Friday, March 31, 2017


A number of years ago, when the country was considerably younger in spirit, there was a movie called "Three Days of the Condor." It is about an academic guy (Robert Redford) who works as a reader for the CIA looking for interesting themes and ideas that might appear in books and journals. He discovers the possibility that a CIA unit has separated itself and gone rogue with its own agenda and policy. Redford, with the help of an unconvincing Faye Dunaway, struggle to identify and expose the CIA unit as that unit hunts them.

After some clever investigations, the bad guys are revealed but the CIA has concerns that its integrity will be undermined if Redford exposes them. So there is the threat that the CIA will protect itself by killing him.
Redford triumphantly brings his information to The New York Times, clearly a beacon of honest, righteous American thinking. Checkmate.

Can you imagine with all the NYT has done over the recent years that an American audience would not laugh themselves silly if presented with that resolution now?

Thursday, March 30, 2017


The Swamp Strikes Back

Do you remember when the Clinton people, stung by the Bush election, removed all the "W" keys from the White House keyboards before they left office?
Well, it appears that there are no less base but less juvenile and far more damaging sabotage outgoing administrations can conjure.

Daniel Henninger is no friend to Trump. But in a recent article in the WSJ he is a very unhappy guy.
His concern is the broad, shallow pool of accusations and innuendos connecting the Trump administration to the Russians. The KGB could not have dreamed of this kind of success.
First he quotes the esteemed NYT from their article on March 1:

"In the Obama administrations last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about Russian efforts to undermine the presidential election — and about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J Trump and Russians — across the government..........
At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information.
There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress. In one instance, the State Department sent a cache of documents marked “secret” to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland days before the Jan. 20 inauguration. The documents, detailing Russian efforts to intervene in elections worldwide, were sent in response to a request from Mr. Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, and were shared with Republicans on the panel."

So the Obama administration bundled the Russian Rumors and released them--released them!--to intelligence agencies and Congress under low levels of security, essentially making them available to all intel groups, foreign and domestic. This virtually assured the constant flow of unverified information on Trump from multiple anonymous but respected sites. Trump, characteristically, hit back and impugned the intel sources--not Obama--and isolated himself from the seventeen intel groups.
Trump is going to be awash with the innuendos and insinuations for the rest of his presidency. And the U.S. will be impaired with a diminished president and an isolated intel community. It will do this country a lot of damage.

Obama has stepped beyond the national interest and the effectiveness of the intel community for his own, higher personal motives. What a guy.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


"There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds." - G.K. Chesterton

Evelyn Waugh was regarded as a truly funny man, if very unconventional.
His first marriage to Evelyn Gardner was annulled; infidelity was involved. His second marriage was to Laura Herbert (1937–1966, his death)This is from a letter proposing to Laura: Waugh wrote: “I can’t advise you in my favour because I think it would be beastly for you, but think how nice it would be for me. I am restless & moody & misanthropic & lazy & have no money . . . In fact it’s a lousy proposition”.

Evelyn Waugh with his first wife, Evelyn Gardner, in 1928

Laura <i>Herbert</i> Waugh
And Laura, Added by: Terry (Todd) Ferl

During the first Gulf War in 1991 American soldiers outnumbered private contractors in the region by about 60-to-1; but, by 2006, there were nearly as many private contractors as soldiers in Iraq — about 100,000 contract employees, not counting subcontractor employees, versus 140,000 troops. Today, the government spends more (about $350 billion) on defense contractors than on all official federal bureaucrats ($250 billion). (From DiIulio's book on the subtle growth of government.)

The Squid and their numbers: Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS.N) has agreed to pay $56.5 million to resolve a U.S. class action lawsuit accusing it and other banks of rigging an interest rate benchmark used in the $553 trillion derivatives market. $553 Trillion! TRILLION!

Tom Wainwright has a new book called Narco-nomics that analyses the drug cartels as a legitimate business pursuit. Perhaps the biggest point of Wainwright's book is that governments' attempts at attacking the drug problem by focusing on limiting their supply is mistaken. Rather, argues Wainwright, they would be better served by focusing their efforts on the demand side of the market. Wainwright offers evidence that efforts at dissuading people from taking drugs in the first place has the effect of reducing the amount of drugs on the street far more than similarly priced efforts at eradicating supply.

Data released on Wednesday showed Sweden’s government generated a budget surplus of SKr85bn ($9.5bn) in 2016, with approximately SKr40bn coming from tax overpayments. The government will have to repay more than £3.5bn to businesses and individuals who purposely paid too much tax in 2016.
The government wants to discourage further overpayments but the national debt office has admitted its efforts will probably not be enough.
While bank interest rates plummeted, Swedish tax rules meant that excess deposits in taxpayers’ payment accounts continued to earn a minimum of 0.56 percent annual interest, leading many people to use them like makeshift bank accounts.

Gunmen killed five female security employees and their driver on their way to work at Kandahar airport in south Afghanistan, officials said, the latest episode of violence against women in the country’s security sector. I wonder whose idea the "female security employees" was?

Some terrific performances at the gala for the new African-American museum. Gladys Knight sans Pips was great--as were a number of very talented women I did not know. Obama was there with Michelle and both of them clapped and sang; they knew all the words. There was a terrible sweet sadness about the event. The seven surviving members of the Tuskegee pilot's unit from WW11 were introduced and the crowd jumped to its feet; big men, usually with studied indifference, wept.  There is something very bad here. I generally just dismiss the bigots and the racial entrepreneurs and assume things will work themselves out, especially since I do not believe it easy to make social change from the top down. And I think the distinction between tolerance and approval is acceptable. But these people, many rich and famous and accomplished, did not feel loved by their country or community. They do not even feel liked. 

Who is....Tom Hayden?

Mortgage applications slid 21% during the fourth quarter from the prior period after rates rose in the wake of Trump’s election.

Presidential elections are coming for Russia. They will likely be held in 2018 (though there have been rumors they could happen in 2017). Like President Xi Jinping in China, who is using “anti-corruption” as a pretense to remove rivals ahead of his reappointment at this fall’s Communist Party Congress, Putin is securing his political position in the name of fighting corruption.
The purges are not limited to governors who have significant powers in the Russian Federation’s political system. Putin has also removed generals from the Interior Ministry as well as the Ministry of Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of National Disasters. These ministries are responsible for forces that are used to control domestic social order and quell protests. Ensuring the loyalty of such ministries is essential and must be done before serious problems emerge. A total of 16 generals have been removed, according to RIA Novosti, and two of those were also removed from military service.

In a cross section of countries, we do not find that stricter regulation of entry is associated with higher quality products, better pollution records or health outcomes, or keener competition.  But stricter regulation of entry is associated with sharply higher levels of corruption, and a greater relative size of the unofficial economy.  This evidence favors public choice over the public interest theories of regulation. (Quarterly Journal of Economics)

Statistically, you’re far more likely to get killed this year in a car crash (1 in 50,000), in a plane crash (1 in 750,000), or even struck by lightning (1 in 14 million), than you are to be killed by terrorists (1 in 20 million).

Dividend aristocrats.
Exxon pays a 3.7% dividend yield.
Quarter after quarter, Exxon Mobile has been paying dividends to its shareholders without fail for decades, even at the peak of the financial crisis.Not only that, but the company has generally increased its dividend each year as well. But, for the last several years, Exxon has been borrowing money in order to maintain its dividend payments.
Last month, for example, the company reported $26.4 billion in cashflow from its business operations during 2016. But in order to maintain the business, the company had to spend $16.7 billion on what’s known in finance as “capital expenditures.” The “capex;" every year they have to replace old machinery, purchase more land, etc.
So after subtracting the capex, Exxon Mobil had $9.7 billion remaining in “free cash flow”. But, according to the company, they paid $12.5 billion in dividends.
How could it pay $12.5 billion in dividends when they only had $9.7 billion in free cash flow remaining after the capex spending?
They borrowed it.
Exxon borrowed billions of dollars in order to pay its shareholders a healthy dividend. And they’ve been doing this for years.
Verizon: in 2016, the company earned $22.7 billion from its business operations, but had $17.1 billion worth of capex.
That left $5.6 billion remaining. Yet Verizon paid $9.3 billion in dividends.
Once again, the company took on billions of dollars in additional debt.
Apple has been borrowing because it is cheaper than repatriating dollars and paying the tax.

Of the world's top 30 violinists of the 20th century, at least 20 of them are of Jewish ancestry. Jews constitute no more than 3 percent of the U.S. population but 35 percent of American Nobel Prize winners. Some serious inequality there needs addressed.

Golden oldie:

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” --J.S. Mill

A view, associated with Thomas Jefferson, holds that private finance will be smaller and less powerful only if the government is smaller and less powerful.  Government inevitably becomes the partner and enabler of major financial institutions.  Government’s attempts at oversight serve primarily to facilitate rent-seeking, which offers greater profit without greater productivity.
Whatever else one might say about the history of securities regulation in the United States, it should cause us to give Jefferson’s opinion a renewed and serious hearing.--Paul Mahoney

Engels' "The Condition of the Working Class in England" shaped the understanding of the Industrial Revolution of many--not only professional historians, but the general public, too.  Engels argued that the introduction of machinery has killed upward social mobility, making the proletariat for the first time a "permanent class of the population, whereas it had formerly often been merely a transition leading to the bourgeoisie." Not many people could be that wrong and still be taken seriously by anyone. Why? Why are these murderous prophets still taken seriously? Because unhappy people want someone to blame. And revenge. They want revenge.

The California Senate had a day to honor the late Tom Hayden.  State Senator Janet Nguyen, a Republican from Orange County, attacked him in the Senate for his support of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam war. After she switched from speaking Vietnamese to speaking English, two of the Democratic Senators tried to shut her down and she ended up being forcefully removed from the Senate floor.

AAAaaaannnnnddddd........a graph:

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


According to the AAMC the average debt of a graduating resident in medical care in 2015 is $180,000.

Least expensive medical schools according to

  1. University of Texas Houston School of Medicine $15,096
  2. University of New Mexico $16,170
  3. Texas Tech School of Medicine 16,246
  4. Texas A&M School of Medicine $16,404
  5. University of Texas Medical Brance at Galveston $16,612
  6. Brody School of Medicine (Greenville NC) $16,954
  7. University of Texas San Antonio School of Medicine $17,133
  8. Baylor College of Medicine $17,498
  9. UT Southwestern Medical School $17,843
  10. University of North Carolina School of Medicine $19,499

Most expensive medical schools according to
  1. Tufts University School of Medicine $56,784
  2. Tulane University School of Medicine $55,905
  3. Geisel (Dartmouth) School of Medicine $54,962
  4. Albany School of Medicine $54,909
  5. Washington University School of Medicine St. louis $54,050
  6. Duke School of Medicine $53,628
  7. Harvard Medical School $53,581
  8. Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons $53,378
  9. Case Western School of Medicine $53,360
  10. Boston University School of Medicine $53,186
The difference between the 2 most extreme examples is $166,752 over a four year period.

Monday, March 27, 2017


Defenestration: noun: Throwing someone or something out of a window. ety: From Latin de- (out of) + fenestra (window). Earliest documented use: 1620.usage: 
“The defenestration of Moscow: Idaho will not dignify with an answer -- that is, file a response to -- a $940,000 claim by a young San Jose man and his parents. The former student at the University of Idaho in Moscow, who was hurt when he ‘mooned’ other students and fell out a window, argued in a lawsuit that the university was negligent for, among other failings, not warning students of the risks associated with upper-story dorm windows. Surely there’s something in the student handbook about gravity and open windows, next to the warning about blow-dryers in the bathtub.”
Patt Morrison; Snapshots of Life in the Golden State; Los Angeles Times; Sep 2, 1994.

According to 2 Kings 9:33, Jezebel was thrown down from a window and her blood was spattered on the wall and the horses. This was an early defenestration and offers further proof of the elemental nature of the Old Testament. However, in history, defenestration seems to be centered in Prague.

During the Hussite wars, seven members of the city council were thrown out of a window of the Prague city hall by an enraged mob, led by the Hussite priest Zhelivsky (who, incidentally, was rewarded by having a major subway station named after him by the Communist regime three-and-a-half centuries later, whether in appreciation of the violence or the multiple victims is not known). This was an element in the start of the Thirty Years War.

Two Catholic Regents were defenestrated along with the Regents' secretary, Philipus Fabricius, but survived the 70 feet fall from the third floor. This is the "definative defenestration" in history. Catholics maintained the men were saved by angels or by the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who caught them; later Protestants asserted that they survived due to falling onto a dung heap, a story unknown to contemporaries and probably coined in response to divine intervention claims. Philip Fabricius was later ennobled by the emperor and granted the title Baron von Hohenfall (literally "Baron of Highfall").

The most recent defenestration of Prague, was in 1948 when Russian agents killed Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk. The Communists are nothing if not students of history.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday: Novak

David Henderson has this story about the late Michael Novak, the Catholic theologian at the American Enterprise Institute:

Novak, David Friedman, a couple of other speakers, and I were speaking at a day-long event held in the Silicon Valley and sponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. There were a few hundred college students, mainly conservatives, in the audience. I can't remember my topic but it was likely about how free markets are great and solve a lot of problems. That was a standard talk I gave in the late 1990s. 

I normally do well with such topics in front of such audiences. But this time, the applause was only slightly above the level of "polite" and well over half the questions were hostile. I think I did a good job of fielding them because I adjusted quickly to the tone. When I sat down, I asked Michael, who I knew had to have given over 20 times, if not 100 times, the number of talks I had given, whether he noticed the audience's hostility. He said that he had. 

"I don't understand it," I said, "I usually do so well with such audiences." 

"They don't like the fact that you don't believe in God," he said.

"How do they know that? I didn't say a thing about belief in God."

"Exactly," he said, his eyes twinkling.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


"There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen. "Yet this difference is tremendous; for it almost always happens that when the immediate consequence is favorable, the later consequences are disastrous, and vice versa. Whence it follows that the bad economist pursues a small present good that will be followed by a great evil to come, while the good economist pursues a great good to come, at the risk of a small present evil."  - From an essay by Frédéric Bastiat in 1850, "That Which Is Seen and That Which Is Unseen"

Dave Berry on the Trump election: In Washington, Democrats who believed in a strong president wielding power via executive orders instantly exchange these deeply held convictions with Republicans who until Election Day at roughly 10 p.m. Eastern time believed fervently in filibusters and limited government.

I assume this is the warning bell, the dead canary, the signal of all signals: According to Business Insider, Jay Z is entering the world of venture capital. According to Axios' Dan Primack, the rapper and music mogul is launching a VC fund along with Roc Nation President Jay Brown. The pair are looking to add a third investment partner and plan to team up with Sherpa Capital to launch the fund, Axios reports.

Underlining the view was the distinction already made by Hobbes and Montesquieu: between civil and political liberty, a distinction given new significance by Staël’s witnessing of the terrifying effect of confusing the two. Civil liberty was the proper object of popular aspiration and source of social benefits; political liberty was a means not an end and could be exploited by ambitious men. The Jacobin terrorist regime, proposing unfettered democracy and using all the resources of partisan propaganda, had silenced the “quietly murmuring” majority and intimidated people into following a route to disaster.

One of trump's plans is to cut interest deductibility. Making debt more real is probably a good idea--but it will have implications. For example, farmers have to borrow money in the spring and pay it back in the fall. This has been going on for hundreds of years and is actually a quite well-documented phenomenon of banking cash flows.  By not allowing any interest-rate deduction, as the tax-reform proposal seeks to do, you will simply destroy the family-farming community nationwide.

Who is.....Camille Paglia?

If you were against the New Deal and its wholesale buying of pauper votes, then you were against Christian charity.  If you were against the gross injustices and dishonesties of the Wagner Labor Act, then you were against labor.  If you were against packing the Supreme Court, then you were in favor of letting Wall Street do it.  If you are against using Dr. Quack’s cancer salve, then you are in favor of letting Uncle Julius die.  If you are against Holy Church, or Christian Science, then you are against god.  It is an old, old argument.--Mencken

And, on the Segregation Front, a student activist group at the University of Michigan is demanding campus officials provide them with “a permanent designated space on central campus for Black students and students of color to organize and do social justice work.”

Paglia recently lamented the loss of glamour in Hollywood. She remembers this iconic photo after Taylor won the Oscar:
Taylor on the cover of Life after her Oscar win.

Barack Obama likes to brag about how he brought federal deficits down, and that's true: In FY 2010 (the first year covered by an Obama administration budget) the deficit was just under $1.3 trillion, while in FY 2017 (the final year covered by an Obama administration budget) the deficit will be just over $500 billion. The federal debt, on the other hand, has almost doubled over his eight years.

A federal judge has barred the State of California from enforcing a new law limiting online publication of actors' ages.
Acting in a case brought by online movie information website IMDb, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria ruled Wednesday that the California law likely violates the First Amendment and appears poorly tailored to proponents' stated goal of preventing age discrimination in Hollywood

Trump and his mercantilist trio of advisors have a strange way of going about achieving “balance” in US trade with Mexico. By scaring the wits out of investors in Mexico, the peso plunges and makes all those Fords built in Hermosillo even cheaper for American consumers! Slap a big tariff on Mexican-built cars and the peso falls further, making other things made in Mexico even cheaper for US buyers, while making products made in US ever more expensive for Mexican consumers.--former Cleveland Fed president Jerry Jordan.
So inexpensive is good for consumers but bad for domestic industries. Gee, it is so sad that life is complicated.

The prejudices, which is to say our justifying discourses, would not matter if the issue were divergent judgments about, say, the latest ice cream flavors from Ben and Jerry’s.  We could then, in the easygoing English phrase, “agree to disagree.”  Chocolate Therapy versus AmeriCone Dream. Whatever.  But the judgment about whether the System has worked for ordinary people, and why or why not, is too important to leave to personal fancy or to prideful skepticism or to a political identity adopted in late adolescence, never to be reconsidered in the light of new evidence or mature understanding, reaffirmed daily by the particular group of shouters and sneerers we tune into on cable TV.  If we are to help the remaining poor of the world, as ethically speaking we should, the political judgment needs to be made soberly and scientifically.--the semi-wonderful McCloskey. But one does worry about "scientifically."

Golden oldie:

It was astonishing to hear the options the Americans were told were available for the Trump election. First the strange Stein lawsuit, then the campaign to undermine the results themselves by blaming the Russians for hacking the election system--for which there is no evidence--, then the idea that the revelation of the actual conversations these lying politicians are having have undermined the election process, then an idea that we can delay the College vote, and then  the idea that the electors were somehow going to save American citizens from themselves and overturn the election themselves. Next is impeachment. A surprising number of people have real problems with representative democracy and, at times like these, their chain-mail shows.

YouTube has invested in several acts this year as it seeks to help artists increase their fan bases.

President Obama famously mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for suggesting that Russia was our principal geopolitical adversary. Yet today they are upset over the closeness of secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, to Vladimir Putin. And apparently shocked, shocked (!), over the Russian efforts in the U.S. elections. Re: the latter, Obama promised action. Another line in the sand?
On the other hand, what the Russians are being accused of is revealing the truth. The truth! And they are denying it! Crazy. Maybe a new crime: "Unwarranted revelation of the truth."
(I am not approving of hacking or theft here but it is a strange combination of factors.)
So we are facing the bizarre situation of American politicians routinely lying in campaigns and objecting to the release of their own communications--which are truthful.
Disinformation is a fascinating field and everyone should inform themselves about it. (For example, what if all the scurrilous DNC conversations about Sanders were untrue? What if the clearly bigoted discussions regarding Catholics were planted by the Russians?)

According to the ABA, for the first time, women make up a majority of law students, holding just over 50 percent of the seats at accredited law schools in the United States.

AAAAAAaaaaannnnnnnndddddd......a cartoon:

Friday, March 24, 2017


Intellectuals continue to mistake their abilities to construct elaborate abstract models they believe  to be representative of social or economic reality.  So the self-proclaimed intellectual claims to be able to engineer society or the economy in ways that improve society or the economy.  This error is what Hayek called “the fatal conceit.”

By this, Hayek meant the hubris the "intellectuals" had believing they could assess and effectively influence the  various social and economic factors involved in the day-to-day flow in an economic society. 
But there is another aspect of this conceit, not just the belief that these divergent aspects of a complex equation can be managed but that the intellectual himself has the unique right to do so.
This arrogance is endemic among these people.  An example is METI, the messaging arm of SETI. SETI looks for extraterrestrial life; METI tries to contact them.
Imagine you and I are the members of a tribe living on the edge of a forest in pre-history. The tribe is made up of men, women and children and all are of equal rank with the exception of an elected war chief and a council of lawmakers. I decide I want to make friends with whatever tribe is nearby and I build a fire to signal whoever is out there. I am confident that my signal will bring philosophers and inventors, not cannibals and warriors. How do I have the right to do that?

Thursday, March 23, 2017


This is from the official White House transcript of a recent meeting between Trump and several U.S. executives as they introduced themselves:

MR. FRAZIER: Thank you, Mr. President, it’s good to be here. Ken Frazier from Merck & Co., Inc.
MR. FIELDS: Thank you, Mr. President. Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Company.
MS. MORRISON: Thank you, Mr. President. Denise Morrison from Campbell Soup Company.
MS. MORRISON: Thank you.

Trump's first thought was to complement Campbell's representative on her soup. This seemed to me a crazy conversation for the President of the United States to have but a finance writer jumped on it, saying Trump instinctively focused on the basic production in the room, food, ignoring the more sophisticated engines and drugs.
He is very kind.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


“If all the economists were laid end to end, they’d never reach a conclusion.”--anon

Remember "Peak Oil?" Current estimates of recoverable oil far outstrip our theoretical need in the next generation. I wonder what think tank those Peak Oil guys are influencing now.

"He sets himself three main challenges here: to make sense of the idea of Design without a Designer that is so central to understanding evolution; to flesh out the concept of competence without comprehension, the key to much animal — and indeed human — thought and behaviour; to understand human consciousness as a natural, unmysterious, outcome of i) evolutionary design, ii) uncomprehending competence and, iii) a little something extra, shortly to be revealed. The overarching task is to enable us to understand ourselves, the intellectuals of creation, as the products of gradual, natural, processes, issuing out of dust yet eschewing the hand of God." --Adam Zeman's review of
Daniel C. Dennett’s new book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds

The 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. 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. I hope he's smarter than Obama.

Bryan Caplan writes that through all the confusing and distorted news, three lessons emerged for him over the last year: The American voter was less rational than he thought, the Republicans more nationalistic than he thought and the Democrats more socialist than he thought.

Norberg has an interesting summary of terrorism. He says anti-colonial movements are usually successful whether violent or not. [however]..."Violent campaigns in general are great failures. The political scientist Audrey Cronin looked at 457 terrorist groups active since 1968. None of them managed to conquer a state and ninety-four per cent of them failed to secure even one of their operative goals.  The typical terrorist organization survived only for eight years, partly because the attacks on civilians alienated the population that the group wanted support from: ‘terrorist violence contains within itself the seeds of repulsion and revulsion.  Violence has an international language, but so does decency’.
So it seems that the only way for terrorists to win is if its victims overreact, dismantle civil liberties and blame whole groups for the actions of a few."

If Mexico pays for the wall, that would essentially be an import, right? So American imports from Mexico would rise by twelve billion dollars without any increase at all in American exports, right? That would be bad, right?

Who is....Jacques Derrida?

"The fallacy of composition" is the belief that what is true for a part is true for the whole. So if a branch is rotting, the tree must be rotting. A politician or a professor sees an industry or a town in economic decline today because of free trade, he or she concludes that the entire economy must therefore be in economic decline because of free trade or that this industry or town will remain in decline into the future because of free trade.

More on the open-mindedness front: Defending a series of false statements by the official White House spokesman, a senior Trump adviser suggested the official had been invoking “alternative facts” rather than untruths. While this might be open-mindedness, might it not just be Jacques Derrida?

I do not know this lady (Katherine Mangu-Ward) but this is a very worrisome observation: "When you set aside Obama’s customary poetry and Trump’s habitual bluntness, both men are circling around the same idea: that loyalty to the state will lead Americans on a path to personal goodness. That working together toward a common goal of national greatness is the way to self-betterment."

Golden oldie:

Russian intervention in the Crimea and Ukraine has been a disaster for both Russia itself and the areas it has annexed or supported. As the Novorussian republics have no international recognition, their formerly close trade ties with the rest of Ukraine have not been replaced by other commercial links. Living standards have slumped, causing emigration — reportedly of as much as two million Russian-speaking people — to Russia itself. In the main Russian cities the influx has created a refugee problem, which coincides with the severe economic downturn and heavy job losses. The budgetary cost of the refugee population, as well as of expensive aid to Crimea and Novorussia, has come just as tax revenues from the energy sector are being squeezed.
Roughly speaking, the countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have a combined national output that is at least 15 times (and perhaps 30 times) Russia’s. If Russia were to spend a quarter of its GDP on weapons, the Nato members would match that if they set aside 1.5 per cent of GDP for the same purpose. A fair generalization is that, because of its economic inferiority, Russia can never outspend the West in weaponry.
The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow "choke point" in the Persian Gulf's flow to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. As the Strait of Hor...

Charlie Chaplin once entered as Charlie Chaplin Look-alike contest--and lost.

“False documents” are seldom used just “to work,” but are part and parcel of a continuous process of misleading or defrauding the system in nearly every transaction with government and private enterprise. “False documents” do not imply a misspelled middle name or a day or two off the correct date of birth, or some sort of innocuous pseudonym. No, they involve the deliberate creation of a false identity, sometimes at the expense of a real person, and often with accompanying fraudulent Social Security numbers and photo identifications — crimes that both foul up the bureaucracy for law-abiding citizens, facilitate other crimes, and are the sort of felonies that most Americans would lose their jobs over and face either jail time or stiff fines. And often they are the second crimes — following not “law-abiding” behavior but the initial crime of entering and and residing in the United States unlawfully.

Did any of the Women's March get to the Saudi Arabian Embassy?

The Grand Mosque of Paris announced that it was withdrawing from the Foundation for Islam of France, a new, government-sponsored foundation charged with "contributing to the emergence of an Islam of France that is fully anchored in the French Republic." In a statement, the mosque, which represents 250 of the 2,500 of the mosques and Muslim associations in France, said that it denounced "any form of interference in the management of Muslim worship."

"It's not that other countries steal jobs from you guys," Alibaba founder Jack Ma said last week. "It's your strategy. Distribute the money and things in a proper way." According to Ma, the US wasted over $14 trillion in fighting wars over the past 30 years rather than investing in infrastructure at home, and said this was the main reason that the US economy is weakening.

I know this will be hard to believe, but since Hillary lost the election, the contributions to her "foundation" have declined.
In November, the Australian government confirmed it “has not renewed any of its partnerships with the scandal-plagued Clinton Foundation, effectively ending 10 years of taxpayer-funded contributions worth more than $88 million.” 88 Million Dollars of Australian taxpayer money!! 
The government of Norway also drastically reduced their annual donations, which reached $20 million a year in 2015.
The main office of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City will be closing, laying off 22 employees, triggering a WARN notice. (The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) “offers protection to workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.) This notice must be provided to either affected workers or their representatives (e.g., a labor union); to the State dislocated worker unit; and to the appropriate unit of local government.” The reason for the filing was stated as the “discontinuation of the Clinton Global Initiative,” after CGI previously announced layoffs leading up to the general election.

Records from former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s divorce case show how he has been able to collect hefty benefit checks from the federal government after serving time in prison for looting hundreds of thousands of dollars from his campaign fund. Most of that — about $100,000 — is workers' compensation and tax-free, according to Chicago attorney Barry Schatz, who is representing Jackson in his divorce proceeding. The rest of Jackson's benefits are Social Security Disability Insurance payments, some of which may be taxable, Schatz said. The payments flow to Jackson because he has bipolar disorder and depression — the issues that led to an extended leave from Congress in 2012.

AAAAaaaaannnnnnddddd.........a couple of graphs:


Tuesday, March 21, 2017


The State of American Fiction

Sam Sacks has an article on fiction in The New Republic.

He writes of Wallace and Chabon, Eggers, Lethem and Whitehead as writers creating a style devoted to entertaining. Chabon has said, “I read for entertainment, and I write to entertain. Period. Oh, I could decoct a brew of other, more impressive motivations and explanations.… But in the end—here’s my point—it would still all boil down to entertainment, and its suave henchman, pleasure.” So he seeks out genre styles--he wrote the movie "John Carter"--and writes with the reader, not the critic or the academic, in mind.

That is dangerous ground, as Sacks' review shows.

We average readers are simply not exclusive enough a club. Or high-minded enough. And Mr. Sacks sees great influence and power --rather than mundane entertainment and pleasure--that seemingly fiction and its creators can wield. Apparently in his mind, art can teach. But that requires orders, hierarchies and judgments. And those elements are found only in the fantastics of Wallace, Chabon et al.

This is Sacks' final paragraph:
"But the sense of imminent peril that has already begun to define the Trump era is different in kind and magnitude than the discontents of the Nineties. Literature that flees toward more welcoming, invented worlds runs the risk of rendering itself unserious at the moment when seriousness is most called for. There is a great deal of beauty and inspiration to be found in these recent novels of these writers, but they take for granted a vision of the past that no longer adequately accounts for the present. To better come to grips with our moment, however ugly or uncomfortable it may be, we need the opposite of escapist art: We need works that engage, fully and deeply, with the challenges of the here and now."

I wish he had explained more of Trump's era and its threatening peril; I have no idea at all what these politicians are doing. Except for one thing. The only detritus of the "Trump Era" so far is the revelation of how much of our respect of politics depends upon deception and how empty and hopeless it appears when practiced by those who can not--or perhaps will not--deceive with elan, confidence and fraudulent higher purpose.

Indeed, what every politician seems to need is a good fiction writer.