Sunday, December 17, 2017

Bills of Mortality

As Republicans hack away at the American healthcare system, perhaps it is time to revive the old British system of tallying the weekly causes of deaths.

1665 London Bill of Morality
In that year, over two-thirds of deaths were caused by the raging bubonic plague. There were few plague deaths until May of that year, just three. By June hundreds were dying per week, by July it was thousands per week. The peak was hit in September when 7,000 people were dying of plague every week. In just 18 months, the plague wiped out a quarter of London's population.

The Bills of Mortality recorded every death by ever cause.
  • bubonic plague - 68,596
  • malaria (ague) - 5,257
  • tuberculosis (consumption and tissick, King's evil) - 4,894
  • small pox - 655
  • women died in child birth (childbed) - 625
  • syphilis (French pox) - 86
  • murder - 9
  • execution - 21
 Child specific deaths included:
  • Teeth and Worms (a variety of infections in teething children) - 2,614 
  • Chrisomes and Infants (unspecific deaths within a month of baptism) - 1,256
  • Griping in the Guts (infantile diarrhea, dysentery) - 1,288
  • Rising of the Lights (croup, called that because it sounds like the child is coughing up a lung) - 397
  • Overlaid and Starved (killed by a nursing mother who falls asleep on top of a baby) - 45
  • Headmouldshot & Mouldfallen (malformed skull caused by a difficult birth) - 14
 Fewer than 10,000 children were born in that year.

By 1670, nobody died of plague and the leading cause of death was Griping in the Guts.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

On Sophistication

It's hard to believe in this time of Trump but there once was a thing known as sophistication.
Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn embodied sophistication.
The word came to English from Latin but its progress from antiquity is fascinating. It started as a Greek word, sophistes, meaning wise man or teacher. When the Romans got it their less cultured society dismissed the discussions of wise men as the quibbles of fraudsters. Their word, sophisticare, meant using wisdom to delude and confuse.

It was with that meaning that the word entered English in the 14th century. As the Renaissance blossomed in the 16th century, intelligence was no longer reviled. Being sophisticated was no longer an insult. Instead, to be educated and worldly was seen as virtues to be aspired to.

In America today, we are seeing a revision to the barbaric definition of sophisticated as a condition decent people avoid. Education and travel are the realm of the hated elites. A majority of Republicans now believe that colleges are bad for America. They argue that schools teach unimportant things like science, math, biology, and history and that children should be left on their own to somehow learn whatever they fancy. They insist that faith is more important than knowledge.
Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise.
Sophistication inspired Duke Ellington in 1932, remembering his teachers who taught school and traveled in the summer. They were truly Sophisticated Ladies.

Lots of people have recorded"Sophisticated Lady" but the definitive interpretation belongs to Ella Fitzgerald. (Lyrics by Irving Mills)

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Roy Moore Bedtime Story

Little Stephanie, Judge Roy is going to tell you a story about when America was great.
It was a time before the Yankee invasion. Little Kimmie was a girl just like you, only she was a n****r. The Master's four sons took a fancy to little Kimmie so, being a good Christian, the Master approached Kimmie's mamma and asked permission to make Kimmie a house slave.

Kimmie's mamma knew this meant that Kimmie would be living in the big house and have proper clothes instead of rags to wear. Kimmie's mamma also knew Kimmie would become the sex toy for all the men in the Master's household. Kimmie's mamma also knew, because the overseer had told her before the Master came that, if she refused the Master's kind request both she and her daughter would be whipped within an inch of their lives and Kimmie would be taken away regardless.
On Kimmie's first day the Master's oldest boy took Kimmie into the kitchen, slammed her on the big oaken table, and raped her so hard she cried out for her mamma. Kimmie served her masters for years. The white master's children Kimmie helped to raise would grow up to rape her themselves.

In time, the good Lord blessed little Kimmie with her own children, twins, one boy and one girl. She didn't know which of the white masters was the father. As the children grew Kimmie continued her service to the men of the Master's house until the children reached the age of twelve.
By then, the boy was growing into a strong young buck while the girl was even prettier than Kimmie had been. Kimmie's son was sold on the auction block, catching a good price. Kimmie, who has aged badly through the years of rape, was sold to a Mississippi cotton farmer to finish her days working the fields. Kimmie's daughter took her place as the house fuck slave.

Then, the Yankees came to destroy our peculiar institution that had made America great. Kimmie and her children were freed but never found each other again. The Yankees forced upon us constitutional amendments that declared all people equal, an abomination to God.

In time, we sons of the South were able to restore some of what had been lost. If some n****r got uppity and thought they might be as good as white folk and even try to vote, well there was always a stout rope and a nearby poplar tree to teach their kind respect.

Those evil Yankees returned, this time with the twin plagues of civil rights and voting rights. But we will throw off the shackles of equality and restore America to the master/slave relationship that serves it best.
Now, Little Stephanie, Judge Roy wants to show you something. Don't say "no," Stephanie. You don't want your mother and father to go the prison, do you? Innocent, you say? It's so cute you think I'd care. Now, be a good little girl and do everything Judge Roy tells you. Ya' hear?

Some Roy Moore Shit

Not Predicting Prediction
I've been involved in enough political campaigns to know what it means when a candidate gives up campaigning the weekend before the election. It's when you know what the outcome will be and you get severely depressed and just don't have the energy to continue. This is, however, not a prediction. I quit the prediction game a year ago.

Although, "attending a football game in Philadelphia" ranks up there with hiking the Appalachian Trail for creative staff excuses.

Moore's a Russian Agent
I'm not saying speaking Russian automatically makes someone a spy, but Moore grew up during the 1950's Red Scare in a community that would rank speaking Russian with reading from the Satanic Bible in Latin. Doing either would be considered invoking evil. Yet, Moore speaks Russian well, praises Putin, and says that America should be more like Russia. When was he recruited?

Moore and Slavery
Moore loves the antebellum South. He has openly declared that the time when slavery was law was the last time America was great. It was a time when overseers would rip a child out of the arms of a nursing mother (above), masters would rape the young virgin daughters of slaves fathering children they would take as slaves, and families were torn apart on the auction block.

Moore also has attacked all the Constitutional amendments after the original ten. He specifically wants to repeal the 14th that requires equality before the law for all citizens regardless of race or creed.

"Little Girl"

This Hugh Laurie ditty could be Roy Moore's theme song.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Evangelicals Vision for Jerusalem

For evangelical Christians peace in the Middle East is abhorrent. They want war there and not a little war, they lust for a war of annihilation in Israel where the blood will flow a meter deep. They want the Muslim world so enraged at Israel that they will band together a massive invasion army. They want to bring about the Battle of Armageddon. They expect this war to kills two-thirds of the Jews in Israel with the survivors converted to Christianity. They foresee Jerusalem reduced to rubble to be rebuilt by a returning Jesus.


After the war they foresee the mass genocide of unbelievers so that only Christians will remain alive. Many believe that only the members of their particular Protestant sect will survive the culling.

This is the only thing evangelical Christians want for Christmas. I'm not saying Trump believes this shit, he believes nothing that doesn't have a dollar sign attached, but it is what Radical Republicans expect will be the result of Trump moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Trump's Lawyer and Occam's Razor

Occam's Razor is the theory in logic that you can never go wrong underestimating the intelligence of this President.

Trump appeared to tweet a confession to obstruction of justice when he claimed to have known that Michael Flynn had lied to the FBI when he told then FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation of Flynn. Conversely, Trump lawyer John Dowd claims he wrote the tweet and Trump was totally ignorant.

Which story is most likely true?

Dowd Wrote It
According to the White House, Trump's Twitter posts are "official presidential statements." A trained lawyer, deliberately pretending to be Trump, clumsily dictates a statement that makes it appear that Trump has committed a felony. Dowd did it such a way that there is no email trail tracing back to Dowd even though attorneys obsessively document their actions to protect both themselves and their clients.

Trump Wrote It
and Dowd is lying because Trump stupidly incriminated himself on Twitter. Covfefe.

Which is the simplest explanation?

Friday, December 01, 2017

Trickle Down Economics and Other Stuff

Trickle, Trickle
The Republican tax plan reminds me of a 1950's do-wop classic. Here's Manhattan Transfer.


White House of Wax 
Melania Trump's Christmas decorations look like a scene from a schlocky 50's horror movie.
Then there is her appearance watching ballerinas. She's standing, almost motionless, with a null expression on her face. Those slight movements are the only proof they didn't wheel out a wax statue to impersonate the First Lady. Although I wouldn't put it past the mad master of the White House to have a vat of boiling paraffin in the basement waiting for his wife.

Empty Chairs
The first lesson of politics I learned is to always have a venue slightly smaller than your expected attendance. You want to squeeze people in and have them standing in the aisles. If the fire marshal isn't pissed you've failed.
The White House hired thousands of folding chairs for the 2017 national Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Dozens showed up leading to this truly embarrassing photo.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

What Happens If There Is a Recession?

As I write this the stock market is up about one percent. That's all well and good and supposed to be caused by the prospects of a rich guy's tax cut. Except, the market is already at a pretty dizzy height and well above historic averages. Looking at the S&P 500,
  • P/E ratio 25.5 - the price of stocks divided by how much money they make. A healthy economy sees a ratio around 15. Stocks are significantly overpriced. The only times in the past 140 years it was this high was 2001 (the dotcom bubble) and 2008 (the subprime mortgage bubble). Both popped into deep recessions.
  • Earnings Yield 3.9% - This is pathetically low and only tolerated by investors because interest rates have been rock bottom. But rates are rising making business investments look increasingly risky.
  • Corporate Debt - Is massive, especially in the highly leveraged retail sector. Businesses don't have the earnings to pay off their debts so as interest rates rise some really big businesses are staring at bankruptcy (Sears, I'm looking at you).
We are near the top of the Obama economic boom. Looking ahead, Republicans will pass their tax cuts and a few months later the nation will stumble into a, perhaps deep, recession. A recession that, given the Kansas experiment, the Trump tax cuts will make worse.

People will lose their jobs. Republicans will react by cutting government spending, making the human suffering worse. Voters who have tolerated Trump's boorish behavior because at least he made the trains run on time will turn on Dear Leader. Trump and Steve Bannon will blame everything on immigrants, upping the hate rhetoric to try and hold their base. Facing a mid-term electoral debacle, Trump will play the only card left to him, starting a nuclear war with North Korea.
While the rich move their tax savings off shore.