Friday, July 31, 2015

IQ Curse

Alfred Binet was born in Nice, France in 1857. His family was interested in his pursuing Law, he preferred Psychology. He became interested in intelligence and the teaching of children and began to develop a testing system to evaluate school children and their requirements for teaching. He tested different ages and compared the results. His purpose was to identify students who needed more attention.

In 1905, this vision of identifying at-risk students became reality as Binet developed the first test comprised of 30 different types of questions relating to everyday life. Participants were asked questions ranging from sensory tasks to verbal abstractions. In 1911, revisions to the original intelligence test allowed mental ages to be assigned to test participants based on their performances. The term mental age refers to the mental sophistication of an individual, as opposed to chronological age, which refers to the actual physical age. An eight-year-old who performed at an twelve-year-old's standards would have a mental age of twelve. 12/8. 150. However, an eight-year-old who performed at a four-year-old's level would acquire a mental age of four. 4/8. 50. It is from these first few tests that the entire field of modern intelligence testing bases its foundations upon. A really amazing leap.
It is important that Binet be understood. He was making no generalizations about intelligence; he was trying to identify vulnerable students whose learning needed support. When Stanford psychologist Lewis M. Terman imported Alfred Binet's original test from France and developed the Stanford–Binet IQ test, he gave a hereditarian interpretation to the results. Binet had vigorously rejected developing this style of test.

In the Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray--because of their racial generalities--actually made people care about the arcane IQ measurements. They argued that IQ was predicable across groups. But they also said this: " cannot predict what a given person will do from his IQ score.... On the other hand, despite the low association at the individual level, large differences in social behavior separate groups of people when the groups differ intellectually on the average." 
So IQ testing has no predictive value for individuals. (Put aside the group question.) There are many reasons for this but the basic problem is that no one, no one, can define intelligence. No one knows what they are measuring. Binet in his original work was making no effort to identify smart or dumb people; he was trying to measure which kids needed more attention than others in their peer group. That's it. We now know how wise Binet was. IQs change. IQ are not consistent among people. Why? Because we do not know what we are measuring. For example, how would one distinguish intellect from wisdom? From cleverness? From profound?

As an aside, one need only mention IQ testing among sensitive people to initiate a hurricane. (Look, for example, on Quora.) There is good reason. Testing people to grade current or future potential has a huge danger: The risk of the grade being expanded into "quality," into who is more valuable. You will never hear this directly, only through inference, but that fear is there and it is valid. This kind of thing can create hierarchies. And selection. The outrage at Murray after The Bell Curve was fierce and heartfelt.

Giving people a number, like declaring beef "choice" or "prime," is just criminal.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Jonathan Pollard and Priorities

Jonathan Pollard, the American Navy employee who spied for Israel in the mid-nineteen-eighties and is now serving a life sentence in Federal prison, has wormed back into the news again. It is said the Obama administration is commuting his sentence and will release him as a sop to Israel for the recent Iran treaty.
If that is true then the Iran Treaty must be a lot to apologize for.

Pollard has always been that curious mixture of dangerous threat and jerk. He used to lie about being a spy in college. When he eventually was recruited by the Israelis he was deeply in debt. He then became a heavy cocaine user and tried to set up a number of unlikely arms deals with friends and foes alike.

By his own estimates, Pollard passed to his Israeli handlers more than 800 classified publications and more than 1,000 cables, probably the largest cache of materials ever passed through espionage. “Much of what he took, contrary to what he'd have you believe, had nothing to do with Arab countries or the security of Israel," former Director of Naval Intelligence Thomas Brooks said in a "Foreign Policy" interview. It “had everything to do with U.S. collection methods, to include most specifically against the Soviet Union.” Then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said, "It is difficult for conceive of greater harm done to national security." The Pollard loses were more than simple data losses, they were loses of process.
In 1993 Secretary of Defense Les Aspin reported that Pollard had tried 14 times to disclose classified information in letters written to various recipients from his prison cell.

Nonetheless Pollard insists he is essentially innocent of any crimes against the United States, rather he was just trying to protect Israel from its enemies. Somehow these terribly arrogant, destructive and dangerous people are constantly trying to assume the high-ground. (The Rosenbergs said they wanted to level the nuclear playing field away from the dangerous Americans so they gave American nuclear secrets to Russia.)

RASIN is an acronym for radio-signal notations. The manual, which is classified "top-secret Umbra," fills ten volumes, is constantly updated, and lists the physical parameters of every known signal. Pollard took it all. "It's the Bible," one former communications-intelligence officer said. "It tells how we collect signals anywhere in the world."

Defense Intelligence Agency's Community On-Line Intelligence System DIAL-COINS contained all the intelligence reports filed by Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine attaches in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East--and their sources. Pollard got them.

National SIGINT Requirements List is essentially a compendium of the tasks, and the priority of those tasks, given to various N.S.A. collection units around the world. So American bias and interests, sometimes projected out decades, could be inferred by examining them. Pollard again.

And all of these crucial sources went to Israel.
Then to Russia. Russia.

The Israelis used the information to barter for Russian Jews to be repatriated to Israel. According to William Casey, the late C.I.A. director, "For your information, the Israelis used Pollard to obtain our attack plan against the U.S.S.R. all of it. The coordinates, the firing locations, the sequences. And for guess who? The Soviets."  Casey then explained that the Israelis had traded the Pollard data for Soviet émigrés.

Maybe the "Godfather" was wrong; maybe we should keep our friends closer.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cab Thoughts 7/29/15

“A law should be called good if it reflects the will of the dominant forces of the community, even if it will take us to hell.”--Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

Does that Holmes quote sound reasonable? 

As this is its tenth anniversary, there has been some talk about Kelo v. City of New London (Conn.). In it, the local city condemned a local home and gave the land to a property developer. The Supreme Court ruled that local governments can seize property from private citizen A and give it to private citizen B if it, the government, declares publicly a belief that such seizures will create jobs and increase the amount of money--and taxes--the receivers of the property will generate. Justice O’Connor captured the extent of the problems with Kelo in her dissent, including this important point: “The specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
Amazingly, the Court defended its action on the basis of "judicial restraint."

Who is .....Ambrose Bierce?

On June 24, 1993, Yale University computer science professor David Gelernter was seriously injured while opening his mail when a padded envelope explodes in his hands. The attack just came two days after a University of California geneticist was injured by a similar bomb and was the latest in a string of bombings since 1978 that authorities believed to be related. This was the work of the so-called “Unabomber.” The bombings, along with 14 others since 1978 that killed 3 people and injured 23 others, were eventually linked to Theodore John Kaczynski, a former mathematician from Chicago. He developed a philosophy of radical environmentalism and militant opposition to modern technology, and tried to get academic essays on the subjects published. It was the rejection of one of his papers by two Chicago-area universities in 1978 that may have prompted him to manufacture and deliver his first mail bomb. This prompted Gelernter's book, Drawing Life
Kaczynski, despite his obvious homicidal madness, has been viewed very cautiously by the academic left because of his intelligence and academic background--and, perhaps, his Rousseau-like position they have sympathy for.

Approximately 90% of all cases of malaria worldwide occur in Africa, and 3,000 African children die each day from its effects.

Enthusiasm: n: strong excitement about something : a strong feeling of active interest in something that you like or enjoy: something causing a feeling of excitement and active interest : a hobby that someone feels enthusiastic about. From Greek enthousiasmos, from enthousiazein to be inspired, irregular from entheos inspired, from en- + theos god. First Known Use: 1603. This word is tinged with fanaticism when applied to religion; "enthusiasts" were seen in a negative light. There is supposed to be a church in England with a plaque in honor of a former vicar “who preached in this church for forty years without enthusiasm” (i.e., fanaticism). A search on Google reveals a reference to a similar plaque in Westminster Abbey.

The new altruistic generation, who place a lot of things before an expanded livelihood, has a new role-model: The pro football player. A recent story had Rashard Mendenhall retiring and writing for "Ballers." Mendenhall is a part of a trend of under-30 players retiring in their primes. Jake Locker, Chris Borland, Anthony Smith, Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis, and Jason Worilds all retired this offseason.

Messier 64: The enormous dust clouds obscuring the near-side of M64's central region are laced with the telltale reddish glow of hydrogen associated with star forming regions. But they are not this galaxy's only peculiar feature. Observations show that M64 is actually composed of two concentric, counter-rotating systems. While all the stars in M64 rotate in the same direction as the interstellar gas in the galaxy's central region, gas in the outer regions, extending to about 40,000 light-years, rotates in the opposite direction. The dusty eye and bizarre rotation is likely the result of a billion year old merger of two different galaxies.

The first Google storage was made from Legos. Google needed an expandable and cheap way to house 10 4GB hard drives.

Ambrose Bierce was born in Horse Cave Creek, Ohio. He was a reporter, writer and professional cynic. He is famous for his Civil War stories ("An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," "Chickamauga," etc.) but more so for his celebrated aphorisms and definitions. This is his version of the country's unofficial national anthem:

 ... My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of felony,
Of thee I sing --
Land where my fathers fried
Young witches and applied
Whips to the Quaker's hide
And made him spring. . . .
It is said he made Mencken cringe. He died mysteriously and crazily: At age seventy-one, he perhaps died while attempting to get close to Pancho Villa's army in Mexico, perhaps as a suicide in the Grand Canyon.

In 1857, Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal was published. Critics now regard it as one of the most important and influential collection of poetry to come out of the 19th century, and an essential bridge between Romanticism and Modernism. This was the review from Figaro at the time: "The book is a hospital full of all the insanities of the human mind, of all the putresence of the human heart; if only this were done to cure them it would be permissible, but they are incurable."

Sunspots are relatively cool regions where the local magnetic field pokes through the Sun's surface and inhibits heating.

Fermentation is the process by which a living cell obtains energy by breaking down simple sugars and other molecules without using oxygen. It occurs in different chemical sequences in different species of organisms. In alcoholic fermentation, known to humans for at least 7,000 years, the glucose molecule is degraded to two molecules of the two-carbon alcohol, ethanol, and to two molecules of carbon dioxide. So beer making contributes to global warming.

Golden oldie:

Contrary to common belief, the Great Wall of China cannot be seen from the moon without aid. This pervasive myth seems to have started in 1893 in the magazine The Century and then resurfaced in 1932 when Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe it Or Not claimed the Great Wall could be seen from the moon—even though space flight was decades away.

With the Obama administration only months away from releasing its “Clean Power Plan,” much debate has focused on the supposed benefits of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas emissions over the next 15 years.
The regulation — enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency — will shutter much of our existing energy grid. New facilities will necessarily cost more and also rely on more expensive energy sources. A study by the National Black Chamber of Commerce estimates this transformation will increase annual electricity costs by $565 billion in the coming years.
Ultimately, these higher costs will be passed on to families in the form of higher electricity bills and higher prices at every store.
"...under my plan ... electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."--Obama, to the San Francisco Chronicle, 2008.
Are these guys on our side?

The mines of South Africa can descend as far as 12,000 feet and reach temperatures of 130°F. To produce an ounce of gold requires 38 man hours, 1,400 gallons of water, enough electricity to run a large house for ten days, and chemicals such as cyanide, acids, lead, borax, and lime. In order to extract South Africa’s yearly output of 500 tons of gold, nearly 70 million tons of earth are raised and milled.

According to the IG's deputy Timothy Camus, two "lower-graded" employees at the IRS center in Martinsburg, West Virginia, erased 422 computer backup tapes that contained as many as 24,000 emails to and from former IRS official Lois Lerner.  It gets better: the tapes were erased in March 2014, months after congressional investigators requested all of Lerner's emails, and months after many said to simply track down the server back ups.

Dr. Helen Caldicott is co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, and she is author/editor of Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe, The New Press, September 2014. The highest radiation detected in the Tokyo Metro area was in Saitama with cesium radiation levels detected at 919,000 becquerel (Bq) per square meter, a level almost twice as high as Chernobyl’s “permanent dead zone evacuation limit of 500,000 Bq” (source: Radiation Defense Project). For that reason, Dr. Caldicott strongly advises against travel to Japan and recommends avoiding Japanese food. Even so, post the Fukushima disaster, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed an agreement with Japan that the U.S. would continue importing Japanese foodstuff. Therefore, Dr. Caldicott suggests people not vote for Hillary Clinton.

The Supreme Court's approval of the ACA is a surprise--or should be. Roberts writes that the ACA "contains more than a few examples of inartful drafting." Roberts cites a doctrine known as "Chevron deference," a doctrine that agencies charged with administering statutes are entitled to deference when they interpret ambiguous statutory language. Now the courts are obligated to do whatever is required to make a law efficient, regardless of how the law is written. That is a surprising expansion of the court's responsibilities. One gets the feeling that the Court sees itself as an agent of social momentum.

SOCIAL SECURITY: The very first check, for $22.54, was paid in 1940 to a Vermont woman who had paid $22 in Social Security taxes. By the time she died, in 1974, aged 100, she had collected $20,944.42.

One problem in debate/discussion is the vulnerability of some participants and their substitution as a generality for the whole. So the Grand Inquisitor becomes the Catholic Church, a homicidal/suicidal maniac becomes Islam. It is a tempting shorthand. There is an on-line atheist show that introduced their program by explaining the origin of the term "atheist." "Atheist" supposedly is derived from the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, after whom the city of Athens is named. Indeed there is a similarity in the words. But "atheist" stems from the Greek "atheos", meaning "without God" and composed of the privative alpha ("a") denying or lacking what follows, in this case "theos", or God.

In an essay published this month on a Washington Post education blog, a Luther Burbank High School teacher explained she does not want to teach Shakespeare’s works despite his esteemed place in American education because his perspective does not speak well to her ethnically diverse students. “What I worry about is that as long as we continue to cling to ONE (white) MAN’S view of life as he lived it so long ago, we (perhaps unwittingly) promote the notion that other cultural perspectives are less important,” Dana Dusbiber wrote.

An interesting idea from a blogger, Jim Leff, that Americans have a cultural bias that they "know better." They expect to be deferred to, they argue without facts, because they believe they are a "valued individual" from their commercial relationships with vendors. I would argue it is more political, more "equality."

AAAaaaaaannnnnnndddddd........a picture of M64, The Black Eye Galaxy:
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Women and Climate Change

Current politics demands that every single disparate thread be woven into the creed's braid.

California Democrat Barbara Lee proposed a resolution in the House of Representatives that claims women will eventually be forced into prostitution since they face "disproportionately harmful impacts from climate change," this despite the fact that women are somehow "uniquely" capable of adapting to climate change.
Some representative insights include:
"Women will disproportionately face harmful impacts from climate change."
"'Food insecure' women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health."
"....despite a unique capacity and knowledge to promote and provide for adaptation to climate change, women often have insufficient resources to undertake such adaptation."
"...women are often underrepresented in the development and formulation of policy regarding adaptation to climate change, even though they are often in the best position to provide and consult on adaptive strategies."

This is right up there with too many military personnel tipping Guam over.

I think my favorite part is "food insecure."

Monday, July 27, 2015

Pluto and its Moons

The dwarf planet Pluto has five known moons. In order of distance from Pluto they are Charon, Styx, Nix, Kerberos, and Hydra.
The following are origins and meanings of them all.
Pluto: Via Latin from Greek Plouton (Pluto, the god of the underworld). The adjective is plutonian: 1. Relating to the dwarf planet Pluto. 2. Relating to Pluto, the god of the underworld in the Greek mythology. 3. Relating to the underworld.  Hades was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. Eventually, the god's name came to designate the abode of the dead. In Greek mythology, Hades is the oldest male child of Cronus and Rhea. Later, the Greeks started referring to the god as Plouton, which the Romans Latinized as Pluto.
Charon: The ferryman of the dead, closely associated in myth with the god Hades. The word is a noun meaning any boatman.
Styx: In Greek mythology Styx was a river in the underworld over which souls of the dead were ferried by Charon. Styx was also the river by which oaths were sworn that even gods were afraid to break. The word is from Latin Stygius, from Greek Stygios, from Styx (the hateful). The word is Stygian, an adjective meaning 1. Dark or gloomy. 2. Hellish. 3. Unbreakable or completely binding (said of an oath). 4. Relating to the river Styx.
Nix is named after Nyx, the ancient Greek goddess personifying night. In Roman mythology she’s known as Nox. The Latin word for night, nox, appears in such words as nocturnal, equinox (equal day and night) and noctambulation (sleepwalking).
Kerberos: Cerberus is already the name of an asteroid, 1865 Cerberus, but the Greek form of the name, Kerberos, was acceptable to the International Astronomical Union, which does the naming. Cerberus was the three-headed dog that guarded the entrance to Hades, the infernal region in classical mythology. Ancient Greeks and Romans used to put a slice of cake in the hands of their dead to help pacify Cerberus on the way. This custom gave rise to the idiom “to give a sop to Cerberus” meaning to give a bribe to quiet a troublesome person.
Cancerbero (from Spanish can: dog) is one of the Spanish terms for a goalkeeper in soccer. Kerberos is the name given to an authentication protocol for computer networks. Cerberus is a noun meaning: A powerful, hostile guard.
Hydra is named after the nine-headed monster Hydra in Greek mythology. When its one head was cut off, it sprouted two more. It was ultimately slain by Hercules as the second of his Twelve Labours. Its lair was the lake of Lerna. Beneath the waters was an entrance to the Underworld, and the Hydra was its guardian. From Latin Hydra, from Greek Hudra (water snake). In language it is a noun: A persistent or multifaceted problem that presents a new obstacle when a part of it is solved.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

7/26/15 Sunday

Today's is the "loaves and fishes" gospel. It is an echo of a similar event in the Old Testament and culminates in another one of those world-spirit conflicts that the New Testament (and men) seems to create.  
"When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,
“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”
Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off
to make him king,
he withdrew again to the mountain alone."

So Christ is attempting to raise the spiritual and timeless qualities of the soul and we, man, are always substituting the temporal and world-harnessed translation.


by  Robert Laurence Binyon [1869-1943]

I come among the peoples like a shadow.
I sit down by each man's side.
None sees me, but they look on one another,
And know that I am there.
My silence is like the silence of the tide
That buries the playground of children;
Like the deepening of frost in the slow night,
When birds are dead in the morning.
Armies trample, invade, destroy,
With guns roaring from earth and air.
I am more terrible than armies,
I am more feared than the cannon.
Kings and chancellors give commands;
I give no command to any;
But I am listened to more than kings
And more than passionate orators.
I unswear words, and undo deeds.
Naked things know me.
I am first and last to be felt of the living.
I am Hunger

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cab Thoughts 7/25/15

"We give this solemn warning to Kaiser Wilhelm: The Skibbereen Eagle has its eye on you." --from an editorial that appeared in a provincial Irish newspaper in the fateful year 1914

The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rate in the world. There are 89 guns for every 100 Americans. In England and Wales, there are 6 guns for every 100.

From Albert Venn Dicey's 1905 study, "Lectures on the Relationship Between Law & Public Opinion in England During the Nineteenth Century:" Parliament in most instances pays little regard to any general principle whatever, but attempts to meet  in the easiest and most off-hand manner some particular grievance or want. Parliament is guided not by considerations of logic but by the pressure which powerful bodies can bring to bear upon its action.

"Using ancient DNA, we were able to show that Kennewick Man is more closely related to Native Americans than any other population," Dr. Morten Rasmussen, a researcher at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and an author of the study, said in a written statement. But isn't it likely he was a forefather of the northwestern American Indian anyway so isn't the genetic similarity inevitable? Isn't this like saying the Mayan's are related to the Sioux? What question does that answer?

Cavil: V: 1. to raise irritating and trivial objections; find fault with unnecessarily (usually followed by at or about ): He finds something to cavil at in everything I say. 2. to oppose by inconsequential, frivolous, or sham objections: to cavil each item of a proposed agenda. ety: Cavil entered English in the mid-1500s from the Latin cavillārī meaning "to jeer, scoff, quibble."

Toyota's new communications chief Julie Hamp, an American and its first senior woman executive, was arrested on suspicion of illegally bringing pain killers into Japan just two months after her appointment. 57 addictive Oxycodone pills were found in a small parcel labeled "necklaces" that was sent from the United States and addressed to Hamp in Japan. The pills were in packets or buried at the bottom of the parcel, which also contained toy pendants and necklaces. She was fiercely defended by the CEO. Then she was gone.

For local governments, a key change came in 2013 when Moody's decided it would no longer rely on cities' and states' targets for investment returns when it calculates pension liabilities-one of the biggest costs shouldered by local governments. Moody's own estimates are more conservative, meaning holes in pension funds look bigger.
As WSJ reports, rather than admit that their return assumptions are indeed unrealistic as suggested by Moody's, local governments have opted to drop Moody's instead. More than a year before Moody's Investors Service downgraded Chicago's bonds to junk status, one of its senior analysts asked top city officials to explain why the third-largest U.S. city was healthier than a troubled island commonwealth flirting with insolvency, according to people familiar with the conversation."Help me understand why Chicago is different than Puerto Rico?" said the Moody's analyst, Rachel Cortez, during a February 2014 meeting that Mayor Rahm Emanuel attended, two of these people said.

Who is...Bluebeard?

Ancient Egypt stands among the most closely controlled economies in history. No matter who farmed it -- Egyptian peasant, Greek settler, temple priest -- most land was royal land. As such, Cleopatra's functionaries determined and monitored its use with an extensive and meticulous efficiency. Only with government permission could you fell a tree, breed pigs, turn your barley field into an olive garden. The greatest of Egypt's industries -- wheat, glass, papyrus, linen, oils, and unguents -- essentially constituted royal monopolies.
It is curious that gays want to marry and that heterosexuals just want to live together.

The infallibility of the Pope in matters of dogma was declared by Pius IX at the First Vatican Conference in 1870. It was not delivered to consensus approval. The Pope's recent announcement about poverty, warming and the West are not covered by infallibility but are nonetheless important. Many will dismiss them because the Pope is from a South American revolutionary culture. That, regrettably, is not enough. These problems and questions are real and constant and they need discussion. I would start with which state, where centralized power has been used to solve the problems the Pope calls attention to, we should emulate.

Golden oldie:

Bluebeard is the nickname of Raoul, the blue-bearded main character in a fairy tale by Charles Perrault (1628-1703). In the story, Bluebeard's wife finds the bodies of his previous wives in a room she was forbidden to enter. The feminine equivalent of the word could be black widow.

"Rolling the dice" is not generating a random event. You do not get a random number when you throw a pair of dice. There is only one way to get to 2 or 12, but there are many combinations that will yield, for example 7 (1&6, 2&5, 3&4, 4&3 (not the same as 3&4), 5&2, and 6&1).

The Marxists have had, as a basic tenet, the belief that the family was an impediment to egalitarianism. "Abolition of the Family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists," is a line from "The Communist Manifesto." Anne Applebaum has written the historian Stuart Finkel observed that communists have always acted more forcibly to undermine free association than to undermine free enterprise. When Lenin launched the New Economic Plan in the 1920sApplebaum notes, the "systematic destruction of literary, philosophical, and spiritual societies continued unabated." (The Iron Curtain) The Nazis did the same. Any sub-division, any community, is the enemy of the Collective.
"Resistance is futile." Diversity is displaced one level up to the "many-faced god."

New "Heroes of Beslan:" Attackers fired semiautomatic weapons at a child's birthday party in Detroit, killing one person and wounding nine others, authorities said. About 400 people attended the party, but there are no leads so far, and witnesses are not cooperating, Assistant Police Chief Dolunt said.
Attacking a child's birthday party with automatic weapons is probably the result of loose gun laws. Those guys probably would behave just fine if they had more gun laws.
But state and city rules on gun ownership are regarded as tough. Every legal gun buyer in Michigan, and particularly Detroit, must be approved by the local police at least twice each and every time they purchase a gun and undergo a background check by the federal government.
Detroit police chief James Craig has repeatedly called on "good" and "law-abiding" Detroiters to arm themselves against criminals in the city.

"What is Enlightenment?" is not Kant's best work, but it is one of his shortest and most anthologized, and it offers a handy account of Enlightenment, describing it as an eternal yearning for intellectual autonomy, rooted deep in human nature. This yearning had hitherto been cruelly frustrated, but Kant thought that things might be about to change. Various recent developments-the American revolution and the reforming government of his own sovereign master Frederick the Great-seemed to offer "indications" that "obstacles to universal Enlightenment" were being gradually removed, and he therefore permitted himself to salute the dawning of an "age of Enlightenment."
According to Ferrone, however, the title of "father of the Enlightenment" does not belong to Kant but to Hegel a generation later. Kant's "age of Enlightenment" was the expression of a bland hope for perpetual peace, but Hegel was more circumspect and pessimistic. When he took up the idea of Enlightenment in his Phenomenology in 1807, he treated it as part of a tragedy in which a shallow and conceited form of rationality led to disaster. He also rooted it in France rather than America or Germany, and treated it as a prelude to the storming of the Bastille, followed by revolution, suspicion and the Terror. (From Jonathan Rée's review of The Enlightenment: History of an Idea by Vincenzo Ferrone)

In the Old West, owning a running iron, a type of iron that could be used to change a brand, marked a man as a cattle rustler to be dealt with by the law if he was lucky, vigilantes if not.

For people around the world, except sub-Saharan Africans, about 1 to 3 percent of their DNA comes from Neanderthals, our close cousins who disappeared roughly 39,000 years ago. Scientists said recently a jawbone unearthed in Romania, of a man who lived about 40,000 years ago, boasts the most Neanderthal ancestry ever seen in a member of our species. He carries more Neanderthal DNA than any other present-day or ancient modern human seen to date," said Harvard Medical School geneticist David Reich. 6 to 9 percent of this individual's genome is derived from a Neanderthal ancestor.

The emotional fallout of ostracism is so poignant that the brain registers it as physical pain.

In the Nineteenth Century, both the size of the global human population and its ability to conduct modern warfare depended on nitrates, as a fertilizer and a constituent of gunpowder. The largest sources of naturally occurring nitrates are produced as animal waste, mostly in the form of bat and bird guano (first brought to Europe in 1804 by the German naturalist and world explorer Alexander von Humbolt, and then extracted in ever greater amounts and exported by British merchants.) Upon exhaustion of the guano source, they turned to sodium nitrate. Wars were fought over it in South America. In 1909 a chemist named Fritz Haber synthesized ammonia (which contains nitrogen that could be processed into nitrates) in his laboratory, and a year later the issues of industrial production were resolved by Carl Bosch of the German firm BASF. The process of synthesizing ammonia, known as the Haber-Bosch process, shaped the subsequent course of world history. Anyone worried about industrialization should think of this incredible aid to farming and food production.

AAAaaaaannnnnddddd...a picture of a first edition:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mr. Holmes: A Review

There is always a danger in reclaiming icons for new uses. "Robin and Marion" was a well done but discouraging story of Robin Hood and Maid Marion in decline, their heroism on the run. "Hook" showed Peter Pan beset by adulthood without any of the charm of youth. "Mr. Holmes" shows Sherlock Holmes in two older phases of his life, in his 60s and his 90s, filled with regret and beset by forgetfulness and confusion.

Perhaps there is some study to be made when a culture revisits and reassesses its heroes.
“Mr. Holmes” tells three separate stories. The 90 year old Holmes (Ian McKellen) is living in seclusion in a small cottage with his housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), a war widow, and her young son, Roger (Milo Parker). He recalls two stories in flashback.  One, in London just after World War I, Holmes investigates the suspicious behavior of a woman (Hattie Morahan) at the request of her husband (Patrick Kennedy).  In the other, in Japan after the second war, he meets with an amateur herbalist (Hiroyuki Sanada) under insincere circumstances. The fabric of the story is Holmes' struggles with his old age, his declining memory and his regrets.
This is a well done period piece with terrific scenery and performances. McKellen is extremely good, as is Linney (from "John Adams") who for some reason not easily discernible got some criticism for this role. There is some awkward and inexplicable plotting--perhaps to make this less a mystery and more a character study. And its resolution is quite lovely, if small.
It is a clever idea, this take on Holmes. Time has, despite his failing, made him more specific, more real and accurate. But unless you are Shakespeare, there is little that redeems the mistake of senescence close up.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Democracy vs. Republic

A republic is a type of government that has no king, queen, or other monarch and where the people are sovereign. This means that people can choose leaders to represent them and make the laws. The word "republic" comes from the Latin res publica, which means "public thing".
A democracy is rule by the people, by collective vote. Thus it is an agent of the majority.
The distinction is that republics are indirect democracies; the majority picks representatives who then make law. As it is indirect, a republic has a template, an infrastructure of agreed upon concepts, that the democracy must work within; on the other hand, a simple democracy can constantly be reconfigured by the majority.
The word "democracy" does not appear in any of the American founding documents. Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers: "Measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority." The Founders intended for us to have a limited republican form of government where human rights precede government and there is rule of law.
Seeing simple majority rule as a danger, the Constitution's Framers created several anti-majority restraints in the governmental structure. In order to amend the Constitution, it requires a two-thirds vote of both houses, or two-thirds of state legislatures to propose an amendment, and it requires three-fourths of state legislatures for ratification. Election of the president is not done by a majority popular vote, but by the Electoral College.
Part of the reason for having two houses of Congress is that it places an obstacle to majority rule. Fifty-one senators can block the wishes of 435 representatives and 49 senators. The Constitution gives the president a veto to thwart the power of 535 members of Congress. It takes two-thirds of both houses of Congress to override the president's veto.
People who do not understand the danger of the majority, who do not share the wariness felt by the Founders, see "majority rule" as an inherent good and think these cautions are inefficiencies that must be overcome.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Cab Thought 7/22/15

"There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen. "Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil."  - From an essay by Frédéric Bastiat in 1850, "That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen"

The FBI reportedly found evidence that St. Louis Cardinals officials broke into the Houston Astros’ internal database of player personnel information, according to the New York Times. Parts of that database, including updates on trade negotiations, were then published on Deadspin.

Kim Kardashian was on NPR's  Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me, a funny unserious quiz show. But, from the response, the NPR followers are neither funny nor unserious. They were outraged and offended. I fear they felt she was...déclassé. I heard it. She did a good job and was very sweet. In true NPR fashion, her topic was North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Who is....Octavian?

The word “scientist” was invented by William Whewell, a nineteenth-century Cambridge philosopher. As a result, science grew to a dominant position in public life, and philosophy shrank. Philosophy shrank even further when it became detached from religion and from literature.

LightSail A, a spacecraft using a 32 square meter mylar solar sail for power, reentered the atmosphere last weekend. Once considered the stuff of science fiction, sailing through space was suggested 400 years ago by astronomer Johannes Kepler who observed comet tails blown by the solar wind. But modern solar sail designs, like the one tested by LightSail A, rely on the small but continuous pressure from sunlight itself for thrust.

Ancient Roman spies used urine as invisible ink to write secrets between the lines of their official documents, hence the saying: "read between the lines." The messages appeared only when heated.

T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone was the first volume in the eventual quartet of books published as The Once and Future King, White's version of Sir Thomas Malory's version of the King Arthur legends. The book was very popular, and when Lerner and Lowe purchased the last three books of the series to make their version -- Camelot (1960) -- White became, for a time, a wealthy man. The success of Camelot motivated Walt Disney to finally make his cartoon version of The Sword in the Stone, the rights to which he had purchased back in 1939; this came out in 1964, the year before White died suddenly at the age of fifty-seven.

There are 7 billion people on earth and about 7000 languages, but more than half of the world's population speaks one of just 23 languages.

The Mercer injury was strange. One wonders if these tremendous Hispanic athletes come to the major league riding their remarkable athletic talents without a real understanding of the game for context. Marte and Polanco do incredibly goofy things in games. Just jaw-dropping blunders. Gomez caught between first and second, slid. I have never seen that before--most stop and retreat to stall the play and delay the throw for the double play. But Gomez slid as Mercer stepped towards him for the tag and caught Mercer flush on the knee with his knee. It looked like a classic medial collateral injury.

There is a debate going on over minimum wage and conscription. One letter supported both. Here is a funny reply by Bordeaux: Allow me to summarize your policy position: You wish to force people to work for certain employers (governments) at wages that these people judge to be too low but that you judge to be acceptably high for them, while simultaneously forcing people not to work for other employers (private firms) at wages that these people judge to be acceptably high but that you judge to be too low for them.  In short, you presume to forcibly override with your own assessment – or with that of politicians whom you mysteriously trust – the assessments of each of millions of individuals of what are and what are not acceptable working terms and conditions for these individuals.

The Apache Indians ritually killed one twin, arguing that the mother did not have sufficient milk to feed two infants, and some Eskimo tribes left one twin outside to die in the cold. Thus was the beginning of the science of economics.

Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, installed as emperor of Mexico by French Emperor Napoleon III in 1864, was executed on the orders of Benito Juarez, the president of the Mexican Republic.

Lackadaisical  adj: 1. without interest, vigor, or determination; listless; lethargic: a lackadaisical attempt. 2. lazy; indolent: a lackadaisical fellow. Lackadaisical stems from the archaic term lackadaisy, a variant of lackaday. These in turn came from an alteration of the phrase alack the day, an interjection used as an exclamation of sorrow, regret, or dismay.

Claire Clairmont half-sister to Mary Shelley was the mother of Byron's child, Ada. Ada grew up estranged from both parents--and to be a mathematical genius. She worked with Charles Babbage, whose "Analytical Engine" is widely considered to have been the world's first computer, and her contributions were such that the programming language ADA is named in her honor.

In April, Muslim migrants being carried on a boat across the Mediterranean threw 12 Christians overboard to their deaths because they were not praying to Allah when they asked God for help when their dinghy suffered a puncture.

The greatest single loss of life in the history of the British army occurred during the Battle of Somme, when the British suffered 60,000 casualties in one day. More British men were killed in that one WWI battle than the U.S. lost from all of its armed forces and the National Guard combined.

Last month, a woman dropped off a box of electronics at Clean Bay Area, a Silicon Valley recycling firm. Included in the box was an Apple I computer, hand-built by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Jobs' garage in 1976.

In baseball, on-base percentage (OBP) is a measure of how often a batter reaches base divided by at bats. (There are a few exceptions like dropped third strike, fielders choice...) (Career leader is Ted Williams, Ruth is second.) Slugging percentage (SLG) is a power measurement, total bases divided by total at bats. (Career leader is Babe Ruth at .690.) On base plus slugging, OPS, combines the two. The leader is Ruth with 1.1636. Williams is second.

Central banking and zero interest talk: Central banks now own over $22 trillion of financial assets, a figure that exceeds the annual GDP of US & Japan. Central banks have cut interest rates 577 times since Lehman, a rate cut once every three 3 trading days. Central bank financial repression created $6 trillion of negatively-yielding global government bonds earlier this year. 45% of all government bonds in the world currently yield <1 comment-1--="">

Between 80 and 90 percent of immigrants to the U.S. coming are from Third World nations. On average, they have higher illegitimacy rates than native-born Americans, higher drug use rates, higher rates of obesity, spousal abuse and child abuse, higher rates of disease, lower test scores and higher dropout rates and higher crime and incarceration rates. But they work cheaper.

Polar bears have huge territories. One polar bear can hunt and live in an area as big as Maine.

The First Triumvirate was the political alliance of Gaius Julius Caesar, Marcus Licinius Crassus, and Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (Pompey the Great). Unlike the Second Triumvirate, the First Triumvirate had no official status whatsoever. Crassuc was killed by the Parthians in 53 BC, Pompey by Egyptians, Caesar by Romans.  The Second Triumvirate is the historical name given to the ancient Roman alliance of Octavian--the great-nephew of Julius Caesar, Marc Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, established in 43 BCE to defeat the assassins of Caesar. Unlike the First Triumvirate, it was an official, if extraconstitutional, organization that was legally established and given enormous power by the senate. After Lepidus was deposed and Antony (with Cleopatra) defeated, Octavian renamed himself  "Augustus" and became the first emperor of Rome in 27 BCE. 

Golden oldie:

In its very essence, government is a cop.  It can be a good cop or a bad cop.  It can be a vicious cop or a considerate cop.  It can be a thoughtful or a dumb cop.  But one thing is certain.  When it goes beyond being a cop and tries to actually manage the productive processes of a nation, it invariably makes a hash of the job.--George Melloan’s 2009 The Great Money Binge

A single bat can eat more than 600 bugs in one hour, which is like a person eating 20 pizzas a night.

Arjumand Banu Begum was married at the age of 19, on 10 May 1612, to Prince Khurram, known as Shah Jahan, who conferred upon her the title "Mumtaz Mahal," meaning "the chosen one of the palace." She was his second wife, in 1612, and was his favorite. She died in Burhanpur in the Deccan (now in Madhya Pradesh) during the birth of their fourteenth child, a daughter named Gauhara Begum. In her honor her husband built the Taj Mahal as her burial place.

Population experts estimate that there are at least 3,000 distinct ethnic groups (tribes) in Africa. Nigeria alone has more than 370 recognized tribes within its population.

Former adviser to Dallas Fed's Dick Fisher, Danielle DiMartino Booth speaking in a CNBC interview slammed The Fed for "allowing the [market] tail to wag the [monetary policy] dog," warning that "The Fed's credibility itself is at stake... they have backed themselves into a very tight corner... the tightest ever." As she writes in her first Op-Ed, "The hope today is that the current era of easy monetary policy will have no deep economic ramifications. Such thinking, though, may prove to be naive... All retirees’ security is thus at risk when the massive overvaluation in fixed income and equity markets eventually rights itself." As a daily columnist for The News from 2003 to 2006, DiMartino Booth was a lonely voice of reason about the easy-mortgage boom, which she contended was introducing “systemic risk” into the entire financial system.

New research has revealed why it took more than 30 million years for large Triassic dinosaurs to populate the tropics after they first appeared on Earth. Using new geological evidence culled from Ghost Ranch, N.M., researchers from the University of Southampton in the U.K. have found that an extremely unpredictable hot and arid climate due to elevated carbon dioxide levels (four to six times of what they are today) kept large herbivores  at bay until after 200 million years ago. There were also constant wildfires. One wonders at the CO2 prism and how it might have influenced the conclusions.
Ghost Ranch, N.M.  is a 21,000–acre retreat famous as the place where artist Georgia O’Keefe painted for most of her career. It was located close to the equator 205-215 million years ago at 12 degrees North (it lies at 36 degrees North today).

AAAAaaaaannnnnndddddd........the Jobs' garage computer from the recycler:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Sowell has an article recently raising a question of what he calls the  "honesty gap" when the topic of gender based "earnings gap" is discussed. One example he offers is the earnings gap among physicians.
"Innumerable studies, going back decades, show that women do not average as many hours of work per year as men, do not have as many consecutive years of full-time employment as men, do not work in the same mix of occupations as men and do not specialize in the same mix of subjects in college as men.
Back in 1996, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed young male physicians earned 41% higher incomes than young female physicians. But the same study showed young male physicians worked over 500 hours a year more than young female physicians.
When the study took into account differences in hours of work, in the fields in which male and female doctors specialized and other differences in their job characteristics, "no earnings difference was evident.""
Women's wages are not simply a matter of comparing them to men's. Women live more complicated lives. Women, for a number of reasons, work less hours than men, have more career interruptions than men and have developed less seniority. When these elements are included in analysis, there is no gap. And every analyst knows this. The question is, why does the antagonism over the distinctions continue?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Heisenberg and Government

This is an article from a new internet beast, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project. It is hard to be sure about it. The sources are broad and sometimes self-serving. Ellsberg is a little nuts, but Rowley, who was selected as TIME ‘Person of the Year’ in 2002 after revealing how pre-9/11 intelligence was ignored by superiors at the FBI, is not. Alastair Crooke is a legitimate guy.
There is serious conspiracy suggested here, mostly government efforts to create problems only the loss of domestic liberties could solve. For what it's worth, this is what I culled out of it:

"According to leading American and British intelligence experts, a declassified Pentagon report confirms that the West accelerated support to extremist rebels in Syria, despite knowing full well the strategy would pave the way for the emergence of the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS).
The experts who have spoken out include renowned government whistleblowers such as the Pentagon’s Daniel Ellsberg, the NSA’s Thomas Drake, and the FBI’s Coleen Rowley, among others....
Their remarks demonstrate the fraudulent nature of claims by two other former officials, the CIA’s Michael Morell and the NSA’s John Schindler, both of whom attempt to absolve the Obama administration of responsibility for the policy failures exposed by the DIA documents. The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document obtained by Judicial Watch under Freedom of Information confirms that the US intelligence community foresaw the rise of ISIS three years ago, as a direct consequence of the support to extremist rebels in Syria.....
The August 2012 ‘Information Intelligence Report’ (IIR) reveals that the overwhelming core of the Syrian insurgency at that time was dominated by a range of Islamist militant groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). It warned that the “supporting powers” to the insurgency — identified in the document as the West, Gulf states, and Turkey — wanted to see the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria to “isolate” the Assad regime.....
Alastair Crooke, a former senior MI6 officer who spent three decades at the agency, said yesterday that the DIA document provides clear corroboration that the US was covertly pursuing a strategy to drive an extremist Salafi “wedge” between Iran and its Arab allies."

As usual, a culture that believes that butterflies in China can cause hurricanes in the Caribbean thinks that a massive intervention upon a people can give a specific and predictable result. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Caves of Steel is the first of Asimov's Robot series. It essentially is a detective story with two "Odd Couple" detectives, Elijah Baley, a human detective from New York, and his new partner, R. Daneel Olivaw, a humanoid robot. The crime is a violent murder of a cutting edge robotic designer. It is a fun read and has an interesting subplot in Baley's wife, Jezebel.

Elijah. Jezabel. Despite the futuristic setting, there is a biblical atmosphere here and it extends into the scratchy relationship between the two detectives in an illuminating way. Baley does not like robots generally but is interested in Daneel because of the insight understanding him might provide towards the crime.

In one encounter he tries to explain the bible to Daneel and uses the gospel where Christ is presented with the adulterous woman and is asked if she should be stoned, as the law demands. Christ responds with silence, then says the man without sin should cast the first stone. When the crowd melts away He tells the woman, "Go and sin no more."
Daneel is nonplussed. The law demands her death. He is a creation of rigid algorithms. He cannot see this dichotomy between the physical world's law and the abstract law Christ advocates.

Of course, Asimov has zeroed in on the essence of the New Testament, the step from the old and new law, the astonishing revolution that His new law demands. There is a law superior to human law, a law beyond temporal, cultural law. A law of the cosmos. This is scary, the essence of revolutionaries, the stuff of "certain inalienable rights."

And everyone has his visions.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cab Thoughts 7/18/15

The future is always watching.--Alaric Phlogiston

A collection of Harper Lee's private letters  failed to sell at auction at Christie’s on Friday. The six letters, which were written between 1956 and 1961 or were undated, were estimated to be worth between $150,000 and $250,000. The bidding opened at $80,000 and stopped at $90,000.

Rachel Dolezal, the president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Washington, has resigned, according to a letter from her that was posted Monday. Her parents, who are white, allege that she has been lying and presenting herself as black when she is not. She began identifying herself more with the African-American community in 2007, according to her parents. Now why is her identity as another race any different than having another identity as a gender, as Jenner did?

Who is .....Freeman Dyson?

Martin Luther married Katherina von Bora, one of 12 nuns he had helped escape from the Nimbschen Cistercian convent in April 1523, when he arranged for them to be smuggled out in herring barrels. "Suddenly, and while I was occupied with far different thoughts," he wrote to Wenceslaus Link, "the Lord has plunged me into marriage."At the time of their marriage, Katharina was 26 years old and Luther was 41 years old.

Materialists imagine a world built out of atoms. Platonists imagine a world built out of ideas. This division into two categories is a gross simplification, lumping together people with a great variety of opinions. Like taxonomists who name species of plants and animals, observers of the philosophical scene may be splitters or lumpers. Splitters like to name many species; lumpers like to name few. Holt is a splitter and I am a lumper. Philosophers are mostly splitters, dividing their ways of thinking into narrow specialties such as theism or deism or humanism or panpsychism or axiarchism. Examples of each of these isms are to be seen in Holt’s collection. I find it more convenient to lump them into two big groups, one obsessed with matter and the other obsessed with mind. Holt asks them to explain why the world exists. For the materialists, the question concerns the origin of space and time and particles and fields, and the relevant branch of science is physics. For the Platonists, the question concerns the origin of meaning and purpose and consciousness, and the relevant science is psychology.--Dyson in his NYT review of Holt's Why Does the World Exist?

An interesting idea--that I cannot assess--is that of the miscalculation of the value of labor. According to current accounting rules, inanimate objects like pencils, clothing, or any type of inventory are assets, but people are expenses. This notion states that labor should be classified as an asset on the balance sheet.

The Federal Reserve’s “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households" report contains some interesting info. “When asked if they have set aside an emergency or rainy day fund that would cover three months of expenses, only 45 percent of respondents indicate that they do.” 47% of Americans could not cover a $400 emergency expense.

The book, Countdown to Zero Day, by Wired magazine writer Kim Zetter, shows that – apart from being an extremely irresponsible and dangerous act of sabotage – the deployment of Stuxnet against Iran has led to an acceleration in development of cyberwarfare. The U.S. had been demanding that other countries refrain from engaging in cyber warfare techniques until it emerged that the U.S. itself, along with Israel, had deployed the extremely destructive virus against Iran. The NSA had been authorised to launch Computer Network Attacks (CNA’s) for over a decade. Twenty different countries have announced digital warfare programmes since the exposure of Stuxnet in 2010.

The rings sometimes seen around the Moon is called a corona. Rings like this will sometimes appear when the Moon is seen through thin clouds. The effect is created by the quantum mechanical diffraction of light around individual, similarly-sized water droplets in an intervening but mostly-transparent cloud. Since light of different colors has different wavelengths, each color diffracts differently. Lunar Coronae are one of the few quantum mechanical color effects that can be easily seen with the unaided eye.
In 1300, Dante was made one of the six Priors of Florence, the top political office in the city-state. The citizens of Florence were so suspicious of the danger of political power that they limited the terms for only two months. The politics were so rugged that Dante ended up banished and the circumstances show up in The Inferno. He never returned--alive. In 1865, on the 600th anniversary of his birth, some of Dante's remains were collected from his tomb in Ravenna, and given to Florence, to be displayed at a world congress of librarians. The little bag of ashes disappeared in the 1930s, and then in 1999 the national central library in Florence announced that two employees had accidentally found it, in an envelope on a dusty shelf in the rare manuscripts department.
Wendy Kopp founded Teach for America (TFA) in 1989 after writing her Princeton University thesis on the need for a “national teaching corps” of elite college grads who would serve students on short-term stints in low-income neighborhoods. “Between 2000 and 2013, “ researchers at the National Educational Policy Center reported, “TFA's yearly operating expenditures increased 1,930 percent — from $10 million to $193.5 million. Of those expenditures, TFA annual reports show that about a third of operating costs are borne by the public.” They have recently come under scrutiny as many of their employees are social activists.
Wittgenstein, unlike Heidegger, did not establish an "ism." He wrote very little, and everything that he wrote was simple and clear. The only book that he published during his lifetime was Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, written in Vienna in 1918 and published in England with a long introduction by Bertrand Russell in 1922. It said that philosophy is simple and has limited scope. Philosophy is concerned with logic and the correct use of language. All speculations outside this limited area are mysticism.
During World War II, he wanted to serve his adopted country in a practical way. Being too old for military service, he took a leave of absence from his academic position in Cambridge and served in a menial job, as a hospital orderly taking care of patients.
Wittgenstein’s response to female students who tried to attend his lectures was pretty awful. If a woman appeared in the audience, he would remain standing silent until she left the room. 
While South Africa has no shortage of red wine grapes planted (with Cabernet Sauvignon taking the top slot), those make up 45 percent of the country's grape plantings. Surprisingly, white wine grape varieties, led by Chenin Blanc, make up 55 percent of the total.
Multiverse: The essence of quantum physics is unpredictability. At every instant, the objects in our physical environment—the atoms in our lungs and the light in our eyes—are making unpredictable choices, deciding what to do next. According to Everett and Deutsch, the multiverse contains a universe for every combination of choices. There are so many universes that every possible sequence of choices occurs in at least one of them. Each universe is constantly splitting into many alternative universes, and the alternatives are recombining when they arrive at the same final state by different routes. The multiverse is a huge network of possible histories diverging and reconverging as time goes on. The “quantum weirdness” that we observe in the behavior of atoms, the “spooky action at a distance” that Einstein famously disliked, is the result of universes recombining in unexpected ways.According to WasPo, American women now weigh the same as American men did in the 1960s.
The great physicist Freeman
Dyson was interviewed
about his book of essays Dreams of Earth and Sky on BookTV and was asked about his favorite sci-fi writers. He gave a few suggestions and then said this about sci-fi and their writers:
They are all wonderful stories, but people primarily concerned with religion than science and that is the truth, religion goes far deeper into history, goes far deeper into our way of thinking than science so I am an advocate of science fiction not because it has anything to contribute to science but because it has a lot to contribute to wisdom.  
Professors at the University of California at Berkeley have been officially warned against saying such things as "America is the land of opportunity." Why? Because this is considered to be an act of "micro-aggression" against minorities and women.

laissez-faire or laisser-faire (les-ay-FAIR): n. 1. The practice of noninterference in the affairs of others. 2. The economic policy allowing businesses to operate with little intervention from the government. ety: From French, literally “allow to do”. Earliest documented use: 1825.

AAAAaaaaaannnnnnddddddddd........a picture of a lunar corona:
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Nathen Bedford Forrest and the Trees

On Tuesday, the Memphis City Council unanimously approved a resolution to move the remains of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his wife from Health Sciences Park. They want to dig up the graves and move the bodies.
Gen. Forrest was a brilliant Confederate cavalry leader, brave and innovative. When asked about the effort to bring peace to the western states, the Union's Secretary of War Stanton said, “There will never be peace in Tennessee until Forrest is dead.” After the Civil War, he served as the first leader or “grand wizard” of the Ku Klux Klan when it formed in 1866. 
State officials across the country have been calling for the eradication of Confederate symbols, icons, and monuments from key sites in recent weeks. Yet if the council’s plan goes through, it would be the first attempt to disinter the corpse of a Confederate leader as a symbolic gesture to denounce the South's history.
Contrary to current hysteria, Forrest was a complex guy and might be seen as an example of the improving, reconstructed South. Here is his obituary in the NYT:

But while symbolism can be tortured and recondite, it is usually not complex. Symbolic periods are always difficult times because individuals are held responsible for notions. Christian antipathy for the Jews in the Middle Ages was that contemporary Jews were held responsible symbolically for the actions of Jews at the time of transition from the Old to the New Testament over a millennium earlier. Hitler held Jews in the 1930s responsible for the perceived war-undermining behavior of Jewish industrialist and leaders in Germany during WWI. Contemporary America is judged symbolically because the nation's founders seem in retrospect to have acquiesced to slavery in order to form the confederation; they thought the revolution more important than the slavery question.
Symbolically attacking the past has a long and treasured history. The beautiful Basilica San Giovanni Laterano in Rome was a site where symbolism was made very physical. Pope Stephen VI, less than a year into his papacy, gave the order to dig up Pope Formosus and force his corpse to stand trial for crimes Pope John VIII had excommunicated him for years before: seeking the papacy and ruling over more than one place a time as bishop. So the corpse of Formosus was dragged out, dressed in papal robes, and propped up in a chair at San Giovanni Laterano.
It gets a lot worse but you get the idea.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cab Thoughts 7/15/15

"I was told by the founding members of the Women's Studies Department at the State University of New York at Albany that I had been brainwashed by male scientists to believe that hormones even existed, much less had any role in the shaping of our identity and character."--Camille Paglia
Think about that quote above. Is this kind of willful ignorance any different from Creationism--aside from being much worse, I mean?
John Bogle is founder and former CEO of The Vanguard Group and author of best-selling book "Common Sense on Mutual Funds: New Imperatives for the Intelligent Investor." He projects long-term stock market returns based on dividend yields and earnings growth. His math is elegantly simple: the current dividend yield of about 2.0 percent plus projected earnings growth of around 5.0 percent produces  a 7.0 percent return. Bogle sees potential for the market's price to earnings ratio (P/E), which is currently around 20, to revert to as low as 15 in coming years. That 25 percent drop equates to about a 3.0 percent annual negative speculative return.When this negative return is subtracted from the 7.0 percent dividend and earnings return, it yields a projected overall return of about 4.0 percent.
Bogle is also projecting 2.0-3.0 percent bond yields over the next decade as well. According to Bogle, a portfolio comprised of a 50/50 balance of stocks and bonds would likely yield around 3.5 percent returns over the next 10 years. "When you factor in the costs associated with index funds, inflation, and taxes, you are actually looking at real returns of nominal to zero," Bogle explained.
This is grim stuff.
Who is....Philippa Langley?
To many people, even today, high profits are often attributed to high prices charged by those motivated by “greed.”  In reality, most of the great fortunes in American history have resulted from someone’s figuring out how to reduce costs, so as to be able to charge lower prices and therefore gain a mass market for the product.  Henry Ford did this with automobiles, Rockefeller with oil, Carnegie with steel, and Sears, Penney, Walton and other department store chain founders with a variety of products.--Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics
The United States produces more nuclear-generated electricity than any other country, nearly 1/3 of the world's total. The second largest producer is France, which generates more than 3/4 of its electricity in nuclear reactors.
The escaped N.Y. murderers were on 'Honor Block' for well-behaved inmates.
In 1881, Count Leo Tolstoy sets off on a pilgrimage to the Optina Pustyn  monastery disguised as a peasant. The Russian nobleman was engaged in a spiritual struggle and felt torn between his responsibility as a wealthy landlord to improve the lot of the people, and his desire to give up his property and wander the land as an ascetic. He had started giving away his possessions and declared that the public owned his works, but his wife, Sofya, worried about the financial stability of the couple's 13 children, gained control of the copyrights for all his work published before 1880. Later in his life, Tolstoy embraced Christian anarchism and was excommunicated from the Russian Orthodox Church. Biographer A. N. Wilson wrote "the progress from artist to sage or holy man, which, to western readers seems embarrassing or a bit of a bore, is a fairly common phenomenon among Russian writers..."
Cat ownership in childhood has now been reported in three studies to be significantly more common in families in which the child is later diagnosed with schizophrenia or another serious mental illness.
Juan Felipe Herrera has been named Poet Laureate  of the United States. From Wiki: Juan Felipe Herrera is a poet, performer, writer, cartoonist, teacher, and activist. Herrera's experiences as the child of migrant farmers have strongly shaped his work. This is from the Times announcement: He is an unusual laureate, the son of California migrant workers, a man whose poems are filled with hard labor and indeterminate spaces, an awareness of chromosomatic imperialism and of Greyhound Bus stations of the soul. He understands people who are drained from the day's hassle.
Maybe not Coleridge.
One need go no further than the debate over the minimum wage to see the complexity and conflict in the minds of well meaning people looking at the same data. What one should also note is the tendency for one side of the debate to interject moral outrage mixed with reproach. Reproach and outrage are not elements of thoughtful discussion or debate.
One of the daily world's stranger stories is that of Philippa Langley's successful search for the body of Richard III. She was at site of the old Greyfriars Church in Leicester, England. She'd been working on a screenplay about Richard III and was curious to see where the maligned king had been buried nearly 500 years earlier. It was 2004 and the church had long since been dismantled, and everyone simply accepted that Richard's grave had been lost with it. The most popular theory about Richard's remains held that they'd at some point been tossed into the River Soar by an angry mob. As she walked across the parking lot, "I had goosebumps," she says. "I just knew I was walking on his grave." After six years of campaigning, Langley persuaded the Leicester City Council to let her hire archaeologists and conduct a dig in the parking lot. She funded it with crowdfunding from Richard III groups throughout the world. She dug with a backhoe exactly where she had experienced the "goosebumps" six years earlier. Bingo!
Sometimes the magic works.
Contumacy: n: 1. obstinate and willful rebelliousness or resistance to authority; insubordination; disobedience.  2. the willful refusal of a person to appear before a court or to comply with a court order. Late 14th century, from Latin contumācia, from contumāx obstinate; related to tumēre to swell, be proud. Also "contumacious" and  "contumely":  harsh language or treatment arising from haughtiness and contempt; also :  an instance of such language or treatment
Women in Whitesville, Delaware, could be charged with disorderly conduct if they propose marriage to a man.
Cause and effect update: Two Canadian brothers, a Dutch woman and a British woman were arrested in Malaysia because they stripped naked at the summit of Mount Kinabalu for selfies. The mountain was shaken by an earthquake a week later in which at least 16 people were killed. The indigenous people of Sabah believe the tourists' behavior on May 30, deemed disrespectful of local culture, angered the spirit of the mountain and was the reason for the earthquake.
Golden oldie:
Troy, according to calculations made some 900 years later by the North African Greek, Eratosthenes, was sacked and burned in the year 1184 B.C.. The city itself, long thought to be as legendary, has been identified -- or rather, ten distinct Trojan settlements have been identified at Hissarlik, in present-day Turkey, each built upon the ruins of the others. The Troy of Homer and Virgil, if it existed, is most likely "Troy VIIA," a settlement that appears to have been destroyed by fire at about the time calculated by Eratosthenes.
The poem that immortalized the possible town and war, The Aeneid by the Roman Virgil, itself almost didn't survive. Virgil worked on his epic for the last decade of his life; as he was dying -- from a fever contracted while on a voyage to Greece to gather more research for the poem -- he instructed that the Aeneid be destroyed because of its unfinished state. Emperor Augustus, whose reign the poem was designed, in part, to glorify, countermanded his wishes.

President Obama's fast track of his "great job creation" bill was defeated in a 126-302 procedural vote which stumbled over what is known as the Trade Adjustment Assistance. Following Pelosi's comments that "its defeat is the only way we will be able to slow down fast track," and "people would rather have a job than assistance", the defeat of a measure to provide aid to workers displaced by trade deals means the fast-tracking of the TPP is done (for now).
Studies show that 85% of police officers, 80% of regional pilots, and 48% of air-traffic controllers nod off on the job. Forty-one percent of medical workers admit they have made fatigue-related mistakes.

Politicians will find redistribution from widely dispersed disorganized groups (e.g. taxpayers and consumers) to easily-identifiable, concentrated interests (e.g. labor, business, farmers and the elderly) far more attractive than egalitarian transfers.  Similarly, the shortsightedness effect indicates that transfers which provide easily identifiable current benefits while imposing future costs (e.g. slower economic growth) that are difficult to identify will be attractive to political entrepreneurs. These are the types of reshuffles one can expect from the political process.  There is little reason to believe that they will be egalitarian.-- Richard E. Wagner’s 1988 essay “Public Choice and Constitutional Order,”

The money supply continues to rise. Dramatically. If MV = PQ where M is the supply of money, V is the velocity of money (how quickly and often it is spent), Q is quantity of goods to buy and P is price of goods--if the supply of M increases, the quantity of goods is relatively stable, why isn't the price of goods rising? Why isn't there inflation? Because, for reasons no one understands, velocity of money is low and declining.

After a torrid 2014, in which there was a 24% surge in beef prices which central planners blamed on everything except their policies, in May the Beef and Veal price index just rose to a new all time high of 260.8, up 12.3% from a year ago, and up 30% in the past two years.

The troubled former head of the IMF--The International Monetary Fund!!!--whose reign at the top of the international  organization ended dramatically after an alleged 2011 rape scandal in a NYC hotel, Dominique Strauss-Kahn finally got some good news when a French court cleared him of "aggravated pimping" charges in which he was accused of helping to operate a prostitution ring of seven women out of the Carlton Hotel in the northern French city of Lille.  At his trial in February, Strauss-Kahn calmly fended off the accusations, saying that while he was a libertine who enjoyed group sex, he was unaware any of the women attending the soirees had been paid to be there. THE IMF!!!!

This month is the 20th anniversary of Bill Clinton’s 100-point National Homeownership Strategy which sought to raise homeownership rates in America to record levels — and it did. Unfortunately, the foundation upon which this miracle was built began to crack in mid-2007 and by the summer of 2008, the two entities which had for years underwritten the American Dream were in receivership. A new study by The Urban Institute has more on homeownership by age group: For 30- to 34-year-olds ... homeownership rose from 26 percent in 1940 to 56 percent in 1960 and continued climbing to 61 percent in 1980. The homeownership rate for adults in their early 30s then declined to 53 percent in the 1980s, grew by 1 percentage point between 1980 and 2007, and plummeted to 44 percent in 2013. Given the parallel decline in homeownership for 25- to 29-year-olds, it is unclear whether working-age Americans will ever regain 1980’s peak homeownership rate.

AAAAaaaaannnnnndddd.....a poem by Poet Laureate  of the United States, Juan Felipe Herrera:
 Are You Doing the New Amerikan Thing”
For all movement, ex-movement and anti-movement affiliates and
for Brandi Treviño,1978.
Are you doing that new Amerikan thing?
Sweet thing, handsome thing, that thing about coming out, all the
way out
About telling her, her telling him, telling us, telling them that we
Must kill the revolutionary soul, because it was only a magical thing
A momentary thing, a thing outside of time, a sixties thing, a sacred
A brown beret thing, a grassroot thing, a loud thing, a spontaneous
A Viet Nam thing, a white radical thing, an Aztlán thing, a Cholo thing
A nationalist thing, a for Pochos only thing, a college thing, an
August 29,1970
Chicano Moratorium thing, an outdated thing, a primitive thing.
Sweet thing, handsome thing, that thing about coming out, all the
way out
On a Communist scare thing, a Red thing, a let’s go back to war thing
Because we must stop the El Salvador thing because it could lead to
Thing because we need Reagan and Order in the Americas thing.
Are you doing that new Amerikan thing?
The chains, pins and leather thing
The aluminum thing
The transparent plastik underwear thing
The lonely boulevard thing
The hopeless existentialist thing
The neo-Paris melancholy thing
The nightmare thing
The urban artist thing
The laughing thing
The serious suicide thing
The New Amerikan Chicano thing
The end of the world thing
The victim thing
The enlightened quasi-political thing
The university hustle for the pie thing
The We Are the Community thing
Are you doing that new Amerikan thing?
The nacimos para morir thing
The yo te protejo thing
The Dios y Hombre thing
The quién sabe thing
The así nomás thing
The todo se acaba thing
The la vida es un misterio thing
The quisiera ser thing
The vatofirme thing
The chavala de aquellas thing
The no me toques thing
The no quiero problemas thing
Are you doing that new Amerikan thing?
Doing the be clean be seen by the right people thing
Doing the be macho again because women like it anyway thing
Doing the look out for number one because you tried the group
thing thing
Doing the be submissive again because after all a woman needs a man
Doing the Army thing because it really pays more than hanging
around the Barrio thing
Doing the women’s draft thing because you can do it better than the
men thing
Doing the purity thing because no one got to be president by eating
greasy tacos
Doing the spa thing because there you will meet the right tall & dark
& blond & tender thing
Doing the homophobic thing because you caught yourself lusting at
an abberration thing
Are you doing that new Amerikan thing?
Sweet thing, handsome thing, that thing about coming out, all the
way out
About telling her, her telling him, telling us, telling them that we
Must kill the revolutionary soul?
From Exiles of Desire, 1983.