Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cab Thoughts 2/20/16

Consumer spending may serve Humanity no more frequently than most other human activities.  But how forbidding society would be if one man’s aesthetic/moral preferences decided what goods his fellow consumers select.  In open societies, human consumption choices share only one characteristic – they are made in pursuit of happiness.  The importance and finality of consumers’ freedom was italicized by William Penn.  For he used it as a precedent to warrant equal freedom in religion: “Men have their liberty and choice in external matters; they are not compelled to … buy here and eat there, nor to sleep yonder….  That this liberty should be unquestioned, and that of the Mind destroyed [is, he said] the issue here.”--Stanley Lebergott

June 15, 2013, Ethan Couch, 16, and some friends stole beer from a store and later went for a drive with him at the wheel. Speeding on a dark country road outside Burleson, a suburb of Fort Worth, he plowed a pickup truck into four pedestrians, killing all of them, and hit two vehicles before his truck flipped over. A teenager who was among Mr. Couch’s passengers was thrown from the vehicle and was left paralyzed and brain damaged.
Hours later, Couch recorded a blood alcohol level of 0.24 percent, three times the legal limit for drivers of drinking age, and he tested positive for prescription sedatives. He later pleaded guilty to charges including four counts of manslaughter. Couch’s lawyers argued that he deserved leniency precisely because of his privileged upbringing. His lawyer called as a witness a psychologist who claimed that Mr. Couch had "affluenza," meaning he was too spoiled to know right from wrong. He was given leniency. He was recently rearrested for violating his parole.

From the "Dept. of Settled Science:" In 1992, three researchers bothered to measure the average human temperature. They found that the conventional wisdom (based on an 1878 German study) was wrong. Normal is 98.2.

The solar wind streams off of the Sun in all directions at speeds of about 1 million miles per hour. The source of the solar wind is the Sun's hot corona. The temperature of the corona is so high that the Sun's gravity cannot hold on to the gases that compose it. Although why this happens is understood,  the details about how and where the coronal gases are accelerated to these high velocities is not.

Will and the common pencil analogy in his review of Matt Ridley’s latest book, The Evolution of Everything: Presidential campaigns inflate expectations that power wielded from government’s pinnacle will invigorate the nation. Thus campaigns demonstrate that creationists threaten the creative ferment that produces social improvement. Not religious creationists, who are mistaken but inconsequential. It is secular creationists whose social costs are steep.
Ridley applies to everything the perspective of Leonard E. Read’s famous 1958 essay “I, Pencil.” In it a pencil explains that “I am a mystery” because not a single person knows how to make me. The seemingly simple pencil is wood harvested by loggers using saws and ropes made elsewhere, wood transported by trucks and trains made by many thousands of people, to mills where machines — the products of ore mined by thousands and steel mills staffed by thousands more — prepare the wood to receive graphite mined abroad and the eraser from foreign rubber, held in place by aluminum mined somewhere and smelted somewhere else, before lacquer (castor beans and other ingredients) is applied, and. . . .
Behind a pencil stand millions of cooperating people, but no mastermind. Which is why worshipers in the church of government, the source of top-down authority, disparage a free society’s genius for spontaneous order: It limits the importance of government and other supposed possessors of the expertise that supposedly is essential for imposing order from above.

Who is...Danielle DiMartino Booth?

The average adult heart beats 72 times a minute; 100,000 times a day; 3,600,000 times a year; and 2.5 billion times during a lifetime.

In Plutarch’s Life of Julius Caesar, a story is related that Julius Caesar divorced his wife (Pompeia) because of rumors of opprobrious behavior. At trial, Caesar said he knew nothing about his wife’s rumored adultery, but asserted that he divorced her because his wife “ought not even be under suspicion” (The Life of Caesar, 9-10).
In 2007, the last time Hillary Clinton filed financial disclosures as a member of the U.S. Senate, she indicated she was worth between $10.4 and $51.2 million. Bill Clinton's net worth is about $55 million. In 2012, the most recent year with data available, the Clinton Foundation disclosed assets of $226 million, with $51.5 million in contributions and grants received. Saudi Arabia alone gave to the foundation $10 million to $25 million, as did government aid agencies in Australia and the Dominican Republic. Brunei, Kuwait, Norway, Oman, Qatar and Taiwan each gave more than $1 million. So did the ruling family of Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Foundation, both based in the United Arab Emirates, and the Friends of Saudi Arabia, founded by a Saudi prince.  
Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.

Americans spent $3 TRILLION on healthcare in 2014, a 5.3% year-over-year increase, which works out to $9,523 for every man, woman, and child in the US. Today, healthcare spending accounts for a whopping 17.5% of the US economy. Spending on prescription drugs jumped 12.2% in 2014, to $297.7 billion.

Probity: n: 1. integrity and uprightness; honesty. Probity came to English in the 1500s and finds its roots in the Latin probus meaning "upright."   "Opprobrious" means 1. expressing contemptuous reproach; scornful or abusive: opprobrious epithets or, 2, bringing disgrace; shameful or infamous: opprobrious conduct. Its origin is "full of reproach, intended to bring disgrace," late 14c., from Old French oprobrieus (Modern French opprobrieux), or directly from Late Latin opprobriosus, from Latin opprobare "to reproach, taunt," from ob "against" + probrum "reproach, infamy." Etymological sense is "disgrace attached to conduct considered shameful." I could not find a direct link to "probity."

Raising the minimum wage implies the notion that a higher minimum wage results in a sufficiently large increase in demand for the goods and services produced by minimum-wage workers that a higher minimum wage gives no economic reason to employers to economize further on low-skilled labor.

Danielle DiMartino Booth writes that in the next three years, some $1.1 trillion in Treasurys could roll off the Fed’s balance sheet if reinvestment were to cease. Tack on the potential for mortgage backed securities (MBS) to prepay and/or mature and you’re contemplating a figure that approaches $2 trillion. That would increase the supply of Treasurys and MBS available to investors and reduce the Fed’s support of the economy. The higher the supply on the market, the lower the price and hence, higher the yield, which moves opposite price.

It’s the exercise of power, not the exercise of freedom, that requires justification.-- David Boaz

Dyson was interviewed recently and said something very interesting. He said the original models for global warming were created to allow for individual variations of multiple components--generally varying one component at a time. (He actually knows the originators of the models personally.) Individual variations of single elements while holding large groups of other elements as constants is a successful and convenient technique in analysis but it was never conceived of as a predictive model nor is it a good one. He knows these guys.

Golden oldie:

The Pirates continue to play Modernist baseball, that is minimalism with an emphasis on self realization and no judgment. They now have two legit starters, three number five starters and no four, five or six hitters. The Cubs have a similar problem in a way: They have eight number three hitters. I do have a solution. And it might help our other problem, the Penguins. The Pens lost several night ago and their radio color guy, Phil Borque, almost cried. I exaggerate not. This team is having a nervous breakdown and I have no idea what is going on. Crosby is 88th in league scoring. So, my plan. In a silly PR move a few years ago the Pirates brought Crosby in before a game and he took a few pitches. He hit the first one into the right field stands. Hand-eye is hand-eye. So we put Crosby at first.

The oldest piece of paper in the world was found in China and dates back to the second or first century B.C. Paper was so durable, it was sometimes used for clothing and even light body armor.

Throughout 1890, the U.S. government worried about the increasing influence at Pine Ridge of the Ghost Dance spiritual movement, which taught that Indians had been defeated and confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs. Many Sioux believed that if they practiced the Ghost Dance and rejected the ways of the white man, the gods would create the world anew and destroy all non-believers, including non-Indians. On December 15, 1890, reservation police (Sioux) tried to arrest Sitting Bull, the famous Sioux chief, who they mistakenly believed was a Ghost Dancer, and killed him in the process, increasing the tensions at Pine Ridge. On December 29, the U.S. Army’s 7th cavalry surrounded a band of Ghost Dancers under the Sioux Chief Big Foot near Wounded Knee Creek and demanded they surrender their weapons. Shots were fired and the Indians were wiped out. Almost 150 Indians were killed (some historians put this number at twice as high), nearly half of them women and children. The cavalry lost 25 men.
Some say there was more motive than accident involved: They say that the soldiers, who were of the 7th Cavalry, were deliberately taking revenge for the regiment’s defeat at Little Bighorn in 1876.
This was the last major conflict between white America and the American Indian.

No sane person would have invested in China in the 1970s, but that is what genuinely emerging markets look like.

Peer-to -Peer lending is emerging to fill in the gaps created by the banks' decrease participation in the lending market. Take Lending Club. Say you want a $25,000 debt-consolidation loan. Your FICO score is in the “good” range – 660-720 – and you have annual income over $100,000. With Lending Club you can get a five-year loan at 7.89% with a 3% origination fee. That works out to a 9.63% APR, less (and in some cases much less) than most credit cards charge. Where does this money come from? Investors buy packages of loans that may contain thousands of loans like these. Is this safe? We'll see. But the real change is liquidity. You can sell a bond or leave a bank but these lending contracts are very illiquid.

AAAAaaaaaannnnnndddddd.......a graph of one consequence of low rates---increased borrowing:

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