Friday, April 28, 2017


Scruton on Slavoj Žižek

Roger Scruton has a very funny--and bothersome--article in The City Journal on the philosopher Slavoj Žižek, his many influences, the recent history of Marxist thinking and the seemingly zombie-like persistence of leftist revolutionary thought. Some selections are below but here is a link to the article:
On Slavoj Žižek, a new kind of leftist thinker

Assuring the world that they had never really been taken in by Communist propaganda, leftist thinkers renewed their attacks on Western civilization and its “neoliberal” economics as the principal threat to humanity in a globalized world.

Lacan’s collected Écrits, published in 1966, were one of the sources drawn upon by the student revolutionaries in May 1968. Thirty-four volumes of his seminars followed, published by his disciples and subsequently translated into English, or at least into a language that resembles English as closely as the original resembles French. The influence of these seminars is one of the deep mysteries of modern intellectual life. Their garbled regurgitation of theories that Lacan neither explored nor understood is, for sheer intellectual effrontery, without parallel in recent literature.

Unexplained technicalities, excerpted from set theory, particle physics, linguistics, topology, and whatever else might seem to confer power on the wizard who conjures with them, are used to prove such spectacular theorems as that the erectile penis in bourgeois conditions is equal to the square root of minus one or that you do not (until worked on by Lacan) “ex-sist.”

For Lacan, the big Other (capital A for Autre) is the challenge presented to the self by the not-self. This big Other haunts the perceived world with the thought of a dominating and controlling power—a power that we both seek and flee from. There is also the little other (lowercase a for autre), who is not really distinct from the self but is the thing seen in the mirror during that stage of development that Lacan calls the “mirror stage,” when the infant supposedly catches sight of himself in the glass and says “Aha!” That is the point of recognition, when the infant first encounters the “object = a,” which, in some way that I find impossible to decipher, indicates both desire and its absence.

Lacan’s ruminations on the Other appear constantly in Žižek’s writings, which offer proof of one feature in which the Communist system had the edge on its Western rivals: they are the products of a seriously educated mind.
As an indication of Žižek’s style, here are some of the topics touched on in three consecutive pages, chosen more or less at random, from his engaging 2008 book In Defense of Lost Causes: the Turin shroud; the Koran and the scientific worldview; the Tao of physics; secular humanism; Lacan’s theory of fatherhood; truth in politics; capitalism and science; Hegel on art and religion; postmodernity and the end of grand narratives; psychoanalysis and modernity; solipsism and cyberspace; masturbation; Hegel and objective spirit; Richard Rorty’s pragmatism; and is there or is there not a big Other?
The machine-gun rattle of topics and concepts makes it easy for Žižek to slip in his little pellets of poison, which the reader, nodding in time to the rhythm of the prose, might easily swallow unnoticed. Thus, we are not “to reject terror in toto but to re-invent it”; we must recognize that the problem with Hitler, and with Stalin, too, is that they “were not violent enough”; we should accept Mao’s “cosmic perspective” and read the Cultural Revolution as a positive event. Rather than criticizing Stalinism as immoral, we should praise it for its humanity, since it rescued the Soviet experiment from “biopolitics”; besides, Stalinism is not immoral but too moral, since it relied on the figure of the big Other, which, as all Lacanians know, is the primordial mistake of the moralist. We must also recognize that the “dictatorship of the proletariat” is “the only true choice today.”
...all this might have served to discredit Žižek among more moderate left-wing readers, were it not for the fact that it is never possible to be sure that he is serious. Maybe he is laughing—not only at himself and his readers but at an academic establishment that can seriously include Žižek alongside Kant and Hegel on the philosophy curriculum...
From Lacan, Žižek also takes the idea that mental processes fall into three distinct categories: fantasy, symbol, and the reaching for the Real. Desire comes through fantasy, which proposes both the object = a (the objet petit a), and the first subjectivization: the mirror stage, in which desire (and its lack) enter the infant psyche. The notion of fantasy is connected with that key term of Lacanian analysis—a term that incidentally entered and dominated French literary theory under the influence of Roland Barthes—namely, jouissance, Lacan’s substitute for the Freudian “pleasure principle.” Fantasies enter our lives and persist because they bring enjoyment, and they are revealed in symptoms, those irrational-seeming fragments of behavior through which the psyche protects its achieved terrain of enjoyment from the threatening realities of the world beyond—from the unvisitable world of the Real.
This thought gives rise to a spectacular emendation to Freud’s idea of the superego, expressed in terms that unite Kant with the Marquis de Sade:
It is a commonplace of Lacanian theory to emphasize how [the] Kantian moral imperative conceals an obscene superego injunction: “Enjoy!”—the voice of the Other impelling us to follow our duty for the sake of duty is a traumatic irruption of an appeal to impossible jouissance, disrupting the homeostasis of the pleasure principle and its prolongation, the reality principle. This is why Lacan conceives Sade as the truth of Kant.
Ideology, in the classical Marxist analysis, is understood in functional terms, as the system of illusions through which power achieves legitimacy. Marxism offers a scientific diagnosis of ideology, reducing it to a symptom, showing how things really are behind the fetishes. By doing so, it “opens our eyes” to the truth: we see exploitation and injustice where previously we had seen contract and free exchange. The illusory screen of commodities, in which relations between people appear as the law-like motion of things, crumbles before us and reveals the human reality: stark, unadorned, and changeable. In short, by tearing away the veil of ideology, we prepare the way for revolution.
...this brings me to the heart of Žižek’s leftism. The Real, touched by Lacan’s magic wand, vanishes. It is the primary absence, the “truth” that is also castration. The wand waves away reality and thereby gives fresh life to the dream. It is in the world of dreams, therefore, that morality and politics are now to be implanted. What matters is not the discredited world of merely empirical events but the goings-on in the dream world, the world of the exalted intellectuals, for whom ideas and enthusiasms cancel mere realities.

Thus, in a singularly repulsive essay on “Revolutionary Terror,” Žižek praises the “humanist terror” of Robespierre and Saint-Just (as opposed to the “anti-humanist, or rather inhuman,” terror of the Nazis) not because it was particularly kind to its victims but because it expressed the “utopian explosions of political imagination” of its perpetrators.

For what matters is what people say, not what they do, and what they say is redeemed by their theories, however stupidly or carelessly pursued, and with whatever disregard for real people. We rescue the virtual from the actual through our words, and the deeds have nothing to do with it.
There is the kind exemplified by the English Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the American Revolution of 1783, in which essentially law-abiding people attempt to define and protect their rights against usurpation. And then there is the kind exemplified by the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian Revolution of 1917, in which one elite seizes power from another and then establishes itself by a reign of terror.
In Žižek, we find astonishing evidence of the fact that the “Communist hypothesis,” as Badiou calls it, will never go away. Notwithstanding Marx’s attempt to present it as the conclusion of a science, the “hypothesis” cannot be put to the test and refuted. For it is not a prediction or, in any real sense, a hypothesis. It is a statement of faith in the unknowable.

As in 1789, as in 1917, as in the Long March of Mao, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, the work of destruction feeds on itself. Žižek’s windbaggery serves one purpose: to turn attention away from the actual world, from real people, and from ordinary moral and political reasoning. It exists to promote a single and absolute cause, the cause that admits of no criticism and no compromise and that offers redemption to all who espouse it. And what is that cause? The answer is there on every page of Žižek’s writings: Nothing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


"Pardonnez-moi, monsieur. Je ne l'ai pas fait exprès."  (Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.) - Marie Antoinette. As she approached the guillotine, convicted of treason and about to be beheaded, she stepped on the foot of her executioner.

"The people who have an explicit legal obligation to work not on our behalf but on behalf of their shareholders do a pretty good job of giving us what we want; the people who vow to work on our behalf do not. That is a paradox only if you do not think about it too much, and not thinking about it too much is the business that politicians are in.
If capitalism – which is to say, human ingenuity set free to follow its own natural course – is a kind of social machine, then politicians are something like children who take apart complex machines without understanding what they do or how to put them back together. (At their worst, they are simply saboteurs.) When they rail against capitalism, automation, trade, and the like, they resemble nothing so much as those hominids at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey, shrieking hysterically at something that is simply beyond their comprehension."--Williamson

A new Washington Post poll that declares President Trump as "the least popular president in modern times," waits until the second to last paragraph to reveal another tidbit: He'd still beat Hillary Rodham Clinton if the election were held today and in the popular vote, not just Electoral College.
The poll found that Trump's polls continue to be upside down, with a 42 percent approval and 53 percent disapproval.
So some of Hillary's supporters have voter's remorse.

The Mencken requirements for a democracy lacks both Freedom of Religion--religious conflict being so deadly historically--and the right to bear arms to blunt the possibilities of atrocities.
I am still very impressed with  historian Stuart Finkel's  observation that communists have always acted more forcibly to undermine free association than to undermine free enterprise so free association--a bit of a problem as it is opposed to the individual's "right of access." So freedom of association would be a necessity for me.

This is from a blog on the economy with a simple insight: "However, I believe that the end of all of this activity is — or should be — the improvement of life for people in a way that is not predatory and brings about voluntary cooperation among economic actors. In other words, economic activity is a means to an end, and the end is free people gaining in wealth and standards of living.
A socialist does not and will not see things this way."
That is to say the objective of Socialism is not the betterment of people; the objective of Socialism is Socialism. 

There is a new book out about Clintons and illegal money. It will get some play because of the Trump-Russia innuendo. Johnny Chung is a featured player.
In the mid-1990s evidence surfaced that Chinese officials were pouring hundreds of thousands into then president Bill Clinton's reelection campaign through American straw donors.
Chung, one of the main criminals in the 'Chinagate' scandal, was accused of giving over $300,000 to the Democratic National Committee on behalf of the head of China's military intelligence agency during Clinton's reelection bid. 
Chung cooperated with the Department of Justice during the investigation, and was sentenced to five years of probation for campaign finance violations, bank fraud and tax evasion in 1998.
During Chung's case, DNC officials claimed he misled them and urged the judge to give him a harsh sentence. But the judge declined, and even noted in the sentencing statement that it was 'strange' nobody from the DNC was prosecuted for accepting the illegal funds.
'It's very strange that the giver pleads guilty and the givee gets off free,' said U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real.
Judge Real also said the leaders of the DNC were 'two of the dumbest politicians I've ever seen' if they were not aware of the campaign funding scheme.
He blasted U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno for failing to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Democratic involvement in the scandal.

Bordeaux on David Ricardo: " [Ricardo] explained that a country’s ability to produce more of some good than can be produced elsewhere does not mean that country necessarily is that good’s most efficient producer. Efficiency in producing some good — say, cloth — is reflected not in how much cloth can be produced but, instead, in how many other goods must be sacrificed to produce cloth."

Who is....Matt Ridley?

Mack Beggs, the transgender wrestler from Euless Trinity High School, won the Class 6A state girls wrestling championship in the 110-pound weight class.

Read more here:
After losing to Beggs, who has been on testosterone treatments since October 2015, her opponent left the mat in tears and her coach tersely declined an interview request for her wrestler. Many of the coaches have said they’re not upset at Beggs, but just the predicament of their girls having to wrestle against an athlete on testosterone.

Read more here:

From Will's article on the subtle growth of government, really worth a read:
"[T]oday’s government is indeed big (3.5 times bigger than 5½ decades ago), but dispersed to disguise its size. This government is, DiIulio says, “both debt-financed and proxy-administered.” It spends more just on Medicare benefits than on the official federal civilian workforce, and this is just a fraction of the de facto federal workforce.
Many Americans are rhetorically conservative but behaviorally liberal. So, they are given government that is not limited but overleveraged — debt-financed, meaning partially paid for by future generations — and administered by proxies. The government/for-profit contractor/nonprofit complex consumes about 40 percent of gross domestic product. Just don’t upset anyone by calling it “big government.”

One big problem is analyzing the threat of terrorism is the difficult element of stupidity. Reading about the hijacking of Ethiopian Air 961 is a good introduction--if not, if you will excuse me, a crash course. Three Ethiopian men in their 20s--described as "inexperienced, psychologically fragile, and intoxicated,"attacked and controlled a plane out of Addis Ababa and wanted to be flown to Australia. When told the plane did not have enough fuel, they insisted anyway. The plane eventually crashed in the water off the Comoros Islands, a crash that was filmed by tourists. 125 of the passengers and crew (of 175) plus the moron hijackers were killed. It was the pilot's third hijacking.

I believe that political philosophy ought to start from ethics: to figure out how the government should behave in some situation, we should first reflect on how we think people should behave in analogous situations, because the government is just a certain group of people. --Huemer

Matt Ridley has an article on free speech which notes the strange alliance of the Left with religion. (He is a Conservative member of the House of Lords. He wrote Genome, a pretty good book.) He writes:
"But there is something else going on today: Islam. One of the most surprising features of the modern world — to me at least — is the degree to which the left is making common cause with any religion, let alone one that is so dominated by socially conservative opinion and so frequently associated with discrimination against women and homosexuals. Islamophobia is as great a crime as transphobia in the student world, and a greater one than criticism of Christianity or Judaism. You can mock Mormons all you like, and make a musical out of it, but woe betide you if you mock the Koran.
Consider the case of two women who have criticised each other recently. Guess which one has been no-platformed?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a Somali-born champion of women’s rights who suffered genital mutilation; escaped an arranged marriage by seeking asylum in Holland; left Islam; became a Dutch MP; and wrote a film whose director was murdered by an Islamist, the killer leaving a note pinned to his victim’s chest warning her that she would be next. She calls for an Islamic reformation.
Linda Sarsour is a hijab-wearing Muslim who defends Sharia, was one of the organisers of the Women’s March after Mr Trump’s inauguration and has since deleted a tweet in which she said she wished that she could “take away” Ms Hirsi Ali’s vagina. In reply, Ms Hirsi Ali wrote: “There’s no principle that demeans, degrades and dehumanises women more than the principle of Sharia law. Linda Sarsour is a defender of that.”
Yet it was, incredibly, Ms Hirsi Ali who in 2014 was disinvited from receiving an honorary degree by Brandeis University. The episode revealed a deliberate attempt to portray criticism of Islam as equivalent to criticism of women or minorities. Few feminists spoke up for her. “The concern,” blathered one, “is that her intervention into the issue of gender equality in Muslim societies will strengthen racism rather than weaken sexism.”
This alliance of the feminist left with Islam cannot last. Mr Trump’s crass travel ban may have breathed new life into it, but the tensions are growing and the audiences for the likes of Mr Yiannopoulos with them."
The really striking thing he said, though, was this: "The habit of curbing free speech is being imported from America, where universities have become increasingly intolerant of anything that departs from a narrow orthodoxy." From America!

Golden oldie:
A great mystery in life is the evangelical's forgiveness of divorce. One can comb the Old and New Testament for information about all sorts ...

"When trillions of dollars are managed by Wall Streeters charging high fees, it will usually be the managers who reap outsized profits, not the clients," Buffett said in his annual letter to shareholders.
"Both large and small investors should stick with low-cost index funds," he added.
Buffett, 86, used his investment savvy to build Berkshire into a powerhouse conglomerate and become the world's second-richest person. Known to fans as "the Oracle of Omaha," he estimated that the search for outperformance has caused investors to "waste" more than $100 billion over the past decade.
On Saturday, he called Vanguard Group founder Jack Bogle "a hero" for his early efforts to popularize index funds.
Berkshire itself has done far better, with its stock price gaining 20.8 percent per year since Buffett took over in 1965, dwarfing the Standard & Poor's 500's (.SPX) 9.7 percent gain, including dividends.

Joe builds a better mousetrap. He uses his profits to buy a house for cash, for U.S. dollars, in Buffalo, NY. If Joe lives in Buffalo – or in Butte, or in Maui, or anywhere in the U.S. – no one supposes that Joe’s purchase of his new house in Buffalo causes any American(s) to go further into debt. But if Joe lives in Toronto, then people will say that Americans are now more indebted by the amount of the purchase price of the house. The convention of describing changes in a country’s trade deficit as being synonymous with changes in the indebtedness of that country’s citizens is very common – and very wrong. (Bordeaux)

Neil Fingleton, "Game of Thrones" star and the UK’s tallest man at 7ft 7in, has died aged 36. The actor and basketball player, who played Mag the Mighty in GoT, reportedly died of heart failure.

In his 2014 book “Bring Back the Bureaucrats,” John J. DiIulio Jr, of the University of Pennsylvania and the Brookings Institution, argued that because the public is, at least philosophically, against “big government,” government has prudently become stealthy about how it becomes ever bigger. In a new Brookings paper, he demonstrates that government expands by indirection, using three kinds of “administrative proxies” — state and local government, for-profit businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Since 1960, the number of state and local government employees has tripled to more than 18 million, a growth driven by federal money: Between the early 1960s and early 2010s, the inflation-adjusted value of federal grants for the states increased more than tenfold. For example, the EPA has fewer than 20,000 employees, but 90 percent of EPA programs are completely administered by thousands of state government employees, largely funded by Washington.

A Department of Homeland Security report contradicts a White House assertion that immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries pose a particular risk of being terrorists and should be blocked from the U.S. (WSJ)

Shakespearian forger William Henry Ireland (1777–1835)  both invented various documents to do with Shakespeare’s life and also created entire plays, Vortigern and Henry II, that he added to Shakespeare’s canon.

The Atlantic has an article on David Gelernter, a very interesting guy. (He was one of those attacked by the lunatic Ted Kaczynski.)  They note "... David Gelernter, the pioneering Yale University computer scientist, met with Donald Trump to discuss the possibility of joining the White House staff." Can you imagine Gelernter in the White House! Then they said this: An article about the meeting in The Washington Post was headlined, “David Gelernter, fiercely anti-intellectual computer scientist, is being eyed for Trump’s science adviser.” Gelernter an "anti-intellectual!" Why? Because he was an opponent of the academic darling, the lunatic Ted Kaczynski.

From The Guardian on an American profiling company's attempt to influence the Brexit vote, this snippet: "Cambridge Analytica, an offshoot of a British company, SCL Group, which has 25 years’ experience in military disinformation campaigns and “election management”, claims to use cutting-edge technology to build intimate psychometric profiles of voters to find and target their emotional triggers. Trump’s team paid the firm more than $6m (£4.8m) to target swing voters, and it has now emerged that Mercer also introduced the firm – in which he has a major stake – to Farage.
The communications director of, Andy Wigmore, told the Observer that the longstanding friendship between Nigel Farage and the Mercer family led Mercer to offer his help – free – to the Brexit campaign because of their shared goals. Wigmore said that he introduced Farage and to Cambridge Analytica: “They were happy to help. Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers. And Mercer introduced them to us. He said, ‘Here’s this company we think may be useful to you’. What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information.”
The strategy involved harvesting data from people’s Facebook and other social media profiles and then using machine learning to “spread” through their networks. Wigmore admitted the technology and the level of information it gathered from people was “creepy”. He said the campaign used this information, combined with artificial intelligence, to decide who to target with highly individualised advertisements and had built a database of more than a million people, based on advice Cambridge Analytica supplied."
Doing this is probably not illegal--within proper reporting--but is really creepy. It is sort of "weaponized advertising" very much like the astonishingly robust Russian disinformation program. (Both the Russians and the Cubans spend more money on data collecting than on spycraft.) And doing it across borders is really offensive--but the inevitable result of the West's increasingly "one world" philosophy and our tolerance for manipulation and insincerity. Of note, the U.S. denied they were involved but, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, I suppose that depends upon what the word "truth" means.

AAAAaaannnnnnddddddd.....a map of Chinese dynasties, showing land interests, little maritime interests and a core preoccupation--for what that's worth:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


The Congress is considering impeaching the head of the IRS for, essentially, politicizing the organization. Here is a summary of the argument as presented in a George Will column:

"At the IRS, Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner participated in delaying for up to five years — effectively denying — tax-exempt status for, and hence suppressing political advocacy by, conservative groups. She retired after refusing to testify to congressional committees, invoking the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.
Koskinen, who became commissioner after Lerner left, failed to disclose the disappearance of emails germane to a congressional investigation of IRS misbehavior. Under his leadership, the IRS failed to comply with a preservation order pertaining to an investigation. He did not testify accurately or keep promises made to Congress. Subpoenaed documents, including 422 tapes potentially containing 24,000 Lerner emails, were destroyed. He falsely testified that the Government Accountability Office’s report on IRS practices found “no examples of anyone who was improperly selected for an audit.”
In June testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School noted that the Obama administration stands accused of “effectively weaponizing the IRS.” And the Koskinen controversy comes as Congress “is facing an unprecedented erosion of its authority vis-a-vis the executive branch.” The “increasing obstruction and contempt displayed by federal agencies in congressional investigations reflects the loss of any credible threat of congressional action. Congress has become a paper tiger within our tripartite system — a branch that often expresses outrage, yet fails to enforce its constitutional authority.”

The Koskinen controversy, Turley said, “falls at the very crossroads of expanding executive power, diminishing congressional authority, and the rise of the Fourth Branch,” which consists of “federal agencies that exercise increasingly unilateral and independent powers.” "

Monday, April 24, 2017

Kamel Daoud

Paul Berman is the critic-at-large of Tablet magazine. He wrote the following article with Michael Walzer:

"Last month the Algerian novelist and journalist Kamel Daoud astonished the readers of Le Monde in Paris by threatening to renounce journalism, not
because he is afraid of Islamists at home in Algeria, though a fatwa has been issued against him, but for another reason, which is still more dismaying. He has been severely condemned by people from the Western intellectual class, and silence seems to him an appropriate response.

This was Salman Rushdie’s experience in the years after he came out with The Satanic Verses, back in 1988, which he has described in his memoir Joseph Anton. The experience of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, originally from Somalia, offers probably the most widely discussed example after Rushdie’s. Kamel Daoud’s Algerian colleague, the novelist Boualem Sansal, last year’s winner of a prize from the French Academy, has come under this kind of condemnation.

....[Kamel].... Daoud  stands high on the world scene because of his novel, The Meursault Investigation, which adds a philosophical dimension to the affair. The book is an homage to Albert Camus, and a rebuke. In 1942 Camus published a novel titled The Stranger, which tells the story of a French Algerian named Meursault, who gratuitously murders a nameless and silent Arab on the beach. Daoud in The Meursault Investigation tells the story of the murdered man’s younger brother, who contemplates what it means to be rendered nameless and silent by one’s oppressor. In France, Daoud’s reply to Camus won the Goncourt Prize for a First Novel in 2015, among other prizes. In the United States, it received two of the greatest blessings that American journalism can bestow on a writer not from the United States. The New Yorker published an excerpt. And the New York Times Magazine published a full-length admiring profile.
These triumphs created a demand for Daoud’s journalism, as well. For 20 years he has written for the Algerian newspaper Le Quotidien d’Oran, but, in the wake of his novel’s success, his journalism began to appear prominently in Le Monde and other European newspapers. He was invited to write for the New York Times. And he responded to these opportunities in the way that any alert and appreciative reader of his novel might have expected.
He offered insights into the Islamic State. He attacked Saudi Arabia, with a side jab aimed at the extreme right in France. But he also looked at the mass assault on women that took place in Cologne on New Year’s Eve by a mob that is thought to have included men from the Arab world. He dismissed a right-wing impulse in Europe to regard immigrants as barbarians. And he dismissed a left-wing, high-minded naïveté about the event. He pointed to a cultural problem. In the New York Times he wrote: “One of the great miseries plaguing much of the so-called Arab world, and the Muslim world more generally, is its sick relationship with women.” More: “The pathological relationship that some Arab countries have with women is bursting onto the scene in Europe.” In Le Monde he wrote that Europe, in accepting new immigrants and refugees, was going to have to help them accept new values, too—“to share, to impose, to defend, to make understood.” And now his troubles began.

The two of us who are writing this commentary call attention to a second pattern in these condemnations, which dates to the days of Soviet Communism. Everyone who remembers the history of the 20th century will recall that, during the entire period from the 1920s to the 1980s, one brave and articulate dissident after another in the Soviet bloc succeeded in communicating a message to the Western public about the nature of Communist oppression—valuable messages because the dissidents could describe with first-hand accuracy the Soviet regime and its satellite states.
And, time after time, a significant slice of Western intellectuals responded by crying: “Oh, you mustn’t say such things! You will encourage the reactionaries!” Or they said: “You must be a reactionary yourself. A tool of imperialism.” The intellectuals who responded in these ways were sometimes Communists, pledged to loyalty to the Soviet Union, and sometimes they were fellow-travelers, who defended the Soviet Union without having made any pledges. But sometimes they were merely people who worried about their own societies—who worried that criticism of the Soviet Union was bound to benefit right-wing fanatics in the West. These people considered that, in denouncing the Soviet dissidents, they were protecting the possibility for lucid and progressive conversation in their own countries.

But that was a mistake. By denouncing the dissidents, Western intellectuals succeeded in obfuscating the Soviet reality. And they lent the weight of their own prestige to the Soviet regime, which meant that, instead of being the enemies of oppression, they ended up as the allies of oppression. The progressive intellectuals were not foolish to worry about right-wing fanaticism in their own countries, but they needed to recognize that sometimes political arguments have to be complicated. They needed to learn how to defend the Soviet dissidents even while attacking right-wing fanatics in the West. They needed to make two arguments at the same time."

This does not sound hard, walking and chewing gum-like. One suspects the usual causes of irrationality: PSTD, drug abuse, systemic venereal disease, stupidity.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Note on Local Flora

There is a tree native in Turkestan,
Or further east towards the Tree of Heaven,
Whose cold hard cones, not being wards to time,
Will leave their mother only for good cause;
Will ripen only in a forest fire;
Wait, to be fathered as was Bacchus once,
Through men's long lives, that image of time's end.
I knew the Phoenix was a vegetable.
So Semele desired her deity
As this in Kew thirsts for the Red Dawn.

This is from Wood's new book on Empson:

"There is a tree" has the sound of a fable, a sort of botanical "once upon a time," and the shift from Turkestan to Heaven—some distance "further east"—confirms this effect. The tree is "native" to those parts but there is one in Kew Gardens in London (introduced in line 10, as "thirst[ing] for the Red Dawn"). And wherever it grows, the tree has this curious characteristic: only fire will make it flourish. "Leave their mother" is a marvelous ambiguity. When the fire arrives the cones will drop to the ground, abandoning their parent, and their fall will allow their mother to cover herself with leaves."
The second half of the poem draws on Greek myth for its dense symbolic network. It all adds up, so Wood argues, to the poet's attraction to revolution: "The thirsting tree represents a widely held but equally widely repressed belief: that only violence will allow us truly to live, to do something with time other than mark it."

Saturday, April 22, 2017


"I’ve never understood how anyone can observe politics for more than five minutes and then conclude that mixing politics with arts and literature will improve arts and literature.  Such a belief is akin to the supposition that mixing a few ounces of sewerage with Chateau Pétrus will produce an even finer wine."--from a web site.

In 1942 the German occupiers in Paris set up what became known as the Furniture Operation. The plunder and “Aryanization” of Jewish businesses had begun soon after the invasion in the summer of 1940, but it was not until the winter of 1941 that the Germans turned their attention to private houses ostensibly “abandoned” by Jewish families. And, as more and more Jews were rounded up, so the plunder began in earnest. As Shannon L. Fogg writes in Stealing Home, houses were emptied down to their light switches and door handles, often then to be occupied by predatory neighbours. The contents were taken to vast depositories in empty warehouses, barracks and museums around the capital, to be sorted out – often by Jewish prisoners married to Aryans – and then loaded onto trains bound for Germany. By the time France was liberated in 1944, 38,000 Parisian apartments had been emptied and 674 trainloads, with 27,000 wagons, of loot had been dispatched. Some 9,680 Jewish businesses had been sold, and 7,340 more liquidated. It would later be said that had the war lasted another year, the entire French economy would have been completely “Aryanized”.
There was a special election in Georgia that the anti-Trump press seems to hope is of great symbolic import. Jon Ossoff, 30, a former congressional staffer and political novice who catapulted to national notice, raised more than $8 million and drew heavy support from prominent Democrats and liberal organizers. They saw his campaign, as well as a special House election last week in Kansas where a Democrat narrowly lost, as symbolic battlegrounds for their recovering party. The election has been covered closely. He needed to get 50% of the vote to stay out of a final runoff, which he would likely lose. He did not get the 50% and the news has not paid much attention to it.

A new book called Narco-nomics analyses the drug trade as if it were a legitimate business pursuit. One curious fact is the emergence of "corporate social responsibility," which Wainwright (the author) says is deeply ingrained in cartel leaders. Even the outcomes of cartel-style corporate social responsibility might look much the same as in the legitimate business sector. Cartels must count on a "reasonable level of support" from their local community, says Wainwright. Cartel leaders may invest in such things as sports facilities, public housing, and pensions. Of course, they may also use threats of (and sometimes actual) violence. And there are other more "blunt" ways cartels try to curry favor with the locals and the local journalists, which often involve trying to defame rival cartels. Charities as advertising, as image building. It puts sports charities in the correct light.

More than 45 million couples were estimated to be infertile globally in 2010, about 15% of all couples worldwide. Men are estimated to be solely responsible for up to 30% and to contribute to up to 50% of cases overall, according to one study.

There is a simple solution if there indeed is a serious crisis of dangerous immigrants on the border: Land mines. But that is not a serious option because either the problem is not serious or the country is not.

Who is....Peter Navarro?

Elton John finally speaks out on a topic close to my heart: “There comes a point where you have to admit that you’re not gonna get played on the radio in America because it’s ageist,” John claims in the new book Captain Fantastic by Tom Doyle, a biography of the singer, which is due out later this month.  “There’s a whole stream of different music come along now. And you have to face up to it.”
At last a good reason why my music is not being played. Ageism is stalking this great land.
Campaign-finance records show attorney general Sessions used campaign account for expenses to Cleveland, where he met Russia’s ambassador at an event. With this incredible research abilities, you would think we would elect better people.
Edwin Godkin, the founder of The Nation, has an article from the turn of the century (1900) that is getting some current review as it points to a change in how Liberalism saw itself then, at a true crossroads.
The article, "The Eclipse of Liberalism", was published in 1900 and deals with the turning of the tide, at the close of the 19th century, in the world of ideas. To many, (classical) liberalism then entered a crisis that perhaps it never recovered from. The ideas of limited government lost their grip on society, with nationalism on the one hand, and socialism on the other, raising to dominate the political scene.
So the nature of man again became subservient to his circumstances.

Trump's spokesmen are complaining about the World Trade Organization. A solution? A policy of unilateral free trade. There would be no motives in play except the desires of the freed consumer.
Peter Navarro, director of the newly-established White House National Trade Council, gave a speech last week to the National Association for Business Economics, which he condensed into an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. The analytical errors and the fallacies portrayed as facts in that op-ed are so numerous that it is bewildering how a person with a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University—and a potentially devastating amount of influence within the White House—could so fundamentally misunderstand basic tenets of introductory economics.--Daniel J. Ikenson

So it seems it will be difficult to replace ObamaCare. It seems that taking over 18% of the economy is difficult to do, no matter who does it.
Golden oldie:
If prosperity could come only from the united efforts of upright and noble-minded people, all of mankind would still be sunk in poverty.--Sowell

86% of Republicans view the first lady favorably, while just 22% of Democrats feel the same. That margin is a lot wider for Melania Trump than it was for Michelle Obama, who in April 2009 had a favorable rating of 93% among Democrats and 50% among Republicans. Hard to believe someone could transfer his political feelings to a benign spouse.
The righteous throw a wide net.
A theory — any theory, whether it be about economics, biology or astrophysics — is nothing more than a story told to make better sense of reality.
Russia's largest bank, Sberbank, has confirmed that it hired the consultancy of Tony Podesta, the elder brother of John Podesta who chaired Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, for lobbying its interests in the United States and proactively seeking the removal of various Obama-era sanctions, the press service of the Russian institution told Tass.

Esoterica: n: 1. things understood by or meant for a select few; recondite matters or items. 2. curiosa. Esoterica is a noun derived from the Greek adjective esōterikós “belonging to the initiate, inner, esoteric.” Esōterikós has a distinguished history in ancient Greek philosophical systems (Pythagorean, Aristotelian, Stoic). Esoterica, if not coined by Ogden Nash (1902–71), was popularized by him in a poem of his published in The New Yorker in 1930. The poem contains the line “The postal authorities of the United States of America Frown on Curiosa, Erotica and Esoterica, And I guess / That's a break for the American Railway Express,” referring to the notorious obscenity trials over James Joyce’s Ulysses that had been going on since 1922 and were finally settled in 1933.

Protectionism is driven by ‘the clamorous importunity of partial interests’ who capture government and prevent it from having ‘an extensive view of the general good’.  Free trade, in contrast, tilts the balance away from rent-seeking producer interests and towards the mass of consumers. --Sally, quoting Adam Smith
Good news. The latest issue of ISIS' Rumiyah magazine, which in the past has included how-to articles on terror tactics and calls to attack Western sites, has a long article on marital advice.
A new book by  Ursula Heise,  Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species, argues extinction is inevitable. Some species will thrive at the expense of others. What is needed, Heise argues, is a path toward widely acceptable determinations of value. Instead, we need a new model of “multispecies justice” that balances interests across different cultures and species.
I will allow you some time to ponder "multispecies justice."

India’s first lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1, has been found orbiting the moon eight years after it lost radio contact. 
The spacecraft was found 200 kilometers above the lunar surface by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California. 
Chandrayaan was India’s first mission to the moon and was launched in 2008. 
AAAaaaaannnndddd.....a joke:

Friday, April 21, 2017


The Limits of AI
According to the BBC, there is growing concern in the machine learning community that as their algorithms are deployed in the real world they can be easily confused by knowledgeable attackers. So the generality can be confused by the specific. For example, regular glasses are said to confuse facial recognition software.
These algorithms don't process information in the same way humans do; a small sticker--like "End War Now'--placed strategically on a sign could render it invisible to a self driving car. 

The article points out that a sticker on a stop sign "is enough for the car to 'see' the stop sign as something completely different from a stop sign," while researchers have created an online collection of images which currently fool AI systems. "In one project, published in October, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University built a pair of glasses that can subtly mislead a facial recognition system -- making the computer confuse actress Reese Witherspoon for Russell Crowe."
One computer academic says that unlike a spam-blocker, "if you're relying on the vision system in a self-driving car to know where to go and not crash into anything, then the stakes are much higher," adding ominously that "The only way to completely avoid this is to have a perfect model that is right all the time." Although on the plus side, "If you're some political dissident inside a repressive regime and you want to be able to conduct activities without being targeted, being able to avoid automated surveillance techniques based on machine learning would be a positive use."

Thursday, April 20, 2017


A new book is out called  The End of Average by L. Todd Rose. It asks people to look at the statistics and the averages we are faced with in an entirely different way.
The astounding generalization is "any system designed around the average person is doomed to fail."

In the late 1940s the U.S. Air Force was having a lot of trouble with accidents. On its worst day, 17 pilots crashed in a single 24 hour period.
The only thing they knew for sure was that their piloting skills were not the cause of the problem. Nor were the planes experiencing technical trouble. If it wasn’t human or mechanical error, what was it?
One theory emerged: The size and shape of the seat, the distance to the pedals and stick, the height of the windshield, even the shape of the flight helmets were all built to conform to the average dimensions of a 1926 pilot.
Military engineers began to wonder if the pilots had gotten bigger since 1926 and if this might be a factor in the crashes. To obtain an updated assessment of pilot dimensions, the air force authorized the largest study of pilots that had ever been undertaken. In 1950, researchers at Wright Air Force Base in Ohio measured more than 4,000 pilots on 140 dimensions of size, including thumb length, crotch height, and the distance from a pilot’s eye to his ear, and then calculated the average for each of these dimensions.

To address this question The Aero Medical Laboratory hired Lt. Gilbert S. Daniels because he had majored in physical anthropology, a field that specialized in the anatomy of humans, as an undergraduate at Harvard.
His undergraduate thesis consisted of a rather plodding comparison of the shape of 250 male Harvard students’ hands. The students Daniels examined were from very similar ethnic and socio-cultural backgrounds (namely, white and wealthy), but, unexpectedly, their hands were not similar at all. Even more surprising, when Daniels averaged all his data, the average hand did not resemble any individual’s measurements. There was no such thing as an average hand size. “When I left Harvard, it was clear to me that if you wanted to design something for an individual human being, the average was completely useless,” Daniels said.

Using the size data he had gathered from 4,063 pilots, Daniels calculated the average of the 10 physical dimensions believed to be most relevant for design, including height, chest circumference and sleeve length. These formed the dimensions of the “average pilot,” which Daniels generously defined as someone whose measurements were within the middle 30 per cent of the range of values for each dimension. The consensus among his fellow air force researchers was that the vast majority of pilots would be within the average range on most dimensions. After all, these pilots had already been pre-selected because they appeared to be average sized. (If you were, say, six foot seven, you would never have been recruited in the first place.)
Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions. One pilot might have a longer-than-average arm length, but a shorter-than-average leg length. Another pilot might have a big chest but small hips. Even more astonishing, Daniels discovered that if you picked out just three of the ten dimensions of size — say, neck circumference, thigh circumference and wrist circumference — less than 3.5 per cent of pilots would be average sized on all three dimensions. Daniels’s findings were clear and incontrovertible. There was no such thing as an average pilot. If you’ve designed a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you’ve actually designed it to fit no one.

Seven years earlier, the Cleveland Plain Dealer announced on its front page a contest co-sponsored with the Cleveland Health Museum and in association with the Academy of Medicine of Cleveland, the School of Medicine and the Cleveland Board of Education. Winners of the contest would get $100, $50, and $25 war bonds, and 10 additional lucky women would get $10 worth of war stamps. The contest? To submit body dimensions that most closely matched the typical woman, “Norma,” as represented by a statue on display at the Cleveland Health Museum known as the “Rodin of obstetrics.” Norma was the creation of a well-known gynecologist, Dr. Robert L. Dickinson, and his collaborator Abram Belskie, who sculpted the figure based on size data collected from 15,000 young adult women.

In addition to displaying the sculpture, the Cleveland Health Museum began selling miniature reproductions of Norma, promoting her as the “Ideal Girl,” launching a Norma craze. Norma was featured in Time magazine, in newspaper cartoons, and on an episode of a CBS documentary series, This American Look, where her dimensions were read aloud so the audience could find out if they, too, had a normal body.
On Nov. 23, 1945, the Plain Dealer announced its winner, a slim brunette theatre cashier named Martha Skidmore. Less than 40 of the 3,864 contestants were average size on just five of the nine dimensions and none of the contestants — not even Martha Skidmore — came close on all nine dimensions. Just as Daniels’ study revealed there was no such thing as an average-size pilot, the Norma Look-Alike contest demonstrated that average-size women did not exist either.

Many concluded that American women, on the whole, were unhealthy and out of shape. One of those critics was the physician Bruno Gebhard, head of the Cleveland Health Museum, who lamented that postwar women were largely unfit to serve in the military, chiding them by insisting “the unfit are both bad producers and bad consumers.” His solution was a greater emphasis on physical fitness. Daniels’ interpretation was the exact opposite. “The tendency to think in terms of the ‘average man’ is a pitfall into which many persons blunder,” Daniels wrote in 1952. “It is virtually impossible to find an average airman not because of any unique traits in this group but because of the great variability of bodily dimensions which is characteristic of all men.”
Rather than suggesting that people should strive harder to conform to an artificial ideal of normality, Daniels’ analysis led him to a counterintuitive conclusion that serves as the cornerstone of this book: any system designed around the average person is doomed to fail.

By discarding the average as their reference standard, the Air Force initiated a quantum leap in its design philosophy, centered on a new guiding principle: individual fit. Rather than fitting the individual to the system, the military began fitting the system to the individual.
Once these and other design solutions were put into place, pilot performance soared, and the U.S. air force became the most dominant air force on the planet. Soon, every branch of the American military published guides decreeing that equipment should fit a wide range of body sizes, instead of standardized around the average. When pilots flying faster than the speed of sound were required to perform tough maneuvers using a complex array of controls, they couldn’t afford to have a gauge just out of view or a switch barely out of reach. In a setting where split-second decisions meant the difference between life and death, pilots were forced to perform in an environment that was already stacked against them.
(from The End of Average by L. Todd Rose)
Norma was designed to represent the "ideal" female form, based on measurements collected from 15,000 young adult women. The statue on display at the Cleveland Health Museum was the creation of a gynecologist, Dr. Robert L. Dickinson, and his collaborator Abram Belskie.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


April 19, 1775

At about 5 a.m. on April 19, 1775, 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, marched into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun. The British moved to Concord and found more resistance so they withdrew. They were attacked on their withdrawal through Lexington and were harassed all the way to Boston. 

There was not a single note about this anniversary in the news yesterday.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


In 2014 households with incomes greater than $250,000 made up 2.7% of total returns. Their taxes made up 51.6 percent of the $1.4 trillion in that year's taxes. The average tax rate was 25.7%.

Households with less than $50,000 accounted for 62.3% of the returns and that cohort paid 5.7% of income tax collected. Their average tax rate was 4.3%.
(from Pew Research)

In U.S. it is 26, in France 47.9, Germany 40.6, Iceland 40.4, Italy 43.5, S. Korea 26.8, Russia 19.5 Switzerland 29.4.

Monday, April 17, 2017


For all its importance, Easter in the New Testament is treated more as a challenge to Christ's followers than the challenge to nature and the intellect that it is. There are several descriptions than vary considerably; in one the confused followers find a empty tomb with some linen fallen underfoot, some strangely, neatly folded. But in most the empty tomb is mediated by some extraordinary event or individual, earthquake or angel. Then the story seems to go into suspended animation. There is no cataclysmic epiphany. The realization is gradual--in typical biblical cosmic humor, the first witness are not even legal witnesses as they are women. Christ's astonishing miracle is made clear and defined slowly to various individuals, one at a time.
As befits a collision of the physical and the spiritual which results in a new supernatural order.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday: Easter

Happy Easter!

Easter is the essential Christian event. Every aspect of the Christian church hinges on Christ's resurrection.

Today's gospel is extremely well written, filled with little particulars (the woman hesitant to enter the tomb, Peter being outrun to the tomb, the meticulous arrangement of the burial cloths, the assumption that the body was stolen--after the assumption by the Pharisees that the apostles would steal it)--all giving misdirection and specificity to what becomes the philosophical earthquake of all time.

Yet how does this all hinge? Hearsay? The interpretation of a sacred book? Amulets and magic rites? No. Amazingly it hinges on us.

By the time Christ rises, we know all the players. We even have some insights about them. They are not revolutionaries, not mystics and, while seemingly sincere, they are not special. They are relatively normal working folks with responsibilities and, probably, annoyed families. As seen by their behavior during the Passion, they are not fully aware of what is happening. Nor are they particularly brave. Yet after this crisis where their leader is tortured and killed they somehow emerge as philosopher and martyrs. They all, to a man, experience a mind-changing, life-changing event. Scattered and leaderless they raise a religious movement that challenges everything in its time and, eventually, forces mighty Rome to adapt.

Christ performed the great, unarguable miracle. It was the behavior of men, people, who confirmed and developed it. No leap of faith was necessary. They were convinced and changed. Then they convinced and changed the world.

Saturday, April 15, 2017


We Americans stupidly recognize this day as the day taxes are due. So we emphasize money and materialism over greatness of mind and soul, greatness that was both a product of and an influence upon the nation. Taxes are trivial compared to what happened on this day in 1865. President Lincoln was shot by Booth on Good Friday, April 14, 1865 and died the next morning. Secretary of State Seward was brutally assaulted as was his son. There is good evidence that General Grant was stalked to his train the same night by the conspirators. This occurred 5 days after Lee's surrender at Appomattox and doomed the South to a reconciliation with the North shepherded by the usual political wolves. More importantly it deprived the nation and politics of the high standard of mind and spirit Lincoln embodied.
Tolstoy on Lincoln:
“.... how largely the name of Lincoln is worshiped throughout the world and how legendary his personality has become. Now why was Lincoln so great that he overshadows all other national heroes? He really was not a great general like Napoleon or Washington; he was not such a skillful statesman as Gladstone or Frederick the Great; but his supremacy expresses itself altogether in his peculiar moral power and in the greatness of his character.

“Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country — bigger than all the Presidents together.

“We are still too near to his greatness,” Tolstoy concluded, “but after a few centuries more our posterity will find him considerably bigger than we do.

“His genius is still too strong and too powerful for the common understanding, just as the sun is too hot when its light beams directly on us.”

Friday, April 14, 2017


One of the problems with freedom is that at some point one must draw a line between what is right and what is wrong. One always hopes the individual would care about the distinction and self-regulation would be adequate. As a culture becomes less sure of this division--and as commercial efforts care less-- the question arises as to who should intervene and when. The Melania Trump lawsuit in Britain is instructive.

Melania Trump recently has accepted damages and an apology over allegations about her work as a professional model. The action was against Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail, after it ran an article headlined "Racy photos and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump". The article published in the Daily Mail and on Mail Online last August "included false and defamatory claims" about the First Lady "which questioned the nature of her work as a professional model, and republished allegations that she provided services beyond simply modeling", the court heard. That is, the  piece referred to rumors that a modeling agency Mrs. Trump worked for in Milan was "something of a gentleman's club" and another in New York "operated as an escort agency for wealthy clients."
Apparently being a "sex worker" is a fine and noble profession unless you don't like her.
The story included statements that Mrs. Trump denied the allegations and that Paulo Zampolli, who ran the modeling agency, also denied the claims. (This is of the "Have you stopped beating your wife?" variety.) Then the kicker: The article also said there was no evidence to support the allegations. The paper was simply republishing negative talk about the woman. There were other allegations: The article also claimed that Mr. and Mrs. Trump may have met three years before they actually met, and 'staged' their actual meeting as a 'ruse'."(This is remarkably similar to the Press' handling of Romney: All allegations and rumors were given equal weight; it is up to the salacious public to work it out.)

Her lawyer said the allegations about Mrs. Trump were not true - and "strike at the heart of the claimant's personal integrity and dignity".
Catrin Evans QC, for the publishers, told the judge: "The defendant acknowledges that these claims about the claimant are untrue, and we retract and withdraw them. The defendant is here today publicly to set the record straight, and to apologize to the claimant for any distress and embarrassment that the articles may have caused her."

Essential to this story is how the press sees itself. There was clearly no interest in the truth of the story; this was a simple effort to attract readers, with all the high-mindedness of a serial flasher. And there will never be resolution of the damage and the mendacity of the Press until the disguise is exposed.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


Arrow and Health Care

There is something different about health care: It is not a free exchange. there is no opportunity to negotiate any more than one can negotiate with the police during a break-in or the fire department during a fire. There is a social, communal concern (you have a neighbor with TB) and a slanted give-and-take with your provider (the patient is an anxious customer.)

This is from Fareed Zakaria:

There is an understandable impulse on the right to assume that healthcare would work more efficiently if it were a free market, or a freer market. It’s true for most goods and services. But in 1963, the economist Kenneth Arrow, who later won a Nobel Prize, offered a simple explanation as to why markets would not work well in this area.

He argued that there was a huge mismatch of power and information between the buyer and the seller. If a salesman tells you to buy a particular television, you can easily choose another or just walk away. If a doctor insists that you need a medicine or a procedure, you are far less likely to reject that advice.
Every advanced economy in the world has implicitly acknowledged this argument because they have all adopted some version of a state- directed system for healthcare. Consider the 16 countries that rank higher than the United States on the conservative Heritage Foundation’s index of economic freedom.

All have universal coverage and state-driven, guided or operated systems. Hong Kong, often considered the most unregulated free market in the world, has a British-style government-run system.
Switzerland, one of the most business-friendly countries, has a private insurance system just like the United States, but found that to make it work, it had to introduce a mandate like Obamacare.

I am particularly struck by the experience of Taiwan, which canvassed the world for the best ideas before creating its system. It chose Medicare for all, a single government payer with multiple private providers.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017


The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong....The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on "I am not too sure." -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

Kyle Okposo, a forward for the Buffalo Sabres, is in the Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit of a Buffalo hospital, undergoing tests for an undisclosed illness. Okposo, 28, has been ailing and undergoing tests since March 28. He entered Buffalo General Medical Center on Sunday and later was moved to the ICU. Okposo signed a seven-year, $42-million with the Sabres as an unrestricted free agent last summer after spending his first nine seasons in the NHL with the New York Islanders. Coach Dan Bylsma still has no update on Okposo’s condition, a tribute to the astonishing HIPPA secrecy of medical care and the NHL.

Wendy’s Chief Operating Officer, Bob Wright, stated the company experienced a five percent wage inflation and they expect wages to rise at least four percent in 2017. He addressed possible options to accommodate the rising costs of business and inflation, and the unfortunate answer was to eliminate 31 hours of labor each week.

In 2013, a college student assigned to research a deadly substance sought help via Twitter: "I can't find the chemical and physical properties of sarin gas someone please help me." 
An expert at a security consulting firm tried to be helpful, telling her that sarin is not gas. 
She replied, "yes the [expletive] it is a gas you ignorant [expletive]. sarin is a liquid & can evaporate ... shut the [expletive] up." 

“Americans should not take the current international order for granted,” Gen. David Petraeus said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing. “It did not will itself into existence. We created it. Likewise, it is not naturally self-sustaining. We have sustained it. If we stop doing so, it will fray and, eventually, collapse."

Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams missed almost five full baseball seasons (1943, 1944, 1945, 1952 and 1953) fighting as a fighter pilot in World War II and the Korean War and still managed to hit 521 home runs.

There was a time when newssheets printed in English were only permitted to carry foreign news – this curb on press freedom followed an edict by Queen Elizabeth I’s Privy Council in 1586 that no domestic news could be printed for public circulation.

According to political philosopher Walter Berns, the question always is not whether elites will govern but which elites will.

The public face of the U.S. Government as portrayed in the Press is increasingly weird. The Left is incapable of assessing anything with dispassion anymore. Romney was a pretty benign guy but, as Obama's opposition, he was characterized as the Prince of Darkness. Manichaeism precludes discussion. As a result, I have no idea what is going on. Was Trump's recent announcement about Israel really a simple rewording of the historical U.S. position as it seemed?  Should my day hinge on what Trump said in a phone call? Who are these lunatics in Berkley?
One real improvement would be if Trump moved one person back and created a time (and individual) filter before announcements.  But we simply can not go through an administration where every quarter hour a shrieking revelation is made by a hysterical and outraged press; we will all go nuts. Let's go back and worry about the Zika virus again for a while. And what about those wild pigs?

The Federal Reserve is quietly tightening monetary policy, allowing the maturity of its $4 trillion bond portfolio to decline every day. (WSJ)

in 1930 forty-four-year-old D. H. Lawrence died in Vence, France, of tuberculosis. Lawrence was so scoffing of medical (or any other) science that he refused to name or accept his condition, or to submit to any of the "magic mountain" treatments recommended to him. This fatalism was combined with a belief that he was in the grip of an evil spirit, visited upon him by a lifetime of vilification from misguided critics and an outraged public -- most recently for the banned Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), and for an exhibition of paintings condemned as "filth" by the press and confiscated by the police. "The hatred which my books have aroused comes back at me and gets me here," he told a friend, tapping his chest. "If I get the better of if in one place it goes to another." (Steve King)

Who is...Klaus Fuchs?

A new argument has arisen over taxation (maybe not so new). The conventional dispute has been about how heavily those on high incomes should be taxed. Taxation matters, but some think this is the wrong question. In future, taxation needs to make distinctions based less on how much money has been made, and more on how it has been made. Ruchir Sharma makes the point in The Rise and Fall of Nations by the simple metric of looking at the billionaire lists and comparing, country by country, the number who made their fortunes from innovation against those who made it from capturing rents. In successful nations the former predominate; in badly governed societies it is the rent-seekers who thrive. But the increasing complexity of our economies has brought new scope for rents. Some markets are being stretched beyond their capacity to allocate resources efficiently without new regulation, a point made by Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales in Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists. In response to complexity, taxes will need to become context-specific instead of income-specific. The new strategy will be to tax pockets of rents--with its attendant fallout in response to loss of return, especially in those of retirement age. Still, taxation must be seen for what it contains within, its essence: The power to destroy. Using it as a positive tool is like cutting the lawn with machine gun fire.

An HSV-2--herpetic--Trivalent Vaccine Is Immunogenic in Rhesus Macaques and Highly Efficacious in Guinea Pigs.

Negal writes, in a review of Daniel  Dennet's new book:
"Dennett writes, the world is
full of other people, plants, and animals, furniture and houses and cars…and colors and rainbows and sunsets, and voices and haircuts, and home runs and dollars, and problems and opportunities and mistakes, among many other such things. These are the myriad “things” that are easy for us to recognize, point to, love or hate, and, in many cases, manipulate or even create…. It’s the world according to us.
According to the scientific image, on the other hand, the world
is populated with molecules, atoms, electrons, gravity, quarks, and who knows what else (dark energy, strings? branes?).
This, according to Dennett, is the world as it is in itself, not just for us, and the task is to explain scientifically how the world of molecules has come to include creatures like us, complex physical objects to whom everything, including they themselves, appears so different."
It takes a photon, on average, 200,000 years to travel from the core of the Sun to the surface, then just a little over 8 minutes from the Sun's surface to your eyeball, sliding in at 1,100,000,000km/h.

Sometime the march of Science is more like a screaming Banzai attack.
Trump is considering the appointment of Robert F. Kennedy, an environmental activist and vocal vaccine skeptic, to lead a commission "on vaccine safety and scientific integrity," as was reported last week. Trump met with Kennedy in Trump Tower on January 10, and Kennedy later told his environmental-group colleagues that he would be taking a leave to chair the vaccine commission. (Trump’s team said later that no decision had been made yet.)

Over 12% of all the people ever born are 'walking' the planet at this very moment

An article by a McGill prof that is a thorough and thoroughly depressing discussion on university conformity. Here is the stated objective of a university department:
School of Social Work, at Ryerson University in Toronto: School of Social Work is a leader in critical education, research and practice with culturally and socially diverse students and communities in the advancement of anti-oppression/anti-racism, anti-Black racism, anti- colonialism/ decolonization, Aboriginal reconciliation, feminism, anti-capitalism, queer and trans liberation struggles, issues in disability and Madness, among other social justice struggles.

Martin Gabela is the guy who is championing short, intense workouts that he compares with 20-40 minute moderate workouts. When asked how these short programs helped weight loss he said this: "In general, exercise is not a huge contributor to weight control. People don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. It is much easier to cut calories in the diet than to burn large numbers of them with exercise of any kind. With H.I.I.T., there is some evidence that you develop a slight metabolic after-burn, meaning that for up to 24 hours after a session, you burn slightly more calories than if you had not exercised. But the numbers are small, so it’s better to eat less if weight loss is a goal."

Golden oldie:

In 1950, Klaus Fuchs was arrested for working as a spy for the Russians and passing them atomic secrets. His capture set off a chain of arrests. Harry Gold, whom Fuchs implicated as the middleman between himself and Soviet agents, was arrested in the United States. Gold thereupon informed on David Greenglass, one of Fuchs’ co-workers on the Manhattan Project. After his apprehension, Greenglass implicated his sister-in-law and her husband, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. They were arrested in New York in July 1950, found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage, and executed at Sing Sing Prison in June 1953.

Tom Brady does a brain exercise called BrinHQ. That’s the brain training program that Brady’s TB12 Sports Center installed as one of the four pillars of improvement techniques designed to meet Brady's goal of playing until he’s 50.
“I’ve used it for probably three years now consistently,” Brady said. “There has been a lot of talk about concussions and head trauma and CTE. I’ve learned that prevention is part of the issue. I work hard to try and prevent some of those things from happening. BrainHQ does a great job of cognitively trying to keep me ahead of any of those problems.”
Yeah, but does it make you a better quarterback?
“Yeah, you can see yourself improve,” he said. “It does a great job of tracking you, monitoring you, seeing where you were before. It’s been a great tool.”
Those are sweet words to the ears of Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science, the creator of the BrainHQ training program. According to Mahncke, Brady stumbled onto BrainHQ about three years ago, tried it for a year and liked it so much that he called Posit Science for a meeting. Dr. Merzenich is a recent winner of the Kavli Prize in Neuroscience.

In America, if you kill two or more people with a short time gap in between those two events, according to the FBI you are technically a serial killer. 
Criminologists estimate that in the united states at any given point of time there are over 100 serial killers yet to be caught walking amongst us.

I know of no rights of race superior to the rights of humanity, and when there is a supposed conflict between human and national rights, it is safe to go to the side of humanity. I have great respect for the blue eyed and light haired races of America. They are a mighty people. In any struggle for the good things of this world they need have no fear. They have no need to doubt that they will get their full share.
But I reject the arrogant and scornful theory by which they would limit migratory rights, or any other essential human rights to themselves, and which would make them the owners of this great continent to the exclusion of all other races of men.--Fredrick Douglass writing on immigration of Asians.
An interesting quote that I found used mistakenly in reference to Trump's immigration policy.

AAAAnnnnnndddddd.....a picture:

If all the economists were laid end to end they would all point in different directions.