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  • Archive for July, 2019

    “Like a combination Love Boat and Gravy Train”

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st July 2019 (All posts by )

    NEW YORK CITY (AP) – After a journey spanning 5 years and over 100,000 nautical miles, a liberal research vessel has finally returned home to the New York harbor from which it originally launched. After stopping in 197 countries and interviewing over 50,000 people, the researchers report that they were unable to locate anyone who was not entitled to US health care, welfare payments, or voting rights.

    [. . .]

    (Read the whole thing.)

    Posted in Humor, Leftism, Politics | 7 Comments »

    Mueller is over. What next?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 29th July 2019 (All posts by )

    The Mueller hearings were a huge disappointment to the Democrats, who were counting on scandal and impeachment to substitute for governing. Two leaders, Schiff and Nadler, seem unwilling to give up and try legislating. Schiff, who seems to most devoted to the Russia Hoax, has a darker side.

    Schiff is the first Democrat since 1932 to represent the region.

    He was an eloquent booster of McCain-Feingold campaign-finance legislation, seeking to put limits on some of the very expenditures that swamped his own race against former Rep. James Rogan, whom he beat by three percentage points.

    (Limiting expenditures is a point Colbert needled him on. Colbert: “Isn’t that the equivalent of sleeping with a prostitute and then strangling her to hide your shame?” Schiff: “Well … I wouldn’t want to say it like that.”)

    Rogan, of course was the target of massive Democrat fund raising to punish the House prosecutor for the Clinton impeachment.

    That fawning “The Hill” tongue bath did not provide much for the “darker side.”

    Nadler, another Clinton defender, has shed 60 pounds since his gastric bypass but he still looks about 100 pounds overweight. He is a little less strident than Schiff in public.

    Where do they go from here ?

    They get no help from Andrew McCarthy who demolishes their arguments.

    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.

    Of course, it wouldn’t be enough to get the report to Congress. The challenge was to get it there with the obstruction case still viable even though prosecutors knew they couldn’t get away with recommending an obstruction indictment. How to accomplish this? By pretending that the OLC guidance prevented prosecutors from even making a charging decision.

    This resulted in the Ted Lieu question and Mueller’s answer which he had to retract after the break.

    It is becoming more and more apparent that Mueller’s ‘assistant” prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann is the lead conspirator in the coup.

    Weissmann is distinguished by his abysmal record as a corrupt prosecutor in several cases.

    A lawyer representing whistleblowers referred Andrew Weissman to the Department of Justice’s Inspector General (IG) for “corrupt legal practices”.

    Weissman is Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s lead investigator in the Russia-Trump probe. He is the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York. That was Loretta Lynch’s territory. He rose through the ranks under Mueller’s stewardship.

    In 2015, civil rights attorney David Schoen referred Weisman to the IG for his handling of a case targeting the Columbo crime family. Schoen said he is not a member of a political party and there is no political motivation.

    Weissman was the lead attorney in the Persico trial and he withheld exculpatory evidence, a Brady violation. Schoen said he decided to revisit the nearly two-decade-long cases based on new witness information and “recent evidence that has come to light in the last several months.”

    Weissman never told the defense that a prosecution witness, Gregory Scarpa Sr., was also working for years as an FBI informant. The underworld witness was nicknamed ‘Hannibal’ and the “Grim Reaper’ and committed over 100 murders.

    The judge described AUSA Weissmann’s conduct as the “myopic withholding of information” and “reprehensible and subject, perhaps, to appropriate disciplinary measures,” according to the opinion obtained by investigative reporter Sara Carter.

    He further distinguished himself with a rare Unanimous Supreme Court decision reversing his conviction of Arthur Anderson in the Enron case.

    With a brief, pointed and unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned Arthur Andersen’s conviction for shredding Enron accounting documents as that company was collapsing in one of the nation’s biggest corporate scandals.

    The court held that the trial judge’s instructions to the jury failed to require the necessary proof that Andersen knew its actions were wrong.

    But the decision represents little more than a Pyrrhic victory for Andersen, which lost its clients after being indicted on obstruction of justice charges and has no chance of returning as a viable enterprise. The accounting firm has shrunk from 28,000 employees in the United States to a skeleton crew of 200, who are attending to the final details of closing down the partnership.

    28,000 people lost their jobs. The prosecutor who hid evidence was Weissmann.

    In the interview with Devin Nunes, Maria Bartiromo asks the ultimate question: “who was the mastermind” behind all of these intelligence operations?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Current Events, Elections, Trump | 10 Comments »

    More Heinlein Stories

    Posted by David Foster on 28th July 2019 (All posts by )

    I recently posted a brief review of The Man Who Sold the Moon, a 1950 story about the first lunar trip, and thought some reviews of other early Heinlein stories might be of interest as well.  (For those who haven’t yet read these stories, I’ve tried to minimize spoilers.)

    Let There be Light (published in 1940).  Archie Douglas, a scientist, tries to pick up a very attractive woman who is dining by herself. She politely turns him down, but it soon transpires that she is the very same Doctor M L Martin with whom Douglas has a scientific meeting scheduled.  (M L = Mary Lou.)  Initially, Archie refuses to believe that a woman so attractive could have such outstanding scientific credentials, but he is soon convinced, and the two begin a research collaboration that quickly develops romantic overtones.

    Their effort initially focuses on the development of electroluminscent light panels, making use of Mary Lou’s earlier research on the firefly–but when Archie’s factory-owner father faces the prospect of being run out of business by discriminatory electric rates imposed by the power cartel, the pair decides to reverse the process and efficiently create electricity from sunlight.  They succeed…but the power cartel is not happy about the prospect of cheap distributed generation and will do anything to keep them from bringing their technology to market.

    A fun story, with lots of snappy banter between the pair.

    The Roads Must Roll (published in 1940).  Larry Gaines, chief engineer of the Reno–San Diego roadtown, is explaining the rolling-road technology and its social/economic impact to an Australian visitor.  These ‘roadtowns’ are huge multistrip conveyor belts:  passengers can get on at any point and then, depending on the length of their journey, move from the initial 5mph strip all the way over to the 100mph strip.  More conducive to intermediate stops than the Elon Musk approach!

    The fast strip is wide enough to allow shops and restaurants to be located on it…Gaines and his visitor are conversing while having lunch at Jake’s Steak House. (“To dine on the fly makes the miles roll by.”)  The Australian (who is Transport Minister of that country) is impressed with what he has seen and what Gaines tells him about its usefulness and social impact–but he demurs politely: “”isn’t it possible that you may have put too many eggs in one basket in allowing your whole economy to become dependent on the functioning of one type of machinery?”

    Gaines responds that the potentially-serious reliability issue is not with the machinery, but with the men who tend it: “Other industries can go on strike, and only create temporary and partial dislocations…But if the roads stop rolling, everything else must stop; the effect would be the same as a general strike: with this important difference:  It takes a majority of the population fired by a real feeling of grievance, to create a general strike, but the men that run the roads, few as they are, can create the same complete paralysis.”

    “We had just one strike on the roads, back in ”sixty-six.  It was justified, I think, and it corrected a lot of real abuses–but it mustn’t happen again.”

    Gaines is confident that there will be no such problems in the future, he tells his guest: the engineers who manage the road’s operation are now part of a military-like organization with high esprit de corps:  indeed, they are graduates of the United States Academy of Transport, and even have their own song, to the tune of “Those caissons go rolling along.”

    Just then, Gaines’ coffee lands in his lap.  The strip has abruptly begun slowing to a stop.  He soon discovers that members of his workforce have fallen under the spell of an ideology called Functionalism, which holds that people who do the most critical work in a society should have political power to match. And, what is more, the primary instigator of the rebellion is…Gaines’ own deputy.

    I’m not sure whether the technology would really be workable–with strips running at speeds up to 100mph, it would seem that the resulting winds would create an insoluble problem, even with Heinlein’s proposed solution (partitions to isolate air flow between the different strips)  But it’s a good story, and points out a real potential issue with critical infrastructure operated by key, hard-to-replace personnel.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Energy & Power Generation, Society, Space, Tech | 19 Comments »

    Denouement

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 27th July 2019 (All posts by )

    (This was a follow-up to a brif post at AVI) Hmm.  Perhaps I overestimated how much deep thought was going to result from Arthur C Brooks’ essay. I am having many thoughts, but they don’t seem to be leading very far. Certainly not to any coherent whole.

    I see an advantage to the career I fell into that I had not noticed before. (Note: I am a semi-retired psychiatric social worker who has worked with the acutely and dangerously ill at the NH state hospital for over 40 years.) The amount of fluid intelligence needed for the job is above average, but not enormous.  I always made my way through by finding side specialties to learn about, or took on special projects, or mostly, just finished my work as soon as possible so that I could chat up the very intelligent people who I found around there. I recommend neurologists as a go-to resource for that, with psychiatrists second. Psychologists who do testing or research I would rank pretty high as well. Of course, those three categories also inclued some of the worst people to spend your time with, but some risk is always present in conversation.   But mostly, my fluid intelligence always went to things outside of work, and those are still largely available to me.

    Thus, coming in to cover for other people’s vacations requires an adaptability and willingness to endure unfamiliarity and chaos that most people don’t like, but I’ll have enough fluid intelligence for this gig even after anticipated decline. This part of the life adjustment is not bad at all, and I can see myself doing it indefinitely.

    His opening story about the elderly famous person who was feeling useless did sting a bit. I had thought that the problem in those years might be regrets at not having accomplished more, yet here was someone who accomplished a great deal. Current usefulness is the issue for some. I had a glimpse of this in 2000, shortly after my mother died.  I took my stepfather out to lunch and he mentioned that he was not useful anymore. I nodded that I had seen the first of that the year before for myself, as my second son came to the end of his highschool years. We had not fully decided to bring the two Romanians into the family at that point, and I still considered that raising the first two sons had been the Great Work of Tracy’s and my life. What would I do after? Work was a job, not a career. Perhaps getting the new church off the ground would be the key.

    My stepfather cut me off dismissively, that I didn’t understand at all – very typical of him, but I at least see his point.  He had been successful in his career, president of a mutual fund and made millions.  He had just gone through the arduous two years of losing a second wife to cancer. My comment must have seemed shallow to him. No one needed him anymore, not for anything.  I still had children at home and a wife.  I had a job to go to. That earlier success actually makes the transition harder had not quite occurred to me, thought it makes sense. We get used to a certain level of status and accomplishment as normal and perceive sharply any diminution.  My semi-retirement two-and-a-half years ago was an opposite for me.  I was greatly relieved at not having so many things depend on me every day. To walk away from permanent anxiety was blessed release. Maybe that will look different in four years.

    I was a little irritated at Brooks going the Hindu mystic route – I have never had much patience with Americans trying to get the hang of Eastern religions. The advice he received and passed on was more practical than mystical, however. I had read something like this before.  It does seem wise to change goals to what is more appropriate for those who have seen much.  To see things and understand them and pass them on may be among our more useful tasks, not a consolation prize. Dragging in David Brooks and his new book did make me wonder whether Arthur understood this as deeply as I thought.  To focus on eulogy virtues instead of resume virtues is a nice phrasing, but is this really so profound?  I’ve been thinking about death since I was a child, and have had a life of sermons, books, conversation, and Bible studies that taught the vanity of earthly accomplishment and the preeminence of building a self for the next world.  Isn’t it simply…well, I suppose it still needs to be taught, new every morning.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 11 Comments »

    Why I Do Not Care for Ilhan Omar

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Oh, let me count the ways – first, a purely visceral and visual reaction: she’s a snake in a trendy head-scarf. Reminds me of the internet meme of Momo, actually. And the fact that she is a particularly nasty bigot and vocal anti-Ordinary American, and Jew-hater, and might very well have both perpetuated and benefited from immigration fraud.
    And … Somali. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Immigration, Leftism | 8 Comments »

    Well, That’s Interesting

    Posted by David Foster on 25th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Tulsi Gabbard is suing Google for $50MM and also seeking injunctive relief.

    Link

    The article at the link includes the complaint.

    Posted in Advertising, Business, Civil Liberties, Tech | 21 Comments »

    We Shall Fight Them in the Kitchens

    Posted by Grurray on 25th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the famous Kitchen Debate between Nixon and Khrushchev.

    The setting was the American National Exhibition. It was our part of a cultural exchange program with the Soviets that year. Our exhibit displayed a cross section of American products, from cars to household gadgets to Pepsi Cola. It was meant to showcase good old Yankee ingenuity, along with a healthy helping of truth, justice, and the American Way. The Soviet exhibit in America earlier that year was less well known, but presumably connected many endeavoring spies with many eager useful idiots.

    Khrushchev, unhappy with recent events regarding East Germany and the status of Berlin, showed up in a downright cranky mood and fired the first shots in the impromptu debate. Sounding especially neo-reactionary that day, he questioned the utility of superficial gadgets when his Soviet products, such as rockets and prison camps, were so much more impressive in the grand scheme of dialectical progress.

    Despite the jaded revisionism over the years since the Cold War ended, Nixon more than held his own responding to Khrushchev’s sallies. Free markets and competition drive innovation that benefits our lives. A wide variety of consumer choices does lead to a broader distribution of wealth, and it is the best way known to man that, while certainly not eliminating social classes, allows for greater circulation between classes.

    The communist solution, in contrast, is a sclerosis of social mobility. Everyone is a slave to the state and will remain that way.

    “After all, you don’t know everything,” Nixon said to the inflated Khrushchev. Of course, none of us can, but even more importantly, what we do know will always be more than we can tell,. What we know will always be more than we can perceive to know. True knowledge about human values and the human condition must be disentangled and teased out, abducted from available information that is only seen through a glass darkly, and then put back together over and over in an endless cycle of return and departure. The best products that emerge from the scuffle are the ones that unite us, and, when we look at them, they reflect back the best about ourselves and our way of life.

    Khrushchev, the son of a humble miner, may have known this once, but he was perhaps cleansed of this notion in the Soviet revolutionary fervor for the charade of a new socialist consciousness. Nixon, the son of a Quaker grocer, born and raised in the house his father built, did not forget.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 14 Comments »

    A short reminder about New York City municipal takeovers

    Posted by TM Lutas on 24th July 2019 (All posts by )

    The New York City Subways were largely built by private enterprise and had private owners. Rides were $0.05. The private owners of the various systems couldn’t keep offering service for that low a price and were discussing raising the fares.

    The city took over the multiple private systems in 1940. The stated reason was in order to save the nickel fare. They did, for seven whole years. They then doubled it to $0.10. The current fare is $2.75 a ride, an inflation of 5,500% from the takeover date of 1940. Annualized over the 79 years that’s 5.2%. Average inflation has been 3.72% over that period of time.

    Mayor Bill DeBlasio just proposed looking into taking over the regional electric company, ConEd which serves the city and Westchester County. His stated reason is to reduce the number of service failures.

    Note: as I wrote in the comments, I asked for someone to check my math. The numbers were recalculated and the verbiage edited. I’ve never thought it was important but I’m not an economist. I’m also not an alumnus of the University of Chicago. I was invited on this blog many years ago as someone “at heart” and have been contributing ever since. The University of Chicago is not responsible for me and I’m not responsible for it.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 17 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2019 (All posts by )

    Haven’t posted one of these for while, so here are a few links I found interesting…

    Tom Wolfe on the space race as a combat of individual champions in the ancient style.

    Zoning rules as an enemy of shade.

    Sarah Hoyt on the human tendency to assume that the conditions of the past still apply.  (Even the purely imagined and stereotypical conditions of the past, in some cases, I’d add)

    Interesting ‘blog’ by Holly (Maths Geek).  (Actually a Twitter feed…people who are on Twitter would IMO do well to mirror all content onto a traditional blog unless they are willing to have their work at the mercy of Jack Dorsey and his minions)

    Despite all the concern and hype about Russian hacking, China’s spying and influence within our borders are rising.  See also this case of a former GE engineer and a businessman charged with stealing turbine technology, with the “financial and other support” of the Chinese government.  Additionally, see my post So, really want to talk about foreign intervention?

    Posted in Big Government, Blogging, China, Deep Thoughts, Feminism, History, Human Behavior, Science, Space, Tech | 8 Comments »

    Ronald Reagan Was An Unreconstructed Liberal

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 20th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Reagan, speaking to the UN in 1987:

    “In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?”

    No, that wouldn’t happen. That is optimistic to a Pollyannish level. Perhaps if there were massed invading ships so that there was no question that it was a hostile invading force, this would be so. Yet we have seen this throughout history, and human beings actually don’t act that way.

    The Romans hired outside tribes along the frontier to fight other invaders, and sometimes brought them to the center of Empire to fight their own internal struggles for power.  Goths, Huns, Allemani, Franks, Vandals…and these are the very tribes that lead to their undoing.  The leftover Romano-Britons brought in Saxons, Angles, and other tribes to help them in their fights against each other. Now the whole place is named Angle-land, England. Various Muslim tribes were happy to ally with the Crusaders against Seljuks or Sassanids they thought were more worrisome, and the Crusaders with Muslims.  The Native tribes of New England tried to use their connections with the English settlers to push each other around, though some preferred to ally with the Dutch or French, and thus, eventually, the French & Indian War was inevitable. Later natives in the Central Plains and westward were happy to use the expanding Americans against the dreaded Comanches. Now all those tribes identify together and wish they had made a unified stand early on.  The Romans eventually came to that conclusion as well.

    Arriving aliens might arrive for trade, or exploration, or as some raiding party. Wherever they landed first would form a relationship with them and be perfectly happy to use them to their advantage against Terrestrial enemies. Bilbo thought an invasion of dragons might do the Shire good, and that could be accurate. But that’s a single people, not one among many.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 16 Comments »

    When the Saxon Began to Hate

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th July 2019 (All posts by )

    It was not part of their blood,
    It came to them very late,
    With long arrears to make good,
    When the Saxon began to hate.

    I have often jokingly wished that some kind of secret sign existed, like a Masonic emblem or peculiar handshake by which those of us conservatives who do not go about openly advertising our political affiliations to all and sundry might discretely identify a kindred spirit. Those of us in the real world have friends, neighbors, and co-workers who range across the political spectrum; Traditional good manners and consideration for those who didn’t share your beliefs once dictated a degree of ambiguity regarding political leanings, sexual orientation, and religious beliefs. This sense of discretion owed more to conventional good manners rather than cowardice, although a disinclination about being bashed about the head by a member of the Klantifa, harassed out of a restaurant, or a Twitter campaign to get one fired from employment are lately a very real possibility as a result of overtly advertising ones’ conservative sympathies.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, History, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Media, Miscellaneous, Politics, Predictions, Tea Party, Trump | 39 Comments »

    Re-Privatizing Fannie and Freddie: It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 19th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Privatization reform of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a hot topic on and off since their founding eight and five decades ago respectively, is heating up once again after more than a decade of temporary conservatorship. All past reform efforts have failed. What should we have learned?

    • Private markets operate on one set of incentives and accountability, government on an entirely different set. Each has its problems and imperfect solutions.
    • Private markets may inappropriately discriminate against qualified borrowers, for example, whereas public programs may fail to adequately discriminate.
    • Public enterprises created to jump-start or complement private markets often miss the mark, with unintended consequences.
    • Politicians much prefer to deliver subsidies through taxes (in this case tax exempt debt substituting for taxable equity) rather than expenditures – especially since the Budget Control Act of 1974 – and implicit off-budget credit guarantees that delay the reckoning.
    • In spite of good intentions and design to get the best of both, privatized hybrid public-private systems inevitably embody the worst: public risk for private profit. Lacking both market and public discipline, they cause systemic failure that “nobody could have seen coming.”
    • Political reform reflexively blames private market failure, doubling down on unaccountable and ineffective bureaucratic methods while providing opaque bailouts through greater tax and credit subsidies.
    • Political reform starts with what is, not what should be, repeating the cycle.

    U.S. secondary markets evolved entirely in response to anachronistic political forces. FHA was created in 1936 to stimulate new construction jobs subsequent to a huge housing construction boom. Fannie Mae was created two years later to prop up flagging demand for FHA mortgages. Ginnie Mae was created in 1968 to liquidate Fannie Mae after prior privatization attempts failed to reduce official government debt, but the residual $1 billion secondary market facility with minimal shares outstanding as a result of a mandatory user purchase program was instead privatized. When that entity turned down tax exempt pass-through securitization to circumvent the myriad laws and regulations preventing the development of a national securities market, Ginnie Mae stepped in. Rather than liquidate, the privatized Fannie turned to funding conventional mortgages for their mortgage banker clients. To protect their turf, portfolio lending savings and loans then demanded their own secondary market facility, Freddie Mac. It later privatized mainly to provide management incentives comparable to Fannie, particularly stock options.

    They then morphed into massive public directed credit institutions, with profits from government subsidies privatized but otherwise lacking the benefits of market efficiency and discipline. About half of F&F subsidies were captured by shareholders, managers and politicians (my estimates), an invitation to affordable housing proponents to share in this booty. Several 2018 Democratic presidential candidates have proposed upping these goals.

    U.S. mortgage markets were characterized by cut-throat competition decades before the advent of government sponsored enterprises (GSEs): the indiscriminant lending and private market securitization during the sub-prime lending bubble of 2004 to 2007 suggests that is still the case.

    What the private market can’t deliver are the tax and credit subsidies – worth tens of billions annually – that result from federal backing to support fixed rate mortgage interest rate and affordable housing credit risks. Any re-privatized hybrid system that promises to mimic the market, e.g., by requiring that it actuarially price a government credit guarantee as the market oriented Milken Institute and others recommend and to impose market capital requirements and risk regulations directly conflicts with these goals and is doomed to failure. Regulatory restrictions will remain malleable because politics has and will continue to trump bureaucracy. Nor will the market discipline this regulated too-big-to-fail public mission duopoly, having correctly inferred an implicit guarantee in the past for the GSEs, disclosures, regulations and legislation notwithstanding.

    There is a better “public/private” policy option to deliver these subsidies. Long term fixed rate FHA insured mortgage loans have since 1970 been funded almost exclusively with Ginnie Mae securities. Investors take the interest rate risk, HUD takes the credit risks and all ancillary functions are delegated to a competitive private marketplace. FHA, a government sponsored mutual insurance fund with de facto public backing since incorporated into and regulated by HUD insures each mortgage. The un-capitalized Ginnie Mae de jure security guarantee covers only timeliness of FHA payments, but de facto acts as a guarantor of FHA mortgage securities.

    While FHA has failed actuarially – in part due to overly ambitious political goals and its focus on borrowers who may not have qualified for a conventional loan – bailouts have been opaque with minimal or no budget transfers, investor losses or market disruption. It survived the sub-prime lending debacle relatively unscathed. This system hasn’t failed systemically because it separates the private and public functions into different entities, minimizing public risk for private profit incentive conflicts.

    A federal guarantor for conventional mortgage securities modeled after Ginnie Mae (something Ginnie Mae proposed in the late 1970s but I opposed on grounds that it would displace the private savings and loan system of the time) should replace F&F, with the existing infrastructure auctioned to the highest bidder .

    Properly designed, a federal guarantor wouldn’t experience any loss except in catastrophic circumstances. The original Fannie Mae and particularly Freddie Mac secondary market system that left credit risk primarily with multiple state regulated private mortgage insurer’s (pmi’s), experienced negligible credit losses until the market collapse of 2008, after which F&F credit losses of about $300 billion were ten times total pmi industry losses, due to loss severity far exceeding insurance limits. A federal guarantor should be limited to pools of fixed rate mortgages with deeper pmi coverage to reduce exposure, and ideally partially re-insured with private mortgage pool insurers to further capitalize and diversify risk.

    The tax and credit subsidies all go to uniformly lower rates. Deeper affordability subsidies in pursuit of federal home ownership affordability goals were previously provided by HUD’s Section 235 homeowner program targeted to individual FHA mortgage borrower needs, the right approach for achieving this goal. But after years of default losses, Congress shut it down in 1989 rather than increase the budget to reflect the true cost. Following the law of unintended consequences, the affordable housing goals were then dramatically expanded in the Federal Housing Enterprises Regulatory Reform Act of 1992, a precursor to their subsequent failure.

    The debate over the desirability and magnitude of homeownership subsidies remains unresolved. This proposal shifts it to the political arena.

    Kevin Villani

    —-

    Kevin Villani, chief economist of HUD during the Carter and Reagan Administrations and Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is the author of Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue on the political origins of the sub-prime lending bubble and aftermath.

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Economics & Finance, Politics, Public Finance | 3 Comments »

    The First Trip to the Moon, as Envisaged by Robert Heinlein

    Posted by David Foster on 19th July 2019 (All posts by )

    … in his 1950 story, The Man Who Sold the Moon.  Given the upcoming anniversary of the actual first moon landing, I thought it would be fun to go back and take a look at this fictional version of the first trip.

    In Heinlein’s story, the first manned lunar landing is not government-driven. Rather, it is the achievement of entrepreneur/industrialist Delos D Harriman, known to his friends and associates as ‘D.D.”  Having long dreamed of going to the moon, he finally decides that the time is right.

    Harriman-known as “our bad boy” to his fellow Directors of the power cartel–finds his colleagues reluctant to invest in a venture whose costs are so high and whose returns are uncertain.  Even his long-time partner, George Strong, fails to see either financial return or emotional appeal in the effort:

    George, isn’t there anything in your soul but discounts and dividends? Didn’t you ever sit with a girl on a soft summer night and stare up at the Moon and wonder what was there?

    Yeah, I did once.  I caught a cold.

    Nevertheless, Strong supports the project out of loyalty, and some tycoons support it because supersalesman Harriman is able to convince them that there is money for them in the project–or loss, if they decline to participate.  Much of the story is devoted to Harriman’s strategies for fund-raising, some of which skirt–or go over–the lines of legality and ethics. He implies to the Moka-Coka company, for example, that another soft drink maker plans to turn the Moon into a massive billboard (using a rocket to scatter black dust on the surface in patterns), and suggests that the public-spirited Moka company might like to invest in the project to preclude such use of the moon by their rival.

    As an old real-estate operator, Harriman is very focused on the question:  who owns the moon?…he argues that the question is indeed meaningful, based on real-estate doctrine that a property owner owns a wedge going down to the center of the earth and extending up to infinity. He doesn’t want lunar ownership vested in any country, even the US, because he thinks it would result in world war (given the moon’s value as a rocket-bomb base), and he does want it vested in his operation, for reasons of profitability as well as protection from bad uses.  His legal maneuvering, involving the UN as well as all countries over which the path of the moon passes–and a mix of non-profit, for-profit, and anonymous corporations–is intricately described.

    For the technology of the moon trip, Harriman had hoped to use a nuclear fuel which has been applied to power generation, but it proves too unstable for use in a rocket–so well-known chemical rocket technology must be employed instead (rockets are commonly used for long-distance transportation in the era where this story is set).  On the advice of Harriman’s chief engineer, Andrew Ferguson, the most technically-qualified man in rocketry, Bob Coster, is hired to run the project…but he evidently lacks sufficient management experience and is soon overwhelmed.  Harriman tries to help him out:

    “Top administration ain’t engineering, and maybe I can show you a few tricks there, if you’ll let me….Top bossing is like sex; until you’ve had it, you don’t know about it.”  Harriman had the mental reservation that if the boy would not take advice, he would suddenly be out of a job, whether Ferguson liked it or not.

    Although the story does deal with the technical aspects of the moon trip, that is not its primary focus…it is really a “business romance”, as Colby Cosh called it. “The Man Who Sold The Moon” emphasizes the financial difficulties, deals, the marketing, and the interpersonal stresses involved in the project–even Harriman’s wife is strongly opposed to his pursuit of his dream.   There are endless angles for the raising of money developed by Harriman and his friends, even soliciting contributions from children.

    The “man who sold the moon” tag becomes literal when, inspired by stories of the Florida land boom–“sometimes a parcel would change hands a dozen time before anyone got around to finding out that the stuff was ten-foot deep in water”–Harriman suggests selling lots on the moon itself:

    “We can offer bargains better than that–an acre, a guaranteed dry acre, for maybe ten dollars–or a thousand acres at a dollar an acre.  Who’s going to turn down a bargain like that?  Particularly after the rumor gets around that the Moon is believed to be loaded with uranium?”

    “Is it?”

    “How should I know?  When the boom sags a little we will announce the selected location of Luna City–and it will just happen to work out that the land around the site is still available for sale.  Don’t worry, Saul, if it’s real estate, George and I can sell it.  Why, down in the Ozarks, wheter the land stands on edge, we used to sell both sides of the same acre.”

    Comparisons between Harriman and Elon Musk come readily to mind–see the Colby Cosh article–though I don’t think Musk has been credibly accused of anything as far over the line as several of Harriman’s maneuvers.  It has also been suggested that Harriman’s name, and some aspects of his character, are owed to the railroad builder Edward Henry Harriman.

    I don’t think the date of the first lunar landing is mentioned in the story itself, but it has been placed–based on Heinlein’s future history timeline and on other stories–in 1978.  So real life beat out science fiction, at least from a date standpoint, by nine years.

    Could it have really happened that way–the first moon trip not via a gigantic government/corporate program piggybacking off of military missile technology, but rather by a private/corporate venture?  Given the vast amounts of money spent on the Apollo program and its predecessors–certainly much more than the fictional Harriman and his tycoon friends could have raised–it may seem impossible.  But would it really have been?

    Posted in Book Notes, Business, Capitalism, Civil Society, Space, Tech, USA | 30 Comments »

    Compound of Three Cubes

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 18th July 2019 (All posts by )

    There was a problem asked on the first version of the Mega Test, something like “What is the maximum number of discrete spaces one can create from three interpenetrating cubes.” I tried to visualise this one for a month, and even had a go at trying to make one out of toothpicks, but gave up and guessed.  I am 99% sure I got it wrong, but I don’t remember what I answered.

    UC08-3 cubes.png
    By The original uploader was Tomruen at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

    I learned  about a year ago that the figure has been used in some discussion by a mathematician named John Skilling.  I keep looking at it and thinking I get it, then it slips away.  Unsurprisingly, MC Escher used it in a drawing, because of course he did. It is the most notoriously difficult problem on the Mega Test, which used to be used by the ultra-high IQ societies to sort amongst the highest scorers.  I used to correspond with test designer Ron Hoeflin, who describes himself as a Schizoid Personality Disorder, and I believe it. Even among the highest scorers on the Mega, those who got over 45 out of 48 or better, less than a third got this one right. As I had already taken the test years ago and am not allowed a retake, I didn’t think it would be cheating to scour the web to see if I could suss out the answer. The most common answer is 72 discrete spaces, which seems logical: 24 corners each intercepted by two planes, 24 x 3 = 72.  Apparently that is wrong.  The answer is greater than 68, however, because some determined SOB built one of these suckers out of rods and colored cellophane and then counted and got to 68 definite and answered that. He wondered if he might have missed at least one.  Apparently even when you’ve got a hard model it’s had to keep track. He concluded he got it wrong from his returned grade and the subsequent discussion by email among people who had qualified  for the highest society. He now thinks the answer must be 69. Ron’s not telling.  One of the very few people who have gotten a 47 or the person who got a 48 must also know.

    The parallel question on the other side of the test is 5 interpenetrating spheres. On both problems I fooled around with the idea of solids of differing sizes, but concluded there was no advantage in creating discrete spaces that way.

    This was part of my eventually learning that I am not exceptional in my spatial intelligence, though it took me a long time to learn and admit that.  You can have a go at the answer, but I can’t confirm if you got it right or not. For myself, I would like an explanation why 72 is not right, because that makes the most sense to me.

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments »

    Why I Didn’t Like The Beach Boys

    Posted by Assistant Village Idiot on 17th July 2019 (All posts by )

    I’m cross-posting this here because it generated a lot of dislike at my site and another, and I wanted you to share in the fun here.

    I have listened to Part I and half of Part II of the Political Beats podcast about the Beach Boys, on the recommendation of my eldest son. They are episodes 60 and 61, hosted by various writers from Reason and National Review. No politics are discussed, and I don’t think I’d heard of these particular writers.  They are big, big fans of the Beach Boys, and phrases like “preternatural genius” fall from their lips every few minutes. Still, they make good points and they tell a good story.

    Brian Wilson, and “Pet Sounds” in particular, is supposed to be some pinnacle of rock creativity, consistently making Top 100 lists and having documentaries made. I have a few Beach Boys songs that I like very much.  But mostly I just kept a “best of ” album around for fun, when I wanted that sort of summer sound occasionally.  My son insists I played them a lot, which is why he likes them.  This is untrue. I likely did overpraise “Good Vibrations” every time it came on the radio and made everyone stop talking so I could listen. I will acknowledge that.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Miscellaneous | 4 Comments »

    National Conservatism

    Posted by Grurray on 17th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Here is Peter Thiel’s keynote address at the National Conservatism Conference, if you haven’t seen it yet. His accusations about Google’s disloyalty are front and center. I’m not sure what to think about that particular part. There’s no doubt that Google has a socially liberal, internationalist bent that favors cooperation with China at the expense of domestic interests. On the other hand, if we’re singling out companies and industries that have pursued profits that undermined American values, there are plenty to go around.

    Most of his other points are spot on. As a nation we chose bits over atoms, and it did not turn out well for a large segment of America. He has some scathing comments about the American dream and higher education that are hard to argue with, while approaching a nihilism that we don’t normally associate with conservatism.

    The conference was organized by Yoram Hazony, political philosopher and author of the excellent book The Virtue of Nationalism, that I highly recommend.

    Posted in Book Notes, Conservatism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society | 9 Comments »

    Fear of Freedom?

    Posted by David Foster on 16th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Stuart Schneiderman links to an article by a therapist who has a lot of experience working with millennials

    On any given day, a handful of millennials will come into my office and express their most pressing concerns: “I’m worried I’ll never make enough money to retire.” “I feel like a failure.” “I don’t know if I’m setting up my adult life the right way.”

    But the complaint they bring up the most? “I have too many choices and I can’t decide what to do. What if I make the wrong choice?”

    Now, I think that ‘generational’ explanations of social phenomena should be taken with multiple carloads of salt:  individual differences are IMO much more significant than generational differences.  And the people this therapist has been working with are not just millennials, but San Francisco area millennials.  Still, this pushback against having too many choices is unpleasantly reminiscent of the young German who was quoted as saying, shortly before the outbreak of World War II: “We Germans are so happy.  We are free of freedom.”

    To the extent that this phenomenon is real and is general, I would suspect several factors of being implicated. Specifically:

    ***The focus on “self-esteem building”, which seems to have the effect of producing people whose self-esteem is brittle and cannot withstand failure or contradiction.

    ***The trend toward child-raising in organized group settings…usually for-profit organized group settings…which may tend to create more orientation toward group conformity and less individuality than the more traditional “artisanal” at-home child raising.

    ***Increasing years of schooling, which can delay growing up.  Peter Drucker observed that when you’re in school, it’s all about you, unlike the working world where it’s all about doing things that are of value to others.  (FWIW, Drucker also said he observed striking levels of immaturity in many medical students because of this factor.)

    Anecdotal evidence only, but I have observed that people with many years of education–specifically, people with graduate degrees–are often reluctant to try new approaches to things.  Whether it’s an MBA or a Masters in Computer Science, they often want to stick close to the paradigms they were given in the classroom.  It would be interesting for someone to systematically study the relationship between education and mental rigidity.

    ***Finally, there is general social change and disorganization.  Stuart writes:  “Back in the day, when society was organized and where people understood their duties and obligations, these decisions were far less difficult and far less onerous”…the decisions were less onerous, but of course many people felt constrained–and often were constrained–in ways they did not want to be.

    Someone writing in an aviation magazine observed that “if you do anything with your airplane that is not consistent with the Pilot’s Operating Handbook, then you are a test pilot.”  In a society, the equivalent of the POH is the aggregate of laws, customs, and implicit expectations that guide behavior.  There is no doubt that any society’s POH needs constant updating, and sometime major changes–but when major changes do occur, they will be disorienting to many people, and it seems that a nontrivial number of them will react by wishing for more constraints.

    Some people thrive as test pilots–either of aircraft or in a societal setting–but many do not, including many people who would be perfectly adequate or even excellent pilots in a more-defined setting.

    One of the major problems we have in America today is that so many of the people who have taken it upon themselves to totally rewrite the societal POH are people who are lacking in practical experience, historical knowledge, and ‘skin in the game.’  To continue the aviation analogy, it is as if a POH was rewritten by people who had no background in aeronautical engineering, no experience or minimal experience in flying aircraft, and (in many cases) absolutely no intent of either flying or flying in those aircraft being operated in conformity with their documents.

    What proportion of the people in a society can lose belief in the value of individual freedom before they destroy that freedom for everyone, including those who do value it, and how close are we to that point?

     

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, USA | 28 Comments »

    Perception and…

    Posted by David Foster on 14th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Culture?  Language?  Genetics?

    Alison Gopnik, writing in the WSJ, discusses an interesting experiment on problem solving in very young children which was run by two researchers at UC San Diego, following on to research in which Gopnik was herself involved.  Children of various ages were shown a machine that lights up when you put a block of a certain color or shape on it.  “Even toddlers can easily figure out that a green block makes the machine go while a blue block doesn’t.”

    The researchers wondered:  what if the test was of the relationship between objects..say, two square blocks of the same color made the machine light up, but not two blocks of different colors?

    For American children, 18-month-old children had no trouble figuring out that the relationship between the objects was the key thing.  But older American children, 3-year-olds, did worse at the relationship test than did their younger counterparts.  For Chinese children, however, the fall-off in relationship-assessing performance between 18 months and 3 years old did not happen.

    Here’s a reasonably decent summary of the paper’s main points, and here’s the paper itself.

    Why the fall-off for American kids?  (A temporary fall-off, it seems…the researchers say that the American kids recover their relationship-assessing skills between the ages of  4-6 years.)  One hypothesis is language….possibly the “noun spurt” that is said to characterize early-English learning has something to do with it.  Or perhaps there are broader cultural factors:  “In particular, there are well-documented differ- ences in holistic and analytic processing (and relatedly, collectivist and individualist cognitive styles) across cultures, which may simi- larly result in an emphasis on relationships between entities or on characteristics of individual entities. More broadly, environmental variation across these learning contexts (e.g., socioeconomic status, number of siblings, and pedagogical and child- rearing practices) may differentially affect general cognitive skills that are known to influence relational reasoning, like executive function.”  (quoted from the paper)

    Or, perhaps, could there be a genetic explanation?…Would children of Chinese ancestry, raised in the US in English-speaking homes, show more often the Chinese  pattern or the American pattern in these experiments?  While a genetic explanation seems unlikely to me, I would think it should at least be considered.

    Most likely, to me, seems the language explanation.  The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which has also been dubbed ‘linguistic relativity’, holds that the language we speak has a major impact on how we perceive the world…it fell into some disrepute after WWII because of its appropriation by the Nazis to make claims of cultural superiority and also because of some apparent errors in Whorf’s reporting, concerning for example the Inuit words for ‘snow’…it does make sense, however, that language has a significant impact on what thoughts can be most easily expressed and hence on what thoughts are most likely to be conceived.

    Posted in Academia, China, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, USA | 10 Comments »

    In the Matter of Epstein

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th July 2019 (All posts by )

    You know, it has gotten to the point where one honestly can’t be cynical enough. I thought I was pretty hard-bitten and un-shockable after two decades in the military, and a long snorkel through the vagaries of history (in a purely amateur capacity, meaning for a deep love of the topic rather than the commonly accepted imputation of being hap-hazard and imprecise) but the efforts of the Establishment Media Complex to tie Jeffrey “Humbert Humbert” Epstein to the Donald (AKA the God-Emperor) are … risible. It’s as of they are all channeling Veruca Salt, stamping their little feet, turning tantrum-red in the face, insisting that Orange-Man-Bad just has to be implicated, just because he once said something neutral-to-complimentary about a man who apparently occupied the same (elevated) social circles. Well, never mind that The Donald subsequently got Epstein thrown out of a golf club and banned from Mar-a-Largo for his tendency to perv on underage girls therein, and additionally was generous in cooperating with lawyers acting on behalf of the aforesaid perved-upon teenagers … Orange Man Bad, just because.
    The tilt of this kind of coverage is so transparent; among those of us who have been paying attention to the Establishment Media Complex it seems like just another one of those torpedoes aimed at Trump circling around and holing those who have launched it well below the credibility waterline. And l’affaire Epstein is also reminiscent of the Harvey Weinstein imbroglio, wherein a lot of comfortably positioned Hollywood personalities were reminded forcibly that most ordinary Americans view a powerful boss demanding sexual services from underlings with considerable horror. In the case of Hollywood, though, I’d be willing to bet most of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual conquests engaged willingly with the man, and moreover, got what they wanted (juicy roles, fame and fortune) from the deal. But still – the spectacle of those personalities subsequently having the gall to hector the rest of us on an assortment of moral issues … splinter, logs, removal of same from eyes, anyone? Likely it’s been the same with Epstein, only in the political frame, rather than the strictly entertainment one. It’s already established that former president Bill Clinton was a more-than-frequent flier on Mr. Epstein’s personal private jet. The revelation that Mr. Epstein had many … many… many friends in political high places? Well, THAT should be interesting… Discuss as you will, and have insight into this.

    PS – the reference to Humbert Humbert reminds me irresistibly of the verses in this small tome:

    “Humbert gloats: His nymphet
    Is “ineffable” (and yet
    Effable as she can get):
    Twelve year-old Lolita, kept
    By this horny nympholept
    Clear across the country schlepped… (middle verses omitted in the interests of space)
    …By succumbing in his cell
    Waiting trial. It’s just as well:
    He has earned his private hell
    Not for him apotheosis
    In whose frog-eyed diagnosis
    Life is just a pederoisis

    Posted in Book Notes, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Diversions, Humor, Leftism, Media | 87 Comments »

    The Totalitarian Mindset is Strong on the Left

    Posted by David Foster on 11th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot:

    “I woke up this morning thinking it was going to be another great day. I’ve been celebrating with friends, family and the community since I turned 90. I’ve told you about the gracious gift of $117 million that was collected and given in my honor to four charities that mean a lot to me. All that happiness blew up because I said in a newspaper interview that I have supported and will continue to support Donald Trump.

    Boom!

    Negative stories… vicious threats, without cause, to boycott the company that has enabled my foundation to give billions to support autism, medical research, education, heart and neurological issues like stroke, and to help our veterans. The company that I retired from in 2002 and have not had a business relationship with in almost 20 years. A company that has employed more than a half-million people. The people who work there are affiliated with both political parties or no party at all. They are of all religions and all colors and backgrounds. Why would people want to hurt them?

    All because I give my voice and some of my money to our President. Am I in China? Argentina? Russia? That’s what it feels like to me.

    It saddens me that our country has come to this, where I, as a private citizen, cannot express my feelings. It angers me and it saddens me, but it sure as hell is not going to stop me. If you thought it would, you’ve got the wrong guy.

    In the next ten years, God willing, I will accomplish more to save this world than my critics will do even if they had forty lifetimes.”

    Few people have Bernie Marcus-level resources, and also relatively few, I’m afraid, have the emotional strength necessary to stand up against a mob, even a mob whose attacks are (usually) strictly verbal.  Most, I fear, will simply go along.

    And no one should be under the illusion that the Gleichschaltung will “only” require you to personally refrain from expressing unapproved thoughts: it will also require you to denounce and shun your friends and colleagues who have dared to express such thoughts.  See Lynchings and Witch-Trials, Technology-Enhanced:

    A few weeks ago, shortly after I left my magazine gig, I had breakfast with a well-known Toronto man of letters. He told me his week had been rough, in part because it had been discovered that he was still connected on social media with a colleague who’d fallen into disfavour with Stupid Twitter-Land. “You know that we all can see that you are still friends with him,” read one of the emails my friend had received. “So. What are you going to do about that?”

    “So I folded,” he told me with a sad, defeated air. “I know I’m supposed to stick to my principles. That’s what we tell ourselves. Free association and all that. It’s part of the romance of our profession. But I can’t afford to actually do that. These people control who gets jobs. I’m broke. So now I just go numb and say whatever they need me to say.”

    Are there any among the current set of Democratic presidential candidates who see this kind of thing as a problem and who would provide even the most modest form of push-back against it?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Leftism, USA | 18 Comments »

    The Secret War between Russia and Iran’s Quds Force in Syria

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 7th July 2019 (All posts by )

    There appears to be an on-going, unofficial, and secret war in Syria between Putin’s Russia and the Iranian Republican Guard Corps’ Quds Force involving do it yourself drones in the hands of  Syrian Islamic Rebel “deniable assets” attacking Russian interests, particularly at the Khmeimim airbase.
    .
    First, look at this photo:
    .
    It comes from this 7-6-2019 www.aljazeera -dot- com story:
    .
    Saudi-UAE coalition says it intercepted Houthi drones
    The Houthi drones were destroyed in Saudi Arabia’s airspace according to the military coalition.

    .

    Now look at this BBC photo, which comes from my Chicagoboyz post here:

    .

    The DIY ‘Assault Drone’ Siege of Russian Bases in Syria
    Trent Telenko on August 26th, 2018

    This is the bootleg 3D printed version of the Russian Elevon drone used by Syrian Rebels

    Both are identically produced drones made via a 3D laser scanned and 3D plastic body printed copy of a Russian Elevon Drone.   The top drone photo was involved in the just reported attack on Saudi interests by Houthi rebels on 7-6-2019. The bottom photo is from my report on D-I-Y drone attack on Russia’s the Khmeimim airbase in Syria during January 2018.
    .
    By way of comparison, the photo below is of a Russian Elevon drone downed over Syria by the rebels there.  There is no 3D printing or duct tape on this drone:
    .
    The common denominator for both D-I-Y drones is the presence of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps’ Quds Force in Syria and Yemen.  And the Quds Force has launched drone attacks on Israel from Syria and on Saudi Arabia from Yemen.
    .
    Strategypage is currently reporting from IDF sources that Russian GPS jamming in Syria is aimed at “Syrian Rebel” D-I-Y drones to defend Khmeimim airbase, and from anything else that might be in Syrian skies.
    .
    See:
    .

    Israel has been accusing Russia of causing GPS signal disruption in northern Israel since early June. Russia denies any responsibility but it appears that Russian EW (Electronic Warfare) equipment in Syria causes intermittent disruption of commercial aircraft GPS navigation systems over Israel. While Russia has EW gear specifically for GPS jamming or spoofing (create false signals), that does not appear to be what is happening here.Israel believes the GPS disruption is an unintended side effect of Russia using EW equipment heavily to protect their bases from Islamic terrorists attack using explosives equipped commercial UAVs, as well as other EW equipment being tested against the American F-22 and Israeli F-35 stealth aircraft that regularly operate over SyriaRussia EW gear, even the impressive new stuff, still relies a lot on “brute force” solutions. That means sending out powerful, multi-frequency jamming signals rather than less intense but more focused signals (which Western EW gear favors). Russia depends on export sales of these new EW systems to pay for developing them. “Unfortunate side effects” are not what they want to be associated with their new EW equipment and would, as is their custom, prefer to believe the bad news does not exist or is propaganda spread by jealous Western rivals. Israel maintains good relations with Russia in Syria by not revealing flaws found in new Russian EW gear or any of the new systems Russia has used in Syria. But this Russian systems flaw is impossible to ignore or explain without going into detail about how Russian EW equipment works. Russian and Israeli negotiators are trying to work out a mutually acceptable solution, as they have done so many times before.  

    Using Occam’s razor regards the origin of these drones, the simplest explanation is the Quds Force provided the same drone to both the Syrian Rebels that are fighting Assad and Russia and to the Yemen’s Houthi Rebels fighting the American supported Saudi Arabian Coalition in Yemen.
    .
    It appears that Iran’s Quds Force and Russia are fighting a secret war in Syria and all the reports of heavy GPS jamming by Russia in Syria -ARE NOT- aimed primarily at Israel or the USA. It is aimed at IRGC facilities/forces in Syria.
    .
    Photographic evidence says some of the D-I-Y drones attacking Khmeimim airbase are Iranian.
    .
    QED.
    .
    VALIDATING THE QED OF A QUDS FORCE/RUSSIA SECRET WAR
    .
    There are two tests that Western and particularly Israeli intelligence agencies can do to validate there is in fact a secret war between Russia and Iran’s Quds Force, and both involve electronic intelligence (ELINT).
    .

    The first test is to determine if the Russians in Syria are jamming &  spoofing their own GLOSNASS satellite navigation system as well as GPS.   The Russians jamming their own system is a solid indication they think someone with knowledge of how to weaponize GLOSNASS satellite navigation signals is behind the D-I-Y drones in Syria.

    .

    While this is a possible intelligence indicator for Iran, since the Russians have sold Glonass guided weapons to Iran.  It is not proof positive.  A lot of commodity GPS receivers are “dual mode” i.e. they have embedded GLOSNASS capability.  Cheap Taiwanese made GPS receivers have had dual capability for years and some of the more expensive models also attempt to get a best solution by using both GPS/GLOSNASS C/A codes.  So jamming/spoofing against GLOSNASS exploitation by D-I-Y drone might simply be a case of through due diligence by the Russian Armed Forces in Syria.

    .

    The second and definitive test involves mapping the jamming and spoofing signal strength of Russian anti-drone electronic warfare and then geo-locate Iranian Quds Force within that signal pattern.  If there is a close match of the strongest jamming/spoofing signal patterns to Quds Force.  It’s definitive.

    .
    Invasive ELINT platforms — IDF F-35 and USAF F-22 mentioned in the Strategy page piece plus drones — can do this inside Syrian air space. However, it will not be as easy as a few flights in and out.  Mapping Russian radiated signal patterns will be tricky as radio signal ground bounce distorts what you see from an airborne platform.
    .
    The Israeli Defense Forces are in the best position to accomplish this second ELINT test as their suite of drone capability likely includes more than a few multi-copter drones that can land disposable radio listening devices and other sensors near IRGC Quds Force facilities in Syria.
    .
    -End-

    Posted in Iran, Israel, Middle East, Military Affairs, Miscellaneous, Russia, Uncategorized, War and Peace | 15 Comments »

    Heat and the Movies

    Posted by David Foster on 5th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Hot weather encourages feelings of gratitude for the existence of air conditioning, the primary inventor of which (at least as far as a practical system goes) was Willis Carrier.  His original motivation was not the improvement of human comfort, but rather solving air quality problems affecting the operations of a printing company.  But A/C was quickly applied to the dehumidification and cooling of human was well as industrial environments.

    Initially, systems were large and expensive and hence better-fitted to businesses and other environments serving a lot of people than to individual homes.  One of the first industries that adopted air conditioning was the motion-picture theater industry, starting with an installation at Sid Grauman’s Metropolitan Theater in 1922.

    It makes sense to believe, and seems to be generally accepted, that the introduction of A/C had much to do with the great success of the movie industry…if the theater was one of the few places in town where you could be cool, then it would be nice to have enough new movies constantly coming out to justify going the the theater as often as possible.

    The same phenomenon applied with department stores…starting with a Hudson’s in Detroit in 1926…though I would think A/C was not quite as impactful in that case as in the case of the movies.

    BUT, with the introduction and constant improvement of home air conditioners, the process would have likely gone into reverse: if you can be cool at home, there is less incentive to “go to the movies” unless there is something showing that you really want to see. Similarly with retail..although until the introduction of the consumer Internet, you still needed to go to a store for most things.

    It is pretty common that a technology that helps a particular industry at one point will, later and with further development of that industry, harm that industry.  Another example is the newspaper industry:  one of the great enablers of the growth of the newspaper industry was the telegraph (along with the high-speed printing press and the Linotype machine.)  But as digital communications (of which the telegraph was an early example) developed into data networks and ultimately the Internet, the ability to conveniently extend the information flow into the home was devastatingly harmful to that industry.

    Returning to the air conditioner, another impact of this technology has been geographical: making areas that were previously not-so-desirable for reasons of climate much more generally inhabitable…as in the cases of the US south and southwest.

    A/C is a significant consumer of energy in the form of electricity, and as it is more widely adopted in places such India, it will have a major impact on electricity consumption in those countries.

    Thoughts?  Other industry examples?

    Posted in Business, Energy & Power Generation, History, Human Behavior, Internet, Tech | 35 Comments »

    Bernie Sanders Won the Debate

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 4th July 2019 (All posts by )

    (WSJ: Bernie Sanders Won the Debate)
     
    —-

    The 20 candidates in the Democratic debates on June 26 & 27 accepted Sanders’s fundamental vision of Democratic Socialism.

    Bernie Sanders’s June 12 speech at George Washington University proposing “a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights (EBR)” to “a decent job that pays a living wage; quality health care; complete (higher) education; affordable housing; a clean environment; and a secure retirement” all “regardless of his or her income” started a competition among the current democratic candidates for the 2020 Democratic nomination with promises of free stuff. This new Democratic socialism makes two promises:

    “It is free to the masses.”

    “If you like your democratic system of government, you can keep it.”

    This isn’t new and isn’t true.

    The ideological Cold War between the socialist totalitarian countries and the capitalist social democracies ended with the economic and political bankruptcy of virtually all of the former. The latter expanded their welfare states by taxing the economic fruits of capitalism, contracting when going too far, with symptoms including declining investment and innovation and rising public deficits and debt burdens. The proposed EBR to expand the welfare state to socialist extremes while maintaining democracy will erode both living standards and liberty.

    The Unintended Consequences of the Economic Bill of Rights

    The market system is based upon individuals responding to incentives, mostly embodied in market prices. Contemporary economists have done Nobel-worthy research demonstrating that individuals don’t always respond rationally. But the EBR promising free or cheap stuff well below cost with wages and income determined well above productivity is incompatible with a market economy and individual liberty. It would severely distort work and consumption incentives: already declining labor force participation would collapse and productivity stagnation would worsen. Costs of health care, education and housing would rise. The Green New Deal environmental proposal would cost up to $100 trillion while providing negligible environmental benefit. Private household saving would shrink further with the right to a secure retirement.

    States that raise income taxes on high net worth businesses and/or firms face an exodus of both. Individuals and firms similarly shift their tax residence outside the U.S. reducing U.S. domestic innovation. Trade deficits widen. The cost of the EBR exceeds the revenue from these types of taxes by orders of magnitude. The progressive states are already voting themselves into bankruptcy, anticipating a federal bailout.

    Modern Monetary Theory: Old Fashioned Money Printing

    To avoid the political consequences of massive middle class taxation, the Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) promoted by a Sanders campaign economic advisor proposes debt financing. Wall Street prognosticators forecast the end of the debt supercycle in 2011 and the collapse of the international monetary system in 2014, going code red. But the debt supercycle has continued, so proponents of the MMT assume that interest rates will remain low indefinitely so the cost can be financed with no long term consequence, whether bought by domestic or foreign creditors or the Federal Reserve.

    They may be right about America’s creditors continuing to accept debt in the near term, but excessive debt always ends, suddenly and badly: the longer it goes on the bigger the bust. As the world’s reserve currency the debt can’t simply be inflated away. The consequences of a U.S. international default, no matter how delivered, would be catastrophic.

    Democratic Socialism and Individual Freedom

    The socialist EBR is the responsibility of the administrative state, which requires totalitarian political power to deliver. What, then, do democratic socialists mean by “democracy”?

    The ancient Greek city-states began experimenting with democracy (literally, “people power” in Greek) about 2500 years ago, limited to males selected on merit. After about a century of experimentation, Greek philosophers concluded that democracy was a form of mob tyranny that undermined individual freedom and the rule of law. United States exceptionalism is rooted in the U.S. Constitution, an experiment in a representative federal republic held in check by a limited list of enumerated powers to protect individual freedoms and prevent mob rule.

    The extension of voting rights to former slaves – and over a half century later to women– was overdue. The 14th Amendment was necessary to restrict the ability of Southern states from inhibiting their voting rights but has since been interpreted to give the federal government virtual total supremacy. The direct election of Senators in the 17th Amendment of 1912 further expanded populist democracy.

    Marx promised democracy and universal suffrage. Trotsky promised a peoples democracy, as did Mao. The current progressive platform on voting rights; opposing voter registration, supporting immigration of dependents with voting rights rather than working rights, eliminating the Electoral College, reducing the voting age to 16 years old, registering prisoners, and drive-by voter registration would complete the transition from a representative republic to a peoples democracy.

    Kevin Villani

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    Kevin Villani, chief economist at Freddie Mac from 1982 to 1985, is a principal of University Financial Associates. He has held senior government positions, 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, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 8 Comments »

    Fixing the border facility crisis

    Posted by TM Lutas on 4th July 2019 (All posts by )

    It’s useful to review how to fix conditions of overcrowding in a facility. There are two fixes available.

    1. You build more capacity
    2. You increase training and oversight of the personnel running the facilities if they’re not behaving adequately

    Both of these fixes require more money allocated by Congress. It helps when the Executive requests more funding but Congress doesn’t require it.

    Go look at the legislative history. President Trump asked for more funds, Congress turned him down. It wasn’t his own party that denied him, it was the Democratic delegation that was against relief.

    President Trump sought to work around the restrictions by declaring an emergency and using military construction money. It was left wing advocates who went to court to fight Trump, preventing him from building more facilities.

    The left wing solution is to cause so much suffering so that our hearts break and we stop enforcing the law.

    That’s cruel. It’s cruel on purpose.

    Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez alleges misbehavior by camp personnel. She is one of a small select group, just 535 people strong who could directly improve the situation by introducing legislation that would force improvements in behavior. She has yet to introduce any.

    The Congresswoman is a prominent part of the cruelty agenda.

    In a normal country, hard questions would be asked by the mainstream media of those who have recently been part of this cruelty agenda.

    Posted in Americas, Culture, Immigration, North America, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Street Games

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd July 2019 (All posts by )

    I don’t imagine that any sentient human of the center-conservative bent has escaped hearing about how a reporter for the centrist-academic website Quilette had the snot beaten out of him in downtown Portland by the black-clad streetfighters who represent themselves to be anti-fascist. Apparently, this was punishment for Andy Ngo daring to report on their unsavory antics and not being in slavish accordance with whatever political delusion the Antifa-ites hold close to what passes for their hearts. For myself, I prefer to call them the Klantifa, as the natural successor to the KKK as the thuggish arm of local Democrat Party government. (They do the dirty work, while the official Party maintains semi-plausible deniability.)
    The Klantifa appear mostly to be a bunch of pasty-faced, dread-locked inhabitants of their parents’ basements with a taste for public live-action role-playing, combined with delusions of street-fighting adequacy whenever they outnumber their targeted opponent at least five to one. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Society, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Law Enforcement, Leftism, That's NOT Funny | 16 Comments »