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Top Financial Stories 2017

At this time of year I ask myself what were the biggest stories of the past twelve months in business/financial news. 

Of course, I choose the ones I do largely because they illustrate an important theme, and in the list below I'll spell out and boldface the theme. Yet the theme itself isn't the story.

Here are the twelve stories, by month, that especially caught my attention and that in retrospect I recommend to yours. 

1. January. Immigration. Well, of course. But I want to highlight a different aspect of the immigration question than the one that has caught the most attention.In the early days of the new year, Reuters appears to have heard from sources that the President elect (as he then was) was in talks with hi-tech employers about the possible overhaul of the H1B visa system. At the end of the month, word leaks out that the now President, Donald Trump, is moving in the opposite direction from what those employers presumably had hoped. This will be very clear by March.

2.…

Congrats to James Annan

Back in 2005 a British climate scientist, James Annan, made a bet for US$10,000 with two Russian physicists who were skeptics about global warming. The Russians, Galina Mashnich and Vladimir Bashkirtseva, took the position that the years 1998-2003 had been as warm or warmer than the years 2012-2017 would be.

The three scientists involved in the bet agreed that win/lose would be determined by temperature data from the US National Climatic Data Center as it was then known. (It has changed its name to the National Centers for Environmental Information.) Now we near the end of the latter of the two periods covered by the bet. The Russians will be the payors.  Congrats to Annan, and actually to all three for conducting science according to the Popperian rule. Popper didn't say you actually have to risk money on falsification, but still ...  My final comment on this point will be that the outcome of the bet wasn't even remotely close. In the graph above, which was compiled without 2…

Determinism and the Tearfulness of Things

Yes, I understand that introducing "quantum theory" into a discussion of the foundations of morals
is over-done. It has become associated with New Age fishiness. I will go there, regardless.
Suppose a certain swindler has stolen money that properly belonged to a worthy charity, and
“Made Off” with it. His theft might have rendered the charity helpless to do some good works on
which helpless beneficiaries of its attentions had come to rely. This event must be

Descriptive prose

The cozy home sat at odds to the primary compass points. The front of the building faced northeast, so its corners (and the corners of each of the rooms) faced off to the various proper compass points.

There stood a large television stand in the eastern corner with an even larger (though thin) television stretching out of the edges of both sides of it. One of those "big screen" teevees that really ought to be hanging on a wall but isn't.

Two chairs to the right of the television, framing an electric fireplace with a mantle of seasonal decorations. To the right of THAT, on the northern corner, a very plush older Easy Chair with a wooden level on the side to lean it back or stand it up again.

What should be the wall on the northwestern side of the room is mostly a doorway to the dining room. The contents of THAT we leave out of account for now. To the right of the wide door, an abstract painting. To the left, the thermostat (actually two thermostats, of different vintages…

Christmas Eve

Some words from Tennyson for my readers, Christian or otherwise (theists or otherwise).




Let me preface the verse with a bit of Ivyberry.

Live thou, and of the grain and husk, the grape
And Ivyberry, choose; and still depart
From death to death through life and life, and find
Nearer and ever nearer Him who wrought
Not matter, nor the finite-infinite,
But this main miracle, that thou art thou,
With power on thine own act and on the world.

Blame it on the bears

Wildfires in California. I've been surprised by how 'wacky' (for lack of a better word) have been some of the responses thereto. Of course I shouldn't be surprised. This is the country that elected Donald Trump president.

I guess the notion of applying our usual political insanity to wildfires slipped under my radar and came up on me as a surprise.

But one finds on twitter without much effort earnest attempts to explain that brush and tress aren't burning, that only houses are burning, because the fires are the consequence of a government plot.

Also, one finds efforts to use the fires to make one of the key political points of the Trump coalition: beware illegal immigrants. There is no evidence any illegal immigrant had anything to do with any fire in California, or that there was arson involved with the largest of the fires in the state now, involving an arsonist of any nationality or legal status whatsoever. 

Regardless, on twitter denizen “Cali-Conservative” wr…

Charles De Gaulle

On this day in 1958, the voters of France made Charles de Gaulle the first President of their country's Fifth Republic.

Just so I will never regret never having listed them all in one place, here are the five Republics.

1. The First Republic was the creation of the Great Revolution. It was formally established in 1792 by the National Convention and it was overthrown 12 years later when Bonaparte made himself an Emperor.

Interlude. That Empire was overthrown, the Bourbon dynasty restored. Then the Bourbon dynasty morphed into a brief Orleanist monarchy, and that in turn gave way, in 1848, to ...

2. The Second Republic was the shortest-lived of the bunch. It was declared by Alphonse de Lamartine, lasting only from 1848 to 1851. Long enough to inspire satirical lithographs by Honore Daumier though, so that's something.

Interlude. The Second Republic was replaced by the Second Empire, which in turn would last long enough to be overthrown by Bismarck from without and Communards fr…

Fiona Cowie, What 's Within? (1999)

So I've bumbled on a discovery. I've discovered that a certain 18 year old book seems to be important to controversies that are in turn important to me.

As you can see, I pursued the kind pointer of Richard Heck, mentioned here yesterday. He referenced  What's Within? Nativism Reconsidered (1999). The amazon page is here: https://www.amazon.com/Whats-Within-Nativism-Reconsidered-Philosophy/dp/0195159780

This is a contribution to the old debate between rationalism and empiricism. Cowie says that empiricism, with its blank-slate mind filled by experience (or, as behaviorists came to say, by conditioning) was regnant in the Anglo-American world in the late 1940s. This was the era of Skinner's rise to prominence. It was also an era when a lot of ideas seemed to have been discredited by the recent war, by having a Teutonic sound to them, and innate ideation was a casualty.

Later, Chomsky and Fodor turned the tide: Chomsky as to language skills, Fodor as to ideas proper. Co…