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  • Wages, Employment, and Productivity

    Posted by David Foster on February 21st, 2020 (All posts by )

    I think President Trump is quite sincere about his oft-stated desire to drive up the wages of low-income workers…especially young and non-college workers…and he does seem to be having some success at this quest.  It has struck me for a while that while this is a very good thing from the standpoint of the overall society, it is also likely to pressure business profit margins, with possible consequences for the stock market as well as for Fed policy.

    Yesterday the WSJ noted that “wages for 20- to 24-year olds are increasing twice as fast as for other workers…Overall job satisfaction in 2018 was the highest since 1994.”  At the same time, “90% of blue-collar businesses report operating with unfilled positions, and 29% say this has made them reduce output or turn down business.  Rising wages together with sluggish productivity growth are crimping corporate profits.  Between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the second quarter of 2019, profits for nonfinancial corporations  declined 17% and 46% for manufacturers.   The article quotes the Conference Board:  “The US will not be able to maintain its current standard of living unless the US government acts to significantly increase immigration, improve labor force participation, and, together with employees, raise labor productivity growth.”  To which the WSJ writer adds:  “Maybe the only short-term fix is to increase legal immigration–unless Americans want to see their living standards decline and more jobs exported.”

    Higher wages do of course drive productivity improvement…the US has been a pioneer in the mechanization of work in large part because it has been a high-wage country, and that mechanization has helped to enable further wage increases.  This doesn’t always require any new inventions:  there are always productivity tools available that will make sense to a business that is paying $25/hour for labor but would not make sense to one paying $15/hour.  The process isn’t instantaneous, though.

    Concerning immigration as a solution to labor shortages: commentators sometimes lose sight of the fact that GDP per capita matters for broad-based prosperity, not just absolute GDP.  And the only way to increase GDP per capita is through productivity improvements and higher labor force participation rates.  Increasing the raw number of workers doesn’t do this.

    The Conference Board statement appears to put a lot of emphasis on things that the government should do, and the WSJ emphasizes more (legal) immigration.  Some increases in legal immigration may well be a good idea…as would increases in American fertility rates…but the main issues, I think, are productivity and the labor force participation rate.  The actual productivity numbers don’t reflect all the talk about (and even the realities of) robotics and AI.  Maybe this is largely just a matter of implementation lags, maybe it reflects increasing bureaucratization and ‘compliance’ costs throughout our economy.

    My concern is that margin pressure may lead (in conjunction with other factors, like already-high valuations) to a sharp stock-market decline, which could have electoral implications.  Such decline might also lead to many deferrals of productivity-improving investments.  Alternatively, Fed concerns about rising wage rates as a possible signal of incipient inflation could lead the central bank to increase interest rates excessively as a preventative.

    And any electoral result which substantially increases Democratic party power could lead to massive upsurges in legal and illegal immigration, with consequent wage pressures, demoralizing many workers who are now on an positive track and deferring the need for productivity investments.  Any attempt to deal with such wage pressures by establishing high Federal-level minimum wages would add much rigidity to the systems, creating problems of many kinds.

    Discuss, if you feel so inclined.

     

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Elections, Tech, Trump, USA | 11 Comments »

    COVID-19 Update, Morning 2-21-2020 — Living & Dying from China’s Biological Chernobyl

    Posted by Trent Telenko on February 21st, 2020 (All posts by )

    Wednesday the world got the worst possible news about COVID-19 from China, and it explained all the strange things China was hiding since this disease first appeared. We are in the midst of China’ Biological Chernobyl. But first, the numbers. As of 20 February 2020 at 7:04 p.m. ET there were 76,192 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 2,245 fatalities. China 74,988 cases, 2,234 fatalities and International 1,205 cases, 11 fatalities.  See the latest disease numbers here:

    https://bnonews.com/index.php/2020/02/the-latest-coronavirus-cases/

    A quiet Chinese announcement Wednesday has changed the world.
    It appears that COVID-19 is an airborne bug in some very common medical situations.  This was why China was keeping the CDC and WHO experts out of China.  It is also why they had such heavy casualties with medical workers.  You need a PPE-4 level independent oxygen supply to entubate a COVID-19 pneumonia sufferer.
    “Airborne transmission” has a very specific medical-technical definition.  See the figure below.
    This graphic explains the technical definition of airborne transmission.

    This graphic explains the technical definition of airborne transmission. (Peak Prosperity video screen capture)

    See this, the opening sentence of which is the technical description of “Airborne Transmission” —
    China admits aerosol infection possible in coronavirus outbreak

    KYODO NEWS – Feb 20, 2020 – 13:14

    .
    KYODO NEWS – Feb 20, 2020 – 13:14 | WorldAll

    China’s health authorities have admitted that people may contract the pneumonia-causing COVID-19 coronavirus by inhaling small virus-containing particles floating in the air, or so-called aerosol infection.

    .

    Updated diagnostic and treatment guidelines published Wednesday say a person can be infected if they are “exposed to a high concentration of aerosol in a relatively closed environment for a long time.

    .

    This is the sixth edition of the guidelines for treating patients of the new virus in China. The guidelines posit that the main routes of transmission are “droplets from the respiratory system” and “close contact.”

    .

    Previous versions of the guidelines said the possibility of aerosol infection had yet to be clearly established.

    .

    Aerosol infection is said to be prone to occur during medical procedures, such as when inserting a tube into the windpipe to ensure an open airway.

    And airborne transmission beyond the narrow medical procedures have been confirmed in South Korea. ROK public health officials tracked a single asymptomatic church lady to a Christian mega-church service of a 1,000 people.  Below is the result:

    Steve Lookner
    @lookner
    544 members of South Korea’s Shinchonji Daegu church have virus symptoms(This is the church with dozens of new cases in the past 2 days)https://twitter.com/lookner/status/1230698482207313920
    China also announced a prison had 200 prisoners and seven guards get COVID-19 last night. Essentially any institutional situation with poor/unfiltered circulation will see mass COVID-19 infection.
    And it gets worse.  How much worse?  This much worse:
    The Fight Plan of China's Biological Chernobyl

    The Fight Plan of China’s Biological Chernobyl — 60,000 airline flights with poor air circulation where up to 12 million souls (assuming 200 unique people per plane flight) were exposed to an airborne transmitted SARS-CoV2 virus.

    WELCOME TO THE WORSE CASE SCENARIO

    The heart of the issue for 2019-nCoV is that it is a virgin fields epidemic. Everyone who hasn’t got it, will get it, absent a genetic gift or  vaccine…and there will be no vaccine for a year, assuming this coronavirus is amenable to a vaccine.

    This is compounded by the issue that the COVID-19 coronavirus infection takes a very low SARS-Cov2 viral load for the initial infection…

    …and that low viral load initial infection takes a very, very, very, long time to manifest as either positive test result or as
    “symptoms.”

    Additionally, four of five people that test positive for COVID-19 have either no or very minor symptoms while being infection spreaders.
    Case in point is the South Korean church-lady who seems to have given COVID-19 infections to 544 people either by giving out communion or singing.

    The infection rate right now is over 20% for the souls aboard Diamond Princess and it will take at least 24 days from their last
    exposure to be detectable in new cases.  The chaos and ineffectivness of the Japanese quarantine was such that every passenger, crewman or Japanese health ministry body on the Diamond Princess were likely exposed to infection causing viral loads right up to and through the flights back to their home countries.

    There is now no chance stopping COVID-19, short of a vaccine, because China’s Communist Party allowed those 12 million exposed souls to travel the world.

    COVID-19 is not just a flu.  It is 20 times deadlier (2% death rate) with an intact medical system and 50 time deadlier (5% death rate) in a collapsed medical system.  And every medical system in the world will collapse under the weight of SARS-CoV2 infections.

    Buckle up.  This will be a rough ride.

    -End-

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Current Events, Health Care, Miscellaneous | 9 Comments »

    COVID-19 Update, Morning 2-20-2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on February 20th, 2020 (All posts by )

    There are currently 75,772 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 2,129 fatalities as of this morning’s time hack. China has changed how they are reporting new cases yet again (two times they admit too) again, so numbers will decrease there. Worldwide less China, there are 1150 infected, with 10 deaths (1 Taiwan, 1 Japan, 1 Philippines, 2 Diamond Princes, 2 Hong Kong, 1 France, 2 Iran). There are both some number crunching and recent coronavirus developments in this update.

    First, the number crunching:

    Current death to recovery ratio outside Mainland China are:

    Deaths 10
    Recovered 176

    10/(176+8)= 5.38% death rate.

    The number of cases above are not large enough yet to draw statistical inferences for medical care outside Mainland China…yet

    Inside Mainland China’s state of Hubei, where the medical system has been overwhelmed, things got a lot worse.

    Deaths 2,029
    Recovered 10,388

    2029/(2029+10388) = 16.3% death rate (assuming you accept the numbers from CCP)

    As long as high quality medical care is available to those who require intensive care, mortality rates should go down as more is known about successful COVID-19 treatment. Anywhere the system is overwhelmed, as happened is in Wuhan, it will be horrid.

     

     

    COVID-19 Disease Spread Graph

    COVID-19 Disease Spread Graph

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 25 Comments »

    COVID-19 Update, Morning 2-19-2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on February 19th, 2020 (All posts by )

    This update is going to be a horror show of numbers involving “super spreaders” and public health incompetence in and around the Diamond Princess cruise ship. As of this mornings’s writing time hack, there are currently 75,129 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 2,007 fatalities. China: TOTAL 74,130 2,002 12,017 serious 13,818 recovered 6,242 suspected. (No one believed these numbers except the Who and CDC) Everywhere else: 999 cases, 5 deaths, 39 serious/critical

    Next — the COVID-19 infection numbers from the Diamond Princess are horrific.

    See:

    Tracking coronavirus: Map, data and timeline

    “Japan: The 542 people from the “Diamond Princess” cruise ship are listed separately and they are not included in the Japanese government’s official count. Fourteen of them are Americans whose test results came in while they were being evacuated from the ship. 246 were _asymptomatic_.”

    Given 246 of 542 infected are asymptomatic…we are looking at a 45% of no-symptom super-spreader rate.

    Note: the following additional “Diamond Princess” information culled from four US newspapers over at the Free Republic forum’s “Corona Virus Live—mostly Thread. 2/18-2/19”

    https://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/3817559/posts?q=1&;page=151

    In one flight of the Diamond Princess returnees. “…the original 14 tested have become 19 due to inflight testing, or 18 pending and 1 CDC confirmed.

    .

    The flight to Travis, CA had 7, and picked up 3 inflight – all asymptomatic

    .

    The Flight to Lackland, TX had 7, and picked up 2 inflight – all but one asymptomatic

    .

    So that’s 14+3+2

    .

    It was reported that Texas sent 6 to Omaha; however Omaha said they received 13. One requiring hospitalization but stable, and the rest asymptomatic. All are awaiting final CDC confirmation.

    .

    Of the 7 in Calif, 2 were transferred to QotV – one asymptomatic received CDC confirmation of positive today; one with mild symptoms is still awaiting CDC.

    Third — More super spreader evidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Returning Travelers from Wuhan, China

    “In this effort to evacuate 126 people from Wuhan to Frankfurt, a symptom-based screening process was ineffective in detecting SARS-CoV-2 infection in 2 persons who later were found to have evidence of SARS-CoV-2 in a throat swab. We discovered that shedding of potentially infectious virus may occur in persons who have no fever and no signs or only minor signs of infection.”

    https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2001899

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, China, Civil Society, Current Events, Health Care, Japan, Miscellaneous, USA | 20 Comments »

    Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate the Origins of the 2008 Financial Crisis and Systemic Failure

    Posted by Kevin Villani on February 18th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Are greedy racist “Wall Street” bank lenders responsible, or progressive politicians?

    The housing finance systems of some developed countries have failed, but only the U.S. federally dominated system failed systemically twice in two decades, the second time in 2008 with global repercussions. Then Republican Mayor of New York now 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg blamed politicians for pushing lenders to make loans to “poor people” in low income neighborhoods that they couldn’t afford. 2020 progressive Democratic presidential candidate Warren, apparently reflecting the views of the Party, responded to Bloomberg: “That crisis would not have been averted if the banks had been able to be bigger racists.” 

    The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act passed in 2010 creating Warren’s proposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) to Monitor and Mitigate Systemic Risk made up of the various financial regulators reflects the Warren/Democratic narrative. This narrative is the foundation of not just housing and financial sector policy proposals, but the entire progressive agenda.

    I’m from the federal government and I’m here to help you.

    That’s the punch line to the joke about the three biggest lies Pres Martin used to tell about a half century ago as past Chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) (hence Freddie Mac’s first Chairman) and Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve System.

    The first wave of “help” came after the repeated waves of bank failures with the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. The second wave came during the Great Depression with deposit insurance and associated regulation of the banking and savings and loan industries. This was followed by the creation of FHA mortgage insurance: to stimulate FHA demand, Fannie Mae was created make a market for which there were few buyers or sellers. By the late 60’s, rather than end a failed experiment Fannie Mae was “privatized” and the public monopoly was subsequently expanded to a tri-poly with the addition of Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae, all funding fixed rate mortgages (FRMs) first introduced by FHA. As Milton Friedman famously said, “there is nothing so permanent as a temporary government program.”

    It didn’t help potential borrowers much. The resulting federally dominated U.S. Housing Finance System had been touted as the best in the world, a model to emulate for developed, developing and transitioning economies alike during the three decades prior to the 2004-2007 sub-prime mortgage lending debacle and globally systemic financial crisis of 2008. But the benefits are hard to identify: the U.S. homeownership rate is about the same as in the mid 1960’s under the prior savings and loan system in spite of a 50% increase in female labor force participation, a historically low real interest rate and a dramatic shift from detached single family to condo apartments.

    Civil rights legislation culminating in the Fair Housing Act of 1968 made racial discrimination in home sales a federal crime. The black homeownership rate which rose more than that for whites during the 2004-2007 sub-prime lending spree has returned to about where it was during the 1960’s.

    Market Discipline versus Public Regulation

    It didn’t help existing lenders much either. In the 1970’s federally sponsored agencies competed directly with federally chartered savings and loans whose investments were limited by regulators hamstrung by politicians to FRMs, forcing them to borrow short and lend long with callable insured deposits. Systemic failure was assured when interest rates rose as they did in the late 1970’s, with failures strung out over the 1980’s as regulators seized but often didn’t close zombie institutions, often run by academics.

    Systemic risk, the simultaneous failure of many or all firms (and households) in an industry or across industries, primarily afflicts mixed progressive financial systems, i.e., those with privately owned but publicly regulated financial institutions. Firms in an un-or-less regulated market economy may be fragile but “Wall Street” traders mitigate systemic risk by betting against weak firms and industries, either forcing corrective action or failure– hence the derogatory political reference to “speculators.” At the other extreme, state owned financial firms generally fail financially but face only a political bankruptcy constraint.

    Two types of progressive policies created systemic risk. First those intended to mitigate the failure of individual firms with public insurance and prudential regulation, making failure less frequent but more systemic. Regulators prevent commercial bank failures purportedly to protect public confidence in the payments mechanism. Second are those policies intended to universally favor borrowers and/or creditors – like requiring mortgages to have a fixed rate – making systemic failure more likely and more costly.

    Underwriting Mortgage Credit Risk: Discrimination and “Disparate Impact”

    With the exception of the Great Depression and 2008 financial crisis, home mortgage credit losses had been “Gaussian (normally distributed),” that is, they followed a predictable pattern that allowed them to be insured according to the law of large numbers, for all practical purposes eliminating uncertainty, hence risk.

    Loan data during the sub-prime lending debacle unambiguously supports Bloomberg as minority lending skyrocketed. Progressives imputed racist motives to excessive minority lending, arguing that “predatory” lenders “tricked” minorities into accepting loans they couldn’t afford so they could later foreclose. There is some truth to the first part, as banks solicited minority borrowers with loans they had to know were risky. But they had little incentive to foreclose, as that always resulted in a deep loss. What did motivate lenders?

    Homeownership was no more affordable for black households during the 2004-2007 sub-prime lending bubble than it was in the 1960’s for a variety of reasons. But current Democratic presidential candidate Deval Patrick argued in 1994 as Deputy Attorney General of the Department of Justice that any final lending distribution that contained racial disparities—disparate impact—relative to population was a violation of federal law unless the lender could prove otherwise. Such “proof” of non-discrimination would be difficult to produce at best, since the disparity itself was considered proof of racial prejudice, and the cost of a legal defense is generally crippling. This was called “confiscation by consent decree” at the time and later “extortion by consent decree” for which Gaussian credit risk models didn’t apply.

    Avoiding Black Swans

    Former trader –now internationally recognized risk expert – Nicholas Nassim Taleb describes in his 2007 book The Black Swan “how high impact but rare events dominate history, how we retrospectively give ourselves the illusion of understanding them thanks to narratives, how they are impossible to estimate scientifically, how this makes some areas – but not others – totally unpredictable and unforecastable, how confirmatory methods of knowledge don’t work, and how thanks to Black Swan-blind “faux experts” we are prone to building systems increasingly fragile to extreme events.”

    Was the 2008 systemic failure an unpredictable Black Swan event? Politicians and their regulators who push the “Wall Street greed” narrative argued that nobody could have foreseen it, but Taleb exempts only economist Nouriel Roubini Crisis Economics (2010) from that delusion, who (pg. 16) concludes “it was probable. It was even predictable…” based on the failure of prudential regulation. But how did that fail? Systemic failure had long been predicted (by me and others, including the Federal Reserve) based on the progressive policies that attributed illegal racial discrimination motives to traditional income and appraisal underwriting.

    No Skin in the Game

    The sub-prime lending bubble of 1995 through 1998 financed with opaque securities issued by independent finance companies that following SEC rules reported phantom profits burst with no systemic consequences. By 2000 many of these former sub-prime lenders and securitization practices had migrated to the federally insured commercial banks in part to finance Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) lending commitments. These increased 500 fold after the deregulation of interstate Banking in 1994 when discretionary regulatory permission for M&A activity was held hostage to a favorable public CRA Report. Pushed by regulators and pulled by the big potential M&A payoff, borrower down payment requirements were virtually eliminated and bank “regulatory arbitrage” minimized capital requirements, virtually eliminating any Skin in the Game (Taleb, 2018). This asymmetric “trade” was irresistible.

    The Perfect Storm

    The Big Short by Michael Lewis presents the progressive narrative of “greedy” speculators who were shorting the housing market but doesn’t explain why they failed to prevent the bubble from inflating to systemic proportions by bankrupting lenders. The reason is that the cheap Federal Reserve credit continued to be channeled to the housing bubble by Fannie and Freddie. Historically conservative, they were now led by politically anointed CEO’s who, facing no bankruptcy constraint, willingly followed the path to perdition. This path was paved by HUD’s “Mission Regulator” who not only ratcheted up the lending goals well beyond prudent limits but in 2005 imposed a new goal that they maintain a 50% market share with these private lenders. Propped up by the federal government, all the big players were going for broke simultaneously.

    This was guaranteed to fail. Financial institutions reported several trillion dollars (pgs. 157-158) of home mortgage credit losses after the bubble burst and 10 million homeowners lost their homes over the next six years in spite of massive government efforts to avoid or delay foreclosure. Like the lending bubble, the foreclosure bubble was much bigger for minorities. Yet The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission Democrat Majority Report (2010) spun the narrative that the systemic “risk” was due mainly to traditional liquidity concerns.

    I’m from the federal government and I’m here to blame you.

    That’s no joke. During the Obama Administration Patrick, then Governor of Massachusetts led the multi-state suit against lenders alleging discrimination in foreclosures based on disparate impact. At the same time, current DNC Chairman Tom Perez was pursuing “disparate impact” cases against lenders under the Fair Housing Act as Attorney General Eric Holder’s Deputy.

    In a 2009 Financial Times editorial Taleb proposed ten principles to avoid a repeat of 2008:

    What is fragile should break early, while it’s still small.

    No socialization of losses and privatization of gains.

    People who were driving a school bus blindfolded (and crashed it) should never be given a new bus.

    Don’t let somebody making an incentive bonus manage a nuclear plant – or your financial risks.

    Compensate complexity with simplicity.

    Do not give children dynamite sticks, even if they come with a warning label.

    Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence. Governments should never need to “restore confidence.”

    Do not give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains.

    Citizens should not depend on financial assets as a repository of value, and should not rely on fallible “expert” advice for their retirement.

    Make an omelet with the broken eggs.

    All good advice, all ignored by politicians and regulators who created the Rube Goldberg dystopia they rail against.

    —-

    Kevin Villani

    Kevin Villani was Chief Economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985 and HUD from 1979-1982. He has been affiliated with nine universities, and served as CFO and director of several companies. He recently published Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.

     

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Public Finance | 10 Comments »

    COVID-19 From a Business Perspective

    Posted by Dan from Madison on February 18th, 2020 (All posts by )

    I live in the world of HVAC distribution, which is basically a subset of industrial distribution. The information flow concerning COVID-19 is interesting. There are some of my vendors who are in full freak out mode, as they are already getting short on items imported from China. Some of these items are part of a larger item being put together either in Mexico or here in the States. Other items are things that my vendors simply repackage and resell. I have also heard a rumor that certain chemicals and finished copper products are going to have issues in the near future. There are some vendors that are just “shoulder shrugging” the whole thing off at this point. The reactions are all over the board from my vendors.

    I imagine that we will know a lot more when the Spring AC calls start coming as most vendors typically have a 30-60 day safety supply stateside.

    This could end up quite profitable for other regions of the world vs. China, and it may be business that China will never get back. Time will tell.

     

    Posted in Business, China | 4 Comments »

    COVID-19 Update 2-17-2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on February 17th, 2020 (All posts by )

    As of this morning’s time hack, world wide there are now 1,770 dead and 71,223 infected by COVID-19. Community spread is underway in Singapore (see chart), Taiwan and Japan. The USA thinks it might be on-going in the USA. Both Japan and the USA refuse to state this, but actions being taken argue otherwise.  Two horrid COVID-19 infection reports from Chinese news sources — the Taiwan News is reporting re-infection with COVID-19 is causing heart failure and South China Morning Post is reporting 34 and 94 day from exposure to infection super spreaders.  Recovered from COVID-19 infection Ontario couple are still testing positive for coronavirus. Finally,  COVID-19 fomit** contamination of Chinese money and survival of corona-virus in high heat & humidity are also in the update.

    31 Dec 2019 to 16 Feb 2020 COVID-19 Bar chart

    31 Dec 2019 to 16 Feb 2020 COVID-19 Infection Level Bar Chart

    Number of COVID-19 Infections outside China as of Feb 16, 2020

    Number of COVID-19 Infections outside China as of Feb 16, 2020

    Singapore COVID-19 Infection Status 15 Feb 2020

    Singapore COVID-19 Infection Status 15 Feb 2020

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Health Care, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics, USA | 23 Comments »

    Conspiracies

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on February 14th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Like many types of paranoid thinking, conspiracy theorists fasten on unimportant details and regard them as key. The tax protestors get caught up in your name being in all-caps for Social Security, which means that it’s not you but some artificial entity. Their proof that the income tax is illegal hinges on a delivery of a document to the State of Ohio that did not happen in the right way, even though everyone in Ohio knew about it. There is the nod and the knowing look that they can’t be fooled. The real truth isn’t known to all those other people, who are blithely going about their business thinking everything is just fine, and completely on the up-and-up.

    The belief that the real answer is hidden, being kept from the masses by nefarious actors precedes the actual explanations. They don’t come to believe that doctors are hiding cures because they are presented with plausible evidence of same, but because they don’t trust doctors, or perhaps anyone in authority, and someone tacks a specific example onto that. All-caps often figure prominently in their explanations, trying to impress upon you the importance of this particular set of details that they are now pointing out to you. So that you’ll KNOW. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 17 Comments »

    COVID-19 Update Morning 2-14-2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on February 14th, 2020 (All posts by )

    There are currently 65,213 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 1,486 fatalities. Of which 4,823 new cases and 116 new deaths were reported in Hubei province, China.
    .
    There are several trends in this update, as well as the headline summary. First Community spreading of COVID-19 is now established in Hong Kong (attached graphic), Japan and Singapore.
    COVID-19 in Hong Kong

    COVID-19 in Hong Kong

    .
    Second, the shut down of China as an economic power seems near complete. See the JP Morgan coal for electricity usage and the Goldman Sachs economic projection charts attached to this post. The JP Morgan chart shows that while traditionally daily coal consumption – the primary commodity used to keep China electrified – rebounds in the days following the Lunar New Year collapse when China hibernates for one week. This is not the case this now. There hasn’t been even a modest increase, indicating that so far there hasn’t been a return to work.
    .
    2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption

    2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption

    .
    Short Form — Lack of Chinese coal use/electric power generation indicates the scale of Chinese industries that are shut down…AKA near total.
    .
    And the “Just-In-Time/Sole-Source in China” world-wide, Multi-national corporation, economic shut down virus is gathering a huge economic momentum. Nissan has shut down auto production in addition to South Korea’s Hyundai for lack of Chinese parts. Rumor has it that Ford has the same issue — as their heater coils in their autos are sole sourced in China — and will soon shut down auto production.  Anything cheap or disposable in the world economy is sourced in China, and the Chinese economy is now off-line for the foreseeable future.
    Near Term Economic Projections for China

    Near Term Economic Projections for China

    .
    Third, China is again playing games with COVID-19 numbers and particularly the announced deaths to keep the death rate at 2.1%, saying deaths were “double counted”?!? (See JP Morgan graphic).
    .
    Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers

    Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers

    .
     This has been ‘officially noticed’ by the White House.
    .
    See:
    White House does not have ‘high confidence’ in China’s coronavirus information, official says
    .
    .
    Fourth, American COVID-19 are now officially 15 with a case in San Antonio, Texas from a Wuhan evacuation flight and no deaths. I say “officially” as there possible COVID-19 death in Boise, ID. See:
    .
    .
    The possible COVID-19 victim was a 71-year-old man found dead on Feb 9 in an advanced state of decomposition. He returned from China Feb 5. The initial testing came up negative, but additional tests are being run. The cause of death has not been released.
    .
    An idea of what “Community spreading” in Singapore means can be seen in the following report:
    .
    “Singapore Casino employee confirmed with COVID-19; symptomatic Feb 5, hospitalized Feb 9
    On February 13, 2020, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) pointed out that the confirmed case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Singapore announced on February 11 is an employee at the casino in Resorts World Sentosa Casino. The employee developed symptoms on February 5 and was hospitalized in isolation on February 9. Travelers who visited the casino during the communicable period (February 4-9) are advised to call 1922, put on a face mask and seek immediate medical attention as instructed if suspected symptoms develop within 2 weeks. Moreover, such travelers should inform the physician of any relevant travel history when seeking medical attention.”
    .

    .

    World Headline Summary:
    .
    o China says 1,716 medical workers have been infected
    o Singapore reports largest daily jump in cases amid increased human-to-human transmission
    o Hong Kong reports 3 new cases
    o Hubei’s new party boss orders quarantine tightened
    o President Xi touts new “biosecurity law”
    o Hong Kong Disney land offers space for quarantine
    o Chinese company says blood plasma of recovered patients useful in combating the virus
    o US mulling new travel restrictions

    -end-

     

    Posted in China, Civil Society, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Health Care, Medicine, Politics, Urban Issues, USA | 59 Comments »

    Meme Wars

    Posted by David Foster on February 13th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Michael Bloomberg is apparently spending a bunch of money on the development and deployment of memes.

    A meme could, potentially, neatly encapsulate and summarize a real, meaningful argument.  Or it could have the appearance of offering a conclusive argument when no such argument has actually been made.  Or it could be so ridiculous that it has no effect–or an opposite effect from that intended–on its target audience.

    William “Boss” Tweed was very upset by the cartoon of Thomas Nast, because, as he famously said:  “I don’t care a straw for your newspaper articles; my constituents don’t know how to read, but they can’t help seeing them damned pictures.”  Perhaps in our own era, there are plenty of people who do know how to read–who may well be college graduates–but whose attention spans are so limited, and who have so little exposure to logical discussion, that memes are the most effective way to reach them.

    Discussion question:  What memes have you seen that (a) effectively make a valid argument, (b) look like they are making an effective argument, but are actually doing no such thing, or (c) are so silly that they could convince basically nobody at all?

     

    Posted in Advertising, Elections, Media, USA | 26 Comments »

    The Goad

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on February 13th, 2020 (All posts by )

    “…Wake again, Bagheera. For what use was this thorn-pointed thing made?”
    Bagheera half opened his eyes—he was very sleepy—with a malicious twinkle. “It was made by men to thrust into the head of the sons of Hathi, so that the blood should pour out. I have seen the like in the street of Oodeypore, before our cages. That thing has tasted the blood of many such as Hathi.”
    “But why do they thrust into the heads of elephants?”
    “To teach them Man’s Law. Having neither claws nor teeth, men make these things—and worse.” – From The Kings’ Ankus by Rudyard Kipling

    The jeweled elephant goad, the ‘ankus’ of Kipling’s story – was indeed a thing made by men, intended to control elephants; a thing used to threaten and inflict pain, to make the elephant do what the man wielding the ankus do what was commanded. I have begun to think of late that the threat of being called a racist is much the same kind of instrument. It’s a means of control, wielded to enforce silence and obedience. Consider the various local police in English towns and cities, who were so bludgeoned by the threat of being viewed as racists that they turned a blind eye, over and over, and over again, to deliberate and organized grooming and sexual exploitation of white English girls by Pakistani gangsters. Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Society, Culture, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 4 Comments »

    It was about Flynn all along.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on February 13th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Last summer, I posted a column suggesting the Russia Hoax was aimed at Flynn.

    I am more and more coming around to the opinion of David Goldman and Michael Ledeen.

    The Russia hoax was aimed at Michael Flynn and his role as a Trump advisor.

    It was all about General Flynn. I think it began on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, when Flynn changed the way we did intelligence against the likes of Zarqawi, bin Laden, the Taliban, and their allies.

    General Flynn saw that our battlefield intelligence was too slow. We collected information from the Middle East and sent it back to Washington, where men with stars on their shoulders and others at the civilian intel agencies chewed it over, decided what to do, and sent instructions back to the war zone. By the time all that happened, the battlefield had changed. Flynn short-circuited this cumbersome bureaucratic procedure and moved the whole enterprise to the war itself. The new methods were light years faster. Intel went to local analysts, new actions were ordered from men on the battlefield (Flynn famously didn’t care about rank or status) and the war shifted in our favor.

    Now, there is more support for the idea that Flynn was the original target.

    It is, however, on a different theory and by Angelo Codevilla.

    Senior intelligence officials were the key element in the war on Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency. CIA used meetings that it manufactured as factual bases for lies about campaign advisors seeking Russian information to smear Hillary Clinton. Intelligence began formal investigation and surveillance without probable cause. Agents gained authorization to electronically surveil Trump and his campaign and defended their bureaucratic interests, sidelining Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and denying or delaying Trump appointments and security clearances.

    They feared that Flynn was going to convince Trump that the CIA was a rogue agency and should be dismantled.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Politics | 4 Comments »

    Strange Bedfellows?

    Posted by David Foster on February 11th, 2020 (All posts by )

    There seems to be a very large overlap between the political and social opinions of academics–a group which is very highly-educated, at least if we measure by time spent in the classroom–and the opinions of entertainers/celebrities–not typically distinguished in their educational level by that same metric, to put it mildly.  (Although with individual exceptions, of course)

    Why?

     

    Posted in Academia, Leftism, Media, Politics | 15 Comments »

    Different Perspective

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on February 11th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Update: There may already be a challenge to some of this at my own site. So feel free.

    Modern historians like looking at things from different angles.  Though this has been increasingly enforced along woke lines in the past generation, it is still a useful way to study.  Previous histories were about who ruled and who won battles. While these things have enormous top-down effects on everyone else at the time, and often have long-term effects, sometimes they turn out to be incidental, while other perspectives tell us more.  Religious and economic historians have long identified far-reaching effects that were more durable than whether a Henry or an Edward was on the throne in a particular decade.  The study of rulers lends itself to the making of lists, which are nice memorisable items for students. Subregional studies of dukes and barons are the same thing on a smaller scale.

    Military historians fell partly into the same ditches, though they were more likely to introduce changes in technology in weaponry and defense, which also informed our understanding of civilian technological changes. But it is only recently that historians have looked at social history in general. This has been driven by mostly female historians asking “What was life like for the women in this time and place?” and “What changes and continuities do we see over longer time-scales in that?” Studying marriage patterns, and whether women could own property, and whether they earned cash money are not things that changed overnight, as conquest or rebellion changed societies, but following those records tells us what we might otherwise miss, and provides explanations for puzzles. It also gives us a fuller picture of what life was like for everyone. When they ate, when they starved, whether mothers had any say in children’s marriages, who provided music – we know much more about such things now. I think it is all to the good, and male historians have been largely won over to the new perspective.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 5 Comments »

    How to Think About 2019-nCov

    Posted by Jay Manifold on February 8th, 2020 (All posts by )

    In the wake of Ebola, NVD-68, and Zika, we should have all learned our lesson by now. We haven’t. This is 2020—Iowans took a week to count the votes of 5% of their population, and an elderly white Northeastern president is principally opposed by a gaggle of downright ancient white Northeasterners. There aren’t any quick fixes for emergent idiocies like those, but a few simple heuristics will go a long way toward avoiding panic over coronavirus.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Aviation, Business, China, Current Events, Health Care, International Affairs, Markets and Trading, Predictions, Society, Transportation, USA | 45 Comments »

    New Bloomberg Ad Buy in Wisconsin

    Posted by Dan from Madison on February 7th, 2020 (All posts by )

    As reported here a month or so ago, we are getting absolutely deluged with Bloomberg ads (and not a one from any other candidate) here in Wisconsin. There has been a slight tack in course however, as Bloomberg is now bringing Obama into the picture. Here is the ad they are currently running here behind the cheddar curtain:
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Obama, Politics | 17 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on February 6th, 2020 (All posts by )

    smile

     

    Posted in Photos | 3 Comments »

    The Roaring Twenties, Revisited

    Posted by David Foster on February 6th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Here’s a piece that mentions some of the technological, social, and economic trends that were important in the 1920s, and goes on to discuss seven tipping points that the author thinks will be key in the 2020s.

     

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, History, Society, Tech, USA | 13 Comments »

    Fatherlessness

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on February 5th, 2020 (All posts by )

    There are very clear numbers associating fatherlessness with increased crime and other pathologies, such as dropping out of school or early sexual experience.

    Yet crime and dropping out have decreased in the society at large, even as fatherlessness in society has risen dramatically. Having a father who leaves or was never there seems to clearly be a bad indicator for an individual child. (Note: this is an association and could be genetic or environmental.) Yet the overall trend, even in fairly dramatic form, has not been able to override long-term improvement on those measures.  I wonder what is happening? I should look at the timetables for all of these and see if anything jumps out at me.  But first, I wondered whether any of you had already seen something on the matter.

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 15 Comments »

    Books That I Cannot Wait Not to Read

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on February 4th, 2020 (All posts by )

    Amanda at Mad Genius Club posted last week with some musings on the current publishing scene – er, that is what I took to calling the Literary Industrial Complex, back when I first went indy around 2008 – Indy Publishing that is. When people ask me who my publisher is, I look at them loftily, and reply, “I own the publishing company!” Which I do – a nice little small enterprise that I came into as junior partner, and which the original founder sold to me when she regretfully concluded that she could no longer carry on. We do other authors’ books, as well as my own; regional and small-press stuff, nothing which would ever excite the interest of the Literary Industrial Complex or the minions thereof. No point to it at this late date; as one of the other indy authors I associated with at the time often repeated – “If readers love-love-love the book, they don’t really care who published it.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Book Notes, Business, Diversions, Immigration | 16 Comments »

    Quotes of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on February 3rd, 2020 (All posts by )

    “There’s no algorithmic substitute for wisdom.”

    James the Lesser (here)
     
    —-
     
    “On any issue, the people who believe there are two sides keep getting shouted down by those who believe there is only one.”

    AVI

     

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Quotations | 2 Comments »

    Unemployment

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on February 3rd, 2020 (All posts by )

    Some NH towns are below 2% for unemployment now. As a consequence, you will be seeing more people working who have bad attitudes and/or have no idea what they are doing.

    Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a good thing that no one, neither their families nor the government, has to work to support them. Even partial survival in the workforce is a benefit for everyone concerned. It’s just that I want you to remember to be of good cheer when you are being served by knuckleheads, grifters, and punks. It’s all for the best. It is making it harder on charities that rely on volunteers, though.  They increasingly have to turn to retired people, who have bad backs and bad digestions, to get their jobs done. It doesn’t make low unemployment a bad thing.  It’s just a downside.
    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

    The fake impeachment is almost over.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on February 1st, 2020 (All posts by )

    The hysteria that began when Donald Trump won the 2016 election has labored and brought forth a mouse that was dealt with today in the Senate. There are still a few blows to administer, as the State of the Union speech Tuesday before a humiliated Democrat Congress, and the final vote to end the farce Wednesday. The Mueller “Investigation” which ended the Russia Hoax, was anticlimax. Then came the Ukraine manufactured crisis.

    The level of corruption by the Biden family, is explored in Peter Schweizer’s book, Profiles in Corruption. All the Bidens, not just Hunter the coke addled son, but the brothers and even the sister, are riddled with corruption. The Ukraine matter is just one of the tales in the book.

    The Russia collusion was largely based on a “dossier” paid for by the Clinton campaign and probably the product of Russian disinformation. Thus, the political campaign that colluded with Russia was that of Hillary Clinton, not Trump.

    I had my doubts about Trump in the beginning.

    I am not a Trump supporter but I am intrigued at the steady progress he is making toward success. I have been a fan of Angelo Codevilla’s characterization of America’s Ruling Class.

    The recent collapse of Republican Congressional resistance to the left’s political agenda as noted in the surrender of Paul Ryan to the Democrats in the budget, has aggravated the Republican base and its frustration.

    Ryan went on Bill Bennett’s radio show on Tuesday to tell his side of the story, which involves the fact that he inherited from outgoing Speaker John Boehner an unfavorable budget framework, as well as some of the tradeoffs involved (especially defense spending). He also laid out the argument I’ve heard elsewhere, which is that he needed to “clear the decks” so that a real return to “regular order” budgeting next year will be possible. You may or may not be persuaded, but the contrast with Boehner is fairly plain, I think.

    Ryan, after the election, was a disgrace.

    In spite of Democrat and some Republican hysteria, Trump has moved along, cancelling crippling regulation and negotiating trade reforms with Mexico, Canada and China. Meanwhile the hysteria grew.

    Then Mueller flamed out with no payoff for the millions spent.

    Mueller’s anti-Trump staffers knew they were never going to be able to drive Trump from office by indicting him. The only plausible way to drive him from office was to prioritize, over all else, making the report public. Then, perhaps Congress would use it to impeach. At the very least, the 448 pages of uncharged conduct would wound Trump politically, helping lead to his defeat in 2020 — an enticing thought for someone who had, say, attended the Hillary Clinton “victory” party and expressed adulatory “awe” for acting AG (and fellow Obama holdover) Sally Yates when she insubordinately refused to enforce Trump’s border security order.

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Elections, Trump | 16 Comments »

    Going, Going. Gone

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on January 31st, 2020 (All posts by )

    The credibility of the mainstream press establishment is shimmering into nothingness, like the last bit of winter snow after a week of warm spring days; just as our respect and trust for such federal bureaucracies and establishments like the FBI are similarly evaporating. While acknowledging and accepting that such establishments are operated by mere mortals, with all the weaknesses and moral failings that ordinary human beings are heir to, and grudgingly accepting the understanding that the establishment news media trends strongly to the left in political sympathies … look, we can accept all that and a certain degree of human bias, but what’s getting hard to swallow of late is the sheer, mind-numbing, flaming incompetence of them all. Which might be a blessing, for terrifying competence on the part of our current Ruling Class and their minions would make protesting or opposing them that much more difficult. Instead, as Kirk so memorably put it last week,

    “What we have is, instead, an aristocracy of dunces, men and women who tell the rest of us how smart they are, and then screw up the entirety of civilization based on fantasies they’ve come up with. The rest of us need to start recognizing that the emperor not only isn’t wearing any clothes, he’s drunk off his ass and waving his wing-wang in our faces. The people who’ve flim-flammed their way into power are all dangerously inept and terminally deluded. If you doubt me, open your eyes and look around yourself: Is there anything, anything at all that these soi-disant “elites” have gotten right in the last century? Anything at all?”

    Read the rest of this entry »

     

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media | 48 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on January 29th, 2020 (All posts by )

    It is unwise to let your dislike for certain individuals to run away with you to the point that you publish attacks that can be refuted with a few seconds of research.

    Speaking of publishing dumb things…

    Philosophers and philodoxers

    Thoughts on personal productivity from Marc Andreessen

    This 19th century French philosopher sounds worth reading.  From Tyler Cowen’s summary:

    He explicitly considers the possibility that the rate of scientific innovation may decline, in part because the austere and moral mentality of semi-rural family life, which is most favorable for creativity in his view, may be replaced by the whirlpool of distractions associated with the urban lifestyles of the modern age.

    The 10 worst colleges for free expression…the 2020 edition.

    Using albatrosses to track down illegal fishing boats.  A little advice for the captains of those boats: do not, under any circumstances, shoot an albatross.

    France’s most beautiful stained-glass windows

     

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Christianity, Media, Philosophy, Poetry, Politics, Society | 13 Comments »