Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pao! Kaboom!

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is a VC firm, a big one with a number of high profile guys (including John Doerr, the firm’s best-known partner.) They see themselves as more than innovators, they see themselves as leaders. When a former partner, Ellen Pao, sued them alleging gender discrimination they did not settle; according to many, they fought because they were offended.
There has been a lot of debate over gender bias in the industry. According to research from Babson College, the percentage of female venture capitalists is now 6 percent, down from 10 percent at the peak of the dot-com boom in 1999. The tech industry is male dominated and engineering is top-heavy with men.
Vignettes emerged in court. Mr. Doerr’s told an investigator that Ms. Pao had a “female chip on her shoulder.” Chi-Hua Chien, a partner, said women should not be invited to a dinner with former Vice President Al Gore because they “kill the buzz.” A senior partner at the time, Ray Lane, joked to a junior partner that she should be “flattered” that a colleague showed up at her hotel room door wearing only a bathrobe.
Ms. Pao is married to Alphonse Fletcher Jr., a Wall Street financier whose hedge fund is bankrupt. Pension funds are suing to recover their money amid accusations of fraud. Kleiner tried to insert Mr. Fletcher into the case, which would have raised questions about Ms. Pao’s motives in bringing suit, but the judge, Harold Kahn, refused to allow it.
Pao lost her case last week.

Monday, March 30, 2015


Ancient languages didn't have a word for blue — not Greek, not Chinese, not Japanese, not Hebrew.

In the Odyssey, Homer famously describes the "wine-dark sea." But never "blue." William Gladstone, a scholar who later became the Prime Minister of Great Britain, noticed that this wasn't the only strange color description. Though the poet spends page after page describing the intricate details of clothing, armor, weaponry, facial features, animals, and more, his references to color are strange. Iron and sheep are violet, honey is green.
So Gladstone decided to count the color references in the book. And while black is mentioned almost 200 times and white around 100, other colors are rare. Red is mentioned fewer than 15 times, and yellow and green fewer than 10. Gladstone started looking at other ancient Greek texts, and noticed the same thing — there was never anything described as "blue." The word didn't even exist.
Perhaps a colorless world.

A philologist, Lazarus Geiger looked to see when "blue" started to appear in languages and found an odd pattern all over the world.
Every language first had a word for black and for white, or dark and light. The next word for a color to come into existence — in every language studied around the world — was red, the color of blood and wine.
After red, historically, yellow appears, and later, green (though in a couple of languages, yellow and green switch places). The last of these colors to appear in every language is blue.
The only ancient culture to develop a word for blue was the Egyptians — and as it happens, they were also the only culture that had a way to produce a blue dye.

From the interesting observation comes the wacko thesis: If you do not have a word for something, do you see it? This chicken-egg worry might be worth an academic chair.
But eyes are blue. And the sky is blue.
And Homer was blind.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday 3/29/15

This gospel, at the beginning of Passion Week, contains it all. It is ugly. Christ is tortured and murdered in a horrible way that engendered the word "excruciating."
The description is harrowing. And it is as critical of Man and his institutions as any biblical writing. Christ is abandoned by His friends, ignored by His family, condemned by government, vilified by the people and their organizers. He is even mocked by the criminals crucified with Him.
Strangely, on the Via Dolorosa, He is helped  by Simon of Cyrene who is pressed by the Romans to assist Christ in His carrying the cross. Cyrene is in Libya in northern Africa. It was a Greek colony with a sizable Jewish community.
Simon is by no means a volunteer; he seems at best a neutral observer. Abandoned by everyone, Christ is helped at last by a reluctant stranger, in a way the ultimate default wedding guest.


By George Herbert  

Having been tenant long to a rich lord,
    Not thriving, I resolvèd to be bold,
    And make a suit unto him, to afford
A new small-rented lease, and cancel th’ old.

In heaven at his manor I him sought;
    They told me there that he was lately gone
    About some land, which he had dearly bought
Long since on earth, to take possessiòn.

I straight returned, and knowing his great birth,
    Sought him accordingly in great resorts;
    In cities, theaters, gardens, parks, and courts;
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth
    Of thieves and murderers; there I him espied,
    Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, and died.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cab Thoiughts 3/28/15

What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness. -Leo Tolstoy, novelist and philosopher (1828-1910)

The White House this week celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year most often observed by Iranians. First Lady Michelle Obama praised the holiday in remarks at the executive mansion Wednesday. The event featured a Persian dinner and a dance troop’s performance. “For more than 3,000 years, families and communities in the Middle East, Asia and all around the world — including here in the United States — have celebrated this holiday to mark the renewal of the Earth in springtime,” she said. Nowruz marks the start of both spring and the beginning of the Persian calendar each year. A central facet of Nowruz celebrations are “Haft Sin,” or “the seven S’s” in Persian. Participants display seven items (all beginning with “S” in Persian) as symbols of new hopes for the next year. The first lady said Wednesday the White House has its own Haft Sin display this Nowruz.
Sometimes the winners of cultural wars are those who do not die of mortification during the sorties.

Who is...Chris Borland?

86: verb. slang: meaning "to decline service to." According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first verifiable use of 86 in the 'refuse service to' sense dates to a 1944 book about John Barrymore, a movie star of the 1920s famous for his acting and infamous for his drinking: "There was a bar in the Belasco building ... but Barrymore was known in that cubby as an 'eighty-six'. An 'eighty-six', in the patois of western dispensers, means: 'Don't serve him.'" 
The most widely accepted theory of the term's origin states it derives from a code supposedly used in some restaurants in the 1930s, wherein 86 was a shortform among restaurant workers for 'We're all out of it.' In electrical transmission lines, an  86 device is a lockout breaker. In military lingo, the Allowance Type (AT) coding system is used for logistic purposes. The allowance type code is a single digit numeric that identifies the reason material is being carried in stock. AT-6 (or by similar phonetic, eighty-six) was to be disposed of. Another good explanation is in the Cockney rhyming slang which has created a lot of phrases. "86" rhymes with "nix."

Polar bears are the largest land predators on earth. They can stand more than 11’ high and weigh more than 1,700 lbs.

“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisers.“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ”
This is the testimony of Raymond Maxwell, May, 2013, to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the Clinton camp's effort to sterilize the State Department of any Benghazi evidence that might implicate Hillary. But it was 18 months after the event. Why not come forward earlier?

Israeli Member of Parliament Michael Ben Ari publicly ripped up a copy of the New Testament in the country's Parliament, the Knesset. He then threw it into a rubbish bin after denouncing it as an "abhorrent" book. A second legislator called for Bibles to be burnt. Imagine if he had been Muslim.

Writing as Captain Hercules Vinegar, Henry Fielding summoned poet laureate Colley Cibber to court, charged with the murder of the English language. Fielding was not only a satiric playwright and novelist but a lawyer (soon, a Justice of the Peace) and a notorious wag; his joke would have been popular among London's coffee house wits, most of whom would know of Fielding's enmity for Cibber, if not share it. Cibber was a well-known but second-rate writer and actor in London, most famous for his adaptation of Shakespeare's Richard III, in which there was no "winter of our discontent" or "my kingdom for a horse," but such Cibberisms as "Off with his head -- so much for Buckingham!" Now the shocker: It was the only version of the play acted in England for over 150 years, so popular that attempts to do Shakespeare's original were booed off the stage.

Golden oldie:

Baseball analytics is branching into lineups. The following on lineup optimization from the Hardball Times is based on analysis from “The Book": “In plain English (sort of), we want to know how costly making an out is by each lineup position, based on the base-out situations they most often find themselves in, and then weighted by how often each lineup spot comes to the plate. Here’s how the lineup spots rank in the importance of avoiding outs:
#1, #4, #2, #5, #3, #6, #7, #8, #9
So, you want your best three hitters to hit in the #1, #4, and #2 spots. Distribute them so OBP is higher in the order and SLG is lower. Then place your fourth and fifth best hitters, with the #5 spot usually seeing the better hitter, unless he’s a high-homerun guy. Then place your four remaining hitters in decreasing order of overall hitting ability, with basestealers ahead of singles hitters.”

There have been studies comparing malnourished North Korean male refugees to their South Korean counterparts. The average South Korean is three inches taller. This gap has been created quickly, just over a few generations.

The Davis-Bacon Act was passed in 1931 requiring minimum wages in the construction industry. This was in response to complaints that construction companies with non-union black construction workers were able to underbid construction companies with unionized white workers (whose unions would not admit blacks).

In 2008, information from a captured FARC narcoterrorist computer found that Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern sought through an aide to help the terrorists undercut and neutralize the Colombian government, the U.S.' top ally in Latin America, which was then fighting the terrorists.

For almost two centuries, from the time of George Washington's presidency to the election of Ronald Reagan, whites of European descent made up at least 80% of the U.S. population. That share is below two-thirds now, and the white majority is set to become a minority by 2044. Today's Hispanics lag behind whites when it comes to education and wealth. But they are strikingly young, lowering America's median age and offering workers to fill the labor market when other rich countries face greying decline.
When did Hispanics become "nonwhite" and "non-European in descent?"

After the financial crisis of 2008, jobs in graphic design fell by 19.8 percent over four years, in photography by 25.6 percent over seven years, and in architecture by 29.8 percent over three years. In 1999, recordings generated $14.6 billion in revenue to the music business; by 2012, the figure was down to $5.35 billion. Scott Timberg, writing in “Culture Crash,” sees this as more than a decline in artistic jobs: “The price we ultimately pay is in the decline of art itself, diminishing understanding of ourselves, one another and the eternal human spirit.” Well, that's a lot to say.
One wonders if the remarkable decentralization of almost everything has made what has happened to institutionalized art untrackable.

According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, in 2011 over 161,000 Israeli citizens, 2.1% of the population, were Christian. About 80% of Christian residents of Israel are Arabs. Of the remainder, around 25,000 are Slavic Christians from the former Soviet Union who came to the country under the Law of Return, which has provided for Israeli citizenship if a person has a Jewish grandparent, and a smaller minority are Assyrians.

Chris Borland, a 24 year old rookie linebacker for the 49ers has retired over concerns for his health. He worked his way into the 49ers' starting lineup last season after Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis was sidelined by a persistent toe injury. Borland blossomed in the role and lead the team in tackles. Borland, who is listed as being 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighing 248 pounds, was drafted by the 49ers in the third round out of Wisconsin. He says he hasn't been diagnosed with a concussion in the NFL, but that he did sustain two previously: one while playing soccer in the eighth grade and another playing football in high school. This story got a lot of interest in the ESPN world. Indeed, it is only one guy but he sounds very modern: Did his own research, came to his own conclusions, made an abstract and limiting decision for a theoretical greater good.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants hotels to monitor how much time its guests spend in the shower.
The agency is spending $15,000 to create a wireless system that will track how much water a hotel guest uses to get them to “modify their behavior.”

Lindsey Von is astonishing. Crystal globes are the prizes awarded to the best skiers per discipline and overall for an entire World Cup season. Vonn has collected 17 crystal globes during her career. She won six times this campaign, breaking the women’s World Cup career victories mark following two major knee surgeries, and can match another record at the season-ending World Cup Finals in Meribel, France, this week. She’s in position to add to her trophy case this season’s crystal globes for the downhill and super-G. That would give her 19 career season titles, matching the record held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark.Stenmark also holds the overall race victories record of 86, which Vonn may also one day take down. She’s at 65 right now.

According to official government data, the average premium paid by those signing up through the federal Healthcare.gov site this year was $101 a month, after factoring in the subsidies. Last year, however, the average premium, net of subsidies, was $82. That's a 23% increase.
The reason, explains John Graham at the National Center for Policy Analysis, is that  the average subsidy went down slightly this year while premiums increased by 5%.Next year is likely to bring more premium pain, if the Congressional Budget Office is right. It says insurance costs will climb 8.5% in 2016, in part because various ObamaCare insurance bailout programs start coming to an end.
Now the Right is furious about this but isn't less federal subsidies what they would theoretically want?

AAAAAaaannnnndddddd.......a picture taken by astronaut Charles Duke from the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 of a snapshot of him, his wife and his children he left on the surface of the moon.
In 1972, as part of the Apollo 16 mission to the moon, astronaut Charles Duke left a photo of himself, his wife, and his two sons which was enclosed in plastic on the moon's surface. He took a picture. That photo remains on the moon’s surface today.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Strange Fruit

New York City's Abel Meeropol wrote a poem called "Strange Fruit" in the 1930s after seeing a photograph of a lynching. He later put it to music and it eventually found its way to Billie Holliday, who recorded it. It was called by Time magazine the "song of the century" in 1999.
His son, Robert Meeropol and his older brother, Michael, were raised by Abel Meeropol and his wife, Anne Meeropol, after the boys' real parents — Ethel and Julius Rosenberg — were executed for espionage in 1953. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death for conspiring to give atomic secrets to the Soviet Union.

Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Hayek and Orwell

To Hayek, less government intervention meant more economic freedom. But this opinion was more than ideological, it was practical. He believed that when people are free to choose, the economy runs more efficiently. Central planners could make technical decisions but not economic ones. Under "central planning, there was no economic calculation--no way to make a rational decision to put this resource here or buy that good there, because there was no price system to weigh the alternatives," he wrote.

More than an author, George Orwell was also an interesting political thinker who went through a number of evolutions. He hated religion--especially Catholicism--and moved from a socialist to something of an anarchist who trusted no government. (This opinion on Hayek gives a bit more credit to government.) Orwell responded to Hayek's writings on economies with both praise and criticism, stating, "in the negative part of Professor Hayek's thesis there is a great deal of truth. It cannot be said too often – at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough – that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamt of." Yet he also warned, "[A] return to 'free' competition means for the great mass of people a tyranny probably worse, because more irresponsible, than that of the state."

This, I think,  contains the basic conflict between Progressivism and the Hayek-conservative-de Tocqueville position: The irresponsible market versus the irresponsible government. But, again, it is more than a philosophical difference, it is practical. Hayak showed that manipulation of the economy, fueled too much by debt and not enough by productive income, sacrificed long term decisions for short term ones--the exact error we criticize single-quarter/bottom-line-obsessed companies for. 

So that the economic decisions of the future are sacrificed for the immediate and the future can do nothing but harvest those planted errors.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cab Thoughts 3/25/15

Rich people plan for three generations. Poor people plan for Saturday night.
~Gloria Steinem

Celebrated as “the German Darwin”, German biologist Ernst Haeckel was one of the most influential public intellectuals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; his The Riddle of the Universe sold half a million copies in Germany alone, and was translated into dozens of other languages. Hostile to Jewish and Christian traditions, Haeckel devised his own “religion of science” called Monism, which incorporated an anthropology that divided the human species into a hierarchy of racial groups. Though he died in 1919, before the Nazi Party had been founded, his ideas, and widespread influence in Germany, unquestionably helped to create an intellectual climate in which policies of racial slavery and genocide were able to claim a basis in science.
Who was...Isaiah Thomas?
About 480 million years ago, the seven-foot-long Aegirocassis benmoulae swam about in the sea. The lobster-like sea creature used its flaps and long segmented body to get around. And unlike many of its fellow relatives, it ate plankton. 'It would have dwarfed anything else at the time, being twice as big as the next biggest animal,' says Peter Van Roy, an archeologist at Yale University and a co-author of a study published recently about Aegirocassis benmoulae.
The First Crusade, called by Pope Urban II in 1095, was 427 years after the Muslim siege of Constantinople and 249 years after the Muslims sacked Rome.
When twelve-year-old Andrew Carnegie emigrated to Allegheny, Pennsylvania (now part of Pittsburgh) he began work as a bobbin boy at a cotton factory. By age fourteen he had moved on to become a messenger at the telegraph office. In his spare hours he liked to read, both for pleasure and with an eye to improvement. There was no public library, the only books available being a private collection of about 400 volumes which a local man, Col. James Anderson, opened up every Saturday as a "Mechanics' and Apprentices' Library."  In 1901, Andrew Carnegie offered New York City $5.2 million for the construction of 65 branch libraries. Of the 56.5 million given by Carnegie for over 2500 libraries in a dozen countries, this was his largest single grant.
Interest rates are at 700-year lows in Europe.
Sowell, on how the intellectual frames his analysis and thesis: The 1920s, for example, were a decade of huge changes for the people of the United States: the change from a predominantly rural to a predominantly urban society, the spread of electricity, automobiles, and radios to vastly more millions of Americans, the beginning of commercial air travel, the revolutionizing of retail selling with resulting lower prices by the rapid spread of chain stores.  Yet when intellectuals refer to eras of “change,” they almost never mention the 1920s – because these sweeping changes in the way millions of Americans lived their lives were not the particular kinds of changes envisioned by the intelligentsia, through the particular kinds of social mechanisms envisioned by the intelligentsia.  In the eyes of much of the intelligentsia, the 1920s (when that decade is thought of at all) are seen as a period of a stagnant status quo, presided over by conservative administrations opposed to “change.”
Thresholds have historically held significant symbolic value; for example, a vampire cannot cross a threshold unless invited. The connection between thresholds and vampires seems to be a concept of complicity or allowance. Once a commitment is made to allow evil, evil can re-enter at any time. 
Nietzsche understood that modern liberalism was a secular incarnation of religious traditions. As a classical scholar, he recognized that a mystical Greek faith in reason had shaped the cultural matrix from which modern liberalism emerged. Some ancient Stoics defended the ideal of a cosmopolitan society; but this was based in the belief that humans share in the Logos, an immortal principle of rationality that was later absorbed into the conception of God with which we are familiar. Nietzsche was clear that the chief sources of liberalism were in Jewish and Christian theism: that is why he was so bitterly hostile to these religions. He was an atheist in large part because he rejected liberal values. (John Grey in "The Guardian")
Golden oldie:
When Ibsen's Ghosts (produced by subscription to avoid censors) appeared in London, its references  to syphilis, free-love, incest and euthanasia horrified the society. The reviews included: An open drain; a loathsome sore unbandaged; a dirty act done publicly. . . gross, almost putrid indecorum. . . . Nastiness and malodorousness laid on thickly as with a trowel. . . . As foul and filthy a concoction as has ever been allowed to disgrace the boards of an English theatre. . . . Maunderings of nook-shotten Norwegians. . . . If any repetition of this outrage be attempted, the authorities will doubtless wake from their lethargy.
In the first world war 324,000 Australians volunteered to fight overseas, an extraordinary number in a nation of fewer than 5million people. Of the 60,000 Australians who died in the war, 8,700 were lost in a few months during a hopeless attempt to capture Gallipoli, a small piece of territory in Turkey.
Before his fine career in basketball, Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) was a printer and bookseller in early America. A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible  is one of more than a hundred children's book titles published by him (it added pictures to the bible to make it more children-friendly.) One of Thomas' most significant ventures was The Massachusetts Spy, a newspaper he founded with Fowle in 1770. Widely read and exceedingly anti-British, his paper so angered Tory authorities that just three days before the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, Thomas was forced to smuggle his press out of Boston to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he remained for the next fifty-six years. His most enduring legacy, however, is the American Antiquarian Society (AAS), which he established in Worcester in 1812.
Plangent: Adj.: 1. Loud and resounding. 2. Sad or mournful.
From Latin plangere (to beat the breast, lament). Ultimately from the Indo-European root plak- (to strike), which also gave us plague, plankton, fling, and complain. Earliest documented use: 1666.

Fleming recounted that the date of his discovery of penicillin was on the morning of Friday, September 28, 1928. It was a fortuitous accident: in his laboratory in the basement of St. Mary's Hospital in London (now part of Imperial College), Fleming noticed a Petri dish containing Staphylococcus plate culture he mistakenly left open, was contaminated by blue-green mould, which formed a visible growth. There was a halo of inhibited bacterial growth around the mould. Fleming concluded the mould released a substance that repressed the growth and lysing the bacteria. He grew a pure culture and discovered it was a mould, now known to be Penicillium notatum. After further experiments, Fleming was convinced penicillin could not last long enough in the human body to kill pathogenic bacteria, and stopped studying it after 1931. He restarted clinical trials in 1934. (Wiki)

There is a movement from the Daily Kos, to Democracy for America, to Campaign for America's Future to cancel the student debt in the country. But debt is never cancelled, as every liability is someone's asset. That asset holder will demand to be made whole in the form of more debt elsewhere. Like the debt in the 2008 meltdown, the burden will simply be transferred to someone else.

In 1848, Emily Brontë died at the age of thirty. Death and drama in the Brontë household dominated the surrounding eight months. In September, thirty-one-year-old Branwell had died in his exuberant manner, the last stages of his dissolution and tuberculosis expressed in delirium tremens cursing and despair. The following May, twenty-nine-year-old Anne would die in her co-operative, affirmative manner, also of tuberculosis. Squeezed between the two, also tuberculosis but typically as if on her own mysterious terms, came Emily's death. She never left the house after Branwell's death, never spoke of her condition or allowed others to, never gave up her work routine even on the last day, never allowed a doctor until literally the eleventh hour -- telling Charlotte just before noon, "If you will send for a doctor, I will see him now," and then dying at two o'clock.
The department store cannot be defined in terms of its brands and a party cannot be defined in terms of its principles. A party is a group whose members propose to act in concert in the competitive struggle for political power.-- Joseph Schumpeter 

Thousands of people were infected with Hepatitis C and HIV through NHS blood products in the 1970s and 80s. The contaminated blood scandal has been described as the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS, and was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people.
Hundreds of those affected were in Scotland, which was the only part of the UK to hold an inquiry.
The probe, which was headed by former High Court judge Lord Penrose, said more should have been done to screen blood and donors for Hepatitis C in the early 1990s, and that the collection of blood from prisoners should have stopped sooner. Prisoners?

The Virginia Company established the colony of Jamestown in America in 1607. It had two tasks. The Virginians would supply staples for famine-prone England and at the same time bring the gospel to the Indians. A company broadsheet explained that God no longer worked through prophets and miracles; the only way to evangelize the world these days was 'mixtly, by discoverie, and trade of marchants.' Living on the Indians' land and trading with them, the colonists would 'sell to them the pearles of heaven' by 'dailie conversation.' So the quest for commodities, [Samuel] Purchas, [the company's propagandist] insisted, was not an end in itself, and the company would fail if it sought only profit; its chief objective was the conversion of native peoples rather than financial success.
AAAAAaaaaaaannnnndddddd.....a conceptual picture of Aegirocassis benmoulae:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Happy Nowruz!

The White House this week celebrated Nowruz, the Persian New Year most often observed by Iranians. First Lady Michelle Obama praised the holiday in remarks at the executive mansion Wednesday. The event featured a Persian dinner and a dance troop’s performance. “For more than 3,000 years, families and communities in the Middle East, Asia and all around the world — including here in the United States — have celebrated this holiday to mark the renewal of the Earth in springtime,” she said.
Nowruz marks the start of both spring and the beginning of the Persian calendar each year. A central facet of Nowruz celebrations are “Haft Sin,” or “the seven S’s” in Persian. Participants display seven items (all beginning with “S” in Persian) as symbols of new hopes for the next year. The first lady said Wednesday the White House has its own Haft Sin display this Nowruz.
Sometimes the winners of cultural wars are those who do not die of mortification during the sorties.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz, the Republican Senator from Texas, has engendered savage criticism from the left reminiscent of the Sarah Palin attacks. A recent report showed him frightening a three-year-old in a speech. Usually that means something.
I have never heard him speak and know little about him, but I have read up on him because he is going to declare his presidential candidacy. Some of his is excerpted speeches are a bit goofy but usually are from his filibuster where he spoke for a day and said just about anything. His background is accomplished, though, and he should not be dismissed. This is some of the superficial stuff available:

His father, Rafael, was born in Cuba. After being imprisoned and tortured by the Batista regime, Rafael Cruz came to America on a student visa with nothing but $100 sewn into his underwear. He made his way through the University of Texas by washing dishes
Ted Cruz was born in Canada while his father worked the oil fields there.
He says he considered dropping out of high school and moving to California to pursue an acting career. He graduated from Second Baptist High School as valedictorian in 1988.
He went to Princeton where he was a champion debater. Cruz studied public policy at Princeton. His near-perfect score on the LSAT helped him fulfill a dream of going to Harvard Law School.
At Harvard, “Cruz was off-the-charts brilliant,” Prof. Alan Dershowitz told the National Review. In his second year, Cruz joined the Law Review and became a principal editor. He graduated magna cum laude.

No real position here except he seems like a very competent guy--competence being currently in short supply in leadership--and people really dislike him. How could a guy with a history like this have such a tin ear to his impression? Or, like Palin, are the powers-that-be just devoted to wrecking him?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday 3/22/15

In today's gospel some gentiles ask Phillip for an audience with Jesus. What evolves is Christ's introspective look at the next week, the Passover where He will die. It is the old Catholic "Passiontide," the two week period of Christ's passion and death which the church has since diminished to give the emphasis to the entire Lenten period. 

This is the beginning of the great unsettling: Christ is distressed. What could possibly be worse:
“I am troubled now. Yet what should I say?
‘Father, save me from this hour’?
But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.
Father, glorify your name.”

He abstractly speaks what He will agonize over in Gethsemane, the brutality of the crucifixion.  

Then He gets to the heart of it all:
"Now is the time of judgment on this world;
now the ruler of this world will be driven out.
And when I am lifted up from the earth,
I will draw everyone to myself.”

"The ruler of this world?" Satan? Materialism? 
"..when I am lifted up from the earth?" On the cross? From the tomb? The Ascension? 

The searching gentiles never enter the scene again.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cab Thoughts 3/21/15

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. -Michelangelo Buonarroti, sculptor, painter, architect, and poet (6 Mar 1475-1564)

Scott Anderson is a wilderness guy who adopted a bear, Brutus. Never forget Travis the Chimp.
The biggest war of the 19th century was not the Napoleonic war, nor the American Civil War, it was the Taiping Rebellion in China, which started in 1850, when a failed scholar named Hong Xuiquan  had a vision from God that he, Hong, was the younger brother of Jesus Christ, and that he had a divine mission to establish the Kingdom of Heavenly Peace on Earth, and to solve all the problems China had as a result the coming of the British and of modern industry. He started the rebellion, and millions followed him. According to the most moderate estimates, 20 million people were killed in the Taiping Rebellion, and it was 14 years before it was suppressed.

Who is....Elisha Gray?

I saw some seven man rugby recently; a rough game with huge fast men, many looking like Bettis.  Australian rugby star Jarryd Hayne has just signed a deal with the 49ers.

Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. With the help of Thomas A. Watson, a Boston machine shop employee, Bell developed a prototype. In this first telephone, sound waves caused an electric current to vary in intensity and frequency, causing a thin, soft iron plate–called the diaphragm–to vibrate. These vibrations were transferred magnetically to another wire connected to a diaphragm in another, distant instrument. When that diaphragm vibrated, the original sound would be replicated in the ear of the receiving instrument. Three days after filing the patent, the telephone carried its first intelligible message–the famous “Mr. Watson, come here, I need you”–from Bell to his assistant. Bell’s patent filing beat a similar claim by Elisha Gray by only two hours.

More money was spent last year in restaurants than in grocery stores.
"I think that many of these science fiction scenarios, that computers will be like humans, are wrong. Computers are very, very, very far from being like humans, especially when it comes to consciousness. The problem is different, that the system, the military and economic and political system doesn't really need consciousness. It needs intelligence. And intelligence is a far easier thing than consciousness." (Harari)

Bubbles arise if the price far exceeds the asset’s fundamental value, to the point that no plausible future income scenario can justify the price.

Jan Masaryk was born in 1886, the son of Czechoslovakia’s first president. After World War I, he served as foreign minister in the new Czech government. Later he served as the Czech ambassador to Great Britain. During World War II, he once again took the position of foreign minister, this time with the Czech government-in-exile in London. After the war, Masaryk returned to Czechoslovakia to serve as foreign minister under President Eduard Benes. It was a tense time in Masaryk’s native country. The Soviet Union had occupied the nation during World War II and there were fears that the Soviets would try to install a communist government in Czechoslovakia, as it had in Poland, East Germany, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Masaryk, however, was skillful in dealing with the Soviets, assuring them that a democratic Czechoslovakia posed no security threat to Russia.
In 1947, when the United States unveiled the Marshall Plan—the multimillion-dollar aid program for postwar Europe—Masaryk indicated Czechoslovakia’s interest in participating. When he informed the Soviets, they absolutely refused to give their approval. This was quickly followed, in February 1948, by a communist coup in Czechoslovakia. President Benes was forced to accept a communist-dominated government. Masaryk was one of the few non-communists left in place.
On March 10, 1948, the Czech government reported that Masaryk had committed suicide by jumping out of a third-story window at the Foreign Ministry. I'll bet.

Deregulation is a staple of the Right. Yet the only deregulation the Rube-publicans ever did was Banking and Finance. Democrats deregulated trucking, telecom, airlines, rails, and many others... as well as the greatest deregulation in human history, the Internet. Clinton deregulated GPS (over GOP opposition). It appears that Internet regulation is going to be a step in a different direction.

Golden oldie:

Siberia – the Asian part of Russia, east of the Ural Mountains – is immense. It takes up three-quarters of Russia's land mass, the equivalent of the entire U.S. and India put together. China has huge investments there and also has a historic/genetic interest.

Women in North Korea make up 49% of the work force. Women receive five months’ paid maternity leave, and if a woman has three or more children, she receives eight hours of pay for six hours of work per day. In the 1990s, there were more Korean women holding government positions than there were American women holding comparable positions in the U.S.

After criticizing Rome’s transition from a republic to an empire, the famous philosopher/rhetorician Cicero was murdered and had his head and hands displayed on the Rostra in the Forum Romanum. It is rumored that Fulvia, the wife of the influential Roman politician, Antony, pulled out Cicero’s tongue and stabbed it repeatedly with her hairpin. Now that is political conflict.

The Supreme Court issued a ruling in 1841, freeing the remaining thirty-five survivors of the Amistad mutiny. Although seven of the nine justices on the court hailed from Southern states, only one dissented from Justice Joseph Story's majority opinion. Private donations ensured the Africans' safe return to Sierra Leone in January 1842.
The events leading up to the decision began on July 2, 1839, when Joseph Cinqué led fifty-two fellow captive Africans, recently abducted from the British protectorate of Sierra Leone by Portuguese slave traders, in a revolt aboard the Spanish schooner Amistad. The ship's navigator, who was spared in order to direct the ship back to western Africa, managed, instead, to steer it northward. When the Amistad was discovered off the coast of Long Island, New York, it was hauled into New London, Connecticut by the U.S. Navy. President Martin Van Buren, guided in part by his desire to woo pro-slavery votes in his upcoming bid for reelection, wanted the prisoners returned to Spanish authorities in Cuba to stand trial for mutiny. Slaves being tried for mutiny! The U.S. government eventually appealed the case to the Supreme Court. Former president John Quincy Adams, who represented the Amistad Africans in the Supreme Court case, argued in his defense that it was the illegally enslaved Africans, rather than the Cubans, who "were entitled to all the kindness and good offices due from a humane and Christian nation."

$36.8B were paid for living in 30,000 Assisted Living facilities by over 1 million residents. 65.8% of this amount were direct payments by patients and their families, and 2.6% private long term care insurances.
There are 33,000 home care and hospice providers, along with the more than two million nurses, therapists, and aides they employ. Caregivers provide vital services to some 12 million patients. Annual expenditures for home health care were $72.2 billion.

The federal report on Ferguson has come out and declares law enforcement in Ferguson has a "disparate impact" on blacks and is "motivated" by "discriminatory intent." The "disparate impact" observation continues to be used as if it is prima fascia evidence of discrimination; in essence it is a statistical disproportion. More black guys are arrested, more black children are disciplined in school. But such disparity is evident everywhere where it clearly is not discriminatory. Statistical differences in pay by gender, in representation on sports teams or the military, in engineering schools and spelling bees, in disease rates--all of these distinctions might well be statistically disproportional but the leap from the observation to cause and effect is, or should be, difficult. 
But not in the world of The Plausible.

When the Price sisters, IRA activists, were imprisoned in England, thieves stole the Vermeer painting “The Guitar Player” from a museum in Hampstead, and, in ransom notes, threatened to burn it—“with much cavorting in the true lunatic fashion”—if the Price sisters were not moved to Northern Ireland.

France has some extra-marital dating sites and some people are beginning to object. The most recent is Gleedon, a site for married women. A campaign by Ashley Madison, another extramarital website, featured President François Hollande and his three predecessors with smudged lipstick on their faces. “What do they have in common?” the ad asked. “They should have thought of ashleymadison.com.” When the ads were introduced, several were removed by the police, the company said.
Gleeden, launched in 2009, has a million subscribers in France, and 2.4 million globally, who can anonymously trawl profiles for lovers.

Realpolitik: noun: 1. political realism or practical politics, especially policy based on power rather than on ideals. Realpolitik comes directly from the German word of the same spelling which means "politics of realism." It emerged in English in the 1910s.

AAAaaaaaannnnnnddddd........a picture of Anderson, his new bride and the best "man:" (may not work)
Brutus was even best bear at Casey's wedding!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Non-binding Congressional Treason

The Senate Rube-publican letter to Iran reminding them of the American treaty process of Senate advise and consent was shameless grandstanding. (The idea that it was a deterrent to Iran is fanciful; the Iranians are not surprised by this information and will get what they want.) The argument that diplomacy by executive decree is a crazy and unstable way to create treaties is seriously legitimate but this is not the way to make the point. Obama's position that this is not a treaty was more worrisome than anything as it raises questions as to what it really is and what these people are doing.
That said, national politics and politicians have been wanting in the integrity field for a while now. Importantly, this is bipartisan, perhaps the only area of bipartisanship we can find. Here is a collection of some Democrat indiscretions recently appearing in IBD:
In 1983, Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy sent a letter through another Democrat, California Sen. John Tunney, to Soviet dictator and former KGB Yuri Andropov, seeking to undercut President Reagan in the interest of "world peace." Kennedy also consorted with the communist regime of Chile and had been known to have Cuban ties.
In 1983, U.S. troops invaded Grenada, overran its Cuban installations and found Berkeley Democratic Rep. Ron Dellums' name all over their documents, advising the Cubans how to thwart President Reagan.
In 1985, then-freshman Sen. John Kerry flew down to Managua, Nicaragua, home of the Marxist Sandinistas and their Cuban-inspired government. He wanted to cut a deal with them at a time when the U.S. opposed their position on democracy and human rights. Just days after Kerry cut his deal, Sandinista leaders jetted off to Moscow to forge an alliance. The Americans at the time were actively supporting the Sandinista opposition, the Contras.
In 2002, Democratic Representatives David Bonior, Jim McDermott and Mike Thompson flew to Baghdad on Iraq's dime to meet with dictator Saddam Hussein. They returned to spout Saddam's propaganda that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and that President Bush would lead us to war "over a lie." Questioned on ABC's "This Week" about Iraq's failed inspections, McDermott said: "I think you have to take the Iraqis on their face value."
In 2007, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ignoring White House wishes, wore an Islamic veil to meet Syria's brutal dictator Bashar Assad and try to cut her own deal with the dictator, about the same time Vogue was doing gushy photo spreads of Assad's wife.
In 2008, information from a captured FARC narcoterrorist computer found that Democrat Rep. Jim McGovern sought through an aide to help the terrorists undercut and neutralize the Colombian government, the U.S.' top ally in Latin America, which was then fighting the terrorists — and winning.
This, again, is bipartisan and will remain so until honesty, integrity and some agreed upon standards emerge in the nation's leadership. Until then, keep investing in the Lobby Index.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Iran Non-binding Negotiations

The administration is negotiating a deal with Iran which will hopefully decrease Iran's nuclear capacity and result in a lifting of American--and Western--sanctions. The Rube--publicans have sent a letter to the Iranians from the Senate suggesting that the agreement, if culminated, may not stand because they--the Senate--have the final approval of treaties. The administration says this agreement is nothing more than an agreement and is not a treaty, hence not subject to Senate advice and consent. But it is important; a nuclear Iran would be important.
Biden argued that the practice of negotiating non-Senate approved deals is as old as the United States itself.  "Under presidents of both parties, such major shifts in American foreign policy as diplomatic recognition of the People's Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without congressional approval," he said in his statement opposing the GOP letter.
And history is rife with Senators interfering with international relations. Ted Kennedy actually approached the Russians in an effort to defeat Reagan. Pelosi showed up in the Middle East one weekend like a singing telegram.
At the core of this obnoxious struggle are actual principles. The Senate wants things done by the book--and the Constitution, the President wants to get this important arrangement done without political interference. The problem is that the Rube-publicans are almost comically inept and obnoxious and the President has clearly begun to ramp up his assumption of power by legislating out of the legislative bodies.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cab Thoughts 3/18/15

The man who dies rich dies disgraced. -Andrew Carnegie, industrialist (1835-1919)
A University of Houston team flying over Honduras blanketed the Mosquitia rainforest with as many as 25-50 laser pulses every square meter that totaled up as more than four billion shots during the entire project. One area looked very suspicious for a buried city, perhaps the fabled Ciudad Blanca which has played a central role in Central American mythology. 
In 1939, Theodore Morde claimed to have rediscovered the site, and learned from locals that it was home to the myth of the monkey God.
Texts cite it as the birthplace of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl and previous reported sightings over the years have described golden idols and elaborately carved white stones, leading to the lost city's name.
However, no confirmation of the existence of the city has ever been provided.
If confirmed, the discovery of Ciudad Blanca would be comparable to the popularisation of forgotten sites such as Machu Picchu, which lay ruined for hundreds of years until reintroduced to western eyes in 1911 by American historian Hiram Bingham.  
At the UK's biggest primary school, Gascoigne Primary School in Barking, East London, only one in 10 pupils speaks English as first language - down from nine out of 10 in 1999. Now they speak no fewer than 60 different languages. The penance for empire. One only can guess at the origin of the town's name.

Priestley knew that putting a living organism in a jar and depriving it of air, the animal would die. But if he did the same thing with a plant it lived and flourished.
Who is ....Aphra Behn?
An unsigned, 1,300-word Sherlock Holmes story has just been discovered in a pamphlet printed in 1903. The 48-page booklet was published during a three-day funding bazaar to raise funds for bridge restoration in Selkirk, a Scottish Borders town. It includes stories and poetry from local residents of Selkirk. Entitled “The Book o’ The Brig,” the pamphlet also announces the arrival of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on the final day of the bazaar as a celebrity guest of honor. The story, entitled “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, By Deduction, the Brig Bazaar” features Holmes and Watson in London discussing among other things Watson’s upcoming trip to Selkirk to see the bridge.
Monica Lewinski has a TED talk this month.
In his new book, The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, Carey envisions a future in which "the idea of 'admission' to college will become an anachronism, because the University of Everywhere will be open to everyone" and "educational resources that have been scarce and expensive for centuries will be abundant and free."
According to Dr. Stephen Tinney, an associate professor of Assyriology at the University of Pennsylvania, “The reason for inventing writing was the need to record the production and distribution of commodities like beer.” One of the oldest pieces of preserved writing is a clay tablet with a record of beer rations for workers.
Protagonists of equality never, it seems, make clear precisely what, other than wealth and income, should be equalized. (Simmons) 
The Great Pyramid of Giza was built about 5,000 years ago by Pharaoh Khufu, a 455-foot creation, which remained the tallest man-made structure on the planet for almost 4,000 years.
It required the work of between 20,000 and 30,000 laborers working for about 23 years.
John Bunyan, a Baptist of the 17th Century, wrote numerous books and pamphlets, including A Pilgrim's Progress. It sold 100,000 copies in his lifetime, and is still reported to be the most sold book in the world, next to the Bible. In it Christian's allegorical journey from "this World to that which is to come" requires him to triumph over Obstinate, Pliable, Worldly-Wise, Ready-to-Halt and Madame Bubble; to negotiate the Slough of Despond and the town of Carnal Policy; to cross the Valley of Humiliation and the Plain of Ease; to rise above Lucre-Hill and the Delectable Mountain; and, like all who would arrive at the Celestial City, to make no purchase at Vanity Fair.
Golden oldie:
The homeless man shot by LA police was identified by the LAPD as Charley Saturmin Robinet. But he stole the identity of the real Robinet in the late-1990s. The man calling himself Robinet was convicted of a bank robbery in 2000, and Cruau said that French officials let the United States know that Robinet had assumed someone else's identity and was not a French citizen. The actual Charley Saturmin Robinet is still alive and living in France.
California is the leading wine producing state— California’s 211.9 million cases held a 61 percent share of the U.S. market. Californians enjoy nearly one in five (18 percent) of the bottles consumed in the United States. If California were a nation, it would be the fourth leading wine-producing country in the world behind France, Italy and Spain.
40,000 years ago, everything began to change in what, anthropologically speaking, amounts to an eye-blink of time. Cave bears, saber-toothed tigers, mammoths, rhinos, lions, leopards, dholes … fierce as they were, they all vanished from the forests and steppes of Eurasia. And Neanderthal populations first drastically dwindled and then vanished as well, and now, in our time, for two hundred years, ever since the discovery of the first Neanderthal fossils, debate has raged as to what caused this catastrophic die-off. The debate, though, is limited to proportion: What part was climate change and what part was you and me, the Homo sapien. You, in your genes, are genocidal. (I, of course, am not.) In a new book, Pat Shipman adds an interesting twist to the destructive formula--all, regrettably speculative: The new Homo formed an alliance with a species that identified with our aggressive, predatory, family structured lives. The wolf-dog. That alliance wiped out all competitors in a slow, cataclysmic eco-change.
In 1640 Aphra Behn was born. Her Love Letters Between a Nobleman and his Sister (1684-7) is seen as the first epistolary novel; Oroonoko, or the Royal Slave (1688) is studied as the first anti-colonial novel and the first philosophical novel, one of its ideas being that of the 'noble savage'; her popular, fifteen-play career on the Restoration stage made her the first woman to earn a living as a writer.

South African Rashida Manjoo - UN’s special "rapporteur" --claims that “sexism in Britain was the worst she had seen in the world" (despite her visits to dangerously repressive countries such as Bangladesh, Somalia and Algeria.) Hyperbole is the lifeblood of the political bully.
The U.S. has gone nearly a decade without a Category 3 storm or higher making landfall.
Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood was published four months after his death in 1954. He finished it just before leaving for a tour of America. He said he was taking the trip for the money; his wife said he was taking the trip for "flattery, idleness and infidelity."
Adding laws onto an ethically corrupt state will not change much of anything, because the monopoly of violence goes on tempting. The mechanical rules of bribery in Stockholm are probably the same as in Delhi, and the jaywalking rules in Berlin the same as in New York. The difference is ethics. Without ethics no amount of institutional “redesign” would yield the honest government that Swedes have and that American progressives fantasize about. (Deidra McCloskey)
Brain scans have shown that personal rejection is actually experienced as physical pain, and that this pain is experienced whether those that reject us are close friends or family or total strangers, and whether the act is overt exclusion or merely looking away. Most typically, ostracism causes us to act to be included again -- to belong again -- although not necessarily with the same group.
The processing capacity of the conscious human mind is a mere 120 bits per second. We live in a world with  300 billion billion bits of information.

The main precious metal from the New World was silver, not gold. The huge silver source was in South America, called "Peru" by the Spanish, but really the area described a much larger area than present day Peru. The largest mine was in present day Bolivia, a virtual mountain of silver.
Nabob: n: Used by Europeans as meaning a man, returning very rich from Asia, particularly the Indian subcontinent. Also a rich man from the East Indian Company, wealth implied ill-gotten. From Hindi nabab, from Arabic nuwwab, honorific plural of na'ib "viceroy, deputy," "deputy governor in Mogul Empire." Anglo-Indian,.(1764).

There was a time in the last several decades that prime interest rates in the U.S. were in the mid-teens. Debt was expensive and, consequently, discouraged.
Over the past several decades we’ve gone from a nation of savers who paid cash for things including homes and cars to a nation of spenders who use debt like mortgages, car loans and credit cards to pay for things. "Corporate debt was $3.5 trillion– in 2007, arguably a period and– many would describe as bubbly. It’s 7 trillion now. So it’s gone from 3.5 trillion to 7 trillion. As you know, most of that mix has been in more highly leveraged stuff, Covenant-Lite loans– high yield, that’s where the majority of the rise has been. And if you look at corporations have been using it for, it’s all financial engineering.” -Stanley Druckenmiller. "In the past 20 to 30 years, credit has grown to such an extreme globally that debt levels and the ability to service that debt are at risk, relative to the private investment world. Why doesn’t the debt supercycle keep expanding? Because there are limits.” -Bill Gross. At one quadrillion yen, the Japanese debt level is so high that it now takes the government 43% of its central tax revenue just to pay interest this year. Back in August 2014, yield-starved bondholders were delighted to give American Eagle Energy $175 million in cash; the company promised them an 11% annual cash coupon. Now, seven months later, the company is in default.
AAAAaaaannnnnnnddddd......a graph:
Chart of the Day


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Deadly, Symbiotic Companions

40,000 years ago, everything began to change in what, anthropologically speaking, amounts to an eye-blink of time. Cave bears, saber-toothed tigers, mammoths, rhinos, lions, leopards, dholes … fierce as they were, they all vanished from the forests and steppes of Eurasia. And Neanderthal populations first drastically dwindled and then vanished as well, and now, in our time, for two hundred years, ever since the discovery of the first Neanderthal fossils, debate has raged as to what caused this catastrophic die-off. The debate, though, is limited to proportion: What part was climate change and what part was you and me, the Homo sapien. You, in your genes, are genocidal.

In a new book, Pat Shipman adds an interesting twist to the destructive formula--all, regrettably speculative: The new Homo formed an alliance with a species that identified with our aggressive, predatory, family structured lives. The wolf-dog. We, wolf-dog and man, sat down, stared into each other's eyes and saw ourselves.

The alliance that evolved wiped out all competitors in a slow, cataclysmic eco-change.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Non-binding Rage

Secretary of State John Kerry has announced, in response to the Rub-publican letter to Iran, that the "deal" the administration is negotiating with Iran is not legally binding.
"We've been clear from the beginning: We're not negotiating a, quote, legally binding plan," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We're negotiating a plan that will have in it the capacity for enforcement. We don't even have diplomatic relations with Iran right now."
"Not legally binding." If that is true, what exactly are they doing? Why even bother? Or is it simple posturing--posturing over a very serious question of Iranian nuclear weaponry? And, if so, what was the meaning of the Senate Rub-publican letter and was it such a big deal?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cab Thought 3/14/15

Some people have a depraved taste for equality, which impels the weak to lower the powerful to their own level, and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to inequality with freedom. I believe that it is easier to establish an absolute and despotic government amongst a people in which the conditions of society are equal, than amongst any other; and I think that, if such a government were once established amongst such a people, it would not only oppress men, but would eventually strip each of them of several of the highest qualities of humanity. Despotism, therefore, appears to me peculiarly to be dreaded in democratic times.--deTocqueville

Two Krugman quotes before he became an NYT darling:
One, "So what are the effects of increasing minimum wages? Any Econ 101 student can tell you the answer: The higher wage reduces the quantity of labor demanded, and hence leads to unemployment."
And, two, "They also argue that because there are cases in which companies paying above-market wages reap offsetting gains in the form of lower turnover and greater worker loyalty, raising minimum wages will lead to similar gains. The obvious economist’s reply is, if paying higher wages is such a good idea, why aren’t companies doing it voluntarily?"

There are a trillion stars in the Andromeda Galaxy,

Sci-fi guy David Brin asks this:  The JFK conspirators, if any, would now be at least eighty years old. So why, over that last decade or so, have we seen no death-bed confessions?
When Lehman Brothers Holding Inc. collapsed, its U.S. operations had 1.2 million derivatives transactions outstanding with 6,500 trading partners.
Many of them were far from Wall Street, including schools, which had relied on Lehman to help reduce their exposure to fluctuating interest rates through derivatives. In all, the contracts, which were tied to interest rates, bonds, currencies, commodities and stocks, had a "notional," or theoretical, value of $39 trillion. (wsj)
The world's gross domestic product (GDP)--total--is only about $65 trillion.

Russian scientists have now spotted a total of seven spontaneous craters, five of which appeared in the Yamal Peninsula. Two of those holes have since turned into lakes. And one giant crater is rimmed by a ring of at least 20 mini-craters, the Siberian Times reported.

China's ambassador to Belgium, Qu Xing, was quoted as blaming competition between Russia and the West for the Ukraine crisis, urging Western powers to "abandon the zero-sum mentality" with Russia.  Reuters assessment of Xing speech: "an unusually frank and open display of support for Moscow's position in the crisis."

The New Horizon spacecraft is closing in on Pluto. Nine years after its launch, New Horizons will achieve closest approach on July 14, 2015, collecting data on the surface and atmosphere of the dwarf planet, its large moon Charon and four smaller moons, Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx.

The "bartender and waiter" industry is having a growth spurt and soon will surpass the manufacturing sector in the U.S..

A segment of Buffet's shareholder letter: [W]ho has ever benefited during the past 238 years by betting against America? If you compare our country’s present condition to that existing in 1776, you have to rub your eyes in wonder. In my lifetime alone, real per-capita U.S. output has sextupled. My parents could not have dreamed in 1930 of the world their son would  see. Though the preachers of pessimism prattle endlessly about America’s problems, I’ve never seen one who wishes to emigrate (though I can think of a few for whom I would happily buy a one-way ticket).

In the United States, one in 98 boys is diagnosed with autism.

Central bankers are employees of a banking cartel that is owned by private banks. These banks have a license to lend money into existence, earning interest on their loans. It is no surprise that their share of US corporate profits has risen fourfold since President Nixon ended the quasi-gold standard Bretton Woods system. What a business! Their cost of goods sold is next to nothing.
The market can absorb a little central bank-created money. But there’s a limit. And that limit has been greatly increased, thanks to: A worldwide overcapacity of output, financed by previous lending and a huge glut of cheap labor, also largely brought forth by the credit expansion of the last 30 years
Without these unique circumstances, central banks’ policies – ZIRP and QE – would probably have caused inflation to rise to the double-digit range already … maybe higher. (zero hedge)
Who is....Italo Calvino?
The first shipload of African captives to North America arrived at Jamestown, Virginia, in August 1619, but for most of the 17th century, European indentured servants were far more numerous in the North American British colonies than were African slaves.  By the time of the American Revolution, the English importers alone had brought some three million captive Africans to the Americas. America and Great Britain banned the African slave trade in 1807, but the trade of African slaves to Brazil and Cuba continued until the 1860s.
When private firms in competitive markets seek more revenue they considerately offer customers the carrot of better service; in contrast, when government agencies seek more revenue they angrily whack ‘customers’ with the stick of worsened service.
(Don Boudreaux)

Ex post facto: adj.: 
  1. Retroactive
  2. (law) Formulated or enacted after some event, and then retroactively applied to it.
From Latin ex (from) + post (after) + facto, ablative of factum (deed).
It has a gambling slang equivalent; it is similar to "past post," a type of confidence scam where a bet is made after post time -- the official start of a horse race. Using after-the-fact information allows the con man to cheat the victim. Probably the most well-known example of a past-post scam is in the movie The Sting where characters played by Robert Redford and Paul Newman employ a past post to get even with a mob boss who had killed a mutual friend. In 2002, three men were able to pull off a real life past-post scam during the Breeders’ Cup at Arlington Park (Illinois, USA). It allowed the trio to print winning “6-pick” tickets after four of the six races had been run yielding them a payoff of around $3 million.

Athens could save money by delaying payments to suppliers or try to raise up to 3 billion euros by borrowing from state entities such as pension funds though the government may already have used up part of this, a source has told Reuters.
This from the anti-austerity party.

Ancient languages did not have a word for blue — not Greek, not Chinese, not Japanese, not Hebrew. In the Odyssey, Homer famously describes the "wine-dark sea." But never "blue." 
The only ancient culture to develop a word for blue was the Egyptians — and as it happens, they were also the only culture that had a way to produce a blue dye.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, testifying at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, said that they had uncovered more than 30,000 emails related to the IRS practice of targeting conservative and Tea Party groups for special ill treatment. I have no real idea what is going on here but the appearance of impropriety at a powerful segment of the Federal  government seems important enough to be open and thorough about. Certainly something to be interested in.
Golden oldie:
The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report Saturday, that US President Barack Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran's nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran. Interesting how the U.S. is trying to carry out its international plans with the defiant local nations' opposition.

The experimental French writer Georges Perec, like Italo Calvino, belonged to the "Ouvroir de Litterature Potentielle" group, founded in 1960; translated, this would be "Workshop of Potential Literature," but the group is known internationally as OuLiPo, if only because of their enthusiasm for the lipogram. (A text that purposefully excludes a particular letter of the alphabet.) In 1969, he published La Disparition, a 100,000 word novel excluding the letter "e". This is a mystery novel -- Anton Vowl has vanished, taking the letter "e" along with him. 
An interesting take on free markets in a review of Ira Katznelson’s Fear Itself by Arnold Kling: It is hardly uncommon to find intellectuals who believe that decentralized markets are chaotic, capricious, and misanthropic. On occasion, those with such beliefs have disparaged democracy and instead gravitated toward totalitarianism. Those who instead value the right of individual dissent and democratic decision processes tend to believe in a sort of collectivism that somehow emerges from and reflects the popular will. 
 In 1859, journalist Q. K. Philander Doesticks (Mortimer Thomson) attended an auction of 436 men, women, and children formerly held by Pierce M. Butler. Butler's slaves were auctioned in order to pay debts incurred in gambling and the financial crash of 1857-58.  It was the largest such auction in American history. Many of the slave families described in Doesticks' report were the subject of a series of letters, written twenty years earlier, by famous British actress and author Frances Ann Kemble. Her Journal of a Residence on a Georgia Plantation, 1838-1839, published in 1863 to galvanize English support of the North during the Civil War, is an unusual account of Southern planter culture from the perspective of an outspoken outsider who considered herself an abolitionist. 
Women were far better represented in professional occupations in the first three decades of the 20th century than in the middle of that century. Women received a larger share of the postgraduate degrees necessary for such careers in the earlier era than in the 1950s and 1960s. The proportion of women among the high achievers listed in "Who's Who in America" in 1902 was more than double the proportion listed in 1958. The decline of women in high-level careers occurred when women's age of marriage and child-bearing declined during the midcentury "baby boom" years.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Monday that President Obama is "very interested" in the idea of raising taxes through unilateral executive action.
"The president certainly has not indicated any reticence in using his executive authority to try and advance an agenda that benefits middle class Americans," Earnest said in response to a question about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calling on Obama to raise more than $100 billion in taxes through IRS executive action.
The original Lewis and Clark journals were not presented as a publication until 1904. 750 reprints of the 8 volume set were reprinted--including maps--in 1959.  
AAAAAaaaaannnnndddddd.......open star clusters embedded around the center of NGC 2174:
 See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Berkshire Letter

A few snippets from the annual Berkshire letter:

Buffet: "[W]ho has ever benefited during the past 238 years by betting against America? If you compare our country’s present condition to that existing in 1776, you have to rub your eyes in wonder. In my lifetime alone, real per-capita U.S. output has sextupled. My parents could not have dreamed in 1930 of the world their son would  see. Though the preachers of pessimism prattle endlessly about America’s problems, I’ve never seen one who wishes to emigrate (though I can think of a few for whom I would happily buy a one-way ticket)."

Munger on the future: The numbers have become too big. I think Berkshire will outperform the average American company, but our advantage, if any, won’t be great. Eventually – probably between ten and twenty years from now – Berkshire’s earnings and capital resources will reach a level that will not allow management to intelligently reinvest all of the company’s earnings. At that time our directors will need to determine whether the best method to distribute the excess earnings is through dividends, share repurchases or both.
The next to last task on my list was: Predict whether abnormally good results would continue at Berkshire if Buffett were soon to depart. The answer is yes. Berkshire has in place in its subsidiaries much business momentum grounded in much durable competitive advantage. Provided that most of the Berkshire system remains in place, the combined momentum and opportunity now present is so great that Berkshire would almost surely remain a better-than-normal company for a very long time even if (1) Buffett left tomorrow, (2) his successors were persons of only moderate ability, and (3) Berkshire never again purchased a large business.But, under this Buffett-soon-leaves assumption, his successors would not be “of only moderate ability.” For instance, Ajit Jain and Greg Abel are proven performers who would probably be under-described as “world-class.” “World-leading” would be the description I would choose. In some important ways, each is a better  business executive than Buffett.With Berkshire now so large and the age of activism upon us, I think some desirable acquisition opportunities will come and that Berkshire’s $60 billion in cash will constructively decrease.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Androcles and the Lion

A slave named Androcles once escaped from his master and fled to the forest. As he was wandering about there he came upon a Lion lying down moaning and groaning. At first he turned to flee, but finding that the Lion did not pursue him, he turned back and went up to him. As he came near, the Lion put out his paw, which was all swollen and bleeding, and Androcles found that a huge thorn had got into it, and was causing all the pain. He pulled out the thorn and bound up the paw of the Lion, who was soon able to rise and lick the hand of Androcles like a dog. Then the Lion took Androcles to his cave, and every day used to bring him meat from which to live. But shortly afterwards both Androcles and the Lion were captured, and the slave was sentenced to be thrown to the Lion, after the latter had been kept without food for several days. The Emperor and all his Court came to see the spectacle, and Androcles was led out into the middle of the arena. Soon the Lion was let loose from his den, and rushed bounding and roaring towards his victim. But as soon as he came near to Androcles he recognised his friend, and fawned upon him, and licked his hands like a friendly dog. The Emperor, surprised at this, summoned Androcles to him, who told him the whole story. Whereupon the slave was pardoned and freed, and the Lion let loose to his native forest.
Moral of Aesops Fable: Gratitude is the sign of noble souls

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cab Thoughts

In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. --Michael Crichton

In South Africa in 2013, more than 6,300,000 people were living with HIV; about 200,000 South Africans died of AIDS in 2013. (The population of South Africa is about 53 million.)     

Only three candidates in the last 100 years have come back to win the presidency after losing an earlier presidential nomination: Lyndon Johnson in 1964, George Bush in 1988 and Ronald Reagan in 1980. The first two benefited from popular presidents preceding them — following Kennedy's assassination, Johnson was already president when Democrats nominated him, while Bush followed Reagan. Only Reagan did it entirely on his own.
That is a high hill for Hillary.

Who is ....Camille Paglia?

An economist posed this question: Name one deflation, one liquidity trap, where there has been food or fuel shortages. Or riots. Or that has led to a world war. Your approaches to inflation and deflation should be asymmetrical, because inflation is far more dangerous. How would he classify the 30s?

The former Colorado police chief who led the investigation into the murder of six-year-old "beauty queen"
JonBenet Ramsey recently gave an accidental interview on Reddit. His summary included:
Court documents released in 2013 showed that a grand jury recommended indictments against the Ramseys, contrary to the long-held perception that the secret panel ended their work in 1999 without deciding to charge anyone. 
The documents revealed that the parents had been indicted for felony child abuse resulting in death and accessory to the crimes of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death - but that then-District Attorney Alex Hunter had refused to sign the indictments.
Former District Attorney Mary Lacy cleared the Ramseys of any role in their daughter's death, based on DNA evidence that pointed to the involvement of a third party.

Investigators did not believe there was a 'legitimate point of entry' for an intruder to get into the house that night.

He said that the girl was hit hard across the head and then, after it was clear that she had not died, she was strangled between 45 minutes and two hours later, based on her brain swelling.

'The rest of the scene we believe was staged, including the vaginal trauma, to make it look like a kidnapping/assault gone bad.'

Lord Byron sent two letters about a Welsh girl he met, one to a friend, one to her. Here is an excerpt from each: "I am at present principally occupied with a fresh face & a very pretty one too," he wrote in a Christmas Day letter to a friend, "a Welsh Girl whom I lately added to the bevy, and of whom I am tolerably enamoured for the present."  And, two weeks later, when the truth about the Welsh Girl became all too clear after he intercepted a letter she sent to her new lover: "Return to your relations," Byron now wrote, "you shall be furnished with the means, but him, who now addresses you for the last time, you will never see again."

The greatest verified age for any living organism is from a Great Basin Bristlecone Pine tree in Nevada called Prometheus that was measured by a ring count to be about 4,900 years old when it was cut down in 1964.

The Sharia quotes the Prophet Mohammad from the authoritative Hadiths of Bukhari and Muslim:  “I did not hear (the Prophet) him permit untruth in anything people say, except for three things: war, settling disagreements, and a man talking with his wife.”

The fierce Camille Paglia in a recent interview: "Post-structuralism is a system of literary and social analysis that flared up and vanished in France in the 1960s but that became anachronistically entrenched in British and American academe from the 1970s on. Based on the outmoded linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and promoted by the idolized Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault, it absurdly asserts that we experience or process reality only through language and that, because language is inherently unstable, nothing can be known. By undermining meaning, history and personal will, post-structuralism has done incalculable damage to education and contemporary thought....Post-structuralism has destroyed two generations of graduate students, who were forced to mouth its ugly jargon and empty platitudes for their foolish faculty elders. And the end result is that humanities departments everywhere, having abandoned their proper mission of defending and celebrating art, have become humiliatingly marginalized in both reputation and impact."

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which yielded just 1.6% at the start of this month, is now yielding 2.16% — which means it is yielding 35% more than it was a month ago. Is this a harbinger of what is to come? Most people do not think so.

The earned income tax credit (EITC), first proposed in the early 1970s, was signed by President Ford in 1975. It was later substantially expanded by President Reagan, who deemed it “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.” 
The credit underwent significant expansions in 1990 and 1993. In 2003, some 19 million taxpayers were expected to claim more than $34 billion of earned income credits, with an average credit per taxpayer of $1,784 per year (U.S. Congress 2004). In 2004, some families will be entitled to claim an earned income credit of up to $4,300 per year (IRS 2003). The Earned Income Tax Credit has grown into the largest, Federally-funded means-tested cash assistance program in the United States. Half of the states and the District of Columbia have enacted earned income tax credits (EITCs) to supplement the federal EITC. The estimated cost for the coming year, federally, is 71 billion dollars. Total "income security" costs currently are 310 billion dollars.

There is a community that argues against the relationship between HIV and AIDs. It is not insignificant. One, the magazine "Continuum," run by HIV-positive dissidents, shut down when its editors all died of AIDS-related causes. 

An observation by Robert Bork: "When an ideology is institutionalized it becomes, paradoxically, less visible – even to those who implement it.  The basic ideas are no longer apprehended or controverted, and hence it becomes easier to move further along the lines implied by those ideas.  Particular developments in the movement may be disliked and resisted, but our capacity to resist effectively is diminished if we fail to recognize that the trouble lies at the source."

With job creation rising about 2% a year while the labor supply is rising only about 0.5%, the unemployment rate is set to continue falling by about 1.5% annually. 

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change, made clear what so many already know: The goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological ruin but to extinguish capitalism.
"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution," she said. Huh?

Mo'Nique claims she was only paid $50,000 for her Oscar-winning role in Precious.

Hadith: noun: plural hadith or hadiths. 1. a narrative record of the sayings or customs of Muhammad and his companions 2: the collective body of traditions relating to Muhammad and his companion. The intended meaning of hadith in religious tradition is that of something--action or opinion--attributed to Muhammad but that is not found in the Quran, akin to the Acts of the Apostles in timing but centering upon the Prophet specifically.

In 1929, Edwin Hubble came to the conclusion that “there must have been an instant in time when the entire Universe was contained in a single point in space. The Universe must have been born in this single violent event.” This is what became known the Big Bang theory. Now that everyone has come to grips with the Big Bang, some researchers say it may not have happened. “Our theory suggests that the age of the universe could be infinite,” study co-author Saurya Das, a theoretical physicist at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, told LiveScience.

Switzerland is experiencing deflation and yet has full employment, a balanced budget, and a positive trade balance. Switzerland runs a current account surplus, a balanced budget, and has suffered almost no unemployment, all despite the fact that nobody knows the name of a single Swiss politician or central banker. 

Chapman approached Lennon in front of The Dakota and asked him to autograph his album, "Double Fantasy." After shooting Lennon four times, Chapman sat down on the sidewalk to read the book he was carrying, Catcher in the Rye. The "Double Fantasy" album which Lennon autographed for Chapman sold for several million dollars. The Catcher in the Rye began to pop up as a metaphor for lunacy or mind control, most famously in "Conspiracy Theory" with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts.

Researchers in China have spotted a monstrous black hole that they say is 12 billion times the size of the Sun.

Russian Ex-President Mikhail Gorbachev on the murder of Nemtsov: "The assassination of Boris Nemtsov is an attempt to complicate the situation in the country, even to destabilize it by ratcheting up tensions between the government and the opposition,” Gorbachev said. “Just who did this is hard to say, let’s not jump to any conclusions right now and give the investigators time to sort this all out,” he added.
Gorbachev did not rule out that the high-profile murder could encourage some people to urge the authorities to introduce a state of emergency, which he said would only exacerbate what is already a difficult situation. (sputniknews)

AAAAAaaannnnddddd......a graph: