Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday 5/31/15

Today is the Feast of the Trinity, a very difficult concept in Christianity. The divine nature of Christ confused the Arians and the Gnostics: How could God suffer? How could God die? If God is eternal, and Christ is new, how is Christ God? The three persons in one God put off Mohammad, who learned Christianity from an Arian, as polythiestic.
The Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer. Is there a difference between what God is and what God is to us?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cab Thoughts 5/30/15

"Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else." -Frederic Bastiat, 1848 
Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi, The New York Times reports. Kushner, in an email to the Times, said she was withdrawing from the May 5 PEN gala because she was uncomfortable with Charlie Hebdo's "cultural intolerance" and promotion of "a kind of forced secular view." Those views, the Times added, were echoed by the other writers who pulled out of the event. Carey told the Times that PEN, in its decision, was going beyond its role of protecting freedom of expression. "A hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom-of-speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about?" he said in an email to the newspaper. Novelist Salman Rushdie, a past president of PEN who spent years in hiding because of a fatwa over his novel The Satanic Verses, criticized the writers for pulling out, saying while Carey and Ondaatje were old friends of his, they are "horribly wrong." In a statement Sunday, PEN said: "We do not believe that any of us must endorse the content of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons in order to affirm the importance of the medium of satire, or to applaud the staff's bravery in holding fast to those values in the face of life and death threats." 

Who is....Clara Petacci?
Mary Celeste was a British ship built in 1861. In 1872 she was discovered completely deserted. The ship was still in an excellent condition, none of the cargo had been stolen, and there was a supply of food that would have lasted for several more months. The crew's personal possessions were all found onboard, but all the crew members themselves had disappeared - along with one lifeboat. The weather conditions were good for sailing, and the seamen were all strong and able. 
Recently there was a sort-of Italian night, with appropriate food and wine--and speakers, the nephew of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, author of  “The Leopard.”  He has restored the ancestral home. The book was made into a movie but it is a towering tribute to the written word, a beautiful, wistful and melancholy description of a family, a state and a way of life in decline. It is almost unbearable in its profound and simple genius.
The nephew (and his wife) are erudite and thoughtful people, with large and far-ranging interests--more musical and less literary than I expected. (They also have a few little businesses, cooking, boarding and the like.)They never once mention the obvious connection of "The Leopard" to Pittsburgh. The story is loosely written about the author's ancestor who lived during the Garibaldi revolution and ends in 1910. The author hoped to continue living in the old mansion his ancestor lived in but, appropriate to the theme, it was hit during the Second War by allied bombers. He writes of the building's beautiful interior:  “From the ceiling the gods, reclining on gilded couches, gazed down smiling and inexorable as a summer sky. They thought themselves eternal; but a bomb manufactured in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was to prove the contrary in 1943.”
Scientists have explored only 1% of the ocean depths.
The great Ralph Waldo Emerson began to decline into dementia but still would speak publicly, often prompted by his daughter, Ellen. He famously said,  "Strange that the kind Heavens should keep us on earth after they have destroyed our connection with things." The other famous story of Emerson is, while at Longfellow's funeral when they stood by the coffin, he said, "Where are we? What house? And who is this sleeper?"
Jon Krakauer has done some fine books but I saw him interviewed on Charlie Rose and he was terrible, imprecise and lost.
"Bootleggers and Baptists" is a phrase used by Yandle to describe the coalition of opposing groups and the cynicism of politics. Evangelical Christians were prominent in political activism for restricting the sale of alcohol. Bootleggers sold alcohol illegally, and got more business if legal sales were restricted. “Such a coalition makes it easier for politicians to favor both groups. … [T]he Baptists lower the costs of favor-seeking for the bootleggers, because politicians can pose as being motivated purely by the public interest even while they promote the interests of well-funded businesses. … [Baptists] take the moral high ground, while the bootleggers persuade the politicians quietly, behind closed doors.”

The SS Sultana was a Mississippi River steamboat paddlewheeler that exploded on April 27, 1865 in the greatest maritime disaster in United States history. An estimated 1,600 of its 2,427 passengers died when three of the ship's four boilers exploded and it sank near Memphis.
Allometry refers to the way in which two variables are associated. It can be 1:1—the longer the fore-arm, the longer the total arm, or it can show deviations. For examples, the larger a mammal is, the more of its body consists of bone. Why? Because the strength of bone only goes up as the square of bone length whereas body weight goes up as the cube—thus larger bodies, weighing more, require relatively more bone.  And huge Godzilla-like monsters are impossible as their weight increases as cube, it must be compensated by a comparable increase in the cross-section of the two dimensional weight-bearing bone.
Golden oldie:
An internal memo from Leon Rodriguez, the director and co-chair of the DHS' "Task Force on New Americans," said, "This report outlines an immigrant integration plan that will advance our nation’s global competitiveness and ensure that the people who live in this country can fully participate in their communities." Sources at the Department of Homeland Security report that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services is reallocating significant resources to sending letters to all 9,000,000 green card holders urging them to naturalize prior to the 2016 election. This means that DHS is not only rushing green card holders toward citizenship before the next election, but also jamming previous visa holders toward green card status. 
Here is a breakthrough in thought from Mrs. Clinton: “Far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth. All the laws we’ve passed don’t count for much if they’re not enforced,” Clinton said. “Rights have to exist in practice — not just on paper,” Clinton argued. “Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will. And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” Yes. So........the state plans to do what with religious and cultural beliefs?
46 million light-years distant, spiral galaxy NGC 2841 can be found in the northern constellation of Ursa Major. It has a diameter of over 150,000 light-years.
Maudlin: adjective:1. tearfully or weakly emotional; foolishly sentimental: a maudlin story of a little orphan and her lost dog. 2. foolishly or mawkishly sentimental because of drunkenness. Maudlin entered English in the early 1500s. It stems from the Greek word Magdalēnḗ referring to Mary Magdalene, who was portrayed in art as a weeping penitent.
In 1945, “Il Duce,” Benito Mussolini, and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were shot by Italian partisans who had captured the couple as they attempted to flee to Switzerland.
In the 1930s the U.S. Mint maintained a “Collector’s Window.”  You could go up to the window and exchange circulating coins for newly minted ones, even if they’d not yet been officially released.  This was never a problem until Roosevelt decided not to release the $20 gold coins they had just minted — over 400,000 of them! — in early 1933.  (He wanted to limit ownership of gold to keep it from draining demand for paper money.) Some few people exchanged old gold coins for the new ones and some of those were recently found in an old safe. Even thought he government had received old $20 dollar coins for the new ones (accidentally) and had not lost anything, the government confiscated them. They won the first case but recently lost the second. The government is fighting over $11,300 worth of coins, minus the huge legal fees involved and in spite of the fact they would get a lot back in estate taxes.
Bill and Hillary were the only First Couple to be fingerprinted by the FBI.
"Yet sweatshops are only a symptom of poverty, not a cause, and banning them closes off one route out of poverty.  At a time of tremendous economic distress and protectionist pressures, there’s a special danger that tighter labor standards will be used as an excuse to curb trade.  When I defend sweatshops, people always ask me: But would you want to work in a sweatshop?  No, of course not.  But I would want even less to pull a rickshaw.  In the hierarchy of jobs in poor countries, sweltering at a sewing machine isn’t the bottom.”--Nicholas Kristof, NYT, 2009
There is an interesting opinion about the current wave of people trying to get from North Africa to Europe. In exchange for a diplomatic relationship with the U.S., Gadhafi abandoned terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. But there was more; the good Colonel was willing to block human trading that emanated from Libya. "Tomorrow Europe might no longer be European, and even black,” threatened Gadhafi, “as there are millions who want to come in. We don’t know if Europe will remain an advanced and united continent, or if it will be destroyed, as happened with the barbarian invasions.”
According to Richard Spencer, Middle East editor of The Telegraph, as part of an agreement he made with Silvio Berlusconi’s government, “Col. Gadhafi had agreed to crack down on the trade in people.” And Libya had a navy. Under the same accord with the Berlusconi government, Gadhafi’s admiralty stemmed the tide of migrants into Europe.
Because he cracked down on their customary trade, the Zuwarans of Libya rose up against Gadhafi; the real reason for the Libyan uprising, in 2011, was not the hunger for democracy, it was in opposition to Gadhafi's human trade restraints. And the removal of the good Colonel by the Americans also removed the human trafficking deterrent.
'My object was to terrorize so as to force society to look attentively at those who suffer.'  Thus spake Ravachol who, with Kropotkin, embodied the Anarchism of the Nineteenth Century. Property and oppressive structure were seen as the enemy with a Rousseau-like optimism; they saw a stateless society, without government, without law, without ownership of property, in which, corrupt institutions having been swept away, man would be free to be good as God intended him. Six heads of state were assassinated for its sake in the twenty years before 1914. They were President Carnot of France in 1894, Premier Canovas of Spain in 1897, Empress Elizabeth of Austria in 1898, King Humbert of Italy in 1900, President McKinley of the United States in 1901, and another Premier of Spain, Canalejas, in 1912. Not one could qualify as a tyrant. Their deaths were gestures.
Inclusive fitness is a concept developed by William Hamilton. In Darwin’s system, natural selection refers to individual differences in reproductive success in nature, where reproductive success is the number of surviving offspring produced. Hamilton enlarged the concept to include effects on other relatives—that is, not just fitness or reproductive success but inclusive fitness, defined (roughly) as an individual’s reproductive success plus effects on that of relatives, each devalued by the appropriate degree of relatedness.

AAAAAaaaaaannnnnddddd.....a photo, by amateur astronomer Dave Jurasevich identified on 2008 July 6 in the complex Cygnus region as The Soap Bubble Nebula: 
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Danger in Qatar

Deaths directly related to stadium construction from host to host for the Olympics, World Cup and other international sports events. These numbers are since the announcement of Qatar's successful bid in 2010 and includes all migrant worker deaths since, not solely related to stadium construction so it may not be significant but it looks like a dangerous place to work.

If current trends continue, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC)  estimates that 4,000 workers will die in Qatar by the time the World Cup is actually held in 2022.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Government Lobbying/Domestic Propaganda

The NYT wrote an interesting and, for them, unusual article raising questions about the propriety of the E.P.A. and certain regulations they proposed. In essence, the Times asked if the E.P.A. was "lobbying," an act illegal for the government, called the Thunderclap campaign. Here is the author's reply to the inevitable criticism he received:
"Urging the public to endorse their proposed rule — and asking people explicitly to express this support by going to an E.P.A. webpage where they could click through to get to a place to comment on the rule and also explicitly asking people to go onto social networks to proclaim their support — that is classic grass-roots lobbying. That is what grass-roots lobbying firms are hired to do. It is known as “indirect lobbying,” as it creates the appearance of a groundswell of support — which elected officials then notice and react to.
These actions took place in coordination with environmental groups, like Sierra Club and N.R.D.C., which were “Thunderous Supporters,” of the Thunderclap campaign, as well as partners in other efforts we documented. And it took place at a time when the E.P.A.’s own personnel were weighing the rule and Congress was considering legislation to block it.
This combination was not only extremely unusual, and threatened to undermine the integrity of the process, according to prominent academic experts. But in the view of certain members of Congress, and opponents of the rule, it may have violated the Anti-Lobbying Law. That is what the article said. Glad we did it."
Propaganda is essentially manipulation. In the hands of the unscrupulous, it is disinformation. It almost always is geared to advance a cause; when domestic, that propaganda usually involves the morale of a war effort. What is an appropriate peacetime government cause that would justify manipulating the electorate? And what would be the mind-set of a person who would do it?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cab Thoughts 5/27/15

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) 

Loudon County, north of Washington D.C., is the fastest-growing county in America. It was formerly farm country but now is home to government dependent firms and businesses. Fauquier County is an agricultural community in the beautiful Piedmont mountain region about an hour west of Washington. Under the guise of business zoning authority, Fauquier wants to regulate and fine farm residents on grounds of holding unauthorized pumpkin carvings, birthday parties for little girls, and Boy Scout jamborees.
So the heat precedes the dragon.

Golden oldie:

Before astronomers realized solar eclipses were caused by the moon, the Chinese thought an enormous dragon swallowed the sun, and they made as much noise as possible to scare the dragon away.

“Like Hillary Clinton, I too have traveled hundreds and thousands of miles around the globe, but unlike her, I’ve actually accomplished something,” Carly Fiorina said. “You see, Mrs. Clinton, flying is not an accomplishment. It is an activity.”

Who is....Anita Loos?

Another myth that generates a lot of poverty and suffering is that the economic development of the poor countries is, for fundamental economic or extra-institutional reasons, extremely difficult, and requires special promotion, planning, and effort.  It is sometimes even argued that a tough dictator or totalitarian repression is required to force the sacrifices needed to bring about economic development.  As I see it, in these days it takes an enormous amount of stupid policies or bad or unstable institutions to prevent​ economic development.  Unfortunately, growth-retarding regimes, policies, and institutions are the rule rather than the exception….​(Mancur Olson, 1982, The Rise and Decline of Nations)

Angelina Jolie briefed the council as special envoy for the U.N. on refugee issues on Friday morning at UN headquarters in New York. When asked about Jolie's planned briefing, Syria's U.N. Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari responded: 'She is beautiful'.

William S. Porter was a drug store clerk, cowboy, fugitive, bank teller, cartoonist who went to jail for five years (commuted to three) for embezzlement. Porter had published several stories prior to his prison term, but the fourteen written behind bars represented a new style and quality. He became the successful writer, "O. Henry." He wrote about 300 stories in all, many drawn from his wandering about New York, the city he called "Baghdad-on-the-Subway."

Ancient mathematicians tried to compute pi by inscribing polygons with more and more sides to more closely approach the area of a circle. Archimedes used a 96-sided polygon. Chinese mathematician Liu Hui inscribed a 192-sided polygon and then a 3,072-sided polygon to calculate pi to 3.14159. Tsu Ch’ung and his son inscribed polygons with as many as 24,576 sides to calculate pi (the result had only an 8-millionth of 1% difference from the now accepted value of pi).

If Brian Williams can not be a news anchor because of mendacity and embellishment, is a candidate for high office with the same behavior similarly unqualified? Or are news anchor requirements of a higher standard?

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has begun blogging at the Brookings Institution. He wrote that legislators said that, with the falling interest rates, he was “throwing seniors under the bus.” He reassures us that he “was concerned about those seniors as well.” This is a classic modern American political approach: Bernanke does not defend the low interest rates that the accusation references, he defends his motives. Similarly, Mrs. Clinton does not refute the accusations of her financial impropriety, she simply puts those accusations in the context of political motivation.

Maria Montessori is well known because of the early childhood educational system she developed and the many schools that bear her name. But equally impressive is the fact that she was the first woman in Italy to earn a medical degree. 

Anita Loos started writing scenarios for D. W. Griffith while she was in her teens, and eventually worked on over sixty films, but her most enduring creation is her 1925 novel, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The play, musical or film versions may be better-known, but the book was an immediate hit and soon translated into over a dozen languages. The Times Literary Supplement thought it "a masterpiece of comic literature," James Joyce chuckled over it, and Edith Wharton thought it "the great American novel" -- over another, nearly ignored 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby. Loos and Fitzgerald were about the same age, and came to represent the light and dark sides of flapper culture. Her famous heroine, Lorelei Lee, is purportedly based on Peggy Hopkins Joyce (Gold Digger: The Outrageous Life and Times of Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Constance Rosenblum, 2000), and the book was partly inspired by Loos's relationship to H. L. Mencken.

It is interesting that, following the recent scandals, the Catholic Church has stopped accepting homosexuals as priests while that same policy is being reversed by the Boy Scouts.

It only took North Korea 12 years to get a nuclear weapon from the time we reached the Agreed Framework in 1994 to the time they tested their first weapon in 2006.”– Sen. Tom Cotton

The flap over the baker who would not make a cake for a gay couple who are marrying is a real problem. It is actually a small question--the baker is not withholding a precious or irreplaceable service. The difficulty seems to be the curious distinction the government draws. Certainly they would not sue a Jewish or Muslim caterer who declined to serve pork for religious reasons. There is a righteousness involved that is aimed at the offender. The florist who refused under a similar circumstance was a close friend of the couple and the couple respected his decision and just went elsewhere but the feds made it a legal problem when they heard of it.

The United States Air Force's X-37B space plane will launch on its fourth mystery mission next month. The unmanned X-37B space plane, which looks like a miniature version of NASA's now-retired space shuttle orbiter, is scheduled to blast off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 20.

"As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.
And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.
Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown. But the episode underscores the special ethical challenges presented by the Clinton Foundation, headed by a former president who relied heavily on foreign cash to accumulate $250 million in assets even as his wife helped steer American foreign policy as secretary of state, presiding over decisions with the potential to benefit the foundation’s donors."
From the New York Times article: Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company

Competition is valuable only because, and so far as, its results are unpredictable and on the whole different from those which anyone has, or could have, deliberately aimed at. (Hayek)

When the Austrians went to war with France in April 1792, their command decided not to buy new horses, as the expected war would be so brief that they would not be needed. The war lasted a generation.

An Iranian defector, the former diplomat Mohammad Reza Heydari and others report that North Korea has collaborated with Iran on the design of nuclear weapons  including warhead design techniques.

AAAAaaaaaaannnnnddddddd.......a graph of Stocks vs Earnings Expectations:

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Nuclear Deals: Different Dealers, Same Cards‏

In 1994, President Clinton said the framework of a deal reached with North Korea would lead to the end of that country’s nuclear program.
12 years later, North Korea exploded a nuclear device in an underground test.
On April 2, 2015, President Obama said his framework of a deal reached with Iran meant the country would never develop a nuclear weapon.
Less than a week later, Obama admitted that, under his deal, virtually nothing could stop Iran from getting the bomb after 12 years.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of what Clinton and Obama--both in the Rose Garden and to the NYT-- said about their respective deals:
Clinton: This agreement will help to achieve a longstanding and vital American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula.
Obama: …Iran will never be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon.

Clinton: It does not rely on trust.
Obama: So this deal is not based on trust, it’s based on unprecedented verification.

Clinton: Compliance will be certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Obama: …what we’re going to be doing is setting up a mechanism whereby, yes, I.A.E.A. (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors can go anyplace.

Clinton: Under the agreement, North Korea has agreed to freeze its existing nuclear program and to accept international inspection of all existing facilities.
Obama: …a deal to stop the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and roll it back in key areas.

Clinton: This agreement represents the first step on the road to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Obama: This framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.

Clinton: …we have completed an agreement that will make the United States, the Korean Peninsula, and the world safer.
Obama: …if this framework leads to a final, comprehensive deal, it will make our country, our allies, and our world safer.

Clinton: The United States and North Korea have also agreed to ease trade restrictions and to move toward establishing liaison offices in each other’s capitals.
Obama: In return for Iran’s actions, the international community has agreed to provide Iran with relief from certain sanctions — our own sanctions, and international sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

Clinton: These offices will ease North Korea’s isolation.
Obama: …if Iran complies with its international obligations, then it can fully rejoin the community of nations…

Clinton: This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world.
Obama: And it is a good deal, a deal that meets our core objectives … we are more likely to be safe, more likely to be secure, in a better position to protect our allies.

Clinton: It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.
Obama: …there was an appetite among the Iranian people for a rejoining with the international community.

Clinton: And the United States has an unshakable commitment to protect our ally and our fellow democracy South Korea.
Obama: …a very clear message to the Iranians and to the entire region that if anybody messes with Israel, America will be there.

           Clinton: We will continue to work closely with our allies and with the Congress as our relationship       with North Korea develops.
           Obama: But I say that hoping that we can conclude this diplomatic arrangement — and that it ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations — and, just as importantly, over time, a new era in Iranian relations with its neighbors.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Belling the Cat

Long ago, the mice had a general council to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. Some said this, and some said that; but at last a young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought would meet the case. "You will all agree," said he, "that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured, and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the Cat. By this means we should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she was in the neighborhood."

This proposal met with general applause, until an old mouse got up and said: 

"That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?" The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Then the old mouse said:
Moral of Aesop's Fable: It is easy to propose impossible remedies

Sunday, May 24, 2015


There is a bird in the church today, a big one, with a loud and varied song. On Pentecost one might get symbolic here but its probably just a bird of pray.

Today is Pentecost, observed 7 weeks after Easter. It is a complex day in the Church in history and meaning.
Literally Pentacost means "fifty," as the fiftieth week of the year. It, in the Old Testament, refers to the giving of the Ten Commandments and, in the New testament, signifies its new direction. Christ reappears to the fearful apostles, reinvigorates them and then breaths upon them, infusing the spirit of the New Testament and the abilities to carry out their evangelism. "Whose sins you forgive..." essentially creates a church structure.
 In England it is--or was--the feast of Whitsun, so changed after the Norman Conquest. Whitsun is a contraction of "White Sunday," attributed to the white vestments worn by catechumens on the day. Eventually white (hwitte) began to be confused with wit or understanding, not entirely inappropriate for the occasion. It was a significant holiday and celebration in its time and began to substitute for more secular spring celebrations.

The word for "Spirit" in Greek has several meanings; it also can mean "wind" and "breath." Christ does breath on the apostles and the Spirit is often described as a great wind. One ancient writer describes the Holy Spirit as Christ's last expired breath on the cross.

Breath is, of course, different from wind, which can be destructive, even in the scorching Middle East. But Christ's breath is gentle; it seems there is no downside here, no risk. Unless to the recipient who internalizes it. Of the apostles--who all abandoned Christ to die alone--after Pentecost, all, save John, died for Christ's message.
In our cautious and uncertain world, Pentecost might be more safely observed from a window.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cab Thoughts 5/23/15

'I have always felt a certain horror of political economists since I heard one of them say that he feared the famine of 1848 in Ireland would not kill more than a million people, and that would scarcely be enough to do much good."--Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol. The economist was Nassau Senior, an adviser to the British government.

The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, a women-centric music event held annually since 1976, and which in recent years attracted controversy for refusing to admit transgender women, announced on Facebook that this year will be its last. Their emphasis upon genetic females--and the assumption that male-based culture and genomes cannot be overcome--has proved fatal. 

Petrobras is writing off $2.1 billion due to alleged graft.

Since Galileo's time, thinkers have relied on the patronage of others to fund their work, and that patronage - be it from government, business interests or individuals - generally extracts a price. In Galileo's case, that meant softening his position on the Copernican theory under pressure from the pope. In the case of science today, despite Dreger's argument, that pressure comes less as a consequence of political correctness than of economic forces that have shifted academic and scientific institutions to a corporate model not designed to prioritize public interests. (from Ellen Ruppel Shell's review of Alice Dreger's new book.)

Who is.....Marc Mezvinsky?

Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published in the online journal Protein & Cell. The reports are excited about the ethical implications of such genetic meddling but the scientists themselves are remarkably discouraging--especially when you think of the competition for research dollars these people must win. The team attempted to modify the gene responsible for β-thalassaemia, a potentially fatal blood disorder, using a gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9. Of 86 embryos treated, just 28 were successfully spliced, and that only a fraction of those contained the replacement genetic material. They also found a surprising number of 'off-target' mutations assumed to be introduced by the CRISPR/Cas9 complex acting on other parts of the genome. The rates of such unintended mutations were much higher than those observed in gene-editing studies of mouse embryos or human adult cells. The low efficiencies and high number of off-target mutations were worrisome to the lead researcher, Junjiu Huang, who demonstrated remarkable honesty and reflection in his discussion of the project.
We are the sorcerer's apprentices.

Intractable: adjective: Not easily handled, managed, or controlled. From Latin tractare (to handle), frequentative of trahere (draw). Earliest documented use: 1545. You can not read Faulkner without it.

In 1942, 234 British bombers struck the German port of Lubeck, an industrial town of only "moderate importance." The attack was ordered (according to Sir Arthur Harris, head of British Bomber Command) as more of a morale booster for British flyers than anything else, but the destruction wreaked on Lubeck was significant: Two thousand buildings were totaled, 312 German civilians were killed, and 15,000 Germans were left homeless. In retaliation for the British raid on Lubeck, German bombers struck Exeter and later Bath, Norwick, York, and other "medieval-city centres." Almost 1,000 English civilians are killed in the bombing attacks nicknamed "Baedeker Raids," named for the German publishing company famous for guidebooks popular with tourists. The Luftwaffe vowed to bomb every building in Britain that the Baedeker guide had awarded "three stars." The Germans attacked cathedral cities of great historical significance. The 15th-century Guildhall, in York, as an example, was destroyed.

Marc Mezvinsky is the husband of Chelsea Clinton and co-founder of the $400 million hedge fund Eaglevale Partners LP, along with his two former colleagues from Goldman Sachs. Chelsea reportedly already has a net worth of some $15 million. She must be a hard working girl.

Teaching hospitals have long been points of pride for major universities, and in recent years revenue from medical services has served as a lifeline for some schools that have struggled with falling state aid and pressure to slow tuition increases.
Now the marriages between universities and their cash-cow clinical operations are starting to fray as changes stemming from the 2010 health-care law threaten to make university hospitals less profitable.
University-affiliated hospitals tend to charge more for their services than so-called community hospitals because they are also funding research and instruction and handling particularly complex cases. That makes them less attractive to the exchange-based insurance networks created under the Affordable Care Act. Another factor raising costs: Most university hospitals are in urban areas and treat a high share of patients who are uninsured or covered by Medicaid.

In 2010, then-Secretary Clinton's financial disclosures revealed a net worth totaling between roughly $10 and $50 million. In 2012, the last year for which she disclosed finances, Clinton's net worth was estimated to be between $5 million and $25 million. In 2010, Clinton disclosed two JP Morgan accounts each worth between $5 million and $25 million. Her 2011 and 2012 disclosures show only one JP Morgan account worth between $5 million and $25 million. None knows where the rest of the money went. These figures do not include her husband's net worth or the value of her "Foundation." is something like this tolerated in this culture?

Brain scans indicate that, regardless of their chromosomes, gonads and sex hormones, some men and women identify with the sex that the gender-affected parts of their brains make them believe themselves to be.

In the 1960s, The CIA was deep into the counterculture. The CIA's ties to the very liberal National Student Association were the most sensational but the Agency had involvement in many such institutions as the Congress for Cultural Freedom; the International Commission of Jurists; the AFL-CIO; Radio Free Europe; and various leading philanthropic foundations. Those individuals recruited included  Gloria Steinem, Paul Sigmund, a longtime professor of politics at Princeton,  James P. Grant, the longtime and widely admired executive director of UNICEF,  James Scott, professor of political science and anthropology at Yale, Crawford Young, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin and well-known scholar of African studies; Luigi Einaudi, an American diplomat who served as acting secretary general of the Organization of American States, and Duncan Kennedy, professor of law at Harvard.
So, the next time you hear a speech that is prefaced by the pious announcement of "conflict of interest" admissions, think twice.

More than a third of NHS trusts are considering rationing some types of surgery and other treatments. Several have admitted they may impose 'eligibility' rules which could affect smokers as well as the overweight. 

Sharyl Attkisson is getting her own Sunday show. The former CBS News correspondent, who resigned from the network last year, will host a new, 30-minute Sunday morning national news program based in Washington, D.C., Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. announced in a press release Wednesday. The show will air on the company's ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX affiliates.
This might be interesting because she thinks she is a reporter.

In 1891 Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray was published. The novel had originally appeared in Lippincot's Monthly Magazine the previous summer, and caused an uproar for what one newspaper called "its effeminate frivolity, its studied insincerity, its theatrical cynicism, its tawdry mysticism, its flippant philosophizing, its contaminating trail of garish vulgarity."
In December, President Obama said that he wished to see Iran ultimately become a "very successful regional power." So, we should be looking at what is happening in the Middle East as a success? "Electricity prices should necessarily skyrocket?" This guy has some very peculiar wishes that do not seem to benefit the citizens I know. But they clearly must benefit someone.

The Human Society of the United States reports that U.S. shelters receive 6-8 million cats and dogs each year. Approximately half of these are euthanized. The reminder are adopted or reclaimed.
Pope Francis triggered international debate recently. Speaking at Sunday Mass on April 12, the pontiff described the killing of 1.5 million Armenians by Turks 100 years ago as "the first genocide of the 20th century" - a characterization of that horrific episode strongly supported by the evidence of history. ("Genocide implies a planned, targeted and systematic slaughter as opposed to planned but random slaughter.)
The Turks were and are mightily offended.
After the Ottoman Empire lost considerable territory on the Balkan War 1912-1913, they entered the First World War on the side of the Germans in 1914. They feared that the Christian Armenians would side with the Ottomans' Christian neighbor and principal enemy, Russia. Turkish propaganda started portraying Armenians as a threat to the empire.
On April 24, 1915, hundreds of Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested and later executed. This began what most historians have named the Armenian genocide, which lasted for several years. Armenians, including women and children, were rounded up and killed or sent on death marches across the Syrian desert, where they died of starvation or disease.

The Davis-Bacon Act was passed in 1931 to prevent blacks and immigrants from competing with all-white unions for federal contracts during the Depression.

AAAAaaaannnnnddddddd..... a satellite picture of the eastern world and North Korea, outlined, celebrating Earth Day:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Discourse on Salt and Iron

This is an amazing story.
In the Third Century B.C. the Chinese state passed a law fixing the price of salt--and later iron--at a price higher than the state could buy it from neighboring populations. This was more than a simple tax, the state was the buyer and seller. The Han dynasty later revoked the practice then, when the state was pressed financially by the wars with the Huns, they reinstated the salt and iron monopoly.
In 87 B.C., Emperor Wudi, considered the greatest emperor of the four-century Han dynasty, died and was replaced by the eight-year-old Zhaodi. In 81 B.C., six years later, the now-teenage emperor decided to invite a debate among wise men on the salt and iron monopolies. He convened sixty notables of varying points of view from around China to debate state administrative policies in front of him. According to Mark Kurlansky in Salt, while the central subject was to be the state monopolies on iron and salt, what  emerged was a contest between Confucianism and legalism over the responsibilities of good government -- an expansive debate on the duties of government, state profit versus private initiative, the logic and limits of military spending, the rights and limits of government to interfere in the economy. Their arguments have been preserved from the Confucian point of view in written form, the Yan tie lun, Discourse on Salt and Iron.

From Salt:

"On the one side were Confucians, inspired by Mencius, who, when asked how a state should raise profits, replied, 'Why must Your Majesty use the word profit? All I am concerned with are the good and the right. If Your Majesty says, "How can I profit my state?" your officials will say, "How can I profit my family?" and officers and common people will say, "How can I profit myself?" Once superiors and inferiors are competing for profit, the state will be in danger.'

"On the other side were government ministers and thinkers influenced by the legalist Han Feizi, who had died in 233 B.C. Han Feizi, who had been a student of one of the most famous Confucian teachers, had not believed that it was practical to base government on morality. He believed it should be based on the exercise of power and a legal code that meted out harsh punishment to transgressors. Both rewards and punishments should be automatic and without arbitrary interpretation. He believed laws should be decreed in the interest of the state, that people should be controlled by fear of punishment. If his way was followed, 'the State will get rich and the army will be strong,' he claimed. 'Then it will be possible to succeed in establishing hegemony over other states.'

"In the salt and iron debate, legalists argued: 'It is difficult to see, in these conditions, how we could prevent the soldiers who defend the Great Wall from dying of cold and hunger. Suppress the state monopolies and you deliver a fatal blow to the nation.'

"But to this came the Confucian response, 'The true conqueror does not have to make war; the great general does not need to put troops in the field nor have a clever battle plan. The sovereign who reigns by bounty does not have an enemy under heaven. Why do we need military spending?'

"To which came the response, 'The perverse and impudent Hun has been allowed to cross our border and carry war into the heart of the country, massacring our population and our officers, not respecting any authority. For a long time he has deserved an exemplary punishment.'

"It was argued that the borders had become permanent military camps that caused suffering to the people on the interior. 'Even if the monopolies on salt and iron represented, at the outset, a useful measure, in the long term they can't help but be damaging.'

"Even the need for state revenues was debated. One participant quoted Laozi, a contemporary of Confucius and founder of Daoism, 'A country is never as poor as when it seems filled with riches.'

"The debate was considered a draw."

Thursday, May 21, 2015

No [...fill in blank...], No Peace

The leader of the U.K.'s Green Party, Natalie Bennett, has said that her party is "open" to the possibility of three-way (or more-way) marriages. 
Opiates change the neurological pathways forever. Consequently some feel that, having a biologic drive for opiates is metabolically driven and hence a variant of illness, no more a crime than is diabetes.
Research shows that some rodents, when crowded, become violent and vicious. Some think this means that congested cities cause crime by their very nature and the individual is merely an inadvertent criminal product.
Freud said that every child was born with sexual lust for one parent, homicidal hatred of the other. Innately.
Any number of these ideas may be insightful or totally nuts but they all raise an important question: Responsibility and how the society views it. What is normal behavior, what is an unacceptable outlier? What can society reasonably ask of people? Who should be punished? What acts have environmental nuances? When does circumstance trump action. Where is motive trivial? Do we hold the grasshopper responsible for the behavior of the locust?
Sowell raised this question recently about the "Non-judgmental subsidies of counterproductive lifestyles" where the government underwrites people regardless of their behavior. "You cannot exempt people...from the requirements of civilization — including work, behavioral standards and personal responsibility — without ruinous consequences to them and to society at large. "

Is that observation true and, if so, who will bell that cat?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cab Thoughts 5/20/15

People can command, dictate, and legislate; however, people cannot consciously create law any more than people can consciously create human language.  Genuine law, like language, evolves; each is the result of human action but not of human design.--Bruno Leoni

Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was rejected twenty-seven times before his first book was published. The details are worth relating. Geisel says he was walking home, stinging from the book's twenty-seventh rejection, with the manuscript and drawings for Mulberry Street under his arm, when an acquaintance from his student days at Dartmouth College bumped into him on the sidewalk on Madison Avenue in New York City. Mike McClintock asked what Geisel was carrying. 'That's a book no one will publish,' said Geisel. 'I'm lugging it home to burn.' McClintock had just that morning been made editor of children's books at Vanguard; he invited Geisel up to his office, and McClintock and his publisher bought Mulberry Street that day.

The NY Times reports that a US “retreat” from the world order that it has largely shaped was the unspoken topic de jour at this year’s spring meeting of the IMF and World Bank in Washington.

Smoking tobacco emerged from religious ceremonies in the Americas and was probably initially restricted to only shamans, priests, and medicine men. Both in ancient America and in sixteenth-century Europe, "holy smoke" from tobacco was thought to help cure illness and drive out evil spirits.
The Americans in Yemen: Although many other countries evacuated their citizens, India most notably ferrying out around 5,000, the United States has said it is too dangerous for them to directly evacuate American nationals.
The MESSENGER spacecraft is the first to orbit Mercury, since 2011. MESSENGER has conducted scientific explorations, including extensive imaging of the Solar System's innermost planet. Running out of propellant and unable to counter orbital perturbations caused by the Sun's gravity, MESSENGER crashed on Mercury last month.

Paranoia alert: The New York Fed is moving a lot of operations to Chicago because of concerns about what a “natural disaster” could do, the federal government is buying 62 million rounds of ammunition commonly used in AR-15 semi-automatic rifles for “training” purposes, and NORAD is moving back into Cheyenne Mountain because it is “EMP-hardened”.  In addition, government authorities have scheduled a whole host of unusual “training exercises” all over the nation. So are the elite doing all of this in order to prepare for something really BIG, or should we just chalk up all of this strange activity to rampant government paranoia?
Who is....Robert Heinlein?

In the fall of 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, a series of anthrax mailings occurred which killed five Americans and sickened 17 others. Four anthrax-laden envelopes were recovered which were addressed to two news media outlets in New York City (the New York Post and Tom Brokaw at NBC) and two senators in Washington D.C. (Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle). The killer anthrax in the letters had a very high-tech anti-static coating so that the anthrax sample “floated off the glass slide and was lost” when scientists tried to examine it.  Specifically, the killer anthrax was coated with polyglass with each anthrax spore given an electrostatic charge, so that it would repel other spores and “float”. This was very advanced bio-weapons technology.

Golden oldie:

The science fiction writer Robert Heinlein had a suggestion for how to deal with the moral quandaries of genetic engineering — what’s now called the "Heinlein Solution:" Allowing couples to select which naturally produced sperm and ova they want to combine into a child, but forbidding them to actually alter the natural human genome.

Ben Affleck requested that the PBS documentary series "Finding Your Roots" not reveal he had a slave-owning ancestor, according to emails published online by whistleblower site WikiLeaks, and the information never appeared on the program. This sounds trivial but is not; it is indicative of our current Old Testament mentality of inherited guilt where the child is branded by his father's sins. Guilt is apparently genetic and transferrable in a sort of epigenetic way. So it is on a national basis: Jews killed Christ, Germans ran death camps, the United States was created by men who owned--or knew men who owned--slaves. The sins of the father--or, in Affleck's case--great, great grandfather......

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

There are so few people (vs. machines) working at the New York Stock Exchange that they closed the cafeteria.
The author of a dozen novels, three short story collections and four non-fiction books, Bram Stoker is known almost exclusively for Dracula, published in 1897. Waves of vampire hysteria swept Europe throughout the 1700s, and by the time Bram Stoker took his turn with the legends they had been worked by Goethe, Coleridge, Byron, Southey, Dumas and others. The first English novel in the bloodsucking line was John Polidori's The Vampyre, written in 1819, from a fragment of a story developed by Byron, to whom Polidori was personal physician. (Polidori's story is most memorable as the answer to one of the classic questions in games of literary trivia: What was the other horror story which had its genesis in the Lake Geneva literary evening shared by Byron and the Shelleys?)
The 27th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the "Wolfhounds", is a unit of the United States Army established in 1901, that served in the Philippine-American War, in the Siberian Intervention after World War I, and as part of the 25th Infantry Division ("Tropic Lightning") during World War II, the Korean War, and later the Vietnam War. More recently the regiment is currently deployed to Afghanistan for the second time, following two deployments to Iraq.
IMF update: Prosecutors in Spain ordered a search of the home of former International Monetary Fund head Rodrigo Rato as part of an investigation into allegations of money laundering. Mr. Rato, who has been charged with fraud, embezzlement and forgery in another case, denied wrongdoing in both cases. 
Elisa Gabbert on poetry: "You come to understand meaning-resistant arrangements of language as having their own kind of meaning" She calls upon the poet John Keats and his definition in a letter. Keats describes "negative capability" as a concept which prizes intuition and uncertainty above reason and knowledge. She continues, "Negative capability, as described by Keats, is rather delightfully poetic in itself, a form of imitative fallacy in criticism, a mental onomatopoeia. It seems clear enough by his own definition: 'when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.' But it’s so often badly paraphrased, in conversation and in print; Wikipedia defines it as 'the capacity of human beings to transcend and revise their contexts.'” 
Atticism: n: 1. concise and elegant expression, diction, or the like. 2. the style or idiom of Attic Greek occurring in another dialect or language. Atticism comes from the Greek word Attikismós which means "a siding with Athens" or "an Attic expression." Since Attic was the language of the Greek capital Athens, it also came to be associated with fine speech. Another word with ancient Greek origin is "laconic:" adj.: "concise, abrupt," 1580s, probably via Latin Laconicus, from Greek Lakonikos, from Lakon "person from Lakonia," the district around Sparta in southern Greece in ancient times, whose inhabitants were famously proud of their brevity of speech. When Philip of Macedon threatened them with, "If I enter Laconia, I will raze Sparta to the ground," the Spartans' reply was, "If." 
There is a sideline to the new book, "Clinton Cash," which asserts that foreign entities who made payments to the Clinton Foundation and to Mr. Clinton through high speaking fees received favors from Mrs. Clinton’s State Department in return. Major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author  to pursue the story lines found in the book. So the book opens inquiry that is exclusive and can be sublet. That sounds very peculiar.
Frequency modulation, or FM, radio was patented in 1933. But its days are clearly numbered. According to a 2012 Pew Study, while over 90% of Americans still listen to AM/FM radio at least weekly, more people are choosing to forgo analog radio for Internet-only services each year. Norway’s Minister of Culture announced this week that a national FM-radio switch off will commence in 2017, allowing the country to complete its transition over to digital radio. It’s the end of an era. Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) will provide Norwegian listeners more diverse radio channel content than ever before.

AAAAAnnnnnnddddddd......a picture of Venus and the v-shaped Pleisdes:

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Chasing Amazons

Adrienne Mayor has written a number of books investigating the mist of myth, creativity and history. The First Fossil Hunters (2000), was an account of how ancient Greek and Roman discoveries of prehistoric bones gave rise to legends of giants and exhibitions of an imagined heroic past. The Poison King (2009) worked to excavate Mithridates, king of Pontus, from a heady mixture of sources: the Romans’ fascinated hatred for their bitter enemy, enticing archaeological traces from the eastern Mediterranean, and a long tradition of fanciful reconstructions headed by Mozart’s opera, Mitridate. Her new book is The Amazons.

The Amazons have always been exciting in myth, and as foreign to the myth-making Greeks as the Phrygian Medea. Archeological digs in the steppes and near the Black Sea have yielded unquestionably women buried like warriors, often war leaders. But they are recognizable because they are handled in death like men of the tribe; that is, there is no evidence they were a subculture, a separate entity.

Simon Goldhill has written a kind review in "The Times" about the difficulties in generalizing from isolated archeological findings and their correlation to stories. Here is one example:
"In a typical argument, Mayor notes that Amazons in Greek images sometimes wield axes; and she notes that axes are found in graves across Scythia. So she asks who invented this weapon, and concludes triumphantly: “Pliny names the legendary inventor of the pointed battle-axe: it was none other than Queen Penthesileia”. All this demonstrates is that the legendary inventor of the axe for this Roman encyclopedist was indeed legendary – a figure from Homer. Whatever Mayor thinks, Pliny’s remark can tell us nothing about whether Amazons existed or about the life of Central Asian nomads."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cab Thoughts 5/13/15

"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought."- George Orwell, 1984

In the U.S., the rate of nearsightedness in people 12 to 54 years old increased by nearly two-thirds between studies nearly three decades apart ending in 2004, to an estimated 41.6%, according to a National Eye Institute study. In several Asian countries, myopia rates in young people are far higher. A full 80% of 4,798 Beijing teenagers tested as nearsighted in a study published in the journal PLOS One in March. Similar numbers plague teens in Singapore and Taiwan. In one 2012 survey in Seoul, nearly all of the 24,000 teenage males surveyed were nearsighted. The greatest health concern is the increase in severe myopia, which increases the risk of serious eye problems like retinal detachment, glaucoma and macular degeneration, experts say. Why myopia rates have soared isn’t entirely clear, but one factor that keeps cropping up in research is how much time children spend outdoors. The longer they’re outside, the less likely they are to become nearsighted, according to more than a dozen studies in various countries world-wide.
The Eagles have signed Tebow. The five lowest Quarterback Ratings of active quarterbacks are:
Tim Tebow*33.4
Geno Smith35.7
Chad Henne36.9
Mark Sanchez*40.4
Sam Bradford*40.7
(The starred guys are on the Eagles roster.)
Shakespeare’s works contain first-ever recordings of 2,035 English words.
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."
Billy Bean is a former professional baseball player, the Major League Baseball inclusion ambassador, and the author of “Going the Other Way.”  He is always confused, by me, with Billy Beane of Moneyball fame. He came out as gay after his baseball career was over. The only man in baseball to come out as gay to his baseball teammates and owners was Glenn Burke and was the first and only other MLB player to acknowledge it publicly. He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995.
In 1894 George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man opened. It was one of his earliest plays and the first commercial success in a sixty-five play, half-century career. On the strength of it Shaw was able to give up being a music critic and, at the age of forty, become a full-time playwright.
Home-schooled 12-year-old Jonah Willow, from Nottingham, took on  Russian chess grandmaster Alexander Cherniaev, 45, at the city's annual chess congress on Sunday and, in four matches, got three wins and then a draw. He is not the youngest player ever to have beaten a chess grandmaster. In 1999, eight-year-old David Howell, became the youngest to beat a grandmaster when he recorded victory against John Nunn in London.
A popular Australian food blogger who claimed she beat terminal cancer through healthy eating—and used that backstory to sell a popular cookbook and app—now admits “none of it’s true.” Belle Gibson, creator of The Whole Pantry, came clean this week after journalists and investigators began to unravel her story. Her false illness claims date back to 2009, when she claimed on an internet forum to have undergone multiple heart surgeries and to have died on the operating table,” the Guardian reports. But the concept, the narrative, was correct. 

James Buchanan was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in economics for “his development of the contractual and constitutional bases for the theory of economic and political decision making.” In his early career he developed a notion from economist Knut Wicksell that only taxes and government spending that are unanimously approved can be justified. That way, argued Wicksell, taxes used to pay for programs would have to be taken from those who benefited from those programs. Perhaps Buchanan’s most important contribution to economics is his distinction between two levels of public choice—the initial level at which a constitution is chosen, and the postconstitutional level. The first is like setting the rules of a game, and the second is like playing the game within the rules. Buchanan has proselytized his fellow economists to think more about the first level instead of acting as political players at the second level. Buchanan also believes that because costs are subjective, much of welfare economics—cost-benefit analysis, and so on—is wrongheaded.
Who is....Arthur Laffer?
NASA's robotic spaceship Dawn visited Vesta, the second largest object in our Solar System's main asteroid belt, which lies between Mars and Jupiter. During a year-long stopover, Dawn's cameras photographed Vesta's entire surface, documenting all of the minor planet's major mountains and craters. Dawn departed Vesta in 2012 and is now just beginning to photograph and explore the mysteries of the largest object in the asteroid belt: dwarf-planet Ceres.

In ancient China, mirrors were believed to protect their owners from evil, making hidden spirits visible and revealing the secrets of the future. A person who had been scared by a ghost could be healed by looking in the mirror. Mirrors were often hung on the ceilings of burial chambers. 
The Mediterranean will be crossed by some 500,000 refugees this year, up from about 220,000 last year. Many of these refugees are from Libya, a state in geography only, that has disintegrated since the U.S. withdrew its support for its leadership. This, and Benghazi, have been laid at the feet of Mrs. Clinton; but is that true? Did she write policy in North Africa?
Thalidomide is a product that treated nausea and vomiting of pregnancy--and it was extremely effective. The  U.S. government never approved the drug, which was linked to birth defects in other countries in the 1950s and ’60s. The delay in approval was logistical, not scientific, because the developers of the drug withheld negative results from publication. No one knew the risks. But the F.D.A. has approved its use to treat multiple myeloma and a complication of leprosy. It is an anti-angiogenic; it suppresses the formation of blood vessels and that quality stunted fetal limb development--and helps in suppressing cancer.

Boudreaux writes: "Saying “Let the market handle it” is to reject a one-size-fits-all, centralized rule of experts. It is to endorse an unfathomably complex arrangement for dealing with the issue at hand. Recommending the market over government intervention is to recognize that neither he who recommends the market nor anyone else possesses sufficient information and knowledge to determine, or even to foresee, what particular methods are best for dealing with the problem."
This requires significant confidence in men and does not displace that confidence to a subset or a clique.
Dovecotes (also pigeonniers, doocots, or colombier) were large, sometimes elaborate, structures built to house pigeons. Early 20th-century pigeon expert Arthur Cooke estimated that by the 1650s, there were 26,000 dovecotes in England alone. Dovecotes were used primarily to keep pigeons for their meat. (The birds' guano was also collected and used for fertilizer, gunpowder, and tanning hides.) At the time, root vegetables had not yet arrived in Britain so that, in winter, farmers could not rely on their usual crops to feed livestock such as pigs and cows. Without beef and bacon, they turned to alternative sources of meat. During the reign of Elizabeth I, a pigeon tower was a privilege reserved only for feudal lords. By law. And this law was enforced: There was a case in England in 1577 in which a "tenant who had erected a dovecote on a royal manor was ordered by the Court of Exchequer to demolish it." Interestingly, an expert in the field, John Verburg, said,  "When that set of rules fell, and commoners were allowed to construct dove­cotes, the status element was lost and the incentive to build dove­cotes gone. We are a vain people."
 A dovecote at Nymans in West Sussex, England.
Some subjects ISIS has banned in areas under their control: Democracy and political thought, hotel management, tourism and archaeology.
New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder has revealed he was diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer in April prior to the 2014 season. Doctors determined the cancer was restricted to one testicle and hadn't spread, removed the testicle, and Solder -- who lauded the Patriots for being "super cautious" throughout the process -- played every game and served as quarterback Tom Brady's blindside protector in a season that culminated with a Super Bowl XLIX championship. (ESPN)
John Paul Jones is called, with John Barry, the Father of the American Navy. He is famous for his "I have not yet begun to fight!' declaration as his ship was taking on water against the British ship Serapis. (He eventually took the Serapis.) In 1778 Jones led a small detachment of two boats from his ship, the USS Ranger, to raid the shallow port at Whitehaven, England. His attempt to take the fort failed but the town was burned. After the raid on Whitehaven, Jones continued to his home territory of Kirkcudbright Bay (he was born in Scotland), where he intended to abduct the earl of Selkirk, then exchange him for American sailors held captive by Britain. Although he did not find the earl at home, Jones’ crew was able to steal all his silver, including his wife’s teapot, still containing her breakfast tea. From Scotland, Jones sailed across the Irish Sea to Carrickfergus, where the Ranger captured the HMS Drake after delivering fatal wounds to the British ship’s captain and lieutenant.
BlueVoice, in partnership with Mundo Azul, has documented the brutal slaughter of up to 15,000 dolphins by Peruvian shark fishermen. Dolphins are harpooned when they come to ride the bow of the fishing boats then clubbed to death. The dolphin is cut into pieces for use as shark bait. The fins of the sharks taken are sold to Asia to make soup.

AAAAnnnnnddddd.....a graph, The Laffer Curve:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Aurochs died out in 1627 in Poland. The last recorded live aurochs, a female, died in 1627 in the Jaktorów (Jaktorowka) Forest, Masovia, Poland (Grubb, 2005).
They were a large breed of cattle, standing up to 1.8m in height, and were ancestor to modern domestic breeds. They were the bulls of cave paintings.
Aurochs had huge curved horns that characterized the breed – in some the horns could reach 80cm in length – and their legs were longer than modern cattle. Historical accounts suggests the beasts were fast and very aggressive. They were not afraid of humans, and if they were hunted would attack back in response. Evidence suggests the wild species began to be domesticated around 8,000 years ago.
Previously people thought that the shoulder height of an aurochs bull was approximately 200 cm and that of a cow 180 cm (Herre, 1953). 
By the 13th century, populations of wild aurochs had fallen dramatically with their range restricted from human expansion. They had disappeared from Britain by 2,000 BC, but remained in eastern Europe until the 17th century.
In the 1930s, Nazi second in command Hermann Goering, in some weird atavistic fever, asked geneticists Heinz and Lutz Heck to re-create the extinct species. The Heck brothers – working independently - crossed Spanish fighting bulls with Highland cattle, along with primitive breeds from Corsica and Hungary. The result was a Nazi super cow. They were used for propaganda material during WWII – their bodies were huge and muscular, with massive horns – an illustration of the strength of the party.
There was a thinking that you could selectively breed animals – and indeed people – for 'Aryan' characteristics, which were rooted in runes, folklore and legend. What the Germans did with their breeding programme was create something truly primeval. While resembling aurochs, Heck cattle never matched the size and stature of the extinct species. The brothers only ever managed to breed the cattle to the size of domestic cows. However, the physical resemblance was strong – as was the aggressive temperament. After the war most were destroyed because they were so unmanageable.
The Augsburg aurochs. This painting is a copy of the original that was present at a merchant in Augsburg in the 19th century. The original probably dates from the 16th century. It is not known if the original as well the copy still exist somewhere (Van Vuure, 2003).
Augsburg aurochs
Lascaux Aurochs Bull 

A photograph of a cave painting of an aurochs bull in Lascaux,

Monday, May 11, 2015

Jon Stewart and the News

Former New York Times journalist Judith Miller appeared on “The Daily Show” and went head-to-head with Jon Stewart over her reporting during the lead up to the Iraq War. She has a book to sell; he has a position. The exchange, sometimes intense, is illuminating and shows that sometimes entertainment can be constructive.
Miller’s reporting of Saddam Hussein‘s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) both before and after the 2003 invasion sparked intense controversy when it was discovered to be based on faulty information — especially from now-discredited source Ahmed Chalabi — and Stewart was quick to point the finger of blame for the conflict at the journalist.
"I hoped that people like you would read it and determine that it was really, really hard to do this kind of reporting,” said Miller, referring to her new book, “The Story: A Reporter’s Journey.”
“I wasn’t alone, I had lots and lots of company. The intelligent sources we were talking to had never been wrong before,” she said. Rather than coming from Dick Cheney or George W. Bush, “the information came from the men and women who had steered me right on Al Qaeda and 9/11, who had told me that the former Soviet Union had a huge cache of biological weapons that they had never acknowledged and they were right,” she said.
While Miller claimed she reported “what the intelligence community believed,” Stewart said she wrote what the White House was feeding her. He did not have specifics.
“These discussions always make me incredibly sad because I feel like they point to institutional failure at the highest levels and no one will take responsibility on it and they pass the buck,” Stewart continuing his own path to its conclusion.
“I think they point to intelligence failures that I still worry about — we are still relying on the same information on Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and the other countries,” Miller replied.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday 5/10/15

Today's gospel is the "Love one another" gospel: "This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." This strangely has more popular recognition in A Tale of Two Cities.

It has, of course, within, the debate of the meaning of love; there are countless kind. It also holds some peculiar lines about friendship: "You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father."
For anyone concerned about the slave-friend conflict, Christ then says the very provocative "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you..."
A being claiming to be an intergalactic power who says he sought us out.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cab Thoughts 5/9/15

"If you are planning for one year, grow rice. If you're planning for 20 years, grow trees. If you're planning for centuries, grow men." - Chinese proverb

According to researchers at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Germans established 980 concentration camps; 30,000 slave labor camps; 1,150 Jewish ghettos; 1,000 P.O.W. camps; 500 brothels where women were used as sex slaves; and many other places where victims were killed--an astonishing 42,500 sites in all.
Thomas D'Arcy Etienne Hughes McGee was an Irish Nationalist, Catholic spokesman, journalist, and a Father of Canadian Confederation. He fought for the development of Irish and Canadian national identities that would transcend their component groups. He is, to date, the only Canadian victim of political assassination at the federal level. Patrick J. Whelan, a Fenian sympathizer and a Catholic, was accused, tried, convicted, and hanged for the crime on February 11, 1869, at Ottawa. Decades later, his guilt was questioned and many people believe that he was a scapegoat for a Protestant plot.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer just paid $2 billion for ownership of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers.  According to Forbes, the Clippers had $20 million in operating income last year on $146 million in revenue.  By comparison, the Penguins had $22 million in operating income on $141 million in revenue.

Who is... John Thomas Scopes?

Half of Americans reject evolution, the second lowest acceptance rate of 34 developed countries. Turkey is the lowest. The first effort to pass an anti-evolution law (led by William Jennings Bryan) happened in Kentucky in 1921. It proposed making the teaching of evolution illegal. Much of the resistance to the proposed law came from the faculty and the president of the University of Kentucky. It failed in the legislature 42 to 43. At the time, John Thomas Scopes was a student at the University of Kentucky. Then he, and the debate, moved to Tennessee.

“When it becomes serious, you have to lie." -Jean Claude Juncker, the 12th and current President of the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union (EU). So, is he lying or telling the truth?

Ravensbrück was a prison camp opened  by the Nazis in 1939 about 50 miles north of Berlin. As time went by it became a camp for women only. The women were kept alive if they could work and were used for medical experiments, especially Polish women, who suffered incisions in their legs to break their bones or insert contaminated materials for the purpose of finding treatments that could be used for wounded German soldiers.

Lois Lerner gave a lecture at Duke University in October 2010 in which she said the IRS was under pressure. "Everyone is up in arms because they don't like it," she said of the Citizens United case opening up the donor floodgates for conservatives. "The Federal Election Commission can't do anything about it. They want the IRS to fix the problem. The IRS laws are not set up to fix the problem ... so everyone is screaming at us right now: fix it now before the election." Long term IRS opponent, Grover Norquist, in his book End The IRS Before It Ends Us, writes that Obama would have lost the election in 2012 had the IRS not clamped down on conservative fund raising entities.

Two days after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a lecturer at Berlin University, took to the radio and denounced the Nazi Fuhrerprinzip, the leadership principle that was merely a synonym for dictatorship. Bonhoeffer’s broadcast was cut off before he could finish. After a period in London, Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in 1935 to run a seminary; the government closed it in 1937. Bonhoeffer’s continued vocal objections to Nazi policies resulted in his losing his freedom to lecture or publish. He soon joined the German resistance movement, even the plot to assassinate Hitler. He was eventually court-martialed and hung. His last words were, “This is the end–for me, the beginning of life.”

Golden oldie:

In the late 40s J. D. Salinger sold the film rights of the story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" to Samuel Goldwyn, who had his scriptwriters (the Epstein brothers, of Casablanca fame) add characters and plot and a Top Twenty theme song, so turning Salinger's indictment of bourgeois emptiness into the sentimental, My Foolish Heart. Critics found the film a "four handkerchief" tearjerker, one so "full of soap-opera cliches," said the New Yorker, that it was "hard to believe that it was wrung out of a short story...that appeared in this austere magazine a couple of years ago." Salinger was angry over the adaptation and never gave up the film rights to The Catcher in the Rye.

Wasabi is a member of the cabbage family. Its hotness is more akin to that of a hot mustard than that of the capsaicin in a chili pepper, producing vapours that stimulate the nasal passages more than the tongue. The plant grows naturally along stream beds in mountain river valleys in Japan. Due to its high cost, a common substitute is a mixture of horseradish, mustard, starch and green food coloring.

"The mixed economy that has prevailed in the United States since World War II, a uniquely American form of participatory fascism, has lent itself to a substantial expansion of the scope of government authority over economic decision-making.  Given capitalist color by the form of private property rights, the system has denied the substance of any such rights whenever governmental authorities have found it expedient to do so."--the rather harsh view of Robert Higgs in Crisis and Leviathan.

North Korean women are a major source of human trafficking in China. Prices for North Korean women in China range from several hundred dollars to $2,000. They are often sold to farmers or to old or disabled men.

Charlie Munger has said Darwin taught him the value of forcing yourself to search for disconfirming evidence. Did he learn anything from Einstein? " I didn’t know anything about relativity until Einstein taught me. I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out for myself." Interviewed after his Daily Journal Corporation meeting in Gorbes he said:"When you have a wonderful monopolistic position, and then some more talented people work harder, of course you’re less rich. These damned economists keep looking for ways to handle the federal reserve system in Japan or something. Think how stupid that is. The solution is really obvious of why they lost. They got huge competition they didn’t formerly have when they were the export powerhouse. Japanese were better at quality control and so forth. Then other people learned to play the same game.
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."

Scientists in China are believed to have altered the DNA of human embryos so that changes can be passed on to future generations.

It appears as if the U.S. will change its relationship with Cuba in the next few months.Speaking in an interview Tuesday with National Public Radio, President Obama said the only reason he hasn't lifted the terrorist designation already was that he was waiting for a State Department report. "As soon as I get a recommendation, I'll be in a position to act on it," Obama told NPR. So our relationship with Cuba will be based on State Department recommendations.
In 1964, Cuba planned a massive terror attack in the subways under Bloomingdale's, Macy's and other retailers on the busiest shopping day of the year in New York City, in a plot foiled by the FBI. The State Department estimated that Cuba shelters about 70 cop-killers, revolutionaries, hijackers and other criminals, and has refused to return them to justice. Cuban agents run Venezuela's identification system, its electrical system, its internal spies, its agriculture and much of its military.
Anyone interested in Cuba's fascinating political/intelligence activity should read Brian Latell's Castro's Secrets: The CIA and Cuba's Intelligence Machine (2012). While there is the inevitable Kennedy hook, the general story is quite astonishing.

 The U.S. Postal Service issued a new limited edition "Forever" stamp Tuesday, honoring the late poet, author and civil rights champion Maya AngelouThe stamp includes the quotation: "A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." Children's book author Joan Walsh Anglund told The Washington Post the quotation is in her book of poems "A Cup of Sun," published in 1967.

Edward Snowden continues to publish batches of material: the latest, last week, addressed potential British disinformation techniques against Argentina.
Interviewed on American TV by British comedian John Oliver, Snowden admitted he has not read the material he blithely unloads. He merely 'evaluated' two million files stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency — about 68,000 of them from GCHQ, Britain's intelligence agency.
Al Qaeda now publishes a manual instructing its supporters on how to evade government eavesdroppers.
Sir David Omand, who was once Britain's homeland security adviser, described Snowden's revelations as 'the most catastrophic loss to British intelligence ever'.

Fulsome: adj: 1. complimentary or flattering to an excessive degree. e.g. "they are almost embarrassingly fulsome in their appreciation" 2. of large size or quantity; generous or abundant. e.g. "a fulsome harvest" So one must be careful of the word as it can be both critical and complimentary.

According to CNN, one of State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby's  top investigators in the investigation of the death of Freddie Grey is Avon Mackel, a former high-ranking Baltimore police officer who was stripped of his command post in 2009 for failing to follow through on a robbery investigation that two of his officers mishandled and did not report. A Baltimore Sun report said police in the district were accused of classifying serious crimes as lesser in order to log lower crime rates. In October 2009, four months after his demotion, Baltimore County police sent a SWAT team to Mackel's home, responding a drunken incident in which he was seen holding a gun, according to a police report of the incident obtained by CNN.
Officers said an intoxicated Mackel refused to cooperate and was visibly upset, according to the report provided in response to a public records request. An officer then "observed the barrel of Mackel's handgun hanging over the edge of the molding at the top of the steps and saw Mackel pull the gun out of sight," the report said.
Police used a Taser on Mackel while he was on the phone with his father "crying and yelling," before he barricaded himself in his bedroom. The report doesn't say how the incident ended, but police said there was no arrest. A spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department said "the [SWAT] tactical unit did assist with this incident, which ended peacefully."
Good. A crackerjack impartial look.

AAAAaaaannnnnddddd..........a picture of Mick Jagger and his ballerina girlfriend, Melanie Hamrick, a 28 year old :
Mick Jagger and Melanie Hamrick in Zurich (Splash News)