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 Dik├Âtter 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

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