Thursday, April 27, 2017

Where Is Trumps Budget Cutting 'Penny Plan'?

Back in the fall and before the election, Trump was talking about implementing a spending cutting plan called the "Penny Plan".  If implemented, it would, year after year, cut one penny out the budget for every dollar of spending.  An analysis by the Washington Post showed that after a decade of applying this technique, spending would be reduced by 23%.  And, it could either be applied across the board or targeted to specific areas such as the EPA.  The cuts would be gradual and not immediately earth-shattering.

However, after Trump took office, his budget cuts started to appear earth-shattering by aggressively targeting  programs that political conservatives have never really like.  It would immediately cut the EPA by 31%.  The Department of Health and Human Services by 16.2%.  He also would eliminate all spending for things like Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment of the Arts.  It is these program eliminations that have the political left, and some on the right, in an uproar.

Trump is not going to get all the cuts he wants, and, quite frankly, I don't think most Americans will agree with the major changes and program eliminations he has proposed.  The final budget has to be approved by May 15th, and I strongly suspect that the Republican controlled Congress will cave and only moderate reductions will be made.  They want to keep their jobs after the 2018 election.  Congress is always good at creating spending, but never really willing to make cuts because of political consequences.

References:

This chart shows how Trump’s ‘penny plan’ would add up to huge budget cuts: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/16/this-chart-shows-how-trumps-penny-plan-would-add-up-to-huge-budget-cuts/?utm_term=.511c1525d4c5

CNN: Trump's budget would cut off funding entirely for several agencies, including arts, public broadcasting and development groups, and also proposes steep cuts to agencies like the State Department and Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/16/politics/trump-budget-cuts/


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Interersting Facts From Latest WaPo/ABC Trump Poll

With only a week left before Donald Trump completes his "First 100 Days", the Washington Post/ABC News teams released the results of their last polling on Trump (and, also Hillary).  The lead story appears to be that Trump has the lowest `100-day approval' of any President in modern history.  While the average approval of those "modern" Presidents is 69%, Trump's number is just 42%. Of course, the biggest dig on Trump from these two liberal-leaning news agencies is the fact that Obama had a 69% approval as most of his predecessors did.  I guess, from this, we are supposed to regret that Obama isn't still President.

What isn't talked about in the Washington Post polling story is the fact that if the election was rerun today, Hillary would still lose to Trump: 43% to 40%. Another buried but interesting tidbit is the fact that only 4% of Trump voters regret voting for him, while 15% of Hillary voters regret voting for her. As a result, if the election was rerun, Trump would have won the popular vote.

And, guess what?  The Russians had nothing to do with these polling results!

References:

Nearing 100 days, Trump’s approval at record lows but his base is holding: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/nearing-100-days-trumps-approval-at-record-lows-but-his-base-is-holding/2017/04/22/a513a466-26b4-11e7-b503-9d616bd5a305_story.html?utm_term=.0b34eccf70dd

ABC: http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/president-trump-100-days-honeymoon-regrets-poll/story?id=46943338

Wash Post poll hides: Trump still beats Clinton, 43%-40%: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/wash-post-poll-hides-trump-still-beats-clinton-43-40/article/2621016



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fear and Loathing of Terrorists in France

Since the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in 2015 that killed 130, France has been in a declared state of emergency.  In December, the French parliament extended it until after the national elections.  Now, with the most recent terrorist attack on the Champs Elysees, just before the election, the Parliament is sure to extend or renew the state of emergency again.

France offers a perfect example of the fact that more Muslims in the country doesn't make life better.  With up to 7 %, they have the largest Muslim population of any country in Western Europe.  Hate crimes against Muslims have soared.  According to Fox News Research, a poll of adults in March of this year said that 71% believe terrorism overshadows all other problems in France.  59% feel they are not safe anywhere in the country. French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has called for the expulsion of anyone who is suspected of terrorism.  I suppose, even if that person is a French citizen?

If this doesn't sound like Donald Trump's take on Muslim refugees and immigration, I don't know what does.  France is in a proverbial pickle when it comes to Muslims.  Even if they still represent a small percentage of the population, the higher the percentage, the greater the chance for attack.  I think that France will ultimately block the entrance of any further Muslim immigrants.  And, I think, other European countries are sure to follow their lead.  We'll see.

References:

French parliament votes to extend state of emergency until after 2017 elections: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/14/french-parliament-votes-to-extend-state-of-emergency-until-after-2017-elections

Paris shooting: Marine Le Pen calls for all French terror suspects to be expelled after Champs Elysees attack: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/20/paris-police-close-part-city-centre-amid-reports-officers-shot/

March 10-14, 2017 poll of French adults: https://twitter.com/FoxNewsResearch/status/855443024649871360

Hate crimes against Muslims and Jews soar in France: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/12075018/Hate-crimes-against-Muslims-and-Jews-soar-in-France.html

Islam in France: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_France




Monday, April 24, 2017

Thank God! We Lived To See Another Earth Day!

Last Saturday was Earth Day.  In 1970, when the first Earth Day was held, the doom and gloomers of our scientific community warned of the consequences of treating Mother Earth like crap.  Polluting her waters and air.  Over populating and depleting her great resources.  Of  course many of us ignored the warnings and went about our evil ways.  Evil ways that would lead to the eventual extinction of mankind.  Yet, this year, we still live to celebrate this year's Earth Day.

You see, back in the 1970's, there was no global warming to worry about.  In fact many scientists and climatologists believed that we were headed into an ice age.  Then, there was the depletion of the ozone layer which would cause the sun's intense rays to fry us all to a crisp.  Reflective aluminum garb was predicted to be the all the rage.  With all the plant life fried there would be no food to eat.  All the animals would be dead from intense U.V. ray exposure. So, why would we even need aluminum suits?

Then, there were all the failed specific scientific predictions. As itemized by Mark J. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute, here as some the "real beauts" that made up that first doomed list  for the first Earth Day in 1970:
  • "Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that 'civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.'”
  • "Paul Ehrlich predicted that "between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the 'Great Die-Off.'”  To put this prediction in context, the world population in 1980 was 4.5 billion. 
  • "Ecologist Kenneth Watt told Time that, 'At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.'”
  • "Ecologist Kenneth Watt declared, 'By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.''”
  • "Sen. Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look [magazine] that, 'Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all  species of living animals will be extinct.'”
This is just a sample of the ridiculous and supposedly real scientific predictions made that year; and I think you get the point.  Earth Day isn't a day of celebration.  It's a day of mass depression for a few thousand alarmists who hate themselves and all the rest of mankind.  Alarmists who see only the worst ahead of us.  What a beautiful place the world would be with humanity! But, this begs the question. If the scientists couldn't  get it right in 1970, how are we supposed to believe them now, as they drone on about the horror of climate change?

References:

April 22, 2017: Happy Earth Day. Enjoy It While You Last: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-21/happy-earth-day-enjoy-it-while-you-last

In the 1970’s, this research led to some interesting observations about the ozone layer and ozone hole of the Earth: http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-and-effects-of-ozone-hole.php

The 1970s Ice Age Myth and Time Magazine Covers – by David Kirtley: http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2013/06/04/the-1970s-ice-age-myth-and-time-magazine-covers-by-david-kirtley/

18 spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions made around the time of the first Earth Day in 1970, expect more this year: https://www.aei.org/publication/18-spectacularly-wrong-apocalyptic-predictions-made-around-the-time-of-the-first-earth-day-in-1970-expect-more-this-year-2/


Friday, April 21, 2017

Will O'Reilly's Leaving Finally End a Sexist Culture at Fox News?

Having worked at a Fortune 200 company and been involved with numerous acquisitions and one major merger,  the most difficult task in bringing two companies together is dealing with two distinct corporate cultures.  Every company has it's own corporate culture, which usually stems from the personality of its leadership.

Fox News seems no different. The fact that Roger Ailes was forced out only weeks ago for sexual harassment; and, now Bill O'Reilly -- the network's "franchise" -- is forced out for the same reason speaks volumes as to the character and culture of this popular cable station.  Add to this, the fact that a lesser known Fox News personality, Steve Doocy, was also caught up in the sexual harassment story, one can only wonder if this attitude towards women is somewhat pervasive at the network.
The fact that O'Reilly was discharged is a good thing.  It sends a signal that even the network's top personality isn't  protected when sexual harassment is involved.  Thus, if there is a sexist culture alive at Fox News, cold water was just thrown all over it. 

My only problem with this whole sad story is why it took so long to happen.  Apparently, the Murdoch's took a "see no evil, hear no evil" stance while all this was taking place over the years.  For this reason, some fans of Fox News may elect to stop watching the network altogether. Just my opinion.

References:

Fox News Confirms That Bill O'Reilly Won't Return to Air: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/bill-oreilly-exits-fox-news-harassment-scandal-994675

6 More Women Allege That Roger Ailes Sexually Harassed Them: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/07/six-more-women-allege-ailes-sexual-harassment.html

Outfoxed? Gretchen Carlson’s harassment suit against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes seems to catch the network flat-footed: http://www.politico.com/media/story/2016/07/outfoxed-004650

Fox News employees saw Steve Doocy sexually harass Gretchen Carlson: report: http://www.rawstory.com/2016/07/fox-news-employees-saw-gretchen-carlson-sexually-harassed-by-steve-doocy-report/


Thursday, April 20, 2017

In Georgia, Big Money Couldn't Buy Democrat Love

Because Democrat Jon Ossoff didn't get the requisite 50+% of the vote in the special election to replace Republican Tom Price, there will a runoff election in June with Ossoff squared off against Republican Karen Handel for Georgia's vacant 6th District's U.S. Representative.

The media and Democrats thought they really had this one, in what has been a decades long Republican stronghold in the belief that this election would actually be a referendum on President Trump. Outside Democrat money and outside activist volunteers poured into Georgia's 6th District in an attempt to give Ossoff the win.  In fact, Ossoff had raised $8.3 million in campaign funds of which 95% were from sources outside the state to win 92,390 votes.  That's about $90 a vote.  Compare that to Karen Handel's $463,000 campaign for 37,993 votes; or, a little over $12 per vote.

The point here, is that Democrats always think that money and not message is the winning element in any election.  Hillary spent double what Trump spent and still lost.  Then there was the recall election of Governor Walker in Wisconsin in 2012.  Democrats -- mostly from outside sources -- spent an unheard of $81 million in an attempt to oust Walker and failed.  By comparison, the combined Republican and Democrat Wisconsin Gubernatorial campaigns in 2010, that saw Walker become governor, spent a total of just $37.4 million.

The bottom line, is that Democrats aren't winning, and their policies aren't winning over the voters.  Some pundits are already predicting that Karen Handel is likely to win with only herself as the sole Republican in the June runoff instead of competing with this last election's 10 other Republicans.   If Ossoff only repeats his 48.1% vote count, she wins the majority and takes the District.

References:

Georgia Special 6th District Election: Final Voting Results: http://heavy.com/news/2017/04/georgia-6th-sixth-district-live-results-voting-numbers-who-won-winning-jon-ossoff-karen-handel-runoff-atlanta/

Outside Money And Volunteers Pouring Into Georgia Special Election: http://www.npr.org/2017/04/15/524076532/outside-money-and-volunteers-pouring-into-georgia-special-election

Trump spent about half of what Clinton did on his way to the presidency: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/09/trump-spent-about-half-of-what-clinton-did-on-his-way-to-the-presidency.html

Recall Race for Governor Cost $81 Million: http://www.wisdc.org/pr072512.php

Wisconsin recall breaks record thanks to outside cash: https://www.publicintegrity.org/2012/06/03/9039/wisconsin-recall-breaks-record-thanks-outside-cash




Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Could Dems Hang A Recession Around Trump's Neck by 2018?

Thanks to the work of Ben Carlson in 2015 at "A Wealth of Common Sense" (referenced below) we have this extremely interesting graphic:
As you can see, the median time between recessions since 1929 is 4 years and 2 months.  The longest time between recessions is 10 years from 1990 to 1991.

By June, this country will have gone 8 years without a recession. The primary reason for this is that the Federal Reserve has treated those 8 years as if we were in a recession by keeping Fed Funds Rates at historically low levels.  But, in December 2015 the Federal Reserve began raising rates and there is no indication that they won't continue to do so because they're now responding to the growing inflation they're seeing in the economy.

Raising the Fed Funds Rate will have a negative impact by making it more expensive to borrow money.  Credit card debt, car loans, and mortgages will all become more expensive.  The problem  is that the economy isn't that strong and might not be able to support higher interest rates.  The Atlanta Federal Reserve is with the GDPNow estimates that the economy will grow at a meager 0.6% in the first quarter.  Well below consensus estimates, as you can see from this graphic:



What this all means is that we could see another recession before or during the 2018 elections and the Democrats are sure to pounce on this and blame Trump and the Republicans; arguing that Obama never had a recession during both terms;  something that uniformed voters are sure to swallow hook, line, and sinker.

References:

Source of 1st Graphic: http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2015/02/when-will-the-u-s-have-its-next-recession/

Fed Funds Rate History: Highs, Lows and Chart With Major Events: https://www.thebalance.com/fed-funds-rate-history-highs-lows-3306135

GDPNow: https://www.frbatlanta.org/cqer/research/gdpnow.aspx?panel=1


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Why "The Mother of All Bombs" Wasn't Used Before

When the so-called "Mother of all Bombs" or "MOAB" was unleashed in a remote area of Afghanistan recently, some questioned why it hadn't been used before.  The simple fact is that the MOAB is an obliteration bomb; leveling everything in its blast radius.  Its predecessor was the "Daisy Cutter" that weighed a mere 15,000 pounds compared to the "MOAB" that weighs nearly 22,000.

The "Daisy Cutter" was originally developed for use in Vietnam to clear landing areas for troop transport helicopters as shown in this picture:

Can you imagine what impact that bomb would have on any human within its 5,000 to 5,500 blast area if trees can be obliterated in this fashion?  And, that's the problem.  As a result of the later use of this bomb as part of an intimidation program where, in some cases, civilian populations were maimed and killed,  the Geneva Convention was modified in 1977 to make its use against civilians a war crime.  This along with carpet bombing and all forms of area bombing where there could be concentrations of civilians.

Thus, a bomb like the "MOAB" is restricted to remote areas where civilians can't be harmed to avoid committing war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, to which the U.S. is a signatory.

One last thing. Because the "MOAB" detonates above ground and is not intended to create a cratering of the ground, some question its recent use against ISIS tunnels in Afghanistan, and I agree.  We have massive earthquake bombs that would more easily and effectively cause tunnels to collapse.  We currently have a 30,000 "Massive Ordnance Penetrator" at are disposal for this very purpose.  We also used smaller 5,000 pound earthquake bombs during the first Gulf War to destroy tunnel systems and underground complexes near Baghdad. So, this leads me to think that the real purpose for using the "MOAB" was more about intimidation rather than the destruction of a network of tunnels.

References:

Source of Photo: http://www.psywarrior.com/Blu82HeloLanding.jpg

THE United States has dropped a Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb – the largest non-nuclear weapon in its arsenal – on an ISIS tunnel target in Afghanistan: http://www.dailystar.co.uk/news/latest-news/605389/US-non-nuclear-bomb-Massive-Ordnance-Air-Blast-Bomb-ISIS-tunnel-Afghanistan

Daisy Cutter: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BLU-82

Carpet Bombing, Obliteration Bombing: Geneva Convention: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpet_bombing

Earthquake Bombs: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_bomb


pb



Monday, April 17, 2017

California's Crazy Energy Policy

Recently, a California District Court of Appeals upheld the State's controversial cap-and-trade program.  A program that is clearly intended to reduce green house gases for electricity production.  Yet, the State keeps approving the building of new power plants, while at the same time, promoting rooftop solar for private homes.   The irony of approving conventional power plants is that the State plans to have half of its electricity production from renewable energy by 2030.

But, here's the real craziness.  California already has too much power.  In fact, in March of last year, solar farms were shutdown because too much power was being put on the electrical grid.  It was electrical overload and it is more than likely to happen again and again.  A study by the L.A. Times found that California will have 21% more power than it needs by 2020.

For a state that is so energy conscious, it would love to single handedly save the planet from global warming, it sure has a strange way of going about it.

References:

California's cap-and-trade program survives a legal battle in a win for Gov. Jerry Brown and environmentalists: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-sac-california-cap-trade-decision-20170406-story.html

What Will California Do With Too Much Solar? https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2016/04/04/what-will-california-do-with-too-much-solar/

Californians are paying billions for power they don't need: http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-fi-electricity-capacity/ 

Cap-And-Trade Costs California Businesses $1 billion: http://dailycaller.com/2015/02/26/cap-and-trade-costs-california-businesses-1-billion/ 


Thursday, April 13, 2017

California to Boycott Companies That Even Bid on Trump's Wall

Recently, two supervisors for the city of San Francisco introduced legislation that would bar any company from bidding on any city contracts if that company even entered a bid on Trump's wall.  This follows Berkeley which, as noted in the first reference below, "unanimously passed a resolution last week recommending the city divest from any company involved in any aspect of the project, and the Oakland City Council is set to vote on a measure Tuesday barring the city from entering into contracts with companies that work on the wall"  At the same time, the State Assembly has proposed divesting all state pension plans of every company involved with the building of the wall.

What's silly about this, is that Trump will build the wall. Further, it is California companies that may have worked on it and who are going to lose the most business under these legislative activities. Companies who would have probably hired Californians for the job. Companies who won't pay taxes on that lost business.  Further, those pension plans will suffer because a company awarded a contract to work on the wall should see a bump in its stock price. Further, California has the largest population of illegal immigrants at 27% of illegals in the country.  As a result, the taxpayers already have to cough up more than $30 billion a year to support them. This in a state that is now $1.3 trillion in debt and growing.

For sure, it is Democrats pushing this legislative action because Hispanics are an integral part of their voting base.  But, as I have said before, California should not impose its will on the rest of the country.  Illegals across the U.S. cost the taxpayers at least $113 billion a year.  In addition, crimes committed by illegals cost billions of dollars a year. Unless California wants to pay that tab, it should not be dictating its desire to block Trump's wall.

References:

2 SF supes seek to punish companies for bidding on border wall: http://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/2-SF-supes-seek-to-punish-companies-for-bidding-11015709.php

U.S.-Mexico border wall fight: California considers divesting from companies involved in the project: http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/03/20/u-s-mexico-border-wall-fight-california-considers-divesting-from-companies-involved-in-the-project/

Illegal Immigrants Cost California $30.29 Billion A Year: http://www.nationaleconomicseditorial.com/2017/02/21/costs-illegal-immigration-california/

California’s Total State and Local Debt Totals $1.3 Trillion: http://californiapolicycenter.org/californias-total-state-local-debt-totals-1-3-trillion/

The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers (2013): http://www.fairus.org/publications/the-fiscal-burden-of-illegal-immigration-on-united-states-taxpayers


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Oversold Flights in 2016 Resulted in Millions of Removals

The recent incident of a passenger being involuntarily dragged off a United Airlines flight in Chicago, due to the flight had been oversold, has caused a firestorm.  While it is now being reported that the doctor being forcibly removed was once convicted for abusing his drug license and also had serious anger management issues, this does not excuse why he and 3 other passengers had to be removed in the first place.

Apparently, this overbooking problem is a serious issue within the airline industry.  According to Fox News Research, 16 major airlines in the U.S. removed a total of nearly 660 million passengers due to overbooking in 2016 alone.
To me, and any reasonable person, this is an unbelievable number.  But, what is worse is that nearly 41,000 passengers had to be forcibly removed; hopefully not in the same way that the doctor was removed from that "United" flight.

If there was ever an issue that Congress should get involved in and regulate, this is one of them.  Too many people are being affected by what appears to be an all too common practice in this country.

References:

Doctor dragged off United flight was felon who traded prescription drugs for secret gay sex with his patient and took them himself - and he needed anger management, was 'not forthright' and had control issues, psychiatrist found: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4401980/Dr-dragged-United-swapped-drugs-secret-gay-sex.html

Fox News Research Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/FoxNewsResearch

Source of Graphic: https://twitter.com/search?q=removals%20on%20oversold&src=typd

pb

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Hillary's Misplaced Claims as to Why She Lost

In a recent interview, Hillary Clinton stated that she lost the election because of Comey, Wikileaks, and misogyny.  Yes, that right,  misogyny.  Not because she was simply a bad candidate.

In the case of FBI Director Comey, she need only look inward to find a justification for his investigation into her conducting classified State Department business on a private email server in her home.  Comey was just the messenger who eventually cleared her.  And, many still think she was wrongly cleared of what should have been considered a crime.

Then, there's the Wikileaks dumping of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hacked emails. If she wants to blame anyone, she should blame her own Democratic party.  The DNC was warned months in advance that there could be hacking of that server.  The whole incident could have been minimized if the DNC had acted quickly to block any hacking.  Instead they waited months to do so.

Then, there's this bull about misogyny.   Clearly, she wants the world to believe that she lost because this country is sexist, and she was a victim.  The only problem is that, except for college educated white women, she substantially lost the women's vote.  This conclusion is based on a post election analysis by the website FiveThirtyEight.com.  For example, among white women without a college degree, she only garnered 34% of the vote compared to 62% for Trump.  And, even among college degreed white woman her win margin was only 51% to 45%.

The simple fact is that Hillary lost because she was a bad candidate with the wrong message for America.  To many, she was just another 4-year iteration of the Obama presidency. For myself and others, it was President Obama that created the Trump victory.

References:

Hillary Clinton blames Comey, WikiLeaks and 'misogyny' for 2016 loss: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/04/07/hillary-clinton-blames-comey-wikileaks-and-misogyny-for-2016-loss.html

FBI Chief Jim Comey Clears Hillary Clinton—and Puts Himself in the Crosshairs: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/11/06/fbi-director-james-comey-clears-hillary-clinton-on-new-emails.html

CNN: Sources: US officials warned DNC of hack months before the party acted: http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/25/politics/democratic-convention-dnc-emails-russia/

Clinton Couldn’t Win Over White Women: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/clinton-couldnt-win-over-white-women/

Why did Hillary Clinton lose? Simple. She ran a bad campaign: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-hillary-clinton-lost-bad-campaign-perspec-20161114-story.html

CNN's SE Cupp: Hillary Was 'Singularly Terrible Candidate' For Dems: http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/se-cup-hillary-clinton-democrats-bad-candidate/2016/11/09/id/758076/

And the worst candidate of 2016 was ... Hillary Clinton: http://www.stltoday.com/news/national/govt-and-politics/and-the-worst-candidate-of-was-hillary-clinton/collection_f8f936de-1636-5546-9f08-e1290b573934.html

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Sea Change For Retail in America

Last Friday, the March jobs report was released and it was abysmal.  Only 98,000 jobs were created even though the unemployment rate fell to 4.5%. Dragging that job's number down was the fact that 30,000 retail jobs were lost in that month.  Thus, in the last two months, 60,000 workers in retail have been let go.

The reality is that traditional brick-and-mortar stores are dying, while digital commerce takes a bigger and bigger slice of America's spending money.  Payless, the discount shoe company, just filed for bankruptcy protection and is now closing 400 stores.  J. C. Penney's will close 138 stores.  Macy's 68.  Sears and Kmart 150.  And, the list just goes on and on.  In fact, over the last 3 years, thousands of retail stores have been shuttered.

Now, I know I've written about this before in this blog, but 60,000 jobs lost in just two months is rather dramatic.  Many of these jobs were non-college or non-high school degree level work.   Many minimum wage.  These workers already have difficulty finding jobs.  For example, the unemployment rate for people without a high school diploma is 7.4%.  High school but no college is 5.2%.  Compare that to the current overall unemployment rate of 4.5% or the rate of 2.6% for those with a bachelor's degree or higher. 

If this trend continues and accelerates, we are going to have a serious employment problem with possibly a permanent underclass of unemployable low-skilled workers.  Something that I don't think Trump understands when he says he will be the job's President.  Retail purchases on the Internet are a form of job replacing automation and the key to Amazon's success and profitability.  Certainly, this is a sea change that should worry all of us.

References:

March Employment Report: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

Today’s Jobs Report Masks a Huge Employment Problem: http://fortune.com/2017/04/07/bls-todays-jobs-report-employment-problem/

60,000 Retail Jobs Lost in Past Two Months, According to Latest Employment Report: http://ktla.com/2017/04/07/60000-retail-jobs-lost-in-past-two-months-according-to-latest-jobs-report/

These major retailers are closing nearly 3,000 stores this year: http://clark.com/shopping-retail/major-retailers-closing-2017/

March 2016: Number of store closures already set to outpace last year: http://nypost.com/2016/03/19/number-of-store-closures-already-set-to-outpace-last-year/


Friday, April 7, 2017

.European Union Official Threatens to Break Up the United States

Sometimes there are stories that are just completely laughable.

One such story is that the President of European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, says that if Trump continues to urge the break up of the European Union, he will back the independence of Ohio and Austin, Texas.  Really?  Ohio, a state, and Austin, a city will secede from the United States?  Obviously, we need to send him a map.

Trump's comments are not going to break up the European Union.  The "Union" has been in serious trouble for years and the exit of the United Kingdom was only the beginning.  I think Jean-Claude Juncker should focus in on why this is happening and what is needed to keep his European Union together.

References:

I'll back Texas independence, EU's Juncker warns Trump: http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/30/world/juncker-warns-trump-brexit/

Trump: Other countries will follow 'smart' UK out of EU: https://euobserver.com/foreign/136540

These countries could be next now that Britain has left the E.U.: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/06/23/these-countries-could-be-next-if-britain-leaves-the-e-u/?utm_term=.bf46a9069df1


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trump's Treasury Secretary is Dead Wrong on Machines Taking Jobs

In a recent interview, Trump's Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, said he wasn't worried about artificial intelligence taking American jobs.  In his opinion, we are anywhere from 50 to 100 years away from that happening.  Thus, the U.S. treasury shouldn't be affected by the drop in tax revenues that may occur from people's jobs being replaced.

But, he's dead wrong.

We are already seeing jobs replaced by artificial intelligence (AI).  And, have for years.  When you self-checkout at the grocery store, make no mistake, those devices replaced people. Wendy's recently announced that it will install order-taking kiosks at 1,000 stores around the country.   McDonald's is going to do the same with 14,000 stores.  A company called Miso has already perfected an AI robot called "Flippy" that can cook hamburgers, flip them, and then, place them on a bun.

Besides Google's self-driving cars that may replace taxi drivers, Mercedes is currently testing long-haul self-driving trucks that may be ready to hit the roads in 2025.  A company called Knightscope is already selling a fully autonomous robot security guard.  There is also a bricklaying robot called "SAM" that can automatically lay bricks at a cost 7 times cheaper than a human. The list of these human job replacement machines and devices is growing by the day.

The government needs to wake up to that fact before we have too many people in this country out of work, not paying taxes, and instead, needing money from the Treasury to survive.

References:

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says AI taking US jobs is '50-100 more years' away — but it's already beginning to happen: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-robots-are-coming-whether-mnuchin-says-so-or-not-2017-3

Robots Are Slashing U.S. Wages and Worsening Pay Inequality: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-28/robots-are-slashing-u-s-wages-and-worsening-pay-inequality

Thanks To 'Fight For $15' Minimum Wage, McDonald's Unveils Job-Replacing Self-Service Kiosks Nationwide: https://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2016/11/29/thanks-to-fight-for-15-minimum-wage-mcdonalds-unveils-job-replacing-self-service-kiosks-nationwide/#723eceda4fbc

There’s Now a Robot That Can Flip Burgers Fortune Editors Mar 14, 2017: http://fortune.com/2017/03/14/miso-robotics-flippy-burger-flipping-robot/

Wendy’s Is Going to Install Self-Ordering Machines in 1,000 Stores: http://fortune.com/2017/02/27/wendys-self-ordering-kiosks/

The long-haul truck of the future: https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/mercedes-benz/innovation/the-long-haul-truck-of-the-future/

Knightscope: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knightscope

Meet SAM, Brick Laying Robot That Does The Work Of 6 Humans: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-27/meet-sam-brick-laying-robot-does-work-6-humans

pb

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Are We Moving Too Fast With Self-Driving Cars?

Recently, Arizona had 12 self-driving cars on their roads.  One of them was involved in what was called a "high speed" crash with the car landing on its side.  On a percentage basis, one accident out of 12 cars is not very good.  Because of that accident, Uber has now been forced to shut down its Arizona program of self-driving cars until further notice.

Yet, researchers, as reported by the "Atlantic" in 2015 (see below), said this:
"Researchers estimate that driverless cars could, by midcentury, reduce traffic fatalities by up to 90 percent. Which means that, using the number of fatalities in 2013 as a baseline, self-driving cars could save 29,447 lives a year. In the United States alone, that's nearly 300,000 fatalities prevented over the course of a decade, and 1.5 million lives saved in a half-century."
Of course, that assumes that the technology is sound.  In fact, in late 2015, "USAToday" ran a story that stated:  "self-driving test cars are involved in crashes at five times the rate of conventional cars."

Google and other companies such as Ford are pushing to put unmanned vehicles on the roads right-now, I personally think the states should slow down a bit and let the technology prove itself with lower accident rates.   As reported by the U.K. Daily Mail, a "leaked" internal report from Uber said that a self-driving Uber vehicles can't drive a mile without human intervention.  Doesn't sound like the technology is quite there, yet! 

References:

Self-driving Uber SUV crashes and flips onto its side after 'high impact' accident in Arizona: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4348742/Self-driving-Uber-crashes-Arizona.html

Uber crash raises question: How do self-driving cars deal with the other guys on the road: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2017/03/25/uber-accident-raises-question-how-do-self-driving-cars-deal-with-the-other-guys-on-the-road/?utm_term=.d8bcd79f0add

Self-Driving Cars Could Save 300,000 Lives Per Decade in America: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/09/self-driving-cars-could-save-300000-lives-per-decade-in-america/407956/

Study: Self-driving cars have higher accident rate: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2015/10/31/study-self-driving-cars-accidents/74946614/

Uber's self-driving cars get into another crash | TechRadar: http://www.techradar.com/news/ubers-self-driving-cars-get-into-another-crash

Uber Halts Self-Driving Car Fleet After Crash In Arizona: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/uber-self-driving-cars-suspended_us_58d70639e4b03692bea698ee
 
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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What Doesn't Make Sense About the Russian Hack

In January, and before Trump was inaugurated, the CIA, FBI, and the NSA issued a joint report on the Russian hacking of the DNC email server and Podesta emails and came to this conclusion:
“Putin most likely wanted to discredit Secretary Clinton because he has publicly blamed her since 2011 for inciting mass protests against his regime in late 2011 and early 2012, and because he holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him."
Putting the words "most likely" aside and the fact that those words imply a weak argument, the statement suggests that Putin was angry at Clinton back in 2011.  Yet, supposedly, the Russians didn't start hacking the DNC server until 4 years later in 2015.  This was followed by the release of those emails a year later during the late election cycle.

What doesn't make sense is that, if Putin truly wanted to damage Hillary Clinton, why wait 4 years to do so?  From everything we know about her private server, there was very little security and loads of information damaging to Hillary Clinton.  Also, it was operational since 2008.  An analysis by the Associated Press said the server was open to "low skilled hackers".  For Russia's first class hackers, Hillary's server would have been a cakewalk.  In addition, the exposure of the classified data in those emails and other State Department related emails would have done far more damage to Hillary Clinton, both politically and personally, than the peripheral data on the DNC server. Also, any one receiving an email had to know it wasn't from the State Department's server because her address was stupidly hdr22@clintonemail.com.  A simple domain name search by a trained hacker would have been able to locate that server's IP address and allow it to be hacked.

Personally, I think the CIA, FBI, and NSA's conclusion is flawed and probably political in nature.

References:

U.S. intelligence says Putin wanted to damage Clinton, help Trump: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/6/us-intelligence-says-putin-wanted-damage-clinton/

Revealed: Hillary's private server was open to 'low-skilled-hackers' who could take it over remotely because its 'amateur hour' operators ignored official warnings: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3270758/Hillary-s-private-server-open-low-skilled-hackers-remotely-operators-ignored-official-warnings-vulnerable.html

What does the 22 in Hillary Clinton's private email account hdr22@clintonemail.com mean? https://www.quora.com/What-does-the-22-in-Hillary-Clintons-private-email-account-hdr22-clintonemail-com-mean

Why Clinton’s Private Email Server Was Such a Security Fail: https://www.wired.com/2015/03/clintons-email-server-vulnerable/


Monday, April 3, 2017

Biden: Middle Class Sunk Hillary's Campaign?

In a PBS interview, Joe Biden stated that Hillary lost because she didn't "talk" to the middle class.  His actual statement was:
"What happened was that this was the first campaign that I can recall where my party did not talk about what it always stood for -- and that was how to maintain a burgeoning middle class..."
The problem I have with that statement, is the phrase, "burgeoning middle class" The middle class isn't growing, it is shrinking; and those in the middle class know it. Pew Research found that the middle class has fallen from 62% of our population in 1970 to just 43% in 2014.  And, Democrats still fail to understand that it is their policies that have weakened those in this coveted social class.  For example, when you heavily raise the minimum wage, money is drained away from the middle class to give those at the bottom a larger-than-normal raise.  In another example, the affordability clause of the employer mandate of Obamacare states that when an employer must offer health insurance, it cannot cost any more than 9.56% of an employee's household income.  So again, the middle class is hurt because in order to limit the cost of insurance for low-end workers, other classes of workers, such as the middle class, are forced to pay more for their insurance.

In my opinion, Hillary lost because people in the middle class did not benefit from Democrat governance under Barack Obama.  It wasn't because of "talk".  Talk is cheap.  It is always actions that ultimately matter, not words.

References:

Joe Biden indirectly knocks Clinton's failed campaign: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/30/politics/joe-biden-donald-trump-hillary-clinton/index.html?sr=twcnni033117joe-biden-donald-trump-hillary-clinton1152AMVODtopPhoto&linkId=36046121

The American Middle Class Is Losing Ground | Pew Research Center: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/09/the-american-middle-class-is-losing-ground/

ObamaCare Employer Mandate: "Coverage offered to employees must be considered affordable (can’t cost more than 9.56% of employee household income) and must provide minimum value (must have an average cost sharing of 60%). If coverage isn’t affordable employees can use the Marketplace and the employer can be fined" http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-employer-mandate/
 
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Friday, March 31, 2017

Only in Vegas: A Brothel For the NFL Raiders

In the 16 years I have lived in Las Vegas, I have never seen the city more excited about anything than the recent approval by the NFL to move the Oakland Raiders to this city.

It will add jobs. First, to build a new $1.9 billion stadium. In addition, business leaders are already plotting ways to take economic advantage of the team playing in this, the entertainment and gambling capital of the world.  Package deals are being planned for "out-of-staters" that would include airfare, hotel accommodations, shows, and of course, a ticket to a Raiders game.

Something else already in the works, is a Raiders-themed brothel just about an hour's drive from the Las Vegas Strip.  Team players and personnel will get a  50% discount for VIP-only services rendered, though access won't be restricted to Raiders personnel.  Anyone can be a customer.  So, you just may get a glimpse of your favorite Raider's player in "assumed action" off the field.

The brothel will be built and run by Dennis Hof, The famous owner and operator of the existing "Bunny Ranch".  The new establishment will be called the "Pirates Booty Sports Brothel".  No word if this deal was one of the things that encouraged the NFL owners to vote 31-1 for the relocation.  Evidently, this beat any incentive Oakland could come up with..

References:

Raiders-themed brothel to coincide with Vegas move, include team specials: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2017/03/28/raiders-brothel-las-vegas/99724340/

How the Raiders will actually help the Las Vegas economy: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/how-the-raiders-will-actually-help-the-las-vegas-economy-181705075.html

BunnyRanch | Dennis Hof | Legal Nevada Brothel | CatHouse: http://www.bunnyranch.com/

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Opioid Abuse and Death in America

In 2015, opioid related deaths hit a record of just under 33,100.  That was more than all the deaths related to heroin and cocaine use, combined.  It's only 2000 deaths short of the number of motor vehicle fatalaties in that same year. The principal reason for this problem is over-prescribing by doctors.  Still, they continue to prescribe these drugs to at-risk individuals, and the rate of deaths  keeps climbing at an uncontrolled rate and accelerating; nearly tripling since 2002:

In this country, ground zero for this problem is Maryland and its largest city Baltimore.  The rate of opioid-related hospital admissions in Maryland in 2014 was 362 per 100,000 citizens. Substantially higher that the average of 225 per 100,000 for all of the United States.  But, the real problem is Baltimore and the 977 admissions per 100,000 citizens.  A serious issue in that city is that hospital emergency rooms are not permitted to treat opioid addiction for low income users.   As a result, the only time one of these individuals is admitted to an emergency room is after it is too late and that person has already overdosed.

Because of the frequency of opioid deaths in the state, Maryland's Governor has declared a state of emergency.  And now, President Trump has created a commission to study and recommend changes to control what is now an epidemic.

References:

Opioid overdose deaths just jumped again: http://www.businessinsider.com/opioid-overdose-death-statistics-2016

Motor Vehicle Deaths by Year: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year

CDC: Physicians are a leading source of prescription opioids for the highest-risk users: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2014/p0303-prescription-opioids.html

Opioid users filling Maryland hospital beds and emergency rooms: http://www.baltimoresun.com/health/maryland-health/bs-hs-opioid-hospitalizations-20170106-story.html

Source of Graph: CDC: Overdose Death Rates: https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

Maryland governor declares state of emergency for opioid crisis: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/hogan-declares-opioid-state-of-emergency/2017/03/01/5c22fcfa-fe2f-11e6-99b4-9e613afeb09f_story.html?utm_term=.de5d84a4c375

Opioid Epidemic: Trump to Set Up Commission on Addiction Crisis: http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/americas-heroin-epidemic/opioid-epidemic-trump-set-commission-addiction-crisis-sources-say-n739861
 
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Death of Chicago?

Most everyone knows that Chicago has a murder rate problem.  But, it also is a city that may, like Detroit, feel the pain of bankruptcy at some point.

A recent report from the Census Bureau showed that the Chicago area had the greatest loss of population in the country; losing 21,300 residents.  That was a doubling of the prior year's loss.  Now, while losing 21,000+ residents in a city of 2.7 million isn't that significant, the fact that the loss of residents doubled in one year is.  A trend that can't be sustained without the city substantially losing tax revenues.  Something that it can ill afford.  Chicago is already in financial distress; ranking the worst among 116 major cities in the U.S.  Of course, the Mayor's solution: more taxes.  Something  that would only accelerate the exodus.

Chicago's problems don't stop there.  Since 2000, the middle class in the city has gone from 56% to 51% with most falling into the lower classes.  As a result, average wages have also decreased and again, the city's tax base has shrunk.  On top of all that, the city's school system is in such bad shape that it may actually declare bankruptcy to escape its mammoth debt commitments.

Simply, things aren't going in the right direction for Chicago. Everything seems to be pointing to a city in a serious death spiral.  It has been following the exact same path that Detroit found itself in when it finally declared bankruptcy in 2013 and even with bankruptcy, the city is still shrinking in size.

References:

Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore Lead Nation in Population Loss; Maricopa County Has Biggest Gain: https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/chicago-detroit-baltimore-lead-nation-population-loss-maricopa-county

Chicago Has Biggest Population Dip As Southern States Grow: http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2017/03/23/chicago-has-biggest-population-dip-as-southern-states-grow/

Chicago area's middle class shrinking, report finds: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-pew-declining-middle-class-met-20160511-story.html

Chicago's Population: https://www.google.com/search?q=chicago+population&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

EXCLUSIVE: Chicago, New York in Worst Financial Shape Among Large US Cities: http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2017/01/09/EXCLUSIVE-Chicago-New-York-Worst-Financial-Shape-Among-Large-US-Cities

Maybe Chicago schools should declare bankruptcy and get it over: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/maybe-chicago-schools-should-declare-bankruptcy-and-get-it-over-with-says-moodys-2017-01-13




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Democrats Anti-Trump Circus over Gorsuch

When I listened to the Senate Gorsuch hearings for his nomination to the Supreme Court, the Democrats had very little to condemn this man for.  His answers to their concerns sounded both logical and sincere and he remained unflustered.  Yet, the Dems kept coming back to one ruling that they think paints him as a heartless S.O.B. who would leave a truck driver to die in 14 below weather.  In this supposed "Frozen Trucker" case, Gorsuch ruled against the majority and sided with the company who fired the trucker for leaving his rig behind on the side of the road to find gasoline. Gorsuch ruled against the trucker because of Federal law and simply told the Democrats that if they didn't like his ruling, then change the law.

So, out of 2700+ rulings, the Democrats believe that just this one ruling should disqualify him.  The Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer also claims that Gorsuch is a "conservative" ideologue and unfit to be on the Supreme Court.  A fact that I find interesting since the website FiveThirtyEight researched his rulings on the 10th Circuit and actually found him to be more liberal than many of the other justices on that court.

But, still, the Democrats don't want him on the Supreme Court.  In another effort to block him, they are now claiming that as long as Trump is under investigation by the FBI, he has no right to appoint anyone to the "court".  Where were these people when Hillary was running for President and under an FBI investigation for her private email server?

Just how long are Democrats going to carry on this circus of blocking Trump at every turn?  Can we please get on with the business of running the government?

References:

Dems Pounce on Gorsuch's 'Frozen Trucker' Ruling: http://www.newser.com/story/240189/frozen-trucker-case-looms-in-gorsuch-hearing.html

Schumer Says Gorsuch’s ‘Conservative Ideology’ Makes Him Unfit for the Supreme Court: http://observer.com/2017/03/charles-schumer-neil-gorsuch-conservative-ideology-trump-supreme-court-nominee/

For A Trump Nominee, Neil Gorsuch’s Record Is Surprisingly Moderate On Immigration And employment discrimination: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/for-a-trump-nominee-neil-gorsuchs-record-is-surprisingly-moderate-on-immigration/

In Move to Slow Gorsuch Confirmation, Dems Cite FBI Probe: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2017/03/23/in_move_to_slow_gorsuch_confirmation_dems_cite_fbi_probe_133419.html

Hillary Clinton's FBI investigation: What you need to know ... - CNN.com: http://www.cnn.com/2016/10/30/politics/clinton-fbi-investigation-comey/

pb

Monday, March 27, 2017

History and Why TrumpCare Failed

I hope Donald Trump learned a valuable lesson about Washington politics with his failure to pass the American Health Care Act (now forevermore known as TrumpCare).

One of the hardest things to do in Washington D.C. is to build a consensus; even among your own party members. This is one of the reasons why, in 1993, HillaryCare failed.  Too many Democrats had conflictingideas on how it should be done. Just like today. But, it was that lesson learned from the 1993 failure that allowed a consensus to form among Democrats leading to ObamaCare pasing into law in 2010.  Of course, some of that consensus was bought with things like the "Louisiana Purchase" and the "Corn-husker Kickback".

Everyone in the media knew there were too many defections from the GOP plan.  Yet, Trump and Ryan pushed it anyway.  I guess they were thinking it would happen simply because Trump promised it would.  Trump just may want to do a rewrite of his bestseller and rename it the "Art of the No Deal".

References:

Uh Oh: At Least 36 Republicans Plan To Vote Against GOP Health Care Bill: https://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2017/03/24/uh-oh-at-least-36-republicans-plan-to-vote-against-gop-health-care-bill-n2303816

GOP cave on Obamacare repeal is the biggest broken promise in political history: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/gop-cave-on-obamacare-repeal-is-the-biggest-broken-promise-in-political-history/article/2618413

Clinton Health Care Plan: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clinton_health_care_plan_of_1993

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act#Healthcare_debate.2C_2008.E2.80.9310

EDITORIAL: The $300 million Louisiana purchase - Washington Times: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/nov/30/the-300-million-louisiana-purchase/


Friday, March 24, 2017

Will Carbonated Water Save the Planet from Climate Change?

The world has enjoyed "fizzy" water and beverages for more than 200 years.  Now, there is a chance that it will be the savior of the planet by converting carbonated water into ethanol.

Three scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have accidentally found that a nano tech wafer of one centimeter square applied to water being infused with CO2 will actually achieve the production of ethanol.  While some of the CO2 will escape back into the air, they have been able to convert 63% of the gas in the process.  More importantly, the voltage needed is as little as 1.2 volts.  Thus, a power plant producing carbon dioxide may have that output captured and turned into a usable fuel by simply applying a small fraction of the energy it produces.  Also, the wafer that is used in the process is inexpensive.  Its made from copper, nitrogen, and carbon.

I guess, this invention by these "Oak Ridge Boys" will go down in history with all the other accidental scientific discoveries such as penicillin and microwave ovens.

References:

Carbonated Water: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonated_water

Nanotech Wafer Turns Carbon Dioxide Into Ethanol: http://www.popsci.com/grain-alcohol-created-from-carbon-dioxide-and-water

Reversing the combustion process to convert CO2 into ethanol: http://newatlas.com/co2-ethanol-nanoparticle-conversion-ornl/45920/

10 Awesome Accidental Discoveries: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/g1216/10-awesome-accidental-discoveries/

Thursday, March 23, 2017

It Took Just Over a Year for the Paris Climate Accord to Start Falling Apart

In December 2015, the Paris Climate Accord was hailed a "landmark" agreement by the New York Times.  Rich countries, like the U.S. and those in the European Union, agreed to make significant cuts in their climate changing emissions.  At the same time, those rich nations would contribute billions of dollars to aid the poorer countries of the world to fight  their war against climate change.  Barack Obama made a big thing out of it.  Others, apparently wiser, said the agreement would fail.

Thus, we come to early March 2017.  Bloomberg News is now reporting that the world's wealthiest countries are backing off from their financial commitments to the Paris Accord.  Some will try and blame Trump for this lack of commitment; giving these countries the cover they need to claim that the "Accord" is useless without the United States; the world's largest polluter.  Maybe so.  But, the reality is that the world is in a serious economic slowdown.  Without more money to do both the normal work of providing for their citizens, and at the same time, take on the additional burden of fighting climate change both at home and in other poorer countries, the Paris Accord was destined to fail.

In essence, the Paris Accord, like every climate agreement before it, again wind up on the trash heap of attempts by nations, not being able to work together to, you guessed it, save the world from climate change.  Do you see more than a little sense of climate denial in this story?  It appears that another Obama legacy is about to fall right along with ObamaCare.

References:

Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/13/world/europe/climate-change-accord-paris.html

Why the Paris Climate Change Agreement Will Fail: http://reason.com/archives/2015/12/14/a-happy-agreement-in-paris-wont-fix-glob

G-20 Poised to Signal Retreat From Climate-Change Funding Pledge: https://www.bloombergquint.com/politics/2017/03/09/g-20-document-shows-governments-retreating-from-climate-funding

IMF Sees Subdued Global Growth, Warns Economic Stagnation Could Fuel Protectionist Calls: http://www.imf.org/en/News/Articles/2016/10/03/AM2016-NA100416-WEO

Obama Caps Environmental Legacy With Paris Climate Change Deal: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/obama-caps-environmental-legacy-paris-climate-change-deal-n642266

pb


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

ISIS in Iraq: Close to Defeat?

Is one of the "I's" (Iraq) in ISIS' name on its way out?  Two reports from two U.K. online newspapers seems to say yes. The U.K. DailyMail recently reported that the "leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has admitted defeat in Iraq and ordered militants to either flee or kill themselves in suicide attacks, it has been claimed." In that same article it was reported "UK Defence Minister Michael Fallon said he expected to see ISIS expelled from Iraq's major towns by the end of 2017."

Then, there was this recent quote from the Guardian:
"Firas Abi Ali, a senior analyst of terrorism in the Middle East, said the jihadist group - also known as Islamic State - was being weakened by American air power and was unlikely to survive as a military force beyond the next 12 months."
In my opinion, this is big news that I have not seen reported by the media in the U.S..  Yet, the U.K. news outlets seem to have a handle on the story.  Is the news being ignored so as to not give Trump any credit for what to be happening in his first year in office?

References:

ISIS leader 'admits DEFEAT in Iraq and orders militants to flee or kill themselves in suicide attacks': http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-when-will-they-be-defeated-prediction-2017-islamic-state-us-air-strikes-a7337591.html

Isis will be defeated 'by the end of 2017' 'Islamic State don’t stand a chance against a ground assault that is backed by air power,' says senior analyst: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-when-will-they-be-defeated-prediction-2017-islamic-state-us-air-strikes-a7337591.html


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Record Low Birth Rate, A Crisis For Older Americans

Last August, amid all the coverage of the presidential election, a significant news item was overlooked.  That was the fact that, last year, America's birth rate reached a record low of 59.8 births per 1000 women.  By comparison, at the peak of the baby-boom years, the average was 122.9.

In a country that is getting older with a projected percentage of the over-65 population rising from 15% today to 24% by 2060, this is a problem.  The problem lies in the fact that social programs rely heavily on younger Americans paying into programs like Medicare and Social Security to keep them buoyed into the future.  If there are fewer young people and more older people, the young are going to have to carry a bigger burden to support the seniors of the future. Plus, who will take care of an aging population?  Is senior-care the big job sector of the future?

Facing the same outlook, Japan is desperately trying to "develop" robots to take care of its sick and older population.  But, what about the cost of caring for an aging population in the U.S.?  Has anyone heard of a single politician that seems concerned about this?  Democrats seem to think that Medicare and Social Security are solvent programs as far as the eye can see!

References:

US fertility rate falls to lowest on record: http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/11/health/us-lowest-fertility-rate/

Fact Sheet: Aging in the United States: http://www.prb.org/Publications/Media-Guides/2016/aging-unitedstates-fact-sheet.aspx

Development of care robots growing in aging Japan: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/27/national/social-issues/development-care-robots-growing-aging-japan/#.WM7adWclTb1






Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump's Tax Return: Who Is Mailbox-Man?

Rachel Maddow has deservedly taken a lot of heat since over-hyping the release of two summary pages from Donald Trump's 2005 tax return.  Some say the release actually benefited Trump by showing that he paid $38 million in taxes that year.  Because of this, some have even concluded that Trump himself, released the information.

What I find more interesting however, is why a relatively unknown economics/business writer by the name of David Cay Johnston would wind up with these copies that were supposedly and conveniently, slipped into his "mailbox".  Thus, the unknown delivery man can't be prosecuted for illegally obtaining and distributing Trump's tax return. Still, why Johnston; when there are so many other better-known media types, better able to make the contents of Trump's return known publicly?  Well, the answer to that question is that Johnston is essentially a Trump and rich people hater.

In 2016, Johnston published a book titled "The Making of Donald Trump".  A book reviewer at the Boston Globe said it was: "a chronicle of mobsters and mistresses, shady construction deals and financial shenanigans, monumental projects and miserable (and possibly illegal) business practices".   In fact, when Johnston first met Trump in 1988, he negatively referred to him as "P.T. Barnum"; the man most associated with the phrase: "There is a sucker is born every minute."  However, a better insight as to why Trump's return would be so relevant to Johnston comes from two other books he authored:
  • "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense and Stick You With The Bill"
  • "Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich—and Cheat Everybody Else"
So, when you look at the numbers in that return, they perfectly fit the type of individual that Johnston portrays in those two books.  Trump actually made a quarter of a billion dollars in 2005, but only paid taxes on $153 million of it because of deductions that favored himself and his business. Deductions that, in Johnston's eyes, are only available to a very rich person.  That's the real story behind the release of Trump's tax return and why Johnston had access to it.  But, understand, those deductions were all legal.  Things that the political left constantly and falsely claims as being loopholes.

Johnston's "paper trail" of writings convinces me that, perhaps he had something to do with the illegal acquisition of those two-pages.  I have no proof of that, and conveniently, Johnston's claim that he found them in his mailbox lets him off the hook legally.  Still, something doesn't smell right about it.

References:

Trump DID pay tax: White House fury as Donald Trump's tax returns are leaked showing that President made $150million and paid $38million to the government in 2005: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4314620/Maddow-reveals-Trump-s-tax-returns-White-House-furious.html

Rachel Maddow’s Trump ‘bombshell’ completely backfired: http://nypost.com/2017/03/16/rachel-maddows-trump-bombshell-completely-backfired/

Trump: It's 'fake news' that a reporter just opened his mailbox and found my tax returns: https://www.aol.com/article/news/2017/03/15/trump-its-fake-news-that-a-reporter-just-opened-his-mailbox/21894402/

David Cay Johnston: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Cay_Johnston

The Making of Donald Trump: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Making_of_Donald_Trump

A sucker is born every minute: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There%27s_a_sucker_born_every_minute

Here's one curious thing about the Donald Trump tax leak: http://www.cnbc.com/2017/03/14/trump-may-have-leaked-his-own-tax-return-award-winning-journalist-says.html

Is it illegal for the media to publish Donald Trump’s leaked tax return? http://www.today.com/video/is-it-illegal-for-the-media-to-publish-donald-trump-s-leaked-tax-return-898310723900


Thursday, March 16, 2017

No Evidence That Trump Tower Was Wiretapped?

In a joint news conference, the ranking Democrat and the ranking Republican of the House Intelligence Committee said that there is "no evidence" for Trump's claim that Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped. The problem with that is the following photo from the print edition of the New York Times on the very day Trump was inaugurated.
Click on Image to Enlarge or See Reference Below
Obviously, the "Times" had some reliable source for this story.  A story that starts out by saying "American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications".  A statement like that with "agencies" in the plural shows that the wiretapping activities were widespread and had to have included Trump Tower. Also, it's a little hard to believe that Obama had no knowledge of this activity.

Further, the article states that "It is not clear if the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump's campaign, or Mr. Trump himself".  Maybe the Intelligence Committee should be asking these New York Times writers about this story before making their "no evidence" declaration?

References:

Photo Source: Did the New York Times Contradict Their 20 January 2017 Report About Wiretapping? http://www.snopes.com/nytimes-wiretap-articles/

House intelligence chiefs say 'no evidence' Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped but they'll grill FBI chief in public on explosive claims – and DOJ faces subpoenas over whether it asked for permission to snoop: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4316876/No-evidence-Obama-Trump-Tower-wiretapped.html

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pelosi's Flip-Flop On Health Care Legislation

Do you remember this Pelosi speech that took place in 2010 before the voting on the ObamaCare legislation? She famously stated "We Have to Pass the Bill So That You Can Find Out What Is In it":



Well, she obviously has changed her mind about that.  She recently sent the now Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, a letter with regards to the GOP's healthcare legislation stating: "The American people and Members have a right to know the full impact of this legislation before any vote in Committee or by the whole House."

Does she think that America's memory is so short that she can "flip" on a stupid statement she made just 7 years ago?  Really, I think the woman is losing it.

Reference:

Source of Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QV7dDSgbaQ0

Press Release: Pelosi Sends Letter to Speaker Ryan Calling for Release of Full Impact of GOP ACA Repeal Bill Before Committees Vote: http://www.democraticleader.gov/newsroom/372017/


Your Smart TV Spying on You is Old News

When Wikileaks dumped thousands of documents, apparently sourced from the CIA, people were shocked to find out that their Smart TV's and phones could be spying on them, even if their TV was turned off. But, this is old news.  CNN reported this back in 2013.  How-to-Geek even instructed us how to keep your TV on the straight and narrow. And how not to have "god-knows-what's going on in your home" revealed to some unknown entity.

The simple fact is; if you are connected to the Internet, you can be spied on.  More importantly, if you have WIFI in your home, someone as far as a half-mile away can be intercepting data that you are sending and receiving on your laptops, PC's, tablets or whatever.  You should protect yourself with a strong password of at least 12 characters that make absolutely no sense.  Using names of things or people as part of a password only opens the door to eavesdropping.  That's because software used to crack your WIFI's password has an embedded "dictionary" which can be used to easily detect when your encryption coding is broken. This software is out there, and in many cases, free to download.

So, if you don't want your neighbor's kid listening in on your network, create a strong WIFI password.

References:

Wikileaks Unveils 'Vault 7': "The Largest Ever Publication Of Confidential CIA Documents"; Another Snowden Emerges: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-07/wikileaks-hold-press-conference-vault-7-release-8am-eastern

Your TV might be watching you: http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/01/technology/security/tv-hack/

How to Stop Your Smart TV From Spying on You: https://www.howtogeek.com/233742/how-to-stop-your-smart-tv-from-spying-on-you/

How to Create a Strong Password (and Remember It): https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=4551919160687115242#editor/target=post;postID=9081434618056028466

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Contradiction: Strong Jobs Growth and Weak Economic Growth Predicitions

Update: Obviously I was wrong on the Fed rate hike prediction.  The Fed just raised rates on the strength of inflation data and despite weak economic growth. Reference: Fed raises rates for 3rd time in 15 months, hike forecast unchanged: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/03/15/federal-reserve-interest-rates-economy-janet-yellen-mortgages-credit-cards/99186568/

Original Post:

March 10th's stronger-than-expected number of jobs added, has many falsely believing that the economy is strong.  As of this writing, the Atlanta Federal Reserve's GDPNow projection for economic growth in the first quarter sits at just 1.2% after a dramatic 3.4% projection at the end of January.


The biggest contributor to the strong February jobs number was warmer-than-normal weather and not the economy in general.  Warmer weather meant more construction projects in what would normally be a winter lull.  That is why we saw 58,000 construction jobs created in the month; the highest level in 10 years.  And, we shouldn't erroneously attribute the strong jobs report to some type of Trump-effect.  Further, the assumption that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates solely on the jobs report and not on economic growth is probably wrong.

References:

Strong U.S. job growth, rising wages set stage for Fed rate hike: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy-idUSKBN16H0KA?il=0

152,528,000: Record Number of Employed in February; Participation Rate Rises: http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/susan-jones/152528000-record-number-employed-february-participation-rate-rises

Source of Graphic: https://www.frbatlanta.org/cqer/research/gdpnow.aspx?panel=1

The numbers are in on this freakishly warm February: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/february-2017-warm-temperatures-climate-change/

Monday, March 13, 2017

Daylight Savings: One Hour That Could Change Your Life

I doubt anyone feels well rested after losing an hour of sleep as we switch to Daylight Savings Time. But, climate change alarmists love it because that lost hour gives you more daylight to deal with in your daily lives, resulting in a reduction of lights-on power consumption.  At least that was the intent when Thunder Bay, Canada first introduced it in 1908.  Then, in 1916, Germany became the first country to introduce this clock-change on a national basis.  The U.S. introduced it in 1918.  Today, 70 countries practice this regimen of losing, then gaining one hour, twice a year.

However, there is a dark side to Daylight Savings.  That is a disruption of natural sleep patterns.  On the Monday following that one hour of sleep deprivation, there are more traffic accidents.  Students don't perform as well, and, I assume adults don't do as well at their jobs either; possibly resulting in an increase in work-related accidents.  No clear statistics are available on that. However, a 2014 study of Michigan Hospitals found a 25% increase in heart attacks the Monday following the "Spring-Forward" tradition.  Some suggest that depression, as well, results from the loss of sleep for those a little closer to the "edge".  All this for a savings of just 1/2 of 1 percent of energy per day; according to a report from Duke Energy.

Maybe we, and the other 69 countries that practice this annual tradition, should rethink the value of gaining an hour of daylight at the cost of losing that hour of sleep.

Lastly, I should mention that battery manufacturers love it. Americans, are urged to replace the batteries in our smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at this time.  Even if those batteries have another 2 years or more of life in them.  How many tons of toxic batteries are tossed into landfills each year due to Daylight Savings Time?  How about that, you climate change environmentalists!

References:

The History of Daylight Savings Time: https://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/history.html

Daylight saving time change impacts schools, ERs and roadways: http://www.denverpost.com/2015/03/05/daylight-saving-time-change-impacts-schools-ers-and-roadways/

Daylight saving time may be killing you: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/daylight-saving-time-may-be-killing-you/article/2617030

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Store Closures: Coming to Retailers Near You

At the end of February, the credit rating service, Moody's, announced that the number of credit-stressed retailers has tripled since the end of the Great Recession of 2009.  Further, based on the current trend, Moody's expects a record number of these distressed retailers to close within 5 years; assuming they don't close before that.

The explosion of retailers shutting their doors began in 2015.  Thousands of big-name stores hit the skids starting with the bankruptcy of Radio Shack and the closure of nearly 1800 other locations..  Some claim that the retail closures are a result of the fact that there is just too much retail space in the U.S..  In fact, there is 7 feet by 7 feet of retail space (50 square feet) for every man, woman, and child in the country.  Other factors are the Internet. Sites such as Amazon are killing the traditional brick and mortar stores.  But, that doesn't necessarily explain why McDonald's was forced to close 700 stores in 2015.  I personally believe that people's wages have suffered, and as a result, discretionary spending is a major problem.

Whatever the cause, retailers shutting their doors means a loss of jobs.  It also means a loss of economic growth, which is primarily based on consumer spending.  That could mean that we are heading to another recession in the not-too-distant future. Of course, that assumption is based on the fact that the number of distressed retailers isn't just a trend, but instead, the canary in the coal mine for the economy.  It's only early March 2017, and already 13 major retailers have announced the closure of 1500 stores.  Both Macy's and Sears/K-Mart are on death watch.  And don't be shocked if more find themselves in a similar situation.

In my opinion, the situation is serious for both jobs and the economy. and can't be rectified unless or until wages start growing again.  Note my blog entry "Can Trump Make Wages Great Again?" as referenced below. 
References:

Moody's: Moody's: Number of distressed US retailers triples since the Great Depression Recession; debt levels up: https://www.moodys.com/research/Moodys-Number-of-distressed-US-retailers-triples-since-the-Great--PR_362722

Number of distressed U.S. retailers at highest level since Great Recession: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/number-of-distressed-us-retailers-at-highest-level-since-great-recession-2017-02-27

Store closings are the hottest trend in retail: http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/25/investing/struggling-retailers-sears-best-buy-kohls-store-closings/

All 2015 Store Closings - Stores Closed by U.S. Retail Industry Chains: https://www.thebalance.com/all-store-closings-2891887

These 13 retailers are closing more than 1,500 stores in 2017: http://www.clark.com/major-retailers-closing-2017

Why are Macy's and Sears in distress? - The Washington Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-are-macys-and-sears-in-distress/2017/01/11/238461c0-d825-11e6-9f9f-5cdb4b7f8dd7_story.html?utm_term=.a411eb510dcd

Can Trump Make Wages Great Again? http://cuttingthroughthefog.blogspot.com/2017/03/can-trump-make-wages-great-again.html