Saturday, October 31, 2015

Cab Thoughts 10/31/15

"If we do not allow free-thinking in chemistry and biology, why should we allow it in morals and politics?"--Comte

In 1943, 26-year-old poet Robert Lowell was sentenced to jail for a year for evading the draft. Lowell refused to be drafted because he objected to saturation bombing in Europe and other Allied tactics. He served the term in New York's West Street jail. He had answered earlier draft calls willingly, and had even tried to enlist; on all occasions he had been turned down because of poor eyesight. There was every reason to think that he would be turned down again at his upcoming recall examination.

The $9 trillion drop in combined market cap between the MSCI All World index and Chinese stocks, is the second highest ever, surpassed only by the $13 plunge in global market capitalization in late 2008.
Immigrant migrations have different causes and the causes in Europe are wars. The homicidal xenophobes from militant Islam are one factor. 11 million Syrians have fled or been driven from their homes in that country's civil war since it started in 2011. The French hold the Americans responsible for one element: Libya. Since the ill-advised destabilization of Libya, France has been the preferred sanctuary for refugees from the resulting Libyan chaos. The U.N. says there are 60 million people displaced worldwide - the most since the U.N. started keeping records and the most since WWII.
In the U.S. the migrations are more complex. More than half of this nation's immigrants receive some kind of government welfare, a figure that's far higher than the native-born population.

Who is...William Marshall?

The Magna Carta of 1215 was a true intellectual revolution in the relationship between leaders and citizens but it began to fade in importance and, when John died, was not a relevant document. It was rescued by none other than William the Marshall who wanted to use it to strengthen the bond between the nobles and the new young king, Henry III. The reissued Charter played a crucial part in safeguarding the throne of the young Henry III and in ensuring the survival of the Angevin dynasty itself. It became the prototype for the broader pattern of reform in England and it placed Magna Carta at the center of that process of negotiation and careful compromise. 

When the Byzantine Christian emperor Basil defeated the Bulgarians in 1014, he had fifteen thousand Bulgarian war captives blinded. He left one man out of each hundred with one eye in order that he might lead the other ninety-nine homeward and thereby spread the terror.

An interesting site:

At 10 in the morning on February 11th, 1963, the Beatles gathered at Abbey Road studios in London to make a debut album. Twelve hours later, they'd done it. the album was Please Please Me, contained 10 songs, including some of their most indelible early performances: 'I Saw Her Standing There,' 'There's a Place,' 'Do You Want to Know a Secret,' 'Baby It's You.' The final, "Twist and Shout," was added on at the end of the day. It took 12 hours and cost about 400 pounds. It is said to be the most natural production of the Beatles, raw and talent-laden, before they became sophisticated performers.

Angelina Jolie has resigned from the landmine clearing charity made famous by Princess Diana in a row over trustees being paid as much as 500 British pounds a day.

In the founding myth of the city of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus established the city on the banks of the Tiber River in roughly 750 BCE and invited the outcasts of society to be its first citizens. there was a certain truth there. Rome was not produced by a single ethnically homogeneous people. Over the years and then the centuries, much of Rome's population came from outside Italy -- this even included some of the later emperors, such as Hadrian, who was Spanish, and writers like Columella, Seneca, and Martial, also Spanish-born. Celts, Arabs, Jews, and Greeks, among others, were included under the wide umbrella of Romanitas. This was the inevitable result of an imperial system that constantly expanded and frequently accepted the peoples of conquered countries as Roman citizens. Not until the end of the first century B.C. with the reign of Augustus, does a distinctively 'Roman' art, an identifiable 'Roman' cultural ideal, appear.

Jejune: adj: 1. without interest or significance; dull; insipid: a jejune novel. 2. juvenile; immature; childish: jejune behavior. Jejune comes from the Latin word jējūnus meaning "empty, poor, mean."

In 1920 the Psychologist Edward Thorndike, a lecturer at the Columbia School of Education, staged an experiment in which he asked two U.S. Army Air Service commanders who had recently returned from the Great War to evaluate their platoons of airmen according to the attractiveness of their outward appearance -- neatness, voice, physique, bearing, and 'energy.' Then he asked them to assess the same set of aviators according to their 'inner' qualities of personality and character -- among which he included intellect, dependability, loyalty, selflessness, and leadership skills.
In his seminal paper ''A Constant Error in Psychological Ratings,' Thorndike reported that the aviators who were rated highly on their external qualities were 33 percent more likely to receive favorable judgments from their officers when it came to their supposed 'inner,' psychological qualities, including their potential as future leaders. Physical attractiveness, in other words, embellished these men with added credibility. 'The correlations,' wrote Thorndike, 'were too high and too even.' The psychologist called this phenomenon the halo effect.
"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' - that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."--Keats
Or: "What a strange illusion it is to suppose that beauty is goodness. -Leo Tolstoy, novelist and philosopher (1828-1910)
Lula Mae Wright, the mother of the legendary Motown singer and songwriter Stevie Wonder, was born in Hurtsboro, Alabama in 1930. Her teenage mother gave her away when she was six months old, and she later lived from couch to couch before marrying a man who forced her into prostitution.

September 3rd was the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, a treaty that gave independence to the United States and defined its boundaries. You would think it would be celebrated.
It was also the anniversary of one of modern man's creepier episodes, the ending of the siege of Beslan. The Heroes of Beslan were finished off by Russian troops after the Heroes successfully attacked and captured a grade school. A grade school. In deference to one of modern society's weirder customs, Shamil Basayev, a militant Islamist and leader of the Chechen separatist movement, claimed responsibility for the Beslan school siege. 331 people were killed as a result of the siege, 186 of them children, and over 700 more individuals were injured. He did not comment on the choice of the attack target but it must have been that there was no nunnery available.

Golden oldie:

In the years after World War II, the Allies were concerned that the fragile economies of Germany and Japan would cause them to fall under the influence of the Soviet Union or Communist China. As a result, they took extraordinary steps to assist these economies -- for example, from 1947 to 1953, the U.S. and its Allies forgave essentially all of Germany's external debt, an amount estimated at 280% of Germany's GDP. Similarly, the U.S. gave Japan preferential status in trade and economic support, a strategy that worked so well that by 1970s, the U.S. considered Japan an economic threat and sought to open its doors to China as a counterbalance.

Any time you are overwhelmed with lawyers and juries in the world, Google "trial by ordeal," one of the precursors of modern justice.

The teachings of Confucius shape the daily lives of well over 1.6 billion people today, nearly a quarter of the world's population -- in a huge geographic swath stretching from northern Japan down to Java in Indonesia. Only Christianity can claim to hold greater sway over modern global culture. The most famous text associated with him, the Analects, consists, for the most part, of snippets of conversations he had with his students while instructing them on virtue, good government, interpersonal relations, ethics, and history. What Confucius taught was the wisdom of Chinese antiquity, a timeless code of morality and gracious vision of humanity. Many modern East Asians, exposed to Western ideas on civil liberties and political freedom, have perceived Confucius as an impediment to democracy and human rights in the region.

Humiliated repeatedly on medieval battlefields by armies from Pisa, Siena and Lucca, the Republic of Florence later employed its artist-scientists to combine with its soldiers to defeat the enemy by means of ingenious engineering. Already famous for his as yet uncompleted dome, Brunelleschi was dispatched in 1430 to Lucca, where he began to divert the River Serchio so as to flood the land around the city and force it to surrender. The still more ingenious Lucchesi, however, sallied out and breached Brunelleschi's new canal, flooding the plain in an unexpected way so that it demolished a dam built by the architect and swamped the Florentine camp. Seventy years later, a new republic tried a similar tactic, although this time the plan was to divert the River Arno away from Pisa so as to leave that city without water. The engineer employed to design the project was Leonardo da Vinci, an even more versatile figure than Brunelleschi, but his miscalculations with his canal were as embarrassing as his predecessor's. On this occasion the waterway was destroyed not by the defenders but by a storm which collapsed its walls. 

The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on the government's official Dietary Guidelines, that decades of government warnings about whole milk may have been in error. 

"In fact, research published in recent years indicates that the opposite might be true: millions might have been better off had they stuck with whole milk. Scientists who tallied diet and health records for several thousand patients over ten years found, for example, that contrary to the government advice, people who consumed more milk fat had lower incidence of heart disease.
By warning people against full-fat dairy foods, the U.S. is "losing a huge opportunity for the prevention of disease," said Marcia Otto, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Texas, and the lead author of large studies published in 2012 and 2013, which were funded by government and academic institutions, not the industry. "What we have learned over the last decade is that certain foods that are high in fat seem to be beneficial." (WashPo)

AAAAaaaaaannnnnnddddd........a graph:

Chart of the Day

Friday, October 30, 2015

Theodora and Justinian

The Theodoras of the ancient world are hard to keep straight. The best known is the Theodora of the Pornocracy fame who, with her daughter, Marozia, manipulated the Papacy during the papal Dark Ages. Another interesting Theodora was married to the Emperor Justinian, the man who built modern Constantinople. 
Like a country and western song, she was only a bear-keeper's daughter, born about 500 A.D.. She moved from child prostitution to adult actress/prostitute and, at 18, left her acting career to become mistress to Hecebolus, the governor of what is now known as Libya. There she had a religious experience and joined the ascetic Christian sect of Monophysitism, another group stumbling over the Trinity, who believed that Christ's nature was dominated by His divinity as opposed to the dogma that Christ was both fully human and fully divine in one.
Eventually she bewitched Justinian who had one law changed to raise Theodora's status, and another created to allow her to marry, something that former actresses could not legally do at the time. They married against the wishes of Justinian's aunt, the empress Euphemia, herself an ex-slave and concubine.

Then things get interesting.
Theodora is most famous for her behavior during the Nika Revolt where a city rebellion created a new emperor. Justinian lost control of the city and planned to flee. Theodora gave a great speech on the value of dying in greatness, Justinian relented, counterattacked, killed an estimated 30,000 and restored the city to his control. Most historians attribute the saving of his empire to her.
Theodora and Justinian then transformed the city of Constantinople, building it into a city that for many centuries was known as one of the most wonderful cities in the world. They built aqueducts, bridges, and more than 25 churches, the most significant of these being the Hagia Sophia - 'Church of Holy Wisdom'.

Justinian had a strong legal mind; his codifying of Roman law remains a part of legal training today.
Theodora appears to have been interested in improving the lives of women, particularly prostitutes, with  women's marriage and dowry rights, and anti-rape legislation. Her laws banished brothel-keepers from Constantinople and from all the major cities of the empire. She established laws allowing women to own and inherit property. She also provided safe shelter for Monophysite leaders who faced opposition from the majority orthodox Christians, even though her husband Justinian was an orthodox Christian.

But, as with so many people in power, she was more interested in the generality than the particular. She was ferocious in her defense of her position and in expanding her influence.
Which brings us to Procopius of Caesarea (c. 500 - c. 565). Procopius was a contemporary of Justinian and Theodora who wrote three histories. In History of the Wars and the Buildings he describes the Justinian wars against the barbarians and the building of the city and the empire in very favorable light. Then comes The Secret History which describes the emperor and his wife as "a pair of blood-thirsty demons" plotting together to "find the easiest and swiftest means of destroying all races of men and all their works, assumed human shape, became man-demons, and in this way convulsed the whole world.”
The Secret History was not published during Procopius' lifetime and is not mentioned until the Tenth Century. It was rediscovered in the 17th century, when a single copy was found --like so many of these things--in plain sight among the Vatican manuscripts. It is horrific reading. Procopius describes Theodora's sexual behavior in detail from childhood--although such descriptions must be said to have been typical of the time among historians--although none of the contemporary historians describe Theodora in this way. Interestingly, her power and influence over the emperor was particularly upsetting to him, women in control being a relatively common horror particularly among writers with a pagan influence. Although Procopius describes her as a demon, John Malalas calls her "pious" and tells of her charity and benevolence. In the Byzantine historical tradition, Theodora comes to be portrayed as extremely beautiful, intelligent and most importantly, pure.
One critic summarizes Procopius' thus: The fear of women in power, and the use of sexual slander and feminine power as an insult all appear in the literary tradition, and can be better understood when placed in this context. (Korte) 
Theodora, in Ravenna, is in the royal purple:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Another American Life

A man takes his teenage daughter to a baseball playoff game. They are very excited. The game is tense and their team loses. As they are leaving, they become separated in the crowd. He is worried, then more anxious as he fails to find her. A guy, a drunken fan of the other team, sees his anxiety and begins to harass him. This goes on and on, with the remarks escalating as the father's anxiety about the girl rises. Finally the guy says, "You better find her before I do." He pops him. The guy goes down, hits his head and is admitted to the ICU for 5 days. Almost dies.
The father is arrested and booked for felony assault. He has never had any trouble in the past and his lawyer expects no jail time. But he has his own insurance business--a big one--and you can not sell insurance with a felony conviction. He will likely lose his business and his line of work.
His life is ruined.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Cab Thoughts 10/28/15

A man's admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.--deTocqueville
Lower-ranking male wolves do not mate and often suffer from a condition of stress and inhibition that has been referred to as “psychological castration.” Lower-ranking females are sometimes so afraid of the alpha female that they do not even go into heat.
April 2015 had the highest level of U.S. corporate stock buybacks ever.
Vermont has some of the loosest gun laws in America. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives it an “F.” The state requires no background checks for private gun sales, permits the sale and possession of “assault weapons,” and allows concealed guns to be carried in public without a license. It has the third lowest homicide rate in the country.
Though he had seemingly unlimited revenue in the form of gold and silver from the New World, Phillip II of Spain (1527-1598) squandered it all, and more, on war and became the first sovereign in history to declare bankruptcy. Spain lost the Netherlands as a result. The crucial innovation of the Genoese bankers was to create' a secondary market in Spanish sovereign debt by selling shares in the juros they held to a range of investors, but especially to Spanish ecclesiastical foundations, to the growing middle class, such as lawyers and doctors, and to some noble families. They spread the risk associated with a range of juros across a large number of investors, establishing a sort of primitive collateralized debt obligation. The ingenuity of the Genoese in expanding the market for Spanish sovereign debt allowed Philip II to keep his armies in the field and prosecute his wars against the French, the Dutch and the Turks. But the cost of his military operations far exceeded what he could afford and when he stopped paying his interest, the bankers stopped funding his war efforts.
Theodor Seuss Geisel turned to children's books in his late twenties, when his job creating ads for "Flit" insect repellent -- his "Quick, Henry, the Flit!" became a household slogan across America -- left him well-off and bored. So he became Dr. Seuss.
According to the WashPo, while she was secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote and sent at least six e-mails using her private server that contained what government officials now say is classified information. It is important to remember that classification of information does not have to be documented, it is assumed. If she was e-mailing from a server that did not have ".gov," didn't everyone know that? And doesn't the administration have some responsibility there?

Who is....Mitoji Yabunaka?
The pope’s assault on the global economy suggests he believes the whole idea fundamentally disordered, leading to a world where competition is exalted over cooperation and people grow rich by exploiting the poor. But even the most cursory look at the world confirms the opposite: The more fetters imposed on competitive markets, the harder life gets for those stuck at the bottom.
In fact, the poor fare much better in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan or Korea, where markets and competition are relatively open, than they do in Latin America or Africa, where competition is far more limited. To put it another way, it isn’t global competition that makes nations poor but their isolation from it.
A scholar specializing in the study of Latin America said that the official poverty level in the United States is the upper middle class in Mexico. The much criticized market economy of the United States has done far more for the poor than the ideology of the left.

Touchstone: n:1:  a black siliceous stone related to flint and formerly used to test the purity of gold and silver by the streak left on the stone when rubbed by the metal  2:  a test or criterion for determining the quality or genuineness of a thing
3:  a fundamental or quintessential part or feature :  basis touchstone
film of that decade; touchstone of the city's life — Michael Specter;

This Ashley Madison thing is more interesting than it appears. Breaking into a secure website to expose would-be adulterers sounds prankish and maybe prudish and many, I think, secretly enjoy the justice of it. But it really is the rise of self-righteous censors, people who are willing to make a decision about your behavior and destroy your life over it if they do not approve. Freedom does require a certain amount of privacy; Mr. Snowden, meet Cotton Mather.

Golden oldie:
I am not sure how much of a science economics is but, in this quote, one gets a feel that it at least is trying to imitate modern science: The principle of spontaneous order – or of “undesigned order,” as it might more properly be called – can be viewed as the first principle of economics.  Indeed, James Buchanan has recently gone so far as to suggest that it is the only principle of economics.  The principle is, in any case, a cornerstone of modern economics, whether we trace modern (i.e., post-mercantilist) economics back to Adam Smith and the other Scottish moral philosophers, or to the Physiocrats.  With this principle, scholars for the first time could see economic phenomena as interdependent events. (Gerry O’Driscoll)
Cheney's new book about America's international standing and its belief in itself highlights a secret cable dated Sept. 3, 2009,  released by WikiLeaks regarding the attempt by Obama to apologize to the Japanese over the atomic attack on Japan. Sent to Secretary of State Clinton, it reported Japan's Vice Foreign Minister Mitoji Yabunaka telling U.S. Ambassador John Roos that "the idea of President Obama visiting Hiroshima to apologize for the atomic bombing during World War II is a 'nonstarter.'" The Japanese feared the apology would be exploited by anti-nuclear groups and those opposed to the defensive alliance between Japan and the U.S..
The entire brain weighs three pounds (1.4 kg) and so is only a small percentage of an adult's total body weight, typically 2%. But it consumes 20% of all the energy the body uses.
Where was Snowden? In his book, Glenn Greenwald wrote that Snowden "arrived in Hong Kong from Hawaii on May 20, checking into the Mira Hotel under his own name." Edward Jay Epstein of The Wall Street Journal, however, went to Hong Kong and reported that Snowden didn't check into the Mira Hotel until June 1. Epstein also cited a source familiar with the Defense Intelligence Agency report on the Snowden affair, writing that "US investigative agencies have been unable to find any credit-card charges or hotel records indicating his whereabouts" between May 20 and June 1.
 'We limit the number of Jews admitted to each class to roughly the proportion of Jews in the population of the state,' said the dean of Cornell's medical college as late as 1940, citing a policy that was dignified with the name numerus clausus. At the Yale School of Medicine, applications by Jewish students were marked with an H, for 'Hebrew,' while Harvard requested passport-size photos to help identify Semitic facial features. Using questions about religious affiliation and giving priority to the sons of alumni (the so-called legacy preference), the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons was able to reduce its proportion of Jewish students from 47 percent in 1920 to some 6 percent twenty years later -- to the delight of alumni who deplored Jewish students as 'damned curve-raisers' for working too hard and decreasing the value of the leisurely 'gentleman's C.' 
On November 8, 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany abdicated and the Armistice went into effect three days later. In Germany, what immediately followed was fighting, atrocities, political chaos and national despair -- a period known as the "terror." The socialist and communist movements quickly coalesced in November 1918, but by May 1919 they had been snuffed out and the Weimer Republic, which lasted 14 years, emerged as the new government of Germany.
Inserting human glial stem cells into the brains of newborn mice enables them to learn faster. Electromagnets placed on the skulls of monkeys enhances their cognitive performance. These kinds of changes are seen as potentially therapeutic for humans but one could argue the therapy could go the other way. What is to prevent a scientist from enhancing a chimp, for example, and thus create an artificial new class of individuals?
When Genghis Khan and the Mongols defeated the Tatars in the thirteenth century, they captured almost the entire army and all the civilians. The Khan wanted to absorb the enemies he conquered so he determining to kill Tatar males taller than the linchpin holding the wheels on a cart, which was not only a measure of adulthood but a symbolic designation of the nation itself, in much the same way that maritime people often use the ship as a symbol of their state. Once again, as a counter to the killing, Temujin wanted the surviving Tatars taken in as full members of his tribe, not as slaves. So the orphan children were adopted into Mongol tribes.
AAAAAAAaaaaaaaannnnndddddd.....a graph, a Google Ngram of Chronic Fatigue and Autism:

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


"In twenty-five years, the Mongol army subjugated more lands and people than the Romans had conquered in four hundred years. Genghis Khan, together with his sons and grandsons, conquered the most densely populated civilizations of the thirteenth century. Whether measured by the total number of people defeated, the sum of the countries annexed, or by the total area occupied, Genghis Khan conquered more than twice as much as any other man in history. The hooves of the Mongol warriors' horses splashed in the waters of every river and lake from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. At its zenith, the empire covered between 11 and 12 million contiguous square miles, an area about the size of the African continent and considerably larger than North America, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean combined. It stretched from the snowy tundra of Siberia to the hot plains of India, from the rice paddies of Vietnam to the wheat fields of Hungary, and from Korea to the Balkans. The majority of people today live in countries conquered by the Mongols; on the modern map, Genghis Kahn's conquests include thirty countries with well over 3 billion people. The most astonishing aspect of this achievement is that the entire Mongol tribe under him numbered around a million, smaller than the workforce of some modern corporations. From this million, he recruited his army, which was comprised of no more than one hundred thousand warriors -- a group that could comfortably fit into the larger sports stadiums of the modern era.

 "In American terms, the accomplishment of Genghis Khan might be understood if the United States, instead of being created by a group of educated merchants or wealthy planters, had been founded by one of its illiterate slaves, who, by the sheer force of personality, charisma, and determination, liberated America from foreign rule, united the people, created an alphabet, wrote the constitution, established universal religious freedom, invented a new system of warfare, marched an army from Canada to Brazil, and opened roads of commerce in a free-trade zone that stretched across the continents. On every level and from any perspective, the scale and scope of Genghis Khan's accomplishments challenge the limits of imagination and tax the resources of scholarly explanation.

 "As Genghis Khan's cavalry charged across the thirteenth century, he redrew the boundaries of the world. His architecture was not in stone but in nations. Unsatisfied with the vast number of little kingdoms, Genghis Khan consolidated smaller countries into larger ones. In eastern Europe, the Mongols united a dozen Slavic principalities and cities into one large Russian state. In eastern Asia, over a span of three generations, they created the country of China by weaving together the remnants of the Sung dynasty in the south with the lands of the Jurched in Manchuria, Tibet in the west, the Tangut Kingdom adjacent to the Gobi, and the Uighur lands of eastern Turkistan. As the Mongols expanded their rule, they created countries such as Korea and India that have survived to modern times in approximately the same borders fashioned by their Mongol conquerors.

 "Genghis Khan's empire connected and amalgamated the many civilizations around him into a new world order. At the time of his birth in 1162, the Old World consisted of a series of regional civilizations each of which could claim virtually no knowledge of any civilization beyond its closest neighbor. No one in China had heard of Europe, and no one in Europe had heard of China, and, so far as is known, no person had made the journey from one to the other. By the time of his death in 1227, he had connected them with diplomatic and commercial contacts that still remain unbroken.

 "As he smashed the feudal system of aristocratic privilege and birth, he built a new and unique system based on individual merit, loyalty, and achievement. He took the disjointed and languorous trading towns along the Silk Route and organized them into history's largest free-trade zone. He lowered taxes for everyone, and abolished them altogether for doctors, teachers, priests, and educational institutions. He established a regular census and created the first international postal system. His was not an empire that hoarded wealth and treasure; instead, he widely distributed the goods acquired in combat so that they could make their way back into commercial circulation. He created an international law and recognized the ultimate supreme law of the Eternal Blue Sky over all people. At a time when most rulers considered themselves to be above the law, Genghis Khan insisted on laws holding rulers as equally accountable as the lowest herder. He granted religious freedom within his realms, though he demanded total loyalty from conquered subjects of all religions. He insisted on the rule of law and abolished torture, but he mounted major campaigns to seek out and kill raiding bandits and terrorist assassins. He refused to hold hostages and, instead, instituted the novel practice of granting diplomatic immunity for all ambassadors and envoys, including those from hostile nations with whom he was at war."

(From Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Overstock's Macro View

The re-seller Overstock has always been a bit of a Wall Street outsider. For example, Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne crusaded against naked short sellers. But Overstock's Chairman Jonathan Johnson spoke at the United Precious Metals Association, or UPMA, recently and he said an astonishing thing: 

"We are not big fans of Wall Street and we don't trust them. We foresaw the financial crisis, we fought against the financial crisis that happened in 2008; we don't trust the banks still and we foresee that with QE3, and QE4 and QE that at some point there is going to be another significant financial crisis.

So what do we do as a business so that we would be prepared when that happens. One thing that we do that is fairly unique: we have about $10 million in gold, mostly the small button-sized coins, that we keep outside of the banking system. We expect that when there is a financial crisis there will be a banking holiday. I don't know if it will be 2 days, or 2 weeks, or 2 months. We have $10 million in gold and silver in denominations small enough that we can use for payroll. We want to be able to keep our employees paid, safe and our site up and running during a financial crisis."

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday 10/25/15

In today's gospel, Christ heals the blind man on the outskirts of Jericho. (Two men, according to Luke.)

Jericho is an ancient town, an oasis town with three separate constructions. The first was destroyed by Joshua, the second was rebuilt nearby and destroyed by the Romans in their attack in the 70s B.C. (and much of the damage was done by the defenders who, in true Middle East tradition, tried to destroy everything, including the famous balsam trees, rather than allow their enemies to have it.) The third was built by Herod --and given by Antony to Cleopatra because she loved its beauty, spice and luxury. It was the last stop in the Jordan Valley for pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. 

Mark adds clever specifics: The blind man "threw away his cloak." And Christ says "What do you want me to do for you?" He certainly knows but it seems that Christ wants to be asked.

And when the man says he wants to see, Christ does not make it an abstract question, he does not complicate this improvement in  his worldly life. But he also hooks this improvement to the man's faith.

Everything has its spiritual filter.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cab Thoughts 10/24/15

"There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds." - G.K. Chesterton

Daniel Boorstin’s  1958 volume, The Americans: The Colonial Experience: The Georgia project was not abandoned because its settlers had found America unpromising but, on the contrary, because what its settlers wanted was opportunity – with all its risks – and what they were given was a plan.  The opportunities of the New World could not be encompassed by any plan, however selfless or noble, devised by Old World imagination.
Here’s the eternal contrast: Society as an outcome – nearly a stage play – scripted by well-meaning elites (but directed by rogues) versus society as an open-ended process, scripted and directed by no one, ensuring each individual maximum scope to craft his or her own life’s course constrained only by the equal opportunity of each of the countless other individuals to attempt to craft his or her own life’s course.

"Great myths die hard. And I think what we're witnessing today is the slow death of one of the great myths of human history: this idea that centrally planned command economies work, that they're even feasible, and that they can be successful.
It's one of these enigmatic mythologies of the last hundred years in particular that we've been grappling with, and here we are today yet again thinking about this. Let's remember that in the last hundred years a lot of blood has been shed over this mythology. And here we are today, how did we get here again? --Mark Spitznagel, hedge fund manager
Like the mandarin, whose long fingernails demonstrated his distaste for, and ability to evade, physical labor, many politicians and intellectuals have an inherent dislike of the market economy with its emphasis on work, entrepreneurial risk, and money.--William Marina. Mandarins!

Influenza (n.): 1743, borrowed during an outbreak of the disease in Europe, from Italian influenza "influenza, epidemic," originally "visitation, influence (of the stars)," from Medieval Latin influentia (see influence). Used in Italian for diseases since at least 1504 (as in influenza di febbre scarlattina "scarlet fever") on notion of astral or occult influence. The 1743 outbreak began in Italy. Often applied since mid-19c. to severe colds.
Early in Amazon's development they were ordering and selling books but the publishers required a 10 book order, much more than the startup needed. But they found a loophole; although they had to order 10 books, they did not have to receive 10. So they ordered the one book they needed and 9 copies of an obscure and unavailable book on lichen.

Only 30 out of 196 countries grant citizenship upon birth. This is called as 'Unrestricted Jus Soli', Latin for 'right of the soil'. I think there are exceptions: children born to foreign diplomats, those born on foreign ships, those born to hostile enemy combatants. I do not think illegal immigrant parents qualify as exceptions although I have heard it said the original 14th Amendment drafters did not want to include the children of illegals.

Who is....Dorothy Parker?

From the Census Bureau: "Hurricane Katrina is the costliest U.S. hurricane on record, and the deadliest to strike our nation since 1928. After initially making U.S. landfall on Aug. 25, 2005, in South Florida as a Category 1, it moved into the Gulf of Mexico, rapidly intensified into a Category 5 and made its second landfall early the morning of Aug. 29 in Plaquemines Parish in Southeast Louisiana as a strong Category 3 with sustained winds of 125 mph." 
The hurricane caused more than 1,300 deaths and up to $150 billion in damages to both private property and public property. I think it did much more than that; it revealed American weakness in infrastructure and leadership, exposed a class of inept citizens completely unable to care for themselves--a revelation that must have been shocking internationally, and raised questions about American behavior that even the press had difficulty discussing. Interestingly, the date of the hurricaine also the anniversary of the death of Richard Jewell, a man with a remarkable story in itself in a way strangely similar to Katrina in its hysteria, factionalism and bigotry.

Golden oldie:

In an explosion of bravado and protectionism, a year ago the Russian government introduced an embargo on food imports from Western countries. This embargo raised domestic food prices and contributed to a major decline in real incomes. Now, any imported food is publicly burned. The state never does things in opposition to the betterment of all the people but is willing to damage most for a few.

GM last Thursday was fined $900 million for covering up its faulty ignition switches that caused at least 124 deaths and hundreds of injuries. And then there is Volkswagen, which yesterday took out a record charge of 6.5 billion Euros, one which many think will be insufficient before all it set and done, following its own snafu involving manipulating emissions tests to make its cars appear "cleaner" than they were. A very cynical view on this appeared recently and follows:
To summarize Volkswagen's biggest mistake: it was not poisoning the environment, it wasn't even getting caught. It was this:

Funny line on who to sell your soul to: Satan has forbidden fruit of his own to distribute, while the state, in the last analysis, has absolutely nothing to offer that it has not already expropriated from its subjects.

During the Renaissance over half the population spoke Castilian in Spain or French in France, and both languages had long been in use for administration and literature. In Italy nearly everyone spoke in dialect, not just peasants and artisans and the urban poor, but merchants, aristocrats and even monarchs. The works of Dante and his fellow Tuscans Petrarch and Boccaccio, advanced the cause of the Florentine vernacular in the later Middle Ages, as did Galileo. In 1861, when the Italian peninsula was finally united into a single political entity, only 2.5 percent of "Italians" spoke the Italian language.

The State Department will release roughly 7,000 pages of Hillary Rodham Clinton's emails, including about 150 emails that have been censored because they contain information that is now deemed classified. So........

The industrial age in the U.S. accelerated in the decades after the Civil War. But the unlimited working hours and abominable working conditions brought a virulent counter-reaction in the form of a militant socialist movement. There were the usual inevitable conflicts. The Marxist wing felt the capitalistic economy would fall by its own inherent contradictions but need a government caretaker. (The Anarchists were so opposed to a hierarchy they refused to attend he Marxist national meeting in Europe because the group elected a president.) The Socialists wanted "State Socialism" where the state controlled everything. The Anarchists saw self-governing communities and workplaces, free of judges and laws, its police forces and armies.
The question is always the replacement of the existing structure and the answer is usually murder.

"Ray Donavan" is doing more damage to the Catholic Church than DaVinci Code.

Dorothy Parker was a New York reviewer famous for her acerbic wit. It was Parker who, commenting on an early and uninspired performance by Katharine Hepburn in a Broadway play, 'The Lake,' said that the actress 'ran the gamut of emotions from A to B'; she also, feeling dislike for Countess Margot Asquith because the Countess had written a book which seemed too narcissistic, took care of her by commenting 'The romance between Margot Asquith and Margot Asquith will live as one of the great love affairs of literature,' and adding that the book was 'in four volumes, suitable for throwing.'

Obama used his executive power to rename Mount McKinley as Denali, restoring an Alaska Native name to the tallest mountain in North America, thus confusing people for generations. Perhaps generations of confusion will be his legacy.

On Sept. 5, 2014, Russian agents crossed into Estonia--NATO territory--and kidnapped an Estonian security official. After a closed trial, Russia recently sentenced him to 15 years.

AAAAAAaaaaaannnnnnddddddd.....a picture of Spiral Galaxy M96 from Hubble:
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Klerksdorp Spheres

According to Wiki, Klerksdorp spheres are small objects, often spherical to disc-shaped, that have been collected by miners and rockhounds from 3-billion-year-old pyrophyllite deposits mined by Wonderstone Ltd., near Ottosdal, South Africa. They have been cited by some alternative researchers and reporters in books, popular articles, and many web pages, as inexplicable out-of-place artifacts that could only have been manufactured by intelligent beings. Geologists who have studied these objects have concluded that the objects are not manufactured, but are rather the result of natural processes.
Presumably they were created when minerals formed in the space between sediments much the way crystals can naturally form extremely precise shapes. It was the weathering of these specimen that then left them as tiny balls, with evenly spaced lines circumscribing them.

But that is not enough for some.

Much of the doubt about the origin of the spheres originated with an unverified story in which a man brought one of the spheres to NASA. According to this tale, after NASA tested the stone, they told the man that the sphere could have only been made in zero-gravity because its balance was too perfect to have been created naturally. There is of course no documentation of this story, and close examination of the spheres have disproved any claims of "perfect balance," along with the claims that the spheres are "harder than steel."

A picture:
Grooved Spheres

Thursday, October 22, 2015

You Have Two Cows....

Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.

Communism: You have two cows. The government takes both and gives you some milk.

Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cab Thought 10/21/15

"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." - Milton Berle 
Georges Simeon wrote some 500 books published, seventy-five novels and twenty-eight short stories in the world-famous Inspector Maigret series, a daily output sometimes as high as eighty pages, total sales sometimes figured as high as 1.5 billion. Alfred Hitchcock told a  story that has him calling Simenon, being told that the author can't come to the phone because he has just started another novel, and Hitchcock saying that he will hold.

After the hurricane, New Orleans changed their school system and built a charter system. The charters, which have open admission and public accountability, have produced spectacular results. Before the reforms, New Orleans students — like overwhelmingly poor students in most places — lagged far behind more affluent students. Since the reforms, the achievement gap has nearly closed.--N.Y News and Politics
The machine gun appeared in general use in WWI. It was a weapon Hiram Maxim patented in the U.S. in 1884. The Maxim weighed about 100 pounds and was water cooled. It could fire about 450-600 rounds per minute. Most machine guns used in WWI were based on the Maxim design.

Did Richard Windsor ever meet Toby Miles?

In 1886, the 49-year-old president Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom, who at 21 years of age became the youngest first lady in U.S. history. A charming, good looking woman she became one of the most popular first ladies in American history.
Like Hillary, former CIA director John Deutch was also found to have stored classified documents — including top-secret intelligence — on computers in his homes in Bethesda and Belmont, Mass., leading to an investigation by the CIA inspector general and a criminal investigation by the Justice Department. Deutch was stripped of his security clearance and ended up reaching a plea agreement admitting to his crimes — but was saved by a last-minute pardon from none other than . . . President Bill Clinton.

Who is....Anne Bradstreet?

The Sad Puppies are an interesting capsulized social conflict. The Sad Puppies are a group of Sci-fi writers who think the genre has been hijacked by social activists. They have actually presented their own slate for the annual Hugo science fiction awards. They claim that social issues are driving modern sci-fi (as if they were not prominent before). One particularly interesting and coherent criticism is that heroines are being presented as action characters who are essentially masculinized women. It is not a totally goofy argument--but it is an argument that denies the ability of a free market to make good decisions. 
At the Hugos ceremony on in Spokane, Wash. — part of the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention — five categories ended up not giving out an award; the finalists in those five categories were all Puppies-endorsed nominees.
Golden oldie:
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory near the South Pole of the Earth has begun to detect nearly invisible particles of very high energy. Although these rarely-interacting neutrinos pass through much of the Earth just before being detected, where they started remains a mystery.
Two centuries ago the world’s economy stood at the present level of Bangladesh.  In those good old days of 1800, furthermore, the average young person in Norway or Japan would have had on past form less rational hope than a young Bangladeshi nowadays of seeing in her lifetime. She had a 50-50 chance at birth of dying before she was thirty years old. In 1800 the average human consumed and expected her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to go on consuming a mere $3 a day, give or take a dollar or two......She had a 50-50 chance at birth of dying before she was thirty years old.  Perhaps she was a cheerful sort, and was “happy” with illiteracy, disease, superstition, periodic starvation, and lack of prospects.  After all, she had her family and faith and community, which interfered with every choice she made.  --McCloskey
Tobacco has killed 50 million people in the last decade. If trends continue, a billion people will die from tobacco use and exposure this century, which equates to one person every six seconds.
The number [...] or a group of the number [...]: monad, i.e one; duad, i.e. two; triad, i.e. three; then tetrad, and pentad, and hexad, and heptad, and ogdoad, and ennead, up to decade.
Sparkling wine is created by secondary fermentation. It was the cider industry that provided the know-how in Britain in the 1600s. In 1662, Christopher Merret presented findings to the Royal Society (!) in London, detailing the addition of sugar and to cause secondary fermentation, resulting in sparkling wine. He learned the technique from cider-makers.
 Arthur Henry Hallam died suddenly at the age of twenty-two, while on a trip to Vienna. He was a close friend of Tennyson and was eulogized in Tennyson's In Memoriam. Tennyson regarded his poem as a response to the challenges of Darwinian science and industrialization, "a kind of Divina Commedia" spoken by "the voice of the human race" and expressing "my conviction that fear, doubt and suffering will find answer and relief only through Faith in a God of Love." Or as the poem's concluding lines express it, "One God, one law, one element, / And one far-off divine event / To which the whole creation moves."
Titus Oates was an Anglican priest whose whole career was marked with intrigue and scandal. In 1678, he invented the story of the Popish Plot, a fictitious Jesuit conspiracy to kill Charles II and place his Catholic brother James—later James II—on the throne. Oates's testimony resulted in a frenzy of anti-Catholic hatred throughout England, and caused more than 30 people to be executed. He was finally convicted of perjury and imprisoned in 1685. Interestingly Oates claimed the Queen was working with the King's physician to poison the King.
Mollify: v: 1. to soften in feeling or temper, as a person; pacify; appease. 2. to mitigate or reduce; soften: to mollify one's demands. Mollify came to English at the time when Middle English was spoken. It finds its roots in the Latin mollificāre meaning "to make soft."
Anne Bradstreet was the first published poet of the American colonies. Her poetry is rather commonplace but she, and her sentiments, were immortalized in the first collection of poems by John Berryman's Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, a series of fifty-seven, eight-line verses in which he comments on, converses with, courts, and speaks as a woman locked away by gender and circumstance.
The Bracken Bat Cave in Texas is the largest known bat colony in the world. Over 20 million bats live in the cave, which is more bats than there are people living in Mumbai, India—one of the world’s largest human cities. When the bats leave the cave, the group is so large that it looks like a huge storm on radar. The bats will eat over 200 tons of bugs in one night.
AAAAnnnnndddd....a picture: IceCube's Antarctic lab accompanied by a cartoon depicting long strands of detectors frozen into the crystal clear ice below.
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


Becoming Nicole is a book about two parents who adopt twin boys only to see, as they grew older, one boy begin to favor feminine things, then insist he was a girl. It promises to be quite compelling.
The statistics on such a phenomenon are rare so the numbers are difficult to use for any reasonable generality. Here are some numbers, as limited as they are.

Only about 5% of cross-dressers, or transvestites, have any desire to be the opposite sex, but those who do are often convinced they are a woman in a man’s body.
Fewer women believe they are men trapped in a woman’s body.
Perhaps one in thirty thousand of the population truly believe they are biologically different from their genetic makeup. At patients' request, 10,000 sex-change operations have been performed to date, (Israel & Tarver,1997), creating people physically of one sex but chromosomally of the other.
The percentage of homosexuality among co-twins is 11%.
Of four studied monozygotic (identical) male twin pairs, of which one was transsexual, the other twin was transsexual in only one case, so researchers concluded that genetic factors were most unlikely to be important.
The most unequivocal evidence is that brain microstructures are produced by long-continued behavior, rather than long-established brain structures causing the behavior. The brain changes physically in response to our behavior - London taxi drivers have an enlarged part of the brain dealing with navigation, violinists a larger area dealing with movement of the fingers of the left hand. There is no evidence that people are born with brain microstructures unalterable ever after - but there is strong experimental evidence that experience changes that microstructure. Transsexual brain differences would be more likely the result of transsexual behavior than its cause. (Presumably this might have "training" implications but who knows?)
Lady Gaga aside, there is no evidence for the political case that transsexuals were born that way.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Investing in Pittsburgh

Growth in Pittsburgh’s technology sector is accelerating among venture capitalists, angels and other investors with $437.8 million invested across 177 deals in 2014, marking a 46% increase in dollars and an 19.6% increase in deals over 2013.
VCs invested $332.9 million into 39 Pittsburgh deals in 2014, a 168% increase in dollars invested and a 26% increase in the number of deals over 2013.  This was the highest level of VC investment in the Pittsburgh region since 2001.
Angels invested $72.9 million in 2014, a 35% increase over 2013.
Pittsburgh startups saw $3+ billion in exits over the last five years.
Pittsburgh compares favorably against the 40 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the United States, ranking 11th in investment dollars per capita and 5th in deals per million residents.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Sunday 10/18/15

In today's gospel, Christ answers the apostles' questions of a hierarchy among them.

Jesus summoned the twelve and said to them,
"You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served
but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many."

This humility, especially among the great, is a bitter pill for many of the world. Nietzsche hated this element of Christianity; he loved the bravado and pride of the ancient Greek world. He called it "the cancer of humility" and found meaning in life in the definition and fulfillment of the individual. He hated the idea of defining oneself in service to others, of raising another with oneself. He wrote: "All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth." 

Pretty far from Christ who is bringing a very specific message unencumbered by  the temporal. His is the relationship between man and man, man and God. If that relationship becomes the basic--beyond the limits of the temporal, the culture, the primitive confines of the Old Testament, Nietzsche becomes peripheral.
I think continually of those who were truly great.
Who, from the womb, remembered the soul’s history
Through corridors of light, where the hours are suns,
Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition
Was that their lips, still touched with fire,
Should tell of the Spirit, clothed from head to foot in song.
And who hoarded from the Spring branches
The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.
What is precious, is never to forget
The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs
Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.
Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light
Nor its grave evening demand for love.
Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog, the flowering of the spirit.
Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.
--Stephen Spender

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cab Thoughts 10/17/15

"We are the friends of liberty everywhere but custodians only of our own."--John Adams 

The octopus’s most amazing talent may be its ­ability to camouflage itself. It can replicate complicated patterns (even a chessboard) by means of millions of chromatophores in its skin, triggered by sensory organs in its tentacles that determine the surface and even the texture of the terrain it seeks to mimic. A single octopus on a Pacific coral reef was seen to change 177 times in a single hour. This skill is not instinctive but learned.

The China project seems to be to try to turn the old communist system into a consumer economy by declaring everyone solvent. But maybe you can’t magically turn into a consumer-based economy by creating bubbles first in property and then in stocks, and hope people’s profits in both will make them spend. Because the whole endeavor was based from the get-go on huge increases in debt, the just as predictable outcome is, and will be even much more, that people count their losses and spend much less in the local economy. Don't the Chinese read the NYT? That's what the Americans did last decade.

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.

Who is...Proteus?

Success Academy is a New York City charter school system of 34 schools. Its students reside in New York’s most difficult neighborhoods and are chosen at random from near unanimity of inner-city parents who enter the lotteries for their children’s admission to charter schools.  Yet the schools, collectively, rank #11 out of 3,560 in math and #90 out of 3,560 in English. The numbers are a bit scary if you look at what the Success Academy is being compared to. 93 percent of Success scholars passed the math test, against 35 percent for the city as a whole and 75 percent for Scarsdale. In English, 68 percent of Success kids passed, vs. 30 percent citywide and 64 percent for Scarsdale. So which is it, a success of the charter school or an indictment of state education?

In response at his H.U.A.C. hearing to, "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?" Ring Lardner Jr. said, "I could answer it, but if I did, I'd hate myself in the morning."

A white paper by Stephen D. Williamson, Vice President of the St. Louis Fed, has decided that not only have trillions in asset purchases not worked when it comes to creating "healthy" inflation and boosting growth in the US, these asset purchases haven't worked anywhere they've been tried. Furthermore, he thinks the Fed will never be able to raise rates and that the more the Fed talks, the more confused the public gets about what it is the central bank intends to do.
Williamson says the theory behind QE is "not well-developed." Well, then.

The lumpectomies and mastectomies that as many as 60,000 American women get each year — after they are told they have a very early stage of breast cancer — may make no difference in their outcomes, researchers say.

The underlying principle of tariffs, simply another government coercion to obstruct consumers’ spending choices, is that consumers’ spending must be done first and foremost for the benefit of visible, existing domestic producers rather than for the benefit of the people who earned the money in the first place and who then choose to spend it – namely, consumers themselves.

Prior to the 12th Amendment of the Constitution in 1804, the presidential candidate who received the second highest number of electoral votes was named the vice-president. The amendment mandated that electors vote for the offices of president and vice-president separately.

Protean: adjective: 1. readily assuming different forms or characters; extremely variable. 2. changeable in shape or form, as an amoeba. Protean comes from Proteus, the name of a sea god of classical mythology who was noted for his abilty to assume different forms and to prophesy. It entered English in the late 1500s.

Thoth Technology, a Canadian company, just received a U.S. patent for a space elevator design. The idea dates to the end of the 19th century. The author Arthur C. Clarke once said the first space elevator would be built “about 50 years after everyone stops laughing.”

Invested in the S&P 500 only during Republican administrations since 1929, and excluding dividends, $10,000 would have grown to only about $12,000 — versus about $600,000 if invested only during Democratic administrations. The problem, of course, is in the subsequent generalization.

A lot of theorizing as to what is going on with Hillary. I have felt the progression of the wheels of justice regarding her, when those wheels stopped cold with the IRS scandal, was that Obama simply does not like the woman. But there is an interesting thesis that this is part of a much bigger plan to give Obama a de facto third term. It entails the idea that the novice Obama has outfoxed the Clintons; if that's true, he's no novice.

A guy I know, not a high level guy but in the political grass-roots movement, went to a political meeting this week with a mixture of pros and grassroots guys. The group felt, almost unanimously, that Hillary was finished.I have thought it impossible for her to recover from all her problems but now I think she will.

A federal judge’s ruling said that Mrs. Clinton did not comply with government policies in her exclusive use of a personal email account while she was secretary of state.
On Wednesday, Jennifer Palmieri, the communications director for the Hillary Clinton campaign, appeared on Bloomberg Television's "With All Due Respect," where she told co-host John Heilemann that Clinton "didn't really think it through " when she decided to use her personal email account for State Department business.

ISIS has, according to reports, been putting mustard gas in mortar shells. People are upset. There are strict rules in ways one can murder strangers.

In lobbying the late Sen. Edward Kennedy to endorse his wife, former President Clinton angered him by belittling Obama. Telling a friend about the conversation, Kennedy recalled Clinton had said "a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee."  After Kennedy sided with Obama, Clinton reportedly griped, "the only reason you are endorsing him is because he's black. Let's just be clear."--Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin 

Golden oldie:

By 1800, party politics had so distanced Jefferson and Adams--two close friends-- that, for the first and last time in U.S. history, a president found himself running against his vice president. Things got ugly. Jefferson's camp accused President Adams of having a "hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."
In return, Adams' men called Vice President Jefferson "a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father."

The Creek War was part of the War of 1812 in which the United States under General Andrew Jackson defeated the "Red Sticks" militant faction of the Creek Indians who were massacring American settlers. (The other faction of Creeks were allied to the U.S.) The Red Stick Creeks were collaborating with Tecumseh, who tried to organize a pan-Indian confederation with British support. The Creeks were supplied by the Spanish in Florida, who were allied with Britain. It was triggered by the massacre at Fort Mims where three hundred family members were killed by the Creek "Red Stick" faction.

Boycott: The eponym "boycott" shows how a name can change you. Geoffrey Boycott, Yorkshire lad and England cricketer, spent years at the top of the sport frustrating bowlers by simply refusing to play any shot that might have given them the slightest chance of getting him out. Geoffrey’s tactic of boycotting risk was more than a method of staying at the crease: it seemed to stem from a psychological soup of stubbornness and pride. This wasn’t just the way he played cricket; it was the way he played life. So it was as if was he lived up to his name.

AAAaaannnnndddd .....a graph:

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Willing Suspension of Disbelief

The "willing suspension of disbelief" is a concept described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1817 with the publication of his Biographia literaria or biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions. "In this idea originated the plan of the 'Lyrical Ballads'; in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith."
So, rather obviously, the reader or observer of fiction or some otherwise unbelievable creation would, for the sake of the story and its enjoyment, set aside objective judgment and accept things as reasonable and believable. We do not believe that the actor calling himself Hamlet is really killing the actor calling himself Claudius but we accept it for the moment, the entertainment, the education.
This very attitude is become the state of the modern world in its dealing with politics and itself.
A Caucasian woman says she is black. There are no reasons for her statement. She is the child of two Caucasians, her birth certificate confirms it and she looks Caucasian. However, she believes, in her heart of hearts, she is black.
The winner of the Men's Decathlon in the 1976 Olympics says he is a woman named Caitlyn. He looks like a man, he is male on his birth certificate. He has six children by three women. But he believes, in his heart of hearts, he is a woman.
We have entered a world of no constraint. Testing is not taboo, only quaint. A DNA will confirm the woman is Caucasian, will confirm that the man is male. But we are more open-minded than our tests. We now can extend our definitions beyond simple scientific limits. The presence of a Y chromosome does not, indeed, confine a man. There is more--or maybe less--involved.
In the face of the obvious, we will suspend our disbelief.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cab Thoughts 10/15/15

The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism. --Karl Marx
Xiaomi-(pronounced SHOW-em)-is a smartphone maker, and it makes the #1 bestselling smartphone in China, even more popular than the Apple iPhone.
The Department of Labor's quarterly Employment Cost Index (ECI) is Janet Yellen's favorite wage indicator for good reason: it most accurately reflects the true cost of labor to businesses. There are two components of labor costs: (1) wages and (2) benefits like paid vacation, Social Security, workers' compensation, and health insurance. Wages are roughly 70% of ECI, and benefits make up the remaining 30%. The overall ECI was up by 0.2%, but that is only because compensation for government workers increased by +0.6%. The cost of benefits has increased by +1.7%. So is the change in ECI because health care costs are up (and wages down)?
Iran has refused to let United Nations inspectors interview key scientists and military officers to investigate allegations Tehran maintained a covert nuclear-weapons program according to the WSJ. That's a good sign. Of note, much of the inspection in the new treaty are self-inspection. Self! Psychopaths on the honor system. Only a cloud-headed bureaucrat could think of that.

Jon Hilsenrath, the chief economic correspondent for the WSJ, wrote on the conflict-of-interest question about the banks and the Fed.  "Goldman is an object of particular animus among some Fed critics, who see the Wall Street bank as having an unusual hold on government. A long list of former Goldman executives have indeed cycled through the Fed, the government and global central banks more broadly. The list includes Hank Paulson, the former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Mario Draghi, the current head of the European Central Bank, and William Dudley, the head of the New York Fed." Well, yes. Then he wrote this: "Then there is this oft-quoted passage at the beginning of a lengthy rant against Goldman Sachs by Matt Taibbi last July in Rolling Stone: "The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." This sentence, many have charged, goes beyond stereotypes about Jews and money, touches other classic anti-Semitic themes about Jews as foreign or inhuman elements poisoning humanity and society, and--to some critics-- even seems to reference the notorious "blood libel" that Jews use the blood of Christian babies to make matzoh."
These guys learn fast. Criticism of Obama is racist, thus criticism of banks must be anti-Semitic.

Hiroshima. Approximately 80,000 people were killed as a direct result of the blast, and another 35,000 were injured. At least another 60,000 would die by the end of the year from the effects of the fallout.
It was remarked by Aristotle that all men of genius have been melancholic or atrabilious. (James Sully, "Genius and Insanity," The Popular Science Monthly, August 1885)  Atrabilious: adj:1. gloomy; morose; melancholy; morbid. 2. irritable; bad-tempered; splenetic. Atrabilious comes from the Latin ātra bīlis meaning "black bile." Black bile is one of the four elemental bodily humors of medieval physiology, regarded as causing melancholy. Atrabilious entered English in the mid-1600s.

Trump wants to raise import taxes. What that does is increase costs to the buyer. So people are enriched when they pay higher prices?

Who is.... Adam Worth?

As early as 1776, Adam Smith's classic The Wealth of Nations argued that the real wealth of a nation consists of its goods and services, not its gold supply.
Too many people have yet to grasp the full implications of that, even in the twenty-first century.  If the goods and services available to the American people are greater as a result of international trade, then Americans are wealthier, not poorer, regardless of whether there is a "deficit or a "surplus" in the international balance of trade. --Sowell
In 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was placed under house arrest in a coup attempt by Russian hard-line communists. It lasted three days and then dissolved, partly by the public resistance of Yeltsin who emerged as the new power after Gorbachev eventually stepped down.
The U.S. launched its trade embargo on Cuba in 1960 and completed it in 1962 as a response to Castro's expropriations of more than $1.8 billion in U.S. properties in the "largest uncompensated taking of U.S. property by any foreign government in history," according to a 2009 article in the Inter-American Law Review. Those claims are certified by the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, a U.S. government agency. So the embargo--as cruel and ineffective as they are generally--actually was a response to something rather than simple gratuitous meanness.

Golden oldie:
In the last 10 years, the use of testosterone has increased 3.5 fold in the 18 to 45 year old age group. Testosterone in young men suppresses testicular function and causes infertility.

This is interesting. The US is extending its oversight of a body that controls part of the Internet's structure, the Department of Commerce said, postponing a possible handover of responsibilities to a private entity. I wonder if they are having second thoughts.
Senators of both parties, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), want to sell oil from America's Strategic Petroleum Reserve to pay for new roads and bridges. Meanwhile, the House passed a bill to fund $5.4 billion in medical research by selling 64 million barrels. The DRIVE Act assumes a price of $89 per barrel. The Cures act assumes a price of $84 per barrel. The current world price: Less than $45 per barrel. In other words, the government is paying for bills by wildly overestimating how much its oil is actually worth. Buying high, selling low. These guys should be buying here, not selling.
As an aside, in just seven years, the amount of oil per well in some shale plays has risen by a factor of 10! That is almost all due to new technologies that are increasingly coming online. Those technologies are reducing US production costs faster than the Saudi plan is reducing oil prices. And Chinese coal consumption fell in 2014 for the first time in 14 years and U.S. demand is down as power plants shift from coal to natural gas.
Germany, which took in 174,000 asylum seekers last year, is on schedule to take in 500,000 this year. Germany is smaller than Montana.

Gov. Bobby Jindal: "I realize that the best way to make news is to mention Donald Trump. ... So I've decided to randomly put his name into my remarks at various points, thereby ensuring that the news media will cover what I have to say."  

Studies fail to find the genes or genetic variants responsible for a majority of the cases of heritable diseases or traits, including for Type 2 diabetes (only predictive in 6 percent of a population), good cholesterol (5 percent), early myocardial infarction (3 percent), and familial breast cancer (10 percent). Intelligence is a good example of missing heredity; a substantial part, perhaps 50 to 85 percent, is assumed to be inherited. But the Beijing Genomics Institute launched a huge, controversial study of 126,559 individuals in an attempt to find intelligence's missing heredity. After analyzing tens of thousands of small genetic differences that existed within this group, and looking for correlations, the study showed very minor effects from three variants within a few genes.
As always, the basics are tougher than expected.
Carbon is a light atom with six protons and usually six neutrons in its nucleus. ... In terms of all of its other properties and behavior, it is the six electrons that surround and shield the nucleus that are important. Two of these electrons are deeply embedded in an inner core near the nucleus and play no role in the atom's chemical life -- its interaction with other elements. This leaves four electrons, which form its outermost layer, that are active. It is these four electrons that make the difference between the graphite of a pencil and the diamond of an engagement ring.
The simplest thing a carbon atom can do is share each of these four electrons with another carbon atom, forming four chemical bonds.  The crystal structure produced is extremely rigid. It is a diamond. Each diamond is, in fact, a single crystal. The biggest yet found is the size of a football. Extracted from the Cullinan mine in South Africa, it was eventually presented to King Edward VII in 1907 on his birthday and is now part of the crown jewels of the British monarchy. 
It is said the biggest diamond yet discovered is located in the Milky Way in the constellation of Serpens Cauda, where it is orbiting a pulsar star called PSR JI719-1438. It is an entire planet five times the size of Earth.
In his "Books Alive" column in The Chicago Sunday Tribune (26 December 1943), Vincent Starrett wrote, "Worth was the original of Prof. Moriarty. This information, which isn't generally known, was revealed by Conan Doyle in conversation with Dr. Gray C. Briggs of St. Louis, Dr. Briggs once told me."
Adam Worth was German born, emigrated to America, became a bounty jumper in the Civil War, started a gang of pickpockets and robbers in New York and eventually moved to London where he stole paintings and diamonds. He had a sophisticated criminal mind and was very creative. He actually founded a diamond company that sold stolen diamonds at low prices.

In 1835, the first in a series of six articles announcing the supposed discovery of life on the moon appeared in the New York Sun newspaper.
Known collectively as "The Great Moon Hoax," the articles were supposedly reprinted from the Edinburgh Journal of Science. The byline was Dr. Andrew Grant, described as a colleague of Sir John Herschel, a famous astronomer of the day. Herschel had in fact traveled to Capetown, South Africa, in January 1834 to set up an observatory with a powerful new telescope. As Grant described it, Herschel had found evidence of life forms on the moon, including such fantastic animals as unicorns, two-legged beavers and furry, winged humanoids resembling bats. The articles also offered vivid description of the moon's geography, complete with massive craters, enormous amethyst crystals, rushing rivers and lush vegetation.
The articles were most likely written by Richard Adams Locke, a Sun reporter educated at Cambridge University. Intended as satire, they were designed to poke fun at earlier, serious speculations about extraterrestrial life, particularly those of Reverend Thomas Dick, a popular science writer who claimed in his bestselling books that the moon alone had 4.2 billion inhabitants.
AAAAAAAnnnnnnnnnddddd......a picture of Meteors and Milky Way over Mount Rainier: See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.