Tuesday, January 28, 2020

In which I endorse Joe Biden's run for President

First, a couple assumptions: Trump is going to win in November, either handily or in a blowout.  We're looking at him in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue until January 2025.  Also, the Democratic Party is coming apart at the seams, in a similar way to what happened to the Republican Party back in 2015-16.  There's a lot of the party that thinks that the "establishment" types sold them down the river.  Frankly, it's hard to argue with them on that - the establishment did sell out every principle they had.

So there's a reckoning afoot for the Democrats, one that will realign their party.  What we can expect is that the socialists will take over, and the old "centrists" will get the boot.  And so to Slow Joe Biden: he's corrupt, he's an idiot, and every time he opens his mouth 80% of America winces.  But he's not a socialist, so he will never be acceptable to the folks who will take over the Democratic Party.

The problem is that the Republic doesn't want socialism.  Now we could all just sit back and watch Bernie do a repeat of George McGovern where he loses 45 States or so, but this begs the question - who will be the GOP replacement for Donald Trump in 2025?

Here's my preferred scenario, which will explain why Slow Joe is now my bestest most favorite Democrat:

1. The Democratic National Committee rigs the primaries (just like they did in 2016).  Bernie gets screwed, and Slow Joe gets the nomination.  The radicals in the Democratic Party melt down with rage.

2. Trump steamrolls Joe in the general election.

3. The radicals in the Democratic Party say "See?  The problem was that the Party wasn't socialist enough!"  They spend the next 4 years purging any remaining "centrists" and turning the Democratic Party into all socialism, all the time.

4. When the 2024 campaign heats up, the GOP mystery candidate (the "Not Donald Trump" guy) simply has to point out all the socialist crazy running the other party.  Presto - the Democrats lose again because America doesn't want to be socialist.

It's important that it plays out like this.  If Bernie wins the nomination then the Democrats will lose in a massive landslide this year.  That will discredit the radicals trying to take over the Democratic Party, and give an opportunity to Democrats to bring back an establishment candidate who's a better liar, and who can convince enough voters that he's a safe choice.  That might be enough to beat Not Donald Trump in 2024.  Seeing what's going on in Virginia, it's pretty clear that the party needs to get burned to the waterline twice to let some actual sanity come back in.

So Joe's my guy, until July.  Kind of a catchy slogan, right there.

How Big Business and Big Government get ahead by slowing down the economy

I was saddened to read of the death from leukemia of Clayton Christensen.  He wrote a very influential book titled The Innovator's Dilemma that I posted about years ago:
Clayton Christensen wrote the single most terrifying business book I've ever read. In The Innovator's Dilemma, he says that it's obvious why badly-managed companies go out of business (they're badly managed, duh). He asks a very interesting question: why do well-managed companies go out of business? He says that it's all about managing innovation.

Christensen posits two types of innovation. Continuous innovation (what he calls sustaining technologies) is easy to manage: it's more of what we have, only better. Well managed companies excel at growing sustaining technologies. There are also revolutionary innovations (what he calls disruptive technologies) that change how the game is played. It doesn't matter how much better your buggy whip is, you won't be able to grow your business on that product line.

Companies almost always fail at managing disruptive technology transformations, because they are well managed.  
The entire corporate structure is based on producing and selling at a particular price point. A product that kills your cash cow because it's priced 50% lower probably can't be sold effectively at that company, no matter how brilliantly disruptive it is. IBM sold million dollar mainframe computers. While they certainly knew how to make minicomputers, all the incentives were for them to push customers to bigger and more expensive machines. Minicomputers couldn't become too compelling without undercutting the quarterly sales targets, and so DEC ate IBM's lunch. And then Compaq ate DEC's lunch with PCs.
That's actually a pretty good post, which has stood up well after a decade.  It actually explains a lot about the rise of Donald Trump who is nothing if not disruptive to the well-run establishment political establishment, but that's beside the point here.

But think about innovation, and Donald Trump.  I posted a couple years back about this, too:
What was striking about this was that each industry would exhibit precisely the same growth characteristics. The "S" curve described a slowish initial takeoff, an exponentially rising growth period, and then a slow tailing off. All of these industries followed it in turn: cotton, iron, steel, railroads. What was key to the miracle that occurred between 1720 and 1990 was that as one reached the top of the curve and began to falter, a new industry emerged to drive things forward. Income per capita went from around $450 in what would become the United States (in 1700) to $18,300 in 1989.

In many ways, this seems to be spinning down. More and more industries seem to be in the top flat part of the curve. Fewer new industries are emerging with robust growth to pick up the slack. People look towards the future and do not see a doubling of real per capita national income.
Now go back and think about Christensen's premise: well managed companies excel at managing innovation in the steep and top flat part of that S-curve.  What they don't excel at - because they're well managed - is bringing the next, new S-curve to the market.  You see, the products in that innovation stream very well might undercut their current cash cow products.

So what do they do?  Enter the Regulatory State.  The Government starts issuing all sorts of regulations about this and that, to protect children and kittens and sunshine.  Where do these regulations come from?  Well, a lot of big businesses are happy to help craft these wise and important protections for children, kittens, and sunshine - I mean, who wouldn't?  And along the way the regulations seem to throw up roadblocks to the next set of disruptive technologies.

These new technologies typically come from small companies.  These companies don't have the money to staff up a building full of compliance managers to ensure that the new disruptive products don't kill children and kittens, or block out the very sun itself.
The reason for this is regulation (and its bastard child, litigation). That's the problem. We have buildings full of people that make us stop what we're doing, fill out forms in triplicate, and then wait months or years before we are allowed to pick up where we stopped. Think for a minute what this does. It pushes some of the middle of the S-Curve into the flat part, reducing the overall value of the industry, as resources get sidelined instead of being engaged in production. More damagingly, it pushes the next S-Curve to the right, increasing the time that it takes to bring a new industry online. Most damagingly of all, it possibly completely eliminates some S-Curves from appearing at all, because the risk is too high to attract investors.

It's not the tax rate, it's the regulation rate that's making the economy run down.
This situation is called Regulatory Capture, and is a situation where Big Government and Big Business scratch each other's backs:
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Source: Office of the Comptroller of Currency, as of 31 Dec 2009

The banking system melted down at late in 2008, because weird, opaque transactions like Credit Default Swaps made pricing risk pretty difficult. So what did the shiny new StatistDemocratic administration do? Ensure that these risky transactions are all held by companies that are Too Big To Fail.

As homework and for extra credit, graph the campaign contributions of these same five organizations and their corporate officers by party donated to.
What is ironic (in a funny way) is just how clueless today's young (or old *cough*Bernie Sanders*cough*) are about this.  They think they're really going to stick it to Big Business by having the Government control pretty much everything.  The lack of understanding on display is Epic.

They should read Clayton Christensen.  Rest in peace.

Monday, January 27, 2020

January 27th, 1967

Apollo 1 

 Roger Chaffee, Virgil “Gus” Grissom & Ed White II

Sunday, January 26, 2020

James Horner and Will Jennings - My Heart Will Go On

The Queen Of The World strongly believes that there is great classical music in modern film.  I've posted on this a number of times, but she challenged me to think more broadly about "classical" music. It was the popular music for the theater, and so why shouldn't today's popular music for the theater fit that same category?  She (rightly) says that I've been discriminating against perfectly fine music just because it's recent.  And so today will be a step further out than I've done before in these Sunday classical music posts, with a choice that literally everyone reading this will have heard (and may even be able to hum along to).

This is a song that was almost never made.  James Cameron is a filmmaker with a reputation for swinging for the fence,  In 1997 his film Titanic worried pretty much everyone in Hollywood, because it was fabulously expensive and in fact was the most expensive film made to that date.  Cameron obsessed over each detail, including the music.  He and composer James Horner had collaborated on the film Aliens but had hated working with each other.  Cameron convinced Horner to write what would be the Academy Award winning score.  Horner sensed that with the financial risks facing the film, it needed a signature song.  He wrote this, and Will Jennings wrote the lyrics.  Cameron didn't want a song with lyrics, but Horner convinced a reluctant Celine Dion to record it which she did in a single take.

Horner waited until Cameron was in a good mood to play the song to him.  Cameron listened to it several times and then gave the go ahead.  It may be that he thought that having what seemed like a potential hit song would help him calm the Studio executives who at this point were convinced that the film was going to lose $100M.

Of course, it didn't.  It became the first film ever to gross over a billion dollars, and spent 12 years on the top of the all-time earning list (only being surpassed by Cameron's Avatar; he always swings for the fence).  This song has been massively popular, and in fact is the second best selling single by a female artist of all time.  It also won the Academy Award for best original song.

But Borepatch, I hear you ask: sure it's pretty and everything, but why is this classical music?  well, it's music of the theater.  It uses the same instrumentation that Beethoven used.  It's really as classical as Wagner.  I think that this compares nicely with the Liebestod from his opera Tristan und Isolde.  There are a surprising number of similarities: nautical theme, doomed love, hauntingly beautiful melody, emotionally gripping.

The Queen Of The World* suggested this particular song to show that classical music is alive and well at the box office.  She's right about that.  Boy, howdy.

She's way more than just a pretty face, although I sure like that.  I'm a lucky man.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Burns Night

Tonight is Burns Night, where Scottish culture is celebrated across the world.  There's a quite interesting Wikipedia page on the ceremony.

The centerpiece of the feast, of course, is haggis.  It sounds gross - heart, lungs, and other "parts" in a sheep's stomach - but is actually really tasty.  Maybe it's the onions.  Twenty-five years ago I flew into Glasgow for a business meeting and asked the cabbie where I could go for a good haggis.  "To a butcher", he replied (although it sounded more like "boot-cher") is his native Glaswegian.  It's been a long time since I've had haggis.  Long time since I've worn my kilt, too.

The haggis is really the centerpiece of the feast, and is brought to the table with great ceremony.  And bagpipes.

If you (like me) are of Scottish extraction, tonight is a fine time to hoist a wee dram an hum Auld Land Syne in honor of Robbie Burns.

Enter The Haggis - One Last Drink

Tonight is Burns Night, and while I haven't run across any Scottish country music bands, there is a thriving Celtic Rock scene.  Since the roots of country music are Scots-Irish, this makes Celtic Rock and Country Music cousins.  And since it's Burns Night, it's appropriate to have Enter The Haggis.  They're a Canadian band sort of reminiscent of the Dropkick Murphys or The Pogues.  If you like that, you'll like this.

Funny Now

Might not be funny at all in a few weeks.

The Chinese government is quarantining 58 million people. The U.S. government is trying to evacuate approximately 1,000 people and bring them back to the United States. It probably doesn't matter, too many people have already traveled from the region and this disease is in multiple countries, but whoever these people are, why would you break quarantine?


Courtesy of Aesop, regarding yesterday's post:

Gen. Patton looks down on this and smiles.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Donald Trump reads Borepatch

Well, that's my explanation for this:
President Trump on Tuesday announced the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative launched at the World Economic Forum as world leaders seek to combat climate change.
Trump made the announcement during an address to global business leaders gathered for the annual event in Davos, Switzerland.
So why do I say that he reads this blog?  Well, back in July I posted this:

A simple and cheap solution to burning fossil fuels?

Plant trees:
OK, the study simply argues that by adding 10 million squared kilometers of forests – the area equal to the territory of the U.S. (or Canada, if you wish), 2/3 of the man-made emissions of CO2 since 1800 could be removed from the atmosphere (they apparently pre-decided that the elimination of 2/3 of a problem is a good plan). Planting a tree costs $0.30, they claim, and because one needs about one extra trillion of new trees (the number of trees would be increased by 1/3 in this project – they did use the same estimate of the number of trees in the world as I mentioned above), the total cost would be $300 billion. This is the overall amount, not an annual one.
So for $300B over 30 years we could eliminate the excess carbon dioxide that we've put into the atmosphere.  Even if this figure is off by an order of magnitude, this is a huge win compared with the $122 Trillion that the UN wants to "fight Climate Change".

Alas, planting forests does not allow the industrial scale graft that the UN has come to expect.
$10B/year is a bargain compared to what everyone else is talking about, and will give us a bunch of pretty forrest to hike in.  I can't see how anyone can possibly oppose this, unless they're a bunch of statist pricks trying to boss everyone around.

A note to President Trump: it would be awesome if you started referring to her as "Snippi Longstockings", amirite?

UPDATE 25 January 2020 08:31: Courtesy of Aesop in the comments, LOL:

Troll level: God Emperor

The Trump campaign just released this commentary on the impeachment proceedings:

I'm a bit in awe.
The devil…the prowde spirite…cannot endure to be mocked.
- Sir Thomas More

Amplifying the Signal

Hershel, writing at The Captain's Journal, pens a reflection on last week's protest in Richmond Virginia. He talks of what was accomplished, what it means, and what comes next.

Even the comments are worth reading.

No thinking man can honestly object that attendees have lost anonymity.  There was never any to be had, and even if there was, there cannot be in the future.
If you believe, after pounding the keyboard for years like you have, purchased guns and ammunition like you have, turned in tax forms like you have, and worked within the system like you have, that you have even one iota of anonymity left, you don’t understand how all of this works.  The .gov is directly tied into trunks of the internet at key locations throughout the nation, and if you don’t think the right (or wrong) folks know what you’ve been writing or saying, you don’t understand the internet as it exists today. 
--Herschel Smith writing at The Captain's Journal

Thursday, January 23, 2020

That was the end of my war

So you're a brit (well sort of, back in the day), and you get captured very near the end of the war.  What happens?  Well, if you are a Spitfire pilot name Peter During, you convince Jerry to give up.

This interview is from seven years ago.  That's a World Age for these men.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Peter, Paul, & Mary on The Jack Benny Program

This is hilarious, and really shows the depth of both Benny as well as the group.  They sing one of their regular songs, but then after some banter with Jack they sing a song they wrote about his background and cheapness ("Waukegan").  Jack then invites them to his house to sing a really horrible song that he wrote.  The whole thing is really, really funny.

It's also a blast from the past.  As they say, the Past is a foreign country because they do things differently there.

R.I.P. Terry Jones

In High School I was a huge Monty Python fan.  That's continued to this day, even to re-writing a scene from their classic film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Terry Jones co-wrote that, but has sadly passed away at 77 from dementia.

This scene, where he explains the Scientific Method to a bunch of villagers is shockingly applicable to how climate science is done today.

The world is a less funny place today.

How Charles Martel turned back the Caliphate

Charles the Hammer
The Islamic Caliphate exploded onto the world scene in the 630s AD.  In thirty years they took the wealthiest 75% of the Roman Empire, leaving the rest to huddle behind the mountains of Anatolia.  They entirely swallowed Rome's greatest adversary, the Sassanian Persian Empire.  By the end of the century, they pushed all the way to the Indus valley and to the straights of Gibraltar.  They crossed those straights and ended the Visigoth kingdom which for 250 years had ruled Spain.  In 717 they marched to the gates of Constantinople, the Roman capitol.  Only the massive Theodosian Walls and their secret weapon Greek Fire stopped their expansion into Europe from the east.

But the west remained, and Islamic raiders began crossing the Pyrenees into the kingdom of the Franks.  In 732, Charles Martel crushed the invaders at the battle of Tours.  This ended the invasion, securing Europe from the west.  It was the high water mark of the Caliphate and while it would achieve new heights in art and literature (notably the 1001 Nights), they never added more territory.  They had peaked in 100 years and the long slide to fracture had begun.

It's really not a surprise that Charles stopped him.  The chronicles of his day describe him as an unusually effective warrior, and his army as the best to be found.  His nickname, Martel - "The Hammer" - pre-dated the islamic invasion of his land.  He was a leader who brought victory.

He did this, as the clickbait links say, through this one weird trick: he took his army campaigning each year, every year.  The Franks were a feudal kingdom, where nobles were supposed to bring troops to support their Lord.  But a Lord could only expect as much support as he could enforce.  Charles determined to enforce his claims each year.  If a noble didn't show up when summoned then next year he would find Charles' army camped outside his castle asking why he hadn't come.  After a while everyone sort of fell in line and Charles was able to expand the borders of his realm.

His son and grandson continued this strategy and created the greatest kingdom in the west since the Roman Empire fell.  You've heard of his grandson, Charlemagne, who was so powerful that the Pope crowned him Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in 800 AD.

All because of one weird trick.

The Richmond rally is over.  It was a success in that everyone seemed polite and happy and cleaned up after themselves, but now the narrative is emerging: White supremacists wanted to start a civil war in Richmond.  And Governor Blackface and the Democrats are moving full steam ahead with their reindeer games.  So now what?

Well, you've demonstrated that you can put an army in the field.  Charles Martel can tell you how to use it.

But you need more than rallies.  Here are some things that you can do that will bring the hammer down on your enemies - but only if you can keep the campaign going.

Recall the Governor.  You had over 20,000 people attend the rally.  If each would commit to gathering 25 signatures on a recall petition, that would give you half a million signatures.  The media can't really spin that.  Yeah, this is hard and not as much fun as a rally.  Campaigning to win is hard.

Form a militia under the command of a County Sheriff.  Almost 100 counties in Virginia are sanctuary counties.  As the Legislature starts passing bills, find one of those 100 Sheriffs to deputize a militia to resist confiscation.  The media will try to spin this, but if these are all sworn deputies under the command of the Sheriff, that's a lot harder to spin.  Organize and train, under the Sheriff's authority. Then find anther Sheriff and do it again.  And another.  And another.  Yeah, this is hard and not as much fun as a rally.  Campaigning to win is hard.

Meet with the NRA, the GOA, and the Virginia state Republican Party to target weak democrats (for the general election) and weak Republicans (for the primary).  There are probably 20 or 30 of these, so those 20,000 rally attendees might be able to provide as many as 1000 volunteers for each opponent who will run against them.  For a local election, that's a big number.  It's important to target both Democrats and Republicans to show that this is a non-partisan effort.  It's important to work with these organizations because they have a lot of experience in this sort of work.  The media can't really spin this, other than saying it's politics.  Sure is - that's the point.  Yeah, this is hard and not as much fun as a rally.  Campaigning to win is hard.

If you think about it, there are probably a thousand other ideas that can hammer Governor Blackface. None of them will include putting on a rally.

Of course, this is hard, and not as fun, so you won't get your 20,000 turnout.  That's OK.  Even 2,000 or 3,000 is a really good start, as long as it's focused on a win.  Charles the Hammer kept his army in the field year in and year out until none could stand before it.  We've seen this before; it's not complicated, it's just hard.

It's just one weird trick.