Wednesday, May 31, 2017


“Slow is Smooth. Smooth is quick. Quick is fast.”--SEAL slogan
Would there be any threat from automation if interest rates were positive and the cost of capital real?

Millennials are the only generation out of the four current generations who don't identify work ethic as a key part of their identity, according to the Pew Research Center.

FBI Director James Comey attempted to go public as early as the summer of 2016 with information on Russia’s campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election, but Obama administration officials blocked him from doing so, two sources with knowledge of the matter told  Newsweek.

"Unless you need a financial advisor to help you get started in that routine, you probably don't need a financial advisor at all," Jack Bogel said, giving a nod of approval to, instead of a human advisor, hiring a low-cost robo-advisor to help you automate your investing. (Vanguard now offers such a service). "It's a personal choice. If you think you need a helping hand, then you do."

In 2013, when Democrats controlled the chamber,  then-Majority Leader Harry Reid obliterated the filibuster for all presidential nominees except Supreme Court justices.
Historically, it wasn't easy to sustain a filibuster, since it required the senator to remain in the chamber, standing on his feet and continuously speaking — or lose the floor, and see the issue brought to a vote. As long as a filibuster was underway, the Senate was blocked from moving on to other business. Filibusters were grueling ordeals. That explains why there were so few of them: only one per year, on average, before 1970.
In 1970, the Senate adopted a new policy under which senators had only to announce a filibuster on Bill X or Nominee Y in order to prevent that bill or nominee from being voted on. By unanimous consent, the Senate would agree to defer the issue in dispute, while other Senate business could proceed.

Richard Dawkins is fond of pointing out that a single college in Cambridge has won more Nobel Prizes than the entire Muslim world.

Who is....Jeffrey Lacker?

It remains to be seen what will happen to health care. The idea of mandating everyone have health care is an interesting gambit in ObamaCare as it is the obverse of the idea that everyone has a right to health care. If health care is a right like life, liberty et al and not an aspiration like your own home, super models and Audis then the thinking of the nation has changed a lot. The practical problems are terrific (think how scarcity would be managed) but the philosophical change is revolutionary.

Chris Mooney’s bestseller, The Republican War on Science focuses on generalities the Left dislikes but not much on consequences. For example, it reveals that Republican creationists exist but are they influential? They don’t affect the biologists or anthropologists studying evolution. George W. Bush refused federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, but that hardly put a stop to it (and not much changed after Barack Obama reversed the policy).  In his first chapter Mooney’s brief acknowledgment that leftists “here and there” have been guilty of “science abuse.” First, there’s the Left’s opposition to genetically modified foods, which stifled research into what could have been a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Second, there’s the campaign by animal-rights activists against medical researchers, whose work has already been hampered and would be devastated if the activists succeeded in banning animal experimentation. Third, there’s the resistance in academia to studying the genetic underpinnings of human behavior, which has cut off many social scientists from the recent revolutions in genetics and neuroscience.

The tyranny of the majority is no less real than any other, and, indeed, it may be more dangerous because it feeds on the idealistic illusion that participation is all that matters.--Buchannan

Presidents have had trouble with the press before. Both Adams and Jefferson did. Roosevelt was the most dramatic. Roosevelt created the Special Senate Committee on Lobbying, aka The Black Committee, after its chair,  Sen. Hugo L. Black (D–Ala.). The committee's original mission was to probe the opposition campaign to the "death sentence" in the Public Utility Holding Company Bill, a provision that would have allowed, under certain circumstances, the dissolution of utility holding companies. The Black Committee gained traction with the public when it brought to light evidence that some lobbyists had concocted thousands of "fake telegrams" sent to Congress to protest the bill. Smelling blood, Black expanded the investigation into a general probe of anti–New Deal voices, including journalists. Over a nearly three-month period at the end of 1935, FCC and Black Committee staffers searched great stacks of telegrams in Western Union's D.C. office. Operating with virtually no restriction, they read the communications of sundry lobbyists, newspaper publishers, and conservative political activists as well as every member of Congress. Writing to Black, one investigator stated that they had gone through "35,000 to 50,000 per day." Various newspapers and members of Congress later estimated that staffers had examined some five million telegrams over the course of the investigation. In 2017, this would be akin to staffers from a congressional committee and the FCC teaming up at the headquarters of Google and Yahoo! and then spending months secretly searching emails. (from the David Beito article in Reason)

The involvement of WikiLeaks in the Edward Snowden affair, catalogued ably by authors like John Schindler, Edward Lucas, and others, was so obviously facilitated by the Russians that it should be used as a case study in Espionage School 101. Recall that when Snowden showed up in Russia—a destination Assange recommended—WikiLeaks dispatched a fixer from their staff named Sarah Harrison to meet Snowden in Hong Kong and stand by his side in Moscow. From the time Snowden arrived in Russia, Harrison stuck to him like glue. If you think Assange’s recommendation, Snowden’s arrival, and Harrison’s presence are at all possible without a cozy relationship with the Russian secret services, then you don’t understand how any of this works.
Indeed, the later feuding between the Snowden camp and WikiLeaks (insofar as it was more than mere theater) speaks well of Snowden, in that it suggests what many of us long suspected: that Snowden was a stupid little boy who got involved way over his head in matters way beyond his competence. Assange and Harrison know what they’re doing, and for whom. Snowden, by now, also knows, but there’s not much he can do about it but to repay his masters for his new life in Russia.--Nichols

This is interesting. According to the WSJ, American companies are trying to stop employees from raiding their 401(k)s, in an attempt to ensure that older workers can afford to retire and make room for younger, less-expensive hires.
Public choice theory states that lying is more rational for a politician than for individuals in other walks of life. A politician's lies are less likely to be noticed or remembered by the "rationally ignorant" voter. Rational ignorance means that the individual voter has little incentive to invest time and money in gathering and analyzing political information because he will not be able, with his single vote, to change the election result. The politician running for office also has an incentive to lie when deprecating his opponents' character. If he wins, there will be no way to know whether or not his opponents would have been as bad as he claimed. And since the politician has no property rights in his office, the discounted value of his political reputation over time is very low, giving him an incentive to trade long-term credibility for short-run victories. --from Lemieux

A New Jersey teen pleaded guilty recently to a plot allegedly inspired by the Islamic State group to kill Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to the United States.

Golden oldie:
The State of the Union speech was the first formal campaign speech of this long and dreadful campaign season that inexplicably is tolerated ...

Having a state school system is a remarkably difficult idea to understand in a democracy. The relationship between the public and its government is by nature very difficult and antagonistic. The strongest argument for the separation of school and state is that it is extraordinarily dangerous to have the state in the business deciding which ideas and values are, and which aren’t, to be taught and conveyed.

Scientists try to avoid confirmation bias by exposing their work to peer review by critics with different views, but it’s increasingly difficult for liberals to find such critics. Academics have traditionally leaned left politically, and many fields have essentially become monocultures, especially in the social sciences, where Democrats now outnumber Republicans by at least 8 to 1. (In sociology, where the ratio is 44 to 1, a student is much likelier to be taught by a Marxist than by a Republican.) The lopsided ratio has led to another well-documented phenomenon: people’s beliefs become more extreme when they’re surrounded by like-minded colleagues. They come to assume that their opinions are not only the norm but also the truth.

It is generally believed--approvingly--among academics that education raises social liberalism and economic conservativism. But why should a social community prefer that over any other?

Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker announced his immediate resignation Tuesday, admitting that he discussed sensitive information with an analyst regarding the Fed's plans for economic stimulus. What!?

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring set off decades of chemophobia with its scary anecdotes and bad science, like her baseless claim that DDT was causing cancer in humans and her vision of a mass avian die-off (the bird population was actually increasing as she wrote). Yet Silent Spring is taught in high school and college courses as a model of science writing, with no mention of the increased death tolls from malaria in countries that restricted DDT, or of other problems—like the spread of dengue and the Zika virus—exacerbated by needless fears of insecticides.
One of Trump's more obnoxious qualities is his willingness to besmirch the country for his own purposes. He famously responded to a question about Putin, "There are a lot of killers. You think our country's so innocent?" 
His response to Assad's poison gas attack on the children--and then on the first responders--was to connect American errors in the past to the act. That is ridiculous. The gas attack is the result of Assad and his supporters, the Russians. Period. You don't get to have six degrees of separation for responsibility.

Fox and O'Reilly had paid out around $13m to halt potential legal action against O'Reilly, on claims including sexual harassment and verbal abuse. O'Reilly's show is a monster money maker having brought Fox $178m in advertising revenue in 2015 and $188.6m in the first nine months of 2016, according to research firm Kantar Media.
And why does Trump have an opinion?

AAAAaaaaaaaannnnnndddddddd......a graph:
Charles Minard's flow-map describing Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. Created in 1869, modern-day graph maven Edward Tufte called it "the best statistical graphic ever drawn". The main variables it conveys are army size, spatial location, temperature and time. The beige line is the army on its way to Moscow, the black line is the return journey. The most striking thing about it is the incredible shrinkage of le Grande Armée as the Russians chip away at it for 6 months.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Light Brigade

The Light Brigade story is surprisingly complex with several contributing writers involved. Tennyson  wrote his "Heavy Brigade" poem as a sequel in a charity effort. Rudyard Kipling later angrily wrote "The Last of the Light Brigade." 
The Light Brigade attack was led by Lord Cardigan. French Marsha Pierre Bosquet said: "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." ("It is magnificent, but it is not war.")  "C'est de la folie" — "It is madness." 
Of the 666 men known to have ridden in the charge there were 271 casualties: 110 killed (less than 17%), 129 wounded, plus another 32 wounded and taken prisoner. Additionally, 375 horses were killed.
The Heavy Brigade was led by Captain Scarlett.

The Light Brigade
In 1854, one of the most famous battles of military history was fought at Balaclava, in the Crimea. Upon reading reports of the disaster in the Times five weeks later, Tennyson wrote "The Charge of the Light Brigade."
The line "someone had blundered" came from a newspaper account:

    Half a league, half a league,
    Half a league onward,
    All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
    "Forward the Light Brigade!
    Charge for the guns!" he said.
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

    Forward, the Light Brigade!"
    Was there a man dismay'd?
    Not tho' the soldier knew
    Some one had blunder'd.
    Theirs not to make reply,
    Theirs not to reason why,
    Theirs but to do and die.
    Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred. . . .
The poem was so popular among those serving in the Crimea that a thousand copies were handed out at the front, and at Tennyson's funeral in Westminster Abbey survivors of the Balaclava battle lined the aisles.

Many of the surviving Balaclava soldiers, long returned to England and long forgotten, were so destitute that a charity drive was undertaken on their behalf. When little money was raised, the charity organizers suggested that the veterans visit Tennyson, who might rally support. When they did so, he wrote his "Heavy Brigade" poem and appealed for more donations. Money came in, and then the politicians gave a lot of it to other causes -- prevention of cruelty to animals, for one. This so angered Rudyard Kipling that he penned "The Last of the Light Brigade" documenting the scandal:
    There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,
    There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
    They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
    They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

    They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
    That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
    They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
    And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four !

    They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
    Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
    And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, "Let us go to the man who writes
    The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites."

    They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
    To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
    And, waiting his servant's order, by the garden gate they stayed,
    A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

    They strove to stand to attention, to straighen the toil-bowed back;
    They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;
    With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,
    They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

    The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and "Beggin' your pardon," he said,
    "You wrote o' the Light Brigade, sir. Here's all that isn't dead.
    An' it's all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin' the mouth of hell;
    For we're all of us nigh to the workhouse, an' we thought we'd call an' tell.

    "No, thank you, we don't want food, sir; but couldn't you take an' write
    A sort of 'to be continued' and 'see next page' o' the fight?
    We think that someone has blundered, an' couldn't you tell 'em how?
    You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now."

    The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.
    And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with "the scorn of scorn."
    And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,
    Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

    They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;
    They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;
    And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,
    A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.

    O thirty million English that babble of England's might,
    Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night;
    Our children's children are lisping to "honour the charge they made - "
    And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!


    (From The Kipling Society and Steve King)

Monday, May 29, 2017


May 29, 1919.
The English astronomer Arthur Eddington set up telescopes and cameras on Príncipe, an island off western Africa and waited for the eclipse. Einstein's Theory of Relativity predicted that gravity should bend light. So light from distant stars should curve as it passed by the sun. If true, the stars’ positions in the sky should appear to shift compared with their true positions. The sun’s brightness made this shift impossible to observe, of course—except during an eclipse, when stars could peek out from behind its shadow. 
On May 29, 1919, with the world still smoldering from another homicidal period of parochial war, an Englishman set his telescope up in Africa to prove the thesis of a German, a thesis about the rules of the universe. It was cloudy and had rained earlier; Eddington was worried. But he got 16 pictures but only two of value. But it was enough.
Eddington later said it was the greatest day of his life.

Sunday, May 28, 2017


According to the Academy of American Poets site, the sestina is a complex form that achieves its often spectacular effects through intricate repetition. The thirty-nine-line form is attributed to Arnaut Daniel, the Provencal troubadour of the twelfth century. The name “troubadour” likely comes from trobar, which means “to invent or compose verse.” The troubadours sang their verses accompanied by music and were quite competitive, each trying to top the next in wit, as well as complexity and difficulty of style. The sestina follows a strict pattern of the repetition of the initial six end-words of the first stanza through the remaining five six-line stanzas, culminating in a three-line envoi. The lines may be of any length, though in its initial incarnation, the sestina followed a syllabic restriction. The form is as follows, where each numeral indicates the stanza position and the letters represent end-words:
7. (envoi) ECA or ACE

Strange Relation (2011) is the American poet Rachel Hadas’s account of caring for her husband, the composer and Professor of Music George Edwards, who was diagnosed in 2005 – at the age of sixty-one – with dementia.
In “Mervyn Peake (1911–1968)” she takes as her subject another artist who fell victim to a neurodegenerative disease, Mervyn Peake, best-known for his Gormenghast trilogy (1946–1959). Peake began to exhibit signs of dementia in his mid-fifties. It first showed in his writing and drawing style and then began to affect his memory so that eventually “he could no longer read a story and retain the idea for an illustration long enough to draw it”. By the early 1960s, according to another account, “he was with us only in flashes, and those flashes were often over before we had grasped what he had said, or could reply”.
This poem is a sestina and its flowing, lilting, repetitive form creates a strange, sad but suggestively opaque effect. An Alice in Wonderland. (from TLS)

Mervyn Peake (1911–1968)

He learned the alphabet of arch and aisle
roaming the boundless castle that was home.
Arcades and corridors and battlements
rounded back on themselves, dead-ending, lost.
Unclear if there was anything called sky.
Friendly places – attic, open book –

led nowhere. Or the meaning of the book
burned with the library. Smoke scrolled up the aisle.
The roof came off. Under a changing sky
successive interpretations of home
shimmered into focus, then were lost.
Allegory: what this may have meant.

A girl named for a flower leaned over a battlement.
On a table behind her in the attic, a book
was open to a poem. Then her place was lost.
Ritual processions down an aisle
of venerable observance: this meant home.
She craned to see the color of the sky:

buttresses, but for years there had been no sky.
When the weather broke, it flooded the battlements.
Ways to feel safe in a perilous home:
curl up bodily inside a book;
explore a cave in a confected isle;
wander through a fortress. For all lost

girls’ or boys’ stories trace what they have lost
from toys in the attic to dreams of a carefree sky.
Azure childhood. Royal riddles. I’ll
try to explain what every gargoyle meant,
explicate each bright carving in this book:
weird holidays, the templates of a home.

Does the imagination make its own home?
Can we recognize meaning once it’s lost?
Does life unfold inside or outside the book
whose every page presents a private sky?
You do it too now: scale each battlement
or set the figures marching up the aisle

tangled with isle, home, sky
and what each meant, lost in the labyrinth
of his enormous book.


Saturday, May 27, 2017


"People succeed in markets by reducing scarcity – that is, by easing scarcity’s grip on their fellow humans. ................People succeed in politics by increasing scarcity – that is, by tightening scarcity’s grip on their fellow humans."--Bordeaux 

In the 20 years to 1998, the mortality rate of middle-aged white Americans fell by about 2% a year. But between 1999 and 2013, deaths rose. The reversal was all the more striking because, in Europe, overall middle-age mortality continued to fall at the same 2% pace. By 2013 middle-aged white Americans were dying at twice the rate of similarly aged Swedes of all races. Suicide, drug overdoses and alcohol abuse were to blame.

In terms of physical acreage, grape vines claim the largest total plantation area of any cultivated fruit crop on the planet (and they’re produced in almost every country of the world). It takes around 4-5 years for newly planted vines to be fully matured and ready for harvesting to make wine. A ton of wine grapes makes around 750 bottles, with each bottle requiring just under three pounds of fruit to make.
The Brits are understandably upset over the leaks from the American intelligence services about the details of the Manchester bombings. It is hard to understand this behavior--assuming bribery is not involved--but I heard an interview with an Intel guy who said, "It's cool to be in the know." And there seems to be little downside to being an abusive insider. Lois Lerner took the Fifth Amendment and retired with full benefits.

Although now less-known, the Irish dramatist Sean O'Casey's six-volume autobiography is said to be as personal and compelling as the plays. Frank McCourt, who would cover the same sort of ground a half-century later in Angela's Ashes, described O'Casey's autobiography as a revelation "He's the first Irish writer I ever read who wrote about rags, dirt, hunger, babies, dying. The other writers go on about farms and fairies and the mist that do be on the bog and it's a relief to discover one with bad eyes and a suffering mother."

This overturning of the new Trump immigration law is really interesting. It seems as if the judge has declared 1. non-citizens are protected by the Constitution (so how, for example, would war be waged? Could an aggrieved Ukrainian sue the Americans for not helping him have freedom of speech?) and 2. the judge's opinion of Trump's unspoken, theorized motives undermine his law. That is to say, the judge declares he knows what Trump is really thinking.
If my news-poor view is correct, this is a real reach of judicial power. Well meaning, culture-conscious grownups are necessary to avert constitutional crises.

The title of Umberto Eco's new  book is “Pape Satàn Aleppe.” It is taken from Pluto’s cryptic exhortation to Dante and Virgil in Canto VII of the Inferno. To this day, critics are still not sure what “Pape Satàn Aleppe” means, and what’s more, there is no consensus about why Dante trembles when he hears these words. Eco knows this, of course, and in his brief introduction, he identifies Pluto’s confused words with his own disconnected thoughts.

A quote:  "It wasn't always easy for new immigrants. Certainly it wasn't easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily, and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves. There was discrimination and hardship and poverty. But, like you, they no doubt found inspiration in all those who had come before them. And they were able to muster faith that, here in America, they might build a better life and give their children something more." Ben Carson, right? Nope. Obama, 2015.

Who is..Richard Hickock?

A 17-year-old student, who is said to have been armed with three guns and two grenades, opened fire on 16 March at Alexis de Tocqueville high school in the southern French town of Grasse, leaving at least eight injured, including the headmaster. The attack was carried out after the student had watched American-style mass shooting videos, according to the interior ministry.
While the Americans may not be willing to accept blame, the idea of insane behavior being infective is a disturbing one. Certainly there is evidence that car accidents and suicides have higher rates when they are publicized. One can only wonder if such thinking waters the mouths of those confident leaders who know things will be better if they could only have more control of entertainment, art and the news.
The old question still rankles: If good art is good for you, is bad art bad for you?

"Women will never know who they are until they let men be men. Let’s get rid of Infirmary Feminism, with its bedlam of bellyachers, anorexics, bulimics, depressives, rape victims and incest survivors. Feminism has become a catchall vegetable drawer where bunches of clingy sob sisters can store their moldy neuroses.”--Paglia, of course.

How is this possible? In a never-published manuscript, Richard Hickock, one of the killers depicted in Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood,’ tells his story about the 1959 murder of the Clutter family, revealing new insights about his view of the killings and raising questions about his motive.

And another. A laptop computer containing floor plans for Trump Tower, information about the Hillary Clinton email investigation and other national security information was stolen from a Secret Service agent's vehicle in Brooklyn, police sources told the Daily News.

Sears is being destroyed by Amazon. Yet 100-odd years ago, Sears was Amazon! Catalogue retailing—what an innovation. That is the nature of capitalism: the disruptor gets disrupted.

And a warning to the powerful demonic bakers cabal in the world:
Facing a bread shortage that is spawning massive lines and souring the national mood, the Venezuelan government is responding this week by detaining bakers and seizing establishments.
In a press release, the National Superintendent for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights (a great name!) said it had charged four people and temporarily seized two bakeries as the socialist administration accused bakers of being part of a broad “economic war” aimed at destabilizing the country.
The misuse of "bread power."

"If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don't send each month and blow the mind of Europe" Turkey's interior minister Soylu threatened Europe in a speech late Thursday. "Europe, do you have that kind of courage."
So, immigrants and refugees are weapons?

Golden oldie:
From all indications, someone or some group is killing scientist associated with the Iranian nuclear program. At least four have been murd...

Vladimir Nabokov made this distinction: "Satire is a lesson, parody is a game." So when does parody/teasing become cruel? What on SNL is a lesson?

In a recent Transamerica retirement survey, 25% of current workers said they expect Social Security to serve as their primary source of income once they end their careers. The problem, however, is that Social Security was never meant to sustain retirees by itself. In fact, those monthly benefits will only suffice in replacing about 40% of the average worker's pre-retirement income. Since most seniors need a good 70% to 80% of their previous income, and some inevitably wind up needing 100% or more, relying too heavily on those benefits could result in some pretty serious financial trouble.

An important insight about Lincoln and his assessment of America: "Lincoln's greatness began with his recoil from the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, which empowered residents of those territories to decide whether to have slavery. The act's premise was that "popular sovereignty" — majorities' rights — is the essence of the American project. Is it, or is liberty?" Then he writes, Justice Robert Jackson wrote, "The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to ... place  (certain subjects) beyond the reach of majorities." --Will, on freedoms vs. rights

Buchanan on the Trump election: "the only known crimes committed by Americans during and after the campaign are the leaks of security secrets by agents of the intel community, colluding with the Fourth Estate, which uses the First Amendment to provide cover for criminal sources, whom they hail as “whistleblowers.”"

A DC area entrepreneur named Kyle Albaugh wants to create a marketplace for colleges and applicants, which he calls Bid Brain. Colleges would provide Bid Brain with their admissions and financial aid/criteria. That would enable Bid Brain to tell you, for example, how much scholarship aid a white student with an ACT score of 29 who ranked in the top 10 percent of his class and who comes from a family with an $85,000 income and no other siblings in college could expect to receive – providing the student with the exact price for attending that university. 
Students, of course, would provide Bid Brain all the needed academic, demographic, and financial information needed to allow a determination of the price of the colleges for which the student would be eligible for admission. Then the student would receive a list of potential colleges and prices. With that information in hand, the student would then formally apply for admission to the college (or colleges) of his or her choice.

There is a debate going on in the libertarian web over immigration. Most favor all immigration freely across borders. One offers this economic view: "Standard economic estimates say that letting all the world's talent flow to wherever it's most productive would roughly DOUBLE global prosperity.  That's an extra $75 TRILLION of extra wealth per year.  How is this possible?  Because even the world's lowest-skill workers produce far more in the First World than they do at home." This is probably--but probably un-provably--true but the economic world would be vastly improved by simply eliminating the soul and economic crushing governments around the world, too. What the libertarian view that escapes me is this: Does it allow for free association? Could a Jewish group exclude atheists? Particularly, does it allow people to exclude others on the basis of their political and economic structure? Should, for example, a state be allowed to exclude people from entering it who are overtly hostile to it? Does the state require structural rules the libertarian will always oppose?

The U.S. has spent $22 Trillion dollars on entitlement programs over the last 50 years.

In the first nine months of 2016, around 32 percent of U.S. vehicle trade-ins carried outstanding loans larger than the worth of the cars, a record high, according to the specialized auto website Edmunds, cited by Moody’s. Typically, car dealers tack on an amount equal to the negative equity to a loan for the consumers’ next vehicle. To keep the monthly payments stable, the new credit is for a greater length of time. Over the course of multiple trade-ins, negative equity accumulates.

New analysis by Dr. David Macpherson of Trinity University and Dr. William Even of Miami University finds that an $11 minimum wage in St. Louis would cost the city roughly 1,000 jobs, with the job loss mostly occurring among the city’s most vulnerable populations.

AAAAaaaaaannnnnnndddddd......a graph:


Friday, May 26, 2017


Classics in Economics

Bourdreau from George Mason University was asked to list “Big 6 modern ideas in economics” and responded thus:

6. (i) Milton Friedman’s and Anna Schwartz’s demonstration that the Federal Reserve’s incompetence led to a much greater than necessary contraction of the economy in the early 1930s.  (See pages 299-419 of their 1963 book, A Monetary History of the United States: 1867-1960.)  (ii) Robert Higgs’s theory of regime uncertainty.  (See Higgs’s 1997 article “Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed After the War.”)
5. Armen Alchian’s proposed reformulation of production and cost theory – a reformulation that would be far more explanatory and much less misleading than are the conventional cost curves still taught today.  (See his 1959 article “Costs and Outputs.”)
4. James Buchanan’s, Gordon Tullock’s, Mancur Olson’s, Anthony Downs’s (and others’) public-choice analysis.  Despite Jim winning the 1986 Nobel Prize, to this day it is, bizarrely, considered to be scientifically acceptable for economists to treat government officials as not responding to incentives in the same way that individuals in the private sector are known to respond to incentives.  (See Buchanan’s and Tullock’s 1962 book, The Calculus of Consent; Olson’s 1965 book, The Logic of Collective Action; and Downs’s 1957 book, An Economic Theory of Democracy.)
3. Ronald Coase’s explanation that externalities necessarily are caused by the actions both of the parties who are identified as ‘causing’ the harms and of the parties who suffer the harms.  (See his 1960 article “The Problem of Social Cost.”)
2. (i) Julian Simon’s demonstration that human creativity is the ultimate resource.  (See his 1996 book, The Ultimate Resource 2.)  (ii) Deirdre McCloskey’s explanation that modern prosperity is largely the result of market-tested innovation unleashed by greater dignity accorded to bourgeois pursuits.  (See especially her 2010 volume, Bourgeois Dignity and her 2016 volume, Bourgeois Equality.)
1. F. A. Hayek’s 1945 explanation that market prices convey the information necessary for each of multitudes of economic actors to coordinate his or her choices with the actions and choices of others. (See his 1945 article “The Use of Knowledge in Society.”)

The battle among uncertainty,  error and creativity in the economy; the erroneous separation between the abilities and errors of the citizen vs. his leader; the linkage of commerce on both sides of the equation; the creativity of the individual and the marketplace; and the marketplace as a source of information in addition to an effect--the brilliance within simplicity, the simplicity within brilliance.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Anatole France

Intellectuals of Various Sizes

Anatole France's real name was Jacques Anatole Francois Thibault; he took his pseudonym from his father's Parisian bookstore, "Librairie de France," rather than from any premonition of becoming the personification of French literature for his generation. He wrote in every genre, and his collected works run to twenty-five volumes, but he is best remembered for his erudition, ironic wit and elegance rather than for any one book. When he won the 1921 Nobel Prize, the Committee cited his "nobility of style, a profound human sympathy, grace, and a true Gallic temperament."
By the time of his death, France was not only regarded as the grand master of French literary style but as an icon of nationalism and political commitment.

France died in 1924 and was given a state funeral and intellectuals of various sizes, one dead, met on the impromptu battlefield. 
By then Andre Breton and others had split away from the impromptu anarchy and nonsense poetry of the Dadaists, and towards a more directed "Surrealist Revolution." Their first public, orchestrated "scandal" was directed towards France and his funeral: they asked for official permission to open the casket and slap his corpse. Denied this, they handed out a pamphlet on the day of France's funeral entitled "A Corpse," in which Breton applauded the national tribute: "Let it be a holiday when we bury trickery, tradition, patriotism, opportunism, skepticism, and heartlessness.... His corpse should be put in an empty quayside box of the old books which he loved so much and thrown into the Seine. Dead, this man must produce dust no longer." Matching symbolism with symbolism, "A Corpse" was distributed among the estimated crowd of 200,000 which gathered to pay tribute to France.
(from steve king)


Wednesday, May 24, 2017


"Several readers have written in this week saying they’re having a hard time squaring The Times’s own past reports of wiretapping with the paper’s assertions that there is no firm evidence that any warrants for wiretaps have been issued" - the NYT

"The turning point came in 1758. The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting [of Quakers] recorded a "unanimous concern" against "the practice of importing, buying, selling, or keeping slaves for term of life." This was the first success for the cause of abolition anywhere in the Western world. "The history of the early abolitionist movement," writes historian Arthur Zilversmit, "is essentially the record of Quaker antislavery activities." Quakers also took an active interest in the welfare of former slaves. Many masters helped to support their slaves after manumitting them. Others compensated them for their labor during slavery. When Abner Woolman (the brother of John Woodman) in 1767 freed two slaves his wife had inherited, he decided to pay them a sum equal to the amount that the estate had been increased by their labor, and asked the Haddonfield (New Jersey) meeting to help him compute a just sum."--from David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America
When Kingsley Amis praised the genre of science fiction, it was often for its extra-literary strengths – “the idea as hero.”
William Wordsworth's "Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood" contains some of his most well-known lines and ideas -- that "the child is father of the man," that "birth is but a sleep and a forgetting," that "trailing clouds of glory do we come," however these must fade:
    There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
    The earth, and every common sight,
    To me did seem
    Apparell'd in celestial light,
    The glory and the freshness of a dream.
    It is not now as it hath been of yore;-
    Turn wheresoe'er I may,
    By night or day,
    The things which I have seen I now can see no more....

From the CBO assessment of the new Rube-publican "health plan:"

"In 2018, by CBO and JCT's estimates, about 14 million more people would be uninsured, relative to the number under current law. That increase would consist of about 6 million fewer people with coverage obtained in the nongroup market, roughly 5 million fewer people with coverage under Medicaid, and about 2 million fewer people with employment-based coverage. In 2019, the number of uninsured would grow to 16 million people because of further reductions in Medicaid and nongroup coverage. Most of the reductions in coverage in 2018 and 2019 would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate. Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they choose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties. And some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums. CBO and JCT estimate that, in total, 41 million people under age 65 would be uninsured in 2018 and 43 million people under age 65 would be uninsured in 2019."
The problem here is, partly at least, that many people will drop their coverage--and become "uninsured"--if they are not forced to have it or if they have to pay for it. That is a little bit different than the simplistic description we are getting.

The basic Progressive problem never changes: Which promise to break.
Who is....Howard Carter?

"AI is no more scary than the human beings behind it, because AI, like domesticated animals, is designed to serve the interests of the creators." This is being offered by Caplan as a defense--a defense--of Artificial Intelligence.

Once the state is no longer neutral with respect to preferences, it can intervene on the side of the bad guys just as easily as on the side of the good.--Richard Epstein

Three patients who underwent what they believed were stem-cell treatments for macular degeneration lost their vision as a result at a Florida clinic, according to doctors who wrote about it in the New England Journal of Medicine.

When the proponents of Earth Hour celebrate renewable energy, they are envisioning modern wind turbines or solar power stations. But the reality is that wood and dung used by the poor are by far the largest renewable energy source on the planet.--Lomborg

It is reported in Business Insider that a U.S. ally shot a 200 dollar drone down with a 3 million dollar missile. That is a metaphor for government spending.

When Tutankhamun’s tomb was opened by Howard Carter in 1922, for example, 36 jars of wine were found to have been buried alongside the Egyptian boy king that contained traces of vintage red wine. The oldest known unopened bottle of wine was found in 1867 during excavation of a Roman nobleman’s tomb near the German town of Speyer; dating from around 325 AD, the nearly 1700-year-old flask currently sits on display in the town’s Historical Museum of the Palatinate.

According to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children in 2012—the most recent year for which data is available—was identified as being on the autism spectrum. That's up from one in 88 in 2008 and one in 150 in 2002. Is that an increase in disease prevalence or awareness? Children of older parents have an increased autism risk and that boys are four-to-five times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls.  Genes play a role as there are rare genetic anomalies found in some individuals with autism.
In 1815, Jane Austen completed Emma, her fourth novel in five years, and the last to appear in her lifetime. Though Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park had been popular, anonymously-written novels by provincial women on domestic themes were risky business for publishers, and Austen was offered such poor terms for Emma that she decided to publish it at her own expense. That it appeared with a dedication to the Prince Regent, a person whose debauched lifestyle Austen had condemned. The prince loved her books and asked that one be dedicated to him. She did so but declined his suggestion of a romance based on his family writing, "But I could no more write a romance than an epic poem . . . and if it were indispensable for me to keep it up and never relax into laughing at myself or other people, I am sure I should be hung before I finished the first chapter."
Krauthammer has a good article on government efficiency. This is from it:
"Madison's genius was to understand that the best bulwark against tyranny was not virtue — virtue helps, but should never be relied upon — but ambition counteracting ambition, faction counteracting faction.
You see it even in the confirmation process for Neil Gorsuch, Trump's supremely qualified and measured Supreme Court nominee. He's a slam dunk, yet some factions have scraped together a campaign to block him. Their ads are plaintive and pathetic. Yet I find them warmly reassuring. What a country — where even the vacuous have a voice.
The anti-Trump opposition flatters itself as "the resistance." As if this is Vichy France. It's not. It's 21st-century America. And the good news is that the checks and balances are working just fine."
Golden oldie:
Samuelson wrote "We have only one history of capitalism. Inferences based on a sample of one must never be accorded sure-thing interpretatio...
A package exploded when it was opened at the offices in central Paris of the International Monetary Fund. Radical Libertarians?

Giving USA 2016: The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2015
The giving to religion slice of Giving USA’s recipient pie chart, which measures the percentage of donations made to nine charitable subsectors, has steadily shrunk for decades. Paradoxically, it has never tumbled from its first-place standing in terms of total donations received. In 2015, the category held firm at 32 percent of the total received, the same figure estimated for 2014.

Will wrote on trump's effort to defund the federal contribution to the National Endowment of the Arts,  "The idea that the arts will wither away if the NEA goes away is risible. Distilled to its essence, the argument for the NEA is: Art is a Good Thing, therefore a government subsidy for it is a Good Deed. To appreciate the non sequitur, substitute “macaroni and cheese” for “art.”"

From 2000 through the third quarter of 2016, the value of U.S. assets owned by foreigners did indeed increase by $23.4 trillion, from $9.2 trillion to $32.6 trillion. But in that same time, the net worth of U.S. households and non-profits increased by $47.3 trillion, to $90.8 trillion. The net worth of U.S. businesses, corporate and non-corporate, increased by another $18.7 trillion. While the foreign stake in our economy continues to grow, the net worth of American households and businesses has grown by an even larger amount. --Griswold

From what I can see, the Trump-Russia connection is beginning to fade from public discussion, like last week's Kardashian outfit. Perhaps this is because there is an official investigation but, to my knowledge, so far there has been little other than "the hope of impropriety."The indifference to the truth, the focus upon the sensational, the acceptance of "The Plausible" are all becoming part of our daily life. Trump has recognized this and has simply joined in.

AAAAAaaaaaannnnnndddddd......a graph: