Friday, March 10, 2017

Looks Like Federal Government Control of Healthcare Is Here to Stay

I'm glad people who understand legalese have figured out what the new Republican healthcare bill says.

The federal government still mandates what your policy will include.
While some of the regulations are tweaked with more flexibility, the 800-pound gorilla in the room — guaranteed issue mixed with community rating* (which is responsible for almost all of the premium hikes) — is left in place. Nor does this bill repeal the mandated essential benefits, which require insurers to cover a specific number of people and sex change operations, maternity care for men, etc.
And even the repeal of actuarial value “metal” requirements (platinum, gold, silver, bronze) — the most positive of the outlined changes — would not take place until the 2020 plans. 
Instead of penalty money going to the government, your healthcare insurer will be required to charge you 30% more for your coverage (Sec. 2711).  This will undoubtedly be just as effective as the Democratic penalties were in forcing young, healthy people to pay sky high prices for medical coverage.
By maintaining guaranteed issue, healthy individuals will just go without insurance, and then if they get sick, anyone can still demand a policy. It’s worth taking the risk of paying an extra 30 percent when you really need it in exchange for avoiding paying the equivalent of another monthly mortgage for nothing when healthy.
Moreover, the new premium penalty for those gaming the system won’t begin until 2019, but the individual and employer mandates will be repealed immediately. This will further hurt the solvency because, again, the bill would maintain the exchanges and the regulations. Therefore, higher prices mixed with fewer people paying into the system will result in a nightmare scenario.
I'm not sure that mandate will meet Justice Roberts requirement that it's only constitutional if it's a tax. Not too many taxes go directly to private businesses. Wouldn't it be ironic if Obamacare was constitutional but Trumpcare is not?

Lots of money will be lobbed at the states for Medicaid expansion.
As for Medicaid, the draft plan grandfathers in the entirety of the Obamacare expansion. Worse, it doesn’t freeze future enrollment for another two years, which will incentivize states to massively expand Medicaid before 2020. It also throws another $10 billion to states that never expanded Medicaid.
Federal taxpayer subsidies to health insurance buyers will continue in a fire hose manner.
. . . this House bill replaces the income-based subsidies with age-based subsidies – ranging from $2,000 for younger people to $4,000 a year for older enrollees, and as much as $14,000 for a family. It is a massive new entitlement for middle-income and lower-income Americans. It would apply in full for families earning up to $150,000, and then phased out $100 per thousand dollars earned over that threshold. Thus, a family could theoretically get some sort of subsidy well into the $200,000-plus income level. [emphasis added]
Does anyone think this will bring down healthcare costs? Or that limited healthcare insurance options will increase? Or that people angry about Obamacare will be happy about Trumpcare?

The key takeaway is that there is to be no repeal of the essential idea of Obamacare that the federal government should regulate how healthcare functions in the United States. Both parties and their leaders now agree with this. If the Democrats are smart, they will vote for this and then tweak it back to Obamacare when they get in power.

The only hope, and it is mighty slim, is voter anger. Rising healthcare insurance costs and dwindling choice of healthcare providers may keep that anger strong. But where is an angry voter to go?
*Community Rating: "A rule that prevents health insurers from varying premiums within a geographic area based on age, gender, health status or other factors."

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Cruz and Pelosi Agree U.S. Debt Problem Not Too Much Spending But Too Little Revenue

Heh. You can't make these things up.

Here's Ted Cruz right after President Trump's speech on Tuesday:

Here's Nancy Pelosi four years ago:

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Sorry, I Am Still Against Big Government and for the Tenth Amendment

Though there are a number of things I like about the Trump agenda, I am alarmed by his policies expanding federal power and increasing the national debt. And dismayed by the cheering for this coming from Republicans and those who formerly were conservative.

From President Trump's speech last night:
To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion dollar investment in the infrastructure of the United States - financed through both public and private capital - creating millions of new jobs.
I am still against federal trillion dollar spending projects other than on national defense or truly federal constitutional duties. (Shoot, I would grumble but could only complain moderately were the trillion to go for post offices and postal roads since that's an enumerated constitutional duty. Article I, section 8, clause 7.

FDR's attempts at creating millions of new jobs didn't create anything long term. All such government attempts have been a disaster because the government, unlike an actual owner, doesn't have its well being tied to whether the venture continues on. What we need is not six month or year jobs, but ongoing jobs funded not by taxpayers but by people who voluntarily buy goods and services provided by businesses. The government isn't smart enough or flexible enough to do that.
Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land.
. . .
Another Republican President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, initiated the last truly great national infrastructure program - the building of the interstate highway system.
I also don't believe the federal government has any business being involved with local and state infrastructure projects. Interstate? Okay. That's what Eisenhower did. On federal property? Okay. But, not hospitals, schools, or state and local bridges, tunnels, airports or other projects. Federal money corrupts those processes and leads to huge boondoggles if not downright foolishness. As for railways, private investment created the great railways. Public investment has created money losers like Amtrak or Portland's own Max light rail which requires payroll taxes and federal, state and local grants to fund the vast majority (69% in 2015) of its budget needs.

We shouldn't be spending money on new federal projects when we are trillions in debt. I say that to the younger ones in the family too. You don't spend what you don't have. Running up the national debt is stealing from our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and who knows how many generations after that. We're already nearly $20 trillion in debt. So, let's add another trillion? How about if we can come up with a trillion let's pay off a trillion of the debt instead. (Here's where I grind my teeth at people like Sarah Palin and the Tea Party who were so opposed to the rising national debt under Obama but are fine with it under Trump. They are either hypocrites or unable to think through the implications of their principles.)
The way to make health insurance available to everyone is to lower the cost of health insurance, and that is what we are going to do.
. . .
Fourth, we should implement legal reforms that protect patients and doctors from unnecessary costs that drive up the price of insurance -- and work to bring down the artificially high price of drugs, and bring them down immediately. 
It's not the federal government's business to raise or lower the cost of anything (unless there is a monopoly involved, and then the job is to break up the monopoly). If they can do it with health insurance, they can do it with everything else in our life. It's called wage and price controls. Never works. Just makes a big mess and creates shortages of goods and services.
My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make childcare accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have Paid Family Leave, to invest in women's health, and to promote clean air and clear water, and to rebuild our military and our infrastructure.
How about mandating paid family leave? Portland and then Oregon have mandated paid sick leave. Now Republicans want to add a national mandate for family leave. Please remind me of why Republicans were so against taxpayers funding birth control materials to such as Ms. Fluke? (Besides those who oppose birth control for religious reasons.) And like all such mandates on business this is going to result in businesses closing down because they can't afford that perk.
Education is the civil rights issue of our time.
 I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children.
I also reject the notion that education is the new "civil rights" issue. Education is a family or local government responsibility not a federal government responsibility. I don't even think it's well done as a state responsibility except as a local community is devastated through natural disaster and needs temporary help. Where the federal government or state sets standards usually the graduation rate plummets and children come out knowing only what's politically correct rather than anything useful. Education becomes a political act tied to federal funds rather than an educational act purely for the benefit of the child.
I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims.
The office is called VOICE - Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement.
We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.
Why should victims of immigrants (no mention whether legal or illegal) get special treatment over victims of any other kind of violence or economic damage? And how would setting up an office to "serve" them help? This is just adding another layer to government which will be used politically by whatever administration is in power. How about setting up a system for any American to sue federal, state and local governments for damages caused by malfeasance in carrying out their duties?
But to accomplish our goals at home and abroad, we must restart the engine of the American Economy - making it easier for companies to do business in the United States, and much harder for companies to leave.
Except in time of war for the defense of the nation, I don't believe federal or state government has any right to tell businesses how to run their business and where to locate. Or to stop individuals or businesses from leaving the country. An economic Berlin wall is not quite as despicable as the "we'll shoot you down" Berlin wall, but despicable none the less. Threatening to punish someone economically if they leave your country is only a hop and skip away from threatening to make leaving a crime.

This is big government on steroids again. Just has an R after the President's name. Phooey!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Diversity! in Multnomah County

This is what passes for "diversity" in Multnomah County. And notice the slightly slanted colored letters (all of the same font and same size) that cleverly make the point.

So, sex doesn't count as diversity. Age doesn't matter in diversity. Political view isn't important in diversity. Only race.

Guess all the men in Multnomah County and the older people in Multnomah County don't count.

Alas, this is what passes for "journalism" in Multnomah County.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Fixing the 1:55 Video Error

I have converted many vhs videos to dvds. Unfortunately some of them have the 1:55 error which means the vob file may be 20 minutes or more long but registers as 1 minute 55 seconds long. This makes editing the file impossible in many editing programs. The way around it that I have found is to import the files into WinX Free VOB to MP4 Converter and convert them to mp4 files. Then I can edit them.

As the name implies they have a free version which works great. However, for me they deserve the $$$ because they have saved a number of my files. So, I have upgraded to the paid version. (If you order from the trial version, you get a discount off ordering from the web site.)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Does the Executive Branch Have the Right to Say Who Comes Into the Country and Who Doesn't?

Update: good analysis by the Cato Institute

I feel it is only fair that I weigh in on this issue because I published three posts (1, 2, 3) that indicated I agreed with Judge Andrew Hanen in United States v. Texas that the Executive Branch does not have an unfettered right to say who enters or does not enter the country. Judge Hanen issued an injunction on February 16, 2015, blocking Obama administration policies directed at allowing 108,000 illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. and be issued work permits.

My discussion here is not on the merits of whether the Obama administration's policies and Trump's executive order do actually stop immigration practices that would be detrimental to the U.S. Rather it is based on the issue of whether the Executive Branch has the sole right to determine what is in the national interest.

The Constitution gives the Executive Branch no powers in this area. The only mention of immigration is via naturalization which is given to the Legislative Branch (Article I, Section 8).

True, the President is the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy (Article II, Section 2), but only Congress has the right to declare war (Article I, Section 8). So, Commander in Chief is not as powerful as it may seem since he can't use the armed forces for even a defensive war unless Congress allows it.

Patterico gives an excellent overview of the problem with President Trump's executive order. And with the discrimination aspect in particular. Congress has given the Executive Branch authority over immigration but with certain provisos under the Nationality Act of 1965. Under Section 1152 of the U.S. Code.
Except as specifically provided in paragraph (2) and in sections 1101(a)(27), 1151(b)(2)(A)(i), and 1153 of this title, no person shall receive any preference or priority or be discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth, or place of residence.
National defense (U.S.C. 1182 f*) is not cited in any of the sections mentioned above.

Further, if the assertion of something being "detrimental to the interests of the United States" would allow a president to allow people in or not, Judge Andrew Hanen could not have imposed an injunction on the Obama administration allowing 108,000 illegal aliens to stay and be issued work permits. Patterico:
Indeed, Obama tried to justify DAPA, his sweeping unconstitutional amnesty, in terms of our national security. In the United States’s brief in United States v. Texas, at pages 11-12, the Solicitor General wrote:
Deferring action for these individuals, the Secretary continued, would support “this Nation’s security and economic interests and make[s] common sense, because [it] encourage[s] these people to come out of the shadows, submit to background checks, pay fees, apply for work authorization (which by separate authority I may grant), and be counted.”
See what I mean? Presidents cite national security for literally everything. If you let them, they will run completely amok — and tell you they have to, so you can be safe.
A second issue is whether Washington state has standing to bring the case. Certainly if Texas did in United States v. Texas, Washington state does too. One of the key injuries Texas asserted was that it would have to subsidize driver's licenses issued to illegal immigrants. (I'm not kidding.) From Judge Hanen's opinion:
1. Article III Standing
a. Injury
The States allege that the DHS Directive will directly cause significant economic injury
to their fiscal interests. Specifically, Texas argues that the DHS Directive will create a new class of individuals eligible to apply for driver’s licenses,14 the processing of which will impose substantial costs on its budget. Plaintiffs rely on Texas’ driver’s license program to demonstrate how the costs associated with processing a wave of additional driver’s licenses will impact a state’s budget. Texas’ undocumented population is approximately 1.6 million, and Plaintiffs’ evidence suggests that at least 500,000 of these individuals will be eligible for deferred action through DAPA. Doc. No. 64, Pl. Ex. 14 ¶ 33; Pl. Ex. 24 ¶ 6. Under current Texas law, applicants pay $24.00 to obtain a driver’s license, leaving any remaining costs to be absorbed by the state. See Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 521.421. If the majority of DAPA beneficiaries currently residing in Texas apply for a driver’s license, it will cost the state $198.73 to process and issue each license, for a net loss of $174.73 per license. Doc. No. 64, Pl. Ex. 24 ¶ 8. Even if only 25,000 of these individuals apply for a driver’s license—approximately 5% of the population estimated to benefit from the DHS Directive in Texas—Texas will still bear a net loss of $130.89 per license, with total losses in excess of several million dollars. Id.
Okay, so if driver's license subsidies (which a state does not have to give) afford standing to ask for an injunction, pretty much anything that proves probable loss of income or probable need for more spending will do.

My bet is that if the case goes to the Supreme Court, the same thing will happen as with United States v. Texas. The Court will split 4-4, and the lower court judgment will stand as happened to Judge Hanen's injunction (which was upheld by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals).

*U.S.C. 1182(f) Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President

Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. Whenever the Attorney General finds that a commercial airline has failed to comply with regulations of the Attorney General relating to requirements of airlines for the detection of fraudulent documents used by passengers traveling to the United States (including the training of personnel in such detection), the Attorney General may suspend the entry of some or all aliens transported to the United States by such airline.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Trump Joins the American Government "Killers" He Censured?

You throw mud, you lose ground. President Trump's own "apology tour" is having unintended consequences.


In the first place, someone who doesn't understand the difference between U.S. wars in which we don't "invade" other countries to take them over like Putin's invasions (Georgia, Ukraine) has no understanding of basic morality.

Second, someone who doesn't understand the difference between willful policy to kill and a "mistake" in policy does not have adult intelligence.

So, according to President Trump the U.S. and its leaders are just as bad as Putin and other leaders (ISIS?) who murder people who oppose them because of the fatalities in the U.S. war in Iraq (which Trump opposed). Who was the main American leader in the Iraq War?  President George W. Bush.

As absurd as President Obama's claims of American failures were, he never implied George W. Bush was a "killer". The far left did, but Obama didn't. Now Trump has clearly joined the far left critique. Code Pink should be ecstatic.

Where are the conservatives who are outraged? There are only a few. Most have stomped on their principles because Trump isn't Hillary. Pathetic.

Well, let's take the Trump critique and apply it to Trump too.

Trump's first ordered military raid resulted in civilians and children killed and a Navy Seal Chief Petty Officer William Owens as well as three U.S. commandos wounded. So, does that make Trump a "killer" like Putin and ISIS, or to reach back into history a bit, Hitler and Stalin?

No. At least not for anyone who understands that purposeful killing is different than killing by "mistake".

But, there still are policy consequences. Because of Trump's military mistake, Yemen has now "withdrawn permission for the United States to run Special Operations ground missions against suspected terrorist groups in [Yemen]".  So, expect more people to be "killed" as terrorist groups have more freedom to recruit, train and attack because of this "mistake".

It seems President Trump has now joined his own list of American government "killers".

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Army Office of the Provost General Shafts Soldiers by Giving Their Service Dogs to For-Profit Contractor

The Army's Office of the Provost General didn't follow regulations which required that retired service dogs be offered for adoption to their soldier handlers first.
Abby is one of 13 dogs the Army gave to Soliden Technologies LLC, in contravention of procedures stating that the dogs' former handlers should have the first opportunity to adopt them. Instead of being reunited with the veterans with whom they had served overseas, the dogs became pawns in a complicated and ultimately failed scheme to sell them for more work overseas. When the plan to sell the dogs fell through, their caretaker at the time says he was told to "dispose" of them.
Abby with handler/partner Jake in Afghanistan
Here's how Army personnel responded:
The same day, in emails seen by the Free Beacon, Meredith turned to Army officials Richard Vargus and Robert Squires on the recommendation of an employee at K2.
“I need help Sir and the sooner the better,” Meredith wrote to Vargus. “My heart is heavy knowing that this group has even more dogs to be abandoned and abused. Thank you for speaking with me and any help will be most appreciated. I am out of money and out of time.”
“I know there are some former handlers that will be ecstatic and more than willing to adopt their former wartime companion,” responded Squires, who worked with Vargus on the TEDD program. “Once I receive the list of dogs from you, I will get the dogs adopted out as fast as I can. I appreciate you reaching out to us and looking out for these combat vets!”
But Meredith said shortly afterward he received a call with a dramatically different message.
“Squires told me I had two options,” he said. “One, turn over the dogs to him because they were still [Defense Department] property or, two, he would come take them by force.”
The phone call from Squires was not the only threat Meredith claims he received. On June 22, 2015, a man named Jerry Avery showed up unannounced at Mount Hope looking for Abby.
“[Avery] wanted to buy Abby from me,” Meredith said. “He had $5,000 in cash in his hand and I told him the dog wasn’t for sale. That’s when they started threatening me that they were going to come take them all by force and if they didn’t they were going to get a group of lawyers to put me out of business.”
Squires denies he threatened to take the dogs from Meredith by force. In an email to the Free Beacon, he said the Army was willing to help him reunite the dogs with their handlers, but that any compensation for the dogs’ care was a private matter between Meredith and Soliden.
He also said the Army has no say over what happens to TEDD dogs once they are adopted.
“Once Soliden Technology adopted the dogs, it’s on them on what happens with the dogs,” Squires said in a separate phone conversation with the Free Beacon. “The government no longer has any say-so with the dogs once they’re adopted.”
Squires became agitated as the interview continued, saying the handlers needed to “put their big boy pants on” and “grow up.”
“It’s not against the law to adopt the dogs to whoever the hell the government wants to,” Squires said. “It’s the government’s dogs, it’s not the damn handler’s dogs. Do you understand that? It belongs to the Department of Defense; it does not belong to those individual handlers.”
“Don’t call me again, fucker, you understand me?” Squires said.
Vargus referred all questions to Army Public Affairs when contacted by the Free Beacon.
The Department of Defense is investigating to see what went wrong. What do you want to bet there are no consequences for anyone--except the dogs, their soldier handlers and people trying to help them like Greg Meredith?

H/T Stephen Gutowski

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sarah PAC Is Dead

Sarah Palin managed to trash her reputation and her PAC. It just filed its termination report.

It had $100,000 on hand as of November 29, 2016, and spent it all by the end of December. Major outlays:

$20,000 - for Sarah PAC administrator Timothy Crawford
$40,000 - legal counsel
$18,000 - political consultants
$9,000 - part time clerical
$3,500 - website management
$4,500 - buying and mailing (Sarah's?) books

Sarah PAC ran from 2009 to 2016.

Really a sad, throw-the-money-at-administration-costs end for a PAC that had promise.

Sarah is moving on to giving daily devotionals and facebook-like political comments. No real devotionals. No real commentary. Just splashes.

Judging from the number of shares (as of today not much more than two shares for each devotional and commentary posted clear back into December), she's not doing so well.

And apparently she's hoping to raise lots of money from advertising including ads with sound that play automatically. I hate sites that do that. A slide into the tacky.

Too bad she didn't go out gracefully.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Granddad's and Dad's Tools

nail puller
I was going through some of my dad's tools and found some neat ones I needed an explanation on. He got two from my grandfather. First a nailpuller. They're still making copies of this in China, but the metal isn't long lasting like this one made in the 1930s or 40s.

The extended part slightly angled at the top is used as a hammer to drive the pincher down under the nail. The "toe" next to the pincher opens and closes the pincher. Collapsing the upper part down gives a firm prying bar. A great tool when made with good quality metal. My granddad used it as did my dad not only on their own homes/garages/projects but in carpentry jobs for house builders.

heavy duty jack
Then there is a jack that's heavy duty enough to lift up a corner of a house.

Next comes a vise which Dad himself got with two nice size drill bits at 90 degree angles and a long metal pole. My dad can't remember what he used that for, and I can't find anything like it in my online search attempts. Any of you know what it was used for and what the long metal pole is for?
vise with two drill bits

Finally a little gizmo we've heard about for decades in my dad's stories. When he was in high school, he and his friends would go to sporting events in his Model B Ford. He built this little box to hook up to his car, and it was easy to ground in his Ford. He and his buddies would start beating on a drum. When some big guy(s) from the other school came over to complain, Dad would turn it on and when a guy touched their car he would get a shock. Then they would turn it off. Naturally, they didn't get bothered much after that. He said it also worked well in touching the bumper of another car, then turning it off so that when the guy reached to get into his car the second time everything was okay. They couldn't figure out what happened. But my dad didn't do that very often. Mostly used it on aggressive guys from other schools who wanted to teach him and his friends a lesson. You can see where I get my rabble rouser streak.
vise with 2 drill bits

Monday, January 23, 2017

Avoiding Squirrel Suet "Candy"

Discovered a small way to limit squirrel poaching.

I had been putting out Peanut Delight Suet because it has the highest protein content: 10% vs. 4% for the other types of suet. I figured more protein would be good for the birds.

Well, the squirrels think it is candy. So, I've switched to the other "flavors".  Instead of having to replace a suet cake every three or four days, they now last a week or two.

Slow learner here.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thank you, President Obama! May the Lord Help President Trump.

In 2009 I started my blog tradition of thanking the outdoing president. Unfortunately, I didn't wish God's help for the incoming president (Obama). I'm remedying that now.

I noted at the time that there were clear failures in George W. Bush's presidency, but this was not a time to dwell on them. So, here goes for President Obama.

Thank you, President Obama, for an economy that is markedly better than when you took over. My investments are worth significantly more and I am economically much better off than on the day you were inaugurated.

Maybe due to lack of insight, I'm sorry I can't think of anything else that's significantly better, except the death rate of U.S. soldiers has decreased as well.

Thank you for being a good father and husband and setting a terrific example of that for the nation. And for publicly showing the struggle of quitting smoking and working at that.

Most importantly, thank you for serving your nation for eight years in the toughest job it has to offer.

For incoming President Trump, I pray that the Lord will lead you and that you will turn the nation to good values and good policies and, most important, a true humility before God and asking for His guidance and help. 

Here are links to good counsel about how Christians should pray for presidents whether they are good or bad: Russell Moore and John Piper.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sarah Palin's PAC Practically Defunct

Sarah Palin has trashed her brand to the point that she is now taking in less than $10,000 per month for Sarah PAC.

In two months (October 1-19 and October 20-November 28) she raised only $17,241. In the same period she spent $72,536, including $8,942 on direct mailing costs which were unproductive. (Guess that's why I haven't received any fancy priority mailer requests for awhile.)

Then there's the $10,000 per month for Sarah PAC administrator, Timothy Crawford, the $9,000 per month to a consulting firm (there's only so much help they can give when you knee cap yourself) and $3,000 per month for part time clerical help. With only $99,000 of cash on hand, things don't look too good for the practical continuation of Sarah PAC.

As someone who is sorry they gave her and her PAC more than a couple thousand dollars, I'm not sorry to see it crashing. Though I am sorry to see Sarah Palin crashing. She had so much potential as well as a past track record in which she actually accomplished something.

But, she has not only become shrill, but now lies when changing her political position. Though, at least she doesn't scrub her past posts so you can't check her hypocrisy like Laura Ingraham does.

Unhappily Palin did just criticize Obama for pardoning the guy who made Julian Assange and Wikileaks big stuff. Palin apparently has no ability to see the hypocrisy of praising Assange who published Manning's top secret material that put "troops in danger". Stealing the secrets hurt no one. Publishing them did the damage. Palin has cracked mentally.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Automation: Hindrance or Help?

James Pethokoukis has a couple of interesting articles on the role of automation in maintaining our economy and current per capita wealth (let alone increasing them). 

First, he makes the point that a major drag on economic growth is lack of workers. In the past economic growth has come both from employment growth and higher productivity. He cites a McKinsey Global Institute study.
GDP growth was exceptionally brisk over the past half century, driven by the twin engines of employment growth and rising productivity. However, declining birthrates and the trend toward aging in many advanced and some emerging economies mean that peak employment will occur in most countries within 50 years. The workforce in Japan is already shrinking in size, and the total number of workers in China will start to decline within a decade. This expected decline in the share of working-age population will place the onus for future economic growth far more heavily on productivity gains. (emphasis added)
Take one of those legs away by lack of employment growth because of no population growth and it's going to be hard to walk, let alone run.

But automation can give employment growth without rising population and could at least keep GDP per capita stable.
Our analysis of the automation adoption scenarios suggests that automation could help bridge the projected growth gap caused by a deficit of full-time equivalents worldwide. Automation alone will not be sufficient to achieve long-term target growth across the world, given the decline in the working-age population and the need for high productivity to achieve that target. Especially in fast-growing countries, other measures to boost productivity will be needed. However, notably, the productivity gains from automation could suffice to at least maintain today’s GDP per capita.
The McKinsey Global Institute study rates robots on a level with the steam engine in increasing productivity.
For example, between 1850 and 1910, the steam engine has been estimated to have enabled productivity growth of 0.3 percent per annum. Analyses of the introduction of robots in manufacturing and IT estimate that they have accounted for annual productivity increases of 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.
Second, the big question is what to do with displaced workers who have medium or low skills that don't fit into the new economic format.

Though less than 5% of jobs can be 100% automated, 60% of jobs can have 30% of what they do automated.

The knee jerk reaction is to protect workers by hindering automation. But, that will neither protect jobs long term or help economic growth. Imagine the U.S. with all farming still being done on small family farms without automation. First, we couldn't compete with other nations. Second, even if we could, the cost of food would be in the range of four times higher than it is now. We would be spending 40% of our income on food rather than the current 10%. And with a lot less choice.

from The Atlantic
from NPR
The NPR piece points out that even with the automation of the 1960's, we are spending a little more than half as much as our grandparents spent on food. That's probably due to free trade policies as well as increased automation and more productive seeds, cultivation methods and animal husbandry in the last 55 years.

So, what to do? There's no magic bullet. Encouraging people to have more children won't work. And we have had too many problems with raising the workforce via immigration because most of those who come are low skilled.

That leaves trying to train a workforce that is more productive or can fill in the gaps where automation isn't feasible. That would mean better retraining of current workers and proactively encouraging young people to prepare for an increasingly mechanized work force.

Easier said than done. But, this seems to be the only option when the work force population is stagnant or decreasing and increasing productivity is the only workable tool to maintaining or increasing per capita wealth.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Here's a Funny Idea: How Mexico Can Defeat Trump

Answer: Buy Twitter for $12 billion and shut it down. Heh.

How Obama Has Influenced Trump

Then there is Obama the campaigner in chief. Who did lots of campaign-type events filled with crowd adulation during his presidency including his farewell address. Trump seems to be one upping him with his pre-inauguration "thank you" tour. Maybe there will not only be tons of campaigning events during the Trump presidency, but a farewell address tour too.

I wonder if President Trump will make himself a commander-in-chief badge like President Obama did.

Any Conservatives Still Out There Against Deficit Spending?

I just talked to a conservative friend yesterday who is all for the federal government "upgrading our infrastructure". She mentioned that she hoped it would be funded by taking money from other federal spending sources. Of course, that won't happen. It will be just another trillion dollars added to the national debt, and the debt ceiling will be raised enthusiastically by Republicans. We didn't get into the federal intrusion on state and local responsibilities, but Rush Limbaugh also is now not against big federal deficit spending or federal intrusion on state and local functions. Hey, it could be as politically productive as Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. And political power is all we're interested in, right?

Since, oh, 1968 I've been against deficit spending except in war time (and maybe for the Louisiana Purchase) and against federal encroachment on state and local responsibilities like education, healthcare, and state and local projects. I haven't changed my position in 48 years, but some of my conservative friends are changing theirs because Republicans are now in charge of federal spending and our economy needs help. It's the old "throw money at a problem" in order to fix it.

Sorry, but local districts, Portland, Multnomah County, the state of Oregon should be responsible for the upkeep of local, city, county and state property in Oregon like roads, bridges, local airports and ports, public schools, public hospitals. There is a place for federal infrastructure in interstate projects, defense projects, post office, and on federally owned property.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States . . . To establish Post Offices and post Roads . . . To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years; To provide and maintain a Navy . . . To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of Particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful Buildings . . . . (U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8)
But state and local projects and properties should remain state and local responsibilities. Federal money usually corrupts those local processes. "Free" money tends to do that.

Here's a U.S. debt chart for 1940 to 2025:

Jim Pethoukouis adds:
Still, Kraemer added, the incoming Trump administration’s current policy direction suggests bigger deficits, a larger debt, and an even higher debt-GDP ratio. And although more fiscal stimulus might boost growth for a bit, he likened that approach to igniting a “straw fire” that flames up and burns out quickly. He considers the US economy more or less at potential. So smart policy would focus on boosting the capacity for faster growth through deep reform rather than stimulus.
By the way, the most recent Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimate finds Trump’s taxing and spending promises would increase the debt by $5.3 trillion to 105% over the next decade as a share of GDP vs. 77% currently. A lot of that comes from the Trump tax plan. Congressional Republicans, though, are promising tax reform will be revenue neutral. And Trump has promised a balanced budget sooner rather than later.
I'm for "deep reform" and against infrastructure "stimulus" which did not work for Franklin Roosevelt or Barack Obama.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Fix for Nokia Lumia 635, Windows 8 Lock Screen Not Opening

I had lots of trouble getting my Nokia Lumia 635 Windows 8.1 lock screen to open. Trying to flick it up would result in the lock screen rising only about 1/2 inch and then droppping back down no matter how many times one tried to flick it up.

I tried turning the phone on and off. That sometimes worked, but not always. And it was time consuming.

Finally, I tried using the volume button (either up or down) and it opened the ringer/notification volume line which when pressed opened the upper third of the phone. From there you can flick the lock screen up and it will open.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Sarah Palin Needs to Apologize to Lots of People Including Herself in 2010

The shreds of respect I have for Sarah Palin have basically disappeared.

She now apologizes to Julian Assange for saying he has "blood on his hands" and should be pursued like "al Qaeda and Taliban leaders".  According to Palin in 2010:
We all applaud the successful thwarting of the Christmas-Tree Bomber and hope our government continues to do all it can to keep us safe. However, the latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.
First and foremost, what steps were taken to stop Wikileaks director Julian Assange from distributing this highly sensitive classified material especially after he had already published material not once but twice in the previous months? Assange is not a “journalist,” any more than the “editor” of al Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a “journalist.” He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands. His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?
What if any diplomatic pressure was brought to bear on NATO, EU, and other allies to disrupt Wikileaks’ technical infrastructure? Did we use all the cyber tools at our disposal to permanently dismantle Wikileaks? Were individuals working for Wikileaks on these document leaks investigated? Shouldn’t they at least have had their financial assets frozen just as we do to individuals who provide material support for terrorist organizations?
Most importantly, serious questions must also be asked of the U.S. intelligence system. How was it possible that a 22-year-old Private First Class could get unrestricted access to so much highly sensitive information? And how was it possible that he could copy and distribute these files without anyone noticing that security was compromised?
The White House has now issued orders to federal departments and agencies asking them to take immediate steps to ensure that no more leaks like this happen again. It’s of course important that we do all we can to prevent similar massive document leaks in the future. But why did the White House not publish these orders after the first leak back in July? What explains this strange lack of urgency on their part?
We are at war. American soldiers are in Afghanistan fighting to protect our freedoms. They are serious about keeping America safe. It would be great if they could count on their government being equally serious about that vital task.
- Sarah Palin [emphasis added]
Guess that's not important now that Assange posted documents that helped Donald Trump win the presidency. Who cares about Afghanis who helped the U.S. and its troops in war time? Not Palin.

Of course, she doesn't want to admit that. So, she now says, contrary to her 2010 post, that she was mad because he disclosed her emails.
To Julian Assange: I apologize.
Please watch Sean Hannity's interview with Julian Assange (Wikileaks).
Exposing the truth re: the Left having been oh-so-guilty of atrocious actions and attitudes of which they've falsely accused others. The media collusion that hid what many on the Left have been supporting is shocking. This important information that finally opened people's eyes to democrat candidates and operatives would not have been exposed were it not for Julian Assange.
I apologize for condemning Assange when he published my infamous (and proven noncontroversial, relatively boring) emails years ago.
As I said at the time of being targeted and my subsequent condemnation, though, the line must be drawn before our troops or innocent lives deserving protection would be put at risk as a result of published emails.
Julian, I apologize.
- Sarah Palin [emphasis added]
So what changed Sarah Palin's mind about publishing U.S. secrets or stealing and publishing private information? That it was done to "to democrat candidates and operatives" rather than Republicans or Sarah Palin and her buddies. And apparently exposing political shenanigans is now more important than exposing the identities of people who help the U.S. during war time.

This is pathetic and morally reprehensible.

However, taking Palin at her word, she should now apologize to young David Kernell for testifying against him for publishing her emails in 2008. And apologize to President Obama for calling his administration incompetent in protecting America from people like Assange.
However, the latest round of publications of leaked classified U.S. documents through the shady organization called Wikileaks raises serious questions about the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of this whole fiasco.
Then there's the apology needed to the U.S. intelligence system.
Most importantly, serious questions must also be asked of the U.S. intelligence system. How was it possible that a 22-year-old Private First Class could get unrestricted access to so much highly sensitive information? And how was it possible that he could copy and distribute these files without anyone noticing that security was compromised?
At this point for Palin it's all good that anyone should get "unrestricted access" to "highly sensitive" U.S. security information and blab it. So, in light of this, please remind me what the problem was with Hillary's private server? Wasn't she just an unwitting Assange? He meant to publish America's secrets. Hillary didn't.

I am so sorry for my many posts in praise of Sarah Palin.  I apologize for not understanding how her character has changed. But, mostly I pity her. What a horrible thing to publicly turn on the truth and downplay betraying U.S. war time allies just because embarrassing but fairly innocuous stuff was published about your political opponents.