Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering 2010

To the men of the US Navy, burial on the fore of the USS Albert W Grant DD-649, October 1944, Gulf of Leyte and all other men and women who lost their lives. To some this hits home much closer than others.

The Men Lost on USS Albert W Grant on October 25, 1944

Alexande,r Theodore Leroy MM
Asmore, Floyd Vernon MM
Brannan, Robert Joseph EM
Cahiea, William R. F
Cairns, Clyde A. MM
Carlson, Wallace K. CPO RM
Carson, Clyde, Ensign, Torpedo
Cheek, Daniel Smith S
Couette, Armand N. TM
Cunningham, Edwin James MM
Davis, Wilson Howard CPO EM
Ellis Milford, CPO WT
Kuebker, Kenton W. Bkr
Kusheloff, Joseph Myer RM
Lee, William Danual S
Luketic, Anthony Rudolph F
Markham, Walter MM
Martin, Joseph Eugene PhM
Mathias, Eugene RM
Mathieu, Charles Akin, Lt jg Medical
McElroy, Warren M. CPO MM
McGee, James Carey S
McInturff, Thomas Samuel S
Messer, James Henry S
Noel, Claudius RM
Pack, Arless A. F
Rathburn, Frederick H. TM
Roberts, Earl Franklin MM
Rothe, Donald Terrance F
Sarver, Milton Dwight S
Selleck, William Marrtin RM 1C
Springer, Fred W. WT
Stephenson, James Winfred MM
Surprenant, Donal Rosaric CPO WT
Ward Francis, Irvin CPO MM
Weber, MM

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Proposal for the Garden State

You see New Jersey has a few problems. First we have almost ten times the deer now as at the time of the Revolution in 1776. We do have many more squirrels however but that is another tale. Also New Jersey has passed a Medical Pot law which mandates its implementation but Governor Christie is doing studies regarding its implementation.
So I just thought, as one who runs a licensed nursery, as one trained somewhat in medicine, as an entrepreneur, and the like, what would happen is one grew this stuff and the deer at it as they do everything else. Would they get the munchies and then get obese and then get Diabetes and then well just pass on, or would we have to expand the Health Care Bill perhaps to cover the deer.
Imagine a cartoon series with Cheech and Chong Deer sitting on the front stoop, that is steps to all of you not from Brooklyn, with the two deer comparing the produce from several homes. There could be a great deal of material here. Then just think if the chipmunks started collecting the seeds.....the images are endless. Every home a garden in the Garden State...every creature sharing in nature's bounty! A bit too much I would gather.
Ah well, it is a summer weekend.....

Memorial Day

Omaha Beach, Normandy, September 16, 2001. While stuck in France after the attack on September 11, 2001 by the Muslim Terrorists, I walked amongst the graves and saw a small Belgian Flag with a note in English attached to a cross, "Thanks for then, and for now".
I guess many people still remember.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Herbert Spencer: A Review

The biography of Spencer entitled "Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life" by Mark Francis is a recent addition to the body of works of an interesting 19th century polymath. Spencer was both a philosopher and advocate of Darwin's evolutionary ideas as well as one who opined frequently on matters of political import. In many ways Spencer was a true polymath, one who wrote seminal works on psychology and sociology and wrote extensively on biology and integrated that with the new ideas promulgated by Darwin. Spencer was praised by many of his contemporaries and was also in many ways the typical Victorian, hardened in that period but also having his views shaped by it also.

Overall the book addresses Spencer, his life and his views. However, the author, in my opinion, is more interested in detailing how Spencer fits his personal view of Spencer than Spencer truly was as a person and as an influence on his world. Spencer, in his most lasting work, The Man Versus The State, clearly is an individualist and as such in many ways has become a major cornerstone for many libertarians. Yet Francis seems to reject this view and, for the most part, this book is a tirade against that position of individualism which Spencer clearly took.

Spencer was well known for his views on psychology, sociology, biology, and especially the views on Darwinism and individualism. For Spencer all of life, all of existence was a continually evolving process. The author continually returns to that fact in all of its aspects.

Spencer was well read from the time he started to write through the 1930s. Then he was attacked unjustly by the left wing in American academia, centered at the time at Columbia University, a hotbed of Communists and Marxists. For it was in the mid 1940s that Spencer was vilified by the one-time Communist history professor at Columbia University, one Richard Hofstadter.

Hofstadter in his book Social Darwinism uses Spencer's ideas on Darwin in a somewhat self serving and twisted manner to attack both Spencer and the free market capitalism as it evolved over the century from 1850 to 1950. Hofstadter was well known in leftist circles as one who could readily take a few apparently disconnected points and with what could be at best described as shabby research methods produce polemics against the conservatives and right wing advocates in the body politic.

Hofstadter was also well know to write "soft" history, what we would expect in a New Republic piece, rather than hard academic history. Hofstadter was polemical in his style and greatly deficient in primary sources. He was all too often just a recorder of old press clippings using these as the window to the world he wanted the reader to see rather than addressing the reality via primary sources.

In a recent work by Prof. T. Leonard at Princeton University (See Origins of the Myth of Social Darwinism: The Ambiguous Legacy of Richard Hofstadter's Social Darwinism in American Thought ) Prof. Leonard states about Hofstadter and Spencer the following, while reviewing the issues in "Social Darwinism in American Thought", also called "SDAT":

"Richard Hofstadter, like many New York intellectuals in the 1930s, embraced radical reform. He joined Columbia University's Communist Party unit for a brief period in 1938. The more mature Hofstadter grew disenchanted with radical politics, indeed came to see it as hostile to scholarship. But SDAT, which revised his doctoral dissertation published in 1939, preserves Hofstadter's earlier world view, that of a precocious scholar, still much influenced by his mentors, Merle Curti and Charles Beard, who could say to close friends, "I hate capitalism and everything that goes with it" ... SDAT also bears the historiographic imprint of Beard's "rule" that historical interpretation must assume that "changes in the structure of social ideas wait on general changes in economic and social life" ... SDAT is thus sprinkled with unadorned Beardian claims, such as "Herbert Spencer and his philosophy were products of English Industrialism"..."

But let me return to Francis and his book. He sets his tone for the entire biography on p. 2 when he writes:

"...the greatest source of popular confusion about Spencer does not arise from national prejudice, but from writers who have explained his theories by reference to those of Charles Darwin as if the former were a simple version of the latter. This misidentification has been so common that its correction would be an obligatory as well as unpleasant task for any Spencerian scholar. There are two reasons why it is painful. First it forces me to write about Darwin....also, it is slightly obtuse to explain an intellectual phenomenon such as Spencer' reference to something it is not."

This statement clearly lays forth the attitude of the author going forward, cumbersome as the use of the language is. First, there is the almost arrogant exposition of Spencerian evolution not being akin to Darwin and then the outcry of having to endure the unpleasant task of education of the reader, specifically what appears to be the less well educated readers who, frankly as per the author, should know better. Francis seems to bemoan the fact that he must tell the readers things that they should have know ab initio about Spencer. As such one wonders what audience Francis had in mind for his book. Perhaps it is meant for the small cadre of fellow Spencerian academics.

The last phrase in the above quote is at best condescending and at worst insulting to the readers since it implies that each reader should be approaching the biography already well educated in Spencer as well as in Darwin. This shrill tone of the author's style continues to resonate throughout the book.

The next interesting comment is on p 3 which frankly refutes the entire basis of the Hofstadter diatribe on Social Darwinists. In Hofstadter SDAT, he accuses Spencer of being a pure Darwinian and as such lacking in any human emotions. However Francis states:

"...First there was Graham him Spencer was merely an early and hasty generalize on the subject of evolution....secondly, there was Richard Leakey...he possessed the same information as Wallas except ...he was praising not condemning Spencer....After Darwin had explained his theory...Spencer quipped that it might as well be called "survival of the fittest"....if either Wallas or Leakey had read Spencer...(he) was unsympathetic to Darwin's theory..."

Thus Spencer was not a pure Darwinian. As Leonard states:

"Darwinian defenses of laissez-faire among scholars, who were more likely to have read Darwin, are not much easier to find. Bannister and other revisionists point out that even Hofstadter's social Darwinist exemplars, Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner, were not especially Darwinist. Spencer certainly invoked the evolutionary advantages of competition among men. And, Spencer's extraordinary intellectual prominence in the last third of the 19th century also made him a large target for reform scholars. But Spencer would have rejected the label of "Darwinist," in part because his own theory of evolution differed from and was published before Darwin's On the Origin of Species. The catch-phrase "survival of the fittest" was Spencer's and Darwin did not adopt it as a synonym for "natural selection" until Alfred Russell Wallace convinced him to do so in the fifth edition of the Origin (1869).

Importantly, Spencer was a Lamarckian with respect to human inheritance. He imagined that competition induced human beings to actively adapt themselves to their environments, improving their mental and physical skills - improved traits that would then be inherited by their descendants. Spencer's view was that, in the struggle for existence, self-improvement came from conscious, planned exertion, not from the chance variation and natural selection that are the heart of Darwinism. As a result, evolution is progressive in Spencer, whereas, for Darwin, at least the early Darwin, evolution means only non-teleological change. Spencer's fundamental belief in human progress via Lamarckian bootstrapping was at odds with Darwinian natural selection's randomness and its openness to non-progressive change.

Spencer, in fact, was not just a Lamarckian, he was a leading Lamarckian, taking up cudgels against the neo-Darwinians such as biologist August Weismann, whose watershed finding in 1889--that mice with their tails cut off do not bear short-tailed progeny--was seen by many as a crucial-experiment refutation of Lamarckism. Spencer's status as a defender of Lamarckism in the 1890s was such that that progressive Lamarckians, such as Lester Frank Ward, often found themselves in the awkward position defending Spencer, a man whose individualism and laissez-faire economics they loathed, and dedicated their lives to opposing."

Thus the fundamental basis of the Hofstadter argument against Spencer has no merit. Francis begins by throwing the cudgel down early on in the biography as to his apparent dislike of free markets and then continues to pound the cause home.

On p. 13 the author begins to position Spencer as a non-individualist, by redefining what he believed Spencer meant by his individualism. The author commences what appears to be his personal repositioning of Spencer as not the one lauded by many 21st century libertarians but as a mainstream 21st century liberal. Although he defines "individualist" as the "natural antonym" of the term "state" the author commences the rehabilitation of Spencer from his point of view.

The most published work of Spencer, his small but compelling book, "The Man Versus the State", is a well read treatise which clearly and unambiguously states the position of the individual against the state. Unfortunately the positioning by the author at this stage to marginalize this work of Spencer presages his attempt to reconstruct Spencer as a man who may not even have written that book.

Chapter 3 depicts Spencer and the problems he allegedly had with women. One of his alleged lovers was the writer George Eliot with whom he had an affair which lasted a brief while. The chapter is less a discussion of Spencer's problems with women than it is a presentation of conflicted Victorians in England.

Chapter 6 discuses Spencer's rather common eccentricities starting with his hypochondria. The author states:

"Spencer combined hypochondria with radical political opinions."

It appears that this was a common British trait not unique to Spencer. For if one looks at Lord Russell one see that he suffered from exactly the same set of problems. One may conjecture that such a set of common characteristics were both common to the Victorian British as well as those holding extreme views.

The concept of the pervasiveness of evolution for Spencer is detailed by the author on p. 193 where he states:

"A constant refrain in Spencer's early scientific writings was that all phenomenon of the universe...were subject to evolution."

Further Francis states:

"Spencer's initial conception of life was not a cold and objective; he saw life as the general impulse towards goodness and perfection, evidenced everywhere one looked."

This is a teleological outlook towards evolution, the goal being the goodness and perfection as stated by Spencer. But was that indeed his view, and if so what drove this end point, since Spencer was not a truly religious man. Francis states that the intelligence was science in and of itself.

Spencer was a prolific writer and there are a continuing set of streams of an evolving set of views. Yet Francis states that the paper "A theory of Population" written in 1852 was the singular key to his early views. Francis argues on p 194 for Spencer's views, views which aligned with the expanding presence of Great Britain. Francis states:

"...Spencer perceived his own experience and that of nature generally as "the inherent tendency of things going towards good..." He called this vis medicatrix naturae...the progressive quality of nature even justified...suffering...necessary for benign progress...each conquered race or nation could acquire a liking for new modes of the future Spencer saw new modes of evolution...(and) maintain a perfect and long lived existence for each individual."

In Chapter 15 Francis appears to get annoyed by the seminal work of Spencer, "The Man versus the State". He speaks of Spencer's anti-utilitarianism and his hostility towards Bentham like hedonism (see pp 248-249). Francis states:

"In "The Proper Sphere of Government" he (Spencer) wrote as a Christian utilitarian opposed to individualism and thus was hostile to those who construed happiness as if the collective did not matter."

On p. 249 he attacks "The Man versus the State" as being inconsistent with the true meaning of Spencer's views. This is a wandering and almost incoherent presentation in the text and Francis continually tries to say that "The Man versus The State" was an aberration of an old man rather than a culminating view developed by Spencer. In fact this was one of Spencer's clearest texts and the one which has had lasting influence. Moreover it is a text devoid of the Darwin and reflects an evolving and mature view of the individual versus the expanding nature of the State.

Francis on pp 250-251 then goes into the current position we find in Rawls with direct reference to him. Francis speaks of the confusion Rawls has between liberalism and communitarianism, but no matter, both are counter individualism which is where Spencer had allegedly evolved to. Francis gets quiet complex and confusing as he attempts to draw together what he sees a conflicting views of Spencer while at the same time attempting to keep Spencer in what we would see today as a truly "liberal" player and not one dedicated to true individualism. He ends the discussion with the statement:

"For Spencer it was not that the individual and society operated in different spheres as they had for ...Mill. That distinction would have allowed for a principled discussion of when interference with the former was justified. Spencer's conceptualization of the individual and society places them on separate planes making it illegitimate to permit some restrictions on freedom while forbidding others."

This sentence makes little sense. On the one hand they are not in different spheres but on the other hand they are on different planes. Now the metaphor is not just weak it makes no sense. This chapter is rant with such non sequiturs!

Now Francis continues his diatribe against "The Man Versus the State" on pp 258-259. Here is states:

"Spencer's liberalism in particular is not usefully glossed over as a "bourgeois" individualistic ideology that was forged in opposition to the collective."

Indeed it was not. It was carefully thought out and predicated on the events that allowed him to detail fact by fact with the resulting impacts on individual freedom equally detailed.

In Chapter 18 Francis discusses Spencer's work on Sociology in political systems. On pp 304-305 he detailed the nexus between these topics and evolution. It is seen that Spencer continually winds the evolutionary elements into his work. To Spencer everything was continually in an ever changing evolutionary milieu. It was for him Lamarckian where the Darwinian step changes were Lamarck's slow changes which were absorbed.

In the Conclusion on p 334 he again returns to what seems to be the major conflict that Francis sees, that is that Spencer was at heart in his maturity a true individualist yet Francis does not seem to want to accept that. He states:

"When it is realized that Spencer was a corporate thinker rather than an individualist, then his argument for the need to give a paramount place for the emotions becomes more easily explicable."

This is a total rejection by Francis of the facts that are evident in "The Man Versus the State". Francis fails to even discuss the contents of this book in the slightest degree, he discusses in detail the early works but merely shouts against the latter.

Thus this book is a good contribution to Spencer since it forces the reader to go back and read in detail what he said and see how all too often is counters Francis.

Monday, May 24, 2010

An Analysis of Amazon Reviews

I often wondered how Amazon list reviews from customers on their web site. Thus I spent a while looking at one which is did a few months ago and reported here. What got me thinking was that my review had the most votes but it was a critical review and after a few weeks Amazon went and hid the review in the detritus on their reviews.

Let me start with the data (from How Markets Fail):

Now I wondered how they rank their reviews given the information. For example is the total number of votes important, the rating of the book, the comments, the age of the review, and the like. So I did a small analytical study.

Let me plot a few of the statistics:

The above is the rating versus ranking on the site. Clearly there is no correlation here.

Then I plotted percent positive comments versus the ranking by Amazon. It seems clear that there is some correlation. Yet it is not totally obvious.

Then I plotted the percent who thought negatively of the review as above. Now it is clear that there is a strong correlation., If a review did not help then it was ranked lower than if it helped.

I then considered if there were any comments. There were comments but they did not seem to play any role.

Finally I looked at the days it was posted. For the top 14 reviews there seemed little correlation. By the way mine was ranked 14th. However for those after mine the correlation is quite strong.

I then developed a model to determine a least squares estimate of the wights. I started as follows:

which leads to the following estimator:

Now I applied this and found that the negative evaluation, namely that a review did not help them decide dominated the selection metric. However it was a very poor fit. Perhaps the missing data point, namely if the customer bought after reading the review was a factor. However I also suspect that the publisher may have influence as well yet that would be impossible to decide.

This analysis is interesting in that the presence of a less than flattering review, as mine was in the body but not in the numbers may get read and pressure placed upon Amazon. Perhaps Amazon just wants sales not matter what? One cannot really tell what is happening other than concluding that it is clear that Amazon doe not use the metrics I looked at.

I think this is an interesting way to look at who "controls" what we are reading.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Baseline Portfolio on a Dive

We see a continuing of the decline of the Baseline Portfolio. We believe that this will continue as both European uncertainty continues and the US Congressional confusion along with debt continues to cloud the future.

There may be a real chance that we will see a 20% downward correction of the next few months, and worse if an"event" happens.

The Stupidity of the Pigou Tax

The debate on cap and trade, which we detailed a year ago, is predicated on the so called Pigou Tax and externalities.

Th principle is that if the actions of a person has a cost external to a specific transaction and that costs impacts society as a whole, as this CO2 mania, then the Government taxes the person as a disincentive to use less.

Well frankly that is just a tax. If the person has no alternative, then other than freezing to death in the winter, yes I said winter for despite the Al Gore's of the world, as we have shown recently, it is getting wetter and no warmer! At least the data for the north east shows that. But alas, facts, they always confuse things.

Let me give another example. Take the carb tax. That is something I favor. An obese person, and there are quite a few in the current Administration, except those who smoke, has a cost to society which can be statistically calculated to the penny. Type II diabetes and its sequellae cost $325 billion in 2010 alone. To solve that but still allowing people to est and have the resulting morbidity associated with it we can use a Pigou Tax but put the money in a Fatty Fund to pay for the added costs. I can actually calculate by grams of carbs what the tax should be! One can still pork up but now the costs are covered. It costs those not indulging nothing and in fact saves them by having the fattys pay!

Now back to cap and trade. Here there is no alternative to heating or driving to work. The Government just taxes and spends! What stupidity.

As Prof Glaeser at Harvard in the NY Times, another one of our great minds in economics states:

Following the great English economist Arthur Cecil Pigou, economists have long argued that such externalities can be treated with a tax equal to the size of the externality. In this case, the right tax would equal the worldwide economic damage wrought by emitting carbon or other greenhouse gases. So why is the Kerry-Lieberman climate change bill, the grandly named American Power Act, 987 pages long?

This bill is a behemoth for three reasons. First, it tries to do far more than just charge for carbon emissions. The bill starts by providing “incentives for the growth of safe domestic nuclear and nuclear-related industries.” It supports carbon capture in coal plants, expands offshore drilling, establishes an Office of Consumer Advocacy and promotes “clean energy career development.” Standard economics suggests that many of these interventions would be unnecessary if we had the right tax on carbon emissions; if companies pay the full social costs of their actions, they have the right incentives to invest in greener technologies without any further help from Uncle Sam.

The second reason that the bill is so big is that it uses a complicated cap-and-trade system rather than a simple Pigouvian tax. In theory, a permit system can be identical to a tax. Selling permits to emit carbon at $50 a ton is equivalent to taxing carbon emissions at $50 a ton. But tradeable permits, typically and as promulgated in the American Power Act, differ from a tax for two reasons: the quantity of permits is relatively fixed, and many permits will be given away rather than sold.

Well this is no surprise. The Markey-Waxman bill of a year ago which we went through in detail then had the same problems. It gave credits to a whole swath of friends to be doled out by Congress!

The solution to this CO2 problem is alternative sources of energy not taxing those who cannot pay to begin with. Demand will not decrease, at least for energy! It is akin to rationing water. This makes no sense. The solution is improved efficiency and better technology. Can the Government do this? Frankly the Government qua Government has shown no ability to ever do so. One need look no further than the DoE electric car project of 40 year duration or even better the ancient air traffic control system.

On the other hand there have been successes in the past, look at the MIT Rad Lab in WW II or the Manhattan Project. The common thread, focus and non Governmental employees.

So where is there a focus on achieving new alternatives? No where, they are swamped with favors for friends as Glaeser says, though no very well.

Will this travesty of a tax, the Pigou Tax, work? No, not really, it will just get added to the VAT, the inheritance, the rich persons tax and whatever else is added on. Pretty soon we will be taxing at a rate above 100%. Another Harvard idea perhaps?

To summarize, the Pigou approach works if the externalities are quantifiable, if there is an alternative, and if the fees charged pay for the costs of the externalities and no more or less. This is the Coase argument. In a transaction costless environment, one should let the parties clear the market. The railroad should pay the farmer for the loss of the crops caused by sparks from the train. The Government should not have its hand out in the process and take from both parties.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Interesting Approach to Science and Its Validation of Data

Science Insider reports:

Days after it emerged that the University of Virginia has hired a law firm to consider its options regarding the state's attorney general's investigation of climatologist Michael Mann, 800 of the state's scientists and academics have written a letter to Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli opposing the probe:

From a website called The Hook they report:

Now, it appears, he may be preparing a legal assault on an embattled proponent of global warming theory who used to teach at the University of Virginia, Michael Mann.

In papers sent to UVA April 23, Cuccinelli’s office commands the university to produce a sweeping swath of documents relating to Mann’s receipt of nearly half a million dollars in state grant-funded climate research conducted while Mann— now director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State— was at UVA between 1999 and 2005.

If Cuccinelli succeeds in finding a smoking gun like the purloined emails that led to the international scandal dubbed Climategate, Cuccinelli could seek the return of all the research money, legal fees, and trebled damages.

“Since it’s public money, there’s enough controversy to look in to the possible manipulation of data,” says Dr. Charles Battig, president of the nonprofit Piedmont Chapter Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment, a group that doubts the underpinnings of climate change theory.

Mann is one of the lead authors of the controversial “hockey stick graph,” which contends that global temperatures have experienced a sudden and unprecedented upward spike (like the shape of a hockey stick).

This is an interesting approach to vetting scientific data. Clearly the Attorney General does not have the resources to do the vetting so it will be of interest to see how he will get the "experts" to do it.

The AAAS has issued a letter commenting on this probe and they state:

In April 2010, the Attorney General of Virginia, Kenneth Cuccinelli, launched an investigation of climate researcher Professor Michael Mann, currently the Director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. Mr. Cuccinelli’s investigation, unless based on a much more substantial body of evidence than is apparent, could inappropriately inhibit the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas and thus limit the progress of science. The investigation, under Virginia’s Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, seeks very detailed information about five grants for climate change research in which Professor Mann was involved while serving on the University of Virginia faculty from 1999-2005....In the majority of cases, scientific is agreements are unrelated to any kind of fraud and are considered a legitimate and normal part of the process of scientific progress. The scientific community takes seriously their responsibility for policing scientific misconduct, and extensive procedures exist to ensure the credibility of the research enterprise. Unless founded on some openly discussed evidence of potential misconduct, investigations such as that targeting Professor Mann could have a long-lasting and chilling effect on a broad spectrum of research fields that are critical to a range of national interests from public health to national security to the environment. Unless more clearly justified, Attorney General Cuccinelli’s apparently political action should be withdrawn.

In some ways this is akin to the David Baltimore case and Congressman Dingell back in the 1990s. Yet it is fundamentally different. In that case there was no significant compelling interest on the part of the public. The Mann data is being used as the basis for major shifts in money from the public to the Government and the basis of this shift should be aired because it perforce of Mann's actions has been drawn into the public discussion of the making of our laws. One can see that these actions may actually be justified albeit a bit heavy handed. State funds were used to perform work whose results will cause major public policy changes and should be aired. The problem will be who will air what and when.

Another Interesting Approach to Melanoma

In Nature today the authors describe the use of siRNA, short interfering RNAs, which are injected using nanothechnology and interfere with the replication of melanoma cells.

The authors state:

Therapeutics that are designed to engage RNA interference (RNAi) pathways have the potential to provide new, major ways of imparting therapy to patients. Long, double-stranded RNAs were first shown to mediate RNAi in Caenorhabditis elegans, and the potential use of RNAi for human therapy has been demonstrated by the finding that small interfering RNAs (siRNAs; approximately 21-base-pair double-stranded RNA) can elicit RNAi in mammalian cells without producing an interferon response4. We are at present conducting the first in-human phase I clinical trial involving the systemic administration of siRNA to patients with solid cancers using a targeted, nanoparticle delivery system. Here we provide evidence of inducing an RNAi mechanism of action in a human from the delivered siRNA. Tumour biopsies from melanoma patients obtained after treatment show the presence of intracellularly localized nanoparticles in amounts that correlate with dose levels of the nanoparticles administered (this is, to our knowledge, a first for systemically delivered nanoparticles of any kind).

In Nature News they state:

Now, Mark Davis from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and his colleagues have found a way to deliver particles containing such sequences to patients with the skin cancer melanoma. When analysing biopsies of the tumours after treatment, they found that the particles had inhibited expression of a key gene, called RRM2, needed for the cancer cells to multiply. Their research is published today in Nature1.

The researchers created the particles from two polymers plus a protein that binds to receptors on the surface of cancer cells and pieces of RNA called small-interfering RNA, or siRNA, designed to stop the RRM2 gene from being translated into protein. The siRNA works by sticking to the messenger RNA (mRNA) that carries the gene's code to the cell's protein-making machinery and ensuring that enzymes cut the mRNA at a specific spot.

When the components are mixed together in water, they assemble into particles about 70 nanometres in diameter. The researchers can then administer the nanoparticles into the bloodstream of patients, where the particles circulate until they encounter 'leaky' blood vessels that supply the tumours with blood. The particles then pass through the vessels to the tumour, where they bind to the cell and are then absorbed.

Once inside the cell, the nanoparticles fall apart, releasing the siRNA. The other parts of the nanoparticle are so small, they pass out of the body in urine. "It sneaks in, evades the immune system, delivers the siRNA, and the disassembled components exit out," Davis says.

At the same time NCI has introduced an major trial analysis and comparison tool which is described as follows:

NCI researchers last month unveiled a new online tool for clinicians and professionals who recruit people to join cancer clinical trials. The tool, called AccrualNet, is both a repository of information and a forum for professionals to exchange ideas about the challenges associated with developing and managing these important studies.

AccrualNet was introduced at the Cancer Trial Accrual Symposium, held April 29–30 in Bethesda, MD. The conference, hosted by NCI and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, attracted more than 350 leaders and representatives from organizations actively engaged in clinical trial recruitment.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Rajan and his book Fault Lines

Fault Lines by Prof. Rajan is one of an ever increasing number of books recounting the financial collapse of the past few years. Unlike many of the others, Prof Rajan is both knowledgeable and experienced having been at the IMF in a senior role during a portion of this period. Thus this book is written from the perspective of a highly credible professional as well as a hands on operative.

Overall it is well written and avoids the finger pointing polemics that we are forced to endure from the journalist types who have their points to make. Rajan writes in a clear and well structured manner and details the problems, as well as recommending solutions. As the title says the system has certain enduring fault lines that need to be avoided rather than rebuilding upon.

Chapter 1 is the introduction and he lays out the history well. Especially he has a balanced position on who should take the blame and on p. 42 he calls the Government and its actions as the "elephant in the room". He does not take the Progressive's stance and blame the lack of regulation as the sole cause and he does not take the Conservative cause agreeing that all regulation is an anathema. Like any complex system which we will never really understand there must be circuit breakers, and that means some form of balanced regulation. Rajan states on p 43 at the end of Chapter 1:

"Growing income inequality in the United States stemming from unequal access to quality education led to political pressure for more housing credit. This pressure created a serious fault line that distorted lending in the financial sector."

I would strongly disagree with this statement. The US has one of the most open educations systems in the world and despite the less than stellar grammar and secondary systems the university systems are without equal. The problem here was demanding that credit be given to anyone on the part of the Government. Frankly when the Government opens the faucet to individuals who have no idea what responsible lending even means it is in and of itself a recipe for a disaster.

Chapter 2 discusses the whole issue of exports and Rajan's personal recollections regarding the controlled economy of India are telling. India was and to some degree is still a socialist centrally controlled state. It is a window to what can go wrong in an economy centrally controlled. On p 50 he states: "The great Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter argued that capitalism grew through innovation, with newcomers bringing creative new processes and techniques that destroyed the business of old incumbents." This is creative destruction. The Progressive movement of the early part of the 20th century rebelled against the railroad tycoons but understanding Schumpeter one could have just as easily said, "this too shall pass". Namely in a Hegelian sense each action has a reaction and a resolution. Rajan on pp 54-55 discusses the sometimes success of the old Soviet system. As I was wont to tell my Russian employees that I was trained in the Joe Stalin school of management, never fail, the results would be tragic!

Chapter 4 discusses the US and its "weak safety net" which is a double edged sword. We in the US have limited unemployment benefits. It is in many ways Darwinian in that it is also a force to drive people back to work or seek other alternatives. In Germany, where I ran one of my companies, you cannot fire anyone. It is impossible. That frankly is a barrier to entry for an entrepreneur. Only the large incumbents can work in such an environment. Rajan seems to vacillate between the benefits of the US approach and the need for more social benefits. He discusses the discretionary stimulus approach of the US where the Government chooses who to pay and who not to pay. These he alludes may be seen as political payoffs and may not in any substantial manner truly stimulate.

Chapter 7 is quite interesting. He opens the chapter, pp 124-125, with a simple explanation of the reasons for the collapse of the derivatives. Let me paraphrase:

Consider a company which buys a pool of ten mortgages, all most likely subprime. Now the chance of any one going under is 10%. That means on average only one of the 10 will not pay back. This does beg the question of what factual basis was used to determine this but alas that was left to Wall Street and the rating agencies. Now we create two tranches, bundles, one which get a great interest rate but bears the losses, and second which gets a lower but still good interest rate and has its losses hedged by the first tranche. This works well except that the model is wrong!

What really happens is a Markov chain where when the first guy goes bankrupt, then the probability of another going is not the same but higher, and when a second goes bust it goes even higher. This means that instead of the first tranche bearing all the risk, the risk is moved to the second tranche which never thought it would have any! And then an AIG insures the second, and we know that there is a high probability of at least a 50% loss, a number AIG would never have imagined. Dumb quants! Yes, and on pp 142-143 Rajan details the Trillin conjecture that the changes in Wall Street over the past 30 years resulted in the dumbest guys moving upward relative to the Merlin's mixing their brews in the quant rooms. Rajan rejects that conjecture somewhat but there is considerable truth in it...just look at some of the folks who left and ended up in Government.

Chapter 8 discussing the reforming of the financial world. On p 164 he details a suggestion which should be adopted, the altering of compensation to reflect the risk over time. In Chapter 9 he returns to how to improve things in the US and on p 189 he speaks of the major problem in secondary education, the lack of competent instructors. To teach in a public school you need an education degree. Even if you had a PhD, held faculty position in a half a dozen universities and taught for over twenty years you still needed to learn how to operate an overhead projector and prepare a lesson plan. Thus the lack of educational advantage he posits in Chapter 1 is in many ways a result of the teachers unions barriers to entry of competent folks. Yet he never takes that leap. On pp 192-193 he posits the expansions of unemployment and benefits. Here I would disagree. Just look at the results in Germany, Greece, and other countries. In Russia I could fire a bad employee in Greece he was there until the return of Homer!

Rajan overall does a superb job at presenting the problems, the continuing faults and discussing solutions and safeguards. He deals with facts and logic and he does not tell stories as is typical of the wandering journalist. This is worth a read and for some worth a detailed study.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rajan and The Market Failures: When Stuff Happens

Prof Rajan, Fault Lines, has written an interesting addition to the volumes on how we got where we are now. In Chapter 7 of the book he offers an interesting discussion on how judgment can be flawed.

Let me go thru the example:

Assume we have a pool of 10 mortgages. They may be good or bad but there they are. Now assume that we can assign a probability of 10% to failure on any one of them and each one has a possible $1 return. Then we can use simple Benrnoulli statistics to determine what the average return would be. The statistics are shown below and the return is $9.

Now this assumes that the probabilities of failure are independent and uncorrelated. Dumb assumption. They are not. When stuff happens things get sticky and the whole house of cards falls. Confidence, also the basis of high frequency trading, albeit a different time scale.

Now what really happens. Well most likely a Markov chain is created and then we have the following:

Say at the beginning we have with no failures a failure probability of 0.1.

Now we see the first failure, then the probability of failure for the remaining 9 is say 10% higher, or 0.11.

Now number two goes under, then what. We see the probability of failure for the remaining 8 as say 0,13. And so the failures occur the probability of the remaining failing goes up.

Now let us assume the same as before but we add a 10% increase in failure each time we have one. This is what it will look like:

Some difference would you not say. This frankly is what happened. Namely when things go bad they frequently get worse before they get better. People have learned about the bad and they impute it upon themselves. Ask any physician, when there is a news story about some deadly but rare disease with the patients come in with it. It is amazing how many Medical school students come down with Dengue Fever when they never left Boston!

So what is the result. We see that in the following two charts:

and the following:

The returns are no where what was expected. Why did the brilliant quants see this? Good question. Why did the traders not see it, well they were traders. What about the great management? Well on p 142 Rajan writes of the Trillin observation that the problem was that top management was just plain dumb. Perhaps. But it is clear that some one missed the ball.

Zebra Stripes, Melanoma and Alan Turing

Why do zebras have stripes, asked Alan Turing just before he died from self inflicted causes. The answer was, just at the time of Watson and Crick, because cells communicate with each other and turn genes on and off in an almost wave like fashion.

Two years ago we write a paper regarding flower patterns and used the term Turing Tessellation. This means that cells produce proteins in an epigenetic manner and the proteins directly or as a result of the control they have on other molecules, communicate cell to cell, and this is what causes flower patterns.

In a recent paper in Cell and reported in Medical News Today the authors show that in Melanoma the stem cell theory, namely that it is just one single cell that goes wild is proven wrong in melanoma. What happens simply is that the cells "communicate" a la Turing, and then when proteins which control malignant cells start flowing they set off a chain reaction a la Turing and as we had shown in a paper a few years ago. The cells pop up elsewhere. The metastasis is not from the single stem cell escaping but from the proteins going wild.

The reporter in Medical News Today writes:

Scientists at The Wistar Institute offer a new explanation for the persistent ability of melanoma cells to self-renew, one of the reasons why melanoma remains the deadliest form of skin cancer. The concept of the "dynamic stemness" of melanoma can explain why melanoma cells behave like both conventional tumor cells and cancer stem cells.

The researchers write in the May 14 issue of the journal Cell that - contrary to other published reports - melanoma does not appear to follow the hierarchic cancer stem cell model, where a single malignant "mother cell" both reproduces to produce new mother cells and differentiates to produce the bulk tumor population. Instead, all melanoma cells equally harbor cancer stem cell potential and are capable of inducing new tumors. Their findings reveal the unique biology of melanoma, and suggest that melanoma requires a new therapeutic approach.

They continue:

The present study arose when Roesch discovered a link between the potential of JARID1B to decrease proliferation of melanoma cells and control stemness. He decided to see whether JARID1B could be a marker of slow growing melanoma stem cells. Initially, the results were promising, he says. JARID1B-expressing cells were slow-growing (as stem cells often are), and rare, accounting for about 5 percent of the tumor population. "At this point we were really happy because we thought we had found a cancer stem cell marker," Roesch said.

But then, two unexpected results occurred. First, Roesch found that all melanoma cells were equally capable of initiating tumors in a mouse model, regardless of whether they expressed JARID1B or not. Second, he found that JARID1B expression did not conform to the traditional model of stem cell development - cells that expressed the gene could turn it off, and cells that didn't, could turn it on. In other words, the gene's expression was plastic, rather than stable. "Basically, our data suggest that every melanoma cell can serve as source for indefinite replenishment of the tumor," said Roesch.

Thus it is the cell to cell flow, the building and decaying of protein concentrations which set off the malignant melanocytes.

The Cell article summarizes the following key points:

  • The H3K4 demethylase JARID1B marks a subpopulation of slow-cycling melanoma cells
  • The JARID1B+ subpopulation is required for continuous tumor maintenance
  • Cells can lose or gain JARID1B expression and do not follow a stem cell hierarchy
  • Tumor initiation is not necessarily linked with tumor maintenance
This observation will undoubtedly change the "paradigm" in a Kuhn sense in viewing cancer. We have argued this for a few years now but it will take time for researchers to understand its implications in the full. For this we must thank Alan Turing.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

China, Iran and Nuclear Weapons

In China Daily today the former Chinese Ambassordor to Iran lays out the Chinese argument regarding Iran and nuclear weapons. Simply it is the US's problem because Germany, France, Russia, China and others have reliance upon Iranian oil.

Nuclear weapons are not important, so says China.

Specifically they state:

A war by the US or Israel against Teheran, which is likely to set the oil-rich Gulf ablaze, will cut down world energy supplies by 60 percent, fuel a rise in oil prices and plunge the global economy into a fresh crisis.

Given that a fast-growing China has become increasingly dependent on world energy supplies, it is thus in Beijing's strategic interests to maintain peace and stability in the Middle East, the Gulf, the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.It is China's top diplomatic priority to ease confrontation and defuse conflicts in a bid to prevent tensions over Iran's nuclear issue from escalating into a military confrontation.

The Gulf, yes, but what is this about the South China Seas? A threat? Likely.

They continue:

All major world powers except the US have huge strategic, energy related and economic interests in Iran.Iran serves as Russia's buffer in the south given that an independent and US-antagonistic Iran is in Moscow's interest in the context of the US-led eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Russia's security in its mostly Muslim-populated Caucasus region and Chechnya is closely related with Iran.

Moscow has also benefited from its cooperation with Iran on nuclear power construction and its export of airplanes, missiles and other sophisticated weapons to Teheran. In addition, a $630 million-worth Russian investment in Iran's South Pars gas field will also suffer in case new UN sanctions come into force.

The EU too cannot ignore Iran's economic and strategic importance to itself. Some 80 percent of the bloc's oil consumption depends on the Gulf.Since 1992, Germany, France, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands have successively joined in to exploit Iran's oil and gas fields.

The article ends with this "warning":

Since it took office, the US Obama administration has made efforts toward undoing its past unilateralism and improving ties with the Islamic country, including the policy of "unconditional engagement" with Teheran. However, the Obama administration cannot completely break away from the US' long-held strategy as a superpower and cannot accept peaceful coexistence with the Iranian regime.

As a permanent UN Security Council member, China holds an important say in Iran's nuclear issue. It enjoys good relations both with the US and Iran and thus does not want to offend either party. The US regards China's backing as a measure of Beijing's obligation as a responsible country while Iran sees China's resistance to UN sanctions as the test of long-praised good relations between the two countries.

China should, together with other members of the international community, come up with a viable formula to achieve a US-Iran compromise on the issue.

There really is no compromise to nuclear threat. The Kahn theory of mutual assured destruction works with a rational player on each side. It worked with Russia. It will not work with Iran. Thus what would China prefer to see, continued oil, or worse. The worse can be quite disturbing to all.

VAT Tax, the UK, and what it means to the US

There is talk of the VAT tax in the US. From the London Telegraph today they state:

One of the UK's best-known retailers, with sales of well over £10bn, is telling its overseas suppliers to start adjusting its price tags on clothing and other products to assume a VAT level of 20pc. The goods in question will hit the shops in February of next year.

Meanwhile the impact of a VAT increase on UK households is revealed in new research by The Sunday Telegraph showing that day-to-day living costs in the average home would rise by at least £216 a year if the rate was raised from 17.5pc to 20pc.

That means about $350 increase or for the US an increase of $2800 for the average family. VAT is a consumption tax and hits the poor quite hard. The rich can always find ways around it as they do in the UK.

Specifically the Telegraph states:

The potential impact of a VAT rise comes as experts have warned that financial plans by the coalition Government could leave some ordinary families £3,000 a year worse off.

Stephen Herring, tax partner at accountants BDO, said that a couple with two children, where one parent earned £50,000 a year and made a modest gain of £6,000 on the sale of shares or other assets, could be more than £2,000 worse off a year under expected new measures including changes to the capital gains tax (CGT) regime.

The potential impact of a VAT rise comes as experts have warned that financial plans by the coalition Government could leave some ordinary families £3,000 a year worse off.

Stephen Herring, tax partner at accountants BDO, said that a couple with two children, where one parent earned £50,000 a year and made a modest gain of £6,000 on the sale of shares or other assets, could be more than £2,000 worse off a year under expected new measures including changes to the capital gains tax (CGT) regime.

Thus it can be much greater than my simple calculation above. For example say you make $100,000 per year as a family, not bad but you live in New York. You pay $2000 Federal Tax, $12000 NY State and City tax, and you buy say $20,000 in goods and services. You pay 9% tax to the city and state and 20% VAT. That means you pay the $20,000 plus now it is really $24,000 but the 9% is now on the $24,000, not the $20,000!

What do you think will happen? Bangkok! Perhaps....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thomas Paine: The First Progressive

In the biography of Thomas Paine by the philosopher A. J. Ayer he speaks of Paine and his writings in his famous work, The Rights of Man, and being quite liberal. In fact upon reading it one would see it as Progressive.

To set the stage one should read the papers on the Progressive movement by the Center for American Progress. They are well written and present a good overview of the Progressive mindset, as stated by them:

The original Progressive Era is known primarily for two major developments in American politics:

• One, political reforms crafted to break up the power of privileged interests, such as expanded suffrage, direct primaries, direct election of senators, and the initiative and referendum process

• Two, economic reforms structured to counterbalance the excessive power of business and to fight inequality measures such as the graduated income and inheritance taxes, the right to organize and other labor protections, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, old age and disability provisions, food and drug safety laws, and conservation measures.

As a philosophical tradition, progressivism in its most complete form developed as a “new liberalism” for a new century—updating the American liberal tradition from its Jeffersonian, small-government, republican roots best suited for the agrarian economy of the nation’s founding era to a more democratic and modern liberalism capable of checking rising corporate power. The original progressives argued that changes in the economy’s organization required a more complete understanding of human freedom, equality, and opportunity that Jefferson championed so persuasively. Progressives believed that formal legal freedom alone—the negative protections against government intrusions on personal liberty—were not enough to provide the effective freedom necessary for citizens to fulfill their human potential in an age of rising inequality, paltry wages, and labor abuses.

They continue:

Writing at the height of the New Deal reform era, John Dewey explained the progressive view of liberty as a continuation of historic movements for human liberation:

Liberty in the concrete signifies release from the impact of particular oppressive forces; emancipation from something once taken as a normal part of human life but now experienced as bondage. At one time, liberty signified liberation from chattel slavery; at another time, release of a class from serfdom. During the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries it meant liberation from despotic dynastic rule. A century later it meant release of industrialists from inherited legal customs that hampered the rise of new forces of production. Today it signifies liberation from material insecurity and from the coercions and repressions that prevent multitudes from the participation in the vast cultural resources that are at hand.

Thus the Progressives believe that it is the role of the Government to care equitably for all others, a Rawlsian world of keeping balance amongst all people, taking from those who have and giving to those who do not. This "Government" makes the redistribution decisions.

Now Paine had written in a somewhat similar vein:

What were formerly called Revolutions, were little more than a change of persons, or an alteration of local circumstances. They rose and fell like things of course, and had nothing in their existence or their fate that could influence beyond the spot that produced them. But what we now see in the world, from the Revolutions of America and France, are a renovation of the natural order of things, a system of principles as universal as truth and the existence of man, and combining moral with political happiness and national prosperity.

"I. Men are born, and always continue, free and equal in respect of their rights. Civil distinctions, therefore, can be founded only on public utility.

"II. The end of all political associations is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man; and these rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance of oppression.

"III. The nation is essentially the source of all sovereignty; nor can any INDIVIDUAL, or ANY BODY OF MEN, be entitled to any authority which is not expressly derived from it."

In these principles, there is nothing to throw a Nation into confusion by inflaming ambition. They are calculated to call forth wisdom and abilities, and to exercise them for the public good, and not for the emolument or aggrandisement of particular descriptions of men or families. Monarchical sovereignty, the enemy of mankind, and the source of misery, is abolished; and the sovereignty itself is restored to its natural and original place, the Nation. Were this the case throughout Europe, the cause of wars would be taken away.

Paine then continues with his overall social program detailing the amounts, as they would be in 1789, and with classic detail as Paine was wont to do:

It is certain, that if the children are provided for, the parents are relieved of consequence, because it is from the expense of bringing up children that their poverty arises. Having thus ascertained the greatest number that can be supposed to need support on account of young families, I proceed to the mode of relief or distribution, which is, To pay as a remission of taxes to every poor family, out of the surplus taxes, and in room of poor-rates, four pounds a year for every child under fourteen years of age; enjoining the parents of such children to send them to school, to learn reading, writing, and common arithmetic; the ministers of every parish, of every denomination to certify jointly to an office, for that purpose, that this duty is performed. The amount of this expense will be, For six hundred and thirty thousand children at four pounds per annum each £2,520,000.

By adopting this method, not only the poverty of the parents will be relieved, but ignorance will be banished from the rising generation, and the number of poor will hereafter become less, because their abilities, by the aid of education, will be greater. Many a youth, with good natural genius, who is apprenticed to a mechanical trade, such as a carpenter, joiner, millwright, shipwright, blacksmith, etc., is prevented getting forward the whole of his life from the want of a little common education when a boy.

I now proceed to the case of the aged.

I divide age into two classes. First, the approach of age, beginning at fifty. Secondly, old age commencing at sixty.

At fifty, though the mental faculties of man are in full vigour, and his judgment better than at any preceding date, the bodily powers for laborious life are on the decline. He cannot bear the same quantity of fatigue as at an earlier period. He begins to earn less, and is less capable of enduring wind and weather; and in those more retired employments where much sight is required, he fails apace, and sees himself, like an old horse, beginning to be turned adrift.

At sixty his labour ought to be over, at least from direct necessity. It is painful to see old age working itself to death, in what are called civilised countries, for daily bread.

To form some judgment of the number of those above fifty years of age, I have several times counted the persons I met in the streets of London, men, women, and children, and have generally found that the average is about one in sixteen or seventeen. If it be said that aged persons do not come much into the streets, so neither do infants; and a great proportion of grown children are in schools and in work-shops as apprentices...

The persons to be provided for out of this gross number will be husbandmen, common labourers, journeymen of every trade and their wives, sailors, and disbanded soldiers, worn out servants of both sexes, and poor widows.

There will be also a considerable number of middling tradesmen, who having lived decently in the former part of life, begin, as age approaches, to lose their business, and at last fall to decay. Besides these there will be constantly thrown off from the revolutions of that wheel which no man can stop nor regulate, a number from every class of life connected with commerce and adventure.

To provide for all those accidents, and whatever else may befall, I take the number of persons
who, at one time or other of their lives, after fifty years of age, may feel it necessary or comfortable to be better supported, than they can support themselves, and that not as a matter of grace and favour, but of right, at one-third of the whole number, which is one hundred and forty thousand, as stated in a previous page, and for whom a distinct provision was proposed to be made. If there be more, society, notwithstanding the show and pomposity of government, is in a deplorable condition in England.

Of this one hundred and forty thousand, I take one half, seventy thousand, to be of the age of fifty and under sixty, and the other half to be sixty years and upwards. Having thus ascertained the probable proportion of the number of aged persons, I proceed to the mode of rendering their condition comfortable, which is:

To pay to every such person of the age of fifty years, and until he shall arrive at the age of sixty, the sum of six pounds per annum out of the surplus taxes, and ten pounds per annum during life after the age of sixty. The expense of which will be, Seventy thousand persons, at £6 per annum £420,000...

Paine includes 14 points which are worth reading side by side with the Progressive manifesto:

Having now finished this subject, I shall bring the several particulars into one view, and then
proceed to other matters. The first eight articles, mentioned earlier, are;

1. Abolition of two millions poor-rates.

2. Provision for two hundred and fifty-two thousand poor families, at the rate of four pounds per head for each child under fourteen years of age; which, with the addition of two hundred and fifty thousand pounds, provides also education for one million and thirty thousand children.

3. Annuity of six pounds (per annum) each for all poor persons, decayed tradesmen, and others (supposed seventy thousand) of the age of fifty years, and until sixty.

4. Annuity of ten pounds each for life for all poor persons, decayed tradesmen, and others (supposed seventy thousand) of the age of sixty years.

5. Donation of twenty shillings each for fifty thousand births.

6. Donation of twenty shillings each for twenty thousand marriages.

7. Allowance of twenty thousand pounds for the funeral expenses of persons travelling for work, and dying at a distance from their friends.

8. Employment at all times for the casual poor in the cities of London and Westminster.

9. Abolition of the tax on houses and windows.

10. Allowance of three shillings per week for life to fifteen thousand disbanded soldiers, and a proportionate allowance to the officers of the disbanded corps.

11. Increase of pay to the remaining soldiers of £19,500 annually.

12. The same allowance to the disbanded navy, and the same increase of pay, as to the army.

13. Abolition of the commutation tax.

14. Plan of a progressive tax, operating to extirpate the unjust and unnatural law of primogeniture, and the vicious influence of the aristocratical system. There yet remains, as already stated, one million of surplus taxes. Some part of this will be required for circumstances that do not immediately present themselves, and such part as shall not be wanted, will admit of a further reduction of taxes equal to that amount.

If one were to read Paine in some detail and recognize that this was written over 220 years ago, he would be viewed as an extreme left wing radical. However unlike many such current radicals Paine did the numbers as well.

In view of the many who have attached onto the early Paine, perhaps they should also look at the later Paine and see where his thinking had gone. Of course this was written when he was in France during its revolution which was one of the greatest redistribution events of mankind.