Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Sermon 8/31/14

Today, right after Christ names Peter as the foundation of His church, Christ turns on him. Christ explains that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer and die. Peter is horrified:
Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him,
“God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.”

Christ fires back at Peter in a phrase that is dripping with irony:
He turned and said to Peter,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me.
You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Here Christ is comparing Peter's view to that of Satan in the desert, tempting Him with the world and life. And for the word for "obstacle," he uses the word "rock" meaning "stumbling block" as on the road.
Would Christ really pun like that under these circumstances? It seems that Christ's gigantic universal view always creeps in to our small world. 

What follows, though, is not funny, it is the he who would "save his life will lose it" segment followed by the threatening:
For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory,
and then he will repay all according to his conduct.”

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cab Thought 8/30/14

I have naturally expressed my statements so that I am also right if the opposite thing happens.-- Marx 

Roughly half a million Muslims live in Austria, representing about 6 percent of the total population.

Why isn't the success of the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp front page headlines and and on everyone's lips?

California history textbooks will now be asked to cover "the significance of President Barack Obama's election," under a law signed this week by Gov. Jerry Brown. The author, Democratic Assemblyman Chris Holden, said in a statement: "We want to make sure that future generations understand that the election of our nation's first African American president was a historic step in the effort towards equality and that previous elections involved intimidation and violence that prevented millions of African Americans from voting."

Part of the antipathy towards zinfandel in its early development was that it was the grape of the awful Gallo Hearty Burgundy.

After Lucretia, the wife of a nobleman, Conlatinus, is raped by Tarquin, a royal prince, she denounces her rapist, then kills herself to preserve her virtue. This rape story, as told by Livy, sets into motion the founding of the Roman Republic: Lucretia’s defenders swear that hereditary princes will no longer assume privileges through violence. Hereditary leadership. Thomas Paine wondered why there weren't other hereditary occupations. Perhaps ship captains or accountants or weightlifters. More likely the real hereditary positions in life are those that families cannot escape.

A laptop allegedly seized from an ISIS (also known as Islamic State) base in Syria contains plans to launch terror attacks using bubonic plague.
Discovered by a "moderate" rebel group from an IS base in Idlib, northern Syria, in January, the computer belonged to a Tunisian militant.  "The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," a document retrieved from the computer stated.

A 15th century epic poem by Blind Harry (Harry the Minstrel) was  responsible for much of the legend of William Wallace. It was nine books in length and was said to be second only to the bible in Scottish homes.

Who is....Elena Ferrante?

A copy of 1938's Action Comics No. 1, which features the first appearance of Superman, sold for a record-breaking $3,207,852 to an unnamed buyer on Sunday.

The spiral galaxy Arp 188 is known as the Tadpole Galaxy because it has a head and tadpole-like tail. It is believed the spiral galaxy was disrupted by a more compact gravitational force and strung out as the force, likely another galaxy, passed by. The resulting tail is about 280 thousand light-years long and features massive, bright blue star clusters.

Golden oldie: and

The number of employees at the five largest U.S. defense firms dropped 14 percent from 2008.

Iterate/iteration: iteration, noun, is the act of repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. verb: Perform or utter repeatedly. Commonly used, slightly erroneously, as "new version." It appears in the computer world where a procedure is repeated on the the result of the previous application. From mid 16th century: from Latin iterat- 'repeated', from the verb iterare, from iterum 'again'.

An online publication, called “Palestine-Betrayal of the Guilty Conscience Al-Malahem,” is put out by the media arm of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al Qaeda has a media arm and a magazine. What's next, a women's auxiliary? A 401k?

According to the Wall Street Journal, after adjusting returns of for storage and sales costs, fine wine investments outperform inflation and fare better than bonds, but significantly lag behind the historical returns of stocks.

The writer known as Elena Ferrante has never been photographed, interviewed in person or even made a public appearance, but a collection of candid novels has earned whoever she or he is recognition as one of the keenest observers of Italian society. “Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay”  is the much-anticipated third volume in the author’s Neapolitan series. A recent review of the author noted "becoming a public figure should be a writer’s choice, not an obligation." Words to live by. Quietly.

AAAAaaaaannnnnndddddd......a picture minutes after Hiroshima in a nearby town:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Myth of precision

Baseball has instituted a controversial new rule: Managers have the opportunity to challenge one umpire decision per game. The usual challenge involves a close call at a base, a force or tag. Strangely, baseball demands a flagrant error by the umpire; the call can be overturned only if the call was grossly erroneous. One might conclude the game demands accuracy but not meticulously so. This sounds like an oxymoron. Or close enough for government work.
But there is another peculiarity. There is admittedly very erratic, imprecise decisions in baseball that are routinely tolerated. Ball and strike calls are unbelievably inaccurate. And inconsistent. 
This is a classic example of symbolic virtue, the placebo of accuracy. One area is placed under the microscope and that effort seems to exonerate the game's other gross inaccuracies. Sports are filled with this fraud, but not as much as government. The incongruity is always jarring.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Enemies of Democracy Assess It

A recent review of several books with the grand topic of the future of democracy has appeared in The Nation by Thomas Meaney and Yascha Mounk. The argument has arisen that federalism, the indirect government by representation --democracy once removed--was a practical decision mandated by time and distance and not a philosophical one. The farmer could not go to the voting place every time a question was raised. So the origins of the federal structure in the Constitution comes not from the founders' anxiety of populous tyranny as the specifically state in the papers they wrote at the time but rather an unspoken logistical travel problem. Now, with computers, that logistical problem can be solved but perhaps we don't want to do it; perhaps we want to defer those decisions--and that privilege--to others. Gee, one wonders, who might that be? One writer opined, "democracy was once a comforting fiction. Has it become an uninhabitable one?" Having confused American federalism and democracy, the reviewers move on.
The Powers-That-Be see three areas where we--read "THEY"--must rise above democracy:
    1. Economics should be isolated from shortsightedness and influence so prevalent in government structure.
    2. Expectation--and the belief in opportunity--should be made more realistic.
    3. Democracy has not traveled well. Some solutions, as always top-down, are suggested.
The authors discuss these three areas where the practical, the ideal and the new all challenge the old notion of democracy. Federal banks look after us, revolutionary economists look after us and the ethnic and national identities are sagely condemned.
Experts, of course, always trump the average guy so the nation's finances should obviously be in other hands. The notion of equality of results is a new one un-thought of by Jefferson and Monroe; some gentle accommodation must be made for that. So the response that writers Judt and Rosanvallon call for is simple: have the courage to reassert the primacy of politics over economics by creating a more equal society, in essence to make the trade for equality over liberty. Enter Piketty with his new, read OLD, solution of income redistribution. This would require taxation of people by governments unknown to them, a difficult task the average guy may not be up to.
Habermas tries to merge the already merged European countries with some new, unified sensibilities although the European ethnic conception of nationhood remains much more fundamental to their identity than Habermas cares to admit.
There are a number of confusing elements here. Debt emerges as a significant factor in decision-making, even superior to public wishes; but whose fault is that?  Sometimes democracies do something not in the best interests of their neighbors--like Palestinians voting for Hamas or Germans for Hitler; is that a failure of the system or its participants or it neighbors? Democracy does not seem to travel well; but it is a system of government, not a religion or a virus.
The reviewers end with the Tocqueville remark that democracy is a faith-based regime that holds its grip as long as people believe in it. They ominously add, "He forgot to say what happens when they stop." A better question would be, "What happens when democracy is suggested or imposed from the position of authority rather than decided upon and won by the very people themselves?" The unity of such a people is based upon their belief in the concept of liberty, not equality or ethnicity. When the democracy is successfully reevaluated by elitists, economic idealists and ethnic nationalists democracy was probably not believed in much in the first place.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Criminals and Innovation

It seems that Maksym Pashanin and Denys Pashanin rented Ms. Cory Tshogl's San Francisco condo through AirBnB and now refuse to leave. The brothers rented the one-bedroom unit in late May for 44 days but paid for just a month. After occupying the unit for 30 days they gained tenants' protections under California law. Tschogl, a San Francisco rehabilitation therapist for blind and low-vision people, is facing thousands of dollars in legal expenses and an eviction process of up to six months.

The brothers Pashanin have, not so coincidentally, also, as principals of Kilobite Inc., raised some $40,000 on crowdfunding platform Kickstarter for a video game that never materialized, leaving behind scores of angry donors. Kilobite Inc. took to Kickstarter in November to promise a June delivery of a zombie game called "Confederate Express," but has produced only a demo. Instead, Kilobite recently launched a new Kickstarter campaign, seeking $25,000 for another game called "Knuckle Club."   

Maksym Pashanin has sent Tschogl texts threatening to press charges against her for blackmail, negligence and malicious misconduct, including his claims that the tap water hurt his expensive espresso machine and exacerbated his brother's ulcer, Ms. Tschogl said, providing copies of the messages.

The emerging peer-to-peer markets have created unique opportunities and risks in which people trust Internet strangers based on reviews by other Internet strangers. It seems to have attracted the shameless as well.
Every new circumstance creates opportunity.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Paging Dr. Forbin

Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system, because of the speed required for it to react, has been entirely computerized. That is to say there are no humans in the loop. There has always been the problem--in government and science fiction--of human input in weapons use. This has been a practical and ethical concern: Would a guy in a bunker launch a weapon that would stimulate homicidal response? Would he freeze? (Recall the famous Castro "Armageddon Letter" described by Khrushchev where the esteemed leader of the Cuban people hysterically lobbied for a Russian First Strike against America, a strike that could only result in the evaporation of Castro and the people he represented and presumably cared for.)
The question of a man's willingness to create or participate in such a fateful weapons exchange is important and Israel has answered it in a worrisome way. 

Monday, August 25, 2014


40 million people, not including Mexico, count on the water from the Colorado basin. When the water from the river is overburdened, water is retrieved from the groundwater. Since December 2004, the basin of the Colorado River has lost nearly 53 million acre feet of freshwater, almost double the volume of the region's largest reservoir, Nevada's Lake Meade, researchers say. About 75 percent of the total--about 421 million acre feet--came from groundwater, the study by author Stephanie Castle found.
"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we are going to run out," Castle said. "This is a lot of water to lose."

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sunday Sermon 8/24/14

It is hard to imagine how today's gospel struck the people of the early Church. it  must have been overwhelming. Christ asks the apostles who it is said He is and they hedge: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” Even now His close followers and friends are not sure. Then He asks Peter who replies: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

It must have been a thunderbolt in the small group. Peter thought Christ was the Son of God.

Then Christ creates the Church. The word Church appears only twice in the gospels and only in Matthew. Its origin in Aramaic does mean a structured religious group. And He gives leadership of that Church to a man who lost his faith walking on the water and who would deny Christ three time during Christ' captivity before the crucifixion.

Maybe there is hope for us all.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cab Thoughts 8/23/14

"I have not the pleasure of knowing my reader but I would stake ten to one that for six months he has been making Utopias, and if so, that he is looking to Government for the realization of them."--Bastiat

Obama has maintained an academic distance from much of the world's problems. One of his more interesting observations was that of Putin not behaving like a 21st Century leader in Ukraine. There was a scolding, pedantic quality about his criticism, as if Putin needed only to read up a bit and be schooled; his behavior ignored recent developments. He needed to see things more clearly. One wonders how Obama thinks of homicidal, beheading maniacs.

The Fed is considering raising rates. That will crimp the economy. Sooooo.......?

Who is....Italo Cavino?

The energy group Douglas-Westwood says half the oil industry needs prices of $120 or more to generate free cash flow under current drilling plans and shareholder dividends. The oil-exporting states are also trapped. Russia needs crude prices near $110 to balance the budget. Natixis says the fiscal break-even cost for Iraq is $108, for Saudi Arabia $97 and the Emirates $89. Bahrain and Algeria are over $120.

The great coach, Vince Lombardi, revolutionized football--and locker rooms. His first act was to clear out the training room. He said injuries and pain were "in the head."

If art is one man's vision, why do we accept the political notion of one man as universal?

Golden oldie:

Corrected for size, the housing bubble in Spain was 3 or 4 times the bubble in the U.S..

At the time of the asteroid strike 66 million years ago which presumably wiped out the dinosaurs and almost everything of any size, the Midwest was covered by shallow water called the Bearpaw Sea.

Lincoln carried Euclid's "The Elements" while riding the circuit, trying to understand how a "demonstration" differed from other arguments. A "proof" should "compel belief."

Is it possible that we have a culture that hopes to accommodate everyone? That no one will be disappointed, angry or offended? A 6'2'' bearded man who feels there is a girl inside him will be accommodated in the women's bathroom? That we will preserve the dignity of a pre-wheel stone age culture whose major achievement seems to have been the organizing of mammoth human sacrifice festivals? What about the heartfelt beliefs of ISIS?

Heidigger became rector of Freiburg University on May 27, 1933. He had joined the Nazi party two weeks earlier and designed the Nazi themed inauguration himself. By 1940, one half of Germany's academic philosophers were Nazi party members.

Sharrow and Gordon theorize the genome complexity doubles every 376 million years--sort of a Moore's law of genealogy. Following the numbers back, one can conclude that life on Earth began 10 billion years ago, long before Earth  existed. So.....all sorts of trouble. Perhaps the early genome rode here from elsewhere.

If we can just print the money we want, why have a budget at all? And why would we want to bother with counterfeiters?
Lindsey Lohan is writing her memoirs. Three volumes.

Junk DNA: A phrase that describes vast stretches of animal DNA that seems to serve no purpose. Coined in 1972 by geneticist Susumu Ohno.

Beltrami's pseudosphere and Poincare's disc offer two geometry alternatives to Euclid. "If mathematics was doubtful, how much more doubtful must ethics be."--Bertrand Russell.

Donald Kagan is a Yale classicist who thinks America has the burden of the Free World's "seriousness" but fears America might be limited by "unsubtle Christianity" and its "passivism." "Turning the other cheek" he says, cedes the field. He also believes that a culture must be educated in its accomplishments and value to survive.

AAAAAAAaaaaannnnndddddd .......a close-up of the famous Washington portrait with a misspelling:


Friday, August 22, 2014

A Bureau Chokes the Big Cat‏

In 2010 Caterpiller, a large American corporation, abandoned the over-the-road engine market and signed a deal with Navistar to pursue the off-road market.
The deal essentially removed Caterpillar from the highway-truck engine market, which represented 6% of its total engine sales, said Eli Lustgarten, analyst with Longbow Research.
It had been long rumored that the heavy-machinery manufacturer might sell this business, Eli Lustgarten, analyst with Longbow Research, said. Keeping it would have also required significant investment to comply with Environmental Protection Agency emission rules that go in affect in 2010.
So their decision was forced by EPA standards. Something to remember.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Because of a Nail......

It has been revealed that the Russians successfully planted an "attack code" into the NASDAQ computer system. An attack code is not an espionage code, it is a military code designed to damage. Such codes are rare. Stutnex attacked the Iranian nuclear system and Iran destroyed two thirds of Saudi Aramco's computer network. 5 months of investigation by FBI and NSA offices could not determine exactly what the plan was. Bloomberg Businessweek has been pursuing the story, which has had little coverage, but has not been successful in getting many on the record. Now, back to the Kardashians....

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cab Thoughts 8/20/14

"'Politics is not the art of the possible. It is choosing between the unpalatable and the disastrous'.--Gailbreth

One problem for the average investor in the U.S. is the impact of computer trading which allows for millions of trades a second, usually through EFTs. This also allows for short trades of monstrous size and this kind of action can crush a company. These types of trades make up 70% of stock trades. At one point in time the SEC had a rule that  required a short trade only in a rising stock but that has been cancelled. What a surprise, money and influence overpower the good of the system.

Those who believe that the government will create the best for itself in spite of the circumstances and regardless of distortions necessary took a big step back this week. A small company, SIGA, which has developed a cure for smallpox (bought by DARPA and applied for by most Western countries and Israel) and has made progress on several other dangerous viral diseases that would be cataclysmic if weaponized has been virtually destroyed by a number of peculiar court decisions and might well go out of business. They have shut down their R&D departments.

Who is....Margaret Sanger?

Robin William's daughter has been receiving hate mail. While her social media accounts were flooded with mostly well wishes, a few anonymous users criticized the fact she didn't post enough pictures of her father and sent graphic photo-shopped images along with crude and hateful remarks. This is further demonstration of the bell-curve. There are three hundred million people in this country and that is just enough people to accommodate just about any kind of behavior. Expect it.

60% of bachelor degrees go to women.

The State of Kansas was sued by the SEC for fraud in a bond issue. The State!

The McCArran Ferguson Act of 1945 gave the states the authority to regulate insurance. This exempts insurers from many of the federal regulations, including some anti-trust laws. This little pearl also prevents the ACA from mandating state exchanges.

The U.S. is producing about 65% of current consumption, and net imports make up the rest. The U.S. is now a net exporter of refined petroleum products, and net imports are now smaller than domestic production

X-Files star Gillian Anderson is coming out with a sci-fi thriller novel, co-written by Jeff Rovin.

The administration's approach in the Middle East has not been questioned. The radicals have always been outlaws, not military. We have dealt with them by assassinating their leaders, sometimes arresting and trying them. Is the assessment of these people that has led to these approaches accurate?
First round pick Shazier finished the exhibition game this weekend  with a game-high nine tackles — plus two special teams tackles — in a quarter and a half.

The current attack on coal has been so successful we are importing more of it.

A band of locals attacked a school holding Ebola patients over the weekend and freed them. Some were unhappy they were not getting more treatment, some believe that Ebola is a hoax generated by the government to get more Western aid. Some opinions and options in the world are too stupid/dangerous to be allowed.

The ISIS battlefront is hundreds of miles long. Will selective bombing strikes be effective under those conditions?

The Righteous have their own compass; they play by sacred rules. Recent events in Missouri have drawn the Righteous with the power of a huge Black Hole. One of these Sacred Text Readers is Anonymous, the hacker group that periodically is moved to expose things for our own good. They swept in and revealed the name of the police officer who shot the unarmed kid. Regrettably it was the wrong guy. "But extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Obama said in an interview with Friedman that global warming leads to instability and terrorism and thus is a national security issue.

The British Office of National Statistics revealed that Mohammed--and variants--was the most common boys given name in Britain in 2013.

AAAaaaaaannnnnndddddd.....a chart:
Chart of the Day

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Destruction Ed.

A man brings his freshman daughter to a "meet the teachers" event at her new college. They speak with a tweedy-looking man in his mid-forties from the history department.
He says, "I promise to challenge your daughter's every belief"
"You want to undo my efforts of the last eighteen years?" the father answers.

There is a military feel to this education business: Deconstruction of the individual to rebuild into some better group whole, pliable and optimistic youth, the confidence bred of monopoly, social momentum. Only the military seems to have more of a commitment to the building part than does education; at least the military promises a finished product. Our post- modern education believes everything is a beginning; there are no real directions they can offer, no conclusions to teach. The sacredness of every man's vision is paramount.

They can only get you to the jumping off point.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Opportunity of Pot

There are frequent comparisons between liberty and science. This is more than an analogy; there is a thesis that the two are intertwined, arose at the same time in history from the same thinking. Basic to the idea is the need for independence for both; no idea is off the table and all ideas are legitimate at least to consider. Essential to the vision is that of uncertainty. No one has a monopoly on truth. No idea is beyond considering.

An interesting offshoot of this idea is the mixture of democracies, states rights and " the experiment." You have a lot of different regions, states of different make-up and size, all generating their own ideas and plans. The whole, then, can take advantage of the experiences of individual states' concepts. The only thing required is the recognition of the possible productivity of such a system and the patience of the whole to allow the individual results to evolve.

In this light, the legalization of marijuana is a great opportunity. Several states are legalizing it and there are strong arguments on both sides. The experiences of the participating states should be interesting and instructive. There are two threats, of course, the same old two threats that haunt us and, strangely, stem from the same life-source. Righteousness. On one hand is the restrictive moralists who would confine the activity and on the other is the camp of militant indifference. Both would legislate from the whole, from the central government. One would ban the individual states from legalizing it. One would mandate all states legalize it. 

And, of course, the advantage of individual and assessable experience would be lost. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sunday Sermon 8/17/14

In today's gospel, Christ is approached by the Canaanite woman who pleads for the health of her daughter. Christ ignores her--indeed I can think of no other situation in the gospels where Christ does not respond to a direct appeal. Not only does He ignore her, He insults her; He states His mission was to the people of Israel (the "children") and not the gentiles (the "dogs.") This is very local speech, the vernacular of the time. But it is surprising. The usual analysis is that of Christ demonstrating how His mission is really much larger, His mission is the world. (Indeed, the Canaanite is Phoenician and Tyre is one of their ports, a portal to the world.) The provincial vision is over.
But it is a harsh lesson.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Cab Thoughts 8/16/14

"Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else." -Frederic Bastiat, 1848

A pitcher was hit with a line-drive in the head and really was hurt but apparently is OK now. The next day a pitcher narrowly avoided being impaled by a broken bat. This is going to result in something awful--probably in the stands--before anyone will do anything about it. Certainly the maple bats should be banned. Anyone on the fence should Google Puig's breaking a bat on a checked swing and not hitting the ball.

Inflation is measured in all sorts of ways. The single highest growing cost in the world is cemetery plots.

At Electric Literature, Ursula Le Guin is interviewed by Michael Cunningham about genre and science fiction: "Realism is of course a tremendous and wonderfully capacious literary genre, and it has dominated fiction since 1800 or before. But dominance isn't the same thing as superiority," she says. "Fantasy is at least as immense as realism and much older — essentially coeval with literature itself. Yet fantasy was relegated for fifty years or sixty years to the nursery."

Who is...Charles Martell?

Branding is interesting and has an evolutionary--or maybe an imitative--quality. "Flo" has been a home run for Progressive Insurance and now Wendy is using a redhead in ads with huge investments and sets. Recently Toyota has personalized their receptionist in their ads.

267 billion dollars in merchandise were returned to sellers last year. That amount of money, if earned by a company, would make it the third largest company in the country.

The Boxer Rebellion occurred in China in 1900. But the name is based on the mistranslation of the Chinese xenophobic society I-He-T'uan, "Righteous Harmony Band," that was rendered by the British as I-He-Ch'uan "Righteous Uniting Fists," and so associated with the pugilistic boxer.
It is amazing translators don't accidentally cause wars.

Golden oldie:

Hillary Clinton has taken her furthest, most public step away yet from President Barack Obama, rejecting the core of his self-described foreign policy doctrine and describing his decision against backing Syrian rebels early on as a “failure.”
She also stood unequivocally with Israel in its current battle with Hamas in a lengthy, detailed interview on foreign policy with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg.

There's a new book out called Your Face in Mine where one of the characters undergoes "racial reassignment surgery." it will be interesting to see how the trans-gender community responds. The gay community cleverly pirated the equality issue from the Black community with surprisingly little objection. I bet this reverse adaptation does not work.

Eric Schlosser on researching his new book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety: "If you look at the Pentagon's official list of how many nuclear weapons accidents, serious accidents, we have — what they call "broken arrows" — the list contains 32 accidents. But I was able to obtain a document through the Freedom of Information Act that said just between the years 1950 and 1968, there were more than 1,000 accidents involving nuclear weapons. And many of the serious accidents I found don't even appear on the Pentagon's list. So I'm sure there were many more that I was unable to uncover that occurred." One of his stories details the accidental dropping of a nuclear weapon on North Carolina.

Brusque: a. abrupt in manner; blunt; rough: "A brusque welcome greeted his unexpected return." 
Borrowed from French and adapted from the Italian word brusco  meaning "tart." It entered English in the early 1600s.

Cash-for-Clunkers did not result in more cars sold but rather in less powerful cars (where the higher company margins are.)

Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) in an Aug. 7 post on his news site, Voices of Liberty, said he believes the U.S., with all its intelligence-gathering capabilities, should have a clear idea of what happened on July 17 when MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board. But much of that information, he says, has likely been withheld from the public. OK. Easy to say. But talk is for coffee houses. When you are in the public eye and a public spokesman, you can't just insinuate, you have to prove it.

Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system, because of the speed required for it to react, has been entirely computerized. That is, with the huge meg-weapons that Israel uses, in the decision of how and when to use them, humans are out of the loop. There has always been the problem in government--and science fiction--of human input in weapons use. This has been a practical and ethical concern: Would a guy in a bunker launch a weapon that would stimulate homicidal response? Would he freeze? The question of a man's willingness to create or participate in such a fateful weapons exchange is important and Israel has answered it in a worrisome way. (Recall the famous Castro "Armageddon Letter" described by Khrushchev where the esteemed leader of the Cuban people hysterically lobbied for a Russian First Strike against America, a strike that could only result in the evaporation of Castro and the people he represented and presumably cared for.)

AAAAAAaaaaaaannnnnnddddd.....a picture of MouMouro Lighthouse, Spain, (built 1860)--maybe not so well copied by moi:


Friday, August 15, 2014

Recovering from Racism, Slavery and War

We are weighed down with some ancient atavistic burdens.

Recognizing the outsider, the "other," is felt to be a quality inherent in the development of early human communities. People recognized their tribal members favorably, strangers, not so much.
Apparently it has outgrown its usefulness; it is now a diagnosis: Xenophobia.

Contrary to its luxurious name, the Silk Road's main commodity was slaves. James C. Scott writes in his review of Diamond's new book that slavery was a major factor as states began to develop from the looser agrarian communities. "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," he writes.

Xenophobia and slavery are both part of our historical DNA. One wonders if it might not be part of our DNA itself. But hopefully we can rise above it if it is. The naturalistic fallacy is no excuse for thinking men.

These elements do raise some interesting questions for the United States. In specific instances in the nation's development the white race has come in conflict with the other three races, two with contemporary reverberations. One has a history of slavery ended 170 years ago (violently, by white men). Another, two generations ago, was locked in one of the most savage wars in history, one against the other, with millions killed and ending in a cataclysmic, first-ever atomic attack on two civilian centers.

One would think, on the basis of that information, that the Black community would be much more easily integrated into the American life and culture than the Asian. But that is clearly not the case. Why? Is it history and familiarity? Is bigotry imbued into the culture harder to uproot than sudden, violent animosity? Is it a cultural malleability? (The Japanese purposefully remade their culture--twice--in their encounters with the West.) Why the distinction?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Politician Freed to be Himself

Saw an interesting interview with a woman billed as a Russian and Putin expert. The interviewer set the table with the proposition that Putin was attempting to recreate some new Russian hegemony with his action in Ukraine and resurrect the old empire. The woman listen quietly as the man went on building his case. Finally he allowed her to speak. She replied that Putin's actions had nothing to do with nostalgia or empire. Everything he was doing was trade related, specifically natural gas. He wants to create a monopoly of supply and delivery. Think, she said, of cartels fighting over drug distribution rights. Think Mafia. That, she said, is exactly what Putin is like and he is good at it. The interviewer was stunned to silence.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Cab Thought 813/14

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."--Winston Churchill

A very interesting idea I heard about "the college bubble." As the yield of a degree declines, the cost of attaining the degree rises. That is a prototype "bubble." But unlike most bubbles--which are greed based--it is fear based.

The Kurds have been fighting Turks for as long as I have been paying attention. Now, hated by the xenophobic ISIS, they are a buffer for Turkey and the Turks new best friends. Who could have imagined.

U.S. public schools are projected to have more minority students than non-Hispanic whites, a shift largely fueled by growth in the number of Hispanic children.
Non-Hispanic white students are still expected to be the largest racial group in the public schools this year at 49.8 percent. But according to the National Center for Education Statistics, minority students, when added together, will now make up the majority.
About one-quarter of the minority students are Hispanic, 15 percent are black and 5 percent are Asian and Pacific Islanders. Biracial students and Native Americans make up an even smaller share of the minority student population.
"Non-Hispanic white students are still expected to be the largest racial group"? What does that mean other than confuse race with language, create opportunity for subdivision and xenophobia, and dumb everyone down?

Who is....Thor Heyerdahl?

In a statement that was made in National Harbor, Maryland on May 6, Hillary Clinton indicated that we as a country needed to adopt tighter gun restrictions in an attempt to stave off economic inequality that is contributing greatly to social collapse. This strange position shifts the argument away from the merits of gun control and towards the situation with the economy. That essentially concedes the point.

A growing number of U.S. businesses are using American tax laws to lower their tax liability through "tax inversions" where domestic businesses are acquired by or merged with foreign companies and reincorporate abroad, thus paying less in taxes. Mylan Inc. of Cecil, the generic pharmaceutical giant, did just that. Obama has publicly criticized this and has threatened the dreaded executive action.
But, and as Bloomberg reports, the Obama administration expressly endorsed the practice in 2009 when it bailed out Delphi Automotive, the parts-maker that supplies the also-bailed-out General Motors. Delphi was given $1.7 billion in public money and reincorporated in England to lessen the American tax bite — with the Treasury Department's full knowledge. And that's with the IRS' criticism.

Google spends 3 times as much as Monsanto on Federal lobbying? There are more ex-Googlers in the Obama administration than there are ex-Monsanto employees. This info from a very interesting letter from the president of the Climate Corporation trying to explain their recent takeover by Monsanto.

Despite the extraordinary success in the development of shale oil drilling and the shift in America's balance of production and consumption, and despite the incredible improvement in carbon production, three-in-four Americans want the United States to pursue more solar energy according to Gallup and another 71 percent favor further development of wind power. Far fewer prioritized the expansion of oil production (46 percent) and nuclear expansion (37 percent), and less than one-third of respondents supported ramping up coal production. Perception is reality.

Golden oldie:

Paranoid question of the week: If ISIS is killing everything non-Sunni, is it a buffer in Iraq against Iran? And, if so, is ISIS in American interest? Thus, are the Americans actually supporting them?

Because of the federal patient privacy law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPPA, baby photos are a type of protected health information and placing them on the wall of an obstetrician office is illegal.

18 million people were killed--military and civilian--during the four years of the First World War. In the year 1918, 50 million people were killed by the flu.

Xenophobia: n: fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign. 1903, from XENO- (Cf. xeno-) "foreign, strange" + -phobia "fear" (see PHOBIA (Cf. phobia)). Earlier (c.1884) it meant "agoraphobia."

U.S. spy agencies have begun to see groups of fighters abandoning al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Africa to join the rival Islamist organization ISIS. Who could have imagined.

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Education Failures

Every month I write a check for college loans to the U.S. Department of Education. Directly to them. My rate is a usurious 6.8%. Now, the people who are underwriting this are declaring moral victory by slapping some restrictions on payment on these same usurious loans--rather than lowering the rate--that will demand that the taxpayer pick up the additional costs of the loans.

The Obama administration announced the expansion of a program, beginning in December 2015, that allows borrowers to cap their repayments at 10 percent of monthly income (no matter how much they borrowed) and even forgive those loans after 20 years (10 years if they work for a nonprofit or for the government). Taxpayers will pay $7 billion in the first year alone. Companion legislation before the Senate that would make taxpayers the primary refinancing bank for higher-interest student loans would soak the public for an additional $58 billion over 10 years. More, there is this weird reverence for nonprofit or government work, work that does not really participate in the productive economy other than to regulate it, criticize it, feed off it and generally annoy it.

“(W)e think this is something that would be fantastic for the economy,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Gaza's Children

The following is a series of notes back and forth between D, A and J about the Israel-Palestinian disaster:

The bombing and killing of children in the UN Security Enclaves to my mind is genocide. The resupply of ammunition for those offensive weapons is abetting that crime.

I hope that one day the present Prime Minister of Israel and the present President of the US (for abetting that crime) are called to the International Criminal Court for this war crime.

I realize that neither Israel nor the US are signatures to the International Criminal Court. i.e. that "one day" may never happen. 

I simply do not know what to say about this. To my mind, this is a battle between two peoples who plan to fight to the death but will not admit it nor will we. It is as if two Nazi subsets are engaged with each other in a grim war of attrition, one waiting to mutilate the corpses of the other on the Final Day.
I do not know where our obligations lie. Although I would happily hunt those arrogant morons who created the Israel state to ground.

Not to start a debate given that our respective positions in 
all probability will not change, just let me point out that 
for whatever reason you failed to mention the role of Hamas in all 
of this. Perhaps you think that the indiscriminate firing of rockets 
into civilian neighborhoods is a legitimate form of protest.

How do you view the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel? They are aimed at civilian targets and that is forbidden but are unsuccessful because of the "Iron Shield."
Is Hamas less at fault because you see their efforts as less intended and symbolic or does Israel come off the worse because they are better at the savagery?

As I understand it the prime purpose of the Balfour Declaration was to influence the two Zionist advisers to President Wilson to join the war on the Allied side, and to influence prominent Jews in Russia (i.e. Leon Trotsky) not to leave the Allied side.

It was carefully worded to preserve the rights of the existing inhabitants of Palestine.

We all know what happened. 

The Palestinians are the big losers.

However we did win that war with Germany, a war that should never have happened.

I welcome you to join me at 10.00 pm London time to turn out the lights, except for one candle, until 11.00 pm in remembrance of those killed in that war. 

To date:-

58 Israelis have been killed, 56 of them military and only 2 civilians.

1740 Palestinians have been killed, the majority of them civilians.

Today the Israelis targeted another UN school with more deaths.

The continued economic blockade of Gaza is basically a concentration camp for 1,7000,000,inhabitants and is morally wrong. I agree that trying to rocket your way out is not the right answer.

However, Israel telling Palestinians to leave their homes, move to safe places, being given their GPS coordinates by the UN, and then bombing those UN Safety Enclaves is not acceptable behaviour. .

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Sermon 8/10/14

In today's gospel, Christ leaves the scene of the loaves and fishes to pray on a mountain while the apostles lie off-shore in a boat. The weather picks up and the apostles become alarmed. Then they see Christ walking toward them on the water.
Believe it or not, that's the easy part.
Peter, in a complicated way, leaves the boat to walk to Christ but, as he approaches Him, he became fearful and then begins to sink. Christ rescues him and chides him for his lack of faith.
Much like the "no one is a prophet in his own land" event, the strength of God is somehow influenced by the faith of the recipient.
Somehow faith and the power of God are "entangled."

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Cab Thoughts 8/9/14

The greatest obstacle to discovering the shape of the earth, the continents, and the oceans was not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge. -Daniel J. Boorstin, historian, professor, attorney, and writer (1914-2004)

The first book printed in the English language, The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye, from the press of William Caxton c. 1473-74, sold for £1,082,500 ($1,823,363) last month. Only 18 copies of this book survive, and of those, only six are in private hands.

This week is the 45 anniversary of the Manson murders, astonishing even now. Patricia Krenwinkle is now 66. She is eligible for parole in 2018.

Obsequious: a: Behaving in an ingratiating or servile manner. Earlier the word meant obedient or dutiful, with no connotations of fawning. Over time it has taken a negative turn. From Latin obsequiosus (compliant), from obsequi (to comply), from ob- (to) + sequi (follow). Earliest documented use: 1447.

Of the various petitions on global warming circulated for signatures by scientists, the one by the Petition Project, a group of physicists and physical chemists based in La Jolla, Calif., has by far the most signatures—more than 31,000 (more than 9,000 with a Ph.D.). It was most recently published in 2009, and most signers were added or reaffirmed since 2007. The petition states that “there is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of . . . carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.”

Expect outrage over how giving the experimental Ebola drug  to the two U.S. victims was decided. Why not someone else? A local, somebody poor? Why a white American? This will originate from those people who oppose using Africa for experimental drug testing.

Golden oldie:

The first known ship inside a bottle was created during the early years of the 19th century. Like other sailor-made art forms, these were created aboard old sailing ships in an era when sea voyages lasted months and sometimes years. Whalers, during their idle hours, produced scrimshaw (drawings on bone or ivory) for family members, sweethearts, and friends. 
Scrimshaw. Here, an image of a whale hunt carved on a successfully ...

Earlier this season, after a Milwaukee Brewers pitcher unintentionally hit one batter and had a breaking ball sail a little too close to the head of a second batter, Diamondbacks pitcher Evan Marshall was ejected for hitting Ryan Braun. When Marshall arrived back at the dugout, he received an emphatic fist-pump from manager Kirk Gibson.
Who is....Konstantin Volkov?

The queen of England's former Press Secretary, Dickie Arbiter, is reportedly writing  about the royal family.

One of Israel's defenses of the civilian deaths in their attacks is their insistence that Hamas is using civilians as shields and is firing on Israel from places most would consider off-limits.
Aishi Zidan of Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat reported seeing a Hamas rocket launched from hospital grounds at Israel: “Also, a rocket attack was conducted from the ‘backyard’ of the hospital at 2 o’clock in the morning. It (the rocket launch), in fact, happened somewhere close by because the noise right here at the hospital area was really loud. Indeed, these rockets launched here from the Gaza side (of the border) are headed into Israel.” Pro-Israel sites picked up and used her broadcast, generating Zidan's anger.
Noting the main purpose of her report was to cover the “Palestinian civilians who were victims of war,” Zidan wrote, “During the night someone launched a rocket somewhere behind the hospital. Now this sentence from my article is spreading in the pro-Israeli medias. I mentioned this in my article because I’m a professional journalist. I try to cover the events truthfully as I see them and I strongly condemn these kind of actions.”
“But I find it very disgusting how this one sentence was taken out context to be used as an excuse to target civilians in Gaza. My story became quickly a tool of propaganda. The people sharing this story are not even trying to understand the situation as a whole. They are just looking for excuses to Israeli actions in Gaza,” she added.
“I refuse to be part of this kind of propaganda,” she concluded.
This is a very peculiar story and stance.

Marburg Ebola arose in the 1960's and was first thought to have been the result of a bio-weapons program. But the actual   source of the virus in Germany was a species of African green monkeys, imported from Uganda, which were being used by the German scientists for polio vaccine research.

The university creates a very difficult inherent conflict. Aside from the practical questions of cost and values, the nature of the university is essentially a counterculture, a loosely organized system opposed to the nature of the West, its structure and its history. But it is completely dependent upon the production of that culture and was created by its history. That inherent contradiction cannot persist.

About one in thirty thousand men and one in a hundred thousand women seek gender-reassignment surgery.

AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaannnnnnndddddd....a news article of the times:

Friday, August 8, 2014

Two Pictures: A Fable

A man and his wife walk into a home of a Canadian hockey fan in Montreal. There are two pictures on velvet over the fireplace, one a formal portrait of President Reagan and one of Henri "Rocket" Richard in his Canadian uniform.
The wife does not know anything about hockey and asks "Whose picture is that?"
"President Reagan," the man answers.
Moral: Devotion makes assumptions

Thursday, August 7, 2014

From Russia, With Disdain

There has always been some disparity in how our leaders have been portrayed in different countries. Reagan, for example, was always shown as a rugged, trigger-happy cowboy in the British press. But governments are different. Governments have always been careful and respectful. Now this, from the Russian government. The government!

Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin posted a picture on his Twitter account of President Vladimir Putin petting a leopard next to one of Mr Obama holding a fluffy poodle, with the caption “we have different values and allies.”
Embedded image permalink

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cab Thoughts 7/6/14

When I feed the hungry, they call me a saint. When I ask why people are hungry, they call me a communist. -Helder Camara, archbishop (1909-1999)

Al-Qaeda is increasingly funding terror operations thanks to at least $125 million in ransom paid since 2008, largely by European governments to free western hostages, the New York Times reported. The payments totaled $66 million in 2013 alone.Who was....George Washington DeLong?

Saw an interesting interview with a woman billed as a Russian expert. The interviewer set the table with the proposition that Putin was attempting to recreate some new Russian hegemony with his action in Ukraine and resurrect the old empire. The woman listen quietly as the man went on. Finally he allowed her to speak. She replied that Putin's actions had nothing to do with nostalgia or empire. Everything he was doing was trade related, specifically natural gas. He wants to create a monopoly of supply and delivery. Think, she said, of Mafia dons fighting over drug distribution rights. That, she said, is exactly what Putin is like and he is good at it. The interviewer was stunned to silence.

Three hundred thousand books are published in the United States every year.

We always have theories. Years ago many believed the Arctic Circle was fertile land possibly warmed by rivers.
In July 1879, more than 30 explorers set sail on The Jeannette from San Francisco to find out. They were hoping to discover a pure, green paradise at the top of the world which they could claim in the name of American exploration. The expedition was commanded by George Washington DeLong — one of the era's dashing heroes — and funded by James Gordon Bennett of the New York Herald. The ship sunk and the survivors carried three lifeboats 600 miles to navigable water. One boat was captained by a relative of Herman Melville. In The Kingdom Of Ice is a new book about the adventure.

Golden oldie:

Restive: a: Restless, uneasy. An interesting evolution. Earlier the word meant refusing to go forward, as in a restive horse. Over time the word shifted in meaning and now it means the opposite. Instead of "unable to advance", now it means "unable to remain still." From Middle French rester (to remain), from Latin restare (to remain standing). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sta- (to stand), which is also the source of stay, stage, stable, instant, establish, static, system.

Over three days in mid-August, Romney will campaign for GOP Senate and gubernatorial candidates in West Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas, aides said. In September, he is planning visits to the presidential swing states of Colorado and Virginia. Romney is filling up his October schedule, as well. I can't imagine he'll be back. Far too much innuendo about dog houses for him to deal with Putin or the Middle East.

South Park has an episode called "The Underpants Gnomes" who steal underwear as part of a business plan summarized as:
1. Collect underpants.
2. ?????
3. Profit!
This is offered ironically as the blueprint for most start-ups. There is an impassioned defense of a national chain store at the end.
The TV critic (and sometime Austrian economist) Paul Cantor referred to this particular episode as "the most fully developed defense of capitalism ever" —

I heard an interview with a infectious disease guy re: Ebola. Apparently it can be spread by the fruit bat and a common food in Africa is fruit bat soup. Forewarned is forearmed.

Toxins in the water have been linked to an algae bloom in Lake Erie, which is a primary source of drinking water for many Ohio communities. In recent decades, Lake Erie has seen large blooms of blue-green algae develop in its western basin. In 2011, the algae covered a record 1,930 square miles of Lake Erie – nearly 20 percent of the entire surface of the lake.
The blooms grow from an excess of phosphorus, which is a key ingredient in many fertilizers. Lake Erie is particularly prone to the blooms because rivers carry runoff from farmland into the shallow western basin of the lake.

The author H. H. Munro is one of the funniest men ever to write a short story. He was killed by a sniper in WW1 at the age of 46. 

The 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act championed by the first lady and her "Let's Move!" campaign overhauled nutrition standards affecting more than 30 million children in grade school. In dozens of states, bake sales must adhere to nutrition requirements that could replace cupcakes and brownies with fruit cups and granola bars. Bake sales under federal edicts.

AAAAaaaaaaannnnnndddddd.....a composite
from the orbiting 2.4-meter Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based 8.2-meterSubaru Telescope: 

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

When Error Becomes a Characteristic

The Middle East morality play of human savagery continues. One can review the play from many angles and with many lenses. The U.N.'s creation of Israel and the morass of unintended--and cruelly unforeseen-- consequences, the intransigence of religious and political positions and its destructive and self-destructive nature, the complicity of other removed entities who contribute to the bloody chaos for reasons unrelated to the blood-letting, the homicidal mania of the righteous.
That said, there are some practical realities here. There is the constant suffering of the vulnerable noncombatant, the poisonous mendacity of the propaganda, the sacrifice of peace and the threat of expanding mayhem.
Enter John Kerry and the esteemed Obama administration's peace attempt.

As discussed by Krauthammer this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s week-long ceasefire negotiations in Paris has firmly placed the US in the camp of Qatar and Turkey, both of which back the militant government of Hamas, while it has sidelined its traditional allies: Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- as well as offended the Palestinian Authority, Hamas’s rival for the leadership of the Palestinians. An Egyptian plan, supported by the entire Arab League and the Palestinian Authority--with the exception of Qatar--was ignored. Remember, Egypt has blockaded Gaza in their opposition to Hamas, Fatah--the leading element of the Palestinian Authority--is in a blood feud with Hamas, Hamas has supported unrest in Syria and has earned its enmity, and Hamas is intensely opposed by both the Saudis and the Jordanians. There is a profound movement in the Middle East against radicalism that, coincidentally, would benefit Israel. Yet the U.S. has aligned itself with the two outliers in the Middle East, opposed the blockade, and offered to give a cash infusion to the bankrupt Hamas!

What is happening is the efforts of the moderate elements of the Middle East to isolate Hamas is being opposed by the U.S..

What are these people thinking? How many times does an administration get to be wrong before something cracks?

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Beast from the Kitum Cave

"The Hot Zone" is an old book written by Richard Preston in 1994 about the Ebola outbreak in the 1980s and the reaction in the American scientific community to the threat. This is a summary of interesting aspects of the book and its take on the disease and our reactions.

The first known Ebola infection occurred in Marburg, Germany, in August of 1967. The site was a warehouse holding monkeys imported from Uganda. A warehouse worker contracted it and it quickly spread. 31 were infected and 7 died.

In July, 1976, a Sudanese shopkeeper, a Mister Yu G., gets symptoms of the virus and dies. It spreads locally until it reaches the hospital in Maridi where it kills many in the hospital through contact and reused needles. Then the episode dies out and stops. This is the first episode of Ebola Sudan, the deadliest of the Ebolas.

In September, 1976, a patient with the disease enters the hospital in Yambuku, Zaire and, again with reused needles, the virus spreads throughout the hospital killing patients and medical workers. 280 die. A nurse named Mayinga travels to the hospital in Kinshasa and the disease spreads throughout the city. The area is quarantined, read "surrounded by armed and hostile men," and the disease runs its course and disappears.

On Christmas day, 1979, Charles Monet, a French ex-pat and amateur naturalist living in Kenya, visits the Kitum Cave at Mount Elgon. Seven days later he is bleeding from everywhere. He is put on a plane and vomits all over the other passengers. He dies gruesomely in the ER of the Nairobi Hospital and the treating physician, Dr. Shem Musoke, gets the disease but survives.
A monkey warehouse worker became infected and the virus quickly spread. Out of the 31 infected 7 died. - See more at:
A monkey warehouse worker became infected and the virus quickly spread. Out of the 31 infected 7 died. - See more at:
A monkey warehouse worker became infected and the virus quickly spread. Out of the 31 infected 7 died. - See more at:


September, 1987, a young Dutch boy named Peter Cardinal dies in Kenya of the virus. He had just visited the Kitum Cave.
Eugene "Gene" Johnson, a civilian bio-hazard expert who runs the Ebola research program at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), identifies the Marburg virus in a blood serum sample taken from Cardinal. He also proves that Marburg and Ebola have the ability to travel through the air.

In October, 1989, the Reston Monkey House research facility in the D.C. suburb of Reston Va. reports that their monkeys are dying. Several virologist start an investigation with virtually no protection and USAMRIID is called. The technicians decide not to confess they have been exposed and are never quarantined.
The virus is identified as Ebola and named Ebola Reston. It kills every monkey in the monkey-house. All four of the animal caretakers eventually test positive for Ebola Reston, but the virus merely incubates for a period and then vacates the system with no ill effects. Marburg, Ebola Zaire, and Ebola Sudan have been joined by Ebola Reston. Researchers say that it is so much like Ebola Zaire that they cannot say why it does not seem to make humans sick.

All of these subtypes are found in Africa, except for Ebola Reston, which is found in the Philippines. The Ebola Reston virus is also the only subtype that will not cause illness in humans—it only affects animals.

The casualness of professionals in the face of serious danger, a confidence fueled by false assumption, should give anyone seeking to give license to self-proclaimed experts pause. 

Kitum Cave has become pilgrimage site for virologists, a fearsome holy place of awe and evil.

And an electron microscopic picture of The Beast:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunday Sermon 8/3/14

Today's gospel is the Loaves and Fishes gospel, the only miracle that appears in the writings of all four evangelists. It is a lovely mixture of  the worldly and the spiritual.
Christ seeks refuge and quiet after the murder of John the Baptist for Himself and the apostles so he goes to "a deserted place." This is not just for contemplation but for prudence; the authorities are interested in them. They go to an area just out of Herod's jurisdiction. The geography is known and described, the sea and the journey to the small town, the race by the locals to catch up with them is all quite clear and detailed. Local slang appears in the original Greek. And Christ is not put out by the interruption of His plans, He is, on the contrary, welcoming and concerned.
Then, in the middle of all this local history and color, a miracle of essential things.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cab Thoughts 8/2/14

"The love of wealth is therefore to be traced, as either a principal or accessory motive, at the bottom of all that Americans do; this gives to all their passions a sort of family likeness...
~Alexis de Tocqueville

Income taxation in the U.S. started under Wilson in 1913. The top rate was 7%. By the time Wilson left office in 1921, the top rate was 73.4%. Roosevelt raised it. Married people with no dependents who annually earned $500,000, for example, would have to pay a 98.7 percent tax rate in both 1944 and 1945. Those who earned $1 million each year of the war would owe a $1,006,750 in both 1944 and 1945. On the Senate floor on May 14, 1943, Senator Happy Chandler (D-KY) said, "All of us owe the government; we owe it for everything we have--and that is the basis of obligation--and the government can take everything we have if the government needs it."

A CNN poll shows Romney topping Obama in a re-election rematch by a whopping nine-point margin, 53 percent to 44 percent. That's an even larger spread than CNN found in November, when a survey had Romney winning a redo 49 percent to 45 percent. Two years ago, Obama won re-election with about 51 percent of the vote.

It takes 1.4 gallons of ethanol to produce the same energy as a gallon of gasoline.

Ray Donovan star Steven Bauer, 57, is dating 18-year-old Lyda Loudon, a source confirms to Us Weekly. According to her Twitter, Loudon is an "art-time nightmare-inspirer, journalist, host of Sarcasm Overdose, ceo, full-time wildchild, [and an] unsalvageable degenerate film/music/cigar/espresso addict." According to, Loudon founded "Tea Party Youth, the only youth-founded, youth-owned and youth-controlled movement exclusively dedicated to the Tea Party's future."

The search for yield entails taking  increasing risk as you go higher in return. This risk is a bit more quantifiable with bonds. In the period from 1970-2011, only 0.8% of municipal bonds rated investment grade defaulted (i.e., failed to make interest or principal payments) within ten years after issuance. In contrast, 7.94% of below-investment grade muni bonds defaulted during this time. This indicates that default risk, while not particularly high on an absolute basis, is much higher for below-investment grade munis - a potential issue when a weaker economy pressures the finances of state and local governments. In late 2008, most high yield municipal bonds lost about 20-25% in the three-month period from September through November. In contrast, investment grade funds shed approximately 10-13%. This was a unique time period, but it serves to illustrate that high yield bonds are at risk for a greater loss than investment grade bonds when the market turns south.

Who was...Gaetan Dugas, "patient zero?"

Patrick Sawyer arrived at Lagos' airport on July 20 and was isolated at a local hospital after exhibiting common Ebola symptoms. He told officials he had no direct contact with anyone who had the virus. (Sawyer is an American citizen who was in Africa caring for his dying sister who sounds as if she had Ebola. He was on an international flight, on his way home to the U.S..) Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days. His wife said--his wife--"Patrick was coming here. What if he still wasn't displaying symptoms yet and came? He could have brought Ebola here." The effort to evaluate people who might have come in contact with Sawyer has been limited because the airline has not provided the passenger lists for all three of the flights Sawyer took. This was an international flight. Probably privacy concerns.

A sequel to "Mad Max" is due out starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron.

Hedonics reduces the composit value of a thing to its constituent parts. The government uses this technique to calculate inflation. So a smart phone improves in what it offers and the government economist looks at that and says the price of the phone, while higher, is bdoing more; therefore the cost of the phone is actually declining. The NYT analyzed the cost of televisions and found, through hedonics, that the price of televisions has dropped 110%.

Golden oldie:

It has been revealed that the Russians successfully sneaked an "attack code" into the NASDAQ computer system. An attack code is not an espionage code, it is a military code designed to damage. Such codes are rare. Stutnex attacked the Iranian nuclear system and Iran destroyed two thirds of Saudi Aramco's computer network. 5 months of investigation by FBI and NSA offices could not determine exactly what the plan was. Bloomberg Businessweek has been pursuing the story, which has had little coverage, but has not been successful in getting many on the record. Now, back to the Kardashians....

Continuing the obsession with Piketty: Washington University professor Mark Rank shows that “12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year. What’s more, 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent, and a whopping 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution.”

The Brookings Institution scholar Ron Haskins was pivotal for President Clinton’s welfare reform when his studies showed that in that era 75 percent of all new welfare cases started after new single motherhood. Only 12 percent of new cases started because of a decrease in earnings.

AAAAAAAaaaannnnnnnddddd.........a picture of the monastery of Wadi Qelt: