Tuesday, January 31, 2017


The Report of the Iraq Inquiry was published on July 6, 2016. Named the Chilcot Report after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, it was a public inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War. It is another view, quite unflattering towards Britain's leadership--and the Americans'.

So what should we think about Iraq, WMDs, Bush and the "coalition?"

Carne William Ross, former British diplomat, writing on Iraq and WMD: "The UK and US believed that Iraq may have had some residual stocks of WMD (in particular BW or CW, but not nuclear) but at no point from 1998-2002, during the years I worked on the issue, did we believe that there was anything like sufficient to constitute a threat to Iraq's neighbors, let alone to the UK or US.  The claim, repeated ad nauseam to this day, that Bush and Blair were "misled" by intelligence that there was a threat is not true."
Christopher Hitchens, writing in the Sept. 5, 2005 issue of the "Weekly Standard": "You said there were WMDs in Iraq and that Saddam had friends in al Quaeda...Blah, blah, pants on fire". I have had many opportunities to tire of this mantra. It takes ten seconds to intone the said mantra. It would take me, on my most eloquent C-SPAN day, at the very least five minutes  to say that Abdul Rahman Yasin, who mixed the chemicals for the World Trade Center attack in 1993, subsequently sought and found refuge in Baghdad; that Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, Saddam's senior physicist, was able to lead American soldiers to nuclear centrifuge parts and a blueprint for a complete centrifuge (the crown jewel of nuclear physics) buried on the orders of Qusay Hussein; that Saddam's agents were in Damascus as late as February 2003, negotiating to purchase missiles off the shelf from North Korea; or that Rolf Ekeus, the great Swedish socialist who founded the inspection process in Iraq after 1991, has told me for the record that he was offered a $2 million bribe in a face-to-face meeting with Tariq Aziz. And these eye-catching examples would by no means exhaust my repertoire, or empty my quiver. Yes, it must be admitted that Bush and Blair made a hash of a good case, largely because they preferred to scare people rather than enlighten them. Still, the only real strategy of deception has come from those who believe, or pretend, that Saddam Hussein was no problem". 
After U.S. forces failed to find Iraq's WMD stockpiles, administration sources told author Bob Woodward that Tenet had assured them on the eve of the war that finding such weapons would be a "slam dunk." In his 2004 book, Plan of Attack, Woodward wrote that Tenet made the "slam-dunk" comment while briefing Bush and Cheney in December 2002, three months before the invasion of Iraq began.
Former CIA director George Tenet says in an interview to be aired Sunday that the Bush administration made him the scapegoat for the Iraq invasion by twisting his words to make it seem he was certain Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Tenet says in a 60 Minutes interview that after no weapons were found, the administration planted stories that the United States invaded Iraq based on the erroneous intelligence Tenet provided.
Former CIA deputy director Mike Morell, in his book, “The Great War of Our Time,” write about Tenet, intel and WMD.“When we wrote pieces for the president, the analysts wrote with authority on the [weapons of mass destruction] issue,” Morell writes. “This is why I personally never found fault with George Tenet’s alleged “slam dunk” comment.”
“The way the [intelligence] analysts talked and wrote about their judgments,” Morell adds, “would have led anyone to think it was a slam dunk— that is, that Saddam definitely had active WMD programs. No one ever said to me, [agency analyst Jami] Miscik, [ex-director John] McLaughlin, Tenet, [Condoleezza] Rice, or the president, ‘You know, there is a chance he might not have them.’ Such a statement would have gotten everyone’s attention,”  Morell writes.
So many axes. So many grinders. A blizzard of contradictory opinions. And from intelligent and knowledgeable people. Inquiring minds want to know.
If you were to ask the single most disturbing question about Iraq and WMDs it would be this: How could they not find the WMDs--or at least report that they had. After all, that is what Intel agencies do; they create circumstances that benefit their nation. If they did not find WMDs, why did they not just say they did?

Monday, January 30, 2017


The Russian poet Osip  Mandelstam has become, for many, the symbol of all those destroyed by Stalin's attack on the arts. This is partly due to his poetry -- most rank him among the best Russian poets, some among the best of all 20th century poets -- and partly due to his wife. Nadezhda Mandelstam salvaged many of Mandelstam's banned poems by either memorizing them or collecting them in manuscript form; she also chillingly and movingly documented her husband's death and times in her memoir, Hope Against Hope.

Osip Mandelstam was brought up in St. Petersburg in a cultured, outward-looking way -- music, the classics, some time at the Sorbonne and the University of Heidelberg. His early poetry appeared in the progressive magazines; he described "Acmeism," the school of poetry to which he belonged, as a "yearning for world culture." He did not react well to Stalin's narrow-mindedness and boot-kick politics. Though Mandelstam's poems can be allusive and complex, he made this one, written in 1933, easy to understand -- and therefore available only to a trusted circle of friends:

We live without feeling beneath us firm ground,
At ten feet away you can't hear the sound

Of any words but "the wild man in the Kremlin,
Slayer of peasants and soul-strangling gremlin."

Each thick finger of his is as fat as a worm,
To his ten-ton words we all have to listen....

Mandelstam was arrested about seven months later. It was shortly afterwards that he became the subject of Stalin's famous telephone call to Boris Pasternak, himself a possible target at this point and therefore susceptible to turn-the-screw tactics: Had Pasternak heard the poem? What did he think of Mandelstam? Pasternak avoided the poem and praised the poet, but this did nothing to save Mandelstam from the four-year nightmare -- interrogation, imprisonment, exile, release, re-imprisonment, final disappearance -- documented by his wife.

The name Nadezhda means "Hope." Her book was published when she was in her seventies, and there is no Dr. Zhivago sentimentality in it -- Christopher Lehmann-Haupt's review described "a tough, old woman's tongue, spare, matter-of-fact, unadorned by figures of speech." It has moments of black humor, such as the story of one party official so swamped by his tattle-telling system that he had to announce a ban on unsigned denunciations. But mostly it is compulsive, let-this-not-happen reading, full of iron love for a husband and, from first door-knock to last rubber-stamp, contempt for a system:

The issue of a death certificate was not the rule but the exception. To all intents and purposes, as far as his civil status was concerned, a person could be considered dead from the moment he was sent to a camp, or, indeed, from the moment of his arrest, which was automatically followed by his conviction and sentence to imprisonment in a camp. This meant he vanished so completely that it was tantamount to physical death. Nobody bothered to tell a man's relatives when he died in camp or prison: you regarded yourself as a widow or orphan from the moment of his arrest. When a woman was told in the Prosecutor's office that her husband had been given ten years, the official sometimes added: "You can remarry." Nobody ever raised the awkward question as to how this gracious "permission" to remarry could be squared with the official sentence....
(from Steve King)

Sunday, January 29, 2017


We are inundated with the concerns of human rights, their origins and the confusion of individual rights and groups, particularly as individual rights are mediated by groups. A current debate concerns the relationship between the concept of "liberty" and parallel notions that arose at the same time. Is free trade involved? Science and scientific thinking? The movement away from agriculture? There is a lot of debate and it is intense; here is one of the more disputed ideas: 

In his recent book Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, political theorist Larry Siedentop hints that Christian doctrine, in the form of the ideas set forth by St. Paul, is the necessary foundation for liberal individualism and that the ideas of rights not only emerged from a particular context, but could not have emerged elsewhere, and perhaps could not be realized at all without the necessary theological context. Siedentop argues that it was St. Paul’s message that made liberal individualism possible. According to Siedentop, St. Paul’s "understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection introduced to the world a new picture of reality. It provided an ontological foundation for “the individual,” through the promise that humans have access to the deepest reality as individuals rather than merely as members of a group."
And read this shocking excerpt from the writings of the lawyer, Pope Innocent IV, about the year 1250 where he writes about the rights of non-Christians:

"I maintain . . . that lordship, possession and jurisdiction can belong to infidels licitly and without sin, for these things were made not only for the faithful but for every rational creature as has been said. For he makes his sun to rise on the just and the wicked and he feeds the birds of the air, Matthew c.5, c.6. Accordingly we say that it is not licit for the pope or the faithful to take away from infidels their belongings or their lordships or jurisdictions because they possess them without sin."

Saturday, January 28, 2017


"I was told by the founding members of the Women's Studies Department at the State University of New York at Albany that I had been brainwashed by male scientists to believe that hormones even existed, much less had any role in the shaping of our identity and character."--Camille Paglia

Low morale at the National Security Agency is causing some of the agency’s most talented people to leave in favor of private sector jobs, former NSA Director Keith Alexander told a room full of journalism students, professors and cybersecurity executives Tuesday. The retired general and other insiders say a combination of economic and social factors — including negative press coverage — have played a part.
“I am honestly surprised that some of these people in cyber companies make up to seven figures. That’s five times what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff makes. Right? And these are people that are 32 years old.”
“Do the math. [The NSA] has great competition,” he said.

Starbucks Corp co-founder Howard Schultz's plan to build a new prestige brand is a bet that moving upscale can raise the profile of the world's largest coffee brand with millennials. 
Schultz in April will step down as chief executive to focus on building 1,000 new "Reserve" brand stores. Over time there also will be as many as 30 large, showcase Reserve Roastery and Tasting Rooms in major cities around the world. One such cafe on Manhattan's Upper East Side offers $10 cups of coffee made in glass siphons, $10 "flights" of Reserve brews and nitro cold brew via a separate Reserve menu.

After shooting John Lennon four times, Chapman sat down on the sidewalk to read the book The Catcher in the Rye while he waited for police. Lennon kept a journal. His last journal entry quotes the beginning of Robert Browning's "Rabbi Ben Ezra," turned into song in Lennon's last year-"Grow old along with me! / The best is yet to be...."

There is a new book called ADHD Nation about the incredible campaign the Pharmas created to advance their ADHD diagnosis and drugs. An article on it includes this story of Leo Tolstoy as a child who was said to exemplify the classic Tolstoy "wildness:" "As the household sat down to table, the boy took a running jump headfirst through the first-floor window above them, explaining, when he regained consciousness, that he had wanted to surprise everyone."

The origin of the phrase "dismal science:" Economists such as John Stuart Mill argued that it was institutions, not race, that explained why some nations were rich and others poor. Thomas Carlyle attacked Mill for supporting the emancipation of slaves. It was this fact—that economics assumed that people were basically all the same, and thus all entitled to liberty—that led Carlyle to label economics 'the dismal science.'

What is...CRISPR?

An industry, supported by more than $200 million from the National Science Foundation, of sexual discrimination of women in science persists despite overwhelming evidence—from experiments as well as extensive studies of who gets academic jobs and research grants—that a female scientist is treated as well as or better than an equally qualified male. In a rigorous set of five experiments published last year, the female candidate was preferred two-to-one over an equivalent male. The main reason for sexual disparities in some fields is a difference in interests: from an early age, more males are more interested in fields like physics and engineering, while more females are interested in fields like biology and psychology (where most doctorates go to women).

Half of American imports are raw materials or intermediate goods used by U.S.-based producers. So they are really intermediaries for American production. So, how is that bad?

In a 1976 book, The Genesis Strategy, the climatologist Stephen Schneider advocated a new fourth branch of the federal government (with experts like himself serving 20-year terms) to deal with the imminent crisis of global cooling. He later switched to become a leader in the global-warming debate.

Mansuetude: noun: 1. mildness; gentleness: the mansuetude of Christian love.

You are safe, dear old man, you are safe, temporarily, in the mansuetude of our care, Julie said. The what? The mansuetude that is to say mild gentleness of our care.
-- Donald Barthelme, The Dead Father, 1975
Mansuetude first appears in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (“The Parson’s Tale”) and is usually associated with its opposite vices—anger, ferocity, and violence. The frequency of mansuetude has steadily declined since the 1920s and is now considered rare or archaic. The word entered English in the 1390s.

When Obama diplomatically ducked a question on the campaign trail about the age of the Earth (“I don’t presume to know”), the press paid no attention. When Marco Rubio later did the same thing (“I’m not a scientist”), he was lambasted as a typical Republican ignoramus determined to bring back the Dark Ages.

A simple question about the minimum wage:  Would people accept wages that third parties don’t like if there were better alternatives available? If not, then the price is market-set. So, then, is the wage fiat-set as "minimum" arbitrary or based upon some market concept?

Golden oldie:

Thomas Leonard's thesis in his book, Illiberal Reformers, is that the issues of race and eugenics were prominent in the period between the appearance of Darwin's Origin of the Species and the Nazi era. His account of the times reveal several similarities with the current campaign to address climate change. First, there was the widespread belief among the eugenicists that their views were grounded in science. Second, there was a fear that the future of humanity depended on developing the will and the means to intervene to change course. "'Race suicide' was a Progressive Era catchphrase, coined by the captious Edward A. Ross to describe the theory that races compete, and racial competition is subject to a kind of Gresham's Law (that is, bad heredity drives out good). Workers of inferior races, because they are able to live on less than the American workingman, accept lower wages. American workers refuse to reduce their living standards to the immigrant's low level, so, in the face of lower wages, opt to have fewer children. Thus did the inferior races outbreed their biological betters." (Leonard)
This has often been in the background of minimum wage legislation.

CRISPR, the new genome editing tool, is going to court, but not to assess its terrifying potential. No, several big universities--East Coast vs. West Coast--are arguing over the rights to patent.

The world is awash in the bad experiments of non-scientific thinkers using science badly. The 19th Century and early 20th are filled with half-baked social manipulations and quasi-science.  "And the great cry that rises from all our manufacturing cities, louder than their furnace blast, is all in very deed for this,—that we manufacture everything there except men; we blanch cotton, and strengthen steel, and refine sugar, and shape pottery; but to brighten, to strengthen, to refine, or to form a single living spirit, never enters into their estimate of advantages." John Ruskin wrote that.
And the economists agreed. The American Economic Association [AEA] was formally established in 1885. In 1888, the AEA offered a prize for the best essay on the evils of unrestricted immigration. A few months after the Statue of Liberty was lit, progressive economist Edward Bemis devised the literacy test as a technique for identifying and 'rigorously excluding the plainly unfit.'
"The American Economic Association was never a bastion of support for free trade, limited government intervention, and the dignity of every individual. On the contrary, it was founded by men who were steeped in doctrines that elevated the collective over the individual, who were convinced that markets were inferior to expert planning, and who believed in racial hierarchy as a scientifically-grounded concept with profound social significance." (Kling)

World Values survey now finds that one in six Americans regard the idea of military government as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’ whereas only one in sixteen felt this way a few years ago.

Will on Trump's Carrier deal: "So, this is the new conservatism’s recipe for restored greatness: Political coercion shall supplant economic calculation in shaping decisions by companies in what is called, with diminishing accuracy, the private sector. This will be done partly as conservatism’s challenge to liberalism’s supremacy in the victimhood sweepstakes, telling aggrieved groups that they are helpless victims of vast, impersonal forces, against which they can be protected only by government interventions.
Responding to political threats larded with the money of other people, Carrier has somewhat modified its planned transfers of some manufacturing to Mexico. This represents the dawn of bipartisanship: The Republican Party now shares one of progressivism’s defining aspirations — government industrial policy, with the political class picking winners and losers within, and between, economic sectors. This always involves the essence of socialism — capital allocation, whereby government overrides market signals about the efficient allocation of scarce resources. Therefore it inevitably subtracts from economic vitality and job creation."

8 percent of the human genome has changed since the departure of homo sapiens from Africa. New analysis has revealed five distinguishable races that evolved in response to regional conditions: Africans, East Asians, Caucasians, the natives of the Americas, and the peoples of Australia and Papua New Guinea. Yet there is a conscious effort on the part of Western culture to eliminate race as a concept. The American Anthropological Association declares race to be “a human invention” that is “about culture, not biology.” The American Sociological Association calls race a “social construct.” Epigenetics will probably be a component in the debate as well.

There is a moral foundation to Classical economics because, as Adam Smith claimed, the concept of "fairness" is required for trade to take place. To trade we must recognize that the other has a moral standing equal to our own.

AASAAAaaaannnnnnndddddd......a graph:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Wilbur Ross

There are two reasons Adam Smith was skeptical about government's ability to regulate free trade successfully:  First, government tended to be much less responsive to the needs of the people than self-interested merchants; and, Second, special interest groups could manipulate governments, leading to policies for their own enrichment rather than the public benefit.
Government was inefficient and could be influenced.

Sooooo.....look at Trump’s choice to be commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, who was a registered Democrat until nine days into the transition. He has praised China’s central direction of its economy using five-year plans. Ross favors a U.S. “industrial policy” whereby government would “decide which industries are we going to really promote — the so-called industries of the future.”

Well, maybe he's smarter than Smith.

Thursday, January 26, 2017


"Harry, I wouldn't want to exploit you."--Groucho Marx, denying his Communist friend a job.

Students at Oberlin have complained that their dining hall’s choice to serve sushi was “appropriative” and "disrespectful.” At the University of San Francisco, white students wearing their hair in dreadlocks were accused of wrongly appropriating a hairstyle that is supposedly the sole preserve of “black culture.” There has been a cancellation of a yoga class at the University of Ottawa because yoga in North America has supposedly been appropriated from a culture that “experienced oppression, cultural genocide, and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy.”

We have been automating work for two centuries and so far the effect is to create more jobs, not fewer. Farming once employed more than 90% of people, and without them we would have starved. Today, it’s just a few percent. The followers of the mysterious “Captain Swing” who destroyed threshing machines in 1830 were convinced that machines stole work. Instead of which, farm labourers became factory workers; factory workers later became call-centre workers. In both transitions, pay rose and work became safer, less physically demanding and less exposed to the elements.
In 1949, the cybernetics pioneer Norbert Wiener warned that computers in factories could usher in “an industrial revolution of unmitigated cruelty”. In 1964, a panel of the great and the good, including the Nobel prize winners Linus Pauling and Gunnar Myrdal, warned that automation would mean “potentially unlimited output by systems of machines which will require little cooperation from human beings”. This hoary old myth just keeps coming round again and again.--Ridley

While Latino, black and Asian populations continue to grow, soaring death rates among white middle-aged Americans - combined with the fact that white families are having less children - mean certain states are seeing falling Caucasian populations. This weird analysis, that somehow distinguishes "Latinos" from "whites," shows a decline in white births relative to white deaths in the U.S.. The study attributes this change to a silent 'epidemic' of deaths from suicides, drug and alcohol poisoning.

Who is....Rep. Keith Ellison?
Brunello di Montalcino is the highest stage of the marvelous but capricious Sangiovese grape. Italy is usually regarded as a red wine country. Of the dozens of red grape varieties, the two that usually get the most votes as “the best” are Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. The latter of these is the backbone of wines like Chianti and the proprietary “Super Tuscans” from various parts of Tuscany, but it is generally regarded as reaching its highest form of expression in wines from the hillside town of Montalcino in a wine called Brunello. Hence the full name of the wine, Brunello di Montalcino.

A new federal report shows that the government is expected to forgive at least $108 billion in student debt in the coming years.

Magnus Carlsen of Norway has won the World Chess Championship for the third consecutive time after defeating challenger Sergey Karjakin of Russia--as well as everyone else in Russia.  Astonishing.
Jared Bernstein in a WashPo essay states that the U.S. trade deficit is “a significant drag on growth and manufacturing jobs.”   For America to run a trade deficit with non-Americans is for America to receive a net inflow of capital from non-Americans. A letter in response asked these questions:
--Does the building of stores throughout America by Ikea, Sony, and other non-American companies impose “a significant drag on growth” in the U.S.?  If so, how?

– Did the $7.1 billion spent by Shuanghui International to buy Smithfield Foods impose “a significant drag on growth” in the U.S.?  If so, how?
– Was the $15.6 billion that the British-Swedish firm AstraZeneca paid a decade ago for Maryland-based MedImmune “a significant drag on growth” in the U.S.?  If so, how?
– When Japan-based Softbank bought the ailing Kansas-based Sprint for $21.6 billion, was there a resulting “significant drag on growth” in the U.S.?  If so, why?
Trump tweeted about prison sentences for flag burners. He received very little criticism for it, presumably because his position is similar to the legal sanctions in a bill on flag burning that Senator Hillary Clinton co-sponsored: the Flag Protection Act of 2005. (it did not pass)

There is a rumor the Homicidal Derangement Syndrome might start using arson of forests as a technique to achieve whatever random violence is supposed to achieve. That will be a bad PR move as it will alienate the Left, who like trees a lot more than they like people.

Trump wants to lower the corporate tax rate to 15%. The idea is that you lower the rate, broaden the base, collect more revenue, and maybe repatriate some of that overseas income. There are trillions--TRILLIONS--there. Apple borrows to pay dividends because it is cheaper than repatriating. But he wants to apply the new rate to not just C corporations but to pass-through entities such as LLCs and S corps and partnerships. So the tax advantages of these entities will fade. Things might not get better, but they will get simpler.

The main point here is that better economic outcomes arise when patterns of sustainable specialization and trade are formed.  These patterns do not come about as a result of tinkering undertaken by the Federal Reserve or by deficit spending undertaken by Congress.  It requires the creative, decentralized, trial-and-error efforts of thousands of entrepreneurs and millions of individuals the best way to use their talents.  Probably the best thing that the government can do to encourage new forms of specialization is to rethink existing policies that restrict competition, discourage innovation, and retard mobility. --Kling
Yet America’s new president-elect seems intent on doubling-down on existing policies that restrict competition, discourage innovation, and retard mobility.

If Trump has his way with taxes, the standard deduction will be $30,000 for married filing jointly, instead of $12,600. Think about the implications. Who pays more than $30,000 of mortgage interest every year? Why itemize deductions? All this running around we do at tax time, collecting receipts and such, could go away for all except the very wealthy. Those tax deduction distortions could start to change.

Golden oldie:

Imagine Rep. Keith Ellison being suggested to be head of the DNC. He has close ties to The Nation of Islam, the creation of the Honorable Elisha Muhammad, the religious gangster and the man who murdered his protégé, Malcolm X, because he became disenchanted with the Honorable Elisha's unnatural attachment to little girls. Now, imagine if Ellison were not a Liberal.

Removing wine spills:
Blot the wine.
Cotton, Linen, Polyester (and most fabrics other than wool or silk): When you are ready to wash the garment, use oxygen bleach alternative and hot water mixed into a container to dip the stain into. To be on the safe side, apply a bit of the solution to an inside hem to test for colorfastness, but this solution is very safe. The stain will probably will disappear immediately–if not, dip again! The stain may turn blue or purple, this is fine! Use a little laundry soap and a brush to remove the color, then launder as usual.
Wool and Silk: Wool and silk are much tougher to remove wine, but it is certainly not impossible. Unlike other fabrics, you really should rinse if you are able. If not, blot with cool plain water. (Using club soda is really no more effective than tap water, so plain water is fine.) When you are ready to wash the garment, start with Dawn dish detergent and vinegar. Dawn works on protein fabrics, so it’s effectiveness is much better on wool and silk. Mix 1 tablespoon Dawn, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 2 cups water. Apply to the stain, leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse with cool water. You might have to repeat this once or twice to get all of the wine out, but it works 90% of the time on its own.
Drying Your Garment: Hang the garment to dry the first few washes to make sure you don’t have a stain that appears in the dryer (a phantom stain). If you do still have a little stain, use hydrogen peroxide applied directly to the stain, and wash. The downside of hydrogen peroxide is that it isn’t entirely removing the stain, just altering its appearance. (from WINE CULTURE MAGAZINE)

Trump has somehow convinced Carrier not to close their plant and move to Mexico. "Companies are not going to leave the U.S. anymore without consequences,” he has said. Let's just say this is evidence of success. So, if you want to build a company, would you build it here now, under such threatening and limiting circumstances?

This is from the WashPo by Woodward/Costa back in April when president-elect Trump was only a candidate:
"In his first 100 days, Trump said, he would cut taxes, “renegotiate trade deals and renegotiate military deals,” including altering the U.S. role in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
He insisted that he would be able to get rid of the nation’s more than $19 trillion national debt “over a period of eight years.”
Most economists would consider this impossible because it could require taking more than $2 trillion a year out of the annual $4 trillion budget to pay off holders of the debt.
Trump vehemently disagrees: “I’m renegotiating all of our deals, the big trade deals that we’re doing so badly on. With China, $505 billion this year in trade.” He said that economic growth he foresees as a consequence of renegotiated deals would enable the United States to pay down the debt — although many economists have said the exact opposite, that a trade war would be crippling to the U.S. economy."

James Gattuso and Diane Katz have reported that just the 229 major federal regulations issued since 2009 added over $100 billion in annual costs (according to the regulatory agencies), $22 billion coming in 2015. Estimates of the total regulatory costs now exceeding income tax burdens at over $2 trillion annually.
Inherent in the concept of "class" is abrasiveness.
I am always annoyed when the class notion is applied to this country. Middleton is not authentic in England; she can be taught but she cannot ascend. That is class, as class as India.
This country has complete mobility--one could argue that the lack of any social structure has been harmful. But there is this hangover from the 19th Century where the superficial social analysis--Marx etal--groups people into segments that are more than immutable, they are also violent and inevitable enemies.
Sure, there are certain commonalities among people but these identities, that are being touted as basic, are superficial and flimsy. Being a part of a large group--gay, female, amputee, employed, Cub fan--is not an identity as class is elsewhere.
Such inclusive generalization is actually reminiscent of bigotry.

China's 2010 census showed that the fertility rate of the heavily industrialized north-east had dropped to only 0.75, too low to replace an ageing labor pool. More recent mid-cycle census data from 2015 has not yet been released, but is likely to show a further decline. And people are leaving the area in droves. But output is up, over 50% over the last years. ?Automation?

A point raised by Crane:
Bernard Williams, one of the great philosophers of the twentieth century, distinguished ethics – which is concerned with broad questions about how to live – from morality, the more narrow and abstract system of obligation, duty, right and wrong, etc. Williams thought that contemporary Western philosophy had become too obsessed with morality, and had lost sight of the importance of ethics.


AAAAaaaaaaannnnnndddddd.....a map:

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


The head of the CIA’s Counter­terrorism Center, who presided over the agency’s drone campaign and directed the hunt for Osama bin Laden, was removed from his post in 2015 by CIA Director John Brennan. This ended a nine-year tenure during which the center was transformed into a paramilitary force that employed armed drones to kill thousands of suspected terrorists and militants but also killed an unknown number of civilians.

The CTC chief came to be regarded as an Ahab-like figure known for dark suits and a darker demeanor. He could be merciless toward subordinates but was also revered for his knowledge of terrorist networks and his ability to run an organization that became almost an agency unto itself. He embodied a killing-centric approach to counter­terrorism that enraged many Muslims, even though he is a convert to Islam. He has been publicly identified in the past by both his actual first name, Mike, as well as that of his CIA-created identity, Roger.
U.S. officials said that Roger is expected to remain at the CIA in a new assignment which has yet to be determined and that he is being replaced by an agency veteran who has held a series of high-level positions, including running the CIA’s operations in Afghanistan. His name is Chris. Current and former U.S. officials said that the switch does not appear to signal a change in direction for the CTC or a retreat from the CIA’s willingness to use lethal force. “The new individual is just as aggressive with counter­terrorism operations as the guy leaving,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official who worked closely with both officers.

Roger’s removal was remarkably unceremonious. Many CTC employees first learned of the change from a chart that was distributed to the workforce outlining Brennan’s reorganization plans. The document included names of officers Brennan had picked to lead the agency’s new collection of “mission centers” and be given new titles of assistant director. Roger’s name was not on the list. “We all found out from a PowerPoint slide,” a U.S. official said.

After killing most of al-Qaeda’s core leaders, the pace of lethal drone strikes has tapered off dramatically. Roger’s successor will be under particular pressure to devise a strategy against the Islamic State, a group that has declared a new caliphate in Syria and Iraq, drawn thousands of recruits from Europe and the United States, and built a brand of brutality that has eclipsed even al-Qaeda.

Colleagues who worked with Roger describe him with a mix of awe and apprehension. Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA, described him as “one of the finest intelligence officers of his generation. I don’t think there has been a more successful unit in the history of the agency than the CTC during this individual’s tenure.”

“I think President Obama and Brennan have wanted to clip the CTC’s wings,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official who worked at the center. “But at a time when the enemy is getting stronger and stronger, how can you pull back?”
(from some old WashPo articles)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Drake Equation

Sometimes the probability of the existence of an alien society with which we might make contact is discussed in terms of something called "The Drake Equation."
In 1961, the National Academy of Sciences asked the astronomer Frank Drake to host a scientific meeting on the possibilities of “interstellar communication.” Since the odds of contact with alien life depended on how many advanced extraterrestrial civilizations existed in the galaxy, Drake identified seven factors on which that number would depend, and incorporated them into an equation.
The first factor was the number of stars born each year. The second was the fraction of stars that had planets. After that came the number of planets per star that traveled in orbits in the right locations for life to form (assuming life requires liquid water). The next factor was the fraction of such planets where life actually got started. Then came factors for the fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligence and advanced civilizations (meaning radio signal-emitting) evolved. The final factor was the average lifetime of a technological civilization.
Sometimes this kind of wild speculation and guesswork is called "science."

Monday, January 23, 2017


There is a subtle change that seems to be developing in political thinking. It is becoming more noticeable as the political positions begin to spread and harden. Showing nothing is new under the sun, one is a Rousseau-like anxiety in the face of development and the other is its optimistic determinist obverse that believes that development progresses--Marx-like or Nagel-like--to an inevitable positive.
There is a nice summary of this conflict on Virginia Postrel's website that I have taken from a review of her book, The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress. I have not read the book but the thesis is interesting as it puts political thinking in a very different light from the usual.

Today we have greater wealth, health, opportunity, and choice than at any time in history - the fruits of human ingenuity, curiosity, and perseverance. Yet a chorus of intellectuals and politicians loudly laments our condition. Technology, they say, enslaves us. Economic change makes us insecure. Popular culture coarsens and brutalizes us. Consumerism despoils the environment. The future, they say, is dangerously out of control, and unless we rein in these forces of change and guide them closely, we risk disaster.

Virginia Postrel explodes this myth, embarking on a bold exploration of how progress really occurs. In areas of endeavor ranging from fashion to fisheries, from movies to medicine, from contact lenses to computers, she shows how and why unplanned, open-ended trial and error - not conformity to one central vision - is the key to human betterment. Thus, the true enemies of humanity's future are those who insist on prescribing outcomes in advance, circumventing the process of competition and experiment in favor of their own preconceptions and prejudices.

Postrel argues that these conflicting views of progress, rather than the traditional left and right, increasingly define our political and cultural debate. On one side, she identifies a collection of strange bedfellows: Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader standing shoulder to shoulder against international trade; "right-wing" nativists and "left-wing" environmentalists opposing immigration; traditionalists and technocrats denouncing Wal-Mart, biotechnology, the Internet, and suburban "sprawl." Some prefer a pre-industrial past, while others envision a bureaucratically engineered future, but all share a devotion to what she calls "stasis," a controlled, uniform society that changes only with permission from some central authority.

On the other side is an emerging coalition in support of what Postrel calls "dynamism": an open-ended society where creativity and enterprise, operating under predictable rules, generate progress in unpredictable ways. Dynamists are united not by a single political agenda but by an appreciation for such complex evolutionary processes as scientific inquiry, market competition, artistic development, and technological invention. Entrepreneurs and artists, scientists and legal theorists, cultural analysts and computer programmers, dynamists are, says Postrel, "the party of life."

The Future and Its Enemies is a vigorous manifesto for the dynamist world view, as well as a penetrating analysis of how our beliefs about personal knowledge, nature, virtue, and even the relation between work and play shape the way we run our businesses, make public policy, and search for truth and beauty. Controversial and provocative, Virginia Postrel's thesis heralds a fundamental shift in the way we view politics, culture, and society as we face an unknown—and thus invigorating—future.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


Tennyson wrote a poem called "The Brook" about a small stream in his village Somersby, the village in Lincolnshire where Tennyson grew up. The brook is the little river Lymn. The recurring line is its theme:

"For men may come and men may go,
But I go on for ever."
This poem by R. S. Thomas is something of a comment on Tennyson's poem, starting out unimpressed with the stream but progressing to an appreciation of the breadth of natural wonders and, more importantly, the creative power of the imagination.

Somersby Brook

This brook was the pulse of his being;I know;
I have seen it,
An insignificant affair, stroking the grasses
In the drab fields.
But when the land is flat and there is nowhere to go,
No hill steep enough to sharpen the mind,
No wood darkening to an old legend,
One ignores the whole and prizes the parts,
Making a forest of the green cress,
A town of the trees’ roots.

So it was then in his young life
Beginning at Somersby;
His thoughts were attuned to the brook’s rhythm;
Its lithe movements, scaly with sunlight,
Startled his mind with a new joy.
And in the dark, if he leaned from his window,
It was as if the night spokeIn shrewd whispers –
And all because of this mean runnel,
Toying idly with a few stones,
Stones that became words in his verse,
Poised and polished in the mind’s stream.
R. S. THOMAS (1954)

Saturday, January 21, 2017


Stricken while journeying
my dreams still wander about
but on withered fields. ---Basho

President Trump??!!
Sowell on disparities vs. discrimination: It was fourth down in a National Football League game, and the punting team came onto the field. The other team went into their formation to defend against the punt. Then somebody noticed that the man set to kick the punt was black. "Fake!" one of the defenders cried out. That cry was immediately echoed by others, and the defending team changed their formation, to guard against the kicker either running with the ball or throwing it. But in fact he punted. Sowell notes that there are remarkable racial disparities in professional football punters but asks, is it discrimination? 

The custom of using oak to ferment and age Chardonnay-based wines was developed in Burgundy, home of this grape variety. It is difficult to know precisely when barrels came into use in this region, but it certainly has been common practice for centuries. At first, a watertight wood barrel, in a size one person could manage to roll and tilt, was simply a practical choice. Gradually, techniques were developed, most likely by trial and error, to magnify the contribution of barrel fermentation and maturation. For Chardonnay in Burgundy, this included stirring the lees (bâtonnage in French) to enrich the wine. For most of history, wood vats and barrels were reused for many years; now, it is the norm to have a proportion of new wood for every vintage of a premium Chardonnay. Modern winemakers agree as a rule that Chardonnay, which is comparatively neutral in flavor, benefits from contact with wood. At the same time, some producers - by personal choice or to reduce cost - prefer to limit the percentage of new oak, or, in some cases, to avoid it altogether. Fermentation in inert tank is a widespread technique, although a wood imprint may still be obtained with chips or staves. Limiting the added flavors of oak also mimics a particular style of Burgundy Chardonnay, the one associated with Chablis (even there, however, a degree of new oak is now in favor for premier and grand cru wines). The barrel production regime which evolved in Burgundy for Chardonnay is the one normally favored all around the world for this variety, complemented by a handful of "no-oak" styles. -- Bohmrich

Who is....Yoenis Cespedes?

There is a strong argument--in opposition to the Trump declaration--that imports are good for employment, not bad. The increased economic activity associated with every stage of the import process helps support millions of jobs in the U.S.. A Heritage Foundation analysis shows that over half a million American jobs are supported by imports of clothes and toys from China alone.

I recently spoke with an articulate and thoughtful representative of what I see as the Young Left in an effort to assess our divergent views. I was concerned about the increasingly complex society and the government's increasingly obvious difficulty in managing it, the risks to the citizenry engendered by the government's errors, and the value of institutions in sheltering individuals from those errors. She was concerned with the individuals who were vulnerable in society--immigrants, prisoners, gays, the poor--with little voice, great individual risk and few champions. She was willing to trade the theoretical risk for whatever advantage those groups could obtain.
That may just sum it all up.

Good news: Castro is getting a closer, kinder look.
The authoritative Black Book of Communism blames him for 15-17,000 executions. ("Blames" might be a bit too harsh and judgmental.) More speculative estimates put the blood of another 80,000 Cubans on his hands. But these numbers are being prefaced now by "only." Compared to Stalin or Pol Pot, Castro did not kill so many. Now that we have crossed that contextual hurdle, Ted Bundy was a piker.
Remember, we will have no generalities here. Generalities are the root of bigotry. Not all mass murderers are alike; each must be seen and understood as an individual. Each has his very own story.

The “horizon problem”  states that the universe reached a uniform temperature long before energy-carrying photons traveling at constant speed could have had the time to reach all corners of the expanding universe. One solution is that light at the beginning of the universe traveled faster than gravity to distribute the temperature. So light speed would not be a constant.
So...that should give you a headache.

From the LT:
The world has been a disappointment to Mr Obama. When Vladimir Putin’s Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, John Kerry, the outgoing secretary of state, said: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in a 19th-century fashion by invading another country on [a] completely trumped up pretext.”
But that is how the world often operates. The U.S. had done just that to Iraq in the 21st century.

Golden oldie:

Natural gas is plentiful and cheap. We are now able to recover gas from areas previously unapproachable. The availability has suppressed pri...

In 1947, after Britain, unable to find a solution in the combat between Jewish and Arab forces in Palestine, referred the problem to the United Nations, the U.N. voted to partition Palestine. These world powers thought they were solving the problem. And certainly the British thought they were ducking it.

The Brewers have decided to non-tender power-hitting first baseman Chris Carter rather than take him through his third year of arbitration eligibility. Carter is now a free agent. His is a story of the rising statistical evaluation of players in the Major Leagues. Carter, 29, hit an NL-best 41 home runs this past season while knocking in 94 runs and hitting .222/.321/.499 in 644 plate appearances. However, he was only worth 0.9 Wins Above Replacement according to Baseball Reference because he provided little offensive value outside of his ability to hit home runs and he was not a great defender at first base. Carter also led the league with 206 strikeouts.
Carter earned $2.5 million in 2016. It is said that Carter was looking at $9-10 million if he went through the arbitration process with the Brewers.

There is a simple solution for anybody upset over Trump's election: Vote to decrease the size and impact of government. The less power in the office, the less a bad guy can hurt us.

McCloskey on Marx: For example, his foundational labor theory of value was wrong, as every serious student of the matter has agreed for the past century and a half. The Blessed Smith himself had introduced the notion, and it was still believed by such splendid figures as David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, Mill being a contemporary of Marx. But neither Mill nor Marx had the benefit of the Neoclassical Revolution in the history of economic thought during the 1870s. It developed in the works of Walras, Jevons, and Menger the correct view, confirmed thereafter in a thousand scientific studies, that value is determined by how much people want things, considering the income available, not by how much effort the seller put into the things, and that the wage is determined not by bargaining strength but by the market value of what the last worker produces, considering that free labor is a little mobile.

Speaking on the Portuguese TV network RTP on November 22, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi affirmed his support for the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Come, let us reason together.

On infrastructure projects, Economist Robert Krol writes:  “Research shows that transportation project costs are significantly underestimated and traffic flows tend to be overestimated.  These errors are large and are not random, suggesting they are deliberate in order to get projects started."

Stanley Druckenmiller spoke at the Robin Hood Investors Conference where he repeated he is bullish on the American economy following Trump's victory, anticipates a much stronger dollar and higher bond yields. Notably, he joined Gundlach in predicting 10 Year yields would rise to 6% over the next year or two, a process which would lead to an equity market selloff.


For anyone wondering how small market baseball teams are pressured:  The Mets have re-signed Yoenis Cespedes. The deal is reported to be worth four years and $110 million. It is the largest free agent deal ever handed out by the Mets. Cespedes’ $27.5 million annual average salary is the highest ever for an outfielder on a multi-year deal. Only Miguel Caberea, who averages $31 million a year, has a higher average annual salary than Cespedes will.

Bordeaux commenting on the Left's fondly remembering the legacy of Castro: "It is a perverted code of ethics that causes those who fondly remember the “accomplishments” of blood-thirsty brutes such as Fidel Castro to burst into paroxysms of anger over the alleged evil of off-shoring the production of automobile tires or of accumulating unusually large sums of financial wealth by making entrepreneurial advances in retailing."

“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.  Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century ... While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for ‘el Comandante.’ ” This was released by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Is it possible he believes this or is this simply the idiotic, routine public mendacity? And are public lies like this good for popular thinking?

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is concerned over a missing radioactive device from Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor, a Saudi paper reported.

In  almost a parody of what is wrong with the culture and the intrusion of unasked opinions of pompous amateurs into our lives, Rosie O'Donnell has diagnosed Barron Trump with autism. In a similar vein, NYU Professor Greg Grandin, in an article in "The Nation," suggests that Fidel Castro was a better man than Donald Trump and "was a full man of the Enlightenment." Now, I'm no fan of Trump but doesn't this mean that the horrors we know Castro created were not as serious as what Trump might do? Isn't that sort of stupid--even for a professor?

Reflecting on the recount demands, I cannot assess it, aside from the innate drive of these people to continue animosity and division. Even Nixon.....

California State – Northridge economist Robert Krol: “Research shows that transportation project costs are significantly underestimated and traffic flows tend to be overestimated.  These errors are large and are not random, suggesting they are deliberate in order to get projects started. Furthermore, federal highway funding is excessive and misallocated across states.  Project benefits are concentrated in a state or district whereas tax costs are spread out nationwide.  As a result, legislators embrace inefficient transportation projects because district or state voters do not pay the full project cost.  Projects move forward even when the total cost of the project exceeds total benefits.  Also, funding committee membership and vote trading distorts decisions.  Finally, government barriers slow the adoption of new technologies.”
Probably should read that again.

AAAAaaaaannnnnnddddddd........a graph:

Friday, January 20, 2017


From Michael Dirda's review of The Annotated Poe, in the Weekly Standard:

France's three greatest poets of the 19th and early-20th centuries revered him: Baudelaire translated his stories; Mallarmé composed one of his best poems, "Le Tombeau d'Edgar Poe," for the dedication of the writer's memorial in Baltimore; and Valéry insisted that the American was "the only impeccable writer." Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym—a combination of nautical adventure story, racial allegory, and fictionalized speculations about the Antarctic, as well as his only novel—so impressed Jules Verne that he produced a sequel to it: The Sphinx of the Ice Fields.

In fact, Poe's admirers were legion. Many scholars speculate that Pym influenced Moby-Dick. Abraham Lincoln, it was once reported, "suffers no year to pass without a perusal of this author." Dostoyevsky himself introduced Russian translations of "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Black Cat," and "The Devil in the Belfry"—and surely, his Underground Man is a cousin to Poe's soul-baring monomaniacs. To the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Poe was nothing less than "the supreme original short story writer of all time." The usually prickly Bernard Shaw agreed with Conan Doyle, adding, "The story of the Lady Ligeia is not merely one of the wonders of literature; it is unparalleled and unapproached. There is really nothing to be said about it: we others simply take off our hats and let Mr. Poe go first." Tennyson, Hardy, and Yeats regarded that same Mr. Poe as the finest of American poets.

By the same token, H. P. Lovecraft deemed Poe the premier exponent of the modern weird tale, the first writer to understand perfectly "the very mechanics and physiology of fear and strangeness." Reconfiguring the trappings of the Gothic romance—the crumbling Bavarian castle, the insidious villain, the frightened heroine—Poe asserted that "terror is not of Germany but of the soul." In their turn, his five "tales of ratiocination"—the three investigations featuring Dupin but also, to some extent, the cryptographic treasure story "The Gold Bug" and the ballistics-oriented "Thou Art the Man"—established virtually all the elements of the classic detective story.

As Howard Haycraft observed in Murder for Pleasure, Poe more or less invented "the transcendent and eccentric detective; the admiring and slightly stupid foil; the well-intentioned blundering and unimaginativeness of the official guardians of the law; the locked-room convention; the pointing finger of unjust suspicion; the solution by surprise"—and much else. In effect, he turned reasoning into a source of narrative excitement.

If, in the weird tale and the detective story, Poe is both pioneering and exemplary, he is only slightly less so in science fiction. His sense of wonder led him to extrapolate (some would say fool the public) with "The Balloon-Hoax," a proto-Verne voyage extraordinaire about the supposed crossing of the Atlantic, and "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall," a significant contribution to the long literature of journeys to the moon. In "The Man That Was Used Up," Poe describes a steampunk version of a cyborg, half-human, half-machine, while "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" focuses on a corpse preserved and kept sentient through the power of mesmerism. Even the innocuous-sounding "Conversation of Eiros and Charmion" relates Earth's collision with a comet, leading to fiery global apocalypse: "For a moment there was a wild lurid light alone, visiting and penetrating all things. Then . . . the whole incumbent mass of ether in which we existed, burst at once into a species of intense flame. .  .  . Thus ended all."

Though "The Raven" did make him famous—the poem was quickly reprinted in 11 different periodicals—Poe was best known in his lifetime as a literary journalist. He began his career by submitting "Metzengerstein"—a gothicky revenge tale, featuring a spectral horse—for a prize awarded by the Saturday Courier of Philadelphia.

Edmund Wilson contended that Poe's was "the most remarkable body of criticism ever produced in the United States." Wilson added that, with his knowledge of Latin, Greek, Spanish, Italian, French, and German, and possibly a smattering of Hebrew, Poe stood intellectually "on higher ground than any other American writer of his time."

Thursday, January 19, 2017


This living world has had its times of stress. It is interesting that one of the significant events in Greek philosophy was the recognition that the world was not static, but constantly was changing. There have been several times in history where major changes occurred with loss of life, species and the creation of new directions in life.
Here is a timeline with markings where major extinction events occurred:
  • the end of the Tertiary Period, 1.6 million years (m.y.) ago.
  • the end of the Cretaceous Period, marking the boundary between the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods 65 m.y. ago. (Geologists use the letter K to stand for Cretaceous Period and the letter T for the Tertiary Period. Thus this boundary is commonly called the K-T boundary): Dinosaurs. Believed from a drop in seas and a massive asteroid that hit the Yucatan Peninsula.
  • the end of the Triassic, 208 m.y. ago. No explanation but countless theories.
  • the end of the Permian, 245 m.y. ago (estimated that over 96% of the species alive at the time became extinct). All of current species descended from that 4%. Cause unknown.
  • the end of the Devonian, 360 m.y. ago
  • the end of Ordovician, 438 m.y.: ago 85% of sea life
  • the end of the Cambrian period, 505 m.y. ago

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


"'Objectivity' is teaching without regard for the truth."--Wendell Berry

In 1975, the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities found that the CIA submitted stories to the American press, and that as part of the CIA's playbook was the usage of disinformation tactics against America's own population: (  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ED63A_hcd0 )
This is an old clip showing admittance of the CIA that they use the mainstream media to manipulate the thoughts and ideas of American citizens in the USA. This has ...

Question: "Do you have any people being paid by the CIA who are contributing to a major circulation — American journal?"
Answer: "We do have people who submit pieces to American journals."
Question: "Do you have any people paid by the CIA who are working for television networks?"
Answer: "This I think gets into the kind of uh, getting into the details Mr. Chairman that I'd like to get into in executive session."


Question: "Do you have any people being paid by the CIA who are contributing to the national news services — AP and UPI?"
Answer: "Well again, I think we're getting into the kind of detail Mr. Chairman that I'd prefer to handle at executive session."

ETFs are beginning to dominate investing. Part is cynicism; people do not believe in experts much any more. And this looks to be true if one follows the performance of individuals who pick individual investments.
ETFs hold baskets of underlying securities and trade throughout the day like a stock. Most track an index and stray little from their net-asset value, or NAV. But heavy trading and market volatility can compromise that consistency.
Recently, as trading in the three biggest credit ETFs approached record levels amid the market’s biggest losses since 2008, the ETFs’ shares dropped as much as 1.1 percentage point more than the net value of the securities they hold. During that period the two largest high-yield bond ETFs lost about 6 percent—2 percentage points more than the loss for the Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Index that they’re supposed to track.

In fast-moving markets, the price of your ETF may disconnect from the price of the assets it holds.

I still am confused about the election. Does the success of the Rube-publicans mean anything? Have the Dems turned into an inner city party with extensions in California and up and down the Northeast coast. Or is this a simple reaction that will normalize after a while?

Who is...Wendell Berry?

A creepy story. An American satellite abandoned in 1967 suddenly came back online and began transmitting again for the first time in 50 years.
The satellite, dubbed LES1, was built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and launched into space in 1965. A mistake in the satellite’s circuitry caused it to never leave its circular orbit, and it eventually stop transmitting in 1967.
Sounds like the opening of a sci-fi story.

In 2016, 3.5 billion adults, or 73% of total, had wealth under $10,000 accounting for 2.4% of global wealth. In contrast, the 33 million millionaires comprise 0.7% of the adult population, but own 46% of household wealth. And the, at the very top, 50,800 are worth at least $100 million, and 5,200 have assets above $500 million.
Which is to say, someone has mine.

Kaepernick has become a national symbol of newspaper focus. Every story has some outlier that become the center of attention, as if it is somehow representative. Some group called "alt-right" is getting a lot of attention and they are so small a group even they don't know who they are.

Golden oldie:

The recent effort to Bowdlerize Huck Finn should be a warning to all that nothing is safe from overprotective sanitation. However, the recen...

Thinking of awards and popular music as the new, modern art: If Bob Dylan is given the Nobel Prize, how can you not give it to The Beatles?

Technology’s heightening of society’s complexity outstrips its heightening of the social planner’s informational capabilities.  Hayek, like [Adam] Smith, drew a lesson for policy: Except in the most clear-cut cases of systemic harm, like air pollution, the supposition that government officials can figure out how to improve the results of decentralized (i.e., voluntary) decision making becomes more and more outlandish.  In his Nobel lecture, Hayek called that supposition the pretense of knowledge. As intellectuals who ponder the complex workings of the social world, we really know little aside from one hardy fact: If those who participate in an activity do so voluntarily, each is probably bettering his or her own condition.  The more complex the system is, the more skeptical we ought to be about claims to knowledge that go beyond and against that hardy fact.--Klein
Recently, fashion designer Sophie Theallet announced she would refuse to sell or donate clothes to the next first lady, Melania Trump. So....is that discriminatory? And what did Melania do to deserve her criticism?

In a letter written on March 19, 1944, Ayn Rand wrote: “Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Socialism are only superficial variations of the same monstrous theme—collectivism.” Her point was that there is no traditional left-right dichotomy between socialism (or communism) and fascism, according to which socialism is the extreme version of left-ideology and fascism is the extreme version of right-ideology (i.e., capitalism). Both are variants of statism.  She wrote,  "both “socialism” and “fascism” involve the issue of property rights. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Observe the difference in those two theories: socialism negates private property rights altogether, and advocates “the vesting of ownership and control” in the community as a whole, i.e., in the state; fascism leaves ownership in the hands of private individuals, but transfers control of the property to the government."  Fascism, she said, was “socialism for big business.”
I wonder if her single-minded passion is a good fit for the modern young voter.
Vanguard’s assets under management have swollen to $3.5 trillion, mostly in index funds.
Astronomers have spotted one of the largest known structures in the universe. Called the Vela supercluster, the newly discovered object is a massive group of several galaxy clusters, each one containing hundreds or thousands of galaxies.

A summary of current politics from Krauthammer:
"This doctrine of global consciousness found its photographic expression just two weeks ago. There was parka-bundled John Kerry on a visit to the Antarctic, to which he had dropped in to make a point about global warming. Three days later, Vladimir Putin, thinking tribally, renewed the savage bombing of Aleppo and then moved nuclear-capable missiles into Kaliningrad to remind Europeans of the perils of defying the regional strongman.
Putin is quite prepared to leave the Antarctic ice sheets to Kerry while he sets his sights on Eastern Europe and the Levant. Our allies, meanwhile, remain amazed that Obama still believes the kinds of things he said in his maiden U.N. address about the obsolescence of power politics and national domination — and acts accordingly as if his brave new world of shared universal values had already arrived."

Ross Pearson is a MMA fighter who, when asked to comment on the rash of injuries the AKA guys were getting in training, said, of the American Kickboxing Academy, said, “They’re a gym full of killers.”

With Castro's death, another mysteriously magnetic mass murderer, like his henchman Guevara, has shuffled off his mortal coil and ascended to a higher plane of immortal damnation. They have t-shirts with their images on them. Imagine t-shirts with Richard Speck or Ted Bundy. Of course, it is not the same; their twisted sadistic homicidal rage was noble, fueled by class anger, the holy Dialectic and ambition; Ted Bundy had no such higher motives. World leaders including Russian president Putin, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several Latin American politicians issued statements and tweets highlighting Castro’s achievements and extolling his virtues.

After the European Parliament called for a pause in Turkey’s EU accession talks in protest at Ankara’s “repressive” and “disproportionate” response to a violent coup attempt earlier this year an angry Erdogan said, "We are the ones who feed 3m-3.5m refugees in this country. You have betrayed your promises. If you go any further those border gates will be opened."
Poor people have become weapons.
A lot of power in what seems small. Border checks. Drug approval. In India the government has changed the money and caused all sorts of disruption. Governments can weaponize anything. Here the Indian Government has attacked it own people.

After contributing $88mm to the Clinton Foundation over the past 10 years, making them one of the Foundation's largest contributors, Australia has decided to pull all future donations. One can only wonder why the Australians would not want to contribute to the noble work any more.

AAAAAAaaannnnnnndddddd......a graph: