Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Science is built with facts as a house is with stones, but a collection of facts is no more a science than a heap of stones is a house. -Jules Henri Poincaré, mathematician, physicist, and philosopher

Bryan Caplan argues that Americans are not racist but they are xenophobic. In the United States in recent decades, race has minimal effect on earnings once you correct for obvious measures of worker productivity. But they are so protective of U.S. borders they will not even let Canadians in.

There is an article written by Peter Boettke that notes obviously the election was misjudged by experts.
What if experts are wrong in areas we think them experts in? What recent event should make us more suspicious of the judgment of these people? Every single expert in government, politics and media called this election for Clinton easily. The uniformity of their wrong opinion might have distorted how the Clinton campaign managed their resources, indirectly leading to failure.
Is there a metaphor here? And are we this hard to teach?

Although the United States maintains a relatively low average import tariff of around 3 percent, it also applies high tariffs on a wide array of “politically-sensitive” (read: highly lobbied) products: 131.8% on peanuts; 35% on tuna; 20% on various dairy products; 25% on light trucks; 16% on wool sweaters, just to name a few.  (Agriculture is particularly bad in this regard.)  We also maintain a long list of restrictive quotas on products like sugar, cheese, canned tuna, brooms, cotton, and baby formula.  And although the U.S. has 14 free trade agreements (FTAs) with 20 different countries and is a longstanding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), many of these same “sensitive” products have been exempted from the agreements’ trade liberalization commitments.  Free trade for thee, but not for me.
While America’s tariffs and other “formal” trade barriers have indeed been declining for decades, they are only a small part of the overall story.  U.S. non-tariff barriers – export subsidies, discriminatory regulations, “buy local” rules, “fair trade” duties, etc. – have exploded in recent years.  In fact, according to a recent analysis by Credit Suisse, when you add up all forms of trade barriers imposed between 1990 and 2013, the biggest protectionist in the world isn’t China or Mexico but none other than… the United States. (from an article by Scott Lincicome)

Voltaire was a parent's nightmare. He was pulled out of French schools, sent to The Netherlands and his father eventually threatened to send him to the Caribbean--then threatened him with prison. Nothing, not even a short try at law school worked. Voltaire simply was a wonderful writer with an excoriating and challenging style that drove everyone nuts. At age twenty-one he was exiled from Paris for five months, having stepped on the wrong toes with some satiric verses about the decadent life at Versailles. Six months later he was arrested again for similar offenses, this time put in the Bastille.

In 542, the Plague of Justinian swept through Italy. This plague was caused by a now-extinct strain of Yersinia Pestis, more commonly known as the Black Death. The plague was the most severe outbreak of deadly disease the world had ever known and remained the worst such incident until the Black Death in the 14th century. About a third of the population in Italy was wiped out by the disease.

The choice a patient makes between therapies (with the help of his agent, the doctor) is based on many variables: efficacy, tolerability, side effects, riskiness, monetary cost, nonmonetary cost (e.g., hassle), speed of action. These drug costs and benefits must be judged within the context of many personal values and tradeoffs: the fear of death, the fear of surgery, the fear of the hospital, potential pain, and the individual's health profile, financial status, value of time, value of health, and risk tolerance. For the FDA to decide what compounds pass this complex tradeoff is preposterous, given that the FDA can never frame the problem from the individual patient's perspective. One individual's best alternative could be another's worst. We have seen this with AIDS patients: "I don't care if I develop cancer and this costs me $20,000 a year because without it I'm dead in 6 months." If, instead of medical therapies, they were telling us what kind of washing machines to buy or where to go on vacation, we would consider it laughable. This is what von Mises [Ludwig von Mises, the noted Austrian economist who showed that information problems would prevent socialism from working] said. Centralized bureaucrats cannot make the proper decisions for individuals because they lack the requisite information.--Hooper
But they are telling us which kinds of washing machines to buy.

Who is...Shikha Dalmia?
Two months ago, Charlotte police confirmed that 70% of those arrested during the riots were from out-of-state. Station HGW reported that more than half of the anti-Trump protesters arrested in Portland were from out of state. That takes some investment.  I wonder who could be funding this? And why?

Sen. Warren is complaining about lobbyists being on Trump's transition team. "For Sen. Warren to be upset that Trump’s transition team is filled with hordes of corporate lobbyists panting for political favors is akin to a Madam being upset that her bawdyhouse is filled with hordes of men panting for female favors."--letter to WSJ. The root of this silliness is that the politician somehow sees his action as pure and the courtier as corrupt when, in fact, it is a two way street and both are corrupt.

The three companies created by Musk, viewed as long-shot start-ups, have received more than $4.9 billion in federal subsidies combined, the Los Angeles Times reports, including about $2.5 billion for SolarCity alone. SolarCity is run by his cousins. BILLION! It better work.

Golden oldie:
The country is beginning to descend into the morass known as the Affordable Care Act. This program insincerely purports to be a health care...

Personal affirmation has arisen through media outlets like Facebook. One can get approval on something--anything--with a click and a "like." Instant applause.

Societies can be malleable, maybe more than we think. Brigham Young revolutionized Mormon family structure for six decades; he personally married fifty-five women and fathered fifty-nine children. Polygamy was a radical break with 19th Century convention. How susceptible are we to change? One writer asks, "Can our commitment to college really be more rigid than 19th-century Americans' commitment to monogamy?" The fluidity of our current culture--look at the dramatic change in public attitude toward gay marriage over the last decade--makes you wonder how the modern communication structures destabilize tradition and custom. There will always be the battle between fluidity and shallowness, recalibration and stability but one wonders if communication has made these questions more frantic. And the new normal more vulnerable.

What tipped the election was about 100,000 votes spread across just three states: Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Trump won these states by 1, 0.3, and 1.2 points respectively.

Adm. Michael Rogers, head of the National Security Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command, spoke at a Wall Street Journal forum on Tuesday. He said, the number of hackers is "so large and diverse" that it's difficult to identify the perpetrators but roughly two-thirds of them are criminals looking to earn money from stealing personal information, and the remaining third are state-sponsored hackers. Regarding the Wikileaks e-mail revelations he said,  "This was a conscious effort by a nation state to attempt to achieve a specific effect." The "nation state" in question is almost certainly Russia, which the U.S. intelligence community blames for the political hacking and distribution of internal Democratic emails throughout the campaign, evidently aimed at harming Clinton and by extension helping Donald Trump. And Rogers is talking about his next boss.

Progressives are interesting in how they view the culture. If a vote goes against them, they immediately go to an alternative decision making process, the courts or changing the Electoral College. It is almost as if they want decisions separate from the decisions the culture reaches through law, history and deliberation. Maybe they just know better.


According to a recent analysis by Credit Suisse, when you add up all forms of trade barriers imposed between 1990 and 2013, the biggest protectionist in the world isn’t China or Mexico but none other than… the United States.

Shikha Dalmia writes for "Reason" and is involved in off-and-on fights over conservatism. She has an interesting column arguing against the opinion that America depends upon western European tradition to protect liberty. Why, she asks, do the minorities who heavily voted against Trump state they did so because they fear for their liberties? She writes the American idea depends upon this very point and this very group. "The whole purpose of the constitution is to protect the most vulnerable groups from tyranny. The only foolishness is the right-wing fairytale that the abstract commitments of the white majority alone today could be a reliable custodian of America's freedoms."

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged a $1 trillion infrastructure spending program to help jump-start an economy that he said during the campaign was in terrible shape. Speaking on Capitol Hill Thursday, Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen warned lawmakers that as they consider such spending, they should keep an eye on the national debt. Yellen also said that while the economy needed a big boost with fiscal stimulus after the financial crisis, that's not the case now. Now, 20 trillion dollars later for some reason, they are interested in the national debt.

3-D printing has not yet reached the level of organic copying but it is likely a matter of time. Copying organs sound reasonable for purposes like transplantation. But what about academic copying? What about copying parts or segments or bodies themselves for scientific teaching purposes? And imagine a competitive market developing.

The HMS Exeter, a heavy cruiser in the Royal Navy, weighed nearly 10,000 imperial tons. The slightly smaller HMS Encounter and the destroyer HMS Electra flanked the great beast of a ship as the trio sailed near Indonesia. On Feb. 27, 1942, they entered the Java Sea, which slices through the Indonesian islands of Java and Kalimantan. Along with them were Dutch ships HNLMS De Ruyter, HNLMS Java and HNLMS Kortenaer and many, many others.
These six ships - along with those of other Allied Forces, including Americans - engaged in a long and grueling battle with a Japanese fleet. According to the Guardian, it was one of the "costliest sea skirmishes for the allies" and was the catalyst for the Japanese gaining occupation of the Dutch East Indies.
Those six ships were sunk to the bottom of the sea. Dying along with their vessel were some 2,200 people, Dutch News reported.
The ships lay in their watery graves, about 230 feet deep, for many years before human eyes witnessed them again. In 2002, a group of amateur divers discovered the wreckage resting peacefully at the bottom of the sea.
The area was declared a sacred war grave, Time reported.
"The Battle for Java Sea is part of our collective memory," Dutch defense minister Jeanine Hennis said, according to the Dutch News. "The wrecks bear silent witness to the tragic events and form a backdrop to the many stories about the terrors of war and the comradeship between crew."
With the battle's 75th anniversary quickly approaching, a new expedition of divers set out to film the missing ships for a commemoration of the historic day.
When they reached the spot, though, researchers were shocked at what they found. Rather, they were shocked at what they didn't find.
The ships were almost entirely gone.
The assumption is that they were looted by scavengers but that water is terribly deep for that kind of work.

Read more here:

AAAAnnnnndddddd......a picture of candidates' pre-election vision:

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