Saturday, April 8, 2017


The crucial disadvantage of aggression, competitiveness, and skepticism as national characteristics is that these qualities cannot be turned off at five o'clock. -Margaret Halsey, novelist (13 Feb 1910-1997)

Less than three in 10 American billionaires inherited their wealth. One third of them are either first-generation Americans or were born elsewhere. And the percentage of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans who grew up wealthy has fallen from 60% in 1982 to 32% today. 

Correlations. The idea that second-hand smoke bans could drastically reduce heart attacks started with a study in Helena, Montana, which saw a 60% reduction in six months when it banned smoking in 2003 and a rebound when the law was struck down. No such dramatic effect has ever been seen since and the vast majority of studies find no evidence that second-hand smoke causes heart attacks. The Helena effect was a fluke. 
More: America’s crude oil imports eerily track its consumption of chickens.

An Emerson College poll found that 49 percent of U.S. voters believe that the Trump administration is “truthful,” while only 39 percent feel that way about the news media. Worse, 53 percent of those surveyed described the media as “untruthful.”

"When you look at something that happens, especially in politics, you look at something that happens, you say, 'Does this increase the dignity of the individual? Does this increase the liberty of the individual? Does this increase the responsibility of the individual?' If it meets those three criteria, then it's probably an acceptable libertarian political policy, or lack thereof, because we like to subtract some things from politics too."--P.J. O'Rourke

Where is....Agrabah?

In California, high school teacher Jaime Escalante taught calculus so successfully in a predominantly Latino school that, at one time, something like one-fourth of all Latino students who passed the AP Calculus test — in the entire country — came from the school where he taught.
Like other highly successful educators, especially in places where failure is the norm, Escalante was controversial within the education establishment. The teachers' union demanded that his large math class be reduced in size. He ended up leaving that high school to go teach elsewhere.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants Indians to use toilets, but millions resist government pressure in the “Clean India” initiative. (WSJ) The article continues on but you don't want to know.

Prior to World War I, the United States was a persistent long-term borrower.  It made sense for a young, growing economy with great prospects to borrow, and it was an attractive economy in which to invest.  And it has been a relatively attractive place of investment in recent years – inflation has been down, output has been rising, rates of return have been substantial, and there are no fears of Big Brother expropriating assets or forbidding their being taken home by foreign investors.  So both American and foreign capital has been channeled into this economy because it has been strong, not weak. --William Allen

Vice President Mike Pence has hired Mark Calabria as his chief economist, according to several people familiar with the move. This is a surprisingly conservative guy. He will not be the norm when discussions over free trade occur.
Calabria was director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, where he was a prominent voice on financial services and economic policy and an expert on mortgage and housing reform.
Before joining Cato in 2009, Calabria worked for the Senate Banking Committee, where he handled housing, mortgage finance, economics, banking and insurance for then-ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
Medicare patients admitted as "observation" to the hospital are insured under Part B of Medicare (20% of the cost under Medicare, 100% if you don't have it.) Inpatient admission is paid 100% by Medicare. The basic problem is this: The government has to manage people who want everything and still pay nothing.

Golden oldie:
William Deresiewicz wrote in the American Scholar on solitude and leadership. These short notes are an effort to distill what he said: ...

In 2012, families in the bottom income quintile (less than $17,104 in earned income) received net government benefits of $27,171. 27K.

We have less acreage under farming now than we did before the Louisiana Purchase.

Public Policy Polling asked a broad sample of Democratic and Republican primary voters whether they would support bombing Agrabah. Nearly a third of Republican respondents said they would, versus 13 percent who opposed the idea. Democratic preferences were roughly reversed; 36 percent were opposed, and 19 percent were in favor. Agrabah doesn’t exist. It’s the fictional country in the 1992 Disney film Aladdin. Liberals crowed that the poll showed Republicans’ aggressive tendencies. Conservatives countered that it showed Democrats’ reflexive pacifism. Experts in national security couldn’t fail to notice that 43 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats polled had an actual, defined view on bombing a place in a cartoon. --Foreign Affairs

A little known economic indicator: People change their drinking habits depending on the their view of the economy. Beer is the go-to drink in economic declines. In the last seven years, beer has lost market share every year to wine and mixed drinks.

"Can We Take a Joke?" came out in 2016 and tried to discuss college speech suppression using the experience of stand-up comics. "The documentary “Can We Take a Joke?,” a one-sided look at a multisided issue, does a fine job of defending a comic’s right to perform incendiary material. It would be better if it also at least acknowledged the possibility that some jokes ought not be told." That is from a movie review in the NYT. A newspaper!
The Middlebury event, however, has worried even the Left. Charles Murray is a significant man and thinker. His career was recently summarize:
" He earned his Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, spent six years in Thailand engaged in development assistance and program evaluation, and served seven years at the American Institutes of Research, eventually becoming its chief political scientist. Murray’s pathbreaking book Losing Ground: American Social Policy from 1950 to 1980 became one of the principle critiques leading to bipartisan welfare reform in 1996. In person, he is remarkably humble, soft spoken, and respectful to his critics."(The Beacon) This is Murray's CV:

The radiation leak in Japan is so significant that the repair robots working on the site can not function. There is a lot negative going on in Japan regarding nuclear power.

In 1837 Aleksandr Pushkin died at the age of thirty-seven, from a gunshot wound received in a duel two days earlier.

"Trump’s lies are different. They are direct refutations of reality — and their propagation and repetition is about enforcing his power rather than wriggling out of a political conundrum. They are attacks on the very possibility of a reasoned discourse, the kind of bald-faced lies that authoritarians issue as a way to test loyalty and force their subjects into submission."  (Sullivan)
I think this is close to the essence of our problem but I do not think Trump started it. What has happened over the last generation is the remarkable balance between the avalanche of lies and their counter points the internet allows. More, we are afflicted with a new viewpoint: The idea that anything that supports a basic perceived truth narrative is legitimate. Obama did this a lot but for Hillary this was not a technique, it was her permanent style. Trump either is a non-stop liar or is woefully ill-informed; I am not sure which is worse. But the idea that this is a departure from the norm is untrue. Sullivan's point about "reasoned discourse" is, however, an interesting and I think valid point. "Melania up front!"

AAAAAAaaaaaaannnnnnnddddddd......a chart:


No comments: