Monday, September 30, 2013

Debt-toGDP Ratio and Economic Bubbles

Introduction by the Blog Author
The Federal government of the United States, having failed to budget for fiscal year 2014, also failed before midnight eastern time to agree to a continuing resolution for any period of time. This is resulting in a partial shutdown of the government.

It is the professional opinion of the blog author (as a certified public accountant suspicious of economic theories) that the prime problems with the American central government are entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, which are woeful overpromises supported by outrageous underfunding (to the tune of tens of trillions of dollars in net unfunded debt), as well as the prime error in 2011 of allowing federal debt to exceed the national gross domestic product (GDP) – for which Standard and Poors properly downgraded the nation’s credit rating -- and a housing bubble between 2002 and 2008 aggravated by a lack of oversight and further irritated by strenuous efforts, especially by the Federal Reserve, to re-inflate that bubble from 2009 to the present.

Therefore there are two critical concepts lurking behind the partial "shutdown" of the US government as of the morning of October 1, 2013: the debt-to-GDP ratio and a rational economic understanding of bubbles.

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Debt-to-GDP Ratio

In economics, the debt-to-GDP ratio is one of the indicators of the health of an economy. It is the amount of national debt of a country as a percentage of its gross domestic product (GDP). A low debt-to-GDP ratio indicates an economy that produces a large number of goods and services and probably profits that are high enough to pay back debts. Governments aim for low debt-to-GDP ratios and can stand up to the risks involved by increasing debt as their economies have a higher GDP and profit margin. In 2011 United States public debt-to-GDP ratio was about 100%. The level of public debt in Japan in 2011 was 204% of GDP. The level of public debt in Germany in the same year was 85% of GDP. Almost a third of US public debt of USD 16 trillion is held by foreign countries, particularly China and Japan. Conversely, less than 5% of Japanese public debt is held by foreign countries.
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt-to-GDP_ratio

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Economic Bubbles

An economic bubble (sometimes referred to as a speculative bubble, a market bubble, a price bubble, a financial bubble, a speculative mania or a balloon) is "trade in high volumes at prices that are considerably at variance with intrinsic values". It could also be described as a situation in which asset prices appear to be based on implausible or inconsistent views about the future.

Because it is often difficult to observe intrinsic values in real-life markets, bubbles are often conclusively identified only in retrospect, when a sudden drop in prices appears. Such a drop is known as a crash or a bubble burst. Both the boom and the bust phases of the bubble are examples of a positive feedback mechanism, in contrast to the negative feedback mechanism that determines the equilibrium price under normal market circumstances. Prices in an economic bubble can fluctuate erratically, and become impossible to predict from supply and demand alone.

While some economists deny that bubbles occur, the cause of bubbles remains disputed by those who are convinced that asset prices often deviate strongly from intrinsic values. Many explanations have been suggested, and research has recently shown that bubbles may appear even without uncertainty, speculation, or bounded-rationality. It has also been suggested that bubbles might ultimately be caused by processes of price coordination or emerging social norms.

Impact
The impact of economic bubbles is debated within and between schools of economic thought; they are not generally considered beneficial, but it's debated how harmful their formation and bursting is.

Within mainstream economics, many believe that bubbles cannot be identified in advance, cannot be prevented from forming, that attempts to "prick" the bubble cause financial crisis, and that instead authorities should wait for bubbles to burst of their own accord, dealing with the aftermath via monetary policy and fiscal policy.

Within Austrian economics, economic bubbles are generally considered to have a negative impact on the economy because they tend to cause misallocation of resources into non-optimal uses; this forms the basis of Austrian business cycle theory.

Political economist Robert E. Wright argues that bubbles can be identified ex ante with high confidence.
In addition, the crash which usually follows an economic bubble can destroy a large amount of wealth and cause continuing economic malaise; this view is particularly associated with the debt-deflation theory of Irving Fisher, and elaborated within Post-Keynesian economics.

A protracted period of low risk premiums can simply prolong the downturn in asset price deflation as was the case of the Great Depression in the 1930s for much of the world and the 1990s for Japan. Not only can the aftermath of a crash devastate the economy of a nation, but its effects can also reverberate beyond its borders.

Possible Causes
In the 1970s, excess monetary expansion after the U.S. came off the gold standard (August 1971) created massive commodities bubbles. These bubbles only ended when the U.S. Central Bank (Federal Reserve) finally reined in the excess money, raising federal funds interest rates to over 14%. The commodities bubble popped and prices of oil and gold, for instance, came down to their proper levels. Similarly, low interest rate policies by the U.S. Federal Reserve in the 2001–2004 are believed to have exacerbated housing and commodities bubbles. The housing bubble popped as subprime mortgages began to default at much higher rates than expected, which also coincided with the rising of the fed funds rate.

It has also been variously suggested that bubbles may be rational, intrinsic, and contagious. To date, there is no widely accepted theory to explain their occurrence. Recent computer-generated agency models suggest excessive leverage could be a key factor in causing financial bubbles.

Puzzlingly for some, bubbles occur even in highly predictable experimental markets, where uncertainty is eliminated and market participants should be able to calculate the intrinsic value of the assets simply by examining the expected stream of dividends. Nevertheless, bubbles have been observed repeatedly in experimental markets, even with participants such as business students, managers, and professional traders. Experimental bubbles have proven robust to a variety of conditions, including short-selling, margin buying, and insider trading.

While there is no clear agreement on what causes bubbles, there is evidence to suggest that they are not caused by bounderd rationality or assumptions about the irrationality of others, as assumed by greater fool theory. It has also been shown that bubbles appear even when market participants are well-capable of pricing assets correctly. Further, it has been shown that bubbles appear even when speculation is not possible or when over-confidence is absent.

Austrians believe that market participants´ decisions are blurred by the wrong price signals given by artificially low interest rates, which explains why many of these are "fooled" during an asset bubble (they call this the cluster of errors).

Other possible causes 
Excess liquidity
Social psychology factors including
Greater Fool Theory
Extrapolation
Herding
Moral Hazard
Other causes

Examples of Aftermaths of Bubbles
Great Depression
Panic of 1837

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_bubble

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Photons Acting Like Molecules

Seeing Light in a New Light: Scientists Create Never-Before-Seen Form of Matter
Science Daily
-- Sep. 25, 2013 — Harvard and MIT scientists are challenging the conventional wisdom about light, and they didn't need to go to a galaxy far, far away to do it.

Working with colleagues at the Harvard-MIT Center for Ultracold Atoms, a group led by Harvard Professor of Physics Mikhail Lukin and MIT Professor of Physics Vladan Vuletic have managed to coax photons into binding together to form molecules -- a state of matter that, until recently, had been purely theoretical. The work is described in a September 25 paper in Nature.

The discovery, Lukin said, runs contrary to decades of accepted wisdom about the nature of light. Photons have long been described as massless particles which don't interact with each other -- shine two laser beams at each other, he said, and they simply pass through one another.

"Photonic molecules," however, behave less like traditional lasers and more like something you might find in science fiction -- the light saber.

"Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless, and that they do not interact with each other," Lukin said. "What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they begin to act as though they have mass, and they bind together to form molecules. This type of photonic bound state has been discussed theoretically for
quite a while, but until now it hadn't been observed.

"It's not an in-apt analogy to compare this to light sabers," Lukin added. "When these photons interact with each other, they're pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what's happening in these
molecules is similar to what we see in the movies."

To get the normally-massless photons to bind to each other, Lukin and colleagues, including Harvard post-
doctoral fellow Ofer Fisterberg, former Harvard doctoral student Alexey Gorshkov and MIT graduate students Thibault Peyronel and Qiu Liang couldn't rely on something like the Force -- they instead turned to a set of more extreme conditions.

Researchers began by pumped rubidium atoms into a vacuum chamber, then used lasers to cool the cloud of atoms to just a few degrees above absolute zero. Using extremely weak laser pulses, they then fired single photons into the cloud of atoms.

As the photons enter the cloud of cold atoms, Lukin said, its energy excites atoms along its path, causing the photon to slow dramatically. As the photon moves through the cloud, that energy is handed off from atom to atom, and eventually exits the cloud with the photon.

"When the photon exits the medium, its identity is preserved," Lukin said. "It's the same effect we see with refraction of light in a water glass. The light enters the water, it hands off part of its energy to the medium, and inside it exists as light and matter coupled together, but when it exits, it's still light. The process that takes place is the same it's just a bit more extreme -- the light is slowed considerably, and a lot more energy is given away than during refraction."

When Lukin and colleagues fired two photons into the cloud, they were surprised to see them exit together, as a single molecule.

The reason they form the never-before-seen molecules?

An effect called a Rydberg blockade, Lukin said, which states that when an atom is excited, nearby atoms cannot be excited to the same degree. In practice, the effect means that as two photons enter the atomic cloud, the first excites an atom, but must move forward before the second photon can excite nearby atoms.

The result, he said, is that the two photons push and pull each other through the cloud as their energy is handed off from one atom to the next.

"It's a photonic interaction that's mediated by the atomic interaction," Lukin said. "That makes these two photons behave like a molecule, and when they exit the medium they're much more likely to do so together than as single photons."

While the effect is unusual, it does have some practical applications as well.

"We do this for fun, and because we're pushing the frontiers of science," Lukin said. "But it feeds into the bigger picture of what we're doing because photons remain the best possible means to carry quantum information. The handicap, though, has been that photons don't interact with each other."

To build a quantum computer, he explained, researchers need to build a system that can preserve quantum information, and process it using quantum logic operations. The challenge, however, is that quantum logic requires interactions between individual quanta so that quantum systems can be switched to perform information processing.

"What we demonstrate with this process allows us to do that," Lukin said. "Before we make a useful, practical quantum switch or photonic logic gate we have to improve the performance, so it's still at the proof-of-concept level, but this is an important step. The physical principles we've established here are important."

The system could even be useful in classical computing, Lukin said, considering the power-dissipation challenges chip-makers now face. A number of companies -- including IBM -- have worked to develop systems that rely on optical routers that convert light signals into electrical signals, but those systems face their own hurdles.

Lukin also suggested that the system might one day even be used to create complex three-dimensional structures -- such as crystals -- wholly out of light.

"What it will be useful for we don't know yet, but it's a new state of matter, so we are hopeful that new applications may emerge as we continue to investigate these photonic molecules' properties," he said.
  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130925132323.htm

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Blowback defined

Blowback is unintended consequences of a covert operation that are suffered by the aggressor. To the civilians suffering the blowback of covert operations, the effect typically manifests itself as "random" acts of political violence without a discernible, direct cause; because the public—in whose name the intelligence agency acted—are unaware of the effected secret attacks that provoked revenge (counter-attack) against them.

Etymology
Originally, blowback was CIA internal coinage denoting the unintended, harmful consequences—to friendly populations and military forces—when a given weapon is used beyond its purpose as intended by the party supplying it. Examples include anti-Western religious figures (e.g. Osama bin Laden) who, in due course, attack foe and sponsor; right-wing counter-revolutionaries who sell drugs to their sponsor’s civil populace (see CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US); and banana republic juntas (see Salvadoran Civil War) who kill American reporters or nuns (e.g. Dorothy Kazel).

In formal print usage, the term blowback first appeared in the Clandestine Service History—Overthrow of Premier Mossadeq of Iran of Iran—November 1952–August 1953, the CIA's internal history of the 1953 Iranian coup d’etat, sponsored by the US and UK, which was published in March 1954. Blowback from this operation would indeed occur with the Iranian Revolution and the Iran hostage crisis.

Examples of Blowback
Nicaragua and Iran-Contra
In the 1980s blowback was a central theme in the legal and political debates about the efficacy of the Reagan Doctrine, which advocated public and secret support of anti-Communist counter-revolutionaries. For example, by secretly funding the secret war of the militarily-defeated, right-wing Contras against the left-wing Sandinista government of Nicaragua, which led to the Iran-Contra Affair, wherein the Reagan Administration sold American weapons to US enemy Iran to arm the Contras with Warsaw Pact weapons, and their consequent drug-dealing in American cities. Moreover, in the case of Nicaragua v. United States the International Court of Justice ruled against the United States’ secret military attacks against Sandinista Nicaragua, because the countries were not formally at war.

Reagan Doctrine advocates, such as the Heritage Foundation, argue that support for anti-Communists would topple Communist régimes without retaliatory consequences to the United States and help win the global Cold War.

Israel and Hamas 
Another often cited example is Israeli support of Islamic movements in the 1970s and 1980s intended to weaken the PLO, and leading to the creation of Hamas.

With its takeover of Gaza after the 1967 war with Egypt, Israel hunted down secular Palestinian Liberation Organizagion factions but dropped the previous Egyptian rulers' harsh restrictions against Islamic activists. In fact, Israel for many years tolerated and at times encouraged Islamic activists and groups as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the PLO and its dominant faction, Fatah. Among the activists benefited was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. in Gaza, who had also formed the Islamist group Mujama al-Islamiya in 1973, a charity recognized by Israel in 1979. Israel allowed the organization to build mosques, clubs, schools, and a library in Gaza.

Important Reference
  • Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire
  • , by Chambers Johnson,ISBN-0-8050-6239-4
  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blowback_(intelligence)

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Afterword by the Blog Author
Blowback also means that a blown cover hits back at the agent and the mission during an assignment. For example, an agent is inserted into a hostile country as a medical doctor. At a social function, someone becomes gravely ill and this "doctor" is called upon to save a life, a role the agent cannot perform competently. That lack of skill causes "blowback" in making the agent a suspicious character, perhaps a charlatan and perhaps a spy, a revelation endangers the mission. Blowback was associated with covert operations and with the covers for agents for decades in this manner.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Encrypted Email Firms Shut Themselves Down

"If you knew what I know about email, you might not use it."

--Ladar Levison, founder of Lavabit, an encrypted email service

Kashmir Hill of Forbes wrote a horrifying article about cybersecurity and the ruthlessness of the federal government in wanting to hack into any electronic correspondence any time in violation of due process.
Levison’s email service, Lavabit, had 410,000 users this summer, and when it was revealed in July that Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, was one of those users, $12,000 worth of new paid subscribers signed up, triple Levison’s normal monthly increase.

On August 8, Levison collapsed his own email entity, telling his users that an investigation by the federal government would cause him to "become complicit in crmes against the American people" if he continued his business. A number of people have figured that the government is after access to Edward Snowden’s email messages; Snowden has been charged with espionage. Legally, Levison can’t protest against the government’s requests at this stage. So he closed the doors on his own email firm.

Levison’s lawyer, Jesse Binnall, who is based in Northern Virginia — the court district where Levison needed representation — added that it’s "ridiculous" that Levison has to so carefully parse what he says about the government inquiry. "In America, we’re not supposed to have to worry about watching our words like this when we’re talking to the press," Binnall said.

Levison has retained a lawyer from northern Virginia experienced in federal cases. Within days his legal defense fund was closing in on $90,000 in contributions.

Another encrypted email service, Silent Circle, shut down its system and deleted all existing email accounts when it did so.

After the Patriot Act was passed, Levison created Lavabit with friends from Southern Methodist University to create what the Forbes article calls "an email service by geeks for geeks." Levison’s concern was that the FBI might send the email provider a national security letter forcing the firm to provide information about a customer without going through a court to get a warrant first. Levison said, "I wanted to put myself in the position of not having information to turn over. I didn’t want to be put in the position of compromising people’s privacy without due process."

"I’m not trying to protect people from law enforcement," he said. "If information is unencrypted and law enforcement has a court order, I hand it over."

Levison has said he doesn’t want to go overseas to begin a new secure service, as his roots are here in the USA. He says he will only start operating again if he wins his case against the government.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2013/08/09/lavabits-ladar-levison-if-you-knew-what-i-know-about-email-you-might-not-use-it/
 
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Levison is fighting the gag order and asking for an unsealing of the case so that other services can file amicus briefs with the court. These are friend-of-the-court briefs disallowed in a sealed case.  See:

http://www.slashgear.com/lavabit-shutdown-case-request-for-unsealing-submitted-may-shed-light-on-hidden-matters-25299191/
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The Campaign for Liberty is monitoring this situation and preparing to support Ladar
Levison – see

http://www.chooseliberty.org/supportladar.aspx?pid=927ro

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Positive Quiddity: The Sherpatudes

Here is a list of epigrammatic tips inspired by the most recent Red Bull Rising post. It's a mix of maxims regarding organizational analysis, knowledge management, and working in a tactical operations center ("TOC"). The TOC was described in yesterday’s blog. These were written by "Joe Sherpa" who is now retired and revealed his real name to be "Randy Brown."

What happens when you state as a certitude a platitude syntactically phrased like a Beatitude from a mentor nicknamed a "Sherpa"? You get Sherpatudes!

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Behold, The Sherpatudes 
1. Continually ask: "Who else needs to know what I know?"
2. Continually ask: "Who else knows what I need to know?"
3. Never speak with complete authority regarding that which you lack direct knowledge, observation, and/or suppressive fires.
4. Never pull rank over a radio net.
5. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to learn.

6. Let the boss decide how he/she wants to communicate.

7. "I am responsible for everything my commander's organization knows and fails to know, learns and fails to learn."

8. Know when to wake up the Old Man. Also, know how to wake him up without getting punched, shot, or fired.

9. The three most important things in the TOC are: Track the battle. Track the battle. Track the battle.

10. Digital trumps analog, until you run out of batteries.

11. Always have ready at least two methods of communication to any point or person on the map.

12. Rank has its privileges. It also has its limitations.

13. Let Joe surprise you.

14. Don't let Joe surprise you.

15. The first report is always wrong. Except when it isn't.

16. The problem is always at the distant end. Except when it isn't.

17. Exercise digital/tactical patience. Communications works at the speed of light. People do not.

18. Your trigger finger is your safety. Keep it away from the CAPS LOCK, reply all and flash override buttons.

19. The warfighter is your customer, and the customer is always right.

20. Bullets don't kill people. Logistics kills people.

21. Knowing how it works is more powerful than knowing how it's supposed to work.

22. Cite sources on demand. State opinions when asked.

23. Work by, with and through others. It's all about empowerment.

24. Do not seek the spotlight, Ranger. Let the spotlight find you. Then, make sure to share it with others.

25. Both the Bible and "The Art of War" make this point: It's never a mistake to put oneself in someone else's boots.

26. Humor is a combat multiplier. Except when it isn't.
 
http://www.redbullrising.com/2012/03/sherpatudes.html?showComment=1380000152344#c3211986414020618959

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The Universal Sherpatudes
The blog author has taken these 26 conventions and found 11 of them to be true universally (a few with minor edits). Here they are:
  1. Continually ask: "Who else needs to know what I know?"
    2.   Continually ask: "Who else knows what I need to know?"

    3.   Never pull rank during a teleconference or remote link.

    4.   Let the boss decide how he/she wants to learn.

    5.   Digital trumps analog, until you run out of batteries.

    6.   Always have ready at least two methods of communication to any point or person involved in the
          project or ongoing joint effort.

    7.   Knowing how it works is more powerful than knowing how it's supposed to work.

    8.   Cite sources immediately when asked. State opinions only when asked by a superior.

    9.   Work by, with and through others. It's all about empowerment.

    10.  Do not seek the spotlight. Let the spotlight find you. Then, make sure to share it with others.
          
    11.  Both the Bible and The Art of War make this point: It's never a mistake to put oneself in someone
          else's boots.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

An Army "Tactical Operations Center"

Introduction by the Blog Author
The modern Army and National Guard use a command post structure called the "Tactical Operations Center." In some cases it is a large domed circular building crammed with telecommunications equipment and computers.

Several years ago, in the first decade of this century, military folks couldn’t run a blog about what they were doing and use their own name. One officer with significant writing talent was called "Charlie Sherpa" by others in his unit. A Sherpa is a Himilayan mountaineering guide who knows the terrain and the dangers. He can be trusted in threatening situations. The word sherpa has also come to mean a mentor. At an international meeting of heads of state, the assistant who can be trusted to make deals and act for the head of state is called a sherpa as well.

The post below was written by "Charlie Sherpa," an officer in the Iowa National Guard who worked in the unit’s Tactical Operations Center. The Tactical Operations Center has its own rules of conduct – partly to prevent spills of coffee and drinks into the computers and keyboards!

Tomorrow this blog will post 26 rules that "Charlie Sherpa" uses to survive in a Tactical Operations Center. These are called "the Sherpatudes."

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FORT IRWIN, Calif., Sept. 26--Regardless of size or type of unit, the Tactical Operations Center ("TOC") is the nerve-center, the hub of activity, the reptilian brain of the organization. Working in "current operations," the staff tracks where people and equipment are, what they're doing, and to whom they're doing it.

Twenty-four-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, working in the TOC is simultaneously thrilling, infuriating, and boring beyond belief. The TOC is like a casino, in that there are no windows. "The sun never sets in the TOC," the brigade executive officer likes to say.

Reports constantly go up, down, and sideways through the TOC. Calls and contacts go out seeking more information, more detail, more ground truth. "We're driving the war from this building," the S3 Operations officer reminds his crew. "But it's the battalions that own the battlespace."

 
                                 The Tactical Operations Center, Fort Irwin, California

It's like playing a party game of "telephone" while simultaneously assembling a jigsaw puzzle and juggling parrots.  And at least one parrot is always on fire.

Some people love this TOC stuff. Others hate it. The latter are the guys who would be out there doing it, taking it to the streets and to the bad guys, rather than working in the air-conditioned dome, sorting through problems and moving pins around on a map.

It takes all kinds to run an Army, of course. We're all pins, one way or another.

For the next 14 days, the operations staff of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT) has set up shop on the first floor of the two-story "Igloo"--a newly constructed, dome-shaped permanent building at the National Training Center (N.T.C.). The layout resembles something like the bridge of Star Trek's Starship Enterprise. There are three or four video screens across the front, depicting maps and real-time video feeds and message traffic.

A battle "captain"--the position is rank-immaterial, and can be held by a captain, major, or seasoned non-commissioned officer (N.C.O.)--keeps an eye and ear on what's happening. Located up close to the video screens, multitasking "radio-telephone operators" (R.T.O.) send and receive communications via radio, telephone, e-mail, Blue Force Tracker, instant- or text-messaging.

The battle captain sits on a raised platform one step up and back from the "battle desk," in order to be able to take it all in at once. Around and behind him, there is a constantly changing collection of people from other organizations and staff functions, a combination "peanut gallery" and "Greek chorus."

Even in a digital age, technology can't replace the value of embedding a knowledgeable inter-organizational liaison, someone who can answer quick questions about unit status, capability, and location. The same time, these liaisons listen in on TOC traffic, and call their respective organizations with the latest news and heads-ups.

Like a fisherman floating on a favorite lake, if you sit in the right place and watch the water, you can see the physical ripple and flow of communications throughout the TOC. The report comes in here, it should go there and there. Now, watch to see where--and if--it goes. Sitting in the back of the room is where I do most of my "knowledge management" mojo, eavesdropping on multiple conversations, making connections, putting the question over here together with the answers over there. People in the TOC ask themselves a never-ending question: "Who else needs to know what we know?"

Sometimes, I am hindered in my eavesdropping efforts. The operations sergeant major attempts to keep the TOC as quiet as a library, and periodically yells at everyone, regardless of rank, to shut the heck up and take all conversations outside of his TOC. Lucky for me, he is stymied by the igloo's poor acoustics and the staff's chatty good humor.

For example, a bulletin board on which "significant actions" ("SIGACTS") are to be listed goes missing. Spartacus starts asking loudly, "Where is the SIGACT board? Somebody took the SIGACT board!"

Pilz, for some reason, is hanging around the battle desk. "We'll need to log that as an incident on the SIGACT board," he tells Spart, "after we find it, of course."

In another corner of the room, one of the wargame referees is whining about the brigade's prohibition on civilian "gut-truck" food vendors in the training area. "That's kind of jacked-up," he says. "Because, No. 1, you're simulating being on a FOB, and you'll have that kind of stuff available in-country. And, No. 2, that's how these guys make their money. They come out every rotation."

Man up, sir. Embrace the suck. The 2-34th is an infantry brigade combat team, not a tasty stimulus package. We're the "Red Bull," not the "Red Burrito!"

There's real lessons-learned stuff to be had, trolling around the conversational airwaves. One battalion, for example, repeatedly calls in emergency medical-evacuation ("MEDEVAC," pronouced "med-evak") request, specifying "red smoke" will be used to mark the landing zone for the helicopter. The TOC staff repeatedly have to validate whether or not the mission is a real emergency, or one that's occurring within the NTC's wargame simulation. "Someone tell them that red smoke is for real-world emergencies only," says the Battle NCO.

Immediately below my perch, a young liaison officer (L.N.O.) from one of the infantry units is schooling the brigade S4 (Logistics) staff on how to use its computer systems to track supplies and equipment. Granted, the kid is some sort of quartermaster savant, but it's a little bit like having a 6th-grader fix daddy's computer. Daddy should keep up with the 21st century, if he doesn't want to get left in the dust.

Just then, the Army laser-tag sensing equipment worn by the brigade information officer starts beeping--indicating he's now a simulated casualty. It's an obvious malfunction--no one has fired a weapon in the TOC, but he looks around, bewildered. Maybe it's a simulated heart-attack. Or spontaneousu human combustion.
Another wargame adminstrator walks over with a God-gun to reset the officer's system. "It's all these fluorescent lights," he says. "Working in the TOC will kill you."

-- Posted by "Charlie Sherpa"

http://www.redbullrising.com/2010/11/view-from-here.html
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Rules of the 2/34 IBCT TOC
  1. If you don’t absolutely need to be here – then don’t
  2. Quiet at all times
  3. No eating in the battle desk area
  4. No open bottles or cups left anywhere
  5. If you have a bottle of water or Gatorade put your name on it and don’t just leave it anywhere
  6. Don’t put tacks in the wall
  7. Keep your work areas clean at all times
  8. No spit bottles in theTOC
  9. No drinks on the tables

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Negative Quiddity -- The Fox Sisters

The Fox sisters were three sisters from New York who played an important role in the creation of Spiritualism. The three sisters were Leah Fox (1814–1890), Margaret Fox (also called Maggie) (1833–1893) and Kate Fox (1837–1892). The two younger sisters used "rappings" to convince their much older sister and others that they were communicating with spirits. Their older sister then took charge of them and managed their careers for some time. They all enjoyed success as mediums for many years.

In 1888 Margaret confessed that their rappings had been a hoax and publicly demonstrated their method. She attempted to recant her confession the next year, but their reputation was ruined and in less than five years they were all dead, with Margaret and Kate dying in abject poverty. Spiritualism continued as if the confessions of the Fox sisters had never happened. "This pattern of confession followed by retraction, which is not uncommon, has supplied both spiritualists and skeptics with material to support their case, so controversy never ends."

 
                                                      Margaret, Kate and Leah Fox

Events
In 1848, the two younger sisters – Kate (age 12) and Margaret (age 15) – were living in a house in Hydesville, New York with their parents. Hydesville no longer exists but was a hamlet that was part of the township of Arcadia in Wayne County. The house had some prior reputation for being haunted, but it wasn't until late March that the family began to be frightened by unexplained sounds that at times sounded like knocking, and at other times like the moving of furniture.

In 1888, Margaret told her story of the origins of the mysterious "rappings":

"When we went to bed at night we used to tie an apple to a string and move the string up and down, causing the apple to bump on the floor, or we would drop the apple on the floor, making a strange noise every time it would rebound. Mother listened to this for a time. She would not understand it and did not suspect us as being capable of a trick because we were so young."

During the night of March 31, Kate challenged the invisible noise-maker, presumed to be a "spirit", to repeat
the snaps of her fingers. "It" did. "It" was asked to rap out the ages of the girls. "It" did. The neighbours were called in, and over the course of the next few days a type of code was developed where raps could signify yes or no in response to a question, or be used to indicate a letter of the alphabet.

The girls addressed the spirit as "Mr. Splitfoot" which is a nickname for the Devil. Later, the alleged "entity" creating the sounds claimed to be the spirit of a peddler named Charles B. Rosma, who had been murdered five years earlier and buried in the cellar. Doyle claims the neighbors dug up the cellar and found a few pieces of bone, but it wasn't until 1904 that a skeleton was found, buried in the cellar wall. No missing person named Charles B. Rosma was ever identified.

Margaret Fox, in her later years noted:
 
"They [the neighbors] were convinced that some one had been murdered in the house. They asked the spirits through us about it and we would rap one for the spirit answer 'yes,' not three as we did afterwards. The murder they concluded must have been committed in the house. They went over the whole surrounding country trying to get the names of people who had formerly lived in the house. Finally they found a man by the name of Bell, and they said that this poor innocent man had committed a murder in the house and that the noises had come from the spirit of the murdered person. Poor Bell was shunned and looked upon by the whole community as a murderer."
 
Emergence as Mediums
Kate and Margaret were sent away to nearby Rochester during the excitement – Kate to the house of her sister Leah, and Margaret to the home of her brother David – and it was found that the rappings followed them. Amy and Isaac Post, a radical Quaker couple and long-standing friends of the Fox family, invited the girls into their Rochester home. Immediately convinced of the genuineness of the phenomena, they helped to spread the word among their radical Quaker friends, who became the early core of Spiritualists. In this way appeared the association between Spiritualism and radical political causes, such as abolition, temperance, and equal rights for women.

The Fox girls became famous and their public séances in New York in 1850 attracted notable people including William Cullen Bryant, George Bancroft, James Fenimore Cooper, Nathaniel Parket Willis, Horace Greeley, Sojourner Truth and William Lloyd Garrison. They also attracted imitators; during the following few years, hundreds of persons would claim the ability to communicate with spirits.

The girls attracted critics as well as adherents. One of these was Dr. Charles Grafton Page, of Washington DC. As a patent examiner and patent advocate, Page had developed a keen eye for detecting fraudulent claims about science. He applied these skills in exposing some of the deceptions employed by the Fox sisters during two sessions which he attended. In his book Psychomancy (1853), Page observed that the rapping sounds came from underneath the girls' long dresses. When he asked if the spirits could produce a sound at a distance from their own bodies, one girl climbed into a wardrobe closet where her dress touched the wood, whence the sound transmitted into the wood plank—however she was unable to control this sound sufficiently to produce spirit communications. Page devised contraptions that emulated the rapping sounds produced by the girls, which could be concealed under long clothing. He declaimed the girls' means of hiding from bodily examination that would expose their fraud:
 
the feminine security of these rappers against the inspection of their actual quomodo... if by search warrant, stratagem, or vi et armis, the rapping instrument of these Fox girls had been exposed to the public, there would not have been one doubt about the nature and origin of the spiritual communications.

Both Kate and Margaret became well-known mediums, giving seances for hundreds of people. Many of these early séances were entirely frivolous, where sitters sought insight into "the state of railway stocks or the issue of love affairs," but the religious significance of communication with the deceased soon became apparent. Horace Greeley, the prominent publisher and politician, became a kind of protector for the girls, enabling their movement in higher social circles. But the lack of parental supervision was pernicious, as both of the young girls began to drink wine.

Mature lives
Leah, on the death of her first husband, married a successful Wall Street banker. Margaret met Elisha Kane, the Arctic explorer, in 1852. Kane was convinced that Margaret and Kate were engaged in fraud, under the direction of their sister Leah, and he sought to break Margaret from the milieu. The two married, and Margaret converted to the Roman Catholic faith, but Kane died in 1857, and Margaret eventually returned to her activities as a medium. In 1876 she joined her sister Kate, who was living in England.

Kate traveled to England in 1871, the trip paid for by a wealthy New York banker, so that she would not be compelled to accept payment for her services as a medium. The trip was apparently considered missionary work, since Kate sat only for prominent persons, who would let their names be printed as witnesses to a séance. In 1872, Kate married H.D. Jencken, a London barrister, legal scholar, and enthusiastic Spiritualist. Jencken died in 1881, leaving Kate with two sons.

Kate Fox was considered to be a powerful medium, capable of producing not only raps, but "spirit lights, direct writing, and the appearance of materialized hands," as well as the movement of objects at a distance.

She was one of three mediums examined by William Crookes, the prominent scientist, between 1871 and 1874, who said of her ability to produce raps:
 
"These sounds are noticed with almost every medium... but for power and certainty I have met with no one who at all approached Miss Kate Fox. For several months I enjoyed almost unlimited opportunity of testing the various phenomena occurring in the presence of this lady, and I especially examined the phenomena of these sounds. With mediums, generally it is necessary to sit for a formal séance before anything is heard; but in the case of Miss Fox it seems only necessary for her to place her hand on any substance for loud thuds to be heard in it, like a triple pulsation, sometimes loud enough to be heard several rooms off. In this manner I have heard them in a living tree – on a sheet of glass – on a stretched iron wire – on a stretched membrane – a tambourine – on the roof of a cab – and on the floor of a theatre. Moreover, actual contact is not always necessary; I have had these sounds proceeding from the floor, walls, etc., when the medium's hands and feet were held – when she was standing on a chair-when she was suspended in a swing from the ceiling- when she was enclosed in a wire cage – and when she had fallen fainting on a sofa. I have heard them on a glass harmonicon – I have felt them on my own shoulder and under my own hands. I have heard them on a sheet of paper, held between the fingers by a piece of thread passed through one corner. With a full knowledge of the numerous theories which have been started, chiefly in America, to explain these sounds, I have tested them in every way that I could devise, until there has been no escape from the conviction that they were true objective occurrences not produced by trickery or mechanical means."
 
Later Years
Over the years, sisters Kate and Margaret had developed serious drinking problems. Around 1888 they became embroiled in a quarrel with their sister Leah and other leading Spiritualists, who were concerned that Kate was drinking too much to care properly for her children. At the same time, Margaret, contemplating a return to the Roman Catholic faith, became convinced that her powers were diabolical.

Eager to harm Leah as much as possible, the two sisters traveled to New York City, where a reporter offered $1,500 if they would "expose" their methods and give him an exclusive on the story. Margaret appeared publicly at the New York Academy of Music on October 21, 1888, with Kate present. Before an audience of 2,000, Margaret demonstrated how she could produce – at will – raps audible throughout the theater. Doctors from the audience came on stage to verify that the cracking of her toe joints was the source of the sound.

Confession
Margaret told her story of the origins of the mysterious "rappings" in a signed confession given to the press and published in New York World, October 21, 1888. In it, she explained the Hydesville Events.
She also expanded on her career as a medium after leaving the homestead to begin her Spiritualist travels with her older sister, Mrs. Underhill:
 
"Mrs. Underhill, my eldest sister, took Katie and me to Rochester. There it was that we discovered a new way to make the raps. My sister Katie was the first to observe that by swishing her fingers she could produce certain noises with her knuckles and joints, and that the same effect could be made with the toes. Finding that we could make raps with our feet – first with one foot and then with both – we practiced until we could do this easily when the room was dark. Like most perplexing things when made clear, it is astonishing how easily it is done. The rapping are simply the result of a perfect control of the muscles of the leg below the knee, which govern the tendons of the foot and allow action of the toe and ankle bones that is not commonly known. Such perfect control is only possible when the child is taken at an early age and carefully and continually taught to practice the muscles, which grow stiffer in later years. ... This, then, is the simple explanation of the whole method of the knocks and raps."
She also notes:
 
"A great many people when they hear the rapping imagine at once that the spirits are touching them. It is a very common delusion. Some very wealthy people came to see me some years ago when I lived in Forty-second Street and I did some rappings for them. I made the spirit rap on the chair and one of the ladies cried out: "I feel the spirit tapping me on the shoulder." Of course that was pure imagination."

The cracking of joints was the theory skeptics most favored to explain the rappings, a theory dating back to 1851. Spiritualists familiar with the wide range of raps produced by the sisters, as well as the fact that raps could emanate from any part of a room, were not much impressed by the fact that raps could emanate from Margaret's toe. Much more damaging was the realization that Margaret could produce raps at will, when the raps were supposedly produced by spirits. But Spiritualists such as Arthur Conan Doyle were soon able to accept that, up to a point, the medium's own will could influence the preternatural phenomena of the séance.

Harry Houdini, a man who devoted a large part of his life to debunking Spiritualist claims, provides this insight:
 
"As to the delusion of sound. Sound waves are deflected just as light waves are reflected by the intervention of a proper medium and under certain conditions it is a difficult thing to locate their source. Stuart Cumberland told me that an interesting test to prove the inability of a blindfolded person to trace sound to its source. It is exceedingly simple; merely clicking two coins over the head of the blindfolded person."
Rejection of Spiritualism
Both Margaret and Katie made very strong statements against Spiritualism:
 
"That I have been chiefly instrumental in perpetrating the fraud of Spiritualism upon a too-confiding public, most of you doubtless know. The greatest sorrow in my life has been that this is true, and though it has come late in my day, I am now prepared to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God! . . I am here tonight as one of the founders of Spiritualism to denounce it as an absolute falsehood from beginning to end, as the flimsiest of superstitions, the most wicked blasphemy known to the world." – Margaretta Fox Kane, quoted in A.B. Davenport, The Death­blow to Spiritualism, p. 76. (Also see "New York World," for October 21, 1888; and "New York Herald" and "New York Daily Tribune," for October 22, 1888.)
"I regard Spiritualism as one of the greatest curses that the world has ever known." – Katie Fox Jencken, "New York Herald," October 9, 1888.
Tragic End
Margaret recanted her confession in writing in November, 1889, about a year after her toe-cracking exhibition. Kate's first letters back to London after Margaret's exhibition express shock and dismay at her sister's attack on Spiritualism, but she did not publicly take issue with Margaret. Within five years, both sisters died in poverty, shunned by former friends, and were buried in pauper's graves.

The Body in the Cellar
In 1904, the body associated with the peddler spirit was supposedly found in the cellar when a false wall fell down. The Boston Journal published a story about the discovery on November 22, 1904. The tin box of the peddler was found in the cellar and is now in the Lily Dale Museum. Skeptic researcher Joe Nickell concluded after researching the box and the primary sources of the bones that they constituted further hoaxing. The bones were, at least in part, those of animals. There has been no confirmation that the peddler existed. Also, the alleged false wall appears to be due to an expansion of the foundation, not concealment of a secret grave.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_sisters

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sachs' Idealism Bombs in Africa

Introduction by the Blog Author
Jeffrey Sachs sucks. He thought African villagers would make microeconomic decisions just the way an economics professor would predict.

But they don’t.

Citizens of the third world follow culture and tradition rather than the gimmicks imposed on them by outsiders.

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Jeffrey Sachs plan to uplift Africa failed spectacularly. Nina Munk explains the disaster in The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty,a book reviewed by the Globe and Mail by Margaret Wente.

The review is online at:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/how-jeffrey-sachs-failed-to-save-africa/article14436055/

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Positive Quiddity: Illustrator Gustave Dore

Paul Gustave Doré (January 6, 1832 – January 23, 1883) was a French artist, engraver, illustrator and sculptor. Doré worked primarily with wood engraving.



Doré was born in Strasbourg and his first illustrated story was published at the age of fifteen. His talent was evident even earlier, however. At age five he had been a prodigy troublemaker, playing pranks that were mature beyond his years. Seven years later, he began carving in cement. Subsequently, as a young man, he began work as a literary illustrator in Paris, winning commissions to depict scenes from books by Rabelais, Balzac, Milton and Dante.

In 1853, Doré was asked to illustrate the works of Lord Byron. This commission was followed by additional work for British publishers, including a new illustrated English Bible. In 1856 he produced twelve folio-size illustrations of The Legend of The Wandering Jew for a short poem which Pierre-Jean de Ranger had derived from a novel of Eugene Sue of 1845.

In the 1860s he illustrated a French edition of Cervante’s Don Quixote, and his depictions of the knight and his squire, Sancho Panza, have become so famous that they have influenced subsequent readers, artists, and stage and film directors' ideas of the physical "look" of the two characters. Doré also illustrated an oversized edition of Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Raven", an endeavor that earned him 30,000 francs from publisher Harper & Brothers in 1883.

Doré's illustrations for the English Bible (1866) were a great success, and in 1867 Doré had a major exhibition of his work in London. This exhibition led to the foundation of the Doré Gallery in Bond Street, London. In 1869, Blanchard Jerrold, the son of Douglas William Jerrold, suggested that they work together to produce a comprehensive portrait of London. Jerrold had obtained the idea from The Microcosm of London produced by Rudolph Ackermann, William Pyne, and Thomas Rowlandson in 1808. Doré signed a five-year contract with the publishers Grant & Co that involved his staying in London for three months a year, and he received the vast sum of £10,000 a year for the project. Doré was mainly celebrated for his paintings in his day. His paintings remain world renowned, but his woodcuts and engravings, like those he did for Jerrold, are where he really excelled as an artist with an individual vision.

The completed book, London: A Pilgrimage, with 180 engravings, was published in 1872. It enjoyed commercial and socioeconomical success, but the work was disliked by many contemporary critics. Some of these critics were concerned with the fact that Doré appeared to focus on the poverty that existed in parts of London. Doré was accused by the Art Journal of "inventing rather than copying." The Westminster Review claimed that "Doré gives us sketches in which the commonest, the vulgarest external features are set down." The book was a financial success, however, and Doré received commissions from other British publishers.

Doré's later work included illustrations for new editions of Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King, The Works of Thomas Hood, and The Divine Comedy. Doré's work also appeared in the weekly newspaper The Illustrated London News.
Doré continued to illustrate books until his death in Paris following a short illness. The city's Pere Lachaise Cemetery contains his grave.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Dore
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The link above has some samples of Dore’s wood engraved illustrations. But nothing can beat little Red Riding Hood approaching granny in her bed [one of his illustrations for Perrault's Fairy Tales] as shown below:



Saturday, September 21, 2013

Accidents Involving USA Nuclear Weapons

From the UK, the Guardian reports that hydrogen bombs were DROPPED by B-52 accidentally over North Carolina in 1961 and nearly went off: one remaining switch was not turned to the on position.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2013/sep/20/goldsboro-revisited-declassified-document

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In a related topic, there’s also a book out about nuclear accidents called Command and Control. It sensationalizes fires in proximity to nuclear weapons with nuclear explosions. Conventional explosions and raging fires near a nuclear device may "cook off" the explosives, but won’t cause a nuclear explosion because the detonations need to be precisely synchronized.. Here is a very intelligent review of that book:

Command and Control by Eric Schlosser (3 stars)
Good overview of nuclear weapons safety with one HUGE flaw, September 19, 2013
By M Hanson

Overall the book was an interesting read.

Firsthand accounts from weapons designers all the way down to the individual airmen whose jobs it was to design, maintain, and deliver the nation's nuclear arsenal. Schlosser details the history of the US nuclear weapons program, paying particular attention to Curtis Lemay's take no prisoner approach to the organization of SAC and the nation's nuclear deterrent, with Lemay's legendary demand for perfection from all his subordinates. Lemay's transformation of SAC from a Chinese fire drill to the crack organization he turned it into was particularly good. Even with Lemay's organizational changes, there were many many accidents involving nuclear weapons. Schlosser touches on most of the notable ones and spends considerable time on a Titan II launch complex just north of Damascus Arkansas. Although I dislike the way he staged it in the book, it was still an interesting read.

I'd rate the book higher had Schlosser not given into the fear mongering babble though. While all the incidents Schlosser covered were serious, the actual risk for an accidental nuclear explosion from an external event (fire, explosion, impact) is infinitesimally small. In order for a nuclear weapon of the kind in the Titan II missile to be set off a very precise set of choreographed events have to take place. Nuclear weapons consist of a hollow sphere of plutonium surrounded by a shell of conventional explosives. These conventional high explosives are detonated within a few millionths of a second creating a perfectly spherical shockwave that crushes and compresses the plutonium pit in a perfectly uniform manner. Then chain reaction occurs and we get a mushroom cloud. Its designed to be so precise, because it has to be. There have been accidents involving nuclear weapons where the weapons were mutilated and fire set of the high explosive shell with no detonation of the core.

The books a good read for its prose and its information, but the glaring omission I detailed above throws a wet blanket on many of Schlosser's conclusions from the probability of an accidental explosions (realistically zero) to the need for global disarmament as the only way to prevent this non event from taking place.

http://www.amazon.com/Command-Control-Damascus-Accident-ebook/product-reviews/B00C5R7F8G/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending#R3CUGXZFP2US3E

Friday, September 20, 2013

Positive Quiddity: Composer Ernesto Cortazar

"Today is the best day of my life because today I can share my music with you."
--Ernesto Cortazar
 

Biography


Ernesto Cortazar II was born in Mexico City into a family of composers. Ernesto's father, Ernesto Cortazar Sr., was an accomplished composer respected in his field and was named president of the Society of Authors and Composers.

When Ernesto Cortazar II was 13 he tragically lost both of his parents in a horrible auto accident. Despite tragedy Ernesto preceded with his intense studies by attending a music academy, and by age 17, he began scoring for movies.

At age 18, Ernesto completed his very first musical score for the motion picture "La Risa de la Ciudad". The main musical composition for this film was Ernesto's piano piece titled "River of Dreams." With this film, Ernesto Cortazar won the award for Best Background Music for a Latin American Film at The Cartagena Festival. Since then, Ernesto has composed musical scores for more than 500 motion pictures.

Ernesto traveled to more than 25 countries and performed his original compositions for political figures such as President Menem of Argentina, Nikita Krushev of the USSR and entertained in such prestigious venues including The Kremlin (USSR) and The Mexican Presidential House.
Ernesto's incredible performance was requested and enjoyed by many of Hollywood's biggest celebrities including Charlton Heston, Danny de Vito, Michael Bolton, Octavio Paz, and The Rolling Stones.

Ernesto Cortazar found even bigger fame being the #1 artist on the #1 music website in the world. Out of 130,000 artists Ernesto leaded the way with over 14,000,000 downloads to his compositions on MP3.com from 1999 to 2001 and his sites were visited for more than 4,000,000 viewers.
Including the U.S., Ernesto sold over 30,000 CD's to 69 countries without any record label, management company or agency.

In 2001, Ernesto moved from Los Angeles to Tampico, Mexico to live his last years near his family. Ernesto Cortazar II died in 2004 but his legacy remains with his music and his two sons, Ernesto Cortazar III and Edgar Cortazar, who are successful songwriters on the Latin market.

http://www.ernestocortazar.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1&Itemid=3&lang=en

100 Greatest Standup Comics

A List from Comedy Central
    1. Richard Pryor
    2. George Carlin
    3. Lenny Bruce
    4. Woody Allen
    5. Chris Rock
    6. Steve Martin
    7. Rodney Dangerfield
    8. Bill Cosby
    9. Roseanne Barr
    10. Eddie Murphy
    11. Johnny Carson
    12. Jerry Seinfeld
    13. Robin Williams
    14. Bob Newhart
    15. David Letterman
    16. Ellen DeGeneres
    17. Don Rickles
    18. Jonathan Winters
    19. Bill Hicks
    20. Sam Kinison
    21. Dennis Miller
    22. Robert Klein
    23. Steven Wright
    24. Redd Foxx
    25. Bob Hope
    26. Ray Romano
    27. Jay Leno\
    28. Jack Benny
    29. Milton Berle
    30. Garry Shandling
    31. George Burns
    32. Albert Brooks
    33. Andy Kaufman
    34. Buddy Hackett
    35. Phyllis Diller
    36. Jim Carrey
    37. Martin Lawrence
    38. Bill Maher
    39. Billy Crystal
    40. Mort Sahl
    41. Jon Stewart
    42. Flip Wilson
    43. Dave Chappelle
    44. Joan Rivers
    45. Richard Lewis
    46. Adam Sandler
    47. Henny Youngman
    48. Tim Allen
    49. Freddie Prinze
    50. Denis Leary
    51. Lewis Black
    52. Damon Wayans
    53. David Brenner
    54. D L Hughley
    55. Alan King
    56. Colin Quinn
    57. Richard Jeni
    58. Larry Miller
    59. Gilbert Gottfried
    60. Jeff Foxworthy
    61. Bobcat Goldthwait
    62. Eddie Griffin
    63. Jackie Mason
    64. Richard Belzer
    65. Cedrick the Enter.
    66. Shelley Berman
    67. Kevin Pollak
    68. DaveAttell
    69. Pat Cooper
    70. Wanda Sykes
    71. Red Buttons
    72. Bernie Mac
    73. Billy Connolly
    74. Paul Rodriguez
    75. Eddie Izzard
    76. Robert Schimmel
    77. Paul Reiser
    78. Sinbad
    79. Dom Irrera
    80. Bobby Slayton
    81. Dick Gregory
    82. Howie Mandel
    83. Norm MacDonald
    84. Drew Carey
    85. David Cross
    86. Jay Mohr
    87. Brett Butler
    88. Paula Poundstone
    89. Kevin James
    90. Dana Carvey
    91. Jim Breuer
    92. Louie Anderson
    93. George Wallace
    94. David Alan Grier
    95. Andrew 'Dice' Clay
    96. Joey Bishop
    97. Sandra Bernhard
    98. Louis CK
    99. Janeane Garofalo
    100. Gallagher
http://www.listology.com/list/comedy-central-100-greatest-standups-all-time

Note by the Blog Author
Missing from the of US/Canadian standup greats are:
Jack Paar
Rick Dees (mostly as a radio DJ)
Jack Carter
Jerry Clower -- The Mouth of the South
Andy Griffith
Will Rogers
Jackie Vernon
Mel Brooks (particularly with Carl Reiner)
Allan Sherman (singing his own song parodies)
George Gobel
Mike Myers

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Eiji Toyoda Dies

Eiji Toyoda (12 September 1913 – 17 September 2013) was a prominent Japanese industrialist. He was largely responsible for bringing Toyota Motor Corporation to profitability and worldwide prominence during his tenure as president and later, as chairman.

Career
Toyoda studied mechanical engineering at Tokyo Imperial University from 1933 to 1936. During this time
his cousin Kiichiro established an automobile plant at the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in the city of Nagoya in central Japan. Toyoda joined his cousin in the plant at the conclusion of his degree and throughout their lives they shared a deep friendship. In 1938, Kiichiro asked Eiji to oversee construction of a newer factory about 32 km east of Nagoya on the site of a red pine forest in the town of Koromo, later renamed Toyota City. Known as the Honsha ("headquarters") plant, to this day it is considered the "mother factory" for Toyota Motor production facilities worldwide.

Toyoda visited Ford’s River Rouge Plant at Dearborn, Michigan during the early 1950s. He was awed by the scale of the facility but dismissive of what he saw as its inefficiencies. Toyota Motor had been in the business of manufacturing cars for 13 years at this stage, and had produced just over 2,500 automobiles. The Ford plant in contrast manufactured 8,000 vehicles a day. Due to this experience, Toyoda decided to adopt US automobile mass production methods but with a qualitative twist.

Toyoda collaborated with Taiichi Ohno, a veteran loom machinist, to develop core concepts of what later became known as the 'Toyota Way', such as the Kanban system of labeling parts used on assembly lines, which was an early precursor to bar codes. They also fine-tuned the concept of Kaizen, a process of incremental but constant improvements designed to cut production and labor costs while boosting overall quality.

As a managing director of Toyota Motor, Toyoda failed in his first attempt to crack the U.S. market with the underpowered Toyota Crown sedan in the 1950s, but he succeeded with the Toyota Corolla compact in 1968, a year after taking over as president of the company. During the car's development phase, Toyoda, as executive vice-president, had to overcome the objections of then-president Fukio Nakagawa to install a newly developed 1.0-liter engine, air conditioning and automatic transmissions in the Corolla.

Appointed the fifth president of Toyota Motor, Toyoda went on to become the company's longest serving chief executive thus far. In 1981, he stepped down as president and assumed the title of chairman. He was succeeded as president by Shoichiro Toyoda. In 1983, as chairman, Eiji decided to compete in the luxury car market, which culminated in the 1989 introduction of Lexus. Toyoda stepped down as chairman of Toyota in 1994 at the age of 81.

Death
On 17 September 2013, Toyoda died of heart failure in Toyota City, Japan; he had been undergoing treatment at Toyota Memorial Hospital. Paying tribute to Toyota, David Cole, former chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, said "He was a real visionary and inspirational leader who understood what it would take to make Toyota a successful company." Leslie Kendall, curator of the Petersen Automotive Museum, described Toyota as the Japanese equivalent of Henry Ford.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiji_Toyoda

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Positive Quiddity: "The Awful Truth"

Introduction by the Blog Author
A relentlessly frantic and obsessively funny screwball comedy was made in 1937, The Awful Truth, starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. The comedic timing and scenes in this movie are inspired, sheer genius. Particularly unforgettable are the tricky fights Dunne’s and Grant’s characters have over possession and custody of their dog (the very same dog, "Asta," used in the movie The Thin Man). The comedy wraps itself around one’s mind and particular scenes come back to haunt the viewer for years. What this picture says about love itself is extraordinarily complex and wise. It’s a masterpiece.

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From Amazon.com:

One of the top five screwball comedies of the '30s, this helped to cement a genre that waxed golden until the end of WWII. Director Leo McCarey won an Oscar for Best Director for this 1937 romantic comedy--one of the most successful films of his career. Irene Dunne and Cary Grant are a squabbling couple who separate because of supposed infidelities on both sides. They part but cannot really keep away from each other. Grant finds himself hooked up with a socialite, Dunne becomes engaged to a millionaire hick played by the hapless Ralph Bellamy (as if he ever stood a chance as the "other" man!). When not dating others or baiting one another in a verbal war, Grant and Dunne wage a custody battle over their pathetic pooch. Gags, double entendre, witty remarks, snide comments, and fast-paced dialogue helped this to garner six Academy Award nominations. The Awful Truth was awfully good to Dunne and Grant, as both were breaking out of much more serious molds and this secured their positions. --Rochelle O'Gorman, Amazon.com reviewer

http://www.amazon.com/The-Awful-Truth-Irene-Dunne/product-reviews/B000085EFE/ref=cm_cr_dp_synop?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&sortBy=bySubmissionDateDescending#R265PHAV80HYHF

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From: Wikipedia:
The Awful Truth
is a 1937 screwball comedy film starring Irene Dunne and Cary Grant. The plot concerns the machinations of a soon-to-be-divorced couple, played by Dunne and Grant, who go to great lengths to try to ruin each other's romantic escapades. The film was directed by Leo McCarey, who won the Academy Award for Best Director, and was written by Vina Delmar, with uncredited assistance from Sidney Buchman and Leo McCarey, from the 1922 play by Arthur Richman.
The Awful Truth
marked the first appearance of the uniquely effective light comedy persona used by Cary Grant in almost all his subsequent films, catapulting his career to worldwide fame. Writer/director Peter Bogdanovich has noted that after this movie, when it came to light comedy, "there was Cary Grant and everyone else was an also-ran." McCarey is largely credited with concocting this persona, and the two men even shared an eerie physical resemblance along with a similarity in their names.
Grant fought hard to get out of the film during its shooting, since McCarey seemed to be improvising as he went along, and Grant even wanted to switch roles with co-star Ralph Bellamy. Although this initially led to hard feelings, it didn't prevent other McCarey-Grant collaborations—My Favorite Wife (1940), Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942), and An Affair to Remember (1957)—from being made later.

The film is one of a series of what the philosopher Stanley Cavell calls "comedies of remarriage", where couples who have once been married, or are on the verge of divorce, etc., rediscover that they are in love with each other, and recommit to the idea of marriage. Other examples include The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday, both released in 1940 and both starring Grant, and the Noel Coward play and film Private Lives. The original template for this kind of comedy is Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing. Many screwball comedies are based on the audience enjoyment of the humorous dynamic of people who are clearly too smart for their own desires.

In 1996, The Awful Truth was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry, having been deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Plot
Jerry Warriner (Cary Grant) returns home from a trip to find his wife, Lucy (Irene Dunne), is not at home. When she returns in the company of her handsome music teacher, Armand Duvalle (Alexander D’Arcy), he learns that she spent the night in the country with him, after his car had supposedly broken down. Then, she discovers that Jerry did not go to Florida as he had claimed. Mutual suspicions result in divorce.

Lucy moves into an apartment with Aunt Patsy (Cecil Cunningham) and becomes engaged to her neighbor, Dan Leeson (Ralph Bellamy) from Oklahoma. However, Leeson's mother (Estheer Dale) does not approve of her. Eventually, Lucy realizes that she still loves Jerry and decides to break off the engagement. However, before she can inform Dan, Armand shows up at her apartment to discuss Jerry's earlier disastrous interruption of Lucy's singing recital. When Jerry knocks on the door, Armand decides it would be prudent to hide in the bedroom. Jerry wants to reconcile, much to Lucy's delight, but then Dan and his mother make an appearance. Wanting to avoid complications, Jerry slips into Lucy's bedroom, too. A fight erupts when he finds Armand already there. When Jerry chases him out of the apartment, right in front of the Leesons, Dan and his mother stalk out.

Afterwards, Jerry is seen around town with heiress Barbara Vance (Molly Lamont). To break up this relationship, Lucy crashes a party at the Vance mansion, pretending to be Jerry's sister. She acts like a showgirl (recreating a risqué musical number she had seen performed by one of Jerry's girlfriends) and lets on that their "father" had been a gardener at Princeton University, not a student athlete. Realizing that his chances with Barbara have been effectively sabotaged, Jerry drives Lucy away in her car.

Motorcycle policemen stop them, and Lucy, plotting to spend more time with Jerry, sabotages the car. The couple get a lift to her aunt's cabin from the policemen. Once there, Jerry admits having made a fool of himself and they are happily reconciled.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Awful_Truth

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cashews Are Tropical Tree Seeds

The cashew, Anacardium occidentale, is a tree in the family Anacardiaceae which produces a seed that is harvested as the cashew nut. Its English name derives from thePortuguese name for the fruit of the cashew tree is derived from the indigenous Tupi name, acajú. Originally native to northeastern Brazil, it is now widely grown in tropical climate for its cashew apples and nuts. The cashew nut is a popular snack and food source. Nigeria was the world's largest producer of cashew nuts with shell in 2010.

Habitat and Growth
The tree is large and evergreen, growing to 10-12m (~32 ft) tall, with a short, often irregularly shaped trunk. The leaves are spirally arranged, leathery textured, elliptic to obovate, 4 to 22 cm long and 2 to 15 cm broad, with smooth margins. The flowers are produced in a panicle or corymb to 26 cm long, each flower is small, pale green at first, then turning reddish, with five slender, acute petals 7 to 15 mm long. The largest cashew tree in the world covers an area of about 7,500 square metres (81,000 sq ft) [nearly two acres!]
.
The fruit of the cashew tree is an accessory fruit (sometimes called a pseudocarp or false fruit). What appears to be the fruit is an oval or pear-shaped structure, a hypocarpium, that develops from the pedicel and the receptacle of the cashew flower. Called the cashew apple, better known in Central America as marañón
, it ripens into a yellow and/or red structure about 5–11 cm long. It is edible, and has a strong "sweet" smell and a sweet taste. The pulp of the cashew apple is very juicy, but the skin is fragile, making it unsuitable for transport. In Latin America, a fruit drink is made from the cashew apple pulp which has a very refreshing taste and tropical flavor that can be described as having notes of mango, raw green pepper, and just a little hint of grapefruit-like citrus.
The true fruit of the cashew tree is a kidney or boxing-glove shaped drupe that grows at the end of the cashew apple. The drupe develops first on the tree, and then the pedicel expands to become the cashew apple. Within the true fruit is a single seed
, the cashew nut. Although a nut in the culinary sense, in the botanical sense the nut of the cashew is a seed. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke (not unlike that from burning poison ivy) contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions by irritating the lungs. People who are allergic to cashew urushiols may also react to mango or pistachio which are also in the Anacardiaceae family. Some people are allergic to cashew nuts, but cashews are a less frequent allergen than other nuts or peanuts.
While native to northeast Brazil, the Portuguese took the cashew plant to Goa, India, between 1560 and 1565. From there it spread throughout Southeast Asia and eventually Africa.

Cashew Nut
The cashew nut is a popular snack and food source. Cashews, unlike other oily tree nuts, contain starch to about 10% of their weight. This makes them more effective than other nuts in thickening water-based dishes such as soups, meat stews, and some Indian milk-based desserts. Many southeast Asian and south Asian cuisines use cashews for this unusual characteristic, rather than other nuts.
 

                                                                        Cashews

The shell of the cashew nut is toxic
, which is why the shell is removed before it is sold to consumers.
Cashew nuts are commonly used in Indian cuisine, whole for garnishing sweets or curries, or ground into a paste that forms a base of sauces for curries (e.g., korma), or some sweets (e.g., kaju barfi). It is also used in powdered form in the preparation of several Indian sweets and desserts. In Goan cuisine, both roasted and raw kernels are used whole for making curries and sweets.

The cashew nut can also be harvested in its tender form, when the shell has not hardened and is green in color. The shell is soft and can be cut with a knife and the kernel extracted, but it is still corrosive at this stage, so gloves are required. The kernel can be soaked in turmeric water to get rid of the corrosive material before use. This is mostly found in Keralan cuisine, typically in avial, a dish that contains several vegetables, grated coconut, turmeric, and green chilies.

Cashew nuts are also used in Thai and Chinese cuisine, generally in whole form.
In the Philippines, cashew is a known product of Antipolo, and is eaten with suman. Pampanga also has a sweet dessert called turrones de casuy, which is cashew marzipan wrapped in white wafers.

In Indonesia, roasted and salted cashew nut is called kacang mete or kacang mede, while the cashew apple is called jambu monyet (literally means monkey rose apple).

In Mozambique, bolo polana is a cake prepared using powdered cashews and mashed potatoes as the main ingredients. This dessert is popular in South Africa, too.

South American countries have developed their own specialties. In Brazil, the cashew fruit juice is popular all across the country. In Panama, the cashew fruit is cooked with water and sugar for a prolonged time to make a sweet, brown, paste-like dessert called dulce de marañón. Marañón is one of the Spanish names for cashew.

Top Ten Cashew Producers in 2010
(summarized from Wikipedia)

Nigeria
India
Cote d’Ivorie
Vietnam
Indonesia
Philippines
Brazil
Guinea-Bissau
Tanzania
Benin

The world’s highest yield per acre is in Peru.
(The cashew tree is very frost-sensitive.)
The dwarf breed of cashew tree matures faster and produces more tons per acre of nuts

Nutrition
The fats and oils in cashew nuts are 54% monosaturated fat (18:1), 18% polyunsaturated fat (18:2), and 16% saturated fat (9% palmitic acid (16:0) and 7% stearic acid (18:0)).

Cashews, as with other tree nuts, are a good source of antioxidants. Alkyl phenols, in particular, are abundant in cashews. Cashews are also a good source of dietary trace minerals copper, iron and zinc.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cashew

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Summers Quits as Possible New Fed Chairman

Former Harvard President and Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers has withdrawn from consideration to become the next Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. He telephoned President Obama about his decision to withdraw.
 
http://news.yahoo.com/-summers-pulls-out-of-fight-for-federal-reserve-chair-222610669.html

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There’s a long article Michael Hirsh wrote September 12th in the National Journal called "The Case Against Larry Summers.". It says:
"Summers has made a lot of errors in the past 20 years, despite the eminence of his research. As a government official, he helped author a series of ultimately disastrous or wrongheaded policies, from his big deregulatory moves as a Clinton administration apparatchik to his too-tepid response to the Great Recession as Obama's chief economic adviser. Summers pushed a stimulus that was too meek, and, along with his chief ally, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, he helped to ensure that millions of desperate mortgage-holders would stay underwater by failing to support a "cramdown" that would have allowed federal bankruptcy judges to have banks reduce mortgage balances, cut interest rates, and lengthen the terms of loans. At the same time, he supported every bailout of financial firms. All of this has left the economy still in the doldrums, five years after Lehman Brothers' 2008 collapse, and hurt the middle class. Yet in no instance has Summers ever been known to publicly acknowledge a mistake." Much more at:

http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/the-case-against-larry-summers-20130912
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Comment by the Blog Author
Summers also supported leaving derivatives without any regulation at all and keeping most of them off exchanges (which have rules about the issues traded upon them). He supported the repeal of Glass-Steagal. He supported the decisions of his mentor and predecessor at Treasury, Robert Rubin.

Summers was right to withdraw from consideration to be the next Fed chief – he was part of the problem that created the Great Recession.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Specialists versus Farmers and Hunters

Mechanical Solidarity and Organic Solidarity refer to the concepts of solidarity as developed by Emile Durkheim. They are used in the context of differentiating between mechanical and organic societies.
According to Durkheim, the types of social solidarity correlate with types of society. Durkheim introduced the terms "mechanical" and "organic solidarity" as part of his theory of the development of societies in The Division of Labour in Society (1893). In a society exhibiting mechanical solidarity, its cohesion and integration comes from the homogeneity of individuals—people feel connected through similar work, educational and religious training, and lifestyle. Mechanical solidarity normally operates in "traditional" and small scale societies. In simpler societies (e.g., tribal), solidarity is usually based on kinship ties of familial networks. Organic solidarity comes from the interdependence that arises from specialization of work and the complementarities between people—a development which occurs in "modern" and "industrial" societies.

Definition: it is social cohesion based upon the dependence individuals have on each other in more advanced societies. Although individuals perform different tasks and often have different values and interest, the order and very solidarity of society depends on their reliance on each other to perform their specified tasks.

Organic here is referring to the interdependence of the component parts. Thus, social solidarity is maintained in more complex societies through the interdependence of its component parts (e.g., farmers produce the food to feed the factory workers who produce the tractors that allow the farmer to produce the food).

The two types of solidarity can be distinguished by morphological and demographic features, type of norms in existence, and the intensity and content of the conscience collective.

-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanic_society

The link above includes a very informative chart comparing mechanical and organic solidarity.

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What happens when a mechanic society and organic society go to war?

Northern and Southern Soldiers in the Civil War
While almost half of the Union soldiers had been farmers before joining the Army, the others represented a wide variety of expertise and occupations. Hailing from the industrial cities of the North, they ranged from unskilled laborers to engineers, hairdressers, mechanics, and even college professors.
Their education and schooling was just as diverse. Soldiers with university degrees marched beside men who could neither read nor write. In general, however, most of the Union forces had had at least some schooling.

On the other hand

More than half the Confederate soldiers were farmers, although only a very small percentage of them owned slaves. The others came from many different types of jobs: carpenters, clerks, blacksmiths, students, etc. While as diverse as the Union forces, their occupations—due to the South’s regional focus on agriculture rather than industry—were not as technologically specialized.

http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/warfare-and-logistics/warfare/who-fought.html
Conclusion
The farmers lose to the organic specialists when there is a war between them. Only if the organic warriors extend the supply line too long (as Napoleon did in Russia in 1812 and as Hitler also did in Russia in 1941-2) do the organic soldiers lose. A weird and ugly exception can occur when the organic people only seek a stalemate instead of a victory (the United States in Vietnam from 1959-1975).

A culture full of specialists will beat a primitive hunter-gatherer culture every time. The best the primitive warriors can do is a temporary, tactical stalemate, as was achieved at Little Big Horn over General Custer. Custer’s second in command retreated to a better hill and survived with his men and Indian scouts to tell the story (and have a bigger and better equipped army arrive at the front by railroad).

The courage and horsemanship of the Lakota did not defeat the logistical power of eastern factories’ war materiel delivered by railroad. The only Indians who escaped losing and signing a treaty were those living on land too swampy to build any railroad, the Seminole in Florida.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Importance of a Medium of Exchange

A medium of exchange is an intermediary used in trade to avoid the inconveniences of a pure barter system.

By contrast, as William Stanley Jevons argued, in a barter system there must be a coincidence of wants before two people can trade
– one must want exactly what the other has to offer, when and where it is offered, so that the exchange can occur. A medium of exchange permits the value of goods to be assessed and rendered in terms of the intermediary, most often, a form of money widely accepted to buy any other good.
Definition

Money is the common Medium of Exchange and its most important and essential function is that it is a 'measure of value'...
Hifzur Rab has shown that market measures or sets value of various goods and services using the medium of exchange/money as 'unit' i.e., standard or the Yard Stick of Measurement of Wealth. There is no other alternative to the mechanism used by market to set or determine or measure value of various goods and services and therefore wealth. Just determination of prices is an essential condition for justice in exchange, efficient allocation of resources, economic growth welfare and justice. Money helps us in gaining power of buying. Thus, this is the most important and essential function of money. To be widely acceptable, a medium of exchange should have stable purchasing power (Value) and therefore it should possess the following characteristics:
  1. value common assets
  2. constant utility
  3. low cost of preservation
  4. transportability
  5. divisibility
  6. high market value in relation to volume and weight
  7. recognisability
  8. resistance to counterfeiting

To serve as a measure of value, a medium of exchange, be it a good or signal, needs to have constant inherent value of its own or it must be firmly linked to a definite basket of goods and services. It should have constant intrinsic value and stable purchasing power.
Gold was long popular as a medium of exchange and store of value because it was inert, was convenient to move due to even small amounts of gold having considerable value, had a constant value due to its special physical and chemical properties, and was cherished by men.
Critics of the prevailing system of fiat money argue that fiat money is the root cause of the continuum of economic crises, since it leads to the dominance of fraud, corruption, and manipulation precisely because it does not satisfy the criteria for a medium of exchange cited above. Specifically, prevailing fiat money is free float and depending upon its supply market finds or sets a value to it that continues to change as the supply of money is changed with respect to the economy's demand. Increasing free floating money supply with respect to needs of the economy reduces the quantity of the basket of the goods and services to which it is linked by the market and that provides it purchasing power. Thus it [fiat money] is not a unit or standard measure of wealth and its manipulation impedes the market mechanism by that it sets/determine just prices. That leads us to a situation where no value-related economic data is just or reliable. On the other hand,
Chartalists claim that the ability to manipulate the value of fiat money is an advantage, in that fiscal stimulus is more easily available in times of economic crisis. Requisites Needed for a Medium of Exchange

Although the unit of account must be in some way related to the medium of exchange in use, e.g. coinage should be in denominations of that unit making accounting much easier to perform, it has often been the case that media of exchange have no natural relationship to that unit, and must be 'minted' or in some way marked as having that value. Also there may be variances in quality of the underlying good which may not have fully agreed commodity grading. The difference between the two functions becomes obvious when one considers the fact that coins were very often 'shaved', precious metal removed from them, leaving them still useful as an identifiable coin in the marketplace, for a certain number of units in trade, but which no longer had the quantity of metal supplied by the coin's minter. It was observed as early as Oresme, Copernicus and then in 1558 by Sir Thomas Gresham, that bad money drives out good in any marketplace (Gresham’s Law states "Where legal tender laws exist, bad money drives out good money"). A more precise definition is this: "A currency that is artificially overvalued by law will drive out of circulation a currency that is artificially undervalued by that law." Gresham's law is therefore a specific application of the general law of price controls. A common explanation is that people will always keep the less adultered, less clipped, sweated, less filed, less trimmed coin, and offer the other in the marketplace for the full units for which it is marked. It is inevitably the bad coins proffered, good ones retained.

The fact that a bank or mint has always been able to generate a medium of exchange marked for more units than it is worth as a store of value, is [considered by some to be] the basis of banking Central banking is based on the principle that no medium needs more than the guarantee of the state that it can be redeemed for payment of debt as "legal tender"-- thus, all money equally backed by the state is good money, within that state. As long as that state produces anything of value to others, its medium of exchange has some value, and its currency may also be useful as a standard of deferred payment among others, even those who never deal with that state directly in foreign exchange.

Of all functions of money, the medium of exchange function has historically been the most problematic because of counterfeiting, the systematic and deliberate creation of bad money with no authorization to do so, leading to the driving out of the good money entirely.

Other functions rely not on recognition of some token or weight of metal in a marketplace, where time to detect any counterfeit is limited and benefits for successful passing-off are high, but on more stable long term social contracts: one cannot easily force a whole society to accept a different standard of deferred payment, require even small groups of people to uphold a floor price for a store of value, still less to re-price everything and rewrite all accounts to a unit of account (the most stable function). Thus it tends to be the medium of exchange function that constrains what can be used as a form of financial capital.

It was once common in the United States to widely accept a check (cheque) as a medium of exchange, several parties endorsing it perhaps multiple times before it would eventually be deposited for its value in units of account, and thus redeemed. This practice became less common as it was exploited by forgers and led to a domino effect of bounced checks - a forerunner of the kind of fragility that electronic systems would eventually bring.

In the age of electronic money it was, and remains, common to use very long strings of difficult-to-reproduce numbers, generated by encryption methods, to authenticate transactions and commitments as having come from trusted parties. Thus the medium of exchange function has become wholly a part of the marketplace and its signals, and is utterly integrated with the unit of account function, so that, given the integrity of the public key system on which these are based, they become to that degree inseparable. This has clear advantages - counterfeiting is difficult or impossible unless the whole system is compromised, say by a new factoring algorithm. But at that point, the entire system is broken and the whole infrastructure is obsolete - new keys must be re-generated and the new system will also depend on some assumptions about difficulty of factoring.

Due to this inherent fragility, which is even more profound with electronic voting, some economists argue that units of account should not ever be abstracted or confused with the nominal units or tokens used in exchange. A medium is just that, a medium, and should not be confused for the message.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medium_of_exchange
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Medium of Exchange – One of Three Vital Breakthroughs
"There are at least three important "financial breakthroughs" that occur in the process of economic growth, all of which provide efficiency and utility. They include the establish-ment of a credit system, the establishment of intermediation [defined below], and the establishment of a medium of exchange…For accuracy and consistency, all three should be included in analysis."

-- The Role of Money in Economic Growth by Gail Pierson, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 86, No. 3, August 1972, see http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1880799?uid=3739904&uid=2&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21102647790753

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Definition: Intermediation
Brokerage function (see broker) which brings together seekers and providers of goods, information, money, etc. Need for intermediation occurs due to the imperfect nature of markets and everyday situations where the complete ('perfect') knowledge about providers and seekers (and about what they seek) is not available to everyone. See also intermediary and disintermediation

Read more:
  http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/intermediation.html#ixzz2eqFrhsqu

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Why Silver Coins?
Silver coins were among the first coins ever used, thousands of years ago
. The silver standard was used for centuries in many places of the world. And the use of silver for coins, instead of other materials, has many reasons:
  • Silver is liquid, easily tradable, and with a low spread between the prices to buy and sell. A low spread typically occurs when an item is fungible
  • Silver is easily transportable. Silver and gold have a high value to weight ratio.
  • Silver can be divisible into small units without destroying its value; precious metals can be coined from bars, or melted down into bars again.
  • A silver coin is fungible: that is, one unit or piece must be equivalent to another.
  • A silver coin has a certain weight, or measure, to be verifiably countable.
  • A silver coin is long lasting and durable. A silver coin is not subject to decay.
  • A silver coin has a stable value and an intrinsic value. Silver has been an ever rare metal.
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silver_coin

More reasons for using silver coins (from the blog author):
The coins rust in a manner that leaves an edible brownish black reside that can be tasted to assure the genuineness of the silver content.
The coins clank together making a distinctive, bell-like sound.
The coins reflect light in a yellowish-white color that is distinctive.

Conclusion: silver coins with serreted edges, complex designs and manufactured in a mint are easily testable to avoid forgery or counterfeiting even in a primitive culture.