Friday, December 28, 2012

Creating Heaven On Earth

So, the single problem with most religions is that the devil is in the details. Two nights ago I was watching a PBS program, Globe Trekker Holy Lands: Jerusalem & The West Bank. One segment focused on the different Jewish sects at the Wailing Wall in the Jewish Quarter of The Old City. These various sects were distinguished by their dress. Many things they have in common but some core beliefs are so different that there have been violet encounters between groups. Nothing new here, Protestant faiths have experienced similar confrontations. The other thing that I noticed was the similarities in ritual between Christian, Jewish and Islam practices within The Old City.

Here is another commonality among most religions, and cultures ... empathy. Christians call it the Golden Rule. It's a very simple and uncomplicated rule and it appears to be universal. There is no devil in the details here, just the will and the courage to practice it in all aspects of our lives. Then we will create heaven on earth.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

An Acceptable Level Of Dead People

I just heard that the guy who killed two firemen and wounded two others used the same type of rifle that killed the children and adults at Newtown. Oh, and he had previously served 17 years for manslaughter.

I was thinking why not simplify the discussion of gun violence to an acceptable number of people killed annually by guns in this nation? The people involved in such a discussion should be limited to those organizations that oppose any changes to the Second Amendment. They can't be members of fringe groups, but rational spokesmen for recognized organizations such as the NRA, etc. The topic should be limited to an absolute number. No other topics or nuances. No suggestions to stop the killing, just a number of corpses that are tolerable.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advocating Overthrow of Government

No, I am not advocating the overthrow of the government.

Just listened to NRA chief Wayne LaPierre and everyone for or against gun control won't address the fundemental reason for the resistance to limitations on the Second Amendment.

It's not about hunting Bambi or even about protecting lives and property. It's about protecting ourselves against our own government. "Wacko", you say. Well, that's because only the wacko's have the guts to say it. When you watch people in Egypt and for many months in Syria throw rocks at armed soldiers and tanks some people in this country entrench themselves deeper into the Second Amendment.

I challenge any TV news, radio or newspaper to discuss this topic with Mr. LaPierre and any other rational individual on this sole topic. It's a dangerous topic of discussion and advocates expose themselves to USC 2009 Title 18 Section 2384 and Section 2385. But, in my opinion, it's is the real  reason behind vociferous resistance to Second Amendment.

Monday, December 17, 2012


The President wants to do something to protect children from gun violence. The NRA wants the same thing. So there is the starting point for some movement.

"Robert A. Levy, chairman of the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute and one of the organizers behind a Supreme Court case that in 2008 enshrined a Second Amendment right for individuals to own guns, said Sunday that with more than 250 million guns already in circulation in the United States, restrictions on new weapons would make little difference. He said by e-mail that tough gun laws did not stop a mass shooting in Norway or regular violence in places like the District of Columbia.

“I’m skeptical about the efficacy of gun regulations imposed across the board — almost exclusively on persons who are not part of the problem,” he said. “To reduce the risk of multivictim violence, we would be better advised to focus on early detection and treatment of mental illness. An early detection regime might indeed be the basis for selective gun access restrictions that even the N.R.A. would support.”['These Tragedies Must End,' Obama Says, by Mark Landler and Peter Baker, New York Times, 12-16-12.]

Nothing will be done politically, without support of the NRA, and Mr. Levy states they will support selective access to guns and detection and treatment of the mentally ill. Now we get into privacy laws and another amendment in the Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment. Just as intransigent as the NRA and Mr. Levy are regarding the Second Amendment so to is the ACLU towards the Fourth Amendment. These are not trivial issues and at first blush any common sense solutions to killing children should be obvious. Stop the mentally ill from access to guns. But what is mental illness? What is violent mental illness? Who has access to your medical records … the police, politicians, bureaucrats? At what stage is a determination made to restrict your right under the Second Amendment? At what point is your Fourth Amendment rights less protected than mine?

Another issue is the doctor protected from violating the doctor/patient privilege if he determines a patient is a danger to himself or others?  But he must have access to the person to determine this. We have read numerous antidotal accounts of the difficulty families [I Am Adam Lanza's Mother] have gaining access to competent mental health professionals. It's expensive and states simply have no money to fund mental health resources. Furthermore, at this time, intervention is reactive rather than proactive. A proactive approach can cast a wide net that includes malicious finger pointing by irate spouses, etc.

I know I am getting into the weeds on this but I have seen too many common sense solutions get derailed by vested interest.

I guess we need to determined if preventing the killing of our children is in the national interest. We need to determine if killing our children is a clear and present danger to the nation. If that is agreed upon than  protecting them is easier. And I also believe that we initially must keep our focus narrowed on schools. Keeping it simple and focused will build an alliance of disparate interests. Then maybe, just maybe we can stop killing some of our children.

In Town At Ease With Firearms, Tightening Gun Rules Was Resisted

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How I'm Supposed To Get Any Ridin' Done?

These two were rejected for slaughter because of toxic drugs in their system.

American horse meat slaughtered in Canada and Mexico is being rejected by European buyers because the meat is deemed too toxic for consumption. 

These two collapsed and died together while walking around the parade ring.

Source: NYT, Racetrack Drugs Put Europe Off U.S. Horse Meat, by Joe Drape, 12/08/12

Friday, November 30, 2012


They are people walking this earth who are 24/7 solipsist's [the self is all that can be known to exist.]. We are all at one time or another solipsists, but some more so than others. 

It is my observation that advances in technology has created what Aaron James calls a solipsist paradise. Solipsists can now discussed their lives in public on reality TV (Which is not really reality.), and especially on cell phones. Tim Kreider*, writing in the Opinion section of the NYT describes the problems he encounters on Amtrak's Quiet Car. I have much the same experience riding buses in Houston. Sometimes when I go to my sister's I get to listen to non-stop cell phone conversations for an hour or more. The bus is not a 'quiet car' so there is noting one can do but maybe find another seat. 

However I expect quiet in the public library. I find, to my surprise, that quiet is now passé in the library. I know this because I sent an e-mail complaining about the noise level to the Librarian at the Houston Central Library.  Her reply was that I must adapt to changes in contemporary library management and the 'new type' of patrons. 

Following the Librarian's advice, I no longer spend what use to be enjoyable hours, reading, looking at photo  books (my favorite library pastime) and just browsing. Now, I order on-line, pick up my order and leave the library immediately. 

*Tim Kreider, "The Quiet Ones", Opinion Section, New York Times, November, 17, 2012.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

"To be honest, I pray God I never see these people again."

The New York Times is still covering the continuing efforts to recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many working class enclaves in the outer boroughs were impacted the hardest. These include the Rockaways in Queens, parts of Staten Island (Where about 50% of the deaths occurred.) and the Red Hook area in Brooklyn. Of course New Jersey seemed to have a bullseye on it, but this post is concerned with the reporting by Sarah Maslin Nir*, who is concentrating on the income/racial divide in New York City that she discovered while reporting on volunteer activities.       

Much of the volunteers are described as middle to upper class white people and so among the victims seeking assistance there is some bitterness. Sarah Maslin Nir doesn't note any minority volunteerism and the Times has not covered any black assistance. That doesn't mean it's not there, but it has not been covered by this major metropolitan newspaper. If it exists than the Times is very much remiss and doing a disservice to minority efforts.

I mentioned bitterness among people trying to recover from Sandy. They resent their forced dependence on middle and upper class white people. So it is both a class and racial bitterness. Although much of the reporting by this reporter is antidotal, it cannot be dismissed solely on that basis. I would like to see more reporting on the income/racial divide not just in NYC but throughout the nation. But if you bring up this divide you are accused of promoting class/racial warfare. The following is a quote from Nicole Rivera: "It's sad, sometimes it's  a little degrading," she said as she stood in line in a parking lot waiting for free toiletries. Ms. Rivera said that she was thankful for the help, but that its face-mostly white, middle-and upper-class people -made her bitter. The only time you recognize us is when there's some disaster, she said. Since this happened, it's: 'Let's help the black people. Let's run to their rescue.' Why wait for tragedy? she added. People suffer everyday with this."

What Ms. Rivera is saying is that she lives in a racially and class divided society that persists with or without hurricanes. Probably the reporting of recovery efforts from Sandy will soon disappear from the Times front page and Sarah Maslin Nir will move on to other stories, but Ms. Rivera will still be saying, "Come See About Me".

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tone Deaf

Some of us are following the growing scandal surrounding General Petraeus et al. with a deeper concern than just a prurient interest.

Tom Shanker writes in the NYT* about other top military officers being relieved of command for serious lapses in judgement and even criminal behavior. There is some speculation that the military has developed a we/they view toward the civilian population. Within this article is a quote by Paul V. Kane:  “The country is suffering a crisis of leadership — in politics, in business and in the church, as well as in the military,” he said. “We have lots of leaders, but we have a national deficit in true leadership.”

For some time it has seemed to me that our leaders are tone deaf to the views of the general population. In politics they seem to ignore our concerns and vote against the interests of the country for their own ambitions and retention of power. Congressional ratings prior to the recent election were at all time lows yet there is at least a 50/50 chance we will purposely go into a recession because Congress will not compromise even though there was a national mandate for both parties to work together. Business executives used government bailout money in 2008 to raise bonuses even though the public was vehemently opposed. The Catholic Church moved known pedophile priests to different parishes, certainly unknown to the congregations. 

I don't think it is too much to ask people we give power over the welfare of our lives and nation to be held to a high standard and accountable for their behavior. If that shrinks the so-called pool of talent then so-be-it. I believe that there are principled men and women who respect the will of the people and feel privileged to be entrusted with our welfare. 

*"Concern Grows Over Top Military Officers’ Ethics", by Tom Shanker, NYT, November 12,.2012.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Do You Hear What I Hear?

I have a friend who hallucinates. Over 40 years ago he was very, very thirsty and a babbling brook was within his reach yet he would probably die if he approached the water. Today when he bends over a water cooler he sees, smells and hears in excruciating details the scene. It's not just a flashback, it's real for the moment. He sweats and shakes and must set down. Is he nuts? No, he is a successful businessman, father and husband.

Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at NYU, knows blind people who 'see' and deaf people who 'hear'. Most times my friend and these people who hear and see things keep quiet about it, otherwise they might be put on meds and God knows what other 'treatments' they would be subjected to. Professor Sacks recently completed a book entitled Hallucinations. You can hear him discuss his views here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Let George Do It

Russ George has decided to take matters into his own hands so this summer he dumped about 120 tons of iron-sulfate into the Pacific Ocean. The theory being that this act of geoengineering will form into and algae bloom, which in turn will trap carbon, which in turn will reduce global warming. It's a theory without testing and the consequences are as yet unknown.

Mr. George is among a group on individuals that include Bill Gates, who believe that matters of climate change are not being taken seriously and therefore require citizen action. Mr. Gates is lending financial support to a company called Intellectual Ventures. Among the ventures is a scheme called Strato-Shield. It is essentially "a 19-mile-long hose suspended by helium balloons that would spew sunblocking sulfur dioxide particles into the sky and a tool that can supposedly blunt the force of hurricanes."*

The problem here should be obvious. These geoengineers are doing or planning to manipulate climate change that may be more devastating than what is going on now. For one thing Naomi Klein notes: "… the people who could well be most harmed by these technologies are already disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change."

Geoengineering: Testing the Waters, by Naomi Klein, NYT, OpEd, 10-28-12

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nobody Blinked

I was watching a 50th anniversary special on the Cuban Missile Crises presented by CSPAN3 (where else) yesterday. I found it very interesting with new information recently declassified. I do encourage  you to listen to President Kennedy's speech at the American University Commencement after the missile crises. He changed: he identifies globalization, he seems to put human interests, at the very least, on the same level as national interest, he recognizes in this new world of mutually shared destruction that the United States can no longer control events. All these insights stemmed from the 1962 missile crises and still apply today, although the faux toughness of our politicians doesn't seem encourage a 'lessons learned' mindset.

The crises lasted 13 days and this was a blessing as it allowed the "two adults in the room" to avert nuclear war. Those two adutls were Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier, and President Kennedy. If you have the time watch the CSPAN3 program and then read the American University Commencement speech.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

You Will Always Be The Bottom Of The Slinky

Last night I was listening to some podcasts from Radiolab and one was entitled "What A Slinky Knows". As the conversation goes on we learn that things happen before we know they happen. The slinky in used as the primary example. Now, you must listen to this podcast here, because I will just mess it up for you.

This program got me thinking back to my undergraduate days and a social psychology class on reality. There are many realities, especially in social communication. The underlying principle is the concept of the perceptual screen*.

To sum up we never ever see things as they happen. They always occur before we know it and thus we will always be the bottom of the slinky. Furthermore, our perceptual screen filters information and thus our very intellectual selves are made up of our own individual realities.

I'm giving myself a headache!

*"Perceptual screens are the windows through which we interact with people in the world. The communicator's and the receiver's perceptual screens influence the quality , accuracy, and clarity of the message. The screen influences whether the message sent and the message received are the same or whether distortion occurs in the message. Perceptual screens are composed of the personal factors each person brings to interpersonal communication, such as age, gender, values, beliefs, past experiences, cultural influences, and individual needs."
[Blogger's note: I corrected some misspelled words in this definition]

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What If Books Came Next?

I was watching an In Depth interview on CSPAN2-BookTV last Sunday with Steven Johnson. Near the end of this long but interesting interview he posed the questioned; What if books came AFTER the internet?

Very likely critics might say that the increasing use of books has limited social intercourse on the internet. Exchange of ideas on social networks is decreasing and books have change the social paradigm to two, the reader and the author. And even here it is one-way communication.

I use this example to illustrate the potential that is taking place in corners of the internet that have nothing to do with celebrity break-ups, Big Bird's premature demise or any number of 'where I ate last' posts on FB.

One new place is Research Gate. To find out more about this social network go here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Curse Of The DD214

The DD214 is a military document that shows your separation from active duty in the United States Armed Forces.

In the past this document was a benefit in competing for a job. But for Justin Claus of Racine, Wisconsin, not so much. He was even beat out of a job as a bouncer at a local Racine niteclub to a high school kid with a broken wrist.

"...Claus says he probably won't bring his DD214 along to future job interviews. And if he still can't find work, he has a Plan B: He wants to re-enlist and get the steady paycheck the military provides. But there's a catch — he must be off all medication for a year. That means he'll have deal with the pain of his physical injuries and his PTSD without the drugs that help him. Claus is frustrated that he is still unemployed and says if the military lets him back in, it'll be worth it.
He took his last pill a month ago."

The Navy Times is all giddy with the most recent unemployment figure showing 8.9% in July for post 9/11 veterans. Still above the national unemployment rate of 8.3%.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Need For Speed

In 1998, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) allowed computer generated trading to buy/sell on the exchange. For some time this lowered the costs to investors and also caused the guys screaming their deals on the floor of the exchange to lower their costs in order to compete. But as time goes on and as humans are want to do, getting an edge, ever so slight, is the difference between winning and losing. There have been some spectacular glitches in the recent pass beginning with the flash crash of 2010 and ending recently with the Knight Capital Group screw-up.

Not to be deterred by the above, we learn that the need for speed has moved firms to consolidate so that they can physically shorten the cable distance between servers to increase data transfers and now firms our also moving from fiber optics to microwave technology in order to gain milliseconds over their competition. How is this impacting the investor? It is a mixed picture at this point. Fees are starting to increase and the spreads between buy/sell has narrowed to the extent that you really need large blocks of stocks to make money and of course trading in large blocks can also lose you  alot of money. High speed traders make money for their clients and themselves by selling on the slightest increase and buying on the slightest decrease of a share price. Small investors can't make the returns they did post 1998 because the spread until recently has been decreasing.

"Terrence Hendershott, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said he had been an advocate for technological innovation in the past, but had begun to wonder if the continuing battle for technological superiority had become too much.
You’ve got arguably too many people, in too small a space, and they just keep spending enormous amounts of money,” Professor Hendershott said. “Can I convince myself that we are really seeing a lot of benefits? No.”
NYT: "On Wall Street, the Rising Cost of Faster Trades", by Nathaniel Popper, August 13, 2012.
NYT: DealB%k, Wall Street's Race to the 48-Millisecond Trade, by Eric Owles, August 15, 2012.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ignorance Is Bliss?

"Three years ago, the American actor Craig T Nelson appeared on a rightwing television show to complain about the size of the US government and discuss his intention to no longer pay taxes. His logic, if it deserves the label, was peculiar. 'I've been on food stamps, I've been on welfare. Did anybody help me out? No.' "

This quote leads off a book review in the Financial Times by Cardiff Garcia of the Wall Street Journal's economics editor's book by David Wessel, entitled, Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget. 

The book itself gets a favorable review for explaining the basics of the federal budget and with a few caveats, Mr. Garcia finds the book interesting, informative and short in length.

The review zeros in on some myths perpetrated by news shows, talk radio and politicians that filter down to the electorate. But, like the old party game of whispering something from one to another, by the end of the chain it resembles nothing like the original message.

Here are a few:

  • 50% of people polled believe the US spends 10% of the federal budget very year on foreign aid.
           We actually spend less the 1%.

  • 4 out of 10 people believe they do not use any government social programs.
           The people polled were recipients of either Social Security or unemployment benefits.

           [Sure they have contributed to both, but if you are fortunate to live a long life you will more than     recoup your contribution to the former and if you are unfortunate to remain on the latter for a long period of time you too will recoup your contribution.]

Wessel believes that currently the deficit is declining, but looming on the horizon is something that will lower our standard of living, and reduced all the things that make our nation competitive on the world stage ... it is rising healthcare costs. Don't think for  a minute that rising costs of healthcare is a positive correlation with rising quality of healthcare. We are older, we live longer and with an increasing disparity of national wealth, most of us are poorer. All these factors will, year after year, increase the deficit and eventually ruin the country. "Thirty years ago, one in every 10 dollars was spent on healthcare for the poor and elderly. It is now one in every four and the ratio will keep climbing."

The solution , to my mind, is political. The people we have elected to offices at the national level are not serving in the national interest and they achieve this by dumbing down the electorate with simplistic ideologies, and misinformation for furthering their political tenure, power and greed. So, the only way to stop this rest with an independently informed electorate. Maybe Mr. Wessel's book is a start?

Source: Financial Times, Book Review of David Wessel's, 'Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget', by Cardiff Garcia, August 6, 2012, page 8.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Shooting Other People

Gary Silverman of the Financial Times, writes in his column, New York Notebook, July 27, 2012 about one of the victims in the recent Colorado shooting, Caleb Medley, age 23. Caleb worked at Target and Walmart but his real love was appearing in amature stand-up comedy venues in the Denver area. He was shot in the right eye and of this writing is in an induced coma. Oh, his wife, age 21 was uninjured and just had their first child. Both mother and child are doing well.

Because of the international outrage and publicity, Caleb's friends have been able to collect a lot of money for his care and maintenance. This is great and of course our thoughts and prayers go out to Caleb, his wife, child and all the families and victims of this senseless tragedy.

But suppose, as Silverman does, Caleb had been an innocent bystander at one of the comedy clubs and he got shot in the right eye with a subsequent induced coma, and had a 21 year old wife with a brand new baby. And suppose he was uninsured ( as he is). Family and friends would probably hold a fund raiser, but otherwise the rest of the world moves on. Here is where Silverman believes:

"If we as a people have a right to bear arms in this country and, without debating the details, the Second Amendment to the US Constitution says something about that - then, we as a people bear some responsibility for the improper use of those arms. Perhaps we should impose a new tax on the sale of weapons and ammunition to raise money for the care of the victims of gun violence."

Silverman is open to better ideas, but if your suggestion is to do something about the Second Amendment 'forgetaboutit'. A majority of citizens support it, politicians are afraid to touch it and there exists a powerful and very wealthy gun lobby in this country.

So back to Mr. Silverman's idea. Look at your cell phone bill you may see a charge under something like, Taxes, Fees and Surcharges eluding to a "911 service, or discounted lifeline service for low-income subscribers." Also there may be a charge for, "… federally mandated programs such as wireless-number portability, services for hearing- and speech-impaired subscribers, and technology for enhanced 911 services, which track your location in case of an emergency." Just for fun I might add that at one time you were paying and excise tax for the Spanish-American War and while it no longer applies to your cell phone bill, I think it applies to land lines.

If you drive you must first past a driving and written test along with certain physical and mental thresholds. But, in additon almost all states require insurance before you can legally drive a car. And, the last time I checked, 21 states require you to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

So, what do you think? Where are the Calebs of this world who suffer traumatic injuries from the everyday gun violence?  I imagine indirectly were are all paying for their care and maintenance, plus through various welfare programs we maybe paying for the people they left behind? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Too Big To Fail Is Too Big To Exist

The title of this post is taken from Simon Johnson's excellent blog article. Professor Johnson sums up the current situation regarding the Libor rate fixing, U. S. banks probable culpability and the role of U.S. regulators.

Now here is a quote, that if nothing else, justifies breaking up these too big to fail banks:  "One argument now being advanced from some financial circles against large fines for the banks involved is that this would reduce their shareholder capital enough to constitute a risk to the financial system."
 Really? Why should investors pay for the malfeasance of criminals that they had no awareness of nor control over? That's the CEO's and Board of Directors authority. Excuse me, but why not take their money and bonuses? This is the same old 'sky is falling' rhetoric used by big business along with government regulations are 'job killing'. No, what is job killing is the increasingly declining trust of investors in financial institutions. 
Professor Johnson quoting Dennis Kellehr of Better Markets, “Slapping handcuffs on these traders has to be the next step,” adding, “Handcuffs, squeeze them, handcuffs, squeeze them and move up the chain.” Mr. Kelleher continued, “This is an open and shut case” and “this is egregious criminal conduct.”

Source: New York Times, Business Day, Economix Blog, "The Federal Reserve and the Libor Scandal, by Simon Johnson, July 19, 2012.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Update to Bad Science

In June I blogged about the short-falls in peer reviewed research articles, emphasizing medical research. You can read about it here.

One of the main problems was transparency and public access. Britain has taken the lead to revamp these two obstacles and you can read about it here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Did I Get Screwed By Libor? … maybe

Libor (London interbank offered rate) had its origins in 1984. The British Bankers Association sought to stabilize various new investment markets that were being created and one method was to set, on a daily basis, the cost prime banks charged other prime banks to borrow money over differing periods of time (i.e a day, a month, two months and on).

This led to the BBAIRS (British Bankers Association Interest Rate Settlement). Now, prime banks who borrowed from other prime banks knew what their costs to borrow was going to be for that day and time period. With this information they wouldn't have to shop around for the cheapest money. They could now invest in the new market instruments and loan money at an interest rate profitable to them. Banks also knew what they had to pay out to investors in their banks.

Other bank regulators in other nations liked this concept and integrated it into their national systems. In 1986 BBAIRS morphed into Libor.

"The design of bbalibor has seen one significant change since its inception. Up until 1998, banks submitted quotes to the BBA LIBOR process line with the question: 'At what rate do you think interbank term deposits will be offered by one prime bank to another prime bank for a reasonable market size today at 11am?'

During 1998 this question changed, and has up until today* been : 'At what rate could you borrow funds, were you to do so by asking for and the accepting inter-bank offers in a reasonable market size just prior to 11am?

The quote goes on to note that a definiton of prime bank  could no longer be accurately defined and also that Libor interest rates were now submitted on each banks market activity rather than on an hypoththetical market.

So what does this have to do with you? The costs of borrowing money by banks filters down to your mortgage loans, credit card rates and other consumer loans. Barclays is currently the bank on the hot seat, but there will be others. As you will see from the NewYork Times Economix, Barclays actually lowered their Libor rate more than they raised it. So if your APR consumer loan was tied to Libor it went down more than it went up. That, of course  required other banks to collude on the daily Libor. Why would the want to help you? They don't, but it seems to be developing that lowering the Libor also lowered the interest these banks paid to investors that invested in the bank's investment funds. In many cases these were big investors like pension funds. Counterintuitive? Yes. Illegal? Yes.

*Not certain what day, "today" is.



New York Times; Business Day Section; Economix Blog, "The Libor Scandal's Consumer Upside", by Annie Lowery, 07-09-2012

LIBOR, information about the London InterBank Offered Rate
   This explains in some detail how the rate is calculated.

New York Times; DealB%k Blog, "Q&A:Understanding Libor" by Michael J. De La Merced, 07-10-2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Baby, How'd We Ever Get This Way?: The History Of Health Care In The United States … sort of

  • It all started with a guy named Gavrilo Princip who assisnated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Ferdinand's wife in 1914.
  • This eventually kicked off World War I and ended in a armistice that really, really punished Germany. The conditions of the armistice were so bad that the German people looked to Aldoph Hitler to get them out of their predicament.
  • Hitler kicked off World War II.
  • In the United States, we began mobilization, which took alot of men out of the labor market. The government also put a cap on wages. How were businesses to attract workers from an ever shrinking labor pool? Well, fringe benefits were not capped so offering health insurance was part of the solution. And labor was so scarce some employers overlooked pre-existing conditions. As a matter of fact some, but not all workers, were classified 4F which designated them as unfit for military service.
  • Gavrilo, you bastard see what you started. Oh, ironically, Germany has mandatory employer funded health care and has had some kind of health care regulations since 1883.

EyeWitness To History: "Assination of Archduke Ferdinand, 1914"

History Learning Site: Terms of the Armistice

CNBC: "Give Health Care A Chance To Evolve", By Robert Frank (New York Times), 07-01-2012

University of South Florida: "Health Insurance System and Reform in Germany CAGH", By Heide Castaneda, 02-12-2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

They Can Call It A Tax Or A Green Kangaroo

So the Surpreme Court upheld the Affordable Health Care Act thanks in part to Chief Justice Roberts. It seems very complicated and alot of comprimises were made with vested interests to get it through Congress. The big Kahuna was the individual mandate. The insurance companies needed this mandate to survive taking on people and children with chronic and catastrophic illness (i.e cancers, etc.).

The Court put a wrinkle in their decision calling the "mandate" a tax. Anyway we are not done yet because Congress will be proposing and disposing of amendments to the Affordable Health Care Act and who knows what they will call the costs of purchasing health insurance. They may make it a deductible expense, in whole or part, for individuals and businesses. But, if this scenario happens then costs would pass on to the states and federal government and guess what? Your taxes may be increased to cover the transfer of these costs. So then it is a tax.

There is no getting around it. There is in fact no free lunch.

[BLOGGER'S NOTE: I had to edit this post because I got the penality FOR NOT BUYING insurance confused with the mandate TO BUY  insurance … Sorry.]

Saturday, June 23, 2012

When You Run Out Of Ideas … Plagiarize Yourself

Apparently recycling your own creative ideas and publishing them again and again without footnoting yourself is not peer approved among the journalistic profession. Jonah Leher found out and had to make a public apology.
Leher was 'caught' copying three paragraphs from a previously written article in the Wall Street Journal onto his New Yorker blog Frontal Cortex. This led to other discoveries of self-borrowing by Leher.

In his blog dated June 13, 2012 an article entitled "Does All Wine Taste The Same" is the following:
Editors' Note: Portions of this post appeared in simlar form in an April, 2011 post by Jonah Leher for We regret the duplication of material.

For some first degree offenses by others see my previously posted post Bad Science.


paidContent: "Jonah Leher, self-borrowing and the problem with "big ideas", by Laura Hazard Owen, 06-19-2012

The Wrap: "Jonah Leher Apologizes for 'Stupid', 'Lazy' Self-Plagiarizing in the New Yorker", by Alexander C. Kaufman, 06-20-2012 

The New Yorker, Frontal Cortex, "Does All Wine Taste The Same?", blogger Jonah Leher, 06-13-2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

It Hurts When I THINK

"Songza, introduced last fall, is based on the principle that even using Pandora, which tailors song streams to a listener’s taste, requires too much thought."

See : Keeping It Real … simple

Source: Pandora Faces Rivals for Ears and Ads

Friday, June 15, 2012

Bad Science

"At the Mayo Clinic, a decade of cancer research, partly taxpayer-funded, went down the drain when the prestigious Minnesota institution concluded that intriguing data about harnessing the immune system to fight cancer had been fabricated. Seventeen scholarly papers published in nine research journals had to be retracted"(5) To use a concept in law the seventeen retracted papers were the 'fruit of a poison tree'. The 'tree' in this case was the peer reviewed flawed article on which the retracted articles used as a base.

Mayo Clinic's experience is not uncommon, least we forget one Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who published in the English journal Lancet that he discovered a link between a combination vaccine for measles-mumps-rubella and autism. (5) As a result of this "link" many parents demurred vaccinating their children and their children suffered the consequences. Dr. Wakefield's discovery has been refuted many, many times but unfortunately he still has followers and children still suffer the consequences. Dr. Wakefield lost his license to practice medicine in England. He now lives in Austin, Texas where he continues his research. (6)

The Wall Street Journal in partnership with Thompson Reuters Web of Science found that in 2001 only 22 retractions were reported in a survey of 11,600 peer reviewed journals. By 2010 the number jumped to 339 and in the first seven months of 2011 retraction notices were already at 210. Simon Pickard and Arthur Caplan investigating journal articles retracted at later dates "... found that nearly three quarters of retracted drug studies were retracted because of scientific misconduct like falsified data and plagiarism."(3)

So what's the problem. The old sins of greed, ambition and pride seem to rule. Editors also state advances in software have helped them identify plagiarism more readily. But structural weaknesses within these peer review journals are the most dangerous. Scientific research when published should be open-ended. Scientific investigation is very rarely the final say on research. "That's all there is there ain't no more", is hardly ever in play. Yet some peer reviewed articles are seen as the 'eureka moment'. (2) What's needed is more transparency.

Ivan Oransky, one of the founders of Retraction Watch, tells interviewer Brooke Gladstone that he asked an editor of a journal why a certain article was later retracted. The editor stated; "It's none of your damn business." (2)  Well it is our damn business since many of these studies are funded by taxpayer money. Peer review that DUDE!


1, On The Media; "Scientific Retractions On The Rise", Interviewer Brooke Gladstone, 06-08-2012

2. On The Media: "Retraction Watch", Interviewer Brooke Gladstone, 06-08-2012

3. The TakeAway: "Study of Studies Finds Retractions in Drug Literature Often Indicative of Misconduct", Produced by John Light, 05-31-2012

4. On The Media: "How British Science Journalists Are Secretly Undermining The American Media", Interviewer Brooke Gladstone, 06-08-2012

5. Wall Street Journal: "Mistakes in Scientific Studies Surge", by Gautam Naik, 08-10-2011

6. Los Angeles Times: "Report linking autism to vaccines is retracted by medical journal", by Thomas H. Maugh II, 02-02-2010

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Who Knows?, No One

Nature recently posted an article about a MASSIVE radiation burst that occurred around 774-775 CE but was never observed. How could this be? Who knows?, No one. There were astronomers scanning the heavens at that time. Among them some of the most advanced were in China, yet no notice was taken of this massive radiation burst.

I got to thinking that also at the time of this event (I am hesitant to say solar, since no one really knows its origin.) the Mayan mysteriously vanished. Well, vanished might be overstating the case since the Mayan are still with us. What vanished was a very sophisticated civilization. This is called the Classic Mayan Collapse and it began around 795 CE and lasted into the 9th Century. Many theories account for the Classic Mayan Collapse, but the one given the most creduality is the drought theory. Who knows? No one. Oh, and if you want more unique theories about the New World in general and MesoAmerica in particular read Charles Mann's book, 1491.

 The massive radiation burst may have occurred in southern skies and I speculate that it may have impacted the Classic Mayan Collapse, casting my lot with the drought theory crowd.

Summing up the only thing scientist know for certain is that a massive radiation burst event happened between 774 and 775 CE. It was never observed at the time. We have found a galaxy whose light took 800 million years to get to earth, but we can't find the remnants of the massive radiation burst from the 8th Century. We know of the Classic Mayan Collapse but not why?


Nature: "Mysterious radiation burst recorded in tree rings", by Richard A. Lovett, 06-03-2012

Climate History: Drought and the Collapse of the Maya Civilsation

National Geographic: "The Maya: Glory and Ruin", by Guy Gugliotta, 08-2007

NOAA: "The Sun and Sunspots: Can an increase or decrease in sunspot activity affect the earth's climate?", 10-07-2012

asu news [science & tech]: "ASU astronomers discover faintest distant galaxy", by Nikki Cassis, 06-01-2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Keeping It Real ……. simple

I read recently where the Financial Times has dropped their Apple app in favor of HTML5. Apple requires a 30% cut off the top to use their iOS and the FT decided that their profit margin less the 30% wasn't an economically viable arrangement. FT also wasn't getting enough hits on their app. Since switching to HTML5 things have brightened up considerably.

Some of the 'in the know' pundits have predicted that the web, as we know it, is dead or dying. However, FT may have proved that the demise is premature. In any case HTML5 may be a trend for publishers who don't like apps, so don't get rid of your browsers … yet.

This leads me into a brief discussion of the "Good Enough Revolution". Good Enough has evolved out of the necessity to control costs and today's consumer preferences. "Cheap, fast, simple tools …" is the consumers credo. We no longer want to do long reads of owners manuals and we no longer want to pay higher prices for marginal increases in quality. As Shirley MacLaine said in Postcards From The Edge, "The problem with immediate gratification, is that it is not fast enough."


Get over it, haters- apps really are the future, says Wired publisher

The Good Enough Revolution: When Cheap and Simple Is Just Fine

Idea of the Day

Web journey complete, FT switching off iOS app

Why Publishers Don't Like Apps

Financial Times exec: iOS apps don't work for publishers

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet