Thursday, April 30, 2015

Machiavelli as Sin-Eater

When the Egyptians were voting on a new government, The Wall Street Journal got international criticism for suggesting that Chile's President Pinochet had a valuable government model. "Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turned out to be in [Pinochet’s] mold,” read the WSJ article, published last Thursday. “He took power amid chaos but hired free-market reformers and midwifed a transition to democracy.”
This question of the source of government power is an old one. This very idea was the subject of Machiavelli's writing where he theorized that nations were better started by dictitorial power and better maintained by republics.
Morality might be dangerous to a society, many thought.
Petrarch thought the Christianization of Rome's leadership was the beginning of Rome's decline.  "..the name of Christ began to be celebrated in Rome and to be adored by the Roman emperors as the beginning of a`dark' age of decay and obscuration, and the preceding period . . . as an age of glory and light."
Sophists of the type of Thrasymachus and Callicles believed that morality was tantamount to the interests of the strong man who has the power to call that right which serves him and that wrong which pertains to weakness.
Unlike these men, Machiavelli did not pervert the accepted notions of right and wrong but simply taught that the prince, in order to secure political success, must commit wrongs which, even though Machiavelli deems them necessary in politics, still remain wrongs. What he taught was therefore not a novel concept of right and wrong but rather a novel duty which bids the prince to accept evil as his norm. To teach evil as a norm, however, does not come natural to man. 
Sort of like what we have without the philosophy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cab Thoughts 4/29/15

"The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition." --G K Chesterton

There were about 4.7 million Jews in Eastern Europe in 1939; now, according to Pew, there are 100,000. There were 3.9 million Jews in Russia in 1939; now there are about 300,000.
West of the Mississippi, over 50% of the land is Federally owned. 74 million acres, 24x the size of Pennsylvania.

In 1814, Napoleon's broken forces, destroyed after the failed invasion of Russia, gave up and Napoleon offered to step down in favor of his son. When this offer was rejected, he abdicated and was sent to Elba. In March 1815, he escaped his island exile and returned to Paris, where he regained supporters and reclaimed his emperor title, Napoleon I, in a period known as the Hundred Days. However, in June 1815, he was defeated at the bloody Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon's defeat ultimately signaled the end of France's domination of Europe. He abdicated for a second time and was exiled to the remote island of Saint Helena, in the southern Atlantic Ocean, where he lived out the rest of his days. He died at age 52 on May 5, 1821
Former Israeli Knesset member Yossi Sarid said, "We control U.S. politicians like marionettes."
The word "algebra" stems from the Arabic word "al-jabr", from the name of the treatise Book on Addition and Subtraction after the Method of the Indians written by the 9th-century Persian mathematician Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, who translated, formalized and commented on ancient Indian and Greek works. According to Wiki, he was a Zoroastrian. There is archaeological evidence that the roots of algebra date back to the ancient Babylonians, then developed in Egypt and Greece. The Chinese and even more the Indians also advanced algebra and wrote important works on the subject.

Litotes: n: A figure of speech in which understatement through stating the negative is used to emphasize the opposite. e.g. "He is not bad looking" meaning he is good looking or the famous Queen Victoria line "We are not amused" meaning "I am furious." The word is of Greek origin, meaning "the property of being light (as opposed to heavy)", and is derived from the word litos meaning "plain, small or meager." Its original meaning evolved to mean economical and pointed in content.

Historically 45% of municipal bonds have come to market with bond insurance, now it is 18%.
Before she was a novelist, Dorothy Parker  was drama critic for The New Yorker. She was a fierce reviewer. These are some famous lines: "if you don't knit, bring a book"; another got a review that did not include any names, because she was "not going to tell on them"; another did not get reviewed at all, Parker deciding instead to review the performance of the woman sitting next to her as she searched for her lost glove. "I went into the Plymouth Theater a comparatively young woman," she said of a production of Tolstoy's Redemption, "and I staggered out of it, three hours later, twenty years older. . . ."

Who is....Robert LeRoy Parker and Harry Longabaugh?
Last year more than 60% of all U.S. imports consisted of intermediate inputs-parts and subassemblies-not final goods sold to U.S. consumers. So imports were profound elements of our production and eventual exports.
Proposals for underwater boats date back to the late 1500s. The first submarine actually constructed was probably a vessel created and tested in the early seventeenth century by Dutch inventor Cornelis Drebbel. Over the next two centuries, various inventors continued to work out design problems.  A submersible craft, the Turtle was used briefly during the American Revolution. In the early years of the nineteenth century, U.S. inventor Robert Fulton also experimented with submarine designs. Submarines were used in the United States in both the War of 1812 and the Civil War, but it was not until World War I  that submarines became accepted military vessels.
Golden oldie:
David Brooks is a twice-weekly conservative opinion columnist for the New York Times, and a fixture on US television and radio. He is, in his own words, "paid to be a narcissistic blowhard, to volley my opinions, to appear more confident about them than I really am." Well, that's reassuring.
Born Robert LeRoy Parker, Butch Cassidy was a notorious outlaw who began robbing trains and cattle rustling in the mid-1880s. By 1900, he had partnered with Harry Longabaugh-the "Sundance Kid," whose nickname was derived from the name of a town where he had once been imprisoned. They became the foremost members of the Wild Bunch, a notorious group of bank and train robbers.
According to a 2009 Washington Times article, the Taliban buys children as young as seven years old to act as suicide bombers. The price for child suicide bombers is between $7,000-$14,000.
President Obama has had an international approach in meetings, statements and policy that is, at least, difficult to understand. Giuliani accused him of not liking the country much, a rather dangerous accusation of a U.S. President. But there is a definable problem here. We learned a lot about Romney in the last election; rumors about his high school behavior were openly discussed. Rumors. We are now being inundated with Scott Walker's college career. Bush's youth is known by all, even the highly publicized made-up parts. But little about Obama's background is ever discussed and that background is well documented. And it is top-heavy with radicalism, really ancient radicalism, like Frank Davis. Now Davis was a guy with a very rugged political philosophy; he was a card carrying communist when communism was fading as a reasonable political option. Davis was a profound influence on Obama, according to his auto biography. Now if Scott Walker had a close affiliation with someone like David Duke, we would be out of our collective minds. (There is a study on this by the admittedly conservative professor, Paul Kengor, who makes an interesting point in The American Thinker regarding Obama and Davis. Barack Obama expunged all 22 references to "Frank" in the audio version of Dreams from My Father that was released in 2005, as he prepared for a run for the presidency and no doubt feared being tied to closely to a man who joined the Communist Party under Stalin and had been so radical that the federal government placed him on the Security Index. By completely scrubbing all mentions of "Frank" from the audio version of Dreams, which Obama himself personally approved (as the jacket design says) and narrates in his own voice, Obama deliberately concealed Davis.) Oh, well.

Transgender people are four times more likely to be living in poverty and have an unemployment rate twice that of the general population, according to a 2011 survey. An actual study was done.

"I know it's so tempting to go ahead and make investments and it looks good for today," Stanley Druckenmter,the retired founder of Duquesne Capital Management said at a conference recently. "But when this thing ends, because we've had speculation, we've had money building up four to six years in terms of a risk pattern, I think it could end very badly."

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve has a reported 300 PhD economists in its headquarters staff alone. When you joined the Communist Party, you swore this loyalty oath to Stalin's Soviet Union: "I pledge myself to rally the masses to defend the Soviet Union, the land of victorious socialism. I pledge myself to remain at all times a vigilant and firm defender of the Leninist line of the Party, the only line that insures the triumph of Soviet Power in the United States."There is an interesting article that discusses Paul Krugman's influential book as a young man, Azimov's Foundation Trilogy. "My Book - the one that has stayed with me for four-and-a-half decades - is Azimov's Foundation Trilogy, written when Asimov was barely out of his teens himself. I didn't grow up wanting to be a square-jawed individualist or join a heroic quest; I grew up wanting to be Hari Seldon, using my understanding of the mathematics of human behaviour to save civilisation. .So how do the Foundation novels look to me now that I have, as my immigrant grandmother used to say, grown to mature adultery? Better than ever. The trilogy really is a unique masterpiece; there has never been anything quite like it....[T]he way Asimov's invented societies recapitulate historical models . goes right along with his underlying conceit: the possibility of a rigorous, mathematical social science that understands society, can predict how it changes, and can be used to shape those changes."
On so-called "Black Monday" in 1360, a hail storm killed an estimated 1,000 English soldiers in Chartres, France. Edward III thought this had a greater meaning and decided to pursue peace.
The publisher BioMed Central of the United Kingdom, responsible for 277 peer-reviewed journals, flagged the "fabricated" reviews, which predominately included those written by Chinese scholars. BioMed Central's senior editor for research integrity said an investigation revealed a concerted effort to deceive journal editors.
More disturbing is the statement from the Committee on Publication Ethics, which identified "systematic, inappropriate attempts to manipulate the peer review processes."
Science is unbiased and without motive, scientists are not.
Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is one of the more famous proponents of cocaine. After trying the drug for the first time in 1884, he recommended it as a useful treatment for depression, alcoholism, and morphine addiction.

NASA engineers are experimenting with a 3-D printer that would make bricks using the grit that blows across Mars's red surface. Other researchers are exploring different ways that the printers could be used in space.
AAAAaaaaannnnnnnndddddd............a graph:

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Company

William Dalrymple is a writer and historian. His books include From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East. He wrote an article for The Guardian which previews his new book. This is a collection from it.
On 24 September, 1599, 80 merchants and adventurers met at the Founders Hall in the City of London and agreed to petition Queen Elizabeth I to start up a company. A year later, the Governor and Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies, a group of 218 men, received a royal charter, giving them a monopoly for 15 years over “trade to the East”. The charter authorized the setting up of what was then a radical new type of business: not a family partnership – until then the norm over most of the globe – but a joint-stock company that could issue tradeable shares on the open market to any number of investors, a mechanism capable of realizing much larger amounts of capital. (The Virginia Company charted in 1606 to explore and create settlements in America was a joint-stock company.) The first chartered joint-stock company was the Muscovy Company, which received its charter in England in 1555. The East India Company was founded 44 years later. No mention was made in the charter of the EIC holding overseas territory, but it did give the company the right “to wage war” where necessary. That is right; The Company had an army.
Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador sent by James I to the Mughal court, appeared before the Emperor Jahangir in 1614 – at a time when the Mughal empire was still at its richest and most powerful. Jahangir inherited from his father Akbar one of the two wealthiest polities in the world, rivaled only by Ming China. His lands stretched through most of India, all of what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh, and most of Afghanistan. He ruled over five times the population commanded by the Ottomans – roughly 100 million people. His capitals were the megacities of their day.
As time went by, the East India Company executed a corporate coup unparalleled in history: the military conquest, subjugation and plunder of vast tracts of southern Asia. It almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history. For all the power wielded today by the world’s largest corporations – whether ExxonMobil, Walmart or Google – they are tame beasts compared with the ravaging territorial appetites of the militarized East India Company.
The Persians helped. As late as 1739  the Mughals still ruled a vast empire that stretched from Kabul to Madras. But in that year, the Persian adventurer Nadir Shah descended the Khyber Pass with 150,000 of his cavalry and defeated a Mughal army of 1.5 million men. Three months later, Nadir Shah returned to Persia carrying the pick of the treasures the Mughal empire had amassed in its 200 years of conquest: a caravan of riches that included Shah Jahan’s magnificent peacock throne, the Koh-i-Noor, the largest diamond in the world, as well as its “sister”, the Darya Nur, and “700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses carrying wagons all laden with gold, silver and precious stones”, worth an estimated £87.5m in the currency of the time. This haul was many times more valuable than that later extracted by The Company from the peripheral province of Bengal.
The destruction of Mughal power by Nadir Shah, and his removal of the funds that had financed it, quickly led to the disintegration of the empire. Much of the success of the Company was mediated by Robert Clive, an adventurer who started his career as a civil servant of the East India Company; he later transferred to the military service of the Company.
After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, a victory that owed more to treachery, forged contracts, bankers and bribes than military prowess, Clive transferred to the EIC treasury no less than £2.5m seized from the defeated rulers of Bengal – in today’s currency, around £23m for Robert Clive and £250m for the company.
August 1765, when the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi and defeated by East India Company troops, was forced into what we would now call an act of involuntary privatization. The scroll is an order to dismiss his own Mughal revenue officials in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and replace them with a set of English traders appointed by Robert Clive – the new governor of Bengal – and the directors of the EIC, who the document describes as “the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles, the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favors, the English Company”. The collecting of Mughal taxes was henceforth subcontracted to a powerful multinational corporation – whose revenue-collecting operations were protected by its own private army.
The document signed by Shah Alam – known as the Diwani – was the legal property of the company, not the Crown, even though the government had spent a massive sum on naval and military operations protecting the EIC’s Indian acquisitions. But the MPs who voted to uphold this legal distinction were not exactly neutral: nearly a quarter of them held company stock,

The company’s rule quickly turned into the straightforward pillage of Bengal, and the rapid transfer westwards of its wealth. Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal.
An international corporation was transforming itself into an aggressive colonial power.
Only seven years after the granting of the Diwani, when the company’s share price had doubled overnight after it acquired the wealth of the treasury of Bengal, the East India bubble burst after plunder and famine in Bengal led to massive shortfalls in expected land revenues. The EIC was left with debts of £1.5m and a bill of £1m unpaid tax owed to the Crown. When knowledge of this became public, 30 banks collapsed like dominoes across Europe, bringing trade to a standstill.
In a scene that seems horribly familiar to us today, this hyper-aggressive corporation had to come clean and ask for a massive government bailout.
But unlike Lehman Brothers, the East India Company really was too big to fail. So it was that in 1773, the world’s first aggressive multinational corporation was saved by history’s first mega-bailout – the first example of a nation state extracting, as its price for saving a failing corporation, the right to regulate and severely rein it in.

Historians propose many reasons for the success of the corporate invasion: the fracturing of Mughal India into tiny, competing states; the military edge that the industrial revolution had given the European powers. But perhaps most crucial was the support that the East India Company enjoyed from the British parliament. The relationship between them grew steadily more symbiotic throughout the 18th century. Returned nabobs like Clive used their wealth to buy both MPs and parliamentary seats – the famous Rotten Boroughs. In turn, parliament backed the company with state power: the ships and soldiers that were needed when the French and British East India Companies trained their guns on each other.
By 1803, when the EIC captured the Mughal capital of Delhi, it had trained up a private security force of around 260,000- twice the size of the British army – and marshaled more firepower than any nation state in Asia. It was “an empire within an empire”, as one of its directors admitted. 
Burke correctly identified what remains today one of the great anxieties of modern liberal democracies: the ability of a ruthless corporation corruptly to buy a legislature. And just as corporations now recruit retired politicians in order to exploit their establishment contacts and use their influence, so did the East India Company.

On 10 May 1857, the EIC’s own security forces rose up against their employer and on successfully crushing the insurgency, after nine uncertain months, the company distinguished itself for a final time by hanging and murdering tens of thousands of suspected rebels in the bazaar towns that lined the Ganges – probably the most bloody episode in the entire history of British colonialism.
Yet the idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India, and the one that has for better or worse changed South Asia as much any other European idea. Its influence certainly outweighs that of communism and Protestant Christianity, and possibly even that of democracy.
Companies and corporations now occupy the time and energy of more Indians than any institution other than the family.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Minimum Wage and Models

The argument that says that if raising the minimum wage by $3.00 is a good thing, it must be an even better thing to raise that wage by $30.00 or even $300 is an example of the expandio ad absurdum argument. It is, like satire, an exaggeration of reality. It assumes that one can extend the argument out as a straight line, that the model is "linear." But reality is often not "linear," which is to say "not simple." The problem with so many models is exactly that. In fact it is possible to construct a theoretical model in which a small increase in the minimum wage in fact helps many low-skilled workers without harming any, yet also in which a larger increase does indeed harm most, or even all, such workers.  So the expandio ad absurdum argument indeed is generally not a sound argument against most real-world proposals to raise the minimum wage.
But ours is not a thoughtful society and our grasp of science is tenuous. Models are difficult to build with accuracy, with all the components accounted for. Killing the cats during the plague, Bush' releasing everyone's democratic leanings with military power, the war on saturated fats--all these were results of a reasonable but flawed models.
Math, graphs and stats should be viewed as dangerous tools, like chainsaws, and kept out of the hands of children and people with graduate degrees in the humanities.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday 4/26/15

Today is the Good Shepherd gospel. "Good" comes from the Greek meaning "beautiful" and, of course with the Greek, "true."

In North America, herds and flocks are driven; hence the "drover." In the world of the Old Testament, flocks were led. This was true even in the 1930s when H. V. Morton wrote of Middle Eastern shepherd who led his sheep up and down the hills with a sort of sing-song talk, "an animal sound," the flock specifically responded to and recognized.  

This is the basis of Christ's shepherd imagery in the gospel today. It implies an internal recognition within man of Christ's voice, a Socratic-like innate knowledge of The Good. (New Testament towns held all sheep in a common pen at night and every morning each shepherd would come and call out his sheep. One wonders who the other shepherds--and their sheep--are.)

The great "Good Shepherd" imagery of the New Testament appears frequently in Christ's teaching, but in the Old Testament as well. There is a famous discussion in Isaiah in the Old Testament and an earlier, less famous but pointed and cautionary prophesy in Ezekiel, 34, that might serve as warning for all self-appointed leaders:
"The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
 “‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cab Thoughts 4/25/15

Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses.--Lionel Robbins

The Bruce Jenner interview was two hours, considerably longer than the State of the Union address.

The NYT webpage recently had two articles, “White House wants to explore how climate change makes you sick,” and another,  a report on the recent collapse of the long-standing consensus among experts that the typical American’s salt intake poses a threat to human health, “More scientists doubt salt is as bad for you as the government says.”
So, on one page, there are two articles, one trumpeting the consensus of global warming and illness and, another, warning us of the danger of accepting scientific consensus.
The Norwalk virus or Norovirus (the virus that causes the stomach flu, especially on cruises) can survive on an uncleaned carpet for a month or more.

"You can’t vote yourself rich. It’s an idiotic idea." "Koreans came up from nothing in the auto business. They worked 84 hours a week with no overtime for more than a decade. At the same time every little Korean came home from grade school, and worked with a tutor for four full hours in the afternoon and the evening, driven by these Tiger Moms. Are you surprised when you lose to people like that? Only if you’re a total idiot." " I will say this: I know no wise person who doesn’t read a lot" These are quotes from Charlie Munger in his recent interview.

When people talk shrilly about Class 2b carcinogens, "Class 2b" means that all possible carcinogenic effects haven't been ruled out but that it hasn't been shown to cause a single case of cancer. So it is a carcinogen that has not been shown to be one.

On average, Dutch women stand almost 5.6 feet tall, and its men 6 feet. But how the Dutch became the world's tallest people has been somewhat of a mystery. After all they have not always been so Viking-like, two centuries ago they were renowned for being among the shortest. What happened since then?
Golden oldie:
In a study from the University of Texas, three groups of people were given clerical tasks to complete in three different rooms, each painted a different color: red, white, and aqua. All groups made more errors when they worked in the white room.
Bill Clinton was paid more than $100 million for speeches between 2001 and 2013, according to federal financial disclosure forms filed by Hillary Clinton during her years as a senator and as secretary of state. Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank and Citigroup - collectively have given between $2.75 million and $11.5 million to the charity, which is now called the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. One example of this behavior is the $610 million sale of 51% of Uranium One to a unit of Rosatom, Russia's state nuclear agency, was approved in 2010 by a U.S. federal committee that assesses the security implications of foreign investments. The State Department, which Mrs. Clinton then ran, is one of its members.
Between 2008 and 2012, the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, a project of the Clinton Foundation, received $2.35 million from the Fernwood Foundation, a family charity run by Ian Telfer, chairman of Uranium One before its sale, according to Canada Revenue Agency records.
Every once in a while the tragic and comedic merge.  The term tragicomedy first appeared around the 3rd century B.C. when the Roman comedian Plautus used the Latin tragicomoedia to refer to his play Amphitruo. After this horrible shooting in South Carolina, someone made a sign that read: "This is what democracy looks like."
In 1963, the USS Thresher, an atomic submarine, sunk in the Atlantic Ocean, killing the entire crew. One hundred and twenty-nine sailors and civilians were lost 300 miles off the coast of New England. It was the first of its kind, a new class. A subsequent investigation revealed that a leak in a silver-brazed joint in the engine room had caused a short circuit in critical electrical systems. The problems quickly spread, making the equipment needed to bring the Thresher to the surface inoperable.The disaster forced improvements in the design and quality control of submarines.

The U.S. Secret Service has put a senior supervisor on leave and suspended his security clearance after a female employee accused him of assaulting her after work at the agency's headquarters last week, the Washington Post said.
Jamie Dimon on monetary crisis:
  • First, they sell the assets they believe are at the root of the problem.
  • Second, they generally look to put more of their money in havens, commonly selling riskier assets like credit and equities and buying safer assets by putting deposits in strong banks, buying Treasuries, or purchasing very safe money market funds.
  • Often at one point in a crisis, investors can sell only less risky assets if they need to raise cash because, virtually, there may be no market for the riskier ones.
And what's more, no investor is truly safe in a crisis.
Dimon: "These investors include individuals, corporations, mutual funds, pension plans, hedge funds — pretty much everyone — each individually doing the right thing for themselves but, collectively, creating the market disruption that we've witnessed before. This is the "run-on-the-market" phenomenon that you saw in the last crisis."
What is interesting is that, at some point, no one will accept risky assets so people start selling their best assets. During the 2008 crisis, a group was crowing they bought U.S. Treasuries at 78% of value; the next week they had declined 10%.
Proof that there is no national mens' support group: A report from the Raymond James financial services firm concerning trends in the housing market explains: Increasing numbers of women “are adopting dogs for security and/or companionship,” partly because of “the great education divide.” Really? Dogs substitute for less educated guys?
Obviously some people are born with, and into, advantages, congenital and social. What is dubious is the conclusion that government has the capacity and duty to calibrate, redistribute and equalize advantages. Joy Pullmann, writing at the Federalist,  notes: This agenda is incompatible with freedom. Furthermore, although some individuals have advantages they did not earn, “very often someone else did earn them” — by, for example, nurturing children in a stable family. It is hardly an injustice — an invidious privilege — for nurturing parents to be able to confer on their children the advantages of conscientiousness. The ability to do so, says Pullmann, is a powerful motivation for noble behavior that, by enlarging society’s stock of parental “hard work, self-control and sacrifice,” produces “positive spillover effects for everyone else.” (Will)
From the "Just say 'No'" department: According to Billboard, Selena Quintanilla’s family is working with Acrovirt LLC on a hologram of the late singer that would perform with contemporary acts. Billboard reports:Named “Selena The One,” it is being referred to as a “walking, talking, singing, and dancing, digital embodiment” of the Mexican American icon. According to the statement, this hologram of sorts “will release new songs and videos, will collaborate with current hit artists, and aims to go on tour in 2018.”
White House officials announced that President Obama will call for an end to conversion or reparative therapies designed to “fix” LGTBQ youth. Though conversion therapy is supported by some religious organizations, the practice has long been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association. It is thrilling when science has a consensus and things come together.
People as the vehicle: According to website Know Your Meme, which documents viral Internet phenomena, a meme is “a piece of content or an idea that’s passed from person to person, changing and evolving along the way.” Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist coined the word “meme” in his classic 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins claimed that humans are “survival machines” for our genes, beings that were more effective as carriers and propagators of genes. So the organism is the carrier of the gene, a sort of chicken-egg thing. Yet, Dawkins explained, genes could not account for all of human behavior, particularly the evolution of cultures. So he identified a second replicator, a “unit of cultural transmission” that he believed was “leaping from brain to brain” through imitation. He named these units “memes,” an adaption of the Greek word mimene, “to imitate.” Dawkins’ memes include everything from ideas, songs, and religious ideals to pottery fads. Like genes, memes mutate and evolve, competing for a limited resource—namely, our attention. Memes are, in Dawkins’ view, viruses of the mind—infectious. The peer-reviewed Journal of Memetics folded in 2005; is anyone surprised?

Moon: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the entity tasked with naming every celestial body in the night sky. The naming of the Moon was one of the first things the IAU did when it was formed in 1919, because to quote them, they wanted: “to standardize the multiple, confusing systems of nomenclature for the Moon that were then in use.”  The word “Luna” is still very much associated with the Moon (as is “Selene”, to a lesser extent, the Greek Moon goddess). For instance, “Luna” is noted as being the root of words like “lunar” and "lunatic." However, “Luna” as a name for the Moon is still pre-dated by early derivatives of the word moon. The word “moon” can be traced back to Old English, where it is said to have derived from the Proto-Germanic word “menon”, which in turn derived from the Proto-Indo-European “*menses”, meaning “month, moon”. 
There is a funny e-mail making the rounds comparing the recent suicidal co-pilot crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 to the Obama administration. The notion is that, like the crash scenario, the American public is locked out of the governing cockpit as Obama, the pilot, does his evil work. Vaguely the idea is that through executive action and treaty negotiations Obama has hijacked the political system. A close examination, of course, shows the analogy--as so many analogies--is a bit of a reach. The pilot is hired, Obama is elected; the co-pilot is nuts, Obama is not; the locked out pilot is in no way like the American electorate in an indirect republic nor is the passive passenger. Nonetheless the notion is a funny one and hangs together enough to be coherent and amusing. But, of course, vituperative debate over the specifics has emerged proving once again the unwritten constitutional requirement that every single wacko notion be taken deadly seriously.
AAAAAAAaaaaaannnnnddddddd.......a graph:
Chart of the Day

Friday, April 24, 2015

Spectator Risk

A woman was struck in the head by a foul ball at a Pirate baseball game recently. The ball was stopped by a screen but pushed the screen enough to hit her and knock her unconscious.
Spectator injuries are a specialized risk, usually in games with projectiles or cars.
In 2002, 13-year-old Brittanie Cecil died two days after being struck in the head by a puck at a Columbus Blue Jackets ice hockey game. She was struck by a puck that had ricocheted into the stands off the stick of a defenseman and then off of another spectator. Her death was the result of a damaged artery she suffered when her head was hit and snapped backward. 
Three other spectator deaths have been reported in hockey games due to injuries sustained from a puck during a game. All three occurred at minor league games where the vertical barrier between fans and the ice is shorter than at NHL arenas.
After Cecil’s death, the NHL forced all teams to install behind the goals 18-foot mesh nets, designed to catch pucks that fly above the standard eight-foot glass barrier, beginning with the 2002-03 season. Brittanie Cecil’s parents received a $1.2 million settlement from the NHL after the incident, as if that would be meaningful.
Baseballs batted into the stand are known to have caused injuries, though never death. Auto racing has seen a number of spectator deaths from cars and car parts crashing into the stands. In 1998, three spectators were killed at Michigan International Speedway when a tire from Adrian Fernandez’s race car flew into the stands. A fan was killed in a similar incident at the Indianapolis 500 in 1987.
In Europe deaths occur at soccer matches from the European tradition of homicidal rioting.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"One of Us"

In "One of Us," Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad chronicles the horrifying murders perpetrated by Anders Breivik  who in April, 2011, killed, randomly, 77 people, many of them children, in cold blood on the small Norwegian island of Utøya. He was said to be influenced by right-wing, anti-Islamic writings--as if that makes more sense of the insane acts. (He was also a great graffiti proponent. He also locked himself in his room for years playing World of Warcraft. Are those characteristics some clarifying help?) What is clarifying is his childhood: He showed early signs of psychopathy, including cruelty to animals; his neighbors forbade their children from associating with him, especially when pets were involved.
This has received glowing reviews and seems to rise above the expected foolish political generalizations. This from a review by Michael Schaub: "In the end, it's the victims and their families that Seierstad cares about; they're the ones we'll remember, whom we'll keep with us. Breivik, who wanted nothing more than for the world to know his name, becomes a footnote in his own story, a sad man who wanted to change the world, but instead strengthened the resolve of the people he terrorized — the least memorable character in this chapter of history, and in this brilliant, unforgettable book."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cab Thoughts 4/22/15

"Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts."--Stephen Jay Gould

At about 5 a.m. April 19, 1775, 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, march into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun. The British moved to Concord and found more resistance so they withdrew. They were attacked on their withdrawal through Lexington and were harassed all the way to Boston. There was not a single note about this anniversary in the news.

The Carolingian king of the Franks from 768 until his death in 814, Charlemagne, united most of Western Europe under a single empire for the first time since the Romans, becoming, in 800, the first Holy Roman Emperor. Charles the Great, as he is also known, instituted many judicial and ecclesiastical reforms, promoted commerce and agriculture throughout his empire, made his court a center of learning, and inspired the Carolingian Renaissance. His kingdom was destroyed by familial infighting initiated by Pippin, his son, and--for you GoT fans-- a hunchback. (The Carolingian dynasty was a family of Frankish aristocrats from 750-887 established to rule western Europe. The name derives from the large number of family members who bore the name Charles, most notably Charlemagne. They evolved from local clans)

The Anglo-Zanzibar War was fought between the United Kingdom and the Zanzibar Sultanate on August 27, 1896. The conflict lasted around 38 minutes, making it the shortest war in history. The "Anglo-Zanzibar War" started at 9:02 in the morning EAT (East African Time) and the fire ceased at 9:40 a.m. EAT.

The golden ratio, also known as "Phi" in Greek, is a mathematical constant. It can be expressed by the equation a/b=a+b/a=1.618033987, where a is larger than b. This can also be explained through the Fibonacci sequence, another divine sequence. The Fibonacci sequence begins with 1 (some say 0) and adds up previous number to give the next (i.e.1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21.) If you try to find the quotient of two subsequent Fibonacci numbers (i.e.8/5 or 5/3), the result is very close to the golden ratio 1.6, or φ(Phi).
Who is...Shannon Eastin?
The McKinsey Global Institute has issued a report titled Debt and (Not Much Deleveraging) saying that since 2007, global debt has grown by $57 trillion, raising the ratio of global debt-to-GDP by 17 percentage points. Developing countries have accounted for half of this growth; government debt has soared (by $25 trillion) and private sector deleveraging has been limited. Households in the U.S., UK, Spain and Ireland have deleveraged somewhat, but elsewhere they have not. In particular, China's total debt has quadrupled from $7 trillion in 2007 to $28 trillion by mid-2014, fueled by real estate and shadow banking but the China economy is still obscure.
Hideous:  adj. 1. Repulsive, especially to the sight; revolting. 2. Morally offensive; detestable: hideous acts of torture. 3. Causing great harm or fear; terrible: a hideous disease. Ety: probably from old German "to fear."
Golden oldie:

In March the number of people who dropped out of the labor force rose by another 277K, up 2.1 million in the past year, and has reached a record 93.175 million. Indicatively, this means that the labor force participation rate dropped once more, from 62.8% to 62.7%, a level seen back in February 1978, even as the BLS reported that the entire labor force actually declined for the second consecutive month, down almost 100K in March. Those 55 and older saw a 329,000 increase in jobs in the past month. Every other age group saw job losses.

Should either Hillary or Jeb Bush win in 2016, then by the time he or she completed their second term, the US would have had a Bush or a Clinton in the White House for 36 of the previous 44 years. We should start checking for hemophilia.

"Free sneakers, shoes and boots today," Bernard Rorie shouted, standing outside a soup kitchen in East New York, Brooklyn, where he was being recorded by investigators. Mr. Rorie was recruiting homeless people, prosecutors said, and whoever had a valid Medicaid card would be packed into a van and sent to medical clinics around New York City. There, after hours of unnecessary tests and fake diagnoses, the homeless people would be sent off with sneakers - selected from stacks of shoeboxes in the clinics' basements. The doctors, staff members and billing specialists, meanwhile, would rack up hundreds or thousands of dollars per recruit in false Medicaid claims, prosecutors said. On Tuesday, nine New York doctors were among 23 people indicted in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn in connection with the sneaker scheme, which the Brooklyn district attorney's office said made almost $7 million and took advantage of thousands of homeless people. (NYT)
Iran is larger than Japan was when it attacked Pearl Harbor, and Iran has a larger population.

There is an element in current thinking on the history and present of the West: Western civilization is not improvable and can only be resisted. There is no alternative idea or notion. Our society's inherent vileness merits only self-loathing and despair. It is reminiscent of Abbey's position that the culture is terribly flawed but we are dependent upon that very thing that is wrong in it. While one might think the soul is the likely crux here, it usually is substituted for by technology.


Billie Holiday's autobiography, Lady Sings the Blues,opens with the line: "Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married; he was 18, she was 16 and I was three." Holiday's given name was Eleanora Fagan, but when she started to perform she chose the stage name Billie after Billie Dove, a star in silent, and later sound, movies.

Paul Krugman is upset. The British Conservative coalition did badly with the economy early but recently things have improved. "Voters have fairly short memories, and they judge economic policy not by long-term results but by recent growth. Over five years, the coalition's record looks terrible. But over the past couple of quarters it looks pretty good, and that's what matters politically," he writes. So which is it? A bad philosophy with some recent outliers? A good philosophy with a long runway for takeoff and success?
Everybody's forest is someone's trees. And this is still an imprecise economics masquerading as a science.
A fact is a scientific explanation that has been tested and confirmed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing it; a theory is a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence generating testable and falsifiable predictions.In science, something can be both theory and fact. We know the existence of pathogens is a fact; germ theory provides testable explanations concerning the nature of disease. As the late Stephen Jay Gould said: "Evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts."

Celebrity dermatologist Fredric Brandt was found dead in his Miami home, a suicide. Miami Herald journalist Lesley Abravanel reported Brandt was "devastated" by comparisons to the Martin Short character on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tina Fey's new Netflix series. "The show definitely deeply hurt him, he was being made fun of because of the way he looks," Brandt's publicist Jacquie Trachtenberg confirmed to the NY Post. "It is mean, and it was bullying. But the show was not the reason for his depression, and it was not the reason he would take his own life," said Trachtenberg. These entertainers have created a problem with their pointed, widely circulated mimicry. Fey did incredible damage to Sarah Palin and was never discouraged from behavior that anywhere else would have been considered serious bullying. Something evil develops when such cruelty becomes pleasurable.
The Virgo Cluster of Galaxies is the closest cluster of galaxies to our Milky Way Galaxy, so close that it spans more than 5 degrees on the sky - about 10 times the angle made by a full Moon. With its heart lying about 70 million light years distant, the Virgo Cluster contains over 2,000 galaxies.
No one blames the thermometer for low temperatures or seriously proposes to warm up the house on a cold day by holding a candle under the furnace thermostat.  That's because they have a more-or-less correct understanding of how those things work. People do, however, often blame high prices for the scarcity of certain goods and act as if scarcity can be eliminated by enforcing price controls.--The Economic Way of Thinking.

The North Yungas Road (aka The Road of Death) runs for less than 44 miles from Bolivia's foremost city, La Paz, to Coroico in the Yungas. (The Yungas is a stretch of forest along the eastern slope of the Andes Mountains from Peru, Bolivia, and northern Argentina.) The road is legendary for its extreme danger and it's called 'world's most dangerous road.' One estimate states that 200 to 300 travellers are killed yearly along the road. 
AAAAAaaaaannnnndddddddd.........a picture of The North Yungas Road:
Image result for yungas road
Image result for yungas roadImage result for yungas road facts

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Science has always walked the edge of mysticism. The original great Greek thinkers were as abstract as you could get with demiurges and the like. Newton had some astonishing beliefs well away from mass and acceleration. Science and its very unscientific stepbrothers  has been a provocative topic and creeps into a lot of publications and articles from The DaVinci Code to a recent article by Benjamin Breen.

Thelema was one of the New Age foundational notions. The law of Thelema is "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will." The law of Thelema was developed in the early 1900s by Aleister Crowley, an English writer and ceremonial magician. He believed himself to be the prophet of a new age, the Æon of Horus, based upon a spiritual experience that he and his wife, Rose Edith, had in Egypt in 1904. By his account, a possibly non-corporeal or "praeterhuman" being that called itself Aiwass contacted him and dictated a text known as The Book of the Law or Liber AL vel Legis, which outlined the principles of Thelema. (These things happen in the Middle East. And New York.) An adherent of Thelema is a Thelemite. (Wiki)

Jack Parsons was one of the principal founders of both the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Aerojet Engineering Corporation. He invented the first castable, composite solid rocket propellant and pioneered the advancement of both liquid and solid-fuel rockets, important contributions to eventual rocket flight.
For a while Parsons was a Marxist. Then he became a Thelemite. Yes, he did.

Before Parsons accidentally blew himself up in his home lab in 1952, he had welcomed into his Pasadena home a Second World War veteran who’d been expelled from the Navy for psychological instability: L Ron Hubbard. The two men shared a love for science fiction and black magic. But in 1946 Hubbard ran off with Parsons’ mistress Sara – and his yacht. Parsons invoked a Babylonian god and (he believed) stirred up the typhoon that caused their boat to capsize, but Hubbard and Sara survived.
The next year, Hubbard would begin writing Dianetics, which mingled occultism with Atomic Age scientific jargon. By this time, Hubbard was claiming to be a nuclear physicist. Scientology would emerge a few years later. 

Sara Northrop

Monday, April 20, 2015

Barach and Frank

President Obama has had an international approach in meetings, statements and policy that is, at least, difficult to understand. Giuliani accused him of not liking the country much, a rather dangerous accusation of a U.S. President. But there is a definable problem here. We learned a lot about Romney in the last election; rumors about his high school behavior were openly discussed. Rumors. We are now being inundated with Scott Walker's college career. Bush's youth is known by all, even the highly publicized made-up parts. But little about Obama's background is ever discussed and that background is well documented. And it is top-heavy with radicalism, really ancient radicalism, like Frank Davis. Davis was a guy with a very rugged political philosophy; he was a card carrying communist when communism was fading as a reasonable political option. Davis was a profound influence on Obama, according to his auto biography. Now if Scott Walker had a close affiliation with someone like David Duke, we would be out of our collective minds.
There is a study on this by the admittedly conservative professor, Paul Kengor, who makes an interesting point in The American Thinker regarding Obama and Davis. Barack Obama expunged all 22 references to “Frank” in the audio version of Dreams from My Father that was released in 2005, as he prepared for a run for the presidency and no doubt feared being tied to closely to a man who joined the Communist Party under Stalin and had been so radical that the federal government placed him on the Security Index. By completely scrubbing all mentions of “Frank” from the audio version of Dreams, which Obama himself personally approved (as the jacket design says) and narrates in his own voice, Obama deliberately concealed Davis.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday 4/19/15

Today's is the gospel of the account of Christ's appearance to the disciples after the brilliant gospel of the journey on the road to Emmaus. Christ appears in the famous "Upper Room." (Apparently the building was well known and the area preserved after the fall of Jerusalem with buildings, then churches.) Christ reaffirms His existence, interestingly with touch but, more importantly, with sharing food. This idea of social and communal eating is found throughout the gospels and is telling. He also reaffirms the importance of the prophesies of the Old Testament.
His greeting is a variation of the same theme: He again used: "Peace be to you" (--reminiscent of the famous "Peace be to this house.")  St. Francis thought the recurring greeting so important that he made it mandatory among his followers, much to their distaste because it was so pointedly unusual. The modern church "sign of peace" is an effort to recapture this feeling but it has been a hard sell; even Annie Dillard, trying her best, says it "can be tricky." If such a greeting can be so hard to establish, one can only imagine the difficulty it will be to achieve.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Cab Thoughts 4/18/15

“I’ve become much less goal oriented as I’ve grown older. I spent twelve years dreaming about climbing Mt. Everest. It was all I thought about. During my years of training, I focused all my thoughts on getting to the summit. My self worth, and the meaning of those years, all depended on that one moment of getting to the top. It’s not healthy to be that goal oriented. And Everest is a perfect example why. The weather can change at any moment, and even though you did everything right, and trained the correct amount, you can still fall short. And if you’re thinking of nothing but the final goal—all those years, all that effort, and all the personal growth that you achieved, becomes worthless if you don’t reach the top.” ---A quote from the interesting web site, Humans of New York 
The Owl Nebula is a planetary nebula, the glowing gaseous envelope shed by a dying sun-like star as it runs out of nuclear fuel. In fact, the Owl Nebula offers an example of the fate of our Sun as it runs out of fuel in another 5 billion years. As we see it, the nebula spans over 2 light-years.
Our Lady of Fátima is a title for the Virgin Mary due to her reputed apparitions to three shepherd children at Fátima, Portugal on the thirteenth day of six consecutive months in 1917. Three secrets were said to be given to the children, a vision of Hell, a plan for redemption including the conversion of Russia and the third, more mysterious, concerning deaths of religious figures. Pope Benedict XVI explained in a rare conversation with reporters that the interpretation of the third secret did not stop with the interpretation of a prediction of the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in Saint Peter's Square in 1981. The Third Secret of Fátima, said Benedict XVI, "has a permanent and ongoing significance" and that "its significance could even be extended to include the suffering the Church is going through today as a result of the recent reports of sexual abuse involving the clergy".
Lucia Santos and her two cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto:
The Pao case raises a difficult scenario: Would an organization hire and develop a talent only to thwart it? Ideally, the market should the best antidote to discrimination. It should reward talent and penalizes prejudice. Competitors should prey upon the prejudice of their opponents. That said, black athletes took a long time to be accepted in areas they now dominate.
Romance fiction accounts for half of the mass-market paperbacks sold in America.
When the Eurozone decided to bail out Greece they were bailing out their own banks. The IMF minutes  admit that the bailout was about saving the banks and the rest of Europe, not about Greece. Cyprus was cut loose when it would have been a rounding error for the EU to save it  because there were no European banks involved.
Who was...Mehmet Ali Agca?
The Trans-Alaska Pipeline was completed in 1977, stretches 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay in northern Alaska to the Port of Valdez in southern Alaska, and has the capacity to transport over 2 million barrels of oil a day. America consumes almost 19 million barrels of oil a day, so the Trans-Alaska Pipeline has the capacity to deliver a not-insignificant 11% of our country’s oil needs. But Prudho Bay, the source of much of the oil is shrinking as a quality field.  Volume of oil that flows through the pipeline has slowed to 500,000 barrels a day. If flows fall below 300,000 barrels a day, the pipeline simply can’t operate because the cold will interfere with the slow flow. They are looking for other sources.
In late January, Obama announced that he will use his executive authority to designate 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) as “wilderness,” i.e. no drilling. ANWR is the land east of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline; but Obama has already cut off the area west of the pipeline for drilling. In 2010, the Interior Department closed roughly half of the 23.5-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA); the area west of the pipeline.

Northern Alaska is rich with oil. The Arctic Outer Continental Shelf is estimated at 27 billion barrels, ANWR is thought to have at least 28 billion more, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (designated in 1976 as a strategic petroleum stockpile) has 896 million barrels of oil. Yet not a drop of oil is flowing from these areas. 
By congressional law, the Trans-Alaska Pipeline must be dismantled if it ceases to operate.
Copa Holdings is an airline specializing in Central and South America. It has 325 daily flights.

Piketty’s empirical work suffers from several highly problematic characteristics. Empirical demonstrations of the century-long distributional U-shape for three different countries — his main piece of evidence for his inequality thesis — are rendered unreliable by issues including

  1. suspect and biased adjustment techniques,
  2. selective cherry-picking to create trends from ambiguous data sets, and
  3. grossly insufficient annotation to cross-check and replicate his results where they diverge from their claimed sources.
Taken together, these issues reflect a severe confirmation bias at play throughout Piketty’s analysis.
Put another way, he seems to construct most of his data presentations around a specific historical narrative that he has already embraced as correct. This is an inversion of scientific inquiry, placing the cart of an ideological conclusion before the data horse and — in some cases — selectively ignoring or omitting data points that diverge from that conclusion.
In short, Piketty’s empirical demonstrations of his U-shaped historical pattern suffer from distortions, biases, methodological inconsistencies, and other questionable data decisions that render them unsuitable for drawing interpretive conclusions about his theory or making prescriptive policy recommendations. (Philip Magness)

Lincoln is the only president to have a patent. He created a hydraulic system that raised ships over shoals.
Pope John Paul II was shot in St. Peter s Square by a Turkish political extremist, Mehmet Ali Agca. After his release from the hospital, the pope famously visited his would-be assassin in prison, where he had begun serving a life sentence, and personally forgave him for his actions. The next year, another unsuccessful attempt was made on the pope s life, this time by a fanatical priest who opposed the reforms of Vatican II.
There are 1,233 active rigs in North America—a three-year low.
Ad hominem:  adj. 1. appealing to one's prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one's intellect or reason.
2. attacking an opponent's character rather than answering his argument. Ad hominem translates literally from Latin as "to the man." It entered English in the late 1500s.
Between 1914 and 1945 roughly 100 million Europeans died from political causes: war, genocide, purges, planned starvation, and all the rest. That would be an extraordinary number of deaths anywhere and any time. It was particularly striking in Europe, which had, over the course of the previous four hundred years, collectively conquered most of the world and reshaped the way humanity thought of itself. The conquest of the world was accompanied by the transformation of everyday life. Music was once something that you could hear only if you were there in person. Literacy was useless for most of human history as books were rare and distant. The darkness was now subject to human will. Men lived twice as long as they had previously and women no longer died in childbirth as a matter of course. It is difficult to comprehend the degree to which, by 1914, Europe had transformed the very fabric of life, not only in Europe but in the rest of the world.--George Friedman, Stratfor
Kris Bryant, rising star of the Cubs' organization at third base, was sent to the minors and the baseball union went nuts. Why? In spring training he had more than 40 AB, hit .425 with 9 HR. The Cubs are loaded.
In 1957 Samuel Beckett's Endgame was first performed in London, in French. Waiting for Godot had premiered in 1953 and become an international sensation, but Beckett could find no one in France willing to risk their theater on a new play which featured one character who could not stand, one who could not sit, and two others unable to come out of their garbage cans.
Golden oldie:
Regarding political and economic "diversity" on campus, John Stuart Mill pointed out, back in the 19th century, students must hear opposing views from people who actually believe them, not as presented by people who oppose them. In the 18th century, Edmund Burke warned against those who "teach the humours of the professor, rather than the principles of the science."
A 10th-century "eyesalve" remedy was discovered at the British Library in a leather-bound volume of Bald's Leechbook, widely considered to be one of the earliest known medical textbooks. "Leechbook"  and "leechdom" comes from Old English laecedom (medicine, healing), from laece (physician). The word for the bloodsucking beast has a different origin. Earliest documented use: 900. 
A doctor from India has built a very modern hospital in The Cayman Islands that is doing open-heart surgery for a flat $22,000 per surgery (25% of US costs), including any complications . That is a total price. Their hospital infection rate, a big problem in the US, is a small fraction of the US number. They do dozens more surgeries per week than similar groups of US doctors do. And they are doing this across multiple disciplines, like orthopedic surgery, cancer treatment, etc.
The Heroes of Beslan struck again, this time a little older group of unarmed children but children none the less. The Islamist militant group al Shabaab stormed a Kenyan university campus on Thursday, killing and wounding dozens of students and staff.
The "Lavon Affair"-- documented in the diaries of the Israeli Prime Minister of the time Moshe Sharett--was a false flag plan to discredit Egypt's government, then headed by Gamal Abdel Nasser, in which Israeli agents bombed theaters, post offices and U.S. and British institutions, to make it seem as though Egypt was behind the bombings. The thinking in Israel at the time was that if the British were to give up control of the Suez Canal, it would be left in Egypt's hands, thereby putting Cairo in a better position to exert pressure on Israel. So Israelis attacked American and British--for a "greater good." The agents were told "to undermine the West's trust in the [Egyptian] government by causing public insecurity" while concealing Israel's role in the sabotage.

According to investor Jared Dillian, if you go back and read Jack Schwager Market Wizards books, and read about all the stud traders, you won’t find one of them who would be buying triple-leveraged oil ETFs for a 10% bounce in oil. No. Those guys would have had the dominant trend right. They don’t care about the countertrend, because that’s not where the money is. Trading with the trend is the only way to make meaningful amounts of money. Or, when investing, do not try to be too smart.

A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles alleges three independent laboratories found 83 types of wine from 28 wineries with levels of arsenic three to five times higher than the federal standards set for drinking water. The mostly lower-priced wines ranging from about $6 a bottle to the $15 range include popular brands such as Sutter Home, Menage A Trois, Beringer and Almaden.

Pennsylvania LCB spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said the board is “monitoring the situation,” but has not seen reason for concern.
A consensus of experts: At the annual convention of the American Institute of Architects, which will take place on May 14-16 in Atlanta, Georgia, (an important, Establisment meeting, whose keynote speaker is former president Bill Clinton), there will be a debate and a vote on a resolution supporting an investigation into the destruction of World Trade Center Building 7 on Sept. 11, 2001. The resolution is the work of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, a professional body of over 2,200 architects and engineers who dispute the results of official investigations into the September 11 attacks, including the 9/11 Commission Report. The organisation's members think instead that the World Trade Center was destroyed by controlled demolition using explosives.

AAAAaaaaannnnnddddd......the Owl Nebula:
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hillary and Her Grandparents

Clinton is on the road, symbolically campaigning. She recently discussed her grandparents and their trials as new immigrants in America. Her grandparents were not immigrants--Clinton's paternal grandmother Hanna Jones Rodham was born in Pennsylvania and Clinton's two maternal grandparents - Della Howell and Edwin Howell - were born in Illinois--and the story was easily proven to be false. There has been some laughing about her mendacity. This behavior is not new.
Here is a section from Bordeaux's recent essay on Hillary:

"Hillary Clinton is much-criticized for many things – pretty much all properly so.  I’m a bit surprised, though, by the relative rarity these days of critical mentions of her false claim, in 2008, that in 1996 on a trip as First Lady to Bosnia she had to dodge gunfire.  When her lie was exposed, she excused herself by having her 2008 campaign folk explain that she “misspoke.”

So here’s a simple mental experiment.  Suppose you’re on the board of a successful corporation and the President & CEO of that corporation is about to retire.  You, as a board member, must help select the outgoing president’s replacement.  A seemingly sane candidate comes in one day for an interview and he announces that he was once in the midst of sniper fire.  That candidate then explains the hectic efforts that he and his companions took to avoid being mowed down, giving you the impression that his life was then in serious jeopardy before his fortunate escape from the attack.  You’re impressed by the man’s adventure!  You soon learn, however, that the candidate’s tale is a lie.  There’s not a shred of relevant truth to it.  You call the candidate and inform him that you have it on solid authority that no gunfire incident ever happened to him.  There’s a short pause.  He then replies, confidently, “Oh, yeah.  I misspoke.  Sorry about that!”
Do you need any further information about this candidate to immediately and unconditionally strike him off of the list of possible successors to the outgoing president?  Can this candidate possibly have any superior qualities that offset your certain knowledge that he is either a bald-faced liar or bat-poop nuts?  Surely not.
Let’s face it: no sane person misremembers being in the line of sniper fire when, in fact, that person never was in such a predicament.  That’s not the sort of non-event that a sane person comes to believe he or she actually endured.  How many of you, Cafe patrons, have ever recalled being in the line of sniper fire only to remember later that such a recollection is completely mistaken?
Now suppose that some of your colleagues on the board aren’t fazed by the discovery of this candidate’s phoniness or insanity.  Indeed, a couple of your board colleagues say “Sure, that little tale is unfortunate, but we must overlook it because his genitalia make him ideal for the job!”  Do you reassess your opinion of the candidate, or do you conclude that your colleagues either are up to something no good in their support of this candidate or are themselves also bat-poop bananas?  Surely the latter.

If you don’t like this just-concluded mental experiment, try this one: your 25-year-old daughter brings home her new fiancé.  The fiancé tells you that he was once in the midst of sniper fire and had to scurry to escape.  You then discover that it’s a lie.  How do you feel about your daughter’s future happiness?

Why is Hillary Clinton taken seriously by any serious person?"

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Mandatory Voting

The WashPo reported recently that President Obama endorsed the idea of mandatory voting, that is, fining people who do not vote. He gave Australia as an example. The Americans have about 60% turnout at elections. Before Australia adopted compulsory voting in 1924 it had turnout rates similar to those of the U.S. After voting became mandatory, participation immediately jumped from 59 percent in the election of 1922 to 91 percent in the election of 1925.

Is there any connection between high voter turnout and good government? Australia's neighbor New Zealand does not have compulsory voting and has a political system that functions just as well or better. Such paragons of civic virtue as Argentina, Egypt, Congo, and Lebanon have mandatory voting. By contrast, one of the few democracies with lower turnout rates than the United States is Switzerland which is often considered one of the best-governed nations in the world.

This could be a metaphor for Mr. Obama. The idea has no real foundation, intrudes into the individual decision process, has a scolding busybody element and would be impossible to create but gives him the appearance of a caring, optimistic big thinker.

The coffee house at its best.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 15th

We Americans stupidly recognize this day as the day taxes are due. So we emphasize money and materialism over greatness of mind and soul, greatness that was both a product of and an influence upon the nation. Taxes are trivial compared to what happened on this day in 1865. President Lincoln was shot by Booth on Good Friday, April 14, 1865 and died the next morning. Secretary of State Seward was brutally assaulted as was his son. There is good evidence that General Grant was stalked to his train the same night by the conspirators. This occurred 5 days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox and doomed the South to a reconciliation with the North shepherded by the usual political wolves. More importantly it deprived the nation and politics of the high standard of mind and spirit Lincoln embodied.

Tolstoy on Lincoln:
“.... how largely the name of Lincoln is worshiped throughout the world and how legendary his personality has become. Now why was Lincoln so great that he overshadows all other national heroes? He really was not a great general like Napoleon or Washington; he was not such a skillful statesman as Gladstone or Frederick the Great; but his supremacy expresses itself altogether in his peculiar moral power and in the greatness of his character.

“Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country — bigger than all the Presidents together.

“We are still too near to his greatness,” Tolstoy concluded, “but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do.

“His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cab Thought 4/14/15

Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals, the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great creative scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned if at all. -Martin Gardner, mathematician and writer (1914-2010)

Leaked emails from Hillary's longtime confidant Sidney Blumenthal show that he and another former official from Bill Clinton's administration were secretly lobbying the secretary of state on behalf of a billionaire in the former Soviet state of Georgia who was seeking closer ties with Putin's Russia—seemingly in violation of a federal law designed to prevent foreign powers from covertly wielding influence within the United States. E-mails from Blumenthal's hacked account revealed that he was running what amounts to a private, off-the-books intelligence operation for Clinton, sending her detailed reports on goings-on in Libya, Europe, and elsewhere. Among these memos is one urging Clinton to consider re-examining the State Department's posture toward the opposition in Georgia.

In the eighteen-seventies, Alexander Graham Bell, a recent immigrant to Canada, fell in love with the sound of the Mohawk language and created an orthography. (The Mohawk made him an honorary chief.) The grammar is at least as challenging as that of Latin.

Who is....Omar Khayyam?

The mother tongue of more than three billion people is one of twenty, which are, in order of their current predominance: Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Hindi, Arabic, Portuguese, Bengali, Russian, Japanese, Javanese, German, Wu Chinese, Korean, French, Telugu, Marathi, Turkish, Tamil, Vietnamese, and Urdu.

Golden oldie:

Edward Fitzgerald was, according to the Cambridge History of English and American Literature, "as far aloof from the ordinary activities of the literature of his day as his life was remote from that of the world in general." In 1859 his "free translation" of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam was published. Fitzgerald's version of the 12th century Persian verse became one of the most popular works of the 19th century and one of the best-selling books of poetry ever. Some say that its religious skepticism had an impact on Victorian England equivalent to Darwin's The Origin of Species, also published in 1859. In his day, Khayyam was known less as a poet than as a philosopher, astronomer and mathematician -- and today is still so known, for his work on cubic equations and binomial theory. He was often in disfavor with the orthodox Muslim government in his native Persia for his appreciation of the worldly life that comes through in the Rubaiyat.

In Dubai the population is predominantly composed of foreign passport holders, majorly migrants from countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines and expatriates from the Western world, with only 20% of the population made up of citizens. Singapore as well has a large number of expatriates and almost 40% of the inhabitants of this metropolitan city are foreign-born workers, professionals or students.

The number of foreign children adopted by U.S. families has plummeted to its lowest level in at least three decades.

D.H. Lawrence finally got enough money to return to the U.S. with the private subscription sales of his banned  Lady Chatterley's Lover. He longed for his ranch in New Mexico. But, with the banning of the book, he himself seemed banned. He could never get approval for his immigration. (He was terribly ill with tuberculosis although filled with denial over the disease.) Even as he finally agreed to a sanatorium in Italy-still refusing to say the "T-word" -- he would be pouring over ship's timetables for Atlantic crossings. A last snapshot of him, taken on the day of his death, March 2, 1930, shows  him at  85 lbs, in bed, reading a book about the voyage of Columbus to the New World.

In 1917, the U.S. took formal possession of the Danish West Indies. Renamed the Virgin Islands, this chain consists of St. Thomas, St. Croix, St. John and about fifty other small islands, most of which are uninhabited. Lying about sixty-five kilometers east of Puerto Rico at the end of the Greater Antilles, the U.S. purchased the islands from Denmark for $25 million because of their strategic location in relation to the Panama Canal.

In 221 B.C., the Qin defeated its last rivals, and its ruler became the first emperor of united China. The Han dynasty replaced it in 207 B.C..

“In 50 years of practicing law, I have never seen a more one-sided presentation by the media in the United States of the case,” says Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. “Everybody is saying there’s no evidence against her and she’s totally innocent. It’s just not true.”
Waves of pro-Knox publicity have permeated much of the American media, thanks in part to the backing of Seattle’s largest PR company, Gogerty Marriott.

Appearing in different forms in more than 1,500 other songs, the"Amen break" is a 6 to 7 second drum solo performed in 1969 by Gregory Cylvester Coleman in the song 'Amen, Brother' performed by the 1960s funk and soul outfit The Winstons.

Rebecca West was born Cicely Isabel Fairfield in 1892. She took her professional name from a character in the play "Rosmersholm," by Henrik Ibsen. She was a writer, feminist and literary innovator. In 1912, West wrote a scathing attack on H.G. Wells's Marriage, which she found to be derogatory towards women. Her sharp words and lively style intrigued Wells and led to their meeting. They became lovers the next year and she gave birth to his son, Anthony West, in 1914 (her only child). She was an extremely well regarded writer; Wells said "she wrote like God." One of her interesting books with some application to current times is The Meaning of Treason, which has been called a forerunner of In Cold Blood.
La c?l?bre journaliste Rebecca West l'avait bien dit : "le plus ...

Mercurial: adjective: 1. Fickle; volatile; changeable. 2. Animated; quick-witted; shrewd. 3. Relating to the metal, planet, or god Mercury. After Mercury, Roman god of commerce, thievery, eloquence, communication, etc. The planet is named after the god and in ancient astrology those born under the supposed influence of Mercury were ascribed his qualities. Earliest documented use: 1300.

6 million homes have been lost to foreclosure since 2007, another 1 million remain in the pipeline, many of them legacy loans originated during the housing bubble. If you properly compare the situation to a time before the widespread issuance of subprime mortgages, we’re still well above normal levels of foreclosure starts. In addition, over one in six homes remain underwater, where the mortgage is bigger than the value of the home, a dangerous situation if we hit another economic downturn.

Poe wrote two reviews of Dickens' Barnaby Rudge in 1841. In the first review, with only a few serialized chapters, Poe deduced the killer. 

Jennifer Bradley has a policy paper titled  “The Changing Face of the Heartland: Preparing America’s Diverse Workforce for Tomorrow,” apparently commissioned by the Brookings institute. It purports to discuss the changing demographics of Minnesota, with the aging and decline of whites and the influx of “Mexicans, Hmong, Indians, Vietnamese, Somalis, Liberians and Ethiopians.” She sees in the diversity explosion in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Midwest microcosm a widening “race-based education and achievement gap” that will “become a drag on workforce growths unless something was done to reverse these trends.” Now that sounds bad. That sounds as if the new arrivals are not able to maintain the production of the declining old population and that resources of that old native population will need to be shifted away from them to those new arrivals who have not produced.
A lot of suggestions will be offered; an obvious one is decrease the number of new, unproductive arrivals. That will probably be low on the list of suggestions.

The last name Esposito is 4th among the most widespread surnames in Italy.  Although it is frequent throughout the country, it is especially prevalent in the Campania region and, most specifically, in the Naples area. It is said the name came from 'senza esse sposata' meaning 'without being married.' More likely it derives from Latin expositus of the Latin verb exponere ("to place outside", "to expose") and literally means "placed outside", "exposed". Italian tradition claims that the surname was given to foundlings who were abandoned or given up for adoption and handed over to an orphanage. (an Ospizio degli esposti in Italian, literally a "home or hospice of the exposed"). They were called espositi because they would get abandoned and "exposed" in a public place.

In the 1990s, physicists inducted two new temporal units into the official lexicon, which are worth knowing for their appellations alone: the zeptosecond or 10-21 seconds, and the yoctosecond, or 10-24 seconds. The briskest time span recognized to date is the chronon, or Planck time, and it lasts about 5 x 10-44 power seconds. This is the time it takes light to travel what could be the shortest possible slice of space, the Planck length, the size of one of the hypothetical 'strings' that some physicists say lie at the base of all matter and force in the universe.

The Republican party of Abraham Lincoln was highly protectionist, and the U.S. grew to be the world's economic colossus with a consistently high level of protectionism. It was only in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, after its manufacturing supremacy was well established, that the U.S. began to selectively adopt a free trade policy as a means of expanding its markets on a country-by-country basis. Money raised by tariffs was only secondary, the real purpose of the tariff was protection.

AAAAaaaaannnnnnnddddd.....a graph:
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