Category Archives: History


Happy Fourth of July!

Long-time readers will recognize this piece from a few years back. I apologize for my absence here; some health challenges remain, and there are other issues to contend with as well. But I do not think I am done yet.

The Independence Journey

Tomorrow I travel
Across this great land
And try to unravel
How all this began

I look to the mountains
And gaze at the sea
Are these where the fountains
Of freedom might be?

The fields full of crops
The deep sylvan glade
The bustling shops
Where the future is made

The skyscrapers soaring
The bridges, the ships
The Space Shuttles roaring
On million-mile trips

But harvest, invention,
Our tools and our crafts
Are not the intention
Contained in those drafts…

“United States” seems
Like a common phrase now
But once it was dreams
Born from deep thinking brow

As the Founders grew weary
Of rough distant rule
And taxes and tariffs
Provided the fuel…

Independence declared!
Hear the bell as it rings!
That proud history shared
Isn’t based on mere “things”

The new nation caught
And flamed bright in their hearts
And though doubters still thought
That such disparate parts

Could never be coached
Or formed into one
Still ideas, once they’re broached
Sometimes see the job done

Through blood and through sweat
And through fear, war and strife
They struggled, and yet
Freedom loved, more than life

So they crafted a code
That gave people a voice
That gave promise to all
And the world, a new choice

By the people’s consent
A Republic was born
And with blood sorely spent
Broke the shackles we’d worn

Then we prospered and grew
In this fair rugged land
And to build straight and true
All the folks lent a hand

The foundation they laid
Is a strong, steady place
And the price that they paid
Gave us strength, hope, and grace

And still our Constitution
Guides the Land of the Free
And provides the solution
That made all of this be

And at last I can see
How our strength came about
Founders fought to be free
With hearts noble and stout

And they carried the day
And they brought it to us!
And we now, in our way
Undertake this great trust

For Americans make
Our America great
So I’ll pause and I’ll take
One more moment to state:

My dear friends reading here
Don’t forget where you are
We’ll defeat hate and fear
And we yet will go far

We each have work to do
(Not just do, but know why)
Now, to each one of you
Happy Fourth of July!

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle


Denoting Bertrand Russell, “Red Emma” Goldman, Thomas Jefferson

(This wound up being something of a scattered ramble on different philosophers in history.) I mentioned recently Ayn Rand’s definition of selfishness, as “concerned with one’s own interests.”  It’s straightforward enough. In the ensuing discussion, I described this as less opaque than some of the definitions of Bertrand Russell.  (I had  miswritten his first name as “Bertram”; my apologies.)

I don’t have his works online (edit: found a collection), though some parts of this no doubt exist. Here’s a nice example, from his treatise on Denoting I read last year:

Thus `the father of Charles II was executed‘ becomes: `It is not always false of x that x begat Charles II and that x was executed and that “if y begat Charles II, y is identical with x” is always true of y‘.

This may seem a somewhat incredible interpretation; but I am not at present giving reasons, I am merely stating the theory.

Continue reading


Sandy was Not a Major Hurricane

One commenter asked about “major hurricanes” and why Sandy isn’t one.  The term “major hurricane” is used by many to indicate those of Category 3 and up. It is used by the U.S. National Hurricane Center, which classifies hurricanes of Category 3 and above as major hurricanes, and is generally used everywhere from the weather agencies to Wikipedia.

Here’s the Saffir-Simpson scale, which includes a nice animation illustrating the typical effects of the different wind speeds. Note the use of “major” for Cat 3 and above.

For a Category 1 hurricane, which Sandy was (off-and-on) until about the time of landfall when it began to dissipate again, the scale notes that “Very dangerous winds will produce some damage.” Electric power is sensitive: “Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.”

Indeed. The power lines and poles are above ground in the US for the most part, and the humorous and inciteful[1] Mark Steyn makes a number of brilliant observations about this.  He’s just published another piece, noting that the 2009 report (in PDF) on New York’s vulnerabilities show that Sandy was not a “freakish” “monster” “Frankenstorm” but simply an anticipated storm that did the damage they knew it would, if steps weren’t taken.  In fact, the storm surge of Sandy was expected to be dwarfed by even a Category 2 hurricane (16 feet) and a Category 4 was expected to deliver a surge to New York City of more than 30 feet (about 10 meters), or more than twice what Sandy produced.

Storm size due to BS Continue reading


Extreme Weather Reporting

Sandy damaged the Northeast, but was not “unprecedented”

Sandy was a very damaging storm, with widespread winds and rain afflicting a large area seemingly unprepared to deal with it.  It was modest from a historical standpoint: there have been many larger hurricanes that have hit the US east coast and New England specifically, with larger storm surges, greater rain, more damage, many times more lives lost. The 1994 “Great Atlantic Hurricane” was a Category 3 at landfall (Sandy was barely a 1) and its impact was described this way (regarding the Jersey Shore): Continue reading


Sunday Verse 2: Root of Evil

(Well, not exactly “Sunday” by the time I got this posted.)

As noted last Sunday, I’ve been given the “Food for Thought Award” (nominated by Citizen Tom)— and it has some obligations.  Among them are these writings, on seven Biblical verses that have been significant or inspirational to me.  This is the second.  There are nominations involved as well, and a few sprang immediately to mind.  My old friend the extraordinary SeraphimSigrist would be an ideal candidate, for one — his thoughtful writings reflect his beneficent doings in his travels far and wide spreading his faith and helping his fellow man. I always learn something interesting from him and enjoy his deep, compassionate mind.

Versions of 1 Timothy 6

This is the source of the much quoted, and it seems misquoted, verse about money and evil.  I tend to favor Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), which was a well-regarded attempt in the late 1800s to preserve as much of the intent of the original languages as possible.  But in the case of this particular line, the rendering has subtle differences which are significant: Continue reading

Sunday Verse 1

In this instance, it isn’t my own verse involved. My humble online digs were just nominated for a “Food for Thought Award” by Citizen Tom. I recognize that this is a small thing, this award, but I am nonetheless flattered and accept in the spirit that it was given. And I am more than a little surprised, as I am apparently the only non-religious recipient of the award.

As Citizen Tom puts it, “I suppose many people will find this nomination inexplicable, but here is the basis for it...”  He’s just added an additional comment expanding on his rationale a bit.


In any event, thanks!  Here’s a long and rambling beginning… Continue reading

WSJ cover

Black Monday Revisted

Today, October 19th, is the anniversary of Black Monday, the day a quarter-century ago when the stock market fell 22% in a single day. For my Lady and I, quite active in the markets, it was an exciting time — we had been short from the previous Wednesday and did well indeed that day.  But there were grave concerns:

  • No trading system had ever seen conditions like this, therefore there was no way to predict further success. We bailed out.
  • At the rate things were going, we were facing a potential collapse of civilization. Estimates were that the banks would experience mobs by Wednesday, all credit cards would be disavowed by Friday, and by a week later even currency would no longer be accepted. Anyone in a uniform, from military to police, would be a target of mobs.
  • Tuesday, October 20, saw the FDIC announcing that it would not protect the banks or anyone’s private deposits. The markets were ordered closed.
  • But one person, the head of the Chicago Mercantile exchange, apparently defied this order and re-opened, believing that the panic would get worse without some outlet. His gamble worked — the CME dropped much further, but then hit a bottom and slowly, carefully, began to come back. By Wednesday, the crisis was believed to be over — and in only a few months, the loss was recovered.
  • But not completely — a number of financial companies, some quite large, were destroyed on October 19th.
WSJ cover

The Wall Street Journal today has an interesting look back at that time, focusing on the advertisements running in the WSJ on Black Monday.  How many of you remember when “The Gospel of John” referred to the CEO of Apple, selling a book by that name and soon to be labeled “one of the world’s worst CEOs”?  Or remember when the Cookie Monster was a salesman for IBM?

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

A follow-up to the Clinton Collapse of 2000

Despite its prevalence in the news and in the Obama campaign that Bush inherited a great economy in 2001 and ruined it, the events of the time were very different. When I first saw this fallacy repeated, I thought “The economists will set the reporter straight.” No — everyone the media was willing to talk about jumped on this bandwagon, and it is part of the narrative that Obama relied upon in 2008, and must keep you convinced of today.

A bit of background:  I mentioned earlier the entry of everyday people into the stock market. In the early 1990s, relatively few people actively traded in the markets.  Many folks who had some money used mutual funds, the more adventurous ones used brokers, but not many actually did stock or commodities trading directly. (By this point, it had been an interest of mine for two decades.)  To get live feeds from the markets, essential for someone actively trading during the day, you used satellite feeds or (years later) FM-signal sidebands which were essentially receive-only radio modems.  You bought historical data on disk, and it cost thousands of dollars. For example, in the mid 1980s, we bought price-by-price data for several years of S&P and Japanese Yen for $20,000.

The Internet changed all this.  You could get historical data over the Internet — some even for free.  And you could get live data over the Internet as well.  No satellite dish, no limitation of being close to certain FM stations, and a greatly reduced entry cost. Continue reading