Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cab Thoughts 2/28/15

Government is only a business.  Past the roads, defense, and sewers, it sells excitement and self-satisfaction to the masses, and charges them an entertainment tax, exacted in wealth and misery.  It cannot make cars, or develop medicines.  How can it “abolish poverty” (at home or abroad), or Bring About an End to Greed or Exploitation?  It can only sell the illusion, and put itself in a position where it is free from judgment of its efforts.  It does this, first of all, by stating inchoate goals, “change, hope, fairness, peace,” and then indicting those who question them as traitors or ogres; finally, it explains its lack of success by reference to persistent if magical forces put in play by its predecessors and yet uneradicated because of insufficient funding.--David Mamet

In 1947, when Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano was published, he was considered a writer of Hemmingway quality, if not style. But he was an inveterate drunk. His poetic prose was called by Martin Amis "drunkenness recollected in sobriety" (instead of Wordsworth's "emotion recollected in tranquility.") He eventually drank himself to death ....but not before rather horrifying efforts at a "cure." A series of seven shock treatments having failed, Lowry underwent apomorphine aversion treatment: ten days isolation in a tiny cell illuminated by a red lightbulb, during which the patient is given apomorphine and all the alcohol he wants, but only subsistence food and water -- Lowry said afterwards that he became so thirsty that he drank his own urine. The idea is that the patient will drink himself into aversion after about five days; after ten days Lowry appeared in better spirits than he had been when he went in; after twenty-one days he seemed to have had enough; several days after that, he broke out of his treatment center, went on a two-day bender and returned, says one biographer, "roaring and very pleased with himself." That was in 1955! He died two years later.

Philosopher of science Robert Crease wrote that the Multiple Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Physics is ‘one of the most implausible and unrealistic ideas in the history of science’.  But it does allow for magic, unicorns and miracles. And Game of Thrones!

New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton announced the formation of a new 350-officer Special Response Group (SRG). Keep in mind that New York City already has a police force of more than 34,000 -- bigger, that is, than the active militaries of Austria, Bulgaria, Chad, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Kenya, Laos, Switzerland, or Zimbabwe -- as well as its own “navy,” including six submersible drones. 

Golden oldie:

One of the things economists do to keep busy is compare costs of products over time and divide one by the other to get an "index." The good news, is that while the beef/veal price index has risen to a new all time high of 255.2, the pace of annual increase is now slowing down, and is is now "only" up 24% from a year earlier. The bad news, is that the price of alcoholic beverages, after posting two straight months of annual price declines, has once again started rising.

Palomar 12's position in our galaxy and measured motion suggest its home was once the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, a small satellite of the Milky Way. Disrupted by gravitational tides during close encounters the satellite galaxy has lost its stars to the larger Milky Way. Now part of the Milky Way's halo, the tidal capture of Palomar 12 likely took place some 1.7 billion years ago.

A great inequality among men is the varying vulnerabilities of peoples to the risks applied by the natural world. Heat and cold, floods and drought, and animals, large and microscopic.
Joshua Slocum was a Canadian seaman and adventurer who, in 1898, became the first man to circumnavigate the globe on his own, traveling 46,000 mi (74,000 km) in three years. His account of the voyage, Sailing Alone Around the World, became a classic of travel literature and brought him worldwide fame. Regrettably, as he grew older, his mental health declined and he experienced periods of amnesia and mortifying behavior. In November 1909, he disappeared during another voyage and was declared legally dead 15 years later.

I regret I do not have a deep understanding of "Executive Orders" but does it not imply that such a decree could later be reversed by another such order? So that executives with good hearts and intentions could, by these non-legislative laws, create back-and-forth contradictory legal requirements that people begin to see as whimsical and unreliable. That sounds very Banana Republic to me. 

Opprobrium: noun: 1. Strong criticism. 2. Public disgrace. From Latin opprobrium (reproach), from ob- (against) + probrum (infamy, reproach). Ultimately from the Indo-European root bher- (to carry), which also gave us bear, birth, barrow, burden, fertile, transfer, offer, suffer, euphoria, and metaphor. Earliest documented use: 1656.

Fanny Kelly wrote a book of her experiences as a kidnap victim of the Lakota Sioux. She is handled carefully now as she was quite politically incorrect; she hated the Sioux, and Indians generally.
One of her stories tells volumes about the Sioux concept of language. She was told to write a note to a commanding officer at a nearby fort and the Chief dictating the letter counted the words she wrote to make sure she was not sending anything more than he dictated.

Novelist Carson McCullers (1917-67), noted for her exploration of the dilemmas of modern American life in the context of the twentieth-century South, was born on February 19, 1917, in Columbus, Georgia.
Her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, published in 1940, delves into the lives of four isolated individuals—an adolescent girl, an embittered radical, a black physician, and a widower who owns a cafe—struggling to find their way in a small Southern town during the Great Depression. McCullers explored similar themes in later works such as The Ballad of the Sad Café and The Member of the Wedding.  Her work is generally considered to be part of the Southern gothic school of writing, which includes writers such as William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, and Truman Capote.

Tempranillo is a red wine whose grape is most widely cultivated in Spain.Temprano means “early” and illo (“little one”) is a diminutive in the Castilian Language. This name comes from the fact that the vegetation cycle of tempranillo is shorter; hence is early ripening and harvests before other red grape varieties, and that the grape itself is smaller than other varieties.  

The GDP in the U.S. rose 5% in the last quarter. 85% of the contribution to GDP from Household Spending on Services came from healthcare and insurance.

"The link is undeniable. When people are oppressed and human rights are denied -- particularly along sectarian lines or ethnic lines -- when dissent is silenced, it feeds violent extremism. It creates an environment that is ripe for terrorists to exploit," Obama said.
 "..what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47, instead of try to start a business?" US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf
"..we cannot kill our way out of this war”.---ibid
"There's a real attempt to make it a racial criticism. It has nothing to do with race," Giuliani said, pointing out that "he was brought up by the way by a white mother and white grandparents."--Giuliani on his criticism of Obama.
It is difficult not to think that these strange pronouncements as echoes from a parallel universe hinged to some as yet undiscovered logic.

The Futurist movement celebrated the techno-discord it saw on the horizon -- the rush of cars, the collapse of community, the shock of new and now, although it derided Romantic nostalgia. In 1909 the Italian poet F. T. Marinetti published his "The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism" in the Paris newspaper, Le Figaro. This is regarded as the birth of the Futurist movement. "Friends, away! Let's go! Mythology and the Mystic Ideal are defeated at last. We're about to see the Centaur's birth and, soon after, the first flight of Angels!... We must shake at the gates of life, test the bolts and hinges. Let's go! . . ."

An editorial writer has called the movie "American Sniper" "war porn."

A scientist doing science: According to The University of Buckingham, astrobiologist Milton Wainwright and his team of researchers from University of Sheffield and the University of Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology found this “microscopic metal globe” in the stratosphere of Earth. The balloon sent 27 kms in atmosphere to collect the debris from space stumbled upon this metal object.According to Express UK, the object is made up of titanium and vanadium which ejects liquid, said to be biological in nature. The discovery of an object that is the width of a human hair has prompted multiple theories of the origin of the object. The scientists reportedly believe it is an alien microorganism or a “seed” designed by “intelligent species” to create alien life on Earth.
Professor Wainwright is a British microbiologist of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, University of Buckingham. He is the discoverer of “dragon particle” and “ghost particle” that they believe is a proof of alien life in space.

One week before the Lusitania's crossing, the Imperial German Embassy in Washington had posted admonitory advertisements in fifty American newspapers in a box beneath the Cunard Line's schedule. It reminded travelers that a state of war existed between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies and that travelers sailing in the war zone on British or Allied ships did so at their own risk.

AAAAAaaaaannnnnndddddddd.......a picture of Palomar 12:
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Fermi Paradox

The Fermi Paradox was  first posed by the physicist Enrico Fermi: why with such a large number of stars in the universe, and with the great age of the universe allowing enough time for life to evolve and slowly propagate across a galaxy, are there no civilizations

In 2014 in the prestigious Physical Review Letters, astrophysicists Tsvi Piran and Raul Jimenez argue that most planets in the universe have been wracked by frequent galactic-scale environmental catastrophes that probably would destroy nascent life more complex than a single-celled organism.

The sources of these catastrophes are so-called long gamma ray bursts (LGRBs). Gamma rays are electromagnetic radiation of an extremely high frequency and are therefore high energy photons. Gamma rays are ionizing radiation, and are thus biologically hazardous. They have the smallest wavelengths and the most energy of any wave in the electromagnetic spectrum. Unlike optical light and x-rays, gamma rays cannot be captured and reflected by mirrors. Gamma-ray wavelengths are so short that they can pass through the space within the atoms of a detector. LGRBs are enormously violent events occur upon the collapse of a massive star which runs out of fuel, collapses, and sprays out more energy and radiation than a supernova along a highly directional beam.

A long gamma ray burst lasts for just a few seconds, but it ejects so much energy it would ruin the biosphere of any nearby planet in the direction of its beam. Gamma-ray bursts are the most energetic and luminous electromagnetic events since the Big Bang and can release more energy in 10 seconds than our Sun will emit in its entire 10-billion-year expected lifetime. The surface of a close-by planet might be fried by the gamma rays themselves. But even at a distance of a few thousand light years, a LGRB would destroy the protective ozone layer in the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet for several weeks or even months. Without ozone, ultraviolet light from a planet’s star would irradiate biological life and completely degrade the biosphere. Any complex surface life forms would be doomed. Simple life might survive, but its evolution to more complex forms would be set back by millions or billions of years.

Their conclusion: In any 500 million year period, a planet within about 13,000 light years of the center of the Milky Way has a 95% chance of getting blasted by a lethal LGRB. And early in the development of the universe the stars were more closely packed and the risk from LGRB was worse.

Interestingly, the Earth has a privileged area in the universe; it is not well populated with stars so the risk for sterilization is less. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kidnapped Women Among the Native Americans

Mrs. Kelly's adventures among the American Indian was read to me recently and these notes are the result of some comparative stories I collected.
Mary Jemison: captured near Fort Duquesne in her early teens by Shawnee after they killed her family. Sold to Seneca and married one who died on a hunt. She had one child. She married again and had six children. She was allowed to leave but it would have meant leaving her first son and bringing the other children to a white world so she decided to stay. She died at age 90.
Image result for mary jemison
"No people can live more happy than the Indians did in times of peace, before the introduction of spiritous liquors among them. Their lives were a continual round of pleasures. Their wants were few, and easily satisfied, and their cares were only for to-day -- the bounds of their calculation for future comfort not extending to the incalculable uncertainties of to-morrow. If peace ever dwelt with men, it was in former times, in the recess from war, among what are now termed barbarians. The moral character of the Indians was (if I may be allowed the expression) uncontaminated. Their fidelity was perfect, and became proverbial. They were strictly honest; they despised deception and falsehood; and chastity was held in high 'veneration, and a violation of it was considered sacrilege. They were temperate in their desires, moderate in their passions, and candid and honorable in the expression of their sentiments, on every subject of importance." Jemison as dictated to her biographer.

Mary Rowlandson: A Narrative of the Captivity, Sufferings and Removes of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson, Boston: Nathaniel Coverly, 1770. Kidnapped during King Phillip's War with her three children, she was a captive for 11 weeks. One child dies of her wounds. Her narrative is filled with biblical references and many discount it as Puritan vision of the natives. She and her children are eventually ransomed.
Image result for mary rowlandson

Fanny Kelly: a story of frontier life, bravery and depravation. Everyone is accosted by killers, either people or diseases. Unlike Jemison, Kelly truly hated her captors and thought them savage, deceitful, cruel, and sadistic. They murdered her adopted child and scalped her. She was a captive for eleven months and came in contact, often unknowingly, with famous events and people. She is a flowery writer and survived through religious devotion and cold cunning.

Olive Oatman's family was travelling alone in Arizona after several splits from Mormon groups. They were attacked and her family killed in 1851 when she was fourteen,  probably by Tolkepayas. She was sold to Mohave. After several years she was ransomed and had a flurry of excitement over her story which got a lot of publicity, especially as a result of the tribal tattooing she received. Her story is suspected as being not terribly accurate.
Olive Oatman, 1857.png
What is astonishing in these stories is the almost casual acceptance of risk the pioneers showed as they expanded West, the terrible dangers that both whites and Indians ran in daily living and the incredible savagery that the Indian was capable of contrasted with real compassion. There was also true danger in the teepee as man and woman frequently and violently attacked each other. This was not simple domestic abuse, it was assault with serious intent. In the Indian camp, starvation was a significant risk. Pioneers poisoned the food they left behind. Prairie fires could be fatal to an entire tribe. They travelled huge distances regularly.
The reaction to these stories can be interesting too. Everything is analyzed now. Subtle motive are uncovered in the most unsubtle people. Richardson's story is often dismissed as a Puritan tract. Kelly's story, presenting the Indian as far from the Noble Savage as possible, come under specific attack usually of the "we did a lot of bad things, too" variety. Many readers insist upon a vision of kindly Redmen at home in Nature when the truth is quite, necessarily, different. These are not reeds shaken by the wind, they are a survivalist army.

Lakota Sioux:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cab thoughts 2/25/15

"As the saying goes, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Community organizers like Huerta don't teach anyone how to fish: they teach activists how to steal their neighbors' fish. This is what Huerta and her ilk call social justice." --Matthew Vadum           
John Stewart and Stephen Colbert dominated the late-night ratings among 18-to 34-year-olds for most of the last five years. That is, that demographic got most of their understanding of political events from comedians.
"Vantablack" is a material made by the British company Surrey NanoSystems that sets a world record by absorbing all but 0.035% of visual light. It's made of carbon nanohair that is 1,000 times thinner than the average human hair. The tubes are small enough to prevent light from entering them and packed so tightly that the light which makes it between the tubes bounces between them until it's absorbed.
Who is....Patty Hearst?
Regarding America's leadership and their need to confess America's, and the West's, past sins: Once you've discounted your own moral authority, you cannot lead. It would, indeed, be wrong to do so. Chaos.
An interesting idea that the "public," the notion of "the masses," no longer exists. There is no public army, no mass production. And this has come with the price of fragmentation, the loss of a general quality among people. So the vision of uprising and outrage--on a "masses" level--has been reduced in size, intensity and meaning to special groups and subsets. High-minded revolution reduced to bickering.
Golden oldie:
The remains of a man and woman - who are said to have died in their twenties - have been uncovered in the Diros Caves in the Peloponnese region of Greece, the two of them in an embrace.
An archaeologist leading the excavation of the ‘underworld’ cavern described the find as ‘stunning’ and said it is possibly the oldest grave ever found in the country. Experts believe hundreds of people lived inside Alepotrypa before the entrance collapsed burying everyone alive 5,000 years ago.
Astonishing fact in several ways: Leprosy can be transmitted to humans by armadillos.


Judge Laurence Silberman, co-chairman of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, wrote in The Wall Street Journal last week that essentially nobody in the Washington intelligence community doubted the major report that Iraq had an active WMD program in 2002. The National Intelligence Estimate delivered to the Senate and President Bush said there was a 90 percent certainty of WMDs. Democrat George Tenet, the Clinton CIA director who continued to serve under Bush, said the case for WMDs was a “slam dunk.” John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid and Joe Biden all looked at the intelligence and voted to authorize force. Sen. Jay Rockefeller argued strongly for the war. 

Something was very wrong about the decision process here but it does not appear to be lying. That is just too simple.

A University of Arkansas study found that 2% of college-aged women have osteoporosis and 15% more have such low levels of bone density that they are at high risk for developing the disease in the near future.

The sainted Partisan Review began as a youth-club publication of the Communist Party’s New York bureau. From 1934 to 1937, the editors championed Soviet dictates for proletarian writing, and the house tone bore the weight of party cant. A 21-year-old contributor went on maternity leave, and the editors praised her effort "to produce a future citizen of Soviet America."

Bad news. A recent Atlantic article writes about ISIS as if it is a serious, thoughtful, heartfelt outgrowth of Islam, a jihadist wing of a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the “pious forefathers.” These "forefathers" are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salafis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior, including warfare, couture, family life, even dentistry. In essence, the writings in the Koran are literal blueprints for adherents to follow. The Caliphate, slavery, crucifixion, immolation--all of these grand old institutions are being brought back for a reason. So when a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious and historical belief, not just because he's nuts. Or hungry.The caliphate has continued to embrace slavery and crucifixion without apology. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic statements to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.” Oh, well.


"Waltzing Matilda:" The unofficial national anthem of Australia. Auf der walz means to 'go on the tramp' or hit the road, used in Germany to describe traveling workers or soldiers on the march; a Matilda came to mean those women who followed the soldiers, to 'keep them warm.' Eventually the soldier's greatcoat or blanket was a Matilda. The song was written by A. B. ("Banjo") Paterson, the Australian bush poet who was actually a lawyer. The tune is a version of the "Craigielee March," which was itself taken from a century-old Scottish air called "Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielee." The story in the song is that of an actual event involving a criminal arsonist and cannot really be understood without an Australian slang dictionary. (swagman: drifter, swag: bedroll, billabong: waterhole etc..) 


The U.S. expects to quadruple the number of Syrian refugees brought into the country.


Democratic-Republican Jefferson defeated Federalist John Adams by a margin of seventy-three to sixty-five electoral votes in the presidential election of 1800. When presidential electors cast their votes, however, they failed to distinguish between the office of president and vice president on their ballots. Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr each received seventy-three votes. With the votes tied, the election was thrown to the House of Representatives as required by Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution. There, each state voted as a unit to decide the election.
Still dominated by Federalists, the sitting Congress loathed to vote for Jefferson—their partisan nemesis. For six days starting on February 11, 1801, Jefferson and Burr essentially ran against each other in the House before the tie was broken.
Gridlock in 1800.


Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul.


Starting this month, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst will no longer allow Iranian nationals to matriculate as graduate students in many of its programs in engineering and the natural sciences, including physics and electrical/computer engineering. U. Mass claimed its restriction was based entirely on US government sanctions on visas granted to Iranian nationals seeking specific kinds of graduate programs. (I think this edit was reversed.)


The most sought after book in 1914 according to Bookfinder was On the Psychology of Military Incompetence by Norman F. Dixon (first published in 1976. This book surveys 100 years of military inefficiency from the Crimean War through World War II). The usual leader is Sex by Madonna.


Heiress, temporary anarchist and erstwhile gun totin' babe Patty Hearst is the co-owner of a dog - a shih tzu called Rocket - that was picked as the top toy dog at the Westminster Kennel Club show in New York on Monday. Now that is a serious recovery.

People are upset by the Atlantic article mentioned above.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that France “is at war with terrorism, jihadism and radical Islamism.” This does raise the question, as many have, what are the French fighting for? There is an interesting opinion in Buchanan that derives from T.S. Eliot:
"T.S. Eliot said, to defeat a religion, you need a religion.
We have no religion; we have an ideology—secular democracy. But the Muslim world rejects secularism and will use democracy to free itself of us and establish regimes that please Allah.
In the struggle between democracy and Allah, we are children of a lesser God. “The term ‘democracy,’” wrote Eliot, “does not contain enough positive content to stand alone against the forces that you dislike — it can easily be transformed by them. If you will not have God … you should pay your respects to Hitler or Stalin.”
Germany used democracy to bring Hitler to power. Given free elections from Morocco to Mindanao, what kind of regimes would rise to power?
And what does a mindless West offer as the apotheosis of democracy?"
The financial-services technology company surveyed 4,000 consumers in October and found that 51% of them said they had never heard of a chip card or EMV. The latter is the technical name for the cards that use a unique code for each transaction, reducing the chance that stolen card data can be used to make counterfeit plastic. (That stands for Europay, MasterCard, and Visa –which set the global standard.)
For the first three years of that war, the West lost battle after battle in both Europe and Asia. France collapsed and surrendered after just six weeks of fighting, and few expected the British to survive the blitzkrieg Hitler unleashed on them from the air. Americans were defeated by the Japanese in the Philippines.
When the British finally won the battle of El Alamein in North Africa in November 1942, it was their first victory, more than three years after Britain entered the war.

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Dr. Levingston, I presume

“I cheat my boys every chance I get. I want to make ‘em sharp.” --Dr. William Levingston

When Dr. William Levingston came to town, he arrived wearing a silk hat and peddling a cure for one of his age’s most terrifying ailments: cancer. One of his advertisements declared: “Celebrated Cancer Specialist. Here for One Day Only. All cases of cancer cured unless too far gone and then can be greatly benefited.” $25 was the cost of the cure, expensive for the time and the customers, two months pay for the mostly farmers and tradesmen of the rural countryside.
The good Dr. Levingston was a confidence man typical of mid-nineteenth-century America. A self-styled “botanic physician,” he practiced without a license or any formal medical training. 
The Celebrated Cancer Specialist abandoned his first wife and their six children to start a bigamous marriage in Canada at the same time as he fathered two more children by a third woman.

His true first name was indeed William—or “Big Bill,” as he was known when he wasn’t trying to dupe gullible strangers. He took the name “Levingston” from his father’s hometown, where he grew up, and left, it is said, after being indicted for raping a girl in Cayuga, New York in 1849.
His real last name was Rockefeller.

He was father to John D., his eldest son and the creator of Standard Oil. Interestingly, the good Doctor's "cure" survived until quite recently as Nujol consisting primarily of petroleum and sold as a laxative. Nujol was manufactured by a subsidiary of Standard Oil called Stanco, whose only other product made at the same site was the insecticide, Flit. 

Monday, February 23, 2015


Leprosy, M. leprae, is a gravid word and disease, strangely so because it is quite difficult to get. It does, however, make a great metaphor for spiritual rot.
The disease takes its name from the Latin word lepra, which means "scaly." Its  other term, "Hansen's disease," is named after the physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen.
Leprosy is related to tuberculosis and is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions are the primary external sign. Left untreated, leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. Contrary to folklore, leprosy does not cause body parts to fall off. The neurologic injury causes sensory loss and the tissue as a result is more vulnerable to physical injury and secondary infections which cause the tissue loss.  
Around 95% of people are believed to be naturally immune; in 2012, the number of chronic cases of leprosy was 189,000 and the number of new cases was 230,000.The number of chronic cases has decreased from some 5.2 million in the 1980s
M. leprae is probably spread from person to person in nasal droplets. Leprosy can be transmitted to humans by armadillos, an amazing little fact that must have resulted from a more amazing questioning process.
Baldwin IV of Jerusalem was a Christian king of Latin Jerusalem, afflicted with leprosy. Baldwin, and the effects of his disease, were portrayed in the film Kingdom of Heaven.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday 2/22/15

"The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the wasteland for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

This event follows the Baptism of Christ and contains a great deal, certainly enough to drive the Gnostics mad. What was this "Spirit" that moved Christ. How could He be susceptible?  What could the Son of God be contemplating? And what of this strange vision, Eden-like, in the last lines?

The corrugated iron growled like thunder
When March came in; then as the year turned warmer
And invalids and bulbs came up from under,
I hibernated on behind the dormer,
Staring through shaken branches at the hill,
Dissociated, like an ailing farmer
Chloroformed against things seasonal
In a reek of cigarette smoke and dropped ash.

Lent came in next, also like a lion
Sinewy and wild for discipline,
A fasted will marauding through the body;
(From Glanmore Revisited by Seamus Heaney)


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Cab Thoughts 2/21/15

"Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party."--Samsung's Smart TV privacy policy

Samuel Morse invented the first electrical telegraph and Morse code. He was originally a well regarded painter. This single-wire invention altered the field of communication (providing communication over long distances in short time) and advanced civilization. Morse also believed that Blacks, Jews, Catholics and all Austrians wanted to destroy the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants of America; he even wrote several books on the topic. He was a leader in the anti-Catholic and anti-immigration movement of the mid-19th century and worked relentlessly to unite Protestants against Catholic institutions, wanted to forbid Catholics from holding public office change immigration laws to limit immigration from Catholic countries.
Only the people of Japan and Spain trust their government less than the people of the U.S. trust our government. 

Who was.... Virginia Dare?
Carving over Montaigne's fireplace: "In the year of Christ 1571, at the age of thirty-eight, on the last day of February, anniversary of his birth, Michel de Montaigne, long weary of the servitude of the court and of public enjoyments, while still entire, retired to the bosom of the learned Virgins [Muses], where in calm and freedom from all cares he will spend what little remains of his life now more than half run out. If the fates permit, he will complete this abode, this sweet ancestral retreat, and he has consecrated it to his freedom, tranquility, and leisure."

Yoshiro Nakamatsu is the world's most prolific inventor with over 3,000 patents. Some of Nakamtsu's inventions: the karaoke machine, floppy disks, CD and DVD player, the digital watch.
Empedocles was an ancient Greek philosopher, the first to speak about the four elements that make up the world - fire, earth, water and air. He declared air is a substance and that the Earth is spherical. Empedocles even posited a haphazard theory of evolution and natural selection that influenced Darwin's theory; Aristotle regarded him as the father of rhetoric.
He also believed he was god and - as a faithful follower of the Pythagorean religion - he believed in reincarnation. To prove it, he threw himself into Mt. Etna, an active volcano.
Smart guys can get too complicated.

A stats guy ran scenarios on investing over the last ten years and his conclusions are these:
1) Taxes and inflation will destroy your investment return, even if you use the government's understated inflation numbers.
2) Buying majorly held stocks and indexes, even several YEARS before an all-time high, will destroy your investment returns.
So the stats guy asks: Is the risk worth it?
Payments are routine at major banks, several of which have explicit policies, found in filings with the SEC, outlining automatic awards for executives who rotate into government. Goldman Sachs offers "a lump sum cash payment" for government service, for example.

It is said that there are 26 trillion dollars in derivatives directly tied to the value of the euro.
In 1996 world chess champion Gary Kasparov lost the first game of a six-game match against Deep Blue, an IBM computer capable of evaluating 200 million moves per second. Kasparov bested Deep Blue in the match with three wins and two ties and took home the $400,000 prize. In a rematch in 1997 against an enhanced Deep Blue Kasparov won the first game, the computer the second, with the next three games a draw. On May 11, 1997, Deep Blue came out on top with a surprising sixth game win--and the $700,000 match prize.
In order for someone to operate a taxi legally, many cities require the owner to purchase a license, or medallion. In Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and New York, medallions cost between $350,000 and $700,000.
It is commonly argued that Islamic fundamentalist radicalism is a function of poor education and economics. But is radicalism really a function of deprivation? Is it possible that the West is applying its recent (150 years) experience with radicalism to people outside it? Is it possible that religious radicalism is a sign of the failure of materialism?
While its vineyards almost certainly existed in the first and second centuries (under Gallo-Roman influence), the first written evidence of Burgundy vineyards dates to 312 AD, according to the Bourgogne Wine Board.
Golden oldie:
George Canning (11 April 1770 - 8 August 1827) was a British statesman and politician who served as Foreign Secretary and was briefly Prime Minister. He wrote poetry, politically tinged, especially anti-Jacobin. One of his poems, aimed at what he perceived as French thought of the time, is interesting in respect to current criticism of Obama:
No - through th'extended globe his feelings run
As broad and general as th'unbounded sun!
No narrow bigot he; - his reason'd view
Thy interests, England, ranks with thine, Peru!
France at our doors, he sees no danger nigh,
But heaves for Turkey's woes the impartial sigh;
A steady patriot of the world alone,
The friend of every country - but his own.
Astonishingly, Canning fought a duel in 1809 with Castlereagh. He had never held a gun before and Castlereagh, an experienced pistol man, almost killed him. The story of the two cabinet ministers' duel is quite amazing. (Castlereagh was central to the management of the coalition that defeated Napoleon and was the principal British diplomat at the Congress of Vienna.)
Claiming that thousands of public comments condemning "dark money" in politics can't be ignored, the Democratic-chaired Federal Election Commission on Wednesday appeared ready to open the door to new regulations on donors, bloggers and others who use the Internet to influence policy and campaigns. So national policy is going to be determined by letter writing campaigns?
The history of the minimum wage: The famed Fabian socialist Sidney Webb was as blunt as anyone in his 1912 article "The Economic Theory of the Minimum Wage":
"Legal Minimum Wage positively increases the productivity of the nation's industry, by ensuring that the surplus of unemployed workmen shall be exclusively the least efficient workmen; or, to put it in another way, by ensuring that all the situations shall be filled by the most efficient operatives who are available."
The intellectual history shows that whole purpose of the minimum wage was to create unemployment among people who the elites did not believe were worthy of holding jobs.
There has never been a lower percentage of American men in the workforce. What is even more stunning - given the daily avalanche of "buy-and-hold" for a "safe-retirement" holding hands with your loved on as you stroll the beach at sunset - the percent of Americans aged 65 years or older has almost doubled in the last 30 years and is near its highest since the mid '60s.
Solipsistic: adjective: 1. of or characterized by solipsism, or the theory that only the self exists, or can be proved to exist.  Solipsistic descends from the Latin terms sōlus meaning "alone" and ipse meaning "self." It entered English in the late 1800s.
Syria sits on the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
To a botanist, a fruit is an entity that develops from the fertilized ovary of a flower. This means that tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, corn kernels, and bean and pea pods are all fruits; so are apples, pears, peaches, apricots, melons and mangos. A vegetable, botanically, is any edible part of a plant that doesn't happen to be a fruit, as in leaves (spinach, lettuce, cabbage), roots (carrots, beets, turnips), stems (asparagus), tubers (potatoes), bulbs (onions), and flowers (cauliflower and broccoli). However, democracies can make things confusing.  In 1893 in the Supreme Court Justice Horace Gray ruled in favor of the tomato being a vegetable."Botanically speaking," said Justice Gray, "tomatoes are the fruit of the vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans and peas. But in the common language of the people.all these vegetables.are usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meat, which constitute the principal part of the repast, and not, like fruits, generally as dessert."

Waze is a driving app--a very energy hungry one--that tries to give a lot of local info via driver real-time feedback. This includes more than traffic; it includes police locations and speed traps. Now police in Miami are subverting the app by filling it with loads of bogus police sightings. 
AAAaaaaaannnnndddddd........a graph:


Friday, February 20, 2015


"Years later, of all the gospels I learned in seminary school, a verse from St. Paul stays with me. It is perhaps the strangest passage in the Bible, in which he writes: 'Even now in Heaven there were angels carrying savage weapons.'" So says the lead character in "The Prophesy," a strange film full of good character actors behaving without moral, practical--or acting--restraint.
The story line is that of a war in heaven between two angel groups, one rebelliously objecting to the elevation of Man to the status of immortality, the other defending this new divine decree. A third element , the Devil himself--avec minions--is a mildly interested bystander who hopes the rebels lose so he can continue his monopoly on Hell.
It is an actor's dream dominated by Christopher Walken. Viggo Mortensen is terrific as the devil. Poor Virginia Madsen, who is wonderful as an actress, is simply lost in the craziness. And the movie is the home of a great line by Gabriel: "I'm an angel. I kill firstborns ... I turn cities into salt....... and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why."
A lot of people were interested in the take on Angels as fearsome, dangerous and violent beings. But what was of interest to me was the line opening at the top of the page. "Years later, of all the gospels I learned in seminary school, a verse from St. Paul stays with me. It is perhaps the strangest passage in the Bible, in which he writes: 'Even now in Heaven there were angels carrying savage weapons.'" There is a warning, of course, indicating that even the author was concerned: There is no Bible writing by St. Paul, only epistles. And, indeed, most with even a passing knowledge of the New Testament will not recognize the quote: It is made up.
But it is distressing. Historically, great art was an outgrowth of the culture and reinforced belief. As "DaVinci Code" and Brian Williams have shown, manufactured history can really cause some significant damage to peoples' understanding. And to their confidence in the present and the past.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The ISIS Atlantic Article By Graeme Wood: A Quick and Dirty Summary

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior.  It is like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.
We have made some errors. One, we have seen jihadists as a monolith, a single breed. But there are many iterations. Second, we have a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He looked like a modern guy with a foreign and distant philosophy. There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse. Third, if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul.
The reality is that the Islamic State is very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
The Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The largest available group is the Shiite Muslim whose religion has "innovation," implying the Koran was imperfect. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute. And there is takfir” or “proclaim people to be apostates because of their sins.” The punishment for apostasy is death.
According to Bernard Haykel--Princeton scholar and expert on the ISIS, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.” The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.
They are following the jihadist wing of a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the “pious forefathers.” These forefathers are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salafis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior, including warfare, couture, family life, even dentistry. Nonetheless, the caliphate has continued to embrace slavery and crucifixion without apology. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”
Another aspect is the creating of the Caliphate. The last caliphate was the Ottoman empire, which reached its peak in the 16th century and then experienced a long decline, until the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, euthanized it in 1924. But many supporters of the Islamic State, doesn’t acknowledge that caliphate as legitimate because it didn’t fully enforce Islamic law, which requires stonings and slavery and amputations, and because its caliphs were not descended from the tribe of the Prophet, the Quraysh.
The caliphate is not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation. Islamic State propaganda regularly reports the pledges of baya’a (allegiance) rolling in from jihadist groups across the Muslim world. There is a Prophetic saying, that to die without pledging allegiance is to die jahil (ignorant) and therefore die a “death of disbelief.”
To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ’amr, or authority. Without a caliphate, for example, individual vigilantes are not obliged to amputate the hands of thieves they catch in the act. But create a caliphate, and this law, along with a huge body of other jurisprudence, suddenly awakens. In theory, all Muslims are obliged to immigrate to the territory where the caliph is applying these laws. The caliph is required to implement Sharia.
The caliphs have a history and a future. These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. It named its propaganda magazine after the town, and celebrated madly when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains. It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo. Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse.
The Prophetic narration that foretells the Dabiq battle refers to the enemy as Rome. Who “Rome” is, now that the pope has no army, remains a matter of debate. But most make a case that Rome meant the Eastern Roman empire, which had its capital in what is now Istanbul. We should think of Rome as the Republic of Turkey—the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, 90 years ago. After its battle in Dabiq the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth, but its tide may never reach beyond the Bosporus. An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.
Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: the caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.
The Islamic State cannot go underground. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding.
While its leadership wishes ill on the United States, the application of Sharia in the caliphate and the expansion to contiguous lands are paramount. Baghdadi has said as much directly: in November he told his Saudi agents to “deal with the rafida [Shia] first … then al-Sulul [Sunni supporters of the Saudi monarchy] … before the crusaders and their bases.” The notion of "contiguous lands" is crucial here.
Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid,” Bernard Haykel says. That really would be an act of apostasy.
Western officials would probably do best to refrain from weighing in on matters of Islamic theological debate altogether. Barack Obama himself drifted into takfiri (apostate/excommunication) waters when he claimed that the Islamic State was “not Islamic”—the irony being that he, as the non-Muslim son of a Muslim, may himself be classified as an apostate, and yet is now practicing takfir against Muslims.
Orwell said that fascism was "psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people “I offer you a good time,” Hitler has said to them, “I offer you struggle, danger, and death,” and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cab Thoughts 2/18/15

"I'm not sure I'm ready to have fun yet."--child on sideline of tennis camp 
Elizabeth Gould at the Rockefeller University demonstrated that new cells arise in the adult brain-particularly in a region called the hippocampus, which is involved in learning and memory. In rats, between 5,000 and 10,000 new neurons arise in the hippocampus every day. (Although the human hippocampus also welcomes new neurons, we do not know how many.) Their production can be influenced by a number of different environmental factors. For example, alcohol consumption has been shown to retard the generation of new brain cells. And their birth rate can be enhanced by exercise. Many if not most of them disappear within just a few weeks of arising. (Of course, most cells in the body do not survive indefinitely.) She writes, "From our work in rats, the answer seems to be: they are made 'just in case.' If the animals are cognitively challenged, the cells will linger. If not, they will fade away."
"Nimrod" is an interesting word. It can mean a mighty hunter, mighty ruler, or mighty stupid. Perhaps we should all clamor for all the leaders of the world have their titles changed to "nimrod." Its origin: In the Bible, Nimrod was a great hunter and king of Shinar who was a grandson of Ham and a great-grandson of Noah.
A retired American military officer, William J. Astore, writes about his concern over what he feels are changing societal factors that have influenced the American view of war: Mercs, an uncritical press, America's long wars creating a feeling of constant war as a new normal. Mercs can certainly be seen as a "war lobby" but there have always been that element in war. I think war has become outsourced by society and until the society is made a participant--war tax, rationing--it will never be assessed properly. And war, in the minds of Americans, always have a moral tinge bleeding in from WWII.
Who was.....Major Walsin-Esterhazy?
Canada is about to approve physician-assisted suicide. Why physician-assisted? Why should the profession of healing get involved?
An interesting article questions the rise of intense Nazi criticism, an intensity and slant on Nazism that is relatively new. One explanation is that the vagueness of the modern world cries out for definitions, well established and obvious moral positions. Nazism, the society it created, the world of the Third Reich and the people who lived through it all appear as a kind of moral drama where the issues are laid out starkly before us with a clarity we are no longer able to achieve in the morally complex, confusing and compromised world we live in today. So the interest in Nazism is a sort of modern therapy?
According to Vanguard Group, over a 40-year career, someone who invests 9% a year of a salary that starts at $30,000 into a balanced fund that charges 0.25% annually will save 20% more than if he or she pays 1.25% in fees. 

On January 13, 1898 French writer Emile Zola published "J'Accuse," his editorial attacking the French army over the "Dreyfus Affair," in the newspaper L'Aurore. The letter exposed a military cover-up regarding Alfred Dreyfus. Dreyfus, a French army captain, had been accused of espionage in 1894 and sentenced in a secret military court-martial to imprisonment in a South American penal colony. Two years later, clear evidence of Dreyfus' innocence and the guilt of Major Walsin-Esterhazy surfaced, but the army suppressed the information. Zola's letter exposed the corrupt, bigoted and mendacious  conviction.
Zola's letter provoked national outrage on both sides of the issue, among political parties, religious organizations, and others. Supporters of the military sued Zola for libel. He was convicted and sentenced to one year's imprisonment, but he fled France. In 1899, Dreyfus was pardoned, but for political reasons he was not exonerated until 1906. Shortly after Dreyfus' pardon, Zola returned to France, where he died in 1902.
This should be a cautionary story to anyone who believes in the objective and honest behavior of groups in general and states in particular.

Africa has twice the land mass of Europe but less coastline. This is said to be a big factor in the retardation of Africa's commercial development.
Karl May was a German write in the late 19th Century. He set his novels in the American old west and the Orient, presenting them as travel literature based on his experiences. It was, of course, all made up. May's books, which have now sold more than 200 million copies around the world, were an established part of every child's reading.
How could a man in Brian Williams' position be retained for a minute by any group that held its integrity of importance? So, what does that mean about the priorities of the news industry?
In 1775, Benjamin Franklin published "An Imaginary Speech" in defense of American courage. Franklin's speech was intended to counter an unnamed officer's comments to Parliament that the British need not fear the colonial rebels, because "Americans are unequal to the People of this Country [Britain] in Devotion to Women, and in Courage, and worse than all, they are religious." Franklin was terrific with the Women and Courage part but struggled a bit with the religious part.
It will be interesting to see if the Democrat use of filibuster this week raises charges in the press of gridlock and obstructionism.

The world is going to be about $2.37 trillion smaller in 2015 than most expected at the start of the year as a consequence of the U.S. dollar's strengthening. This is not insignificant, as it represents 3.2% of last year’s estimated global GDP. For perspective, that would be as if an economy of the size between Brazil’s and the UK’s would have just disappeared.
Who did Pulitzer-winning playwright David Mamet call "our greatest contemporary philosopher?" Thomas Sowell. Sowell was a high school dropout, tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers, was magna cum laude at Harvard.
According to some, Franz Schubert’s “Winterreise” is the greatest, and the most bleakly melancholy, of all song cycles. In a series of sung soliloquies (with piano accompaniment), a young man recalls how he was compelled to leave his beloved, wander forlornly into the mountains and gradually resign himself to death. Based on 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller, this desolate “winter journey” was composed at the end of Schubert’s short life: He died at age 31 in 1828, almost certainly because of syphilis.

Madonna showed up at the Grammys in a peculiar outfit, part exhibitionist, part performance. Very reminiscent of politicians who have the mixed need to be both distinctive and representative of their political part.
Golden oldie:

A distinguished British economist named Lionel Robbins gave the classic definition of economics: Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.

In August 2014, San Francisco 49er defensive end, Ray McDonald, was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. The investigation was complicated by a San Jose police officer who moonlighted for the 49ers and was at the crime scene even before officers answered the 911 call. The San Jose Police Department subsequently suspended all off-duty employment with the 49ers. At the time, the team employed 17 officers, the San Jose Mercury News reported. 17!

It is not fracking that bothers the Left--fracking has been a common technology for 60 years--it is the success of fracking. The question is why.
By 1850, the Methodist church had grown from obscurity to become the largest denomination in America and one of the largest institutions of any kind in its day -- largely because it systematically reached out to isolated settlers in America's backcountry. The religion was spread by circuit riders, believers of every profession, who brought the message to isolated hamlets and towns. He brought a code of behavior (The Methodist Discipline) that reinforced family and community values in a violent society. The Discipline laid down rules against swearing, drunkenness, sexual license, and ostentatious dress and enforced John Wesley's maxim, 'Cleanliness is next to godliness.' It provided a way for ordinary people to reorder their lives, even when living in hardship conditions.
After Miss Universe Paulina Vega expressed a desire to help end her native Colombia's 50-year civil war, she received an invitation from FARC rebels to join truce talks. Who said that homicidal maniacs couldn't have a sense of humor?

Another tax change in Obama's new budget, in addition to the 529 education tax change, is an attack on the Roth IRA.
AAAaaaaannnnndddddd......a graph:
  Chart of the Day

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Graph on Age and Labor

There has never been a lower percentage of American men in the workforce. What is even more stunning - given the daily avalanche of "buy-and-hold" for a "safe-retirement" holding hands with your loved on as you stroll the beach at sunset - the percent of Americans aged 65 years or older has almost doubled in the last 30 years and is near its highest since the mid '60s. So much for that dream retirement...

 (From Zero Hedge)

This can be read a number of ways: Less men working, more women working, older men needing to work, older men harder to replace. But it is a change.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Storms in History

"The Children's Blizzard"--so called in a book by David Lasker--killed 235, mostly children who had gone to school lightly clothed on an unseasonably warm day only to be trapped in a sudden storm from the north. At one point the temperature dropped 18 degrees in 3 minutes. By morning is was -40. "By morning on Friday, January 13, 1888, more than a hundred children lay dead on the Dakota-Nebraska prairie" (David Lasker) along with teachers and families trying to find and protect them. Later that year a massive storm hit the East Coast from Chesapeake Bay to Canada on March 11. It raged for four days, leaving people trapped in their homes for another 10 days. As much as 50 inches of snow fell, temperatures were in the single digits with winds more than 45 mph and gusts of 80 mph. More than 400 people died. A quarter of them were sailors, trapped on their boats. Half the death toll was from New York. Everything stopped. There were snowdrifts 50 feet deep. Fires raged because fire trucks couldn’t respond due to impassable roads. Damage was estimated at $25 million; that would be more than $26 billion today. One can only imagine what such a storm now would do to our fragile minds.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Cab Thoughts 2/14/15

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

Edgar Allen Poe's poetry has always been a problem for critics.  Hart Crane places Poe squarely in “The Tunnel” section of The Bridge, where the descent into the “interborough fissures of the mind” of the subway symbolizes the loss of the Emersonian vision of Self-Reliance.  On four lines from Poe's “For Annie”: “Sadly I know I am shorn of my strength, / And no muscle I move / As I lie at full length – / But no matter! – I feel I am better at length” Allen Bloom concludes, “These dreadful lines are by no means unrepresentative of Poe’s verse.”  The French, Charles Baudelaire and Stéphane Mallarmé to Paul Valéry, loved him. “An enthusiasm for Poe”, Henry James declared, “is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.” Walt Whitman called the poems “electric lights of imaginative literature, brilliant and dazzling, but with no heat”. Yeats wrote to his artist friend William Horton, “I do not know why you or indeed anybody should want to illustrate Poe . . . . I admire a few lyrics of his extremely and a few pages of his prose, chiefly in his critical essays, which are sometimes profound. The rest of him seems to be vulgar and commonplace . . . .”  What really worries Bloom is less Poe’s diction or rhythm than the notion that his entire oeuvre is a “hymn to negativity”: “Poe, seeking to avoid Emersonianism, ends with only one fact, and it is more a wish than a fact: ‘I will to be the Abyss.’ This metaphysical despair . . . cannot be refuted, because it is myth, and Poe backed the myth with his life as well as his work”. (From Perloff's  review of McGann's book on Poe in the TLS.)

An estimated 7.5 to 8.0-magnitude quake struck at about 1 p.m. in February in the Calabria province in Italy in 1783. Within a minute, over 100 villages were leveled throughout the region. In several cases, communities were literally wiped away with no survivors or standing structures remaining. Many then drowned when a second tremor at midnight prompted a tsunami. The tsunami also killed thousands of people in Reggio di Calabria and Messina, towns that sit opposite each other across the strait between Calabria and Sicily. Mountains moved, rivers diverted and lakes created. The misery continued across southern Italy and Sicily for the remainder of the winter. With food supplies disrupted, the survivors were at risk of starvation. In addition, another quake on March 28 killed another 2,000 people. In addition, another quake on March 28 killed another 2,000 people. Including aftershocks and the indirect effects of the earthquakes, a total of 80,000 people died in the earthquake of 1783.

In 1960, 12% of 25- to 34-year-olds were never married; today, 49% never have been.

The President on Islam and Christianity: "Unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ," Obama said. "In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. So it is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a simple tendency that can pervert and distort our faith." So the sins of the fathers--or a google-great grandfathers--are visited upon the google-great grandsons. Or their neighbors, maybe. Or something in this strange man's Procrustean world.

Scapegoat: noun: One blamed for another’s wrongdoing. verb tr.: To blame someone for another’s wrongdoing. Another word with a story. This term arose as a misreading of a biblical word as Hebrew ’ez ’ozel (goat that departs) for what was, in fact, the proper noun Azazel, apparently a name for a demon. The explanation given in Leviticus 16:8 is that one casts one’s sins on a goat and lets it escape into the wilderness. Earliest documented use: 1530.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan was a senator from New York, a smart guy with objectivity. He is responsible for two political phrases that appear on occasion that define, in a critical way, social phenomena. First, "defining deviancy down:" when deviant behaviors — e.g., violent crime or births to unmarried women — reach a certain level, society soothes itself by "defining deviancy down," de-stigmatizing them by declaring them normal. Second, "iatrogenic government:" In medicine, an iatrogenic ailment is inadvertently induced by a physician or medicine; in social policy, iatrogenic problems are caused by government.

Mercenary corporations have received $138 billion in contracts for Iraq alone, according to the Financial Times.  And the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated in 2011 that fraud, waste, and abuse accounted for about $60 billion of the money spent in Iraq alone, so maybe privatization does not always reduce waste .

Transfers of benefits to individuals through social welfare programs have increased from less than 1 federal dollar in 4 (24 percent) in 1963 to almost 3 out of 5 (59 percent) in 2013. More than twice as many households receive “anti-poverty” benefits than receive Social Security or Medicare. Between 1983 and 2012, the population increased by almost 83 million — and people accepting means-tested benefits increased by 67 million. This despite the portion of the estimated population below the poverty line is unchanged. (15.2 percent in 1983; 15 percent in 2012). In 2012, more than half the recipients were not classified as poor but accepted being treated as needy. This may imply the country is losing its dependence on--and confidence in--the potential of every individual and lapsing back into the old European belief of rigid class structures.

The introduction of morality into economics creates a complex universe of unrelated things. One of the interesting efforts was the Distributism movement of the early 20th Century, developed by Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton. According to Chesterton, "Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists."  This was essentially a Catholic response to the world of industry and capitalism. Pius XI admitted in Quadragesimo Anno #42 that there are limits to what moral theologians can say in the economic sphere because “economics and moral science each employs its own principles in its own sphere.” In #41 he referred to “matters of technique for which [the Church] is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office.”

Golden oldie:

On February 5, 1958, the United States Air Force lost a 7,600-pound (3,400 kg) Mark 15 nuclear bomb in the waters off Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia, United States. During a practice exercise, the B-47 bomber carrying the bomb collided in midair with an F-86 fighter plane. To protect the aircrew from a possible detonation in the event of a crash, the bomb was jettisoned. Following several unsuccessful searches, the bomb was presumed lost somewhere in Wassaw Sound off the shores of Tybee Island.

Who is.....Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy?

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams admitted  he was not aboard a helicopter hit and forced down by RPG fire during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a false claim that has been repeated by the network for years. “The story actually started with a terrible moment a dozen years back during the invasion of Iraq when the helicopter we were traveling in was forced down after being hit by an RPG,” Williams said on the broadcast. “Our traveling NBC News team was rescued, surrounded and kept alive by an armor mechanized platoon from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry.” Williams and his camera crew were actually aboard a Chinook in a formation that was about an hour behind the three helicopters that came under fire, according to crew member interviews. That Chinook took no fire and landed later beside the damaged helicopter.
The story was debunked by several men on the helicopter that had actually been under fire.
What could Williams have been thinking? Do these people think they can say anything they want? Or is this some weird admixture of fact and fiction so prevalent among fiction writers? Is the theme, not the exact facts, of import? Do all these public figures think their lives are being chronicled by Neal Stevenson? 

Turkey's price for entry against ISIS was an American commitment to help bring down Assad. Obama refused. So Turkey sits it out. Why doesn't Obama agree? Didn't he say that Assad must go? The reason is that Obama dares not upset Assad's patrons, the Iranian mullahs, with whom Obama dreams of concluding a grand rapprochement. (sort of Krauthammer)

From Fields of Blood by Karen Armstrong. We have three brains that coexist uneasily. First is an 'old brain' that we inherited from the reptiles that struggled out of the primal slime 500 million years ago. Intent on their own survival, with absolutely no altruistic impulses, these creatures were solely motivated by mechanisms urging them to feed, fight, flee (when necessary), and reproduce. Second, 120 million years ago, formed over the core brain derived from the reptiles, the limbic system emerged. It motivated all sorts of new behaviors, including the protection and nurture of young as well as the formation of alliances with other individuals that were invaluable in the struggle to survive. Third, about twenty thousand years ago, during the Paleolithic Age, human beings evolved a 'new brain,' the neocortex, home of the reasoning powers and self-awareness that enable us to stand back from the instinctive, primitive passions. Now this sounds, in a posterboard way, sort of reasonable. But it is entirely speculative. and improvable. And, of course, irrefutable.

“Great Astronomical Discoveries Lately Made by Sir John Herschel, LL.D. F.R.S. &c. At the Cape of Good Hope [From Supplement to the Edinburgh Journal of Science]” exclaimed the New York Sun. The Great Moon Hoax, as it has become known, was published in the New York Sun over several days in the summer of 1835. It claimed to describe what the astronomer John Herschel had seen through his telescope from the Cape of Good Hope. The articles included increasingly lavish descriptions of planets, the lunar landscape, “several new specimens of animals” and, ultimately, in the last paragraph of the 6th and final part, the bat-like “Vespertilio-homo”, which appeared “scarcely less lovely than the general representations of angels by the more imaginative schools of painters.” The story was intended as satire rather than hoax by Richard Adams Locke aimed at Thomas Dick, a Scottish minister, teacher and author, whose faith in the existence of other worlds appeared throughout his writings. The refined detail was so well done that most missed the joke.

AAAAAaaaaannnnnnnddddddd.........a picture (color enhanced) of M104, The Sombrero Galaxy:
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.