to its sons, to youth and its potential, to the charismatic and the virile was just stopped cold by Oswald in Dallas. We defaulted back to the older, ponderous Lyndon Johnson, a true guardian of the Old Guard. That loss--of youth, of hope, of promise, of beauty--has never been overcome and we are reminded of it every Thanksgiving. One only wonders how much of the unrest in the 60's and 70's was a result.

An aspect of the assassination that has dogged its shadow has been the shameless exploitation of the atrocity by writers, politicians and artists. This exploitation, which has become almost a cult, believes--or says it believes--that the assassination was a conspiracy of a number of men, groups or organizations. Every aspect of the event has been picked over, every inconsistency of life magnified, every possibility made a probability. The result is that the event, right before many of our eyes, has been completely recreated and, like an alternative universe, continues without interference with its own laws, experts and history. It is very like those academic musings run wild. "If, instead, you assume that history and archeology was 300 years wrong--or falsified--and Moses was actually alive in the court of Akhenaton...." "If, instead, you assume there is a unexplained and unexplainable driving force in history..." "If, instead, you assume that everyone is possessed at birth by sexual urges towards their immediate family...." It is another victory of the Art of the Plausible.

This is nowhere more revolting than is seen in the movie "JFK" where a seemingly respectable director rewrites the assassination story according to a man whose grasp on the event is dangerously close to psychosis. Oliver Stone writes a story of the assassination through the eyes and the belief set of James Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans, who had arrested, charged, indicted and tried a local community figure, Clay Shaw, for involvement in the Kennedy murder. Shaw's arrest was virtually random. There was no evidence against him other than the word of a psychiatric patient who failed a lie detector test and refused to testify. How an American citizen could come under such unreasonable, whimsical charges has never been explained. But Garrison persisted and then Stone followed up after the laughable trial (where the jury took longer to find their seats than to find "not guilty") with a movie inexplicably presenting the Garrison thesis as within the same time zone as reason. Of course, all the facts of the assassination were changed to implicate the innocent, the shooting presented was almost a complete fiction and this all was delivered by Kevin Costner, a credible actor, with certainty and outrage. Anyone who knew anything about the assassination walked from the theater with their collective heads spinning. But many with less of a good grasp left alarmed and resentful. This constant barrage of misinformation has done a lot to undermine this country's credibility and value in the minds of its people who, after all, own and run it.

There are two bad lessons here. The first is there are people and industries in the world who, even in those cultures with the highest of ideals, will do anything, say anything, publish anything to make a buck. If possible they will take the Plausible-made-Art and create an industry of it with historians, academics, and franchises. The second is that they often hide their entrepreneurship in the gowns of Art. How many of our greatest artists have questioned the reliability of memory, the interaction of history and art--even to the point of their blending? So Stone calls Julian Barnes and Cormac McCarthy as witnesses for his defense.

Stone is more Goebbels than John Huston here. He is everything that is wrong with businessmen gone rogue. His product is harmful to the society, toxic to the young and delivered without an ounce of social conscience. The real story about Garrison is how is it possible that Clay Shaw could be treated like a Kafka character in the United States. Another would be a clarifying and cleansing explanation of all the facts and evidence that has been gathered over the years about the murder. This might set the country at ease. But there's probably not much money, or return on arrogance, in this. Instead why not take advantage of the distressed and confused citizens, contribute to their malaise and cash in.

In 1976 the U.S. House of representatives created a commission, The House Select Commission on Assassinations, to investigate all the evidence in the murder again. This time they applied all the newer technologies available as well. Aside from the single and erroneous "fourth bullet thesis" not a single new conclusion was reached. Instead this august deliberative body concluded there was no evidence of a conspiracy--but they believed one existed anyway.
(a golden oldie)

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kennedy #2

An industry has arisen to continue the mythology.
Oswald was not capable of such violence; he could not have made the shots in the time allotted; the rifle was inferior and the scope was misaligned; he had an alibi; there is no record of his interrogation by the Dallas police; he was an imposter from Russia; the "Oswald" in Mexico City was an imposter;  his pictures holding the rifle with the pistol and the two Communist newspapers are fakes; he travelled with Cuban revolutionaries; the rifle found on the depository sixth floor was a Mauser, not Oswald's Italian infantry rifle Model 1891/1938; the third shot--the head shot--came from the front; a second shooter was seen on the "grassy knoll;" the Dallas doctors disagreed with the Bethesda pathologists; three tramps in a box car in Dallas were likely CIA and were probably involve--one even looked like Woody Harrelson's father; Tippit's murderer was unidentified; the bullets that killed Tippit did not match Oswald's pistol; many involved have died suspiciously; the Mafia did it because of their annimosity to Bobby Kennedy; the CIA did it because of their fear of a Kennedy retaliation over the Bay of Pigs invasion; the Garrison argument implicating Clay Shaw (on the evidence of a psychotic who failed a lie detector test); Castro did it in self defense; the JFK movie by Stone (see Garrison); the Navy pathologist burnt his notes; the Dallas FBI burnt a note Oswald left for them before the murder; Marina Oswald burnt photographs of Lee holding the rifle, Ruby killed Tippit, Tippit was meeting Oswald and was involved, .....on and on.

The democracy is hard at work here. Many of these notions come from average and concerned people, volunteers working far afield. Some are lawyers. Few are experts in the area they are focused on in the murder. One writer on the Zapruder film and what it reveals about the number of bullets and their timing is a  Kierkegaard lecturer from Haverford. Some of these objections are just nuts, some are true but, of those that are true, none would change anything.

What is certain is this:
1. Oswald bought the murder weapon from a mail order house using an alias he always used and had  the false ID in his wallet at his arrest. Oswald posed with the rifle holding communist newspapers; his wife took the picture. Marina saw the rifle many times and knew where it was kept.
2. Before going to shoot Gen. Walker, a right-wing John Birch Society member, Oswald wrote a detailed letter to Marina explaining what he was going to do and what she should do if he were killed or did not come back.
3. He shot at Walker and the window slat diverted the bullet. He then fled the state for New Orleans.
4. The day of the murder he left his wedding ring in a glass by his wife's bed, then carried the gun to the depository wrapped in paper (later found at the shooting site) in a car driven by a fellow worker.
5. He was seen and described by a witness as he pushed the gun out of the window and the muzzle fire of 3 shots were seen.
6. Men at the window' one floor down and directly below the sniper's nest on the sixth floor of the depository, heard the gunfire above, heard the bolt action and heard the casings hit the floor.
7. Oswald was seen in the depository after the shooting; he left the building and took a bus, then a cab, to his rooming house where he got his pistol.
8. Officer Tippit was a well regarded, simple guy and a solid citizen. At least ten people saw him murdered by Oswald and all identified him. Three bullets hit him in the chest. Oswald stepped away, then returned several steps to put a bullet in Officer Tippitt's temple as he lay on the ground.
9. Ruby killed Oswald but his motives are obscure. It may not even have been planned. All acquaintences said he was distraught over Kennedy's death and the possibility that Jackie, whom he adored, would have to return to Dallas to go through a trial with Oswald. (The only press interview he ever gave was to Dorothy Kilgallen. Kilgallen!)

Any theory about the killing has to include and accept these facts.

Now a conspiracy. Jack Childs was a spy/raconteur who knew Castro. He says Castro told him that when Oswald realized the Cubans would not grant him a visa when he was in Mexico City he screamed with defiant bravado, "I'm going to kill Kennedy!" This was confirmed by the spy Rodriques Lahera in a debriefing with Harold Swenson. In November 1963, the Cuban intelligence officer in charge of monitoring possible CIA/exile activity against Cuba, Florintino Aspillaga, was told by Castro to abandon his usual sweeps and focus all his listening devices on the Dallas area.

So.....? The specifics of the assassination are beyond debate. Oswald, a defector to Russia, a communist disillusioned with the Russian system but enamored with the Cuban one, murdered President Kennedy. The only question is whether someone or some group influenced Oswald's decision. Castro may not have been involved. But it sounds as if he was not surprised.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kennedy #1

This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, a significant moment for me and for many. Yet the event, so terrible and intense, so researched and analyzed, has developed almost as its own entity, its own beast, as it matures along paths of manipulation, overt deception and least resistance.
First, the reaction. Mrs. Kennedy's quote here is significant: "He didn't even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights . . . . It's — it had to be some silly little Communist."  
This may not have set the tone for the management of the murder in history but it certainly was representative of it. The general reaction to the murder was completely divorced from what happened. Chief Justice Earl Warren ascribed Kennedy's "martyrdom" to "the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots." Drew Pearson wrote that Kennedy was a victim of "hate drive."A Soviet spokesman assigned "moral responsibility" for Kennedy's death to "Barry Goldwater and other extremists on the right." The NYT encouraged us all to take blame for  "the shame all America must bear for the spirit of madness and hate that struck down" the President. James Reston's article the day after the shooting--on the first page--was headlined ""Why America Weeps: Kennedy a Victim of Violent Streak He Sought to Curb in Nation." Senator Mike Mansfield eulogized the President as a victim of "bigotry, prejudice and hatred."  In Arthur Schlesinger Jr. one thousand page history of the thousand day Kennedy presidency the assassin is not even mentioned. The Manhattan Institute's James Piereson, in his 2007 book "Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism," writes that the country's illness that led to the assassination required a curative "punitive liberalism." A new book, Dallas "1963", says Dallas did it through a "climate of hatred" created by right-wing businessmen, religious leaders and media moguls. And an updated take by Alex Beam in a Boston Globe article: "Kennedy brought low by some redneck."
This is not simply a need to turn away and shield our eyes; there is plenty of stomach for Zapruder films and autopsy shots. This is much worse, an inability to see things as they are. It is simply not possible for the Left to accept the idea that Kennedy was murdered by a Marxist. And this refusal will lead to any number of creative narratives, consistent or not, to shift the blame from Oswald and towards a more acceptable villain. More, it is an unwillingness to see the modern world and its potential where a man of great standing and regard can be brought down by a fool. It is the egalitarian nightmare.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Information, Transparency and Kennedy

"There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is." So said Edward Snowden professing his faith in the god of transparency, sort of. Apparently transparency--even for Snowden--is not always right.

A number of years ago a cynical graffito read "Revolution is the opiate of the intellectual." This is an unsettling notion, that all progress, all efforts at change, whether intentional or accidental, are placebos. So the Clinton health plan, now the Obama plan, was originally designed to control costs in health care but now is sold as an expansion of coverage. All federal studies on guns have shown a random association with violence but we try to outlaw them anyway to decrease violence. We raise our budget commitment to education without any proof money helps. We trumpet equality without any consideration for its declared antagonist, liberty. And now transparency.

The levers of government certainly should be in plain sight. But should all the government acts be scrutinized? Indeed, do they have any such intention? Or is this banner just another placebo?

In the last generations many examples might jump to mind that highlight the question of transparently but the argument can be made that the assassination of JFK is a virtual embodiment of the question. Libraries of information have been generated over the event. And rumor and conspiracy love disconnected information.
And remember, even now, 50 years later, thousands of pages of investigative documents remain withheld from public view. And this lack of transparency, coupled with intended and unintended deception, have fed into a culture of suspicion, cynicism and general disbelief. Rumor and conspiracy love a vacuum.

This blog will raise some of these questions in the next days on this, the 50th anniversary of the murder.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Placebos For the Very, Very Smart

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland has announced that they have found something consistent with the Higgs boson. Parties will be held. Nobel Prizes will be won. A NYT article talks about some anxiety over the potential of this particle; if it becomes unstable and drops its energy level, the energy released would obliterate the universe.

That's worrisome in a vague, theoretical way but there are more practical concerns. The LHC uses 1% of all of Europe's computing power. The UK spends 75 million dollars for their part of the "subscription" to keep the LHC running. Over 100 million dollars has been spent on the project over the last 20 years. Quo vadas?

The unified theory, the Standard Model, states that all hadrons, including the proton and the neutron, are made up of three sub-particles known as quarks. Quarks are held together by what is called the "color force." That force is carried by the "gluon" (as in glue.) So the building blocks of the hadrons, the quarks, are held together by the color force mediated by gluons, the color field's "gauge boson." (The gauge boson--the mediator of energy--in a electromagnetic field is the photon.) The color force also holds protons and neutrons together in the atomic nucleus. The color force that was broken when the protons and neutron were separated in the bomb at Hiroshima is quite weak compared to the strength of the color force among the quarks. Unlike most forces, the color force increases as the distance between the color charges increases. Like a spring. To separate a single quark from its proton would take energy the strength of the sun's.

So that is not gonna happen. We are never going to see a quark. Nor will we see evidence of the color force--we hope. In a way this sounds a bit like string theory or multiple universes, mathematical constructs that explain complex and obscure scientific findings but will never, ever, be verified in the physical world.

Like angels on pinheads--from days gone by.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Sermon 11/17/13

Today's gospel is curious as it proclaims a prophesy already fulfilled. Christ talks about the Temple not having one stone upon another, about a time of persecuting Christians, about a new order. But Luke, Paul's "beloved physician," was writing--most believe--in 70 A.D.. That is after the persecutions in Rome began, after the destruction of the Temple. This surely would not have impressed anyone; any biographer could put words into a prophet's mouth after the fact. But the prophesy is not the point, it is the advice on how to live that follows. Christ urges "patience." Fortitude. Desolation comes (and goes) but "patience" implies confidence in a structure, a continuity in life. "In your patience you will possess your souls."

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cab Thoughts 11/16/13

“As the saying goes, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Community organizers like Huerta don’t teach anyone how to fish: they teach activists how to steal their neighbors’ fish. This is what Huerta and her ilk call social justice.” --Matthew Vadum

Neanderthals dominated Europe for some 200,000 years until modern humans began moving into the region about 45,000 years ago. The two human species likely shared space for a while. A number of novels have been written about this interface (Auel the most famous).
Archaeological evidence had placed the last known Neanderthal refuges on the Iberian Peninsula, home to current-day Spain, Portugal, and Gibraltar. But now hundreds of stone tools have been found at Byzovaya—a Russian site at the same latitude as Iceland, pretty far north for Neanderthals. The Byzovaya tools match those made and used by many Neanderthals, a signature tool kit of scrapers and flakes created by banging rocks together—what's called Mousterian technology. Tools, but nothing else.

Dale Carnegie of "How to Win Friends and Influence People" fame has had a resurgence and a new bio of him has been written. His emphasis on people skills, interaction with a smile and the need to be interested in the other guy's concerns has made him a staple in the business community. President Lyndon Johnson was a Carnegie method instructor in his youth in Texas. Talk about a success.

Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s "The Pike," a biography of Gabriele d’Annunzio, has won the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. Hughes-Hallett had a lot of serious competition but Sarah Crompton writes: "Her achievement is all the more astonishing since d’Annunzio, who lived from 1863 to 1938, is repellent in almost every way."

As we continue to focus in on the periphery of important questions, should water boarding use only recycled water?

A new European Joint Research Centre (JRC) study looking into the supply of raw materials for the manufacture of low-carbon energy technologies found that eight metals were at high risk of shortages. The technologies of particular concern as a result are electric vehicles, wind and solar energy, and lighting. The risk arises from EU dependency on imports, growing demand worldwide and geopolitical reasons. Dysprosium was identified as being the most at risk, as the EU is expected to require 25% of the expected world supply in 2020-2030 to meet the Union’s demand for hybrid and electric vehicles and wind turbines.
Good news! Scientists say that when the earth warms, mammals get smaller and snakes get larger.
Water, like most liquids, becomes denser as it cools. But unlike other liquids, it reaches a state of maximum density at 4°C. Then becomes less dense before it freezes. In solid form, it is less dense still. That is why standard ice floats on water. If ice were denser than water, lakes and oceans would freeze from the bottom up, probably preventing the kind of chemistry that makes life possible.

Trucking accounts for 75% of transport sector fuel consumption while sea, air and rail share the other 25%.

Golden oldies:

According to the International Lead Zinc Study Group (ILZSG), global demand for lead is expected to increase 5 percent in 2013 and an additional 4.6 percent in 2014. Demand for lead in the U.S. is expected to increase by 7.6 percent in 2013, bolstered by both original equipment purchases of new vehicles and replacement purchases of lead-acid batteries. Battery storage is by far the largest use of lead in the U.S.; the second is ammunition. In spite of our rising demands--and needs--the EPA has just shut down the last American lead smelter, the Doe Run Company smelter in Herculaneum, Missouri. This will not decrease the amount of lead smelted, only where it will be done and what workers will do it.

Who is....Hannibal Hamlin?

A peer-reviewed paper that recently appeared in the journal Climate Dynamics by Judith Curry, head of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Marcia Wyatt, from the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder raises questions about the validity of the current global warming models. "The growing divergence between climate model simulations and observations raises the prospect that climate models are inadequate in fundamental ways," says Curry. Models are usually little more than extrapolation of inadequate data based on an unproven--often improvable--hypothesis. And "making the best of it" is not a scientific proposition.

Nearly 100 U.K. publishers folded last year.

"Welsh" comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for "foreign" as the Saxons invading England pushed the resisting Celtic tribes in the 5th and 6th Century to the periphery. Computer analysis of the English language as spoken today shows that the one hundred most frequently used words are all of Anglo-Saxon origin which became Old English. Winston Churchill's famous speech in 1940 went: "We shall fight on the beaches; we shall fight on the landing grounds; we shall fight in the fields and the streets; we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender." All these words came from Old English as spoken in the year 1000, with the exception of the last one, surrender, which, of course, is French.

40+% of all federal entitlements goes to black Americans – 3X the rate that go to whites, 5X the rate that go to Hispanics.

Amazon is asking independent bookstores to sell Kindles in exchange for 10 percent of the revenue from ebooks bought on the devices for two years. But the offer, under a program called Amazon Source, has been met with widespread derision. Suzanna Hermans, president of the New England Independent Booksellers Association and one of the owners of Oblong Books & Music, tells Publisher's Weekly, "If Amazon thinks indie bookstores will become agents for the Kindle, they are sorely mistaken," adding that "there is no way I will promote Amazon products in my stores after the havoc they have wreaked on our industry as a whole."

Consumer credit rose more than expected in September but credit card usage fell for a fourth straight month. Credit card use is usually measured in revolving credit, commercial spending. But that is not where the loans went. They went to non-revolving credit. Non-revolving credit, which includes auto loans as well as student loans made by the government, increased $15.80 billion in September, the Fed data showed. That followed a $15.04 billion increase in August. We are buying less but increasing our debt in car and education loans.

Presidential candidates who received less than 50 percent of the vote have won 18 presidential elections. Lincoln won his first presidency with only 39.8 percent of the popular votes cast -- the smallest percentage ever recorded. The remaining 60.2 percent was split among three other candidates: the Democrat Stephen A. Douglas (29 percent), and two third party candidates John C. Breckenridge (18 percent), and John Bell (13 per­cent). In 1992, Clinton won 43 percent of the popular vote to Bush’s 37.4; the protest Perot vote gave Clinton the election. What Perot's motives were are still obscure.

Natural Gas for trucks: LNG pricing is more expensive than CNG: typically $2.50-3.00/gal as compared to $1.50-2.00/gal. Thus, everything else being equal, the payback period for LNG is longer. And there is no escaping the fact that the payback period is often on par with the asset life of the trucks. Heavy-duty trucks operate only 3 to 4 years, a two-year payback period means that LNG can be close to a “wash” as compared to conventional diesel.

AAAAAAAnnnnnndddddd.......a graph:
Chart of the Day

Friday, November 15, 2013

All Atwitter

Twitter has gone public. That is to say, a number of Twitter shares owned by founders and early financial supporters--70 million or about ten percent of total shares--have been privately sold to clients of the underwriter, Goldman Sacks, at a fixed, pre-arranged price of $26 per share and then those shares were sold to the public in the public market for $45 per share. Goldman was paid $22 million to put this all together---and were given the right to buy 10 million Twitter shares at $26 per share and sell them the next day for $45.

So the founders of this revolutionary company, following Goldman's expert advice on the inherent value of their shares, agree to sell 70 million shares of their company to Goldman's clients--and 10 million more to Goldman itself--for $26 a share. The Goldman clients--and Goldman--then move their shares to the public exchange and sell them to the public for $46.
Goldman's clients do well, Goldman does well, but the company's founders sell their shares at $26 (at Goldman's expert $22 million suggestion), $20 less than valued by the public market when they are available.

Does this sound reasonable?

And how does Goldman get to represent both buyers and sellers--and themselves in the bargain? And how could their expert estimate of the value of the company shares be so wrong?

Does any of this sound reasonable?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Industrial Ed.

The gatekeepers at the higher education industry hawk tickets to the future. They promise new rungs on the professional ladder, access to bigger and finer business meeting rooms. Success is rare without their help. And theirs is a monopoly.

Strangely, education is not much of their agenda. Theirs is a practical, useful vision with not much room for the abstract. And, of course, such a vision requires management. According to Benjamin Ginsberg, a Hopkins professor of political science, “administrators and staffers actually outnumber full-time faculty members.” While the ranks of full-time professors have paralleled the rate of university enrollment generally since 1975—which is to say, about 50 percent—administrations have expanded at an amazing pace. Administrators proper are up 85 percent, Ginsberg reports, while the number of “other professionals” employed by universities has grown 240 percent.

How the U.S. ranks in education in the world is hard to quantify but some aspects certainly can be measured. In 2010, Auburn University won the National football Championship. Their net income from the football program that year was $37 Million. The National Football League Champion that year, The Green Bay Packers, made $43 Million.

Now that is success that can make us confident.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cab Thought 11/13/13

"A change in our climate is taking place very sensibly." [Snowfall has become]..."less frequent and less deep." [Rivers that once]... "seldom failed to freeze over in the course of the winter, scarcely ever do so now."--"Notes on the State of Virginia" by Thomas Jefferson, published in 1785.
The Holocene is our current geological epoch. It began after Earth’s last Ice age ended some 11,700 years ago.
Obama suggested that people whose insurance plans were disqualified by the ACA "go shopping" on the ACA exchanges for new ones. Isn't that what they did when they bought their original plans, shopped for what they wanted?
The direction of health care, whether they say it or not: "In CBO’s estimates, the increase in spending for Medicare and Medicaid will account for 80 percent of spending increases for the three entitlement programs between now and 2035 and 90 percent of spending growth between now and 2080. Thus, reducing overall government spending relative to what would occur under current fiscal policy would require fundamental changes in the trajectory of federal health spending. Slowing the growth rate of outlays for Medicare and Medicaid is the central long-term challenge for fiscal policy."--From the CBO Chairman's Blog. This is the reason for the ACA.
Of the 270 Apollo 11 Moon Rocks and Apollo 17 "Goodwill Moon Rocks" that were given to the nations of the world by the Nixon Administration approximately 180 are currently unaccounted for.
The letter "H" has been a source of conflict; to pronounce or not? In ancient Rome, they were snooty not about people who dropped their Hs but about those who picked up extra ones. Catullus wrote a nasty little poem about Arrius (H'arrius he called him), who littered his sentences with Hs because he wanted to sound more Greek. Originally in Britain, "H" was pronounced but, by 1858, it changed so if one wanted to speak correctly, he would say "erb", "ospital" and "umble". (These people dropping their h's were described in the Times as "h-less socialists.") Is it "a hotel" or "an otel"; is it "a historian" or "an historian"? Now there is no single correct version.
"H" owes its name to the Normans, who brought their letter "hache" with them in 1066. Hache is the source of our word "hatchet," probably because a lower-case H looks a lot like an axe. Leave it to the Normans to see a weapon everywhere.
India has launched a rocket containing an orbiter probe with the aim of being the first Asian nation to reach Mars.

Israel is angry the Obama administration has identified them as the source of an attack on a military base near the Syrian port city of Latakia on Wednesday. Israel has not acknowledged carrying out the strike, one of half a dozen such attacks widely ascribed to Israel in recent months, but an Obama administration official told CNN on Thursday that Israeli warplanes had indeed attacked the Syrian base, and that the target was “missiles and related equipment” set for delivery to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Third World Exploitation: The 19 Billion dollar case involving Chevron and their Texaco unit in Ecuador is really enlightening. Bribery, coercion, and made up scientific research all contributed to a massive fraud using the Ecuador courts as enforcer. Thieves and the Third World courts are a great combination for future exploitation of the rest of us.
Golden Oldie:

An unparalleled archive of shipwreck images will be presented for sale at Sotheby’s London auction on 12th November 2013. Taken by four generations of the Gibson family of photographers over nearly 130 years, the 1000 negatives record the wrecks of over 200 ships and the fate of their passengers, crew and cargo as they travelled from across the world through the notoriously treacherous seas around Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly between 1869 and 1997. The archive will be sold as a single lot in Sotheby's Travel, Atlases, Maps and Natural History sale, and is estimated to achieve between £100,000 and £150,000.
"This is the greatest archive of the drama and mechanics of shipwreck we will ever see--a thousand images stretching over 130 years, of such power, insight and nostalgia that even the most passive observer cannot fail to feel the excitement or pathos of the events they depict."--Rex Cowan, shipwreck hunter and author
Average wages in China have quadrupled since 2000. U.S. wages are going up 2 to 3% per year – Chinese 10% to 15%.
From an article in GreenTechGrid that collected interviews with energy storage CEOs: "The cost of regulatory intervention at the federal legislative and FERC levels is seen as highly prohibitive. CEOs are avoiding direct engagement at those levels, and most want their industry associations to pick up the burden of FERC-level regulatory intervention."

Who was....Erik Weisz?
"If you want to be an optimist about America, stand on your head. Our country looks so much better from the bottom up, than from the top down. What you see if you look at the country from the bottom up is that it is full of people who just didn't get the word. They did not get the word that China is going to eat our lunch or that Germany is going to eat our breakfast and so they just go out and start stuff, and invent stuff and collaborate on stuff. If I were to draw a picture of America today it would be the Space Shuttle taking off. You've seen that picture -- all that thrust coming from below. That's all those people who didn't get the word. But in our case, our booster rocket – Washington, DC – is cracked and leaking energy. And the pilots in the cockpit are fighting over the flight plan."--Tom Friedman
The average heavy truck consumes as much fuel as 40 sedans in a year. Such vehicles make up just 1% of the U.S. vehicle fleet, but consume 20% of the fuel.
Tom Noguchi, the famous pathologist, has a book describing the wounds suffered by Robert Kennedy. Soot was found in Kennedy's hair; soot in the scalp hair meant the gun had been triggered within inches of his head, Noguchi wrote in the book. But none of the witnesses could explain the position of the wound behind the ear--Sirhan shot from the front right--and none of the technology or experts could prove the bullets were from Sirhan's gun despite the overwhelming and obvious witness evidence.
Only 3% of people who are engaged or married have a prenuptial agreement, according to a 2010 survey by Harris Interactive.
Oil production in the US has jumped by 2.5 million barrels per day since 2007 and is still growing. But analysis shows that the growth is slowing. Currently, the net increase from new oil wells drilled minus decline from existing oil wells in the Bakken and Eagle Ford oil shales is 50,000 barrels per day. Tom Whipple, using EIA data, suggests oil production will peak by 2015, without an investment surge in drilling rigs.

Kepler-78b is a planet only slightly larger than the Earth, the most similar in size to the Earth of any exoplanet yet directly discovered. Its orbit, however, is extraordinary in the sense that it circles a Sun-like star 40 times closer than planet Mercury does to our Sun. At such a scathing distance, even rock is liquid. More, its orbit should degrade and it should be sucked into its sun. Maybe it already has been.
AAAAAAaaaaaaaddddddd...........a picture of ghostly towers of steam and gas venting from fumaroles in the geothermal area in Hverir, Iceland against an aurora background that looks like "Alien."
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Electricity and Sushi

Storage is what takes place between availability and demand. And creativity is what is necessary before availability, usually--but not always--stimulated by demand.

10 years before the iPod, the portable media player business--portable music storage--totaled 715 million dollars a year. After the iPod it was $34 billion.

The global electricity market is a $2 trillion business, over 100 times the size of the music industry, yet Apple sells 25X more music storage than every battery manufacturer combined sells grid storage. The electrical market is the largest supply chain in the world and has very little storage capacity. According to Eos, a storage company, "Even sushi, which like electricity basically needs to be consumed as soon as it is produced, has storage in its supply chain."

The energy storage market in 2010 was 1.1 billion dollars. Piper Jaffray estimates the market at 600 billion. Why the difference? The same as the portable media storage business: A great need unfilled by the right product at the right price.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mother Nature and Child Abuse

The typhoon that hit the Philippines is estimated to have killed 10,000 people. This is an incredible toll from a natural disaster and should stimulate reflection in us all. We are, despite our knowledge and arrogance, in essence the sorcerer's apprentice. Some other natural events:

In March, 11, 2011, an earthquake, Richter 9, occurred in the sea 231 miles northeast of Tokyo and resulted in a tsunami with 30 foot waves and the confirmed deaths of 15,883.
28,000 people were killed in 1902 in St. Pierre, Martinique when Mt. Pelee erupted. There was warning but the people stayed in town to participate in an election--one of democracy's bad moments.
23,000 people were killed in Columbia in the eruption of Nevado del Ruiz on November 12, 1985. The explosion melted a glacier and most victims were drowned.
The Minoan civilization was destroyed in 1648 B.C.  by a tsunami.
The best documented is the Krakatoa explosion starting August 26, 1883. The volcanic cloud was 17 miles high, the waves 100 feet. The fourth and greatest of its explosions was heard 3000 miles away on Rodriguez Island. The particles sent into the air caused red reflections throughout the world that stayed for three years and were included in American landscape paintings of the period. 36,000 people were killed by thermal injury and tsunami.
In 1815, April 10, Tambora on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa put 11 cubic miles(!) of rock, ash and dust in the air (versus Krakatoa's 6 cubic miles) killed 50,000 people, extinguished the language of Tambra, lowered the world temperature by one degree centigrade, caused crop failures all over the world and created the year known as "the year without a summer."
The largest explosion ever? Mount Toba, 72,000 B.C..

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday Sermon 11/10/13

Today's readings discuss the resurrection of the dead. The first reading is in Maccabees where the widow and her sons are tortured to death as they defy the sadistic king with their confidence of an afterlife. In the New Testament reading Christ is challenged by the Sadducee (who deny the concept of resurrection) who ask who is husband in the afterlife of a widow who, over her life, has had multiple husbands. This is a crucial question that most religions face. How are the righteous rewarded? What is the motive for action in a secular world? More, why would a god care? Investigation into these questions have not resulted in good cheer. At the best, modern life sees itself, without revelation, as multiple drifting canoes without a unifying theme, each one trying to be consistent within itself. Strangely, this results in an intense individualism that superficially mirrors the responsibility demanded by Christianity.

Christ uses the question to reemphasize the distinction between the spiritual and the corporeal. Children of the next world do not marry but, of course, they do not die either. Different laws apply.

(Later in the chapter Christ says "Beware of the scribes...Who devour the houses of widows..." He really did not like the hypocrisy and the arrogance of these people. It wasn't questions He disliked, it was insincerity. What He demanded in us was truth.)

This is a difficult distinction for many. Mormonism has a lot of problem with this concept and has included the idea of family in the resurrection in their canon. They have a gigantic data base for families and, like their interest in the archeology of Central America, this has stimulated tremendous interest in genealogy. Also, Maccabees is not universally accepted in all Christian canon. It is part of the Apocrypha and is accepted in the Catholic Church, some eastern Christian churches but not most  western Protestant churches. Nor is it in the Torah.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Cab Thoughts 11/9/13

The White House has issued a clarification. When the president said if you like your insurance plan you can keep it, what he meant was you can keep it if he likes it.--Holman Jenkins

35,000 megawatts of solar will be built around the world in 2013, a new record for annual installation. That is the equivalent of 9 medium sized nuclear plants being built in one year. Deutsche Bank projects that the world will install as much as 50,000 megawatts next year or the equivalent of 12.5 nuclear plants.

In the beginnings of baseball, foul balls caught on the bounce were outs. The pitching mound was only fifty feet from home plate and the pitcher had a small 6x4 rectangle marked off on the ground in which he could get a running start to pitch.

Who is....Arundhati Roy?

Two married women were discussing their dating histories when they were in their twenties. Both were attractive women with accomplishments. Both said they had a lot of marriage proposals, more than they thought their friends had. Both thought the reason was that they did not drink. Drinking, the two thought independently, raised suspicions of instability in women.

The Syrian Electronic Army, a group that supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, hacked links on President Barack Obama’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts, redirecting users to a propaganda video about terrorism in Syria.

Al Gore has a fascinating article in the WSJ about the risks of investing in "carbon assets," i.e. oil, gas, coal and other carbon-based energy sources. He believes that global warming anxiety, alternative fuels and political righteousness will "strand" such carbon assets and isolate them as nonproductive and, for the investor, non-yielding. The problem with this logic is that it denies two basics. One, it denies the existing technological gap. There are no storage systems capable of smoothing out the current alternative energy irregular cycles. Nor does it accept any growth curve where such a technology gradually emerges. Second, it denies the appeal of cheap carbon to poor nations who, with good reason, want to catch up with the wealth that cheap carbon has generated in the rich countries.

Mrs. Clinton said of the new federal health plan, "We just think people will be too focused on saving money and they won't get the care for their children and themselves that they need . . . The money has to go to the federal government because the federal government will spend that money better." That, ladies and gentleman, is an honest look at the future of the West.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) report on the Senate's immigration bill predicts that the legislation would drive down the wages of American workers and make it difficult for Americans to find jobs in an already-damaged economy.

phrenology \fri-NOL-uh-jee, fre-\, noun: a psychological theory or analytical method based on the belief that certain mental faculties and character traits are indicated by the configurations of the skull. This was, for years, taken very seriously. ety: The phren- in phrenology comes from the Greek phreno- referring to the diaphragm and the abdomen. This sense was extended in the writings of Homer to refer to the area around the heart as well as the mind.

For over a thousand years villagers in remote parts of Wales have called an adulteress 'a regular Guinevere.' Lancelot probably never existed, though..

Golden oldie:

The phrase "American Dream" was coined by writer and historian James Truslow Adams in the 1930s. He wrote that in America “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

There are some certainties in this post-modern world. If you are a rich and famous guy with a felony, you go to rehab, not prison; if you are a struggling business, you start a charity. And apologies in politics, like kissing the boo-boo, seem to make it aaalll better.

In freestyle chess, teams include a computer and a human counterpart. Excelling at freestyle does not require profound skill in chess per se, but rather expertise in working with the computer. The best players are the ones who recognize their limitations and are willing to accept the advice of the computer; those who win most are the ones who design or run the best programs. This is being offered as the template for industry growth and computer/human interaction in America. (Tyler Cowen’s Average Is Over).

The Leidenfrost effect is a phenomenon in which a liquid, in near contact with a mass significantly hotter than the liquid's boiling point, produces an insulating vapor layer which keeps that liquid from boiling rapidly.

AAAAAaaaaaaannnnnddddd.....a picture (a drawing by one of Charles Darwin's kids on his original manuscript of "Origin")

Friday, November 8, 2013

Macbeth: A Review

Kenneth Branagh has a new "Macbeth" for the Manchester International Shakespeare Festival. Done on the stage, it was sent as film to several American cities and shown with limited engagements. Here it was shown twice.

This is an unusual play for Shakespeare; it almost comes off as an experiment. While set in feudal Scotland--perhaps appropriately primitive in English eyes--it is meant to play much older. It is as close to Greek as Shakespeare gets. Prophecies, witches, and brooding Fate all hang on the stage like a fog as Macbeth and his wife encounter a single challenge, murderous ambition, accept it and are relentlessly destroyed by it. It is a high schooler's dream: A clean flaw with personifications of Fate floating around. The only thing missing is the chorus. Some think Coriolanus is the prototype Shakespearean tragedy but, if it is, this is a close second. This version is played with an emphasis on Macbeth and his wife as a fated couple rather than the usual tension between them. (I confess I prefer the latter.)

This production, while very good, has a number of problems. It opens with Lady Macbeth praying at an alter with a huge crucifix above. This is at least a surprising image. Macbeth is as pagan a play as Shakespeare could write. Indeed it is self-consciously so. While Macbeth and his wife are rightly condemned for their errors, their fate is really out of their hands. The witches do not give advise about how he could become king, they predict it. None of the old "The fault...... is not in our stars, But in ourselves" stuff here. Macbeth and his wife do not have a chance, no more than Oedipus does. While the wife is certainly more prone to failings, hate her or not, she is doomed by her stars. Only the most militant of Calvinists could put Lady Macbeth on her knees before the cross at the beginning of the play.

The stage is unusual and generally works. It is reminiscent of a horse paddock, a long strip of soft ground between two tiers of audience. While one worries about the footing through the play, it is not a terrible distraction. The proximity of the audience, especially in this intense, violent play, is distracting and I think was a bad idea. There are constant efforts to connect Shakespeare with modern society--intermingled audiences and actors, women playing men, racial-blind casting, updating scenes and props and costumes--but the failure for the genius of Shakespeare to be popular is probably "not in our presentation but in ourselves."

The casting is terrific. Branagh is simply wonderful and there is not a weak player among the rest. The witches (although I wish their enunciation had been allowed to be better), Banquo, Macduff's child and especially Macduff, are particularly good. Lady Macbeth is wonderful but an error; she is simply too old a choice for a king planning a dynasty. The comedic scene with the porter was shockingly--and revealingly--inadequate; without an intermission in the play, efforts at comic relief seemed an afterthought or a sop. It was as if, for a moment, someone who had been screaming for an hour suddenly stopped.

This is a relentless, intense, harrowing play. It is hard to imagine it being acceptable entertainment to a casual society used to passive, short distractions. One worries that this high level of art may have a limited future; like opera or the symphony, it might be supported as a charity by a few, patronized by fewer and become, museum-like, an interesting example of a high quality period in the gradual waning of our aesthetic achievements. That said, one can only hope that Branagh continues to do this, if only to stock the museum with high quality so that those of us who care about this dying art can visit it occasionally.