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:

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