Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I'm back

Bill,

2015 promises to be an interesting year, full of the  the usual inspiration and mischief our species is capable of.

Happy Holidays to you and yours,

Eli

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ideology Triumphs over Science in New York

Eli,

The New York Times    |    BREAKING NEWS ALERT   
BREAKING NEWS    Wednesday, December 17, 2014 12:48 PM EST
Cuomo to Ban Fracking in New York State, Citing Health Risks

Alternative headline: "Cuomo to Poor: Let them burn wood."

Bill

Friday, December 5, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Democrats Lock in the Youth Vote

Eli,

The inevitable domination of the Democratic party is based on demographics. Fewer old white men voting Republican, more of everyone else voting Democratic. Losing the House, Senate, the vast majority of statehouses and state legislatures is merely a bump in the road.

Not content with the inevitability of demography, some have tried to tilt the balance even further. The Washington Post reports on their success in locking in the soon-to-be Democrats:

School kids are blaming Michelle Obama for their “gross” school lunches
School kids around the country are tweeting rather unfortunate pictures of the meals they're being served at lunchtime, and thanking first lady and healthy school food advocate Michelle Obama for their bowls of mush and mystery proteins. 

Many tweets to choose from. This one was representative enough.


The thrill (up Chris Matthew's leg) is gone.

Bill

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Obama Takes Executive Action on Immigration. America Yawns.

Eli,

From The Hill:
Officials with ABC, CBS and Fox confirmed to The Hill that Obama's 8 p.m. speech from the White House will not be carried on their networks. CNN reported that NBC would not be carrying the address either...

A source at one of the major networks told The Hill that the White House did not officially request prime-time coverage on the networks Thursday, a big night for ratings given popular shows on several networks, including ABC’s “Shondaland” schedule of shows created by producer Shonda Rhimes.
I would guess my interaction with illegal and legal immigration is about the same as most in the suburbs of New York, which is probably a lot less than those living in San Diego, Phoenix, Houston and Santa Fe. That said, I really don't see why this issue has sucked so much of our time and attention. Where's the crisis (beef)?

A CEO I was speaking with yesterday pretty much summed it up for me. H was decrying the lack of  immigration "reform" and his sole example of the crisis lack of immigration action has had on the US is a paucity of long-haul truck drivers. I tried not to laugh.

Personally, I'm a big fan of immigration. The more the merrier as far as I'm concerned. Amnesty for those who are here illegally? Absolutely. Sure, why not. Ironically, this puts me in opposition to the comprehensive immigration reform touted by Obama et al. That reform puts rather strict limits on immigration with quotas controlled by an (unholy) alliance of the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO. Yuck.

But in any case, a crisis? We have to act now? We can't wait any longer? I don't see it. Bring on Shondaland please.

Bill

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Net Neutrality?

Eli,

How can anyone be against net neutrality? It sounds so right. As President Obama indicated last night the way to net neutrality is via Title II.

I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act
That's Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 (not a misprint, 1934.) That title deals with regulation of Common Carriers, and it was modeled after regulation of trains (I kid you not).

Here's the first part of Title II:


It shall be the duty of every common carrier engaged in interstate or foreign communication by wire or radio to furnish such communication service upon reasonable request therefor; and, in accordance with the orders of the Commission, in cases where the Commission, after opportunity for hearing, finds such action necessary or desirable in the public interest, to establish physical connections with other carriers, to establish through routes and charges applicable thereto and the divisions of such charges, and to establish and provide facilities and regulations for operating such through routes.
This will place the FCC squarely into the planning and approval of expansion of the internet's pipes.


(b) All charges, practices, classifications, and regulations for and in connection with such communication service, shall be just and reasonable, and any such charge, practice, classification, or regulation that is unjust or unreasonable is hereby declared to be unlawful:.....

The Commissioner may prescribe such rules and regulations as may be necessary in the public interest to carry out the provisions of this Act.
 New services will be approved by the FCC. Prices will be approved by the FCC.

Supports of Peace, love and net neutrality say the FCC will simply forebear this type of regulation. I think they are naive. Regulators use the power they are given. Regulatory agencies are also often driven by their political masters. For instance, the IRS investigates conservative non-profit groups at the very public behest of Democratic Senators. How long will it take a Republican Administration to ask the FCC to stop internet services favoring Democrats? How long will it take a Democrats Administration to ask the FCC to stop internet services favoring Republicans. 

Title II regulation of the Internet is a frightening prospect.

Bill


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"That Badly Damaged Republican Brand" Wins 57% of the House, at least 52% of the Senate and 62% of the Governors

Eli,

The NY Times reports

It was a dispiriting outcome for Democrats, who just a few months ago were optimistic that a badly damaged Republican brand would help them prevail in a handful of races
According to the AP the Republicans will take somewhere around 248 House seats. I keep reading this is the biggest Republican House since either the 1920's or Harry Truman.  248 is 57% of the House seats. Not bad for a badly damaged brand.

I know what you are thinking: It's all the result of gerrymandering. Then explain this.

The Senate right now has 52 Republicans. Alaska and Louisiana probably go Republican, so the Senate is somewhere around 52-54% Republican. Not bad for the obstructionist party of no that gerrymands its way to victory.

I know what you are thinking: It's just the luck of the 33 Senate seats up for election. Then explain this.

The AP is currently showing Republicans with 31 of the 50 Governors,  62%. The GOP picked up Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts. All without gerrymandering. I haven't been able to find easily tabulated state house results but I believe it is similarly unbalanced towards the Republicans. Not bad for those extremist, racist, homophobic, war-mongering deniers.

I keep asking myself this: If the Republican brand is badly damaged, and they now control 57% of the House, at least 52% of the Senate and 62% of the Governors, what does that say about the Democratic brand? Not to worry though, there is hope (and change). Parties, or brands, respond to competition and will adjust their message and messengers in order to survive. I don't know how the Democrats will change, but they will.

The conventional wisdom seems to be coalescing around the notion that the Republicans must now "get things done." I don't know why. If they were elected to stop the Democrats and Obama, then it seems all they need to do is stop the Democrats and Obama. I don't really believe that's all they were elected to do, but they should be careful of over-interpreting their mandate. The Republicans will at some point over-reach and get slapped hard, just as the Democrats over-reached and got slapped, hard.

I don't buy this notion of an ineluctable trend to the Democrats based on demography and gender and I would discount any thesis (and I've seen a few) of a permanent Republican majority.

Now the chattering class can move on to their next shibboleth. Again from the NY Times:
 Republicans now face a challenge that is the mirror opposite of their counterparts’: how to avoid merely being a powerful congressional party and be competitive again in presidential campaigns, in which Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six elections.
 The last six Presidential election winners (source FEC.gov)

2012        Obama     65.9M     51.1%
2008        Obama     69.5M     52.9%
2004        Bush        62.0M     50.7%
2000        Bush        50.5M      47.9%
1996        Clinton    47.4M      49.2%
1992        Clinton    44.9M      43.0%

The Democrats have won the popular vote in five of the last six elections, but not a majority of the popular vote in five of the last six. Ross Perot ran in both the 1992 and 1996 elections, winning almost 19% of the vote in 1992 and 8% in 1996. Besides, lets be honest, Clinton became Republican in 1994.

So let's rephrase it a bit. In 4 of the past 9 Presidential elections the Republican candidate for President received a majority of the popular vote, but in only 2 of the past 9 did a Democrat candidate for President receive a majority of the popular vote. In the remaining three elections, no candidate received a majority of the popular vote.

Bill



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Best Endorsement Ever: "Very Grimm Choice: One is bad, the other is worse"

Eli,

Read the whole thing, it's priceless. From the New York Daily News:

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and beyond all doubt we are desperate in considering the choice for Congress in the district representing Staten Island and southern Brooklyn.

In Domenic Recchia, the Democrats have fielded a candidate so dumb, ill-informed, evasive and inarticulate that voting for a thuggish Republican who could wind up in a prison jumpsuit starts to make rational sense.

At least Michael Grimm can string three sentences together in arguing that he deserves the presumption of innocence on federal criminal charges stemming from his past operation of a restaurant.

Should he be convicted, Grimm has promised to resign, paving the way for a match between two fresh candidates. All the better.
I had much the same feeling when voting this morning. I certainly wasn't going to vote for someone that voted for Obamacare, but was I really going to pull the lever for the pale imitation running against him? And in the state races I wasn't going to vote for any incumbents, but the ding-dongs running against them were just as horrible to think of in office. Someone called this a "hold your nose election." Precisely the case for me.

Bill

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Connecticut Early Voting Amendment, Question 1

Eli,

For reasons I don't understand, this ballot measure seems to divide along party lines.

The official question is:
Shall the Constitution of the State be amended to remove restrictions concerning absentee ballots and to permit a person to vote without appearing at a polling place on the day of an election?
The "Further explanation" of the ballot summary states:
The state constitution contains provisions regarding the administration of elections in Connecticut, including requiring voters to cast their ballots at their polling place on election day, unless they qualify to vote by absentee ballot. Under the constitution, voters may qualify for an absentee ballot if they will be out of town, are sick or have a physical disability, or the tenets of their religion prohibit secular activity on election day. Because these restrictions are in the constitution, the General Assembly does not currently have the authority to pass a law that changes them. The constitutional amendment would eliminate these restrictions.
Voteyesct.org seems to summarize the argument as I've heard it stated:

This year, there will be a Constitutional Amendment (Question 1) on the Connecticut ballot. The purpose is to improve voter turnout by removing impediments that often discourage and deter eligible voters from voting.

Voting YES can help families, commuters, employees, employers, seniors and students – anyone eligible to vote. 

As Americans, voting is among our most fundamental rights. Especially in Connecticut – the Constitution State – eliminating obstacles so that residents can exercise that right is why Question 1 is so important.
The purpose is to improve voter turnout and removing the current restrictions will increase voter turnout. There should be a lot of data on this, and my simple google search of the term: "early voting voter turnout," showed the first entry a 2007 study by Gronke et al finding:

In conclusion, we remain skeptical of those who advocate in favor of early voting reforms primarily on the basis of increased turnout. Both these results, and prior work in political science, simply do not support these claims. There may be good reasons to adopt early voting—more accurate ballot counting, reduced administrative costs and headaches, and increased voter satisfaction—but boosting turnout is not one of them.
The second hit on the search returned a 2013 Pew study claiming:
Reformers hate it when this happens:  The country’s most widely adopted reform designed to make voting easier may lower the chances that an individual voter will go to the polls, according to a new study to be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.
 There may be many good reasons to vote for this amendment, but increasing voter turnout isn't one of them.

Bill


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs.”

Eli,

Mrs. Clinton is taking a lot of unjustified (in my view) flak for her comment, "Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs.”

She was making completely silly remarks about the minimum wage, then the "Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs,” then some straw man remarks on trickle down economics. If I were to take issue with anything she said it would be the nonsense that somehow price increases for labor has no impact on demand at the low end of the wage scale.

I think there is great validity in the assertion, "Don't let anybody tell you that, you know, it's corporations and businesses that create jobs.” A corporation doesn't create a job then hand it out like a lollipop to deserving beggars. Jobs are created by a transaction. Corporations hire workers because they need the workers and agree upon the price. At a certain price, the corporation NEEDS the worker. The worker agrees to work at that price. Without the agreement, the transaction, there is no job.

My daughter, fresh out of college created a job, in partnership with her current employer. The employer got her time and skills. She got money and benefits. The transaction created the job. If the price she demanded was $1 million dollars per year there would not have been job creation. If the employer offered $5,000 per year there would not have been job creation. They met somewhere between the extremes and a job was created.

(Parenthetically, putting a floor on the transaction price is why mandatory mum wages result in job destruction).

My son, working at a minimum wage job went through the same negotiation, as did I. Corporations don't create jobs on their own. I would prefer the critics focus on Mrs. Clinton's blather about the minimum wage.

Bill



"Report Reveals Wider Tracking of Mail in U.S."

Eli,

Because terrorists use the US Post Office to communicate, of course. From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — In a rare public accounting of its mass surveillance program, the United States Postal Service reported that it approved nearly 50,000 requests last year from law enforcement agencies and its own internal inspection unit to secretly monitor the mail of Americans for use in criminal and national security investigations.
The audit found that in many cases the Postal Service approved requests to monitor an individual’s mail without adequately describing the reason or having proper written authorization.

In a show of bipartisanship both Republicans and Democrats support trampling on our Fourth Amendment rights.

Bill

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The US Army PANICS over Ebola

Eli,

Politico's "Morning Defense" email reports:

EBOLA-FIGHTING TROOPS IN 'CONTROLLED MONITORING PERIOD' IN ITALY: A two-star Army general is among a dozen soldiers being isolated in Italy after returning from Ebola-stricken West Africa, although there are no signs of infection, the Pentagon said yesterday. They are the first troops to be placed into what's effectively a 21-day quarantine under a new Army policy that calls for isolating and monitoring the health of all soldiers who have deployed to the Ebola zone.

Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams, the head of U.S. Army Africa, and 11 of his staff members were put under "enhanced monitoring" when they returned to their headquarters after traveling to Liberia to help kick off President Barack Obama's military response to the Ebola outbreak. Another group of soldiers also due back at U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza also is to be put under similar monitoring, Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters at the Pentagon. Soldiers based in the U.S. will also get the same kind of "enhanced" response when they return, he said.
 Quarantines aren't necessary for doctors and nurses coming in contact with ebola patients. But they are necessary for soldiers. Got it?

Bill

I'm Not Worried About Ebola Because: SCIENCE!

Eli,


I don't understand why so many are dismissive of the concerns and fears (not panic, not hysteria) rational people have over the spread of ebola.

According to the CDC Q&As on Transmission:

Can Ebola spread by coughing? By sneezing?

Unlike respiratory illnesses like measles or chickenpox, which can be transmitted by virus particles that remain suspended in the air after an infected person coughs or sneezes, Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with body fluids of a person who has symptoms of Ebola disease. Although coughing and sneezing are not common symptoms of Ebola, if a symptomatic patient with Ebola coughs or sneezes on someone, and saliva or mucus come into contact with that person’s eyes, nose or mouth, these fluids may transmit the disease.

What does “direct contact” mean?

Direct contact means that body fluids (blood, saliva, mucus, vomit, urine, or feces) from an infected person (alive or dead) have touched someone’s eyes, nose, or mouth or an open cut, wound, or abrasion.

How long does Ebola live outside the body?

Ebola is killed with hospital-grade disinfectants (such as household bleach). Ebola on dry surfaces, such as doorknobs and countertops, can survive for several hours; however, virus in body fluids (such as blood) can survive up to several days at room temperature.
So if a doctor, for instance, returns from treating ebola patients, and has the virus, and then goes out into the public and let's say, rides the subway, or goes to a bowling alley, a rational person might be legitamtely concerned about the ebola virus spreading.

I can't find the following on any CDC or WHO website so it comes mostly from what they seem to be implying and conversations with a colleague who has a Masters Degree in Molecular Pharamacology. The reason I don't need to be worried about this doctor infecting me is because the "viral load" isn't big enough to cause infection. And we know this because the signal a carrier of the virus has reached the "viral load" is when he/she starts showing symptoms.

But hold on. Is the dangerous viral load level always and everywhere the same? Are the young, old, or sick capable of getting the virus at lower viral loads? Is there a gender or racial susceptibility or resistance that lowers or raises the levels at which the viral load becomes capable of transmission? If

And it's not just those with symptoms that are capable of spreading the virus. The dead no longer have fevers, and they are capable of spreading the virus. Also, according to WHO:

People are infectious as long as their blood and secretions contain the virus... Men who have recovered from the illness can still spread the virus to their partner through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery.

The CDC sites the following as signs and symptoms of Ebola:
  • Fever
  • Severe headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach) pain
  • Unexplained hemorrhage (bleeding or bruising)
Symptoms may appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure to Ebola, but the average is 8 to 10 days.
Do I need ALL of these symptoms before my viral load reaches transmissable levels? If my fever is 100 my viral load is OK, but at 100.1 it isn't?

All these people who tell me not to be worried because: Science! are not mitigating my concerns. They are hiding behind a word, almost an incantation for them, rather than addressing questions I have about the way this virus spreads. 

Bill




Friday, October 17, 2014

Michelle Nunn Won't Admit She's a Democrat

Eli,

Michelle Nunn, like more than a few Democrats running for office is trying her best to avoid being labeled with that toxic term, "Democrat." It's amusing to me since she is Sam Nunn's daughter. And for decades Sam Nunn was the Democratic senator from Georgia. It's also amusing since it is the conventional wisdom that the Republicans have the tarnished brand. I'm not so sure of that.

From the Wall Street Journal
ATLANTA— Sam Nunn, one of the last Georgia Democrats to serve a full term in the Senate, had just finished watching his granddaughter win a soccer game when he turned his attention to a more pressing family contest: his daughter Michelle’s run for U.S. senator.

“Keep reminding voters that President Obama’s term is up in two years, but you’ll be an independent and long-term investment,” he counseled his daughter, who is running as a Democrat for an open Senate seat now held by the Republicans....

As Ms. Nunn strives to break Republicans’ stranglehold on statewide races in the South in recent years, her party affiliation is missing in action. Her campaign website doesn’t divulge that she is running as a Democrat, and bumper stickers, buttons and most materials don’t list her party. During two recent campaign swings, she didn’t mention her party affiliation and used the word “Democrat” only once. She is positioning herself as a bipartisan whose experience running a service organization associated with a Republican president shows she knows how to bridge divides.  

Bill


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Let's Not Forget Obamacare

Eli,

With the world coming apart at the seams it has been mostly quiet on the Obamacare front. One of the smarter, and non-partisan, observers of Obamacare, Bob Laszewski had this op-ed in USA Today.

Obamacare is in hiding until after the election: How our government is obscuring facts about your health insurance until after the election.

In addition to a reminder to insurance executives that they:
"will not use, disclose, post to a public forum, or in any way share Test Data with any person or entity, included but not limited to media..." This includes any "results of this testing exercise and any information describing or otherwise relating to the performance or functionality" of the Obamacare enrollment and eligibility system
Laszewski continues:

Last month the administration announced that 7.3 million people were insured under Obamacare as of mid-August. That was the first announcement of enrollment made by the administration since April. They provided just one number and no backup and admitted that they had been collecting enrollment data from insurers all along. They conveniently reported this figure just before enrollment is expected to take a big fall when thousands of people hit the deadline to clear up discrepancies in their income and legal resident status or risk losing subsidies or coverage altogether. We still don't know how many lost coverage or are still in limbo.

The administration has trumpeted the low average health insurer rate increases for 2015. But these low average increases have more often been low because the majority of insurers who did not get much enrollment have cut their rates while the insurers that got most of the enrollment have raised their rates. But current participants in the 36 federally run state insurance exchanges and most state-run exchanges won't see their own renewal rates until the open enrollment is about to begin. In short, the administration is comparing different plans with different benefits between 2014 and 2015. Those who want to keep the same plan might have big price increases.
Some on the right are also making much of risk corridors which compensate insurance companies if they mis-price policies, (too dumb to fail?), which is an incentive to lower premiums in order to capture market share and let the government pick up the tab.

It's hard to see this law surviving in anywhere near its current form no matter who wins the election.

Bill

Monday, October 13, 2014

Denver Post Endorses Cory Gardner for Senate

Eli,

An interesting endorsement for Cory Gardner for Senate. The Post endorsed Obama in both 2008 and 2012.

My favorite lines in the endorsement:

Udall is trying to frighten voters rather than inspire them with a hopeful vision. His obnoxious one-issue campaign is an insult to those he seeks to convince.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes channels Matthew 26:34.

Just how badly is Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes worried about being associated with President Obama?
Badly enough that the Senate candidate won’t even answer whether or not she voted for Obama back in 2008.
Bill



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Saudi America

Eli,

The graph below and the title of this post comes from Mark Perry at AEI
Another energy milestone: ‘Saudi America’ was the world’s largest petroleum producer in June for the 20th straight month

Not only is the United States producing more oil than Saudi Arabia, it is producing more by a very wide, and increasing, margin. Thank you hydraulic fracturing.

A few key areas have been responsible for this increase including the Eagle Ford shale in Texas, the Bakken in North Dakota and a handful of plays in the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico. This graph is from an EIA presentation, "U.S. Energy Outlook," by Adam Sieminski, EIA Administrator.


What is amazing about the Eagle Ford, and the other plays I suspect, is productivity is increasing; that is, the technology is improving and the initial production from wells drilled this year is greater than the wells drilled a year ago which is greater than the wells drilled the prior year, and so on.

The EIA graph below shows the productivity of newly drilled Eagle Ford wells for the past five years:

It is a remarkable accomplishment. Wells drilled this year are twice as productive as wells drilled a mere three years ago.

In other news: New York state bans hydrualic fracturing despite sitting on a treasure of shale. Meanwhile Governor Cuomo is giving millions of dollars to Elon Musk to install solar panels.

Bill

Monday, September 29, 2014

Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile

Eli,

From the Washington Post:
FBI Director James B. Comey sharply criticized Apple and Google on Thursday for developing forms of smartphone encryption so secure that law enforcement officials cannot easily gain access to information stored on the devices — even when they have valid search warrants.
Notice where the information is: "on the device."

Comey continued:

he could not understand why companies would “market something expressly to allow people to place themselves beyond the law.” 
Now, if I store something on my phone, and don't want anyone to see it, I am putting myself "beyond the law." Calling George Orwell.

My favorite quote in the story comes from John J. Escalante, chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department.

“Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile,”..."The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.” 
 
Bill

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Obama's new muse: George W. Bush"

Eli,
I was amused by the headline of this Politico.com story: "Obama's new muse: George W. Bush"

President Barack Obama drafted most of Wednesday’s United Nations speech by himself, but it often sounded like he had a ghost writer: the predecessor he mocked.
What amused me most is it is the same thing I wrote two years ago:

Obama = Bush 

and

The Second Coming of Bill Clinton 

Bill




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I read the first three words and stopped.

Eli,

I read the first three words "America's royal baby" of this story, and stopped reading. Anything that supports the notion of royalty in the US I find repugnant. It's while I'll never utter "First Lady," either.

Bill

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shouldn't Be Too Difficult to Find a Nut or Two in a Crowd of 100,000

Eli,

I can't imagine it's too difficult to find a nut or two in a crowd of 100,000 and Reason.TV did at the recent March for Climate Change in NYC last Sunday. The results is amusing, but not very illuminating.



The left does the same thing at Tea Party rallies, and it's just as amusing and also not very illuminating.

One can be concerned about climate change without being a communist (whatever that means) and one can be less concerned about it and not be anti-science (whatever that means).

Bill

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Not A Smidgeon of Corruption

Eli,

Many news outlets have reported this:

The staff of the House Oversight Committee’s Republican majority received a curious phone call two Fridays ago from Brian Fallon, director of the Justice Department’s office of public affairs.
Mr. Fallon confided that he had certain documents pertaining to the Internal Revenue Service scandal, which had been requested by Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.
He asked that staff leak the documents to “selected reporters” – affording Attorney General Eric Holder’s spokesman an opportunity to publicly downplay their significance – before he handed them over to Rep. Issa.
It was an artful plan by Mr. Fallon, which he almost certainly would have pulled off but for one slip up: He called Rep. Issa’s staff when he meant instead to call staff for Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s ranking Democratic member.
Mr. Fallon’s phone call confirmed suspicions that Rep. Cummings has been running interference for the Justice Department.
Not a smidgeon of corruption, indeed.

Bill

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Oil Independence-Who Cares.

Eli,

I don't think it's very important to achieve oil independence, just like I don't think it's important to achieve iPhone independence, or banana independence, or auto independence. For whatever reason(s) energy seems to make most rational people lose their perspective. If we are oil independent, and the Middle East blows up, oil prices will go up, so I don't see how our "dangerous dependence on foreign oil" really matters. The market is interconnected, as you can see by the chart of trade movements below.

Turns out, we have a rather diverse supply of oil. The following two graphs are from the BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2014. The first, in tabular form shows where we get our oil imports. The second shows the same in pictorial form.

Keep in mind we produce a little over half of what we consume, the rest is from imports. So when you see the Middle East providing 20% of our imports, that's about 10% of our consumption. Canada is the biggest source of imported oil, and has been for some time. Mexico and Venezuela combined, are the next major source of supply, then the Middle East, combined.



By the way, in 2013 the world's largest producer of oil was Saudi Arabia at 11.5 million barrels per day (542.3 million tonnes), followed by Russia 10.8 million (531 million tonnes) and the US 10.0 million (446 million tonnes).

Production from the US this year will be about 11.4 million barrels per day and 12.6 million in 2015, at least according to the Energy Information Administration, which is part of  the Department of Energy. Russian production has been growing modestly, and Saudi Arabian production is flattish over the past couple of year. If those trends hold the US will be the world's largest producer of oil, by a large margin. Compare this to 2003, when the US produced 7.4 million barrels per day. It's an amazing difference and all due to hydraulic fracturing. Also happens to be good for those concerned about carbon. More oil and more gas, means less coal means less carbon.

Bill

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why Obama is at 40%

Bill

Today's Upshot crystallizes the  disconnect between the macroeconomic good news that we keep hearing about and the reality for most Americans. The fantastic headline says it all.




Follow the Money

Bill,

The real power behind the NFL has begun to speak out about the recent scandals rocking our favorite league; From  today's New York Daily News

"Memo to the NFL: This Bud may no longer be for you.
Pro-football got blindsided Tuesday for its handling of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson scandals by one of its biggest sponsors — beer maker Anheuser-Busch.
In a scathing 49-word statement, the league’s official suds-maker said they are “disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season.”



  “We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code,” the company said. “We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.”

Such statements will get the NFL's attention in a way that nothing else has, or will. Note that BUD hasn't pulled its advertising, at least not yet. Still too much money to be made from all us thirsty fans. They expect the proper concerns to be raised and the needed heads to roll (a bad metaphor in the age of ISIL or maybe not).

Forgive my cynicism over all this. It's hard for me to believe that any of the folks involved in this Kabuki dance of righteousness really give a hoot about the issue(s) at hand; that is is to say, how does  one change a culture that devalues the physical integrity and autonomy of the vulnerable? The issue is about power and its near equivalent, money; those who have it like having it, and want to keep it, they will only be convinced to change when that power is threatened,

 Eli

The Worst Time to Play the Patriots

Eli,

I think you pointed out to me no one adjusts to a loss like Belichick. I'll buy that and the Patriots crushing the Vikings is another example. I really feel sorry for teams that have to play the Patriots the week after the Patriots lose a game they should have won. Belichick still has it, but you have to worry about Brady. I'm not sure if I actually heard someone say Brady was losing it or if it was in a dream, but either way, when will the Patriots begin grooming his successor?

The Seahawks now look human, and the Broncos still look vulnerable. The Broncos pretty much dominated the Chiefs, yet the Chiefs were in the game to the very end. Not a good sign. The Vegas oddsmakers don't think much of the Chargers win, nor the Seahawks loss. Odds of the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl now 5:1 versus 4:1 last week and odds of the Chargers wining the Super Bowl remains at 30:1. I thought the Chargers looked strong.

Patriots again at 8:1 to win the Super Bowl, Broncos and Seahawks at 5:1. In our house there are no Oakland Raiders. Instead they are The Hated Oakland Raiders. Odds of The Hated Oakland Raiders winning the Super Bowl? 1000:1, down from 200:1 at the start of the season. Good to see.

As an aside, the Carolina Panthers started the year at 80:1 odds of winning the Super Bowl, now they are 30:1, the biggest positive change in the NFL. What's going on there?

Bill


Friday, September 12, 2014

The Coverup at IRS Continues

Eli,

It's really hard to believe these headlines, they are so amazing: "IRS SAYS IT HAS LOST EMAILS FROM 5 MORE EMPLOYEES." I know we've been told there isn't a smidgeon of corruption at IRS, but the headlines suggest something quite different.

A friend of mine was formerly CFO of a government agency. He told me to keep in mind that all emails sent to him at his government email address would be saved FOREVER. Emails are sent to a server, which then sends a copy to the user's device. The server is backed up. That way, if the hard drive of the user is corrupt (an apt word in this case) the email is retained FOREVER. This story that the emails are lost is one I simply don't believe.

Bill

Thursday, September 11, 2014

On 9/11 I Watched People Die

Eli,

I worked across the street from the Twin Towers and thought nothing of the loud bang I heard when the first plane hit the North Tower. It sounded like a trash dumpster hitting the ground.  At first we didn’t know it was a plane and no one was panicking.  I had an 11:00 job interview and thought I’d leave a bit early. Others, who were around for the WTC bombing years earlier, left immediately.

On the phone with my wife, she told me a plane crashed into the north side of the Trade Center, which didn’t seem right since I was looking at the south side of the tower and I could see a very large hole. It the plane hit the north side of the tower, why was there a hole on the south side.  It didn’t occur to me I was looking at the exit wound.  Over the PA, security told us to, “Use common sense and stay calm.”

A few of us went to a conference room to get a better view. Someone pointed at the tire from the plane, a dead body and body parts lying on West Street.  The wheel of the plane was south of Liberty Street, so it had traveled a distance of five or six blocks south of the impact. Police and fire were heading north.

I turned from the windows and in that moment there was another BOOM and one of my colleagues yelled, “ANOTHER FUCKING PLANE JUST CRASHED.  I JUST SAW IT CRASH.” 

Everyone started packing up, and this time over the PA security was telling us to evacuate the building.  We came out on the east side of the building, and looked back at the towers, both on fire.

Some memories are more indelible than others. As I looked at the burning towers with paper, as if from a ticker tape parade, and ash falling from the building, I saw people jump. The choice those poor souls faced still haunts me. How painful was it in that building that the better choice was to jump to a certain death?

Now what?  There weren’t many options. Someone was deliberately attacking New York.  Were there more attack planes on their way?  Were there bombs at Grand Central?  If I headed north along the Hudson I’d have to pass the World Financial Center buildings and they could be next.  Walking east towards the East River would put me in the middle of the Financial District with more tall buildings, and more plane attacks?  The only place without buildings nearby was Battery Park.  Besides, I could possibly catch the subway from Battery Park to Grand Central.  Or maybe I could wait out whatever it was that was happening and then make my way east to the East River and then north from there.

I headed south into Battery Park. At times I had a perfect view of the towers.  Both were still on fire, with smoke billowing out and the confetti still falling.  I was worried there would be more attacks.  Lots of people were heading south with me.  One man yelled to his colleagues (friends? Relatives?) “It is safe to go back” and gestures for them to follow.  I can’t imagine where he thinks it is safe.  Some followed him.

I heard someone say, “The parking lot is on fire.”  What parking lot?  Then I heard someone else say, “the Pentagon is on fire.”  Jesus, the Pentagon.  That morphs into the Pentagon and the White House are on fire.  There was no information on how the Pentagon had caught fire.  Others are saying all subways and ferries have stopped.

I stopped near Pearl Street and talked with a couple of men.  We don’t know much.  The subways closed, the bridges are closed, the ferries are closed, the Pentagon is on fire.  Has anyone claimed responsibility?  No one knows, but someone suggests it must have been Arafat, or some fanatical Muslim group. 

I walked further south on State.

As I was walking, I heard a big swoooom.  Is that ANOTHER plane???  Screams, people running towards me, so I RAN.  People tried to take cover under the awnings of the American Café.  There was a mother and father, standing next to an empty stroller, shouting the name of their child.  They keep yelling his name. No response.  There is a purse on the ground and people are yelling at each other to stay away from the purse.  I stay away from the purse.

Turned east towards the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.  All of a sudden another BANG and the crowd is now running away from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal towards me!!  I turn and run.  I jump over a low fence into an area that is surrounded by fences. 

I talked to a couple of men back near the American Cafe. One of them tells me the “swoon” sound I had heard was the sound of the trade center collapsing.  You mean the top fell off?  No, the whole building collapsed. I didn’t believe him. Such an idea was inconceivable to me.    

A big cloud of soot moved towards us.  Ash is falling.  It's like an apocalyptic aftermath. A man appears with bottles of bottled water, giving them away.  I grab one and give it to a couple of women huddling under a blanket. Another man arrives with more bottled water.  I grab another bottle and use it to spit some of the soot from my mouth.  I rinse my eyes.  I walk down to the water’s edge.

People are using Kleenex, paper towels, clothing, I used my tie, to cover mouths from the soot.  Some people have masks provided by their buildings. 

Some of the people walking past me are covered in the soot and ash from the collapsed buildings.  These people have a much heavier accumulation than I do.  Some have what looks like mud on their faces and clothes.

I borrowed someone’s phone and called home. I got voice mail.  I left the message I was safe, but I didn’t feel too safe.

The Staten Island Ferry was closed, smoke from the towers was blowing east, towards the East River so I turned west, towards the Hudson. There are a lot of people in the park. Workers employed to trim trees, tourists, police. About 1/4 inch of ash has fallen so far and I covered my face as best I could. My eyes are starting to hurt. Someone gave a paper towel to me.  I grabbed another bottle of water.

A little bit north of Pier A there are 4 ferries waiting.  A fireman is yelling at the crowd, “This is a secure area.  There is no other way off this island, other than these ferries.  And you HAVE to get off this island.  Now get on the ferries.”  It’s an orderly line.  The fireman lift some over the barrier to get on the ferry, most climb over on their own.

We start across the river, on the way to New Jersey. Almost across the Hudson, the ferry stops, and heads north in a hurry.  “Man overboard,” I hear on the PA.  We fish a man out of the river. He has a life-jacket on and flippers.  He was swimming from NY to Jersey or Jersey to NY. Either way, he’s nuts.  But then, two planes have crashed into the twin towers, both have collapsed and the Pentagon is on fire.  What isn’t nuts?

Another one of those memories that stick with me. The view from the Hudson of the NY skyline is eerie.  Smoke is billowing from the area where the twin towers USED to be, where my life used to be.  This shakes me.  I realize how close to danger I was.  It keeps going through my mind:  There are no more twin towers.  There are no more twin towers.  There are no more twin towers.  There are no more twin towers.  There are no more twin towers. I felt empty, crushed, defeated.

We got off the ferry in Jersey City.  The police directed us to one of two bus lines.  The first went to Hoboken.  The second went to Newark Penn Station.  The police keep repeating over a bullhorn: There is nothing going into New York City.

I get a hold of my wife on the cell phone.  I’m safe and in Jersey City.  She tells me I should contact her brother-in-law, in New Jersey. I can stay with him. I called my Mom to let her know I was safe.

I need to use a restroom.  I found a nursing home nearby.  They let me use the bathroom.  I shake the dust from my clothes, rinse my hair, and eyes and face.  I take my shirt off and try to shake the dust off.  They ask to copy my ID before I leave.  Anyone could be a terrorist, right?

As I stood in line for the bus to Newark. I finally noticed what a beautiful day it is.  For a few years a beautiful Fall-like day would bring with it a rush of memories. It still can. Also, for a couple of years seeing planes moving through the sky could bring back memories, or make me cringe. 

My boss called.  I told him I was safe and in Jersey City.  He told me of others who are safe and says the whereabouts of others are still unknown. Later, I would find out everyone in our office got home safely. 

The bus took at least 30 minutes to arrive.  The ride to Penn Station is another hour.  Traffic is slower than walking, literally.  Three men standing in the aisle are talking about the day.  One of them says his boss said they owed it to the company to get to New Jersey and keep working. Shits like that boss should never be put in a position of responsibility.

We get to Penn station and stand in a semi-mob while two EMTs ask if we want to see a doctor.  No, I want to go home.  He gives a yellow triangular piece of paper to me.  I think an ambulance is printed on it. I follow the others with the yellow triangle.

I go in the station and wait in line to get info on how to get to my brother-in-law’s house.  I hear the people in front of me say there is a quarantine because there were chemical and/or biological weapons on the plane.  I was wrong, the day can get worse.

Subway to bus, bus to brother-in-law. On the subway someone noticed my shoes were covered with soot and asked if I was “down there.” After dinner, my brother-in-law and I walked to a hill in his town with a view of lower Manhattan. We look at the smoke still coming from where the towers used to stand. The skyline is naked without the towers.

The next day I hired a car to bring me home.  My wife greeted me in the driveway. We went out to lunch with our two younger kids.  When we came home from lunch I went upstairs to rest.  Instead I lied down and cried.

It took about a week to find temp offices. I don’t know what the point was. We were being acquired and the likelihood I would continue with the new company was minimal. I went in, but worked little; there was little to do; and I had no heart to do anything. I spent a lot of time walking.

All over New York there were “Missing” posters on mailboxes, phone booths, blank walls. All over Grand Central there were posters with pictures of loved ones. They were gone. The only way someone could have survived was a miracle, and there were no miracles.

Another enduring memory. I walked from our office near Grand Central to Union Square on 14th street, about a 1.5 mile walk. Union Square for some time had vigils for those lost. As I approached I saw the side of a drug store, almost one-half of a city block, covered with the posters of those lost. It’s how I felt: lost. My family was looking for me too. It would take some time to find me. I guess there was a least one miracle.

I didn’t survive the acquisition, which closed in late 2001. I was out of work for about 6 months, finally finding a job at a salary 2/3 of my prior level. My unemployment benefits ran out at the same time I found a job. And even though the unemployment checks were nowhere near what I had previously earned, the absence of those checks certainly spurred me to exert greater efforts to find a job. That and it was time to get back to work.

I was angry for years. I drank more, a lot more. I don’t know how my marriage survived, but it did. Over time, the anger subsided. At some point you realize the anger is only inflicting self-harm.

I don’t think we recognize all the ways that day hurt our country. I think the Patriot Act was bad for us and continues to harms us. What good came from the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars is difficult for me to see, and I was an ardent supporter of both since I wanted, not revenge, but blood. The armor from those wars are now home in the US and pointed at us. I think that day put a wall between our government and its citizens. The government now assumes we are all terrorists, that’s why we have to take our shoes off to board a plane, that’s why the NSA captures meta data on all of our cell phone conversations. We are a citizenry treated like criminals, and told it is for our own good.

The good news is we can change.

Bill

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Broncos, The Patriots, The Seahawks and Vegas Odds

Eli,

Thanks to NFL Rewind (a great product, I highly recommend it) I watched the Broncos beat the Colts, the Patriots lose to the Dolphins and the Seahawks crush the Packers. The Seahawks look just as good as last year, maybe better. The Broncos seem to lack a killer instinct. They seem to rush out to a lead then coast. The Colts were much too close for my comfort. Your Patriots were sloppy. Captain America missed more receivers (or his receivers missed him) than I've seen in some time.

The oddsmakers in Vegas had the same impression as I.
Odds of the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl are now 4:1 versus 6:1 last week
For the Broncos now 11:2 versus 6:1 last week
and the Patriots are at 10:1 versus 8:1 last week.

Bill

Boom in Energy Spurs Industry in the Rust Belt

Eli,

The New York Times has an article on the impact the US energy boom is having on Ohio. Nothing special, or new, in the article, from my perspective. What caught my attention were the comments. The "Readers' Picks" had a few that were interesting.

From Gary J.

While it's great news that a moribund factory has been revitalized, it's beyond terrifying that the equipment being made is for fracking.

Fracking is nothing more than environmental rape.
From barbara8101

Unfortunately, fracking comes with an environmental cost that is as yet both inadequately understood and inadequately funded and that will be inadequately compensated. Moreover, the money generated by energy extraction now occurring in states such as Pennsylvania is not reaching the ground, as it were. Corporations are benefiting; the inhabitants of the states are not. Natural resources belong to us all, and their use should not be at the expense either of nearby landowners or of the public at large.
The environmental lobby has done a pretty good job of sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt about fracking, as the comments in the Times indicates. And I think many of those fears are fabrications, and/or lies.

Fracking has been around for over a century, and its practice has been accelerating for the past decade. If there really were environmental catastrophes from fracking, I would expect to see the evidence in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and North Dakota and other states. The anti-fracking contingent can't produce this evidence, and maybe the reason is simple: fracking isn't the "environmental rape" same claim it to be.

As for me, I like cheap gas, warm houses and lower electricity prices.

Bill

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Please stop the Mitt for 2016 Nonsense

Eli,

Where in God's name did the draft Mitt Romney for 2016 come from? And when will it stop? He has as much chance of being elected President as I do.

Bill

Monday, September 8, 2014

Meet The Press is Even More Boring with Chuck Todd

Eli,

The Sunday Gasbag shows I don't watch, I'll listen to the podcast. David Gregory at Meet the Press, was boring, so they fired him. But Chuck Todd is even more boring. I'll put the over/under at 18 months.

Bill


Civil Asset Forefeiture

Eli,

The Washington Post started a series on civil asset forfeitures:

Cash seizures can be made under state or federal civil law. One of the primary ways police departments are able to seize money and share in the proceeds at the federal level is through a long-standing Justice Department civil asset forfeiture program known as Equitable Sharing. Asset forfeiture is an extraordinarily powerful law enforcement tool that allows the government to take cash and property without pressing criminal charges and then requires the owners to prove their possessions were legally acquired.
 So think of that. It turns on its head, "innocent until proven guilty." Instead, the police can seize assets, without pressing charges, and keep the assets until the owner proves they are innocent.

We asked for this. We asked for a more intrusive police state for the War on Crime, the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. In return we get militarized police forces, civil asset forfeitures and the NSA surveillance program.

The Cato Institute (founded by the Koch Brothers) has been pointing this out for many years now. Maybe with the events in Ferguson, the Washington Post series and the trampling of the 4th Amendment by the NSA, the country will start to listen.

Bill

Friday, September 5, 2014

The party now resembles a protection racket with an army of volunteers, with friends who never suffer and enemies who never relax. - Dick Durbin Edition

Eli,

Last year I ran across this story in Politico: Dick Durbin looking to become retailers’ BFF

So when Ben Domenech, in his The Clinton Machine is Alive, described the Democratic Party as "protection racket with an army of volunteers, with friends who never suffer and enemies who never relax," it rang true.

But, as I said earlier, I think the description is just as apt for the Republicans.

Bill

Dropbox, Spider Oak and Nude Photos of Jennifer Lawrence

Eli,

Someone hacked iCloud and downloaded nudie pics of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Ariana Grande, and others. (I don't know who Ariana Grande is).

I don't have nude pictures of myself, so now worries about having them hacked and downloaded, but I am an iCloud user. All of my iCloud storage is of Apple related apps: iPhoto, Mail, Pages, my phone's camera, my iPhone and iPad backup files.

I'm a big fan of Dropbox, now $99 per year for 1 terabyte of storage. I passed on the recent Spider Oak offer of $125 per year for unlimited storage. Spider Oak isn't as easy to use as Dropbox and doesn't integrate with as many apps as Dropbox. But it is secure, in that your files are encrypted at your device, and the encrypted file is stored by Spider Oak. If someone hacks Spider Oak, they'll get an encrypted file without a key.

With the hacking of iCloud, I'm regretting my decision to pass on the Spider Oak offer.

Bill

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Obamacare, Work and the Minimum Wage

Eli,
My only begotten son has a minimum wage job and, since he is under 26 years old, is on my health insurance. He was telling me his employer is keeping his hours under 30 per week since more than 30 hours would force his employer to provide health insurance. Of course, he doesn't need insurance through his employer since he already has insurance through my employer.

I don't need to ask the question why the law was designed to do this since I know the answer: The law was poorly constructed (see King v Burwell and Halbig v Burwell.  Even though these courts reached different conclusions, they agree the law, in the aspect they were investigating, was at best ambiguous) and it was rushed through in order to avoid Scott Brown and his promise to sustain a filibuster against Obamacare.

But this brings up two other interesting issues.

First, as many have predicted, Obamacare results in less work. My son would like to work more. He can't with his current employer. Of course, he could find another part time job, but there are costs to doing that as well and potential conflicts with work schedules. In any case, the law is resulting in less work. The theory supporting that observation is one most agree with: higher prices result in lower demand.

Second, if raising the minimum wage has no impact, as many claim, on work, why would my son's employer not let him work more than 30 hours per week? After all, the health care benefit is the same thing, economically as a wage hike. Ironically, my son agrees the minimum wage should be raised. It's odd he doesn't see higher wages, all else equal, results in less work demanded. For proof, all he has to do is look at his employer's actions relative to health care.

Bill

Chelsea Clinton Leaving Her Unbelievably Cushy Fake Job at NBC

Eli,

The headline and first paragraph of this article are priceless.

Kicking off the annual Labor Day Friday News Dump, Chelsea Clinton has announced, via People, that she will no longer pretend to be a reporter. The once (and future?) First Daughter has been a “special correspondent” for NBC News since 2011, when she was dubbed, following her debut, “one of the most boring people of her era.” For the occasional feel-good segment or interview with the CGI Geico gecko, Clinton earned a reported annual salary of $600,000, or approximately $26,724 for every minute she was on-air.
I don't begrudge her ability to earn $600,000 per year. Lots of people earn money for doing little: actors come to mind.

Bill

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The party now resembles a protection racket with an army of volunteers, with friends who never suffer and enemies who never relax.

Eli,

This Ben Domenech piece on Hilary, Obama, the Progressives and the Democratic party is interesting. I don't agree with all of it. I did find this passage interesting.

History may ultimately consider Obama’s 2008 nomination as a representation not of progressivism’s resurgent appeal, but as its death rattle—a speed bump along the way to the Democratic Party’s becoming a fully corporatist, Clinton-owned entity. In practice, the party now resembles a protection racket with an army of volunteers, with friends who never suffer and enemies who never relax. And who are those enemies? Not big business or Wall Street, which has paid their way to new alliances; not America’s insurers, whose products Democrats have made it illegal not to buy; not privacy-challenging government, which Obama has expanded to unprecedented degrees. No, the only enemies who really matter to today’s Democratic Party are those wayward intolerant social-policy traditionalists with their un-American views of religious liberty.
It's unfair to tag only the Democrats as a protection racket when the Republicans can and do engage in protection as well, and the idea that the payer in the racket (insurance companies, Wall Street, big business) is now a friend, or not an enemy is a stretch.  The protection racket analogy is however, apt, in my view.

 Bill

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Eli,
The new football season is here. I thought you would appreciate this.

24 Maps That Explain the NFL
#22 is scary, but I don't read brainscans for a living.
I love #16, most hated teams by state.
And on #14, why is there a pocket of Dallas fans in South Western Colorado?

The odds for winning the Super Bowl? Thank God it will be played in a warm weather city this year. Maybe the Broncos will have a chance, if they get there. Yes, I am blaming their loss to Seattle on cold weather.


 Bill

The Economic Consequences of the Peace

Eli,
I'm reading  "The Economic Consequences of the Peace," by J. M. Keynes. It's Keynes' predictions of what will happen to Germany and Europe if the Paris Peace Treaty ending WWI goes into effect as written. He has a description of Woodrow Wilson, who I know almost nothing about.

Wilson entered the peace conference as a hero, the hope of the world. Better yet,
The American armies were at the height of their numbers, discipline, and equipment. Europe was in complete dependence on the food supplies of the United States; and financially she was even more absolutely at their mercy. Europe not only already owed the United States more than she could pay; but only a large measure of further assistance could save her from starvation and bankruptcy.
In him were placed the hopes of the world and he had the power to make the world bend to his will, if he knew how to use his power and make others follow his lead. But he didn’t.
The President was not a hero or a prophet; he was not even a philosopher; but a generously intentioned man, with many of the weaknesses of other human beings, and lacking that dominating intellectual equipment which would have been necessary to cope with the subtle and dangerous spellbinders whom a tremendous clash of forces and personalities had brought to the top as triumphant masters in the swift game of give and take, face to face in Council,—a game of which he had no experience at all.

And he was impotent against the British Prime Minister Lloyd George and the French Prime Minister Clemenceau.
Never could a man have stepped into the parlor a more perfect and predestined victim to the finished accomplishments of the Prime Minister. The Old World was tough in wickedness anyhow; the Old World's heart of stone might blunt the sharpest blade of the bravest knight-errant. But this blind and deaf Don Quixote was entering a cavern where the swift and glittering blade was in the hands of the adversary.”

Wilson had an outline of the peace he wanted, but he didn’t have the details.
the President had thought out nothing; when it came to practice his ideas were nebulous and incomplete…
He was ignorant as well and incapable of thinking on his feet, adapting to the proposals made at the conference.
He not only had no proposals in detail, but he was in many respects, perhaps inevitably, ill-informed as to European conditions. And not only was he ill-informed—that was true of Mr. Lloyd George also—but his mind was slow and unadaptable.
and
There can seldom have been a statesman of the first rank more incompetent than the President in the agilities of the council chamber.
and
Victory would only have been possible to one who had always a sufficiently lively apprehension of the position as a whole to reserve his fire and know for certain the rare exact moments for decisive action. And for that the President was far too slow-minded and bewildered.
 Brutal.

Bill

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Paul Krugman Embraces the Republican Platform

I try to avoid Krugman since he is mendacious and noxious. But I did happen to read this editorial titled, "Wrong Way Nation." Why has "Texas has had faster job growth than the rest of the country." Why "have other Sunbelt states with conservative governments" also had faster job growth he asks.

He finds the answer in housing costs. Wages are 12% lower in Houston versus NY, for instance, but housing in NY is 60% higher in NY than Houston. And why is that? Partly population density and geography (huh?) he claims. But the real difference:

However, as Harvard’s Edward Glaeser and others have emphasized, high housing prices in slow-growing states also owe a lot to policies that sharply limit construction. Limits on building height in the cities, zoning that blocks denser development in the suburbs and other policies constrict housing on both coasts; meanwhile, looser regulation in the South has kept the supply of housing elastic and the cost of living low.




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Germany's Energiewende

It means, "energy revolution," which really means government mandated move to renewable energy. The Wall Street Journal has a pretty good summary of the results so far:

Average electricity prices for companies have jumped 60% over the past five years because of costs passed along as part of government subsidies of renewable energy producers. Prices are now more than double those in the U.S....
...nearly 75% of Germany's small- and medium-size industrial businesses say rising energy costs are a major risk, according to a recent survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Federation of German Industry.
A similar percentage of the U.S. companies operating in Germany said the Energiewende had made the country a less attractive place for business, according to a separate poll by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And for the first time since 2008, German companies cited rising overall costs at home as a motivation to invest abroad in a recent survey by the German Chambers of Commerce and Industry. 
I've been reading "The Economic Consequences of the Peace," by John Maynard Keynes. In it he discusses the punitive terms of the Paris Peace Treaty that ended WWI and the raping of Germany's industrial base by the victors. This passage struck me:

In a régime of Free Trade and free economic intercourse it would be of little consequence that iron lay on one side of a political frontier, and labor, coal, and blast furnaces on the other. But as it is, men have devised ways to impoverish themselves and one another; and prefer collective animosities to individual happiness.
 "Men have devised ways to impoverish themselves and one another." Substitute "delusions" for "animosities" and the last sentence applies to Germany's Energiewende.

Here in Connecticut (and elsewhere I suppose), our local politicians brag about the renewable energy standards they have imposed on the electric utility industry. Whenever I hear renewable energy standards I think increased costs.

When businesses and consumers face increased costs they act. Again from the Journal article:

BASF, which consumes as much electricity every year at its main German plant as the entire country of Denmark, said in May it would substantially reduce its investments in Germany as a result of the country's energy policy. It said its plan for the next five years is to cut investment in Germany to one-fourth the €20 billion global total investment, from one-third currently, and that it would invest in Asia and the U.S. instead. BASF has more than 50,000 employees in Germany, about half the company's total workforce.
 Germany's loss is our gain. But I doubt BASF will look at Connecticut. Electricity prices here are the highest in the continental US.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Beer Bottle Dictator?

Eli,

I suppose there could be a danger to the public from beer bottle labels but I doubt it. Lucky for us, we have a beer bottle dictator to save us.

From The Daily Beast:
“He’s the king of beer. His will is law,” said one lawyer who works with him regularly. The lawyer asked to remain anonymous, for fear of crossing the beer specialist. “There’s one dude in the government who gets to control a multibillion-dollar industry with almost no supervision.”
John Cochrane at The Grumpy Economist has a point to make about regulations as well:

The Wall Street Journal has had two recent articles on the FDA, "Why your phone isn't as smart as it could be" by Scott Gottlieb and Coleen Klasmeier on how FDA regulation is stopping health apps on your iphone, and Alex Tabarrok's review of "Innovation breakdown," the sad story of MelaFind, a device that takes pictures of your skin and a computer then flags potential cancers. The FAA's ban on commercial use of drones is another good current example....
The cost of regulations is the new businesses that don't get started -- or that fail as MelaFind nearly did, because the Raj would not grant a license -- the innovative products they would bring us, the employees they would hire, and so on. 
Bill

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

“Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it”

That was the (most likely apocryphal) response President Andrew Jackson had to a decision by the Supreme Court led by John Marshall. The decision ruled states have no authority on Indian lands. Since the State of Georgia wanted the Cherokee lands it was upset. As was Jackson. So they ignored the law.

Walter McDougall, in "Throes of Democracy," argues Americans believe in the law as long as it is convenient
They hustled in the sense of scoffing at or finding a way around any law or authority that stood in the way of their pursuits of happiness.
Prohibition, and the widespread flouting of that law, and today's breaching of the laws on marijuana use suggest to me there is a rather complex relationship we have with THE LAW.

I think of all this when reading about President Obama's "lawlessness." Is he breaking the law when he unilaterally changes portions of Obamacare? Probably. But even the die-hard supporters of that law, if there are any left, admit the law was at best poorly drafted, while the more realistic recognize the law was also poorly constructed, while opponents contend the law was always doomed to fail. But what should we do? Let people suffer so we can comply with the law?

The situation on the border strikes me as another case where adherence to the law may do more harm than good.When George Will was asked about the children entering the US illegally he responded:
“I think we ought to say to these children, ‘Welcome to America. You’re going to go to school and get a job and become Americans.' We have 3,141 counties in this country. That’d be 20 per county. The idea that we can’t assimilate these 8-year-old criminals with their teddy bears is preposterous,”
 I agree with that, but is that legal? I doubt it. If the law is an ass, should we really obey it?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Medicare for All!

In response to some criticism I made on the VA single-payer model, I was asked what was wrong with Medicare for all. This is what's wrong:


The data is from an Urban Institute study, "Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Benefits Over a Lifetime," by C. Eugene Steuerle and Stephanie Rennane. The study is from 2011, but I doubt the numbers have changed much.

The authors contend a single man that turns 65 in 2030 will pay $87,000 in lifetime Medicare taxes and receive $251,000 in lifetime Medicare benefits.  It's why old people love Medicare. 

So sure, Medicare is great as long as someone else pays for it. But if there is Medicare for ALL, who is the sucker left to pay? 



North Dakota

The unemployment rate in North Dakota is less than 3%. Here is why:

 

Source: eia.gov

The success of hydraulic fracturing throughout the US (except NY state) is truly remarkable.

What happens when the unemployment rate is less than 3%? This is from Mark Perry's Carpe Diem blog.

A fairly quick, and entertaining, read about fracking, which includes the history of Harold Hamm's Continential Resources and fracking in North Dakota, is Gregory Zuckerman's "The Frackers."

It is really unfortunate that professional distorters, like Joe Romm at climateprogress.org are willfully ignorant or deliberately deceitful about the envirnomental safety of fracking as well as the environmental and economic benefits it creates.

 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Boeing and the Ex-Im Bank

Joe Nocera has another post in support of the Ex-Im Bank. It's titled "Helping Big Companies Compete," which I found amusing enough. He comes out boldly in support of subsidizing Boeing, and laments the damage that will be done if the Ex-Im Bank isn't re-authorized. 

A Boeing source told me that it is hearing from customers and potential customers about the fate of the Ex-Im Bank. “It’s a big deal,” my source said, especially in places like Africa, where conventional financing for aircraft is hard to come by.
According the Ex-Im Bank's 2013 annual report Boeing's customers received $8 billion in loan guarantees. That compares to about $109 billion in commercial aircraft orders Boeing received in 2013. It's also slightly less than the $10 billion share buy back Boeing announced on December 16, 2013. Boeing has $10 billion to prop up its stock but can't afford that as a reserve to provide low-cost loans to its customers? Please.

Poor Boeing. What would they do without the Ex-Im Bank? Where would Transportation Partners, owned by Lion Air, Indonesia's largest private airline get a $1.1 billion loan guarantee? Where would China Air get a $558 million guarantee. And the African customers Nocera is worried about? The largest loan guarantee to an African customer (excluding the Middle East) was to Ethiopian Airlines for $125 million. The only other African customers were Royal Air Maroc in Morocco and Comair in South Africa. These three loans totaled $254 million, or 3.19% of the total loan guarantees for Boeing customers. That $254 million is 0.23% of the $109 billion in commercial aircraft orders for Boeing in 2013.

Nocera finds it "mind boggling that anyone in Washington would want to pursue a path that is so clearly destructive to the economy."I don't think the numbers support his conclusion.

It is mind boggling to me as well. But I take the opposite side.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why HUD?

I saw this, "The Senate on Wednesday voted to confirm San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The vote was 71-26," and the first thing I thought was, "We have a Department of Housing and Urban Development? Why?"

But I could, and do ask the same questions of the Departments of Agriculture, Energy, Education and the VHA.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Why are the New Android Watches So Ugly?

I would love to get a "smart" watch. I love gadgets. I would love to have a watch that's a movement tracker, or delivers texts, or has some health data capabilities, or takes some of the functions of my smart phone. But not if they are this ugly. (see below). I hope Apple comes out with something that isn't so plug ugly.




Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Recipients of the Ex-Im Bank Largesse

In 2013 the Ex-Im Bank authorized $6.9 billion in direct loans, the three largest loans totaled $3.9 billion, or 55% of the total loans made.

The largest loan was $1.9 billion to BG Energy for the Queensland Curtis Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) plant. The Queensland plant is in Australia and will liquify natural gas from Australia and export that gas to China, Japan, Chile and Singapore. BG Energy is part of BG Group and in 2013 generated operating profit of $7.6 billion. BG is a global enterprise including its ownership of the Queensland Curtis Liquified Natural Gas plant. Bechtel Power is supplying engineering services to BG Energy for the Queensland plant. According to the Bechtel website it is "the world's No. 1 choice for engineering, construction, and project management." In 2012 Bechtel had revenues of $37.9 billion.

The New York Times worried today that if the Ex-Im Banks is shuttered, "American companies could lose billions of dollars in overseas orders and decide to move their operations to other countries that provide generous export financing." Is the Times really arguing Bechtel, "the world's No. 1 choice for engineering, construction, and project management" is in danger of moving even more of their operations overseas? Most of Bechtel's projects are overseas already, employing workers overseas.

The second largest loan is $1 billion to Reliance Industries for turbine generator sets for the Jamnagar Petrochemical Plant. It just happens that Bechtel is providing engineering and technical services for the project, but this loan will be used to purchase the generators from "Fluor, Conoco Philips, et. al." Fluor is a large engineering and construction firm and Conoco is one of the world's largest oil companies. Reliance is a large Indian company and according to their web site accounts for 6.9% of India's indirect tax revenue. It has the highest debt rating available and is India's largest private sector employer. In its latest fiscal year revenue was over $68 billion and net profit almost $3.9 billion.

The New York Times criticizes those who want to shut down the bank "as a symbol of corporate welfare," when in fact "a truly serious crackdown on corporate welfare would involve eliminating corporate tax breaks and wasteful subsidies." Is the Times arguing subsidizing Reliance, Fluor, Conoco, BG Group and Bechtel really not an egregious example of corporate welfare?

The third largest loan was to Global Foundries to build a semiconductor plant in Germany. Applied Materials will be supplying the equipment. Global Foundries is based in Silicon Valley but the equipment from Applied Materials will be installed in Germany. Applied Materials generates over $8 billion in sales and is one of the world's leading providers of semiconductor equipment.

The supporters of the bank paint the picture that businesses would fail and exports collapse without its support. Instead, the more realistic portrayal is large, well financed companies are using the US taxpayer to subsidize their operations. I can understand why Big Business loves the Ex-Im Bank. I can't understand why the Times and Democrats do as well.