Friday, October 31, 2014

Ebola and AIDS

As of Oct. 25, the World Health Organization reports that 450 health care workers have contracted Ebola this year and 244 have died. The administration has taken the position that temperature monitoring is predictive and adequate yet there is actually strong evidence that is not true. One in seven people infected with Ebola doesn't have a fever before diagnosis. Data on over 4,000 Ebola cases — the most complete analysis ever — published Oct. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine show that 13% of patients don't develop fever early on. Self-monitoring is also seen as beneficial; relying on returning doctors and nurses to monitor themselves assumes they will catch any sign of illness quickly and avoid spreading it. But the New England Journal of Medicine research found doctors and nurses with Ebola don't get to the hospital sooner. And that certainly squares with the original Reston experience.   
But there clearly is more going on here than science and epidemiology. Thomas Frieden, the head of the CDC,  in response to the move by several governors to create quarantine programs for doctors and nurses returning from West Africa, said that isolation would be a "stigma" and make them "pariahs." Stigma? Pariahs? These people are willing to sacrifice a lot of accuracy for some principle that is hard tor the rest of us to define. It is very reminiscent of the campaign to characterize AIDS as a heterosexual disease. What is the important thing here?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Unnatural

The West has been indulging an orgy of self-recrimination of late. One element that seeps into this self-loathing is a strange hatred of technology and a fear of progress. This has a weird Rousseau quality about it, the poisoning of man's good nature by civilization. This collections of Grand Wizards and Exalted Cyclopes oppose advances in farming and cultivation, trade, fishing--indeed anything that hints of an easier and healthier life. Evidence is offered whether it exists or not and action often taken on the basis of induction as it "just feels right." So trees are trapped to injure loggers and experimental farms with innovative solutions to disease and hunger are vandalized.
Gordon Conway, the former president of the Rockefeller Foundation and a professor at London’s Imperial College, summarizes all this nicely. "People in the rich world love to dabble in a past they were lucky enough to avoid—you know, a couple of chickens running around with the children in the back yard. But farming is bloody tough, as anyone who does it knows. It is like those people who romanticize villages in the developing world. Nobody who ever lived in one would do that.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cab Thoughts 10/29/14

"To get profit without risk, experience without danger, and reward without work, is as impossible as it is to live without being born." - A. P. Gouthev

“The Death of Klinghoffer” is being performed by the New York Metropolitan Opera amid public protests. Protests in the street. It is a 1991 work by the American composer John Adams and depicts the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and the murder of a Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, by Palestinian terrorists. Mr. Klinghoffer's daughters wrote that the opera “presents false moral equivalencies without context and offers no real insight into the historical reality and the senseless murder of an American Jew…it rationalizes, romanticizes, and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father.”
The aegis of Art.
A running back from the Dallas Cowboys, Joseph Randle, was caught shoplifting underwear and a cologne. A Los Angeles-based brand called MeUndies has just hired Joseph Randle as their spokesman. You can see how something like this might confuse the average person. But Monica Lewinski has just launched her career as an "anti-bully advocate."
Tom Hanks has written a short story called "Alan Bean Plus Four," out now in The New Yorker.
Hurricanes and typhoons are formed by a rotating mass of air that centers around an area of low pressure, bringing high speed winds, heavy rain and thunder storms. The difference in the name depends upon where they are formed. Hurricanes generally form in the north Atlantic ocean or in the north east Pacific Ocean, with the Caribbean sea being worst effected. Typhoons develop in the north western part of the Pacific Ocean, affecting south east Asia, the South China Sea and Japan most.  They are both types tropical cyclone, which form over large bodies of relatively warm water in the tropics. 
Who is....Paul Verlaine?
The chief executive of French oil major Total, Christophe de Margerie, was killed when his private jet collided with a snow plough as it was taking off from Moscow's Vnukovo airport. Russia's Investigative Committee said the driver of the snow plough had been drunk. Now in any other country this would be a horrifying tragedy and an indictment of the culture. In Putin's Russia, however,....
Singularity: N: The quality of being strange or odd; peculiarity. Originally a mathematical term for a point at which an equation has no solution. In physics, it was proven that a large-enough collapsing star would eventually become a black hole, so dense that its own gravity would cause a singularity in the fabric of space-time, a point where many standard physics equations suddenly have no solution. Beyond the “event horizon” of the black hole, the models no longer work.
Mimas is one of Saturn's smallest moons. It is mostly made of ice and it has a wobble in its orbit which leads astronomers to guess that inside might be a liquid water interior ocean. 
Regulations have a price. Some have estimated regulations in the U.S. to be about 10% of GDP. Some states require a "nail technician" to have a license that requires a 750-hour training program to learn something that every teenage girl knows how to do by the time she is 13 or 14?  750 hours of training that you have to pay for in order to be able to do a manicure for which you get paid 20 or 30 dollars? This has also led to the creation of little educational companies that will provide the approved education. And they will arrange the loan.
The percentage of workers over 75 that are still active in the workforce has doubled in the past 20 years.
Ah, to be young and in love in France! In 1873 Paul Verlaine shot his lover Arthur Rimbaud in both a Brussels hotel and the wrist. This is from the police report: "In morality and talent, this Raimbaud [sic], aged between 15 and 16, was and is a monster. He can construct poems like no one else, but his works are completely incomprehensible and repulsive....Verlaine had abandoned his wife with unparalleled glee; yet she is said to be very likeable and well-mannered. . . ."
It became a productive year for both of them. While in prison, Verlaine completed and published "Songs Without Words," an unpopular collection which was seen as revolutionary within a decade. Rimbaud published "A Season in Hell", his only book. Soon afterwards, he gave up on Europe and literature for the quieter life of gun-running in Africa. By the mid-1880s the French Decadents were hailing him as their "Messiah," and by the middle of the 20th century he was "the poet of revolt, and the greatest of them all" according to Albert Camus. 
This from his "Season": "Priests, professors and doctors, you are mistaken in delivering me into the hands of the law. I have never been one of you; I have never been a Christian; I belong to the race that sang on the scaffold; I do not understand your laws; I have no moral sense; I am a brute; you are making a mistake..."
Fisher Equation of Exchange: Reduced to its most simple form, it comes out as P=MV, where P is the nominal gross domestic product (not inflation-adjusted here), M is the money supply, and V is the velocity of money.  If the central bank prints too much money, inflation will ensue. But, if the velocity of money is slowing, the supply of money can rise without an increase in inflation. And that is precisely what has been happening. In fact, the velocity of money has been slowing since 1997 and recently it has been plummeting.
Golden oldie:
In days gone by, it was common for some ports to have isolated areas, usually islands, to hold ill or suspected ill immigrants. These places of quarantine were called “Lazarettos” or “Lazerets,” after Lazarus, the beggar from the Scriptures. The islands often doubled as leper colonies and sometimes penal colonies.  They would isolate and quarantine those who were sick—or thought to be sick—until they recovered, or until they died. Built in A.D. 1423 on an island in the Venetian Lagoon, Lazzaretto Vecchio, was the first lazaretto constructed to quarantine people and care for them during the years of the plague epidemics. From 1832 to 1848, thousands of Irish immigrants landed on Grosse Island in the St. Lawrence River. Over 5,000 Irish were buried on Grosse Island which makes it the largest Irish Potato Famine cemetery outside Ireland. 
Bob Dietrick, from Polaris Partners, quoted in Forbes:" “As this unemployment chart shows, President Obama’s job creation kept unemployment from peaking at as high a level as President Reagan, and promoted people into the workforce faster than President Reagan.
“President Obama has achieved a 6.1% unemployment rate in his sixth year, fully one year faster than President Reagan did.  At this point in his presidency, President Reagan was still struggling with 7.1% unemployment, and he did not reach into the mid-low 6% range for another full year.  So, despite today’s number, the Obama administration has still done considerably better at job creating and reducing unemployment than did the Reagan administration.
We forecast unemployment will fall to around 5.4% by summer, 2015.  A rate President Reagan was unable to achieve during his two terms.”
AAAaaaaannnnnndddddd.....a graph of the percent of 55 year olds and over who are in the workforce:
labor force participation rate 55+

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

No Place for the Cautious Rentier

Martin Wolfe, Financial Times columnist writes: "Low interest rates are certainly unpopular, particularly with cautious rentiers. But cautious rentiers no longer serve a useful economic purpose. What is needed instead are genuinely risk-taking investors. In their absence, governments need to use their balance sheets to build productive assets. There is little sign that they will. If so, central banks will be driven towards cheap money. Get used to it: this will endure." 

"Cautious rentiers no longer serve a useful economic purpose." This is a provocative notion. The central banks are providing excess money to assure money availability, especially to the highly leveraged companies. So money is available at low cost because of its ubiquity. But no one trusts that this availability will not undermine the money's very value so, behind it all, is the fear of inflation, the fear you will be paid back with money of less value than the money you lent. So, while money is available at low rates for banks to lend at higher but still low rates, the is no confidence that that availability will continue if inflation arrives and counteracts the banks' profit.

So, how is this conflict resolved? Do banks just hold the money and lend to the very solvent? Do we have low interest rates, volumes of excess money and no money available? Or are banks to be the risk takers?


Monday, October 27, 2014

The Aegis of Art

“The Death of Klinghoffer” is being performed by the New York Metropolitan Opera amid public protests. Protests in the street. It is a 1991 work by the American composer John Adams and depicts the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship and the murder of a Jewish passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, by Palestinian terrorists. Mr. Klinghoffer's daughters wrote that the opera “presents false moral equivalencies without context and offers no real insight into the historical reality and the senseless murder of an American Jew…it rationalizes, romanticizes, and legitimizes the terrorist murder of our father.” The aegis of Art.

Does everything deserve a second viewpoint, another perspective? Is Ebola just another life form struggling in the void? Does Hitler have a context? Should the KKK have a retrospective?

On the other hand, if Art has nothing to teach other than there is nothing to teach, what will happen to it?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Sermon 10/26/14

Today's gospel is the Two Great Commandments gospel, the love of God and the love of neighbor.
The love of God was written, literally, in the Jewish life of the time--and continues in some households. The Old Testament has admonishments to write the commandment of the love of God on doorposts, arm and forehead and many did. This is the "Phylactery," the written inscriptions of the bible in leather boxes on house doorways, and the forehead and arm of believers.

There were 613 laws in Christ's time that governed Judaic life. Sometimes genius shows in the insightful simplifying of reality.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cab Thoughts 10/25/14

"And he said, you know, credibility at the Fed is about subtleties and about perceptions, as opposed to reality."--Carmen Segarra quoting Mike Silva, the senior Fed official stationed inside Goldman.
42-year-old Omar J. Gonzalez rushed across the lawn and into the First Family’s residence, where the trespasser was “confronted by a female Secret Service agent, whom he overpowered.” I did not know the agent was a woman.
Ireland has found itself the center of controversy in Europe these days, because of the tangled tax regimes of the other countries. Ireland has given itself the opportunity to outcompete other states through low corporate taxes and give companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and others a 12.5% tax rate, well below the European average and lower than even the United Kingdom's 21% rate. (The U.S. rate is around 33%.) Bono, speaking as an economic commentator, said that "tax competitiveness has brought our country the only prosperity it's ever known."  All this has brought criticism from the other European countries who would prefer tax transfers.

According to wine and science writer Jamie Goode, what we call "tannin" in wine is an older term, derived from the practice of using plant extracts to cure leather (what we know as "tanning"), which is possible due to the fact that tannins have a strong tendency to link up chemically with proteins. When applied to animal hides, tannins cross-link with the proteins, turning the soft material into a substance tough enough to use for shoes, saddles and belts.
Who was.....Carmen Segarra?
The Maersk Triple E is the largest ship ever built, the pride and joy of the largest shipping company in the world, Maersk. The ship was a huge hit with the public last year when it docked in Copenhagen for a week, 50,000 people visited, tours were given and an exhibition about the boat was made. It towered above the Copenhagen skyline. Maersk has commissioned 20 Triple E’s to be built by the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) shipyard in South Korea, the second largest shipbuilder in the world. There are 8 other Triple E’s at different stages of production at the shipyard currently. It can carry 18,000 containers stacked 11 levels high. The engine room is 5 stories tall. There’s a small cinema and swimming pool for the 15-person crew.
Cimmerian: very dark and gloomy. After Cimmerians, a mythical people described in Homer's Odyssey, who lived in perpetual darkness at the entrance of Hades. The historical Cimmerians, who lived in Crimea, were unrelated. Earliest documented use: 1594.
In a move seeming designed to ramp up pressure on Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters, Chinese authorities have detained one scholar and banned the books of eight writers, according to Reuters.
There is a new book out on secret messaging and invisible ink by espionage historian Kristie Macrakis. When the Greek tyrant Histiaeus wanted to incite a revolt against the Persian Empire, he had the call to arms tattooed on the scalp of a slave. After the hair grew back, the slave was sent on his mission; no Persians thought to inspect his scalp, so the message made it through. Mary, Queen of Scots, wrote her plans for revolution in cipher and with disappearing ink made from alum.

Carmen Segarra worked for the Fed. Her expertise was helping big banks with the procedures and systems they need to comply with the many rules and regulations they face, here and overseas. She had done it for over a decade. She speaks four languages: French, Italian, Spanish, English. She’s currently learning Dutch. She has degrees from Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia, and studied international law at the Sorbonne.
She discovered that Goldman Sachs did not have any policy on conflict of interest when it advised El Paso Corporation on selling itself to Kinder Morgan, a company in which Goldman Sachs owned a US$4 billion stake, and with several former Goldman Sachs employees who had previously worked for Kinder Morgan on the El Paso team. She was pressured by her superiors at the Federal Reserve to alter her report, but stated that her professional view of the situation did not change, and refused to do so. She was dismissed shortly after.
Segarra sued the Federal Reserve over her dismissal, but the case was dismissed for technical reasons, without considering its merits.
The Dutch public prosecutor said on Tuesday that motorbike gang members who have reportedly joined Kurds battling the Islamic State group in Iraq are not necessarily committing any crime. (Not the Onion)
In 2005, two-thirds of medical practices were physician-owned. Today, that number has dropped to around half, with hospitals controlling the other half. With their larger staffs, hospitals are better positioned to absorb the burgeoning costs of red tape — including over 13,000 pages in the ACA alone. Perversely, the government also pays private physicians less than hospitals for exactly the same services.
Golden oldie:
In his new book “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War,” reporter James Risen follows how $20 billion was sent to Iraq with little or no oversight and without any clear direction on how it should be spent. Most of this money was flown from East Rutherford, N.J., in bricks of $100 bills. Pallets of cash were distributed at will. Today $11.7 billion remains unaccounted for. Much of it made its way into private bank accounts. A Pentagon report found that in the decade after 9/11, the Defense Department gave more than $400 billion to contractors who had been sanctioned in actions involving $1 million or more in fraud.
Eugene "Gene" Johnson, a civilian bio-hazard expert who ran the Ebola research program at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), identified the Marburg virus in a blood serum sample taken from an Ebola infected boy)in 1986. He also proved--or at least theorized-- that Marburg and Ebola have the ability to travel through the air. (From "Hot Zone") Preston, who wrote "The Hot Zone," said this in a recent interview (he is updating the book): "With what we know now about the genetic code of the virus, Ebola does not travel through the air in airborne form and is very unlikely to mutate that way. Another thing that’s been learned about Ebola is the mutation rate. The virus is continually mutating as it’s moving through the human population."

There are five active spacecraft orbiting Mars: NASA's MAVIN, MRO, Mars Odyssey, as well as ESA's Mars Express, and India's Mars Orbiter

The Daily Beast reports that the U.S. is sending humanitarian aid to ISIS. "Not only are foodstuffs, medical supplies—even clinics—going to ISIS, the distribution networks are paying ISIS ‘taxes’ and putting ISIS people on their payrolls."
At least 38 people, including trekkers from Canada, India, Israel, Slovakia, Poland and Japan, died in the blizzards and avalanches that swept the Himalayas last week. Most of the victims were on or near the Annapurna trekking route, a 220-kilometer (140-mile) collection of trails through the mountain range. Most of the casualties were among those caught on the Thorong La pass, one of the highest points on the circuit. The fatality-to-summit ratio (32%) is the highest of any of the so called "eight-thousanders," mountains of 8000 km or more.
AAAaaaannnnnnddddd... a Rosetta spacecraft Selfie, about 8 miles off the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, that looks like a barbell at 12 o'clock :
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Assyria to Iberia

Metropolitan Museum of Art has a new exhibit titled Assyria to Iberia at the Dawn of the Classical Age. This is part of a review by Melik Kaylan:
From Assyria's zenith to Babylon's rise, the Phoenicians acted as the universalizing mediators of culture via the Internet of their time: the sea. They invented the phonetic alphabet. They founded Carthage. They took their multicultural spores to Etruscan Italy and as far as Seville, Spain, thereby feeding the roots of later Roman and Western art. Along the way, repeatedly, we feel the powerful charm of gorgeous or poignant objects, such as the exquisitely inscribed large seashells that are displayed together here but were found across continents. The most striking artifacts of all, for this reviewer, turned out to be the chunky gold bracelets and royal jewelry of the Carambolo Treasure, from an ancient Phoenician city that became Seville, Spain.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"The El Dorado of Unearned Wealth"

A well regarded commentator was writing an article opposing fracking. Because the technology has been investigated to death and found innocent it was an article of mostly innuendo with references to "Gasline" and fishkills, examples that have long been put to rest but, in this era of zombies, can be resurrected as "might be" or "could happen" possibilities. Buried in this screed-disguised-as-reason was a comment on the people who sold their mineral rights to the gas miners. Most of these people are, of course, farmers. Their contracts were referred to as "the El Dorado of unearned wealth."

I always admire a well poisoner's good turn of phrase. "George Bush was born on third base and thought he hit a triple" was one of the cleverest of pointed, dismissive cruelties. Whether any part of the line is accurate, truth always takes a backseat to the bon mot. And this is especially true if there is clever collateral damage. How wonderful it is to paint all the sons of the wealthy with George Bush's brush! Makes you want to run out and burn their estates. Or at least rewrite the inheritance laws.
"The El Dorado of unearned wealth" is one of those lines. "El Dorado:" a myth believed and sought by crude, disease bearing, homicidal adventurers. "Unearned wealth." What could be worse? Unearned poverty? It does make the mind wander. How could we set this all straight? How do we define "earned" anyway? Does a neurosurgeon earn enough? What about a soldier? Or a good cleanup hitter?
Or does "earned" imply "worked for," sweated and labored for? In that light, all investment would be tainted. Interest would be a sin. (Who does that remind you of?)

All of these people have, in their mind somewhere, an unspoken hierarchy, a preferential list. Some things are inherently of more value than others. And this structure is not for we the people to decide. What we value is not up to us. Galton's large sampling must be trimmed down to include only special clubs, unions and groups. These Illuminati know the truth about us, our wants, needs and desires. They know our faults and foibles. And they know the solutions to our conflicts.

They have a warm and holy glow about them. We should be happy just to be allowed to be near them.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cab Thoughts 10/22/14

“Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.”--Jefferson

At the Battle of Tours near Poitiers, France, Frankish leader Charles Martel, a Christian, defeated a large army of Spanish Moors, halting the Muslim advance into Western Europe. Abd-ar-Rahman, the Muslim governor of Cordoba, was killed in the fighting, and the Moors retreated from Gaul, never to return in such force. Martel solidified his position as leader of the Carolingians. His son Pepin became the first Carolingian king of the Franks, and his grandson was Charlemagne.

In the Old Testament, the law allowed for men to divorce their wives because of infertility. Women could not divorce men. I guess the cause was assumed to be female. Homunculus?
Carlo Gesualdo da Venose, the Prince of Venosa, was an Italian nobleman and composer in the 16th century. He is famous not only for the haunting madrigals he composed, but the vicious murder of his wife, Maria d'Avalos, and her lover, Fabrizio Carafa, the Duke of Andria. Gesualdo suspected the lovers and laid a trap for them. The story is filled with gory descriptions  and of Gesualdo's exit from the bedchambers, his hands covered with blood, only to return a second time to stab his wife, muttering, 'I believe she may not yet be dead.' 
Gesualdo was never punished. Women in late-Renaissance Italy were not allowed amorous dalliances. Spanish convention, which would have included Naples, inclined to the killing of both the adulteress and her lover, the northern Italian tradition to killing only the wife.
Ah, tradition.
The Supreme Court--hardly a conservative group--has unanimously voted against thirteen constitutional positions taken by the Obama/Holder administration.
During the 1944 Warsaw uprising, Stalin ordered the advancing Red Army to stop at the outskirts of the city while the Nazis, for 63 days, annihilated the non-Communist Polish partisans. Only then did Stalin take Warsaw. In a similar way, Turkey is watching as the heroic Islamic State exterminates the Kurds nearby. Turkey hopes to dominate the Middle East and is Sunni. So is the heroic Islamic State. While they might be the Mother of All Loose Cannons, they do hate the same people the Turks hate. Soooo......
Who was...Elmira Shelton?
Light pillar: When light, either natural or man-made comes in to contact with the facets of ice crystals in the air (usually close to the ground) it will bounce.  When the source of light is close to or on the ground the light pillar will appear above the floating crystals.

Artemisia was the 5th century BCE Queen of Halicarnassus, a kingdom that would be located in modern-day Turkey. However, she was best known as a naval commander and ally of Xerxes, the King of Persia, in his invasion of the Greek city-states, like the movie 300: Rise of an Empire. She made her mark on history in the Battle of Salamis, where the fleet she commanded was deemed the best against the Greeks. Greek historian Herodotus wrote of her heroics, painting her as a warrior who was decisive and incredibly intelligent in her strategies. This included a ruthless sense of self-preservation. With a Greek vessel bearing down on her ship, Artemisia intentionally steered into another Persian vessel to trick the Greeks into believing she was one of them. It worked. The Greeks left her be. The Persian ship sank. Watching from the shore, Xerxes saw the collision and believed Artemisia had sunk a Greek enemy, not one of his own. So the Greeks and the Persians were both wrong. Symmetry.

The federal government recently began its seventh year of considering whether to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
In The Widow Clicquot by Tilar J. Mazzeo, in 1814 Napoleon was on the run. The advancing coalition troops, led by the Russians, captured Reims, the French briefly recaptured it, and then it fell again to the Russians in the days before Napoleon's surrender. Both Russian and French troops celebrated their respective victories with a little-known local drink called Champagne. Thus began the ascent of Champagne to the world famous drink of celebration we know today.

Dr. Brantly first felt ill with Ebola July 23 but tested negative. Despite that negative result, he was placed into isolation.
Contumely: a noun that looks like an adverb. Rudeness whose roots are in arrogance; an arrogant remark or action. From Middle English contumelie via Old French from Latin contumelia "abuse, insult, affront," a variant of contumia. Probably related to tumere "swell up; become excited, violent"

2.5 million French live abroad a French parliamentary commission of inquiry has found, according to Le Figaro. Hélène Charveriat, the delegate-general of the Union of French Citizens Abroad told The Independent that while the figure of 2.5 million expatriates is “not enormous”, what is more troubling is the increase of about 2 per cent each year. Luc Chatel, secretary general of the UMP, who chaired the commission. said there is “an anti-work mentality, absurd fiscal pressure, a lack of promotion prospects, and the burden of debt hanging over future generations.”
Only four people have seen the FIFA investigative report into the winning bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. (NY Times)

Against the Ducks, Penguins attempted to pass the puck in the defensive zone to another player in the defensive zone 71 times after gaining possession of the puck. Only 17 times did the puck result in a lost possession for a 76% success rate on the first pass. By comparison, Penguins attempted just 22 passes from the defensive zone to another player in the neutral zone, 14 (63%) were successful.

Golden oldie:

Only 27 per cent of Americans believing that “things in the United States are heading in the right direction” according to a CBS/New York Times poll this week.
Though many Burmese initially fought on the side of the invading Japanese army, the vast majority switched allegiance by 1945; and it was in the aftermath of the war that Aung San negotiated the Panglong Agreement, which guaranteed the country’s independence and firmly established him as the father of modern Burma.
Aung San was assassinated by political rivals six months before his dream of an independent Burma was finally realized.
AAAAAAaaaaannnnnddddd .....light pillars:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Should Honesty be a Prime Quality in Elections?

There is a nasty campaign going on in Pennsylvania for the governorship. I know little about the combatants or their positions. One thing, however, is quite glaring. The challenger, Wolf, is denigrating the incumbent, Corbett, for decreasing funding for education by one billion dollars.
We all know that education is a sacred field where no one can casually step. All education is valuable. Money for all education must be good. But, fortunately, the questions of the real value of education and its financing will go untouched; Corbett's budget is one billion dollars less than it was when he started. Therefor he is guilty--of something.
Except for one thing. Corbett did not remove money from the Pennsylvania educational system. The Federal Government did. When Corbett came to office the feds had, strangely through the stimulus package, given one billion dollars for Pennsylvania education. Gradually that went away and was not renewed by the federal grants.
Now one could argue that the federal government could find a better place for stimulus money, that infrastructure might be a better target than the teachers' union, etc.. But, regardless, Corbett had nothing to do with either the money's appearance  or its disappearance. More importantly, Wolf knows that.

Monday, October 20, 2014

AIDS and Networks

The origin of the Aids pandemic has been localized to a single source, a colonial-era city then called Leopoldville which became, as Kinshasa, the biggest urban center in Central Africa and a bustling focus for trade, including a market in wild “bush meat” captured from the nearby forests.
A genetic analysis of thousands of individual viruses has confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that HIV first emerged in Kinshasa, the capital of the Belgian Congo, in about 1920 from where it spread via the colonial railway network to other parts of central Africa.
The study, based on analyzing the subtle genetic differences between various subtypes of HIV, found the human virus had evolved from a simian virus infecting chimps which were hunted for food by people who had probably carried HIV with them into Kinshasa.
"Commercial sex workers" (aka "whores") and the re-use of dirty syringes, aided the transmission of the virus which was also carried to distant parts of the Congo by the millions of passengers who used the newly-built railway network.
Independence in 1960 helped the virus to “break out” from small groups of infected people into the wider population, including immigrant workers from Haiti who then carried their infection back home from where it would eventually be transmitted to visitors from the US.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Sermon 10/19/14

Last week's gospel was the wedding guest gospel. In it, a king invites his people to a wedding of his son. His people first ignore, then kill his messengers. The king then attacks them and destroys their city. He then invites strangers and passers-by to the wedding.

Then things get really tough.

One new guest is improperly dressed. The king berates him, binds him and throws him into the darkness. This to a guy who was a stand-in for the original guests. A substitute. He is judged as strictly as the original guests.

Spiritually, Woody Allen is wrong: You get no credit for "showing up."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kim Philby, OBE; Konstantin Volkov RIP

Marx must be right; there are clearly unseen forces at work that advance the cause of some cultures, even the staggeringly stupid.
Konstantin Volkov was Vice Consul for the Soviet Union In Istanbul when, in 1945, he appeared at the British Consulate and said he wanted to defect. He also confided that he was the head of the local NKVD, the secret police agency that was the forerunner of the KGB. He wanted asylum and money and offered in return astonishing information in its importance and volume: He offered them the names of 314 Soviet agents in Turkey, 250 in Britain and three high level British  spies for the Soviets, two in the Foreign office and one high in the British Counter Intelligence Service. The latter agent was certainly Kim Philby, one of the most damaging double agents in history. Volkov gave them several weeks to decide.
The information went to Menzies, head of the SIS (MI-6) who forwarded it to the head of the Russian Section,......Kim Philby!
Volkov, of course, vanished. He was last seen covered in bandages being put on a plane for Moscow. Philby continued his work as a double agent until 1967, when he defected.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cab Thoughts 10/15/14

"We human beings always seek happiness. Now there are two ways. You can make yourself happy by making other people unhappy--I call that the logic of robbery. The other way, you make yourself happy by making other people happy--that's the logic of the market. Which way do you prefer?"-- Zhang Weiying,

A traveling trunk once owned by Agatha Christie's mother had a locked metal strongbox inside. They were bought at an auction 8 years ago by an Agatha Christy fan, Jennifer Grant, but she never opened the box. Recently she pried it open and found a diamond brooch, a diamond ring and a purse of gold coins.

The first bishop of Brazil was killed and eaten by "indigenous people" after a shipwreck.


Real investment comes only from surplus value created by production. It doesn't come from people taking out more loans at lower and lower interest rates. F.A. Hayek won a Nobel Prize for developing his theory of business cycles in 1974. He thought that Adam Smith ingeniously explained and predicted how the individual made monetary decisions. They were spontaneous and only locally planned. Bottom up. What went wrong with the general economy of large groups of individuals was centralized management errors. In this he would oppose Keynes. One culprit was artificially low interest rates. (See QE1, QE2, and QE3.) Artificially low interest rates not only cause investments to be artificially high, but also cause “malinvestment”—too much investment in long-term projects relative to short-term ones, so the short term gets underfunded and the economy declines.

The IMF measures GDP both in market-exchange terms and in terms of purchasing power. On the purchasing-power basis, China is overtaking the US right about now and becoming the world's biggest economy.
Golden oldie:

An American explorer's claim to have found the long-lost Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus' flagship from his first voyage to the Americas, has been dismissed by a group of U.N. experts. In 1492 the Santa Maria accidentally ran aground off Haiti's, then Hispaniola's, coast. But bronze or copper fasteners found at the site point to shipbuilding techniques of the late 17th or 18th centuries, when ships were covered in copper. Before that, fasteners were made only of wood or iron.
3,000 copies of Bob Dylan's song lyrics will be printed, and they'll sell for $200 each at bookstores. Fifty signed copies of the book will also go for $5,000 each.
For decades, the only evidence of ancient cave art was in Spain and southern France. It led some to believe that the creative explosion that led to the art and science we know today began in Europe.
But the discovery of paintings of a similar age in Indonesia shatters this view, according to Prof Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London. The artworks are in a rural area on the Indonesian Island of Sulawesi.  The estimated age is about 39,000 years old.
Virulent: adjective 1. Bitterly hostile. 2. Highly infective. 3. Extremely dangerous. From Latin virus (poison).

In the opening chapter of Thomas Hardy's Mayor of Casterbridge, a drunken husband sells his wife. Authors Lawrence Stone in The Family Sex and Marriage and Samuel Menefee in Wives for Sale both claim that "wife-sale" date back to 1073 in England. An Englishman sick of his wife could slip a halter around her neck, lead her to market -- the cattle market -- and sell her to the highest bidder, often with her willing participation. This informal route to divorce for the lower classes lasted until at least 1887.

At least 331 people were reported killed by military action in the Ukraine in the month after the cease-fire was announced. Yes, after the truce.
Citing a stray rocket near the airport, the Federal Aviation Administration shut down flights to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv.  Hamas leadership hailed the Obama administration's move as proof that their aerial barrages were shutting off Israel from the Western world. In contrast, the FAA has not yet stopped U.S. flights to and from Liberia and other West African countries, the source of the Ebola virus epidemic. Their argument is that the U.S. should not isolate these areas. Isn't that what you do with an epidemic? And which is more dangerous to Americans, the Tel Aviv Airport or the West Africa Coast?

Who is...Lucy Mercer Rutherford?
Florida has gone 3,270 days without a hurricane – nearly nine years and, by far, the longest stretch on record (the next longest streak is 5 seasons from 1980-1984, in records dating back to 1851).

The first Whitewater prosecutor, Robert Fiske, has a new book. The new account by Fiske  describes how he had quickly uncovered "serious crimes" in the Whitewater investigation but that his probe was cut short after conservatives falsely accused him of a "cover up."  "There were indictments, there were convictions," said Fiske when asked about claims that there was "nothing" to the investigation. "People went to jail. There was never any evidence that was sufficient to link the Clintons to any of it, but there were certainly serious crimes."
Ken Gormley, the dean of Duquesne University School of Law wrote "The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr," an exhaustive study of the investigation and commented on Fiske. "Painting the whole thing as a witch hunt would have been much harder" if Fiske had not been replaced, said Gormley. And, he believes, Fiske would likely not have expanded the probe, as Starr did, to include Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. "Fiske was a lawyer's lawyer," said Gormley. "He was the consummate principled prosecutor."

Re the prostitute scandal in the Secret Service: “We were directed at the time . . . to delay the report of the investigation until after the 2012 election,” David Nieland, the lead investigator on the Colombia case for the DHS inspector general’s office, told Senate staffers, according to three people with knowledge of his statement. Nieland added that his superiors told him “to withhold and alter certain information in the report of investigation because it was potentially embarrassing to the administration.”
I am neither surprised nor outraged. But what is surprising is the willingness of people to expect that the current collection of politicians is any different from any other.

AAAAAaaaaaannnnnndddddd...... contemporary French print of an English wife sale, at a cattle market:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Germ, from the Latin "To Sprout"

Germ theory formally developed in the 1800s but the seed was planted long before.
An "animalcular" theory, published in 1658, can be found in Athanasius Kircher’s Scrutinium Physico–Medicum Contagiosae Luis. In the 19th century, the animacular theory was associated with an outdated past. The idea of tiny, invisible animals flying through the air and spreading disease seemed fanciful.
In miasma theory, diseases were caused by the presence in the air of a miasma, a poisonous vapor in which were suspended particles of decaying matter that was characterized by its foul smell. The theory originated in the Middle Ages and endured for several centuries. That a killer disease like malaria is so named - from the Italian mala ‘bad’ and aria ‘air’ - is evidence of its suspected miasmic origins.
Moreover in 19th-century England the miasma theory made sense to the sanitary reformers and fit with the notion of spontaneous generation.
Spontaneous generation—the theory that living organisms could arise from nonliving matter—was an important element in the early development of the germ theory. It was the obverse of germ theory and proponents of spontaneous generation argued the impossibility of knowing whether microorganisms found in these materials were the cause or the product of decomposition. Later debates around the role of germs in disease would be similar; it would take years to prove that germs found in the bodies of sick people were the cause of their disease and not the result of it.

Germ theory states that many diseases are caused by the presence and actions of specific micro-organisms within the body. Awareness of the physical existence of germs preceded the theory by more than two centuries. Discoveries made by several individuals also pointed the way to germ theory.
On constructing his first simple microscope in 1677, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek was surprised to see tiny organisms - which he called ‘animalcules’ - in the droplets of water he was examining. He made no connection with disease, and although later scientists observed germs in the blood of people suffering from disease, they suggested that the germs were an effect of the disease, rather than the cause. This fitted with the then popular theory of spontaneous generation.
Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) found that liquids such as beer and milk went bad because of the rapid multiplication of very small organisms - germs - in those liquids. He investigated further and found that many of these micro-organisms could be killed by heating the liquid: a preservation method now called ‘pasteurization’. He showed experimentally that the decay of meat was caused by microbes. The chemist argued that this could explain disease as well as decay, claiming that disease was caused by the multiplication of germs in the body. He went on to develop a new form of vaccination - by chance he discovered that germs which had been weakened by long exposure to the air caused immunity to cholera in chickens.
Ignaz Semmelweiss (1818-1865) was a Hungarian physician whose studies showed that maternal fever--often fatal--after childbirth was the result of contamination spread by the dirty hands of physicians from patient to patient and, often, from autopsies done right before delivery. Hand washing had a dramatic impact on infective illness.
Joseph Lister was present for the first operation done under anesthesia in 1846. He read Pasteur's work on micro-organisms and decided to experiment with using one of Pasteur's proposed techniques, that of exposing the wound to chemicals. He chose dressings soaked with carbolic acid (phenol) to cover the wound and the rate of infection was vastly reduced. Lister then experimented with hand-washing, sterilizing instruments and spraying carbolic in the theatre while operating, in order to limit infection.
John Snow (1813-1848) was famous for delivering the last two of Queen Victoria's children using anesthesia. But he is best known for his epidemiological evaluation of cholera. By recording the location of deaths related to a cholera outbreak in London in 1854, Snow was able to show that the majority were clustered around one particular public water pump in Broad Street, Soho; another blow against miasma.
Robert Koch first became known for his superior laboratory techniques in the 1870s, and is credited with proving that specific germs caused anthrax, cholera, and tuberculosis.  Koch's Postulates, which prove both that specific germs cause specific diseases and that disease germs transmit disease from one body to another, are fundamental to the germ theory.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Elite Jobs

A subtle move is afoot in the halls of our esteemed leaders: There is developing a hierarchy of "approved professions" manifested by how college loans are managed. This is appearing in how the government handles its educational debtors.
There are no constraints on education costs. Lovely campuses, casual teaching workloads, top-heavy administrations all contribute to an expanding educational cost that exceeds medicine's. This is all done at a usurious interest rate with most close to 8%, all owed to the government. And you can't default on the government. 40% of students have at least one school loan and the national total is 1.2 trillion dollars. 18.2% is cosigned and last year 155 thousand people had their social security attached to pay for their grandchildren's defaulted loans.
But some students can cut their indebtedness entirely. Wipe them clean. How? Certain special professions are forgiven their loans. Who? People who go into government work or nonprofits. Why? Why indeed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Sermon 10/12/14

In the vein of the Mary and Martha poem by Kipling recently, James Hunt's poem about good works, a heresy among Luther and the reformists.

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cab Thoughts 10/11/14

A man's admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.--deTocqueville

China has over sixty submarines and will have around seventy-five or so in the next few years, slightly more than the United States. China 'is outbuilding the U.S, in new submarines by four to one' since 2000, and by 'eight to one' since 2005, even as the U.S. Navy's ASW (antisubmarine warfare) forces have diminished, write James C. Bussert of the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center and Bruce A. Elleman of the U.S. Naval War College. The China sea is a hotbed of war manufacturing. India, South Korea, and even Vietnam are expected to acquire six more subs apiece by the end of the current decade, while Australia will acquire twelve new subs within twenty years, though recent budgetary restrictions may affect this statistic downward, ... Singapore, a tiny citystate at the southern extremity of the South China Sea, is now among the world's top ten arms importers. (from Asia's Cauldron by Robert D. Kaplan)
The Earth's core is a dense sphere of nickel and iron with a diameter of about 700 miles.

A serial killer said in a letter from prison that he was cooperating with a book about the 10 people he killed in the Wichita area to help the victims’ families monetarily. The killer is Dennis L. Rader, who during his killing spree called himself “B.T.K.,” which stood for “bind, torture, kill.” Katherine Ramsland, the author corresponding with Mr. Rader on the project, envisions an "academic" book.
Britain has closed their borders to Ebola source countries. But the U.S. has not. Obama says that would conflict with the goal of fighting the disease. Does that mean the safety of the American people takes second place to the goal of helping people overseas? That has been true in war. But is it true if we protect ourselves, we cannot protect others?
England and Scotland had been united in 1603 on the death of Elizabeth I when the Stuart, James VI of Scotland, was offered the throne and also became James I of England. His son, Charles I (ruled 1625-49),  attempted to impose the Anglican Prayerbook on the Scots and they piously invaded England. Parliament rebelled over the war's financing and issued the Grand Remonstrance against him. Bloody civil war broke out in 1642 and Parliamentary troops, mostly Puritans, led by Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), defeated Charles at the Battles of Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645). Charles I was eventually captured and executed in 1649.

Who is....Lady Murasaki?
80% of the matter in the universe is a type of particle or particles that emit no light, interact very weakly with matter in our everyday world, yet exert profound gravitational influence on the rotation of galaxies and the movement of galaxy clusters. But most of the universe is made not of matter but a strange and unidentified type of energy– “dark energy”– that accelerates the expansion of the universe and may one day carry distant galaxies forever out of view.

According to Chinese scientists, zapping a young wine with electricity makes it taste like something you’ve cellar aged. Scientists aren’t quite sure how it happens yet, but it seems that running your wine for precisely three minutes through an electrified field charges the esters, proteins, and aldehydes and can “age” a wine instantly.
Although it is the closest planet to the sun, Mercury is not the hottest planet in the Solar System, Venus is. With an average surface temperature of 864 degrees, Venus can melt lead.

The earliest Japanese societies appear to have been matriarchal, the mythical founding deity of the imperial clan was the Sun Goddess, and the ruler was a woman.  In the Heian period (794 to 1185 AD), the woman was the head of the household and the husband generally did not live with the family. (The author, Lady Murasaki , wrote what is called the first novel, The Tale of Genji, during this period.) By the 12th century AD, as the samurai class became dominant, the husband and wife lived together and polygamy became prevalent.
Golden oldie:
To the question, "Do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq?" President Obama said,  "What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision."
The NFL is having players wear pink in support of women. So how they position themselves has no relation at all with how they behave. They are truly America's game.
LBJ’s Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, was in France when De Gaulle decided to pull out of NATO. De Gaulle said he wanted all US military out of France as soon as possible.
Rusk responded, “Does that include those who are buried here?”
De Gaulle did not respond

lubricious: adjective: 1. Lecherous. 2. Salacious. 3. Shifty or tricky. 4. Smooth and slippery. From Latin lubricus (slippery, smooth). 
Ian Morris has a book out called "War: What is it Good For?", and finds the answer to be "a lot." It is filled with wonderful facts like Stone Age conflict had a 20%  mortality rate compared to 1-2% for modern conflict. (How is that truth reached, I do not know.) He says, "by fighting wars, people have created larger, more organized societies that have reduced the risk that their members will die violently."
It is said that the Hundred Years War helped organize France into a country, giving it a common language in the battlefield and led to a more ordered and civilized Europe. These arguments trail on forever. We have learned from the Nazi gas chambers; it does not justify them.

AAAAnnnnnndddd.....the proportion of matter, dark matter and dark energy in the universe:
Proportion of dark energy, dark matter, and ordinary matter in the universe.

Friday, October 10, 2014


September 18th 2008:
550 billion dollars were withdrawn from money market accounts on September 18, 2008 in less than two hours. Panic began to seep into the market and others withdrew money. The FED could not stop it with an infusion of 105 billion so they shut down the money market accounts and guaranteed $250,000 coverage for every money market account. If they had not done that their estimation was that by two o’clock that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the United States. Panic would have increased, threatened Europe and economic failure was in the offing.
Rep. Paul Kanjorski later described this as an "electronic run on the banks".
Now you can not just take money out of a system anonymously. So who was doing it? There must be a record. But this did not seem to be very interesting to anyone. It likely was a reaction to the Lehman collapse and the money was probably not withdrawn but shifted. (I hope not into short accounts, though.) But it would be interesting to see who it was.That, however, is not--or at least should not-- be the point. Kanjorski is implying the system was "attacked." But that subversive motive actually underestimates the problem. The real problem is that malice was not necessary; the system with its high volume computer trading can do this on its own.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Cab Thoughts

The turkey was fed and sheltered for 1000 consecutive days, but this did not mean that the butcher loved him. --anon
Nearly 85 percent of the population of Qatar is made up of foreigners.
A Kurdish official said that Jordan Matson, an American citizen, had joined the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), who are mainly battling advances by Islamic State close to Syria's borders with Turkey and Iraq. A friend of Matson's said he told online gaming friends about two months ago that he was joining a "private army" to fight Islamic State. Matson had said he was formerly in the military.
Who is.....Kim Philby?
Ignaz Semmelweiss (1818-1865) was a Hungarian physician who used a rigorous analytic approach to determine why women were dying from infection following childbirth. He concluded that there was a connection between the illness and hygiene--of the physician--and recommended vigorous hand-washing between patient contacts. (This was not ever done at the time.) He was committed to an insane asylum when he started to exhibit what was possibly the early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. While there he was beaten by the staff and died from his injuries. One of the most important men of the 19th Century science world was beaten to death in a hospital by its staff.
An article, "How Climate Change Helped ISIS," was published in September in the Huffington Post.
An editorial writer for the Boston Globe with the wonderful name of Hiawatha Bray has written an article on the importance of addresses when evaluating epidemics. It is a clever idea being pursued by a number of people and countries particularly India, Ireland and the West African countries. Michael Olsen, a Utah land developer has a plan to put millions of people on the map, in Liberia and around the world. Olsen’s nonprofit organization, Addressing Homes LLC, has developed a universal standard for generating addresses, based on a building’s latitude and longitude. He uses Google. There is a funny moment where Olson goes to the Postmaster of Liberia, Frederick Norkeh, and shows him his plan and results.  “I want to take it home and show my wife and family we have an address,” Norkeh said.
Abigail Adams was determined to save her children from the fate of her brother and his family. (She had seen him succumb to alcohol and debauchery, desert his family, and leave them penniless.) She was very strict with her children. She actually took her seven year old son John Quincy to Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 to see the price paid for freedom. Amid the carnage he saw the Adams' family friend, Dr. Joseph Warren, killed.

The vineyard canary: Vintners plant roses among their vines because they get sick before anything else in the field. If there’s mildew in the air, it will infect the roses first and give a winemaker a heads-up that it’s time to spray.

Wainwright, a pitcher with consummate control, hit the Dodgers Puig with a ninety-mile-an-hour fastball. The next man up, Gonzalez, initiated an almost fight with this exchange with the Cardinal catcher Molina:

"I was just basically saying, 'You guys keep doing this over and over. We're not going to put up with that,'" Gonzalez said after the game. "They're going to say it's not on purpose, but come on. It's Wainwright. He knows where the ball is going." Gonzalez said Molina's response was, "You've got to respect me."
"I thought that was out of context, but it's what he said," the Dodgers first baseman said.
On Sept. 25, 2013, the Washington Post reported that Antarctic sea ice had grown to a record extent for the second straight year — some 19.51 million square kilometers. In June of this year, the Post noted a possible new record ice extent is "part of a puzzling 33-year trend in increasing sea ice around Antarctica."
"But even in the United States, human slavery now is greater than it ever was during the 18th or 19th century. In Atlanta, Georgia, we have between 200-300 girls sold into sexual slavery every month." So former President Jimmy Carter said in an interview. The fantasy world of politicians always substitutes hyperbole as fact. Like art, it becomes a reflection of reality and of value itself.
The National Book Foundation named the authors included on this year's "5 under 35" list. The young authors are occasional NPR contributor Alex Gilvarry, Yelena Akhtiorskaya, Valeria Luiselli, Kirstin Valdez Quade and Iraq War veteran Phil Klay, whose short story collection Redeployment also made it onto this year's longlist for the National Book Awards.
In 1940, the Japanese Army Air Force bombed Ningbo with ceramic bombs full of fleas carrying the bubonic plague. Many of these operations were ineffective due to inefficient delivery systems, although up to 400,000 people may have died. During the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign in 1942, around 1,700 Japanese troops died out of a total 10,000 Japanese soldiers who fell ill with disease when their own biological weapons attack rebounded on their own forces.
In the South China Sea there are four narrow  "choke points," the Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar straits. More than half of the world's annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide. The oil transported through the Malacca Strait from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is triple the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and fifteen times the amount that transits the Panama Canal. 200 small islands and rock/reefs lie in this area and, although most are rarely above water, these sites are lusted after by local nations--including China--because of their geographical importance but also for their possible oil reserves.

Factitious \fak-TISH-uhs\, adjective: 1. Produced artificially, in distinction from what is produced by nature. 2. Artificial; not authentic or genuine; sham. From Latin facticius, "made by art, artificial," from the past participle of facere, "to make."

The huge cyberattack on JPMorgan Chase that touched more than 83 million households and businesses was one of the most serious computer intrusions into an American corporation. Also troubling is that about nine other financial institutions — a number that has not been previously reported — were also infiltrated by the same group of overseas hackers, according to people briefed on the matter. The hackers are thought to be operating from Russia and appear to have at least loose connections with officials of the Russian government, the people briefed on the matter said. (NYT)

AAAAaaaannnnnnddddd......a poem that NPR called "devastating:"
Certain moments send adrenaline to the heart, dry out
the tongue, and clog the lungs. Like thunder they drown
you in sound, no, like lightning they strike you across the
larynx. Cough. After it happened I was at a loss for words.
Haven’t you said this yourself? Haven’t you said this to a
close friend who early in your friendship, when distracted,
would call you by the name of her black housekeeper?
You assumed you two were the only black people in her
life. Eventually she stopped doing this, though she never
acknowledged her slippage. And you never called her on
it (why not?) and yet, you don’t forget. If this were a
domestic tragedy, and it might well be, this would be your
fatal flaw - your memory, vessel of your feelings. Do you
feel hurt because it’s the ‘all black people look the same’
moment, or because you are being confused with another
after being so close to this other?
An unsettled feeling keeps the body front and center. The
wrong words enter your day like a bad egg in your mouth
and puke runs down your blouse, a dampness drawing
your stomach in toward your rib cage. When you look
around only you remain. Your own disgust at what you
smell, what you feel, doesn’t bring you to your feet, not
right away, because gathering energy has become its own
task, needing its own argument. You are reminded of a
conversation you had recently, comparing the merits of
sentences constructed implicitly with ‘yes, and’ rather
than ‘yes, but.’ You and your friend decided that ‘yes,
and’ attested to a life with no turn-off, no alternative
routes: you pull yourself to standing, soon enough the
blouse is rinsed, it’s another week, the blouse is beneath
your sweater, against your skin, and you smell good.
The rain this morning pours from the gutters and everywhere
else it is lost in the trees. You need your glasses
to single out what you know is there because doubt is
inexorable; you put on your glasses. The trees, their bark,
their leaves, even the dead ones, are more vibrant wet.
Yes, and it’s raining. Each moment is like this - before
it can be known, categorized as similar to another thing
and dismissed, it has to be experienced, it has to be seen.
What did he just say? Did she really just say that? Did I
hear what I think I heard? Did that just come out of my
mouth, his mouth, your mouth? The moment stinks. Still
you want to stop looking at the trees. You want to walk out
and stand among them. And as light as the rain seems, it
still rains down on you.
--Claudia Rankine,  a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the 2014 winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize. She teaches at Pomona College.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Parthenon Frieze

The Parthenon in Athens is crowned with a frieze depicting ancient conflicts as well as a procession with its horses and horsemen, youths and elders, men and women, and animals. This procession is said to be the Great Panathenaia which occurred, like the Olympics, every four years; it was a festival of athletic games and poetry and music competitions culminating at the temple of Athena, goddess of weaving, war, and wisdom where her statue was then presented with a new peplos, a robe woven by the women of Athens. There are no ancient explanations for this frieze; the Great Panathenaia suggestion was made by Englishmen James Stuart (an artist) and Nicholas Revett (an amateur architect) in the late 1700s. Interestingly, should this be a depiction of contemporary 5th Century Greece, it would be rare; Greek temple art usually shows history and myth. The rest of the sculptures on the Parthenon, the pediments and metopes, depict myths from Athens’s founding and prehistory, from the contest between Athena and Poseidon for the city’s patronage to the battle of the Lapiths against the Centaurs. The Great Panathenaia, a contemporary topic for the time, would be a most unusual artistic subject.

Enter Joan Breton Connelly, an American classical archaeologist and Professor of Classics and Art History at New York University. In her book, "The Parthenon Enigma," she  offers a completely different and provocative version of the frieze.

She focuses on the unusual story of Erechtheus, an early Athenian king, King Erechtheus. An ancient story, he was written about by Herodotus and in a lost play by Euripides. Herodotus states that Erechtheus and Athena were worshiped jointly in Athens; he is the king commemorated in the Erechtheion, the small, exquisite temple that sits opposite the Parthenon on the north side of the Acropolis, distinguished by its famous portico of caryatid maidens. New passages of Euripides’ lost play on the subject have been discovered in wrappings from a third-century B.C. Egyptian mummy. Euripides’ play had long been known only from quotations of other ancient authors but this find doubled the numbered of recovered lines from the lost play.
The myth is basically this: King Erechtheus sprang directly from the Attic earth. He had a wife, Praxithea, and three daughters. (The Athenian royal houses ran to daughters.) When Eumolpus, king of nearby Eleusis, threatened a siege of the city, King Erechtheus received a terrible message from oracle at Delphi: He must sacrifice one of his daughters to Athena to save the city. The queen, rather than cringing in horror at the idea, embraced it as patriotic duty. (Praxithea, whose name means “she who acts for the goddess,” delivers a rousing speech in the Euripides play.) Meanwhile, the three girls have vowed that if one dies, they all will—so the two who are not chosen insist either on being sacrificed as well or on killing themselves, possibly by jumping from the Acropolis. Athena then declares that the heroic girls are to be buried in a single tomb and that there should be a sanctuary and sacred rites established in their honor. Erechtheus, who dies in the battle, will have a tomb on the Acropolis and a sacred precinct. Athena makes Queen Praxithea her priestess, and Praxithea will be in charge of a single altar to serve both shrines. 
Connelly connects the frieze as a visual memento of the invisible past—the trauma of the Persian invasion, for instance—and the centrality of the Erechtheus myth to Athens’s sense of itself, the willingness in a democracy to give one life for the good of the many, and for even the city’s leadership to make the supreme sacrifice.

(from an article by A.E. Stallings)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Stats vs. Prejudice

A fireballing righthanded relief pitcher is brought in to the game in the bottom of the ninth. There are two outs with the tying run at third and the winning run at second. First is open. Next up in the third position is a weak hitting shortstop brought in for defensive purposes earlier currently hitting .220 with one home run and six rbis. On deck is the opponent's power hitter, a left hander with 30 home-runs and 70 RBIs, hitting .290. The question--that the relief pitcher probably never asks--is would both these encounters, the relief pitcher vs. the shortstop or the number four hitter, be the same. Would the pitcher do just as well pitching to the number four hitter?
The answer, of course, is no. The reason is that, while God has created all humans with equal love and spiritual value, in some social situations there are hierarchies.
This is not to diminish shortstops but, sometimes, they just can't hit.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Sermon 10/5/14

The 77-year-old pontiff gave an interview to Il Messaggero, Rome's local newspaper, to mark the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, a Roman holiday.
He was asked about a blog post in the Economist magazine that said he sounded like a Leninist when he criticized capitalism and called for radical economic reform.
"I can only say that the communists have stolen our flag. The flag of the poor is Christian. Poverty is at the center of the Gospel," he said, citing Biblical passages about the need to help the poor, the sick and the needy.
"Communists say that all this is communism. Sure, twenty centuries later. So when they speak, one can say to them: 'but then you are Christian'," he said, laughing.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Cab Thought 10/4/14

"There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen. "Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil."  - From an essay by Frédéric Bastiat in 1850, "That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen"

Thomas Eric Duncan appeared at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on September 26th, complaining of fever and abdominal pain. He had just come from West Africa. He was sent home where he incubated with his Ebola for two more days before returning to the hospital. One can only wonder if our vigilant health care system is cut from the same cloth as our vigilant Secret Service system. Put another way, are we on our own out here?

Columbia, in 1992, led the world in intentional homicides (93 per 100,000 people). The mayor of the town of Cali, a physician, looked at the problem as an epidemic and investigated it as an infection. He found nearly two-thirds of the homicides took place on weekends, usually after payday. More than half of the cases involved alcohol or happened at bars.
Truck driver is the number-one occupation for men in the U.S..

By measuring trace radioactive carbon in the wine, most bottles can be dated to within a year or two of the vintage.

ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl questioned President Obama’s comments during a CBS 60 Minutes interview explaining that the intelligence community had “underestimated” the strength of ISIS in Syria. “I think our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” Obama said.
Karl then cited Former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn who warned that ISIL “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014.”
Oh, well.
Wait. Weren't the intel reports the reason we originally invaded Iraq in the first place?
Oh, well.
 More than a hundred and ninety million children under the age of five suffer from vitamin-A deficiency. Every year, as many as half a million will go blind.

According to, the world's smallest vineyard is located in Les Amis de Farinet in Switzerland’s Valais region, and consists of just three vines. Who owns it? The Dalai Lama!

What was.....Lake Peigneur disaster?

Will automation increase unemployment? Historically the answer is "no." And one should always be cautious when one hears "This time it is different." One theory is that the concentration of automated workplace cannot survive without a buyer of the automated produced products so that the expansion of automation is inherently self-limited. Another is that the megalith of automation will result in increased, small individualism with an emphasis on uniquely human jobs and projects.
One question worth remembering: Who will be better off, the culture that resists automation or the one that adapts?

A guy named Sir Young, who was convicted of rape in Texas, was ordered to serve 250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center. Read that again, if you must.

Helpmate: from helpmeet. The existence of the synonyms helpmeet and helpmate is the result of an error compounded. God's promise to Adam in Genesis 2:18, as rendered in the King James version of the Bible (1611), was to give him "an help [helper] meet [fit or suitable] for him." The poet John Dryden's 1673 use of the phrase "help-meet for man," with a hyphen between help and meet, was one step on the way toward the establishment of the phrase "help meet" as an independent word. Another was the use of "help meet" without "for man" to mean a suitable helper, usually a spouse, as Eve had been to Adam. Despite such usages, helpmeet was not usually thought of as a word in its own right until the 19th century. Nonetheless, the phrase "help meet" probably played a role in the creation of helpmate, from help and mate, first recorded in 1715. (from the on-line dictionary)
The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism. So said Karl Marx. A little Koran-like, don't you think?

Russia’s state-run OAO Rosneft
said a well drilled in the Kara Sea region of the Arctic Ocean with Exxon struck oil, showing the region has the potential to become one of the world’s most important crude-producing areas. I hate it when the good guys help the bad guys.

What ever happened to Penn State and the Clery Act?

Apparently there will be some debate over the legacy of Eric Holder at Justice. This goes to show how wonderfully diverse our community thinking has become. People looking at Holder's tenure can actually come to different conclusions. 
As a deputy attorney general in 1999, he recommended pardons for 14 Puerto Rican terrorists. A year later, he did the same for fugitive financier Marc Rich. Marc Rich! He then, as AG, created the Fast and Furious program that provided weapons for drug cartels for some still unexplained reason, ignored the IRS abuse and political targeting, developed a program for dealing with illegal immigrants that can only be called a non-program, became the first AG in the history of the nation to be held in criminal contempt of Congress and somehow, aided and abetted by the President of the United States, turned race into the prime focus of the country's legal system. The debate should not be over the quality of his leadership but rather whether or not the disasters he created were criminal or just stupid.
Golden oldie:

Mike Tomlin was interviewed by Fox News lady Laura Okmin and he said this in response to her question as to whether or not he was a "player's coach:"  "It means something about my age or my race." Later on, "It's somewhat insulting." Probably wants to be AG.
Airstrikes against ISIS militants are a "psychological operation," not a military one, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview . I hate it when the crazies sound sensible.

A controversial immigration program in the U.S. called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, allows temporary relief from deportation. Since the Obama administration created the program in 2012, more than 580,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors have qualified for DACA and been given work permits that last for at least two years. Mexican consulates around the U.S. have been paying fees for some DACA applicants through a little-known program for Mexican citizens with financial need.
There is a decades-long migration trend that led to 9 percent of people born in Mexico now live in the United States.
The 700-year-old tomb of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, is in a Turkish enclave in northern Syria  guarded by several dozen Turkish soldiers and perched on a manicured lawn under a Turkish flag on the banks of the Euphrates. The tomb was made Turkish territory under a treaty signed with France in 1921, when France ruled Syria. Islamic State and other Islamist groups, whose strict Salafi interpretation of Islam deems the veneration of tombs to be idolatrous, have destroyed several tombs and mosques in Syria. Ankara regards it as sovereign territory and has repeatedly made clear that it will defend the mausoleum if it is attacked. So Turkey's position with the homicidal maniacs might hinge on their ancient tomb, their disregard for the dead apparently being more important than their disregard for the living.
AAAAAaaaaaaannnnnndddd.....a graph:
Chart of the Day