Saturday, March 29, 2014

Even Google Thinks I Should Fly

I just did a trip plan to see what my alternatives are. It looks like Google's getting into flying directions

Maybe I should reconsider driving? Maybe not.

Besides, renting a minivan and driving the five of us down is significantly cheaper. As a bonus I get to add a few more states on my quest to visit all 50 states.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Social Security Report

Social Security provides two different pensions, disability (DI) and old age and survivor (OAS). Both pensions under current law are scheduled for draconian cuts. The DI pension system is due to be cut 20% in two years, 2016. The OAS pension system is due to be cut by 25% in nineteen years, 2033. The numbers come from the yearly Social Security Trustees Report.

I'm interested if people would sign up for a once-a-year report on this from Citizen Intelligence. It would require your personal date of birth to run the calculations of how these benefit cuts would affect you personally.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

White Advantage

It appears that whites don't care when other whites have friendships and support networks with blacks. This allows whites to have broader support networks without undermining their in-group solidarity. Blacks apparently behave differently, imposing a penalty on their racial fellows for having friends outside their race. An indifference to racial solidarity and discipline is an economic advantage.

The abstract doesn't cover why this broad racial advantage for whites exists and what happens when you throw asians in the mix.

From a political standpoint, Democrats identifying the GOP as the "white people's party" may be tapping into this racial discipline effect in ways that have not been studied up to this point. It would be interesting to see if there's a liberal/conservative divide in the racial solidarity dropoff of having white liberal vs white conservative friends.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Is Pope Francis Racist?

Pope Francis is not racist. But you'd be forgiven for wondering if you'd pay attention to what happened to Congressman Paul Ryan. Ryan, a Catholic, obviously has been paying attention to Pope Francis' call that we all get out of our comfortable lives and personally encounter and help the poor. The left went into full throated accusations that Ryan was racist. But if Ryan is racist for saying that suburbanites should go into the inner city and get personally involved in improving things, what does that make Pope Francis for saying the same?

Ryan's accusers have to either make the case that there's some fundamental difference between Congressman Ryan's call that properly focuses on the US and Pope Francis' call that asks for all of us to do the same thing throughout the world. If they can't, then they either have to admit that Ryan wasn't racist or extend their attack to the Pope.

A Republican Form of Government

Every two years, the federal government certifies that the 50 states have an acceptable form of government. This sounds odder than it is. Article 4 Section 4 obliges the federal government to guarantee "to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government". Luther v Borden, a case over the Dorr rebellion in Rhode Island established that this guarantee is non-justiciable, that the Supreme Court cannot intervene.

This guarantee is what was used to overthrow the elected governments of the Confederate states after the civil war and put the Army in charge under Reconstruction. With the passage of the 14th amendment, the equal protection clause of that amendment became the dominant way for the federal government to control states who strayed too far from american ideals. Yet this dependence on the 14th amendment is convenience, not any sort of overthrow of the clause.

These days the interesting theoretical question about this clause is whether there is any sort of government that does not violate equal protection but does constitute a violation of the republican form of government guarantee. It seems clear that it is. The establishment of a system that made the votes of the people essentially worthless would seem such a trigger but only if the situation became intolerable enough to provoke rebellion.

The interesting practical question is whether there is a threat that could actually trigger it. The most likely big issue seems to me to be government pensions swallowing up governments. Past a certain point, government ceases to be anything meaningful beyond cutting transfer payment checks. The will of the people is functionally nullified. For this to actually become an issue, only the Congress could step in either by simply not recognizing the validity of a state's federal representatives or by more involved legislation like the reconstruction act of 1867.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Danger Dog

How do you one up the neighbors in the area of warning signs about your dog? Sometimes first world problems have third world solutions. Nepal's dog warning signs are unique. Hand painted on metal, the globish is adorable. And note, the sign subculture is not limited to dogs. Other animals get the warning sign treatment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Where the Other Half Live

Gated communities are pretty rare where I live but I happen to live across from one. I don't see the attraction of living in a country club. Here is the entrance I drive past daily. 

Throw the "Climate Deniers" in Jail

People wonder why there's a reluctance to publicize donor lists. Having a professor of philosophy advocate throwing you in jail is a pretty good reason. Climate change "denial" has a pretty good point right now. The thermometers haven't budged as expected over the past 17 years. 

All the global warming models are running hot or their premises are invalidated because they don't fit reality. When the model of what happens when you get rid of all CO2 production fits the actual temps while having plenty of CO2 production, the model's still wrong. 

And now we are starting to see increasing calls to criminalize opposition to the IPCC consensus even as the scientific ground supporting those conclusions shifts and undermines the consensus. This is starting to look like a dangerous time to be a skeptic. 


I love Ted Cruz. He sees this:

And his response is this:

Saw this, but noticed an error. So I wanted to make one thing clear: I don't smoke cigarettes 

You can see the full poster here at the artist's website.

Green Energy Insanity

Normally, the UK pays 50£ per MWhr. But for biofuel electricity they pay 105£ per MWhr. This makes it worthwhile to buy biomass pellets on the world market and North Carolina is happy to oblige. The CO2 emissions of cutting trees down in North Carolina, converting to biomass pellets, shipping them to the UK and burning them there is greater than if they had used domestic coal. The price for biomass pellet burning electricity his higher than wind, higher than solar.

It's all just one more example in a long line that shows that government doesn't know how to calculate a price and should be in the business of price setting as little as possible.

HT: Clayton Cramer

What muslim moderation looks like

Takfirism, the eager use of apostasy charges to violently repress muslim diversity and kill anyone who is not sufficiently orthodox in the eyes of the accuser, is a major threat to everyone who is not part of the Takfiri in group. The violent muslims who threaten america are overwhelmingly Takfiri.

Commenting on a pretty good Emirati newspaper opinion piece, Akhram's Razor puts the blame on the toxic brew of massive Saudi oil money fueling Wahhabism. As he puts it:

When you view the world through the Manichiestic, inherently intolerant lens of Wahhabism and its various offshoots, Takfirism makes sense. In that context, any moderation is necessarily tactical as opposed to principled since the underlying worldview leaves no room for compromise. And no amount of political pressure will change that instinctive posture towards the world (including other Muslims).
Strong stuff, and what a lot of us have been looking for from muslims all along. We don't know, and will never know, Islam like believers do. We depend on the moderates who declare themselves on our side to make sense of it all if we're not going to descend into a wider use of violence than is absolutely necessary. One of the nice collateral benefits of moving off of oil is the reduction of the outsized influence of Saudi Arabia:

As I’ve said before, the Muslim world (and even Saudis) will be much better off when those accursed wells finally run dry and the Khaleej returns to fishing and animal husbandry.Both are just a matter of time, I think. The question is how much more harm they will cause us all in the meantime, as they make their cosmetic reforms (to much fanfare) to this monstrous counterfeit orthodoxy that they pumped into the Ummah’s bloodstream for decades. And, meanwhile, many leaders rest of the Muslim world politely change the subject, either out of a disastrously misplaced sense of decorum or adab, or simply fear of loosing a place at the petrodollar feeding trough.
This is why I keep Akhram's Razor in my mix of blogs to read even though we don't see eye to eye on a lot of issues.


Carbon footprint is a commonly understood term but how much CO2 is associated with an activity is only imperfectly related to human misery, environmental disruption, and death. There is actually a direct measure for how many people die to power civilization, the deathprint. It's measured in deaths per trillionKWhr produced. You'd think the direct measure of people killed would be the one more people would look at but it's not.

The biggest surprise is how variable the deathprint of coal is. At its worst is China with 280k dying for every trillionKWhr while the USA kills 15k for the same amount of electricity, better than an order of magnitude less and actually less than oil which clocks in at 36k. The smallest deathprint is not solar (440) or wind (150) but nuclear (90).

Every big project kills people. I'm a big believer in killing as few people as possible. I wish more people were.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Agency Problems Should be Killing Incumbents

This video is entitled the Second Industrial Revolution but I want to pick out a specific point made in the 2nd half.

Incumbents are caught with a particularly nasty agency problem. The ground is sliding out from under them. The leadership sees what needs to be done to fix it, but the necessary corrective is hazardous to their yearly bonus for a number of years. So they know that there's a problem but they do not behave as if the problem were real out of either conscious or unconscious decisions made in their personal self-interest.

The whole video's worth a watch.

It's about firing, not hiring

The profit and loss system in a nutshell

Everybody can make a startup. It's all about how quickly the bad ideas stop hurting the economy. Easy in, easy out is the key. If you want to stick around, perform a service that's actually needed and when it's not needed anymore, go do something else.

Another important factor is to not get too attached to any particular job. Things are going to shift, going to change. You're not a bad person because you specialized in buggy whips just before Henry Ford put out the Model T.

Fixing Too Big To Fail

A lot of people are unhappy with the big banks, the "too big to fail" banks. This is both on the left and the right. But these banks exist at their present size because they are being protected by all of us linguistically. The language frame that we perceive them is hiding a basic fact that would easily fix the TBTF problem. Stop adopting the language that protects their size. They claim to be "too big to fail". This is another way to say underinsured.

Everybody knows what to do with an underinsured financial institution. You pull your money out, if you can, and go work with some other institution that is not underinsured. These guys get a diet and shrink down to the point where they are no longer too big to fail.

You don't even have to spend a minute on writing up legislation. All you have to say is one word, consistently, when you mention them, "underinsured". Anyone can do it. Would you?


There are ten types of people in this world.

Those who can count in binary and those who can't.

I was reminded of this old math joke in a global warming thread. The assertion in defense of global warming was that for 100% of mathematicians, 1+1=2. I can only assume that it was an effort to make the point that on some things we legitimately all agree. But such areas of universal accord are narrower than is commonly perceived.

Grading Goalposts

Prof. Munger doesn't want 4.0 GPA grad students on the grounds that a 4.0 indicates someone unwilling to step outside their comfort zones. It's an interesting heuristic for acceptance into a graduate program. Unless you're fiendishly clever and spot this blog post, most people would never figure out that they're supposed to take risks and fall short of perfection in order to open this particular door in academia.

Is that right? Is that fair? Does fair even count? Is it appropriate to have goals that we don't normally let people know that we have. I think that in certain circumstances, this sort of hidden goal setting is the only way to select for certain traits, independence of spirit for example.

Anti-Asian Racism

Under sponsorship by state Democrats, California's apparently setting up a referendum to restore affirmative action in university admissions, a policy that would decimate asian participation in elite California public universities. Asians are 14% of California's population but are 37% of the student body in the high end public universities that California is rightly proud of. Race based admissions could cut Asian attendance by more than 50%.

In racially conscious admissions schemes, Asians end up with the rawest deal, having to work twice as hard to get into the school of their choice as whites and other racial groups. It's not right. It's unfair. It's un-american.

HT: National Review

Papist GOP

This Pope seems to be having a pretty good bit of influence on the GOP lately. Despite some early worries that he might be hitting a marxist line, that seems to have died out for the most part and Pope Francis' call to be involved in solving the problems of poverty by more than just an impersonal check seems to be bearing fruit in the GOP.

How many divisions does the Pope have? It looks like he might have a few in the GOP. Who knew?

Social Security Solvency

The spin of dishonest social security defenders like +Michael Hiltzik really gets me upset. Every year we pay for a report from the Social Security trustees. Every year they say that under current law, the program is going to go broke. Because the economy changes, the year goes up or down but it is never actuarially solvent. The young people in this country only get what Social Security promises if the system is actuarially solvent.

The most recent report is for 2013. The bust year in that report is 2033. If you're going to be below retirement age in that year, the experts we're all paying for to estimate the health of Social Security say, you're not getting what was promised.

If you plan to be alive in 2033, the best guess of the government is that you're going to get a radical Social Security benefit cut. Everything else is snake oil and spin.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reviving a Jim Crow strategy

The state of Alabama famously went after the NAACP in 1956 seeking to force it to turn over its membership list in Alabama. The NAACP refused, fearing that such an action would allow their opponents to go after their membership, destroying the organization. Eventually the Supreme Court agreed.

Today, the threats don't seem to be as physical back in the days of the civil rights movement. Threatening jobs, intimidation, and boycotts do seem to be on the table as the left brushes off this jim crow tactic for a new round of service. Social conservatives have had this tactic used against them in the Proposition 8 fight and the Koch brother are seeing it deployed against political organizations that they play a prominent role in supporting.

The number of physical incidents where people were beaten were orders of magnitude greater in the civil rights era so it's unjust to tag today's users of these tactics with the Bull Connor label. They're only 10% Bull Connor at this point. But it's nothing to be proud of.

Capitalism is not perfect

I'm a great fan of free markets. I am not blind to their flaws, however. They are not magic machines that eliminate cruelty. They take the existing society's morality and amplify the impulses. If you want uplift, capitalism will give it to you efficiently. If you want depravity, capitalism will do the same. If you want theft and violence, well, capitalism will sell you as much of that that the law will allow, even as these two products eat away at the foundations of the capitalist system.

Efficiency, effectiveness, capitalism is fit for purpose as an economy and does very well at that job. Combined with a good moral code and an honest political culture it's as good as it gets for setting up a society. But in no way, shape, or form is it perfect, or in and of itself complete.

Other Crises

We are currently on crisis overload. The mass media can't handle the number of simultaneous crises and they should change their operating procedures to fix that but they don't. Instead they just pick the biggest crisis or two and let the bottom crises just fall off the radar. So let's do a quick review of the full roster of countries that are burning:

Ukraine, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Brazil, Venezuela, at least, all have active mobs in the streets. Argentina has a currency crisis. North Korea is always in crisis. The South China Sea is in crisis with multiple participants and an unpredictable chance for sudden war among prickly, prideful locals of several countries. Russia's still dealing with violence in the Caucuses. Mexico still does not have control over all of its territory as narcotrafficantes challenge for supremacy in various ways.

What should be happening is a stress induced reform of how journalism is handled with crisp delivery of more dense information flows so the american people are well informed without having to drop what we're doing to stave off our own chance for a break in our system to watch the news 24/7. It's not happening.

News density seems not to have budged at all. This is a travesty. This is a failure of imagination and an industry that has given up on reinventing itself in a meaningful way by increasing its utility to the public.

Conservative Pop Culture

It's kind of nice to see conservative culture that's sweet and smart and not preachy. I hit a random link and found that last night in a webcomic, Love and Capes. Starting from the beginning is worth the time investment.

Vacation Buffer Building Countdown 3.16.14

I'm going to Disney World and part of getting ready for this family vacation is setting up a blogging buffer. I've never been particularly good at that so I thought I'd write about it and see if that helps building it up.

Blogs I write on with their respective daily posting goals

Flit-TM - 9
Citizen Intelligence - 1
Chicago Boyz - 0

That's a dozen posts a day. We're driving down starting Saturday and will be arriving back home the next Sunday. That's 9 days where it will be difficult to keep up with my schedule. That would make the full buffer needed being 90 posts, 81 for Flit-TM and 9 for Citizen Intelligence.

Current buffer count with posts left to write today:

Flit-TM - X:X
Citizen Intelligence - X:X
Chicago Boyz - 0

With 12 days to go until that first travel day that makes the adjusted daily goals:

Flit-TM - XX <- not good, up 2 from yesterday
Citizen Intelligence - X
Chicago Boyz - 0

This should be fun. Of course, a daily post working out the buffer struggle doesn't hurt.

Update: this is a blown post. my buffers were gone at this point and I didn't fill in the blanks when this auto-post fired. 

Needing to earn

The UK coalition government apparently has a moron quota and Vince Cable is filling it nicely. He apparently can't figure out why someone would need a million pounds income. The obvious answer that they have a million pounds of expenses does not seem to occur to him. The second obvious answer, that they have the imagination and desire to improve humanity by that figure yearly and would like to make the world a better place also seems to be beyond him.

A third situation exists (not exactly on point but much more common), where the person in question is very competent and regularly achieves much more than that princely sum in value added for their firm. They could do the same in any number of other firms as well.

So the smart employer pays them highly as a means of keeping them around. The employee doesn't actually care about the money per se but likes the idea of being valued and uses money as a yardstick for that. Some other yardstick could be used but money is actually very convenient as it makes comparisons easy.

HT: Samizdata

The forecasts are no good

Past a certain point, forecasts are indistinguishable from chance. There is not a lot we can say about the economy ten thousand years from now. An economic prediction horizon that far out is obviously ludicrous.

It turns out we regularly miss on economic predictions within a quarter and the misses are random in nature. We are systematically picking economic prediction horizons that are too long because the shortness of our actual prediction ability would make it clear that we're flying by the seat of our pants and that's just too scary to admit.

Economists are in the business of being a scapegoat. This is not science but shaman business. Until we internalize that and stop asking them to make predictions beyond the limitations of their craft, we will never progress in our planning effectiveness.

Socialist planning specifically, is posited on the ability of groups smaller than the entirety of the market making planning decisions for the whole market and gaining efficiency improvements because of the concentration in decision making power. If economic forecasts are limited to very small time frames it becomes obvious that socialist planning is bunk.

HT: Instapundit

Time to lower the wall

While I can, and generally have, met the posting goals, this is taking up too much time to be practical. Time to lower the bar before this becomes all consuming. New goal is 8 posts per day. Hopefully this will not affect the pleasantly upwards traffic trend.

NATO Nuclear Sharing

NATO's recently reaffirmed policy of nuclear sharing means that the US loans out nuclear weapons to trusted members of the alliance. The US maintains the weapons in peacetime. During war conditions, control goes to the government where the weapons are stationed. One response to the Ukraine crisis is to extend the nuclear sharing program to NATO member states like Poland and Romania. The smaller and weaker the member, the more aggressive the response will be perceived in Moscow and the greater the risk of problems with the deployment.

Poland is probably the safest bet but it's also the least threatened. The Baltic states are the most in-your-face option and Romania is probably the most on-point and the most subtle of warnings due to the interplay between Romania and Moldova.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Are US forces in Ukraine?

The Rostec group issued a release Friday claiming that one of its communications jammers disrupted a US drone communications link and caused the drone to come down. The US denies that a drone was lost from the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade. The news reports don't get at the interesting questions.

The drone that Rostec claimed was intercepted, the MQ-5B has a mission radius of 150km. There are no non-Ukrainian launch points that such a plane could have launched from. The conclusion seems obvious that the US has forces in Ukraine, whether they were military forces as claimed by Rostec or civilian intelligence agencies deploying the plane. Pentagon spokesman Eileen Lainez refused comment on the incident saying she was unauthorized to speak about intelligence departments.

There is a public US military presence in Ukraine at present. The Open Skies Treaty enforcement plane is currently in Kiev. Nobody seems to be publicly asking the Ukrainian government what US forces are authorized to be in their country. It seems like it's the simple questions that journalists skip asking.

Where is the ACA's Punch Down List?

If the Democratic line on Obamacare/ACA of "Fix Obamacare, don't repeal it" were more than a poll tested platitude, Senators and Congressmen in that party would be coming out with reform bills, essentially punchdown lists, that purportedly fixed the legislation so that the system ran better. We would have a crystal clear idea of what the Democratic members of Congress actually wanted to do to fix this program.

Currently, we don't have such bills in front of the Senate, where Democrats could put one up even if the GOP were being entirely obstructionist. We also don't have any such bills bottled up in committee in the House.

What we do have is a nice media campaign that doesn't actually serve the interest of the american people at all because it's all empty words.

Indian Reports

Are the native american tribal nations still "in a state of pupilage"? That was the term used to describe the relations between the USA and the Indian nations in Cherokee Nation v State of Georgia. If they are in a state of pupilage, we're not doing a very good job of it. If they are not in a state of pupilage, there is an entire legacy infrastructure of legacy paternalistic arrangements that the US government maintains that needs to be dismantled. That infrastructure is making the indians both dependent and poor.

We can't have it both ways and both not take seriously the responsibility of this pupilage and maintain a useless and too often counterproductive paternalist infrastructure. That's not just stupid, it's evil.

My personal preference would be to normalize indian lands and grant them more powers to run their own affairs with the responsibility of living with the consequences if they foul up, just like the rest of us. But that's a conversation that we all should be having, but we aren't.

Another one for the stack of reports for Citizen Intelligence.

HT: Instapundit

Wedging Police Culture

I don't like the way much of the anti-police militarization movement is going. I see police militarization as being a serious threat to the american way of life. The police are not an army and should not have military attitudes. The time to fix that is before the batons and stun guns come out. It's certainly time before the knock on the door happens.

Who are your police? What forces could conceivably execute that knock on the door and how many of them are honorable peace officers? How many of them have poor impulse control and are a disgrace to their uniform? And how many of them mean well but really haven't thought through the issues? These are the sorts of questions we should be asking but we don't seem to be doing it.

Oh well, one more report in the queue for Citizen Intelligence.

Please Lie Better

You know you're in trouble when your political opponents on a policy are asking you to lie better and quoting Fatal Attraction. The President lied. He said you could keep your plan when forcing the young to subsidize the old with new plans that cost more was at the heart of the political bargain that made Obamacare possible.

Now an un american plan that would somewhat accelerate the disintegration of american medicine with its anti-choice provisions is turning into a fiscally unsustainable train wreck that responsible for profit health care companies have to start putting on their forward guidance to investors. But how many responsible companies will be out there when they have a regulatory gun to their head and an administration that is perfectly willing to demonize and penalize them if they make too much noise about this disaster in the making?

Vacation Buffer Building Countdown 3.15.14

I'm going to Disney World and part of getting ready for this family vacation is setting up a blogging buffer. I've never been particularly good at that so I thought I'd write about it and see if that helps building it up.

Blogs I write on with their respective daily posting goals

Flit-TM - 11
Citizen Intelligence - 1
Chicago Boyz - 0

That's a dozen posts a day. We're driving down starting Saturday and will be arriving back home the next Sunday. That's 9 days where it will be difficult to keep up with my schedule. That would make the full buffer needed being 108 posts, 99 for Flit-TM and 9 for Citizen Intelligence.

Current buffer count with posts left to write today:

Flit-TM - 4:5
Citizen Intelligence - 1:0
Chicago Boyz - 0

With 13 days to go until that first travel day that makes the adjusted daily goals:

Flit-TM - 18
Citizen Intelligence - 2
Chicago Boyz - 0

This should be fun. Of course, a daily post working out the buffer struggle doesn't hurt. 

A-B testing is hitting the popular culture

Scott Adams wrote about A/B testing back in January with a really neat idea for a book company. I guess Dogbert reads Scott's blog because now he's gotten a hold of it and is abusing the concept in his usual dogbert style. 

Socialist Taxonomy

Economic organization in the collective style seems the hallmark of the left. Given that, I've always found it hard to understand how socialism based on race instead of class makes it right wing instead of left wing. Christian socialists, international socialists, national socialists, all three have the shared impulse to organize economics in similar ways. All share the same problem in pricing that dooms their economics. Why are two of them left wing movements and the third a right wing movement? It makes little sense to me why national socialism is separated out of the left wing pack. Is there a consistent principle in political taxonomy that justifies cutting the national socialists out from the pack?

When convenient, conventionally identified left wing movements are perfectly happy to go nationalist. As an extreme case even Stalin wrapped himself in nationalism during WW II. But the national-socialist parties are supposed to be different. Why?

HT: Dissecting Leftism

The Pope comes to Congress?

Speaker Boehner has invited his Holiness Pope Francis to address a joint session of Congress. I think that Francis' influence on GOP politicians, especially Paul Ryan is significantly underestimated. I think the GOP is responding to Pope Francis' call to keep the poor in mind and while they aren't changing their minds, they are paying more attention with authentically conservative policy to help the poor.

I hope the Pope does come. It might be educational all around.

How to make governing harder, Obama style

Out of little olive branches and cooperation on noncontroversial things, trust can grow and we increase the chance of moving the country in a positive direction. The House GOP offered one of those olive branches by allowing a Democratic bill with only one Democrat co-sponsor to get out of committee and pass the House. Introduced on April 9, 2013, the House passed it on July 22, 2013 on a voice vote.

Harry Reid's Senate set fire to  that olive branch by not allowing the measure to come to a vote as part of a general unwillingness to allow House passed legislation to actually become law. President Obama, instead of asking for action on the bill, relieved himself on it by making the bill moot by accomplishing the bill's aims through executive action, saying "In my State of the Union address, I said that I would use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations."

All the Congressmen who spent time on this legislation, let it go through as Democratic legislation, and didn't give it a hard time have a nice little kick in the rear as a payoff. I expect this to generate a similarly arcane payback as the country spirals down the toilet.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Would a Ukraine Partition Light a Moldovan Fire?

If Russia goes for a full partition of Ukraine taking the south and east where russian speakers dominate, that gives both Romania and Moldova a Russian border, again. The partition of Moldova will be front and center, the obvious next step. But Moldova has another option, union with Romania. This is a unique situation but it is not a new one. After the 1877 partition of Moldova, which incorporated what is today the Republic of Moldova into the Russian empire, the communist revolution led to an application for union which Romania quickly agreed to. That union was undone by the Hitler Stalin pact two decades later.

Romanian politics being what they are, they have already committed to accepting such an application were it to be made again. But Moldova looked to chart its own course. With a hungry Russian bear as a new neighbor, that might just change the calculation.

Update: got my compass points mixed up, thanks +Michael Hendrickson

Bitcoin isn't always dollars on both ends

Warren Buffet has a CNBC interview recently where he says Bitcoin is "dollars on both ends" and compared bitcoins to checks and money orders, suggesting that there isn't a lot of money in it. That's not necessarily true.

If you've mined coins, you haven't put money in. If you work for bitcoin (and there are small opportunities to do so), you're not putting dollars in. Also if you buy goods and services directly with bitcoin, dollars don't come into the picture.

The actual BTC economy is only a small part of the bitcoin world but it does exist. It is real. It is also growing.

400th blog post

This is the 400th post on my blog reboot. My first post on this iteration was New Years, 2011 as was my second. It was that second post, titled Deniable Intimidation Echoes, that I think motivated me to get back into the blogging game. The GOP is still quietly being intimidated in the US. The dynamic hasn't chaned in 3 years and 400 posts.

Long Trip Driving Patterns

On long trips, my wife and I tend towards swap off patterns of 2-4 hours. We've done the run to Toronto that way and also to NY from our starting point just outside Chicago. I'm wondering what's the optimal pattern in your experience? Does it change depending on how long you want to go?

How NBC could do a nice bit for charity

Apparently all the fake domains that are included in shows airing on NBC (and perhaps other networks?) are actually registered. They're currently just redirects to the official NBC website. But what if NBC were to monetize them? Why not? They own them and are likely to continue owning them for a long time. Why not make a bit of ad money along the way with some interstitials?

Vacation Buffer Building Countdown 3.14.14

I'm going to Disney World and part of getting ready for this family vacation is setting up a blogging buffer. I've never been particularly good at that so I thought I'd write about it and see if that helps building it up.

Blogs I write on with their respective daily posting goals

Flit-TM - 11
Citizen Intelligence - 1
Chicago Boyz - 0

That's a dozen posts a day. We're driving down starting Saturday and will be arriving back home the next Sunday. That's 9 days where it will be difficult to keep up with my schedule. That would make the full buffer needed being 108 posts, 99 for Flit-TM and 9 for Citizen Intelligence.

Current buffer count with posts left to write today:

Flit-TM - 1:7
Citizen Intelligence - 0:0
Chicago Boyz - 0

With 14 days to go until that first travel day that makes the adjusted daily goals:

Flit-TM - 19
Citizen Intelligence - 2
Chicago Boyz - 0

This should be fun. Of course, a daily post working out the buffer struggle doesn't hurt. 

What's Wrong with Rising Wages

Paul Krugman asks what's wrong with rising wage. I'm going to assume he was asking a serious question, though it should be deeply embarrassing for a winner of the economics nobel not to know the answer. What's wrong with rising wages is nothing per se. It's only wrong when wages rise out of balance with the rest of the economic picture, distorting the economy and necessitating large changes in where work is done as a reaction. As the UAW found out, you can push things far enough that an entire industry will relocate out of your reach just to escape you.

The US labor wage got out of whack compared to global labor conditions and the great outsourcing of jobs to foreign nations started and ran decades, hollowing out this country's economy and creating large numbers of dying cities, a problem that we still haven't fixed as any observer of Detroit could tell you.

But that imbalance has largely been resolved and we're at the leading edge of a manufacturing renaissance in the US. Following Krugman's policy to "wait some more until wage growth is at least back to precrisis levels and preferably higher" risks killing that manufacturing renaissance in the crib because it would restore the productivity adjusted wage gap between China and the US and make workers in foreign lands more attractive for the next production line.

I actually agree with Krugman that at 6.7% unemployment we're unlikely to be running out of slack in the labor market anytime soon. If we are, then the country's in a great deal of trouble. But restoring the economic distortion of unjustifiably high wages is a real danger to the US economy. Krugman should be ashamed of himself to advocate it. US workers should earn more because we produce more, not as some sort of 'thumb-on-the-scale' politically guaranteed birthright.

Political Recruiting

I was reading an interesting article about the prospects of Gov. Sandoval taking on Sen Reid for his Senate seat in 2016. It struck me suddenly that the job of finding and recruiting the people necessary to run the government has always been the weakest element of small government types.

You need to know people, track them, groom them, and guide them if you want to have a strong stable of candidates for every position in every election. This cuts against the grain for the "leave people alone" caucus. I don't have a particular solution at this point but somebody needs to come up with one.

HT: Instapundit

Obamacare is the Walking Dead

The Obama administration significantly expanded the individual mandate exemption recently and the exemption looks to swallow the rule. The individual mandate, for all intents and purposes, is dead.

Before the US Supreme Court, in oral argument, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli argued that without the individual mandate, along with a number of other provisions, the entire healthcare reform law would fail. They were parts so essential that to do without was to condemn the law to failure.

President Obama just killed his own signature accomplishment. Obama killed Obamacare. At this point it's only a question of whether the GOP repeals it or the law stays and destroys the entire health insurance industry.

89,000 governments: Rough Categories

The US operates under a dual sovereignty system. That means that there are potentially 51 definitions of what is a government, the Federal definition and each state's separate definition. That doesn't mean that there are actually 51 definitions but that there are as many as 51.

The federal government maintains a census of governments which purport to count all of the United States' local governments under a uniform definition. There are five basic types of local governments.

Three are general-purpose governments: Counties, Municipalities, and Townships. The other two types are special-purpose governments: Special districts School districts.

Special purpose governments are the most diverse in character and some that make the state lists do not pass the federal tests of "Existence as Organized Entity", "Governmental Character", and "Substantial Autonomy". In less formal terms, there have to be people running the thing, it has to do something, what it does needs to be the sort of thing that a government would do, and the organization needs to be able to chart its own course at least some of the time.

State definitions of what a government is vary widely. Nobody seems to have done a survey to publish them all. This is in my bucket list.

Debt Bondage

Debt bondage or debt peonage or indentured servitude is a form of paying off debts banned by the US Constitution. Unfortunately for us all, the US political class seems to have figured a way around that bit of the 14th amendment to impose it intergenerationally.

We're awakening and discovering we've sold our children (and if we're young enough to still be alive when it all comes crashing down ourselves) into a form of debt bondage. In short, we're slow motion selling ourselves into slavery and politicians are asking for our votes in order to change the details of our upcoming bondage.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cosmos Reboot Review

I dug up Cosmos on Hulu and just finished watching it with my younger daughter. The Bruno section was as bad as the write up in Slate advertised it to be but there was a great deal that was quite right and promoted science very well.

Tyson's promo interview describing science on Colbert was subtly wrong but he got it right in the show itself which was a relief. There were a few things that were overly speculative, the multiverse section sticking out the most for me so a bucket list of mistakes is probably worth reviewing. I hope they settle down and stick to the science.

Untreatable Gonorrhea

We may have to revert to the strait laced sexual ways of our forefathers if we lose the ability to treat STDs using antibiotics. According to the CDC we're almost to that point of untreatability with gonorrhea. We are utterly unprepared socially to deal with a world where STDs are once again an untreatable road to sterility, madness and death. The stakes are going up on this problem. It's time to start thinking about what we're going to do in the post antibiotic age.

97% Liars

The Cook 2013 paper asserts that 97% of relevant papers were in favor of the consensus opinion on anthropogenic global warmng backed by the IPCC. There are two problems with the paper.

The first is in the paper's misuse by propagandists. Right in the abstract it lays out that 2/3rds of papers don't actually express an opinion on global warming. The authors could go either way. This is almost never conveyed by propagandists supporting the consensus position.

The second problem is that some of the papers are mischaracterized with prominent skeptics being put into the pro-AGW camp. Cook has not retracted the paper at present. A rebuttal paper, Legates 2013 has been published showing that instead of 97.1% consensus supporting, only 0.3% of relevant papers support the standard definition of the consensus position.

HT: Forbes

The GOP 2014 Electoral Wave

The Wall Street Journal's opining that the GOP looks like it's going to ride an electoral wave into a very good year if they don't foul up. It's a little early yet in my books because I have faith in the talent of Republican operatives to screw up any political opportunity. That said, the recent special election loss n Florida has Democrats in full spin mode denying any national significance.

We'll see.

Democrats do seem to be more gearing up for 2016 than 2014 as if this year's election is just something that they have to endure on the way to another four year triumph of holding the presidency.

Economic Models vs Climate Models

The New Economics Foundation is a UK think tank. They just put out an analysis claiming that climate models are at least as accurate as economic models and somewhat better on average. That being said, we don't treat economic models as serious planning tools 80 years out. We barely believe them for decisions 10 years out.

This is why Rep. Ryan's observation in 2012 that the US economy will shut down in 2027 according to CBO estimates of current path spending didn't freak the entire country out. Nobody believes that is a credible forecast. Too many things will change in the intervening 15 years to get worked up about it.

You can see Tim Geithner trying but not entirely succeeding in laughing at the ridiculousness of projecting things out past ten years. The relevant section about the economy shutting down is between 2:20 and 2:40 in the video below.

so even granting the point that climate models are just as good as the economic models, they must suffer from the same sorts of limits to forecast that the economic models do. Perhaps they are a bit better, perhaps not. Let's be generous and give them 15 years. Virtually no climate measures are justifiable based on the climate model projections 15 years out. The scary numbers don't show up for decades beyond. So who are they trying to fool here? 

Cryptocurrency undermining the Euro

I've been pondering the Euro lately. The whole point of having the Euro was to get rid of the cost of managing multiple currencies. The cost of switching over and maintaining one big currency was smaller. But today it's very obvious that the cost of a big currency zone is higher than had been calculated.

What if cryptocurrencies solve the problem of multiple currency management and reduce the costs of managing multiple currencies enough that staying or leaving the euro zone is a cost neutral one. What if the cost of managing multiple currencies ends up actually smaller than the costs of maintaining an undifferentiated large currency zone? All the big currencies would come under pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiency by creating multiple smaller currency zones. The Euro has the least history and the most unresolved problems to it so it is likely to be pressurized especially hard.

Clearly we haven't hit this point yet but it's not too early to start getting together the prerequisite data and the process for calculating when it's worthwhile to change the currency game. I wonder if anybody's doing it yet.

Incompetent Government Doesn't Measure the Right Metrics for Success

Success for Obamacare is getting the right numbers and the right mix of signups to overcome the number of people who have lost their insurance plan and get new enrollees that make all the pain and expense worthwhile. Get the numbers wrong enough and we're going to have huge losses in the insurance field and a major hole in the Federal budget. An enrollee is someone who successfully navigates their application through the process and pays their first month's premium.

So, do we actually measure the number of people who have gone through the process all the way through to paying for it? Of course we haven't. The government could have included in the law a requirement for the insurance companies to report to HHS when those premiums came in. That could have been a requirement of one of the enabling regulations so that the IRS doesn't inappropriately assess tax penalties. But nobody did it and as a result, we are in a canoe and all we hear is the waterfall because we're wearing a blindfold. By the time we figure out that we're over the falls, it's too late.

HT: Instapundit

What are we trying to stop with the 3rd amendment?

The third amendment, viewed one way, is the most successful amendment in the bill of rights. It's so clear that there is hardly any jurisprudence surrounding it, it gets violated so infrequently. Or does it? We'd hardly know because we don't have a clear idea what is the problem with quartering troops. Is it that the troops were present within our homes absent any permission from the homeowner? Or is it that quartered troops didn't pay for their forcibly acquired lodgings? Was the ancillary risk of having to be on your guard lest you be seen in your own home violating the law? Was it a combination of all of the above and in that case how many of the elements need be present to trigger a third amendment case?

If the government does not quarter troops but civilian bureaucrats, does that eliminate any third amendment problems? What if the troops are robotic? What if the troops are software agents? What if the troops are somebody else's software agents?

Sometime in the next 30 years, the third amendment is likely to be revitalized by some bureaucratic overreach of one type or another. It would be helpful if we clarified the third amendment before that happens.

Infrastructure Costs in America are Too Damn High

The US spends too much and gets too little for its infrastructure dollars. Infrastructure costs in the US are an order of magnitude higher than in Spain. The UK, which is also considered a place with high infrastructure costs, still clocks in at half the US price.

We have a poor process, poor public oversight levels, and a culture of infrastructure building that is poorly serving the people of the United States. This is not something that is going to get fixed overnight but the fix has to start being implemented soon. We need to ask the question what a decent infrastructure process would look like. We need to know what are the tools we need to keep costs in check and ensure we get quality infrastructure out of the process. And we need to figure out how to do this with a reduced amount of time invested compared to the dysfunctional system that we have today.

Another Consequence of Not Monitoring Government

When unsustainable pensions were negotiated in San Jose, the people didn't understand what that meant. They do now. Paying for those pensions is destroying the ability of the city to fill potholes, keep the public libraries open and maintain public services of all types.

What's needed is a report to calculate all those costs out and report the carnage to the taxpayer along with the personal consequences for them long before these pensions get out of control and destroy the quality of life in that jurisdiction. Right now that doesn't seem to exist. It should.

HT: Instapundit

Bitcoin Prediction Markets

Bitcoin casinos are old hat but it looks like the prediction market business is might find a home in bitcoin. I'm a big believer in prediction markets and mourned the (hopefully temporary) death of Intrade at the hands of the CFTC in 2012. A bitcoin denominated market with a wider user base would be a welcome development.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Orthodoxy is moving

For 1200 years the Orthodox have not held an ecumenical council. They will hold one in 2016. The ground is shifting, change is coming and nobody knows how it will play out.

Cops Keeping the Incriminating Evidence

Apparently the "merit" promotion lists for police promotions weren't destroyed in clout happy Chicago and now they're being made public. Who benefitted from clout, who got promoted against the rules, it's all coming out now. It is incidents like this, where the paperwork is kept and eventually disgorged, that make me still have hope for a reformed and strong United States coming back into its own. Even the crooks in the Windy City won't destroy all the records brazenly.

Atheist Scientific Ignorance

The show Cosmos has brought out the hater among the atheist crowd. I'm getting an inordinate number of people in my feeds talking about how science demonstrates that religion is wrong. It's all nonsense, of course. Science and religion coexisted quite nicely for centuries and among people of good will still coexists today. But at least on the Internet the atheists are on the march and Neil deGrasse Tyson is their dog whistle.

What annoys me most is deGrasse's scientific sins, not his no doubt genuinely believed atheism. The man's going around giving interviews and subtly asserting consensus science which is a travesty. Science is now and always will be about the evidence and for some strange reason deGrasse doesn't seem to agree.

Unions Against Hospitals

If you made it up, nobody would find it believable. The Koch brothers donated $100 million dollars to help build a new outpatient facility at New York-Presbyterian hospital. Unions protest the donation. David Koch has deep ties to the hospital and sits on its board of trustees.

The New York State Nurses Association is against more nursing jobs in the new ambulatory care center as is the SEIU local 1199 who was there protesting against more work for their members. The NAACP was also on hand to lend support to the protest. But let's not leave out the ladies who were there to join in as an international women's day tie in. It was an absurd, surreal scene.

For the record, here's the full list of organizations that spoke out against better health care in NYC:

1199 SEIU, New York State Nurses Association, NAACP New York State Conference, African Services Committee, ALIGN-NY, Bailey House, Center for Popular Democracy, Community Voices Heard, Doctors for the 99%, HIV Prevention Justice Alliance, Healthcare-NOW! NYC, GABRIELA-NYC, Healthcare for the 99%, Interfaith Coalition, La Aurora, Left Labor Project, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) Northeast, Make the Road New York, Met Council on Housing, Metro New York Healthcare for All, National Dominican Women’s Development Center, National Action Network, National Organization of Women-NYC, New York Communities for Change, Philippine Forum, Physicians for a National Health Program-NY Metro, QUEEROCACY, Rockaway Wildfire, Strong Economy For All Coalition, VOCAL-NY, Washington Heights Corner Project, Working Families Party.

What if Putin Weren't Lying?

There are a number of people in military clothing but no unit or national insignia running around the Ukraine and interfering with public order. Everybody has jumped to the conclusion that they're Russian military operating under a fiction. What if they weren't?

Would we have a better result in the Ukraine if we formally believed Vladimir Putin and treated these people like they weren't part of the Russian army? What if, miracle of miracles, he isn't actually lying? If they were mercenaries operating under the direction of non-state forces, how would their actions look different? If a Russian oligarch spent some of his pile to hire Russian veterans and take Crimea like Leopold II took the Congo Free State, what would our obligation be? Wouldn't air cover and drone operations to relieve besieged Ukrainian military bases from a private army be a treaty obligation?

Russia should not be sending their military out of the country when they're out of uniform. But they seem to be counting on us calling them liars and treating them as if they were Russian troops anyway. Why do they deserve that consideration?

Diversifying my information sources

I'm a little creeped out by people who have no clue what's going on outside their own little circles. Epistemic closure, a sort of intellectual isolationism is something I find repugnant. Google plus makes it easy to get out of that because people share circles of hundreds of others and you can just grab them, sight unseen and find a whole new world. That new world has really upped may daily consumption of cat pictures but also of people who think significantly differently than myself and who I can have a discussion with. I foresee circle building and pruning is going to be a regular activity for me going forward and it doesn't come naturally for me. It is good for me though.

Why Tim Cook is Right and Richard Branson is Wrong

On the surface, Richard Branson is a Tim Cook fanboy. He's two thumbs up on Tim Cook's advice for NCPPR to get out of Apple stock. But I think that Branson misunderstood what was going on and why Cook, rightly, took NCPPR to task. NCPPR was doing two things, not one. The first was pushing Apple on climate change. The second was seeking to get Apple to apply conventional ROI calculations on all that it does. NCPPR's account of the event stresses the fight on the first issue but it was the second issue that prompted Tim Cook's invitation to sell the stock.

This invitation makes sense. It's a core value at Apple that they are willing to chase after long-term projects that don't conventionally show value but do pay off in the long run. NCPPR's desire to fit Apple into the conventional mode of profit seeking analysis violated a core value that underpins the company and its stock so Tim Cook just said, in essence, "that's okay, its not for you".

Branson, like much of the media coverage, thinks that this is a fight about global warming and the freedom not to seek profit. But here Branson's dead wrong. The fight over environmental sustainability is something that Cook isn't taking off the table because one way or the other that fight doesn't touch on Apple's core values of making insanely great products.

Apple's already gone through one round of conventional ROI leadership in the past. This period was known as the death watch years when Apple fell behind and was on virtually everybody's list of dead corporation walking. If they're smart, they'll never go in that direction again.

Science: Right or Wrong

Does science prove theories or laws correct? Or does science simply say that a theory hasn't yet been proven wrong? These sound like very esoteric questions but it's the difference between scientism and science, respectively.

Science attempts to guess at the laws of the universe, computes the implications and consequences of the guess and compares them to experience or experiment. If they don't match, the theory is wrong. If further experiment reveals gaps, the theory is incomplete and thus wrong. Incomplete theories can still be useful. We use newtonian style calculations to this day even though we know that those theories are wrong. They are close enough to reality for a wide range of use cases that they still work, just as long as the limits to their usefulness are kept in mind.

Science is utterly useless as a religious system. For that scientism is a far superior option but scientism has no credibility and no usefulness except when it camouflages itself as science. Scientism says stop thinking, stop examining, stop studying settled issues. They are the corpus of established science, the bible which should not be questioned. When preachers rail against science, it is this that they are protesting by and large. But scientists should be just as dubious about scientism as the preachers. Scientism is not science. It is a kind of philosophical cuckoo's egg, a fraud pretending to be science and bringing actual science into disrepute, causing confusion as to what science actually is.

Discrimination at the CFPB

I loathe disparate impact theory but the CFPB loves it. The idea that people can be unconsciously discriminating, something that only shows up as a difference in results even though the process leading to the results was scrupulously fair is a favorite in those quarters.

Now the worm has turned and CFPB been bitten by disparate impact. A March 6 investigative report in American Banker uncovered the fact that whites were twice as likely to be rated highly as minorities in employee reviews. No employees would speak on the record for fear of retaliation. Four days later CFPB scrapped their employee rating system. Sudden changes like this to employee rating systems invariably tank morale as everybody looks with suspicion at their next pay raise rate and wonders whether their paycheck is a victim of political correctness.

Those Darn Crowdfunding Kids

I have a soft spot for "get off my lawn" curmudgeon journalism and +Lara Krupicka delivers my fix today with her chiding today's crowdfunders as too narcissistic. In classic grump mode she's enthusiastic about group patronage of the arts so long as it fits her criteria of what is seemly. It's a classic way to try to climb into other people's pockets and guilt them into spending their own money as the author thinks they should.

The Battle for Independents

It turns out that the conventional wisdom that the GOP brand is damaged is true but in a profoundly weird way. The grumpy old white guys of the GOP are, well, behaving like grumpy old white guys. The GOP brand is damaged the most among voters least likely to abandon it, the party's own base. This is likely to lead to dispiriting articles that focus on the top line party reputation difference (which is about 10 points) and could affect turnout, but that's not a sure bet for Democrats.

Among independents, the persuadable middle, both parties have equally bad reputations, well within the margin of error in polling by CBS/New York Times. 2014 is shaping up to be one strange year.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Feynman Explains Science

How does science work? I sometimes try to explain it but I'm not a pro. Here's a pro.

Contingent vs Absolute Truth

+Neil deGrasse Tyson has been going around saying something that sounds smart and pro-science but is actually foolish.

If you believe in this, you can't justify Einstein going after Newton. But that's not actually how science works. Science is about discovering contingent truths, not absolute truths. You always get to have a different opinion, but you're constrained to use the opinion that has the best evidence at the time. It's that latter constraint which makes science work, not shutting down your mind and not having opinions about scientific matters that might be different than present consensus.

So why is Tyson doing this? He's got to be smart enough to know that he's taking liberties. Why not teach science as it is? I wish I knew.

Kids Prefer Cheese

Not your everyday, ordinary economist's blog, Michael Munger's Kids prefer Cheese.


SNAP is a USDA program to supplement the amount of food poor people would be able to buy on their own. But how big is the supplement? The US military pays out funds that are supposed to cover all meals, whether provided by the government or not. This is the BAS or Basic Allowance for Subsistence. Officers and enlisted get different numbers.

The 2014 maximum SNAP grant for a 1 person household is $189. The monthly 2014 BAS for an officer is $246.24 and for an enlisted rank is $357.55. So it's a reasonable equivalence to say that between half (comparing it to enlisted BAS) and three quarters (comparing it to officer BAS) of what the US Government believes you can survive on and function for food is available via SNAP.

This puts the "foodstamp challenges" you can find across the Internet in something of a different light. In these challenges, people are asked to fit their entire food budget into the SNAP limits. What's scary is that sometimes people actually pull off a successful challenge anyway.

Defund the Useless

Creating a government department has a certain amount of overhead attached to it. You only create such a thing if the nature of the mission is separate enough and there is enough useful work that would be improved by the bureaucratic separation so that the improvement outweighs the overhead increases from the separate bureaucracy.

That's fine as good government theory but how do we know that the departments that exist now are fulfilling that requirement? The truth is we don't. We don't measure the good that is being done in any rigorous way and how much that good costs in money, time, and opportunities. We don't routinely measure whether a separate existence serves us better or whether some of these institutions would be better folded back into the department that they calved off from years ago. This sets up a situation where growth of government is favored even when it doesn't actually make sense. Inertia carries useless departments forward, year after year.

This insight is at the heart of "shut it down" and "defund" conservatism. The idea is get rid of the rotten parts and the useful parts will tend to be salvaged and absorbed by other departments. We don't have to go through the hard work of sorting the wheat from the chaff ahead of time. And that last bit is exactly where conventional conservatism goes wrong.

We do need to go through that hard work. We need to make going through that work cheaper and easier. We need to do that work routinely to establish an ethic of getting rid of government we no longer need. Until we do, conservatism will always be an exercise in failing slowly.

Sharing to Google Plus vs Scheduling Posts

I'm experimenting with a new posting style on my blog that absolutely will not work without scheduling posts. Up to yesterday I've been posting live as the mood strikes me but there were a number of posts that never got written because my writing muse tends to be bursty and it just didn't make sense to publish all those posts at one time. So yesterday I posted once every two hours for the full day, time shifting 2AM to 3AM because blogger would not let me post then.

I did very well on traffic yesterday, up perhaps 25% but looking back the conversation was nil. All my comments are apparently coming in via Google+ and when you schedule posts via blogger, auto-sharing on Google+ does not work. A very significant number of my readers are coming in via other channels so the traffic went up but it went up entirely without my Google+ audience.

There doesn't seem to be a good set of choices here. I like the community and conversation I'm getting out of Google+ but I need scheduling to fully take advantage of my posting capability and to move posts to a more predictable stream instead of having them come out in clumps. Anybody out there have a simple solution for this situation?

Charlie Brown Market

Charlie Brown famously always kept trying to kick the football that Lucy inevitably pulled out from in front of him so he would fly in the air and crash on his back. I'm starting to think that Wall Street is filled with Charlie Brown stand ins.

Zero Hedge is noting that for the third time in 15 years, we're exhibiting the classic signs of market exuberance that precede a stock crash. It's like we've all taken leave of our senses and decided that it's socially acceptable to be suckers.

Export Baby, Export

Ukraine pays more for Russian gas from Russia than they pay for Russian gas that is pumped further to Poland and then shipped on to Ukraine. This crazy result is causing central european leaders to ask the US to move faster on exporting gas to Europe

Drill, baby drill is turning into export, baby, export as yesterday's idiot utterings turn out to be prescient energy policy a few years later. Funny how that happens. 

The Future of Computing Hardware

There's an itch building that we can't scratch. We are depending on black box technology that we cannot truly control because the specifications are all burdened with patents and copyrights. In a world where we could trust big players to leave those black boxes alone, that would not be a tremendous problem. It's growing clear that this is not the world we live in.

Novena is an open source hardware laptop project. It's also a peek into the future of computing, which will include relatively modest specified machines that we can actually assure ourselves are under our own control. Looking at this project reminds me of looking at early Mozilla builds. You see the potential for a world beater, but you know that it's a long way from doing what it needs to do to survive in the marketplace as more than a curiosity.

HT: +Josh Williams

Sun Tzu and Bob Marley

My older daughter told me she had decided to pick out Sun Tzu's The Art of War for reading on her own. She had a substitute teacher in art class and was reading the book but found it impossible to continue as two of her classmates were singing Bob Marley's Three Little Birds and the juxtaposition of the two was just too much for her. My daughter is having an unusual 6th grade.

The perfect 18

Excellence is worth honoring no matter where you find it.

HT: Viking Pundit

Monday, March 10, 2014

Do You Own Your Stuff?

For the princely sum of $10 a month between June and September, NIPSCO just informed me by mail that they would like to be able to shut down my AC compressor for 15 minute intervals at their convenience. I think not. I run a number of servers from my residence and I'll keep my AC under my own control.

In the bad old days of telecoms, it was not clear at all that the wire and phone equipment that you paid for were actually yours. In fact, AT&T asserted nothing hooked up to its network belonged to anybody but them. It took a number of lawsuits to and an anti-trust action to settle that. I do not welcome the return of that world via the electric companies turning your things off at their convenience.

The Most Important Obamacare/ACA Metric

Greg Sargent has his political blinders on claiming in the Washington Post that "the most important Obamacare metric of all" is "how many people are gaining hea[l]th care coverage". This is not the most important metric. The most important metric, and real data won't come in for quite some time on this, is whether the ACA health payment regime is sustainable and can maintain our first class medical system, avoiding system collapse.

The most important thing in the health care reform debate is not insurance. It is the delivery of actual care. When you change reimbursements, certain business models stop being profitable. We have no idea how that will play out in marginally sustainable practices and hospitals across the country.

Driving Out California Oil

California used to host a number of conventional energy companies. They were a core industry that helped make California the vibrant economy that led the nation. They still have Chevron but everybody else seems to have decamped.

The reasons are varied. The culture shifted decisively against petroleum and that's manifested in a number of ways to make oil executives feel unwanted, ostracized, and hated. The business climate is making everybody take a look at departing from California and plenty of other states with a rich oil tradition are more than happy to facilitate a move to their own oil centers. There doesn't seem to be any particular reason to fight to stay in California and a growing number of reasons not to.

The American Dream vs the Kleptocrats

Open source warfare is a larger subject but today, specifically, John Robb talks about one use case where it is likely to show up, the battle between the American Dream and the Kleptocrats. Open source warfare is something that our current band of domestic kleptocrats don't take too seriously. If they did, they would be taking pretty visible countermeasures and have been doing so for years. Simply put, they are not.

The protests in Ukraine that ended up with president Yanukovych fleeing are an example of open source warfare but because of the US' huge size and federalist structure, it's unlikely to be the variant that is dominant in here. Much more likely will be open source warfare techniques to coopt lower government nodes and area denial for higher level nodes that are too big to be taken on at the time. This is likely to show up in somewhat improbably high accident rates for agents of the states when they show up in areas that an organized resistance is trying to exclude them from. Overt killings will be rarer but not unheard of.

We're a long way from this sort of internal security picture but the key tipping point seems pretty clear. The growing belief that our elections are not sufficiently honest to win change in a peaceful manner, if it ever gains critical mass, is the point on which rebellion will start.

DSCC Goes Loopy

The job description of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is to help get more Democrats elected to the Senate. With their current campaign, they've completely lost their minds.

The DSCC is forthrightly campaigning on Obamacare. It's a political turkey and they've decided to embrace that. The suck is strong with this one.

Emergent Anti-Communism

There is something I like to call ideological anti-communism, the philosophical idea that communism is profoundly wrong as an ideology. It's got a long and relatively successful pedigree but it hasn't been able to win the day and fully kill off an idea that has objectively caused untold human suffering and give or take 100 million people peacetime dead.

I'm an ideological anti-communist. That means that I'm convinced that the heart of the socialist/communist economic system is fundamentally wrong and will never be made to work.

But I've given up on beating communism by convincing everybody to follow along that ideological path. The number of people who are indifferent to politics and economics is simply too great and every time things are working well, the ranks of the indifferent swell, creating a fertile breeding ground for piecemeal fabian style socialism to stage a comeback. The actual level of popular oversight in first world states is pretty low. By raising it and routinizing it, what comes out of that non-ideological process is what I am calling emergent anti-communism. It's a function of not giving socialist solutions a pass and actually measuring their effects and calling them out when they fail. Functionally, that makes government oversight anti-communist, but only if it's actually done.

Free parking

Here's a great article on multi-sided markets over at 25iq, a site I just discovered and bookmarked. Since I'm in the process of creating a multi-sided market in reporting/journalism, it's quite nice to see it distilled down to a short article instead of running around in lots of mini pieces inside my head.

HT: tdaxp

Socialism Fails

It was 1922 when Ludwig von Mises published Socialism and predicted not only that the socialist (by which he meant both socialism and communism) systems weren't adequately setting prices in practice but that they would never, ever be able to set proper prices even in theory. Socialism was irredeemably broken. In this, he has been proven utterly right.

The broken economics of socialism does have one thing going for it. It's perfectly suited as cover for kleptocracy, a cover that Ukraine's Yanukovych government took advantage of in thuggish and increasingly violent ways that were so brutal that the local methodology was incompatible with the EU's softer version and so Yanukovych made his misstep of turning towards Russia and even the rubes caught on and gathered in the Maidan, eventually causing him to flee.

But the events in Ukraine are overshadowing another example of socialism's failure in Venezuela. Maduro has little of the blinding charisma that kept Chavismo popular and the curtain is progressively pulled back to reveal the same old disaster that socialism has produced everywhere it is tried. Yet failure is not an option. Failure must be couched in a betrayal of the system. The socialist system must always be preserved for the next try and the failure exclusively blamed on the implementation. The platonic ideal of socialism always remains unbesmirched to the true believer no matter the cost in blood and treasure.

Cost Conscious Health Care

Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review has an interesting article on how few of the uninsured are signing up for the new ACA policies. The bottom line is that the exchanges are offering a deal that meets government requirements but not the requirements of the people signing up. People were promised a dashing charger to take them away to the prince's castle of improved health care and they find themselves being overcharged for a broken down nag that can barely hold itself up much less provide real help.

The fundamental problem is that there are multiple layers of poor pricing practices in health care. Where there are treatment choices, a cost conscious system would start by examining what is the lowest priced treatment that might work in this patient and try that, following up with progressively more expensive treatments until one of them worked. Too often what's actually happening is a doctor with a full panel and a waiting list of patients wanting to see him just prescribes the best treatment that has the highest chance of success. This reduces the number of return trips but also makes treatment much more expensive. The ACA doesn't fix that.

We have the wrong number of doctors due to restrictions on residency slots due to the AMA capturing the residency slot authorizing system. We have the wrong mix of doctors due to poor pricing decisions that have been going on since the 1970s in the Medicare price lists. Our pricing system is unnecessarily opaque due to the AMA holding copyright on the codes needed to document the pricing system. All this combines to create a system that is too expensive and trending the wrong direction on costs. Government insurance with plenty of coverage mandates just makes the problem worse.

Until we fix healthcare pricing things will continue to degenerate. Obamacare is just speeding up a pre-existing condition that has been bleeding the US medical system out for decades.

HT: The Glittering Eye