Saturday, 6 February 2016

$170 Trillion Markdown on Oil Reserves

At my shop in the Okanagan, I've been running into skilled Alberta people looking for work.  That never happened before.

Proven oil reserves in the world: >1.7 trillion barrels.
The market value of that oil declined by $100/barrel in the last18 months.
$170 trillion US$ that people were borrowing and lending on has disappeared.

Wikipedia:  GDP of the world economy in 2014 =  $77 trillion. 
The lesser is moved by the greater.  This has got to matter.

And from Zero Hedge:  "Dallas Fed Quietly Suspends Energy Mark-To-Market On Default Contagion Fears".

Baby names rate the Presidents. Hillary is Toast.

This baby name chart has two surprises.  Listed is baby name popularity matched up to the terms of Presidents and their First Ladies.  Two stand out with a flash-in-the-pan mania followed by active revulsion:    Bill Clinton's wife and Michelle Obama's husband.  Conclusion:  Hillary will be bumped by Biden or Sanders for 2016.  All the other names show the normal decline in popularity as older people tend to have names that have gone out of fashion.  No adulatory bump for them.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Insufficient Opportunities For Graft

Politicians are individuals.  "What is best for me?" decides the vote.  "What is best for me?" decides the vote for brainy and dorky ones, for radical and stodgy ones, and for you and me, too.  This won't change and that's the good news.    You can count on self interest.  Good policy exploits it and bad policy conceals self interest from public view.

Notes from Glenn Reynolds' USA Today column:  Rapid transit will trump buses because there are more opportunities for graft.  Bus routes can be set up in a day and changed the day after.   LRT trains and subways involve years of construction contracts and jobs and can't be taken away by a second vote.  They bump the value of real estate by tens of millions along the route and around stations.  A lot of players bringing gifts want to cozy up to a politician who will vote for LRT and almost none cozy up for the bus vote.  The projects raise tax revenue.  They make headlines for the politicians where a bus line won't.  Bus lines are more flexible and cheaper but have fewer opportunities to advance a politician's self worth.

In summary: 
"This analysis goes far beyond buses. The explanation for why politicians don’t do all sorts of reasonable-sounding things usually boils down to “insufficient opportunities for graft.” And, conversely, the reason why politicians choose to do many of the things that they do is ... you guessed it, sufficient opportunities for graft.

That graft may come in the form of bags of cash, or shady real-estate deals, or “consulting” gigs for a brother-in-law or child, but it may also come in broader terms of political support and even in opportunities for politicians to feel superior or to humiliate their enemies. What all these things have in common, though, is that they’re not about making life better for voters. They’re about making life better for politicians."
My cure is letting more self-interested voters in to compete for the spoils. That's the beauty of the eWorld.  It's not cynical to rely on human nature, because you can always count on it.
Good decisions have some of the gold coloured virtues on the winning side.
A better picture shows self interest represented in hundreds and even
thousands on both sides of the balances,
like a Massive Online Open Game

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Vulgar is good. Another Trump-themed post.

Trump gets schlonged with the term, "Vulgar".   Remember when the Roman church brought out the Vulgate?  They chose to make the secret knowledge of the church available to any common person who could read Latin.   The vulgar are the common people, the general public, what we call nowadays, voters.

For a thousand years, city folk have been snobbing it over country folk, what we call fly-over country.    "Peasant" and "Pagan" derive from the word for countryside.  The "Vulgar" are the general public.   The critics who came up with these terms for the bumpkins and great unwashed hordes at the gate, believe that they are civilized (Latin "civitatis" = city) and urbane (urbs = walled city).   Yes, Trump is vulgar, from the outermost burbs of New York where no civilized people would go, and accessible to commoners. He may not prevail but he deserves to.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Networks have the most to lose in 2016

Trump tweets his parade for free while the networks are counting on more than a billion dollars of TV ads in 2016 to put them in the black.  It worked in 2012 but is now in jeopardy.  FOX too has to hate him because he puts a chunk of their business plan in the dumpster.  When Trump pulled an end run on the final GOP network debate, he didn't lose. Though he sounds bizarre asking FOX to make a $5,000,000 donation to the vets, this is naughty politics but good business.  FOX knows they will make substantially more from the one evening's ad sales.  Bring it on, let the networks scramble for a diminishing pile of dollars.  That's what social media are for, to bring down the cost of getting in touch.     

Hollywood pays the big bucks out for star power.  Top pitchers and quarterbacks command stunning sums.   Campaigning is no different.  The television people ascended to power in the fifties and have had half a century pulling the strings of public news and they pay for ratings.  Paying candidates directly to appear on a show sounds iffy to me, but paying a tax to an honourable third party charity to have them on the show sounds just fine.  Should they be elected to public office, the rules change for they owe an answer to the voters who put them there.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Cruz votes Trump

Imitation is the sincerest flattery.  Trump stepped out of the circle and Cruz followed him, offering $1.5 million for veterans in trade for an unsanctioned debate, outside the GOPe perimeter. Cruz is bold but he is following the master.  The rest are on catch-up.  That includes the networks, not just the candidates.  The networks were the gatekeepers and now have competition.

My Trumpian comeback?  "If you want to help our veterans, go right ahead and donate the $1.5 million.  Don't let me stop you."

Megyn, Don't Mess With Trump UPDATE

The Donald's twitter feed is devastating.  The spear point is petty (Meagan) but the spear is aimed at the billion dollar industry cohosting the Democratic party.

UPDATE: The message to Megyn can remain and the Saudi part ownership of Fox can remain but the photo is fake.  Sorry.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Stroke of bleeding genius - Trump's petulant play to give the last FOX debate a pass.. UPDATE

Until Trump announced he is passing up the last Fox debate, I thought he was merely petty.  The light came on when he actually bugged out of Fox's show.  He's doing "God's work", doing the right a big favour, opening a road around the media's left bias.  Instapundit nails it, calling the American press "Democratic operatives with bylines".   It's the same here at home in Canada.

It's not a debate between the press and the candidates.  It's a debate AMONG candidates and that calls for a moderator, not an adversary.  The "adversary" part is between candidates.  Why we still let CBC and CTV and such like own the stage and define the debate, is beyond me.  They can report it but are just in the way claiming to moderate it.


If Trump pulls off some good ratings for his "off-Broadway" show in Iowa, raising funds for veterans, and if Roger Ailes loses about half the debate viewers in Trump's absence, the next election cycle will have proper debates with referees, not insurgents like Candy Crowley hogging the mike.  The networks and newspapers don't own the message today and will be busy enough trying to salvage a workable business plan just to stay in the game.

Crazy like a fox!  Trump has attracted a lot of new attention and his off-Broadway show will be in Iowa winning voters a couple days before the Primary.

UPDATE:  It gets better. Trump says he'll talk chairman to chairman with Murdoch but won't pick up for Ailes.   Petulance or genius?  I like his face-to-face approach.  Talk to the principals and skip the UN speeches.

UPDATE: FOX is doubling down and wrong-footing it: "Fox News and Google have invited three YouTube personalities to ask questions at the Jan. 28 GOP debate — including a Muslim advocate who describes Donald Trump as a bigot and who visually portrayed him as being in agreement with national socialist Adolf Hitler."

UPDATE:  Quoted at smalldeadanimals:  "Democrats are watching. Trump is framing himself as an enemy of their enemy. (Democrats hate FOX News.)"  And from Kate's link to Scott Adams of Dilbert fame:    "For starters, tell me what you learned about all the other candidates today.
Nothing?   Trump sucked the oxygen out of the room.   Again."   Scott also says Donald will twitter-feed all over the FOX debate: If they bring a knife at him, he'll bring a gun.

UPDATE:  You can call it a fit of pique or showmanship but not lack of courage.  A hundred million people were lined up ready to mock him for lacking a spine before Meagan.  This was a given.  And they are all going to tune in next week to see what Donald does next.  He's done shows for years and you always end a good one with a cliff-hanger for the next.

Money has its own politics.

Shared values of the very rich prevail. Breitbart notes there are over 500 billionaires in the States, some left and some right, but their world views chime together. The ten point summary rings true.  Here are the ledes.  Read the rest.

1.   Billionaires don’t like to pay taxes.
2.   Billionaires like globalization.
3.   Immigration. From the Billionaires’ Consensus point of view, if money and goods can flow freely around the world, why not people?  
4.   Crony capitalism.
5.   Celebrating the “new economy.”  
6.   Environmental elitism.
7.   Earned entitlement cuts.
8.   Free Love, or at least, deregulated love.
9.   More US “engagement” with the world.
10. Always, two tiers—one for them, one for us. 

They're valid viewpoints but it makes my blood boil when behind the scenes tinkering makes them prevail.   #4 is my bugbear.

Monday, 25 January 2016

So what if Ted Cruz was born in Calgary?

Are Americans afraid Cruz would be a puppet of Trudeau fils?  Is nationalism so strong that we assume a dual or naturalized citizen will betray the homeland?  This is a version of "identity politics" and it's time it took a beating.  Has only a dog something worth saying about dog food?  Has only a black lesbian anything worth saying about black lesbians?  Can only a one-armed paper hanger talk intelligently about wall paper trouble?  

The flap in the states over Cruz' Canadian birth is embarrassing.  It's atavistic, baked into the genes, this distrust of someone who isn't from around here and one of us from way back.  It's especially odd to find this attitude in Canada when thousands of miles separate the communities "that make up this great land".  You could say that "nobody's from around here" when you look up and down the parliamentary benches and see MPs who have no neighbours or family in common from their growing up days.  Yet, there they sit, citizens and patriots all.    Identity politics is illogical to me but it isn't going away any time soon, at least not until Canadians stop cheering the national team franchised nearest to their own home town.

Landlocked Russia needs a buffer kingdom

George Friedman maps the tight spot Russia is in.  All her productive assets, her good farms and industries are in south and east end of their seemingly endless empire.  The rest of the country has little value. 
The only way to trade with the world is through three narrow bottlenecks that her enemies can stopper.   There is no great barrier of mountains or sea to hold off armed Europeans.  She is always going to be poorer than her competitors who are rich in ports and she is always going to feel vulnerable without a buffer of client states.  See Friedman's story here.

Syria is a sideline.  The Ukraine and the trio of Baltic states will always be the main prize.

Why God Made Canadians

"God did not make us to stand patiently in queues and politely clap for our leaders no matter how distant, corrupt, and dismissive. That's why he made Canadians."
Ace of Spades says it's time to be unruly in America and vote out clientist GOP nominees.

I've stood on a deserted street corner at 2 a.m. in Toronto, waiting for the green light to walk. But the part about "corrupt" isn't true.


Saving for a re-tread instead of saving for retirement:

The singularity is arriving.  Your own stem cells and plug-and-play gene edits are about to transform what it means to be old.  Retirement won't mean what it used to mean. You can earn more if you want.  You can also run out of savings before you run out of days.  We'll be the guinea pigs.

Evidence:  Multiple Sclerosis victims conquer the disease with their own stem cells.  "Since we started treating patients three years ago, some of the results we have seen have been miraculous. This is not a word I would use lightly, but we have seen profound neurological improvements."

Evidence: Diabetic mice saved with insulin stem cells. "Scientists have successfully converted human skin cells into fully-functional pancreatic cells. The new cells produced insulin in response to changes in glucose levels, and, when transplanted into mice, the cells protected the animals from developing diabetes in a mouse model of the disease."

Evidence:  Macular degeneration reversible with stem cells?  The blind will see again.

From an earlier post, "The Blind Shall See"   New liver and lung tissue, new pituitary and eyeballs. And more.     Stem cells converted to mice semen resulted in live mouse births.

This is happening in our day.  We have lived to see it. 
I'm interested in a re-tread with fresh skin, a soft cornea with 20-20 vision, but perhaps I'll keep the thinned hair which looks distinguished and is easy to shampoo.


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Flab zapper: Is there really a fast safe way to lose fat?

The Daily Mail article holds out hope. A half hour treatment with laser energy to raise the near-surface fat cells temperature by about 5 degrees is enough to kill off 25% of them.  No surgery involved.   Over the following weeks, your body digests and removes the unsave-able tissue.


Hmm.  It's easy to imagine the perfect fat fix and hard to come up with a real (other than diet) but this sounds promising.

Moslems who believe in magic blame the West for Islamic Terrorism.

From Strategy Page

Interviews with refugees from the fighting in Iraq and Syria as well as people still in those countries shows that over 80 percent believe the Islamic terrorists .... are creations of the West .... as a means to destroy their countries and Islam. This is nothing new and while all this is unbelievable to most Westerners and largely ignored by Western media and politicians it is very real and has been for a long time.

In the Islamic world, there is a lot of attention paid to sorcery and magic, and people accused of practicing such things are regularly attacked and sometimes executed because “sorcery” is a capital crime under Islamic law. Conspiracy theories are also a popular way to explain away inconvenient facts. 

in 2008 many Pakistanis believed ...the Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai, India was actually the work of the Israeli Mossad or the American CIA and not the Pakistani terrorists who were killed or captured and identified. Such fantasies are a common explanation, in Moslem nations, for Islamic terrorist atrocities. Especially when Moslems, particularly women and children are among the victims. In response many Moslems tend to accept fantastic explanations shifting the blame to infidels (non-Moslems).

The "inshallah" thing is made worse by a stronger belief in the supernatural and magic in general. This often extends to technology. Thus, many Iraqis believed that American troops wore sunglasses that enabled them to see through clothing, and had armor vests that were actually air conditioned. When they first encountered these beliefs, U.S. troops thought the Arabs were putting them on. Then it sank in that Arabs really believe this stuff.   ..  Even Western educated Arabs, speaking good English, will casually express, and accept, these tales of the Israeli Mossad staging the attacks

When troops at one base discovered that they weren't being attacked much because many of the locals believed that the base was surrounded by a force field the troops would casually make reference to their force field. They would do this inside the base if any Iraqis were nearby and especially when they were outside the wire and among the locals.

Canada needs a Trump, not the Son of somebody.

Our culture is seizing up. The cream on top likes it and the milk on bottom hates it.  A Trump presidency will have more hands-on popular outcomes and fewer proxy fights where the players hide behind lawfare and PC interest group puppets.  It won't be what you call conservative but it will be a damn fine and overdue breath of fresh air.  He's no deep thinker and his positions will pivot to what works. He may just make America Great again.

"Lion rampant".  Neither donkey nor elephant.

And BTW, Mexico will pay for part of a wall.  There's not enough outrage down there to say flat out, "NO".  There'll be a face-saving way in which money spent in a related area will defray part of the cost of a wall and maybe that wall won't be complete, but it will still shift the illegal numbers down.

Lose weight by finding the Cheat Calories and using a shortcut to count

3500 uncounted calories is a pound you gained.
Every time I go off counting, I get bigger.
Every time I go back to counting, I get smaller.
Counting is so picky, I hate it, but I found two helps.

1.  Use a shortcut list that lets me estimate without weighing every ingredient.
2.  Find the cheat calories and measure them.

Cheat 1:    I was eating less but I kept gaining.  Then I clued that I wasn't counting my coffee because it's just liquid, sort of like flavoured water.   WRONG.  I was putting 35% whipping cream and heaped up sugar into every cup about ten times a day while at work.   About 75 calories per cuppa.  This was good for a pound a week weight gain.   I forced myself to drink it black most of the time, found it wasn't so bad, and lost weight.  Even got accustomed to the taste after a while.    Hassle fix:  Eliminate the cheat calories so you don't have to count.

Cheat 2:  The next time my belly bulged, I was puzzled until I spotted the cheat.  I had taken to having little shots of Drambuie through the afternoon and evening, usually just a sip.  How could a little bit of liquid make me fat?   High alcohol drinks are the equivalent of drinking half water and half liquid fat.  I started measuring the booze and my weight went down again. I also sip a little less, now that I know a sip of the golden liqueur is like swallowing fat.  Hassle fix:  I weigh the entire bottle at day's end and count just once what I drank.

It lists rounded-off calories per 10 grams. Triple that for calories per ounce.
You don't have to be perfect, just be close and don't cheat.

    Fats, oils, mayo and butter and nuts     80 average
    Sugars and firm cheeses         40
    Rib eye steak 30  Pork chop 25  Chicken 20  Lean ham 15 Fish 10
    Bread, pancakes, pizza crust   25
    Salad dressings (regular incl Miracle Whip), jams, sweet sauces    25
    Potatoes, beans, pasta   10
    Soups:  Rich 10    Light 5
    Wine   8
    Milk, yogurt, cottage cheese: 10. (Less for skim)
    Fruits and veggies:   5  (Bananas 10, avocado 15, lettuce, mushrooms, and celery free)
    Add a favourite breakfast as one number: ( e.g. 2 strips bacon, 2 eggs, buttered toast with jam, coffee, o.j.)

Friday, 22 January 2016

"That's our boy". Political success has many fathers.

Trump is surely right when he says, " "I think they are warming up. I want to be honest, I have received so many phone calls from people that you would call 'establishment,' from people -- generally speaking conservative Republicans --that want to come in our team,”

Of course they do. Success has many fathers.  "That's a my boy, Trump".
He likes the stuff that other rich people like and he's winning.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Democracy, if necessary, but not necessarily democracy.

What an uproar with Trump and Sanders to our south!  Candidates popular with the people might get the most votes.  Today the National Review has rounded up pundits for a special dump Trump edition.   The common people (the usual translation of "demos") have the power to elect in Canada and the States. If you don't like it, make your case for another candidate but don't be a scold.  A lot of people think they are the cream afloat upon the voters' milk and believe it's their duty to make us vote for cream.
I used to milk a Jersey and put it
(the milk, not the cow)
in just such a jar.

Maybe the popular vote is not the best way to select leaders.  There's always the option of picking the first thousand names in the phone book for high office and contrariwise, the option to bid cash for high office.   There's the option of pre-qualifying voters by education, IQ, income or property. You can have public service exams to select the prime minister and his ministers.  You can always fall back on genetics and pick family members as we seem to have done with Trudeau II.  (Clinton II, Bush III).

As long as democracy by popular vote of all adult citizens is the law of the land, I suck it up when I don't get my way.   2016 is the year for more homogenized milk and less separation of the cream and the skim.

Copy Palin And Get Yourself Some Canadian Media Presence

Grumpy because media folk are locked to the left and think they are the only reasonable ones? I've seen a lot of advice to invest in media, not politicians.  Guess who did that?  Sarah Palin.

Glenn Reynold's advice:  "Don't waste your money on campaign donations. Want more influence for your buck?  Buy a liberal media outlet or better yet a women's magazine."

Palin didn't buy "Elle" but she became an entertainment celebrity. She's now being trashed as a sell out but she's moving votes successfully.  Copy her, rather than mock her, in our own Canadian way.

She takes flak for being an entertainment personality.  That's better than the Obama strategy to get invited onto other people's personality shows to chill out and win "likes".  Our voters are part of a culture, not cadres in a party structure.
"For most people politics is about personality, identity, and group loyalties. This is more like rooting for a sports team than support for particular ideas, ideology, or policy. It's always has been this way and probably always will be."
It's always going to be that way.  Now that everyone can publish their opinion cheaply ( and that includes me), popular populist politicians are going to be the norm.  Politics is changing and for the better because more players are in there trying to move the market in their favour.  That's competition.

Trump is pertinent to Canada because our PM is on record mocking him and the "mother country" has debated refusing him entry to Britain.  We can't operate in the American sphere without walking that back.  My mother would be shocked at such rudeness.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Trump Gets Credit For Iranian Prisoner Release?

I've been thinking this and Trump has now claimed it.
A prisoner swap is small potatoes but Obama had kept it off the table until suddenly now.
My interpretation:  Iran thinks Trump may be the next American president and they don't like the prospect of going from Obama softball to Trump hardball.  Wiping out one of Trump's planks while getting something for themselves, makes sense.

Every story is complex and the specifics of who is being released matter.  The impulse to release the prisoners, the proximate cause, may well have been triggered by Trump's ascendancy.   Remember, this was the same week Iran took American sailors at gun point and humiliated Obama.  Obviously Iran doesn't mind being disliked.  They're getting some hackers back and the US is getting some civilians back.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

The Great Canadian Threat

Cruz is the "Manitoban Candidate", Goldberg observes, "hiding in plain sight until he can impose the metric system on our children and make us all passive-aggressively polite".

He makes two memorable points:

"The issue (natural born citizen) remains unsettled because it matters so little",

"Even less plausible than Cruz’s not being a natural-born citizen: that Donald Trump actually cares about this."

Dolts to the left of us, Dummies to the right. Which party has the smart voters?

Two studies show it depends on the topic.  One study found complex and nuanced language for topics that differ by party.
"Conservatives exhibited more complex thinking on ... open-door immigration, smoking, castration, and easy access to birth control. Liberals were complex when discussing organized religion, abortion on demand, making racial discrimination illegal, and being assertive".
A second study found dogmatism common to both left and right but the topics differed. 
The researchers report, "Conservatives are indeed more dogmatic on the religious domain; but liberals are more dogmatic on the environmental domain." 

Where are the populist candidates? Canada's behind the curve

The digital revolution means Jane and John Doe voters will publish more opinion than party poobahs.  The unintended consequence is more democracy.  The insiders' table is getting crowded by the "wrong sort" of people, but not in Canada.   "Feel The Bern" Sanders and "Build the Wall" Trump are crowding the top of the charts to our south.  Farage, Wilders, Le Pen, and various "evil right wing fringe groups" get traction elsewhere.

The common element is populism, saying what a lot of voters really think.    The closest we come in Canada is Elizabeth May who is a narrowly-targeted populist, speaking to the vegetarian tin-hat brigade.  How come "This Man Is Approved By The Party" describes the leaders of the only three Canadian parties that count?  I envy the ferment across the line in the US of A.

LOL:   Don Cherry for PC lead?  
Change is on its way.   Remember, to "reform" something is simply to change its shape or form
and doesn't mean "improve".

There's more where this came from