Saturday, April 21, 2018


We haven't yet learned how to stay human when assembled in masses. -Lewis Thomas, physician and author

The Chick-fil-A  stores are closed on Sundays due to the founder’s religious beliefs. That turns out to be good business as well.
According to trade publication QSR, in 2016 the average Chick-fil-A brought in 73% more revenue in six days than the average McDonald’s did in seven days. Nor is it just McDonald’s. Chick-fil-A sales were triple the average Wendy’s sales, again with one less day per week to do it.Against vigorous competition, Chick-fil-A easily wins the revenue fight with one hand tied behind its back, so to speak.
One reason: Chick-fil-A seems to treat its staff well—not so much with higher wages, but opportunities for education and advancement.
But there’s something else, too:  Chick-fil-A workers know they’ll always have Sundays off. Does that give Chick-fil-A lower turnover and better-trained workers? 
There is a lot of assumptions here. Maybe people just like chicken more than hamburgers. Or maybe people like the "discrimination towards cows" ad campaign that some people so strangely protest.
But there is something going on.

An interesting suggestion (Bordeaux): "Democratic institutions are heavily concentrated in countries that also have strong protections for private property rights, openness to foreign commerce, and other features broadly consistent with capitalism. That’s why the observation that any two democracies are quite unlikely to go to war against each other might reflect the consequences of capitalism more than democracy."

Inflation-adjusted savings as a percentage of disposable income have been dropping since the 1970s. They bounced in the last recession but fell again after it ended. Now savings are near an all-time 2% low.


The first element of omnishambles, omni- “all,” is familiar in English in omnibus, omnipotent, omnivorous, and omniscient, derived from the Latin adjective omnis “all.” Shambles has a gorier history. In the 9th century the Old English noun scomol (spelled variously) simply meant “stool, footstool,” derived from Latin scamellum, scamillum “low stool.” By the 10th century the noun also meant “a counter or table for conducting business”; by the 14th century the word acquired the sense “table or counter for selling meat.” During the 16th century shambles came to mean “slaughterhouse; place of wholesale carnage.” Shambles in the sense “a mess, a ruin, scene of disorder” was originally an Americanism, first occurring in print in 1926.

The Edward Curtis collection of books has been republished in two distinct editions, a Limited and a Reference Edition. The Limited includes all twenty original volumes, 1,511 photographs and illustrations, 5,023 pages of text, and extensive transcriptions of Native languages and music. 75 were printed and 6 are available, at $33,500.00 each.
(An original recently sold for $2.88 million dollars at auction.)

"When the modern political community was being shaped at the end of the eighteenth century, its founders thought that the consequences of republican or representative institutions in government would be the reduction of political power in individual lives.
Nothing seems to have mattered more to such minds as Montesquieu, Turgot, and Burke in Europe and to Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin in the United States than the expansion of freedom in the day-to-day existence of human beings, irrespective of class, occupation, or belief.  Hence the elaborate, carefully contrived provisions of constitution or law whereby formal government would be checked, limited, and given root in the smallest possible assemblies of the people.  The kind of arbitrary power Burke so detested and referred to almost constantly in his attacks upon the British government in its relation to the American colonists and the people of India and Ireland, and upon the French government during the revolution, was foremost in the minds of all the architects of the political community, and they thought it could be eliminated, or reduced to insignificance, by ample use of legislative and judicial machinery."--Nisbet

With the Fed expected to hike interest rates four times this year, plus reduction of their $4.4 trillion balance sheet, rates are rising. In less than 12 months, short-year Treasury yields have more than doubled.

Used car prices for electric cars are up a lot.

Is it my imagination or does Stormy Daniels have her own news channel?

Protectionism is a scythe that slices through core conservative principles, including opposition to government industrial policy, and to government picking winners and losers, and to crony capitalism elevated to an ethic (“A few Americans first”). Big, bossy government does not get bigger or bossier than when it embraces protectionism — government dictating what goods Americans can choose, and in what quantities, and at what prices.--Will

Barron's reviewed a beer recently! What is happening?

For a thousand years the greatest share of labor in most societies has been supplied by adult women.  They produced and raised children.  They also produced much if not most of the good and services essential to human existence and comfort.  To do all this they typically worked from dawn to dusk, and even later once artificial light permitted it.

In the past 75 years, however, major changes have taken place in the pattern of women’s work in the United States.  Between 1900 and 1975 the workday of U.S. housewives was cut in half.--Wesleyan University economic historian Stanley Lebergott’s book, The Americans: An Economic Record
Golden oldie:

... if no private markets exist to encourage the recycling of the likes of cans and plastic bags, a good presumption is that the value of the resources consumed in the recycling of such items is greater than is the value of the recycled outputs.  And remember that one of the resources consumed in recycling is human time and effort – time and effort that, for most Americans, are too valuable to spend recycling low-value items.--Bordeaux

It appears that Obama has decided to continue the true nature of modern politics by developing an entertainment product for Netflix. Sort of backwards from what Trump did.

Throughout history, when valuations have been as high as they are today, returns have been in the low single digits or negative over the next decade. JPMorgan Asset Management’s Gabriela Santos says investors should be focused on emerging market equities, specifically Latin America

Toys R Us  is preparing to liquidate all of its U.S. stores and abandon efforts to restructure through the bankruptcy process.

The New York Times reports that HHS Secretary Alex Azar said physicians “and hospitals should tell patients how much their care would cost before patients received treatment.” Azar said, “You ought to have the right to know what a health care service will cost – and what it will really cost – before you get that service.” He warned that if the healthcare industry fails to make this change “voluntarily...the government may use its leverage to force them to disclose the information.”

AAAAaaaaannnnnnnndddddd......a graph:

Sunday/Racism in the OB Unit

There is an editorial in the NYT this weekend that's worth a thought. It centers upon the high rate of mortality among black pregnant women in the U.S. and more specifically in New York. Not surprisingly, it is someone's fault.

They report, "Black women here are 12 times as likely to die from childbirth-related causes as white women. They experience severe, life-threatening complications from pregnancy and childbirth in about 387 out of every 10,000 births, according to city data. That is triple the rate of white New Yorkers, and roughly comparable to complication rates in Sierra Leone." There are "shameful details of how we have failed to protect the lives of black women in pregnancy and childbirth."

The  three leading causes of childbirth-related death in New York City, however, are not shameful; they are hemorrhage, hypertension and blood clots. The Times theorizes that care for these problems vary and one filter of medical decision-making is race. And, like the old question of prematurity in unmarried black women which was found later to be typical of married wealthy black women as well, nothing is easy. ("Wealthier, more educated black women in New York City are also dying or almost dying in childbirth at a far higher rate than their white neighbors. One city study found that black college-educated women were more than twice as likely to experience severe complications from childbirth as white women without a high school diploma.") Soooo.... "some researchers and city officials believe that the higher rates of death and complications among black women are caused only partly by longstanding disparities in poverty, obesity and lack of access to top-rate health care. The dangers black women face in pregnancy and childbirth, they say, are compounded by racism, unconscious biases in health care and the long-term anxieties, regardless of economic status, that come with being an African-American woman."

While all of these elements may be true--and assumed correlation here does not guarantee causation--these are pretty soft generalities to damn a group--i.e. medical personnel--on and harder to come to some therapeutic conclusions. Nonetheless, the NYT does. First is the old information shibboleth: People will be better served if they have a good idea of the opinions of people on the subject, like the NYT. So mistrust really helps. Second, hospitals should be rated, like "restaurants" says the Times. "..'if the city’s Department of Health can rate restaurants, it can find a way to grade hospitals." Of course, this is always being tried. Historically the grading of hospitals and doctors has had one consistent result: The institutions and practitioners begin to avoid cases and problems where the risks are high and where inevitable bad results might reflect badly upon them.  Third, they suggest doula programs. I had to look it up. A doula, also known as a birth companion, birth coach or post-birth supporter, is a non-medical person who stays with and assists a woman before, during, or after childbirth, to provide emotional support and physical help if needed. Who could argue with that.

Disparities in health results are alarming--but they are opportunities, as well. Investigating the causes might help in our overall understanding of the very processes of our health. Of course, they may also reveal pathologies in the very health care system we rely on to provide that homogeneous care. But the assumption that bigotry is at work--which it may--is no better founded than the assumption that we all have the same health and wellness potential. This is science, not social action. And the process of science is long, hard and unassociated with banners.
There is a small town in Pennsylvania named Rosetto that has the longest life expectancy in the nation. The people who live there are of Italian descent, drink wine, smoke and are relatively lower middle income. People have tried to figure out their longevity for years. Diet? The water? The local grandmother's pasta formula? Should everyone who is old and/or sick move there?  Generally people think these people are all from a specific long-lived gene pool.

But it is probably not an unspoken conspiracy.

Friday, April 20, 2018


On Ryan's Departure

Ryan's departure will not be mourned by Democrats or Trump loyalists. The Democrats caricatured Ryan as the goon throwing Granny in her wheelchair off a cliff. They actually ran TV ads with a Ryan lookalike. Barack Obama singled him out for scorn at a White House meeting, claiming later that he was unaware Ryan was in the front row.

When Donald Trump came along, Ryan found himself a sudden symbol of the reviled "Republican establishment." Though the anti-Ryan vitriol faded after Steve Bannon's defenestration, he continued to be viewed with suspicion by the talk radio crowd and other arms of Trump Inc.
This was his reward for attempting to drag his party, and the country, toward a grown-up reckoning with our debt. Nearly single-handedly, Paul Ryan had managed to put tackling entitlements on the national agenda. As chairman of the budget committee, he convinced his colleagues to endorse modest entitlement reform. As he kept trying to explain, making incremental reforms now — with no changes for current beneficiaries or those in their 50s — can prevent drastic shortfalls and extreme benefit cuts that will be necessary in just 16 years, when Social Security is depleted. The outlook is even worse for Medicare and Medicaid.

The budget and the tax bill combined will leave us with a federal budget deficit in excess of $1 trillion in 2020 and beyond. Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall said that federal debt "is projected to be on a steadily rising trajectory throughout the decade." Under Republican guidance, the federal deficit will be roughly double what it was in the final year of the Obama administration. That is the reality of Speaker Ryan's tenure in the age of Trump.

We are not behaving as responsible adults. Our greatest political challenge is out-of-control debt. Our greatest social challenges are declining families, increasing dependency and eroding social cohesion. The debt could have been addressed by government. The other trends continue to degrade our culture, our economy and our personal lives. And the ascension of Trumpian politics — slashing, mendacious, corrupt and polarizing — aggravates everything that was already going wrong.
Paul Ryan didn't belong in Trump world. So much the worse for us.

Speaker Ryan will leave before turning 50. When he does, someone might well say of him these words Mark Twain said about Speaker of the House Thomas B Reed, one of the most powerful and successful Speakers who left the House over a disagreement with President McKinley over his war with Spain (Reed was opposed): "He was transparently honest and honorable, there was no furtiveness about him, and whoever came to know him trusted him and was not disappointed."
(From Charen and Barone, mostly Charen)

Thursday, April 19, 2018


April 19, 1775
At about 5 a.m. on April 19, 1775, 700 British troops, on a mission to capture Patriot leaders and seize a Patriot arsenal, march into Lexington to find 77 armed minutemen under Captain John Parker waiting for them on the town’s common green. British Major John Pitcairn ordered the outnumbered Patriots to disperse, and after a moment’s hesitation the Americans began to drift off the green. Suddenly, the “shot heard around the world” was fired from an undetermined gun, and a cloud of musket smoke soon covered the green. When the brief Battle of Lexington ended, eight Americans lay dead or dying and 10 others were wounded. Only one British soldier was injured, but the American Revolution had begun. The British moved to Concord and found more resistance so they withdrew. They were attacked on their withdrawal through Lexington and were harassed all the way to Boston. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


I have never met anyone who wanted to save the world without my financial support. ~Robert Brault

 In 2000, a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights study found 44.6 percent of black mortgage applicants and 22.3 percent of white applicants were turned down. These and similar statistics led to demands that government do something about lending-industry discrimination.
The loan rejection rates for Asians and native Hawaiians were only 12.4 percent, but those stats didn't see the light of day.
They didn't fit the racial-discrimination narrative.

The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics show that around 25 percent of U.S. K-12 schools are private, while about 10 percent of schooled children attend private schools.
Hyewon Kim—a Cato Center for Educational Freedom Intern—compiled information on school shootings in the United States from 2000 to 2018 using the Tribune-Review database. The database is limited to legitimate school shootings; that is, shootings that occurred on or near a K-12 school campus while classes were in session or when students were present. The list also excluded suicide-only incidents.
Hyewon found 134 school shootings from 2000 to 2018. Only eight of these occurred in private schools while 122 occurred in public schools. The type of school could not be definitively classified for 4 of the shootings.
About 94 percent of the shootings that could be classified occurred in public schools while only about 6 percent occurred in private schools.

A recent medical study evaluated the reasons and results of single fathers seeking children through surrogacy. This is the summary of the study as written by the study's reviewer:
"Anyone who has become a parent can say, “It’s complicated.” It is an extraordinary change that can only be described as awesome and in many ways not fully understandable. There is a natural, undoubtedly biological, drive to reproduce and once one finds himself or herself in the role of parent, great emotions emerge. In the current technological and social age parenthood is possible beyond the past limitations of binary sex parents, and many questions arise, not the least of which is how new parents feel in diverse relationships.
In this study investigators observe single father families by surrogacy and the feelings of the men involved, and frankly I cannot really tell the difference between what would be considered traditional and nontraditional. I challenge any parent to look at these data and honestly say that their experiences are any different than the individuals in this study who honestly answered the questions posed related to parenthood. I take from this study that being a father is an awesome and privileged responsibility no matter what the construct is, single, partnered, straight or gay."
This was a Peer Reviewer.

Kristian Niemietz recently wrote an article on the new outbreak of socialistic romanticism. It seems as if the new pamphleteers think that democracy would make socialism kinder. One segment: "the authors do not seem to realise that there is nothing remotely new about the lofty aspirations they talk about, and the buzzphrases they use. Giving “the people” democratic control over economic life has always been the aspiration, and the promise, of socialism. It is not that this has never occurred to the people who were involved in earlier socialist projects. On the contrary: that was always the idea. There was never a time when socialists started out with the express intention of creating stratified societies led by a technocratic elite. Socialism always turned out that way, but not because it was intended to be that way."

The NYT reported the results of an experiment Gap ran with their employees.
"The study randomly assigned about two-thirds of the stores to a so-called treatment group, in which managers were encouraged to provide workers with more consistent start and stop times from day to day, and more consistent schedules from week to week. Many managers were also authorized to slightly increase the total number of payroll hours that they could allocate to their workers. Scheduling at the remaining one-third of the stores continued largely as usual.
The result: The change in average sales during the experiment was 7 percent higher at the stores subject to the new policies than at the stores in the control group."
So, when managers let people work regular hours, sales rose 7%. Across a sizable company like Gap, that’s millions of dollars a month.

Drivers for the ride-sharing services have to pay their own expenses. According to an MIT study released last month, the median driver profit is $3.37 per hour before taxes. And that’s the median, so half the drivers make even less.
MIT found that 74% of Uber and Lyft drivers earn less than the minimum wage in their state, and 30% actually lose money when you add in vehicle expenses.
This study has since been modified and the numbers are not quite as bad.

Gustavo Grullon, Yelena Larkin, and Roni Michaely have documented how despite a much larger economy, we have seen the number of listed firms fall by half, and many industries now have only a few big players. There is a strong and direct correlation between how few players there are in an industry and how high corporate profits are. This--and the decline of unions--has skewered corporate success against working wages.

Golden oldie:

Certainly the best story of the month seems to be that of Ms. Stormy Daniels. One minority that has been overlooked is blackmailing hookers.

An interesting note on Adam Smith and protectionism:
The argument that national security justifies exceptions to free trade has some economic credentials: in his defense of free trade in The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith made a few exceptions "when some particular sort of industry is necessary for the defence of the country."
Generally this is dismissed, often I think for the sake of consistency and the threat of the dreaded slippery slope.

A recent Florida bill contains a provision that prohibits public universities from establishing so-called “free speech zones” and instead designates generally all outdoor campus areas as “traditional public forums,” effectively keeping colleges from restricting protest activity to certain areas.

" only helps one business at the expense of all the others, and at the expense of consumers, and the damage is worse than the gain. What is good for an individual business is not good, scaled up, for the economy as a whole."---Cochrane

Almost 40 years after he was assassinated – shot as he performed mass and was speaking about sacrifice – Archbishop Oscar Romero is to be named a saint, the Vatican has announced.

Boondoggle: pointless project funded as a political favor, exotic trip disguised as a business trip, braided cord
ETYMOLOGY:Coined by scoutmaster Robert H. Link. Earliest documented use: 1929.
The original boondoggle was a braided cord made by Boy Scouts. In 1935, a New York Times article quoted someone criticizing a New Deal program to train jobless to make handicrafts as a boondoggle. Since then this sense of the word has become more common.

Minnesota Representative Drew Christensen was so annoyed by Arie, "The Bachelor,"  that he authored a bill banning the guy from his state.
Who thought Bills of Attainders would come to this.

And speaking of riveting "reality" TV, President Donald Trump has accepted an invitation to meet Kim Jong Un, in what would be the first meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader.

From the time the accused gunman started shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 11 minutes passed before law-enforcement officers entered the building where the massacre unfolded, according to a timeline by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
From the Dept. of "the police as armed secretaries.

British police say they believe a Russian former spy and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent. The Russians are as eager as O.J. to help.

Cigna plans to buy Express Scripts in a cash-and-stock deal worth $52 billion that the companies say will expand their health-care offerings and help them control costs.

Amazon has launched its own line of over-the-counter products.

In 1981, a worker at a Japan Atomic Power Company plant in Tsuruga, Japan forgot to shut a critical valve, causing a radioactive sludge tank to overflow. Fifty-six workers were sent in to mop up the radioactive sludge before the leak could escape the disposal building, but the plan was not successful and 16 tons of waste spilled into Wakasa Bay.
Despite the obvious risk to people eating contaminated fish caught in the bay, Japan’s Atomic Power Commission made no public mention of the accident or spill. The public was told nothing of the accident until more than a month later, when a newspaper caught wind of and reported the story.
If you don't trust private companies, at least you can trust the government.

AAAAAnnnnnnddddddd.....a pie chart:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Somehow, despite its manifest failures and body counts, people are talking about socialism as if it is reasonable to do another experiment with it. In fairness, some of this enthusiasm is just adolescent optimism but some, like Elizabeth Bruenig and her recent tour, are simply not well thought out positions by intelligent people.

Oxford defines socialism thusly:  A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. The Oxford people wisely add that despite its many iterations, socialism "necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammelled workings of the economic market,"  Untrammelled" being defined as "Not deprived of freedom of action or expression; not restricted or hampered." 

This definition is true but inadequate. Socialism does make all these organizational and logistical changes but only after a crucial and never mentioned intermediate step: The socialist decides what the desires and needs of the culture are before channeling the economy toward them. That is to say, before organizing the economy, the socialist has already decided upon the Nature of Man and how to nourish it. Socialism is more than simple restriction, socialism is restriction toward an end.

This is a rather astonishing decision and it is surprising that so few socialists are willing to share their vision of Man in any other than the most vague platitudes. After all, if they know the truth about us, they should share it. But they don't; the plan is to start the ball rolling and work it out through the funnel of good intentions. That's usually when the killing starts.

In a socialist economy, the planner lacks a means for obtaining information on what individuals want. (This is offered by Kirzner as the reason the controlled economies fail--more than the absence of the profit motive.) Conversely, a free market economy has no concept of what "society" wants and freely admits it.
This is the problem in socialism; socialism does not struggle for its lack of success--which is informational--but because of its very nature. Socialism speaks as a voice for society. It has come to conclusions about the very nature of man and tries to put into place laws and markets that reflect that nature. It pretends to know what society--not just individuals--wants.

But what does a society want?

If a system does not know what individuals want, how could it possibly have the arrogance to know what society wants?

Monday, April 16, 2018

From the Arch

A letter to the New York Times is revealing:

"Thomas L. Friedman (”Better Late Than . . .,” column, March 17) finds it ”obnoxious” that Americans ”consume 25 percent of the world’s energy, while we’re only 4 percent of the world’s population.”

Americans produce 31.5 percent of the world’s output — including food and pharmaceuticals exported to foreign countries. What’s so obnoxious?"

"Obnoxious." Like a group of firefighters from Cincinnati touring the Louvre?

Many, especially the self-appointed cultural and political patrons, have an aesthetic objection to the U.S.. Deprived of their historical leadership confirmed by heredity, lethargy and time, they have retreated to the high-ground of taste. From their disdainful perch, regardless of achievements, the Americans will remain regrettably déclassé, a state from which there is no immediate escape. Recall how they lost their collective minds when the unfortunate Amy Wax made the social blunder of extolling bourgeois virtues. Imagine! Bourgeois!

The poor dear. She just can not help herself.