Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Biographical history, as taught in our public schools, is still largely a history of boneheads: ridiculous kings and queens, paranoid political leaders, compulsive voyagers, ignorant generals, the flotsam and jetsam of historical currents. The men who radically altered history, the great creative scientists and mathematicians, are seldom mentioned if at all. -Martin Gardner, mathematician and writer (1914-2010) 

FactSet Research estimated that combined profits in the S&P 500 companies will rise 6.5% in this year’s second quarter. But the 6.5% average disguises considerable variation. Five of the 11 sectors have 1.3% earnings growth or less. Two are actually declining. Then there’s energy, where earnings growth is not just above above-average but 61 times more than average.
Needless to say, earnings growth is way out of balance. The energy sector’s big recovery skews the average—remove it and the average drops from 6.5% to 3.6%, according to FactSet.
So, does an index fund make sense?

Seven thousand Dutchmen volunteered for the SS, and a higher proportion of Dutch Jews died in the Holocaust—three-quarters of them, more than twice the proportion in Belgium, for example, and three times more than in France—than in any other occupied country of Western Europe. Whatever the reasons for this disproportion—the relatively unpropitious Dutch landscape for a life of clandestinity is surely one—unease about it is inevitable. According to one historian of the Holocaust in the Netherlands, Marnix Croes: the Dutch reacted to the German occupation, including the persecution of the Jews, with a high degree of cooperation, following their reputed tradition of deference to authority. This did not change when the deportations started, and it lasted until the beginning of 1943. . . . [T]here was for a long time little doubt that the bureaucracy would not sabotage German-imposed measures, and in fact these were thoroughly implemented.

Who is....Deep Blue?

The heart of the left isn’t helping the poor, or reducing inequality, or even minority rights.  The heart of the left is being anti-market.  With some honorable exceptions, very few leftists are capable of being excited about deregulation of any kind.  And even the leftists who do get excited about well-targeted deregulation get far more excited about stamping out the hydra-headed evils of market.--Caplan
This is more than the their confidence in their ability to control complex systems, it is also a disdain for spontaneous and beneficial order.

Will has an article on baseball and the changes in the game. One point, two pitchers in the 1960 World Series final game game, the Yankees' Bobby Shantz and the Pirates' Elroy Face, were 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 8 inches, respectively.

According to the 2010 Contaminated Water report from the United Nations Environmental Programme, more people die from contaminated and polluted water than violence and war.  

The second to last thing China wants is a new Korean war. But the last thing China wants is a united Korea under South Korean leadership. China's Communist Party leadership has learned the lessons of 1989-1991, when German reunification ultimately pushed the borders of NATO some 1000 kilometres to the east and Soviet communism was thrown into the dustbin of history. --Barbanes

NBC Sports on the deterrent effect Reaves might bring--or not bring--to the Pens:
Over the past four seasons the St. Louis Blues — Reaves’ former team — were on the receiving end of eight incidents that resulted in supplemental discipline from the NHL (suspension or fine), typically reserved for the dirtiest plays. The only team that was on the receiving end of more during that stretch was the Boston Bruins (10 –and keep in mind, this was a team that had Shawn Thornton and Milan Lucic for most of those years)

House Republicans are proposing eliminating the deduction that companies get for interest they pay on debt, a move that would alter modern finance. (wsj)

Golden oldie:

The Enigma coding machine, invented in 1919 by Hugo Koch, a Dutchman, looked like a typewriter and was originally employed for business purposes. The German army adapted the machine for wartime use and considered its encoding system unbreakable. They were wrong. The Brits had broken the code as early as the German invasion of Poland and had intercepted virtually every message sent through the system. Britain nicknamed the intercepted messages Ultra.

The market's long-run effect on people's standard of living is probably the most successful economic argument of the last fifty years.

A network of seven internet sites in Europe to sell items including fabric, DVD cases, and maps are fake outlets. The faux store fronts are a multinational system to disguise payments for the $40 billion global online gambling industry. Online gambling is illegal in many countries and some U.S. states. The dummy sites underline a strategy which regulators, card issuers and banks have yet to tackle head-on. The scheme found by Reuters involved websites which accepted payments for household items from a reporter but did not deliver any products. Instead, staff who answered helpdesk numbers on the sites said the outlets did not sell the product advertised, but that they were used to help process gambling payments, mostly for Americans.

James Otis, a Massachusetts lawyer, came to prominence in his impassioned speech against the Writs of Assistance in 1761, centering his arguments on natural law. Struck by lightning in 1783, James Otis did not live beyond the Revolution. But John Adams remarked that he had never known a man “whose service for any ten years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.”

A warning issued by the head of a mosque-seminary in Pakistan's capital city: "The government should abolish co-education. Quaid-i-Azam University has become a brothel. Its female professors and students roam in objectionable dresses ... Sportswomen are spreading nudity. I warn the sportswomen of Islamabad to stop participating in sports ... Our female students have not issued the threat of throwing acid on the uncovered faces of women. However, such a threat could be used for creating the fear of Islam among sinful women. There is no harm in it. There are far more horrible punishments in the hereafter for such women."

What does this mean for the future voting? A new poll released exclusively to the Hill shows that most Americans feel the investigations into alleged collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign are a distraction. The poll found that 64% of Americans believe the investigations are hurting the country, and 73% believe that the focus on Russia is distracting Congress from important issues like health care and tax reform.

The so-called Institute on Inequality and Democracy at the University of California Los Angeles, a publicly funded institution, recently released  a 'Resistance' handbook for their students.  Among other things, the handbook specifically defines "Trumpism" as a movement that "consolidates power through white supremacy, misogyny, nationalism, xenophobia, corporatism, and militarism."
And here I thought he was just a jerk.

Apart from this principle there would be no basis for general public support for economics as a legitimate academic discipline, no place for economics as an appropriate part of a liberal educational curriculum.  I refer, of course, to the principle of the spontaneous order of the market, which is the great intellectual discovery of the eighteenth century. --James Buchanan

Good news: More than 200 colleges and universities have set up Bias Response Teams.

I can’t talk about the details of the intelligence, but we have, the intelligence community has said, that this election was meddled with by the Russians in a way that is frankly not particularly original. They’ve been doing this for an awfully long time. And we are decades into the Russians trying to undermine American democracy. So in some ways, there’s no news, but it certainly puts a heightened emphasis on our ability to figure out how to stop them. --CIA Director Mike Pompeo

Uh oh. In a new report, Circa reveals why the Michael Flynn investigation may be nothing more than an act of retaliation orchestrated by Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe after Flynn personally supported an FBI agent that filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against McCabe back in 2012. 

Petrochemicals, once a cheap byproduct, are powering a U.S. manufacturing boom and export bonanza. The new investment will establish the U.S. as a major exporter of plastic and reduce its trade deficit, economists say. (wsj)

AAAAaaaannnnndddddd.....a picture of another of our animal friends, Deep Blue, believed the largest great white ever seen:
Largest Great White

Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Burnout and Loneliness
The General Social Survey of 2016 found that, compared with roughly 20 years ago, people are twice as likely to report that they are always exhausted. Close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work. This is a shockingly high statistic — and it’s a 32% increase from two decades ago. The book The Happiness Track reports that 50% of people — across professions, from the nonprofit sector to the medical field — are burned out. This isn’t just a problem for busy, overworked executives. Rather the problem is pervasive across professions and up and down corporate hierarchies.
One element that pops up in these discussions is, surprisingly, loneliness

This is particularly true in Medicine.

The consolidation of medical care, the loss of independence and the drive for productivity has had its effect. Meetings and conferences within hospitals and among different groups have almost disappeared.  And with it goes that collegiality, that social framework embedded in the professional work. The horizon for medicine has retracted to the exam room and the dictating office. And among the less clinical subsets, like radiology, it is worse. Some specialties work in solitary confinement.  

The old adage has proven true: "If you can't bill for it, it will vanish."

Monday, July 24, 2017


Untended Consequences in The Congo

A story of unintended consequences created by people who believe they can control complex systems.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has vast mineral reserves; the value of their reserves is estimates at 24 Trillion Dollars. Needless to say, this has attracted financial predators, militias who act like the Mafia at mining sites, demanding payment for access to work sites and portions of paychecks to allow the miners to work. The products of these mines are bought and used by sophisticated electronics companies.

In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Bill--eager to do good for all men everywhere--included a provision that mandated the purchasing company note where the minerals came from and who benefitted. The hope was to shame the companies or to influence them from outside criticism so they might influence the banditry. So exposing the sources of Apple's or Intel's  tantalum, tin, tungsten and gold would somehow influence the criminal militias. Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.) famously said at the time that the bill was supposed to “cut off funding to people who kill people.”

So what happened? The companies could not be sure of their sources or the local economics so, fearful of coming under government criticism and action, they abandoned the Congo and went to other states. Companies avoided the extra costs and red tape by boycotting tantalum, tin and tungsten mined in the Congo and instead looked to suppliers in Australia and Brazil. Congolese mineral exports plunged by 90% in the wake of the legislation, according to DRC mining officials. Consequently, income to militias from such mines either plunged or vanished entirely.

In a   study in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists Dominic Parker and co-author Bryan Vadheim document that while the law may have cut off one source of revenue to armed groups, it led them to intensify their plundering of civilians in the region—exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. By their estimates, violent incidents more than doubled after the law was implemented. Impact on miners was not included.

The economists assert that before Dodd-Frank, Congolese militias acted as “stationary bandits.” The idea is that a strongman who seeks to rule for years won’t use his iron fist to crush the people entirely—and he may even invest a bit in roads, security and other provisions to ensure he avoids an uprising that could loosen his control. Messrs. Parker and Vadheim stress that stationary bandits are no saints, but the arrangement “may be safer and more economically productive than anarchy.” Messrs. Parker and Vadheim found that armed groups specifically targeted farmers during harvest time—especially after bumper crops.

But certainly the politicians rest comfortably with the assurance they have done their part to improve the state of mankind. At least they tried.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


The last several Gospels are filled with parables, so many that the Apostles finally ask Christ why he speaks in parables. He replies,
"Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."
So is Christ saying that the human brain ruminates on concepts and works through them with more positive results than simply hearing a didactic lesson or a convincing argument?
That seems to have a lot of implications to education and to creative writing.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


"The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition." --G K Chesterton

A new study by Concordia economics professor Ian Irvine shows that subsidizing EVs in the North American context will not reduce GHG emissions in the short-term, and may even increase them—at a cost to taxpayers.
Recently published in Canadian Public Policy, Irvine's study compared the incentives for producing EVs that are found in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, North America's fuel-efficiency regulations, with new EV subsidy policies in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
He found that, while the subsidies encourage the production of more EVs, they undermine the efficiency requirements of existing incentives for conventional vehicles. This results in a zero or negative near-term GHG benefit.
"Sometimes you have more than one policy aimed at a particular goal, and usually those policies are complementary," Irvine notes. "But in this case, they work at cross purposes."

And another Canadian report:
Subsidizing the purchase of electric cars in Canada is an inefficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that is not cost effective, according to a Montreal Economic Institute study released Thursday.
"It's just a waste," said Germain Belzile, one of the authors of the study, which examined electric vehicle subsidies offered by Canada's two biggest provinces Ontario and Quebec, which can rise to as much as a third of a vehicle's purchase price, depending on the model.
"Not only do these programs cost taxpayers a fortune, but they also have little effect on GHG emissions," he said.

Who is...David Gelernter?

"Life has no meaning a priori. ... It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose." - These are the words of Jean-Paul Sartre, writer and philosopher. It is a belief that creates a rat's nest of options. People, of course, can not live this way but he is taken quite seriously. The French never have recovered from the Second War. It drove them all nuts.

Speaking of nuts, here is a quote from Bernie Sanders: “The American dream is more apt to be realized in South America, in places such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina.”
Some people can just say these things. Ditto the writings of Trinity College Professor Johnny Eric Williams. He's from Trinity College!

An interesting question was asked in the hearing yesterday about the Russians' hacking the DNC: If this was such a big deal, why did the DNC refuse to allow the feds to examine the hacks?

Garry Kasparov, the international chess champion who was beaten by an AI machine, has given the issue of AI a lot of thought. Last month he released a new book called Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. He says that the IBM machine that beat him "was anything but intelligent. It was as intelligent as your alarm clock. A very expensive one, a $10 million alarm clock, but still an alarm clock. Very poweful -- brute force, with little chess knowledge. But chess proved to be vulnerable to the brute force. it could be crunched once hardware got fast enough and databases got big enough and algorithms got smart enough."

A guy ran through a group of people at a London mosque in a car. This will, as usual, be taken seriously when it is just another wacko in religious/political drag. Fear the Bell Shaped Curve!

Golden oldie:

A 36-year-old Spanish bullfighter died after he tripped on his cape in the ring and was gored by the bull during an event in France, according to the Guardian. Ivan Fandino was hospitalized, but later died from his injuries.

The damage to human society, and to “the planet”, from the projected rise of a few degrees of global temperature, while commonly described as apocalyptic, would be minor compared to the results of all-out nuclear war.  More to the point, the degree of human responsibility in climate change is more disputed among serious scientists than the public is aware, due to the role of such contributing factors as solar variations.  But the degree of human responsibility for nuclear weapons is unquestionably total.--Diana Johnstone

A case of malpractice recently concerned the removal of the wrong testicle (the good one removed, the diseased one left behind).
A 2006 study supported by the public Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality analyzed nearly 3 million operations over nearly two decades, and found that wrong-site surgery occurred in "only" about 1 in 112,994 cases.

Rizzo injured catcher Austin Hedges during a home plate collision recently. Rizzo is getting justified criticism but it is the exact kind of play Pete Rose was famous--and revered--for.

Carrie Fisher had cocaine, heroin and ecstasy in her system when she died last December, according to an autopsy report obtained by The Associated Press. "Sleep apnea."

In a ruling that could have broad impact on how the First Amendment is applied in other trademark cases in future, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a federal prohibition on disparaging trademarks as a constitutional violation in a ruling involving a band called The Slants. From a report: The opinion in Matal v. Tam means that Simon Tam, lead singer of an Asian-American rock band called "The Slants," will be able to trademark the name of his band. It's also relevant for a high-profile case involving the Washington Redskins, who were involved in litigation and at risk of being stripped of their trademark.

Israel has been secretly supplying Syrian rebels near its border with cash as well as food, fuel and medical supplies for years, a "secret engagement in the enemy country’s civil war" aimed at carving out a buffer zone populated by friendly forces, the WSJ reported.
And, if that were not enough madness, the Saudi information ministry said the Saudi Royal Navy allegedly stopped an attempted terrorist attack on a major offshore oilfield in the Persian Gulf on June 16, when it captured three members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps from a boat as it approached the kingdom's offshore Marjan oilfield. The Saudi Center for International Communications added that the boat carried explosives, and the Iranians aboard "intended to carry out terrorist act in Saudi territorial waters."
Something is going on with the Saudis.

The worst thing you can do is to convince yourself, or be convinced by others, that you are somehow a victim and therefore  unable to achieve success through your own effort and initiative.  Some people start out with fewer advantages than others, but even those who are less advantaged can do extremely well if they make the effort and apply themselves intelligently….  No one cares more about your personal success than you do.  Neither does anyone else know more about your interests, skills, and goals. (From Common Sense Economics)

[E]nvironmentalism has become a dogmatic, fundamentalist, persecuting religion that will keep us from ameliorating our environmental problems. --Paul Heyne


On Thursday, the country’s military said that a Canadian Special Operations sniper had shot an Islamic State fighter in Iraq from more than two miles away, purportedly breaking a world record for the longest confirmed kill shot in history, according to the Globe and Mail. The Murder Olympics.

In 1993, Yale University computer science professor David Gelernter was seriously injured while opening his mail when a padded envelope exploded  in his hands. The attack just came two days after a University of California geneticist was injured by a similar bomb and was the latest in a string of bombings since 1978 that authorities believed to be related. This bomb went off in his kitchen, in his family's home. The perpetrator was Theodore Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber.” These bombings were included with 14 others since 1978 that killed 3 people and injured 23 others. A close reading of this story is interesting. The Left has always held Kaczynski in some regard because they agree with his environmental position and he was an academic. It is worth reading about, more for the surrounding politics than the madman himself.
Gelernter wrote a book called Drawing Life about this and it gave several academics the opportunity to savage him.

According to the website Wired UK, as of June 5, there were 535 terrorist attacks around the world -- with 3,635 fatalities -- since the beginning of 2017 alone.

"...the great divide in America today is between those who do believe, as the founders did, that “first come rights and then comes government,” and those who believe, as progressives do, that “first comes government and then comes rights.”--Will's intro to Barnett's Our Republican Constitution

Several of his former law clerks have said they think Justice Kennedy is contemplating stepping down in the next year or so.

AAAAAaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnndddddd.....a graph:

Friday, July 21, 2017


On this day in the year 365, a powerful earthquake off the coast of Greece caused a tsunami that devastated the city of Alexandria, Egypt. Although there were no measuring tools at the time, scientists now estimate that the quake was actually two tremors in succession, the largest of which is thought to have had a magnitude of 8.0.  The quake was centered near the plate boundary called the Hellenic Arc and quickly sent a wall of water across the Mediterranean Sea toward the Egyptian coast. Ships in the harbor at Alexandria were overturned as the water near the coast receded suddenly. Reports indicate that many people rushed out to loot the stranded ships. The tsunami wave then rushed in and carried the ships over the sea walls, landing many on top of buildings. In Alexandria, approximately 5,000 people lost their lives and 50,000 homes were destroyed.

The surrounding villages and towns suffered even greater destruction. Many were virtually wiped off the map. Outside the city, 45,000 people were killed. In addition, the inundation of saltwater rendered farmland useless for years to come. Evidence indicates that the area’s shoreline was permanently changed by the disaster. Slowly, but steadily, the buildings of Alexandria’s Royal Quarter were overtaken by the sea following the tsunami.

It was not until 1995 that archaeologists discovered the ruins of the old city off the coast of present-day Alexandria.
(from This Day in History)

Thursday, July 20, 2017


History as DNA

One of the aspects of the thinking, or non-thinking, on the political Left is their obsession with the past.

The Left, since Hegel, are people of history. The Dialectic shapes our lives. (Hegel thought the battle was one of ideas, Marx thought it of economics.) The present is the inevitable product of the past. Perhaps this is the reason the Left is so preoccupied with the past.
Each dialectic strand collides and combines with its opponent strand to create a new strand, like DNA, which moves on to the present, in search of a new opponent. That makes the present--rather than a solution of the past--a new strand soiled by one element of the past. The revolution is never enough; the past must be purified. So an American immigrant of Polish ancestry finds himself the modern personification of ancient English slaveholding planters, a second generation American of Irish grandparents becomes a representative of the Spanish Inquisition.
For this reason, the revolutionary Marxist does not defeat his opponent, he is obligated to deracinate him, to kill his family, friends and associates.

Theirs is not a war of ideas, it is a war against the Past. And, as such, they can never be successful. Or appeased.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Two things are infinite ... the Universe and human stupidity. And I'm not sure about the Universe.--Albert Einstein

The Keynesian idea that massive government spending, a "stimulus package," would revive the economy after the Great Recession of 2008-2009 resulted in trillions of dollars of government borrowing here and abroad which created only a decade-long anemic recovery. The number of jobs created under President Barack Obama's stimulus turned out to be fewer than the number we would have had if the government had done nothing — according to the Obama administration's own analysis. So we got $9 trillion of debt with almost nothing to pay for it. Amazingly, every Obama budget forecast that annual growth would reach 3.5 to 4.5%. We never got growth above 3% under Obama, and the average growth was 2%, ending at 1.6%. The reality was, on average, about 1.5%age points below the projection, which was about an 80% overestimate of growth.

“Administrative power is like off-road driving,” Mr. Hamburger continues. “It’s exhilarating to operate off-road when you’re in the driver’s seat, but it’s a little unnerving for everyone else.”
He says he observed this effect during a recent conversation with a prominent legal scholar. The colleague, a longtime defender of administrative law, was discussing the topic shortly after Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
The colleague told Mr. Hamburger: “I am beginning to see the merit of your ideas.”
--Tierney, writing on "administrative law," quoting Phillip Hamburger

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Why? Power, like all of us, seeks  freedom of action. It seeks to escape interdiction. So it opposes checks, veto, review and boundary.
So the first act of the would-be tyrant is to silence--silence--opposing voices.
If you ever see suppression of opinion you are seeing tyranny in action
Minimum wage law has always had an ulterior motive. Look at the Davis-Bacon Act that fixed wages for workers on federal make-work programs.
The congressional debate that preceded enactment was filled with references to “unattached migratory workmen,” “itinerant labor,” “cheap, imported labor,” “cheap bootleg labor” and “labor lured from distant places” for “competition with white labor throughout the country."
The idea behind the Davis-Bacon Act was to feed jobs to white unions and legislate the poor out of the market.

Who is...Amity Shlaes?

The aim of modern politics and business is to create easy-to-handle and marketable public groupings. The more refined the grouping target, the more refined--and successful--the message. Ice cream devotees and gun right groups are pretty straight-forward, first time car buyers and small government groups less so. The essence of the democracy has been the basic interstitial philosophical connections supporting all but violent revolutionary groups devoted to destroying that interstitial structure.  Communities have historically been resistant to significant outliers because they had no support system to nurture or protect them. That is no longer true. You can isolate yourself in a completely self-supporting environment now--sort of self administered brainwashing that the North Koreans used to do. So a dizzy socialite like Patty Hearst can get grabbed by several total lunatics and, after four months in a closet, emerge as a full-fledged, gun toting revolutionary without a cause.

Animosity from righteousness will never disappear but the infrastructure that created the democracy and supports it now, can.

In India, between 1952 and 1962, DDT caused a decrease in annual malaria cases from 100 million to 60,000. By the late 1970s, no longer able to use DDT, the number of cases increased to 6 million

In Sri Lanka, before the use of DDT, 2.8 million people suffered from malaria. When the spraying stopped, only 17 people suffered from the disease. Then, no longer able to use DDT, Sri Lanka suffered a massive malaria epidemic: 1.5 million people were infected by the parasite.

In South Africa, after DDT became unavailable, the number of malaria cases increased from 8,500 to 42,000 and malaria deaths from 22 to 320 .

"'s liberalism has become grotesquely mechanistic and authoritarian: It's all about reducing individuals to a group identity, defining that group in permanent victim terms, and denying others their democratic right to challenge that group and its ideology. Political correctness represents the fossilized institutionalization of once-vital revolutionary ideas, which have become mere rote formulas. It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates."--the dreaded Paglia

Well into the 20th century everyone knew what liberalism stood for: freedom, property rights, equality of opportunity, markets--"the liberal system of free exportation and free importation," as Adam Smith put it. Liberalism was common sense; in terms of political real estate it represented the precious middle ground. The liberalism of yore didn't emphasize groups but rather individuals. Liberalism and autocrats didn't mix, for there was an inherent civility to this liberalism. Americans discussed issues politely because they respected one another, individually. Those politicians who, in contrast, fought for rights of groups (senior citizens, labor, women) were known, whatever their party, as progressives.--Amity Shlaes, explaining a lot of what is wrong with the world.

Golden oldie:


Some point to the American grocery store as the example of success in supply and demand. According to a January 2014 Consumer Reports article, citing figures from the Food Marketing Institute, the average supermarket had fewer than nine thousand items in 1975.  By 2008, that number had quintupled. Quintupled.
We are not far from the point where the deliberately organized forces of society may destroy those spontaneous forces which have made advance possible.--Hayek. This is such an interesting quote, "deliberately organized forces" vs. "spontaneous forces."

In the U.S., 31% of income is taken by the State in taxes; in France it is 60%. Then it is dispersed as the State sees fit.

It has been more than a year since the Pentagon announced that it was opening a new line of combat against the Islamic State, directing Cyber Command, then six years old, to mount computer-network attacks... "In general, there was some sense of disappointment in the overall ability for cyberoperations to land a major blow against ISIS," or the Islamic State, said Joshua Geltzer, who was the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council until March. "This is just much harder than people think...."  

Love is like Oxygen. So is credit. Loans to businesses are way down.

Entangled particles are one of physic's modern mysteries. Paired particles seem to mirror each other and respond instantly to each other over huge distances, raising questions about the travel speed of communication. As they are individually paired they are interesting as a possible encryption technique.
Science Magazine reports a team of physicists using the Chinese Micius satellite (launched back in August 2016) have sent quantum-entangled photons from a satellite to ground stations separated by 1200 kilometers, smashing the previous world record. Sending entangled photons through space instead of optical fiber networks with repeaters has long been the dream of those promoting quantum-key exchange for modern cryptography. This was a very limited success. They were only able to recover about 1000 photons out of about 6 billion sent and the two receiving stations were on Tibetan mountains to reduce the amount of air that needed to be traversed. Also the experiment was done at night to minimize interference from the sun. Still, baby steps...  

In the Southeast, 30% of car loans are in arrears.
It takes 47% of the average paycheck to buy a pickup.

Oregon became the first U.S. state to allow residents to identify as "nonbinary," neither male nor female, on their driver licenses and identification cards Thursday in a decision by The Oregon Transportation Commission.

Being magnanimous with the property of others, Jeremy Corbyn has called for the empty homes of rich people in Kensington to be seized for Grenfell Tower residents who have been made homeless by the fire.

The Russians say that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is alive again.

Friction between the U.S. and Mexico over trade is starting to cut into sales for U.S. farmers and agricultural companies, adding uncertainty for an industry struggling with low commodity prices and excess supply. (wsj)

AAAAaaaaaannnnnddddddd.....a graph:

Chart of the Day
Horizontal Line

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Electricity from the Electric Tree

Some discussion over the weekend on the G20 Paris Accord talk, which has come up again. Electric is seen as a solution but, of course, electric power comes from somewhere.
Here are some numbers on generation of electric power in the U.S. from the U.S. Energy Information Administration from 2016:

Major energy sources and percent shares of U.S. electricity generation: 
  • Natural gas = 33.8%
  • Coal = 30.4%
  • Nuclear = 19.7%
  • Renewables (total) = 14.9%
    • Hydropower = 6.5%
    • Wind = 5.6%
    • Biomass = 1.5%
    • Solar  = 0.9%
    • Geothermal = 0.4%
  • Petroleum = 0.6%
  • Other gases = 0.3%
  • Other nonrenewable sources = 0.3%Pumped storage hydroelectricity = -0.2%

  • So 64% of electricity now comes from carbon. And will the people of the U.S. embrace nuclear power? So at least 64% and maybe 84% of electrical sources will have to be replaced?

    Monday, July 17, 2017

    MacLean 2

    This MacLean thing would be a very alarming insight into academia if it were not so much fun. This is from a letter to the WSJ:

    An unintentionally comical example of MacLean’s ignorance of the basic facts of her subject matter appears in an interview that she gave in an interview at Alternet.  There, she asserted that by naming his and Alex Tabarrok’s blog "Marginal Revolution,” my colleague Tyler Cowen was “gesturing” to a devious right-wing scheme to slowly undermine democracy.  In fact, the term "marginal revolution” refers to one of the most celebrated episodes in the history of economics – namely, economists’ discovery in the 1870s that the economic value of a good or service is determined not by the amount of labor used to produce that good or service but, instead, by the usefulness to human beings of an additional unit – a “marginal” unit – of that good or service.  This discovery of the importance of “marginal” changes led economists to the more general understanding that thriving societies seldom change radically, in giant leaps, but instead gradually, as small change upon small change accumulate over time.
    MacLean’s suggestion that an economist’s use of the term “marginal revolution” refers to a nefarious modern American political plot is no less ridiculous than had she suggested that a physicist’s use of the term “Newtonian revolution” refers to a plot to stuff all cookies with filling made of figs.

    Sunday, July 16, 2017

    Sunday/Alasdair Gray

    The Scottish artist and writer Alasdair Gray is a poet, writer and artist. Gray completed a number of murals for Greenhead Church at Bridgeton in the east end of Glasgow.

    In the poem “God Again”, Gray returns to the idea of creation as artistic process rather than divine fiat. If God made Man in his own image, Gray argues, then Man’s craving for “new life” and for admiration which he satisfies through sexual reproduction and making works of art – reflects the creative urge that drove God to make Man and the Universe. (tls)

    God Again
    I brooded on dark water,
    was neither fish nor bird,
    an unembodied voice
    that made all things by word,

    made light, space, words and time
    creatures that glow and grow,
    bodies that shine above
    and root, glide, creep below.

    Seeing all this was good
    I wanted creatures who
    will share my admiration
    of everything I do.

    Though always bodiless
    I have a certain form
    so modelled it in clay,
    gave breath to make it warm.

    You are my image, folks,
    greater than all you see
    in intellectual scope,
    but not as great as me.

    Your dreadful faults, alas,
    reflect what I desired:
    a need to make new life,
    a need to be admired.

    New lives made with labour,
    bodies requiring breath,
    come to displace their makers,
    condemning them to death.

    I will not mend the faults
    that generate your woes.
    Mistakes can be creative too,
    as every artist knows.                                                                                 

    ALASDAIR GRAY (2002)

    Saturday, July 15, 2017


    "We human beings always seek happiness. Now there are two ways. You can make yourself happy by making other people unhappy--I call that the logic of robbery. The other way, you make yourself happy by making other people happy--that's the logic of the market. Which way do you prefer?"-- Zhang Weiying,

    Men in the mass will believe anything that promises to bring in the New Jerusalem, and the more idiotic it is the more eagerly they will embrace it. Nothing that is true ever convinces them.  They demand illusion, and on the political plane they get it….--Mencken

    How this works in the real world is obvious to everybody who doesn’t write for the Washington Post: The median cost of a new car in the United States is about $34,000, which is well out of reach for most minimum-wage earners. You know how minimum-wage earners get around that problem? They buy cars that cost a heck of a lot less than the median — or they buy used cars, share cars, take the bus, etc. Minimum-wage workers solve the problem of relatively high rents by choosing accommodations that are well under the 50th or 40th percentile — or by having roommates, living with their families, etc. The relationship between the minimum wage and the median or near-median rent is an entirely artificial problem cooked up by organizations that want more federal spending on low-income housing (NLIHA) or by politicians arguing for a higher minimum wage. The latter is especially popular during campaign season.--Williamson

    An estimated 20,000 Oregonians identify as transgender, according to The Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles. That is an astonishing number for a concept that did not exist a generation ago. A 2015 nationwide survey of 28,000 transgender people found that more than a third identified as neither male nor female.

    “It is one of the ironies of this strange century,” Hobsbawm concluded, “that the most lasting result of the October revolution, whose object was the global overthrow of capitalism, was to save its antagonist, both in war and in peace.” As for the wartime rescue, that can be explained in two words: Red Army. (Or if you prefer one word: Stalingrad.) As for the peacetime rescue, that counter-intuitive insight required someone with Hobsbawm’s dialectical creativity to see: twentieth-century communism saved liberal capitalism, he explained, “by providing it with the incentive, fear, to reform itself after the Second World War, and, by establishing the popularity of economic planning, furnishing it with some of the procedures for its reform.” The human emancipatory project of communism failed, yes, but twentieth-century communism (inadvertently) succeeded in saving capitalism from itself. (from a review of the works and life of historian Eric Hobsbawn by Joseph Fronczak)

    First Growth Bordeaux (like Lafite Rothschild or LaTour) are now selling for $1,000 a bottle and up.  Much of this is from Chinese buyers and the recent economic prosperity that has moved the middle class toward the upper range. They want famous wines and famous labels, especially the highly-placed government officials, and there are a lot of them.

    In fact, China and Hong Kong buy almost 25% of all Bordeaux wines, though the figure has declined a bit in the last year or so.

    Peter Schuck, the Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law Emeritus at Yale University, has written a book on why government fails. This is from a review, concentrating on Schuck's take on "U.S. poverty:"  He points out that many important social changes since 1965 distort "and vastly overstate" the current poverty rate in America. If we include noncash government benefits such as food and housing, if we take account of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and if we use a more realistic measure of inflation than the Consumer Price Index, then we would conclude that the 2013 poverty rate was not the reported 14.5%, but, rather, 4.8%. Moreover, he notes, the official double-digit poverty rate treats cohabiting couples differently than married ones. Treating them the same "would lower the poverty rate even more."

    Pressed by Megyn Kelly on his ties to President Trump, an exasperated Vladimir Putin blurted out, “We had no relationship at all. … I never met him. … Have you all lost your senses over there?”
    What près?

    The labor force participation rate among American men has fallen sharply over the last generation or so. Government records show that the rate among men ages 25 to 54 has fallen from 96 percent in 1970 to 88.4 percent in May.

    "The nation that built the Empire State Building in 410 days during the Depression and the Pentagon in 16 months during wartime recently took nine years just for the permitting of a San Diego desalination plant. Five years and 20,000 pages of environmental assessments and permitting and regulatory materials were consumed before beginning to raise the roadway on New Jersey's Bayonne Bridge, a project with, as Howard says, "virtually no environmental impact (it uses existing foundations and right-of-way)." Fourteen years were devoted to the environmental review for dredging the Port of Savannah, which has been an ongoing process for almost 30 years." (will on infrastructure delays)

    In a memo dated June 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ended the practice by which the Department of Justice earmarks legal settlement funds for non-governmental third-party groups that were neither victims nor parties to the lawsuit. This is a major step forward in respecting both the constitutional separation of powers and the private rights that litigation is meant to vindicate.
    The use of surplus or unclaimed settlement money for causes allegedly similar to those served by the litigation ("cy près," in the legal jargon) is not itself new. In recent years, however, law enforcers at both state and federal levels have developed it as a way to direct funds to a wide variety of causes, from private charities and advocacy groups to legal aid programs, law schools, and an assortment of other causes that legislatures and their appropriations committees have shown no interest in funding.
    It is a shameless technique of directing money towards favored groups, a technique expanded and refined by Obama. In any other situation this would be called either a slush fund or laundered money.

    The libertarians are suffering over same-sex marriage. I have not come across any good libertarian take on polygamy.

    Marx and his friend and longtime collaborator, Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) accepted without reservation Hegel’s formulation of the dialectical process. What they rejected was that it was a dialectical process of ideas. Rather than ideas determining actions, beliefs, and modes of life, they argued it was the modes of production and the material conditions of life that determine ideas, beliefs, and thoughts.

    In a study out this week, about 70% of home blood pressure devices tested were off by 5 mmHg or more. That's enough to throw off clinical decisions, such as stopping or starting medication. Nearly 30 percent were off by 10 mmHg or more, including many devices that had been validated by regulatory agencies.

    Golden oldie:
    A guy named Charles Blow has an article in the NYT about the immigration debate. In it he holds up a straw man opinion on the topic and sa...

    "The Federal Reserve's interest-rate increases aren't having the desired effect of cooling off Wall Street's hot streak." (wsj) Is that true? Is the activity in the stock market a component of the Fed's thinking? From the same article: "In theory, financial conditions should serve as the conduit between the Fed's monetary policy and the real economy. When the Fed lifts short-term rates, long-term rates should rise also and financial conditions should tighten." Is that true? If you raise short term rates, that should suppress economic activity which should cause long term rates to drop. Right?

    "Scientists calculated that one 220,000-gallon, commercial-size swimming pool contained almost 20 gallons of urine. In a residential pool (20-by-40-foot, five-feet deep), that would translate to about two gallons of pee. It's only about one-hundredth of a percent, but any urine in a swimming pool can be a health concern for some people, not to mention that smell that never quite goes away." From Engelhaup. The source of funding is unknown.

    If Trump called and asked you to work for him in the government, would you do it?

    We will know soon how much a tempest this Comey thing is, then we will move on to the next tempest. One of the real casualties here will likely be Comey, who has been a dedicated public servant and whose going public might turn out to be a real teaching moment for other government officials. But other officials, e.g. Lois Lerner, have dabbled in social activism without recrimination.

    One of Trump's big promises was to cut regulations and the plan was that for every new regulation, two would be eliminated. That "executive order" has been signed and here is how it reads:"Toward that end, it is important that for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process." Note that "be identified" is a bit less stringent than "eliminated."

    In the U.S., tattoos are estimated to be a $1 billion industry according to research house IBIS World. In 2016, there were about 38,879 tattoo businesses registered in the U.S., where the market grew 13 percent between 2011 and 2016. A Harris poll published in 2016 concluded that 3 in every 10 U.S. adults have at least one tattoo—as have nearly half of all American millennials. A separate study conducted by YouGov concluded that 19 percent of all British adults have at least one tattoo.

    Scarborough to EPA's Pruitt:  “Mr. Pruitt, it’s a simple question. Have you ever talked to the president about whether he believes climate change is real?" Belief. A religious test for office? And hearsay? What a mess.

    Detroit News auto writer Henry Payne has pointed out that the market share of SUVs grew 15 percent between 2010 and 2015. So it made sense that American automakers ramped up production of these vehicles. What doesn't make sense is that they also ramped up production of battery-powered hybrids during that time, given that their market share had flat-lined at 2.2 percent. Why? CAFE requires car companies to lower the fuel economy not of each car model, but the average across their entire fleet. Furthermore, the reductions count against the vehicles manufactured, not those sold. So given that the popularity of gas-guzzling vehicles, such as SUVs, continues to rise in the face of falling fuel prices, what are car companies, especially American ones for whom SUVs are top sellers, doing? Essentially, they manufacture battery-powered and hybrid vehicles that don't sell so that they can meet their CAFE requirements to produce SUVs that do. 

    A study nearly a decade ago that said the high school graduation rates in the nation's top 50 cities was 53 percent, against 71 percent for suburbs.

    AAAaaaannnnndddddd......a picture:
    The last full-blooded Tasmanian aborigines in the 1860's.