Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Cab Thought 11/9/16

We haven't yet learned how to stay human when assembled in masses. -Lewis Thomas, physician and author

So it is over. And what has emerged is a Black Swan. There are some things we know: The public feels distant from its government, the press has a vastly overrated opinion of itself, the Clinton era is over. What will happen now? First, there will be no Hilary court. (What Trump will pick, no one knows.) Second, there is a risk of investigations into Hillary, her Foundation and her friends--I think Obama should pardon them as he leaves. There is also the risk of investigations of the IRS and FBI. Then comes the First One Hundred Days: What will Trump propose? He cannot build a wall...maybe a little fence? He could restructure the tax code to the country's advantage. Find illegal immigrants? Tough--and most are Asians overstaying their visas. Renegotiate treaties and trade agreements? A wild card. Protectionism? A disaster. Obamacare? I have not read much of a coherent Rube-publican counter-proposal.

Jacob Neusner is arguably one of the most influential voices in American Jewish intellectual life in the past half-century—yet outside of the academy, and more specifically outside the academic study of Judaism, while many people know his name, few are actually familiar with his work. He is perhaps most widely known for his irascible, sometimes quite nasty, and often pugnacious personality, his famous excoriating reviews, sometimes book-length critiques, and his fallings-out with almost every institution he worked in, almost every teacher who taught him, many of his students—as well as the errors that scar his many translations and publications. He sued institutions he worked for and individuals who attacked his work. And yet, as Hughes shows, the importance of his contribution should not be underestimated. There is a joke that in 200 years when scholars study Neusner they will think Neusner was a “school” and not a person. Why?  In a little over half a century, Jacob Neusner published more than a thousand scholarly and popular books and countless essays, op-eds, and public and private letters, and was part of almost every significant American Jewish controversy since World War II.

Who is....Lady Hope?
Someone who used to make 6% in cash has been squeezed further out the risk curve, into government bonds, then corporate credit, then high yield, and now into dividend-paying stocks. And the yields go lower and lower. If you think about it, if you are long government bonds that yield less than 1% (or negative), you  are making a little (or nothing, or less than nothing), with unbounded downside risk. So, in essence, the whole world is short volatility. 
William Zinsser lamenting the state of writing--and language--in America: “Toddlers have sandbox issues. Issues are what used to be called the routine hills and bumps of getting from morning to night. They have been around a long time; Job had issues. By calling them issues we wrap ourselves in the palliative language of therapy. We no longer phone or visit friends who are in trouble; we reach out to them. That way we can find closure.”
Golden oldie:
Yet the man of culture, if his criteria are those of the past, has really very little of which to complain in the triumph of mass taste in modern society.  He may deplore it; yet he should recognize that the scope for the realization of his own aesthetic feelings has never been so wide.  Standardization in consumers’ goods is largely the product of the consumers’ preference for cheapness, and the technical facts on which the economies of mass production rest are the means which have made their preference realizable.  But the same technical facts have contributed to the cheaper satisfaction of the connoisseur’s demand.  In so far as his demand springs from love of the elegant, the delicate, the refined, and is not unconsciously motivated by the desire to possess what is merely rare and expensive, machine production has cheapened and increased the power of passive enjoyment of things of beauty on the part of many.  There never has been a greater popular interest, for example, in music, the drama and literature than that which exists to-day.  The gramophone and wireless have brought first-rate music within the reach of the poor, the standards of commercial art have been continuously advancing, amateur dramatics have never been so flourishing, and the number of books sold expands annually. (Hutt)
Judicial Watch is a conservative group that is constantly suing the government for the release of information under the Freedom of Information Act. Why are they necessary?
A very important element about measuring poverty is that the actual measurement seldom has anything to do with absolute well-being.  And this is the case with The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) numbers.  The OECD’s poverty measurement is based on the country’s median income, and is the percentage of people who are below a certain percentage (generally 50%) of the country’s own median income. So there is always poverty because, rather than being meaningful, the term is relative. Hence, inevitable.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has broken with many of the GOP’s traditional positions on economic policy, garners no support from any of the White House economists who have advised U.S. presidents for the past half-century. The Wall Street Journal this month reached out to all 45 surviving former members of the White House Council of Economic Advisers under the past eight presidents, going back to Richard Nixon, to get their views on this year’s presidential election. Among 17 Republican appointees who responded to Journal inquiries, none said they supported Mr. Trump. Six said they did not support Mr. Trump and 11 declined to say either way. An additional six did not respond to repeated messages. Among the 21 Democrats who responded to the Journal, 14 said they supported Mrs. Clinton, none said they opposed her and seven declined to say either way. One Democratic appointee didn’t respond to messages.--WSJ

Dragonflies are one of the first insects to inhabit this planet, appearing about 300 million years ago. Using a master circuit of 16 neurons that connect the dragonfly's brain to its flight motor center in the thorax, a dragonfly can track a moving target and intercept it with a 95% successful kill rate. There are few species in the animal kingdom that can match the dragonfly for spectacular flying ability. Dragonflies have two sets of wings with muscles in the thorax that can work each wing independently. This allows them to change the angle of each wing and practice superior agility in the air.
Dragonflies can fly in any direction, including sideways and backward, and can hover in a single spot for a minute or more. This amazing ability is one factor in their success as aerial ambush predators. Some species reaching a top speed of 18 miles per hour. And they have terrific endurance. One species called the globe skimmer, Pantala flavescens, flies across an ocean during migration, logging 11,000 miles, the world's longest insect migration.

From the DPMP website: "...dispensers are required by law to collect and submit information to the PDMP about each dispensing of a controlled substance prescription drug within 72 hours. The PDMP stores the information in a secure database and makes it available to healthcare professionals and others as authorized by law." Opiate histories are now on-line...and accessible to a large number of health care people.
“Shortly after his death, [Elizabeth Reid Cotton], Lady Hope addressed a gathering of young men and women at the educational establishment founded by the evangelist Dwight Lyman Moody at Northfield, Massachusetts. She had, she maintained, visited Darwin on his deathbed. He had been reading the Epistle to the Hebrews, had asked for the local Sunday school to sing in a summerhouse on the grounds, and had confessed: ‘How I wish I had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done.’ He went on, she said, to say that he would like her to gather a congregation since he ‘would like to speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation, being in a state where he was eagerly savouring the heavenly anticipation of bliss.’
“With Moody's encouragement, Lady Hope's story was printed in the Boston Watchman Examiner."---from Ronald W. Clark's book on Darwin
Darwin's family dismissed the notion--and that she was even there.
This is a wonderfully kind--and realistic--assessment from of all people the "Evangelical Times" in 2012, in a book review of Darwin and Lady Hope: The Untold Story by L.R. Croft :  "Ultimately, it seems that Croft’s argument comes down to his own personal incredulity that an evangelical Christian would lie. In this cynical age where prominent Christian leaders are regularly caught in the grossest of sins, how I wish that we could take the word of a Christian simply because she is a Christian. In this case, however, given the lack of independent corroboration of Darwin’s supposed conversion, I feel quite justified in doubting Lady Hope’s claim. Since we know no more of Lady Hope’s state of mind than we do Darwin’s, I would not assert that she lied. Perhaps she simply misunderstood some kind and polite statements made by Darwin? I do not know. I only know that there remains no reason, despite Croft’s book, to believe Lady Hope’s account."

T. S. Eliot’s definition of a heretic is “a person who seizes upon a truth and pushes it to the point at which it becomes a falsehood.” It sounds like a definition of a modern political enthusiast. It is hard to understand how anyone can vote with any eagerness for anyone. We are apparently electing the worst presidential candidate in the nation's history, regardless of the results.
Vituperative adjective: Criticizing bitterly, scathing, abusive. ety: From Latin vituperare (to blame), from vitium (fault) + parare (to make or prepare). Earliest documented use: 1727.  usage: “Korean Internet users are capable of being equally vituperative, particularly over the disputed island of Tokto.” Richard Lloyd; McDonald’s Serves Up Asian Bowing Row; The Times (London, UK); Apr 14, 2016.
Artificial Intelligence update:
‘’It may be a hundred years before a computer beats humans at Go — maybe even longer.” — New York Times, 1997
“Master of Go Board Game Is Walloped by Google Computer Program” — New York Times, 2016
There are all sorts of sites and projects in the world now. This from a group called, believe it or not, "The Institute for the Study of War:"
Russia has altered the security balance in the Black Sea, Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East by establishing large anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) exclusion zones. Russia’s power projection in these regions has been further extended by the deployment of the S-400 air defense system to Crimea in August 2016 and to Syria in November 2015. Advanced air defense systems create A2AD “bubbles” that prevent Russia’s opponents from establishing air supremacy in strategically significant theaters. The Baltic States, much of Ukraine and the Black Sea, northern Poland, Syria and parts of Turkey fall under Russian A2AD bubbles created by S-300 and S-400 air defense systems. Russia operates advanced air defense not only within its own territory, but from sites in Syria and occupied Crimea, as well as cooperatively through the Joint Air Defense Network in Belarus and Armenia. Russia can use these systems to impede the ability of the U.S. to defend its NATO allies by disrupting the ability of US air forces to access conflict zones in the event of a crisis.
Libertarians like to stress that they are pro-market and not pro-business. Business people, being self-interested like anybody else, will attempt to make the most of the circumstances and the majority of them won't hesitate in accepting legal privilege; indeed many lobby aggressively for it.
From Henderson:  Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton calls for "up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and medical leave" for an employee to "care for a new child or a seriously-ill family member." She claimed, in her acceptance speech for the Democratic presidential nomination, that this would benefit women with children. The good news is that she's right. The bad news, according to widely-accepted economic analysis and past evidence, is that the main people who would pay for this benefit would be women of child-bearing age. Think of how employers would react to such a mandate. They would realize that the main people who would take advantage of paid parental leave would be women of child-bearing age. This makes those women less valuable to them as employees. So their demand--the amount they are willing to pay--for women in that category would fall. Women in that category, on the other hand, would be willing to work for less because the benefit is valuable. In economists' jargon, in short, both the demand curve and the supply curve would fall. The wages of those women, therefore, would fall.
AAAAAAAaaaaaaaannnnnnddddddddd........a pie chart:

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