Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Cab Thought 11/30/16

Republics are created by ideals and preserved by process.--Alaric Phlogiston

Civil forfeiture: In April 2008, the Saginaw County sheriff’s deputies executed a search warrant at the second home of Gerald and Royetta Ostipow, a farmhouse in the neighboring rural Shiawassee County in Michigan. Why the sheriffs were operating outside their own county is unclear.
They discovered that the Ostipows’ adult son, Steven, who was living there at the time, was growing marijuana. The deputies proceeded to seize every item of personal property in the home and the adjacent outbuildings, regardless of whether that property was owned by Steven or his parents.
They then searched Gerald and Royetta’s primary residence, but found no trace of drugs. A Drug Enforcement Administration agent and a sheriff’s deputy later admitted they had no evidence that the couple was involved in their son’s criminal activity.
Regardless, they set about stripping the home bare. By the end of the operation, Saginaw County sheriffs had taken possession of the second home, Gerald’s farm implements and other tools, furniture, a 1965 Chevrolet Nova, an assortment of firearms and ammunition, and dozens of animal mounts. The Ostipows were never provided with a receipt or detailed inventory of the seized items.

The Tax Foundation ran some estimates on five different tax increases and found that worsening depreciation rules (an arcane part of the tax code dealing with the degree to which new investment is taxed) would do the most economic damage to the country, followed by a higher corporate tax rate, and then higher individual income tax rates. Many economists think the death tax--aka "The Grave-Robber tax"--is actually more destructive. A recent article compared it to harvesting the apple orchard by cutting down 40% of the trees. But not only does it reduce capital stock, it reduces incentive to save and invest.

Doctors spend an average of 40,000 hours training. That’s equivalent to 20 years of full-time work.
For the rest of their career, doctors work an average of 59.6 hours/week.
The average doctor’s career ends at 65. If they finish their residency at 29, they’ll spend 36 years working almost 1 ½ times more than most other Americans.

Beer sales by volume at bars and restaurants have dropped for the third year in a row but beer volumes by gross sales are stable. Apparently people are just staying home. “Staying in became the new night out,” Danny Brager, vice president of beverage alcohol at The Nielsen Co., told Beverage Industry magazine in 2010, as a battered nightlife industry tried to figure out how to pry financially strapped patrons off their comfortable couches and away from Netflix, Xbox and GrubHub.
Though the economy has improved since those darkest days after the recession, spending on drinking still hasn’t rebounded at bars/restaurants (on-premises) or package stores (off-premises). According to the Beverage Information Group’s 2016 Cheers On-Premise Handbook, beer sales by volume at U.S. bars and restaurants declined 1.4% from 2010 to 2015 and 3% from 2014 to 2015. Compared to the last decade, Americans aren’t really consuming beer with any less frequency or in smaller quantities, though since 2007 on-premises consumption has dropped as much as 12% in the northeast, Midwest and south, with an incongruous 5% on-premises uptick out west.  Over the last seven years, 1.5% of the share of beer sales has moved from bars to package stores, marking a huge shift in the balance between the two, though off-premise beer sales themselves remained stagnant over the last decade.

("We want you to die!"--The Alien pilot in "Independence Day")
An article recently analyzed ISIS and the Middle East in terms of "game theory." In game theory, there is a fundamental distinction between positive-sum bargaining games, and zero-sum games. In bargaining games, it is assumed that both sides can be better off by agreeing on a way to “divide the pie” instead of playing their optimal threat strategies and ending up with no pie – or worse. All such games are positive-sum in nature. In a zero-sum game, however, there is no pie to divide, and no bargaining compromise is possible.
Analysts assume that negotiation strategies exist, strategies that will somehow end up with an acceptable compromise. President Obama’s stance towards Iran, Russia and China offer examples of this approach. In all three cases, he turned the other cheek, and attempted to “reset” relations with these nations expecting they would reciprocate. All would end up better off. But his antagonists ended up taking full advantage of his weakness, reneged on many agreements, and made Obama look as incompetent at bargaining as he has proven to be.
This argues we are playing a zero-sum game but think we are playing a positive-sum game. ISIS has no bargaining intent; there is nothing they want from the West. They simply want to destroy it. Analogously, Iran has no intention of settling with Israel. Its stated goal is the elimination of Israel.
"Peace? No Peace."

Who is....Meredith Kercher?

Just in case you are not worried enough about America's weird relationships in the Middle East and if you are fatigued with worrying about Iran, former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in some leaked e-mails alleges that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of 200 warheads. Yikes. So Iran does its apostolic duty, attacks Israel and........WHAT?

When it comes to a possible gender distinction in the area of smell, a study published last year in PLOS ONE—a multidisciplinary blog for peer-reviewed articles—found women's brains have up to 50% more olfactory  neurons—in other words, women have more brain matter, where it matters, so to speak. Women can detect a broader range of aromas and are also far more able to distinguish between different aromas. Tests have further shown that women have more taste buds than  men and are more able to detect a wider range of flavors. This distinction sounds vaguely illegal. For example, would a woman have an advantage in applying to a job as a sommelier? 

The UN Human Rights office deleted a tweet that asked whether "market fundamentalism"--namely, "the belief in the infallibility of free market economic policies"--is "an urgent threat." The same UN human rights office "has failed to issue a single  tweet about this past month's dire human rights crisis in Venezuela, where millions face mass hunger in part due to attacks on the free market in the failed economic policies of the late president Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro, which included  arbitrary seizure of businesses and private property." (Neuer)

Bill Clinton's top aide Doug Band requested favors from the US ambassador to Malaysia related to the for-profit Laureate University, which was paying Clinton millions as a consultant at the time. In emails from November 2010 obtained by, Band  asked the US ambassador to Malaysia Paul Jones to attend a public event for Laureate University in Kuala Lumpur, as well as a meeting between Bill Clinton, Laureate's CEO Doug Becker and the Malaysian Prime Minister. The emails were copied to then Secretary  of State Hillary Clinton's top aide Huma Abedin. Bill Clinton earned nearly $18million as an adviser and honorary chancellor for the international for-profit college network between 2010 and 2015.

The Clinton illness question is unclear. It has been said that her blood clot was the result of a fall, but it is much more likely the other way around. It is more likely she had a stroke and fell than had a fall, then the clot. But having a clot is a big deal. I have not read the word once in connection to her. Medical reports state she suffered no brain injury. The unusual nature of the clot raises a lot of questions of its origin.

Netflix has a new documentary on Amanda Knox, the woman arrested for the murder of her roommate in Italy, Meredith Kercher. The filmmakers used graphics to point out that Knox was never in the room where Kercher died, according to the DNA present  in the room. They also showed that DNA evidence linking Knox to the knife thought to be used as the murder weapon was inconclusive.

What race was to Nazis, class was to Bolsheviks, and class origin, like race, was not something one chose. People born into bourgeois, noble, or kulak families had no more right to life to Communists than Jews or Gypsies did to Nazis. In November 1918, Felix  Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka, published an article in the journal  Red Terror in which he instructed: "We are not waging war against individual persons. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. During the investigation, do not look for evidence that the accused acted in deed or word against Soviet power. The  first questions that you ought to put are: To what class does he belong? What is his origin? What is his education or profession? And it is these questions that ought to determine the fate of the accused."
So the murder of the Tsar's children makes sense?

A Democratic senator sought Justice Department and IRS Criminal prosecutions of conservatives in 2013, newly-released federal documents reveal. The Department of Justice documents reveal email conversations between its officials and the staff  of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, about possible criminal prosecution of tea party groups for alleged violation of IRS rules.

Buckley on the common practice of "moral equivalence:" “To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from  the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus: on the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around.”

Golden oldie:

A group deserving blame [for today’s rise of populism] are the professors, philosophers, sociologists, economists, and journalists who have committed la trahison des clercs, as Julien Benda called it, or the treason of the clerisy, to use the name given them by Deirdre McCloskey. For more than a century mainstream intellectuals have done nothing but extol the virtues of socialism, harp on the defects of the market, lament the alleged exploitation of the poor, and denounce the immorality of capitalism.--Schwartz

Ad hoc: adv: 1. for the particular end or case at hand without consideration of wider application.: e.g. a committee formed ad hoc to deal with the issue. adjective 2. concerned or dealing with a specific subject, purpose, or end: e.g. The ad hoc committee disbanded after making its final report. Ad hoc literally means "for this" in Latin, and in English this almost always means "for this specific purpose". Issues that come up in the course of a project often require immediate, ad hoc solutions. An ad hoc investigating committee is authorized to look into a matter of limited scope. An ad hoc ruling by an athletic council is intended to settle a particular case, and is not meant to serve as a model for later rulings.

In an interview, Hilary Mantel was asked who she thought was the most overrated author. Her answer: "Dickens. The sentimentality, the self-indulgence, the vast oozing self-satisfaction, the playing to the gallery." I am crushed.
The test: The following triplet, 2-4-6, follows a rule. Give a triplet exhibiting the same rule. The usual answer: 8-10-12, on the assumptio...

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