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

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