Saturday, 20 December 2014

Canada's Transport Bottleneck In Chicago.

With 1300 trains a day in Chicago, and even with transit times down from 44 to 33 hours, it's still the biggest rail bottleneck on the continent.  40% of CP and 25% of CN traffic squeezes through the hub which is so famous most commodities are priced f.o.b. Chicago.   40% of that total traffic is dysfunctional scheduling of passenger trains.
"Shippers often lament that it can take just as long to get a product from Los Angeles to Chicago as it does to get that same product from one end of Chicago to the other". 

To understand how heavy commodities move in North America is to understand how six rail networks trade and compete their way through Chicago.   Thousands of containers switch to trucks daily to get by.
As Keith Creel, chief operating officer at CP, said:   “I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had over the past six or seven months explaining how congestion in Chicago affects my ability to move a potash train in Saskatchewan. It’s all connected,” 
CN has a special edge, having bought a railway you never heard of before, Elgin, Joliet and Eastern.   EJ&E routes through nearby Gary, Indiana  and let CN gain over 60% speed and volume.

Much of this information is from National Post's article Welcome To Chokepoint USA
Things to know: Item 1 a map showing rail networks by volume and Item 2, a breakdown of how goods are moved in the US.

Friday, 19 December 2014

I'm with Spin Assassin

Danielle Smith sent a message from the Wildrose Party:  Herself and eight wise opportunist colleagues. I think Spin Assassin's assessment is right.  Prentice with his bankground as a banker and Federal Environment Minister is a timely leader and Smith an able lieutenant.  They may be the best outcome available for a damaged Alberta PC party at a time when some unity will help push back an irrational electoral wave fronted by Trudeau II.

The happy couple.

Is it rape? No answer came the stern reply.

It's deeply disturbing to read the Washington Examiner's effort to get someone to answer the law's question:  How can a man prove consent before engaging in sex?  No one answered.  Ms. Schow approached sponsors of seven different "Yes mean Yes" bills around the country, including Cuomo and Brown.  She approached more than two dozen universities involved in implementing a "Yes means Yes" policy. "No answer" was the stern reply.

The only on-record comment she found was this:
Asked how an accused person could prove consent was obtained before sex, California Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune in June that “your guess is as good as mine.”  “I think it’s a legal issue,” she added. “Like any legal issue, that goes to court.”  

Accusation IS the evidence.  That's shabby law.  Legislators surge in a crowd to create fashionably solemn statements.   Without a tool to measure by, it is fraudulent and undermines the rule of law.

In the same vein, read this.  If you didn't have your camera filming at the time, do you think you wouldn't be in for a world of trouble?   Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Frack meet ZIRP

Near Zero Interest Rates favour risk over thrift and puff up stocks.  They put at hazard an industry undergoing capital intensive expansion which became dependent on low rates of interest and high prices per barrel of oil.  Zero Hedge, in self-congratulatory fashion, makes this point well about fracking.  The fracked wells take a lot of capital and are spritzed up for just a couple years during which time the money must be recovered.   A reversion to the mean for interest rates to give savers a premium for taking on risk will send a shock through the fracking industry which, coupled with the drop in world prices for oil, will stall out the industry for a few years.

From the source article at Zero Hedge:

"ZIRP destroyed the most fundamental index in the financial universe: the true cost of borrowing money. ...  It also destroyed the entire relationship between borrowed money and the cost-structure of the endeavors it was borrowed for. Take shale oil, for instance.  The fundamental limiting factor for shale oil was that the wells were only good for about two years, and then they were pretty much shot. So, if you were in that business, and held a bunch of leases, you had to constantly drill and re-drill and then drill some more just to keep production up. The drilling cost between $6 and $12-million per well.   .... In a few short years they drilled to beat the band and the results seemed so impressive that investment money poured into the sector like honey, so they drilled some more. It was going to save the American way of life. We were going to be “energy independent,” ...They goosed so much oil out of the ground in a short period of time that they killed the goose — demand for oil at a price that made it worth drilling for. Now, much of the junk financing will default, and the result of that is no more junk financing for a long, long time, meaning that a lot of planned wells will not be drilled and completed, meaning that the current crop of short-lived wells will crap out in the 24 months ahead, and production will not be replaced by new wells".

Obama and the Monkees

Like the Monkees, Obama had wealthy sponsors with media ties.  'Creators' may be a better word than 'sponsors'.   Both were vaulted to stardom by them.  I prefer the Monkees.  They entertained and the force of law was not used to separate us from our money and liberty.   Obama's enablers have a lot to answer for.
From Victor Davis Hanson's column:  That he had no record of achievement was seen as an advantageous clean slate.  .Teleprompted glibness was preferred to ad hoc repartee, as if an entire presidency could be scripted and Photoshopped with backdrops of Greek columns and Latin mottos."   ..   He had at best a mediocre record as a state legislator and rookie senator. Yet he quickly dazzled the liberal establishment. Joe Biden and Harry Reid were wowed by his sounding and behaving like a white liberal, while retaining the ability to turn on his supposedly authentic black persona when needed. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Socialism will never go away and will never work.

We are socialized in a family, a top-down redistributive structure that works.  It works in a nuclear family until the beloved kids move out .  It somewhat works in a tribal group that shares a lot of DNA.  It's a colossal failure on the scale of the nation state and can't be fixed.  Our baked-in destiny is to keep believing that Socialism might work for the whole world and we will love one another as brothers and sisters.  It won't.  This is well put by Weirddave at the Ace of Spades link.

"Ordered liberty, free market capitalism, rule of law and other bottom up organizational methods are the aberration in human history. Humans are not wired to respond to these concepts the way they respond to a hierarchy. It's better for them, but it isn't instinctive."

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Song bird brains resemble ours.

Birds that learn songs have a clump of fifty extra-active genes.  We language-loving humans have the same active clump.  Primates that don't talk and birds that don't learn songs have a lot less going on in that gene nexus.  

This finding comes from sequencing the entire genome of 48 species of bird, Dr. Jarvis of Duke University being the lead investigator in a flurry of papers published this week.  Sourced from Science Daily News.

The future will be conservative but not necessarily Conservative.

There are more older people everywhere and older people usually have some property and long term relationships they want to hang onto, a disinclination to riot in the streets, and have a less exalted view of themselves. The school of experience tempers their opinion. This adds up to conservative voting patterns. They may not end up in the Conservative party.  The NDP will be looking a little more conservative each year too.

Seniors are humming tunes from the rebel rock and roll of my youth.  They often have a smartphone, holiday in other countries, sport a google identity and wear joggers instead of oxfords. Which party will feel like home to these folks?

Rising tide.

As Michael Medved wrote after the US 2012 election:
"Forget 2012: Long-Term Demographic Trends Are Favorable to Republicans.   Democrats may have won this time, but they shouldn’t celebrate for too long—America is growing older fast, and older folks reliably vote Republican."
Some Winnipeg voters.
Seniors are the reliable voters who turn out in all weathers.     From the Elections Canada website:

Re-posted from 2013.

Fire has no morality. Mouse clicks into the unknown.

The spark of life is a flame that consumes fuel.  Fuel is anything in the world that can burn, whether food or experience.  It will be consumed when opportunity presents.  The possibilities in speed of light networking will vault man to the heavenlies, cast him aside for AI, or both and more.  We do try to stack the deck in our favour but a lot of new fuel has been discovered with the internet, the quantum leap and e=mc2 and it will burn, sometimes favouring us, sometimes not.

ISIS head choppers and PETA-linked firebombers are in the mix along with clerics, mom-and-pop-merchants, devout mothers  and earnest undergrads.  The firewalls of morality are like zoning bylaws that we put in place to protect the stuff we like.  They will be skipped over when opportunity presents and the wind is right.

I've watched a grassfire spreading with a steady burn line, ash behind and fuel before.  It has no morality.  It just computes the opportunity, turning it into smoke, ash and heat, a lovely sight, then passes from view.  We are as innocent as that fireline, clicking our mice, leading humankind into an unknown future as fuel appears that we are designed to burn.  The teleogenic argument is that something yet to be is drawing us forward.  Perhaps more than one possible future is presenting fuel in a dynamic competition that tempts our nature.  We may prevail.  We may be set aside.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Supply Meets Demand For Rape Tales.

A horrible thought, but the supply of rape stories in the news is going up as rapes in America have plunged by half.  My first reaction was disbelief that reported crimes of rape have plunged. It's true, a drop of 64% in less than fifteen years, as even The Huffington Post confirms. The gang-rape story from Lena Dunham in the Rolling Stone now looking shaky, is defended on grounds that no-one should doubt a woman.  Most men and women lie part of the time, that's life.  The feminist cadres are reporting that 20% of women are sexually abused, that there is a rape epidemic on campuses, and are turning regretted sexual activity into rape tales.   Hyperventilated mileage is extracted from a declining supply of crimes..  If they're right, we'd have notarized documents before making love and no parent in their right mind would send their daughters or sons to university.  I think the public is moving away from war-of-the-sexes feminism.   We haven't got to the point that the professionally outraged are Princesses who can't sleep because there's a pea under the mattress, but the nasty lumps under the mattress are smaller. University must be one of the tamest spots for sexual violence, They are in the news because that's where earnest people looking for tales to tell and tales to rally around are easiest found.  It's probably safer to walk around the UBC campus stark naked than to sit quietly in a rough part of East Hastings in Vancouver.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

There's No Middle in the USA

Crowdpac traced political donations of all major US industries.  There's hard left  (Entertainment, Media, Universities, Silicon Valley).  There's  a bit more moderate right (Farming, Mining,  Fuels, Property). The rest are bi-polar, divided in two opposing camps, "in the middle" only because neither party prevails.  You'd expect to see a bell curve of opinion but you'd be wrong.  There's no middle.  To say they are "in the middle" is like the joke:  How many testicles does the average Canadian have?  One.

The introductory chart shows industry averages.  Note the left is further to the left than the right is to the right.

The remaining charts at Business Insider display how partisan all industries are.
Unipolar, to the left.

Unipolar, to the right

Bipolar, no middle ground.

h/t smalldeadanials, link to Business Insider sourced from Crowdpac.

Dollar years per birth: Pregnancy has awesome R.O.I.

A Canadian woman today has the most spectacular return on investment for her pregnancies since time began despite smallest ever family size.   The corollary: Canada can shrink and prosper.   Using Gapminder's interactive charts:  A woman in Canada about 1800 endured an average of 5.72 births  (stats talk) and her off-spring lived an average of 39 years earning annually $1340 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

A Canadian woman today has 1.66 children who can expect to live 81 years with average earnings of $40603.    Times it all out and you get a ROI of 299,000 dollar-years for the woman of the 1800's and 5,460,000 dollar years for today's woman.

The first corollary:  From a woman's point of view, it doesn't matter if Canada's population shrinks because her Return On Investment is spectacular and still growing as we live longer.

The second corollary:  A man and woman's best lifetime investment is to form a reproductive couple to rear one or two children.

Gapminder is sponsored by scientist, Hans Rosling.  If you haven't seen his illustrated talk, you probably are out of date thinking about population, family size and prosperity.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Lincoln on Male Female Differences

Men and women are different.  Males and females of all species priorize a little differently.  There are advantages for the pair to do so.  Saying men and women are the same doesn't change a thing.  Abraham Lincoln's joke applies:

Abraham Lincoln faced with some thorny issue that could be settled by a twist of language, or a slight abuse of power, asks his questioner how many legs would a dog have, if we called the dog’s tail, a leg. “Five,” the questioner responds confident in his mathematical ability to do simple addition. “No,” Lincoln says. “Calling a dog’s tail a leg, doesn’t make it a leg.”
The story has been sourced. In the original, a calf features instead of a dog.

US Army Kits Out Home Town Cops For Violence Against Their Citizens.

 In the last ten years, program 1033 has  been covertly transferring surplus tactical weapons and vehicles from the military to small town police forces, campus security, and park wardens. It's not your imagination.  The chart shows an explosive expansion of deadly force to the people who are hired to maintain the peace.  At the link you can see who got it in each town and county in the USofA. Until Ferguson triggered a release of the information, requests have been stonewalled.

Total Tactical Items Distributed by Department of Defense 1033 Program

Hair's width accuracy not yet good enough for Apple's robots. Next: Will we be good enough?

Apple has told Foxconn in China to fix their assembly robots.   A hair's width averages 1/10th of a millimetre and Apple wants accuracy of 1/50th.  The clunky robots get only 1/20th because they come from the less fussy world of car assembly.  All should be fine after tweaks.  Meanwhile they just get to tighten screws, stuff like that.

Why robots?  Foxconn was in the news three years ago for hiring 1,000,000 robots  because cheap Chinese labour doesn't have the edge it used to.

It's sobering to think about manufactured servants that can swiftly and repeatably put out quality merchandise assembled accurately to the nearest 1/50th of a millimetre.  No minimum wage here.  This is the week that Stephen Hawking. made the news predicting Artificial Intelligence is likely to assume a life of its own in the very new future, out-competing our DNA brand.  Intelligence is like an infection or a virus, successful acquiring resources and getting it's code reproduced.   AI may do much better in the marketplace for energy and code.   The Singularity may be near but will it include us? 

"Foxbots" have been tasked with menial jobs that include the assembly of larger components and tightening screws. Unfortunately, the bots are proving to have an accuracy to 0.05 mm, which is above the 0.02 mm tolerance required to assemble Apple's products.

From the BBC quoting Hawking:
"It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate," he said.
Prof Hawking says the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have already proved very useful, but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans.  Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded."

Yesterday's Woman: Hillary Clinton missed the wave.

CBS talks about Hillary's "Grandma Glow" and the Christian Science Monitor joins the chorus with
Will Grandma Hillary announce 2016 run?   The cruellest cut was Obama's "Voters are going to want that new car smell".  Who won't have heard and understood that by 2016?    She's been famous for being famous for some time and her one resume builder, "Secretary of State" is sinking as fast as the President's polls.
Grandma looks great.

The front bench for the Donkeys is looking thin. It's going to take a couple election cycles for the Democrat party to recover from the damage to their brand.  The talent  (which helped damage the brand during Obama's tenure) has been keeping off stage to make "victory" easy for Mrs. Clinton.  Now they regret it.   Seriously, their biggest accomplishments are the "Affordable" Care Act and Presidential overreach bypassing congress to dismantle the US border.  Both are justly unpopular with voters and provoking constitutional challenges from the states.

The Elephant bench looks like more fun, more like a party.  There's a lot of interest for the top spot.  Ask yourself which debate you'd rather watch, primaries for Republicans or for Democrats?  There's Tea Party and Texas,  Mormon turnaround expert and a libertarian,  Bush dynasty and Right to Work.  This is a party!   They went through having too many unfamiliar cooks competing to make the broth last time and went through letting the opposing team choose the moderators.  This time will be the charm with momentum, experience, and faces familiar to the public.

Behind scenes, compare Debbie Wasserman to Reince Preibus.  He is smart, pragmatic, and anchored.  She (I want to be President, too) is being squeezed to the margins.

Footnote: Despite the first paragraph, I'd be glad to have a wise leader over 75. As for cars, one broken in is better value than a shiny one fresh off the lot like Barry (Barack)'s.  I like a grandmotherly smile on Hillary's face.   The wave passed, however, and Hillary's votes are moving away.   

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sex stereotyping is useful

Male - female behaviour is different in most species.  We didn't just fall out of a tree like this. The differences are there because they have been job-tested for thousands of years and tend towards survival.  Some are baked into genes and some are transmitted by cultural software.   Sex differences optimize issues of foraging, competition, reproduction, health, food, shelter, defence and property.

To call male-female behaviour a cultural construct can be defended on this ground: The rules of survival for mankind have changed and with it the optimum culture.  

Today, many of us can live in shelters without warriors, can survive without our kinfolk's help, can expect a baby will live eighty years, can see our children's children after investing just a few years in menstruation, and can forage successfully with a debit card after a few hours training.  Raising kids is as important as ever but you don't need to start eight or nine to raise a couple to adulthood.  It makes sense then that the roles of the sexes are changing and may be less important going forward.   They won't be going away.   There's no need to belittle them.  They have worked longer than you or I.

I will continue to open the door for my wife, offer to carry heavy things, feel happy when my arms are about her, and call her sweetheart.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Raising the Minimum Wage spurs Innovation

Pizza Hut developed a toppings screen that tells by where you point your eyes that you want shrimp, tandoori chicken and olives on your pizza.   
The London Yo Sushi restaurant uses drones to deliver to your table.

Forget about 18%, 15% or 10%.  When younger I couldn't afford to tip if I took my family to a buffet.  Now it's easy but I don't need a guilt trip to make a tip.   Let's save that for exceptional service.
If you want fast food, there's the hamburger machine that grinds the meat, mixes beef with pork, slices the tomato and pickle while perfectly grilling the bug and patty, and no tip expected either. Should taste pretty good.  Frees kids and college grads from dead end jobs.

Network news is broken. Defend the internet, it's your only hope.

Reading Sharyl Atkisson's book, Stonewalled, I am struck not by how the White House is illegally using the spy services to disable critics, but by how corrupt and broken network news is.  The government has mastered the art of snooping, flattering and intimidating.  The network news managers have mastered the art of copying each other so the same half dozen stories appear on every network.  Investigative reporting that puts the Obama White house or major sponsors in a bad light will die or be shunted to the website.

The branches of the US government seem united in suppressing whistleblowers and everything embarrassing.  Stonewalling is the norm.  False friendly calls from officials are to "pump and mine" which means to find out what documents you may have got hold of and get copies of them and the names of leakers.  They say they want to respond to the specifics but they are just checking to see how much of the truth you know.  Lying is standard operating procedure.  Canada seems better but bureaucracy will always trend towards covering its butt.

The reporters largely don't want to rock the boat.
The network managers are busy scanning the New York Times and Huffington Post and the Washington post to find out what has been defined as "news".  Then they send their reporters out to cover the same ground with a little distinctive spin.  New stories are not wanted and new stories that make the White House or Democrats or sponsors look bad are slow-walked and stopped.  (The one bright light:  Unwanted stories may make it into the web edition despite being studiously ignored in newscasts.)

It's disgusting.  I don't think it's going to be fixed.  The government under Obama and Holder and company have gotten too good at disabling inquiry.  The owners of the networks are too lost in sniffing each other's bums to find out what's for dinner.  The internet can be suppressed, as China has almost proven, but it is a wild wild west by comparison to network TV news.  Look to the internet for the missing viewpoints and fight to protect the freedoms it enjoys.

Sharyl Atkisson is pretty good at what she does.  When being pumped and mined, she pushes back with bold well-documented questions that I wouldn't have had the balls to pose.  ("Don't ask me what was said. You had your people at the meeting!" (No, we didn't). "Yes you did." (Names names))

Friday, 28 November 2014

Ancient mosaics look like they were laid yesterday. Colour portraits from 200 BC.

From the Greek city of Zeugma in modern Turkey comes this memorable photograph. 

Note also how deep into the ground this tile floor was buried. 2200 years ago is almost modern history. In many regions the earth's surface today is almost unrecognizable compared to 20,000 years ago when modern man was learning to talk and spearing mastodons.

Could DNA have seeded earth? DNA survived blastoff and re-entry on the skin of a rocket.

From Science Daily News: 
Scientists Dr. Cora Thiel and Professor Ullrich dabbed DNA on the outside of the rocket. The DNA survived and still worked.  We could have been seeded here.   Our rockets could accidentally seed another world.

"The genetic material DNA can survive a flight through space and re-entry into Earth's atmosphere -- and still pass on genetic information. A team of scientists from UZH obtained these astonishing results during an experiment on the TEXUS-49 research rocket mission.  Applied to the outer shell of the payload section of a rocket using pipettes, small, double-stranded DNA molecules flew into space from Earth and back again. After the launch, space flight, re-entry into Earth's atmosphere and landing, the so-called plasmid DNA molecules were still found on all the application points on the rocket from the TEXUS-49 mission. And this was not the only surprise: For the most part, the DNA salvaged was even still able to transfer genetic information to bacterial and connective tissue cells."

Thursday, 27 November 2014

America saved from socialism in 1623.

Switching to private property rights saved the Pilgrims from starvation. Planting corn the Indian way is a story, not an analysis.  Feel-good rules about enforced communal transfers could have been written this week in Washington.  They failed because they wasted people's talents and locked in perverse incentives against doing one's best for self and family.  Then they prospered by (apologetically) exploiting man's cupidity and preference for his own kin.  Read an extract from Ilya Somin's article then, intrigued, finish it in the original.

"People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. Governor William Bradford, in his 1647 history, Of Plymouth Plantation, wrote that this system was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. The problem was that “young men, that were most able and fit for labour, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense.” Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.
Giving people economic incentives changed their behavior. Once the new system of property rights was in place, the women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability."

For Thanksgiving, watch Friedman on the virtues of greed: