Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cab Thoughts 9/30/15

'Politics is not the art of the possible. It is choosing between the unpalatable and the disastrous'.--gailbreth 
Africa will mark one year without polio this month. The last case was in Somalia in 2014. But in Kenya the country's Conference of Catholic Bishops declared a boycott of the World Health Organization's vaccination campaign, saying they needed to "test" whether ingredients contain a derivative of estrogen. They fear children may be sterilized. The fear of autism was also raised.
Jesse Lazear began growing mosquito larvae from the laboratory of Dr. Carlos Finlay, who had long argued that mosquitoes transmitted yellow fever. In Lazear's breakthrough discovery, mosquitoes that had fed on an active case of yellow fever 12 days before did indeed transmit the disease to two volunteers. He was one.  About a week later, Lazear fell ill. He had not told his colleagues that he experimented on himself but notes he took at the time gave evidence that he did. Lazear died of yellow fever on September 25, 1900, at age 34. He left a wife, a newborn child, and an infant. Despite his insight and sacrifice his observations were only slowly accepted. The 20,000 men working in the Panama Canal had no protection and 4,000 died despite the fact that Lazear's discovery was well known.
Jesse Lazear
Who is....Hypatia of Alexandria?

You never know. A British article claims that Obama has joined with Turkey to make the area over Syria a "no fly zone." While this ostensibly seems to be an effort to control the Syrian battlefields, the article claims it is specifically designed to limit Russian-backed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to replace him with one of the Islamist militant groups. This policy, they say, is aimed at diminishing Russia at the expense of allowing a more Islamist Syria. What will happen with the Russians actively in Syria now is anyone's guess.

According to Reuters, Tesla loses about $4000 on every car it makes.

I do not know if this is true, but it says on Quora....Airlines and Online travel agencies surreptitiously use computer  “cookies” they’ve implanted on your Web browser to track your activity  on their sites and then raise prices when it appears that you’re  interested in a fare. So remember to clear your Browser Cache before booking a ticket!
And, for those thieves among us, allegedly, swiping any card with a magnetic strip to pay for the TV in  front of you will work, so long as there's no WiFi on the plane. When there’s no connection to verify your card, the  transaction is held until the plane lands. If you swipe while still on  land, WiFi is usually not active yet.
Golden oldie:

The boundaries continue to erode as people rise above traditional restraints. Four civilians carrying military-style rifles and side-arms patrolled a riot-torn street in Ferguson, Missouri, saying they were there to protect a media organization. The men identified themselves as part of a group called "Oath Keepers," which describes itself as an association of current and former U.S. soldiers and police who aim to protect the U.S. Constitution.
Jules Verne has been the second most-translated author in the world since 1979, ranking between writers Agatha Christie and William Shakespeare.

He was born on an island in a major whaling port; and while preparing Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas he spoke to mariners in Nantes and Amiens, including his brother Paul, a retired naval officer. In 1865 he bought a fishing-boat of 8 or 10 tons and used it as a study while sailing along the Brittany and Normandy coasts. 'I am not in any way the inventor of submarine navigation,' he said and, indeed, submarine vessels had been around for a long time. Verne's own mathematics teacher had built a working submarine.

If a single mother raising two children were to accept a pay raise from $12 to $18 per hour, her total resources would fall by nearly 33%.
Underlying the analytical framework of Keynes’s General Theory is a comparison of capitalism and socialism in terms of risks and consequent rates of interest, rates of investment and capital accumulation, and levels of employment and output. Keynes’s social philosophy and corresponding vision of macroeconomic reality biases his comparison in favor of socialism, or, more precisely, in favor of “a comprehensive socialisation of investment.” .....
This imagined world is one in which capital yields no return apart from compensation for supervising it and bearing the associated risks. Interest, which “rewards no genuine sacrifice,” would be nil. Its elimination would mean “the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital.” Once the “high stakes” of the capitalist system are eliminated, “the State will have to exercise a guiding influence.” In Keynes’s reflective judgment,”a somewhat comprehensive socialisation of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation to full employment.”---Roger Garrison’s 1993 article in Critical Review.
Seemingly Keynes saw the economy as reducible to a number of unproven but manageable elements rather than a complex, emergent and evolved creation of history. He also apparently believed  that an inherently benign central, executive power could analyze and control such a thing. 
Regarding Obama's new regulatory laws on power plants, Laurence Tribe, a liberal constitutional expert and someone who wants to tackle climate change, says flatly that the EPA “is constitutionally forbidden to exercise powers Congress never delegated to it in the first place.”
Oscar Wilde's central character in The Portrait of Dorian Gray was named for John Gray, a twenty-five year-old post office employee and budding poet described by George Bernard Shaw as "one of the more abject of Wilde's disciples." He was spectacularly replaced by Lord Alfred Douglas, who would become Wilde's most famous and fatal attraction. Not only was Douglas younger, richer and better looking than Gray, but having been given Dorian Gray by a mutual friend, he had read it "fourteen times running." By June of 1891 he had contrived his first meeting with the author; by June of 1896 their relationship would have Wilde behind bars; by June of 1900 Wilde would be in the last months of disgrace, exile and life, deserted by even Douglas.
Gleydson Carvalho, a well-known radio journalist in Brazil who repeatedly denounced political corruption, was gunned down in the middle of one of his broadcasts.
Hypatia of Alexandria was, in her time, the world’s leading mathematician and astronomer, the only woman for whom such claim can be made. Hypatia, the daughter of the mathematician and philosopher Theon of Alexandria, became head of the Platonist school at Alexandria in about 400 AD. She was also a popular teacher and lecturer on philosophical topics of a less-specialist nature, attracting many loyal students and large audiences. Her philosophy was Neoplatonist as described by Plotinus. Plotinus taught that there is an ultimate reality which is beyond the reach of thought or language. The object of life was to aim at this ultimate reality which could never be precisely described but an underlying reality was  partially accessible via the human power of abstraction from the Platonic forms, themselves abstractions from the world of everyday reality.  Plotinus stressed that people did not have the mental capacity to fully understand both the ultimate reality itself or the consequences of its existence. Neoplatonism--and Hypatia-- was seen as “pagan” by some at a time of bitter religious conflict. Her Neoplatonism brought a more scientific approach. Her philosophy also led her to embrace a life of dedicated celibacy. All Hypatia's work is lost except for its titles and some references to it but she seems to have been revered, especially by some Christian scholars.
Hypatia became the victim of a particularly brutal public murder at the hands of a gang of Christian zealots. Her murder is seen as a point of exodus of scholars from Alexandria which led to its decline as a center of learning.

The Athenian custom was to cast votes by means of pebbles. Ergo "Psephology," the study of elections, from the Greek word for "pebble," psêphos. It entered English in the mid-1900s.
Daily Rituals is a book by Mason Currey on the work habits of 161 famous writers, painters, scientists, mathematicians and philosophers. While the details vary greatly and some have little quirks, one thing is constant for the vast majority of them: They work hard. And they work hard almost every day, belying the myth that creativity is the province of sudden inspiration rather than of commitment and a deeply-seated work ethic.

Most of the corporate cash flow of public companies being used for stock buybacks – a record $700 billion annualized rate this year at the expense of corporate investments in expansion. Thus, well into the seventh year of economic expansion, we have uniquely had no hint of a surge in capital spending, which remains well below average.

Separatists in Catalonia won a parliamentary majority in an election cast as a referendum on independence, though it was unclear whether they had enough of a mandate to break away from Spain.
The Roman Empire did not require the Christians to give up their beliefs and rituals, but it did expect them to pay respect to the empire's protector gods and to the divinity of the emperor. Christian refusal to do this was the source of the four Roman persecutions. Surprisingly, only a few thousand were killed in total. There is an interesting idea that the polytheistic cultures--the religion of most empires--are by their nature very tolerant of other religions and not at all evangelical or confrontational. This may imply that Old Testament conflict was not defensive on the part of the Jews.
AAAAAaaaaaaaannnnndddd....a graph of estimated oil reserves: (or maybe not)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Taking La Quinta

A recent story on the company La Quinta and Jim Cramer should be a cautionary tale for all hopeful investors.
La Quinta Holdings is the select-service hotel chain with about 870 locations. Jim Cramer, of the popular investment show "Mad Money," has recommended the stock multiple times, largely because of the positive commentary from the company's long-time CEO, Wayne Goldberg-- particularly as a guest on Cramer's shows. It was as if Cramer felt he had something of a personal relationship with Goldberg and his statements had more weight.
Until last Thursday.
First, the CEO announced he was stepping down effective immediately. La Quinta did not cite a real reason for the exit; Goldberg simply said he had fulfilled his goals and it was a good time to look for new opportunities.
"But if that was the whole story, why not give investors a heads up and announce he's retiring in a few months?" Cramer asked.
This move was especially disturbing to Cramer, as Goldberg had been the president and CEO of La Quinta since 2006. He took the company public in 2014, and then suddenly resigns with no warning, pretty much overnight?
The second blow came when La Quinta cut its full-year financial guidance for the second time in two months. It had a vicious downward revision of its revenue per available room, guiding to a range of 3.5 to 4.5 percent from 6 to 7 percent.
On top of that, the company cut its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization forecast to a range of $393 million to $400 million, down from $398 million to $404 million. It blamed weaker-than-anticipated hotel demand during August and September.
The very next day, La Quinta dropped 15 percent, down to its April 2014 IPO price of $17.
Investments are significant ventures often made with people who are completely insincere.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Pope, Sentiment and Action

The Pope offers concerns about the world that are a distillation of the moral problems of the West. The care of the poor is the touchstone. Poverty is essentially a low tide of economic achievement. Many such situations are inherent to peoples and/or places and will not improve: The Eskimo is probably making the most of his options. Efforts by New York to improve the conditions of the Eskimo might make him physically more comfortable but also might make him less an Eskimo, like a displaced New Yorker. So what should be done?
It is kind of those with excess to share it with those with less but is it kind for others to take from those with excess and share it with those below subsistence? And how would that be done? Christ always placed such decisions upon the individual. Christ's gospel is filled with personal responsibility; He had disregard for institutions.
How is poverty to be defined? Many would say the intrusion of Europeans--despite the excess they brought--was a disaster for the impoverished hunter-gather North American Indian--not just in combat but in culture. Should the West duplicate such intrusions elsewhere? What about the relativity of poverty? A poor man in America would be middle class most other places; should that be considered? How should such decisions be made and who should make them? Worst, the history of centralized powerful entities making decisions such as these has historically been a nightmare. The agent of redistribution always, always become a monster. The practicalities of these problems overlook the underlying moral question as well: By what authority does one group demand the production of another?
Until someone starts talking about the problem of moving sentiment to action, the poverty cat will never get a bell.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday 9/27/15

The gospel this Sunday was Mark's "If thy right hand offends thee..." selection, always a fascinating tract on so many levels. How is a body part an actor without the brain? With motive so important in Christian thought, how does attacking the directed organ and sparing the motivator make sense? If it is advice on how symbolically to become more spiritual, where does one stop the operation? And what in heaven's name does the fundamentalist do with this passage?
Indeed the positioning of the miracle worker "who is not one of us" with this passage is crucial here. Christ makes it clear that the message, the idea of Christianity, is the important point. Keep your offending eye on the point; the circumstances are distractions. He is much more forgiving than the apostles about the way the message is given. (Imagine the god of Muhammad saying that.) The god of Muhammad would speak of mutilation as a sacred act; Christ offers it as symbolic of a way where subtraction enlarges the whole. But what is being shed is the limiting physical circumstance of the spirit; no New Testament surgery is implied.
Houseman had a poem with the line, "If it chance your eye offend you, cut it off, lad, and be whole.." Ralston, the mountain climber who amputated his own arm after four days of being trapped by it on a rock face, said: "My self-amputation was a beautiful experience because it gave me my life back."
Harming oneself is not an issue here.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Cab Thought 9/26/15

Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth;
And, O ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth. --from "Lycidas" by Milton

The Hillary security/arrogance problem is a huge problem for Hillary but might be bigger for Obama. He has always wanted to be above the fray, being precise and honest, doing good. That view of him goes out the window if he uses his office to protect her. But investigating and pursuing her will enhance the image and could create the legacy he has hungered for. What's a politician to do?

Companies have been pouring money into research and development at the fastest pace in 50 years. From November through the end of March, U.S. companies funded R&D at an annual rate of $316 billion, or about 1.8 percent of gross domestic product, the largest share ever for the private sector. That’s up from 1.7 percent last year and 1.6 percent from 2007 to 2014. “If secular stagnation is a ‘thing,’ then U.S. companies are investing like crazy to make sure it doesn’t happen,” says Neil Dutta, senior U.S. economist at Renaissance Macro Research.
Who is ....Charles Frazier?

In his speech defending the Iran agreement Obama said,  "Our nuclear experts, including one of the best in the world, Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz, worked tirelessly on the technical details" of the Iran pact. But when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., asked him about the secret side deals between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Tehran, the "tireless" Moniz was forced to admit, "I personally have not seen those documents."

Liminal: adj. Of or pertaining to a threshold or entrance. Of or pertaining to a beginning or first stage of a process; inceptive; inchoative; marginal. Also used as an anthropological term to describe transition in a culture.

The deliberate starvation of Ukraine in 1932 and 1933,  killed, at a minimum, 7 million people, more than half of them children. At one point, more Ukrainians were dying each day than Jews were to be murdered at Auschwitz at the peak of extermination in the spring of 1944.

If the fetal parts sold by Planned Parenthood is such a good idea and scientifically valuable, why don't they advertise it?
A recent FBI alert: “On numerous occasions family members of military personnel were confronted by Middle Eastern males in front of their homes.” The FBI’s alert says Middle Eastern men attempted to gain personal information about military members and family members through intimidation. This has occurred in Colorado and Wyoming; probably Jehovah Witnesses.

Golden oldie:
Cold Mountain is now an opera, composed by Jennifer Higdon with a libretto by Gene Scheer. The story is based on Charles Frazier's debut novel, published in 1997, about the soldier W.P. Inman and his struggle to make it home. It became a movie six years later. Jennifer Higdon is an American composer of classical music. A recording of her Percussion Concerto won a Grammy, while her Violin Concerto won a Pulitzer Prize. Cold Mountain is being performed at Santa Fe Opera through August. Most performances are sold out. It will be produced by Opera Philadelphia early next year, and again in 2018 by Minnesota Opera. Higdon grew up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee — not far from the setting of Cold Mountain.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first prescription drug made through 3D printing: a dissolvable tablet that treats seizures. 
"Lycidas" is a poem in the elegiac tradition written by John Milton. Lycidas himself represents Edward King, Milton's fellow-student at Cambridge, and also an aspiring poet, who was drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Anglesey. A pastoral poem, it was famously disliked by Johnson who said, "Surely no man could have fancied he read 'Lycidas' with pleasure had he not known its author." It is best known as the source for Thomas Wolfe's book title, Look Homeward, Angel.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the most influential Jewish voice in Congress, said that he would oppose President Obama’s deal to limit Iran’s nuclear program.

Only 3 percent of soldiers in the active-duty Army have earned Ranger badge, it is an unofficial prerequisite for obtaining many infantry commands, and an explicit requirement for leading combat troops in the Ranger Regiment. It is also a significant career enhancer even for officers who do not serve in combat units. There are at present two women in the advanced stages of Ranger School and, if they finish, they will be the first women to do so. 17 other women who started Ranger School this year did not make it. None of the 29 female officers who started the similar Marine program passed. Both of these women pass the Ranger course and they will place a real question upon the sincerity of the military in their often stated gender equality.

Kang had a chance to be Rookie of the Year. But not with Bryant.
In Brazil, race is fluid and is determined by a number of factors such as a person's parents, a person's phenotype, and a person's socioeconomic status. In places like Brazil, a person's race can change as they become wealthier or poorer.

Natalia Molchanova, the most decorated freediver in the world with 41 world records and 23 world champion titles, was diving in the Balearic Sea, near to the Spanish island of Formentera on Sunday when she failed to surface. Freediving is a form of underwater diving in which divers hold their breath instead of using a breathing apparatus such as scuba gear. Even Houdini wasn't crazy enough to do this without a trick. finds those cheap “hidden city” fares where you are supposed to connect in Minneapolis on your way to Dallas but just stay in Minneaspolis because that was where you wanted to go in the first place.  This cute trick is apparently a very dangerous practice. As Wikipedia explains:  “Many airlines have established means of identifying and penalizing travelers who take advantage of such tactics, most notably through their frequent flier programs. When a traveler is shown to have practiced such methods, airlines may respond by confiscating tickets, canceling frequent flier status, and billing travel agents for the fare difference.  Airlines contend that booking ploys are an unethical practice. However, even though booking ploys might be a breach of contract and against airline rules, such endeavors are not considered illegal.”

It was Rousseau who made the hatred of one’s own culture the stance of the cultivated person....
Turner’s intellectual history becomes, in large part, a history of intellectuals trying to make a religion out of something that can’t actually be one—nature, art, the inner self, primitivism, progress, the distant past, the radiant future, nation, culture, even science—and in the process turning each of them into a myth......
German idealist philosophy took a plunge into the inner self and emerged cradling a new conception of art and the artist. Art, sometimes along with nature, was seen as an expression of profound inner realities: the unique, autonomous, creative genius of the artist or of some pantheistic or transcendent inner spiritual essence. Art was given a metaphysical status and sacred aura: It was now understood as inherently expressive, with an emphasis on the artist’s personality and on radical originality instead of the faithful, self-effacing imitation of nature—or an edifying version of it—found in classical aesthetics. But once sacred mysteries were expected of the artist, mystification often followed...--Lawrence Klepp's review on Turner's European Intellectual History from Rousseau to Nietzsche

AAAAAaaaannnnnndddddd......a picture of Sanctuary at Las Lajas in Colombia near the Ecuadorian border

Friday, September 25, 2015


Lead is element number 82. The oldest pure lead, found in Turkey, was made by early smelters more than 8,000 years ago. Galena is the natural mineral form of lead(II) sulfide, the most important ore of lead and an important source of silver. Thanks to its low melting point, the lead can easily be separated out in an open fire.
It had a lot of uses. Ice cores in Greenland contain traces of lead dust from 2,000 years ago, carried on the wind from giant Roman smelters. One of the largest, located in Spain, was operated by tens of thousands of slaves. The metal was malleable and seemingly impervious to corrosion, and so - just like modern plastics - it became ubiquitous. It could line aqueducts and make water pipes - the word "plumber" derives from the Latin for lead, plumbum. It is flexible; you can cast it into thin sheets, solder it into pipes. 
Lead carbonate has provided a cheap, durable paint since ancient times. Known today as "flake white", it was prized by Old Masters such as Rembrandt because of the steadfastness of its colour and the beautiful contrasts it would bring to their oil portraits.
Glassmakers learned that adding in some lead oxide would yield glassware such as wine decanters that would glisten, because the lead refracted the light across a wider arc. The lead slowly dissolves out into the wine itself. The intriguing thing is that you get a compound that used to be known as 'the sugar of lead'." This compound, lead acetate, not only looks like sugar, it also has an intensely sweet flavor; the wine would gradually become sweeter.
But lead, of course, is also toxic.
Citizens of Ulm in Germany were plagued by agonising stomach cramps in the 1690s, called "Devon colic" after a similar 17th Century outbreak. Dr. George Baker, a century later, showed this was the result of lead, a component of the cider presses and in the form of lead shot which was used to clean them. The general symptoms of lead poisoning, or plumbism, include abdominal pain, confusion, headache, anemia, irritability, and in severe cases seizures, coma, and death.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bauelle and Folk Wisdom

From James Bauelle's newsletter: "Six years later, we are on our way to the next crisis. In my view, its seeds are being sown in the proliferation of Internet-based lending platforms that promise to match borrowers and lenders/investors without the inconvenience or expense of a bank's being involved in the transactions. I have previously written about Lending Club and Prosper, the two leading companies in this space. Lending Club has an IPO in registration at the SEC and is expected to debut with a multi-billion dollar market capitalization this quarter. Like the woman's convertible Mercedes, P2P intermediaries' pricing is unbeatable. Nearly all of the expense of operating a bank is taken away; so, however, are key aspects of a bank's functionality."
There are a number of ways to see this evolution and they are worrisome, all of them. The banks have been unscrupulous and virtually rogue over the last decade; it is not unreasonable that people would love to bypass them. The problem is they have been roguish in their dereliction of their main assignment: The preservation of stability. They cannot be rejected without some substitute for that stability, otherwise the baby is in the air with the bathwater. That would be symbolic only, hoping that Galton is really, really right and we can substitute every Tom, Dick and Harry for banks--and should.

If it is symbolism everyone wants, how about decimating all the bank Boards. And the Fed too.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Cab Thoughts 9/23/15

"Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs." - Charlotte Bronte

Chrysler, like practically all car makers, is doing its best to turn the modern automobile into a smartphone. A diagnostic unit, Uconnect, an Internet-connected computer feature in hundreds of thousands of Fiat Chrysler cars, SUVs, and trucks, controls the vehicle’s entertainment and navigation, enables phone calls, and even offers a Wi-Fi hot spot. And thanks to one vulnerable element, two guys named Miller and Valasek have a Black Hat talk coming up that shows Uconnect’s cellular connection also lets anyone who knows the car’s IP address gain access from anywhere in the country.

Humans see color differently in the summer with yellow seeming more green than in the winter months, scientists have shown for the first time. They found that in June volunteers adjusted more green out of yellow than in January, and added more in January to get back to yellow, suggesting that their eyes were viewing the colors differently.

Real household income--which includes both earned income and unearned income such as dividends and interest--has plummeted 8.5% since 2000. This is a striking contrast with real GDP growth of 31.6%: the economy has expanded 31.6% after adjusting for inflation, while real median household income has declined 8.5%. Where did the growth go?

Karen Anderson, an American 'animal communicator' (i.e. psychic), posted on Facebook that she had made contact with the late Cecil the lion and that he said he is 'finer than ever, grander than before'. I fell better about it all.

Who was...Emma Lazarus?

Australia's Isaac Plans coking coal mine, which was valued at $630 million in 2011, sold for $1.

Hotel California: U.S. House of Representatives passed via voice vote the Foreign Terrorist Organization Passport Revocation Act of 2015. It says, in part, the Secretary of State may refuse to issue a passport --or revoke a previously issued one--to any individual whom the Secretary has determined has aided, assisted, abetted, or otherwise helped an organization the Secretary has designated as a foreign terrorist organization. The criteria are not specified. So the U.S. border has the risk of become a one way street; anyone can walk in but people have restrictions on leaving.

The Welsh town of Conwy has appointed its first official jester in 700 years.

Obama had mandated a 30 percent nationwide cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. The final version will require a 32 percent cut instead, said officials. These enlightened ones, of course, make these debatable decisions completely insulated from their dire everyday consequences. I wonder if some areas and states, citing economic hardship, could just decline, like some cities do as 'sanctuary cities" for illegal immigrants.

Golden oldie:

The Statue of Liberty was publicly funded. Much of the rest of the money needed would be raised by Joseph Pulitzer through his campaign in The New York World for the penny-donations of the poor. Some came from the Pedestal Art Loan Exhibition. Many artist donated works to be sold, including  poet Emma Lazarus who wrote "The New Colossus."
Lazarus died 1887, a year after the Statue was erected; her poem fetched $1500, but it gathered dust for years until discovered in an old portfolio of Exhibition contributions. Lobbying by the poem's admirers had the famous last five lines ("Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free....") inscribed on a second-story landing by the turn of the century, and in 1945 the entire poem was installed at the base.
The poem was an allusion to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a symbol of power and domination for the half-century it stood and an object of wonder for the centuries that it lay in gigantic pieces strewn about the harbor. Emma Lazurus was a champion of "the colossal experiment" that was America and a bit of a feminist:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles....

Since wine tasting is essentially wine smelling, women tend to be better wine testers because women, particularly of reproductive ages, have a better sense of smell than men.

Aside from the basic numbers of budgetary imbalances and continuing fiscal pressures, Medicare’s institutionalization as the dominant payer in US health care also has locked in the worst features of a costly and inefficient fee-for-service delivery system that still rewards providing more volume, instead of better value, in most health care decisions. The mismatch between Medicare’s claims on the economy and our political willingness to pay for them in turn has produced an ever-more complex web of reimbursement rules and health care regulations in response that are far more successful in hiding or transferring costs than in reducing them. Moreover, although elderly Americans achieved substantial gains in insurance coverage and financial security through Medicare, younger ones fared far less well.--Millar, "50 Years of Medicare"

In a human lifetime most will have spent a quarter of a century asleep, of which six years or more will have been spent dreaming—and almost all of those dreams are forgotten upon waking.

Paul A.M. Dirac was a pioneer of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. His work pervades all of modern physics. He was, by almost all accounts, one of the top 10 physicists of all time, and by many accounts one of the top 2 physicists of the 20th century. That expertise did not prevent--or perhaps encouraged--him to give a Nobel Prize acceptance speech on economics, a speech which most economists think is incomprehensible. This is an example of the hubris of the species but, more, the individual arrogance of members of the collected group of very accomplished people who are ever ready to apply their acknowledged competence to other fields where they are as average as the rest of us. So Gödel does not believe in the likelihood of evolution.

The NYT has ripped  Piketty's new book.  It is "a slightly revised version of a volume first published in 1997, when Mr. Piketty was in his mid-20s."

An Associated Press analysis of fundraising reports filed with federal regulators through Friday found that nearly 60 donations of a million dollars or more accounted for about a third of the more than $380 million brought in so far for the 2016 presidential election. Donors who gave at least $100,000 account for about half of all donations so far to candidates' presidential committees and the super PACs that support them.

Saurian: adj. 1. resembling a lizard. 2. belonging or pertaining to the Sauria, a group of reptiles originally including the lizards, crocodiles, and several extinct forms but now technically restricted to the lizards. ety: Saurian comes from the New Latin word Sauria, meaning "an order of reptiles," and the suffix -an occurring in adjectives borrowed from Latin. Dinosaur comes from the Anglicized stem of this word.
If you are thinking Lord of the Rings, you are probably right.

Hillary Clinton gave a speech warning that the new “sharing economy” of businesses such as Uber is “raising hard questions about workplace protections.” This could be a real problem as unions have been on the wrong side of history for a while and the establishment politicians do not want to be on the wrong side of unions.

Dershowitz on Obama and the deal with Iran: “He took the military option off the table, and that was an extraordinarily naïve and wrong thing to do because that allowed the Iranians to negotiate with us as equals. And I’m not the only one who has said this. Many liberal Democrats I’ve spoken to believe we made a tragic negotiating mistake, that what we should have done was said to the Iranians: Look—You’re never, ever going to be able to develop nuclear weapons. That’s American policy, and we’ll stop you, whatever it takes.” At this point, Dershowitz posits the question, “Now why are you [Iran] accepting the sanctions if you’re never, ever going to be able to develop a nuclear weapon? Let’s figure out a way of ending the sanctions by you dismantling the nuclear program and allowing 24/7 inspections. We have military powers that you don’t. You’ll never get a nuclear weapon. That’s not negotiable. What’s negotiable is how to get rid of the sanctions.”
He is a fierce supporter of Israel but is also a fierce liberal. Confusing times for many.

From Henry Wilson's  A Catechism of Individualism:
Do not some writers, like Ruskin, say that value is inherent in a thing?
They do.  Ruskin says that a picture by Botticelli has inherent value, while a cask of whiskey has not only no value, but has, so to speak, a minus value.
What is your comment on this?
On analyzing this statement I find that value is still a matter of opinion, only it is Ruskin’s opinion of what satisfies his desires, instead of the opinion of those concerned of what satisfies their desires.

AAAAAaaaaaannnnnnnddddddd.....a picture of the Lagoon Nebula also known as M8, dominated by the telltale red emission of ionized hydrogen atoms recombining with stripped electrons and ridges of glowing interstellar gas and dark dust clouds. Lagoon's central reaches is about 40 light-years across. Near the center of the frame, the bright hourglass shape is gas ionized and sculpted by energetic radiation and extreme stellar winds from a massive young star: 
 Scott MacNeill captured this beautiful photo of M8 in August 2014.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

American Symbolism

We need to replace Jackson on the $20 bill because he was a Native American killer. We need to keep Jackson on the $20 bill because he was an important military hero and a man who expanded the egalitarian leadership in the country.
We need to ban the Confederate flag because it was a symbol of rebellion and slavery. There is no need to ban the Confederate flag just because some crazies see it as a crazy symbol.
We need to ban rap music because it glorifies crime and misogyny. Rap music is artistic expression and cannot be suppressed regardless of its content.

What is happening here is opinions are becoming creeds. And these creeds demand divine-like purity. The founders of the nation owned slaves, or socialized with men who owned slaves or did not make a sincere effort to outlaw slavery so their remarkable accomplishment of the Declaration of Independence is tainted and the nation it created inferior. Lincoln did not outlaw slavery until well into the Civil War so he must not be much of a good guy. Worse, he on occasion denigrated miscegenation. Buzz Aldrin brought a consecrated host to the moon and took communion there; that is a violation of the separation of church and state and the moon landing is less of an achievement.

The most bigoted organizations in the history of mankind would include the American armed forces and the National Baseball League. Should we get rid of them?

Life is harder than this.

Arlington National Cemetery was founded by the victorious Union after the savage and destructive Civil War to bury its dead. There you will find Section 16. Section 16 contains the remains of hundreds of Confederate soldiers grouped around a modest monument to their devotion to "duty as they understood it" — a gesture by the Union of soldierly respect, without any concession regarding the purity of their cause.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lehman Brothers, Fact and Fancy

If you are concerned about the power of the fed government to manage big problems, here are two things to ponder, beginning with bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers on September 14, 2008
When Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed, its U.S. operations had 1.2 million derivatives transactions outstanding with 6,500 trading partners. Many of them were far from Wall Street, including schools such as Beaver Country Day School outside of Boston or companies like Metavante Corp. in Milwaukee, which had relied on Lehman to help reduce their exposure to fluctuating interest rates through derivatives. In all, the contracts, which were tied to interest rates, bonds, currencies, commodities and stocks, had a "notional," or theoretical, value of $39 trillion. (wsj)
The crisis confronted philosophy and law.

Many financial institutions in Europe also faced the liquidity problem that they needed to raise their capital adequacy ratio. As the crisis developed, stock markets fell worldwide, and global financial regulators attempted to coordinate efforts to contain the crisis. The US government composed a $700 billion plan to purchase unperforming collaterals and assets. However, the plan failed to pass because some members of the US Congress rejected the idea of using taxpayers' money to bail out Wall Street investment bankers. After the stock market plunged, Congress amended the $700 billion bail out plan and passed the legislation.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and head of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Timothy Geithner worried that they lacked the legal authority to rescue Lehman. Under the law, they said, the Fed couldn’t lend to a financial institution with a negative net worth: its liabilities (what it owed) exceeding its assets (what it owned). This was the case with Lehman Brothers, they have contended.
The world's gross domestic product (GDP) is only about $65 trillion, or roughly 10.83% of the worldwide value of the global derivatives market, according to The Economist.
The notional value of the world's derivatives actually is estimated at more than $600 trillion. Notional value, of course, is the total value of a leveraged position's assets. This distinction is necessary because when you're talking about leveraged assets like options and derivatives, a little bit of money can control a disproportionately large position that may be as much as 5, 10, 30, or, in extreme cases, 100 times greater than investments that could be funded only in cash instruments.
the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) estimated the net notional value of uncollateralized derivatives risks is between $2 trillion and $8 trillion, which is still a staggering amount of money and well beyond the billions being talked about in Europe.
In 2009, five banks held 80% of derivatives in America. Now, just four banks hold a staggering 95.9% of U.S. derivatives, according to a recent report from the Office of the Currency Comptroller.
The four banks in question: JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., Bank of America Corp. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday 9/20/15

Another significant reading couched in the clear foolishness of the apostles: "They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest."
These great lessons always seemed tempered by the human reality, the silliness that makes up so much of the world, as if Christ is always putting His big vision in the admittedly limited human context and asking us not to be too self-critical. This reading raises problems like the Messiah suffering, the notion of "service," the unsettling real meaning of "accepting a child" and the frustrating "But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him" where the apostles refuse to pursue complex questions to their clarification.
The specific question today, emphasized by Pope Francis' visit to the U.S., is this: 

“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
While not a perfect reflection, it is representative enough to remind us of the Pope's philosophical background, "Liberation Theology," a peculiarly South American view of social and economic theory. It is anti-colonial and anti-capitalistic--to my mind a xenograft. The capitalist arm is very interesting, particularly here. The apostles' "who was greatest" argument early in the gospel has a very competitive, "capitalistic" feel to it. 

Christianity is essentially a philosophy of personal responsibility--a philosophy not amenable to class or statist "group" interpretation. How Liberation Theology fits with this kind of elemental thinking is difficult but no more difficult than the tendency of these religious leaders to lean to the more centralized power philosophies that have, historically, have been so hostile to independent religion.

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Kang is one of very few South Koreans in the Major Leagues, but he is a significant one. Indeed, most South Koreans know Pittsburgh only because of Kang and the international reach of the game is constantly enhanced by this kind of international representation. Moreover, Kang is a genuine talent who is a student of the game, hits with power and plays excellent defense. Kang is crucial to the Pirates and their year. His injury is of tremendous significance to him, to the team and to the game.
Now the play. St. Louis' Chris Coghlan slid into Kang as Kang was trying to turn the double play at second. Coghlan was not sliding at the base, he was sliding at Kang. The moment he realized that Kang had sidestepped the slide Coghlan reached out with his legs and whipped him, catching his planted left leg at the knee, breaking it and disrupting his medial collateral ligament. There has been debate over the hit. Some think it legal, some--me included--think it was a deliberately cruel act. 
Still, this is a foolish argument, the aesthetics of the sucker punch. (The only other sport in the world that glories in the physical attack upon an defenseless player is the NHL. Even the NFL discourages it and professional boxing stops a fight either temporarily or permanently when a fighter can not defend himself from injury.) The real point is this: The turn of the double play by the second baseman in baseball is probably the single most precise play that can be done on defense. It is beautifully athletic and is the defining characteristic of great infielders; many talented infielders end up in other positions because they cannot make that play. Why would anyone allow it to be compromised by the inherent threat of career ending injury? Why should this complex athletic moment come with the concurrent need for self-defense?
The "hard baseball play" is a euphemism for nasty bad sportsmanship. More, it is incongruous; baseball is loved because it is a precise and athletic game devoid of the hulking mean-tempered savagery of football and hockey.
There is a game called "look out!" in which, during a golf game, any member of the foursome may, once--even in mid-swing, scream "Look out!" It use--or threat of its use--adds excitement and tension, wild play and leads to jolly 19th hole discussions. But it is not golf. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bog Bodies, Art and Reality

There are three hundred and sixty-nine human "bog bodies" that have been excavated from bogs around the world. They are hundreds and sometimes thousands of years old, strangely preserved by the oxygen-deprived bog waters: Instead of the flesh decaying to leave skeletons, the bones of these bog bodies dissolved, leaving behind flesh, organs, and even hair -- natural mummies. Remarkably many of these mummies are in private collections.
Tollund Man's remains had been found in a bog in Denmark. A 2,000-year-old man (or perhaps a bit older), Tollund Man, like other bog bodies, appeared in a state the reverse of most corpses: although his skeleton was dissolving, his body tissue remained, stained brown but otherwise in remarkable condition. His expression is peaceful, in spite of the braided leather rope around his neck.
The most famous is likely Windeby Girl, an Iron Age bog body found in Schleswig, Germany about which the poet Seamus Heaney wrote the poem "Punishment." (He saw an allegorical female victim of modern Ireland--regrettably science triumphed over art and Windeby Girl was eventually revealed to be a boy--but, in these times, the distinction may be less important. Anyway, sometimes facts make for poor art.)
Tollund Man

I can feel the tug
of the halter at the nape
of her neck, the wind
on her naked front.
It blows her nipples
to amber beads,
it shakes the frail rigging
of her ribs.
I can see her drowned
body in the bog,
the weighing stone,
the floating rods and boughs.
Under which at first
she was a barked sapling
that is dug up
oak-bone, brain-firkin:
her shaved head
like a stubble of black corn,
her blindfold a soiled bandage,
her noose a ring
to store
the memories of love.
Little adulteress,
before they punished you
you were flaxen-haired,
undernourished, and your
tar-black face was beautiful.
My poor scapegoat,
I almost love you
but would have cast, I know,
the stones of silence.
I am the artful voyeuur
of your brain’s exposed
and darkened combs,
your muscles’ webbing
and all your numbered bones:
I who have stood dumb
when your betraying sisters,
cauled in tar,
wept by the railings,
who would connive
in civilized outrage
yet understand the exact
and tribal, intimate revenge.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Million Monkeys with Typewriters and a Crib Sheet‏

Evolution is the product of mutation and selection. So genetics meets circumstance and the future is shaped by the adaptability, one to the other. This sounds passive and accidental; some think it is neither.
An interesting idea has emerged about factors influencing change. Are we, as humans, simply stalled out? Our control of the environment protects us from a lot of change. How will change occur--or be rewarded?
It turns out that mutation is not democratic; mutation occurs at a high degree in specific places of the genome. Not everything is in flux but some areas always are. One area of high mutation is the genetic site of immunology; the genome is always offering alternative immunological responses--just to see if there is a new threat a change might meet--like a chemist creating new combinations of antidotes to poisons not yet made. That makes sense as immunologic threats require a shifting immunologic response.
The same high mutation rate occurs among the genes for mating selection. There is a constant shift in how the mating system is programed, always offering new options.
So not only does mutation provide the coincidental advantage, mutation is actively occurring to provide an advantageous option.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cab Thoughts 9/16/15

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

Birds use or solicit ants to free their bodies of lice and parasitic mites; it is known as "anting." They either use secretions like formic acid which are toxic to parasites or rest in ant nests to promote active ant infestation to kill the parasites. 

"The brain 'only takes in the world little bits and chunks at a time,' says MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller. You may think you have a seamless thread of data coming in about the things going on around you, but the reality is your brain 'picks and chooses and anticipates what it thinks is going to be important, what you should pay attention to.'

"[There are] metabolic costs [for] multitasking, such as reading e-mail and talking on the phone at the same time, or social networking while reading a book. It takes more energy to shift your attention from task to task. It takes less energy to focus. That means that people who organize their time in a way that allows them to focus are not only going to get more done, but they'll be less tired and less neurochemically depleted after doing it. Daydreaming also takes less energy than multitasking. And the natural intuitive see-saw between focusing and daydreaming helps to recalibrate and restore the brain. Multitasking does not.

At the end of the Civil War, Grant set up "contraband camps" to shelter ex-slaves. These camps also became spaces where Union superintendents attempted to help former slaves adjust to, and understand, the meaning of living in freedom. Teaching the fundamentals of formal, legal marriage was one of the first priorities. Slaves had been forbidden to marry. Camp officials were ordered to 'lay the foundations of society' by not only setting up public schools, encouraging religious worship, regulating trade, but also by 'enforcing laws of marriage.'

"No one hired a skywriter and announced crack's arrival. But when it landed in your hood, it was a total takeover.  ... It wasn't a generational shift but a generational split. ... Guys my age, fed up with watching their moms struggle on a single income, were paying utility bills with money from hustling. So how could those same mothers sit them down about a truant report? Outside, in Marcy's courtyards and across the country, teenagers wore automatic weapons like they were sneakers. Broad-daylight shoot-outs had our grandmothers afraid to leave the house, and had neighbors who'd known us since we were toddlers forming Neighborhood Watches against us."--Decoded by Jay-Z.

Who is....Captain Hyman G. Rickover?

This is a paragraph from the Boston Globe on the anxieties over a new gene editing technology, CRISPR-Cas9:
"A truly ethical bioethics should not bog down research in red tape, moratoria, or threats of prosecution based on nebulous but sweeping principles such as “dignity,” “sacredness,” or “social justice.” Nor should it thwart research that has likely benefits now or in the near future by sowing panic about speculative harms in the distant future. These include perverse analogies with nuclear weapons and Nazi atrocities, science-fiction dystopias like “Brave New World’’ and “Gattaca,’’ and freak-show scenarios like armies of cloned Hitlers, people selling their eyeballs on eBay, or warehouses of zombies to supply people with spare organs. Of course, individuals must be protected from identifiable harm, but we already have ample safeguards for the safety and informed consent of patients and research subjects."
This wonderful open-mindedness should be applauded--with a caveat. The experienced researchers in this field of CRISPR-Cas9 is the Chinese Huang group. Their recent paper showed the lack of specificity of the CRISPR-Cas9 with unexpected and wide ranging deletions in the genome. Worse, Huang says that the paper was rejected by Nature and Science, in part because of ethical objections; both journals declined to comment on the claim. But Huang did say this: “If you want to do it in normal embryos, you need to be close to 100%. That’s why we stopped. We still think it’s too immature.”
Which is to say, they were afraid.

Medicare B payments increase will go up 52% this year.

A new report from the U.S. Army War College discusses the use of American troops to quell civil unrest brought about by a worsening economic crisis. The report from the War College’s Strategic Studies Institute warns that the U.S. military must prepare for a “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States” that could be provoked by “unforeseen economic collapse” or “loss of functioning political and legal order.” (The report also warns of a possible “rapid dissolution of public order in all or significant parts of the US.”)

Golden oldie:

The Sun’s nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, is actually a triple-star system —three stars bound together by gravity. Alpha Centauri A and B are two bright, closely orbiting stars with a distant, dim companion, Proxima Centauri. The binary appears to the unaided eye as a single star, the third brightest in the night sky, but it lies 4.37 light years from the Sun — Proxima Centauri claims the honor of being our true nearest neighbor at only 4.24 light years away. They are part of the Centaurus constellation in the Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way and the Andromeda are the two largest galaxies in what is called the "local group." The Local Group comprises more than 54 galaxies and its gravitational center is located somewhere between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.
Over a thousand galaxies are known members of the Virgo Cluster, the closest large cluster of galaxies to our own local group. On average, Virgo Cluster galaxies are measured to be about 48 million light-years away. The Virgo Cluster distance has been used to give an important determination of the Hubble Constant and the scale of the Universe.  (Hubble's Constant is the ratio of the speed of recession of a galaxy, due to the expansion of the universe, to its distance from the observer; the Hubble constant is not actually a constant, but is regarded as measuring the expansion rate today.)

It is generally believed that self-control is a limited resource in humans, that it can be exhausted and can be replenished with rest.

Some may say even if Clinton committed security violations, there is no evidence the material got into the wrong hands – no blood, no foul. Legally that is irrelevant. Failing to safeguard information is the issue. It is not necessary to prove the information reached an adversary, or that an adversary did anything harmful with the information for a crime to have occurred. See the cases of Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Jeff Sterling, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou or even David Petraeus. The standard is "failure to protect" by itself.--McClatchy

Using cork to close a bottle of wine allows for a tiny--and unpredictable --amount of oxygen into the bottle every year which creates a small amount of oxygenation of the wine cause some richness and complexity. The downside is fungal infection of the cork leading to "corking." TCA. Trichloroanisole. This flaw ruins between 1 and 2 percent of the wines produced with natural cork closures each year. Through the presence of fungi, a chemical reaction often attributed to the cork causes new compounds to form, imparting a moldy, damp, and generally unpleasant nose and palate that masks intended qualities. An accepted risk, cork continues as a major closure for big wines that spend a long time sleeping in the cellar. 
If you strip energy out of the S&P 500, profits are actually up. Energy earnings are down 64%.

On August 3, 1958, the U.S. nuclear submarine Nautilus completed the first undersea voyage to the geographic North Pole, traveling nearly 1,000 miles under the Arctic ice cap. The USS Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine.

A liquidity trap is a period when the private sector has too much debt, which fuels a bubble. The dot-com bubble wasn’t debt-financed, so it popped quickly and was over. The housing bubble was worse because it was debt-based as well as based in illiquid assets.

On March 9, 1862, U.S.S. Monitor dueled to a standstill with the C.S.S. Virginia (originally the C.S.S. Merrimack) in one of the most famous moments in naval history–the first time two ironclads faced each other in a naval engagement. During the battle, the two ships circled one another, jockeying for position as they fired their guns. The cannon balls simply deflected off the iron ships. In the early afternoon, the Virginia pulled back to Norfolk. Neither ship was seriously damaged, but the Monitor effectively ended the short reign of terror that the Confederate ironclad had brought to the Union navy.

Metonymy: noun, Rhetoric 1. a figure of speech that consists of the use of the name of one object or concept for that of another to which it is related, or of which it is a part, as “scepter” for “sovereignty,” or “the bottle” for “strong drink,” or “count heads (or noses)” for “count people.” 1540-50; < Late Latin metōnymia < Greek metōnymía change of name;

Puerto Rico bonds are in default. They were yielding 12% so a lot of bond funds raised their interest rate profile by buying them. There may be some negative reaction. There are some really nasty tricks bonds funds use; one thing is they return principle with interest to make the yield looks better.

AAAAAAAaaaaaannnnnddddd: ............a picture of China's Winter Olympics ski site. The Zhangjiakou and Yanqing Zones have minimal annual snowfall and for the Games would rely completely on artificial snow. It looks as if it should be used for mountain climbing, not skiing, and people should descend, hand over hand, with ancillary support, not ski.