Saturday, January 31, 2015

Cab Thought 1/31/15

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

The CIA's legendary Project Blue Book is now fully declassified and available to read online. An official investigation by the CIA into the existence of UFOs, aliens and all the other eerie stuff , Project Blue Book, also known as Project Sign and Project Grudge, existed from the late 1940s through 1967. You can actually read the Book on line at the conspiracy site, The Black Vault; all of its 140,000 pages and more than 10,000 case files.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, according to Politico, asked The National Defense University to establish an essay and research competition focused on the Middle East in honor of Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah. Huh?

Who is.....Allan R. Landon?

William Wordsworth went to France to meet his illegitimate daughter, Caroline, in 1800, for the first time. She was nine. Her mother was Annette Vallon. They spent a month together in Calais and then Wordsworth returned to England and married Mary Hutchinson, as planned. This was revealed by Princeton scholar George McLean Harper in 1921. This was held in solemn regard by the students, as seen in the senior faculty song:
Harper went to France to get

The red-hot dope on dear Annette,
And there performed a deed of note,
Revealing Wordsworth's one wild oat.

I watched a clip of a woman reporter in
Mariupol over the weekend chase a man in a Ukrainian military uniform down the street asking in Russian what was going on. He replied in unaccented English, "Get out of my face."
Do we have military on the ground in Ukraine? Are they wearing other country's uniforms? Are they mercs? What is going on?

Calumny: N: The making of false and defamatory statements in order to damage someone’s reputation; slander. late Middle English: from Latin calumnia. Also the base of the word "Challenge" was first recorded in the senses ‘an accusation’ and ‘to accuse’.

There is an inquiry into the death of  ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.  Litvinenko died in a London hospital nearly three weeks after he drank tea laced with radioactive polonium-210, following a meeting with two former Russian agents at the Millennium Hotel in central London. There is a lot to be interested in here--the murder, the potential for mass murder using radioactive material--but the most interesting is how international relations prevented the pursuit of the murder. The murder occurred in 2006. 
Obama wants to appoint Allan R. Landon, a Hawaiian "community banker," to serve on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. President Obama said, “Allan Landon has the proven experience, judgment and deep knowledge of the financial system to serve at the Federal Reserve during this important time for our economy.  He brings decades of leadership and expertise from various roles, particularly as a community banker.  I’m confident that he will serve our country well.”
Yet, in 2005, the Seattle Federal Home Loan Bank bank auditor, PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP, refused to sign off on the FHLB's fourth-quarter and year-end financial statements until the board fully examined whether the three directors had access to material information that wasn't yet public ahead of the transactions. An independent-review committee determined that "there was the appearance of impropriety" and the three resigned--but, of course, no charges were filed. One if those who resigned was......Allan R. Landon!
So this guy is going to be a member of the most important governmental entity in the country, maybe the world?

Puzzle: Given a five ounce glass and a three ounce glass, measure exactly four ounces. Your water supply is limitless and you can fill and empty glasses as you please.

The Jew of Malta was an Elizabethan play written by Christopher Marlow in the late 1500s and is said to have been an inspiration to Shakespeare for his Merchant of Venice. Unlike the beautiful Tamburlaine or the philosophical Faustus, it is all action, drama and cruelty. Because of its anti-Semitic qualities it is rarely seen. But it is stimulating, parts appearing in as diverse a grouping as Neil Gaiman, Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series and T.S. Eliot. This is a famous line:
FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed--
BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country;
                   And besides, the wench is dead.

Golden oldie:

American schools punish black students more often than white students. But schools punish white students more often than Asian students. Lenders turn down black applicants for loans more often than white applicants — but they turn down whites more often than Asians. Most statistics on such things omit Asians, presumably because they complicate a simple theme. 

True or not, like the "third base" calumny," a terribly funny line:
“There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

The launch pad fire during Apollo program tests at Cape Canaveral in 1967 killed astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee. An investigation indicated that a faulty electrical wire inside the Apollo 1 command module was the probable cause of the fire. The astronauts, the first Americans to die in a spacecraft, had been participating in a simulation of the Apollo 1 launch scheduled for the next month. It was strangely similar to a fire that killed Russian cosmonaut Valentin Bondarenko in 1961. The circumstances were so peculiar that conspiracy theorist thought it purposeful. The crucial element was the capsule environment: 100 percent oxygen. (Bondarenko's was 67%.) High O2 concentration had always been a problem in artificial environments, in diving and in flight. But the mixing of inert gases--like nitrogen used in diving was expensive, complicated and, worst, heavy.

A shadowy Bermudan company that has funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States is run by executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests and offshore money laundering schemes involving members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee reported last year. It wrote: “This is clearly a deceitful way to hide the source of millions of dollars that are active in our system, attempting to effect political change.”

AAAaaaaannnnndddddd......a graph:

Chart of the Day


Friday, January 30, 2015

Domestic Security

In his 2008 campaign, Obama said,  "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded." At the time, the Army alone had nearly 500,000 troops, not including reserves or the National Guard. In 2007, the Defense Department's budget was $439 billion. Now this was a very strange, and generally under reported and under investigated, pledge. But, when the fighting started in Ferguson, some very well armed and well provisioned men showed up as police. This was unlike anything the public has seen by domestic police before.
The meaning of all this, as usual with this president, is unclear. But the behavior of the police in the last months, along with these other hints, implies one thing for sure: The police, at least, and perhaps the government itself, is unsettled by its citizenry and, perhaps, afraid of them.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Siegel and P/E

In 1994 Jeremy Siegel, professor of finance at The Wharton School, wrote "Stocks for the Long Run" which analyzed the behavior of all investment media as far back as their returns could be reliably evaluated. He concluded that for any ten year period, stocks out performed every other investment for that period. Looking at the market in the two decades since, the stock market has continued to average his predicted 6.7% gain, albeit with a lot of volatility. (One can see how panicking in a down market could just murder you.)

Here, however, is a very interesting chart that grades market behavior in decades separated on the basis of the market's underlying P/E ratio: (It may not come through. The essence is that growth is present in every single ten year cycle in the U.S. market with the exception of several ten year segments since 9/11. But the growth, if compared to PE, is remarkably higher in those decades with low PEs. Or, as Graham and Dodd wrote in their classic Security Analysis in 1934:
"Hence we may submit, as a corollary of no small practical important cachet, people who habitually
purchase common stocks at more than about 16 times their average earnings are likely to loseconsiderable money in the long run.")


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cab Thoughts 1/28/15

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture and, if it were possible, speak a few reasonable words. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)

Edgar Allen Poe's story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, first appeared in Graham's Lady's and Gentleman's Magazine. The tale is generally considered to be the first detective story. The story describes the extraordinary "analytical power" used by Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin to solve a series of murders in Paris. Like the later Sherlock Holmes stories, the tale is narrated by the detective's roommate. Following the publication of Poe's story, detective stories began to grow into novels and English novelist Wilkie Collins published a detective novel, The Moonstone, in 1868.
he lawyer-politician-writer John Buchan was born, in Perth, Scotland. Buchan wrote prolifically and in almost all genres, but he is best known for his spy-adventure novels, particularly the first "Richard Hannay" book, The Thirty-Nine Steps. Some trace the spy genre back to The Spy (1821) by James Fenimore Cooper, and others regard Erskine Childers's The Riddle of the Sands (1903) as the beginning, but most give Buchan credit for the kind of espionage thriller--he called them "shockers" -- that would eventually arrive at James Bond.

Black Sails is on TV again. I love treasure stories but this is so bad it is embarrassing to watch. As if the plot wasn't confused enough, they introduced a new and improved psychopath.

On the other hand, I really like House of Cards.

"All uranium found on earth is thought to have been synthesized during a supernova explosion that occurred roughly 5 billion years ago. Even before the laws of quantum mechanics were developed to their present level, the radioactivity of such elements has posed a challenge to determinism due to its unpredictability. One gram of uranium-238, a commonly occurring radioactive substance, contains some 2.5 x 1021 atoms. Each of these atoms are identical and indistinguishable according to all tests known to modern science. Yet about 12600 times a second, one of the atoms in that gram will decay, giving off an alpha particle. The challenge for determinism is to explain why and when decay occurs, since it does not seem to depend on external stimulus. Indeed, no extant theory of physics makes testable predictions of exactly when any given atom will decay. At best scientists can discover determined probabilities in the form of the element's half life."--wiki

Who is....Jean-Baptiste Lamarck?

A report on Obama's State of the Union speech analyzed that, were his tax suggestions be implemented, the tax on Pennsylvania estates would total 81%.

Homunculus: noun: 1. A diminutive human being. 2. A fully formed, miniature human being that was earlier believed to be present in a sperm or an egg.
From Latin homunculus (little man), diminutive of homo(man). Ultimately from the Indo-European root dhghem- (earth),  Earliest documented use: 1656. So it was originally felt the mother added nothing to the child but only carried it. Interestingly, a dictionary notes that "homo" should be split to "ho-mo" before e-mailed or else some filters will reject the word as offensive. A number of years ago a well regarded student of language who wrote a column for the NYT explained "homosexuality" as derived from "homo" or "man" rather than its true origin, "homo" as "same." (e.g. homogeneous")
The priceless funeral mask of Tutankhamen has been damaged at the Cairo museum, causing curators to glue it back together. Apparently it was a disaster.

The Ponomon Institute estimates the companies the study average 1.8 successful cyber-attacks a week. Generally it is felt that hundreds of billions of dollars in intellectual property is lost per year. Gen. Keith Alexander, the retired head of NASA , called the results of cyber-theft "The greatest transfer of wealth in history."

Golden oldie:

The political news out of Greece is startling. Almost comic. A party with communist roots has won the vote. This would be like Lamark having a representative in NASA. Well, maybe with epigenetics that is not as outlandish as the Greek vote.

John Hersey's "Hiroshima" was published in The New Yorker on
August 31, 1946 . It was released as a full-length book later.  The article took up all sixty-eight pages of text space (everything except for the "Goings On" calendar), an unprecedented and unannounced event for the magazine. Nor did the cover picture of a summery park scene give any indication, though there was a white band on the outside warning readers of the departure, and an editorial note on page one expressing the magazine's conviction that the nuclear explosion was an event "that everyone might well take time to consider." The magazine sold out almost immediately, with scalpers soon charging twenty dollars for the fifteen-cent issue. The story was reprinted, broadcast and published in book form throughout the world, and has never been out of print. Book of the Month Club members received a copy free, because of its "importance at this moment tothe human race." When Hersey died in 1993, one obituary called "Hiroshima" the "most famous magazine article ever published." The topic was of the people and the town attacked; he made no effort to include analysis of American motivation.Puzzle: You have unlimited water supply. You have in your possession two glasses measuring seven and eleven ounces. You are permitted to fill or empty either glass. How many steps are required to fill one of the containers with exactly six ounces of water?

Mark Twain hated James Fenimore Cooper and he especially hated The Leatherstocking stories chronicling Hawkeye, so much so that in 1895 he published an article entitled "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences." Twain found The Deerslayer guilty of breaking eighteen of his nineteen rules for romantic fiction, including Rule Three: "that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others."

Some observations and predictions for the rest of the decade from an article in Business Insider: Japan's unrivaled quantitative easing will devalue the yen to significant levels and cause a currency war, the EU has persisting unequal economies with an equal currency and that conflict must be resolved, China will continue its growth but it will be impaired by its debt, the dollar will grow in strength to the detriment of other currencies especially the emerging ones, the Americans will have to decide on growth--with its inherent tax and regulatory changes--or decline.

The largest cyber-crime in history, Snowden's, involved the NSA, the American ostensible spy center. No administrator has been disciplined or held responsible. The Chinese have hacked into American computers and stolen 24 major weapons designs, including the Army and Navy missile defense systems but experts feel Snowden's theft was greater.

AAAAAAAaaaaaaadddddd........a picture:

homunculusA tiny human inside a sperm
Drawing: N. Hartsoecker, 1695Source: Wikimedia

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Heroes of Beslan and Donatists

We need a new word for who maniacs are and what maniacs do.
ISIS "fighters," "terror" and "terrorist," do not explain either the acts or their motives adequately. A man is killed attacking a grade school, but not before he kills a number of children. A man straps bombs to himself, walks into a group of strangers and detonates them. These are not a martyr's act; a martyr is self-absorbed by his personal vision and ideal. He is quite unworldly. Indeed, the original meaning of the word "martyr" is "witness." Animosity is quite distant from it.
This, of course, is not a new question.
Christianity wrestled with the distinction between martyrdom and suicide from its beginning. Martyrdom has always been rife among the devoted. The North African Christian writer Tertullian praised thousands of Carthaginian Christians who supposedly approached the Roman governor en masse to request execution—(the governor is said to have declined.) North Africa grew these people. The Donatists were a branch of Christians in Northern Africa, and within this sect was a fanatical group called the Circumcellions--Berbers and considered heretics--in the fourth and fifth centuries. The Circumcellions were mostly lower-class peasants, many of whom were illiterate. Most kept watch over and took care of the graves of martyrs. It was a growth industry in North Africa.
Members of the sect carried massive clubs that they called Israelites. Those that were completely ready to become martyrs would attack people on the streets while crying out their religious beliefs, with the goal of forcing these random people to fight back and to kill them. Since they were dying as declared Christians, they saw themselves as fulfilling their goal of martyrdom. It was the ultimate way into heaven.
Perhaps we could coin a proper noun out of "atrocity." "Atrociter?"

Monday, January 26, 2015

Crosby and the All Star Game

Sydney Crosby, the best hockey player on the planet and the face of the league has missed five straight All-Star Games and has only played in one during his 10-year NHL career. His high ankle sprain in 2008 kept him out of the Atlanta All-Star Game and sidelined him for 6-8 weeks. In 2009, it was a left knee bruise; he missed a game immediately before the All-Star break. In 2010, there were Olympics. He missed 2011 and 2012 with concussion symptoms. Then another lockout. Then the Sochi Games. And now he misses the Columbus All-Star Game because of a minor injury ("minor" as the team says they expect him back next week, potentially missing two games but nothing more.)
The experts are miffed. They feel that Crosby is not showing loyalty to the organization he represents--but also feeds him. They are clearly experts because we simple slugs would say he is getting the hell kicked out of him, he needs recovery time whenever he can get it and any league that allows intentional injury of its showcase stars as a game tactic deserves no loyalty.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday 1/25/15

The readings today raise some interesting conversation points. In the Old Testament reading of God's forgiving Nineveh, He is said to have remorse. Now translations can make things difficult but can God have remorse?
The New Testament readings are more well known but no less provocative. Christ leaves Jerusalem and goes to Galilee where he starts to recruit disciples. Who and where He recruits is significant. First, these are working men, fishermen who are actually working at the time. Two leave their father alone in the boat. Perhaps this is to emphasize the commitment and other-worldly essence of Christ's demands but these men would not be high priority recruits on many lists, especially among the Jews with a literate, educated class. One wonders what is going on here. Why these men in particular? Are these types readily accepting of abstract and esthetic teachings? Is it to emphasize that very point? Or is it the opposite, that these men are actually quite simple and direct, more likely to see the complex clearly. (I remember years ago reading an article trying to explain the failure of a complex economic plan created by two Nobel Prize winners and the writer said that the plan was very abstract but if you explained it to ten random men having a beer in a bar not one of them would have thought the plan viable.)
And where is this done? Galilee. Perhaps in allusion to the scriptural “Galilee of the Gentiles.” But "Galilee" meant "ring," or "district" and it was an international area on the trade corridors that linked the world. More, it was an area of unusually high foreigner population. So Christ turns his back on Jerusalem--the center of the Old Testament --and goes to a center of internationalism and recruits disciples from the uneducated working class.
There is a thesis there somewhere.

(For a meaning of the name Galilee, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads: Circle, Circuit; Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has: Rolling, Revolving; and BDB Theological Dictionary: Circuit, District. More recent it is "porch" in England.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Cab Thought 1/24/15

A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.
~Alexander Tytler, historian

Some numbers from a recent report by The Heritage Foundation: (Yes, I know, but these are just numbers.)
In 2014, federal spending reached $3.5 trillion, and the one-year deficit was $486 billion. In other words, 14 cents of every dollar that Washington spent in 2014 was borrowed. Over the past 20 years, federal spending grew 63 percent faster than inflation. Mandatory spending, including Social Security and means-tested entitlements, doubled after adjusting for inflation. Discretionary spending grew by 47 percent in real terms.  In 1965, defense spending was 7.2 percent of GDP; in 2014, it was 3.5 percent of GDP. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up 77 percent of mandatory program spending in 2014 — and have no budget limits.

A pair of black holes are circling each other less than a light-year apart manifested as a regular flicker in a quasar — a mass of light and energy — in a remote galaxy known as PG 1302-102. When they meet, in a million years or so, they will release as much energy as 100 million of the violent supernova explosions in which stars end their lives, and wreck the galaxy it is in.

We have slightly more jails and prisons in the U.S. -- 5,000 plus -- than we do degree granting colleges and universities. In many parts of America, particularly the South, there are more people living in prisons than on college campuses. (Wash Po)

Who is...Alisa Rosenbaum?

A politician named Chris Deschene was barred from leading the Navajo nation because his Navajo isn’t fluent. It is a tough language to learn. In Navajo there is no such thing as a regular verb, you have to learn by heart each variation of every verb. Plus it has tones. A “click” language of southern Africa typically has not just two or three but as many as dozens of different clicks to master (native speakers have a bump on their larynx from producing them 24/7).  The tones of Chinese are extremely difficult to learn beyond childhood, and truly mastering the writing system virtually requires having been born to it. For English speakers, it seems hard enough that Mandarin Chinese requires you to distinguish four tones to get meaning across, but in the Hmong languages of Southeast Asia, any syllable means different things according to as many as eight tones.  Old English bristled with three genders, five cases and the same sort of complex grammar that makes modern German so difficult for us, but after the Vikings, it morphed into modern English, one of the few languages in Europe that doesn’t assign gender to inanimate objects. Mandarin, Persian, Indonesian and other languages went through similar processes and are therefore much less “cluttered” than a normal language is. All this in an article by John H. McWhorter wondering if we are trending toward more simple, less elaborate languages, languages that tend to be new.

Today silver is $15/oz but three years ago it was as high as $48/oz.

Ukraine's mission to reform its economy and crack down on corruption now boasts 3 non-Ukrainian cabinet members. And now a 4th non-Ukrainian - Estonian Jaanika Merilo - will step up to the plate 'tasked with bringing more foreign investment into Ukraine and improving the country's business climate'. I originally planned to show her picture--many are cheesecake and she looks like a model--and laugh at this appointment until I found her bio: "Over 14 years of investment sector and 18 years of technology sector experience meets passion for investing (venture capital, private equity), technology and economy in Russia, Ukraine and Baltics."

Chinese workers in a stamping press:

If you Google the economist Alasdair Macleod, you will get mostly gold bugs. But he has a scary idea: He says that China has been buying gold for twenty years. Initially China probably sought to diversify from US dollars, which was the only trade currency it received in the days before the euro. So they have been hedging the dollar with gold. And the West has been selling it to them. He estimates the Chinese hold more than 30,000 tons versus the U.S. with 8,300 tons.

Kissinger was interviewed by Speigle and said a number of things characteristic of big thinkers used to leadership. He spoke of "ungoverned countries" and the Westphalian Peace Treaty of 1648 as a reference system for world order, as a result of the Thirty Years' War.  "....[the]...treaty was based on the necessity to come to an arrangement with each other, not on some sort of superior morality. Independent nations decided not to interfere in the affairs of other states. They created a balance of power which we are missing today."

Herbalife is using up all its cash AND borrowing money like mad to finance a stock buyback. that sounds like a sophisticated Ponzi.

The drop in the price of oil is going to have an impact on the U.S. economy since a big driver has been shale. According to some, as much as 50% of shale oil is uneconomic at current prices, and the big unknown factor is the amount of debt that has been incurred by cash-flow negative companies to develop resources which will soon become unprofitable at much lower prices (or once their hedges run out).

Golden oldie:

VCs poured more than $90 million into Bitcoin-related businesses in 2013 and are on track to invest more than $300 million in 2014 (compared to $250 million invested in internet-related businesses in 1995).

Ayaan Hirsi Awi wrote the books Infidel and Nomad, detailing her journey from Somalia, where as a young girl she actually joined the Muslim Brotherhood. She ended up fleeing to Europe and went on to become a member of the Dutch parliament and an outspoken advocate of Islamic women’s rights. She was integral to Theo van Gogh’s movie on Islamic women. (This past November was the 10th anniversary of the murder of van Gogh on the streets of Amsterdam by an Islamic radical, who considered the movie an affront to his religion.) Because of her association with the movie, Ayaan has lived with death threats for over 20 years now and is accompanied by serious security everywhere she goes. I did not know she was married to the economist, Niall Ferguson.

Good news. U.S. House lawmakers will receive an hour of ethics training. (Roll Call)

Every once in a while the "purpose" of a corporation emerges as a concern. One idea is maximizing shareholder value. So borrowing money and buying your own stock might qualify. It is not an easy question. Here are two divergent statements of company purpose. The first, IBM:  Lou Gerstner as CEO stated, “Our primary measures of success are customer satisfaction and shareholder value.” In their Roadmap 2010, under Samuel Palmisano, the goal shifted to the primary aim of doubling earnings per share over the next five years. The second, Johnson and Johnson, written by its founder (Robert Wood Johnson) as part of its IPO documentation in 1943: “We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products...We are responsible to our employees...We are responsible to the communities in which we live and to the world community as well...Our final responsibility is to our stockholders...When we operate according to these principles, the stockholders should realize a fair return.”

The head of UPMC health system told 60 Minutes, their health care system is the largest employer not just in Pittsburgh; not just in Western Pennsylvania; but in the entire state. (UPMC employs 63,000 people.)To steer his $12 billion organization, UPMC’s CEO gets paid about $6 million per year.

A Puzzle: You are handed two water glasses. The smaller glass can hold exactly four ounces of water, the larger exactly nine ounces. With nothing more than these two glasses and an endless supply of water, your task is to measure exactly six ounces of water. You can fill or empty either glass as many times as you wish. In the interest of conserving water, try to do this in as few steps as possible. What's the best you can do?

Meliorism: noun; 1. the doctrine that the world tends to become better or may be made better by human effort. Meliorism entered English in the late 1800s. It comes from the Latin word melior  meaning "better."
What makes a masterpiece, wrote Cyril Connolly, are the following: A love of life and nature; an interest in, mingled with contempt for humanity; and a lack of belief in the idea of progress. It was the idea of progress that burdened us so much, that stimulated our ambition and our hope as well as the inevitable conflicts they created that caused us pain. Really?

The sustainability of fear and paranoia: In June, 1992, at the end of the United Nations Conference on Environment & Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, President George H.W. Bush and the leaders of 177 other nations signed a document known as Agenda 21. It was seen as a  planning paper, a nonbinding statement of intent aimed at dealing with sustainability on an increasingly crowded planet. Alabama has passed a law meant to outlaw any effects of the plan. The legislatures of Kansas, New Hampshire and Tennessee all passed state resolutions condemning it. Glenn Beck recently wrote a dystopia style book using it as the underlying law.

Britain, with a goal of protecting its Indian colonial holdings from Russia, tried to establish authority in neighboring Afghanistan by attempting to replace Emir Dost Mohammad with a former emir known to be sympathetic to the British. This blatant British interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs triggered the outbreak of the first Anglo-Afghan War in 1839. Dost Mohammad surrendered to British forces in 1840 after the Anglo-Indian army had captured Kabul. However, after an Afghan revolt in Kabul, the British had no choice but to withdraw. Sixteen  thousand(!) men, women and children were killed as the British tried to retreat to Jalalabad, Afghanistan.

AAAAAAaaaaaannnnnddddd......a picture of a Civil War soldier:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Solow on Planning and Execution

An opinion one might take to heart on many levels:
MIT Professor Robert Solow's work on the US economy – which has become a textbook economics lesson – explains that innovation has accounted for more than 80% of the long-term growth in US per capita income, with capital investments accounting for only 20% of per capita income growth. In other words, the United States and the rest of the post-industrial, developed world owe their epic rise in living standards to the underlying “social capital” that properly energized innovation, entrepreneurship, and thus technological transformation over the last two centuries. It is not enough just to mobilize resources and direct investments to the “right” sectors as China’s central planners have been doing for the last few decades. Once the basic building blocks of economic development are at hand, they still need to be used creatively, effectively, and productively.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Kennedy and Theories

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cab Thought 1/21/15

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple and wrong." - H. L. Mencken

The Associated Press has removed an image of Andres Serrano's 1987 photograph "Piss Christ" from its image library following Wednesday's attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. "It’s been our policy for years that we refrain from moving deliberately provocative images. It is fair to say we have revised and reviewed our policies since 1989," AP spokesperson Erin Madigan told POLITICO, referring to the year the AP first posted the photograph. It used to be that people were careful about offending. Offensive people were thought to be unattractive, perhaps poorly raised and educated. And surely the offensiveness of this "creation" was well understood. Why now? Taste has been replaced with fear. Probably worried about militant Methodists.

John Stewart said you should not have to be brave to be a comic. The remaining staff at the Charlie Hebdo paper announced that they will release an issue next week. "Stupidity will not win," columnist Patrick Pelloux told the AFP. They are brave. The problem here is not "stupidity," however, it is force. No one was more stupid than Pol Pot but his vision of Year Zero equality in Cambodia--while , indeed, did not last forever--killed one third of the population before it was euthanized.

Who was...Lord Horatio Nelson?

Risk to the public rivets their attention. Shallow philosophies abound, but a shallow philosopher with a gun is always taken seriously. Teachers strike all the time, but when the police in New York start to slow their work down....

In 2008, in the first of the nation's bizarre state presidential nomination contests--in Iowa--Barack Obama became a national contender by finishing first. Edwards--Edwards!--was second and Hillary third. Who won the Rube-publican race? Huckabee.

At Okinawa, Japanese Kamikaze pilots sank 30 ships and killed almost 5,000 Americans.
French economist Thomas Piketty, author of the best-selling "Capital in the Twenty-first Century" turned down France's top award, the Legion D'Honneur. "I do not think it is the government's role to decide who is honourable", said Piketty. This from a guy who wants to give government almost complete control of the economy.

The National Association of Manufacturers estimated the total cost of regulation to businesses, workers and consumers at $2 trillion a year — roughly $20,000 a year per employee.

Golden oldie:

Coronal holes are regions of the sun's corona where the magnetic field reaches out into space rather than looping back down onto the surface. Particles moving along those magnetic fields can leave the sun rather than being trapped near the surface. Those trapped particles can heat up and glow, giving us the AIA images below. In the parts of the corona where the particles leave the sun, the glow is much dimmer and the coronal hole looks dark. Coronal holes were first seen in images taken by astronauts on board NASA's Skylab space station in 1973 and 1974. They can be seen for a long time, although the exact shape changes all the time. 
The polar coronal hole can remain visible for five years or longer. 

Brazil overtook the U.S. in 2013 to become the most prolific cosmetic surgery nation in the world, with almost 1.5 million procedures performed.

Zero Hedge has a number of graphs that purport to explain the increase in American GDP:  Americans dipped into savings and purchased Healthcare. There was no other source of growth.

Archaeologists in Egypt have unearthed the tomb of a previously unknown queen, Egyptian officials say. The tomb was found in Abu-Sir, south-west of Cairo, and is thought to belong to the wife or mother of Pharaoh Neferefre who ruled 4,500 years ago. Egyptian Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty said that her name, Khentakawess, had been found inscribed on a wall in the necropolis. The tomb was discovered in Pharaoh Neferefre's funeral complex. It is likely Fifth Dynasty.  Abu-Sir was used as an Old Kingdom cemetery for the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. Pyramid construction started in the Fourth.

An intelligence document leaked to Le Figaro said Muslims are creating a separate public school society “completely cut off from non-Muslim students” in France. Over 1,000 French supermarkets are selling Islamic books that call for jihad and the killing of non-Muslims.

Mermaids, mythical half-female, half-fish creatures, have existed in seafaring cultures at least since the time of the ancient Greeks. Mermaid sightings by sailors, when they weren't made up, were most likely manatees, dugongs or Steller's sea cows (which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting). Manatees are slow-moving aquatic mammals with human-like eyes, bulbous faces and paddle-like tails. Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, reported seeing three "mermaids"--in reality manatees--and described them as "not half as beautiful as they are painted."

The cost of the loan (finance charge) may range from $10 to $30 for every $100 borrowed. A typical two-week payday loan with a $15 per $100 fee equates to an annual percentage rate (APR) of almost 400%.  

Alex Epstein, another political writer/entrepreneur has a new book which traces the improvement of the lives of humans since the development of fossil fuels. Cheap energy has finally freed us from the risks of much of our environment, a different slant than is popular. "Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels. ... The popular climate discussion .. . looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don't take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe."

76 percent of people who die from alcohol poisoning are men, with deaths most common in men aged 45-54. And 68 percent of people who die from alcohol poisoning are non-Hispanic whites, with Hispanic people a far second at 15 percent. 

On October 21, 1805, Nelson defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off the coast of Spain, and Napoleon Bonaparte was forced to abandon his invasion plans for England. Nelson, however, was mortally wounded at the height of the engagement while pacing the quarter-deck of the HMS Victory. He died that day, and his body was solemnly brought back to England. He was buried at St. Paul's Cathedral.In London, a column was erected to his memory in the newly named Trafalgar Square.

Sharyl Attkisson is an ex-CBS reporter who has a book out about her experiences in the media. The Right has seized her as sort of a freedom-of-the-press champion so the debate regarding how she was handled is going to be shrill and partisan. Nonetheless, this is a big, important problem. What she alleges in her book is scandalous and really dangerous in a free society. She has sued the Feds this week and, if the baloney can be filtered out, the story should be interesting. It is at least important as important in the U.S. as Ebola was.

Samuel Morse revealed his invention, the telegraph in 1838. Hence, Morse Code. In May 1844, Morse sent the first official telegram over a line, with the message: "What hath God wrought!" Western Union became the most successful adopter and a culture was created, economic wording, instant information, the dreaded telegram during war.  Western Union delivered its final telegram in January 2006.

Two thousand years ago, English was the unwritten tongue of Iron Age tribes in Denmark. A thousand years after that, it was living in the shadow of French-speaking overlords on a dampish little island. No one then living could have dreamed that English would be spoken today, to some degree, by almost two billion people, on its way to being spoken by every third person on the planet. by 2115, it is possible that only about 600 languages will be left on the planet as opposed to today’s 6,000.

Plangent  adjective: 1. Loud and resounding. 2. Sad or mournful. From Latin plangere (to beat the br- east, lament). Ultimately from the Indo-European root plak- (to strike), which also gave us plague, plankton, fling, and complain. Earliest documented use: 1666.

AAAaaaaaannnnndddd .........a picture of the sun and a coronal hole--actually it did not turn out so well:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


"Putinism" is the new buzzword.
Fareed Zakaria writes the “crucial elements of Putinism ..[are]... nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism and government domination of the media. They are all, in some way or another, different from and hostile to modern Western values of individual rights, tolerance, cosmopolitanism and internationalism.” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, Xi Jinping in China, Turkish President Recep Tayyip are all variations of this theme. Erdogan Narendra Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist party who was denied entry into the United States for a decade for complicity in or toleration of a massacre of Muslims, is now prime minister of India. Hungary's Viktor Orban has said he sees in Russia a model for his own “illiberal state.” The National Front's Marine Le Pen wants to bring France into a new Gaullist Europe, stretching “from the Atlantic to the Urals,” with France seceding from the EU superstate.
“Of the 24 right-wing populist parties that took about a quarter of the European Parliament seats in May elections, Political Capital lists 15 as ‘committed' to Russia,” writes the AP. and they “share key views — advocacy of traditional family values, belief in authoritarian leadership, a distrust of the U.S., and support for strong law and order measures.”
So, Buchanan asks, "if America is a better country today than she has ever been, why are so many, East and West, recoiling from what we offer now?" (From Pat Buchanan)

Monday, January 19, 2015

William James on Robert Shaw

Robert Gould Shaw in late 1862 took command of a new All-Black Regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. He and his troops were immortalized (and portrayed in the 1989 film Glory) on July 18, 1863, when they assaulted the Confederate Battery Wagner. As he lead his men forward he was shot through the chest three times and died almost instantly. Years later William James, the famous intellectual, spoke at a dedication of a Shaw memorial. He dismissed the notion that bravery and valor should be honored as it was a coarse "survival of the fittest" certainty and thought the "civic courage" Shaw exhibited in his taking the commission was most important. "...the survival of the fittest has not bred it into the bone of human beings as it has bred military valor; and of five hundred of us who could storm a battery side by side with others, perhaps not one could be found who would risk his worldly fortunes all alone in resisting an enthroned abuse."
A great nation is not saved by wars, James said; it is saved "by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks." This is the behavior that monuments should honor.

This is a lovely idea. But is it true? 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday 1/18/15

Today's readings are about people being called to God.The Old Testament reading has God calling Samuel; it reads like Abbot and Costello. Samuel hears the voice of God but thinks it is the voice of Eli next door. So for a paragraph, back and forth, he wakes and is rebuked by Eli.
There is a lovely confidence in this kind of writing, an understanding of man's errors and mistakes that border on comedy. Except with more warmth.
There was a time when Christianity was an integral part of daily life and the art reflected that as well. The paintings do not usually have this broader, more human content but the writings do. (Remember Christ's saying people would not believe some messages even if delivered by a man raised from the dead.) Look at this wonderful poem by Herbert, a deeply religious man, about Love and the love of God, a complex amalgam of the spiritual and the sensual, where the sensual becomes the spiritual:

by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
        Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
        From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
        If I lack'd anything.

"A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
        Love said, "You shall be he."
"I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
        I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
        "Who made the eyes but I?"

"Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
        Go where it doth deserve."
"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
        "My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
        So I did sit and eat.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cab Thoughts 1/17/15

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

Director Oliver Stone believes the CIA contributed to violence at February protests in Ukraine that left more than 100 dead. "It seems clear that the so-called 'shooters' who killed 14 police men, wounded some 85, and killed 45 protesting civilians, were outside third-party agitators," he wrote."Many witnesses, including Yanukovych and police officials, believe these foreign elements were introduced by pro-Western factions — with CIA fingerprints on it," Stone continued.
He might be right but I wouldn't believe him if he said "Force equals mass times acceleration." Mr. Stone's insightfulness and intellectual honesty can be confirmed by anyone who is concerned by simply referring to his famous work "JFK," a virtual monument to predatory and toxic capitalism unfettered by either probity or social responsibility.
Free speech can be a problem when it is exercised by known idiots.

A fascinating study of an American made missile found that 30% of the computer chips used were counterfeit.

Lake Abbe (aka Lake Abhe Bad) is a saline lake, lying on the border between Ethiopia and Djibouti. The Lake is found in the central area of the Afar Depression – a sunken landform forming as a result of the African plate splitting into the Nubian and Somalian plates. This depressions draws water from the African heartland via the Awash River to a chain of six connected lakes, with Lake Abbe representing the final destination for the river. Rising Magma oozes out onto the surface through thin cracks in the dry ground. The intruding magma also causes another interesting above-ground effect by heating underground springs rich in minerals. The heating of the underwater springs causes boiling water to bubble up to the surface, where it deposits dissolved calcium carbonates, creating towering chimneys, some of which can reach heights exceeding 50 meters. The director Charlton Heston shot his 1968 film “The Planet of the Apes” on the shores of Lake Abbe.

Golden oldie:

Saudia, Saudi Arabia's national airline, is reportedly planning to begin segregating their flights by gender. The move, first reported by Arabic-language news agency Ajel, is in response to male passengers complaining about their wives and daughters being seated next strange men. El Al, Israel's national airline, has faced similar grumpiness from haredi (ultra-Orthodox) flyers who refuse to sit next to women they aren't related to.

Seven years ago, in November 2007, the aggregate balance in the federal direct student loan program was only $98,529,000,000. Since then, it has grown by $708,032,000,000.
Federal Student Loan Debt Increased by Average of More Than $100B Per Year
40.2 percent of students attending a postsecondary school had a federal student loan.The percentages were higher for full-time students and those who attended four-year colleges. Fifty-five percent of students attending college full-time had a federal loan, 58.1 percent of those attending a four-year doctorate-granting institution had a federal loan, and 61.4 percent of those attending a four-year non-doctorate granting institution had a federal loan.
Even the nation's wealthiest universities now charge students more than they and their families can pay without going into debt. That is a wealth transfer of terrific proportion.

Who was...Pol Pot?

Debate about the origin of epics include the Eastern Europe storytellers who add and subtract verse for ease of telling and remembering. So ancient epics may be composites of many performers. Against this is the storytelling of people like the stonemason and storyteller, Duncan Macdonald: In 1953, he recited an hour-long tale almost word for word as he had delivered it three years earlier.

A man who tried to set a Guinness world record for the "Fastest Time to Jump Through 10 Panes of Tempered Glass" sued truTV, claiming it tampered with his equipment, then as he lay hospitalized, had him sign a waiver which it misrepresented as insurance papers.

The Feds require statements on ingredients and nutritional value on all foodstuff. Here is the declaration from a new hot sauce, Gringo Bandito, printed on the label:
"Ingredients: Vinegar, Water, Habanero Peppers, Jalapeño Peppers, Red Japanese Chili Peppers, More Peppers, Salt, Mojo, Spices, and Xanthan Gum. Hot Sauce really doesn’t have nutritional value. It’s vinegar and peppers, for God’s sake. What did you expect? Why are you even trying to determine the nutritional value of hot sauce? Just enjoy it!"

The singing group The Weavers helped spark a tremendous resurgence in interest in American folk traditions and folk songs when they burst onto the popular scene with "Goodnight Irene," a #1 record for 13 weeks in the summer and fall of 1950. It is a song I remember well as a child. The group was formed by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays and is believed to be responsible for the eventual development of the sound of Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary and that type. To show how much the country has changed, during the early 1960s it was revealed the group--despite their rather mild song content--was affiliated with labor and communist groups in the 1940s. They had a TV show cancelled because they refused to take a loyalty oath. 

A recent study found just 46 percent of American children now live in homes with their married, heterosexual parents. Five percent have no parents at home. They most likely live with grandparents, says the study.
These figures contrast with the year 1960, when 73 percent of American children lived in traditional families.

In the Pacific Islands in WWII, American soldier deaths was about 20%. Japanese deaths were 90%. There are a number of explanations but the Japanese warrior cult is certainly one. One island, Saipan, became a Mandate of Japan by the League of Nations after World War I, and thus a large number of Japanese civilians lived there — at least 25,000. At the end of June, 1944, Hirohito sent out an imperial order encouraging the civilians of Saipan to commit suicide. The order authorized the commander of Saipan to promise civilians who died there an equal spiritual status in the afterlife with those of soldiers perishing in combat. 1,000 Japanese civilians committed suicide in the last days of the battle to take the offered privileged place in the afterlife, some jumping from "Suicide Cliff" and "Banzai Cliff". (There is a horrifying YouTube of military films on it. I do not recommend it.)

Kumbh Mela is a Hindu pilgrimage which attracts, each year, the greatest peaceful get together of people in the world.  The  Maha Kumbh Mela of 2013 saw over 100 million people gather to bathe at dawn in the sacred Ganges River.

An explanation of the term "White Elephant" from Wikipedia: A white elephant is a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness. The term derives from the story that the kings of Siam, now Thailand, were accustomed to make a present of one of these animals to courtiers who had rendered themselves obnoxious in order to ruin the recipient by the cost of its maintenance. In modern usage, it is an object, scheme, business venture, facility, etc., considered without use or value.

Pol Pot was a Cambodian communist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until 1997. He wanted to create a society of equals, undistorted by birth or education or technology. He pursued his dream by killing all those with an education and moving city dwellers to farm communes, where many died of malnutrition. The total deaths in the nation during his reign was about 25-30 percent of the population. The equality of the grave.

It would be interesting to analyze the U.S. decision on dropping the Cuba embargo. The original intent was to hurt Cuba and make it pay for its agreements, military and intelligence, with Russia. But that threat faded with the demise of the Soviet state. (Interestingly, now with Putin struggling back, Cuba is reopening some of its espionage facilities to the Russians.) Yet the U.S. has been the only nation to be so difficult with the Cubans. The decision to open up with the Cubans was not negotiated, it was declared, so there was no give and take, no quid pro quo. It was by fiat. Without domestic stimulus or pressure. One man's vision of the right thing to do.

AAAaaaaannnnnnddddd..... pictures of Lake Abbe:
 Photo Source :Rolf Cosar
Photo Source :Fyeahafrica

Friday, January 16, 2015

Planned Economies

View high rise.jpg in slide show

“Ghost cities” lined with empty apartment blocks, abandoned highways and mothballed steel mills sprawl across China’s landscape – the outcome of government stimulus measures and hyperactive construction that have generated $6.8tn in wasted investment since 2009, according to a report by government researchers.
In 2009 and 2013 alone, “ineffective investment” came to nearly half the total invested in the Chinese economy in those years, according to research by Xu Ce of the National Development and Reform Commission, the state planning agency, and Wang Yuan from the Academy of Macroeconomic Research, a former arm of the NDRC.
But there's more. Jonathan Anderson, founder of Emerging Advisors Group, the consultancy, estimates that about $1tn has gone missing in China in the past half-decade as a result of weak oversight and the enormous opportunity provided by the investment boom. “That translates into maybe 5 per cent of GDP per year worth of skimming off the top,” he says. (From the Financial Times)
That is a lot of wasted money in an economy. But maybe the Keynesians don't see it that way.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Gluten and Magic

Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a rye/wheat hybrid) that is hard for some people to digest. These people are divided into a number of subsets. An estimated 1-2% of the population have celiac disease – an autoimmune form of gluten intolerance – who must eat a gluten-free diet for life. Other people may not have celiac disease, but may be allergic to wheat (about 0.2-0.4% of people) or may have what's termed non-celiac gluten sensitivity--NCGS-- (a group some experts estimate at from 1% to 6% of the population).  Of note, NCGS is a research in progress. Peter Gibson, a professor of gastroenterology at Monash University and director of the GI Unit at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia has a number of studies with conflicting results.

An argument has always appeared over the very logic of gluten sensitivity. How could such an intolerance exist in an agricultural culture? But lactose intolerance is quite real--and traceable genetically. ( ) More, agriculture is new.

But there is another curiosity revealed in words.  Alphitomancy comes from the Greek word meaning "barley," the suffix -mancy comes from the Greek term meaning "divination." Years ago it was common in some cultures to test a subject for truthfulness by feeding him barley. If he got indigestion, that was an indication he was lying.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cab Thoughts 1/14/15

"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

I am rarely optimistic about the political world; I expect things to gradually deteriorate until they are reset at a higher bar to deteriorate again. But the French demonstrations were truly uplifting. Dramatic and hopeful.

There was a wonderful American/political correct moment in the broadcast. The international Christiane Amanpour was talking with an American broadcaster who was trying to explain her broader and more educated vision to the idiot Americans and she said "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité." The American helpfully explained to the idiot Americans, "Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood." Then he froze and quickly clarified. "And 'Sisterhood. Sisterhood." 

The Ghost Dance spiritual movement in the 1890s taught that Indians had been defeated and confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs. Many Sioux believed that if they practiced the Ghost Dance and rejected the ways of the white man, the gods would create the world anew and destroy all non-believers, including non-Indians.

Osiris was the wise ruler of mythological ancient Egypt and Isis was his twin sister and wife. They had a son, Horus. But they also had an evil brother, Set or Seth, the god of the desert and sand storms. The jealous Set brings a coffin to a party for the gods and all the gods tried the coffin out. Cinderella-like, it fits Osiris perfectly. Set slams it shut and escapes with it to the Nile where he drowns Osiris and, after, dismembers him. He is eventually spread throughout Egypt to fertilize the land and becomes the Lord of the Dead, with some rebirth qualities. The tears of Isis for her husband form the flood that gives life to the Nile.

It is said that Jim Webb, one of politics more interesting guys, is considering running for president. He is a tough customer, a former marine, a fiction writer, a former senator and always called the smartest guy in the room. He has diverse positions and is hard to pigeonhole. But Hillary is taking him seriously. The week before Thanksgiving, staffers of Philippe Reines, Clinton’s longtime communications guru, pitched talk radio producers on the racy, sexually charged writings in Webb’s novels, according to a source at the U.S.News.

Captcha: a recent noun, ‏meaning a test used to make sure that a human is using a system, not a computer program. The test typically involves reading distorted text. An acronym of Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. The Turing test is named after Alan Turing, a mathematician and computer scientist, who proposed that a computer could be considered intelligent if, while interacting with a human and a computer, someone could not tell which is which. A captcha is a kind of reverse Turing test. Earliest documented use: 2001.

We receive ads picked for our taste. All our Internet information refines the data-generated picture of us. So it is with information we seek.  "Most of us assume that when we 'google' a term, we all see the same results -- the ones that the company's famous Page Rank algorithm suggests are the most authoritative based on other pages' links. But since December 2009, this is no longer true. Now you get the result that Google's algorithm suggests is best for you in particular -- and someone else may see something entirely different. In other words, there is no standard Google anymore." (Pariser) This is what author Eli Pariser calls 'the filter bubble' which serves to reinforce the beliefs we have with information more friendly to those beliefs.

Who is....Cynthia Ann Parker?

The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 ended the Thirty Years War, originating in a conflict between Catholic and Protestant factions after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. It is said to have created the State as the primary institutional agents in an interstate system of relations and to have ended attempts to impose supranational authority on European states. This has some interest in where religion fit. Is there, for example, independence in an Islamic state from outside influence? This is called by some "the charter myth of the sovereign nation-state system" and writer Karen Armstrong writes that such a separation of religion from politics is, historically, brand new and perhaps impossible.
She writes: "The Oxford Classical Dictionary firmly states: 'No word in either Greek or Latin corresponds to the English "religion" or "religious." ' The idea of religion as an essentially personal and systematic pursuit was entirely absent from classical Greece, Japan, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, China, and India. Nor does the Hebrew Bible have any abstract concept of religion; and the Talmudic rabbis would have found it impossible to express what they meant by faith in a single word or even in a formula, since the Talmud was expressly designed to bring the whole of human life into the ambit of the sacred."
So, best of luck with Islam.

The activist Louis Brandeis was the first Jewish justice on the Supreme Court. Whenever Brandeis spoke in judicial conference Wilson's first appointee, Justice McReynolds, was known simply to rise and leave the room. He went so far as to avoid official Court pictures because he did not want to be photographed with a Jew.

Democracy works everywhere: According to The Independent, Argentina's president, President Christina Fernández de Kirchner adopted a boy named Yair Tawil as her godson so that he would not turn into a werewolf. It's actually part of a longstanding tradition in the country that dates back to a folk story in the country:
According to Argentinian folklore, the seventh son born to a family turns into the feared "el lobison". The werewolf-like creature shows its true nature on the first Friday after boy's 13th birthday, the legend says, turning the boy into a demon at midnight during every full moon, doomed to hunt and kill before returning to human form.
As well as feeding on excrement, unbaptized babies, and the flesh of the recently dead, the lobison was said to be unnaturally strong and able to spread its curse with a bite.
Because some people actually believed this hundreds of years ago, they started killing the seventh son babies. So, to stop that from happening, presidents starting adopting the seventh born boys of families.

Golden oldie:

There is always a dissenting view: "In the last 80 years, as CO2 emissions have most rapidly escalated, the annual rate of climate-related deaths worldwide fell by an incredible 98%. This means the incidence of death from climate is 50 times lower than it was 80 years ago." (Alex Epstein, founder of something called the Center for Industrial Progress)

More and more we are seeing news sources eliminate the "comments" sections of pieces. In 2013, Popular Science magazine ended comments on its stories, calling them “bad for science.” A Sept. 24 post on the magazine's site said that research had found “even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story.” This deserves some thought and some worry.

The new “myRA” fund rolling out from the Treasury this month is a form of Roth Individual Retirement Account that allows people to save after-tax dollars and watch them grow tax-free until retirement. The new myRA offers a single investment option: Federal debt. It is a private version of the G Fund that is available to federal workers and has lately been delivering annual returns of about 2% on its portfolio of Treasury securities. Interestingly, while such plans are legislated, this one was created by executive order.

Mr. Gruber is back. Gruber said that Obamacare had no cost controls in it and would not be affordable in an October 2009 policy brief, presented by The Daily Caller. Gruber also said that the only way to control costs is to effectively deny treatment.
“The real substance of cost control is all about a single thing: telling patients they can’t have something they want. It’s about telling patients, ‘That surgery doesn’t do any good, so if you want it you have to pay the full cost.’”
“There’s no reason the American health care system can’t be, ‘You can have whatever you want, you just have to pay for it.’ That’s what we do in other walks of life. We don’t say everyone has to have a large screen TV. If you want a large screen TV, you have to pay for it. Basically the notion would be to move to a level where everyone has a solid basic insurance level of coverage. Above that people pay on their own, without tax-subsidized dollars, to buy a higher level of coverage.”
And despite the president’s pitches to the contrary, Obama also knew that his health care bill was unlikely to control costs, Gruber said.
The point here is not that they lied; all these people lie. The point is that this was seen by the creators as very different from Hillary's plan, which was aimed at decreasing the total cost of medical care through limiting what could be legally spent

AAAAAaaaaaannnnnndddddd.........a newspaper article, perfectly British: