Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sermon 11/30/14

Today's Gospel is the "Watch" Gospel where Christ urges His followers to be alert to the return of God. "You do not know when the Lord of the house is coming."

The Watch has always been an anxious time from the watchman on the city walls to modern fiction's Night Watch. One of the most beautiful pieces of writing on the subject comes from the Trappist Thomas Merton in his "Fire Watch," the epilogue to The Song of Jonas. A young monk was always tasked with with the job of checking the monastery for unseen problems before retiring. Merton writes of his walking through the monastery and it becomes an examination of conscience, "a pretext devised by God to isolate you, and to search your soul with lamps and questions, in the heart of darkness." This is how it begins.

Watchman, what of the night?
The night, O my Lord, is a time of freedom.
You have seen the morning and the night, and the night was better.
In the night all things began, and in the night the end of all things has come before me.
Baptized in the river of night, Gethsemane has recovered her innocence. Darkness brings a semblance
of order before all things disappear. With the clock slung over my shoulder, in the silence of the Fourth of July, it is my time to be the night watchman, in the house that will one day perish.

He writes in a later poem, "The Night of Destiny":

See! See!
My love is darkness!

Only in the Void
Are all ways one:

Only in the night
Are all the lost
            In my ending is my meaning.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Cab Thoughts 11/29/14

It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry. -Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)

SN 1054 is a supernova first observed on 4 July 1054 (hence its name) It lasted in the sky for about two years. It was observed and recorded in Chinese and Arab literature. In the 18th Century Charles Messier made a list of heavenly objects that were not comets; SN 1054 was first on the list. The debris of that supernova we call the Crab Nebula.
Bandits stopped a taxi in Guinea and made off with blood samples that are believed to be infected with the deadly Ebola virus. The samples were being shipped by Red Cross courier.

The Benghazi debate should be over. The House committee said their was no recall of the soldiers who were there and available to defend the compound. Kris Paronto, Mark Geist and John Tiegen, three CIA contractors who were there on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, fighting from the roof of the CIA's Benghazi annex building, say there were three such orders. But the House committee says no. The only way of reconciling the two are that one of the two are lying. I do not care about the possibility that the contractors are lying; the possibility that the government is involved in a conspiracy against its own citizens is too horrible to contemplate. The discussion, I hope, is over.

The Ferguson story is a metaphor for our times: Everyone wants confirmation of their opinions. There are no answers, only provocations.  

Who is....Solon?

Hari Kuyo is a Japanese festival dedicated to old and broken needles. Celebrated every year on the 8th of February, this festival sees hundreds of women dressed in colorful kimonos, gathering at various Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples in and around Tokyo. This 400-year-old ritual involves sticking old and broken needles into soft chunks of tofu or jelly as a way of showing thanks for their hard work. I suppose this tradition springs from the Eastern system of displaying gratitude towards objects that are a source of livelihood. It also reflects on the animist belief that all beings and objects have a soul.
It’s not just about needles, several Japanese women consider Hari Kuyo as a time to value the small, everyday objects of daily life that are otherwise forgotten.

A former Chinese military official, who has confessed to taking bribes, hoarded more than a ton of cash and precious jade in his basement. It took a week to count it all, and 12 trucks to haul it away.

Golden oldie:

Saturn's moon, Titan, has lakes. But Titan's lakes are different from Earth's lakes in that they are composed of hydrocarbons with similarities to liquid natural gas. 

A Georgetown University student wrote in an op-ed piece that he was 'Not at all' surprised that a recent mugging he suffered at gunpoint in Washington, D.C. took place - and said more crimes could be expected to occur. Senior Oliver Friedfeld's piece, 'I Was Mugged, And I Understand Why,' questioned his own ability to criticize his attackers. The op-ed was published in the student newspaper The Hoya - and picked up by several media outlets this week. Friedfeld said he and a housemate were mugged while they traveled home from Dupont Circle. 'Who am I to stand from my perch of privilege, surrounded by million-dollar homes and paying for a $60,000 education, to condemn these young men as "thugs?"' he wrote. (From HuffPo)

Obama says he's acting alone because Congress waited too long. But the Constitution vests all legislative powers, including immigration and naturalization law, in Congress. There is no timetable, no intervention if the legislature is slow.. The argument that the effect is "right" has nothing to do with it. 
Republics are created by ideals and preserved by process.

Solon (c. 638-558 BCE) was an Athenian lawmaker who introduced political, economic, and moral reforms and revised the harsh code of laws established by Draco. Hence "solon": a wise lawmaker and, of course, "draconian:" meaning rigorous; unusually severe or cruel.

A Shakespeare First Folio was discovered this fall by librarians at a public library in St.-Omer, near Calais, who were sifting through its collections for an exhibition on English-language literature. Apparently the quality is very high. How is something like this possible?

The mother and the stepfather of Michael Brown are under investigation in Ferguson for an alleged violent incident with other family members over ownership of "Justice for Mike Brown" merchandise.

Former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson was interviewed on CNN Books recently. It is pretty shocking, not just in the content but also in the muted press response. This is a serious story. The government broke into her computers for spying purposes--but also placed material there that could make her subject to arrest should they want to compromise her. (Do not think about Benghazi. Do not think about Benghazi. Do not...)

The deadline for the Joint Plan of Action ended it seems without a final agreement between the P5+1 and Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. It’s not yet clear what happens next.

Piltdown Man's skull was introduced as evidence for evolution in the Scopes Trial. Should Eric Holder revisit that trial?

Some are speculating that OPEC's persistent high oil production is aimed at the U.S. oil producer. The high availability of oil drives the price down to levels where the U.S. producers can not make a profit and will cause them to stop production, even go bankrupt. The price will then rise again.

“Now, you’re absolutely right that there have been significant numbers of deportations. That’s true. But what you are not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law.”--Obama responding to a heckler, Chicago, 11/25/14

AAAAAAAaaaaaaannnnnnddddddd........a picture of the Crab Nebula:  
It is 12 light-years wide. Emission from ionized oxygen and hydrogen atoms are in blue and red.   One of the most exotic objects known to modern astronomers, the Crab Pulsar, a neutron star spinning 30 times a second, is visible as a bright spot near the nebula's center
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Words: Mata Hari

<b>MATA</b> <b>HARI</b>… Die Sonne (en malais)."Mata Hari" means a seductive woman who works as a spy. It was a "real" name, or rather a stage name of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (1876-1917), a Dutch exotic dancer. The name is Malay, which means "sun,"
literally "eye of the day", from Malay mata (eye) + hari (day, dawn). Interestingly, 'mata mata' means 'spy' in Malay.
"Eye of the day" is a mirror of her real names, Margarete Gertrude Zelle. Margarete means either pearl or daisy and daisy means "day's eye".
She was executed by the French.
Mata Hari in Leeuwarden  Mata Hari sculpture by Suze Boschma-Berkhout

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

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

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

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

The Thanksgiving Proclamation
New York, 3 October 1789

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

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

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

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

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

George Washington

Proclamation Establishing Thanksgiving Day October 3, 1863

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

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

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

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

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

Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cab Thoughts 11/26/14

"I am just going outside and may be some time" Lawrence Oates, leaving his tent to die on Scott's return from his doomed South Pole expedition.   

From  the "A man's actions are only an opaque window to his soul" Department:  Charles Manson is engaged to be married. This fact alone should spread a blanket of care over the very notion of love and marriage. Clearly there should be a screening process, some vetting of such plans. When the old religions wane, all sorts of things are lost. Like Banns.

Who is....William Sidney Porter?

An average of 13 people have been killed daily in eastern Ukraine since the 5 September ceasefire came into place, the UN human rights office says. So maybe we should call it something other than a "ceasefire."
The NYT wrote that insurers were among the biggest supporters of the ACA.  "...the relationship between the Obama administration and insurers has evolved into a powerful, mutually beneficial partnership." Crony capitalism, also known as socialism for the powerful.

E. O. Wilson writes of the “Paleolithic Curse: genetic adaptations that worked very well for millions of years of hunter-gatherer existence but are increasingly a hindrance in a globally urban and technoscientific society.” So productive and protective drives like tribalism, racism, our refusal to curb population growth, our failure to cooperate with one another on a scale commensurate with the challenges we face and our devastation of the natural environment--all of these early evolutionary advantages now, in the modern world, become disadvantages. Like the appendix, these ancient qualities have not just outrun their advantages, they have become an active risk to our survival.

strafe: verb tr.: 1. To attack with machine-gun fire or bombs from a low-flying aircraft. 2. To criticize severely. noun: 1. An attack from a low-flying aircraft. 2. A severe criticism. Interesting derivation from the German slogan "Gott strafe England!" ([May] God punish England!) during WWI. From German strafen (to punish). Earliest documented use: 1915.

Joe Biden recently called shady lenders a bunch of "Shylocks." He was immediately attacked, but carefully. The word “shylock” is an eponym from a  character in Shakespeare’s "The Merchant of Venice" who brutally enforces a loan. So it is used in reference to loan sharking. But the character in the play is Jewish. So is the use of the word a slur? Should we ban the play? This is the heart of political correctness: It is Bowdlerizing.

A battle is going on in Texas over some academic books in schools. "Academics and activists on the left have criticized the books for exaggerating the influence of Moses and other biblical figures on American democracy. Conservative experts, however, complain that they are too politically correct, ignoring connections between radical Islam and modern terrorism."And why does the rest of the country care? "Texas is such a large textbook market that it sometimes affects books used elsewhere." (AP)

Golden oldie:

If you calculate the future value of $4,500 invested per year (your contribution plus your employer's contribution) at a simple 5% interest (a bit much now but usual historically) after 49 years of working you would have $892,919.98. If you took out only 3% per year, you'd receive $26,787.60 per year and it would last more than 30 years (until you're 95 if you retire at age 65) and that's with no interest paid on that final amount on deposit. If you bought an annuity and it paid 4% per year, you'd have a lifetime income of $2,976.40 per month.
But the government returns from Social Security...

Shakespeare had a written vocabulary of 17, 245 words, many he coined. Coining a word is difficult. Some examples: "Malaprop "from  Mrs Malaprop, in the 1775 play The Rivals by Irish playwright and poet Richard Brinsley Sheridan, "Banana Republic" from O. Henry (the penname of William Sidney Porter) in Cabbages and Kings, a collection of short stories. "Free Lance" was invented by Sir Walter Scott and became its mirror image in Martin's  GoT "Sellsword."

Hercule Savinien Cyrano de Bergerac died at the age of thirty-six. He was the model for Edmond Rostand's 1897 hit play, and a writer himself -- several plays, and two science-fantasy novels about voyages to the moon and sun. He was a sword fighter and did have a big nose. He died with less drama than did Rostand's Cyrano: from injuries caused when a piece of lumber, perhaps dropped intentionally by one of his enemies, fell from a third story window and hit him on the head.

AAAAAAAaaaaaaannnnndddddd.....a graph:

 The Economy Q3 / 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The American Music Awards

The American Music Awards was on this week. It was as if The Three Little Pigs had been rewritten by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Coppola: Simple and diverting with incredible artificial energy and over production. The music itself was uninspired. There was even one highly regarded remake of a song from the 1970s by The Romantics. Iggy Azalea, nee Amethyst Amelia Kelly, sang a song with a wonderful beat and rhythm that any halftime band would envy but generally the music was pretty empty aside from the increasingly American trait of exhibitionism. Occasionally an itinerate rapper would inexplicably wander on to a set during someone else's performance. Annoyed women artists seemed to be the theme of the day.
The state of art is always a worry. How much does it reflect of the culture? Is this like the music of the '60's that was seen as the martial music of a revolution? The bad news is that incoherence in musical art is a lot worse than in visual art. The good news is that this music is too insipid to do much damage to anyone.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tax Deductions at Play

A group of artists, scientists and engineers have proposed a novel solution to help Copenhagen's achieve its goal of becoming a carbon-neutral city: a 12-story-high solar energy farm in the shape of a duck. Energy Duck is the brainchild of the Land Art Generator Initiative or LAGI. According to LAGI:
The common "eider duck" resides in great numbers in Copenhagen; however, its breeding habitat is at risk from the effects of climate change. Energy Duck takes the form of the eider to act both as a solar collector and a buoyant energy storage device.
Solar radiation is converted to electricity using low cost, off-the-shelf PV panels. Some of the solar electricity is stored by virtue of the difference in water levels inside and outside the duck. (From IO9)
The Land Art Generator Initiative, according to its web page, is a project of the Society for Cultural Exchange (a U.S. based 501(c)(3) organization) based in Pittsburgh, Pa.
A giant, floating duck that generates solar power. Why? Why not.

Here is the address of the noble charity: 4732 Hatfield St Pittsburgh, PA 15201
It is worthwhile going to Google maps to see it. (I could not paste it.) It is an empty lot.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Sermon 11/23/14

Today's Gospel is disturbingly close to the current immigration debate. It is the "goats and sheep" Gospel where the select are separated at the last judgment--like God separated light from darkness--on the basis of their behavior toward their fellows:

'Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
a stranger and you welcomed me,
naked and you clothed me,
ill and you cared for me,
in prison and you visited me.’

This has been a point of brutal conflict in Christianity. Traditionally Christianity had walked a fine line between faith and good works, a hybrid without distinction. Much of this was from James:
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?"

"So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead."

In the Reformation, Luther said that faith, and not good works, was necessary for spiritual salvation. He purged seven Old Testament books and added "alone" to Romans 3:28 so "therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" became "faith alone."

But today's Gospel looks pretty convincing for the importance of good works and creates a pretty bad alternative if Luther is wrong. 

Saturday, November 22, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

From The New Yorker "Borowitz Report"

WASHINGTON ( The Borowitz Report)—Congressional seats are on pace to fetch a whopping four billion dollars on Tuesday night, a record-smashing sales figure that has exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic insiders.
The seats, which include four hundred and thirty-five in the House of Representatives and thirty-six in the Senate, have attracted buyers from a broad spectrum of industries, including investment banking, energy, pharmaceutical, and gun.

“With all of the uncertainty in the world today, the United States Congress is considered a very safe place for the rich to invest their money,” said Charles Michollot, of the auction house Sotheby’s. “Congressional seats are like Manhattan real estate—they aren’t making any more of them.”
But Anton Pickardin, of the rival auction house Christie’s, sounds more skeptical. “I hate to be a wet blanket, but these sales figures lack rhyme and reason,” Pickardin said. “When someone is willing to pay millions of dollars for a pre-owned Mitch McConnell, you know that people have lost their minds.”
But Sotheby’s Michollot remains confident that, even at these hefty prices, congressional seats are a wise investment. “When these seats go up for sale again, in 2016, four billion dollars is going to look like a bargain,” he said.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


A detective I know says that all the major American cities are putting their law enforcement vacation days on hold in preparation for the coming grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo.. They expect another explosive catharsis from the angst in the Black community, an exorcism of some deep inner evil. And, of course, the drowning of some witches. This apparently will be worse than the Irish riots after the murder of the Kennedys.
Tolerance can be as dangerous as benighted symbolism; sometimes it conceals indifference. But ours is a culture of growing passivity in the face of continuous outrageous behavior. In some cultures it might be criticized as nihilistic. Often it is simple cowardice. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cab Thoughts 11/19/14

Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.--deTocqueville

A new cybercrime gang is hacking high-profile hotel guests through the hotel WiFi service.
There is a rumor that the politicians think the Democrat Mary Landrieu  runoff election in Louisiana could hinge on her displaying support for the Keystone pipeline. This might create the delicious moment where she proposes a vote on it, the Democrats favor it and the Rubes block it.
Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer reportedly turned down a six-year, $144 million offer from the Detroit Tigers in spring training last year.
Who is....Afton Elaine Burton?
On investment advisors: "In total, the industry generates approximately $600 billion in active fees every year." Six hundred billion dollars in fees to investment managers to help "beat the market." The concept of "beating the market" is referred to as generating "alpha," and it is the entire reason that we give $600 billion to these people in the first place. And how do they do? Well, in 2006, "the percentage of funds delivering 'true' alpha [meaning from skill, not luck] had shrunk to only 0.6 percent." "Researchers followed the returns of 715 US stock mutual funds, which had posted top quartile performance as of March 2010. Only two of the funds persisted in remaining in the top 25 percent throughout the subsequent four-year period (March 2010 to March 2014)." (From a State Street study)
Kentucky’s borders are within 600 miles of more than 65% of the nation’s population. That is curious so it must mean something.
George Orwell responded to Hayek's writings on economies with both praise and criticism, stating, "in the negative part of Professor Hayek's thesis there is a great deal of truth. It cannot be said too often – at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough – that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamt of." Yet he also warned, "[A] return to 'free' competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the state."
This, I think,  contains the basic conflict between Progressivism and the Hayek-conservative, deTocqueville position. But it is more than a philosophical difference, it is practical. Hayak showed that manipulation of the economy, fueled too much by debt and not enough by productive income, sacrificed long term decisions for short term ones--the exact error we criticize quarter-bottom-line-obsessed companies for. 
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest group of people not in the labor force are those who don’t want a job, a remarkable statement on the nation’s work ethic. The federal job counter said that 85.9 million adults last month didn’t want a job, or 93 percent of all adults not in the labor force.
The average word length in English: 8.2 characters, in German: 11.7 characters.
When you "delete" a file, it gets moved to the trash or recycle bin in your operating system. However, emptying the trash or recycle bin doesn't remove that data. The only thing removed when you empty the trash or recycle bin is the master file table reference, which merely tells the operating system where the file was located. Essentially, you're only removing the map to the data—not the data itself—while also giving the operating system permission to overwrite that area of the hard drive. This is why some data is recoverable with special software or the right set of skills.
Bank employees are fleeing Moscow as business comes to a halt due to Western sanctions.
A double-bylined piece by the Associated Press and Kieran Corcoran  suggests that the Saudis were at the very least financially complicit in the 9/11 attacks. Specifically, they cite new court documents in which Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker," claims that an unnamed Saudi Arabian prince paid for the 9/11 attacks by paying for the flying lessons that he and the other 19 terrorists took.
Golden oldie:
The economy has been growing at roughly 2% since the end of the Great Recession, a very mediocre recovery. At least a third of that growth has come directly from the oil fracking boom, which is all about technology and nothing about government policy. Further, much of the ancillary growth in the economy has come from the availability of low-cost energy to manufacturing, encouraging large manufacturers to come back from all over the world to locate near what will be a long-term supply of plentiful, cheap natural gas.
On the Hope and Change front: There is a thesis that President Obama, in the waning years of his presidency, may turn to something, anything, to create a personality, a signature quality, to his presidency. Some think that area could be the dreaded environment question. He did not take advantage when Democrats had a filibuster-proof Senate majority in 2009 and the first weeks of 2010, and the House had already approved a “cap-and-trade” plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And the BP oil spill offered Obama a perfect chance to speak to the country about the dangers of fossil fuels, but he didn’t use his presidency’s first Oval Office speech in June 2010 to make the case for that specific piece of legislation.
Sometime an idealistic vision arrives later--even, perhaps, cynically.

AAAAaaaaannnnnndddddd........a chart: