Monday, October 31, 2016

White Guys are Trending

At the beginning of “The Theory of Moral Sentiments,” Adam Smith made this point: “Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did, and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations. . . . By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation, we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him.”

The modern world would amaze Smith now. Our imagination has reached a higher plain. Somehow, who knows why, that gulf Smith saw between men has been crossed, the walls of individualism breached.  No man is an island now. There is no complaining individual who does not reach us, who does not tug at our heartstrings.  We are awash in open-mindedness and connectivity. Captain Hook was just like us. We can empathize with almost anyone. Almost.
It seems that everyone can empathize with everyone else. Except white guys. Maybe they are just not likeable. Maybe they have used up their empathy while bathing in white privilege. But whatever the cause, felons get more empathy than white guys. They have become a snubbed, deprecated minority group, a victim of dismissiveness and hostility.
But with Bernie, and Brexit and Trump, for a short while, white guys are "trending."

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Sunday 10/30/16

The American election. The Middle East. Refugees. Drugs. Crime. What to do?
We humans are an apocalyptic bunch.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bad Means and Bad Ends

The leaks and gotcha journalism showing bad--and illegal--election behavior by the Democrats come from dubious sources. Wikileaks are stolen and could easily be altered. Somehow we are supposed to look at this stolen stuff and be uplifted, titillated, or enlightened. We are supposed to be grateful and entertained.
It is a little different with the ever-present "undercover guy," James O'Keefe, from the overbearingly named Veritas Project. The undercover guy is a hard guy to like. Nonetheless, this is worrisome material--the people he traps are not nice people who generally wish us harm--and it is surprising that the press is so casual about the information. I know this is common and historical but it is a lot easier to do if the press does not care or, worse, is complicit.

In the Thirties, the Prendergast Democrat machine ran Kansas City and the city's votes ruled the state. In his biography of Truman, Robert Ferrell has reported that a single house at 912 Tracy Street managed to produce 141 voters, and a vacant lot at 700 Main Street yielded 112 voters. The Second District, with a population of 18,478, brought in 19,202 votes for Pender­gast's ticket, to 12  for the opposition. The total Kansas City vote  had 200,000 more voters than its actual population. When Truman ran for the Senate, the Second District gave him 15,145 votes, to 24 for his oppo­nent and that district, when combined with the votes of the other two Kansas City districts, accounted for the entire margin by which Tru­man carried the state. 
Ah, tradition.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cab Thoughts 10/27/16

Life never knows the return of spring. --John Gay in Beggar's Opera 

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection head Patrick McDonnell, in a stop in New Stanton, talked of the DEP trying to determine “what is the right energy mix for the state.” Wow. He must be really smart and have insight and vision so many lack.

Over one million people lost their homes in the building of the 2008 Beijing games. Brazil has similarly evicted large numbers of people for the Rio Olympics, and even more to build stadiums for the 2014 World Cup.

Nassem Taleb insists, from the methods used by thirteenth-century architects building cathedrals to the development of modern computing, the story of technology is a story of rules of thumb, learning by apprenticeship, chance discoveries, trial and error, tinkering – what the French call ‘bricolage‘. Technology comes from technology far more often than from science.  And science comes from technology too.

At the same time that Cheryl Mills was working as chief of staff in the secretary of state’s office, she was also conducting interviews for the secretary of state’s foundation. The Clinton campaign  has released a statement in response insisting that all suspicions are completely ridiculous, that Mills was just doing “volunteer work for a charitable foundation,” and that “the idea that this poses a conflict of interest is absurd.” They clearly believe they can say anything.

Who is...Paul Kalanithi?

The six months under review have seen central bankers continuing what is surely the greatest experiment in monetary policy in the history of the world. We are therefore in uncharted waters and it is impossible to predict the unintended consequences of very low interest rates, with some 30% of global government debt at negative yields, combined with quantitative easing on a massive scale.--Rothschild Investment Trust Chairman, Lord Jacob Rothschild 

For all the talk of Americans ‘left behind by globalization,’ median income for low- and middle-income US households has increased by more than 30 per cent since 1970. And this excludes all the things you can’t put a price on, such as advances in medicine, an extra ten years of life expectancy, the internet, mass entertainment, and cleaner air and water.

Canadian comedian Mike Ward was fined $42,000 by Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal for jokes he made about a disabled boy.

Golden oldie:
A blog I read spent some time cursing the structure of the Senate's population blind system of two votes per state as part of an analysis of...

“We do not pay ransom. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future,” the president told reporters, speaking of the January payment and hostage release. On the 400 million dollars on a pallet: State Department spokesman John Kirby was asked at a press briefing: “In basic English, you’re saying you wouldn’t give them $400 million in cash until the prisoners were released, correct?” “That’s correct,” he replied.
I'm sure many are outraged. I, on the other hand, hope it is true and the money did not go somewhere worse.

Dinish D'Sousa has been on TV lately. He is just furious over what happened to him and he has written an angry book--and movie--about the Clintons. He should be more careful. He wrote an angry book about Obama and got arrested for campaign laws violations and was sentenced to jail. (He gave 20,000 dollars to a college friend's election campaign, over the allowed limit. Apparently the candidate did not have a charitable foundation.)

Christopher Sholes invented the typewriter in 1868. He allegedly studied common letter combinations and then arranged the keys so as to separate commonly used letter combinations to slow down typists and thus prevent his newfangled machine from jamming. There's no documentation to support this statement
The Dvorak, Colemak and Capewell keyboards arrange letters and characters for more efficiency,

The Dallas Police and Fire Pension System is on the verge of collapse amidst shady real estate deals that resulted in massive asset markdowns in 2015 and the FBI raid of former real estate investment manager, CDK Realty Advisors.
Stultify: v: 1. to make, or cause to appear, foolish or ridiculous. 2. to render absurdly or wholly futile or ineffectual, especially by degrading or frustrating means: Menial work can stultify the mind. Usage: I have become your poodle. You trample on my heart, you crush me, you stultify me, and I love you as I have never loved in my life.-- Honoré de Balzac, Cousin Betty, translated by James Waring, 1901. Stultify finds its roots in the Latin word stultus meaning "stupid; foolish." It entered English in the 1760s.

When neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi passed away at age 37 from metastatic lung cancer on March 9, 2015, he left behind an unfinished manuscript with notes to his wife Lucy about publishing the text. Published posthumously, When Breath Becomes Air immediately became a national bestseller and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly 3 months. The title comes from a little Elizabethan poem by Greville that starts out with,
"You that seek what life is in death
now find it air that once was breath."

Anyway, if environmentalists were as passionate as they claim to be about conserving resources for future generations, I’d expect more of them to oppose the taxation of capital income, the Social Security system, and other policies that encourage overconsumption in the present.  The absence of these issues from the environmentalists’ agenda suggests that their stance on future generations is the rhetoric not of principle but of convenience.--Landsburg

A new book by  Peter Brown of Princeton University contends that the Roman state was the engine of economic growth of late antiquity. Turning on its head the old view associated with Michael Rostovtzeff that attributed the decline of the Roman economy to high taxes imposed by the Emperor Diocletian and his successors, Brown argues that these high taxes were in fact the source of economic dynamism. A lot of economists disagree. One of the best articles I have ever read about the decline of Rome (and the rise of the Dark Ages) attributed it to the rise of Islam and the loss of the Mediterranean trade routes.

If you think that there has never been a better time to be alive — that humanity has never been safer, healthier, more prosperous or less unequal — then you’re in the minority. But that is what the evidence incontrovertibly shows. Poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, child labour and infant mortality are falling faster than at any other time in human history. The risk of being caught up in a war, subjected to a dictatorship or of dying in a natural disaster is smaller than ever. The golden age is now.--Johan Norbert

AAAaaaaaannnnnddddddd.........advice from Princeton on how to speak:

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

No Sliding Scale for Mortal Sins in the New Theocracy

U.S. Navy photo journalist Victor Jorgensen captured another view of the same scene famously photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a U.S. Navy sailor grabbing and kissing a stranger on V-J day in Times Square. Jorgensen’s photo is in the public domain.
U.S. Navy photo journalist Victor Jorgensen captured another view of the scene famously photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt of a U.S. Navy sailor grabbing and kissing a stranger on V-J day in Times Square. Jorgensen’s photo is in the public domain.

On the Sarasota, Florida, waterfront there is a 28-foot statue of a sailor named George Mendonsa kissing a dental assistant, Greta Friedman. It recreates a famous moment photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt as Times Square was alive with the joyful enthusiasm of V-J Day, the end of the war with Japan and the end of the Second World War.
Mendonsa mistook Friedman's dental assistant uniform for that of a nurse. He later explained that he hugged and kissed her because of his overwhelming gratitude for the work nurses had performed while he was in combat in the Navy, because of his elation over the war ending and because he had had a few drinks. As he put it, it was "the excitement of the war bein' over, plus I had a few drinks, so when I saw the nurse I grabbed her, and I kissed her."
Sarasota Herald-Tribune columnist Chris Anderson, commenting on the statue,  acknowledged that the statue "represents euphoria, innocence, romance, nostalgia and a level of unity and pride this country arguably has not seen since V-J Day." But, he added,  "Is it possible that thousands upon thousands of people over the last seven years have come to the Sarasota waterfront to unwittingly pose in front of a giant depiction of a sexual assault?"
The New York Times obituary of Friedman felt compelled to note that "In recent years, some have noted its darker undertones." Among the examples cited was Time Magazine, which in 2014 had written, "many people view the photo as little more than the documentation of a very public sexual assault, and not something to be celebrated."
I do not know if Mendonsa is still alive--Friedman cannot testify against him as she has died--but there is certainly enough evidence to bring this sexual predator to trial, like an ancient and decrepit Nazi prison guard, and vent our righteous fury.
We simply live in better times now.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Something Unnew under the Very Hot Sun

After the French Revolution in 1789, France had formed a republic and, therefore, had a philosophical bond with the American republic in its opposition to the British Monarchists. And the Americans owed the French a debt; the French had been crucial in the American independence war. (In fairness, the monarchist French help was not philosophical, it was practical. The Americas offered opposition to their old enemy and a unification between the Americas and Britain would be intolerable for the French.) But Britain had become a major U.S. trading partner. Britain also controlled the North Atlantic and could blockade American ships and strangle the American economy. So, when the U.S. had to choose between alignment with Britain or its old ally, France, the U.S. chose Britain. When faced with a choice between reality and morality, the U.S.--as the French had in supporting revolutionary America--chose to protect its own interests.

George Washington summed up the ideal American strategy in his Farewell Address:
"The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence, she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."

The essence of the problem was that the Americans recognized that Europe was an evolving international struggle, a landscape that was changing and vicious. The Americans could not be isolated from them as their commercial interests were great, but they could not militarily align with any because the Europeans were soaked in a history the Americans had escaped. If they were unconvinced in the 19th century, they certainly were in the 20th. They volunteered for the first great war and behaved afterward as if something momentous had been achieved. Then came WW11. Europe was revealed as a cauldron of ancient hatreds, animosities, ambitions and angst. Americans struggled with its responsibilities to itself and to others.

They face a similar problem now in the Middle East.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Diversity and Not

There are limits to our drive for diversity.

Four recent studies found that the proportion of professors in the humanities who are Rube-publicans ranges between 6 and 11 percent, and in the social sciences between 7 and 9 percent.
Conservatives can be spotted in the sciences and in economics, but they are virtually an endangered species in fields like anthropology, sociology, history and literature. One study found that only 2 percent of English professors are Rube-publicans (although a large share are independents).
In contrast, some 18 percent of social scientists say they are Marxist. Marxist!

Rube-publicans may just be dumber but discrimination may actually be involved. One peer-reviewed study found that one-third of social psychologists admitted that if choosing between two equally qualified job candidates, they would be inclined to discriminate against the more conservative candidate.
A test preparation company for the Law School Admission Test offers test-takers a tip: Reading comprehension questions will typically have a liberal slant and a liberal answer.
The discrimination becomes worse if the applicant is an evangelical Christian. According to Yancey’s study, 59 percent of anthropologists and 53 percent of English professors would be less likely to hire someone they found out was an evangelical.

George Yancey is a sociologist who is black and evangelical. “Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black,” he said. “But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”
“Of course there are biases against evangelicals on campuses,” notes Jonathan L. Walton, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals at Harvard. Walton, a black evangelical, adds that the condescension toward evangelicals echoes the patronizing attitude toward racial minorities: “The same arguments I hear people make about evangelicals sound so familiar to the ways people often describe folk of color, i.e. politically unsophisticated, lacking education, angry, bitter, emotional, poor.”

Jonathan Haidt, a centrist social psychologist at New York University, cites data suggesting that the share of conservatives in academia has plunged, and he has started a website, Heterodox Academy, to champion ideological diversity on campuses.
“Universities are unlike other institutions in that they absolutely require that people challenge each other so that the truth can emerge from limited, biased, flawed individuals,” he says. “If they lose intellectual diversity, or if they develop norms of ‘safety’ that trump challenge, they die. And this is what has been happening since the 1990s.”

From an article by Kristof in the NYT

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sunday 10/23/16

This is one of my favorite days of the year. Today is the birthday of the earth.

James Ussher was born in Ireland in 1581. His mother was Catholic but he grew up a Calvanist. He became a priest, was a well regarded academic and scholar. He became Bishop of Armagh and Primate of all Ireland in 1625 and continued so until his death in 1656.

But, while a powerful and influential political and religious figure, he is known best for his historical research into the age of the earth. He started with Adam. The bible records an unbroken line from Adam to Solomon. There was some estimates necessary because not all of the information correlates perfectly, and there is some guesswork from begat to begat.

After Solomon, more historical resources were necessary but good historic points existed up to the Destruction of the Temple. After this--the so called Late Age of Kings from Ezra to Jesus--the Bible offered little help and most of the dates had to be taken from independent history. For example, the death of the Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar II, who conquered Jerusalem in 586 B.C., could be correlated with the 37th year of the exile of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 25:27).

He finally published his most famous work, the Annales veteris testimenti, a prima mundi origine deducti ("Annals of the Old Testament, deduced from the first origins of the world"), which appeared in 1650, and its continuation, Annalium pars posterior, published in 1654. In this work, he calculated the date of the Creation to have been nightfall on October 22, 4004 B.C.. Probably 6 p.m..

Before you roll your eyes, be aware that his estimates do not differ much from other such bible-based estimates of the time, notably Johannes Kepler who estimated the birth of the earth as 3992 B.C. and Isaac Newton as 4000 B.C.. And Ussher was a very accomplished man; his collected works make up eighteen volumes.

The annoying and disappointing Stephan Jay Gould would write in "Fall in the House of Ussher" in Eight Little Piggies:

I shall be defending Ussher's chronology as an honorable effort for its time and arguing that our usual ridicule only records a lamentable small-mindedness based on mistaken use of present criteria to judge a distant and different past
Ussher represented the best of scholarship in his time. He was part of a substantial research tradition, a large community of intellectuals working toward a common goal under an accepted methodology
So times change. Methodologies change. And brilliant minds work within their contexts. And some, despite their greatest efforts, will be remembered only for their errors.

Happy Birthday, Earth!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cab Thoughts 10/22/16

Fear God—fear him. Fear him—fear me. Fear me— / And those like me—and save yourselves.” ---The warrior Odysseus, to Thersites (and the rest of us), in Logue's War Music

The opening paragraph of Chapter 1 of the economics textbook, University Economics by Armen Alchian and William Allen: "Ever since the fiasco in the Garden of Eden, most of what we get is by sweat, strain, and anxiety.  Two villains – nature and other people – prevent us from having all we want.  Nature is niggardly: it provides fewer resources than we could use, and much of what is available is made useful only by hard work.  As for other people, the problem stems not from malevolence: their wants and ours simply exceed what is available.  Do not suppose that if they were less greedy, more would be within our grasp. Greed impels them to produce more, not only for themselves, but, miraculously, more for us, too – provided that productivity-inducing arrangements exist."

Who is...Kingsley Amis?
The vast majority of AirBnB hosts in Chicago have household incomes of less than $100,000. And the typical Uber driver is married with kids, with a bachelors degree and a car that he uses to supplement a full- or part-time job and who makes, on average, $400 a week from 15 hours of driving. Over the last two years, Uber drivers in Chicago have earned more than $250 million.
Immigration impact on wages: New research by Harvard professor George Borjas on the effect of the Mariel Boatlift – a giant shock to Miami’s labor market that increased the size of its population by 7 percent in 42 days – finds large negative wage effects concentrated on Americans with less than a high school degree.  To put the scale of that shock to Miami in context, it would be as if 22.4 million immigrants moved to America over a few month period. Interestingly, women's wages rose.

The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players canceled a production of The Mikado to placate bloggers who suggested modern audiences were too delicate to endure the operetta’s parody of the Japanese monarchy.
A policeman approaching a car will always touch it on the taillight or near it as he approaches. Here is why, from a cop on Quora: "In the police academy we were trained to touch the tail light, trunk, bumper, etc. of any vehicle we approached for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, according to the instructors, is to make sure one or more of the officer’s fingerprints are on that vehicle so investigators can establish a physical connection between the officer and that vehicle in case a critical incident (shooting, traffic crash, etc.) takes place during the officer’s contact with the vehicle, and the officer is seriously injured or killed. My instructors trained us to always put our hand on the side of the vehicle close to the rear but NOT on the rear of the vehicle. Touching the vehicle in this manner is believed to keep the officer slightly off to the side of the vehicle and not directly behind it and in its path if it suddenly starts backing up." Pretty depressing training.
Ian Fleming’s last novel, The Man with the Golden Gun, appeared in 1965, the year after its author’s death. The esteemed Kingsley Amis published Colonel Sun: a James Bond adventure under the pseudonym of Robert Markham in 1968.
In William Nordhaus’s estimation, the overwhelming bulk – nearly 98% – of the benefits of capitalist innovation are reaped, not by the innovators, but by consumers.  (Nordhaus’s calculations are for the non-farm U.S. economy over the years 1948-2001.)

Golden oldie:

"In nearly eight years in office, President Obama has sought to reshape the nation with a sweeping assertion of executive authority and a canon of regulations that have inserted the United States government more deeply into American life. Once a presidential candidate with deep misgivings about executive power, Mr. Obama will leave the White House as one of the most prolific authors of major regulations in presidential history."-- NYT.

In the Yucatán, Cortés was given a female slave, Malinche–baptized Marina–who became his mistress and later bore him a son. She knew both Maya and Aztec and served as an interpreter. She was very instrumental in his negotiations with Montezuma.

Trumpery: noun: 1. Something showy but worthless. 2. Nonsense or rubbish. 3. Deceit; fraud; trickery.  ety: From French tromper (to deceive). Earliest documented use: 1481.
Newspapers are suffering an accelerating drop in print advertising.
Among Harry Potter fans and book collectors alike, the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is known for the repetition on page 53 of '1 wand' in the list of equipment that pupils must take with them to Hogwarts at the beginning of term. This error was corrected in subsequent editions. One is coming to sale.

"Oddly, people who would readily agree that attempting to lay down the future would be disastrous in, say, painting or rock music or journalism or most science and all writing of novels or of scholarly books, think that we already know how to organize a mere economy, and that the government knows best in central planning or regulation or nudging."--McCloskey

Pierre Bayle was  a French thinker and Calvanist from the Enlightenment known for his intellectual modesty, tolerance and his defense of religious liberty. If a man , he asked, was worshiping the wrong God, or worshiping Him in the wrong way, might this not be an honest mistake? He used a well-known example of mistaken identity to make his point. The wife of the peasant Martin Guerre sincerely believed an impostor to be her long-lost husband. When the real Martin Guerre returned to his village, the impostor confessed and was executed for adultery and fraud. But Guerre’s wife went unpunished, because her error had been made in good faith. Bayle reasoned that “heretics” should be treated in the same way. If they had searched diligently for the truth and acted conscientiously, they were guilty of no sin. Nobody should punish them or try to compel them to act against their honest beliefs.
On the other hand, I am rather surprised the woman was believed. Perhaps his argument was that God must certainly be as tolerant as man.
Rio de Janeiro authorities arrested IOC executive committee member Patrick Hickey, according to multiple reports. The head of the European Olympic committee is being accused of illegally scalping tickets for the Summer Games held in Rio.

Negative interest rates are supposed to stimulate growth but the one apparent correlation is increased savings. There is a growing suspicion that part of problem may be negative rates themselves. Some economists and bankers contend that negative rates communicate fear over the growth outlook and the central bank's ability to manage it. So people save in defense. That should be good for growth--unless the "savings" is really "hoarding."
Hillary says Comey exonerated her, Bill says Comey is full of "bull." Does that sound inconsistent? they just say anything?
A letter in the WSJ argues that “U.S. goods and services imports from China were triple U.S. exports to China in 2015, $498 billion versus $161 billion” and that trade deficit is bad. A letter in response asks if "people are harmed whenever they get in exchange more than they give."
The FT reports that a mysterious online group calling itself “The Shadow Brokers” is claiming to have penetrated the National Security Agency, stolen some of its malware, and is auctioning off the files to the highest bidder. The NSA! Technical experts have spent the past day or so picking apart a suite of tools allegedly stolen from the Equation Group , a powerful squad of hackers which some have tied to the NSA. The tools materialized as part of an internet electronic auction set up by a group calling itself  "Shadow Brokers," which has promised to leak more data to whoever puts in a winning bid. In a series of messages posted to Twitter, Snowden suggested the leak was the fruit of a Russian attack on an NSA-controlled server and could be aimed at heading off U.S. retaliation over allegations that the Kremlin is interfering in the U.S. electoral process. Snowden.
J.D. Vance is an interesting story, a guy from the underclass who went on to a good education and significant business success. He has been making the rounds--he has a new book--and was interviewed on GPS. People are interested in his insight to white blue collar workers, the group he comes from, and he talks about them as an ethnic group. He particularly talks about the Scotch-Irish. He always mentions their drinking and  their violence--in and out of the home. (Max Byrd said of the Scotch-Irish, "Where most have love in their heart, they have rage.") GPS was interested in their voting plans this year and Vance said they would vote for Trump. He--and the interviewer--left the opinion that this decision was the result of poor education, general irascibility and xenophobia. No one mentioned the publicly declared war the Progressives have declared upon coal and its subsidiaries in the United States, industries that employ this group.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane, the state’s top law enforcement officer in Pennsylvania and once an ascending star in politics, was convicted by a jury Monday of perjury and related charges for covering up a grand jury leak she orchestrated. Just good people doing the people's work.
A recent study by Ball State University found that national manufacturing output between 1990 and 2013 rose by nearly $1 trillion, while nearly 90 percent of lost manufacturing jobs from 2000-2010 were caused not by trade, but by productivity gains. In other words: American manufacturers can produce more but with fewer workers, and a job that today requires only one worker might once have required five.
AAAAaaaaannnnnddddddd.......a graph:
Chart of the Day

Friday, October 21, 2016

Simpson's Paradox

Elaine Schwartz  has an article on  Project Include which will be tracking employment data in the Silicon Valley. Their initial goal is to form a list of metrics, to gather the facts from 18 firms, to anonymize all and then share the results. As a baseline, those results can become a springboard for inspiring diversity. She raises the question of Simpson's Paradox.

Simpson’s Paradox
To illustrate Simpson’s paradox, I found more detailed data for a similar situation at the University of California in a 1973 gender discrimination case:
Simpson's Paradox and gender discrimination for graduate school admissions
From: Casper Albers Bog
Because 44% of all male applicants and 35% of all female applicants were accepted to their graduate schools in 1973, gender discrimination seemed rather obvious…until you took a closer look.
Questions about gender discrimination at the University of California
From: Brookings
As you can see, more women applied to more competitive departments. Meanwhile more men competed for spots in departments with high acceptance rates. Combined, these stats conveyed the impression that women experienced discrimination. However, if we consider the relationship between the proportion of female applications and admissions rates the data point us in a different direction.
Similarly, in the more recent Dutch case, analysis of the data by a Dutch psychologist indicated no discrimination. But, as he adds, although the data indicate no bias, that does not mean it did not exist.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Some Health Care Musings

One of the many problems of this year's terrible election is the failure of anyone to make sense out of the nation's significant multi-faceted problems. Both the press and the esteemed candidates are content with insults and shallow personal revelations but resistant to anything of substance. Questions about the national debt, the direction of the deficit, the underfunded pension funds, the growing entitlements, the rise of hostile and well armed self-declared enemies, the obvious security problems in both government and industry, terrorism--all of these topics are ignored for the apparently more important topics of accusations of misogynies, bribery, spousal infidelities, crypto-fascism and religious bigotry.

One topic that should be of interest is health care, an area the federal government has volunteered for more and more responsibility. The Obama administration has spent mush of its political capital in the creation of what they feel is a health care solution. The debate over the Affordable Care Act is intense and partisan but strangely is an untouched area in the national campaign. What is more surprising is that Hillary Clinton, for all her faults, is uniquely qualified to comment upon it as she designed an overhaul of medical care while her husband was president. Still, she has said little. One might wonder why. Maybe, as with so much of her responses, she really does not remember. Or, more likely, we poor working stiffs do not deserve or --more likely--would be scared witless to know.

As you will see, a lot is known. And there is plenty of room for discussion. But we have become a people of fortitude who have leaders of single-mindedness. Those qualities are quite different.
Here are a few graphs and statistics to ponder from recent national articles on the state of the health of health care. Ponder on:


The costs of providing health care to an average American family surpassed $25,000 for the first time in 2016 — even as the rate of health cost increases slowed to a record low, a new analysis revealed.
The $25,826 in health-care costs for a typical family of four covered by a employer-sponsored "preferred provider plan" is $1,155 higher than last year, and triple what it cost to provide health care for the same family in 2001, the first year that Milliman Medical Index analysis was done.


2010, prescription drug costs grew by just 1.2 percent while hospital and physician costs grew by 4.9 percent.

A 2014 study by the private American foundation The Commonwealth Fund found that although the U.S. health care system is the most expensive in the world, it ranks last on most dimensions of performance when compared with Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Recent studies find growing gaps in life expectancy in the U.S.based on income and geography.
The United States life expectancy of 78.4 years at birth, up from 75.2 years in 1990, ranks it 50th among 221 nations, and 27th out of the 34 industrialized OECD countries, down from 20th in 1990.
Some errors in comparisons exist in how infant mortality is determined. There is also a risk in the U.S. of violent death in young people--homicides and auto accidents--that other countries do not experience and which weigh heavily upon American cost and survival statistics.

Wasteful spending likely accounts for between one-third and one-half of all U.S. health care spending. PricewaterhouseCoopers calculates that up to $1.2 trillion, or half of all health care spending, is the result of waste. An Institute of Medicine (IOM) report estimated unnecessary health spending totaled $750 billion in 2009 alone. The biggest area of excess is defensive medicine, including redundant, inappropriate or unnecessary tests and procedures.
How these determinations are made are not clearly known but many studies include "bad lifestyles" like smoking, drinking and obesity as "waste."  For example, obesity accounts for an estimated 12 percent of the health spending growth in recent years.

A Yahoo Finance analysis places the health insurance sector’s average profit margin in 2012 at just 4.5 percent. But admin costs are 27-30%.  By comparison, major drug manufacturers have an average profit margin of 16.7 percent; medical instrument and supply companies, 13.6 percent; biotechnology, 11.9 percent; and medical appliance and equipment companies, 13.7 percent
Health care spending will account for nearly 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), or one-fifth of the U.S. economy, by 2021.

58% of US community hospitals are non-profit, 21% are government owned, and 21% are for-profit.

Of each dollar spent on health care in the United States, 31% goes to hospital care, 21% goes to physician/clinical services, 10% to pharmaceuticals, 4% to dental, 6% to nursing homes and 3% to home health care, 3% for other retail products, 3% for government public health activities, 7% to administrative costs, 7% to investment, and 6% to other professional services (physical therapists, optometrists, etc.).

​One percent of the population accounts for 30 percent of the nation's health care expenditures.
10 percent of Medicare beneficiaries account for 70 percent of program spending.
​According to one study (Banarto, McClellan, Kagy and Garber, 2004), 30% of all Medicare expenditures are attributed to the 5% of beneficiaries that die each year, with 1/3 of that cost occurring in the last month of life.

And finally, a trip down memory lane. When Hillary was chosen, for no reason anyone can discern, to come up with a plan to change health care, she amassed a large group and spent millions on the effort. Over one thousand people contributed to the process. What emerged was a plan loosely based upon the writings of economist Uwe Reinhardt. Of those thousand people, three were physicians. Why so few, you ask? Because health care is only a small part of it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cab Thoughts 10/19/16

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamorous to be led to safety by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
~H. L. Mencken

One of true amateurism's defining moments, says Duncan Hamilton in For the Glory, is Eric Liddell’s decision at the 1924 Olympics not to run his 100 meter heat because it was scheduled on a Sunday, violating his religious beliefs. Liddell won gold at 400 meter and then chose missionary work over fame. He also declined endorsements, writing offers, speaking engagements refusing, he said, to capitalize on a gift from God.

Issuing debt backed by worthless assets. Wasn't that the core problem of the Sub-prime Scandal? Now how would you classify the issuing of school loans based upon future earnings that will not exist? Is that any different?
Jonathan Sperber’s Karl Marx: A Nineteenth-Century Life (2013)  is an extensive reconstruction of Marx as a thinker and philosopher. One of his observations: Partly as a result of the influence of Engels, Marx has often been seen as an admirer of Darwin. But in fact Marx disliked Darwin’s theory of natural selection because it left human progress ‘purely accidental’, preferring the work of the forgotten French ethnographer Pierre Trémaux, who argued that racial differences have ‘a natural basis’ in biology and geology – a common view at the time.

Who is... Seth Conrad Rich?
I was watching an interview with an author on C-Span who was arguing that Islam was a failure in history. One of his points was that last year more books were translated into Spanish than all the books translated into Arabic in the last one thousand years.
The history of the world is filled with "false flag" episodes where one group performs acts disguised as another group for some perceived benefit. Hitler rescues Germans in Czechoslovakia, Russia rescues Russian Ukrainians. The "Gulf of Tonkin" attack. On September 18, 1931, some soldiers of the Kwantung Army stationed in the Japanese-leased railway zone to protect Japan's interests in southern Manchuria exploded a small bomb on the railway and claimed that anti-Japanese Chinese elements were responsible. Using the incident as a pretext to launch a full-scale assault on local Chinese troops, Japanese troops occupied the entire northeastern area over the next five months. (The Manchurian Incident) If these leaders are capable of sacrificing people and truth on this large scale, what is 400 million dollars stacked on pallets?
Golden oldie:
According to the media, savage and violent behavior towards seemingly peripheral individuals can be stimulated by nasty and erroneous public opinions.

A view of how our hard wiring helps and limits us: "Cultural evolution was centered for a hundred thousand years on tales told by elders to children sitting around the cave fire. That cave-fire evolution gave us brains that are wonderfully sensitive to fable and fantasy, but insensitive to facts and figures. To enable a tribe to prevail in the harsh world of predators and prey, it was helpful to have brains with strong emotional bonding to shared songs and stories. It was not helpful to have brains questioning whether the stories were true. Our scientists and politicians of the modern age evolved recently from the cave-children. They still, as Charles Darwin remarked about human beings in general, bear the indelible stamp of their lowly origin."--Freeman Dyson.
"It was not helpful to have brains questioning whether the stories were true." That is an extremely provocative idea. It is in direct opposition to the aims of the Enlightenment.

I have long been appalled at the military position in the Cuban Crisis that seemed to be dismissive of civilian losses. (The famous line was something like that the U.S. would suffer "only 30 million casualties, tops.") I regret to say I have come across another view of that. To have a credible deterrent against a Soviet first strike that would destroy many of its people, the U.S. government needed to defend its weapons first, rather than its citizens first. While the government may appear to be placing the value of its weapons above the lives of its citizens, the threat of deterrence is not credible if the weapons are exposed. (This is from game theorist Thomas Shelling) That doesn't mean you could not defend both but deterrence is the threat of overwhelming attack; defense is secondary.
Propitiate: verb tr.: To gain the favor of someone; to appease. ety: From Latin propitiare (to make favorable, to appease). Ultimately from the Indo-European root pet- (to rush, fly) which also gave us feather, pin, impetus, pinnacle, helicopter, propitious. Earliest documented use: 1583. usage: “A visitor from Jupiter might surmise that this civilization is required to bring grass sacrifices to propitiate some pastoral god.” Clay Jenkinson; Those Who Whack Weeds Are the Chosen People of God; Bismarck Tribune (North Dakota); Jul 6, 2014.

When Thomas Piketty’s "Capital in the 21st Century" came out in 2013, it quickly became a favorite of the political left and neo-Keynesian economists as his findings fit the narrative of increasing income inequality. Paul Krugman said “ Mr. Piketty’s contribution is serious, discourse-changing scholarship in a way most best sellers aren’t. And conservatives were terrified.” Larry Summers hailed it as a “Nobel Prize-worthy contribution.” Cheery, but maybe wrong. The  IMF’s Carlos Goes has an article where Piketty’s work is described as “ rich in data, [but] the book provides no formal empirical testing for its theoretical causal chain.” The author continues “I find no empirical evidence that the dynamics move in the way Piketty suggests. Acemoglu and Robinson, who by using a simple regression analysis, concluded “the main economic force emphasized in Piketty's book, the gap between the interest rate and the growth rate, does not appear to explain historical patterns of inequality (especially, the share of income accruing to the upper tail of the distribution).” Oh, well.

Jefferson’s first public proposal against slavery was through an emancipation bill he proposed to Virginia’s House of Burgesses (boroughs), the first legislative assembly in the New World. While its endorsement of the “one man one vote” principle was compromised — at first enfranchising only free men, then only landowning men, and of course no women — the House of Burgesses reflected a commitment to consensus and to community.

NBC did much of the high profile Olympics events on tape delay. Social media made the outcomes irrelevant by the time the events are shown. Why would NBC do that? Their answer: "The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the games than men, and for the women, they're less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It's sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sportswriters. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public."
The anti-terrorism sanctions against Iran are still in effect, a fact the administration has touted many times. Obama conceded at his press conference both that these sanctions are still in effect and that they applied directly to his $400 million pay-out to our terrorist enemies. But here’s the president’s problem: While he is correct that the sanctions barred him from sending Iran a check or wire transfer, they also make it illegal to do what he did.
President Obama engaged in the complex cash transfer in order to end-run sanctions that prohibit the U.S. from having “a banking relationship with Iran.” The point of the sanctions is not to prevent banking with Iran; it is to prevent Iran from getting value from or through our financial system — the banking prohibition is a corollary. (from Andrew C. McCarthy)
This looks to be illegal. But these people are not encumbered by laws that apply to the likes of us.

With all the talk about infrastructure, you would think the government has been ignoring it.  But over Obama's presidency, Washington has spent nearly $1 trillion on infrastructure. This was more money than any other president in history has spent. (It cost about $250 billion to build the interstate highway system.) I hope they were checks and not pallets of cash.
President Maduro of Venezuela has decreed that any company that goes out of business has committed economic treason and its employees are subject to arrest. Inflation went from 19 percent in 2012 to, the IMF estimates, 720 percent this year, and a projected 2,200 percent the next. To cut inflation, the army has started forcing butchers to sell food at a 90 percent loss, and the government has said it can force anyone to leave their job and work for at least two months growing food instead. Amnesty International has said this is tantamount to "forced labor."
Do they mean "slavery?"
Michael Lind has a not-so-revolutionary observation that is still worth a thought. Intellectuals, he says, are a small and isolated minority of their society yet are always expecting to influence it. "It was never possible for Chinese mandarins or medieval Christian monks in Europe to imagine that their lifestyles could be adopted by the highly visible peasantry that surrounded them. But it is possible for people to go from upper middle class suburbs to selective schools to big-city bohemias or campuses with only the vaguest idea of how the 70 percent of their fellow citizens whose education ends with high school actually live."

Since President Obama took office in 2009, the federal government has issued 600 major regulations totaling $743 billion, according to a study from the American Action Forum. That group is described as conservative.
According to Fox Sports, Fielder had season-ending neck surgery in July. It is said that Prince Fielder will never play again. He hasn't played since July 19 after an MRI revealed a herniation of disks in his neck just above an area that was repaired two years ago. 
In Cuba, government permission is needed to have a boat. The fishermen's boats are smaller than a normal rowboat and therefore too small to take far from shore (e.g., to another country).  So most seafood has to be imported. An economist felt this is a clear case where the regime has sacrificed productivity in order to exercise control over its people. Shocking.

Nicolas Maduro has hired Alfredo Serrano, a 40-year old Marxist economist from Spain, as his new main economic advisor. So an arsonist becomes fire chief.

January 2013, CNN reported that then Secretary of State Clinton was treated with blood thinners at a New York hospital to help dissolve a blood clot in her head.
This kind of thing is very disturbing. On July 8, 2016, 27 year-old Democratic staffer Seth Conrad Rich was murdered in Washington DC. The killer or killers took nothing from their victim, leaving behind his wallet, watch and phone. Now Julian Assange seems to suggests on Dutch television program Nieuwsuur that Seth Rich was the source for the Wikileaks-exposed DNC emails and was murdered.

AAAaaaaannnnnnnddddd.....a picture of Galaxy NGC 5866, Edge-On:
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


This horrid election will be over soon and we will have to live with what is left. One insight as to what might be coming: What follows is a collection of statements made by politicians and their advisors. These statements are indicative of the thinking of the people who said them--or wrote them-- and must be taken seriously, even if those conclusions are uncomfortable.

Speaking to the 2015 Women in the World Summit, Hillary Clinton declared that “deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” "Changed." There are religious beliefs that have to be changed? By whom, the federal government? Says who? And who would have the authority--or the arrogance--to suggest changes in someone's religion? Are these government people? Our representatives and employees?

John Podesta is now the chairman of the Clinton campaign. Voices for Progress president Sandy Newman wrote to him that “there needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church” and proposed that the Clinton team “plant the seeds of the revolution” to change Catholic teaching. Podesta replied, “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this . . . Likewise Catholics United.” Politicians have planted seeds to cause a religious revolution?

Who is Sandy Newman to suggest changes in the Catholic Church? Who is he to call Catholicism "a middle ages dictatorship?" Worse, who are these people setting up organizations aimed at influencing the Church, disguised as non-partisan Catholics?

So Hillary Clinton wants to change religious beliefs. Her campaign workers have a plan to influence Catholics surreptitiously. These politicians have the gall to cross that religious/political line that the country's Founders recognized as so dangerous.
And these politicians have the arrogance to believe that their will be done.

Regardless of what your political beliefs are, this is astonishing stuff in the United States. Astonishing that it could be said, astonishing it could be said with so little comment. These are  presumptuous people, vain and imperious. But they are not estranged from the nation's heritage; they simply know better. They are above it.
And if you are not alarmed, you should be.

This election has allowed us, the electorate, to have great disregard for the candidates. But do not deceive yourselves for a moment: They dislike us much more than we dislike them.


Monday, October 17, 2016


Chobani  is the top-selling brand of yogurt in the United States.
Chobani’s CEO and founder, Hamdi Ulukaya (a Kurdish-Muslim immigrant), recently personally transferred 10% ownership in the growing company from himself to his 2,000 employees.
Given that Chobani is estimated to be worth $3 billion (some peg it as high as $7 billion), that works out to an average stock value of $150,000 per employee. And some of the more tenured employees could end up with windfalls of $1M+.
“I’ve built something I never thought would be such a success, but I cannot think of Chobani being built without all these people,” Mr. Ulukaya said in an interview in his Manhattan office that was granted on the condition that no details of the program would be disclosed before the announcement.
“Now they’ll be working to build the company even more and building their future at the same time,” he said.
Chobani employees received the news on Tuesday morning. Each worker received a white packet; inside was information about how many Chobani shares they were given. The number of shares given to each person is based on tenure, so the longer an employee has been at the company, the bigger the stake.
Two years ago, when Chobani received a loan from TPG Capital, a private equity firm, the company’s value was estimated at $3 billion to $5 billion. At the $3 billion valuation, the average employee payout would be $150,000. The earliest employees, though, will most likely be given many more shares, possibly worth over $1 million.
Chobani, which began in 2005 with just five employees, now employs 1,200 people in New York state alone. The company was founded in 2005 when Hamdi Ulukaya bought a plant in the town of New Berlin, New York, that was being closed by Kraft Foods.
The word chobani is derived from the Persian loanword in Turkish, çoban, meaning "shepherd". 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cab Thoughts 10/16/16

Louis XVI, upon learning at Versailles of the fall of the Bastille [1789]: 'Is it a revolt?'
Duc de La Rochefoucauld-Liancourt: 'No, Sire, it is a revolution.'

I watched the new "Westworld" on HBO. It is based on Crichton's 1973 movie, a movie I remember poorly, and HBO's version is big budget. Abrams is the director. The movie was about a theme park where--like Jurassic--the park loses control of their creations--in this case robot western characters. Brynner becomes an uncontrollable robot gunfighter and starts killing tourists. The HBO show makes the robots sympathetic and, at least so far, the tourists are the beasts. I do not know the response to it but I found it ambitious, disturbing and very creepy.

Grace responded with a wonderful line to  'A summary of American politics: "I'll see your forcible rape and raise you four gropes and a fat shaming."' She wrote, "No point in comparing allegations of sexual abuse on one side of the aisle or the other. It's not the molestation olympics. There's plenty of light to be shed on everyone who has exhibited patterns of bad behavior." That is true. I'm worried that my one liner was taken as dismissive of the problem of sexual abuse. My hope instead was to define the fearless point-counterpoint nature of this public discussion we call a campaign. Any position is seen as nothing more than an ante in the game and every ante must be met with force regardless of its veracity or worth. So Trump criticizes Clinton for the Iraq War; Clinton immediately counterattacks Trump for being in favor of the Iraq War. If an accusation does not engender an immediate counter--like Hillary's being Secretary of State during the "red line" in Syria fiasco--it is simply denied. But it must be countered, preferably in kind.

Obama defending the 1000 pages of TTP: "And another thing: You’ve got to compare this to the realistic alternatives. It’s not fair to compare it to some ideal, unachievable arrangement where we get to sell things all over the world and never buy anything."
The ideal is selling everything and buying nothing?  If you’re never going to buy anything, then it makes absolutely no sense to sell things, and it makes particularly little sense to produce those things. Does he really believe this?
He just says this stuff.

Who is...Rodrigo Duterte?

"The recent figures all point to a decline in business investment: capital, we are told, is on strike. And well it should be. The rise of economic populism sparks an increase in tax rates for both ordinary income and capital gains. The legal uncertainties over our vast regulatory apparatus also exert a downward force. The hyper-enforcement of the securities laws makes potential entrepreneurs and investors factor into their calculations the prospect of civil fines and criminal sanctions. The widespread hostility toward free trade warns future investors that they will face added difficulties in acquiring factors of production from abroad, which in turn makes it harder for them to sell inferior goods, with higher prices, in foreign markets. The massive subsidies for wind and solar energy impose higher taxes on more productive elements of society. Those burdens will be further compounded by the insatiable drive for revenue to fund expansion in free tuition, social security, and other transfer payments. The whole redistributive scheme bears little or no relationship to the classical liberal theory of taxation, which uses taxes chiefly to fund public goods for the benefit of all. The prospect of diminished returns thus explains diminished investment, sans any of Piketty’s intellectual diversions."--Epstein

Issuing debt backed by worthless assets. Wasn't that the core problem of the Sub-prime Scandal? Now how would you classify the issuing of school loans based upon future earnings that will not exist? Is that any different?

In 1941, Roosevelt gave the "Four Freedoms" speech. It really is quite astonishing what politicians think reasonable to say. Here is the essential excerpt:

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world."

Would anyone think this is anything other than wishful thinking? And dissenters must be terrorized if egalitarianism is to be enforced.

In 1976, wine experts blind-tasted some of the most storied wines from France against similar styles from upstart California in. The mainly-French expert jury in what came to be known as The Judgement of Paris announced the California wines to be the winners. One of the most remarkable victories in a set of remarkable victories was in the white wine category. A 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay came top, beating out four Burgundies. That wine was made by a young Croatian-American, Mike Grgich.

Golden oldie:
Interred in nearby cemetery is Zona Heaster Shue. Her death in 1897 was presumed natural until her spirit appeared to her mother to describe...

Flushed with his landslide reelection in 1936, President Roosevelt issued a proposal in February 1937 to provide retirement at full pay for all members of the court over 70. If a justice refused to retire, an “assistant” with full voting rights was to be appointed, thus ensuring Roosevelt a liberal majority. Most Republicans and many Democrats in Congress opposed the so-called “court-packing” plan.In April, however, before the bill came to a vote in Congress, two Supreme Court justices came over to the liberal side and by a narrow majority upheld as constitutional the National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act. The majority opinion acknowledged that the national economy had grown to such a degree that federal regulation and control was now warranted. Roosevelt’s reorganization plan was thus unnecessary, and in July the Senate struck it down by a vote of 70 to 22.

Has any other President in history had this much to say about an election? And has any President assumed a higher ground to say it?

David Goldblatt notes in his just-published The Games: A Global History of the Olympics that in 1936  no southern newspaper had even carried a photo of Jesse Owens or any of the other African-American medalists, and even the assistant coach of the American track team attributed their achievements to being “closer to the primates than the white man.” As Owens bitterly acknowledged decades later, he was eventually reduced to pumping gas and racing against horses to earn a living. Usain Bolt, one of the favorites to win next week’s 100 m event, reportedly makes more than $20 million a year. This was not the result of racial awareness. The Dallas Cowboys went from paying their star quarterback in 1971 (Roger Staubach) a salary of $25,000 a year to giving their current quarterback, Tony Romo, a six-year contract worth $108 million.

A report in the WSJ: "...[Clinton's]... handling of a major technology transfer initiative at the heart of Washington’s effort to “reset” relations with Russia raises serious questions about her record. Far from enhancing American national interests, Mrs. Clinton’s efforts in this area may have substantially undermined U.S. national security." The kind of thing that Trump can drum. But won't.

Historian Frank Dikötter wrote  Mao’s Great Famine.  This is from a summary he wrote for History Today: "Mao thought that he could catapult his country past its competitors by herding villagers across the country into giant people’s communes. In pursuit of a utopian paradise, everything was collectivised. People had their work, homes, land, belongings and livelihoods taken from them. In collective canteens, food, distributed by the spoonful according to merit, became a weapon used to force people to follow the party’s every dictate. As incentives to work were removed, coercion and violence were used instead to compel famished farmers to perform labour on poorly planned irrigation projects while fields were neglected.
A catastrophe of gargantuan proportions ensued. Extrapolating from published population statistics, historians have speculated that tens of millions of people died of starvation. But the true dimensions of what happened are only now coming to light thanks to the meticulous reports the party itself compiled during the famine….
What comes out of this massive and detailed dossier is a tale of horror in which Mao emerges as one of the greatest mass murderers in history, responsible for the deaths of at least 45 million people between 1958 and 1962. It is not merely the extent of the catastrophe that dwarfs earlier estimates, but also the manner in which many people died: between two and three million victims were tortured to death or summarily killed, often for the slightest infraction."

Philippine police have killed over 500 suspected drug traders since the start of July. President Rodrigo Duterte ordered police to carry out summary executions and also urged citizens to kill drug users and dealers.  The vengeance of the righteous.

Denmark is considering a recommendation from its ethics council that all red meats should be taxed. More righteousness.

Thomas  Schelling's early work was on the most important issue of the Cold War: preventing it from becoming a hot war. In his classic 1960 book, The Strategy of Conflict, Schelling laid out some important applications of game theory to the issue of nuclear war. In one passage, he discussed the U.S.-Soviet conflict in the terms of a hypothetical duel. He wrote "if both [duelists] were assured of living long enough to shoot back with unimpaired aim, there would be no advantage in jumping the gun and little reason to fear that the other would try it." Thus "schemes to avert surprise attack have as their most immediate objective the safety of weapons rather than the safety of people." This means that to have a credible deterrent against a Soviet first strike that would destroy many of its people, the U.S. government needed to defend its weapons first, rather than its citizens first. While the government may appear to be placing the value of its weapons above the lives of its citizens, the threat of deterrence is not credible if the weapons are exposed.

Muslim troops accounted for 0.2 percent of all U.S. troop deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Southerners accounted for 38 percent of those killed in Iraq and 47 percent in Afghanistan. That probably accounts for the almost fawning respect the average Southerner gets in Washington. 

Dr. Moreau, call your office. The federal government announced plans Thursday to lift a moratorium on funding of controversial experiments that use human stem cells to create animal embryos that are partly human, called "chimeras." This is a very significant step. Imagine a business trying to create their own breeds with some human characteristics. Athletics and war will never be the same. Recently the Chinese(!) have backed away from editing human genes. In their papers, they sound scared. But don't worry. These potentially hazardous scientific adventures will be monitored by esteemed leaders with integrity like V. Putin and H. Clinton.

Current approximate average annual returns of well-known very low-risk investments:
  • 1-year CD: 1.09%
  • money market account: 0.56%
  • interest-bearing checking account: 0.27%
  • 5-year CD: 1.70%
  • 10-year treasury bond: 1.46%
Very hard to grow money without risk.

The UN refugee camp at Dadaab, Kenya, situated in a thorny patch of near desert close to the Kenya-Somalia border, is the world’s largest “protracted refugee situation.” The PRS designation applies to any camp in existence for more than five years; Dadaab turned twenty-five this year, and several of the refugees whose story is told in City of Thorns have been there for the entire quarter century.
In the weird war against trade, keep this in mind: Over half of all American imports are either intermediate components or raw materials.  These imports are sold as inputs to domestic businesses rather than as goods consumed directly by households. Those imports support domestic production.

Aaaaannnnndddddd.....a funny picture and line:

Trump's opposition research firm: Russia's intelligence agencies

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hard Choices: One Obnoxious Politician Assesses Another.

served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from August 2005 until December 2006 as a recess appointee. He has an article that assesses Hillary Clinton's reputation as a "hawk" in U.S. foreign affairs, using her book, "Hard Choices," as the basis of his insight to her philosophy. (Just because your obnoxious doesn't mean you're stupid.) Here is a bit of it:

Clinton has Rice and Power asserting that America bore a responsibility to protect” innocent civilians threatened by Gadhafi. This so-called “duty of humanitarian intervention,” a fixture of the international left for years, was the central rationale for Obama's Libya intervention. Clinton describes the qualifications and limits Obama placed on U.S. involvement — but never implies disagreeing with them, before or after the intervention.
She also showed eagerness to subordinate America's role to international approval. Her caveat about the absence of “international authorization” essentially adopts John Kerry's 2004 “global test” for the legitimacy of U.S. policy, namely that Washington should act only with approval by the U.N. Security Council or some comparable body.
Obama plainly shared this perspective, stressing in his public announcement of U.S. military action that “the writ of the international community must be enforced. That is the cause of this coalition.”
Bolton's conclusion? "Hillary Clinton's 'hawkishness,' by contrast, is decidedly tilted ideologically. It subordinates U.S. discretion to international organizations and disconnects military action from American national interests as historically understood. And we can justifiably surmise that Clinton's passivity as an adviser will be even more pronounced when the mantle of decision-making rests on her shoulders rather than another's. That is Hillary Clinton's unspinnable message to voters, in her very own words."

Friday, October 14, 2016

The NYT's Sorkin Interview

This is a summary of the NYT's Sorkin interview with some comments:

To be sure, the president was dealt a tough hand in 2009, and he played it brilliantly at first. His much-criticized Treasury secretary, Timothy Geitner, did what was necessary to pull the U.S. financial system back from the brink. Under intense pressure, the president’s team crafted a package of steps that saved the American automobile industry. The Obama administration’s stimulus package, despite its defects, helped slow a steep economic decline, which at its worst was destroying 800,000 jobs monthly.
Mr. Obama has every right to claim credit for preventing a second Great Depression that would have taken down the entire global economy.
This was a great first act. Unfortunately, there was no Act 2 and, as Mr. Sorkin reports, Mr. Obama knows it. The president laments, for example, “our failure in 2012, 2013, 2014, to initiate a massive infrastructure project” means that “there were folks who we could have helped and put back to work and entire communities that could have prospered that ended up taking a lot longer to recovery.”
The only problem with the president’s lament is its chronology. The failure occurred much earlier, in 2009 and 2010, when Mr. Obama still enjoyed the support of a Democratic-led Congress he needed to move boldly. Despite campaigning for a national infrastructure bank in 2008, he didn’t insist on including it in the 2009 stimulus bill. He didn’t even publicly raise the matter until September 2010, when the midterm election was looming and the chance of enacting new legislation was effectively nil.
This was part of a broader strategic decision to move from his initial focus on averting economic disaster to other concerns—notably, the Affordable Care Act and carbon cap-and-trade legislation. Whatever balance of benefits and opportunity costs the focus on health care may have entailed, the months the House spent in 2009 on an environmental bill that never had a chance in the Senate were a total loss. The exodus of white working-class voters from the Democratic Party contributed to this loss of focus on core economic concerns.
When Republicans regained control of the House in November 2010, the moment for an infrastructure bank and an Act 2 economic plan had passed. The result: an economic recovery that was much slower than it had to be.
President Obama insists—rightly—that the U.S. has done much better than most other advanced economies. Unemployment has come down further than in Europe, and GDP has risen faster.
But most Americans are not comparing the U.S. performance with that of other countries. They are comparing it with previous recoveries in this country, and they are evaluating it in light of their own circumstances. They are painfully aware that their household income is still lower than it was at the end of the Clinton administration and that the jobs many of them have gotten during the recovery pay much less than the jobs they lost during the recession.
People intuit what economists have shown: that the share of overall income growth going to average Americans has been lower in recent years than in any prior economic recovery. They don’t understand why this is happening, but they do expect their leaders to acknowledge it and do something about it.
This is why Mr. Obama is wrong to suggest that his central problem has been an inability to communicate his economic success more effectively. As the old line goes, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” The people have given their answer in the form of the Bernie Sanders insurgency and the Republicans’ stunning turn to Donald Trump.
It will fall to President Obama’s Democratic successor to enact the long-deferred Act 2 of the recovery.