Thursday, March 26, 2015

Strabismus and Fetal Alcohol

I am a big fan of the unsaid obvious.  Perhaps the best example was the fact that AIDS is passed by anal intercourse.  Sorry Magic. This deference of reality to propriety demonstrates the dangers of hypocrisy.  I remember the idiot virgin clubs where they proudly refrained from sex, because of all the dangers, then got that goofy sly look and mumbled about other things you could do. 

Lazy eye is a good current example. If you look up strabismus, they will tell you that the cause is unknown. This is a lie. If you look up fetal alcohol syndrome, one of the symptoms is strabismus. It may be that there are other causes. But fetal alcohol causes strabismus. If you have a cast to your eye, perhaps your arms and your temper are a little short; chances are Mom was hitting it. Some people might consider this a lapse in good taste, but I think it is preferable to recognize a developmental disorder rather than a hereditary one.

If they were truthful rather than pusillanimous they would say that fetal alcohol is the only known cause of strabismus. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Writers Workshop

One of the first things you notice is how autobiographical most of the material is.  I guess people write about the things that matter to them.  One time this guy brought a fairly long manuscript, we are only supposed to read a few pages; he started at the beginning and read all the way to the end.  It was about child molestation.  At first I was surprised by his imagination, and then it occurred to me that he might actually know his subject.  My stomach turned.  No one interrupted him or asked him to cut it short.  Perhaps the material was gripping or perhaps like me they had all shut down.  I don’t remember what he said.  At the end he shoved his manuscript back into its manila envelope and awaited our comments.  A woman across from me took out a small pistol and shot the man through his forehead.  The man next to me said:
-Mine is really short.

Meat and Milk

For thousands of years Jews have had a prohibition against mixing meat with milk. This is a lot of work. It involves separate sets of dishes, and by separate I mean compulsively separate.  In the last hundred years some of our rules have found scientific justification. One might suppose that correlations were noticed between behaviors and consequences, but given the short life spans it is puzzling. A lot of this stuff didn’t make sense until we saw germs under the microscope. I can imagine some saying:
-I defecated near the well and nothing happened.
Torah sometimes cloaks common sense rules in mysticism. If they told men that sex after childbirth is bad for the mother it might not have made an impression.  I knew an obstetrician whose children were born nine months apart.  Telling him:
-She’s unclean, dammit,
might have been more effective. Sorry to go mystical but there is the possibility that the prohibition on mixing meat and milk may one day find hygienic justification. Perhaps we will one day learn that meat and milk affects the bacterial balance in our gut or something. Before dismissing our laws as ridiculous, you should bear in mind that some of the rules made sense, even or especially if we didn’t know why.
I ran across an interesting article:
In summary, the original directive was to hold the spring festival promptly and deliver what you have on hand. This injunction seems a little harsh:
-I don’t care if it’s nursing, kill that baby goat now!
They wanted to emphasize immediate harvest for both Purim and Passover so they repeated it.  Then another goof misread the injunction and threw it in with the dietary restrictions, early cut and paste. Out of context it reads:
-Don’t boil the baby goat in the milk of its mother.
I like this explanation; it fits with my view of how things work. To this day we take Bible out of context. It is comforting that this isn’t just recent. Because of this and since we are such neurotics, housewives have been wasting untold eons of labor:
-But it reinforced your identity.
Talmud isn’t much help, a lot of blather about parts per thousand. This indicates to me that most people thought this silly.
Still these passages survived interminable manual transcription and edit. I think most people reading the text have an image of shepherds feeling a mammalian kinship with their flock.  That seems awfully sweet. Which does make it suspect.  But we are not talking about the shepherds any more but the scribes doing the transcription.
This would make the neurotic response of dietary prohibition a reaction against recognizing our kinship with our livestock.  The proper generalization of the normative interpretation would be to quit tormenting our food: catch and release, veal, factory farms, and farcie.
I’ve always thought ice cream would go well at Passover.
This reminds me of a story:  There was a woman who was a concentration camp guard.  After the war she came to Los Angeles and married a Jew. After many years he died and it somehow came out that she had been a war criminal and she was deported. At which point the women said:
-Hasn’t she suffered enough?


I doubt that most of you still read newspapers. This Sunday we read the Tribune in bed while drinking coffee.  Christine did have her laptop, which she used to plan our bike trip.  Then she spoiled the day by dragging me bicycling in the forest preserves.
It is not surprising that the Tribune has endorsed Rauner a Republican for the position of governor over Quinn a Democrat.  It would be remarkable if they had chosen the opposite.  The Tribune has always been a Republican paper.  I suspect that their decision has far more to do with association than ideology or tradition.  Their justification for the decision is that they regard Rauner as the more subversive candidate; that he will:
-Shake things up.
Illinois recently suffered another governor embarrassment when it was determined that we had elected a flat out crook. The embarrassment was that while Blagojevich was eager to sell, he didn’t have anything worth buying.  That is how irrelevant the governor’s office is.
The Tribune is of the opinion that Rauner’s wealth will somehow make the office useful.  I can only suppose that he is personally going to buy the legislature. If that is the plan then I fail to see why he needs the governor’s office.   Perhaps it is a cost saving measure.
The Tribune puts me in mind of serfs living under the Duke or Baron:
-Yes, my first child is his, but I know he has our greater good at heart.
Given that there wasn’t much choice this attitude was understandable. Nowadays it is pathetic.  Everything Rauner has done has been to his profit.  Why would he suddenly become altruistic?
His opponent Quinn is dismissed as a go-along hack.  I can remember when he used to be dismissed as an idealist.  Dismissing Quinn is dismissing the whole political process. Poor Quinn was always the good kid who did his homework and never got in trouble.  
Speaking of political process the Illiana toll way project seems to have everybody jumping in different directions.  New roads seem to arouse the strongest feelings.  I was surprised that Quinn had taken a position on it.  Normally smart politicians talk about boards and process that is they duck. But that is the kind of wonk Quinn is.  I’m sure he has given it his earnest consideration evaluating all the aspects and decided that this road is good for the state without considering that his view isn’t likely to have much impact and can only cost him votes. Rauner hasn’t said a word about the project.
Apparently trucking firms want the toll way and farmers don’t.  In the past sentiment may have favored farmers but nowadays agriculture is an industry just like trucking, and both vote.
I admit to having sympathy for subversion.  But subverting the political process is subverting the means we have for making these decisions collectively.
Before Christine and I went bicycling we visited Adlai Stevenson’s home in Mettawa, Illinois. One of the mean things Jake Arvey did was switching Stevenson with Douglas.  Stevenson was supposed to be Senator, Douglas who understood state politics was supposed to be governor.  Instead Stevenson’s first political office was governor of Illinois.  The major problem Stevenson had running for president was that he seemed unable to make specific promises. This may have been because as governor of Illinois it was difficult to actually deliver anything.  Both Rauner and Quinn are having the same problem.  


Trip Advisor recently picked The Art Institute of Chicago as its best museum. I like museums that have a flavor of subversion to them.  The worst museum in the world might be Epcot Center.  It doesn’t claim museum status but it is supposed to represent Future World, sort of a perpetual exposition. There is nothing subversive about Epcot. Drained of content it is nothing more than a people containment facility, which may well represent their view of the future.
My current favorite is the Door County Historical Museum in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin. It is jammed with the usual historical knickknacks. They have a discussion of fish boils. There is also a fascinating wildlife diorama constructed by a true obsessive. In the middle of the museum is a leftover jail cell with the key.  While I was there a girl locked her little brother in it. What little girl hasn’t wished to do that?  That is what a museum is for.
My favorite exhibit is the Mathematica Exhibit. It has moved around a bit.  Originally built by IBM, I saw it when it was at the Museum of Science and industry in Chicago.  You might pass through thinking it hopelessly arcane. The fun part is when you see a child suddenly become distracted and stare raptly at one of the displays.  I have no idea if the little darling is actually getting anything or just trying to get a rise out of their parents. Maybe they are just watching the little car going around the Mobius strip.  The parents get agitated. It disturbs them that their child might actually have an interest in the exhibit.  They try to distract the kid, draw them on, and practically drag them out.  That is what a museum is for.
The Adler Planetarium in Chicago has a Christmas show, Star of Wonder.  After they have gathered the rubes in and ensconced them in their seats, they roll the stars back to the way they were around the birth of Christ.  Then they patiently explain to them that the most likely explanation of the “Christmas Star” was a conjunction of planets in the Persian Zodiac.  I doubt that most of the patrons are going to consider why the Biblical authors glossed over a zodiac event as the precursor of Christianity. But still, that is what a museum is for.
George Lucas is going to build another museum on the Chicago museum campus, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art.  It will house his Star Wars and Norman Rockwell collection. Museums are, of course, the expression of the egotism of their benefactors.  Any city that features the Rubloff Paper Weight collection at the Art Institute can’t turn its nose up.
The Lucas project has all the indications of a disaster. The more fascinating the museum’s building, the less interesting the exhibits.  The new Lucas building looks to be a humdinger.  There is Opposition of Friends of The Parks, and Better Government Association.  To his credit Lucas is proposing 3000 underground parking spaces.  Scary that they will be built in a waste dump dating from the Chicago fire.  Old waste dumps are not always safe waste dumps. An outside architect has been brought in all the way from China.  This is probably payback for all the work China has given our architects. But the only time our architects are that generous is when they are afraid the project is going to hurt their reputation and future sales. We have a history of fall guy architects being brought in for difficult clients with disastrous projects: Benjamin T. Wood from Boston for Soldier Field, Moriyama & Teshima from Toronto for 10 S LaSalle. If they are far enough away people will know that the fall guy had a big project in Chicago and not that it is loathed.
My greatest fear is that the museum will be popular.  I don’t want the museum campus to feel like Epcot.

Termination of Pregnancy

At the end of 1971 the draft had ended and my school no longer had any ethical reason to keep me and I flunked out.  At the beginning of 1972 I obtained employment as a medical records clerk at University of Chicago Hospitals.  The mother of a girlfriend quit her job as an admitting clerk in the hospital and recommended me as a replacement. So part way through 1972 I became the night admitting clerk working from midnight to 8 in the morning at Chicago Lying In, the obstetrics and gynecology hospital at University of Chicago Hospitals.
Termination of pregnancy was illegal and every few weeks I would admit from one to three emergency patients for botched abortions.  I suppose the illegal operation would do all its patients on those particular evenings.  After a few months it dawned on me that those I admitted were the ones who had made it to the emergency room and if there were these many botched procedures there must be others who had not made it to the emergency room.
At that point I prayed. I’ve prayed twice in my life and the second time was selfish and stupid.  But the first time I prayed for abortion to be legal.  My argument was that it is better to lose one than two.
There was a miracle and abortion became legal.
Chicago Lying In had five floors.  The top floor was surgery, labor and delivery. The fourth floor was unscheduled admissions, 14 beds. The third floor was 33 beds of moms. The second floor was 22 beds of scheduled admissions.  The first floor was administration and clinics.  We operated pretty much at capacity and there were nights when we refused emergency admissions because we didn’t have a bed.
When abortion became legal the second floor was empty for a month.  Then we used it for second trimester terminations.

One Shot Mosquito

My job is to find some way to keep the mosquito from spreading malaria.
Mosquitoes evolved from biting flies.  Over time, they developed efficient ways to extract blood, and became dependent on it for the nutrients for breeding.  Their life cycle hints at a difficult and complex evolution.  They are the essential vector for malaria.  Malaria also has a complex life cycle hinting at a complex evolution in the company of the mosquito.
There has been a lot of futile research attempting to attack malaria directly.  The research is futile because of malarias’ different life cycle changes. The plasmodium parasite has too many life stages.  Singling out any particular one leaves the others and your medicine fails.   If you wish to attack malaria then you must attack the mosquito.
Malaria is one of the major detriments to human progress in the world.  The genetic human disorder of sickle cell disease evolved as a natural defense to the scourge of malaria.
In a time when so many species have perished in the face of human encroachment the mosquito persists, even thrives.  Perhaps someday we will eradicate this annoying and dangerous parasite.  There is no shortage of species of fly, the loss of one or two would not be missed.
You may be surprised at the altruism of drug companies and foundations willing to sponsor research that has so little potential for profit.  Well you should be. It is the treatment of disease, rather than eradication that is profitable.  But it has become vital for the development of the oil reserves in Africa, in particular Somalia, for us to be seen as benefactors rather than mere colonialists.  A victory in this area would more than justify the investment if it were properly presented and packaged.
-How can we help you my African brothers?  Oh I know, research!
The effort itself may well be rewarded.  Success could lead to development of previously inhospitable jungle.
 Then we could worry about the ecological impact.
What can we do?  The mosquito feeds, lays eggs, then repeats the process.  The repetition spreads disease.  How often does the mosquito repeat its egg laying?  Not that often, the laying of eggs requires tremendous effort.  It is the feeding that the mosquito repeats.  How to minimize the occurrence of feeding?  It must have bigger meals. Then it must compete with its sipping cousin for habitat, crowding it out.
What astounding arrogance to redesign such a perfect and well-adapted organism.  We do it all the time with many different species.  But it is amazing.  How to select for the quality I desire?  Provide the mosquitoes with a short meal and then keep the ones that breed.  Then repeat the process.  It’s not enough of course.  Simply stressing one quality does not assure the adaptability and survival of the variety we seek.  We can create hybrids of various species, all the while testing for improvement. 
Now that we have the genome mapped, we can create throwbacks, ancient varieties, evolutionary dead ends that may be more successful in meeting our criteria.  We tend to think of evolution as a process of optimization.  It is really more of a process of accommodation.  All sorts of possibilities have been tested, but not necessarily fairly or on their own merits.
With luck and of course persistence and some resourcefulness it was created: the perfect one-shot mosquito.  Malaria would be at an end.  Imagine the euphoria.  It is  rare that we have an opportunity in our professional lives to actually accomplish something.  People take pride, as best they can, in whatever accomplishments they may have.   This will change the world.  It is meant to change the world.  It will accomplish its purpose.  No stumbling.  No backing into it.  We knew what we had to do.  We mapped it out and then we did it.  It’s never that simple.  When a mosquito takes that large a meal, it leaves a welt.   That is to say, it leaves a large; quite often permanent scar.  The legal department was scathing.
-Okay, we’re not making any money on this, and everybody in the world will sue us.
I wish I could tell you that I was awash in idealism.  That I was thinking of some large eyed African child shivering from fever.  I don’t know anybody like that.  I was overcome with righteous indignation against the mammoth corporate interests who were making these cynical decisions about our future purely on the principle of protecting their own careers.  Actually, I like mammoth corporate interests who pay my salary and I want them to keep doing it.
It wasn’t pride.  Or at least I’m not admitting to that.  If I’m ever asked, I’ll say it was for Somali oil.  Maybe it was simply because I could.  I rolled up my sleeve, inserted my arm into their container and allowed the monsters to feed.  Then I removed my arm, allowing them to remain, rolled down my shirtsleeve and walked outside. After their release, I went back for the males.  I hope that the plasmodium  parasite doesn’t pass along mosquito generations.

Kentucky Campaign

Christine dragged me through Kentucky this spring, and I strongly recommend it unless you dislike Bourbon, heat and bicycling through beautiful, hilly country. I don’t mind Bourbon.  The greatest liabilities are the fried food and the pollen count. I found the reverence for the Civil War particularly irksome.  I would have thought knowledge of that history would be accompanied by deep shame and bitter regret.
They are planning to commemorate the Confederate assault on Frankfortthe state’s capital. This would kind of be like Chicago commemorating the Memorial Day massacre. 
In Kentucky they make a point of saying how Lincoln revered Henry Clay as the great compromiser.  That Clay delayed the onset of the Civil War until the North had sufficient resources to win.
 Most historians regard the Southern Rebellion as yet another doomed cause. The industrialized North clearly superior to the doomed agrarian South, besotted with their romantic notions of cavalry. The Southern fantasy is worse than that. The only hope for slavery is if the North is beaten into returning runaway slaves. The South cannot accomplish that on their own and dream they can convince France and England to come in on their side. 
But if you review the campaigns you will find that the great majority are offensive campaigns conducted by the North.  People look at the casualty rates and assume that Northern generals are incompetent.  When you recognize that the North is on the offensive, attacking entrenched Southern positions, the counts are not as impressive.   It was more difficult to attack than defend. 
The South had little interest in Northern territory. The closer to Canada, the more likely their slaves will flee. One controversial question concerns the Gettysburg campaign. Some argue that the Southern objective was a shoe factory.  In general, there was little point in Southern raids, abandoning their defensive positions for great risk and losses unless there was something material to be seized.
For instance, the South never took Washington DC. It seems entirely reasonable that sufficient men and material devoted to such a purpose would succeed.  But victory would only have further enraged the North much as Ft. Sumter did, and any losses of leadership may have led to more competent replacements.
This is not to suggest that the South had any hope of winning.  I will go further. Regardless of when the Civil War was fought, or how it was fought, the moment the North supports emancipation, the South has lost.  Once slaves have some certitude of sanctuary, the Southern cause is over.  The great shame of the Civil War was that it took the North so long to recognize that.
The confusion on this point is that people consider the Proclamation or even the Amendment as the start of emancipation.  The moment the South secedes, emancipation is inevitable. But if you must have a proper date then the First Confiscation Act of 1861 will mark the moment of Southern defeat. If you consider the refusal of General Butler to return fugitive slaves, which became Union policy, then it was even earlier.
Part of the reason for the South’s failure is the same as in the American Revolution. Regardless of other objectives the South has to maintain sufficient local garrison to forestall slave uprising.  This is why the South did so poorly against the British and why Washington was reluctant to even go as far south as Yorktown. The French had to push him into it.
Of the various offensive Southern campaigns, Jackson’s Valley Campaign is the most celebrated.  It had the secondary objective of taking booty and the primary objective of delaying the taking of Vicksburg.
Lee’s ridiculous Maryland campaign had the primary objective of seizing supplies and slaves.  It was punitive: punishing a slave (Catholic) state for staying in the Union.  Given the South’s strategic situation it helped hasten their loss and can only be understood as revenge for the North’s earlier assault, the continuing process of emancipation, and hubris over Jackson’s earlier campaign.  While the Maryland campaign satisfied the tactical objective of provisioning Lee’s army, it was a political disaster.  The people of Maryland no longer had any illusions about their status with the South.
The reason that Maryland was part of the Union was my favorite general, afore mentioned Major General Benjamin Franklin Butler. After logistics, the most difficult military task is pacification, the suppression of a hostile population. Pacification was Butler’s specialty. In defiance of his superior officer, Scott, he seized and maintained bases throughout Maryland and intimidated the population into compliance. After Maryland, he was assigned to New Orleans, which he held.  Farragut took New Orleans, Butler held it.  Towards the end of the war he was set up.  Assigned a generals task of assault, he looked at the breastworks and saw little point. The North had won, the South was starving, and patience would succeed. 
If, by some miracle, Butler had been in charge of Reconstruction, he would have been even more filthy rich. He was totally corrupt, what you see is what he was: the devil himself. But if Beast Butler could have led Reconstruction, the country would be far better for it.
The Gettysburg campaign was systemic pillaging.  By that point in the war, looting the North was the only way Lee could supply his army.  Lee was willing to endure the casualties because he had to either lose his men or feed them.
To understand the Kentucky campaigns understand that Kentucky was a slave breeding state.  The plantation states to the south used up their slaves in hard work.  The northern slave holding states made up the difference to their profit.  Their representatives, including Clay, opposed the importation of slaves and spoke of the “eventual” end of slavery, but in the meantime made money selling their slaves south.
Since Kentucky was in the Union, any freedmen, slaves, horses or livestock found there were war prizes.  The South went into Kentucky like a mob trashing Best Buy. Frankfort is proud that 40 volunteers held off General Morgan and his troops until the Union Army could arrive.  I don’t know if they will explain that they were protecting their property.
My views on this are not novel or remarkable. If you had spoken to any abolitionist of the time, they would tell you the exact same thing.


Nothing against Cate Blanchett, besides her difficult name but Bullock and Clooney were robbed.  Gravity received precisely the wrong awards. Bullock and Clooney sold a ridiculous film.
 It’s dangerous to credulity to have science fiction slightly in the future. Tyson has already pointed out the hair issue, so I was ready for that. But the idea of somebody being able to grab anything not specifically designed for it with a pressurized glove was a total fail.  Maybe they could loop their arm through something.  The second time Bullock flipped on a hatch, I had to laugh, not exactly a quick learner.  Not since Raging Bull have I enjoyed an actor getting slapped around so much.  An astronaut estimating docking with a space station was outrageous.  Try grabbing a speeding freight train and you get the idea.  F=MA. People, who don’t understand that equation, and the resultant integration, think that they can somehow brace themselves rather than wear seat belts. We are talking about tonnage against pounds. Tonnage wins.   This should have turned into a Brian De Palma film with a bloody arm stump. 
They tried to address the issue by having them bump around a bit. But there is a huge difference between addressing the issue and meeting the issue. Any difference in speed and they are missing body parts. No resistance issues. Use whatever glancing angle you like. Take the ratios of the velocity less 1, because there isn’t any bounce, just a sploosh. Given that they are both going very fast at pretty much the same speed, the ratio is small.  It doesn’t matter when you are multiplying it by hundreds of tons. My most optimistic calculation has them flattened by a truck.
It was Bullock and Clooney that somehow got me through this film with the silly dialogue.  Because of them, I was able to suspend disbelief, at least until she somehow found two separate custom designed space suits conveniently left behind for her. If you think one size fits all panty hose is a cruel joke, imagine an adjustable space suit. I guess they thought it was more unbelievable that she could recharge the air on the space suit she had.  It is too unlikely that there would be a standard air supply system. China manufactures three separate versions for each of us. 
I have a little trouble with someone in an oxygen deprived coma waking up and turning their air back on.  Christine wasn’t too happy with Bullock’s choice of skivvies surrounded by all those metal objects.
I did like the Chinese joke about their ejection module being a copy of ours.


Password restriction rules are Vogon. The initial problem is that people choose simple passwords that are easy to remember. It’s like locking the screen door to let in the breeze.  But when you restrict the universe of passwords that people can choose from you make it easier to hack.  The fallacy is to apply the tougher passwords to the original universe of all passwords.  People are still going to use passwords that they can remember within the more difficult rules. If you dumped the password files in the more restrictive environments you will find the same amount of redundancy.
Before you start counting up the permutations, consider your own passwords, hopefully you have more than one. I’m sure that several of them are clever phrases that you believe are unique and fall within the restrictions. mIright?  


In second grade our teacher Ms. Bowers introduced us to Cantor’s diagonal proofs.  You are already familiar with this, of course.  The rational numbers, the fractions, are listed with 1/1, ½, 1/3… on the top row, 1/1, 2/1, 3/1… in the first column and the diagonals always equal to 1: 1/1, 2/2, 3/3… and all the fractions in between. Then Cantor counts them by going up and down diagonally, zig-zagging between them.  All the second graders accepted that.  Then she showed us that the real numbers, say all the real numbers between .0000… and .9999…., were uncountable because no matter which way we listed them, she could generate a new one by going down the diagonal going on to infinity and generating a new one.  Cantor liked diagonals.
I may have lost some of you.  I think the reason we got this as second graders is because we knew that if Ms. Bowers was explaining this to us, it couldn’t be that complicated.  But adults believe that this stuff should be difficult.  So if you don’t get this, don’t feel bad, it just means you are old.
She then told us that it is impossible to prove that there is not an order of infinity between the countable and uncountable.  It turns out that almost anytime you can’t prove anything in mathematics it is equivalent to this continuum hypothesis.  So after all this work, we are left with yet another metaphor for life.  Which seems like a lot of work to get there and it isn’t like there is a shortage of metaphors for life.
Back in second grade a kid came up to me and said:
-If you take all the real numbers of one decimal place, .0 through .9, there aren’t any others. You can’t insert any.  Then if you go up by number of decimal places, .00 through .99 and so on, you will get to infinity which makes the real numbers countable.
-Those aren’t numbers, they are parts of numbers.
I told him.
-Then I will pad them with zeroes.
-Then I will insert a new one.
-Not if you follow my rules.  It is just a matter of definition.
-Is not.
-Is so.
If you want to make a mathematician uncomfortable, tell them about this assertion made back in second grade. Part of the reason that they will be uncomfortable is that the foundations are shaky. I believe that this assertion is not equivalent to the continuum hypothesis, because it obviates the hypothesis. I suppose it would be boring if the real numbers were countable.
If one day this assertion is proven, proven would mean that most mathematicians agreed with it, which might happen if countable real numbers solved some other problem. If that happened it doesn’t mean that something else isn’t uncountable. But another reason that they would be uncomfortable is that it suggests that most of the high level mathematics done in the last century was a huge waste of time.  My girlfriend Christine could have told you that in the first place.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Jackasses Drive Drunk

Your tattoo is ugly and stupid.
Your butt is so big because it gets the most use.
Plastic surgery looks goofy.
Loud is dumb.
Check your medications, check them again.
You are fat because you eat too much.
Cubs fans are losers.
Maybe if you move far away, people will think you are interesting, maybe not.
I hope you trip on those pants.
I hope you fall off those shoes.
No one wants to hear it, any of it.
Your poor kids are just as dumb and ugly as you.
If you are that sick you might as well die.
Everyone is lying to you.
God hates you and she is right.
The louder you play it, the deafer you get.
You are annoying.
You would make a lot more with an engineering degree.
You are a lousy driver.
It’s just sex.
It’s just money.
Your house is boring.
Lesbians in a relationship disappear because they can’t get out the door.
Please don’t friend me.
Strauss sucks.
It’s you.
You are irritating, yes you are.
You really don’t want to be noticed.
If women ever discover short hair, flat shoes, wallets and pockets, we will have no advantage.
Be grateful for pity fucks.
Being angry doesn’t make you right.
Just watch the TV.
If mom don’t want you, you can’t come.
There is no food in Indiana or Mississippi.
Mozzarella only
He’d better be gay.
Hope it heals.
If we were married, I’d get a divorce.
Steroid use causes brain tumors.
Most birth defects are developmental.
More for me
You’d better work on nice and good because you’ll get caught at anything else.
Video games do not prepare you for anything useful.
You are exactly as special as everybody else.
Do their butts feel sticky in heaven?  Do they miss it?
It is difficult to take logic seriously when it so easily leads to suicide.
Let the lord be the lord and be grateful.
You are the problem.
No gift cards.

Romney 3.9 Percentage Points Behind Obama

It is obvious by now that both Obama and Romney campaigns were trying to keep the race as close as possible in order to maximize fund raising. Our political campaigns are in the potlatch tradition.  They provide the means for us to make payouts within the tax code without the appearance of impropriety.  Very little of the activity has much to do with influencing votes
Dick Morris, the manic depressive Delphi, argues that the United States electorate should be romanced like an adolescent with a constant barrage of upbeat optimism.
When we step back from all the clutter there appear to be some fundamentals driving the voting choice.  I believe that we can build a model for these beliefs based on our history.  It is generally held that we Americans have no historical sense or memory but I contend that we do have a mythology based on our collective memory of historical events.
One of our collective modern issues is that most of us, at least below a certain age, have never been in a true drag out physical fight.  In the past, one of the earliest lessons learned on the playground was that you can be right and you can lose the fight.  Conversely you can be wrong and you can win.  Deprived of practical experience and subjected to constant bombardment of TV people seem to have confused winning with moral superiority.  A classic example is the statement:
-We were wrong to go to war in Vietnam because we lost.
The “because” is the fallacy.  We may well have been wrong and we certainly lost but that is not the reason.
Unions are a good example.  The success of unions in the thirties and forties was met by legislation restricting trade unions, wild cat strikes and boycotts.  Once the union movement was stifled most people took the position that unions were no good because they failed.  I have yet to hear a free market proponent call for unleashing our unions because international competition will keep them in check.
This moral vindication paradox is the reason that the Romney people speak of disillusionment.  For them Obama’s ideals must be invalid because they were not implemented.
Looking back in recent memory, who were the best and worst presidents?  Over time presidents that were reviled have become sainted and the accomplishments of the heroes have been lost.
Eisenhower looks pretty good, getting the troops out of Korea and into Little Rock.  He was a general, he excelled at using the minimum force necessary to flip governments, suppress rebellions and put out brush fires around the world.  Later, however, each of his successes became new and greater conflagrations. Much as we have come to realize that we need brush fires to prevent catastrophes, stifling national autonomy leads to eventual global crisis. Eisenhower, because of his competence, may have been our worst president.
Kennedy is the most frightening, by his own count taking us to the edge of nuclear destruction three separate times. The portrayal of Kennedy and his brother as idealistic has once again conflated idealism with recklessness.
Nixon has the greatest infamy but he was handed the worst mess in recent history.  He blew smoke, kicked sand and somehow bluffed us through our international bankruptcy while convincing the China lobby to go along with recognizing China and the strategy of Vietnamizing the war.
Bush Senior is another who pulled us out of disaster.  Clinton gets the credit for sticking to the course that Bush set.
Given this history, it is not surprising that Americans almost preferred a lying double talker to a party ideologue.
How can you criticize someone for selling out his ideals when the ideals are so rotten?  Good for Romney, taking the tease party for a ride with that ridiculous platform.
The one group I really disliked from the Vietnam War was the Vets for Peace.  They would always start their speech by saying that they didn’t know what they were getting into when they went off to war.  Talk about not listening.  What did they think the peace movement was carrying on about?  This passionate naiveté is our worst quality. Please don’t tell me you didn’t know that going up to Tyson’s hotel room would end badly. The Vietnam War wasn’t Johnson’s mistake. It was the price Johnson paid to the China lobby for backing his legislation. Being disappointed with Nixon’s illegal activities is a howler. Who would have thought that big spender, fight anyone anywhere Bush Jr. would lead to fiscal disaster?
I suppose that the voters were frightened that Romney might actually believe that his platform had popular support, rather than that we were hoping for his betrayal of it.

Veteran Grandfather

Fritz, as Grandmother Hilda called him, his name was Fred, served as a lieutenant in the German army in World War I.   He served on the western front, so he may have been fighting Americans.  He won the Iron cross:
-Everyone went over the top, except me and this other fellow. So we looked at each other and decided it was better to be killed by the enemy than our own side.  The job of the second line of the German army was to kill anyone in the first line who didn’t attack.  We couldn’t find our guys, so we kept going; the other side must have withdrawn.  Eventually our side caught up with us so they gave us the medal.
Years later, I realized that this is the story you tell when you don’t want to say what you did. 
When Fritz got taken into concentration camp he wore that cross.  They took it away from him.  Hilda bribed a consulate for visas and got him and her family out of Germany.  He was very calm describing the conditions in the camp except when he talked about them taking the cross.

Plasticene Porters

When you’re talking about police and soldiers, you’re essentially talking about a lot of guys who like to play Call Of Duty and Halo. It is difficult to appreciate the level of hypocrisy they confront and the depth of compartmentalization that this requires. Most of us at some fundamental level believe that there is some equitability or justice that plays its way out. This deep human desire is one of the foundations of religion.  Whether it is reincarnation, heaven, rapture, eventual human development, fatalism or just the naïve joy at seeing the downfall of the wicked and horror at the victimization of the innocent, we all want the world to confirm our human perception of right and wrong. Justice, as any other ideal, is found as common or as rare and beautiful as your perception of it.   The police dilemma is more extreme than the accommodations that we all make.  Because of their situation, they stare into this moral disjoint every day and it can drive them mad. A good day for a police officer might be five driving under the influence arrests.  They may have saved lives, or ruined someone’s career, pondering leads to folly.
They are essentially a clerk with a gun, collecting data for their bosses spread sheet and power point presentation. As Mayor Richard J. Daley said:
-The police are not here to create disorder; they’re here to preserve dis order.
We are all in the vise between judgment and obedience. Usually the consequences are not as extreme.
Normally police are about making the case.  Once they have identified a crime and a perpetrator, they gather, secure and present the evidence for the purpose of conviction and sentencing. It gets trickier when they attempt to be preemptive.
People dismiss the National Security Agency PRISM operation because they do not consider the implications of surveillance.  Imagine, for whatever reason, that you have become worthy.  It could be your actions, your associations, or error, but for whatever reason, you have made the list.  Your surveillance is not inexpensive; at the very least it involves administration, audit and review.  At some point it becomes cheaper to send around a person.
That person writes a report.  That individual is now an informant. You are their subject.  Their activity may be as innocuous as calling to see if you are at the same address.  They may strike up an acquaintance with you. They may be a friend or business associate.  They may be a date.  They may be family.
A business may hire you. This is perhaps the most effective and efficient means of surveillance.  Your employer has the right to all your personal records.  They can account for all your activity during your work time. Conversely employment, or promotion, may be denied you. Obviously your academic career can also be determined for you.  If you want to know about someone you can’t passively watch them.  You have to be involved in their life.
Do you have a life?  Have you made any decisions?  Have you dated? Quantitative change leads to qualitative change.  Defenses against paranoia collapse against multibillion budgets.  As to intent, consider COINTELPRO, the FBI program descended from Elliot Ness who learned his tricks from Irish policemen.  Since the data is there it would be silly not to collect it.  Once you have the intelligence it would be irresponsible not to use it. Perhaps this errant young person needs a job, or perhaps they should lose one.  Maybe a little match making would distract them.  Maybe if these groups fought each other, it would take some of the piss out of them. The example of Linus Pauling being denied a visa to visit England, preventing his participation in DNA research comes to mind.
Imagine you were the one charged with tracking a group of subjects, your very own Sims.  What lives would you choose for them? Forget big brother, this is big mother. Do you want to increase your budget by provoking radicalism? Or demonstrate your efficiency by frustrating it?
I can see all the wealthy, influential, famous or even attractive readers raising their two fingers in sarcastic violin bow serenades. Deceit and swindle is of course common. It is human nature to be manipulative. Even ownership of a digital device can make you fair game. There are many with black marks on their permanent record: DUI, sex offender, felony conviction, bankrupt. Why should subversives get legal dispensation even if they have yet to be convicted of a crime?  Whether they have alerted some data mining analyst through their multiple degrees of separation, patterns of consumption, ill-considered observations, or mean spirited informants, they share many companions amongst those who have lost their privacy and legal protection.
The difference is one of scale.  People Magazine and Equifax, for all their spite, do not have the resources of the National Security Agency, although they may share them. More to your self-interest, how do you know that you are not one of the subversives?  It was asked how many American citizens are under surveillance.  The question was refused as classified.  The correct answer is, of course, all.
How do you build democratic controls on a totalitarian process? It is difficult for Americans to have an ideology, although it may occur implicitly. We have rounded up various groups in our history: Japanese, union organizers, Native Americans, Confederate sympathizers, runaway slaves, Tories. Cost cutting is a possibility. At some point it may occur to the committees that it is cheaper to remove all these irritants rather than follow them.  The metadata allows for more efficient scrubbing.
More likely, eventually some practical person will make the point that crime and corruption are far more dangerous to our nation than mere terrorism. When analysts are able to find obvious criminal activity, perhaps in some cases aiding and abetting terrorism or in the enormous grey areas of overseas business activity, for instance, it would be a shame not to tip off investigators. Could NSA be of use in a kidnapping or murder investigation? Can they cross reference IRS data? Comparing reported income to expenditure comes to mind. In general the trend has been to ignore constitutional niceties in the aid of effective prosecution.
 When I first wrote this, the DEA use of PRISM was not known.  The DEA very practically came up with parallel construction in order to conceal their information source.  I now predict some prosecutor is going to subpoena PRISM data, probably from a phone company, for a local investigation. Once you realize that phone companies use bit compression to transmit conversations then it becomes obvious that all these conversations could be saved.  If they can do it, then they have done it.
Could we at last have accurate financial models?