December 31, 2016

Problem with autonomous cars


We don't have enough donated organs to take care of the patients who need transplants as it is, and one in five organs used in transplants come from vehicular accidents. When the number of automotive-related deaths plummets from self-driving cars, one of the most reliable sources of healthy human organs and tissues will plummet as well. Most analyses suggest that autonomous vehicles will eventually prevent over half of the 35,000 deaths that occur on American roads each year, and some reports are much more optimistic.

Internecine Posted by John Kranz at 11:02 PM | What do you think? [0]



What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Wishing y'all a prosperous and generally awesome 2017!

Frank Loesser ©1947

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com


FDA Reform

Gotta be optimistic on New Year's Eve!

The WSJ Ed Page suggests that a Trump Administration might reform the FDA -- at least as far as slanted drug committees which provide a platform for bureaucrats without balance rom developers.

This was the process used to dismember a compound for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (yes, one I have bored you with several times before). A look into how bad this actually was is startling.

"Do the clinical results of the single historically-controlled study (Study 201/202) provide substantial evidence (i.e., evidence from adequate and well-controlled studies or evidence from a single highly persuasive adequate and well-controlled study that is accompanied by independent findings that substantiate efficacy) that eteplirsen is effective for the treatment of DMD?"

Are you still reading? The obfuscation led one committee member who voted no, Bruce Ovbiagele, to deliver this insight: "Based on all that I heard, the drug definitely works, but the question was framed differently." Imagine hearing this if you are the parent of a Duchenne boy.

I've suggested admittedly extreme extreme proposals for revamping the FDA, and I'd still love to see them. But, in the real world, all that is necessary is to change the bias from "we must find the reason to deny this" to "we must accept this unless we find something contrary." That would take us 85% of the way there.

On the plus side, this will likely be my last FDA post of 2016.

But johngalt thinks:

If President Trump or his administration actually do make this change, I will expect to hear it here first! ;)

Fingers crossed.

Hey, any word yet whether President Trump intends to continue that awesome "petition the White House" thingy that Obama invented?

Posted by: johngalt at January 3, 2017 2:23 PM

December 28, 2016

One State, Two State, Jewish State, Democratic State

Please pardon the flippancy of the title. I'm just trying to make some sense of the lame duck leader of Foggy Bottom and his desperate abandonment of the proper statecraft which have led many decades of his predecessors round and round again, ending up where they began - With Israel trying to survive and her attackers claiming the moral high ground.

Kerry appears outwardly desperate when he pleads,

"[The United States] cannot be true to our own values, or the stated democratic values of Israel, and we cannot properly defend and protect Israel, if we allow a viable two-state solution to be destroyed before our own eyes."

Rather selfish and desperate to insist that Israel accept "a viable two-state solution" simply because it is his two-state solution. Perhaps there are other viable two-state solutions that are better. Or, much more likely, perhaps any two-state solution is destined to fail on account of the fecklessness of the other party.

Perhaps instead, Israel should continue to govern the territory it captured during a war of aggression by said other party, and permit individuals of every race and religion to live there on the sole condition that they abide by Israeli law?

Besides, democracy is overrated. Peace and prosperity and liberty are far more important. I wouldn't trade any one of those for democracy, much less all three.

But nanobrewer thinks:

Ah, it's that time of the decade again; UN rez's denouncing Israel... I suppose Nat'l Geo will have a "End of Cheap Oil" issue coming out soon?

Rather selfish and desperate
Shah, where you been? That and being in love with the sound of his own voice (and seeing himself on TV) are pretty much the only defining characteristics of modern liberals. Perhaps greed... did I miss anything? hmmm, regurgitating yesteryear's ideas for yesterday's problems perhaps?

The question I'd like to see analyzed is: what does a UN resolution mean these days, in terms of "on the ground"?

Posted by: nanobrewer at December 30, 2016 12:02 PM

December 27, 2016

Netanyahu's Message

Dark days.

From a Hanukkah message by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

All American presidents since Carter upheld the American commitment not to try to dictate permanent settlement terms to Israel at the Security Council. And yesterday, in complete contradiction of this commitment, including an explicit commitment by President Obama himself in 2011, the Obama administration carried out a shameful anti-Israel ploy at the UN.

I would like to tell you that the resolution that was adopted, not only doesn’t bring peace closer, it drives it further away. It hurts justice; it hurts the truth. Think about this absurdity, half a million human beings are being slaughtered in Syria. Tens of thousands are being butchered in Sudan. The entire Middle East is going up in flames and the Obama administration and the Security Council choose to gang up on the only democracy in the Middle East--the State of Israel. What a disgrace.

Israel Posted by John Kranz at 10:57 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

When President Obama was first elected, many of us lamented the extent of the damage that he could do to the country and to the world in four years - much less eight. Now that he is leaving office he is not content with the fundamental transformations he has wrought - he has to poke his foes in the eye as much as possible, in a vain search for a legacy.

Damn, I'm glad he likes to golf.


Posted by: johngalt at December 27, 2016 6:30 PM

December 26, 2016

Why Obama Failed

No doubt the headline, lifted verbatim from a Jeffrey Tucker post at FEE, will elicit a few titters among ThreeSourcers. James Taranto's quip "Longest Books Ever Written" comes to mind...

Enjoy -- it's Christmas! But the Tucker piece is well worth a read in full. It is unflinching but not mean. He concedes President Obama's intellect and charm, but faults the bulk of his failures on his lacking an economic vision beyond campaign speeches.

A laundry list of policies is pretty much the whole of Obama's economic thought. He never had a big idea, a mental framework for thinking about economic fundamentals. All the interviews in this period illustrate how brilliance does not come prepackaged with economic understanding. He simply had none.

Obama never figured out where wealth comes from, the contribution of freedom to its creation, the role of property rights in securing prosperity, much less how government controls and mandates hold back growth. Every time these ideas were brought up, he would dismiss them as Reagan-era fictions. Moreover, denouncing trickle-down economics always elicited cheers from all the fashionable people.

One suspects Tucker will not find much to miss about the President's leaving office. But the column has a wistful, more-in-sadness-than-anger quality about it hat lifts it up from polemic.
And so he leaves office, confused about what went wrong, worried about his legacy, alarmed at the destruction of his party, and fearful about the forces of reaction that his health care reform and persistent economic stagnation has unleashed. There is an element of tragedy here. It is the fate of a man who knew everything except the one thing he needed to know in order to generate genuine and lasting hope and change.

You can have all the highest hopes, best aspirations, vast public support, and all the prestige backing in the world. But if you can't get economics right, nothing else falls into place.

But johngalt thinks:

Oh, President Barack Obama had a "big idea" alright, it just had nothing to do with economics. Instead, he believed that the country was ripe for "self-government" toward the ends of "social justice." Righting all, or at least some, of two centuries worth of social injustice, no matter the cost. There was some appetite for treating people fairly, no doubt. But wrecking the world's most powerful economic engine was a Nobel Prize winning overreach.

Posted by: johngalt at December 26, 2016 1:17 PM

December 24, 2016

Quote of the Day

Renowned for his optimism! I hope you're right, Larry.

Hard-nosed investment manager Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates and a non-political guy, expects the Trump years to be as transformational as the Reagan-Thatcher years. Mr. Dalio says the Trump era could "ignite animal spirits" and "shift the environment from one that makes profit-makers villains with limited power to one that makes them heroes with significant power." -- Larry Kudlow

But johngalt thinks:

I have seen glimpses of businessman bravado, like this one, that make me wish to predict, in all seriousness, that this will be the Atlas Shrugged presidency.

Don't make me eat those words, Donald.

Posted by: johngalt at December 26, 2016 1:11 PM

Riffing Off an Error

If you'll give a guy a stttttrrrreeeeeeeetchhhh of a segue on Christmas Eve, it seems that a Colorado-connected tradition has roots that belong in Tim Harford's Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives [Review Corner].

NORAD's Santa Tracker Began With A Typo And A Good Sport

Terri remembers her dad had two phones on his desk, including a red one. "Only a four-star general at the Pentagon and my dad had the number" she says.

"This was the '50s, this was the Cold War, and he would have been the first one to know if there was an attack on the United States," Rick says.

The red phone rang one day in December 1955, and [Col. Harry] Shoup answered it, Pam says. "And then there was a small voice that just asked, 'Is this Santa Claus?' "

Have a Very Messy Christmas, my friends!

UPDATE: Heh -- Mike Rowe tells a story better than I!

Posted by John Kranz at 1:40 PM | What do you think? [0]

December 23, 2016

Discover Freedom - Younger!

Thanks to KHOW's Ross Kaminsky I have discovered these fantastic children's books, designed to explain the principles of individual liberty to children when it counts - before they've been fully indoctrinated in altruism and socialism and big government nannyism.

Check it out:

The Tuttle Twins - a child's foundation of freedom

A fantastic deal. A bit late for Christmas, but a good activity for after the Christmas excitement wears off.

P.S. Be sure to add a few sharable copies of Bastiat's 'The Law' for a buck each before you check out.

But nanobrewer thinks:

I bookmarked them as well; be friending it on FB if I can get done with pre-Xmas bugga...

Posted by: nanobrewer at December 23, 2016 11:50 PM

Pouting POTUS

Imagine that a vandal breaks into your home while you're away. You are alerted to his presence by an intrusion alarm, and the intruder knows it, but it will take you more than two months to get back home. And again, the intruder knows it. Just think of the vindictive damage he could do - for whatever his reasons - before you arrive to secure the situation.

That is the scenario that comes to mind when I read Kim Strassel's expose on President Lame Duck Obama.

But perhaps nothing has more underlined the Obama arrogance than his final flurry of midnight regulations. With each new proposed rule or executive order, Mr. Obama is spitefully mocking the nation that just told him "enough."

The technical definition of a midnight regulation is one issued between Election Day and the inauguration of a new president. The practice is bipartisan. George W. Bush, despite having promised not to do so, pushed through a fair number of rules in his final months. But Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were more aggressive, and Mr. Obama is making them look like pikers.


December 22, 2016

Does my MAGA hat have to be red?

Fear and loathing are the media watchwords for most of Donald Trump's cabinet appointments, but one of the more amusing campaigns is the progressive assault on the prospect that Larry Kudlow could lead the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Can there be a more compelling endorsement? -- WSJ Ed Page
But johngalt thinks:

"Not a normal presidency" this is.

The ubiquitous cap does come in camo. But you'll probably be more at home in the white model. (And no, that is NOT a micro aggression.)

Posted by: johngalt at December 22, 2016 12:02 PM

December 21, 2016

New Respect for Pantsuit Nation

The HuffPo headline reads "Pantsuit Nation Is A Sham." But, well, I'll let the reader decide:

Basically, it seems to me -- unless she gives me any reason to think otherwise, which I doubt she will -- that Libby Chamberlain is interested in making a quick buck off of other people's trauma, hurt, pain, and confusion. She has turned Pantsuit Nation from a space of solidarity into an exploitative business model which replicates the same oppressive structures that supported the election of Donald Trump in the first place. If her intention was always to privatize and monetize PSN and its stories, thereby recreating the same neoliberal systems the group claims to fight against, she is a liar too. It was never stated at its inception that Chamberlain would ever aim to profit off of other people's stories, and the fact that she even wants to says a lot about her character.

The business model, as near as I can understand from the short column, is:

1. Leftist Butthurt
2. ???
3. Profit

If pantsuit lady can pull it off, call me a fan.

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 11:35 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Profit? That's Deplorable.

On the plus side, the schadenfreude here is of the "all you can eat" variety.

Posted by: johngalt at December 21, 2016 6:33 PM

December 20, 2016

Told You So, Sec. Clinton!

Old joke: Brakes fail on a car coming down a perilous mountain. Car is full of engineers, so each uses his/her ability to save the car: thermo, aero, mechanical... When they arrive safely at the bottom, the software engineer breaks his silence and says "let's roll it back up the hill and try it again with higher air pressure!"

I'm a software guy. And we do get the luxury of changing initial premises and re-running things, hundreds of times if necessary.

Reading scores of "Why Clinton Lost" and "Why Trump Won" articles, I notice an important omission. Had Sec. Clinton listened to me and chosen Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper as her VP, they would be measuring curtains and picking cabinet officers today.

Senator Kaine was the worst VP pick at least since Thomas Eagleton. He brings the swing state of Virginia, okay, and might assuage some #berniebros. But he was just one more old, White, oleaginous career politician with whiffs of scandal -- something of a Hillary-Lite. Gov. Pence, conversely, was a great compliment to Trump: serious, equanimous, and well schooled in legislative process. And yet not enough of an insider to undercut the brand.

Now, our Democratic Guv is not totally beloved 'round these parts (even though he provided a thoughtful blurb for my book), but he would have been a great asset to the campaign. Firstly, he would not have performed sooooo incredibly miserably in the debate. They say VP debates don't count, but they might want to reassess after this year.

Secondly, he has a gift for straddling party divides. He's a Geologist by training and careful to preserve the energy sector that is important to his state and its tax base. And yet, he manages without completely aggravating the greens. He could have wowed the progressives with the horrid "achievements" made in the Democrat years, but still provided enough of a moderate face to keep some of the Wisconsin/Pennsylvania/Michigan Democrats in line.

Can't control Director Comey or Putin -- but she could have picked a better VP and won.

2016 Colorado Rant Posted by John Kranz at 12:33 PM | What do you think? [2]
But johngalt thinks:

One of many failings of the Clinton campaign for which we may give thanks. I'm just glad she isn't likeable.

Posted by: johngalt at December 22, 2016 5:45 PM
But jk thinks:

I think the "WHY AREN'T I AHEAD BY FIFTY POINTS YOU MIGHT ASK!!!????" may go down as the best campaign commercial for all time. Not the response, just the in-your-face awfulness.

Posted by: jk at December 22, 2016 6:33 PM

December 18, 2016

Review Corner

[T]he Köln Concert album has sold 3.5 million copies. No other solo jazz album or solo piano album has matched that. When we see skilled performers succeeding in difficult circumstances, we habitually describe them as having triumphed over adversity, or despite the odds. But that's not always the right perspective. Jarrett didn't produce a good concert in trying times. He produced the performance of a lifetime, but the shortcomings of the piano actually helped him.
The opening story and central theme to Tim Harford's Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives is jazz great Keith Jarret's 1975 concert in Cologne, Germany.

Vera Brandes was 17 years old at the time, and saw that Jarret was touring Germany but not Cologne. The enterprising young fraulein contacted his management company, found an available date, then convinced the Opera House to open for a late night concert. All impressive, but there was a massive failure: on performance day, only a broken down old practice piano was available. When Jarret and manager came to look at the facility, he said it was "unplayable" and the event would have to be cancelled.

Brandes scrambled to find another, even recruiting friends to roll a relative's grand through the streets. But the weather was bad, no movers were available. She had to deploy the most powerful weapon in her arsenal: a tearful 17 year old girl convinced Jarret to continue.

Jarret asked it to be recorded as a joke or demonstration of how badly things could go awry. Three-point-five million sales later, Harford told Russ Roberts that it was not just his favorite jazz piano album -- it was his favorite album of all time.

The substandard instrument forced Jarrett away from the tinny high notes and into the middle register. His left hand produced rumbling, repetitive bass riffs as a way of covering up the piano's lack of resonance. Both of these elements gave the performance an almost trancelike quality. That might have faded into wallpaper music, but Jarrett couldn't drop anchor in that comfortable musical harbor, because the piano simply wasn't loud enough. 4

Being jarred off the script -- either accidentally or purposefully -- fills the rest of the book.
The scripted speech misreads the energy of the room; the careful commander is disoriented by a more impetuous opponent; the writer is serendipitously inspired by a random distraction; the quantified targets create perverse incentives; the workers in the tidy office feel helpless and demotivated; a disruptive outsider aggravates the team but brings a fresh new insight.
And the pianist who says, "I'm sorry, Vera, that piano is simply unplayable," and drives off into the rainy Cologne night, leaving a seventeen-year-old girl sobbing on the curbside, never imagines that he has passed up the opportunity to make what would have been his most-loved piece of work.

Even good computer algorithms require a bit of randomness. You can't run all the chess moves or test every point in a massive dataset. The idea is to try a random leap, then a methodical evaluation of the landing point. Harford pushes us to embrace or even force the random element. Brian Eno forces musicians to play each others' instruments and uses a card deck to force different ideas on them. This does not always go over very well, but Eno has had an incredible career. His name is hiding somewhere in the liner notes of hundreds of significant works.

Music is the home for improvisation, but Harford takes it to battle with Rommel, business with Jeff Bezos, and architecture with MIT's fabled Building 20, where every discipline which lacked the clout to get dedicated space could move in and hack the infrastructure.

A university or corporate research center can and should create interdisciplinary spaces in which well-established teams seek common problems to work on. But the anarchy of Building 20 went way beyond what any official effort at cross-cultural collaboration is ever likely to tolerate. It would be a brave CEO who'd play host to model railway enthusiasts and homeless botanists.

When Building 20 was at last demolished in 1998, MIT held what could only be described as a wake.

Chapter four builds to a powerful crescendo, comparing the hard working and organized to the improvisational. Martin Luther King soared to prominence as the latter, working 75 hours to craft a sermon word-for-word and deliver it from memory. Yes, some improvisers are masking lack-of-preparation. And some carefully crafted works are masterful. But King had a very dull speech prepared to give in front of the Lincoln Memorial. He looked down on a particularly unmemorable line when the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled out "Tell em about the dream, Martin!"

The publication date is listed as October 4, 2016, yet it still includes a chapter with quite a bit on Donald Trump. Trump is lumped in with Rommel and Jeff Bezos for his audacity and ability to disrupt his enemy/competitor.

In contrast to Trump's agility, the presidential campaigns of rivals such as Jeb Bush could be encapsulated by a word the German High Command used in conversation with Rommel in 1941 to describe the leadership qualities of the British Army. The German word was schwerfällig-- ponderous. The historian David Fraser elaborates: "There was demonstrated, in British actions, rigidity of mind and reluctance to change positions as swiftly and readily as situations demanded . . . great fussiness and over-elaboration of detail in orders." 25
Much like Rommel, Bezos, and Trump, David Stirling followed a messy road in pursuit of victory. If the opportunity was there, he would seize it and figure out the details later. When he hit an obstacle, he would abandon his plan and start improvising a way around it. And he pursued speed and surprise. A coordinated, well-researched move might look good on paper, but it would be useless if it meant giving the enemy time to react.

Harford applies to it many more examples -- traffic, forestry, Route 128 vs. Silicon Valley, banking, VW emissions, and an economist's view of children's games.
Recent research has found a correlation between playing informal games as a child, and being creative as an adult; the opposite was true of the time spent playing formal, organized games. 36

Peter Gray, a psychologist at Boston College, points out that in an informal game, everyone must be kept happy: if enough players stop wanting to play, the game will end. 37 That implies the need to compromise, to empathize, and to accommodate younger, weaker, and less skillful playmates; no such need arises in formal games, where those who are having a miserable time on the losing team are obliged to keep going until the final whistle blows.

Am I wasting my time sorting my email? Yes, but not as emphatically as you're expecting from the title.

I am too likely to start a project without sufficient planning. I work for a Department and Company that welcome this. I should be reading the swift counterpart to this book. But I think we all know the people that plan and outline and Gantt chart a project until it's not needed, superseded, or the company goes bankrupt. A bit of balance is well warranted, and Harford comes to the aid of the audacious and spontaneous. The other guys have their own defenders and, Harford would say, an unwarranted hold on our conscience.

Five stars! Superb!

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 11:38 AM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

Finally got around to reading this excellent RC. I find it validating and empowering. Like I need either of those. ;)

Posted by: johngalt at December 22, 2016 2:33 PM

December 16, 2016

In Fairness

I do enjoy our running discussion about autonomous vehicles. So many of our contretempses are based on opinion and abstract theory, but on this I enjoy being 100% right and the rest of you being 100% wrong. It feels good.

But, in fairness, I am sitting on some inculpatory information. This Sunday will see a five-star, glowing Review Corner for Tim Harford's Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives. It is a brilliant book that affects music, art, politics, business, technology, and personal lifestyle choices.

Don't wait for Review Corner: buy it or at least listen to Russ Roberts's EconTalk podcast with the author.

I'll have a lot to say and might miss "Chapter Seven: Flight 447 and the Jennifer Unit: When Human Messiness Protects Us from Computerized Disaster."

Recall that Earl Wiener said, "Digital devices tune out small errors while creating opportunities for large errors." 21 In the case of autopilots and autonomous vehicles, we might add that it's because digital devices tidily tune out small errors that they create the opportunities for large ones. Deprived of any awkward feedback, any modest challenges that might allow us to maintain our skills, when the crisis arrives we find ourselves lamentably unprepared.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb [Review Corner] would appreciate the fragility element. I don't think it substantively undercuts the argument for autonomous vehicles, but it is a concern that the computer -- as in Flight 447 -- does the easy stuff and then hands it off when things get bad. That is a legitimate concern: "oh we're all gonna die, you better take over."

UPDATE: I meant to include one more excerpt:

With fly-by-wire, it's much easier to assess whether the trade-off is worthwhile. Until the late 1970s, one could reliably expect at least twenty-five fatal commercial plane crashes a year. In 2009, Air France 447 was one of just eight crashes, a safety record. The cost-benefit analysis seems clear: freakish accidents like Flight 447 are a price worth paying, as the steady silicon hand of the computer has prevented many others.

Still, one cannot help but wonder if there is a way to combine the adaptability, judgment, and tacit knowledge of humans with the reliability of computers, reducing the accident rate even further.

Harford, Tim. Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives (pp. 198-199). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Technology Posted by John Kranz at 4:34 PM | What do you think? [7]
But jk thinks:

Too. Much. Fun.

I'll allot some sympathy for your emergency override. I believe you'll find me very agnostic about implementation. My fulsome devotion is to automation qua automation. I want two things, and I'll let you pick the details.

First, I want the productivity. Reading The Most Important Graph

First, there is no obvious reason why growth should not continue indefinitely—although future growth will likely be more dependent on technological change than in the past. In the West, for example, we cannot replicate the growth boost that resulted from the entry of large number of women (50 percent of the population) into the labor force.

I want that slope. Watch the TeeVee News' Helicopter view of a traffic jam -- even in modest little Denver -- and imagine those man-hours returned to productivity. Gimme that and you can design the rest of the box.

Secondly, I want the reduced body count. Even Harford admits a 25 to 8 reduction in fatal commercial plane crashes per year.

As for our unfortunate pedestrian (who didn't know he was 30' from certain death until he saw the clip on YouTube...) You want 100% I think my engineer buddy knows there is no 100%. But what if we get the same better-than-3X improvement that aircraft achieved? If you were 1/3 as likely to get hit by a computer than a person -- wouldn't you take that?

(And I bet they will not be popular until they are more like 10x, but why not start at 2:1?)

Posted by: jk at December 19, 2016 5:41 PM
But johngalt thinks:

It's not fair. Neither of us may like it, but that's the way it is. Robots don't get a free pass for "human error."

How about a compromise? The autodrive feature automatically disengages unless you are on a freeway or an onramp? Wouldn't that solve your traffic jam issue while leaving the complicated city driving to the higher level state engine?

Posted by: johngalt at December 19, 2016 7:19 PM
But jk thinks:

Wow -- I think we have the essence of our disagreement -- the proverbial crux of the biscuit! It is "Higher level state engine."

I have zero doubt that automated drivers will be far better than a great percentage of their human counterparts. Computers will be in the 90th percentile and not susceptible to inattention when a really hot human of favored gender is visible.

I accept your concern that you're a 95th percentile driver (curiously, everyone self-reports somewhere in there, but I'm not quibbling) and fear you are "stepping down." That is actually legitimate.

I also accept the Smithian (That's Will, not Adam) concern of "Enemy of the State" where the government can drive you to the Christian White Guy interment camps instead of Starbucks.

But do you really doubt that autonomous will be a lot safer, statistically, than human drivers? Should that be the case, I don't think we have an argument, they will not be allowed until proven far superior. As long as tort lawyers need Rolexes, natural forces will keep them limited until they are far far superior.

Posted by: jk at December 20, 2016 1:16 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I stand by my "Summer of oh-one-four" position:

I think I mentioned I love the tech. What I don't love is the implementation chosen by Google for demonstration purposes. I want the Dodge version of this... not the PRT version as envisioned by the DAWG promoting egalitarians at

Empowerment of the less mobile? Yaay.
Faster and safer travel? Yaay.
Legalized texting while driving? Yaay.

Just put my manual controls back in. That's all I ask. Well, and maybe a turbocharged V-something with 8-speed automatic paddle shifted transmission, independent active suspension and a tuned exhaust. Or an electric power plant with a thorium battery. And voice controls.

Posted by: johngalt at December 21, 2016 6:10 PM
But jk thinks:

Okay, we're good (and I seem to hold tightly with my '14 position).

I think my favorite model is an Uber with manual and automated controls. When possible, it uses automated control but in bad weather or a very complex environment it behaves just like today's vehicle.

Posted by: jk at December 21, 2016 6:38 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Now were singing from the same hymnal. How about a convertible? Two-seated? Sporty looks and handling? Sort of a "Mr. Uber?" ;)

Posted by: johngalt at December 22, 2016 10:33 AM


Not tired of winning just yet. Seriously, there are some incredible beneficial side effects of Trump's election. 1) The FCC will not run the Internet like a public utility:

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said Thursday that he’ll step down in January, and this is good news for innovation and freedom on the internet. Even better is that a near miss in the Senate will allow Republicans to start throwing off Obama Administration regulations soon after Jan. 20.

FCC chairmen traditionally resign when a new Administration arrives, but Mr. Wheeler had refused to say whether he’d depart the agency. In part this was a calculated play to convince Senate Republicans to reconfirm Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, whose term has expired. That would have left the FCC deadlocked at 2-2 next year, and perhaps a 3-2 Democratic majority if Mr. Wheeler reneged on a promise to leave.

I couldn't be happier to get rid of Chairman Wheeler. But, among the fretful, is not just lefties and democratic partisans. One of my Pro-GMO Facebook groups let out quite the cri de coeur OMG, Net Neutrality will be lifted by the eeevil Trump Billionaires!

I belong to a few of these. The memes are funny, but I am frequently reminded that we have shared interest but not shared philosophy. The love their capital-S Science, but a disturbing side-effect is their acceptance of authority. I accept our differences on Climate Change, but while I have been cheering several of President-elect Trump's personnel pix, they are universally disturbed that they are not the "experts" who got us where we are.

Why, of course, pointy-headed Ivy league graduates should run the Internet, right?

But johngalt thinks:

I was taken aback by FLOTUS' recent statement, "We're Feeling What Not Having Hope Feels Like" Post-Election.

Yes, Ms. Obama, that's what it feels like. To not have any hope that the future will be better. Many of us have been feeling it for the better part of the last eight years!

One man's ceiling is another man's floor, and so on.

Posted by: johngalt at December 16, 2016 4:44 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

I too, am mostly very happy with PeOdjTUS' appointments. I willing to watch'n see with Tillerson, and am also enjoying the continued schadenfreude over the liberals' lament on the lack of university presidents, foundation chairs, and WHO officials in the upcoming administration.

I paraphrase Conan: It is good to crush my enemies and to hear the lamentations of their women.

FLOTUS' despair will be Main Street's dynamo!

Posted by: nanobrewer at December 18, 2016 12:54 PM

December 15, 2016

All Hail Taranto!

So we have reached a point where the liberal left wants to throw out the results of an American election on the say-so of . . . the CIA! Frank Church must be turning in his grave. -- James Taranto
2016 Posted by John Kranz at 5:09 PM | What do you think? [0]

Newfangled Technology

I could not agree with my blog brother more fulsomely. In the face of direct video evidence of failure, development shall be halted to ensure that no human life is harmed.

We cannot allow these new-fangled gadgets to kill our children!!!!

Technology Posted by John Kranz at 4:31 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

If I had a big red graphic arrow I would point it downward from the top center of the frame. "Human Operator."

I don't object to vehicles operating autonomously, I only object to vehicles big enough to squish or lacerate me operating autonomously in public places. How long until we read of a UPS driver who runs an Ubermobile off the road to save lives?

Posted by: johngalt at December 15, 2016 6:13 PM

Gratuitous "Piling On"

What a relief that the latest "most important election in our lifetime" is over and we can get back to important debates, like the one over self-driving cars.

I don't know the maker but the operator is identified as "Uber." Right there at the ten second mark, Uber's self-driving Volvo wagon drives right through an intersection against a red light that a human operated car had already stopped for. Barely missing a pedestrian!

In its defense, Uber said the incident resulted from "human error." Rilly?

According to Uber, the cars aren't yet ready to be hit the streets without someone monitoring them, meaning someone from the company was likely behind the wheel. A statement issued by Uber Wednesday afternoon attributed the red-light being run in the video to an error by the person monitoring the car.

"This incident was due to human error," the statement read. "This is why we believe so much in making the roads safer by building self-driving Ubers. This vehicle was not part of the pilot and was not carrying customers. The driver involved has been suspended while we continue to investigate."

But, if self-driving Ubers are safer, why do they need a human monitoring them from behind the wheel in the first place? Perhaps that human driver isn't the only entity who warrants suspension.

Technology Posted by JohnGalt at 3:46 PM | What do you think? [3]
But jk thinks:

Barely? Two car lengths? The pedestrian does not even slow down.

Posted by: jk at December 15, 2016 4:43 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Without hyperbole, what kind of fake-news site would we be?

Seriously, "barely" is in the eye of the beholder. Is a pedestrian any less dead if she didn't see the train that hit her?

Why didn't the Ubermobile stop? My hypothesis is that the car that has the camera in it, stopped at the intersection, blocked its view of the signal on the left curb. [Werner Heisenberg, call your office.] But the violation is not excused. AI may be able to learn and even process for situations like this as well or better than humans. Until it can, however, jeeburz man, you gotta admit they belong on a test track.

And would you consent to at least a "panic button" for the poor passenger(s)?

Posted by: johngalt at December 15, 2016 6:10 PM
But jk thinks:

I hope I have not repeated this joke in this context but you know the old line "You don't have to be faster than the bear, you just have to be faster than the friend you're hiking with." Human drivers are HORRIBLE. Autonomous cars, by the time you really have to worry about encountering them will likely be 10 or 100 times safer than their human counterparts.

If you had not clarified that your extreme example of danger was an autonomous Uber, I would have thought it was "Boulder, on a Wednesday."

Posted by: jk at December 16, 2016 10:41 AM

Not the exact words I'd've used...

My pal and fellow #HappilySurprisedNeverTrump Shawn told me I am always free to share his FB posts.


I gotta say I have been blown away buy most of his personnel choices.

But johngalt thinks:

I tried to explain to Shawn (and anyone who would listen) that his Administration would be more than just his orange ass. I'm only glad to see it come to pass. No hard feelings, you #NeverTrump nincompoop.

Posted by: johngalt at December 15, 2016 6:53 PM
But Jk thinks:

You get some toldyasos on the personnel picks. Are you surprised to the upside?

Posted by: Jk at December 15, 2016 9:56 PM

December 13, 2016

A Limit to my Republicanism

My anti-majoritarian bona fides speak for themselves. In fact, the doctor says to let her know if they start telling me to do bad things...

I'd ditch the 17th Amendment in a heartbeat and I love the Electoral College. I even like the tale of the whimsical faithless elector in 1820 who voted for John Quincy Adams to prevent James Madison from repeating Washington's unanimous election. Oregon dude in 1876 less so.

But -- and I will stand still and take my rebuke like a software developer if you disagree -- I do not accept that some Unitarian Minister from Okidokkee County should truly be empowered to force his/her conscience on a nation's election. UnMadisonian? Perhaps.

There are close elections, though I do not think 2016 falls into that group. Accepting electoral votes requires a little explanation, but it is valid. In a close race, however, a faithless elector flipping the entire election would rightfully -- and I'm trying to avoid using the word shitstorm here* as vulgarity denotes the poorly expressive -- it would be a very bad thing.

As we've seen from Doctor Jill Stein, there is no shortage of money and emotion between an election and the electoral college. Whether by mischief, malfeasance, or misplaced conscience, that would be playing with fire. States should send votes and not electors.

* As I did not avoid barnyard vulgarity, this post is classified Rant.

Rant Posted by John Kranz at 4:01 PM | What do you think? [3]
But nanobrewer thinks:

I for one will stand up and say "Huh?" Minister whom? Now, if you're talking about Vaca and Nemanich, those two are scums, as Wayne Williams said in a veiled fashion. Nice to see them bashed down by a Clinton judge and a GOP SoS!

Posted by: nanobrewer at December 14, 2016 12:20 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I read Federalist #68 to see if there was any mention of the "will of the voters." There was not. Did the electors run under their own name, and state their own platform, as a proxy for casting a presidential ballot? It does not seem so. For them to act as such, today, particularly after the contretemps surrounding the 2016 Colorado GOP State Assembly (and its delegate process) seems outrageously ludicrous. And those attempting to be pragmatically non-democratic are ... Democrats?! No. When Democrats are the ones who all of a sudden preach "states rights" and "Constitutional originalism" then you know, something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Posted by: johngalt at December 14, 2016 12:11 PM
But jk thinks:
In Federalist No. 68, Hamilton wrote that discernment also depends on the electors being disinterested and insulated from political pressure. The virtue of the Electoral College is to raise "every practicable obstacle" against "cabal, intrigue, and corruption" and other "heats and ferments, which might be communicated from them to the people." In other words, the coordinated, partisan effort to mau-mau the electors is precisely the sort of politicking and political tampering that the Electoral College was designed to prevent. -- WSJ Ed Page
Posted by: jk at December 16, 2016 10:43 AM

December 12, 2016

Thucydides, Book Eight: Pencils Down!

When the news was brought to Athens for a long while they disbelieved even the most respectable of the soldiers who had themselves escaped from the scene of action and clearly reported the matter, a destruction so complete not being thought credible. When the conviction was forced upon them, they were angry with the orators who had joined in promoting the expedition, just as if they had not themselves voted it, and were enraged also with the reciters of oracles and soothsayers, and all other omenmongers of the time who had encouraged them to hope that they should conquer Sicily.[8.1]
The first surprise is that there is a Book Eight. Then Athenian military is thoroughly destroyed by the Syracuse campaign in Book Seven. Yet, she has allies, territory and money. Far fewer and less of each than at Pericles's funeral oration, but enough to rebuild some ships and throw a Hail Mary at the Hellespont, in the backyard of the Persian empire.
Nevertheless, with such means as they had, it was determined to resist to the last, and to provide timber and money, and to equip a fleet as they best could, to take steps to secure their confederates and above all Euboea, to reform things in the city upon a more economical footing, and to elect a board of elders to advise upon the state of affairs occasion should arise. [4] In short, as is the way of a democracy, in the panic of the moment they were ready to be as prudent as possible. [8.1]
With hopes for all out victory off the table, the next card to play is an alliance with "The King." Persia has been content to watch Sparta and Athens diminish each other and postpone any significant challenge from a united Hellenic power. Scholars have been rough on Thucydides for underplaying The King's influence. Like getting Dad involved to quiet an obstreperous brother, there is always a consideration that Persia could be brought into the conflict on one side or another. In the end, Persia does settle the conflict.

Yet The King's role is underplayed. Sparta and Athens allied to repel "The Mede" including the decisive battle at Thermopylae, then in Book Eight, a satrap named Tissaphernes negotiates with both sides rather duplicitously, biding his time to see the outcome of the naval battle at the Hellespont. The Athenian Polis is informed that no deal will be done with a messy and mercurial democracy. The survival plan is to install an oligarchy, instate Alcibiades as leader and form an alliance with Persia. The alternative is Spartan hegemony, which will not be cake and ice cream time for Athenians.

The People were at first highly irritated at the mention of an oligarchy, but upon understanding clearly from Pisander that this was the only resource left, they took counsel of their fears, and promised themselves some day to change the government again, and gave way. [2] They accordingly voted that Pisander should sail with ten others and make the best arrangement that they could with Tissaphernes and Alcibiades. [8.53]

After the Ten Years War, the interrupted seven years peace, nd the ill-advised adventure in Sicily, the war rages on in Asia. Athenian colonies are emboldened to revolt or seek a better deal on the Lacedaemonian side. Sparta has the chance to deliver the killing blow in the Hellespont in a huge naval battle with substantive allied support on both sides. During the intrigue, Athens and Allies are victorious, defeating though not routing a massive Peloponnesian fleet.

they sent off a trireme to Athens with the news of their victory. [5] The arrival of this vessel with its unhoped-for good news, after the recent disasters of Euboea, and during the revolution at Athens, gave fresh courage to the Athenians, and caused them to believe that if they put their shoulders to the wheel their cause might yet prevail. [8.105]

Athens presses on, but Thucydides's history stops abruptly. It is not a knock at the door which stopped Coleridge, for it is obvious from previous passages that the good General knows the outcome. But the narrative ends in Book Eight, with six years of conflict remaining. Robert Strassler provides a brief Epilog
Victorious Sparta, after initially contemplating the total destruction of her defeated adversary, finally decided that Athens would be allowed to continue to exist as a city, but demanded the surrender of what remained of her fleet, the demolition of the walls of Piraeus and the Long Walls, and the granting of complete freedom to the former subject cities of what had been the Athenian Empire. Now supreme in Greece, Sparta thus reduced Athens to a state of isolation, weakness, and dependency which must have been dreadful indeed to the writer of Pericles' Funeral Oration.

It is good, sometimes, to not be a scholar. Thucydides tells us much about human nature. What is true for 2400 years, what was true before the Roman Empire, and what was true before the Industrial Revolution -- if it remains today, is true. The perils of democracy and the perils of anarchy are spelled out as well.
The polis, a uniquely Greek phenomenon, had developed and flowered in the particular circumstances of the eighth, seventh, and early sixth centuries when, as Thucydides noted (1.12-19), there were no great wars, powerful states, or large-scale enterprises in the Greek world. The key institutions of the polis-- an agrarian economy, many owners of small plots of land, rule by a restricted list of citizen voters, and hoplite warfare-- to which most Greeks remained deeply attached throughout the period-- were not seriously challenged by the outside world until the encroachments and invasions of Persia in the late sixth and early fifth centuries. Although the Greeks threw back the Persians in the first half of the fifth century, they did so through leagues and alliances that proved inimical to the total autonomy, and incompatible with the local focus, that were so central to the classical polis.

Thucydides. The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War (Kindle Locations 13106-13112). Free Press. Kindle Edition. .

This Might be a Very Good Week

Afflicting the afflicted:

FB Fried posts an Occupy Democrats meme with a photo of smoggy, yellow, Sepia-toned Manhattan in 1973 and crystal clear, post card Manhattan today. Text: "I'm sharing this in case you think environmental regulations AREN'T necessary."

Under is bla bla bla "So why then do the Koch brothers and the Republican Tea Party want to take us back to a time before sensible air pollution controls?"


And it's only Monday...

Rant Posted by John Kranz at 9:50 AM | What do you think? [5]
But johngalt thinks:

You are, obviously, totally and completely insane. Look how many words ending with "-ion" that you used. Obviously you think too much. Nutball.

Posted by: johngalt at December 12, 2016 3:19 PM
But jk thinks:

He actually came back and tried to pick it up. I replied again and received "You are insane. get help.

I wish he had because I think it is important. My first tussle with this guy was over the Shirtwaist Triangle factory. The 40 hour work week and weekends are thanks to union. My company would not provide safe working conditions without OSHA. Software engineers would make 50 cents an hour without minimum wage. And so on.

Every good thing is a product of legislation -- of course we want more of it! The ACA! Dodd-Frank! The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau! Please, Sir, may we have more?

I don't mind his calling me insane. He read an entire Randy Barnett book and just called him "slimy" for supporting Drug legalization. It seems the guy who argued Raich in front of the Supreme Court. Is just saying that to make us think he's a cool kid. No other comments.

Too bad: a bright fellow in many ways.

Posted by: jk at December 12, 2016 4:57 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Would there be lemonade stands if government didn't make laws to require them?

Okay, maybe not a clear enough example.

Which came first, jobs or employment law?

What keeps professional athletes from being paid minimum wage?

If someone offered you more money to do the same job somewhere else, all other things being equal, would you quit your job and take the new one?

If you can do that, why can't an employer fire you and hire someone who will do the same job for less?

Does society "owe" ever person a job at a wage that makes him happy?

Do jobs grow on trees, right next to money?

Who's the insane one now?

Posted by: johngalt at December 12, 2016 5:21 PM
But jk thinks:

I do not have high hopes.

The one I tried on our first parry was Tom Woods's: Imagine if overnight all employment regulation from the previous hundred years vanishes but all capital equipment and innovation stays. Would you job change?

Now imagine, that all wealth and innovation in the last hundred years disappears. Would any employment law save your lifestyle?

It is capital that saves labor's bacon. The weekend was brought to you by the forklift, not the box carriers' union.

That went nowhere. He's not big on thought exercises and hypotheticals. Again, sad, I actually found a guy who would read a Randy Barnett book. He would just not consider any of its ideas.

Posted by: jk at December 12, 2016 5:47 PM
But johngalt thinks:

" case you think environmental regulations AREN'T necessary."

In the sixties and seventies, they were necessary.

Legislation and technical fixes were a start in the battle for clean air, but no magic solutions were achieved overnight. The automobile and oil industries continued to resist tougher standards. The public paid homage to clean air but resented carrying the burden of responsibility through higher costs and reduced automobile performance. Cities groped with ways to keep air quality from diminishing further. But as long as Americans cherished the automobile, emissions problems would remain. The intimacy between the individual and an energy source was nowhere more apparent than in the relationship between Americans and their cars.

The question of the day, however, is this: If the pollution crisis is under control, what sense does it make to impose uneconomical requirements to target the last one percent of pollutants?

Posted by: johngalt at December 13, 2016 11:35 AM

December 9, 2016

"Hate Speech" Show Trial

"Putting this son of a bitch in jail is suicide. He has to sign or we'll never get that metal."

"No, we need an example, not a martyr."

"We can't set a precedent here. Not with this man."


Those are the pivotal lines in this scene from the movie adaptation of a favorite book. The end of the scene came to mind when I read about the verdict in the just completed trial of Geert Wilders on the charge of "hate speech."

Populist anti-Islam Dutch MP Geert Wilders has declared that he and his voters are not racist, despite being found guilty on Friday of discrimination against Moroccans.

He was acquitted of hate-speech in a closely watched trial ahead of next year's key election.

In their verdict, the judges said 'the inflammatory character of the way in which the statements were made have incited others to discriminate people of Moroccan origin.'

But they added that there was 'insufficient evidence' that his words at an election rally in 2014 amounted to incitement to hatred.

The judges also dismissed the prosecution's request to impose a 5,000 euro fine on the far-right MP, whose Freedom Party (PVV) is eyeing an upset victory in the March 2017 polls.

'In this case, the most important question is whether Wilders has crossed a line. This judgement has answered that question,' the judges said in their verdict.

'Therewith, the chamber finds that justice has been done. Consequently, no punishment is imposed.'

"Not a martyr" indeed.

Wilders, 53, immediately gave notice that he intended to appeal his conviction, as he believed it was 'a big loss for freedom of speech.'

The most recent opinion polls predict the PVV will top the vote, saying it could seize 34 seats in the 150-seat lower house of Dutch parliament, some 10 seats ahead of his nearest rival, Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberals.

Rather than hurting the controversial lawmaker, observers say his trial has boosted his popularity among Dutch voters, worried about the influx of immigrants and driven by eurosceptic sentiments.

December 8, 2016

Dakota Pipeline - Why do they stay?

As winter approaches, in the wake of an Army Corps of Engineers announcement that it is investigating alternative routes for the DAPL, and with tribal chairman Archambault imploring that they "head home" the agitators at the intended river crossing site are pledging to remain where they are. From a CNN article:

"The call to service and to help Mother Earth is a huge honor," Calderon says. And the Army Corps announcement about rerouting the pipeline doesn't change a thing.

"We're still sticking it out and hoping that what they say is true and that there's no sneaky business going on," Calderon says. "We'll stay here until we're told otherwise."

Which I take Mr. Calderon to mean "We'll stay here until we're sure that "there's no sneaky business going on." And by "sneaky business" he means, constructing a pipeline.

But what does it mean, exactly, to "help Mother Earth?" It means this:

But despite [Indian novelist Amitav] Ghosh's dark sense of realism about our political options, he still manages to find hope in surprising places. "The very speed with which the crisis is now unfolding," he notes, might save many parts of the world from the destructive social and cultural consequences of the Great Acceleration. Still more provocatively, Ghosh proposes that religious traditions might offer the most effective social basis for popular resistance. Ghosh observes that religious movements could "mobilize people in far greater numbers" than secular organizations. Religious belief reaches beyond the boundaries of nation states and embraces "intergenerational, long-term responsibilities" that "do not partake of economistic ways of thinking." Indeed, the "idea of the sacred" involves an "acceptance of limits and limitations" that strongly resembles the ethos of stewardship and simple living central to radical forms of climate justice. Could it be that religious belief, with its appreciation of "nonlinear change" (i.e., apocalypse and planetary disaster), might be our best resource in breaking the spell of Holocene thought?

Some translations are in order, to fully recognize what the author is saying.

The "Great Acceleration" propelled by "economistic ways of thinking" is what you and I might call... prosperity.

The "ethos of stewardship and simple living" is a monastic tendency, featuring an "acceptance of limits and limitations" on human beings. Essentially, the opposite of prosperity.

It has long been observed that environmental extremism has morphed into a cult-like religious pursuit. And it's no accident that the DAPL agitators chose "medicine man and spiritual leader" Leonard Crow Dog to participate in their staged guilt-building exercise on Monday.

Also this week, Donald Trump was named Time Magazine's "Man of the Year." They dubbed him the "President of the Divided States of America." To the extent that characterization is a fitting one, the division is between two competing moralities - Liberal economic prosperity and human rights, on the one side, and a zealous mobilization to impose the limits of "simple living" upon everyone. Between these two visions for mankind, President Elect Trump falls into the "liberal" camp.

But johngalt thinks:

Yes, the Kevin Cramer editorial in WSJ is excellent. I had read it too. He channeled Three Sources:

The Obama administration has decided to build a political legacy rather than lead the country. It is facilitating an illegal occupation that has grown wildly out of control. That the economy depends on a consistent and predictable permitting regime seems never to have crossed the president's mind.
Posted by: johngalt at December 9, 2016 11:37 AM
But jk thinks:

I too loved "Dances..." And I recently re-watched the splendiferously awesome Hatfields and McCoys miniseries. I remarked that it is inherently unfair -- whichever side Kevin Costner is cast into will be perceived as the heroic side and will get audience sympathy.

I just see my conservative friends #StandingWithBlackRock Addressing energy needs, rule-of-law, and public opinion will be fraught with peril.

Political archeologists will write dissertations on "Mocking the disabled reporter." It will outlast the "Daisy Ad." I am astonished at how central it was to the Clinton campaign. I saw several commercials specifically on it, and recently a Facebook that claimed "that was all you needed to know" to oppose Trump.

I -- a disabled-American -- found it a stretch all along. It was at worst a three second mistake. What makes me laugh is that the target was a powerful reporter who had attacked him.

We've elected a few "nice" Presidents, but a quick gander through a history book shows that lack is not disqualifying.

Posted by: jk at December 9, 2016 12:36 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

You've gone three levels down in the segue swamp. What reporter? Was he at the pipeline protests?

Posted by: nanobrewer at December 10, 2016 1:37 AM
But jk thinks:

Kids, don't try this at home -- these are professional dissemblers. :)

"Trump Mocks disabled reporter" provides 2,090,000 Hits on Bing® Here's a WaPo video.

Posted by: jk at December 10, 2016 12:32 PM
But johngalt thinks:

And yet, I'll take 84-plus percent agreement every time. Thanks!

Posted by: johngalt at December 12, 2016 3:20 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Here's the explanation I read - Trump mocked the reporter, but not by mimicking his disability.

Conclusion: Media manipulation makes us believe things that aren't so. That Donald Trump hasn't been savaged worse than he was is miraculous. Maybe they held some punches because they didn't know the Russians were actually going to succeed in "stealing the election" for him.

Posted by: johngalt at December 12, 2016 3:31 PM

Adam Wins the Internet

I do whine about Facebook Friends. But then there's this:


On the web Posted by John Kranz at 10:05 AM | What do you think? [0]

December 6, 2016

#DAPL Me This... Vol III?

Chairman David Archambault, of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, continues to maintain that the most meticulously engineered and constructed oil pipeline to be routed eighty-odd feet below the Missouri riverbed poses a threat to that community's water supply. This, despite said water supply inlet being moved fifty miles further down river and feeding a brand new $30 million water treatment complex exclusively for the Standing Rock Sioux community.

"Just because the new intake is 70 miles away doesn't mean our water is still not threatened," said David Archambault, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

The project, which has received little attention in the months-long fight over the Dakota Access pipeline, has been a goal for the Sioux for more than a decade. It was first funded in 2009.

The funding for the water works came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act - that's "The Stimulus Bill" for those who remember it. It was part of a $500 million dollar investment in projects specifically for the benefit of America's native tribal descendent populations.

As for the "threat" to the water, one begins to suspect the only solution the chairman and the climate activists will be pleased with is the "keep it in the ground" solution - No pipeline... No fracking... No oil for thankful and prosperous human customers. A Hoover Institution senior fellow has dubbed this the "Indian Energy Wars."

But the biggest foe for the Standing Rock Sioux is the federal government itself, entrusted with protecting Indians since Chief Justice John Marshall declared Indians "wards" of the state in 1832. After the first Indian Wars, the federal government signed treaties setting aside 43,000 square miles as the Great Sioux Nation. That territory would include much of the DAPL route. However, in 1889, it "repossessed" much of the territory opening it for white settlement and creating the private lands on which the pipeline will be built. Since then, the federal government has nothing to give Native Americans confidence in their trustee.

A paper by 3 Texas A&M political scientists, forthcoming in the Policies Studies Journal, shows how "paternalistic control over Indian nations" has failed to protect tribal water quality under the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act supposedly enforced by the EPA. Comparing regulatory compliance and enforcement on and off reservation, they find 125 percent more management violations and 57 percent more health violations for tribal water utilities under.

American Indians have a right to be fearful that projects such as the DAPL could violate their rights to land and water, but their fear would be better focused on the "Great White Father."

December 5, 2016

#DAPL me this... Vol II

WSJ News Pages:

A day after the Obama administration put the brakes on a Midwest oil pipeline by denying a permit needed to finish the route, a spokesman for President-elect Donald Trump said the incoming administration supports completing the project.

"With regard to the Dakota Access Pipeline, that'ss something that we support construction of and we'll review the full situation when we're in the White House and make the appropriate determination at that time," said Jason Miller, a spokesman for Mr. Trump.

On Sunday, celebrations at a protest camp in North Dakota among pipeline opponents led by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe erupted after the Department of the Army said it wouldn't grant an easement required by Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners LP to cross beneath a Missouri River reservoir, the final 1,100-foot link to be built in the nearly 1,200-mile pipeline.

That would be the right thing to do -- and very unpopular. Here's to January!

But johngalt thinks:

If I were the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners I would immediately begin construction of a connecting pipeline section, that passes OVER the river instead.

Posted by: johngalt at December 5, 2016 9:07 PM

I Can't Tell You How Disturbing an Idea that is

Do you get tired of my constant appeals to listen to Russ Roberts's EconTalk?


Seriously, you must find time to listen to this. His guest is Thomas Leonard, discussing his book "Illiberal Reformers." One is reminded of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism [Partial Review Corner] in that he exposes the startling racism and misanthropy of the Progressive movement. The Headline is a quote by Russ Roberts (~51:00), after reading a Woodrow Wilson quote.

So funny that we microscopically parse modern words and judge 18th Century founders to expose racism. But these truly disturbing comments by a US President "50 years after Appomattox" as Roberts notes, are stunning.

December 4, 2016

Thucydides, Book Seven: Annihilation

For this was by far the greatest reverse that ever befell an Hellenic army. They had come to enslave others, and were departing in fear of being enslaved themselves: they had sailed out with prayer and paeans, and now started to go back with omens directly contrary; traveling by land instead of by sea, and trusting not in their fleet but in their hoplites. Nevertheless the greatness of the danger still impending made all this appear tolerable. [7.74]
Sicilian-American Louis Prima performed a novelty song called "There'll Be No Next Time" as a duet with his long-time Saxophonist Sam Butera. Sam tells the story of his escaping unpaid rent and "failure to support." When he mentions going to the airport, Louis says "Uh-oh," and admonishes him later: "You shouldn't have gone to the airport, Sam." Well, "You shouldn't have gone to Sicily, Alcibiades."

As mentioned in Book Six [Review Corner], the decision for the Sicilian/Syracusan was hard fought, but decided without full knowledge. Blog-friend (and my ticket to the esteemed roundtable) tg reminds that "History is written by the losers." While the style of Thucydides' history is contemporaneous, he frequently tips his hand that he knows the ending. His account terminates abruptly with several years left. But there are several clues in the extant text were clearly written after the war ended. He clearly puts his thumb on the scale in Book Six, in full knowledge of the events of Book Seven.

Had Alcibiades's optimistic estimations come to pass, the Syracuse campaign would be remembered for its courage and audacity. Instead, it parallels Sam Butera's fateful decision to "go to the airport."

Book Six closes with swift early victories by Athens's large and well-trained forces. Scared Syracusans are negotiating surrender terms when word comes of reinforcements from Sparta and Corinth. Athens's prowess prevails at the first sea battle, but a disastrous reverse loses hard won land territory, and important stores and base capacity at the fort of Plemmyrium.

Indeed the first and foremost cause of the ruin of the Athenian army was the capture of Plemmyrium; even the entrance of the harbor being now no longer safe for carrying in provisions, as the Syracusan vessels were stationed there to prevent it, and nothing could be brought in without fighting; [7.24]

Nicias sends word to Athens. Knowing that the herald will have incentive to sanitize the message for his own safety and comfort, he takes the unusual step of writing the exact text to be delivered.
For I understand that they contemplate a combined attack upon our lines with their land forces and with their fleet by sea. [3] You must none of you be surprised that I say by sea also. They have discovered that the length of time we have now been in commission has rotted our ships and wasted our crews, and that with the completeness of our crews and the soundness of our ships the pristine efficiency of our navy has departed. [7.12]

Triremes are not battleships. They must be dried on shore and they offer little room or comfort for personnel. A large army at sea in triremes is even more besieged that a city under circumvallation. They get a chance to escape, but discard it for omens. The secular Thucydides relates:
All was at last ready, and they were on the point of sailing away when an eclipse of the moon, which was then at the full, took place. Most of the Athenians, deeply impressed by this occurrence, now urged the generals to wait; and Nicias, who was somewhat overaddicted to divination and practices of that kind, refused from that moment even to take the question of departure into consideration, until they had waited the thrice nine days prescribed by the soothsayers. [7.49]

Instead of escape, reinforcements arrive, and the Syracusan navy both learns from its mistakes and implements technological changes to her ships making them better suited to combat in the narrower spaces of the city's smaller harbors.

Nicias prepares his troops.

"Soldiers of the Athenians and of the allies, we have all an equal interest in the coming struggle, in which life and country are at stake for us quite as much as they can be for the enemy; since if our fleet wins the day, each can see his native city again, wherever that city may be. [2] You must not lose heart, or be like men without any experience, who fail in a first attempt, and ever afterwards fearfully expect a future as disastrous. [3] But let the Athenians among you who have already had experience of many wars, and the allies who have joined us in so many expeditions, remember the surprises of war, and with the hope that fortune will not be always against us [7.60]

Fortune remains rather unfriendly. If not the eclipse, being outnumbered and stranded far from home in a hostile environment. Nicias and Demosthenes are routed at sea and cornered in land against overwhelming force.
After this, Nicias and Demosthenes now thinking that enough had been done in the way of preparation, the departure of the army took place upon the second day after the sea fight. [2] It was a lamentable scene, not merely from the single circumstance that they were retreating after having lost all their ships, their great hopes gone, and themselves and their state in peril; but also in leaving the camp there were things most grievous for every eye and heart to contemplate. [3] The dead lay unburied, and each man as he recognized a friend among them shuddered with grief and horror; while the living whom they were leaving behind, wounded or sick, were to the living far more shocking than the dead, and more to be pitied than those who had perished. [7.74]

The Athenians know little mercy will be afforded on surrender and most elect to die in place. Nicias makes pains to surrender directly to the Spartan General Gyliippus to negotiate merciful treatment of his men, but this does not come to pass. Nicias and Demosthenes are executed (to Thucydides' distaste) and some seven thousand are thrown in a pit with the wounded, sick, and dead with no shelter, minimal water and food, no sanitation. Any that survived in eight months were sold as slaves.
This was the greatest Hellenic achievement of any in this war, or, in my opinion, in Hellenic history; at once most glorious to the victors, and most calamitous to the conquered. [6] They were beaten at all points and altogether; all that they suffered was great; they were destroyed, as the saying is, with a total destruction, their fleet, their army-- everything was destroyed, and few out of many returned home. Such were the events in Sicily. [7.87]

"Shouldn't have gone to the airport, Sam."

December 2, 2016

#DAPL me this...

An interesting piece in FEE: Josh Siegel wonders Are Environmentalists Hijacking the Concerns of Native Americans?

I'm too big a man to share spoilers, but

This is a very good opportunity for them because the best way to bankrupt fossil fuel companies is to target the supply chain--the modes of transportation. Some tribe members think their issues are being hijacked. For them, this is not a war on fossil fuel. It's a specific argument about not honoring the historical practices of Native Americans and about rerouting this particular pipeline.

I've been very strident on this topic. The "numinous Native American" shtick drives me mad. Siegel lays out facts, but is much more fair than I, willing to see the conflict as part of larger historical list of legitimate grievances.
Aseem Prakash, director of the Center for Environmental Politics at the University of Washington, contends that the Standing Rock tribe's stake in the conflict reflects deeper-seated grievances of Native Americans.

"The American Indian community, at least some sections of it, is aggrieved over the years about injustices, essentially the notion being--right or wrong--that their preferences are not taken into account seriously," Prakash told The Daily Signal in an interview. "The Dakota pipeline is epitomizing their perspective of injustice."

Though the pipeline goes through private land and not Native American property, the tribe contends this land was acquired improperly and actually belongs to them by the terms of a 1851 treaty with the U.S. government.

I highly recommend the article. Everything I have seen to date is completely one-sided: the protesters all are either Gandhi or Beelzebub. This is FEE, I don't think my lefty friends would accept it as unbiased, but it is one of the better accounts I have seen.

But johngalt thinks:

But of course they are! "It's for the first Americans" is in third place, behind "it's for the children" and "it's for the animals" on the list of sympathetic social justice ploys.

Here's the real question: If mountains of state and federal regulations and permits do not grant a guarantee, or at least a reasonable assurance, that a $3.7Bn project can reach completion then why do we have such permits?

Energy Transfer Partners has property rights too. It is government's purpose to protect those rights.

Posted by: johngalt at December 5, 2016 2:56 PM
But jk thinks:

Just when I think I have inured to life in a banana republic... It felt like a kick in the stomach to hear that this has been stayed.

Carrier stays, the pipeline goes. And Francisco d'Anconia is proven correct.

Posted by: jk at December 5, 2016 3:29 PM

Your Social Media for Today

Imma just leave this here...

The simple truth: Obama is just too intelligent for Republicans to understand.

But johngalt thinks:

Apparently, judging from the election result, he's "just too intelligent" for unaffiliated voters to understand either.

Posted by: johngalt at December 2, 2016 3:10 PM
But dagny thinks:

There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.
― Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Posted by: dagny at December 2, 2016 3:47 PM
But jk thinks:

"The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design." -- F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit

Posted by: jk at December 2, 2016 4:21 PM
But johngalt thinks:

"When you die, you don't know. It's only hard for those who know you.

It's the same with stupid."

Posted by: johngalt at December 2, 2016 6:51 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:
It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so.
- RWR Posted by: nanobrewer at December 6, 2016 11:34 PM

Awesome Pick!

Fair and balanced. I've got some very kind words for President-elect Trump. He continues to impress in his cabinet appointments. A Defense Secretary whose nickname is "Mad Dog?" I've got enough neocon blood pumping through my arteries to find that empowering.

But the jewel in the crown is Colorado's self-described MILF (Umm, that's "Mothers In Love with Fracking") Amy Oliver Cooke of the Independence Instiotue. Cooke has been named to the EPA transition team.

Cooke is exactly the right person to join Myron Ebell, another free-market thinker, in transforming the wayward EPA from a power-hungry bureaucracy that does more damage than good, into an agency that serves rather than subjugates taxpayers.

Cooke has been tenacious in questioning and criticizing some of President Obama's key policies enforced by the EPA. She also nailed Gov. Hickenlooper for supporting Obama's so-called Clean Power Plan that threatens to cripple the state's energy industry.

Could not get a better person involved. This is a five star pick.

Tired of Winning

Hmm, that would've a better category title than "Trump Agonistes."

I must weigh negatively on the Carrier "save." Hell, for $7million, I'll move "" to Indiana. But a lefty friend posted a link the other day saying "I'm waiting to hear my Republican friends decry this abuse of the free market." My response started with "You should get out more, bro..."

I'll let my pals and intellectual superiors at the WSJ Ed Page say it:

A giant flaw in President Obama's economic policy has been the politicized allocation of capital, from green energy to housing. Donald Trump suffers from a similar industrial-policy temptation, as we've seen this week with his arm-twisting of Carrier to change its decision to move a plant to Mexico from Indiana.

Carrier announced Wednesday that it will retain about 1,000 jobs in Indianapolis that would have moved to Mexico over the next three years, and on Thursday Mr. Trump held a rally at the plant and claimed political credit. The President-elect had made Carrier a piñata for his trade politics during the campaign, and post-election he lobbied Gregory Hayes, the CEO of United Technologies Corp. (UTC) that owns Carrier, to reconsider.

Everyone--even the Obama White House--is hailing the move as a great political victory, and in the short term it is for those Indianapolis workers, who make more than $20 an hour on average. But as U.S. auto workers have learned the hard way, real job security depends on the profitability of the business. Carrier wanted to move the production line to Mexico to stay competitive in the market for gas furnaces. If the extra costs of staying in Indianapolis erode that business, those workers will lose their jobs eventually in any case.

Trump has a much better play to #MAGA. His superb energy policy will keep energy costs down and make the US incredibly attractive for manufacturing. No cronyism necessary.

UPDATE: Tyler Cowen, interviewed on NPR

Trump Agonistes Posted by John Kranz at 11:39 AM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

Along with reduction of the corporate income tax. But those things must wait until the MAGA Administration is actually sworn in. The Carrier "deal" was actually sweetened by Indiana's governor, using Indiana policy provisions. Astute readers will recognize that Indiana's governor is the President Elect's Vice President Elect.

May we* please refrain from blaming the incoming president for bad policy until he is actually sworn in as president? There will be plenty of time and, surely, plenty to [rightly] criticize.

* The "royal" we, not implicating my favorite blog brother.

Posted by: johngalt at December 2, 2016 3:07 PM
But jk thinks:

I leap to my own defense on this one. Am I wrong that the President-Elect is taking something of a victory lap for this? His supporters -- excepting perhaps my favorite blog brother -- seem to be.

Posted by: jk at December 2, 2016 3:20 PM
But johngalt thinks:

No, you aren't wrong. It was a campaign promise, and because of the persuasive words of the "world's greatest dealmaker" it has been fulfilled, at least in part, at least at one factory. A factory that he made an example of in said campaign.

I call it "watered-down cronyism" because it uses targeted tax relief, rather than the 100 percent evil government subsidy. I have called it a "transitional act" elsewhere. It was an expedient way to satisfy his supporters, even if it doesn't please market purists. It's nothing that isn't done every day, in cities and towns across the country, in their misguided attempts to attract industry (and thus jobs and tax revenues.) Which doesn't excuse the president elect from criticism, but does leave open the possibility that it is the momentary exception to the pending administration's rule.

Pollyanna much? Yeah. Quite a bit.

Posted by: johngalt at December 2, 2016 6:58 PM

Barone's Law Porved Inviolate

[Michael] Barone's Law: "All procedural arguments are insincere."

Kim Strassel has a little too much fun today, hurling Democrats' sincerest October arguments back at them in December. Assuming a Clinton "mandate," Senators Charles Schumer (Flexible - NY) and Amy Klobuchar (Skybox at Vikings - MN) were quite concerned about Republicans' potential obstructionism against all the necessary appointments and governmental needs of the administration.

Regrets? Delaware Sen. Chris Coons has a few--and not too few to mention. At the top of his list is his party's decision in 2013 to blow up the filibuster for most presidential nominees.

"Many of us will regret that in this Congress," a dejected Mr. Coons told CNN on Tuesday. "Because it would have been a terrific speed bump, potential emergency brake, to have in our system to slow down the confirmation of extreme nominees."

Huh. If only the founders had thought of that emergency brake...
Cue Sinatra and "My Way." That's how former Senate leader Harry Reid, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and President Obama ruled for eight years. They planned each charted course, each careful step. Now, they're not finding it so amusing.

Worry not, Senator Schumer is nothing if not flexible. He has no intention of listening to that October-Schumer-guy, who clearly didn't know what the hell he was talking about.
Some might describe electoral dominance as owning the White House, and the Senate, and the House, and 33 governorships and 68 (of 98) state legislative chambers. But Mr. Schumer now regrets his definition. In a recent ABC News story, he said Mr. Trump's victory is "not a mandate" and that his Democratic Party remains free to "go after him tooth and nail."

CODA: Ascertaining "Barone's Law," part of the layers and layers of fact checking you expect at ThreeSources, I found this article which begins "Kimberley Strassel has a good column in the Wall Street Journal today, pointing out that House Democrats who are criticizing and ridiculing[...]" It's from 2014. Clearly Barone's law is timeless.

115th Congress Posted by John Kranz at 11:09 AM | What do you think? [0]

December 1, 2016

A Crowdsourced GOP

The GOP has been touted as the "big tent" party. None other than William F. Buckley Jr. promoted political pragmatism in the ranks when he said the Republicans' goal should be to "choose the most conservative candidate who can win the election" rather than apply some litmus test or another to everyone who asked for our nomination.

The 2016 elections, primary and general, saw a relatively new paradigm supercede the traditional way of doing things - at least in one party. (Hint: It was the party that won.) That paradigm was political crowdsourcing.

Trump economic advisor Stephen Moore takes to the Investors' Editorial Page for a victory lap:

Trade and immigration are unambiguously good for the country - but they will have to be done in ways that are supported by the American people, not shoved down our throats by the elites. In this way, I am more of a populist.

The elites in both parties have never understood Trumpism and often are contemptuous of the intellect and lifestyles of the Trump loyalists.

Conservatives should go back and read Jude Wanniski's classic "The Way the World Works." Wanniski reminds us over and over again of the lesson of history that there is great collective wisdom in the decisions made by the American voters. It's not often wise to second-guess them, but rather to listen to what they are saying.

A lot of good things come with the Trump package. Probably three conservative justices on the Supreme Court, the biggest tax cut and assault against regulatory overreach since the Reagan era, spending cuts, ObamaCare repeal, enterprise zones for inner cities, vouchers for kids in failing schools, and so on. But it's a package deal, folks. If you want purity, vote for Ron Paul for president again and see where that gets you.

Elitario Delenda Est?

But it is a new Republican party, and a new political and policy era has begun. What Donald Trump achieved on election night was to topple the legacies of three family dynasties all at once: the Clintons, the Bushes and the Obamas. They were the troika of big losers in 2016. Trump didn't topple the Reagan legacy of growth, optimism and peace through strength.

If the Age of Trump is to be a success, he will build on and modernize that legacy.

But jk thinks:

Hoping for the best. Yet, would you not agree that Republicanism rests on a mixture of elites and "demos?"

Nobody loves to bash the pointy-heads much more than me. But that does not mean that I want the populist elements to get their way on everything. I'm pretty cozy with the pointy-heads at the WSJ Ed Page on economics, but roll my eyes at their Newyawkeh positions on forearms.

I'm hardwired to rail against plebiscitary democracy, but was reminded by a good Republican speaker at Liberty on the Rocks -- Flatirons that most of Colorado's best freedom-based laws have come from citizen initiatives.

It's tough, but economics proves -- and I don't use the word lightly -- many counter-intuitive things that the average laid-off steel worker may not have encountered.

We're back to Hamilton - Jefferson and I am firmly convinced we need draw from both.

Posted by: jk at December 2, 2016 3:35 PM

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