Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Untouchables 1959-63

The Untouchables is an American crime drama that ran from 1959 to 1963 on the ABC Television Network, produced by Desilu Productions. Based on the memoir of the same name by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, it fictionalized Ness' experiences as a Prohibition agent, fighting crime in Chicago in the 1930s with the help of a special team of agents handpicked for their courage, moral character, and incorruptibility, nicknamed the Untouchables. The book was later made into a film in 1987 (also called The Untouchables) by Brian De Palma, with a script by David Mamet, and a second, less-successful, TV series in 1993.

A powerful, dynamic, hard-hitting action drama, and a landmark crime series, The Untouchables won series star Robert Stack an Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1960.

TV Series Overview

originally focused on the efforts of a real-life squad of Prohibition agents employed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and led by Eliot Ness (Robert Stack), that helped bring down the bootleg empire of "Scarface" Al Capone, as described in Ness's bestselling 1957 memoir. This squad was nicknamed "The Untouchables", because of their courage and honesty; they could not be bribed or intimidated by the Mob.  Eliot Ness himself had died suddenly in May 1957, shortly before his memoir and the subsequent TV adaptation were to bring him fame beyond any he experienced in his lifetime.

The pilot for the series was a two-part episode entitled "The Untouchables" originally aired on Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse on April 20 and 27, 1959. Later retitled "The Scarface Mob", these episodes, which featured Neville Brand as Al Capone, were the only episodes in the series to be more-or-less directly based on Ness's memoir, and ended with the conviction and imprisonment of Capone. CBS, which had broadcast most of Desilu's television output since 1951 beginning with I Love Lucy, was offered the new series following the success of the pilot film. Chairman William S. Paley rejected it on the advice of network vice president Hubbell Robinson. ABC agreed to air the series, and The Untouchables premiered on October 15, 1959. In the pilot movie, the mobsters generally spoke with unrealistic pseudo-Italian accents, but this idiosyncratic pronunciation was dropped when the series debuted.

The weekly series first followed the premise of a power struggle to establish a new boss in Capone's absence (for the purpose of the TV series, the new boss was Frank Nitti, although this was contrary to fact). As the series continued, there developed a highly fictionalized portrayal of Ness and his crew as all-purpose crime fighters who went up against an array of gangsters and villains of the 1930s, including Ma Barker, Dutch Schultz, Bugs Moran, Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll, Legs Diamond, Lucky Luciano, and in one episode, Nazi agents.

The terse narration by gossip columnist Walter Winchell, in his distinctive New York accent, was a stylistic hallmark of the series, along with its melancholy theme music by Nelson Riddle and its shadowy black-and-white photography, influenced by film noir.


The show drew harsh criticism from some Italian-Americans including Frank Sinatra, who felt it promoted negative stereotypes of them as mobsters and gangsters. The Capone family unsuccessfully sued CBS, Desilu Productions, and Westinghouse Electric Corporation for their depiction of the Capone family. Early in the first season, the character of "Agent (Rico) Rossi", a person of Italian extraction, was added to Ness's team.

On March 9, 1961, Anthony Anastasio, chief of the Brooklyn waterfront and its International Longshoremen's Association, marched in line with a picket group who identified themselves as "The Federation of Italian-American Democratic Organizations." In protest formation outside the ABC New York headquarters, they had come together to urge the public boycott of Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company (L&M) products including Chesterfield King cigarettes, the lead sponsor of The Untouchables. They expressed displeasure with the program, which to them vilified Italian-Americans, stereotyping them as the singular criminal element. The boycott and the attendant firestorm of publicity had the effect Anastasio and his confederates wanted. Four days after the picket of ABC, L&M, denying that they had bowed to intimidation, announced it would drop its sponsorship of The Untouchables, maintaining their decision was based on network-scheduling conflicts. The following week, the head of Desilu, Desi Arnaz (who had attended high school with Capone's son Albert), in concert with ABC and the "Italian-American League to Combat Defamation", issued a formal three-point manifesto:

  • There will be no more fictional hoodlums with Italian names in future productions.
  • There will be more stress on the law-enforcement role of "Rico Rossi", Ness's right-hand man on the show.
  • There will be an emphasis on the "formidable influence" of Italian-American officials in reducing crime and an emphasis on the "great contributions" made to American culture by Americans of Italian descent.

The series also incurred the displeasure of the powerful director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover, when the fictionalized scripts depicted Ness and his Treasury agents involved in operations that were actually the province of the FBI. The second episode of the series, for example, depicted Ness and his crew involved in the capture of the Ma Barker gang, an incident in which the real-life Ness played no part. The producers agreed to insert a spoken disclaimer on future broadcasts of the episode stating that the FBI had primary responsibility for the Barker case.

The Untouchables was an unusually violent program for its time and its excessive violence and surprisingly frank depictions of drug abuse and prostitution was described by the National Association for Better Radio and Television as "not fit for the television screen".

In an article titled "The New Enemies of 'The Untouchables," Ayn Rand argued that the persistent, superficial attacks received by The Untouchables were due to its appeal and its virtues: its moral conflict and moral purpose.

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Afterword by the Blog Author

Many critics hated The Untouchables.  It was filmed.  It wasn’t live on stage, an arena greatly favored by the critics of that era.  It was violent.  Ness was given too much credit, although his character didn’t react emotionally in most scenes and was known nationwide as “the great stone face.”  There was too much action, and it happened fast.

The Untouchables had to be filmed.  There were too many outdoor scenes.  Much of the action occurred at night.  It was a show about a crime-fighting team, often shown all in sharp focus in group scenes (requiring both black and white film and the deep focus technique).  The musical accompaniment by Nelson Riddle as well as the narration by Walter Winchell had to be perfectly timed.  The use of film was mandatory and appreciated by the audience.  The Untouchables set a standard for action series on television; its use of music, film noir techniques and a robust participation by dozens of superb character actors carried forward into Quinn Martin’s next series, The Fugitive, itself another blockbuster.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Attack on US Constitution

Description of Mike Lee’s Book Our Lost Constitution

The still-unfolding story of America’s Constitution is a history of heroes and villains—the flawed visionaries who inspired and crafted liberty’s safeguards, and the shortsighted opportunists who defied them. Those stories are known by few today.

In Our Lost Constitution, Senator Mike Lee tells the dramatic, little-known stories behind six of the Constitution’s most indispensible provisions. He shows their rise. He shows their fall. And he makes vividly clear how nearly every abuse of federal power today is rooted in neglect of this Lost Constitution. For example:

   • The Origination Clause says that all bills to raise taxes must originate in the House of Representatives, but contempt for the clause ensured the passage of Obamacare.
   • The Fourth Amendment protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures, but the NSA now collects our private data without a warrant.
   • The Legislative Powers Clause means that only Congress can pass laws, but unelected agencies now produce ninety-nine out of every one hundred pages of legal rules imposed on the American people.
Lee’s cast of characters includes a former Ku Klux Klansman, who hijacked the Establishment Clause to strangle Catholic schools; the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who called the Second Amendment a fraud; and the revered president who began his first of four terms by threating to shatter the balance of power between Congress and the president, and who began his second term by vowing to do the same to the Supreme Court.

Fortunately, the Constitution has always had its defenders. Senator Lee tells the story of how Andrew Jackson, noted for his courage in duels and politics, stood firm against the unconstitutional expansion of federal powers. He brings to life Ben Franklin’s genius for compromise at a deeply divided constitutional convention. And he tells how in 2008, a couple of unlikely challengers persuaded the Supreme Court to rediscover the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms.

Sections of the Constitution may have been forgotten, but it’s not too late to bring them back—if only we remember why we once demanded them and how we later lost them. Drawing on his experience working in all three branches of government, Senator Lee makes a bold case for resurrecting the Lost Constitution to restore and defend our fundamental liberties.



Our Lost Constitution is one of the most fascinating and important books on our founding document that I have ever read. From early childhood on, Senator Mike Lee has studied and honored the United States Constitution. In this book he has combined history and law in an exceptional analysis of the dangers that challenge our constitutional system of government today, why the departure from the founders’ vision is so detrimental to every American, and how conscientious public officials and concerned citizens can and must join in in restoring obedience to our national charter, which is essential to protecting our liberty and making our democratic republic work again.”
Edwin Meese III, former U. S. Attorney General

Customer Review

5 Stars

By William Whipple III VINE VOICE on April 13, 2015

Here is a book about the Constitution that places this seminal document in historical context, explains how selected parts have been overlooked or misinterpreted over the years, and offers some thoughts on how matters can be put right.

PART I explains the “lost clauses,” relates how they were subverted, and provides examples of recent consequences.

•The origination clause (tax bills must originate in the House of Representatives) is described as “the compromise that saved the constitutional convention” by persuading the big states to accept a bicameral legislature in which only one house would be selected on the basis of population. Credit the wily elder statesman, Benjamin Franklin, for pulling this rabbit out of his hat. But for the procedural workarounds that have since come into vogue, the controversial GovCare (aka Obamacare) law might not have been enacted

•The legislative powers clause vests the power to make the laws solely in Congress, whereas the president is responsible for executing the laws. Over time, however, it seemed expedient to create government agencies with delegated powers to do most of the actual legislation. The volume of regulations that are adopted by unelected government bureaucrats these days vastly exceeds the volume of legislation passed by Congress. It costs the American public some $2 trillion per year, by some estimates, to comply with all the regulations on the books.

•The First Amendment provides, among other things, that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” Based on a wealth of contemporaneous evidence, the intent was to preclude the federal government from establishing a national religion. Subsequent interpretation of this clause as requiring a wall of separation between governments at all levels and any expression or display of religion would have greatly surprised the founders. Justice Hugo Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan with an axe to grind against Catholic schools, played a key role in the change in thinking, as is vividly related.

•The Fourth Amendment provided protection against warrantless or nonspecific search and seizures, which protection was inspired by abuses of the British Crown in both England (a series of epic battles between King George III and a political maverick named John Wilkes is related) and the American colonies. In recent years, however, serious questions have been raised about electronic surveillance of Americans under the Patriot Act in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack. As but one tangible indication, the National Security Agency has built a $1.5 billion electronic storage facility in Utah “just to keep up with its ever-growing data-storage needs.” Supporters of this program claim that it’s needed to keep America safe. According to the writer, however, “the only thing the NSA has to show for its program are countless violations of privacy as profound as those authorized by the general warrants of John Wilkes’ era.”

•The 10th Amendment provides that “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” And Congress is empowered under Article I “to regulate Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” The 10th Amendment had real meaning once (witness Andrew Jackson’s dramatic vetoes of several bills that he viewed as beyond the powers of Congress), but it was subsequently allowed to atrophy. Meanwhile the power to regulate commerce has been interpreted (since Roosevelt threatened to pack the US Supreme Court in 1937) as extending to the regulation of activities having any conceivable connection to interstate commerce. The upshot is that Congress can enact essentially any legislation it wants so long as it does not violate some specific right (generally noneconomic) that is deemed to be guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The coup de grace was delivered by the Supreme Court decision (5-4) upholding GovCare against a constitutional challenge in 2012.

PART II offers ideas for restoring the Constitution to some semblance of its original meaning.

•Litigation - The Second Amendment right to bear arms was originally viewed as an individual right (such as had formerly been recognized in England after some historic struggles) and not simply a right associated with service in a state militia (as revisionists argued). It took an exemplary plaintiff (retired Army veteran Dick Heller, who plausibly needed a gun for self defense), good lawyers (Clark Neily & Steve Simpson of the Institute for Justice), and a financial angel (Robert Levy, who had made millions in business, gone to law school, and wound up as the Cato Institute’s chairman) to successfully challenge the ban on personal firearms in the District of Columbia and win the case (5-4) in the Supreme Court. So take heart, there is always hope.

•Legislation - The Supreme Court isn’t about to rollback the administrative state on a wholesale basis, so any widespread changes would require congressional action. The best bet: (1) requiring major regulations to be approved by Congress before going into effect, as provided by the proposed REINS Act, and/or (2) exercising the “power of the purse” to block programs or policies. The writer argues that the 2013 attempt to force a one-year postponement of the employer mandate under the GovCare legislation by defunding – complementing the one-year postponement of the individual mandate, which the administration had already decreed without any lawful authority – was fully justified and in no way represented a “government shutdown.”

•Public opinion – In a general way, Americans can affect what kind of Constitution we are going to have by studying the Constitution, asking questions about political candidates, and letting their views be known. It worked in colonial America, although a revolution was also required, and it could hopefully work now. “As the previous three chapters showed, Congress and the courts each have a role to play in reclaiming the Constitution. But if we wait around for them to act on their own initiative, we will be waiting forever.”

Assessment: Senator Lee’s vision of reclaiming the Constitution may or may not be practical, but his scholarship and sincerity are apparent. This is a solid analysis, communicated in an engaging and easy to follow style, which is not overtly partisan. I would recommend it for all Americans who care about the future of this country.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

On Virtue Ethics -- the book


More on ethics (with an Aristotilian slant) is present in the book On Virtue Ethics by Rosalind Hursthouse.  Here are some comments on her work:

Description of the Book on

Virtue ethics is perhaps the most important development within late twentieth-century moral philosophy. Rosalind Hursthouse, who has made notable contributions to this development, here presents a full exposition and defense of her neo-Aristotelian version of virtue ethics. She shows how virtue ethics can provide guidance for action, illuminate moral dilemmas, and bring out the moral significance of the emotions.

Customer Reviews

5 Stars
When deontology's getting you down...
By Tertiary Thought on July 31, 2000

I read this book in a philosophy course at Dartmouth, and wrote a 20-page paper on it. For those not familiar, virtue ethics has recently come into fashion as an alternative to both deontological (rule-based) and consequentialist (results-based) ethics.
Hursthouse is a big fan of Aristotle (although she does "update" a few of his sexist remarks), and often hearkens back to his discussion of "the virtues," and the idea that there is no set of rules that can ever properly encompass every situation -- rather, the ideal virtuous agent is someone who is actually  skilled at ethics, and simply knows the virtuous thing to do.
An example that might help get across the idea of virtue ethics -- take a classic ethical case such as Ayn Rand's example of a man whose wife is very sick and who spends extraordinary amounts of money to save her life. It turns out, however, that he could have spent the same amount of money and saved the lives of ten women he didn't know. The utilitarian says that the lives of ten are more important than the life of one. The virtue ethicist says that the fact that we place the interests of loved ones above the interests of strangers is good -- a vital part of humanity we would not want to sacrifice to some mathematical moral calculation. And who would want to live in a world where we forsake our spouses to save strangers?
The book also contains a very interesting chapter on naturalism in ethics. Overall, a very worthwhile read, especially if your entire background in ethics consists of Kant, Bentham, Mill, etc.
A note -- this is not the most abstruse philosophy text I've ever read, but I wouldn't suggest approaching it without some sort of academic philosophy background.

5 Stars
Most systematic account of Neoaristotelian virtue ethics yet
By  on September 16, 2013

For virtue ethics, this is the most important book of the past few decades, and it is the most systematically worked out account of Neoaristotelian Virtue Ethics since its emergence in the early 20th century.

Rosalind Hursthouse offers an alternative to Kant's deontology or Bentham's utilitarianism. She reworks many of the ideas in Aristole's Nicomachean Ethics to create an ethical system that has these qualities:

(1) The end goal of life is eudaimonia, which is living in a good and characteristically human way, as understood by both the sciences and humanities
(2) Virtues are character traits that help us to live well. And they entail rules, such as "Be courageous!" "Be kind!' etc.
(3) As a normative theory, virtue ethics can answer not only questions about what we should do in a given situation, but it can also answer metaethical questions, such as how we come to understand ethical truths, what desires and motivations reveal about action, and whether there are any objective, moral truths.

Hursthouse's book is programmatic. She doesn't pretend to have all the answers, nor to have written them here. Instead, the greatest strength of this book is to rework many of the ideas from early in her career to try to create a comprehensive system.

If you're into virtue ethics, this is a must read. If you like clear thought about trying to figure out what is moral or immoral, then I highly recommend this book.

5 Stars
5.0 out of 5 starsA Joy to Read
By  on February 6, 2010

Another reviewer "wouldn't suggest approaching [this book] without some sort of academic philosophy background." I cannot really speak to this - I have an academic philosophy background - but I fear that it obscures how much fun this book is. It is fluent and lucid. I've enjoyed parts enough to read them aloud to friends and family with no background in philosophy, and they seemed to do just fine. I read the bulk of the book on transatlantic flights, and it was compelling enough to block our distractions.

To get an idea, hit the "surprise me!" link under "look inside!" (What's with all these exclamation points?) Or search on the word 'children'; Hursthouse has interesting things to say about how ways of bringing up children reveal thinking about ethics.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Virtue Ethics

Virtue ethics (or aretaic ethics from the Greek arete) is a term that refers to normative ethical theories which emphasize virtues of mind and character. Virtue ethicists discuss the nature and definition of virtues and other related problems. For example, how are virtues acquired? How are they applied in various real life contexts? Are virtues rooted in a universal human nature or in a plurality of cultures? Virtue ethics concerns itself with changing one's character to become a good person.

Most broadly, "virtue ethics" might refer to any ethical theory that invokes virtues including Kantian, consequentialist, Humean, or even Nietzschean virtue theories. More narrowly, a "virtue ethics" might refer to Aristotelian or neo-Aristotelian approaches to normative ethics that contrast with deontology (which emphasizes rules and rational duties) and consequentialism (which aims to produce the best consequences for the most people).

Virtue ethics is the oldest known form of ethics. In Egypt, China, India, the Near East, etc., civilization's oldest wisdom literature commends virtue. In the West, virtue ethics was the prevailing approach for about a thousand years, in the ancient and medieval periods from the 4th century BC until about the 15th century AD. The tradition was eclipsed during the early modern period, as the Aristotelian synthesis of ethics and metaphysics fell into disfavour. However, virtue theory returned to prominence in Western philosophical thought in the 20th century, and is today one of the three dominant approaches to normative theories (the other two being deontology and consequentialism). Virtue theory is not necessarily in conflict with deontology or consequentialism.

Contemporary work in virtue ethics applies virtue concepts to bioethics, medicine, business, education, politics, sports, religion, and philosophy.

Key Concepts

The western tradition's key concepts derive from ancient Greek philosophy. These concepts include arete (excellence or virtue), phronesis (practical or moral wisdom), and eudaimonia (flourishing).

A virtue is generally agreed to be a character trait, such as a habitual action or settled sentiment. Specifically, a virtue is positive trait that makes its possessor a good human being. A virtue is thus to be distinguished from single actions or feelings. Rosalind Hursthouse says:

A virtue such as honesty or generosity is not just a tendency to do what is honest or generous, nor is it to be helpfully specified as a “desirable” or “morally valuable” character trait. It is, indeed a character trait—that is, a disposition which is well entrenched in its possessor, something that, as we say “goes all the way down”, unlike a habit such as being a tea-drinker—but the disposition in question, far from being a single track disposition to do honest actions, or even honest actions for certain reasons, is multi-track. It is concerned with many other actions as well, with emotions and emotional reactions, choices, values, desires, perceptions, attitudes, interests, expectations and sensibilities. To possess a virtue is to be a certain sort of person with a certain complex mindset. (Hence the extreme recklessness of attributing a virtue on the basis of a single action.)

Practical wisdom is an acquired trait that enables its possessor to identify the thing to do in any given situation. Unlike theoretical wisdom, practical reason results in action or decision. As John McDowell puts it, practical wisdom involves a "perceptual sensitivity" to what a situation requires.

Eudaimonia (εὐδαιμονία) is a state variously translated from Greek as 'well-being', 'happiness', 'blessedness', and in the context of virtue ethics, 'human flourishing'. Eudaimonia in this sense is not a subjective, but an objective, state. It characterizes the well-lived life. According to Aristotle, the most prominent exponent of eudaimonia in the Western philosophical tradition, eudaimonia is the proper goal of human life. It consists of exercising the characteristic human quality -- reason—as the soul's most proper and nourishing activity. In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle, like Plato before him, argued that the pursuit of eudaimonia is an "activity of the soul in accordance with perfect virtue", which further could only properly be exercised in the characteristic human community—the polis or city-state.

Although eudaimonia was first popularized by Aristotle, it now belongs to the tradition of virtue theories generally. For the virtue theorist, eudaimonia describes that state achieved by the person who lives the proper human life, an outcome that can be reached by practicing the virtues. A virtue is a habit or quality that allows the bearer to succeed at his, her, or its purpose. The virtue of a knife, for example, is sharpness; among the virtues of a racehorse is speed. Thus to identify the virtues for human beings, one must have an account of what the human purpose is.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

European Union and Brexit

The European Union (EU) is a politico-economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. It has an area of 4,324,782 km2 (1,669,808 sq mi), and an estimated population of over 508 million.

The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardised system of laws that apply in all member states. EU policies aim to ensure the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within the internal market, enact legislation in justice and home affairs, and maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries, and regional development.  Within the Schengen Area, passport controls have been abolished.  A monetary union was established in 1999 and came into full force in 2002, and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.

The EU operates through a hybrid system of supranational and intergovernmental decision-making. The seven principal decision-making bodies—known as the institutions of the European Union—are the European Council, the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the European Court of Auditors.

The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the European Economic Community (EEC), formed by the Inner Six countries in 1951 and 1958, respectively. The community and its successors have grown in size by the accession of new member states and in power by the addition of policy areas to its remit. The Maastricht Treaty established the European Union in 1993 and introduced European citizenship. The latest major amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, came into force in 2009. On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted by referendum to leave the EU.  Although considerable uncertainty remains, it is expected that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be activated, leading to negotiations and an exit from the Union.

Covering 7.3% of the world population, the EU in 2014 generated a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of 18.495 trillion US dollars, constituting approximately 24% of global nominal GDP and 17% when measured in terms of purchasing power parity. Additionally, 26 out of 28 EU countries have a very high Human Development Index, according to the United Nations Development Program. In 2012, the EU was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  Through the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU has developed a role in external relations and defence. The union maintains permanent diplomatic missions throughout the world and represents itself at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the G8, and the G-20. Because of its global influence, the European Union has been described as a current or as a potential superpower.

2016 British Referendum

The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, known within the United Kingdom as the EU referendum and the Brexit referendum, was a non-binding referendum that took place on Thursday 23 June 2016 in the UK and Gibraltar to gauge support for the country's continued membership in the European Union. The referendum resulted in an overall vote to leave the EU, as opposed to remaining an EU member, by 51.9% to 48.1%, respectively. The vote was split between the constituent countries of the United Kingdom, with a majority in England (except London) and Wales voting to leave, and a majority in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as 96% of Gibraltar, voting to remain.

In order to start the process to leave the EU, the British government will have to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. There is a dispute whether under the Scotland Act 1998, the Scottish Parliament has to consent to measures that eliminate EU laws' application in Scotland or whether Westminster can override this.

Membership of the EU and its predecessors was a topic of debate in the United Kingdom before the country joined the European Economic Community (EEC, or "Common Market") in 1973, and subsequently. In accordance with a Conservative Party manifesto commitment, the legal basis for a referendum was established by the UK Parliament through the European Union Referendum Act 2015. It was the second time the British electorate had been asked to vote on the issue of the UK's membership: the first referendum was held in 1975, when continued membership was approved by 67% of voters.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Technical Analysis Software

Technical analysis software automates the charting, analysis and reporting functions that support technical analysts in their review and prediction of financial markets (e.g. the stock market).


The following are the most common features of technical analysis applications. Some software may focus on only one aspect (say back testing) and the combination of more than one software package is often required to build a fully automated trading system.


A graphical interface that presents price, volume and technical analysis indicators through a variety of visual interfaces such as line, bar, candlestick and open-high-low-close (OHLC) charts. The chart data is presented as a time series and users typically have the ability to view historical data with varying interval (sampling) periods. Interval periods range from seconds through to months; short term traders tend to use frequent interval periods, such as 1 minute i.e. the price data is updated every 1 minute, whereas longer term traders tend to use daily, weekly or monthly interval periods when trying to identify price and technical analysis trends. Some charting packages enable users to draw support and resistance trend line or for example Fibonacci retracements to help establish trending patterns.

Back testing

Enables traders to test technical analysis investment timing strategies against historical price movement for one or more specific securities. Strategies are compared to each other using diverse performance measurements such as maximum drawdown, annual profit and Sharpe ratio. The objective is to try and develop a trading strategy based on technical analysis indicator criteria, which will generate a positive return. This concept was computerized and introduced to traders by Louis B. Mendelsohn in 1983 with his ProfitTaker Futures Trading Software (see August 2010 issue of Stocks, Futures & Options Magazine).


A process of testing technical analysis indicator parameters, with the view to developing an investment strategy that generates the maximum return based on historical price movement. The optimization process is achieved through the fine-tuning of the associated technical analysis charting parameters. Typically technical analysis indicators have a range of parameters that can be adjusted, such as the interval period and the technical analysis indicator variables. For example, the stochastic indicator has four parameters that effect its results: %k, %d, slowing period, interval period. Optimization must be performed carefully to avoid curve fitting. Back testing of an over-optimized system will perform real-time. One way to diminish over-optimization is by carrying out optimization on historical data and then performing future testing (sometimes referred to as 'out of sample') before making a final evaluation of a trading strategy.


Scanners enable users to 'scan' the market, be it stocks, options, currencies etc., to identify investment opportunities that meet a user's specific investment criteria. Using a technical analysis scanner, a user could, for example, scan the market to identify oversold stocks that have stochastic and RSI value of less than 20% and 30 respectively.


Alert software is used to monitor specific equities, such as stocks, options, currencies, warrants, etc., and provide a notification of when specific price, volume and technical analysis investment conditions are met. As an example, a person who uses technical analysis might want to be notified when the RSI indicator rises above 70, followed by the price falling below its 20-day moving average; using alerting software the user will be able to create an alert, which will provide a notification of when the technical analysis investment conditions are met. When alert conditions are met, a notification is typically communicated via an on screen pop up or sent as an email, instant message or text alert (to a mobile phone).

Custom Indicators

Most technical analysis software includes a library of de facto standard indicators (e.g. moving averages and MACD). Some software will also provide a means to customize, combine or create new indicators. This is typically achieved with a proprietary scripting or graphical language.

Data Feed

Technical analysis software is typically used with end of day (EOD), delayed or real time data feeds. EOD data feeds provide the end of day closing price for the given equity and is typically updated once a day at market close. Delayed data is typically delayed 15 to 30 minutes depending on the exchange and is the most commonly used data feed type. Real time data feeds provide tick by tick 'real time' data. Real time data is licensed on a per-exchange basis whereas delayed data is typically purchased on a regional basis, such as US markets, rather than an exchange basis.

Broker Interface

Some technical analysis software can be integrated with brokerage platforms to enable traders to place trades via a user interface that they are familiar with. Typically these software providers try to differentiate themselves from the brokerage software through enhanced features such as automated trading.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Quotes of Brexit Voters

A friend living in Yorkshire, England, sent me this:















Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ash Plume Snuffs 747 Engines

British Airways Flight 9, sometimes referred to by its callsign Speedbird 9 or as the Jakarta incident, was a scheduled British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Auckland, with stops in Bombay, Madras, Kuala Lumpur, Perth, and Melbourne.

On 24 June 1982, the route was flown by the City of Edinburgh, a 747-236B. The aircraft flew into a cloud of volcanic ash thrown up by the eruption of Mount Galunggung (approximately 180 kilometres (110 mi) south-east of Jakarta, Indonesia), resulting in the failure of all four engines. The reason for the failure was not immediately apparent to the crew or air traffic control. The aircraft was diverted to Jakarta in the hope that enough engines could be restarted to allow it to land there. The aircraft was able to glide far enough to exit the ash cloud, and all engines were restarted (although one failed again soon after), allowing the aircraft to land safely at the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta.
                                                           British Airways Flight 9 747
                                                             in San Francisco in 1980

The crew members of the accident segment had boarded the aircraft in Kuala Lumpur, while many of the passengers had been aboard since the flight began in London.

Without engine thrust, a 747-200 has a glide ratio of approximately 15:1, meaning it can glide forward 15 kilometres for every kilometre it drops. The flight crew quickly determined that the aircraft was capable of gliding for 23 minutes and covering 91 nautical miles (169 km) from its flight level of 37,000 feet (11,000 m). At 13:44 UTC (20:44 Jakarta time), Greaves declared an emergency to the local air traffic control authority, stating that all four engines had failed. However, Jakarta Area Control misunderstood the message, interpreting the call as meaning that only engine number four had shut down. It was only after a nearby Garuda Indonesia flight relayed the message to Air Traffic Control that it was correctly understood. Despite the crew "squawking" the emergency transponder setting of 7700, the 747 could not be located by Air Traffic Control on their radar screens.

Many passengers, fearing for their lives, wrote notes to relatives. One such passenger was Charles Capewell, who scrawled "Ma. In trouble. Plane going down. Will do best for boys. We love you. Sorry. Pa XXX" on the cover of his ticket wallet.

Owing to the high Indonesian mountains on the south coast of the island of Java, an altitude of at least 11,500 feet (3,500 m) was required to cross the coast safely. The crew decided that if the aircraft was unable to maintain altitude by the time they reached 12,000 feet (3,700 m) they would turn back out to sea and attempt to ditch into the Indian Ocean. The crew began engine restart drills, despite being well outside the recommended maximum engine in-flight start envelope altitude of 28,000 feet (8,500 m). The restart attempts failed.

Despite the lack of time, Moody made an announcement to the passengers that has been described as "a masterpiece of understatement":

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.

As pressure within the cabin fell, oxygen masks dropped from the ceiling – an automatic emergency measure to make up for the lack of air. On the flight deck, however, Greaves's mask was broken; the delivery tube had detached from the rest of the mask. Moody swiftly decided to descend at 1,800 m per minute to an altitude where there was enough pressure in the outside atmosphere to breathe almost normally.

At 13,500 feet (4,100 m), the crew was approaching the altitude at which they would have to turn over the ocean and attempt a risky ditching. Although there were guidelines for the water landing procedure, no one had ever tried it in a Boeing 747. As they performed the engine restart procedure, engine number four finally started, and at 13:56 UTC (20:56 Jakarta time), Moody used its power to reduce the rate of descent. Shortly thereafter, engine three restarted, allowing him to climb slowly. Shortly after that, engines one and two successfully restarted as well. The crew subsequently requested and expedited an increase in altitude to clear the high mountains of Indonesia.

As the aircraft approached its target altitude, the St Elmo's fire effect on the windscreen returned. Moody throttled back; however, engine number two surged again and was shut down. The crew immediately descended and held 12,000 feet (3,700 m).

As Flight 9 approached Jakarta, the crew found it difficult to see anything through the windscreen, and made the approach almost entirely on instruments, despite reports of good visibility. The crew decided to fly the Instrument Landing System (ILS); however, the vertical guidance system was inoperative, so they were forced to fly with only the lateral guidance as the first officer monitored the airport's Distance Measuring Equipment (DME). He then called out how high they should be at each DME step along the final approach to the runway, creating a virtual glide slope for them to follow. It was, in Moody's words, "a bit like negotiating one's way up a badger's arse." Although the runway lights could be made out through a small strip of the windscreen, the landing lights on the aircraft seemed to be inoperable. After landing, the flight crew found it impossible to taxi, due to glare from apron floodlights which made the already sandblasted windscreen opaque.


Engines one, two and three were replaced at Jakarta, as well as the windscreen, and the fuel tanks were cleared of the ash that had entered them through the pressurisation ducts, contaminating the fuel and requiring that it be disposed of. After the aircraft was ferried back to London, engine number four was replaced and major work was undertaken to return the 747 to service.

Although the airspace around Mount Galunggung was closed temporarily after the accident, it was reopened days later. It was only after a Singapore Airlines 747 was forced to shut down three of its engines while flying through the same area nineteen days later (13 July) that Indonesian authorities closed the airspace permanently and rerouted airways to avoid the area; a watch was set up to monitor clouds of ash. Flight 9 was not the first encounter with this eruption – a Garuda DC-9 had encountered ash on 5 April 1982.

The crew received various awards, including the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service in the Air and medals from the British Air Line Pilots Association. Following the accident, the crew and passengers formed the Galunggung Gliding Club as a means to keep in contact. G-BDXH's engineless flight entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest glide in a non-purpose-built aircraft (this record was later broken by Air Canada Flight 143 and Air Transat Flight 236).

One of the passengers, Betty Tootell, wrote a book about the accident, All Four Engines Have Failed, having managed to trace some 200 of the 247 passengers on the flight. In 1993 Tootell married fellow passenger James Ferguson, who had been seated in the row in front of her. She later noted: "The 28th December 2006 marks the start of our 14th year of honeymoon, and on the 24th June 2007 many passengers and crew will no doubt gather to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our mid-air adventure."

British Airways continued to operate the Flight 9 route from London Heathrow to Sydney; in March 2012 the route was curtailed to Bangkok. City of Edinburgh, later renamed City of Elgin, continued to fly for British Airways after the accident, before being sold to European Aviation Air Charter. The aircraft was taken out of service in February 2004 and in 2009 the then 30-year-old aircraft was scrapped.

Similar Accident

A nearly identical accident occurred on 15 December 1989 when KLM Flight 867, a Boeing 747-400 from Amsterdam to Anchorage, Alaska, flew into the plume of the erupting Mount Redoubt, causing all four engines to fail due to compressor stall. Once the flight cleared the ash cloud, the crew was able to restart each engine and then make a safe landing at Anchorage.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Toward Thinking Computers

Making Computers Reason and
Learn by Analogy
Structure-mapping engine enables computers to reason and learn like humans, including solving moral dilemmas
By Amanda Morris, Northwestern University’

June 21, 2016 -- Northwestern Engineering’s Ken Forbus is closing the gap between humans and machines.

Using cognitive science theories, Forbus and his collaborators have developed a model that could give computers the ability to reason more like humans and even make moral decisions. Called the structure-mapping engine (SME), the new model is capable of analogical problem solving, including capturing the way humans spontaneously use analogies between situations to solve moral dilemmas.
“In terms of thinking like humans, analogies are where it’s at,” said Forbus, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “Humans use relational statements fluidly to describe things, solve problems, indicate causality, and weigh moral dilemmas.”
The theory underlying the model is psychologist Dedre Gentner’s structure-mapping theory of analogy and similarity, which has been used to explain and predict many psychology phenomena. Structure-mapping argues that analogy and similarity involve comparisons between relational representations, which connect entities and ideas, for example, that a clock is above a door or that pressure differences cause water to flow.

Analogies can be complex (electricity flows like water) or simple (his new cell phone is very similar to his old phone). Previous models of analogy, including prior versions of SME, have not been able to scale to the size of representations that people tend to use. Forbus’s new version of SME can handle the size and complexity of relational representations that are needed for visual reasoning, cracking textbook problems, and solving moral dilemmas.

“Relational ability is the key to higher-order cognition,” said Gentner, Alice Gabrielle Twight Professor in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. “Although we share this ability with a few other species, humans greatly exceed other species in ability to represent and reason with

Supported by the Office of Naval Research, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Forbus and Gentner’s research is described in the June 20 issue of the journal Cognitive Science. Andrew Lovett, a postdoctoral fellow in Gentner’s laboratory, and Ronald Ferguson, a PhD graduate from Forbus’s laboratory, also authored the paper.

Many artificial intelligence systems — like Google’s AlphaGo — rely on deep learning, a process in which a computer learns [by] examining massive amounts of data. By contrast, people — and SME-based systems — often learn successfully from far fewer examples. In moral decision-making, for example, a handful of stories suffices to enable an SME-based system to learn to make decisions as people do in psychological experiments.

“Given a new situation, the machine will try to retrieve one of its prior stories, looking for analogous sacred values, and decide accordingly,” Forbus said.

SME has also been used to learn to solve physics problems from the Advanced Placement test, with a program being trained and tested by the Educational Testing Service. As further demonstration of the flexibility of SME, it also has been used to model multiple visual problem-solving tasks.

To encourage research on analogy, Forbus’s team is releasing the SME source code and a 5,000-example corpus, which includes comparisons drawn from visual problem solving, textbook problem solving, and moral decision making.
The range of tasks successfully tackled by SME-based systems suggests that analogy might lead to a new technology for artificial intelligence systems as well as a deeper understanding of human cognition. For example, using analogy to build models by refining stories from multiple cultures that encode their moral beliefs could provide new tools for social science. Analogy-based artificial intelligence techniques could be valuable across a range of applications, including security, health care, and education.
“SME is already being used in educational software, providing feedback to students by comparing their work with a teacher’s solution,” Forbus said. But there is a vast untapped potential for building software tutors that use analogy to help students learn.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Why Life Requires Water

Scientists Glimpse Why Life
Can’t Happen without Water
Water molecules control protein motion, study finds
By Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State University

COLUMBUS, Ohio— June 20, 2016 -- Scientists are getting closer to directly observing how and why water is essential to life as we know it.

A study in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the strongest evidence yet that proteins—the large and complex molecules that fold into particular shapes to enable biological reactions—can’t fold themselves.

Rather, the work of folding is done by much smaller water molecules, which surround proteins and push and pull at them to make them fold a certain way in fractions of a second, like scores of tiny origami artists folding a giant sheet of paper at blazingly fast speeds.

Dongping Zhong, leader of the research group at The Ohio State University that made the discovery, called the study a “major step forward” in the understanding of water-protein interactions and said it answers a question that’s been dogging research into protein dynamics for decades.

“For a long time, scientists have been trying to figure out how water interacts with proteins. This is a fundamental problem that relates to protein structure, stability, dynamics and—finally—function,” said Zhong, who is the Robert Smith Professor of physics at Ohio State.

“We believe we now have strong direct evidence that on ultrafast time scales (picoseconds, or trillionths of a second), water modulates protein fluctuations,” he concluded.

Zhong, who is also a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and his team used ultrafast laser pulses to take snapshots of water molecules moving around a DNA polymerase, the kind of protein that helps DNA reproduce.

The key to getting a good view of the interaction was to precisely locate optical probes on the protein surface, he said. The researchers inserted molecules of the amino acid trtyptophan into the protein as a probe, and measured how water moved around it.

Water molecules typically flow around each other at picosecond speeds, while proteins fold at nanosecond speeds—1,000 times slower. Previously, Zhong’s group demonstrated that water molecules slow down when they encounter a protein. Water molecules are still moving 100 times faster than a protein when they connect with it, however.

In the new study, the researchers were able to determine that the water molecules directly touched the protein’s “side chains,” the portions of the protein molecule that bind and unbind with each other to enable folding and function. The researchers were also able to note the timing of movement in the molecules.

Computer simulations at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC) helped the researchers visualize what was going on: where the water moved a certain way, the protein folded nanoseconds later, as if the water molecules were nudging the protein into shape.

Water can’t arbitrarily shape a protein, Zhong explained. Proteins can only fold and unfold in a few different ways depending on the amino acids they’re made of.

“Here, we’ve shown that the final shape of a protein depends on two things: water and the amino acids themselves. We can now say that, on ultrafast time scales, the protein surface fluctuations are controlled by water fluctuations. Water molecules work together like a big network to drive the movement of proteins.”

Co-authors on the study were Yangzhong Qin, a postdoctoral researcher, and Lijuan Wang, lab manager. The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and computing time was provided by OSC.

Important Footnote

Some biologists are working on additional DNA strands that would create a helix of six chemicals instead of four.  Theoretically these additional strands could produce more proteins or perhaps even no proteins would be necessary (there would be life from such DNA and RNA  but proteins would be unnecessary).  If so, then a different form of life from that we know on earth might exist that doesn't require proteins and therefore doesn't require water to fold those proteins.  See

Monday, June 20, 2016

World's First 1,000-Processor Chip

By Andy Fell on June 17, 2016

UC Davis -- A microchip containing 1,000 independent programmable processors has been designed by a team at the University of California, Davis, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. The energy-efficient “KiloCore” chip has a maximum computation rate of 1.78 trillion instructions per second and contains 621 million transistors. The KiloCore was presented at the 2016 Symposium on VLSI Technology and Circuits in Honolulu on June 16.

“To the best of our knowledge, it is the world’s first 1,000-processor chip and it is the highest clock-rate processor ever designed in a university,” said Bevan Baas, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who led the team that designed the chip architecture. While other multiple-processor chips have been created, none exceed about 300 processors, according to an analysis by Baas’ team. Most were created for research purposes and few are sold commercially. The KiloCore chip was fabricated by IBM using their 32 nm CMOS technology.

Each processor core can run its own small program independently of the others, which is a fundamentally more flexible approach than so-called Single-Instruction-Multiple-Data approaches utilized by processors such as GPUs; the idea is to break an application up into many small pieces, each of which can run in parallel on different processors, enabling high throughput with lower energy use, Baas said.

Because each processor is independently clocked, it can shut itself down to further save energy when not needed, said graduate student Brent Bohnenstiehl, who developed the principal architecture. Cores operate at an average maximum clock frequency of 1.78 GHz, and they transfer data directly to each other rather than using a pooled memory area that can become a bottleneck for data.

The chip is the most energy-efficient “many-core” processor ever reported, Baas said. For example, the 1,000 processors can execute 115 billion instructions per second while dissipating only 0.7 Watts, low enough to be powered by a single AA battery. The KiloCore chip executes instructions more than 100 times more efficiently than a modern laptop processor.

Applications already developed for the chip include wireless coding/decoding, video processing, encryption, and others involving large amounts of parallel data such as scientific data applications and datacenter record processing.

The team has completed a compiler and automatic program mapping tools for use in programming the chip.

Additional team members are Aaron Stillmaker, Jon Pimentel, Timothy Andreas, Bin Liu, Anh Tran and Emmanuel Adeagbo, all graduate students at UC Davis. The fabrication was sponsored by the Department of Defense and ARL/ARO Grant W911NF-13-1-0090; with support from NSF Grants 0903549, 1018972, 1321163, and CAREER Award 0546907; and SRC GRC Grants 1971 and 2321.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Congressman Jake Pickle

James Jarrell Pickle (October 11, 1913 – June 18, 2005), also known as "J.J. 'Jake' Pickle", was a United States Representative from the 10th congressional district of Texas from 1963 to 1995.

Pickle was born in Roscoe, Texas. He acquired his nickname Jake from a mischievous character he portrayed in a family play when he was four years old. Pickle was an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America.

Pickle attended the public schools in Big Spring and received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin where he was a member of the 1934 Southwest Conference championship swimming team and the student body president as a senior in 1937. He was also a member of the Friar Society. Pickle was introduced by future governor John Connally to Congressman Lyndon Johnson, who served as his political mentor. He assisted the latter in his 1940 election campaign and assisted Lady Bird Johnson in running the Congressional office. When the United States entered WWII, Pickle joined the Navy as a gunnery officer and was stationed on the USS St. Louis and the USS Miami, surviving three torpedo attacks. When the war ended, he, Johnson, and Connally helped found a radio station (KVET) in Austin, Texas. After 10 years in the advertising business, he joined the Democratic Election Executive Committee of Texas in 1957.

From 1961 to 1963, Pickle was a member of the Texas Employment Commission, since renamed the Texas Workforce Commission. He served under appointment of Governor Price Daniel.

Pickle was elected as a Democrat to the 88th Congress, by special election, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of United States Representative Homer Thornberry, who became a U.S. District judge. Pickle was reelected 15 times before retiring at the conclusion of his 1993-94 term. His campaign trademark was a "squeaky pickle" rubber toy he handed out to those he met in area parades.

While in the House, Pickle rose through the ranks to become the third ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee. He was one of only six Southern Congressmen to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and went on to play a key role in passing major Social Security reform legislation in 1983 to save the system from insolvency. The reforms increased the payroll tax rate, slowly increased the full benefit retirement age to 67 and taxed some of the benefits. He considered this legislation his greatest accomplishment.

Pickle was able to steer research money to the University of Texas, and today the University's J. J. Pickle Research Campus is named in his honor. He was influential in the city of Austin, as well, most notably for relocating Austin's main airport from Robert Mueller Municipal Airport to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. He was also instrumental in bringing the SEMATECH and the MCC consortia to Austin.

Afterword by the Blog Author

Pickle as a congressman had a long and fanatical hatred for non-profit organizations.  He thought they were doing work that would be better performed in the public sector through public taxation.  Therefore, as a key member of the House Ways and Means Committee, he incessantly pushed for additional reporting requirements and criminal penalties for non-profit organizations that fail to comply with uniquely complex and onerous requirements in reporting their activities and taxable income for certain activities that compete with for-profit entities.

Pickle was despised by most attorneys and certified public accountants who dealt with non-profit matters as a regular part of their professions.  This was especially true for dealings with tax exempt non-profits operating under IRS Code 501(c)(3).  These lawyers and CPAs danced with joy when it was announced in 1994 that Pickle wasn’t running for another term as a Texas congressman.  As a group, they did not see religious organizations nor charitable entities as forgettable institutions duplicating work that could be performed as well by government.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Fritz Lang's Metropolis

Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist epic science-fiction drama film directed by Fritz Lang. Lang and his wife, Thea von Harbou, wrote the silent film, which starred Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel and Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Erich Pommer produced it in the Babelsberg Studios for Universum Film A.G.. It is regarded as a pioneering work of the science-fiction genre in movies, being among the first feature-length movies of the genre.

Made in Germany during the Weimar Period, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city's ruler, and Maria, a poor worker, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes of their city. Filming took place in 1925 at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks. The art direction draws influence from Bauhaus, Cubist and Futurist design.

                                                  The New Tower of Babel in Metropolis

Metropolis was met with a mixed reception upon release. Critics found it pictorially beautiful and lauded its complex special effects, but accused its story of naiveté. The film's extensive running time also came in for criticism, as well as its alleged Communist message.  Metropolis was cut substantially after its German premiere, removing a large portion of Lang's original footage.

Numerous attempts have been made to restore the film since the 1970s. Music producer Giorgio Moroder released a truncated version with a soundtrack by rock artists such as Freddie Mercury, Loverboy and Adam Ant in 1984. A new reconstruction of Metropolis was shown at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001, and the film was inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in the same year, the first film thus distinguished. In 2008 a damaged print of Lang's original cut of the film was found in a museum in Argentina. After a long restoration process, the film was 95% restored and shown on large screens in Berlin and Frankfurt simultaneously on 12 February 2010.


Metropolis features a range of elaborate special effects and set designs, ranging from a huge gothic cathedral to a futuristic cityscape. In an interview, Fritz Lang reported that "the film was born from my first sight of the skyscrapers in New York in October 1924". He had visited New York for the first time and remarked "I looked into the streets – the glaring lights and the tall buildings – and there I conceived Metropolis."  Describing his first impressions of the city, Lang said that "the buildings seemed to be a vertical sail, scintillating and very light, a luxurious backdrop, suspended in the dark sky to dazzle, distract and hypnotize".  He added "The sight of Neuyork [sic] alone should be enough to turn this beacon of beauty into the center of a film..."

The appearance of the city in Metropolis is strongly informed by the Art Deco movement; however it also incorporates elements from other traditions. Ingeborg Hoesterey described the architecture featured in Metropolis as eclectic, writing how its locales represent both “functionalist modernism [and] art deco” whilst also featuring “the scientist’s archaic little house with its high-powered laboratory, the catacombs [and] the Gothic cathedral”. The film’s use of art deco architecture was highly influential, and has been reported to have contributed to the style’s subsequent popularity in Europe and America.

The film drew heavily on biblical sources for several of its key set-pieces. During her first talk to the workers, Maria uses the story of the Tower of Babel to highlight the discord between the intellectuals and the workers. Additionally, a delusional Freder imagines the false-Maria as the Whore of Babylon, riding on the back of a many-headed dragon. Also, the name of the Yoshiwara club alludes to the famous red-light district of Tokyo.

Much of the plot line of Metropolis stems from the First World War and the culture of the Weimar Republic in Germany. Lang explores the themes of industrialization and mass production in his film; two developments that played a large role in the war. Other post World War I themes that Lang includes in Metropolis include the Weimar view of American modernity, Fascism, and Communism.