Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Paradox

This is an effort to show what we see in the spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, we call home.
As many stars as there are in our galaxy, 100 – 400 billion--BILLION!, there are roughly an equal number of galaxies--GALAXIES!-- in the observable universe. So for every star in the colossal Milky Way, there’s a whole galaxy out there. All together, that comes out to the typically quoted range of between 10^22 and 10^24 total stars, which means that for every grain of sand on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there.

The science world isn’t in total agreement about what percentage of those stars are “sun-like” (similar in size, temperature, and luminosity)—opinions typically range from 5% to 20%. Going with the most conservative side of that (5%), and the lower end for the number of total stars (10^22), gives us 500 quintillion, or 500 billion billion sun-like stars.

There’s also a debate over what percentage of those sun-like stars might be orbited by an Earth-like planet (one with similar temperature conditions that could have liquid water and potentially support life similar to that on Earth). Some say it’s as high as 50%, but let’s go with the more conservative 22% that came out of a recent PNAS study. That suggests that there’s a potentially-habitable Earth-like planet orbiting at least 1% of the total stars in the universe—a total of 100 billion billion Earth-like planets.
So there are 100 Earth-like planets for every grain of sand in the world. 
This is all wonderfully speculative. How do these people estimate the number of earth-friendly suns and life-friendly planets?

But, continuing the speculation, if 1% of Earth-like planets develop life, that would mean there were 10 quadrillion, or 10 million billion intelligent civilizations in the observable universe.

Moving back to just our galaxy, and doing the same math on the lowest estimate for stars in the Milky Way (100 billion), we’d estimate that there are 1 billion Earth-like planets and 100,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.

As far as I can see, sending out probes and signals into this crowded universe is just looking for trouble.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Cab Thoughts 9/28/16

....there is the horrible — the really disquieting — prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words 'Socialism' and 'Communism' draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, 'Nature Cure' quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. --George Orwell

Some years ago, one of those “hidden camera prank the public” programs in the US decided to find out how many people knew what this word "suffrage" meant, so they set up a stall asking people to sign a petition to “end women’s suffrage”. They got a disturbing number of signatures, from voters of both sexes.

When Marxian predictions fail even though they are allegedly derived from scientific laws of history, Marxists go to great lengths to change the terms of the original prediction. A notorious example is Marx's law of the impoverishment of the working class under capitalism. When it became all too clear that the standard of living of the workers under industrial capitalism was rising instead of falling, Marxists fell back on the view that what Marx "really" meant by impoverishment was not immiseration but relative deprivation. One of the problems with this fallback defense is that impoverishment is supposed to be the motor of the proletarian revolution, and it is difficult to envision the workers resorting to bloody revolution because they only enjoy one yacht apiece while capitalists enjoy five or six.

For as long as people have recorded their views on economic life, there have been two constants of political economy.  The first constant has been to distinguish two opposed methods of economic coordination: market exchange and administrative command.  The second constant has been to scorn markets and to esteem administration.---Thomas Leonard

Although the FBI is responsible for investigating possible violations of federal law, according to the FBI’s own procedures posted on its website, the “FBI does not give an opinion or decide if an individual will be prosecuted. The federal prosecutors employed by the Department of Justice or the U.S. Attorneys offices are responsible for making this decision and for conducting the prosecution of the case.”
Neither Comey nor Lynch explained by what authority Comey violated the FBI’s own procedures by making a recommendation.

Some conservatives on Trump:
George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter:
"He is summoning primal forces of anger/fear, and displaying leadership without moral guardrails, religious principles or civic responsibility"
Mitt Romney's chief strategist:
Give him credit for this: Donald Trump is a dark, disturbed man, and he sees in the country what he sees in the mirror"
A conservative blogger:
"Trump's speech sounded better in the original German"
Bill Kristol:
"Trump's 'I'm the only one who can fix it' marks descent of the Republican Party from Republican constitutionalism to demagogic Casarism"
Conservative writer Stephen Miller:
"RNC who made fun of "Yes We Can" for seven years are now chanting "Yes You Will" on the convention floor"

Testosterone administration for 36 months in older men with low or low-to-normal testosterone concentrations did not improve cognitive function. Future long-term trials are needed to investigate the efficacy of testosterone replacement in patients with impaired cognition, such as people with Alzheimer's disease.
Thomas Leonard documents in Illiberal Reformers, American “Progressives” a century ago explicitly rejected the idea that an ordinary person spending his or her own money does so in ways that promote that ordinary-person’s best interest. “Progressives” believed that knowledge of that ordinary-person’s best interest, and the fortitude to pursue it, was possessed reliably only by “experts” (that is, “Progressive” professors, pundits, politicians, preachers, and mandarins).

The U.S. Border Control is proposing adding a new line to the form travelers fill out when visiting in the U.S. for under 90 days without a visa. According the Guardian, the line would be added to both the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (Esta) and I-94W forms and would read, “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.” The Office of the Federal Register states that “collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

Who is...Kenneth Arrow?

Edison said he never had a failed experiment regarding the light bulb; he learned 1000 ways not to make one. The Venezuelans are learning how not to run a country. Current government price controls are such that it costs more to grow the ingredients for maize flour, cooking oil, rice and beans--the basics of the local diet--than it is legal to sell them for. Thus people don’t. And those fixed prices are also lower than the global prices of those things. Thus people cannot and will not import them. In response to the government induced shortages, President Nicolas Maduro has just put the Army in charge of the food distribution system. Is that because the army knows how to grow and transport food?
Control seems to be its own reward.
"Without the reestablishment of freedom of migration throughout the world, there can be no lasting peace."--This is a very provocative line from the writing of the libertarian Ludwig von Mises‘s 1935 essay “The Freedom to Move as an International Problem.” I wonder how many Americans who identify themselves as libertarian would agree. And I wonder how, with the growing homicidal Politics of Derangement, the libertarian reacts now.

The actress that played Robb Stark's wife, Oona Chaplin, in GoT is the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin. And Harry Lloyd, who played Viserys, is the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens.
Kenneth Arrow is a Nobel Prize winning economist. Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem states that it is impossible to devise any collective decision-making mechanism or procedure that generates results free of the influence of arbitrary factors (that is, factors that reasonable people believe should not play a role in determining the outcome of decision-making procedures). For example, in almost all elections, there isn’t only one correct outcome.  There isn’t one outcome that reflects the individual-voters’ collective “preference” better or more accurately than some other possible outcomes.  Stated differently, in almost all collective-decision-making settings, there is no “will of the people.”  It’s a mistake to anthropomorphize a group of people.  Each individual has preferences; a collection of individuals has only a collection of individual preferences and not a separate and determinate group preference. And, in other decision making arenas--like  the aims and actions of government--the notion that the government consistently acts to promote some identifiable ‘public welfare’ becomes downright laughable.
Rubber is a 110 billion dollar global market, 4th largest agricultural product and the second most imported commodity to the U.S. behind oil. 42% is natural, 58% synthetic. It is used in more than 40K products and the U.S. has no natural supply. It is limited to certain areas because of climate and rainfall, must be harvested by hand and has a long --read slow--life cycle. With disease and competition for land, natural sources are declining.
Richard Holmes's highly praised Coleridge biography describes the writer Coleridge  living in semi-seclusion in his Highgate rooms thinking and talking--but not writing.  Coleridge's fame and his reputation for brilliant conversation caused many to visit; when a young Thomas Carlyle came calling in 1825, he found Coleridge "a kind good soul, full of religion and affection and poetry and animal magnetism," but "a great and useless genius" who in conversation "wanders like a man sailing on many currents." The critic William Hazlitt wrote that, "If Mr Coleridge had not been the most impressive talker of his age, he would probably have been the finest writer," though he did concede that for all Coleridge had failed at gathering the promised "immortal fruits and amaranthine flowers," he had not gone Establishment-rotten, like Wordsworth and Southey.
The failure of talent or will is put down, in part, to Coleridge's return to opium.

 In 2012, archaeologists announced they had uncovered traces of ash, burnt twigs, and animal bone — evidence of a controlled fire — while excavating a cave in South Africa. Those tiny fragments were more than a million years old and likely the handiwork of Homo erectus, a species that predates Homo sapiens.

These gross extortions and tyrannies, of course, are all practiced on the theory that they are not only unavoidable, but also laudable ....that government is something that is superior to and quite distinct from all other human institutions – that it is, in its essence, not a mere organization of ordinary men, like the Ku Klux Klan, the United States Steel Corporation or Columbia University, but a transcendental organism composed of aloof and impersonal powers, devoid wholly of self-interest and not to be measured by merely human standards.  One hears it spoken of, not uncommonly, as one hears the law of gravitation and the grace of God spoken of – as if its acts had no human motive in them and stood clearly above human fallibility.  This concept, I need not argue, is full of error.-- H.L. Mencken
AAAAannnnnddddddd......a famous picture of a wall after the Hiroshima blast:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Up in the Old Ace Hotel

I am always happy when new ventures--restaurants and the like--appear in the neighborhood and city. The arrival of The Ace Hotel in the old East Liberty YMCA was especially exciting.  They have become a tech camp follower, opening in new and bustling areas of technological expansion, an its appearance here was complementary and promising. I have been through the hotel itself and eaten there several times and, I am embarrassed to say, I just do not get it.
I can understand the quirky, spare rooms. There is a clubby quality like an old style Harvard Club. But the restaurant is a complete mystery to me. To be fair, there are some limits here; after all, it is an old YMCA and protecting the old building was a real achievement. That said, the first floor is purposely informal, encompassing a rough dining area next to a rough bar with a number of mismatched seating areas and a camouflaged front desk. In the  back there is an old YMCA basketball court that yesterday was a Ping-Pong area but has been other things on previous visits. This area is cleverly separated from the restaurant-bar area with large cardboard boxes and some trash cans. The less random furniture in the dining room is hard wood and metal, the seats functional and uncomfortable--as are the employees. Everything about the experience is like an old speakeasy might have been except for the lack of conspiratorial camaraderie. The food and service is surprising and consistently bad. Yesterday I had simple bacon and eggs, got half of what I ordered; the bacon was incinerated and hard to chew without shard injury.
There is a strange, dytopic element to this place, as if the customers were having a last family meal out just before the governmental crackdown. The décor, food and service is reminiscent of a Catholic Church Lenten fish fry where some space is shanghaied into being a serving area, seats are taken from uncomplaining children and food served with the understanding that judgment should be withheld because there is a larger purpose involved. The success of the place--and it does seem to be a success--hinges on its buzz, the undeniable concentration of young people who crowd in and out. It is hard to imagine that will last unless there is a subtle generational lowering of expectations and dulling of taste.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Science and its Iterations

The Open Science Collaboration announced that it had tried to replicate one hundred published psychology experiments sampled from three of the most prestigious journals in the field. Of the studies that had originally reported positive results, an astonishing 65 percent failed to show statistical significance on replication, and many of the remainder showed greatly reduced effect sizes.
In 2011 a group of researchers at Bayer decided to review significant drug papers. Looking at sixty-seven recent drug discovery projects based on preclinical cancer biology research, they found that in more than 75 percent of cases the published data did not match up with their in-house attempts to replicate. These were not studies published in fly-by-night oncology journals, but blockbuster research featured in Science, Nature, Cell, and the like.

Since the majority of all investigated hypotheses are false, if positive and negative evidence were written up and accepted for publication in equal proportions, then the majority of articles in scientific journals should report no findings. When tallies are actually made, though, the precise opposite turns out to be true: Nearly every published scientific article reports the presence of an association. There must be massive bias at work.

The “experimenter effect”: the curious fact that when a phenomenon is investigated by a researcher who happens to believe in the phenomenon, it is far more likely to be detected.

In a survey of two thousand research psychologists conducted in 2011, over half of those surveyed admitted outright to selectively reporting those experiments which gave the result they were after.

Daniele Fanelli, theorized that the farther from physics one gets, the more freedom creeps into one’s experimental methodology, and the fewer constraints there are on a scientist’s conscious and unconscious biases. If all scientists were constantly attempting to influence the results of their analyses, but had more opportunities to do so the “softer” the science, then we might expect that the social sciences have more papers that confirm a sought-after hypothesis than do the physical sciences, with medicine and biology somewhere in the middle. This is exactly what the study discovered: A paper in psychology or psychiatry is about five times as likely to report a positive result as one in astrophysics.

Two of the most vaunted physics results of the past few years—the announced discovery of both cosmic inflation and gravitational waves at the BICEP2 experiment in Antarctica, and the supposed discovery of superluminal neutrinos at the Swiss-Italian border—have now been retracted, with far less fanfare than when they were first published.

In the “Sokal hoax," physicist Alan Sokal submitted a paper heavy on jargon but full of false and meaningless statements to the postmodern cultural studies journal Social Text, which accepted and published it without quibble.
A similar experiment was conducted on reviewers of the prestigious British Medical Journal. The experimenters deliberately modified a paper to include eight different major errors in study design, methodology, data analysis, and interpretation of results, and not a single one of the 221 reviewers who participated caught all of the errors. On average, they caught fewer than two—and, unbelievably, these results held up even in the subset of reviewers who had been specifically warned that they were participating in a study and that there might be something a little odd in the paper that they were reviewing. In all, only 30 percent of reviewers recommended that the intentionally flawed paper be rejected.

The “bad” papers that failed to replicate were, on average, cited far more often than the papers that did! As the authors put it, “some non-reproducible preclinical papers had spawned an entire field, with hundreds of secondary publications that expanded on elements of the original observation, but did not actually seek to confirm or falsify its fundamental basis.”
What they do not mention is that once an entire field has been created—with careers, funding, appointments, and prestige all premised upon an experimental result which was utterly false due either to fraud or to plain bad luck—pointing this fact out is not likely to be very popular.
Quantum physicist Max Planck famously quipped: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
But if raw results are so often false, the filtering mechanisms so ineffective, and the self-correcting mechanisms so compromised and slow, then science’s approach to truth may not even be monotonic. That is, past theories, now “refuted” by evidence and replaced with new approaches, may be closer to the truth than what we think now. Such regress has happened before: In the nineteenth century, the (correct) vitamin C deficiency theory of scurvy was replaced by the false belief that scurvy was caused by proximity to spoiled foods. Many ancient astronomers believed the heliocentric model of the solar system before it was supplanted by the geocentric theory of Ptolemy.
If science was unprepared for the influx of careerists, it was even less prepared for the blossoming of the Cult of Science. The Cult is related to the phenomenon described as “scientism”; both have a tendency to treat the body of scientific knowledge as a holy book or an a-religious revelation that offers simple and decisive resolutions to deep questions.
(This was culled from an article in "First Things" by William A. Wilson.)

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Cab Thoughts 9/24/16

A man's admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.--de Tocqueville

The pioneer psychologist G. H. Lewes,  wrote, “[T]here is a co-operation of things of unlike kinds. The emergent is unlike its components . . . and it cannot be reduced to their sum or their difference.” Emergence is order of a new kind out of chaos. Birds, with no instinct to flock as individuals, flock in groups.
Emergence is central to a Hayekian understanding of spontaneous order and properties of the price system. In the market, prices are "of human action, but not of human design" - they emerge from the buying and selling of the many individuals at the micro level, but settle on values that balance the quantity demanded with the supplied of a particular good.
The essence of emergence is that it can not be reduced to components.
The federal government spends more than half a trillion a year on "income security" programs -- food stamps, welfare, subsidized housing and the like. This year, outlays will total $525 billion, according to Obama's Office of Management and Budget. That's up 24% since 2008.

The Obama administration’s sales pitch for the new government mandate to raise overtime pay is the prediction that a government-imposed hike in employers’ costs of employing workers will cause employers to further economize on the employment of those workers.  So employers respond to higher labor costs by further economizing on the use of those workers who are now more costly to employ. Labor made more costly will used more sparingly. Yet this correct Obama administration prediction is wholly at odds with the administration’s – and with countless pundits’ and professors’ – insistence that raising the minimum wage does not cause employers to economize on the use of the workers who, because of the higher minimum wage, become more costly to employ.

If Hillary Clinton’s ‘mistakes' and carelessness justify her escape from criminal prosecution for the manner in which she arranged to receive and send e-mails during her time as Secretary of State, surely this same incompetence, inattention to detail, and gross carelessness render her utterly unworthy to be trusted with the enormous powers that now are entrusted to the President of the United States. At least the erratic Trump seems less of a risk.
Obama is having a lot of trouble with this racial violence because he has a respect--as a community organizer might--for public demonstration as an expression of some suppressed truth. But, as always, there is a curve. The Tea Party was never seen as a "public demonstration of truth" and was aggressively attacked in the Press--and by Federal agencies.

A very recently published Harvard study on racial bias in police use of force finds that, as the mainstream narrative proffers, black men and women are treated differently in the hands of law enforcement. However, in what the (African-American) author of the study calls "the most surprising result of my career," when it comes to the most lethal form of force - police shootings - the study finds no racial bias, contradicting the mental image of police shootings that many Americans hold.
As The NY Times reports, the study did not say whether the most egregious examples — the kind of killings at the heart of the nation’s debate on police shootings — are free of racial bias. Instead, it examined a much larger pool of shootings, including nonfatal ones. It focused on what happens when police encounters occur, not how often they happen. (There’s a disproportionate number of tense interactions among blacks and the police when shootings could occur, and thus a disproportionate outcome for blacks.) Racial differences in how often police-civilian interactions occur have been shown reflect greater structural problems in society.
Vox populi: n: 1. the voice of the people; popular opinion. Usage: Polls are certainly useful devices for plumbing the depths of the vox populi.-- James D. Williams, "Detroit News Poll Not Quite What It Seems," The Crisis, June–July 1992. Ety:  Vox populi is of Latin origin, and is often found in the maxim vox populi, vox Dei meaning "the voice of the people is the voice of God." It entered English in the mid-1500s.
Who is....Ludwig von Mises?
This racial problem is just getting worse and worse. One significant problem is how it is assessed by self-appointed experts.  A segment on GPS, Zacharia's CNN show, had a panel on the U.S. racial issue. The question was raised about Obama's election; how could a racially bigoted nation elect Obama? The answer? It gave white America license to be bigoted afterward. They compared it to binging on ice cream after exercise. Nothing white America does is right.
On June 30, 1908, a massive explosion ripped through the sky over the Tunguska region of Siberia, flattening trees nearly 31 miles around. The blast is thought to have been produced by a comet or asteroid hurtling through Earth's atmosphere, resulting in an explosion equal to 185 Hiroshima bombs as pressure and heat rapidly increased.
The object likely entered the atmosphere at 9-19 miles per second, and would have been extremely fragile, destroying itself roughly six miles above Earth. Any remaining traces would be cosmic dust, BBC explains, making them extremely difficult, as they could be just a millimetre in size. The blast sent shock waves as far away as England, and even people in Asia saw the sky glowing until midnight – bright enough to read a newspaper outdoors. But, with no impact crater and little evidence of such an object ever found, scientists remain perplexed as to what truly caused the event in which 'the sky was split in two' - and a new study has "failed to reach a conclusion." This was the topic of a terrific book, The Fire Came By.
Federal spending on drug treatment programs has more than doubled since Obama took office, going from $14.8 billion to $30.6 billion.

A new busybody frontier: Agriculture consumes 80 percent of water in many developed countries. Meat requires much more water than plants So......China, which consumes half of the world’s pork and more than a quarter of its overall meat, announced new dietary guidelines last week that advises the average citizen to reduce their meat consumption by one-half. That country’s meat consumption has increased by nearly five-fold since 1982, even though their population has only increased by 30 percent during that time. Denmark went a little further in May. The Danish government is considering a recommendation from its ethics council that all red meats should be taxed. Red meat accounts for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and the council argued that Danes were “ethically obliged” to reduce their consumption. Ah. "Ethics."

The post war period was filled with adventure, expansion, creation. One was the search for the norm. "Norma" was designed to represent the "ideal" female form, based on measurements collected from 15,000 young adult women. The statue on display at the Cleveland Health Museum was the creation of a gynecologist, Dr. Robert L. Dickinson, and his collaborator Abram Belskie.
Venezuela's government said  that it will seize a factory belonging to Kimberly-Clark Corp. after the U.S. personal care giant said it was no longer possible to manufacture in this crisis-wracked South American nation. President Nicolas Maduro accused Kimberly-Clark of participating in an international plot to damage Venezuela's economy and said his socialist government would provide public funds to the workers at the plant. Speaking on television and radio, Maduro also announced that U.S.-based Citibank, which has handled some of the state's international transactions, notified authorities that it would close the accounts of the Central Bank of Venezuela in 30 days. He linked both actions to the economic war on Venezuela, calling it "the new imperialist inquisition" of U.S. President Barack Obama. An important quality in government leaders is the ability to keep a straight face.

On June 29, the Russian Defense Ministry announced it was purging the entire senior and mid-level command of the Baltic Fleet. “It was a dramatic move that suggested deep structural problems within the fleet command. “In total, 50 officers were dismissed from their post, including the fleet commander, Vice Admiral Viktor Kravchuk, and his chief of staff, Vice Admiral Sergei Popov,” The Moscow Times report reads. “Not since Stalin’s purges had so many officers been ousted at once.”
Golden oldie:
The gun-related homicide rate of 3.6 deaths per 100,000 population in each of the years 2010, 2011 and 2013 makes those recent years the safest in at least 20 years, and possibly the safest in modern U.S. history." Yet gun ownership rates soared 50% from 1993 to 2013.
The U.S. Border Control is proposing adding a new line to the form travelers fill out when visiting in the U.S. for under 90 days without a visa. According the Guardian, the line would be added to both the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (Esta) and I-94W forms and would read, “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.” The Office of the Federal Register states that “collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide DHS greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

While TSA is learning our Facebook passwords, the Venezuelans are learning how not to run a country. Current government price controls are such that it costs more to grow the ingredients for maize flour, cooking oil, rice and beans--the basics of the local diet--than it is legal to sell them for. Thus people don’t. And those fixed prices are also lower than the global prices of those things. Thus people cannot and will not import them. In response to the government induced shortages, President Nicolas Maduro has just put the Army in charge of the food distribution system. Is that because the army knows how to grow and transport food? Control seems to be its own reward.
"Without the reestablishment of freedom of migration throughout the world, there can be no lasting peace."--This is a very revealing line from the writing of the libertarian Ludwig von Mises‘s 1935 essay “The Freedom to Move as an International Problem.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, real spending per pupil climbed roughly 5% from 2002 to 2013 -- to an average of more than $11,000 per student. New York City spends more than $20,000 per pupil, Philadelphia, $19,000.
AAAAaaaaaannnnnnnddddddd......a picture of the "Norma,"  on display at the Cleveland Health Museum was the creation of a gynecologist, Dr. Robert L. Dickinson, and his collaborator Abram Belskie:
Norma was designed to represent the "ideal" female form, based on measurements collected from 15,000 young adult women. The statue on display at the Cleveland Health Museum was the creation of a gynecologist, Dr. Robert L. Dickinson, and his collaborator Abram Belskie.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Russian chess champion Kasparov is living in the U.S. and is a passionate anti-communist. He wrote recently on his political views with particular application to Sanders. Here are some snippets:

It’s capitalism that brought billions of people out of poverty in the 20th century. It’s socialism that enslaved them and impoverished them....
Innovation requires freedom of thought, freedom of capital, and people who believe in changing the world. Yes, the free market can be cruel and it is by definition unequal. It has winners and losers. It also sparks the spirit of creativity that humanity desperately needs to flourish in our ever-increasing billions. Failure is an essential part of innovation and the free market.....
A popular rebuttal is to invoke the socialist leanings of several European countries with high living standards, especially in Scandinavia. Why can’t America be more like happy Denmark, with its high taxes and giant public sector, or at least more like France? Even the more pro-free-market United Kingdom has national health care, after all. First off, comparing relatively small, homogeneous populations to the churning, ocean-spanning American giant is rarely useful. And even the most socialist of the European countries only became wealthy enough to embrace redistribution after free-market success made them rich....
As long as Europe had America taking risks, investing ambitiously, attracting the world’s dreamers and entrepreneurs, and yes, being unequal, it could benefit from the results without making the same sacrifices. Add to that the incalculable windfall of not having to spend on national defense thanks to America’s massive investment in a global security umbrella. America doesn’t have the same luxury of coasting on the ambition and sacrifice of another country....Who will be America’s America?
Senator Sanders supports breaking up the giant banking institutions that dominate American finance and politics in a way that would evoke jealousy from John Pierpont Morgan himself. However, Sanders’s socialist policies would replace banks that are too big to fail with a government that is too big to succeed.
Taft warned about exactly this in his 1911 State of the Union. Busting the trusts was to free the market, not to insert the government into it. It was necessary to break up Standard Oil and American Tobacco in order to preserve capitalism, not to institute socialism. Taft said, “The anti-trust act is the expression of the effort of a freedom-loving people to preserve equality of opportunity. It is the result of the confident determination of such a people to maintain their future growth by preserving uncontrolled and unrestricted the enterprise of the individual, his industry, his ingenuity, his intelligence, and his independent courage.”
Bravo! Beautiful words and an even more beautiful sentiment that is deserving of its own Facebook meme! Unfortunately, today’s progressive solution would instead be to raise Standard Oil’s taxes and those of its wealthiest shareholders in order to pay for more services, like free college and health care. It would have been an acceptable choice for many, but the American 20th century would never have happened.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bad Writing

The late Denis Dutton inaugurated the Bad Writing Contest in his magazine Philosophy and Literature. It had a short run from 1995 to 1998 but served as a warning to parents and students of what sort of rubbish they were likely to encounter in their sojourn in the hallowed halls of academia. More, some serious nonsense is an acceptable expression of what apparently is thought. 
The winner in 1996 was the philosopher Roy Bhaskar, founder of the movement known as “Critical Realism.”  Here is just part of one sentence:
Indeed dialectical critical realism may be seen under the aspect of Foucauldian strategic reversal—of the unholy trinity of Parmenidean/Platonic/Aristotelean provenance; of the Cartesian-Lockean-Humean-Kantian paradigm, of foundationalisms (in practice, fideistic foundationalisms) and irrationalisms (in practice, capricious exercises of the will-to-power or some other ideologically and/or psycho-somatically buried source) new and old alike; of the primordial failing of western philosophy, ontological monovalence, and its close ally, the epistemic fallacy with its ontic dual . . .
I'm unsure what is more astonishing, that this was published or that someone thought it a reasonable creation to submit. Worse, writing is an expression of something; in this case that "something" seems significantly disordered.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Cab Thoughts 9/21/16

"I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men!"--Woodrow Wilson
Government employees taking the Fifth, just as if government were a criminal enterprise.
Market prices are not arbitrary terms of exchange that determine how wealth is distributed--unless they are controlled by monopolists or government "experts." Instead, prices reflect underlying realities.
Jonah Lehrer has a new book, “A Book About Love.” He has fallen far. He has been a pop science writer, specializing in neuroscience. His books were successful and he was always in great demand as a speaker.
But in the summer of 2012, he was caught recycling old material for his new blog at "The New Yorker." Then it was discovered he’d plagiarized several blog posts while working at Wired magazine. And then the journalist Michael Moynihan found that Mr. Lehrer had invented quotes from Bob Dylan for his third book, “Imagine,” and misused the words Mr. Dylan actually did say. Later investigations showed that “Imagine” contained many other factual errors. The book was pulled from shelves. So, too, was his second book, “How We Decide.” This from a recent review in the NYT that just murdered his new book.
In 2014, the latest year available, more than 7,400 veterans took their own lives, accounting for 18 percent of all suicides in America. Veterans make up less than 9 percent of the U.S. population. Roughly 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
On June 30, 1908, a massive explosion ripped through the sky over the Tunguska region of Siberia, flattening trees nearly 31 miles around. The blast is thought to have been produced by a comet or asteroid hurtling through Earth's atmosphere, resulting in an explosion equal to 185 Hiroshima bombs as pressure and heat rapidly increased.
The object likely entered the atmosphere at 9-19 miles per second, and would have been extremely fragile, destroying itself roughly six miles above Earth. Any remaining traces would be cosmic dust, BBC explains, making them extremely difficult, as they could be just a millimetre in size. The blast sent shock waves as far away as England, and even people in Asia saw the sky glowing until midnight – bright enough to read a newspaper outdoors. But, with no impact crater and little evidence of such an object ever found, scientists remain perplexed as to what truly caused the event in which 'the sky was split in two' - and a new study has "failed to reach a conclusion." This was the topic of a terrific book, The Fire Came By.
Who is....Duterte?
Quantitative Easing and the buying of bank assets were supposed to cause inflation. All the models predicted it. But it did not happen. Why? The answer is that banks and financial institutions hoarded the money in order to shore up their own balance sheets and regain profitability. Banks still had bad loans and toxic assets on their balance sheets as a result of the housing bubble burst and its aftershocks. The extra cash on hand made their financial picture look a whole lot better. So the money solved old mistakes, it did not finance new efforts.

In 2015, a Sky News reporter found “Migrant Handbooks” on the Greek island of Lesbos. It was later revealed that the handbooks, which are written in Arabic, had been given to refugees before crossing the Mediterranean by a group called “Welcome to the EU.” Welcome to the EU is funded by...........George Soros' Open Society Foundations!

The Middle East deterioration continues. Now we are hoping the Evil Empire will help us. And there are always the recriminations: Who started this? Who can we blame? America is always a big target but the British and French have some great claims in the creation of Israel out of whole cloth. There are other elements, too. There is a new book by Stephen Kinzer called All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. Kinzer tells the story, in great detail, of how Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of TR and an employee of the CIA, set in motion the overthrow of Mohammad Mossadegh, the prime minister of Iran in the early 1950s. Iran was a fledgling democracy stopped in its tracks by the U.S. government at the behest of the British government. When the Iranians finally overthrew the Shah, they got, not another liberal democracy, but a vicious theocracy.The motivation for the coup was to get back the oil company that Mossadegh had nationalized. But, as British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, of the Labour government, said at the time: "What argument can I advance against anyone claiming the right to nationalize the resources of their country? We are doing the same thing here with our power in the shape of coal, electricity, railways, transport and steel."
Well, some bad news on the religious front. Fareed Zakaris has a show on CNN called GPS where he discusses topics of the week. His program Sunday was "Why do they hate us?", an hour long program devoted to the discussion of Islam and its relationship with the West. First, there were bloody quotes from the Koran about non-believers and then gays. These were, inexplicably, set against violent phrases from Leviticus in the Old Testament. I was unaware of active Old Testament militants and Zacharia had the good taste and judgment not to link these phrases with modern Christianity--the New Testament being, in essence, the repudiation of the Old--but there was the subtle suggestion that the Old tainted the New. Then came an Islamic scholar who explained the worst possible news: The 72 virgins promised for men killed in battle against the infidel is apparently a bad translation; it is actually 72 raisins. (I am not making this up.) The meaning is, apparently, a poetic lushness. Well, anyway, in the minds of many men such a change might be considered a step down--but... perhaps there might be a health angle or something.

In “On What We Can Not Do,” a short essay published a few years ago, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben outlined two ways in which power operates today. There’s the conventional type that seeks to limit our potential for self-­development by restricting material resources and banning certain behaviors. But there’s also a subtler, more insidious type, which limits not what we can do but what we can not do. What’s at stake here is not so much our ability to do things but our capacity not to make use of that very ability.
While each of us can still choose not to be on Facebook, have a credit history or build a presence online, can we really afford not to do any of those things today? It was acceptable not to have a cellphone when most people didn’t have them; today, when almost everybody does and when our phone habits can even be used to assess whether we qualify for a loan, such acts of refusal border on the impossible.
For Agamben, it’s this double power “to be and to not be, to do and to not do” that makes us human. This active necessity to choose (and err) contributes to the development of individual faculties that shape our subjectivity. The tragedy of modern man, then, is that “he has become blind not to his capacities but to his incapacities, not to what he can do but to what he cannot, or can not, do.” (from the NYT, Evgeny Morozov)

In 2013, blacks made up 42 percent of all cop-killers whose race was known, even though blacks are only about 13 percent of the nation's population. Little over a quarter of all homicides by police involve black victims.

Vigilantism has another side. Look at the Philippines. Duterte has just been elected President. He said he would issue shoot-to-kill orders to the security services and offer them bounties for the bodies of drug dealers. He also urged ordinary Filipinos to kill suspected criminals. During the campaign, Duterte said 100,000 people would die in his crackdown. He has been accused of links to vigilante death squads in Davao, which rights groups say have killed more than 1,000 people. Such groups are concerned that extrajudicial killings could spread across the Philippines under him, with a police crackdown following his election already leaving dozens of people dead. Strangely, Duterte has specifically said that he did not view Abu Sayyaf, a homicidal ISIS affiliate, as criminal. Perhaps he did not want his people to be confused by too many targets.
I wonder if Trump would ban Korean golfers from the U.S. Women's' Open?
A new busybody frontier: Agriculture consumes 80 percent of water in the United States. Meat requires much more water than plants So......China, which consumes half of the world’s pork and more than a quarter of its overall meat, announced new dietary guidelines last week that advises the average citizen to reduce their meat consumption by one-half. That country’s meat consumption has increased by nearly five-fold since 1982, even though their population has only increased by 30 percent during that time. Denmark went a little further in May. The Danish government is considering a recommendation from its ethics council that all red meats should be taxed. Red meat accounts for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, and the council argued that Danes were “ethically obliged” to reduce their consumption. Ah. "Ethics."

AAAAAaaaaaaaannnnnndddddd...........a map of Russian defensive missile range around the Mediterranean:


Tuesday, September 20, 2016


As the world learned from the Spanish Inquisition, evil can wear many vestments. So it is with those who reveal the truth to us and to others. The Rosenbergs  were distressed over the inequality of the power between the U.S. and Russia--so they gave the Russians American nuclear secrets. All in a good, egalitarian cause.
Snowden is going to be the focus of a lot of discussion in the next weeks and months because of the eponymous movie by the idiotic, arrogant and muddled Oliver Stone. There is actually a move to have Snowden pardoned.
Below are two paragraphs from the WashPo editorial on the subject. Bear in mind Snowden sent this material to the WashPo and they published it. Here they turn on their source. Presumably they themselves are guiltless.

Mr. Snowden’s defenders don’t deny that he broke the law — not to mention oaths and contractual obligations — when he copied and kept 1.5 million classified documents. They argue, rather, that Mr. Snowden’s noble purposes, and the policy changes his “whistle-blowing” prompted, justified his actions. Specifically, he made the documents public through journalists, including reporters working for The Post, enabling the American public to learn for the first time that the NSA was collecting domestic telephone “metadata” — information about the time of a call and the parties to it, but not its content — en masse with no case-by-case court approval. The program was a stretch, if not an outright violation, of federal surveillance law, and posed risks to privacy. Congress and the president eventually responded with corrective legislation. It’s fair to say we owe these necessary reforms to Mr. Snowden.

The complication is that Mr. Snowden did more than that. He also pilfered, and leaked, information about a separate overseas NSA Internet-monitoring program, PRISM, that was both clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy. (It was also not permanent; the law authorizing it expires next year.) Worse — far worse — he also leaked details of basically defensible international intelligence operations: cooperation with Scandinavian services against Russia; spying on the wife of an Osama bin Laden associate; and certain offensive cyber operations in China. No specific harm, actual or attempted, to any individual American was ever shown to have resulted from the NSA telephone metadata program Mr. Snowden brought to light. In contrast, his revelations about the agency’s international operations disrupted lawful intelligence-gathering, causing possibly “tremendous damage” to national security, according to a unanimous, bipartisan report by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. What higher cause did that serve?

Monday, September 19, 2016

American Life Expectancy

There is a push for more control over the allocation of heath dollars. There are a number of reaons. Uwe Reinholdt, the economist behind the failed Hillary health plan, wanted--and still wants--the health care expenditure to be 10% of gross national product. It is currently over 17%. Another quite compelling argument stems from the American life expectancy. When placed beside the health costs, nation to nation, it is compelling. The U.S. is 19th in life expectancy when compared to other countries--all having costs less than 11% GDP.
There are arguments here, of course. Many countries do not include deaths of babies less than one year old in their stats while the U.S. does. But another question should come to mind as well: Death from non medical causes.  Robert Ohsfeldt of Texas A&M and John Schneider of the University of Iowa asked: what happens if you remove deaths from fatal injuries from the life expectancy tables? Among the 29 members of the OECD, the U.S. vaults from 19th place to first in life expectancy. Japan, on the same adjustment, drops from first to ninth.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Jamie Dimon

Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan CEO,  writes a letter annually to the shareholders.
Here are some excerpts:

"We have spoken many times about the extraordinarily positive and resilient American economy," wrote Dimon. "Today, it is growing stronger, and it is far better than you hear in the current political discourse. But we have serious issues that we need to address — even the United States does not have a divine right to success."
In a portion of the letter entitled "Good Public Policy Is Critically Important," Dimon highlighted major failures of public policy, including East Germany, Detroit, and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.
"Yes, bad public policy, and I'm not looking at this in a partisan way, creates risk for the economies of the world and the living standards of the people on this planet — and, therefore, for the future of JPMorgan Chase — more so than credit or market risks," said Dimon.
After highlighting failures of public policy, Dimon then enumerated his concerns facing the US going forward.
"I won't go into a lot of detail but will list only some key concerns: the long-term fiscal and tax issues (driven mostly by healthcare and Social Security costs, as well as complex and poorly designed corporate and individual taxes), immigration, education (especially in inner city schools) and the need for good, longterm infrastructure plans," he wrote.
He then touched on the dangers of policy inaction by the US. Here's Dimon (emphasis added):
I do not believe that these issues will cause a crisis in the next five to 10 years, and, unfortunately, this may lull us into a false sense of security. But after 10 years, it will become clear that action will need to be taken. The problem is not that the US economy won't be able to take care of its citizens — it is that taking away benefits, creating intergenerational warfare and scapegoating will make for very difficult and bad politics. This is a tragedy that we can see coming. Early action would be relatively painless.
This is not totally the government's fault, said Dimon.
"All of us, as US citizens" bear responsibility and must pitch in to deal with the problems, he said.
Dimon said that he has had the opportunity to meet many world leaders in his job and has learned that "breeding mistrust and misunderstanding makes the political environment far worse."
He then lists some dos and don'ts for policymakers and people trying to address the issues he highlighted. A few of his tips included:
  • DON'T paint everything as black and white: "Most decisions are not binary, and there are usually better answers waiting to be found if you do the analysis and involve the right people."
  • DON'T attack an entire class or society of people: "This is always wrong and just another form of prejudice. One of the greatest men in America's history, President Abraham Lincoln, never drew straw men, never scapegoated and never denigrated any class of society — even though he probably had more reason to do so than many."
  • DO compromise: "Also, you can compromise without violating your principles, but it is nearly impossible to compromise when you turn principles into ideology."
  • DO reconsider existing policy and institutions: "Analyze what is working and what is not working, and then figure out — together — how we can make it better."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Death in Pakistan

We are beginning to see public ruminations on demonstrations. The American presidential campaign looks to be as fertile a ground as the police shootings in the last years.
This article appeared in the NYT, written by Aatish Taseer 

ON Feb. 29 — a bad day for anniversaries — Pakistan executed my father’s killer.
Mr. Qadri became a hero in Pakistan. A mosque in Islamabad was named after him. People came to see him in prison to seek his blessings. The course of justice was impeded. The judge who sentenced him to death had to flee the country. I thought my father’s killer would never face justice.
I spoke to my sister in Lahore and for a moment we dared to hope that Pakistan, which had suffered so much from Islamic terrorism, might turn a corner. A lot had happened in the five years since Mr. Qadri killed our father. There was attack after hideous attack. In December 2014, terrorists struck a school in Peshawar, killing 132 children. Was it possible that Pakistan was tired of blood and radicalism? Had people finally begun to realize that those who kill in the name of a higher law end up becoming a law unto themselves? Had the horrors of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria done nothing to dampen enthusiasm for Islamism? Perhaps. I hoped.
But when a BBC interviewer asked me about this, something made me equivocate. I said it was too early to say and that we should be careful not to confuse the hardening resolve of the Pakistani government with the will of its people. Mr. Qadri’s funeral was the next day. That would give a better indication of the public mood.

And so it did.

An estimated 100,000 people — a crowd larger than the population of Asheville, N.C. — poured into the streets of Rawalpindi to say farewell to Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri. It was among the biggest funerals in Pakistan’s history, alongside those of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the father of the nation, and Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, who was assassinated in 2007. But this was no state funeral; it was spontaneous and it took place despite a media blackout.
As pictures emerged of the sea of humanity that coalesced around the white ambulance strewn with red rose petals that carried Mr. Qadri’s body, a few thoughts occurred to me: Was this the first funeral on this scale ever given to a convicted murderer? Did the men who took to the street in such great numbers come out of their hatred of my father or their love of his killer? They hardly knew Mr. Qadri. The only thing he had done in all his life, as far as they knew, was kill my father. Before that he was anonymous; after that he was in jail. Was this the first time that mourners had assembled on this scale not out of love but out of hate?

And finally, I wondered, what happens when an ideology of hate is no longer just coming from the mouths of Saudi-funded clerics but has infected the body of the people? What do you do when the madness is not confined to radical mosques and madrasas, but is abroad among a population of nearly 200 million?
The form of Islam that has appeared in our time — and that killed my father and so many others — is not, as some like to claim, medieval. It’s not even traditional. It is modern in the most basic sense: It is utterly new. The men who came to mourn my father’s killer were doing what no one before them had ever done. As I watched this unprecedented funeral, motivated not by love for the man who was dead but by hatred for the man he killed, I recognized that the throng in Rawalpindi was a microcosm of radical Islam’s relationship to our time. It drew its energy from the thing it was reacting against: the modernity that my father, with his condemnation of blasphemy laws and his Western, liberal ideas, represented. Recognizing this doesn’t pardon the 100,000 people who came to grieve for Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, but it reminds us that their existence is tied up with our own.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Cab Thoughts

"There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen. "Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil."  - From an essay by Frédéric Bastiat in 1850, "That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen"
A  quote from the libertarian Mises Institute, which is thrilled by Britain's exit: Ultimately, Brexit is not a referendum on trade, immigration, or the technical rules promulgated by the (awful) European Parliament. It is a referendum on nationhood, which is a step away from globalism and closer to individual self-determination. Libertarians should view the decentralization and devolution of state power as ever and always a good thing, regardless of the motivations behind such movements. Reducing the size and scope of any single (or multinational) state’s dominion is decidedly healthy for liberty.
Sherman introduced total war to the Civil War, targeting crops and farms, displacing non-combatants, killing livestock. Sherman declared to his fellow General Henry Halleck, 'If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will an­swer that war is war and not popularity seeking. If they want peace they and their relatives must stop war.'  'You cannot qualify war in harsher terms, than I will. War is cruelty and You cannot refine it,' thundered Sherman in King James biblical cadences, which all Ameri­cans understood, 'and those who brought war into our country de­serve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out.' But he also said this:  'I want peace, and believe it can now only be reached through union and war .... But my dear Sirs,' Sherman promised, 'when peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your home, and families against danger from every quarter.'
"This moral and temporal dualism," wrote  Michael Fellman, "served to heighten Sherman's fearsomeness, as morally disengaged means could lead potentially to any form or depth of destruction."
According to a paper reported in the Guardian, the environment benefited from Chernobyl. The bottom line seems to be that radiation does far less damage than humans, and thus a nuclear accident that forces humans out of an area is actually good for the environment. We humans are worse than a nuclear accident. It's no wonder these volunteers want to control our lives.

Edna O’Brien, the celebrated Irish-born, London-dwelling writer, has been known as one of the literary world’s great chroniclers of love. She was interviewed recently about her new novel, The Little Red Chairs, about evil.
One inspiration for the book,” she remembered, “was when I was being filmed in Ireland and reading for the camera, and the director said to me, ‘Tolstoy says there are only two great stories in the world.’ I said, ‘What are they?’ He said, ‘A man goes on a journey, like Hamlet—a man on a personal, philosophical quest.’ And ‘A stranger comes to town,’ like, for instance, The Playboy of the Western World [the classic Irish play by J.M. Synge].
“And as he told me that I thought, I will bring that stranger [the Karadzic figure on the run, in disguise] to a small Irish hamlet where there is still a wonder about the stranger. A stranger represents hope rather than danger. A stranger represents, to some, a romance. So once I had that little nugget of inspiration, I knew all it needed was hard work."

Thomas Piketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-First Century worrying that the rich might some day get richer expresses only the latest of the leftish worries about “capitalism.” One can line up the later items in the list, and some of the earlier ones revived à la Piketty or Krugman, with particular Nobel Memorial Prizes in Economic Science. I will not name the men (all men, in sharp contrast to the method of Elinor Ostrom, Nobel 2009), but can reveal here the formula. First, discover or rediscover a necessary or sufficient condition for perfect competition or a perfect world (in Piketty’s case, for example, a more perfect equality of income). Then assert without evidence (here Piketty does better than the usual practice) and with suitable mathematical ornamentation (thus Jean Tirole, Nobel 2014) that the condition might be imperfectly realized or the world might not develop in a perfect way. Then conclude with a flourish (here however Piketty joins the usual low scientific standard) that “capitalism” is doomed unless experts intervene with a sweet use of the monopoly of violence in government to implement anti-trust against malefactors of great wealth, or subsidies to diminishing-returns industries, or foreign aid to perfectly honest governments, or money for obviously infant industries, or the nudging of sadly childlike consumers or, Piketty says, a tax miraculously arranged on inequality-causing capital worldwide.-- Deirdre McCloskey talk in Italy titled “The Two Movements in Economic Thought, 1700-2000: Empty Economic Boxes Revisited” 
The FBI director's leadership team reinforced what the director himself said in 2015 — that passing a law to prevent gun-buying by people on the terror-watch list or the no-fly list would make terrorism suspects aware of their status and would be a blow a potential investigation. So law enforcement doesn't want it. But it sounds so sensible. It's almost as if life is complex.
Who is.....Gregory Hancock Hemingway?
Ostracism: n: 1. exclusion, by general consent, from social acceptance, privileges, friendship, etc. 2. (in ancient Greece) temporary banishment of a citizen, decided upon by popular vote. ety: 1580s, a method of 10-year banishment in ancient Athens, by which the citizens gathered and each wrote on a potsherd or tile the name of a man they deemed dangerous to the liberties of the people, and a man whose name turned up often enough was sent away. From Middle French ostracisme (16c.), Modern Latin ostracismus, or directly from Greek ostrakismos, from ostrakizein "to ostracize," from ostrakon "tile, potsherd," from PIE *ost-r-, from root *ost- "bone".
Mary Beard has a nice discussion on ostracism as a modern metaphor. Despite its modern fame, ostracism only lasted about seventy years and fewer than fifteen people were ever sent into exile this way. The last was an unlucky character, who is supposed to have been the victim of a stitch-up in 416 BC – when two rival establishment figures, Nikias and Alkibiades, both major candidates for exile, decided to do a deal and get their own supporters to turn their votes against a third party, by the name of Hyperbolos. It was he who was sent away, while the intended targets escaped scot-free. No one could have failed to spot what had gone on. And the glaring exposure of establishment control and of their self-interested trade-off destroyed any myth of people power. Ostracism was never used again.
Puberty appears to be starting earlier in healthy girls, and possibly even boys. At Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, clinicians begin assessing girls for changes related to puberty at age 6. “In general, we think that 7 is now probably a normal age to have some signs of puberty,” says Louise Greenspan, a pediatric endocrinologist at Kaiser Permanente who also researches puberty. “So the cutoff for precocious puberty is a gray zone now.” Maybe they are being stimulated into puberty by the sensuality around them. A lot of hormones in the air. Could this explain Caitlin? Bruce was certainly exposed to a lot of estrogen at home.
Golden oldie:

Omar Mateen's employer, G4S, the world's largest security company, said that he had passed a 2007 psychological text without any problems. The document that G4S submitted to Florida state listed psychologist Carol Nudelman. But after news of the document was reported, by the Miami Herald and other media, Dr. Nudelman, whose last name is now Blumberg, issued a statement saying she hadn’t evaluated any tests for the security company after 2005. But the regulations were in place.
Gregory Hancock Hemingway was Earnest Hemmingway's youngest child. He was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on November 12, 1931, to Hemingway and his second wife Pauline Pfeiffer. He married against his father's wishes and experimented with drugs, which led to his arrest. The incident prompted his father to lash out viciously at Greg's mother, Pauline, in a bitter phone call. Unknown to anyone, Pauline had a rare tumor of the adrenal gland that can cause a deadly surge of adrenaline in times of stress. Within hours of the phone call with Ernest, she had died of shock on a hospital operating table. Ernest blamed his son for Pauline's death, and Greg, who was deeply disturbed by the accusation, never saw his father alive again. He spent drunken years in Africa shooting elephants before returning the United States to become a physician. Gregory Hemingway married Valerie Danby-Smith in 1967; their marriage lasted 22 years till 1989.
He had eight children with four different women, but he battled serious mental health problems, including bipolar disorder and alcoholism, was institutionalized and received electric shock treatment.  Hemingway considered gender reassignment surgery as early as 1973. Gregory’s condition seemed to grow ever more strange as he aged. In his late fifties, his medical license was not renewed because of alcoholism. He’d struggled for years with gender dysphoria, feeling himself to be a woman born in the body of a man. In 1995, while in his sixties, he had a sex-change operation, thereafter occasionally referring to himself as “Gloria.” Even then she struggled with her image, sometimes dressing as a woman and other times a man. After the operation, she married a woman who ended up in a court fight with Hemingway's children over the inheritance, a fight that hinged on the illegality of a marriage between two women.
Honey wine (aka mead) was probably the very first alcoholic beverage people ever made. Made from fermenting honey, mead is a remarkably adaptable drink and easy to infuse with herbs and fruits, or experiment fermenting with different yeasts. The word "Honeymoon" came about in medieval days, when newly married couples were given enough mead to last them a full month. The hope was that the sweetness would increase their fertility and happiness, and grant the couple good luck.
By 1810, the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh had organized the Ohio Valley Confederacy, which united Indians from the Shawnee, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Winnebago, Menominee, Ottawa, and Wyandot nations. For several years, Tecumseh’s Indian Confederacy successfully delayed further white settlement in the region. In 1811, however, the future president William Henry Harrison led an attack on the confederacy’s base on the Tippecanoe River. At the time, Tecumseh was in the South attempting to convince more tribes to join his movement. Although the battle of Tippecanoe was close, Harrison finally won out and destroyed much of Tecumseh’s army. When the War of 1812 began the following year, Tecumseh immediately marshaled what remained of his army to aid the British. Commissioned a brigadier general, he proved an effective ally and played a key role in the British capture of Detroit and other battles. When the tide of war turned in the American favor, Tecumseh’s fortunes went down with those of the British. On October 5, 1813, he was killed during Battle of the Thames. His Ohio Valley Confederacy and vision of Indian unity died with him.

Tecumseh, by Benson Lossing in 1848 based on 1808 drawing.

In the two centuries after 1800, the goods and services made and consumed by the average person in Sweden or Taiwan rose by a factor of 30 to 100—that is, a rise of 2,900 to 9,900 percent. These are astonishing numbers.
In Mises' view (later elaborated by his follower Friedrich Hayek), a modern economy is far too complex to be centrally planned. Even putting aside concerns about dictatorship and shirking, a socialist system cannot implement an efficient use of society's scarce resources because the planners would have no way of evaluating their blueprint--even after the fact--from the standpoint of citizen preferences. To be sure, engineers and chemists could accurately report how much steel, glass, rubber, and labor hours of various qualities went into (say) a particular automobile factory and how many cars came out at the other end. But without a way to translate these disparate quantities of heterogeneous items into a common unit, there would be no way of telling whether the factory's operations had been efficient during the period in question.-- Robert P. Murphy
Suspicion and conspiracy. There is a resurgence in the belief the Earth is flat. Have you ever wondered, the flat-Earther will ask, why commercial aeroplanes don’t fly over Antarctica? Because there is no South Pole. The pictures from space are faked. And Armstrong never went to the moon. The tolerance of all opinions.
The Belgian psychiatry professor Samuel Leistedt from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium together with 10 other psychiatrists watched 400 movies made between 1915 and 2010 over a 3 year period. They identified 126 psychopathic characters: 105 men and 21 women. The characters were selected based on what they call the “clinical accuracy of their profiles” which are four broad clinical categories about psychopaths defined by the forensic psychologist Hugues Hervé and by the psychiatrist Benjamin Karpman. Leistedt wrote a paper which he co-authored with Paul Linkowski titled “Psychopathy and the Cinema: Fact or Fiction?”, which he published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in 2013. The most realistic of all the portrayed psychopaths was Anton Chigurh played by Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men. Two of the three least realistic psychopaths were Norman Bates by actor Anthony Perkins in Psycho and Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs
AAAAAaaaannnnnddddd.....a picture of Gloria, nee Gregory, Hemmingway:
Image result for gloria hemingway

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

"A" and "An"

A little bit from The Purdue OWL on "a" and "an":

"A" goes before words that begin with consonants.
  • a cat
  • a dog
  • a purple onion
  • a buffalo
  • a big apple
"An" goes before words that begin with vowels:
  • an apricot
  • an egg
  • an Indian
  • an orbit
  • an uprising


Use "an" before unsounded "h." Because the "h" hasn't any phonetic representation and has no audible sound, the sound that follows the article is a vowel; consequently, "an" is used.
  • an honorable peace
  • an honest error
When "u" makes the same sound as the "y" in "you," or "o" makes the same sound as "w" in "won," then a is used. The word-initial "y" sound ("unicorn") is actually a glide [j] phonetically, which has consonantal properties; consequently, it is treated as a consonant, requiring "a."
  • a union
  • a united front
  • a unicorn
  • a used napkin
  • a U.S. ship
  • a one-legged man

Monday, September 12, 2016


If mankind has risen above religion and equality before God, where does he turn for equality?
Isonomy means equality of political rights. Isonomy derives from the Greek terms ísos meaning “equal” and nómos meaning “law.” It entered English around 1600.
In On Revolution, in 1963, Hannah Arendt wrote "Isonomy guaranteed … equality, but not because all men were born or created equal, but, on the contrary, because men were by nature ... not equal, and needed an artificial institution, the polis, which by virtue of its νόμος would make them equal.
Read that again.
Arendt’s reading of the American Revolution was that the founders were after freedom, which they didn’t initially define all that sharply but which probably meant mostly negative individual freedom: “the more or less free range of non-political activities which a given body politic will permit and guarantee to those who constitute it." But in creating new institutions that would protect that kind of freedom, they discovered public freedom—the freedom to create together. And this was a source of happiness for them: “they were enjoying what they were doing far beyond the call of duty.”
In the French Revolution, however, the leaders felt themselves compelled by great forces beyond their control and they also lost interest in creating new institutions or even following the rules they had constructed as they declared the “social problem” the only thing that mattered. As a result, they lost all forms of freedom.
De Tocqueville thought freedom and equality were in opposition. "Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude."
But for Arendt, public freedom requires equality. People are not naturally equal but they are made equal in “artificial” political spaces, “where men [meet] one another as citizens and not as private persons.” The tyrant, the master and the slave are not free because they are not engaged in equal politics.
The historian Stuart Finkel had the startling observation that communists have always acted more forcibly to undermine free association than to undermine free enterprise. When Lenin launched the New Economic Plan in the 1920s, Anne Applebaum notes in her Iron Curtain, the "systematic destruction of literary, philosophical, and spiritual societies continued unabated."
It is remarkable how insightful tyrants are.
So here is liberty and Equality joined within the structure of Law and Free Association.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Baseball Draft

A team like the Pirates, with their limited revenue base, simple can not compete in the free agent market; they must develop their own talent, hang on to them as long as possible and then trade them for the opportunity to develop more. Established pitchers command astonishing salaries now. But building through the draft has surprising uncertainty. In football, the top ten draft picks do well statistically but from then on, most is luck. The statisticians and great scouts hope to refine this and improve the chances of success. For low income baseball teams, this is life and death.
In the 2009-11 drafts the Pirates spent 22 of their 30 picks in the top 10 rounds on pitchers. Seventeen were high school arms. The Pirates signed 18 of those 22 pitchers to bonuses totaling $25.6 million. It was a rare commitment to prep pitching.
Glasnow and Taillon probably will become the first prep pitcher from that group to pitch for the Pirates.
Two springs ago, Larry Broadway, the Pirates director of minor league operations, said: “From an organizational, 30,000-foot level, we felt like it was time to try and stockpile some of these arms and see if we can't by the law of averages come out with a few aces.”
Cheap, cost-controlled starting pitchers are among the most valuable assets in the game. But high school pitching also is the riskiest prospect demographic.
 Here are the six prep or international pitchers awarded seven-figure signing bonuses by the Pirates from 2009-11:
• Zachary Von Rosenberg ($1.2 million bonus, sixth round 2009) was released last spring.
• Luis Heredia ($2.6 million bonus, international signing in 2010) was exposed to the Rule 5 draft in the fall and not selected.
• Stetson Allie ($2.2 million bonus, second  has converted to first base.
• Clay Holmes ($1.2 million, ninth round 2011) returned to pitch last season after 2014 Tommy John surgery.
• Colton Cain ($1.1 million bonus, eighth round 2009) was traded to Houston for Wandy Rodriguez and posted a 5.29 ERA in the minors last season.
• Taillon ($6.5 million) had Tommy John surgery in 2014.
Said John Hart, now the Braves general manager, to the Tribune-Review in 2014: “A truism is if you have 10 (pitching prospects), you can really count on two of them making it.”
Those odds sound like the odds of a venture capital group. It should make anyone cautious about projecting from good estimates.