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  • Archive for the 'COVID-19' Category

    Port Congestion on the West Coast

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 19th November 2020 (All posts by )

    For those not aware, I work in the world of industrial distribution. Today I received an interesting note from one of my vendors.

    They are experiencing product shipment delays to their USA customers due to “congestion at the ports”. First one of these I have received.

    This particular product (it is a finished good, not a part) is made in Korea, so I have to assume this is the West Coast.

    So, let me try to understand this.

    Covid isn’t a problem “over there”? They are making so much stuff that our ports are clogged? Or is it a problem and they just don’t care?

    As I mentioned in a previous post, the mighty struggle right now is getting finished goods from factories in the USA due to covid related sick outs and factory slowdowns due to new safety procedures. If the rest of the world is working in a normal fashion and able to make enough stuff to clog our ports, why aren’t we?

    Or are we getting so many sickouts at the ports that they can’t unload the ships? And why is this happening now instead of a few months ago?

    I’ve been in business long enough to know that something smells. Bad.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 23 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution 9 Months Into Covid

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 16th November 2020 (All posts by )

    Around every three months or so I am trying to put up a post on how it is going in the always exciting world of industrial distribution. I own a HVAC distributor, which is a subset of industrial distribution.

    Not too much has really changed as far as my job goes over the past three months, with a few notable exceptions.

    The really big bugaboo is finished goods. Things like furnaces, condensing units, evaporator coils, etc. are still difficult to get and are being rationed. All of the favors are being called in, and it is all hardball, all the time. Very stressful. I have incurred freight costs like never before sourcing equipment from regions of the country that perhaps over ordered, or don’t need particular products. But it is job number one to keep my contractors busy and making money. Their success is our success. I have never worked so hard and so many hours – I am really, really tired. Basically all I do all day is go over my inventory reports and try to fill holes. Then in the evening or on weekends I do my “regular work”.

    Parts and pieces are, remarkably, a much different story. There has never been any sort of real disruption in parts. I expected things in this area to go south rather quickly, as many components and parts are made “over there”, but it really never happened. Sure, there is an issue here and there, but nothing to really talk about.

    I expected AR to be a complete and total mess but that never really happened either – yet. I don’t know if companies are using PPP money to pay their bills, or maybe we just have a more resilient industry than most but AR is really in damned good shape.

    Covid in our company – we got our first positive a month or so ago and have had a few since and several spouses who were positive. All cases were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms. At first it was a huge deal, now we all know the procedure and just do it. We are doing everything we can at our facilities to stop the spread such as installing bipolar ionizers, staggering shifts and reducing hours, disinfecting common areas, along with mask wearing and distancing (and a number of other things). We are pretty proud that all of our cases were able to be tracked to events outside of our workplace thus far. But we aren’t counting any chickens.

    HVAC is about as essential as an industry can get in the Winter months and we are hoping to keep as fully staffed as possible and keep things moving. This year has been exhausting with all of the changing rules between different states, different counties, and all the rest. I haven’t had a day off since February and don’t expect one any time soon, as we need a decision maker on hand at all times until sh1t calms down, just a bit. We will squeak out a single digit increase in volume through it all, and we are very thankful to the man upstairs that we are so fortunate to be in an essential industry, unlike so many others.

    Don’t forget about all of the maintenance people and mechanics – they are heroes too, not just medical people in all of this.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 11 Comments »

    MERV 13 Filters and Unrealistic Expectations

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd October 2020 (All posts by )

    So here we are around nine months into this covid deal, and things are getting more unrealistic by the day.

    We are hearing, but don’t have proof, that municipalities and other governmental orgs are requiring MERV 13 filters for buildings. Which brings us to a couple of problems.

    I run an HVAC distributor and we are getting lots of calls for MERV 13 filters. We represent four filter companies. Two aren’t taking orders for MERV 13 product and of the other two, our best lead time is 4-6 months. For those who want to wait, we are encouraging them to buy a years supply and just store them.

    We are even having trouble getting our standard pleated MERV 10 product due to factory production slowdowns because of covid. So we are getting some of the shooting of the messenger by our customers, but we can handle that OK.

    Why the long lead times? Besides the crushing demand, the same companies that make media for masks, make media for MERV 13 filters. You can guess where priority is right now. Also, nobody has told me if the filters, presumably loaded with covid, will be someday declared a hazardous waste by OSHA, making their changeout completely ridiculous. Not to mention that MERV 13 filters create enormous amounts of static pressure, which will be terrible for a lot of systems, especially older ones. There are already rumblings of certain equipment manufacturers engineering departments getting ready to go to war with the authorities mandating these filters, and declaring “no warranty” on equipment failure due to lack of return air and MERV 13 filters putting their equipment out of engineering spec. This is super fun.

    We have been recommending for a long time that people use standard pleats in combination with a bipolar ionizer or UV product, both of which in the past few months have received covid killing certification. We are hoping this MERV 13 train isn’t fully out of the station just yet and that everyone will start to get a bit more realistic. But since it is 2020 we aren’t expecting much.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 16 Comments »

    Stopping the Insanity

    Posted by Robert Prost on 28th September 2020 (All posts by )

    On a recent fishing trip with a group of politically conservative friends, we found ourselves lamenting the societal insanity that has evolved around the covid-19 virus. The question was, how long will this massive over-reaction to a low-octane viral illness continue? Half of the group admitted to continuing to wear their masks when going into stores, simply to avoid being hassled. This struck me as rather sheep-like behavior. Most citizens are used to listening to, and following the advice of their local officials, a natural pattern of behavior which helps maintain the general order of society. This virus, which due to its occult origin, originally appeared potentially disastrous, is in reality, very pedestrian in its lethality. It has however, succeeded in bringing out the inner tyrant in many state and local officials. The demand that masks be worn, despite the fact that they are little more than a talisman against an invisible boogey man, has created a degree of compliance in the population unlike anything since the legitimate threats of polio or the Spanish flu.

    It is a universal truth that tyrants never cede their power willingly. For most of us, ‘sic semper tyrannis’ is not a good solution if one wishes to continue the course of one’s life. One might rob the tyrant of his, but it’s likely to be accomplished at the cost of one’s own life or liberty. Simple civil disobedience has been shown to be effective when many participate, but it too is often injurious to one’s liberty.

    Many years ago, I worked for one of the giant American corporations that inhaled management philosophies like hits from a bong. In the mind of upper management, each new inhalation was sure to provide magic visions to cure all the ills of the business. I took to calling it ‘panacea du jour’. One hot philosophy in the early 1980s was called ‘leadership by example’. In practice, it consisted of putting hard hats on the managers and making them pretend to be workers. Someone exhaled, and the vision was gone. But the core concept will work for us in our present circumstance.

    When you go into a store or other enclosed area that demands you wear a mask, do not. Simply go in, go about your business not as if you were dancing naked in public, rather you are treating the mask-less condition as entirely normal (as it should be). Be courteous, be pleasant and smile. I even sing along to whatever background music is being played in the background. You will get a lot of ugly looks from the karens around you. But when they glower, smile back. You will notice something that you may not have anticipated. Some of the masked individuals will look at you with obvious jealousy. For those few who also choose to not wear a mask, give them a wink and thumbs up. You have now assumed the mantle of leadership. Will you be in trouble? Nope. You have a trump card, HIPAA. The tyrants of the 1990s planted the seeds of their own destruction by making it illegal to demand details of your medical condition. On the off chance of a real confrontation, you have two magic words, ‘medical exemption’. A medical exemption means that you don’t have to wear a mask. The nature of your medical condition cannot be demanded by local authorities. HIPAA is over-riding federal law. States may in fact add to HIPAA law provisions, but cannot subtract from it in a way that forces you to reveal information.

    If you choose a leadership position as outlined here, there are no absolute guarantees of personal safety from rogue tyrants or the fists of the ultra-aggrieved. But the tiny tyrants’ taste of dictatorial powers has intoxicated them and they will not swear off its sweet succor without our help.

    Posted in COVID-19 | 40 Comments »

    COVID 19:The Value of Lives Saved versus the Cost of the Shutdown

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 25th September 2020 (All posts by )

    Economics is all about trade offs. In response to COVID 19 politicians have made these decisions. Ironically, the politician most directly responsible for well over 10,000 deaths, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, has argued that human life is’”priceless”’ But politicians always put lives at risk and imply a value. Had a national health care system existed as progressives like Gov Cuomo support, his defense may well have been that those deaths were justified as a matter of national health care policy.

    The practical pending question is who should get the vaccine first. Ezekiel Emanuel, Obama Care designer and Biden COVID adviser, would give the over 65 group, which accounts for 80% of U.S. deaths, the lowest priority for the vaccine based on their age, whereas the CDC recommends the opposite based on risk.

    Productivity Finances Health Care

    In a purely private system, the population would save for lifetime health care expense directly or through insurance companies and decide to what extent they would do so. Individual “value of life” determinations would depend on income and wealth, both reflecting individual productivity. In a fully socialized system, all lives would be valued equally based on the country’s ability to pay, reflecting average national productivity, I.e., still subject to aggregate fiscal and actuarial constraints. Whereas about 10% of households in the French National Health System top it up with private insurance and care, the British NIH system operates more like the Soviet System, with the political elite leaving the country for private care beyond the standard.

    Market based systems require a large life cycle accumulation of capital, for retirement and medical expenses, both back-ended and virtually indistinguishable. Socialized systems could – and arguably should – do the same.The U.S. has a hybrid (many would say Rube Goldberg) health care system, with Medicare, like Social Security, entirely pay-as-you-go with a faux Trust Fund. Social Security has relied on general tax revenues for over a decade and Medicare will as well in about four years.

    National health care systems are funded entirely by progressive taxation. In the US. payroll taxes and progressive income taxes pay for about half of all insurance costs: Medicaid (20%) covers the poor, Medicare (15%) the elderly, Obama Care the working population (16%), the military (5%) and almost all the rest receive tax-subsidized employer insurance. Government also provides partial explicit unemployment insurance for lost productivity paid by taxing workers, with an occasional top-off in a pandemic.

    Society benefits from the additional wealth accumulation of funded systems in the form of enhanced national productivity and economic growth, expanding the tax base. This allows the wealthy to opt out, but progressive politicians may find the increased longevity “unfair” and tax that wealth away, implicitly an advanced estate tax. Liquidating wealth has the same macro-consequence as increasing government debt to finance current health care, reducing future well being and potential tax revenues.

    The Value of Life: to Whom?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in COVID-19, Tradeoffs | 18 Comments »

    Plastic Pipe and You

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 10th September 2020 (All posts by )

    Preface – I own an HVAC distributor – HVAC distribution is a subset of industrial distribution.

    I received today an interesting letter from our supplier of PVC fittings. PVC is used in everything from plumbing to venting furnaces and a lot of applications in between. Every single contractor in the USA uses a PVC type product in their daily grind. The letter talked about several price increases from PVC resin suppliers – I have seen this before, and it isn’t too terribly unusual (any excuse to raise the price, right?). But also, there was this:

    Hurricane Laura dealt a devastating blow to the Gulf Coast of Louisiana where a substantial amount of PVC resin and related plastic raw materials is produced. Hurricane Laura damaged many chemical plants, including those in the PVC supply chain, and left many without any electricity. Two of the four PVC resin manufacturers have declared force majeure. Hurricane Laura also severely damaged portions of the railway system used to transport PVC resin from the Gulf Coast to various locations across the country. Depending on the severity of the damage to these manufacturing plants, regional infrastructures and railway system, the time required for us to receive PVC resin could be negatively impacted.

    Which is all to say that many building projects will see further delays, and the price just went up. Add to this the difficulty we are seeing with finished goods such as furnaces due to covid related production issues, and raw material price increases (silver) and it all makes for a miserable time to be an industrial distributor – although a time that has provided opportunity and rewards hustle and thinking outside of the box. I have never worked harder at keeping the barns full, but my contractors are very thankful and understand the challenges.

    Energizer batteries is even having covid related production issues. I have never been out of batteries before, but I guess we have never seen a year like 2020.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 6 Comments »

    New Frontiers in Offshoring

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

    Babysitting…of kids in Japan, via Zoom, by women in Rwanda.

    Relates to my posts telemigration and Covid-19, Remote Work, and Offshoring.

     

    Posted in COVID-19, Economics & Finance, Internet, Japan, Tech | 7 Comments »

    “Follow the Science” on the Corona Virus Pandemic

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 30th August 2020 (All posts by )

    The Lincoln – Douglas Debate Rematch

    As House speaker Nancy Pelosi publically alleged, the Republicans are “domestic enemies of the (deep) state.”

    The central campaign issue of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election has been the response to the Corona Virus pandemic, which roughly follows along party lines. Based on the administrative state’s scientific “consensus” Democratic politicians generally argued for a nationwide lockdown of most “non-critical” economic activity as a civic responsibility of all citizens, enforced by state police powers. Republican politicians generally question the “consensus,” reject a one size fits all statist solution, and (mildly) complain about the violation of constitutionally protected individual rights.

    In the 1858 Lincoln Douglas debates, Douglas, the incumbent Democratic Senator and Committee Chairman who had extended slavery into Kansas and Nebraska based on majoritarian democracy, i.e., the majority of white male voters, believed in the scientific theory that slaves were inferior and hence property. Lincoln argued that slaves had the same inalienable individual rights as all Americans that “government of, by and for the people” could not take away.

    Douglas maintained his incumbency, but a few years later Lincoln became POTUS and in defense of his principles engaged in a Civil War that sacrificed a tenth of his population and devastated the country. The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments protecting former slaves were passed before Southern Democrats rejoined the Union, further enhanced by the Civil Rights Acts of the early 1960s proposed by a Democratic President but passed only with large Republican support. While the demographics have since shifted dramatically – the Democratic Party is now 40% people of color – the philosophical divide remains unchanged. Contemporary Democrats still argue the state is sovereign, subject to a majority coalition, but governed by an administrative state.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in COVID-19, Current Events, History, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 6 Comments »

    Covid-19 Transmission Data

    Posted by David Foster on 26th August 2020 (All posts by )

    …an interesting study from China.  There is a discussion thread at Grim’s Hall.

    The study indicates that the transmission rate to household members where there is an infected member was 10.3%, while the transmission rate to healthcare workers was 1.0%..and the transmission rate on public transportation was only 0.1%.  However, I think there is some ambiguity in how these numbers should be interpreted.

    If you’re so inclined, read the paper, dig into the numbers and their meaning, and comment with your thoughts.

    Posted in China, COVID-19, Statistics | 15 Comments »

    Industrial Distribution Six Months Into Covid

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 22nd August 2020 (All posts by )

    Back when the pandemic shutdowns started (let’s say late March, early April) I had to seriously think about what I was going to do with and for my small business. For those not familiar, I own an HVAC distributor, and that industry is a subset of industrial distribution. The media circus had driven everyone to the point of exhaustion with all of the dire reports and things were bleak. The local governments in my areas took draconian measures and this wasn’t helping. So, as I usually do when facing a big problem, into a quiet room I went to just sit and think for a bit. Below the fold are some results.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, COVID-19 | 14 Comments »

    Reopening — II (Theory)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 17th August 2020 (All posts by )

    That’s all very well in practice, but how does it work in theory?

    — old University of Chicago joke

    I expect this blog’s readership to demand the theoretical considerations, so here’s a (non-exhaustive) compilation, beginning with a setup anecdote:

    In December of 2007 I was briefly—very briefly, as the work was interrupted by a blizzard—involved in rebuilding in Greensburg, Kansas, which had been practically erased from the map seven months earlier by an immense tornado. I had driven through a couple of months after the event and stumbled into a photo-op for Sen. Pat Roberts, who was doing a ribbon-cutting of sorts in a brand new convenience store. The devastation was more impressive than his speech; indeed, people who worked both New Orleans after Katrina and Greensburg after the tornado typically remarked that, allowing for scale, Greensburg was worse.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Boyd/Osinga Roundtable, Civil Society, COVID-19, Human Behavior, Organizational Analysis, Personal Narrative, Systems Analysis, USA | 2 Comments »

    Reopening — I (Practice)

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 17th August 2020 (All posts by )

    For most Americans, the great day of realization of the seriousness of the COVID-19 threat—or more precisely, the seriousness of the official reaction to it—was Thursday, March 12th, when they woke to the news that the previous evening, the National Basketball Association had postponed an OKC Thunder-Utah Jazz game after a player’s test result came back positive, and then quickly canceled the remainder of the season. I was less concerned with the NBA, but coincidentally, also on Thursday the 12th, was informed that a certain institution of higher education that we all know and love was moving to remote learning for undergraduate and graduate classes for its entire Spring Quarter of 2020. Simultaneously, nearly all students were ordered to plan to vacate their on-campus housing by 5 PM CDT on Sunday, March 22nd.

    I had also just returned home from a severely truncated trip to Italy which had gotten no farther than New York City. Had the Italy leg been undertaken, I would have been on one of the last flights out of that country before it was locked down entirely, and would have been a strong candidate for two weeks of quarantine upon arrival in the US. I was therefore necessarily concerned with pandemic response, and on the day after my return home, sent an e-mail to several leaders and volunteers in my church with a general offer of expertise and recommendations to pursue several of the items discussed below, especially a communications plan.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Management, Personal Narrative, Religion, Society, USA | 8 Comments »

    Covid-19, Remote Work, and Offshoring

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

    The general attitude toward working from home has certainly changed over the last several years.  In 2013, the then-CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, banned work-from-home at her company.  And in 2017, IBM established a similar ban. Both of these actions were based on perceived needs to improve productivity and collaboration at those companies

    But in 2020, a lot of companies that moved to work-from home in the Covid-19 environment…because they had no choice if they wanted to continue operating at all…have apparently found it to be working to their satisfaction, and many though not all employees like it, too.  And there is starting to be significant impact on where people choose to live…see these comments from the governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu.  The term ‘zoomtowns’ has been applied to locations where people choose to live and work remotely, based on a locality’s attractive characteristics and good Internet connectivity.

    I do think that a comprehensive work-from-home environment can result in losing something in terms of unplanned interactions…I’ve personally observed several significant product and business initiatives that resulted from such interactions, and there are also interesting historical cases. But such things are difficult to measure, and financial benefits and convenience of work-from-home are likely to prevail, perhaps excessively so in some cases.  In any event, the Yahoo! and IBM approach of broad-scale top-down corporate edicts is unlikely to be a good one.

    Another kind of remote work involves the use of people at remote locations…though not necessarily at home…to perform machine-control tasks that would previously have had to be done on-site.  The robots being used by Federal Express at its Memphis facility sometimes encounter problems that they can’t solve…they can be ‘advised’ by humans located in San Antonio. There are projects underway to make municipal water treatment plants remotely operable, either for emergency backup (as in a pandemic) or for normal operations, and there are also initiatives focused on remote operation of other kinds of infrastructure, utility, and industrial facilities.

    If something can be done by people who are remotely located within the United States, then in most cases it will also be doable by people who are remotely located in other parts of the world.  In my 2019 post telemigration, I wrote about the increasing feasibility of offshoring services work, not only manufacturing.  A lot of this has been going on for software development as well as for customer service.

    It may turn out that, in many cases, remote work in the US turns out to be just a waystation on the road to remote work somewhere else.

    Posted in Business, COVID-19, Customer Service, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Management, Tech | 42 Comments »

    Covid and HVAC Systems

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 6th August 2020 (All posts by )

    Disclaimer:
    I am not one of those guys with a lot of letters behind my name. All of what you are about to read are my own thoughts on the subject based on my thirty years of experience in the field of HVAC distribution and you are getting exactly what you are paying for. I have to generalize a bit so your particular HVAC system may not be described in full – the universe is simply too large. Even if you follow this advice, you still might get covid. Forward.

    There have been a lot of articles recently about the virus and how it transmits and moves around in air currents, in particular the ones that are created by HVAC systems in your domicile or your place of work. Some of these articles have been pretty decent, and a lot of them pretty dismal. Below are my thoughts on the virus. A lot of this is based on our past experience in the industry when anthrax was all the rage.

    There are three main ways to lower your chances of meeting the virus up close and personal, as relates to HVAC systems. These are in my order of preference:
    1. Dilute it
    2. Zap it
    3. Trap it
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in COVID-19 | 24 Comments »

    Paging Dr Kennedy

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd August 2020 (All posts by )

    Someone on social media linked this study of Covid-19 after-effects:

    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamacardiology/fullarticle/2768916

    …I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    Posted in COVID-19 | 48 Comments »

    Oh, FFS!

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 22nd July 2020 (All posts by )

    As if it wasn’t enough for the joyless, bitter scolds among the wokerati to have an absolute tizzy over the head of Goya Foods being civil and respectful of the office of the President of the US, another provider of excellent and relatively inexpensive foodstuffs is in their cross-hairs. Unlike the president of Goya Foods who basically told them to pound sand – and is now enjoying the economic benefits of having defied the wokerati – the management of Trader Joe’s is beating a sniveling and apologetic retreat, and promising to redo their policy of labeling their various ethnic food items with a suitably ethnic variation on ‘Trader Something-or-Other’. This was a bit of light-hearted bit of humor on their part, playing with naming stereotypes, but good lord, the grim and determined wokerati cannot abide any humor at all and so the whole concept must go. The Daughter Unit tells me, and the above link conforms, that the whole thing started as a petition by high school students, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. I suspect the responsible students are the earnest and censorious sorts, desperately trying to out-woke each other.

    Frankly, the whole ‘Trader Joe’s’ South Sea Island – Tropical Paradise motif always struck me as a last gasp of the 1950s ‘Tiki Culture’ and about the only one which didn’t involve a bar decorated with fishing nets and dried starfish, and fru-fru drinks with little umbrellas in them. Trader Joe’s various products are high quality, reasonably priced, and the social-consciousness is laid on with a light hand, in pleasant contrast with the mountain of ostentatious correctitude and high prices offered at Whole Foods. There is a reason the latter is derisively known as “Whole Paycheck.” I can only think it’s only a matter of time before the social justice warriors go after Trader Joe’s for that bit of cultural appropriation as well.

    At least the providers of groceries are not having as rotten a year due to the Chinese Commie Crud as Hollywood is. Theaters shut down, premieres cancelled, top-flight releases like Greyhound, with Tom Hanks and based on C.S. Foresters’ war novel The Good Shepherd diverted to release on streaming video, the fall-out from “Me Too” and Harvey Weinstein’s wholesale-level practice of the casting couch, the apparent urge among our producers of entertainment to whore after foreign audiences, and now looking to curry favor with the hot new trend of ‘anyone but white heterosexuals in front of the camera and behind it as well as behind it in any capacity’ … well, Establishment Hollywood has earned the foul reputation they richly deserve. Those of us in flyover country are watching old movies on DVD (from our own libraries, let it be known) or on streaming video, watching foreign films or series – practically anything other than grim parables and lectures by the wokerati.

    Comment as you wish: what are you going to watch, now? The Daughter Unit and I are watching episodes of Are You Being Served? Which has the side benefit of being gloriously politically incorrect, and not featuring any masks or six-foot apart social distancing. (The Daughter Unit and I temped for a few months at an upscale department store over the holiday season some years ago. We consider ‘Served’ as nearly a documentary on retail sales at a certain level.)

    Posted in Advertising, Capitalism, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Customer Service, History, Media, Military Affairs | 37 Comments »

    What Future for Grocery Shopping?

    Posted by David Foster on 19th July 2020 (All posts by )

    The Covid-19 situation has caused a lot of people to try online shopping for things they had previously bought in physical stores.  Groceries, in particular, were something that most people preferred to buy in person, usually buying online only for specialty products that were hard or inconvenient to find locally.  But with the lockdowns, a lot of people have started using the various online shopping platforms.  These seem to fall into three primary categories:

    –Systems such as Giant Peapod (recently rebranded as just Giant Food), which are operated by a grocery chain or an individual store.  Some systems will deliver directly from a warehouse, bypassing their brick-and-mortar store locations.  And sometimes an option is offered to preorder electronically, with in-store or curbside pickup at the store.

    –Systems such as Instacart, which are more or less vendor-agnostic: these systems will allow you to place orders for any of several stores in your area, after which one of their shoppers will collect your order from the vendor’s regular store.

    –Systems (Boxed is an example) which are have no store presence; they are only for online ordering and home delivery, but do the delivery from their own facilities…many kinds of products, obviously, are susceptible to this model only if shipped express with dry ice or similar packaging (expensive) or if the vendor has local facilities in the same area as the customer.

    The relative success of these approaches will have great implications not only for the futures of the various merchants and system providers, but also for the commercial real-estate market.  Systems that use the existing stores for fulfillment, such as Instacart, are beneficial to the survival and thriving of strip malls and other commercial space where grocery stores are typically located; systems focused on warehouse delivery are beneficial to the industrial property market but not so for retail properties.

    Your thoughts and experiences?

    Posted in Business, COVID-19, Marketing, Tech | 20 Comments »

    Saying “No”

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th June 2020 (All posts by )

    I lifted a graphic from last weekend’s Powerline Week in Pictures, and posted it on my Facebook feed (where I post only anodyne stuff and things to do with my books, home improvements, and social schedule) which pretty much sums up how I’m feeling this week. Kermit the Frog stares out a rain-drop-misted window, and says, “Sounds Like Thunder Outside – But With the Way 2020 is Going, It Could Be Godzilla.”

    Even before one could draw a breath of relief that the Chinese Commie Crud had not ravaged the US population anything like the 1918 Spanish Flu did, and that life was returning to something like normal, what with businesses slowly reopening – here came the stomping behemoth of violent protests and race-riots, in the wake of the death (possibly caused by drugs rather than the apparent mistreatment) of a long-time violent criminal of color at the hands of a white police officer.

    This entire brutal and grotesque encounter was on video and understandably condemned as unacceptable overreaction on the part of the officer by just about every reasonable person of any color who watched it. Serious concerns regarding the militarization of police have been raised for at least a decade among thoughtful citizens, what with so many instances of police barging into houses in no-knock and full SWAT mode (often the wrong house, and opening fire indiscriminately), of abusing civil forfeiture statutes and traffic fines as a means of making budget. This concern was exacerbated by resentment during the Chinese Commie Crud lockdown enforcing social distancing – like pursuing a solitary paddle-boarder, all alone on the ocean, and going all-out on parents tossing a softball in a park with their kid. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Capitalism, Civil Society, Conservatism, COVID-19, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Just Unbelievable, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media, Personal Narrative, Society, Urban Issues | 63 Comments »

    Do the Lord Chancellor and the Archbishop Approve?

    Posted by David Foster on 28th May 2020 (All posts by )

    YouTube is run by a woman named Susan Wojcicki.  She has indicated that videos peddling fake or unproven coronavirus remedies will be banned, and also suggested that video that “goes against” WHO guidance on the pandemic will be blocked.

    So Ms Wojcicki has established WHO as the ultimate worldwide authority on Covid-19, the  imprimatur of said authority being required for dissemination of any relevant information or opinions within Wojcicki’s domains.  One might remind her that on January 23 of this year, WHO decided not to declare that Covid-19 was a global health emergency…hence, had Wojcicki’s present rule been in effect then, any videos asserting that C-19 was, in fact, such an emergency would have been taken down!

    What is the thinking behind this sort of effort to clamp down on information flow?  One can certainly understand and sympathize with a desire to avoid the dissemination of quack cures.  But how does this morph into a justification for shutting down discussion of causes, risk levels, and public-policy responses to the epidemic?

    If I try to take as sympathetic a view as possible to Ms Wojcicki and those like her, I might view their actions as being motivated by a feeling of responsibility for consumer protection.  But Americans are more that just consumers: we are also (and much more importantly) citizens, participants in the public dialog and political process.  (And an interesting argument has been made that in the American system, citizens are officers of the state.)  And citizens, in order to fulfill their public responsibilities, need unfettered access to information and discussion.

    In the case of Twitter’s ‘fact checking’ of President Trump’s tweet about vote-by-mail, I’d say that the raw political bias is pretty evident.  Is vote-by-mail more susceptible to fraud than is conventional voting?  Considerable evidence can be amassed to suggest that it is indeed so susceptible, counter-evidence and arguments can also be presented. It is a legitimate topic for public discussion, yet Twitter chooses to treat is as if it is a matter of absolute black-and-white truth-versus-falsity on which they have to weigh in, as if it were a question of the spherical vs flat shape of the earth or the value of the acceleration of gravity.  (Although I see there are some flat-earth tweets up on Twitter right now.)  And I haven’t seen any Twitter fact-checking of the feed from the People’s Daily of China, or the official Twitter account of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran…or, for that matter, of the statements of Joe Biden.

    We are reaching a state at which the ability to publish information and have it reach certain very large audiences is dependent on the approval of certain individuals at Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook…somewhat similar to the way in which publication of a book in England, prior to 1692, required the imprimatur of the Lord Chancellor, the Archbishop of Canterbury, or one of certain other specified officials.  The analogy is not perfect, of course, and it will be argued that it isn’t very relevant at all, because today, if Twitter won’t distribute your content, you can always try Facebook, and if that doesn’t work either, there’s always Gab or other relatively-minor platforms, or you can just put up your own website or blog…or start your own social media platform.  But, still, a very small number of entities and their officials are exercising a very high degree of control over information flow in America today.

    What, if anything, can/should be done about this situation?  One argument is that nothing can be or needs to be done that Twitter etc are private property, and if they discriminate excessively, other platforms will supplant them.  Another argument is that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should be modified/limited…this is the provision which insulates on-line service providers such as social media companies—not only pure internet service providers or hosting companies—from certain forms of liability which are applicable to traditional publishers.  This is the direction in which President Trump’s thinking seems to be going.

    There is also an interesting ‘public square’ argument which has been made, specifically by Prager University in connection with the ‘restricted’ status assigned to its videos by YouTube.  This is based on a 1945 Supreme Court decision in the case of Marsh v Alabama, in which the court ruled that Gulf Shipbuilding Company could not prohibit a Jehovah’s Witness from distributing literature in the the town of Chickasaw, Alabama, even though that town was Gulf Shipbuilding’s private property.  The argument is that the precedent also applies to on-line communities, even though these do not involve physical presence…this argument  was rejected, though, by both the district court and the Ninth Circuit…not sure whether there will be an appeal to the Supremes. (The Federalist has proposed that social media companies could be required to provide specific ‘due process’ protections for content creators, in exchange for retaining their Section 230 immunities.)

    So what are your thoughts on this topic?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, COVID-19, Current Events, Internet, Tech | 37 Comments »

    Consent of the Governed

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 21st May 2020 (All posts by )

    “…to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”
    “The consent of the governed” – and what a concept, hey? And outlined in our very own Declaration of Independence. That the government has authority only as far as those it governs permits, allows or tolerates; a notion which seems to have escaped the more stubbornly authoritarian among us, such as the governors of certain states: among them Gavin “Gruesome” Newsom, of California, the Unspeakable Kate Brown of Oregon, Gretchen Witmer, the Grand Karenator of Michigan, J.B. “Jabba the Hutt” Pritzker of Illinois, Ralph Northam, the Baby-Killer of Virginia and the weaselly and nipple-pierced autocrat of New York, Andrew “Missed It By That Much!” Cuomo. All the above-listed, and a good few others of lesser notoriety and office went on an authoritarian kick: “Close all the things!” seemed to be their rallying cry, after first ignoring the first warning signs of the Wuhan Coronavirus, aka the Chinese Commie Crud, and then losing their damned minds when the National Establishment Media lost theirs. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 13 Comments »

    What is going on with China right now ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th May 2020 (All posts by )

    China was admitted into the World Trade Organization in 2001 with the understanding that they would participate in free trade and to international norms.

    Until the 1970s, China’s economy was managed by the communist government and was kept closed from other economies. Together with political reforms, China in the early 1980s began to open its economy and signed a number of regional trade agreements. China gained observer status with GATT and from 1986, began working towards joining that organization. China aimed to be included as a WTO founding member (which would validate it as a world economic power) but this attempt was thwarted because the United States, European countries, and Japan requested that China first reform various tariff policies, including tariff reductions, open markets and industrial policies.

    That has not happened. China has followed a mercantilist trade policy, stealing intellectual property, requiring companies selling to the Chinese to share ownership with often corrupt entities owned by the Peoples Liberation Army and relatives of regime principals.

    Mercantilism is a policy that is designed to maximize the exports and minimize the imports for an economy. It promotes imperialism, tariffs and subsidies on traded goods to achieve that goal. These policies aim to reduce a possible current account deficit or reach a current account surplus. Mercantilism includes an economic policy aimed at accumulating monetary reserves through a positive balance of trade, especially of finished goods. Historically, such policies frequently led to war and also motivated colonial expansion.[1] Mercantilist theory varies in sophistication from one writer to another and has evolved over time.

    America has been largely passive in tolerating this behavior until Donald Trump became president. Some of this passivity may reflect Chinese influence with US politicians.

    While it may seem politics as usual in Washington today, some are alarmed.

    “Nobody in the 1980s would have represented the Russian government. And now you find so many lobbying for the Chinese government,” said Frank Wolf, a retired U.S. representative from Virginia who long served as the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. “I served in Congress for 34 years. I find it shocking.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, COVID-19, Health Care, Markets and Trading | 47 Comments »

    Virus Transmission Modes

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

    Here’s an article with data…or at least assertions…about various ways in which Covid-19 spreads and their relative risks.

    To the extent that data at this level of detail can be obtained and verified, it seems a lot more useful than generic claims about lockdowns and social distancing, or the elimination of same.

    Mike K, any comments?

    Posted in COVID-19, Medicine, Science, USA | 25 Comments »

    Rush Limbaugh Went There.

    Posted by Stephen Karlson on 10th May 2020 (All posts by )

    He was being funny, late on last Thursday’s show, and he came up with this.  “My favorite conspiracy theory is that this virus is the work of a bunch of lunatic billionaires who really believe that we are destroying the planet and they have discovered that we can’t get to Mars in time and we can’t colonize the moon so they have come up with a way to get rid of billions of people to make the world have a longer survivability potential.”  I’ve been referring, recently, to Tom Clancy novels, but I had no plans to go anywhere near Rainbow Six.

    As the novel involves precisely that kind of lunatic billionaire, as well as some clandestine work to shut down the plan and disappear the plotters, because of the risk of “a global panic when people realize what a biotech company can do if it wants,” though, well, perhaps there’s another story in it.

    Regular readers of Tom Clancy know that the likelihood of a secret being blown is proportional to the square of the number of people in on it.  The novel left a number of possible dots to connect to put together yet another story, one with the potential to topple governments.  If I had any sort of novel-writing skills, I might essay such a thing, although it might be more productive to offer some of the dots, as if a mental exercise in quarantine, should anyone wish to essay such an effort.

    There are almost enough dots to make a post as long as a Tom Clancy novel.  They’re below the jump.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, COVID-19, Current Events, Diversions, Environment | 20 Comments »

    Respecting Authority

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th May 2020 (All posts by )

    As the Deity is my witness, I swear that certain of our elected officials at the state and municipal level are holding a contest to see who can be the most petty, obnoxious, contradictory, and unreasonably dictatorial boot stamping on a human face in the wake of the Wuhan coronavirus. (Yes and I will call it the Wuhan coronavirus, or maybe even the Chinese Commie Crud; I owe nothing to the Chinese Communist Party, nor do I expect to sell books in China, so bite me, Premier “Winnie the Poo” Xi, you and your running-dog lackeys in the American media.)

    Lets’ see – Governor Gretchen “Karen” Witmer was making a strong showing for most of the last few weeks; stupid and illogical orders as to what was essential and what was not; yea, even to the point of roping off aisles in general-purpose stores. You could go to the store, look at the merchandise which was sitting right there, in plain sight … but because Governor “Karen” had ruled, in her inexplicable wisdom, that certain items were not essential … you could not purchase them. You could, in fact, order them through the store website … but you could not actually pick up the item and schlep it to the cashier yourself. Governor “Karen” also, in her infinite wisdom, decided that the same quarantine/isolation practices that were marginally appropriate for the Big City in her state were also appropriate for the far-distant rural counties, where one might have to actually arrange for someone with the Wuhan coronavirus to come and cough on you. Governor “Karen” also claimed to see Nazi and Confederate banners at public protests objecting to her idiotic policies. So, not only stupid and illogical … but delusional. If she was auditioning for a spot as the Dem VP-nominee, I suspect that she has bombed the audition. (But one never knows. Like idiocy, there seems to be an infinite and boundless supply of delusions of competence on the part of our current political leadership in blue states.) Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Business, Civil Society, COVID-19 | 20 Comments »

    “The Pandemic Panic Panic”

    Posted by Jonathan on 1st May 2020 (All posts by )

    Some interesting thoughts from Roger J. Brown.

    More thoughts here.

    Worth reading.

    Posted in COVID-19, Politics | 29 Comments »