Saturday, March 11, 2017


 “Don’t tell me what the law is. Tell me who the judge is.”--Roy Cohn

Scientists from the Salk Institute – a biological research organization in California – have taken cells from pigs and humans to create an embryo that was then inserted into a female pig. The team is now on the brink of creating a genetic chimera – an organism made up of cells from multiple species’ DNA – that is part human, part pig. The implications of a successful such program are terrifying.
Science will always take the next step.

Success in the global marketplace requires winning the trust of strangers, proving reliability, and cooperating with people of different language, culture, ethnicity, and race.  The late Pope John Paul II, in a 1991 encyclical called Centesimus Annus, described the global economy as a sphere of activity where “people work with each other, sharing in a ‘community of work’ which embraces ever widening circles.”  In this expanding economic community, the pope observed, a market system encourages the virtues of “diligence, industriousness, prudence in undertaking reasonable risks, reliability and fidelity in interpersonal relationships, as well as courage in carrying out decisions which are difficult and painful but necessary, both for the overall working of a business and in meeting possible set-backs.” --Griswold
Trade, like so many other examples of relationships with a risk, is part of civilization, perhaps even civilizing.

The share of American workers in unions fell to the lowest level on record in 2016.

The quantitative hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, is based in East Setauket. They are the creators and overseers of the Medallion Fund—perhaps the world’s greatest moneymaking machine. Medallion is open only to Renaissance’s roughly 300 employees, about 90 of whom are Ph.D.s, as well as a select few individuals with deep-rooted connections to the firm. The fabled fund, known for its intense secrecy, has produced about $55 billion in profit over the last 28 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, making it about $10 billion more profitable than funds run by billionaires Ray Dalio and George Soros. What’s more, it did so in a shorter time and with fewer assets under management. The fund almost never loses money. Its biggest drawdown in one five-year period was half a percent. Medallion has managed to pump out annualized returns of almost 80 percent a year, before fees. The goal of quant trading is similar: to build models that find signals hidden in the noise of the markets. In 1993, Renaissance stopped accepting new money from outsiders. Fees were also ratcheted up—from 5 percent of assets and 20 percent of profits, to 5 percent and 44 percent.

Who is...Dante Gabriel Rossetti?

Andrew Jackson's picture is up in the White House and some are furious. Jackson was terribly popular, very much so with the average guy--probably what Trump likes about him. (And, perhaps, his famous willfulness.) The current racism theme overlooks the fact that Jackson was one of the founders, founders, of the Democrat Party. Apparently because of his wars with the Indians, he was a racist. It is interesting, looking at these old times. I do not know as much about Jackson as perhaps I should but he was a pivotal American figure because he was the first self-made American President. All the previous men were from successful pre-Revolution families and most were involved--or their families were involved--directly in the formation of the nation. Jackson was the next generation (although technically he enlisted in the Revolution at the age of twelve.) The War did not make him dangerous; he was always dangerous. He fought duels; he fought the Indians fiercely--the Indian Wars are hair-raising to read about. He also hated the British, who, when he was a child, captured and tortured him during the Revolution. But what Jackson was really was a stone cold killer. Somehow being called a racist is a greater insult. But that's how it goes in an ex post facto world.

On Trump and protectionism: Writing at MarketWatch, Rex Nutting argues that as Amazon revolutionizes consumer behavior, it "is going to destroy more American jobs than China ever did." If so, the "problem" is productivity. Nutting says "Amazon needs about half as many workers to sell $100 worth of merchandise as Macy's does." The Times reports that "the typical online retailer generates $1,267,000 in sales per employee versus $279,000 at bricks-and-mortar stores.

In 1862 Elizabeth Siddal died at the age of thirty-two, almost certainly a suicide. Husband Dante Gabriel Rossetti was stirred by grief, guilt and his romantic temperament to the last-minute gesture of placing the only copies of many of his poems in his wife's coffin; seven years later, in one of the most notorious second-thoughts of love and literature, Rossetti retrieved and published the poems.

Chelsea Handler says she would not interview Melania on her show because she does not speak English. Implicit in this subtle bigotry is the arrogant assumption, seemingly common to entertainers, that her approval is valuable and  Melania would want to be on her show.

A summary of Krauthammer's article on the two main conspiracy/treason/criminal innuendoes:
(1) Collusion:
James Clapper, Obama's director of national intelligence, who has been deeply and publicly at odds with Trump, unequivocally states that he has seen zero evidence of any Trump campaign collusion with Russia. Nor has anyone else.
The contrary suspicion arises because it's hard to explain why Michael Flynn falsely denied discussing sanctions with the Russian ambassador and why Jeff Sessions falsely denied having any contacts at all. That suggests concealment. But there was nothing inherently inappropriate with either behavior. So why conceal?
Suspicion, nonetheless, is far short of assertion — and a fairly thin basis for a major investigation, let alone for a special prosecutor. To prosecute what exactly?
(2) Wiretap:
The other storyline is simply fantastical. Congressional Republicans have uniformly run away from Trump's Obama-wiretap accusation. Clapper denies it. FBI Director James Comey denies it. Not a single member of Trump's own administration is willing to say it's true.
Loopier still is to demand that Congress find the truth when the president could just pick up the phone and instruct the FBI, CIA and DNI to declare on the record whether this ever occurred. And if there really was an October 2016 FISA court order to wiretap Trump, the president could unilaterally declassify the information yesterday.
(This all may be settled by now but I would not know because I have given up the news for Lent.)

In 1945, British and U.S. planes began the 48-hour bombing of Dresden, Germany. Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five is the most famous fictional record of what resulted -- a firestorm that destroyed 85% of the city and killed 135,000 people.

The terminology used to describe an export surplus as a “favorable” balance of trade and an import surplus as an “unfavorable” balance of trade goes back for centuries.  At one time, it was widely believed that importing more than was exported impoverished a nation because the difference between imports and exports had to be paid in gold, and the loss of gold was seen as a loss of national wealth.  However, as early as 1776, Adam Smith’s classic The Wealth of Nations argued that the real wealth of a nation consists of its goods and services, not its gold supply.--Sowell.

A senior U.S. Secret Service agent posted Facebook condemnations of President Trump during the past seven months, including one in which she said she wouldn't want to "take a bullet" for him.
She said she viewed his presidential candidacy as a "disaster" for the country, and especially for women and minorities.
I support her right to have a position but not her right to have the job that conflicts with it.

Golden oldie:
In 1837 Aleksandr Pushkin died at the age of thirty-seven, from a gunshot wound received in a duel two days earlier. George d'Anthès was an officer in the Tsar's Horse Guards, a soldier-of-fortune Frenchman living in St. Petersburg -- the riddles start here -- as the adopted son and probably lover of the homosexual Dutch ambassador to Russia, Baron Heeckeren. D'Anthès was handsome in a uniform; Pushkin's wife was one of the beauties of St. Petersburg, and a flirt; they were both a dozen years younger than Pushkin. Their long walks and close talks titillated St. Petersburg society for months. So.... Pushkin was the moody, debt-ridden, pre-occupied romantic. Once rebel-in-exile, and still voice-of-the-people, he allowed himself to become man-about-town in St. Petersburg and co-opted by the attentions of the Tsar (though the Tsar may only have wanted to keep an eye on him and his pretty wife). D'Anthès was an idler, a foreigner, one who exploits all the unwarranted prestige given him in a snobby, militarist, Westernized society. A clash of cultures? The rash act of a romantic? The wider drama of the duel includes anonymous, public letters which mocked Pushkin as a cuckold, and private letters exchanged in high society which mocked him as an Othello -- he had some African blood -- and darker hints of political plotting.
The fatally-wounded Pushkin rallied enough to take his shot, his direct hit to d'Anthès chest from ten paces giving only a flesh wound to d'Anthès' raised arm before it was deflected away by one of his shiny military buttons.  A duel of fashion? (from Steve King)

There are two vacancies on the Board of Governors that can be filled immediately. Who will Trump choose? Then, next year, Yellen and Stanley Fischer will be gone, so Trump will be able to appoint a chairman and vice chairman.
​This Presidency thing is important.

The new BP Energy Outlook is an exhaustive report from the former British Petroleum. BP thinks world energy consumption will grow 1.3% per year from 2015 to 2035. That’s impressive until you consider that it grew 2.2% a year from 1995 to 2015.
Why? The amount of energy it takes to generate economic growth, or “energy intensity,” is shrinking fast. Today’s vehicles and technology are far more fuel-efficient than those of the past. BP believes world GDP can double in the next 20 years with energy usage growing only 30%.
Worse, the demand growth isn’t happening here. It will be flat or even decline in the OECD countries (the US and other developed markets), with most growth happening in China, India, the rest of Asia, and Africa.

The Middlebury College assault on the Charles Murray party deserves some attention. Murray is an interesting guy with a lot of sociological opinions (sociological opinions are, in essence, opinions masquerading as scientific theories but his questions are provocative and should be disturbing.)  His analysis of American groups is complex with a lot of implications. His speech at Middlebury was disrupted and the moderator, Political Science professor Allison Stanger, ended up in the ER. She wrote this on Facebook: "To people who wish to spin this story as one about what's wrong with elite colleges and universities, you are mistaken. Please instead consider this as a metaphor for what is wrong with our country, and on that, Charles Murray and I would agree. This was the saddest day of my life. We have got to do better by those who feel and are marginalized. Our 230-year constitutional democracy depends on it, especially when our current President is blind to the evils he has unleashed. We must all realize the precious inheritance we have as fellow Americans and defend the Constitution against all its enemies, both foreign and domestic. That is why I do not regret my involvement in the event with Dr. Murray. But as we find a way to move forward, we should also hold fast to the wisdom of James Baldwin, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.""
She is too kind.
This is a good read from Will with a historical perspective:

So the leader of North Korea has killed his brother. It is curious how we put the homicidal tendencies of leaders into context, like a naturalistic fallacy.

President Donald Trump plans to nominate former Utah governor and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman as ambassador to Russia.

Investor Jim Rogers on cash and the tyranny that comes with its control: “Governments are always looking out for themselves first, and it's the same old thing that has been going on for hundreds of years. The Indians recently did the same thing. They withdrew 86 percent of the currency in circulation, and they have now made it illegal to spend more than, I think it's about $4,000 in any cash transaction. In France you cannot use more than, I think it's a €1,000,”said Rogers in an interview with MacroVoices Podcast. According to Rogers, governments will claim they are doing it for the public good, not for themselves.

AAAAAaaaaaaannnnnnddddddd....a graph (from JPMorgan):

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