Thursday, March 31, 2016

Cab Thoughts 3/31/16

A tyranny created for our own good has no limits because our potential good has no limit.--Alaric Phlogiston
Interesting thought for the suspicious and the paranoid. Brazil has had a recent explosion of what is believed to be Zika virus infections, infections supposedly related to birth defects. The virus is not new--it was identified in 1947--bit its activity is certainly new. It is concentrated in a small area of Brazil that....was a big area of research and focus for the genetically altered Oxitec GM mosquitoes, OX513A. The bug was genetically altered so the vast majority of their offspring will die before they mature, a program created to crowd out mosquitoes capable of spreading dengue fever. Coincidence?
Will had an editorial recently that wandered along to get to slamming Trump but in it was this reasonable point about Congressman Brady and the economy: If there is going to be growth-igniting tax reform — and if there isn’t, American politics will sink deeper into distributional strife — Brady will begin it. Fortunately, the Houston congressman is focused on this simple arithmetic: Three percent growth is not 1% better than 2% growth, it is 50% better.
If the Obama-era’s average annual growth of 2.2% becomes the “new normal,” over the next 50 years, real GDP will grow from today’s $16.3 trillion to $48.3 trillion. If, however, growth averages 3.2%, real GDP in 2065 will be $78.6 trillion. At 2.2% growth, the cumulative lost wealth would be $521 trillion.
Brady, however, would like to start with the approximately $2 trillion that U.S. corporations have parked overseas. Having already paid taxes on it where it was earned, the corporations sensibly resist having it taxed again by America’s corporate tax, the highest in the industrial world. ”
(The $2 trillion) won’t just naturally fly back to us,” Brady says. Measures should be taken to make it rational for corporations to bring money home. And to make it rational for corporations like Pfizer, which recently moved its headquarters to Ireland for tax purposes, to remain here.
In the last 30 years, Brady says, more and more taxes have been paid by fewer and fewer people. And fewer and fewer businesses have been organized as corporations: Three-quarters of job-creating entities are not paying corporate taxes.
“You can’t,” Brady says, “ask people to make big changes, leapfrogging our global competitors, just to get to average.”
As an aside, people are giving up U.S. citizenship solely on the basis of the annoying and costly double taxation they suffer while living out of the country. If it is reasonable for them, why should their employers behave any differently?
In 1933 Ezra Pound met with Benito Mussolini. Pound was impressed--perhaps because Mussolini was impressed with him. He "never met anyone who seemed to GET my ideas so quickly as the boss."  Pound followed him enough to make a weekly series of radio broadcasts from Rome during WWII singing Mussolini's praises and denouncing American policy. The broadcasts often became rambling diatribes -- on economic or Jewish conspiracies, for example -- but they were slanderous and offensive enough to get Pound charged with treason, arrested at the end of the war, and imprisoned in Pisa. Pound was sixty and psychiatrists believed that he was paranoid, unfit for trial and hanging, and he was confined on the criminally insane ward of St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington, D. C. for the next twelve years.
While incarcerated in Italy Pound wrote some of his best poetry, and when The Pisan Cantos were published in 1948, during his second year in St. Elizabeths Hospital, it won the Bollingen Prize. This was the inaugural year for the Bollingen, a literary award set up with great fanfare, administered by the Library of Congress, and decided by a panel of prestigious writers and academics.
That the award should go to a man regarded as a traitor and a lunatic brought not just debate but cartooning. The popular press had a field day: "He started out to be a bard and ended up barred" and "Pound went from bad to verse and won $1000" and "Ezra was so unbalanced he wouldn't even hang straight."


Who is.....Augusta Leigh?

I have been fooling around with Spreeder, an app that claims to help you increase your reading speed and comprehension. Well, The Guardian reports on a study just published in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, which looked at the practice of speed reading in light of research on reading generally. Despite the many programs and apps out there claiming to help, they came away skeptical, saying there’s no “magic bullet” and suggesting that most of us can’t have it both fast and comprehensive.
A Navy commander accused of trading military secrets for cash bribes, plane tickets, flings with prostitutes and Lady Gaga concert tickets pleaded guilty to corruption charges in federal court in San Diego.
Cmdr. Michael Misiewicz, 48, a graduate of the Naval Academy in Annapolis, became the eighth person to plead guilty in a gigantic corruption case that has rocked the Navy and reached high into the officer corps. More than 100 people remain under investigation for possible criminal, ethical or administrative violations.
Prosecutors and federal investigators accused Misiewicz of playing a key role in a long-running bribery scheme that enabled a Singapore-based defense contractor, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, to fleece the Navy of more than $20 million. The company held contracts for more than 25 years to resupply Navy vessels during port visits in Asia and has admitted to massively overcharging the government for its services.
All for Lady Gaga.
Interestingly, the new post-revolutionary America was scared witless by the smoldering revolutions of Europe. In July 1797, Congressman Harrison Gray Otis of Massachusetts sounded the alarm on immigration in what became known as the 'Wild Irish' speech, warning that while he had nothing against 'honest and industrious' immigrants, the country could not afford to 'invite hordes of wild Irishmen': 'The mass of vicious and disorganizing characters who could not live peaceably at home, and who, after unfurling the standard of rebellion in their own countries, might come hither to revolutionize ours.' They were especially worried about French immigrants......their tendency for violence, beheadings and all. It was a point of major division between the pro-French Jeffersonian Democrats and Hamilton's pro-English Federalists. The crux of the debate hung--and was decided by--the French interest in New Orleans and the Louisiana Purchase.
12 million years ago, the Brunei-Jarbridge volcanic eruption devastated North America. The animals were preserved in three dimensions, similar to Vesuvius victims. Paleontologists have worked out the order in which the animals died. First, tiny birds fell out of the sky. Their lungs were the smallest and the most easily damaged. Then the smaller land animals succumbed. Then slowly, the larger animals, including the horses, died, their lungs destroyed by the glass-like micron-size silica that entered with every inhalation. The last to die were the largest animals with the largest lungs, the rhinos.
Absenteeism in the Ford plant in 1913 had reached 10.5 percent. Turnover at the Ford plant had soared to 370 percent by 1913. The company had to hire 50,448 men just to maintain the average labor force of 13,623. Ford doubled his wages to $5. While he based his policy on sound business principles, the business com­munity was aghast, excoriating Ford as a 'mad socialist' and a 'traitor to his class.' The Wall Street Journal and other financial papers enthusiastically joined in the attack. Nonetheless, the $5 wage was a brilliant stroke of capitalist genius. In 1914, the first year after Ford began the $5 wage, turnover fell dramatically to 54 percent, By 1915, it dropped still further to 16 percent. Absenteeism also subsided, falling to 0.4 percent in 1914.
The actions of drugs are terminated through several biological mechanisms. The most important is drug metabolism involving oxidation by enzymes belonging to the cytochrome P450 superfamily. Cytochrome P450 3A4 is particularly essential, because it is involved in the bioinactivation of about 50% of all drugs. Grapefruit juice interferes with the P450 activity. Grapefruit juice subjects the patient to a potentially dramatic increase in systemic exposure and associated higher risk of overdose as a result of diminished CYP3A4 activity, primarily in the small intestine rather than in the liver. So grapefruit juice accentuates pharmaceutical activity. Why couldn't that be used to cut dosages and cost? Users use grapefruit juice to potentiate their drug dose.
From Krauthammer: Trump and Sanders are addressing the deep anxiety stemming from the secular stagnation in wages and living standards that has squeezed the middle and working classes for a generation. Sanders locates the villainy in a billionaire class that has rigged both the economic and political system. Trump blames foreigners, most prominently those cunning Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese and Saudis who’ve been taking merciless advantage of us, in concert with America’s own leaders who are, alternatively, stupid and incompetent, or bought and corrupt.
My personal preference is for the third ideological alternative, the reform conservatism that locates the source of our problems not in heartless billionaires or crafty foreigners but in our superannuated, increasingly sclerotic 20th-century welfare-state structures. Their desperate need for reform has been overshadowed by the new populism but will make its appearance this year in Congress in Speaker Ryan’s promised agenda — boring stuff like welfare reform, health care reform, tax reform and institutional congressional reforms such as the return to “regular order.”
Paired with a President like Rubio (or Chris Christie or Carly Fiorina, to go long-shot), such an agenda would give conservatism its best opportunity since Reagan to become the country’s governing philosophy.

Wages, on the whole, in low-wage countries are lower than are wages in high-wage countries not by random chance but, rather, because the productivity, on the whole, of workers in low-wage countries is lower than is the productivity of workers in high-wage countries.
An article in the NYT on anti-Israeli sentiment on liberal campuses quotes a woman from Oberlin who claims that many in her class dismiss the Holocaust as "white-on-white violence." Even I am shocked by this. It is a remarkable twist in thinking.
Hillary will not be indicted. These are politicians monitoring politicians. It's like the Academy Awards only reversed. 
Any criminal referral to the Justice Department from the FBI “will have to go through four loyal Democrat women” — Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, who heads the department’s criminal division; Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates; Attorney General Loretta Lynch; and top White House adviser Valerie Jarrett. Still, this will be an embarrassment in a historical context that Obama will regret; that is, it will harm him in history. Yet she demands it.

The lack of saving is dramatic when you look at Americans under the age of 55. Incredibly, fewer than 10% of all Millennials and only about 16% of those that belong to Generation X have 10,000 dollars or more saved up.

Vicissitude: 1. a change or variation occurring in the course of something. 2. interchange or alternation, as of states or things. ety: Vicissitude derives from the Latin vicis meaning "turn, change." It entered English in the mid-1500s.

The poet Byron's half-sister, Augusta Leigh, had a child--almost certainly his--she named Elizabeth Medora, from his poem The Corsair.
Black children — 4 year olds — make up 18 percent of preschool enrollment but are given nearly half of all out-of-school suspensions. Job applicants with white-sounding names are 50 percent more likely to get called in for an interview. Black defendants are at least 30 percent more likely to be imprisoned than white defendants who have committed the same crime. This information is from a WashPo blog. Looking at this info raises many questions in my mind but, unlike the author, no conclusions.
Golden oldie:
For months, Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign have stuck to a consistent story line when faced with allegations of classified information on the private server she used exclusively as secretary of state: She was the victim of an overzealous intelligence community bent on categorizing information as top secret or classified when it was, in fact, neither. That defense hit a major snag .....when the State Dept. announced that it, too, had found "top secret" information on Clinton's server--22 e-mails across seven separate emails chains. The information, the State Department said, was so secret that those emails would never be released to the public. Suddenly Clinton’s narrative of an overly aggressive intelligence community or a broader squabble between the intelligence world and the State Department didn’t hold water.--WashPo(!)
The 2015 campaign reports for US presidential candidates deadline for FEC filings came and went. There were a number of notable donations, but the headline grabber was George Soros who in the second half of last year gave $6 million to Hillary Clinton’s super PAC.

The mines of South Africa can descend as far as 12,000 feet and reach temperatures of 130°F. To produce an ounce of gold requires 38 man hours, 1,400 gallons of water, enough electricity to run a large house for ten days, and chemicals such as cyanide, acids, lead, borax, and lime. In order to extract South Africa’s yearly output of 500 tons of gold, nearly 70 million tons of earth are raised and milled.
The "town hall" meeting in Iowa with Hillary and Sanders included this gem. A guy introduced as a working man stands up at the microphone and looks down at his paper and says this to Hillary: "I can see why they gave this question to you." So anyone who wondered about the nature of a "town hall" and its spontaneity need wonder no more.
"An assertion that central regulation is necessary tells us nothing about the way a central agency should be constituted, what authority it should have, how the limits on its authority should be maintained, how it will obtain information, or how its agents should be selected, motivated to do their work, and have their performances monitored and rewarded or sanctioned." This is from the Elinor Ostrom  book  Governing the Commons and raises a very important point. The statement of a problem--in this instance the integrity of property held in common by a community--is only a single step in a long resolution process. It is not solved by deferring it to a governing body which may have no ability or interest in managing the problem well or honestly.
AAAAAannnnnddddd......a story:
The policies recommended by Keynesians and monetarists--deficit spending and money printing--routinely failimg to bring about the desired results is not seen as proof that they simply don’t work. Japan has always exhibited an especially strong penchant for central planning. Many Western observers were beginning to wonder in the late 1980s whether the Japanese form of state capitalism administered by the powerful Ministry of Trade and Industry and the BoJ wasn’t a superior economic system after all. Then this happened:  

2-BoJ assets
Assets held by the Bank of Japan: since Kuroda has started this “QE on steroids” program in 2012, the central bank’s balance sheet has grown in parabolic fashion – click to enlarge.

In short, over the past four years the BoJ has thrown all remaining caution to the wind, with the declared goal of reviving Japan’s economy and creating an annual “inflation” rate of 2%. However, it seems now that even that was not enough just yet!
As an aside to this: no-one knows or can sensibly explain what lowering the purchasing power of one’s currency by exactly 2% p.a. is supposed to achieve. There exists neither theoretical nor empirical evidence that could possibly support the notion that it is a desirable goal. It is just another Keynesian mantra. Central bankers have basically pulled the 2% figure out of their hats.--From an Austrian-type economic guy named Tanenbaum

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


From some site on the net on SPECTER:

What does SPECTRE stand for?
Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion

Profiteering from conflict between the superpowers, eventual world domination

Counter-intelligence, brainwashing, murder, extortion using weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, biological and orbital)

Criminal genius Ernst Stavro Blofeld

Executive cabinet:
21 people including former Gestapo members, Soviet spy group SMERSH, Josep Tito's secret police, Italian, Corsican and Turkish organised crime gangs 

Prominent members:
Dr Julius No, Emilio Largo, Irma Bunt, Rosa Klebb, Mr Osatu, Fiona Volpe

136 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris; also SPECTRE Island

Front organisation:
International Brotherhood for the Assistance of Stateless Persons, a refugee charity

Appears in:
Dr No, Thunderball, From Russia With Love, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, SPECTRE 

Last seen:
Diamonds Are Forever (film), 1971

Why the long break?
A long-running copyright dispute between the Fleming estate and producer Kevin McClory

Did you know?
Bond author Ian Fleming invented SPECTRE in 1959 to replace James Bond's usual, Soviet, enemies. Fleming believed the Cold War might be about to end and wanted to keep his spy thrillers relevant

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

American Airlines

We demand a lot of airlines; safety is a lot. There is no margin, no 96% safe. Air travel is an all-or-nothing event.
But it is actually not, any more than surgery is. One can have a great appendectomy, survive and do well. That does not allow the surgeon to place  misery, insincerity and down right meanness in the greater context of the surgical success. But that is exactly what these airlines do.
Last weekend my wife flew in to Miami to connect to Key West. The flight left on time but landed late and the connection the airline booked was missed. That left her and several others from her flight in a quandary. They were soon joined by others from other late flights. (Included was a couple with two infants.) It was late--after ten--and there were no facilities available. No food. No drink. And no transportation. Just ten to fifteen people of various ages--infants included--trapped in front of an American Airlines desk presided over by one woman available to process the marooned victims and reschedule them for the next day's flights. What then evolved was an individual and precise explanation to each victim as to why the airline had no responsibility for anything the victims would undergo. Had they been trapped beneath border guard searchlights they would have been handled in a more charitable manner.
The coup de grâce was delivered by the attendant when her shift was up and it was time for her to shuck the inconvenience the travelers created for her. She handed out vouchers to each victim for transportation and lodging and she left. Tellingly she looked away as she did in a surprising moment of guilt: The vouchers turned out to be dummies--there was nothing at the end of the phone line.
The survivors were left to sleep on the floor.
It is easy for the racist cabby to say, "Stop complaining. I got you here." But a civilized society demands more. It--we--demand some personal involvement, some personal responsibility for the well-being of others. That is how civilized people behave and it should be second nature in us. When it is not, when some huge aberration of total disinterest to the wellbeing of others becomes a routine element in a people or group, or becomes formally institutionalized in some legalistic checklist, the people involved deserve a lot more than disrespect in return.

Monday, March 28, 2016


Nassim Taleb wrote the provocative Black Swan. He is on Facebook. These are from last week's posts:

"The *establishment* composed of journos, BS-Vending talking heads with well-formulated verbs, bureaucrato-cronies, lobbyists-in training, New Yorker-reading semi-intellectuals, image-conscious empty suits, Washington rent-seekers and other "well thinking" members of the vocal elites are not getting the point about what is happening and the sterility of their arguments."
Then he added: "People are not voting for Trump (or Sanders). People are just voting, finally, to destroy the establishment."
Then he wrote: "I far prefer Bernie Sanders to Trump but absolutely no Hillary."
Then: "No SHillary"

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday 3/27/16

Easter is the essential Christian event. Every aspect of the Christian church hinges on Christ's resurrection.

Today's gospel is extremely well written, filled with little particulars (the woman hesitant to enter the tomb, Peter being outrun to the tomb, the meticulous arrangement of the burial cloths, the assumption that the body was stolen--after the assumption by the Pharisees that the apostles would steal it)--all giving misdirection and specificity to what becomes the philosophical earthquake of all time.

Yet how does this all hinge? Hearsay? The interpretation of a sacred book? Amulets and magic rites? No. Amazingly it hinges on us.

By the time Christ rises, we know all the players. We even have some insights about them. They are not revolutionaries, not mystics and, while seemingly sincere, they are not special. They are relatively normal working folks with responsibilities and, probably, annoyed families. As seen by their behavior during the Passion, they are not fully aware of what is happening. Nor are they particularly brave. Yet after this crisis where their leader is tortured and killed they somehow emerge as philosopher and martyrs. They all, to a man, experience a mind-changing, life-changing event. Scattered and leaderless they raise a religious movement that challenges everything in its time and, eventually, forces mighty Rome to adapt.

Christ performed the great, unarguable miracle. It was the behavior of men, people, who confirmed and developed it. No leap of faith was necessary. They were convinced and changed. Then they convinced and changed the world.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Cab Thoughts 3/26/16

"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence." -Napoleon Bonaparte

In 1728 John Gay's The Beggar's Opera opened in London. Its satire and singability made it a first-run sell-out, a cultural craze across England, the most produced play of the 18th century, and the original "ballad opera," first in the Gilbert and Sullivan line.  Brecht and Weill remade it as The Threepenny Opera, and giving Bobby Darin his signature tune: "Oh the shark has pretty teeth, dear / And he shows them pearly white. . . ." Gay was buried in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey, his self-written epitaph marking the spot and continuing the worldview:
    Life is a jest; and all things show it.
    I thought so once, but now I know it.
St. Michael's Flags in Manchester is a small park where allegedly forty thousand people, most of them cot­ton workers, lie buried in unmarked graves, one on top of the other, 'an almost industrial process of burying the dead.' Ellen Hootton was an exceptions. Unlike millions of others, she entered the histori­cal record when in June 1833 she was called before His Majesty's Factory Inquiry Commission, which was charged with investigating child labor in British textile mills. Though only ten when she appeared before the committee and frightened, she was already a seasoned worker, a two-year veteran of the cotton mill. Ellen had drawn public attention because a group of middle-class Manchester activists concerned with labor condi­tions in the factories sprouting in and around their city had sought to use her case to highlight the abuse of children. They asserted that she was a child slave, forced to work not just in metaphorical chains, but in real ones, penalized by a brutal overseer. Her testimony was riveting and pathetic. It was as if poverty had become industrialized.

Every four seconds, Lee Child (the Reacher novels) sells a book somewhere in the world. His daily regimen includes 26 cigarettes, 19 cups of coffee, and writing 2,000 words. He ranks with Stephen King, James Patterson and J.K. Rowling as one of the world’s bestselling novelists.

As in the traditional folktale, and as in the Christopher Marlowe play, Goethe’s Faust sells his soul to the Devil, Mephistopheles. But in Goethe’s version what he asks in exchange is not magic powers or supernatural knowledge. It is, rather, experience—a life lived at fever pitch, “a frenzied round of agonizing joy, / Of loving hate, of stimulating discontent.” The condition of his deal is that the Devil may take his soul whenever he grows too contented with life: “If I should bid the passing moment stay, or try / To hold its fleeting beauty, then you may / Cast me in chains and carry me away.”
The central issue of Goethe’s life and work is on what terms is life worth living? For Faust, as for Werther before him, ordinary existence is flavorless and intolerable; like an alcoholic, he demands ever-stronger draughts of emotional intoxication. Above all, he demands the intoxication of love, and he finds it with Gretchen, an innocent and virtuous young girl, whom he seduces and abandons. Not until the end of the play, when Faust returns to find Gretchen in prison for infanticide, and on the edge of madness, does he realize how selfish his quest for experience has been. A heavenly voice announces that Gretchen will be saved—Goethe, no moralist when it comes to sex, can forgive her for being carried away by passion. But there is no salvation for Faust, whose crime is the one transgression that Goethe can never forgive—solipsism, the refusal to acknowledge the full reality of other people.--Adam Kirsch in "The New Yorker"

Who is....Sherwood Anderson?

From The Horse by Wendy Williams writing on the temperature increase during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) of 56 million years ago, in which global temperatures rose at least 5°C for 200,000 years: "It's hard for us to imagine in our twenty-first-century world, where we accept the cruel reality of sweltering summers and freezing winters, but for a good deal of Earth's history, including most of the Eocene, the planet enjoyed fairly uniform temperatures. For example, during the Eocene, the world north of the Arctic Circle was so warm that crocodiles flourished there. There were no ice caps, of course, and so much freshwater flowed into the Arctic Ocean that a layer of fresh­water sat like a lens over the salt water. The freshwater Azolla fern was plentiful. Forests of redwoods and walnut trees grew there. Pale­ontologists have found the remains of giant ants usually associated with the tropics."
So is global warming mainly a risk for real estate prices?

Corn dextrin, a common thickener used in junk food, is also the glue on envelopes and postage stamps.

All this printed money from Quantitative Easing was supposed to fill the financial system and cause hyperinflation. But people did not lend because they expected rates to rise. It ended up deposited as excess reserves back at the Fed. Years later, people theorized that quantitative easing actually caused the opposite to happen: deflation. Virtually every economic model was wrong. We did not get inflation… of goods and services. Interestingly, though, we got inflation of financial asset prices. Stocks and bonds went up, as well as real estate—even art. Great, but... not everybody owns stocks, usually only people with some money to invest buy assets. So, as all the research shows, the rich have gotten richer, and the poor have gotten poorer. Because of QE. Inequality has increased, which has brought about political unrest.
Unrest has produced populism. But if Bernie Sanders were to become president, he would double the debt overnight. If it were Trump, probably the same thing—we are talking about a guy who has spent his entire career defeating creditors.
Populists are great for gold prices.

Speaking of gold, $60 million treasure of gold plundered by Coronado is believed to be buried on an 80-acre pasture at the Sems Ranch near Clyde, Texas.

Globalization is simply the name of economic competition that transcends political borders; it is economically identical, in its nature and in its effects, to competition that occurs exclusively within political borders. Unions fight Right to Work laws to limit such competition within their borders, place tariffs to fight competition outside their borders. Violence is often the result when they fail, riots within borders, war without.

Golden oldie:

Jury nullification occurs when a jury believes a defendant is guilty but renders a “not guilty” verdict because it regards the relevant law as unjust.
John Adams said about jurors, “It is not only his right, but his duty … to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgment, and conscience, though in direct opposition to the direction of the court.” It has been said that such an attitude prevailed in the pre-Revolution period when English law was thwarted in the colonies because it was felt the individual was guilty of violating the law but that the law was wrong. Conscience is a difficult bellwether when the culture does not have common ground. How would someone advocating jihad vote on a matter of terrorism, for example.  

Unlike other animals, wolves have a variety of distinctive facial expressions they use to communicate and maintain pack unity.

Instead of relying on debatable surface-temperature information, consider instead readings in the free atmosphere (technically, the lower troposphere) taken by two independent sensors: satellite sounders and weather balloons. As has been shown repeatedly by University of Alabama climate scientist John Christy, since late 1978 (when the satellite record begins), the rate of warming in the satellite-sensed data is barely a third of what it was supposed to have been, according to the large family of global climate models now in existence. Balloon data, averaged over the four extant data sets, shows the same. It is therefore probably prudent to cut by 50% the modeled temperature forecasts for the rest of this century.--Michaels

When Clinton took office, he froze discretionary spending. A Democrat froze spending. When the Rube-publicans took the House, they, with Clinton, balanced the budget. (I think Kasick was the point man.) There was a lot of anxiety then about the deficit and the debt. Has anyone made that a part of their candidacy now? Is the debt and deficit less of a problem?

Bellwether: noun: a wether or other male sheep that leads the flock, usually bearing a bell; a person or thing that assumes the leadership or forefront, as of a profession or industry: "Paris is a bellwether of the fashion industry.";  person or thing that shows the existence or direction of a trend; index; a person who leads a mob, mutiny, conspiracy, or the like; ringleader. ety: Middle English belle 'bell' + wether 'castrated male sheep'

Stephen Hawking has recently commented about technology creating mass unemployment and causing dangerous degrees of economic inequality in the absence of government-enforced wealth “redistribution." This is close to asking the average guy about an event horizon. Acknowledged excellence in one field does not imply acknowledged excellence in another. This was proof of the theory.

I read the Feast of Crows. Very different than the HBO story-line. Some paths have been ignored--for focus, I believe--while others just written over. I now have parallel story lines in my head and it is very unnerving. It's like I have been experiencing several multi-universes simultaneously. I don't know how Martin keeps the story lines straight.

Toyota, the world’s largest auto maker, is hoping female manga characters will draw customers to its new Prius hybrid and update its generally conservative image. 

The Obama administration has proposed HomeReady, a new mortgage program largely targeting high-risk immigrants. Writes “for the first time (HomeReady) lets lenders qualify borrowers by counting income from nonborrowers living in the household." So the person counted on contributing to the mortgage payment is not responsible for the loan. It is called an "alternative mortgage." So we just change "subprime" to "alternative" and everything will be OK.

There is a book out called Dark Money, about the Koch brothers. It is a strange topic. The Kochs are pro-gay marriage. They favor liberal immigration policies. They are passionate non-interventionists when it comes to foreign policy. They are against the drug war and are spending a bundle on dismantling so-called “mass-incarceration” policies. So, how are they the Radical Right? The answer is probably they are outspoken opponents of top-down government mandated change, a real enemy of the powers-that-be. Let's call them "Elitist deniers."

A fund of investments that would profit from global warming: 
• Buying land in the upper Midwest and inland Canada (the price of which will rise significantly if global temperatures make much of the South, as well as coastal areas, quite unpleasant places to live)?
• Investing in pharmaceutical companies that own patents that extend beyond 2025 on medicines to treat illnesses that are especially prevalent in the tropics and subtropics?
• Shorting shares of companies that specialize in attracting tourists to subtropical and tropical destinations, especially those on or near seacoasts?

One popular and recurring concern is the fear that immoral people might get control of the government. The Kochs, if we agree they are bad guys, might get their evil hands on the levers and do egocentrically motivated damage to the rest of us. But isn't this a risk inherent to any government? And isn't the solution to limit the potential damage by limiting the government power in the first place, not counting on the random and unpredictable election of a good guy?

Vampires, being dead, generate no warmth. Consequently they can not activate heat sensitive sensors. So, when you see an elevator operator, be alert that he may be there because many clients in the building may not be able to activate the heat sensitive floor selectors.

An indicator of the health of the republic might be seen in the current changes in the Nigerian take of the Spanish Prisoner scam. People laugh at these letters with their misspellings and poor English but, apparently, these errors are purposeful. They are created to make obvious the scam to all but the dumbest people. Apparently so many people respond that the scammers cannot get to all of them. Consequently they try to winnow the pool of targets down to the most likely to continue.

Hemingway's first book, the story collection In Our Time, had been published by Boni Liveright the previous autumn, under a contract that granted them an option on his next three books. Hemingway was a rising star with the finished first draft of The Sun Also Rises in his pocket, along with tempting offers from other publishers -- Scribners, Knopf and Harcourt, Brace. His only way around Horace Liveright was to get him to reject his next manuscript. Hemingway's solution was to submit The Torrents of Spring, a ninety-page satire which he knocked off in eleven days. This aimed at a variety of targets, but chief among them was Sherwood Anderson and the writing style of the "Chicago School" -- in Hemingway's view, representative of the worst in puffed-up, lyrical romanticism. Anderson was a leading author for Boni & Liveright, and Hemingway knew that they wouldn't dare publish his slap at him.

Aaaaaaannnnddddd........light pillars, reflected sunlight off ice crystals:
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.
Light Pillars over Alaska

Friday, March 25, 2016

Meeting and Greeting from the FBI

There are sections of bookstores devoted to meeting people and befriending them. These thoughts are offered by social advisors, business advisors, political advisors and dating sites. Everyone has an opinion on putting people at ease.

Robin Dreeke was head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program and has studied interpersonal relations for over 27 years. He is an expert on how to make people like you. These tips are from his book:

  1. The single most important thing is non-judgmental validation. Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them.
  2. Suspend your ego. Focus on them.
  3. Really listen, don’t just wait to talk. Ask them questions; don’t try to come up with stories to impress.
  4. Ask people about what’s been challenging them.
  5. Establishing a time constraint early in the conversation can put strangers at ease.
  6. Smile, chin down, blade your body, palms up, open and upward non-verbals.
  7. If you think someone is trying to manipulate you, clarify goals. Don’t be hostile or aggressive, but ask them to be straight about what they want.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husayni

Was Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, the former mufti of Jerusalem, a factor in the German decision to exterminate the Jews? It is said he influenced the movement from exile to murder of all Jews within the grasp of the Nazis. But did he?
Here are some points made by Michael Sells in his article "Fabricating Palestinian Responsibility for the Nazi Genocide."

"The case at issue concerns the widespread claim—which was most recently aired and then retracted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—that Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, the former mufti of Jerusalem, was an instigator, promoter, or “driving spirit” of the Nazi genocide against Jews and the associated suggestions of wider Arab and Muslim complicity. Some basic facts about al-Husayni’s life and his Nazi sympathies are not in any significant dispute among scholars."

"The Holocaust is the most investigated crime in history, as has often been pointed out in response to deniers. Eichmann may be that crime’s most investigated criminal. Yet neither the intense effort of Eichmann-hunters to track down and gather every possible clue regarding Eichmann’s life, nor Eichmann’s multiple accounts of his role in the Holocaust, nor the interrogations of Eichmann between his capture and his arrival in Israel, nor the investigations by Bureau 06 established in Israel to prepare the Eichmann case for the prosecution, nor the testimony at the trial, nor the investigative journalism and historical studies that followed, have uncovered evidence that Husayni was a close collaborator of Eichmann, influenced his decisions, or inspected death camps with him."

"The new Perish-Judea literature presents Husayni, an Arab fugitive with no state, army, or organized constituency, as intervening in high Nazi circles, persuading or helping persuade Hitler to commit to the policy of extermination; receiving Himmler’s promise for a special adviser from Eichmann’s staff; receiving and approving lectures from Eichmann on the details of the final solution; actually instructing Eichmann on how to carry out the policy; and with or without his green turban and with or without his coterie, not only visiting Nazi camps, but entering into their most sensitive and highly guarded areas or even singling out the best crematoria workers for praise. In regard to “ethical standards in taking testimony from witnesses and survivors,” no significant testimony from survivors or from witnesses other than Wisliceny has been cited in support of the core Perish-Judea narrative. Overall, the post-1993 Perish-Judea literature published in the United States has been marked by a progressive increase in the certitude with which the narrative is presented, the academic prominence of the presses that publish it, and obfuscation in regard to the sources of the story, even as that story has been tied to claims or insinuations about the beliefs and actions of Arabs and Muslims before, during, or after the Holocaust."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cab Thoughts 3/23/16

"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence." -Napoleon Bonaparte

There is some unhappiness among Hollywood people that black people are poorly represented in the Oscars. It is strange that affirmative action on race, which has become routine everywhere, seems to be off limits when it comes to the arts. Why should taste and quality in arts be immune? Charlotte Rampling has said affirmative action is reverse racism; of course it is. That is its purpose. It is excused by its motives. Clearly there is good racism and bad racism and all we need is a pure government to tell us which is which, and which liberties must be limited in the good's pursuit.

One of the great mysteries of the Iraq invasion was that they did not find WMDs. One would have thought that, if they did not find them, the U.S., the CIA--or somebody--would have planted them. That is what those guys are for. That they did not do it implies something. I don't know what. Maybe honesty. Really quite amazing.

"Slovenly" means negligent of neatness especially in dress and person; habitually dirty and unkempt "filled the door with her frowzy bulk","frowzy white hair","slovenly appearance." Is this word offensive to Slovenia and should it be banned?

Who is.....Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo?

One of the elements of the gradual metamorphosis of equality into sameness was on display in "The Martian." Not only were the action heroes women, they swore like sailors. It is a real sorrow that in our confusing equality with sameness, distinctions have become undesirable.
Belief in the global warming crisis, if true, gives its believers a great advantage of the potential of untold riches. If the temperature is rising, the South will become both unproductive farmland and undesirable living areas. They will probably buy
land in the upper Midwest and inland Canada. Indeed, we could create a index of prices of the land in these areas that would reflect the sincerity of those with the warming insight. (This might actually be a good idea.)

Bush was the American leader and invaded Iraq as our representative. Hating him individually and not holding those who elected him--and those in the Congress who supported him--responsible as well misunderstands the nature of the state. We are not safely and distantly on the outside looking in. We must never be. We are responsible. Something is wrong, and dangerious, when the electorate begins to think itself "above it all."

On May 24, 1993, Sinaloa's rival cartel, Tijuana, recruited some trustworthy killers to strike at the heart of the Sinaloa cartel. Two important travelers were expected at the Guadalajara airport that day: El Chapo Guzmán and Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, who, as archbishop of the city, had railed constantly against the drug lords' power. The killers knew that El Chapo was traveling in a white Mercury Grand Marquis, a must for drug barons. The cardinal was in a white Mercury Grand Marquis as well. (Hmmmmm...) The Tijuana hit men started shooting at what they believed to be Guzman's car, and others -- El Chapo's bodyguards, maybe -- returned fire. The airport parking lot suddenly became a battlefield. The shoot-out left seven men dead, among them Cardinal Posadas Ocampo, while El Chapo managed to escape, unscathed. For years people wondered if the killers really wanted to eliminate the inconvenient cardinal, or if chance had merely played a bad joke on Posadas Ocampo that morning. It was only recently that the FBI declared the killing a tragic case of mistaken identity.

Turkey and Erdogan have for two years aided and abetted ISIS despite being part of the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition. The reason is simple: Erdogan is terrified that the 15 million Kurds on Turkish soil will secede and join Kurdish-dominated regions in Iraq and Syria to finally forge the Kurdish state they've been longing for since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The bombing of Sultanahmet — the sacred territory that houses Istanbul's most iconic religious and historic monuments, such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace--may change that.
Erdogan has allowed the free flow of ISIS terrorists and weapons across Turkey's southern border — which ISIS used last summer to infiltrate Kobani, a Kurdish-controlled border town, and massacre 150 civilians. Most Turks loathe Erdogan's enabling of ISIS but were resigned to giving ISIS its pound of flesh, so long as it followed the example of Kurdish guerillas and left its major city centers alone — including the Kurdish car bombing Thursday of a police station in Diyarbakir province. But this cozy arrangement began to backfire because it pushed America, which has allied with the Kurds since the first Gulf War, even more into Kurdish arms. America has funneled arms and intelligence to Syrian Kurds who have mounted the only successful ground offensive against ISIS. To undermine this U.S.-Kurdish alliance and marginalize the growing Kurdish influence in the region, Erdogan was finally spooked last July into rounding up and imprisoning hundred of ISIS fighters ensconced in southern Turkey. Even more significantly, he allowed America to use Turkey's Incirlik air base to mount anti-ISIS air strikes. The Sultanahmet bombing is ISIS's blowback for this "treachery." But the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace are sacred and attacking them may push Turkey further away from ISIS.
So it goes with politics and politicians, taking here and giving there. Until you can't.
Stay tuned.

A German town has banned Muslim immigrants from the town pool.  This was posted: "There have been complaints of sexual harassment and chatting-up going on in this swimming pool ... by groups of young men, and this has prompted some women to leave (the premises). This led to my decision that adult males from our asylum shelters may not enter the swimming pool until further notice." Islamic "chatting-up?"

Janet Yellin in 2010, August:
I, too, hope that the long disinflationary trend of the past two years will end, and I think a further disinflation seems unlikely. However, the evidence suggests that prices and wages react with a considerable lag to shifts in output and employment, and Japan provides a useful cautionary example. Japan’s deflation didn’t begin until the mid-1990s, a half-decade after the collapse of Japanese real estate and equity prices. Furthermore, during the early years of deflation, Japanese long-run inflation expectations remained well anchored, averaging about 1½ percent as measured by consensus forecasts. So, unfortunately, a Japan-style deflation remains a relevant worst-case scenario for us going forward.
Interestingly, Japan also tried to "escape" its deflation by hiking rates in August of 2000. The "success" of the rate hike lasted all of 7 months before Japan had to cut to zero. 

Amber is not a mineral, but the hardened resin of certain trees fossilized over long periods of time. According to the Swedish Museum of Amber, over 2500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus discovered that when amber was rubbed against cloth, it produced sparks and attracted feathers, husks, and small wooden splinters. This force was given the name "electricity after the Greek word elektron, which means “amber.”
Golden oldie:

“U.S. taxpayers have spent over $22 trillion on ‘anti-poverty' programs since President Lyndon Johnson announced a ‘War on Poverty'” in 1964, writes the Heritage Foundation. And yet the poverty rate has not changed all that much, from 19 percent in 1965 to 14.8 percent in 2014.
Daniel Defoe wrote Moll Flanders in 1722. The full title was: "The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders &c who was born at Newgate, and during a Life of continued Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five time a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew rich, liv'd Honest, and died a Penitent."
Defoe died while in hiding from creditors.

The number of possible ways of playing the first four moves per side in a game of chess is 318,979,564,000.

"At root, the classical view of American constitutionalism examined all legal interventions under a presumption of error. The structural protections of the separation of powers, check and balances, federalism, and the individual rights guarantees built into the basic constitutional structure were all part of combined efforts to slow down the political process that, left to its own devices, could easily overheat." This is from  Richard Epstein’s The Classical Liberal Constitution in which he argues that modern Progressivism has discarded this "presumption of error,"  a presumption that individuals exercising the power of the state, even when democratically elected, always exercise such power with limited knowledge and under the strong temptation to enhance their own private welfare at the expense of the public. This obvious concern has somehow become a complex concept now. 

In 1967 a launch pad fire during Apollo program tests at Cape Canaveral, Florida, killed astronauts Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Edward H. White II, and Roger B. Chafee. An investigation indicated that a faulty electrical wire inside the Apollo 1 command module was the probable cause of the fire. The astronauts, the first Americans to die in a spacecraft, had been participating in a simulation of the Apollo 1 launch scheduled for the next month. Imagine a fire killing these men before the program even launched. And imagine that on July 20, 1969,--two years later--astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. walked on the moon. One of mankind's greatest achievements. Can you think of one better?

"The engine which drives Enterprise is not Thrift, but Profit." This is a distinctive notion of John Maynard Keynes where savings is seen to remove money from consumption and thus from the economy. The other side of the argument is that savings are necessary for investment that will fuel business and job creation--two very distinct views.
“You’re seeing the beginning of Chelsea Clinton preparing to run,” says a donor who attended Chelsea’s rally at Dr. Paul Boskind’s Midtown home last week, where “limited availability guest” entry started at $250 and $2,700 “champion” tickets included a photo with Chelsea. Our insider says: “A dynasty is on the way.” The former first daughter, 35, has not been shy about her political ambitions, though where she’d begin her career in politics is anyone’s guess. Last March, Chelsea reportedly told Sky News that she’d “absolutely" consider seeking office. This makes sense as leadership is probably genetic, as the Capets and the Plantagenets knew. 
Unco: a bit old with an interesting background. adjective: Unusual; remarkable; strange. adverb: Remarkably; extremely. noun: 1. A stranger. 2. News. Ety: A variant of uncouth, from uncuth, from un- (not) + cuth (known), from cunnan (to know). Ultimately from the Indo-European root gno- (to know), which also gave us know, recognize, acquaint, ignore, diagnosis, notice, normal, gnostic and agnostic Earliest documented use: 1410. Usage:
“‘You’re unco late, dear,’ she would say wearily.”
George Douglas Brown; The House with the Green Shutters; McClure, Phillips & Co.; 1902.
Less Antman is a financial advisor from California with a wise website. He describes himself a Taoist, meaning he goes with the flow and treats life as an adventure to be experienced rather than a problem to be solved. This is part of a recent commentary:
I despise market commentary, both for the presumption that anyone really knows the reason for short-term movements and because it distracts people from the fact that investing in equities is a matter of long-term ownership in the businesses that provide the world’s goods and services. Fluctuations in human emotions explain more of the short-term movement in stock prices than do changes in the fundamental value of the businesses.
Nonetheless, the market panic that opened 2016 deserves mention here, not because I predicted it (I certainly did not) nor because I know when it will end (I certainly do not). Now is a great time to remind people why equities, over the long haul, have trounced bonds and bank accounts as investments: few people would put up with the volatility of equities if they didn’t expect a better return. Or as Nick Murray so beautifully puts it: “The ride is the reason for the return.”
My favorite definition of a bear market is “that period of time during which stocks are returned to their rightful owners.”
Stockholders are owners of businesses, and owners get paid last, after employees, contractors, suppliers, and creditors. So changes in available revenue affect owners first, and that is the source of a great deal of uncertainty and occasional outright panic. Point granted: stocks are much more volatile than bonds and cash, and employees have a much more predictable flow of wages than their bosses do of dividends and capital gains.
Yet since owners are paid last, in the long run they can be expected to be paid most — not always and certainly not in all companies, but for someone who owns a globally diversified portfolio of the world’s productive businesses, it’s a pretty good guess. My purpose in life is to tell my clients this as often as necessary.
So might I suggest that you remind yourself, during scary times like these, why you’re invested in stocks? You’re providing the service of accepting the short-term uncertainty that others want to avoid.
Nate Silver has a blog called "538," so named after the concept that there are significant and specific "endorsers" in American politics that signals direction. This was initiated by the book “The Party Decides.” His summary: You ought to pay attention to what influential people who care about a party nomination are doing, since they can have a lot of say in the outcome. Indeed, that’s probably a better representation of “The Party Decides” than the idea that a monolithic establishment always wins.
Here is part of his column on Trump and the book's implications:
"...many Republican elites have no professional incentive to oppose Trump even if they personally dislike his politics or think he’d be a poor nominee. That’s fair enough. But the whole point of forming a party is to work together to facilitate the party’s interests. In that sense, the GOP would qualify as a weak, fraying party if it can’t avoid nominating Trump, a candidate who might at once reject large parts of the party’s traditional platform and potentially cost it a highly winnable general election.
That’s not to say the Republican Party would disappear after a Trump nomination — there would almost certainly still be something named the Republican Party — but it could conceivably be transformed into something more in Trump’s image, perhaps more in the direction of a European populist party. Trump’s nomination could even trigger a political realignment. Such things are rare, occurring perhaps once every several decades, but nominees like Trump are awfully rare, too.
Or maybe not. “The Party Decides” isn’t wrong, not quite yet. While most of the book’s focus is on the “invisible primary” phase of the campaign, it also presents statistical evidence that party elites continue to exert influence on the outcome well after Iowa and New Hampshire have voted.14 Furthermore, on the previous three occasions when party elites failed to reach a consensus before Iowa (these were the 1988 and 2004 Democratic nominations and the 2008 Republican race), the parties nevertheless wound up nominating fairly conventional candidates (Michael Dukakis, John Kerry and McCain). If Marco Rubio winds up the Republican nominee after all, the theory will come out looking pretty good. And if it’s Jeb Bush, somehow, the party’s powers will seem miraculous."

AAAAAaaaaannnnnnnddddddd........ancient Greek laptops:
Ancient Laptop

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

When Things Get Too Big

Anyone wondering the structure of justice in the nation need worry no longer. The problem has been answered and is as follows. Regarding Hillary Clinton and her emails:

“She’s too big to jail,” said national security attorney Edward MacMahon, who represented former CIA employee Jeffrey Sterling in 2011 in a leak case that led to an espionage prosecution and 3½-year prison term. He cited a pattern of light punishments for top government officials who have mishandled classified information while lower level whistle-blowers such as Sterling have faced harsh prosecutions for revealing sensitive information to expose waste, fraud or abuse in government. Read that again.

At least 671 emails that Clinton sent or received through her private server contained classified material,  according to the State Department’s latest update Friday from its ongoing review of more than 30,000 emails. Her aides also sent and received classified information.

The front of the forthcoming book, “My Turn,” by Nation Magazine Contributing Editor Doug Henwood,

The controversial cover of "My Turn," Doug Henwood's new book about Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Sarah Sole/OR Books)

Monday, March 21, 2016


There has been a long-standing campaign in the media and among some political groups against gun ownership. One of the elements encouraging them is the demographics: They have long believed that rural whites were responsible for gun ownership and its political strength and that group was declining. According to one study (Smith), the percentage of homes with a gun has fallen fairly continuously since the 1970s — from approximately 50 percent to 32 percent earlier this year.
But some statistics are beginning to emerge that cast some doubt on the thesis.
A new Gallup poll shows that non-gun owners have a favorable opinion of the NRA (by 7 percentage points). Moderates are even 17 percentage points more likely to have a favorable opinion. Overall, the NRA has a significantly more favorable image than either President Obama or Hillary Clinton.
And ownership is hard to measure. Other surveys by Gallup and ABC News/Washington Post show that gun ownership rates have been flat since the 1970s. The number is uncertain for various reasons, including people's willingness to tell the truth to pollsters about whether they own guns. The “hard” data is that concealed handgun permits and gun sales have soared. Concealed handgun permits tripled from 2007 to 2015. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System shows that the number of gun purchases doubled from 2006 to 2014.
And, according to Gallup, 78 percent of voters supported stricter gun control in 1990. By last fall, that number had fallen to 47 percent. 
Look at Pew polls and you'll see that support for stricter gun control has fallen dramatically since the late 1990s. CNN's polls show a similar pattern since 1993. Last December, the Pew Research Center survey found that 57 percent of Americans believe gun ownership “protects people from becoming victims of crime.” That was up from 48 percent two years earlier. Support for gun ownership especially grew among blacks, rising by 25 percent in just two years.
More, between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of concealed handgun permits held by blacks and other minorities increased more than twice as fast as it did for whites. The growth rate was almost twice as fast for women as for men.
In 2013, gun owners' groups — including the NRA — spent less than one-seventh as much on television advertisements as did the advocates of gun control. Something is not working.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday 3/20/16

Today is Palm Sunday, a long and difficult Gospel from Holy Thursday to Christ's burial, filled with drama, conflict and ambiguity. (That frustrating, "That is what you say.") And this strange back-and-forth which sounds bitterly ironic, even in Christ's mouth:
He said to them,
“But now one who has a money bag should take it,
and likewise a sack,
and one who does not have a sword
should sell his cloak and buy one.
For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me,
namely, He was counted among the wicked;
and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.”
Then they said,
“Lord, look, there are two swords here.”
But he replied, “It is enough!”

And this, from the Scottish writer and translator, Edwin Muir:

That was the day they killed the Son of God
On a squat hill-top by Jerusalem.
Zion was bare, her children from their maze
Sucked by the dream of curiosity
Clean through the gates. The very halt and blind
Had somehow got themselves up to the hill.
After the ceremonial preparation,
The scourging, nailing, nailing against the wood,
Erection of the main-trees with their burden,
While from the hill rose an orchestral wailing,
They were there at last, high up in the soft spring day.
We watched the writhings, heard the moanings, saw
The three heads turning on their separate axles
Like broken wheels left spinning. Round his head
Was loosely bound a crown of plaited thorn
That hurt at random, stinging temple and brow
As the pain swung into its envious circle.
In front the wreath was gathered in a knot
That as he gazed looked like the last stump left
Of a death-wounded deer's great antlers. Some
Who came to stare grew silent as they looked,
Indignant or sorry. But the hardened old
And the hard-hearted young, although at odds
From the first morning, cursed him with one curse,
Having prayed for a Rabbi or an armed Messiah
And found the Son of God. What use to them
Was a God or a Son of God? Of what avail
For purposes such as theirs? Beside the cross-foot,
Alone, four women stood and did not move
All day. The sun revolved, the shadows wheeled,
The evening fell. His head lay on his breast,
But in his breast they watched his heart move on
By itself alone, accomplishing its journey.
Their taunts grew louder, sharpened by the knowledge
That he was walking in the park of death,
Far from their rage. Yet all grew stale at last,
Spite, curiosity, envy, hate itself.
They waited only for death and death was slow
And came so quietly they scarce could mark it.
They were angry then with death and death's deceit.

I was a stranger, could not read these people
Or this outlandish deity. Did a God
Indeed in dying cross my life that day
By chance, he on his road and I on mine?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Cab Thoughts 3/19/16

There is no place for dogma in science.--J. Robert Oppenheimer

Several studies indicate that it would have been biologically impossible for humans to evolve large brains on a raw vegan diet. They conclude that meat-eating was crucial in human evolution.

An enormous Cinderella-liked glass slipper church has been erected in Ocean View Park in Budai town, situated on the east coast of Taiwan. Made entirely out of *blue tinted glass*, the church took two months to build and will be opened to the public before the Lunar New Year which falls on February 8. The church is a way of drawing in female worshipers.
Joaquín Guzmán Loera, "El Chapo," (and his cartel), is from Sinaloa, Mexico in the Sierra Madre. Chinese merchants brought opium to Sinaloa back in the 1800s. Black poison, they called it. And since then, Sinaloa has been full of opium. In Sinaloa, drugs provide jobs for everyone.  Drugs need to be grown, stocked, transported, protected. In Sinaloa, all who are able are enlisted. The cartel operates in the Golden Triangle, and with over 160 million acres under its control, it's the biggest cartel in all of Mexico. It manages a significant slice of U.S. cocaine traffic and distribution. Sinaloa narcos are present in more than eighty American cities, with cells primarily in Arizona, California, Texas, Chicago, and New York. They distribute Colombian cocaine on the American market. According to the Office of the United States Attorney General, between 1990 and 2008 the Sinaloa cartel was responsible for the importation and distribution of at least two hundred tons of cocaine, as well as vast quantities of heroin, into the United States. 200 tons.
His capture was whimsical, the result of an infatuation with an actress.

One of the many arguments against democracy--offered often by elites who would love to do the work themselves--is that the individual does not see himself as directly involved in the results he affects. Because no one voter’s vote will determine the outcome of an election, no voter has incentives to vote carefully and with adequate information.  (Geoffrey Brennan’s and Loren Lomasky’s 1993 book, Democracy and Decision and Bryan Caplan’s, The Myth of the Rational Voter.) Making a democratic voter even more reckless as a decision-maker is the fact that the costs and the benefits of most of the policies the elected government will pursue will fall largely on other people. Asimov wrote a short story about this very thing where a small number of voters were chosen to represent all other voters--a mini-republic of voters. Eventually this was winnowed down to a single representative voter who had the entire election depend upon him.

What makes a great investor? A Jared Dillian quote: “You have to be willing to be wrong and alone.”

Indulgences were one of the primary reasons Martin Luther made the cataclysmic decision to leave the Catholic church and start the "Protestant" movement. Indulgences were formalized forgiveness of sins and could be earned by certain acts. But they could also be bought with donations, allowing Catholics to buy forgiveness for their sins.

The American Action Forum, a right-leaning policy institute based in Washington D.C., estimates that immediately and fully enforcing current immigration law, as Trump has suggested, would cost the federal government from $400 billion to $600 billion. It would shrink the labor force by 11 million workers, reduce the real GDP by $1.6 trillion and take 20 years to complete (Trump has said he could do it in 18 months). 

Who is....Osip Mandelstam?

Samuel Taylor Coleridge claimed, 'In politics, what begins in fear usually ends up in folly.' Political activists are more inclined, though, to heed an observation from Richard Nixon: 'People react to fear, not love. They don't teach that in Sunday school, but it's true.' It is the basis of Crichton's State of Fear, which earned him the enmity of every single group that tries to capitalize on societal anxiety.

Lobotomy is a procedure where a sharp instrument such as an icepick was inserted through holes that were drilled in the skull or through the eye socket above the eye to sever the connections between the frontal lobe and the rest of the brain. Though thoroughly discredited by the 1970s it went through a period of great acceptance--perhaps because it promised to cut mental institution cost. In 1935, visiting London, Dr. Walter Freeman witnessed a presentation on chimpanzees whose frontal lobes had been operated on. No one knew why exactly, but the monkeys all became passive and subdued after the operation. Freeman began working with the technique. In his early period, Freeman's statistics said that out of his first 623 surgeries, 52 percent of the patients received 'good' results, 32 percent received 'fair' results, and 13 percent received 'poor' results. The remaining 3 percent died, but they weren't included in the 'poor' results category. Freeman would later get closer to the truth when he admitted that his fatality rate was almost 15 percent. One of Freeman's most famous patients was Rosemary Kennedy, sister of future president John F. Kennedy. The news coverage was universally positive. ... The New York Times ran a story applauding Freeman's success rate, which their reporter put at 65 percent.
The procedure crippled and ruined many--but the models were quite optimistic.

Uh oh. In a study of students at a Colorado university, attractiveness in women was linked to better grades. But, the difference disappeared for online classes.

Progressivism is a political philosophy supporting the imposition of programs and beliefs created by self-appointed experts, upon the society and culture for the purpose of improvement in both. Is such a concept compatible with American political philosophy?

What was going on with these guys on the West Coast? In 2014, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Fish and Wildlife Service had come to take Cliven Bundy’s cattle, in lieu of back taxes the it claims the rancher has owed it since 1993, when Bundy stopped paying grazing fees. The Bundys had homesteaded the disputed land, southwest of Mesquite, in 1877. Bundy’s forefathers had lived off the land well before the Bureau came into being. The Feds subsequently passed laws usurping Bundy’s natural right to graze his cattle. The elderly rancher offered the following rejoinder: “I have raised cattle on that land, which is public land for the people of Clark County, all my life. … I can raise cattle there because I have preemptive rights,’ among them the right to forage.” The individual vs. the power of the state. He will lose.

Uber has a $50 billion valuation despite a curious fact; they don’t make any money. Uber is trying to raise another billion—at a $70 billion valuation.

Golden oldie:

In November of 2008, as stock markets crashed around the world, the Queen of England visited the London School of Economics to open the New Academic Building. While she was there, she listened in on academic lectures. The Queen, who studiously avoids controversy and almost never lets people know what she's actually thinking, finally asked a simple question about the financial crisis: "How come nobody could foresee it?" No one could answer her. In one of the broadest studies of whether economists can predict recessions and financial crises, Prakash Loungani of the International Monetary Fund wrote very starkly, "The record of failure to predict recessions is virtually unblemished." He found this to be true not only for official organizations like the IMF, the World Bank, and government agencies but for private forecasters as well.
But they do have models.

"Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end." - Immanuel Kant

Societies and cultures can be evaluated by many standards. One is its tolerance for dissent. The Twentieth Century has many examples on the extremes of the tolerance curve. 
The Russian poet Osip Mandelstam's wrote poems can be allusive and complex. He made this one, written in 1933, easy to understand -- and therefore available only to a trusted circle of friends:
    We live without feeling beneath us firm ground,
    At ten feet away you can't hear the sound

    Of any words but "the wild man in the Kremlin,
    Slayer of peasants and soul-strangling gremlin."

    Each thick finger of his is as fat as a worm,
    To his ten-ton words we all have to listen....
Mandelstam was arrested about seven months later. It was shortly afterwards that he became the subject of Stalin's famous telephone call to Boris Pasternak, himself a possible target at this point and therefore susceptible to turn-the-screw tactics: Had Pasternak heard the poem? What did he think of Mandelstam? Pasternak avoided the poem and praised the poet, but this did nothing to save Mandelstam from the four-year nightmare -- interrogation, imprisonment, exile, release, re-imprisonment, final disappearance -- documented by his wife in her memoir, Hope Against Hope.

Prepossessing: adj.: 1. that impresses favorably; engaging or attractive: a confident and prepossessing young man. ety.: 1640s, "causing prejudice," present participle adjective from prepossess. Opposite meaning "causing agreeable first impression" first recorded 1805.

How does Muslim polygamy work? Can anyone have multiple wives or are finances and their limitations built in? If so, is there a Darwinian element here where the more successful have more wives and kids, advancing the cause? If true, does the European welfare state, which would underwrite multiple children of the less able, make polygamy less successful?

Male offenders who abused girls have an average of 52 victims each. Men who molested boys had an average of 150 victims each.

Krauthammer had an interesting observation of the State of the Union speech. While it was short on ideas and accomplishments, it was big on optimism and the future. Hope and Change. Like the first campaign. As if the last two terms had never happened.

AAAAaaaaaaaannnnnnddddddd.....a picture of the Budai church:

Friday, March 18, 2016

Antiquated Drug Laws

Everyone agrees that the antiquated drug laws are responsible for the high incarceration rates in this country and the disproportionately high number of African-American inmates in prison. Both party's presidential candidates are in accord about this. 46,000-plus federal inmates will be released because their sentences were reduced for exactly this reason.
But is that true?
Drug offenders make up only 19.5% of the prison population. Releasing all 300,000+ drug offenders would still leave our prison population larger than it was 30 years ago and larger than any other industrialized country. More, the percentage of African-American inmates would not change from 37%.
The only way to decrease prison numbers dramatically would be to decrease the frequency and length of incarceration for violent crime itself.
Is that what we want?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Who is Jamie Gorelick?‏

President Obama has nominated Merrick Garland to serve on the Supreme Court.

In a recent interview, Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general who worked with Garland at the Justice Department in the Clinton administration, considers her former colleague “supremely qualified” for the high court.

High and reassuring praise. But who is Ms. Gorelick?

Jamie Gorelick is the woman who constructed the "wall of separation" that kept the CIA and the FBI from comparing notes and therefore invading the privacy of  Muhammed Atta and Zacarius Moussaoui. While countless problems were uncovered in our intelligence operations in the wake of 9-11, no single factor comes close to in importance to Jamie Gorelick's wall.
Then she was appointed by Tom Daschle to serve on the "non partisan" 9-11 Commission.

With no real estate or finance experience, she was appointed as Vice Chairman of Fannie Mae in 1997 and fearlessly served in that role through 2003, which is when most of the systemic predatory birds that came home to roost today happened. She was instrumental in covering up problems with Fannie Mae while employed there and took multiple millions in bonuses as she helped construct this house of cards.
From Wikipedia:
One example of falsified financial transactions that helped the company meet earnings targets for 1998, a "manipulation" that triggered multimillion-dollar bonuses for top executives.  On March 25, 2002, Business Week  Gorelick is quoted as saying, "We believe we are managed safely. Fannie Mae is among the handful of top-quality institutions." One year later, Government Regulators "accused Fannie Mae of improper accounting to the tune of $9 billion in unrecorded losses"

Later she worked for Duke University in the Lacrosse fiasco to protect that school from it's astonishing behavior.

Much earlier she worked at the Department of Defense, when she served as legal counsel there in 1993, she drafted the "Don't ask /don't tell" policy.

In the phraseology of the sports guys, quite a body of work.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Cab Thought 3/16/16

"I was told by the founding members of the Women's Studies Department at the State University of New York at Albany that I had been brainwashed by male scientists to believe that hormones even existed, much less had any role in the shaping of our identity and character."--Camille Paglia

I still can't get over that Camille Paglia quote.

Holland is composed of North Holland and South Holland, the two out of the twelve provinces in the Netherlands. The people of the Netherlands refer to their country as “Nederland” and to themselves as “Nederlanders”. However in English, the language uses the term “Dutch” for the people of Netherlands.

The Kalash are a Pakistani tribe. Many of the Kalash are blond haired and blue eyed, somewhat of an anomaly in Pakistan.  Some believe that that they are descendants of Alexander the Great’s army though DNA testing has not, however, produced any connection to Greek people. Yet although there is no genetic support for a Greek origin, the tests on the Kalash also showed no detectable East or South Asian lineages.

A letter to the editor at the WSJ: While many GOP voters today mindlessly heap lots of blame on immigrants and foreigners for America’s woes, many Dem voters today mindlessly heap lots of blame on “the rich.” While many GOP voters ignorantly suppose that transferring jobs from immigrants and foreign workers to Americans is a sure-fire way to make ordinary Americans more prosperous, many Dem voters ignorantly suppose that transferring incomes from “the rich” to ordinary Americans is a sure-fire way to make ordinary Americans more prosperous.  And while many GOP voters stupidly believe that immigrants and foreigners are natural and implacable enemies of the common good – enemies who prey upon us only because Uncle Sam has been too tolerant of evil in our midst – many Dem voters stupidly believe that “the rich” are natural and implacable enemies of the common good – enemies who prey upon us only because Uncle Sam has been too tolerant of evil in our midst.
The fact is, the success of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders testifies unmistakably that the ranks and files of both major parties are now filled with far too many simpletons who not only are utterly ignorant of the ways that economies and governments work, but who also are in equal parts mindless, bigoted, and uncivilized.

You can say almost anything negative about men now. “I am not Catholic, and yet I find myself drawn to the women saints. There is something about them that I admire. Maybe it is simply the lengths to which they went to avoid marrying.” Ms. Jessa Crispin wrote this in the New York Times, in a curious article that sees St. Theresa running from, not to.
Men (and children) must be a real problem in the modern world, the spiritual world decidedly not a question.

Who is...Tom Monaghan?

Inveigle v. 1. to entice, lure, or ensnare by flattery or artful talk or inducements (usually followed by into): to inveigle a person into playing bridge.
2. to acquire, win, or obtain by beguiling talk or methods (usually followed by from or away): to inveigle a theater pass from a person. Interesting ety.: Inveigle entered English as a variant of the word envegle from the Anglo-French enveogler. Strange ety. as it ultimately derives from the Vulgar Latin aboculus meaning "eyeless."

The phrase "tying the knot" initially came from an ancient Babylonian custom in which threads from the clothes of both the bride and bridegroom were tied in a knot to symbolize the couple's union. Literally tying some type of ceremonial knot at a wedding ceremony can be found across cultures.

Under ancient Jewish law, if a suspect on trial was unanimously found guilty by all judges, then the suspect was acquitted. This reasoning sounds counterintuitive, but the legislators of the time had noticed that unanimous agreement often indicates the presence of systemic error in the judicial process, even if the exact nature of the error is yet to be discovered. They intuitively reasoned that when something seems too good to be true, most likely a mistake was made.

Golden oldie:

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was a law that created, for the first time in America, a national system of law enforcement. Anyone who aided or harbored a fugitive slave or interfered with the rendition process, for whatever reason, was subject to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail. In addition, they were subject to civil damages of $1,000 to be paid to the owner of a slave for each slave who was not recovered.
According to the law, 'In no trial or hearing under this act shall the testimony of such alleged fugitive be admitted in evidence.' Under this  law someone could be dragged south as a slave and never be allowed to offer his or her own voice as evidence that he or she was free.
A northern white could be fined, jailed, and sued for helping a black person who he mistakenly thought was free, but a southerner would face no sanction for seizing a free black and fraudulently or mistakenly claiming him or her as a slave."

In 1896, a banquet was planned in Moscow's Khodynka Field to celebrate the crowning of Nicholas II as Tsar of Russia. When rumors spread of lavish gifts to be bestowed by the new leader, hoards of people began gathering at the coronation square. Suddenly, rumors of a gift shortage began circulating through the crowd. In the resulting disorder and panic, 1,389 people were trampled to death and another 1,300 were injured.

Naturalism is a type of extreme realism. This movement suggested the role of family background, social conditions and environment in shaping human character. Thus, naturalistic writers write stories based on the idea that environment determines and governs human character. We also see use of some of the scientific principles in naturalistic works, and humans struggling for survival in hostile and alien society. In fact, naturalism took its cue from Darwin’s theory of evolution that says life is like a struggle and only fittest ones can survive. 
Both naturalism and realism are literary genres and interlinked; however, there are some differences between them:

  • Naturalism suggests a philosophical pessimism in which writers use scientific techniques to depict human beings as objectives and impartial characters, whereas realism focuses on literary technique.
  • Realism depicts things as they appear, while naturalism portrays a deterministic view of character’s actions and life.
  • Naturalism concludes that natural forces predetermine character’s decisions, making him/her act in a particular way, whereas in realism decision of a character comes from his response to a certain situation.

There are more than 300 million guns in the U.S.. Strangely, the argument over guns--you can't find them all and control them--is the same argument over illegals.

Ave Maria, Florida is a small town about 40 miles northeast of Naples. Founded by  Tom Monaghan, the former founder and CEO of Domino's Pizza, it is a small community devoted to Catholic values. His original investment was $250 million. At the center of the town is the Ave Maria Oratory, the only church in the community. There are over 720 homes with 11,000 planned. There is a water park and a golf course.
The town was designed around Monaghan’s grand Catholic Oratory and Ave Maria University - a small Catholic liberal arts college that was relocated from Ypsilanti, Michigan and has a law school.
A recent article on the town revealed that Monaghan was a member of Opus Dei and centered on whether or not the local ob-gyn would prescribe birth control pills. Really.

How crazy is this: A suicide attack on a polio vaccination center in southwestern Pakistan on Wednesday killed 15 people, mainly police who had gathered to escort health workers, who have been repeatedly targeted in recent years by Islamic militants, officials said. Until you read this: Polio workers in Pakistan, and their police escorts, have been targeted in recent years by Islamic militants who accuse them of working as spies for the United States. The attacks intensified after a Pakistani doctor was arrested on charges of running a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign in the city of Abbottabad as a cover for a CIA-backed effort to obtain DNA samples from Osama bin Laden ahead of the 2011 U.S. raid that killed him.

Lumosity has been fined $50 million by the FTC. “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a written statement. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

The Pope seems to have had a readjustment if not a change of heart on immigration: "Given the immense influx and the inevitable problems it creates," he said, "a number of questions have be raised about the real possibilities for accepting and accommodating people, about changes in the cultural and social structures of the receiving countries, and about the reshaping of certain regional geopolitical balances." He pointed to Islam's problem with assimilation and said migrants have a responsibility to "respect the value, traditions and laws of the community that takes them in." Then this: "Equally significant are fears about security, further exacerbated by the growing threat of international terrorism. The present wave of migration seems to be undermining the foundations of that 'humanistic spirit' which Europe has always loved and defended." 

Did you ever think you would see the Pope extolling humanism?

Emily ("Mickey") Hahn was born in 1905. She wrote fifty-two books, had a sixty-eight-year career at The New Yorker Hahn, she got the mining degree -- the first woman to do so at Wisconsin -- and hardly practiced the profession. Nay-saying and head-shaking attended her cigar-smoking, her enjoyment of men and alcohol, her trip across the U.S. in a Model T with her girlfriend (both disguised as men), her journey to the Belgian Congo as a Red Cross worker, her time as the concubine of a Chinese poet in Shanghai, her addiction to opium, her affair and illegitimate child with the head of the British Secret Service in Hong Kong, and her pioneer work in environmentalism and wildlife preservation. Hahn's years in the Far East are currently the focus of a British movie and a Canadian television documentary, and her 1970 Times and Places was reissued in 2001 (under the title No Hurry to Get Home).

The problem with redistribution: Most of the wealth of the superrich is in the form of productive assets that not only will lose most of their monetary value if seized by the state for ‘redistribution’ but is also in a form that produces significant economic benefits for its non-owners. The assets could be nationalized, i.e. given to a politician, his friends and family or liquidated, i.e. destroyed and broken down so its production is lost forever but some value--after the overhead of the liquidation is paid to the politician, his friends and family--trickles down to somebody.

AAAAAAnnnnnnddddd....a picture of Ave Maria, Florida:
The centrepiece of the community, which is still under development, is a large church, the facade of which displays sculptor Marton Varo's 30-foot-tall sculpture of the Annunciation, depicting the Archangel Gabriel greeting the Virgin Mary with the words 'Ave Maria' (Hail Mary)