Prince Andrei (in War and Peace), who is falling in love with Natasha, is talking with her sister Vera:
“Yes, that is true, Prince. In our days,” continued Vera–mentioning “our days” as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining that they have discovered and appraised the peculiarities of “our days” and that human characteristics change with the times–“in our days a girl has so much freedom that the pleasure of being courted often stifles real feeling in her.” (emphasis added)
Bingo, Leo Tolstoy! I have often observed people writing or speaking about “these days” but equally or more often about “this country” or “this society” as if they had conducted a vast comparative study. Frequently you will hear people talking about some unfortunate characteristic that is pretty much universal across space and time and attributing it the “modern American society” or simply “our society.” Few of these, I’m pretty sure, have either spent a lot of time in other societies or made a serious study thereof, nor have many of them conducted extensive historical research about other eras.
I’ll give the floor to Gilbert and Sullivan, whose Lord High Executioner was looking forward to doing away with:
The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone
All centuries but this, and every country but his own
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on April 30th, 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Little noticed by many, but SpaceX has moved another step towards a Mars landing (from Nasa Spaceflight).
SpaceX has entered into an agreement with NASA for a Dragon mission to Mars, set to take place as early as 2018. Known as “Red Dragon”, the variant of the Dragon 2 spacecraft will be launched by the Falcon Heavy rocket, ahead of a soft landing on the surface of Mars. The mission is also part of an agreement with NASA to gain further data on Mars landings.
Getting mankind to Mars was the original purpose for the creation of SpaceX. Everything they have done, from building the Falcon rocket to creating the commercial launch service, has been to lay the technological and financial foundation for putting people on Mars, permanently. The next developmental step is to build and test the Falcon Heavy, a three booster version of the Falcon rocket.
Falcon Heavy will generate over 5 million pounds of thrust from 27 Merlin engines (9 engines x 3 cores) and have a payload of 119,000 lb to LEO and 30,000 lb to Trans-Mars Injection orbit (TMI) and 26,000 lb direct to Mars. Launch cost, minus payload, is expected to be around $90 million. According to Elon Musk, “Falcon Heavy will carry more payload to orbit or escape velocity than any vehicle in history, apart from the Saturn V moon rocket.” Falcon Heavy is expected to debut this year and make its maiden voyage from Vandenberg AFB. According to their agreement with the USAF, certification to carry national security payloads will occur after 3 successful flights and 2 successful consecutive flights.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on April 30th, 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
What I found interesting:
Daesh/ISIS does not resonate with many young Arabs except in the wealthy GCC countries. It has the weakest support in the areas where it is most active. Reason: In the Levant and Yemen, they have to live with it. In the GCC it is merely an ideological position, a virtue signal.
Friday night bike ride.
It appeared like a vision,
Posted by Michael Kennedy on April 30th, 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Earlier in the year, I predicted that a preference cascade is forming around Trump.
“This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related
issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.
We are in a similar period right now. No one wants to put a Trump bumper sticker on their car because it seems an invitation to vandalism.
Siva is accused of slashing the tires of a Ford Focus and pouring yogurt into the car’s open sunroof while it was parked at a Gig Harbor Fred Meyer.
Police say Siva told them he attacked the vehicle because of the Trump sticker on the rear bumper. Siva allegedly told police he considered the sticker a “hate symbol” and vandalizing the car “improved the community.”
The victim of the crime is considered to be at fault because his bumper sticker was a “hate symbol.”
Posted by Grurray on April 29th, 2016 (All posts by Grurray)
Yesterday, the GDP figures were released for the first quarter of the year, and they showed that the economy is flatlining. We grew at only a pitiful 0.5%. Much of it was caused by a huge decline in business investment, which saw the biggest monthly drop since the recession.
This is mostly blamed on the troubles in the oil and gas industry, but output in other areas of the economy also showed weakness. Factory orders dropped and have remained flat the past several months. Car sales plummeted 2.1% last month, their biggest drop in a year. With gas prices low this is the one thing we should see rising. The car industry stumbling means there may be some other underlying problems.
The conventional wisdom, on the other hand, views this as just a blip. The winter season in the post-recession era has usually been the weakest time of year only to be followed by a rebound into the rest of the year. The exception was 2012 where the high hopes at the start gave way to the rising probability of an Obama reelection. The economic shock spread during the year, and the traditional holiday hangover came a little early in the wake of the electoral wreckage. This year, with the jobs market expected to stay strong and the Fed signaling it will put the brakes on further interest rate increases, the economy is seen bouncing back as the rough waters give way to the calm port.
It may very well turn out that way for all I know. My crystal ball has been a little foggy lately, so I wouldn’t venture a guess either way. However, there may be some other causes for concern further down the road. This week the McKinsey Institute just issued a research report on the stock market, ominously titled, Diminishing returns: Why investors may need to lower their expectations. In it they provide a detailed analysis of why the next 30 years will see lower stock market returns than the previous few decades.
Now admittedly, most analysts’ forecast for the next 30 days can usually be attributed to luck. A forecast for the next 30 years probably isn’t something you want to bet the whole farm on. A small corner of the barn maybe, but I would save the rest of the homestead to see how things actually unfold.
The report lays out in detail why the oversized returns between 1985 and 2015 were possible, and the reasons they say are because of four factors: low interest rates, low inflation, high productivity from technological advances, and favorable demographics from emerging markets entering the global economy. Nothing controversial there. The first three elements increased profit margins, and the last one provided cash influxes, which kept interest rates low, which in turn increased the others. Virtuous cycle – wash, rinse, repeat. They also include some calculations, but the self-evidence is apparent enough.
The wrench in the works is going to be the fact that those elements won’t have the effect that they once had. Interest rates are already rock bottom, and in some cases even below that. Squeezing more out of low yields is going to be tougher and tougher. In 1980 inflation was 13% and interest rates were 20%. Now they’re currently at 1.6% and 0.5% respectively. There’s nowhere to go but up. Sideways is always a possibility, but we’re still in the same boat. That won’t drive future growth either like it once did.
Demographic growth may still hold up. There’s still a whole lot of world out there with the potential to drive a modern global economy. The question is will they be capable of replicating what we saw in the recent past with hundreds of millions of Chinese rising out of the Maoist ashes and into the middle class? Any new emerging markets will have a lot more work to do. The report points out that the countries with the largest economies have seen slowing population growth, and that will continue to decelerate
In Western Europe, aging is more striking than in the United States. In France, for example, the share of the working-age population is expected to decline from 63 percent to 58 percent over the next 20 years. In Germany, the fertility rate has exceeded replacement rate in only seven of the past 50 years. Employment has already peaked in Germany, and its labor pool could shrink by up to one-third by 2064. Until the 2015 influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere, the German population was expected to shrink by as much as 0.3 percent per year over the next 20 years.
Germany has decided to address their demographic collapse by welcoming in an unproductive culture. Either way they haven’t much left to contribute in preventing the forecasted shortfall.
McKinsey does hold out hope for some technological breakthroughs which could pick up the slack in productivity. Whatever it may be, they say it will need to have a bigger impact than the previous computer and internet revolutions because of the other headwinds. The best scenario would be in some combination with fast growing emerging market or industry. The problem with that happening is now that taxes and regulation are increasing, companies involved in fast growing sectors will tend to want to stay private, so equity returns will be elusive for only a select few.
Interestingly, one sector highlighted that will benefit from higher interest rates is insurance companies. The era of low to zero interest rates has made it difficult for them to make any money on annuities. Their annuities pay out guaranteed yields to customers, but ZIRP and NIRP keep profits low. Fixed income annuities in which insurers bear most of the risk will benefit from higher yields.
However, variable annuities where the customers share the risk have more exposure to equities, so they would be vulnerable to the lower growth/lower returns environment. Providers of variable annuities along with other asset managers will need to adjust their investment strategies:
To confront this, asset managers may have to rethink their investment offerings. One option would be for them to include more alternative assets such as infrastructure and hedge funds in the portfolios they manage. Such alternative assets already account for about 15 percent of assets under management globally today.
To chase returns, investors will be forced into riskier assets, possibly with dubious intentions, i.e. government boondoggles otherwise known as shovel ready infrastructure projects. We may already be seeing something like this with the imminent government takeover of financial advisors
The Department of Labor dealt a bit of a surprise blow to fixed indexed annuities in the final iteration of its rule, issued Wednesday, by lumping the annuities into a more complex and costly regulatory regime than they have presently, representing an about-face from the department’s original proposal.
Just like Obamacare pushes out the small to medium firms that can provide much needed innovation in order to capture the market, the new DOL fiduciary rules will push out small to medium sized advisors to replace them with automated puppets that will be programed to herd investors into investing in government programs.
There’s a good reason the Obama Administration is currently fighting so hard to keep these rules. It’s a template for taking over other industries. And with that it’s another impediment to productivity growth and innovation which reinforces the grim forecast of diminishing returns by McKinsey.
Posted by Trent Telenko on April 28th, 2016 (All posts by Trent Telenko)
Back in January 2016 there was a lot of speculation over whether Pres. Obama would pardon Former Sec of State Hillary Clinton for E-Mail/Server-gate, (See Google Link ).
Now that Trump has the GOP nomination well in hand with a preference cascade in the North East (See MSNBC video link), Trump has said Hillary should be prosecuted for E-Mail/Server-gate, and that Democratic strategist Dave “Mudcat” Saunders is telling the Daily Caller Trump Will Beat Hillary Like ‘A Baby Seal’. It is time to again ask the questions:
1. When Will Obama Pardon Hillary? and
2. For What Crimes?
I suspect, whatever the answers to those two questions are, after January 2017 GOP Congressional committee chairmen will call her in to testify under oath, in hopes of catching her in a perjury trap.
The novel Once An Eagle (also made into a TV miniseries) tells the story of two American army officers, across a time span ranging from the First World War to the interwar years to World War II and beyond. Sam Damon is a farm boy who has worked his way up in rank: he is committed to accomplishing his assigned missions and looking out for the survival and well-being of the men under his command. Courtney Massengale is a West Point graduate with something of an upper-class background: he seeks out higher rank through political maneuvering, prefers Staff to Line assignments, and has little concern for subordinates. The book is widely-read and highly-regarded in U.S. military circles.
In the story’s climactic scene, Sam is commanding a division destined to participate in an attack on a Japanese-held island. He is not thrilled to find that his division has been placed under the command of Courtney–now a three-star general and corps commander despite having spent his entire career in staff roles. He is even less thrilled when he hears Courtney’s plan for the invasion–“PALLADIUM”–which is in Sam’s judgment far too complex to succeed in actual combat conditions.
The Japanese launch their counterattack while Sam’s division is in a highly vulnerable state, in the midst of the turning maneuver required by the Palladium plan. And the reserve unit which could have saved the situation has been redeployed by Courtney so that he can have the honor of being the first American general to capture a Japanese-held city intact. While Sam is leading a desperate fight for the survival of his division, Courtney is riding in triumph through the town of Reina Blanca.
Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale are endpoints on a spectrum, of course; few real people are as good as Sam or as bad as Courtney. But still, it seems to be useful to ask the following question:
What is the mix of Damon vs Massengale in each of our current presidential candidates and among other members of our national leadership?
From an astute commentary by Robert Salisbury, former Leader of the House of Lords. Almost all of the essay applies as well to the USA and other western countries.
Our own country is caught by all this, as it was in the first half of the 19th Century and in the middle decades of the 20th. We were able to adapt to survive: in the 19th by extending the franchise and in the 20th by expanding public services and mass prosperity. As a result British governments regained the authority to govern. They did so by reforming the institutions of representative government the country already had, thereby responding to the demands of an electorate emboldened and liberated by technological change.
Today, governments are once again losing the authority to govern, and for similar reasons. Another major financial crisis might lose them it completely; but a new crisis might not even be needed. Whitehall’s failure to control immigration, its puny efforts to tackle the housing question, the feebleness of our defences, the incompetence of our transport and energy policies might, whether jointly or severally, tip us over.
In the past, the country has been sustained in times of crisis by a solid body of electors who felt they had an interest in the existing structures which kept them, on the whole, safe and relatively prosperous. That body’s support is no longer so solid. The IT revolution is largely responsible. The speed of communications make governments and Parliamentary procedures look flat-footed. Increasingly the public is at least as well-informed as the Whitehall departments who are telling them what to do. It is virtually impossible to keep anything secret and anyone who betrays a confidence is regarded as heroic. The more rules we have, the more the public feels they are used as a means of flouting their spirit.
Worst of all, social media stimulate one issue politics and make the simple solution credible. You and I know that competent administration is boring and usually demands compromises. We also know that effective legislation needs careful preparation, much internal and external debate, a mind-numbing command of detail and a lively warning mechanism against the law of unintended consequences. The same applies to parliamentary scrutiny.
Any sensible electorate would be only too pleased to delegate this necessary day-to-day grunt to a Whitehall and Westminster it trusted and, although interested and argumentative, get on with the rest of its life.
Sadly, that is not where we are.
The candidacies of Trump and Sanders are in large part responses to public concerns about the problems Salisbury describes. They are inadequate responses, likely to fail politically and on their own terms and eventually to be superseded by other responses. The pot will continue to boil at greater or lesser intensity depending on who gets elected and what follows. It seems unlikely that the underlying problems will begin to be solved unless the voters develop a realistic understanding of what needs to be done, and start electing politicians who are both willing and competent to do it. It may be a while.
I’m currently doing background work on creating an oversight site for the White House press briefings. It’s an interesting, small project with the potential for outsized visibility because of who it is aimed at and will be covering. But there’s a good bit of research that needs to be answered before a site goes up:
1. I don’t know what all the stakeholders in the White House Press Briefing consider to be a successful press conference.
2. I don’t know who asks good questions.
3. I don’t know what constitutes a good question, or a good answer.
4. I don’t know how to get a day pass.
5. I don’t know how to get a hard pass.
6. I don’t know who shows up.
7. I don’t know how question opportunities are distributed.
8. I don’t know how it all matters to the task of informing the public.
If you’ve got insight into these questions or additions I should put on my research agenda, please let me know in comments.
Just found this
(From the second collection of the Luna City Chronicles, which I hope to bring out early next month, and will be taking orders for as soon as I have a cover completed. The second collection concerns the long-sought-after Mills Treasure, and the movie being shot on location, and features the usual cast of Lunaites, plus a bad-tempered and notoriously unsuccessful treasure hunter, a suspect movie production company, and an old friend of Richard, the runaway celebrity chef, tracking him to his current location.)
The Age of Aquarius Campground and Goat Farm celebrates their 48th anniversary this year at mid-summer – a well-established institution after a rocky beginning during the Summer of Love. And rocky would be the correct term to describe the original property; five forlorn and overgrown acres in a gentle bend of the San Antonio River, a bare quarter-mile from the pleasant little town of Luna City. The property was in the distant past, a part of a generous tract granted by Spain to Don Diego Manuel Hernando Ruiz y Gonzalez or Gonzales. Over the last quarter of the 19th century, much of the tract was sold off to various new owners, including the family of Morgan P. Sheffield, a moderately well-to-do gentleman from Philadelphia. Morgan Sheffield was diagnosed with tuberculosis around 1895 and advised to move to a more temperate climate for his health.
While the climate of South Texas proved to be restorative to Mr. Sheffield’s health, the five acres of land was too rocky to farm in a traditional manner and too small to support more than a handful of cows. When the town of Luna City itself was planned, there was some thought given to establishing a hotel and spa on what was undoubtedly a pleasant situation on the banks of the San Antonio River on the outskirts of the proposed town, as attempts to dig a deep well on the site struck a thermal spring of naturally hot water. Unfortunately, that was the last of that run of good luck for nearly seventy years. The San Antonio & Aransas Pass Railroad bypassed Luna City and Mr. Sheffield’s property. The hotel and spa were never built and the hot water well capped. During the 1930s, Mr. Sheffield’s heirs established a small motor court on the property, in the hopes of attracting vacationers; they built a row of small cottages, a combination bathhouse/lavatory built of concrete blocks, and paved areas for travel trailers, in the hopes of enticing travelers on Route 123 between San Antonio and the coast to come and stay for a night or two. However, travelers and campers remained stubbornly un-enticed; the cottages disintegrated through a combination of cheap construction, disuse, and lack of maintenance. The acreage became severely overgrown.
In 1967 the property passed into the ownership of Morgan P. Sheffield’s great-grand-niece, Judith “Judy” Stillwell, a native of Austin, mostly because no one else in the remaining family really wanted it. Judith Stillwell was then a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, and the despair of her upright and generally conventional middle-class family. 1968 was the so-called Summer of Love, and all things counter-culture swamped practically every college campus in the land – affecting students like Judy Stillwell and a circle of friends, which included her live-in boyfriend, Sefton Grant. They embraced practically every ‘ism’ going, with near-religious fervor; vegetarianism, pacifism, nudism, paganism, and small-c communism. At the beginning of summer vacation, Judy, Sefton and a group of about forty other devotees – most of them fellow students at UT – conceived a grand plan to establish a New Age commune, where they would all live in harmony with nature. Where to plant their ideal Age of Aquarius? Why of course, the parcel which Judy had inherited, sight unseen, would be perfect. Her family agreed, over considerable misgivings – although they did extract as a condition of their approval and initial monetary support – that she and Sefton marry. Much to the astonishment of the Stillwells, Judy and Sefton acceded to that demand, and were married before a Justice of the Peace within days.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Mitch Townsend on April 22nd, 2016 (All posts by Mitch Townsend)
The Chemical Group
These substances benefit the central nervous system, causing it to speed up, slow down, or cross the median strip and flip over. They include:
1. the Alcohol family
2. the Tobacco family
3. the Pharmaceutical family
Because the vitamins from this group are not stored in the body, daily consumption of one or more servings is recommended. Some pharmaceuticals (aspirin, Maalox, etc.) are useful in reducing the side effects of other members of the chemical group and permitting more frequent and thorough use of them.
Firearms and explosives are often associated with this group and are actually regulated by the same federal agency, but they are rarely consumed.
The Grease Group
This is the main part of a healthy diet. You should include five or more servings from this group in your daily intake. Examples include the three C’s of chips (also a good source of salt), chocolate, and cheese. Otherwise objectionable substances such as vegetables can be rendered harmless by dipping them in batter and deep-frying, converting them to healthful grease. Many ethnic favorites, such as Wisconsin-style cheese curds, are prepared according to this method, which enhances their nutritional value. There is considerable overlap with the sugar group, especially in baked goods. Pizza, cheeseburgers, and onion rings also contain good amounts of grease. Chocolate, in the form of chocolate candy, is the queen of all grease, participating as well in the sugar group. White chocolate, it must be conceded, is greasy and sugary. However, it is a pale imitation. It bears the same relationship to real chocolate as phone sex to sex.
The Sugar Group
Another foundation of a healthy lifestyle, sugar is prized by humans and quadrupeds (especially horses) alike, attesting to its natural beneficial properties. Although commonly derived from plants (sugar cane and sugar beets), it is processed to chemical purity as a disaccharide (C12 H22 O11) to the point that its vegetable origin is irrelevant. The sugar group can be usefully sub-categorized as candy (licorice, chocolate, mints, etc.), baked goods (donuts, brownies, Twinkies, Ding Dongs), frozen (ice cream, Milky Way bars), or condiment (hot fudge sauce, maple syrup, plain sugar). Quickly and easily digested, it is a primary source of nourishment.
The Salt Group
Aside from chips, which are properly considered members of the grease family, salt is present in many baked goods such as pretzels. Putting salt on the rim of a margarita glass is a pleasant way to get part of your daily alcohol, and there is not usually enough lime in the mix to be a problem. The nice thing about salt is that it can be sprinkled on nearly everything. Try adding a teaspoon of salt to your blob of ketchup when dipping your french fries.
The Caffeine Group
Although scientifically considered to be part of the chemical group, caffeine delivery systems form such an important part of a healthy lifestyle that they are afforded their own category. Foremost in this group is coffee, plain and simple, and all its derivative forms: lattes, espresso, cappuccino, pousse-cafe’, cafe’ au lait, Irish coffee, and so many more delights. Adding grease in the form of cream and sugar only improves it. The abomination of decaffeinated coffee should not be discussed in polite company. Soda (regional nomenclature varies; pop, tonic, and co-cola are known to be used) often includes generous portions of sugar as well as caffeine. Jolt Cola, the favorite of coders, is especially good, containing extra caffeine, sugar, carbonated water, and mysterious “flavors.” Tea, and its chai derivations, is a junior member of this group. It is sometimes favored by interesting women but is otherwise unremarkable.
… Must be the LGTBYTUVXYZ activist and alleged Christian minister who bought a specially-decorated cake from the Whole Foods store in Austin, and tried to claim that a disparaging message had been iced upon it. The shock, the horror and all of this devastating experience (Devastating, I tell you!) led him to post at length on YouTube, hire a mouthpiece and alert The Media! Very shortly afterwards. So shortly, I reckon it was done at something close to light-speed as the social media cycle goes these days.
Sigh. This in Austin, and at Whole Foods. I can only guess that an HEB bakery counter was just too infra dig, and any Christian-owned bakeries were just too damn far out in the suburbs, and like ick! Straight and white people cooties! Like – he would have to have driven simply miles to have found a commercial bakery outlet which would have delivered a product absolutely guaranteed to live up to all those sweaty social justice warrior fantasies. So pick on Whole Foods … where a video rundown of the staff likely would have looked like the sequence of Roger de Bris’ stage crew in the remake of The Producers.
Brilliant, guy – simply brilliant. And Whole Foods is going to sue; all props to them for not caving.
There may be real hate crimes being perpetuated in these somewhat United States, but anyone paying attention to news reports of them usually must conclude that if they have not been faked outright by the so-called victim, it’s some curious circumstance that has been wildly misinterpreted by hysterics. Discuss.
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on April 19th, 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Can the president decree that a US law be ignored or even reversed if it advances his party’s political agenda? If so, is that not legislating from the Oval Office?
The US Constitution, Article I, Section I: All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
If the president can grant deportation relief to 5 million immigrants here illegally – for whatever reason – what law cannot be reversed? What law has any meaning?
And what does it say about the current ideological makeup of the court that half the justices think this is a valid and legal course of action for a president? And assuming that Hillary is our next president and will appoint at least one far left justice, what is the likelihood the Constitution means anything at all anymore? Are we moving into the endgame, the first tentative steps of dictatorship, fully blessed and sanctified by the US Supreme Court?
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on April 18th, 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
It’s steps like this that move the space program forward. Notice this wasn’t done by NASA or ULA or the ESA. It was done by a private company that didn’t exist 15 years ago. 37 minutes, including the launch, recovery of the 1st stage, and deployment of the Dragon capsule.
BTW, very cool to me that Spacex did not require the help of a traditional media company for any of this. And it’s actually much better than anything they typically produce. In addition, the people in this video are in the Hawthorne, California, SpaceX facility where these rockets are designed and produced. They designed and built this rocket. And they’re watching it perform almost real time. How amazing is that?
One of the early developmental tests: GRASSHOPPER 325M HOP | SINGLE CAMERA (HEXACOPTER)
Here’s a story about some Silicon Valley tech workers protesting outside a Hillary Clinton event co-hosted by a venture capitalist and George Clooney. One might expect that these people are protesting Clinton because their political preferences lean toward the Libertarian or Conservative side. But then, one would be wrong.
They are mostly Sanders supporters. And they feel oppressed by the industry that they are in, and especially by the VCs who fund the companies where they work. Here’s the complaint of a 26-year-old software engineer:
“They sell you a dream at startups – the ping-pong, the perks – so they can pull 80 hours out of you. But in reality the venture capitalists control all the capital, all the labor, and all the decisions, so yeah, it feels great protesting one.”
“Tech workers are workers, no matter how much money they make,” said another guy, this one a PhD student at Berkeley.
Now, one’s first instinct when reading this story–at least my first instinct–is to feel contempt for these whiners. Most of them are far better off financially than the average American, even after adjusting for the extremely high costs of living in the Bay area. And no one forced any of them to work at startups, where the pressures are well-known to be extreme. They could have chosen IT jobs at banks or retailers or manufacturing companies or government agencies in any of a considerable number of cities.
Looked at from a broader perspective, though, the story reminded me of something Peter Drucker wrote almost 50 years ago:
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on April 17th, 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
The F-35B reached initial operational capability (IOC) with US Marine Corps in July of 2015. There are three models of this aircraft, the conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35A which will reach IOC with the USAF this year, the short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) F-35B, and the folding wing, heavy airframe, carrier version F-35C, which is due to reach IOC with the USN in 2018. Evolved from the JSF competition prototype, this aircraft is due to replace the F-15, F-16, F-18, AV-8B, and for some CAS missions the A-10, although there are rumors the USAF is considering opening a competition to replace the A-10 with a new aircraft.
Currently the aircraft is nearing the end of the test and evaluation phase and is in low-rate initial production. Lockheed is preparing to ramp up to full rate production in the near future at its massive Fort-Worth aircraft plant. To say this aircraft is controversial is an understatement and it has been the target of enormous criticism, speculation and western leftist and Russian disinformation campaigns. Probably the most egregious lie told is that $1.5 trillion has been spent on aircraft development thus far. In reality, around $1 trillion is the estimated total cost of ownership for the entire US buy of 2500+ aircraft for 50 years. That includes purchasing all the aircraft, bases, schools, pilot training, tech training, maintenance and spare parts. Politics and disinformation warfare being what it is though, the number increases whenever convenient just to increase its scariness and to make it seem as astounding as possible. It turns out, however and unsurprisingly, that if those numbers are run for any fighter aircraft you get similar or greater costs over that timeframe.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on April 17th, 2016 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The coming doctor shortage that I have previously written about might be dealt with as Canada did with theirs some years ago, by importing foreign medical graduates. Britain has adopted a similar plan as thousands of younger doctors plan to leave Britain.
How is the plan to import foreign doctors working out ?
Nearly three-quarters of doctors struck off the medical register in Britain are foreign, according to shocking figures uncovered in a Mail on Sunday investigation.
Medics who trained overseas have been banned from practising for a series of shocking blunders and misdemeanours.
Cases include an Indian GP who ran an immigration scam from his surgery, a Ghanaian neurosurgeon who pretended he had removed a patient’s brain tumour, and a Malaysian doctor who used 007-style watches to secretly film intimate examinations with his female patients.
First of all, foreign medical schools are often limited in real experience and students often graduate with nothing beyond classroom lectures.
Often people focus on the “loud” items and miss the subtle, important events that really change the world. On the positive side, the 401(k) plan has that obscure name because a financial expert basically “invented” it out of a line in the tax code which enabled tax-deferred savings. And Jack Bogle of Vanguard did the same thing with “passive” investing, which reduced fees and for practical purposes has taken over the investing world (along with ETFs).
One very subtle item that is about to occur is the nationalization of state debt (and likely debts of individual cities) by the federal government. At the highest level, states and cities have made promises (mainly pensions) to their employees that are un-payable without raising taxes to extortionate rates. Detroit cracked first but since it was a city and there was some state framework they were able to use bankruptcy, but many more are to follow, including Puerto Rico (right now) and soon thereafter likely the City of Chicago or its teachers’ pensions as well as the state of Illinois.
A very similar event occurred in Europe when the ECB basically put the debts of Greece and Portugal onto the backs of taxpayers in Germany and Holland. The ECB had a moment (several moments, actually) when they could have fundamentally changed how Greece ran their economy, shutting down statist laws and heavy governmental interference in the economy to open up competition and growth, but they blinked and instead just “wired them money in exchange for promises”. The Greeks, of course, haven’t kept their promises, and why should they, given that the ECB continually blinks when the showdown occurs.
The reason that these states and territories like Puerto Rico are in dire straits is because they
1. Spend more money than they make every year,
2. Rely on borrowing to pay for operating expenses,
3. Have giant, unfunded liabilities on top of this that can never be repaid (pensions, medical bills, etc…).
This situation is enabled by a governing class that views funds as an opportunity to redistribute wealth to favored constituents and relies on “fairness” as a bedrock of their planning. The apex of this sort of planning can be seen in crony capitalist states like Brazil, where large enterprises like the National Oil Company (partially on the stock market, partially owned by the state) are used to fund politicians and social programs and are systematically diverted away from their core mission (to make money) until the enterprises are bled almost totally dry. Then, ironically, the state has to bail out the very companies that were supposed to provide for the socialistic wealth in the first place.
The CORE issue is – if you give these sorts of entities money (bailout) without a “root and branch” cleaning of the issues – you will just get more of the same, indefinitely, as their individually painful debts become part of the larger national (or pan-European) debt, which continues the little game of overspending and wasting money on favored political groups for a little longer (maybe a couple years, maybe longer).
The slippery slope – the trigger – is occurring right now in Puerto Rico. That entire economy is corrupt and ridden with subsidies from electricity to taxes to everything else. For Puerto Rico to thrive, it would need to break down barriers to private enterprise, reduce taxes, levies and bureaucracy, and find some way to bring logical industry into their jurisdiction. However, the more likely course is as follows:
1. Point out the current individuals suffering from a lack of funding (the poor, kids in school, the elderly),
2. Note that the debt which was once owned by individuals was bought up by hedge funds for a fraction of its original value – these funds are in a position to fight (legally and politically) for repayment and although they may be termed “vultures” or something else, they really are the last man standing for individuals who lack the means to fight legally for their rights,
3. Use the political system to “promise” reforms that will never be carried out (because why would you if you can use funds to enable the current system to thrive),
4. Talk about the retirees, and “promises” made to them over the years that cannot be paid, and how they can’t go back to the work force and earn more money so that they have to be made whole,
5. Use political or class warfare to point out the groups that run Washington don’t look like the groups that are broke and make it a fairness issue or tied to some century plus grievance.
It is very likely that these tactics will “work” and that the debts of Puerto Rico will be backstopped by the US government. While this technically isn’t a “bailout”, it absolutely is, because Puerto Rico can’t borrow one dollar on their own anymore (who would lend money to someone who says they won’t pay you back?), and we know that without major reform (which won’t happen) Puerto Rico will just continue to bleed money indefinitely (and fall back on fairness arguments and the above listed tactics to ensure that this keeps happening).
Then soon after this subtle bailout (and likely before Puerto Rico fails AGAIN, which will happen again as it will with Detroit), entities of Illinois or the state itself will drive straight through this loophole and federalize their debt, too. The state and entities will make lavish promises about change that will never occur, because this is the lifeblood of the Democratic Party (patronage workers and the public sector) and all of the clout / featherbedding / etc… will continue on indefinitely, without any of the sorts of laws that enable competition.
Watch the headlines… see this occur… it will be seismic in its long-term nature, because it will fundamentally change the nature of the US government, since the debts of the states and cities will become everyone’s debt and we don’t have any “real” tools to govern their behavior or fix the long-term promises that destroy competitiveness and economic growth.
This is the real story, it is happening under our noses, and instead of paying attention we are following these idiotic presidential campaigns of pure vapor.
Cross posted at LITGM
(originally published in 2010 and now an April perennial)
Chevy Chase, MD, is an affluent suburb of Washington DC. Median household income is over $200K, and a significant percentage of households have incomes that are much, much higher. Stores located in Chevy Chase include Tiffany & Co, Ralph Lauren, Christian Dior, Versace, Jimmy Choo, Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Saks-Jandel.
PowerLine observed that during the 2008 election season, yards in Chevy Chase were thick with Obama signs–and wondered (in 2009) how these people were now feeling about the prospect of sharp tax increases for people in their income brackets.
The PowerLine guys are very astute, but I think they missed a key point on this one. There are substantial groups of people who stand to benefit financially from the policies of the Obama and company, and these benefits can greatly outweigh the costs of any additional taxes that these policies require them to pay. Many of the residents of Chevy Chase–a very high percentage of whom get their income directly or indirectly from government activities–fall into this category.
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