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  • Archive for February, 2017

    Some Thoughts on Trump, Free Trade, and Horses

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th February 2017 (All posts by )

    A friend sent a link to a leaked, recorded conversation between Trump and Wilbur Ross, his nominee for Commerce Secretary. There is nothing particularly troubling in the conversation. Trump is talking like Trump. He is the same person in public and in private, which is nice.

    I responded:

    Sounds good to me.  A tariff is a consumption tax collected at the port of entry.  The American founders expected to fund the operations of the national government with revenue from a tariff, and it worked.  He is also right that the Japanese and other countries use safety regulations as non-tariff import barriers.  There is nothing bad on here at all.  

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Culture, Economics & Finance, History, Politics, Public Finance, Taxes, Trump | 20 Comments »

    The Boom/Bust Cycle Isn’t about Emotion

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 27th February 2017 (All posts by )

    My first experience with manias was in the 1950’s. As a pre-schooler, I was dragged along to the Filene’s Basement annual designer dress sale. Thousands of women of all types and sizes pressed against the glass doors opening into the subway station. Within minutes of the doors opening, these “maniacs” cleared all the racks and, holding armfuls of dresses, began stripping to their slips. That’s when I panicked.

    Looking back, those women acted rationally. There was a limited supply of deeply discounted dresses available on a first come basis. They traded among themselves to get the right size and their most desired dress. Buyer’s remorse was cushioned by Filene’s liberal return policy.

    The premise of U.S. financial regulation is that actors within private markets are irrational, but the evidence shows that it’s not maniacal, illogical behavior that sends markets into freefall.

    Great Depression and Recession

    Now in its seventh edition, Manias, Panics and Crashes: A History of Financial Crises, Charles Kindleberger’s seminal work provides the narrative that underlies virtually all public financial protection and regulation: First, the irrational exuberance of individuals transforms into “mob psychology” and fuels an asset bubble. Then, when the exuberance of a few turns to fear, the mob panics and overreacts, causing a crash that brings down both solvent and insolvent financial institutions.

    In his memoir, the former Federal Reserve Bank President and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was at the epicenter of the last crisis, concluded, “It began with a mania — the widespread belief that devastating financial crises were a thing of the past, that future recessions would be mild, that gravity-defying home prices would never crash to earth.”  

    Most U.S. federal financial regulation originates from the Great Depression and the subsequent introduction of federal deposit insurance provided by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which was established in 1933 to protect “small” savers. All prior state attempts to provide insurance failed. Because there were no effective, non-politicized regulations that could prevent the moral hazard of insured banks and savings institutions taking on excessive risks, an extensive regulatory infrastructure was put in place.

    Rational Actors

    Now, the U.S. has about 100 financial regulators, including those in the U.S. Treasury and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the FDIC, and the Fed. With near-universal deposit insurance, bank runs have become a rarity, but systemic crises have occurred more frequently. It is incontestable that big bubbles eventually burst, asset prices crash, and financial crises ensue. What causes the bubbles to inflate to systemic proportions, and to ultimately burst, is more contentious.

    At the time of Kindleberger’s analysis, individuals were assumed to be rational. The latest edition of his book, written after the 2008 financial crisis, postulates numerous theories about mob psychology (mania) that could lead rational individuals to produce irrational markets, but these ideas are all rather lame.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Capitalism, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Markets and Trading, Public Finance, Real Estate, Systems Analysis, Tradeoffs | 9 Comments »

    The Crazy Years 21st Century Style

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th February 2017 (All posts by )

    I honestly thought that once the election was done and Donald Trump duly sworn into the highest office in the land that those whose favored candidate lost would calm the heck down. You know, sort of the way that those of us whose chosen candidate lost in 2012… you know, disappointed but sporting about it. We went home, sniffled a little as we communed via the internet with equally disappointed friends, assumed the fetal position and turned the electric blanket onto “high” and got over it in a week or so. That’s the way the constitutionally-mandated cookie crumbles. The day after the election, I assumed that Hillary and Bernie voters would have had the maturity to do the same; morn a little, snivel a little, write editorials in the national media-of-record rationalizing their unfortunate reversals, perhaps throwing a little blame against whomever, and then pull themselves together and put as good a face on it as they could muster, promising to do better in 2020.

    Nope; the march of the disappointed pussy-hatters the very next day, riots and protests in deep blue cities, the absolute frothing at the mouth Trump-hate at the Oscars and on the national news broadcasts, the impassioned print editorials, the ranting, raving, stompy-footing, the mass-defriending and insanely hateful rants on Facebook: Trump is a Nazi-fascist-anti-Semitic-racist-who-pulls-tags-off-mattresses and trips old ladies hobbling along on canes, and so is everyone who voted for him. Yes, over the last few years, we have kind of gotten the idea that the Ruling Class; the bi-coastal comfortable and well-connected (including the intelligentsia, the national media and bureaucracy) were contemptuous of the ordinary working and middle class residents of Flyoverlandia. Now we know for a certainty that those who form the coalition of the Ruling Class and many who aspire to be a member of that Class in good standing despise us. They despise us with a passion and fury that renders them incoherent, and unashamed of displaying that hatred.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Politics, Trump | 18 Comments »

    Ethan Russell and Iconic Rock Photos

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 26th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Growing up I was a big fan of The Who. Since I didn’t always have a lot of money for records I tried to “stretch” my budget often times by buying “greatest hits” albums. Initially I thought that “Who’s Next” by The Who with the iconic photo of them pissing on some sort of concrete slab WAS a “best of” album simply because almost every track had been played to death on the radio with the exception of “My Wife” by Entwistle (which was a song I liked a lot) and “Love Ain’t for Keeping”.

    Recently I saw a presentation by the photographer Ethan Russell who took that classic cover photo along with an amazing amount of other images you’d recognize instantly, from the pictures of the Beatles on the “Let It Be” album to some great Rolling Stones’ photos from their classic late 1960’s – early 1970’s era. If he comes to your town I would highly recommend that you go out and hear him talk.

    I bought a signed print of that Who’s Next cover and sent it on to a friend of mine who also was a big fan of The Who growing up. I’m sure he’ll like it.

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Music, Photos | 5 Comments »

    Why does Germany do such monumentally stupid things?

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 25th February 2017 (All posts by )

    I was reading Arthur Herman’s column in the WSJ Decoding the Zimmerman Telegram, 100 Years Later and I began to think about all the really, really dumb things Germany has done. And it’s not as if the Germans are dumb. A look at the Nobel prize list makes it clear that there are many brilliant Germans. But if we go back in history and look at the political decisions Germany has made, it is a cavalcade of catastrophe. In the 19th century, Germany was the cradle of socialism, not all the ideas, but certainly the movement. Then it decided to unite Germany, not a bad idea in and of itself; but it then led to the idea that it should conquer Europe. In the process, it threatened the US with invasion by Mexico, bringing the US into the war and onto the world stage. And to top it, they put Lenin in a rail car and sent him to St. Petersburg launching the Soviet Union. Hitler then rekindled the idea of conquering Europe, including the incredible decision to invade Russia and then declaring war on the United States directly, creating an enemy that might have sat out the European war.

    After suffering a defeat as devastating to Germany’s people as the Thirty Years War, Nato was created to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down. And for 70 years it was a success. Germany started well by establishing an economic powerhouse. It succeeded in reuniting Germany after the cold war was won by the US in spite of German handicapping. But since then it has made decisions with terrible consequences, not only for Germany, but for much of Europe. It has used the EU and the Euro to peacefully achieve, with American connivance, what it twice failed to do by violence. And the consequences have become deleterious at best for the rest of Europe. The Energiewende has been a catastrophe, leading to more pollution by increasing the coal and biomass burned to create energy and the highest electricity costs in Europe. Germany’s refugee policy has invited invasion by unassimilabe masses inimical to European culture and values. And a policy of minimal defense expenditures has led the Americans to consider getting out and the Russians getting back in. And now China has become Germany’s largest trading partner.

    I have long felt that the EUropeans were more than capable of defending themselves and we should pull out of Nato to force them to do so and to save money. Why should we allow them to freeload? But now with the Americans leaving, the Russians returning, and the Germans rising, I am having second thoughts as I consider the possible consequences.

    Posted in China, Europe, Germany, Miscellaneous, Russia, Tradeoffs, USA | 21 Comments »

    “More Trump”

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Assistant Village Idiot:

    Consequently, the standard for avoiding mistakes is now the same for you as you have been applying to others for your whole career. When accusing Trump of making some inaccurate statement, if you get that wrong once it outweighs nine times that you got it right. And, just between you and me and the lampost, you aren’t close to getting it right 90% of the time just now. so in the minds of the public, you are digging yourself in deeper and deeper. Fresh examples are best. There was a lot of excitement this past weekend about Trump claiming something had gone wrong in Sweden, but there hadn’t been any big incident that anyone could recognise. When I first read it, I thought What the hell is Trump talking about there? I thought the story plausible, because Trump does stuff like this. Then I saw the transcript, and without even knowing the rest of the story, I thought Unh, there’s some window there. It’s a little clumsy in the wording, but he could be talking about events in general in Sweden, maybe an “Every Friday night…” You shouldn’t try to slam dunk these, because they keep hitting off the rim. So when I read the full response, that Trump had watched Tucker Carlson on the news Friday with a story about the increase in rape and violence in Sweden due to immigration, it made entire sense.
     
    The people who always believe you – the people who will believe any bad thing about Trump (and his minions – don’t forget his minions) will throw up their hands, roll their eyes and say “Aw come on, that’s a ridiculous excuse. You got caught out, you old windbag. Don’t try to bring that crap in here.” Except it’s not ridiculous at all. That’s exactly how Trump talks, and how he thinks. He’s been talking like this for years. His claim is entirely plausible. It not only could be true, so you can’t get your slam dunk, it is actually the most likely thing that happened. Because why the hell else would Sweden suddenly occur to him? The news story was in his stew, it bubbled to the top, and he spooned it.
     
    Net result: Your pals, no change. They still don’t believe Trump but even if he had some sort of definite proof they would just scowl and wait for the next time. (We’ll get him next time.) Trump’s pals, no change. Even if you had proof they’d just shrug it off. People in the middle, that one-third of the population, most will now remember They lied about Trump again, about something really small and pointless like it was a big deal. Maybe a few will think you scored a point, but also notice that it doesn’t much matter. Small potatoes. So now you need to catch him nine times, without a miss, to make up for it. Welcome to the world you made. How does it feel to be on the receiving end?
     
    Remember the first rule of holes.

    Worth reading in full.

    Posted in Big Government, Elections, Human Behavior, Leftism, Media, Politics, Trump | 11 Comments »

    Robots and Jobs – the Bet

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd February 2017 (All posts by )

    Keith Ablow, a Fox News analyst, asked Should Trump stop robots from stealing jobs?

    Economist Don Boudreaux responded:

    It’s true that the pace of introducing new labor-saving techniques has magnificently quickened in the past two hundred years.  This fast pace continues today.  Yet still we encounter no evidence that labor-saving techniques permanently increase unemployment.

    You’ll reply “This time is different!”  Perhaps, but I doubt it.  And I’m so confident in my prediction that I’ll put $10,000 of my own my money where my mouth is.

    Terms of the wager are at the Boudreaux link. I’m not sure if the bet has been accepted or not.

    Meanwhile, here is Bill Gates, suggesting that robots should be taxed.  Left undefined, at least in this interview, is a question of Exactly What is a Robot?  Is a CNC machine tool a robot?  I’d say it absolutely is, as was the case with earlier numerically-controlled machine tools that became pretty common in the 1970s and 1980s.  How about an automated teller machine in a bank?  And what about “robots” that have no direct physical incarnation but are purely software, such as the office productivity software that accounted for a huge portion of Microsoft’s success?  It was largely Microsoft Word and similar software that made secretaries an endangered species in most organizations.  (Can you imaging the lobbying, litigation, and regulatory struggles that would surround this definitional issue if politicians were to take Bill’s proposal seriously?)

    The proposal also ignores that fact that the United States is not the entire world–taxing robots here would harm our competitiveness vis-a-vis those countries pursuing no such policy.  (Which would clearly include China.)  The only way to make a US-only anti-robot policy ‘work’ would be to establish very high tariff barriers.

    See also my posts Attack of the Job-Killing Robots and Attack of the Job-Killing Robots Part 2.   I hope to soon complete Part 3 of the series, which will focus on automation technologies and their impact in the post-WWII era.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Tech | 19 Comments »

    Air Raid Darwin, This is No Drill — Plus 75 Years

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 19th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Seventy five years ago today, on Feb 19, 1942, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia had been turned from a backwater port supporting a railway distribution system for cattle and other agricultural products into the forward staging air and sea facility for the Allied Defense of Java against the Imperial Japanese Military juggernaut that was over running the Philippines and South East Asia.  And in this role, Darwin became “Australia’s Pearl Harbor” as four carriers of the IJN 1st Air Fleet — the dreaded  Kidō Butai — arrived. They delivered a raid of 188 strike planes  comprised of 36 A6M Zero fighters, 71 D3A “Val” dive bombers, and 81 B5N “Kate” torpedo bombers that arrived at around 10:00am.  This raid was followed later around noon the same day by 54 high altitude, land based, twin engine bombers (27 Mitsubishi G3M medium bombers and 27 Mitsubishi G4M medium bombers) that gutted the RAAF Darwin airfield.

    The strike on the port of Darwin sank 11 vessels — including the US Navy’s only seaplane tender in the South Pacific — saw another 3 vessels grounded and left an additional 25 ships damaged.

    RAAF Darwin was the forward staging base for the “BRERETON ROUTE“, a pre-WW2 air ferry route through Australia to the Philippines named after General Lewis Hyde Brereton that avoided Imperial Japanese territorial possessions.  The route was being used at this time predominantly to support the movement of P-40 fighters, B-17 and B-24 heavy bombers plus A-24 dive bombers (USN SBD’s in USAAF service) to Java.   As such, the field was filled with planes.  Of the RAAF aircraft present, six Hudson light patrol bombers were destroyed and another Hudson and a Wirraway (a trainer re-roled as a fighter for the lack of anything else) were badly damaged. Two American P-40s and a B-24 Liberator bomber staged for Brereton Route the were also destroyed.

    These strikes doomed the defense of Java logistically and were the beginnings of a series of 53 strikes on Australia lasting two years.

    Below are a series of links commemorating the battle —

    It has been 75 years since the bombing of Darwin

    Bombing of Darwin 75th anniversary: Darwin’s underground shelters | NT NewsSTILL hidden within the hilly terrain and dense bushland are a network of bomb storage shelters that reveal a desperate cat-and-mouse tale of hide and seek from Japanese bombers.

    Bombing of Darwin 75th anniversary: attacks inspired Territory resilience | NT NewsTHE resilient Territory spirit was born the day Darwin was bombed Lord Mayor Katrina Fong Lim told the 75th anniversary marking the event.

    Bombing of Darwin 75th anniversary: Veteran Peter Hackett recalls Top End experience | NT News

    ON Christmas morning, 1941, Peter Hackett slipped into a coma as the Ghan pulled into Oodnadatta.

    World War II attacks outside of Darwin need more recognition, historians say – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)While Darwin bore the brunt of World War II attacks in northern Australia, historians are calling for more recognition for places outside of Darwin that were bombed by the Japanese.

    75 years since the Japanese attack on Darwin – Sunday Morning – ABC Radio Does commemorating events like the attack on Darwin or the fall of Singapore show how little remembering does to change who we are and what we are capable of?

    Darwin bombing: 75 year commemorationONE of the last surviving World War II veterans to witness the Darwin bombings says the diggers involved never got the recognition they deserved. Tasmanian Brian Winspear can still picture the sun glinting off the bombs like confetti as hell rained down on the city 75 years ago.

    75 years on, Darwin bombing remembered | Photos, video | Illawarra Mercury The first wave attacked the CBD and harbour infrastructure. The second wave came for the RAAF base.

    As it happened: Japanese bombers attack Darwin The bombing of Darwin 75 years ago was the single largest attack ever mounted by a foreign power against Australia. WWII had come to the Australian mainland.

    Bombing of Darwin commemorations mark 75th anniversary since Japanese attacks – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) Survivors and veterans of the bombing of Darwin 75 years ago have been honoured for their role in preserving freedom and rebuilding peace.

    ‘They’ll be over tonight‘: veteran recalls Darwin terror raids – 9news.com.au Seventy five years to the day after Japanese bombs devastated Darwin, Warren Stickley vividly remembers the night he shone a spotlight on an enemy bomber so fellow soldiers could blast it out of the sky.

     

    Posted in History, Japan, Military Affairs | 9 Comments »

    The Deep State will not go easily.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Several years ago, I posted an account of what is called ‘The Deep State.”

    There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol. The former is traditional Washington partisan politics: the tip of the iceberg that a public watching C-SPAN sees daily and which is theoretically controllable via elections. The subsurface part of the iceberg I shall call the Deep State, which operates according to its own compass heading regardless of who is formally in power.

    That article was one of several around that time (2014) about the Deep State.

    History suggests that this low-intensity conflict within the ruling Elite is generally a healthy characteristic of leadership in good times. As times grow more troubled, however, the unity of the ruling Elite fractures into irreconcilable political disunity, which becomes a proximate cause of the dissolution of the Empire if it continues.
    I recently proposed the idea that Wall Street now poses a strategic threat to national security and thus to the Deep State itself: Who Gets Thrown Under the Bus in the Next Financial Crisis? (March 3, 2014)

    That didn’t happen but the Deep State is in the news again as an enemy of Trump.

    It stands to reason that “the Swamp” he talked about draining is coterminous with “The Deep State.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Elections, Leftism, Media, National Security | 41 Comments »

    ENIAC Anniversary

    Posted by David Foster on 15th February 2017 (All posts by )

    With all the current discussion about robotics and artificial intelligence, this seems like an anniversary worth noting:  the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator) was formally announced on February 15, 1946.  (Or maybe it was February 14.)  Originally developed to compute artillery trajectories, it was sufficiently general in its design that it could be programmed to address other kinds of problems as well.  The programming was originally done with patch cords, but soon a sort of stored-programming approach was developed wherein the patch cord layout remained the same and the program was entered via an array of rotary switches.

    See also Robot Mathematician Knows All The Answers, about the Harvard Mark I, a slightly earlier computer that was electromechanical rather than purely electronic in its operation, and a post about the Naval Ordnance Research Calculator, a ‘supercomputer’ of 1954.

    I wonder if these early computers would have made such a strong popular impression if they had not been so physically large.

    Posted in History, Tech, USA | 5 Comments »

    Shaking the Tyrant’s Bloody Hand

    Posted by Lexington Green on 13th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Please read this piece, from the excellent Mauldin Economics page, entitled Something Rotten in the State of Russia. It shows the many profound problems besetting the Russian state.

    That horrible, horrible man, Putin, is indeed horrible.

    But how dangerous is Putin to the USA? Or to our allies?

    Putin presides over a crumbling country.

    Meanwhile Trump, who some believe is under Putin’s control, is focused on driving down oil and gas prices and pushing NATO to increase defense spending, both of which are hard blows to Russia. Trump is also promoting pro-growth policies which will help fund a military buildup and modernization.

    Russia has no prayer of matching this.

    Putin has real problems, with no real solutions.

    Trump is confronting Putin with challenges he cannot overcome, which will only grow worse over time.

    The idea that Russia is capable of embarking on a new Cold War against the United States is laughable.

    Russia is only considered to be a country of the first rank because of its nuclear arsenal. But that arsenal is useless, other than as a deterrent to invasion, or as a way to commit suicide. No one is going to invade Russia any time soon. More importantly, Putin and his cronies are not suicidal. Putin may even be the richest man in the world. Putin and his posse have a nice life, and a lot to lose. They likely want to enjoy the benefits of their despotism in peace, not see their dachas reduced to radioactive ash.

    (Further, the Russian nuclear arsenal may be of diminished value if, as expected, Trump pushes forward on missile defense.)

    China is a rising power; Russia is a declining power, even a dying power. Russia is a menace to its neighbors; Islamic Terrorism is a menace around the world.

    China is the long term challenge, Islamic Terrorism is the acute, immediate challenge, to the USA and its allies. Russia faces a long-term threat from China, which seems destined to simply overrun the entirety of Asiatic Russia. Russia is also threatened by Islamic terrorism. The USA and Russia face the same serious threats.

    Russia should be aligned with the USA with regard to both China and Islamic terrorism.

    The current situation is absurd and should be resolved.

    This does not mean the USA will become “friends” with Putin, or the Russians.

    We will not trust Putin or the Russians.

    We will not be allies, beyond allies of convenience, case by case, with Putin or the Russians.

    We will not have shared values with Putin or the Russians.

    We will simply recognize important common interests, including ramping down the hostility between our countries, cooperating where it is mutually beneficial to do so, and focusing on more important, mutual threats and challenges.

    There is plenty of room for a deal here.

    Nixon shook Mao’s hand, a hand dripping with the blood of 65 million victims.

    FDR shook Stalin’s hand, a hand dripping with the blood of 50 million victims.

    Trump will do what is best for the peace, prosperity and security of the United States.

    That will likely include shaking the tyrant’s bloody hand.

    Posted in Miscellaneous, Russia, Tradeoffs, Trump | 32 Comments »

    Trump has to choose a strategy.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th February 2017 (All posts by )

    There has been a huge uproar over President Trump’s Executive order to limit immigration from seven Middle East countries that are in turmoil. A Seattle federal district judge issued a restraining order to block the immigration “pause.”

    The result is widely hailed by Democrats and the usual open borders advocates.

    Still, there is some trepidation about the Democrats’ vulnerability on this issue.

    Democratic arguments about immigration mostly aren’t arguments. The party has relied on opposing Trump’s more outrageously exaggerated claims about the criminality and all-around character flaws of immigrants. That’s fine, as far as it goes — but as November showed, it doesn’t go far enough.

    The core problem is that Democrats didn’t really make an affirmative argument for an overhaul to U.S. immigration policy that might appeal to voters. Instead, they talked a lot about what great people immigrants are, and how much they benefit from migration. Unfortunately, the clearest group of beneficiaries from this policy — people who want to migrate, but haven’t yet gotten a green card — can’t vote.

    Most of this is, like the British Labour Party, an attempt the replace one voting group with another.

    However, aside from the implications for employment for American citizens, there is the question of terrorism.

    We are conducting a war with radical Islam in the Middle East.

    How do we fight that war ?

    One of the problems facing the Trump administration is the lack of an overall strategy to defeat radical Islamism. The one left over from the Obama administration consists of a schizophrenic blend of attempting to solve “root causes” incongruously combined with a program of targeted assassination. “The U.S. dropped an average of three bombs an hour in 2016 — a total of 26,171 explosive devices dropped in seven countries in the past year” according to a report published at the close of President Barack Obama’s second term, not counting thousands of air strikes which went unreported according to the Military Times. This vast campaign of targeted aerial assassination was accompanied by what the Nation called “the secret nation-building boom of the Obama years”. By 2014 Obama had doubled “nation-building spending from $24.3 billion to $51.3 billion”.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Immigration, Islam, Middle East, Terrorism | 27 Comments »

    Environment

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Amid some pretty stiff competition news-wise this week, these two linked stories were particularly infuriating – mostly because the matter received relatively little attention, in comparison to coverage of the protest itself. But such is the towering hypocrisy of these times. The establishment national news media continues to conduct itself in the manner that, sadly, we have come to expect of them. Mostly, they cover stories like this with a pillow, until they stop moving.

    But the sheer gall of a protest encampment called to protest potential-possible- maybe environmental damage caused by construction of a pipeline … which then actually does damage to the local environment by the sheer quantity of stuff abandoned over the past six months, and the possibility of seepage of human waste into the nearby river. Well, really – one might have very good reason for doubting the sincerity of those protesters with regard to protecting the environment in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Environment, Human Behavior, Media | 13 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 10th February 2017 (All posts by )

    How the 16th century invented social media

    Virginia Postrel thinks that now is the time for big-box stores to embrace the 19th century

    Is it possible to make American mate again?

    Related to the above:  mapping the geographical patterns of romantic anxiety and avoidance

    Maybe also related:  sex doesn’t sell anymore, activism does

    PC oppression and why Trump won

    Theory and practice: an interesting Assistant Village Idiot post from 2010

    Learning about effective selling from a surfer dude

    Here’s a guy who says: I help create the automated technologies that are taking jobs…and I feel guilty about it

    After discussing his concerns about automation-driven job losses, he goes on to say “I feel even worse when I hear misleading statements about the source of the problem. Blaming China and NAFTA is a convenient deflection, but denial will only make the wrenching employment dislocation for millions all the more painful.”

    I’ve seen this assertion–“offshoring doesn’t matter because Robots”–and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  It should be obvious that both factors play a role; there’s no need for a single-variable explanation.  (Actually, offshoring-driven job losses and automation-driven job losses are somewhat less than additive in their effect, since automation generally makes US-based production more relatively attractive.)

    Here’s an argument that the next big blue-collar job is coding.

    What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant? Among other things, it would change training for programming jobs—and who gets encouraged to pursue them. As my friend Anil Dash, a technology thinker and entrepreneur, notes, teachers and businesses would spend less time urging kids to do expensive four-year computer-­science degrees and instead introduce more code at the vocational level in high school….Across the country, people are seizing this opportunity, particularly in states hit hardest by deindustrialization. In Kentucky, mining veteran Rusty Justice decided that code could replace coal. He cofounded Bit Source, a code shop that builds its workforce by retraining coal miners as programmers. Enthusiasm is sky high: Justice got 950 applications for his first 11 positions. Miners, it turns out, are accustomed to deep focus, team play, and working with complex engineering tech. “Coal miners are really technology workers who get dirty,” Justice says.

    I’m reminded of two things that Peter Drucker said in his 1969 book The Age of Discontinuity.  In attacking what he called ‘the diploma curtain’, he wrote “By denying opportunity to those without higher education, we are denying access to contribution and performance to a large number of people of superior ability, intelligence, and capacity to achieve.”

    But also, Drucker wrote, in his discussion of the Knowledge Economy:

    The knowledge worker of today…is not the successor to the ‘free professional’ of 1750 or 1900.  He is the successor to the employee of yesterday, the manual worker, skilled or unskilled…This hidden conflict between the knowledge workers view of himself as a ‘professional’ and the social reality in which he is the upgraded and well-paid successor to the skilled worker of yesterday, underlies the disenchantment of so many highly educated young people with the jobs available to them…They expect to be ‘intellectuals.’  And the find that they are just ‘staff.’

    Indeed, many jobs that have been thought of as ‘professional’ and ‘white collar’…programming, financial analysis, even engineering…are increasingly subject to many of the stresses traditionally associated with ‘blue collar’ jobs, such as layoffs and cyclical unemployment.  As a higher % of the corporate cost structure becomes concentrated in jobs which are not direct labor, it is almost inevitable that these jobs will be hit increasingly when financial problems make themselves felt.

    Drucker’s second point, which I think is very astute, is somewhat orthogonal to the coal-miners-becoming-coders piece, and probably deserves it own post for discussion.  Regarding the question of non-college-educated people becoming programmers (of which there has long already been a fair amount), the degree to which succeeds is to some degree coupled with the whole question of h-1b visa policy, and trade policy in general as it relates to offshoring of services.

    Posted in Business, Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Education, Leftism, Marketing, Media, Tech | 11 Comments »

    The Revolt Against the Experts

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th February 2017 (All posts by )

    ‘Trump makes sense to a grocery store owner’

    Economist-mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb contends that there is a global riot against pseudo-experts
     
    After predicting the 2008 economic crisis, the Brexit vote, the U.S. presidential election and other events correctly, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the Incerto series on global uncertainties, which includes The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, is seen as something of a maverick and an oracle. Equally, the economist-mathematician has been criticised for advocating a “dumbing down” of the economic system, and his reasoning for U.S. President Donald Trump and global populist movements. In an interview in Jaipur, Taleb explains why he thinks the world is seeing a “global riot against pseudo-experts”.

    Taleb has a typically thoughtful and contrary take on Trump’s electoral victory. Worth reading in full.

    (Via Peter Saint-Andre.)

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Politics, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »

    Freedom, the Village, and the Internet (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 7th February 2017 (All posts by )

    (Hearing in a town this size, by John Prine and Delores Keane, reminded me of this 2013 post–rerun here, with some edits and a special musical bonus added at the end.)

    I’ve reviewed two books by German writer Hans Fallada: Little Man, What Now?, and Wolf Among Wolves (the links go to the reviews), both of which were excellent. I’ve also read his novel Every Man Dies Alone, which is centered on a couple who become anti-Nazi activists after their son Ottochen is killed in the war…it was inspired by, and is loosely based on, the true story of  a real-life couple who distributed anti-Nazi postcards and were executed for it.

    I thought this book was also excellent…the present post, though, is not a book review, but rather a development of some thoughts inspired by a particular passage in the story.

    Trudel, who was Ottochen’s fiancee, is a sweet and intelligent girl who is strongly anti-Nazi..and unlike Ottochen’s parents, she became an activist prior to being struck by personal tragedy: she is a member of a resistance cell at the factory where she works.  But she finds that she cannot stand the unending psychological strain of underground work–made even worse by the rigid and doctrinaire man (apparently a Communist) who is leader of the cell–and she drops out. Another member of the cell, who has long been in love with her, also finds that he is not built for such work, and drops out also.

    After they marry and Trudel becomes pregnant, they decide to leave the politically hysterical environment of Berlin for a small town where–they believe–life will be freer and calmer.

    Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way  such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.

    Reading the above passage, I was struck by the thought that if we are now living in an “electronic village”…even a “global village,” as Marshall McLuhan put it several decades ago…then perhaps that also means we are facing some of the unpleasant characteristics that–as Fallada notes–can be a part of village life. And these characteristics aren’t something that appears only in eras of insane totalitarianism such as existed in Germany during the Nazi era. Peter Drucker, in Managing in the Next Society, wrote about the tension between liberty and community:

    Rural society has been romanticized for millenia, especially in the West, where rural communities have usually been portrayed as idylic. However, the community in rural society is actually both compulsory and coercive…And that explains why, for millenia, the dream of rural people was to escape into the city. Stadluft macht frei (city air frees) says an old German proverb dating back to the eleventh or twelfth century.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Media, Tech | 15 Comments »

    Nooo!

    Posted by Jonathan on 5th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Nooo! Que Barato!

    Chicagoboyz visit Hialeah.

    Posted in Photos | 1 Comment »

    FIRST A WALL, THEN A FILTER

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on 5th February 2017 (All posts by )

    There is media mayhem is over the re-establishment of control of our borders. The idea that WE have a vested interest in the possible hostile intentions, the ability to function in our society, and the legality of those who want to enter our country is . . . unacceptable to those screaming on Facebook and rioting in the streets. Further, the idea that we can take steps to keep out those who we do not want in [you cannot deport criminals if they can just walk back across the border] seems to be a matter of controversy; even as we are starting the process of doing just that.

    But maybe this would be a good time to get ahead of the game. Let us say that all the measures discussed by the administration work, illegal immigration is cut drastically, and illegal invaders here now leave. Then what? The current “immigration system” does not work. It has not worked for generations. What should replace it?

    We are a nation of immigrants. Our freedoms draw the best and brightest from around the world. We also draw everybody else. In keeping with the sudden realization by a majority of Americans that the purpose of the American government is to protect and work for the American people; the government has to find a way to make sure that the immigrants allowed in are going to be in the best interest of OUR country.

    Up until now, the Federal government has been working to make sure that our immigrant intake is mostly uneducated and untrained Mexican and Central American peasants, and Islamic terrorists. I can see how a certain number of those peasants could be of some national utility. But not in the numbers we are getting. And I am sorry; we already have enough people here who want to destroy the country.

    And it is insanity to import them alone, while turning our back on the rest of the world. Time for some pro-American sanity.

    I would recommend what I call the “Ellis Island Tests” as a beginning.

    1) Do you have, or are you a carrier of, any loathsome disease that we do not want in our country infecting our own people? Especially if the disease is one that we have successfully worked to eradicate inside our own borders. TB and diphtheria come to mind, but there is a whole list of other diseases, some of which we NEVER have had here, that are a reasonable reason to say, “try the country next door”.
    2) Are you a member of, a relative of a member of, or affiliated in any way with political, criminal, or religious organizations that have declared hostility to the US, or who have sponsored or committed terrorist acts against Americans? If so, you can stay in a country where that point of view predominates. We don’t need you.
    3) Are you a convicted criminal, or are you affiliated with an organization, syndicate, or cartel that operates in violation of the law; then you get to play the home game and not come here. Unless your crime was to tell your home country’s dictator what to place where, with what amount of force, and at what angle. In which case you should probably get bonus points.

    Now note that these are proscriptive tests. If you fail, you are out. This is not a matter of quotas, participant trophies, or the employees of the Immigration system feeling good about how generous they are at the expense of the country. There is no constitutional right to pass, because these are foreigners, not in our country. This is a case of them asking for our indulgence to be let in. It is totally our choice whether to do so. And we have to place our own safety and our own interests above their wishes. Many will try, a relative few will be chosen. To continue the tests in a more positive sense:

    4) Does the applicant have a skill that we want or need in this country? Has he or she been trained in a skill we need and are not producing enough of in this country? And if trained to standards not the same as ours, can they achieve our standards? Doctors, nurses, engineers; any profession we are in need of. And I note that we have a superabundance of lawyers and bureaucrats, to the point where we may have to open a season on them to prevent them from destroying the country.
    5) Fluency in English would be considered a plus. And it would cover one of the requirements below.
    6) If you are a spouse, child, or parent of an American citizen you would get a preference, but the relationships for immigration preference will not be extended further.
    7) Immigrants will need a sponsor, who is an American citizen, who will be responsible for aiding in the acclimation to the American culture, society, and mores; and who will ensure that from the time of their arrival and granting of resident alien status until they file their application for naturalization [residency time of 5 years in most cases] that they do not go on public assistance in any way other than declared states of disaster. The sponsor may not be a corporation, nor may a sponsor be an employee of any company that the resident alien is employed by. Resident aliens are covered and protected by all employment laws and standards that apply to US citizens. Sponsors will be liable as accessories if the resident alien is illegally exploited due to their lack of citizenship status. The laws of the country and the Constitution protect all those who legally reside here. Resident aliens who are illegally exploited due to their status and whose sponsorship arrangements are broken due to court action shall be allowed a period of 6 months to seek and arrange a new sponsorship.
    8) Before naturalization, all applicants will be tested and must demonstrate a fluency in English. This is not to disparage the use of other languages in private life. Officially, we do not care what language is spoken in the home or on the street. However, it is a fact that our country’s history, commerce, and culture are primarily in English. In order to fully participate, in order to not be exploited, in order not to be ghettoized and abused by the unscrupulous; it is vital that new citizens be able to understand the world around them.
    9) As currently, applicants for naturalization will be required to pass an examination on American Civics, Government, History, and the political process prior to being naturalized. And as currently, they will be required to swear the Oath to the Constitution prior to being granted citizenship.

    Now that is a quick outline of the selection process for individuals. Note that nowhere in there is there any hint of discrimination on a racial, ethnic, religious, gender, or other basis. It is a matter of objectively meeting requirements to become an American.

    But there is a larger view. We need immigrants. We need their drive, their ambition, their desire to build a better life for their offspring. And we need to draw on the talents of the wide world in order to be the City on the Hill. But we don’t need everybody. The last year we have full figures for is fiscal 2015. We legally admitted a hair over 1 million [actually 1,051,000] legal immigrants from all over the world. In fiscal year 2016 we caught 407,000 trying to sneak into our country, mostly on the border with Mexico. Given the not unreasonable assumption that for every one caught, 10 don’t get caught [remember, the Border Patrol has been ordered to encourage illegal invaders for the last 8 years], that gives a projected 4 million illegals, or 4 for every legal immigrant.

    We must stop illegal immigration. But we must not stop immigration. We must encourage legal immigration. In 2015 the Census Bureau estimates that we had a population of about 321.5 million. So annual legal immigration was about 3/10 of 1% of our population. That 3/10 of 1% of our population has not caused any significant problems. We have had during the same period about 1.2% of our population coming in illegally per year. And it has been a major pain in the Tuchus, and a deadly threat, for the country.

    So, let’s say that 3/10 of 1% of our problem becomes an immigration floor for the number we admit LEGALLY each year. And since LEGAL immigrants are actual net assets to the country, we can absorb more. So let us say as a guesstimate that we put a ceiling, adjustable as needed by statute, of 1% of our current population per year as the number of LEGAL immigrants we can take.

    That gives us a range to work with, once we’ve secured our borders and removed illegal invaders. With that, I suggest the following process or something close to it be adopted:

    a) Every year, along with the budget [and definitely tied to the ICE or successor organization budget] the Congress of the United States will pick a number inside that range as the number of LEGAL immigrants that the US will allow in.
    b) That number will divided among 6 of the 7 Continents [North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia], Antarctica being excluded because penguins are too addicted to the thug life to be let in. I note Greenland is governed by Denmark and has so few people that it can be counted as Europe. It will have to be decided, for our purposes, where the exact boundaries between continents are; but that is what we are paying all those paper-pushers for, and all that matters is that they are consistent. The division will be proportional based on the population of the continent.
    c) Once the number for each continent has been determined for the year, a joint committee of representatives from the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the Department of Homeland Security will meet chaired by a representative appointed by the President.
    d) The joint committee will go through the list of countries on each continent and evaluate them based on their diplomatic, military, and trade actions towards the United States in the previous year and current actions. Such deliberations and the reasons for the decisions shall be classified and not released. If a country is determined to have posed or to pose a threat to the US and its interests based on those actions, they will be denied an immigration quota for that year. Those countries that are deemed not to be or to have posed a threat to the US or its interests shall divide the continent’s immigration quota proportionally based on population. As an example Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and the Sudan have been the source of most of the terrorist attacks on ourselves and our allies. Why, right now, do we have a desperate need to import more of them? If the attacks stop, and give signs of staying stopped, we might reconsider in a later year.
    e) The recommendations will be forwarded to the President, and if he approves the numbers will be the basis of the immigration quotas for the coming year.
    f) This quota does not include the emergency admission of refugees or disaster victims, which as always is within the power of the President to approve or deny.

    You know, of course, that the Democrats and their allies even further to the Left will be screaming like a cacophony of goosed coloraturas if anything like this is enacted. Illegal vote farms destroyed? Check. American people protected from two-legged predators? Check. Rule of law reinstated? Check. Welfare fraud, spending, deficits, and eventually taxes reduced? Check and double check.

    We lock the door at night, not because we hate everybody outside, but to protect our loved ones inside. It does not mean that we do not open that door for invited guests.

    Posted in Immigration | 30 Comments »

    Scaring Ourselves to Death

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd February 2017 (All posts by )

    We have a neighbor several doors down the street who has – over the years that we have known her – been somewhat of a trial. Not only is she is a gossip with an appallingly low degree of accuracy in the stories that she passes on, she is also a keen consumer of local news, and takes the most sensational crime stories to heart. She was in her element, the evening that we had a double murder in our neighborhood, having claimed to see the murderer running down the street past her house and begging one of the other neighbors for a ride. She provided a description of the murderer to one of the police patrols who went screaming through the neighborhood – a description which turned out to be inaccurate in every detail save that the escaping murderer was a male. As for the what she sees on the news; let someone across town be carjacked in their own driveway, she is totally convinced that everyone in the neighborhood is in dire peril of this happening to them. She lurks at the community mailbox of a morning, bearing dire warnings of all kinds of unlikely scenarios. She never goes much beyond the community mailbox, having successfully frightened herself out of going any farther on most occasions. In earlier times, I would try and talk her into taking a more realistic view of things. Eventually I realized that she purely enjoyed scaring herself into conniptions, and those irrational fears provided a handy all-purpose excuse for her not to go and do much of anything with herself when her only child went to college on the other side of the state and her husband moved out.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Trump | 19 Comments »

    What, if anything, is being done about the rioters in Berkeley and elsewhere?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd February 2017 (All posts by )

    20117-trump-inauguration-protest-arrest-3-216p-rs_031539a9264cc5e7b3c513193890a317.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000-800x500_c

    It has been frustrating to see what appear to be professional rioters destroying property and injuring innocent people, with no visible attempt to arrest or stop their depredations.

    A word should be said on behalf of Berkeley students. I am convinced that the violent rioters were not students from the campus, but were organized outside agitators from off campus that exploited the event. Most students today, even my left-leaning students (I have quite a few in class), were angry about what had happened, as they resented having their protest hijacked by thugs, and the victory it delivered Milo, who is the Kim Kardashian of political theater. Instead of speaking to 500 people in an auditorium last night, he spoke to perhaps 4 million on TV. I think the net present value of the protest to him, in increased book sales and media market value, is at least $1 million—probably considerably more.

    That may be comforting to think the riots are driving people to Trump and the political right. But what about the rioters and those supporting them?

    The FBI may be investigating the Mayor of Berkeley for supporting the rioters and discouraging police intervention.

    U.S. Code 2385:

    Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

    Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

    Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

    Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.

    Will this work ? Maybe we need better intelligence about who these people are.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Politics, Terrorism | 11 Comments »

    Two Very Poor Analyses

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd February 2017 (All posts by )

    Forbes ran an article with the headline “Solar employs more people in US electricity generation than oil, coal, and gas combined” and goes on to say “It’s a welcome statistic for those seeking to refute Donald Trump’s assertion that green energy projects are bad news for the American economy.”

    Unmentioned in this article is the point that energy production is not done for the purpose of energy production; it is done for the purpose of energy use…and production modes which are more expensive tend to cost jobs downstream.  If an excessive emphasis on solar and wind cause electricity prices to rise significantly, the negative impact will fall on those who work in manufacturing and other fields that are energy-intensive.

    To take an extreme case, one could easily create millions and millions of jobs in energy generation by requiring that all electricity be generated by human beings turning cranks connected to generators.  It is silly to look at job-creation as a good thing in isolation, without considering factors other than the number of people hired.  The Forbes article also neglects to mention the point that in most technologies, and certainly in electricity generation, the construction phase of a plant generally requires a lot more labor than does the ongoing operation of that plant.

    An even lower depth of mediocrity is reached in this International Monetary Fund article:  Counting the cost of energy subsidies.  This study considers traffic congestion and vehicle accidents as ‘externalities’ from fossil fuel usage.  In reality, of course, the replacement of all gasoline-and-diesel-powered vehicles with electric vehicles recharged from solar/wind…or even their replacement by unicorn-powered vehicles requiring no other energy source whatsoever…would by itself have no effect whatsoever on traffic congestion and vehicle accidents.  And while the elimination of automobiles and trucks completely would certainly eliminate traffic congestion, it would also lead to delays in travel which would greatly exceed the magnitude of the congestion-caused delays.

    Putting lots of math in a study is not a substitute for common sense.

    Posted in Energy & Power Generation, Environment | 12 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman on Irish Television and Radio

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd February 2017 (All posts by )

    Sharon Ní Bheoláin & Bryan Dobson, RTÉ News: Six One (Jan. 31, 2017, 6:00 PM) (interview), http://tinyurl.com/h2yatsx ; http://tinyurl.com/hx3ndjc

    Cormac Ó hEadhra, The Late Debate, RTÉ Radio 1 (Jan. 31, 2017, 10:00 PM) (panelist), http://tinyurl.com/hfs62h2

    Pat Kenny, The Pat Kenny Show, Newstalk.com 106–108fm (Feb. 1, 2017, 9:00 AM), http://tinyurl.com/gvvqdnb

    (Link to blog post.)

    Posted in Current Events, Law, Media, Politics | 4 Comments »