Saturday, July 15, 2017


"We human beings always seek happiness. Now there are two ways. You can make yourself happy by making other people unhappy--I call that the logic of robbery. The other way, you make yourself happy by making other people happy--that's the logic of the market. Which way do you prefer?"-- Zhang Weiying,

Men in the mass will believe anything that promises to bring in the New Jerusalem, and the more idiotic it is the more eagerly they will embrace it. Nothing that is true ever convinces them.  They demand illusion, and on the political plane they get it….--Mencken

How this works in the real world is obvious to everybody who doesn’t write for the Washington Post: The median cost of a new car in the United States is about $34,000, which is well out of reach for most minimum-wage earners. You know how minimum-wage earners get around that problem? They buy cars that cost a heck of a lot less than the median — or they buy used cars, share cars, take the bus, etc. Minimum-wage workers solve the problem of relatively high rents by choosing accommodations that are well under the 50th or 40th percentile — or by having roommates, living with their families, etc. The relationship between the minimum wage and the median or near-median rent is an entirely artificial problem cooked up by organizations that want more federal spending on low-income housing (NLIHA) or by politicians arguing for a higher minimum wage. The latter is especially popular during campaign season.--Williamson

An estimated 20,000 Oregonians identify as transgender, according to The Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles. That is an astonishing number for a concept that did not exist a generation ago. A 2015 nationwide survey of 28,000 transgender people found that more than a third identified as neither male nor female.

“It is one of the ironies of this strange century,” Hobsbawm concluded, “that the most lasting result of the October revolution, whose object was the global overthrow of capitalism, was to save its antagonist, both in war and in peace.” As for the wartime rescue, that can be explained in two words: Red Army. (Or if you prefer one word: Stalingrad.) As for the peacetime rescue, that counter-intuitive insight required someone with Hobsbawm’s dialectical creativity to see: twentieth-century communism saved liberal capitalism, he explained, “by providing it with the incentive, fear, to reform itself after the Second World War, and, by establishing the popularity of economic planning, furnishing it with some of the procedures for its reform.” The human emancipatory project of communism failed, yes, but twentieth-century communism (inadvertently) succeeded in saving capitalism from itself. (from a review of the works and life of historian Eric Hobsbawn by Joseph Fronczak)

First Growth Bordeaux (like Lafite Rothschild or LaTour) are now selling for $1,000 a bottle and up.  Much of this is from Chinese buyers and the recent economic prosperity that has moved the middle class toward the upper range. They want famous wines and famous labels, especially the highly-placed government officials, and there are a lot of them.

In fact, China and Hong Kong buy almost 25% of all Bordeaux wines, though the figure has declined a bit in the last year or so.

Peter Schuck, the Simeon E. Baldwin Professor of Law Emeritus at Yale University, has written a book on why government fails. This is from a review, concentrating on Schuck's take on "U.S. poverty:"  He points out that many important social changes since 1965 distort "and vastly overstate" the current poverty rate in America. If we include noncash government benefits such as food and housing, if we take account of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and if we use a more realistic measure of inflation than the Consumer Price Index, then we would conclude that the 2013 poverty rate was not the reported 14.5%, but, rather, 4.8%. Moreover, he notes, the official double-digit poverty rate treats cohabiting couples differently than married ones. Treating them the same "would lower the poverty rate even more."

Pressed by Megyn Kelly on his ties to President Trump, an exasperated Vladimir Putin blurted out, “We had no relationship at all. … I never met him. … Have you all lost your senses over there?”
What près?

The labor force participation rate among American men has fallen sharply over the last generation or so. Government records show that the rate among men ages 25 to 54 has fallen from 96 percent in 1970 to 88.4 percent in May.

"The nation that built the Empire State Building in 410 days during the Depression and the Pentagon in 16 months during wartime recently took nine years just for the permitting of a San Diego desalination plant. Five years and 20,000 pages of environmental assessments and permitting and regulatory materials were consumed before beginning to raise the roadway on New Jersey's Bayonne Bridge, a project with, as Howard says, "virtually no environmental impact (it uses existing foundations and right-of-way)." Fourteen years were devoted to the environmental review for dredging the Port of Savannah, which has been an ongoing process for almost 30 years." (will on infrastructure delays)

In a memo dated June 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ended the practice by which the Department of Justice earmarks legal settlement funds for non-governmental third-party groups that were neither victims nor parties to the lawsuit. This is a major step forward in respecting both the constitutional separation of powers and the private rights that litigation is meant to vindicate.
The use of surplus or unclaimed settlement money for causes allegedly similar to those served by the litigation ("cy près," in the legal jargon) is not itself new. In recent years, however, law enforcers at both state and federal levels have developed it as a way to direct funds to a wide variety of causes, from private charities and advocacy groups to legal aid programs, law schools, and an assortment of other causes that legislatures and their appropriations committees have shown no interest in funding.
It is a shameless technique of directing money towards favored groups, a technique expanded and refined by Obama. In any other situation this would be called either a slush fund or laundered money.

The libertarians are suffering over same-sex marriage. I have not come across any good libertarian take on polygamy.

Marx and his friend and longtime collaborator, Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) accepted without reservation Hegel’s formulation of the dialectical process. What they rejected was that it was a dialectical process of ideas. Rather than ideas determining actions, beliefs, and modes of life, they argued it was the modes of production and the material conditions of life that determine ideas, beliefs, and thoughts.

In a study out this week, about 70% of home blood pressure devices tested were off by 5 mmHg or more. That's enough to throw off clinical decisions, such as stopping or starting medication. Nearly 30 percent were off by 10 mmHg or more, including many devices that had been validated by regulatory agencies.

Golden oldie:
A guy named Charles Blow has an article in the NYT about the immigration debate. In it he holds up a straw man opinion on the topic and sa...

"The Federal Reserve's interest-rate increases aren't having the desired effect of cooling off Wall Street's hot streak." (wsj) Is that true? Is the activity in the stock market a component of the Fed's thinking? From the same article: "In theory, financial conditions should serve as the conduit between the Fed's monetary policy and the real economy. When the Fed lifts short-term rates, long-term rates should rise also and financial conditions should tighten." Is that true? If you raise short term rates, that should suppress economic activity which should cause long term rates to drop. Right?

"Scientists calculated that one 220,000-gallon, commercial-size swimming pool contained almost 20 gallons of urine. In a residential pool (20-by-40-foot, five-feet deep), that would translate to about two gallons of pee. It's only about one-hundredth of a percent, but any urine in a swimming pool can be a health concern for some people, not to mention that smell that never quite goes away." From Engelhaup. The source of funding is unknown.

If Trump called and asked you to work for him in the government, would you do it?

We will know soon how much a tempest this Comey thing is, then we will move on to the next tempest. One of the real casualties here will likely be Comey, who has been a dedicated public servant and whose going public might turn out to be a real teaching moment for other government officials. But other officials, e.g. Lois Lerner, have dabbled in social activism without recrimination.

One of Trump's big promises was to cut regulations and the plan was that for every new regulation, two would be eliminated. That "executive order" has been signed and here is how it reads:"Toward that end, it is important that for every one new regulation issued, at least two prior regulations be identified for elimination, and that the cost of planned regulations be prudently managed and controlled through a budgeting process." Note that "be identified" is a bit less stringent than "eliminated."

In the U.S., tattoos are estimated to be a $1 billion industry according to research house IBIS World. In 2016, there were about 38,879 tattoo businesses registered in the U.S., where the market grew 13 percent between 2011 and 2016. A Harris poll published in 2016 concluded that 3 in every 10 U.S. adults have at least one tattoo—as have nearly half of all American millennials. A separate study conducted by YouGov concluded that 19 percent of all British adults have at least one tattoo.

Scarborough to EPA's Pruitt:  “Mr. Pruitt, it’s a simple question. Have you ever talked to the president about whether he believes climate change is real?" Belief. A religious test for office? And hearsay? What a mess.

Detroit News auto writer Henry Payne has pointed out that the market share of SUVs grew 15 percent between 2010 and 2015. So it made sense that American automakers ramped up production of these vehicles. What doesn't make sense is that they also ramped up production of battery-powered hybrids during that time, given that their market share had flat-lined at 2.2 percent. Why? CAFE requires car companies to lower the fuel economy not of each car model, but the average across their entire fleet. Furthermore, the reductions count against the vehicles manufactured, not those sold. So given that the popularity of gas-guzzling vehicles, such as SUVs, continues to rise in the face of falling fuel prices, what are car companies, especially American ones for whom SUVs are top sellers, doing? Essentially, they manufacture battery-powered and hybrid vehicles that don't sell so that they can meet their CAFE requirements to produce SUVs that do. 

A study nearly a decade ago that said the high school graduation rates in the nation's top 50 cities was 53 percent, against 71 percent for suburbs.

AAAaaaannnnndddddd......a picture:
The last full-blooded Tasmanian aborigines in the 1860's.

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