Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Pancake Tuesday, 2017

It looks gross, but I'm going to cut back on all this stuff
during Lent.....really.
We skipped last year but did go in 2015. Pancakes were a must on Fat Tuesday.

The local IHOP is one of the few local places where you can get breakfast at night. There were only a couple of booths filled that evening, and not one was having breakfast.

Well, someone has to honor the tradition that requires consuming all the fats, sweets, eggs, and dairy in the larder. Fortified, we left the restaurant ready for 40 days of abstemiousness---at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Brookings Answers Questions About Big Government

If Federal Government spending has increased so much over the past 40 years, why has its civilian workforce held steady at only two million employees?

According to the Brookings Institution the increase in government jobs occurred not through direct payroll but
By employing three species of administrative proxies:
  • State and local governments
  • For-profit businesses
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • The number of non-government positions attributable to Federal spending rose from 2 million in 1960 to an estimated 12 million today. Adding the current 2 million Federal employees to the latter results in 14 million workers who have a strong interest in maintaining the level of government we have.

    Because there's political resistance to add to the government workforce, there's a strong incentive to perform government functions through outside parties. Yet 28 of the 32 agencies that have the most cost overruns have the highest proxy quotient. It just may be that we should hire more government workers to get a better handle on spending.

    Interesting throughout, the article is not too long and has lots of graphs. Read the whole thing.

    Sunday, February 26, 2017

    Dimanche Gras

    The future Episcopal Church of the Bay Area has a South Asian look.
    The church used to host pancake suppers, but it's increasingly difficult to attract enough people to make the effort worthwhile. This Sunday, as they did last year, Liz and Brian hosted a mardi gras spread, complete with king cakes flown in from Louisiana.

    They made a lot of food, but we were up to the task....

    Saturday, February 25, 2017

    "996": the Chinese 24/7

    (Photo from Business Insider)
    Americans who say they work "24/7" (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) are exaggerating, of course, because everyone has to sleep. They do work long hours, and 24/7 emphasizes the point that they're on call during their "time off". Calendars are not under owners' control.

    As a junior accountant 40 years ago, our schedule averaged 16/7 in January-February, when the audit load was most intense, and in March-April, the peak of tax season. Summer was "normal," a time to take vacations and continuing education classes. I don't think that I could have maintained the busy-season pace throughout the year past the age of 30.

    In China it's common to have "the dreaded “996” schedule—9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week."
    Chinese labor law dictates a 40-hour workweek and extra pay for overtime, but many companies circumvent those rules by asking employees to sign contracts that say their jobs require flexible work schedules.

    For many workers, the 996 schedule is routine. Even so, a handful of recent deaths of men in their 30s and 40s who were employees of hard-charging tech companies have triggered discussions in Chinese media and social networks about the harsh work environment.
    I doubt conditions, at least in technology, will become better in China until the power imbalance between labor and management is corrected. In the U.S. a smart person with little money can attract capital and compete for skilled employees. In China business success depends a great deal on who one knows in the government. Until job opportunities become more plentiful, being stuck in a "996" job will be the fate of most workers.

    Friday, February 24, 2017

    But Why Pay More

    View from a $36 million penthouse (WSJ photo)
    We try to rationalize the irrational price of Bay Area real estate by pointing toward the trillions(!) of dollars worth of companies located there.

    But what explains what's going on in Honolulu's formerly run-down Kakaako section? [bold added]
    This city’s Kakaako district—long overlooked amid the development of Waikiki Beach on one side and downtown skyscrapers on the other—has become the center of a building boom of luxury condominiums and townhomes with asking prices upward of $20 million. A 10,000-square-foot penthouse atop the 36th floor of Waiea tower—featuring floor-to-ceiling views of Waikiki and Diamond Head—is listed for $36 million, believed to be the highest ever for a condo in Hawaii.
    The area's got nice restaurants and stores, but the streets and sidewalks still need fixing, traffic is horrible, and the air is dusty from construction. The Hawaiian company with the largest market cap is Hawaiian Electric at $3.6 billion, so most of the buyers aren't local entrepreneurs who hit it big with an IPO. The Hawaii Visitors Bureau deserves an A+ for marketing the islands, especially to wealthy Asians.

    Meanwhile, the old man and I walk along the parks in the neighborhood, and it doesn't cost us a cent.

    Thursday, February 23, 2017

    Quick, Cheap, and Not Digestively Upsetting

    Nothing is wasted: vinegar is stored in
    used Sriracha bottles.
    While on an errand in Milpitas, we looked for a Chinese restaurant that was quick, cheap, and not digestively upsetting (hey, we have low standards). Tung Kee Noodle filled the bill.

    There are other Tung Kee Noodles and TK Noodles sprinkled about the Bay Area. They all have the same look--white interiors, booths lined up like dominos, and illuminated photos of noodle and rice dishes hung on the walls.

    Large floorspaces and locations in suburban malls are consistent with catering to the working-class lunch crowd. The noodle joints must provide good value reliably and keep them coming back.

    Your humble blogger likes these places. If the shoe fits....

    Wednesday, February 22, 2017

    Kenneth Arrow

    Receiving the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics (Telegraph)
    His passing hardly rated a mention in the nightly news, but Kenneth Arrow's contributions to the fields of economics and political science were unmatched among 20th-century economists:
    Arrow wrote the foundational paper of general equilibrium analysis, the foundational paper of social choice and voting, the foundational paper justifying government intervention in innovation, and the foundational paper in the economics of health care.
    The idea for which he was most famous, Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, showed that no voting system can aggregate the collective preferences of voters in every situation. Each will have a different weakness. He was awarded the Nobel prize in Economics in 1972.

    From 2012, here's Kenneth Arrow on the Electoral College:
    Oh, we know that there’s been several elections (not many), but there’s been several elections where the Plurality vote was different from the electoral vote. There, we actually have data, like 2000. So we know it makes a difference. I think I’d prefer something other than Plurality Voting. But certainly the Electoral College only adds. It doesn’t subtract. It only adds to the problem. Actually, there’s a lot of strange consequences. For example, in campaigning and power, states that are doubtful have more power than states that are clearly one party or another. There’s no reason for that to matter, to play a role. A vote in California has less and less significance. That means policies are changed.
    [Update - 2/24: former Treasury Secretary and Harvard President Larry Summers remembers his Uncle Kenneth.]

    Tuesday, February 21, 2017

    Heat and Light Out West

    The Washington Post's new logo: "Democracy dies in darkness"

    California can be the Post-er child. Our great Progressive democracy is converting as fast as it can to solar energy to keep the lights on.

    When there are weeks of stormy weather--which officials thought will never happen again [note: California has failed to maintain levees and dams--the Federal ones are in decent shape] because of global warming--they will, in the dark, do the facepalm, just like when they forced Californians to throw out old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs. Oops, so CFLs poison the surroundings with mercury. They meant well.

    Did you know that backup generators are getting cheaper, lighter, and more efficient?

    Monday, February 20, 2017

    Wet and Wild

    Water pours from the drain from
    Highway 92 above.
    On a wet and wild President's Day the Bay Area experienced flash floods, power failures, and road closures. Staying close to home, we went to the gym and Costco.

    Another reason not to travel is to avoid potholes. Pothole damage can run into the thousands of dollars, and I speak from personal experience.

    The good news is that we are less than halfway through the "water year" ending September 30th, and already rainfall totals have exceeded those for an entire normal year of about 24 inches.

    Though the governor has yet to declare it, the drought is over. If we survive, we'll be in good shape.

    Sunday, February 19, 2017

    Give It A Rest

    Making conversation after the morning service, I looked quizzically at a fellow parishioner when he asked, "Did you hear about the terrorist attack in Sweden?" No, I didn't. "President Trump said there was." Oh, he was making a joke about another of the President's apparent gaffes. I chuckled, and I changed the subject to the discovery of the underwater continent Zealandia (my friend was born in New Zealand).

    Everyone wants to talk about the President, though no one I know voted for him (including me, which I have to repeat endlessly lest I be suspected of racist, sexist, deplorable heresy).

    When I got home I had to look up what provoked the latest contretemps ("contre-Trumps"?). In a Saturday rally the President said:
    "You look at what's happening last night in Sweden," Trump said. "Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden. They took in large numbers. They're having problems like they never thought possible."
    If only he had not said "last night", because nothing happened on Friday. The rest of his statement does have merit, because some Swedes are having second thoughts about the correlation of higher crime and the immigration of "hundreds of thousands" of refugees into their country of 10 million.

    But the bigger story to me is how Donald Trump's words pre-occupy the waking moments of so many people who didn't vote for him. You're letting him make your lives miserable, people.

    Sunday is the day of rest for your benefit, not God's, so for your sake, not for Donald, the Republicans, and their supporters, please give it a rest.

    Saturday, February 18, 2017

    Number Sixty-Three, And Proud of It

    The deeper the blue, the safer the neighborhood
    Only two Bay Area cities were in the list of the top 100 safest cities in the United States.

    Los Altos was #98 and Foster City was #63.

    Our middle-class Peninsula city has a prosperous light-industry and commercial sector--Gilead Sciences (GILD) and Visa International (V) are both headquartered here--and healthy tax receipts assure a fully-funded police force.

    Perhaps of greater importance is that there are only three exit roads, which the police can block quickly. (Friends' experience with 911 calls shows the average response time to be between 5+ minutes. EMTs, fire, and police arrive nearly simultaneously.) Criminals look for easier pickings.

    There were several times over the past 30 years that we thought about trading up to tonier zip codes. With the price appreciation that Bay Area real estate has experienced, our balance sheet would have looked better today. However, being able to sleep peacefully has value, too.

    Friday, February 17, 2017

    A Happier Guy

    Christmas and New Year's resulted in a surfeit of coffee-bean gifts. We're slowly grinding through the packages and enjoying tastes other than French Roast and Italian Roast.

    I mix the remainder of one bag with a new one when I'm close to running out. That's not how the connoisseurs do it, but having lower standards in coffee--and across most areas of life--means I'm a happier guy.

    Besides, blended or not, the coffee still tastes pretty good.

    Thursday, February 16, 2017

    A Press Conference That Was Must-See TV

    Intending to tune in briefly to the President's press conference today, I listened to the very end. It was riveting.

    Policy issues---I agree with the President more often than not, btw---took a back seat. He laid into the "dishonest" media and particularly CNN, ("I mean I watch CNN, and it's so much anger, hatred"). The tone ("Tone. I see tone. You know the word tone. The tone is such hatred") of reporters' questions confirmed his assessment.

    He further inoculated himself against press conference post-mortems by predicting, therefore de-fanging, the criticism:
    Tomorrow, they will say, Donald Trump rants and raves at the press. I'm not ranting and raving. [blogger's note: FWIW, he didn't look angry.]
    Hard-core supporters cheered. Hard-core opponents had their beliefs confirmed.

    Barack Obama may have had some difficult questions to answer during his eight years in office, but reporters' tone was always respectful and often obsequious.

    If the oppositional press has any hope of getting Trump voters to listen, it must show the President the respect due his office and criticize him with facts that can be independently verified. If the press just wants to preach to its bicoastal choir, it can just keep doing what it's doing.

    For the record I am a paid subscriber to Time, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Economist, all of which have strongly anti-Trump editorial positions. I don't mind those, but what I do mind is how those positions bleed into their news sections and headlines. As I've written before, I hope that Donald Trump will revive them and make them great again.

    Wednesday, February 15, 2017

    Don't Correct, Sympathize

    (Clipart image)
    There's a word for that condition:
    Misophonia, a disorder which means sufferers have a hatred of sounds such as eating, chewing, loud breathing or even repeated pen-clicking, was first named as a condition in 2001.
    So, people who tell others to stop slurping their soup aren't necessarily etiquette-obsessed, they may have a brain abnormality:
    scientists said scans of misophobia [sic: misophobia is the fear of germs] sufferers found changes in brain activity when a 'trigger' sound was heard. Brain imaging revealed that people with the condition have an abnormality in their emotional control mechanism which causes their brains to go into overdrive on hearing trigger sounds. The researchers also found that trigger sounds could evoke a heightened physiological response, with increased heart rate and sweating.
    In recent years anti-social, unusual, and even criminal behaviors have been found to have a physiological basis. Institutions are already having a tough time adjusting to the notion that the environment determines life's outcomes. If one's genes determine the rest, what role is there for free will, motivation, and character? (Those questions are way above your humble blogger's pay grade.)

    Meanwhile, when your kid covers his ears because certain sounds bother him, don't correct, sympathize.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2017

    Out of Kilter

    The sauna is out of kilter. The repairs were scheduled to be completed by Valentine's Day, but they look like it will take another week at least.

    I need the quiet time, I want the quiet time, I must have the quiet time. The steam room is one of the few places that I can get away. (Is there stuff going on in the world that bothers you as well, dear reader?)

    I guess I'm out of kilter, too.

    Monday, February 13, 2017

    Water, Nearly Everywhere

    We were glued to the set Sunday night as the emergency spillway for the Oroville Dam threatened to rupture and send a 30-foot wall of water down the Feather River. (I used to visit my uncle in Paradise, a few miles from Oroville and Oroville Dam. Paradise would have been out of the water's path.) Failure could have occurred any minute, and 180,000 people were evacuated.

    Fortunately the rain abated, and the dam operators were able to release water quickly enough to take the pressure off the spillways. Evacuees have the option of moving back, and more rain is expected this weekend.

    The five-year drought is almost over. We know this because newspapers have begun writing stories about great California floods.

    Sunday, February 12, 2017

    Sunday Revelations

    Two scenes from church today, one unusual and the other (sadly) typical.

    Future Collector
    As mentioned before, children often are asked to help collect the offering. About half the families don't put anything into the plate (it doesn't mean the church goes without--some write monthly checks, and a few prepay their entire annual pledge for tax purposes). One young helper had been noting who had not contributed, and when we reached the back of the church made a beeline to recalcitrant donors, tapping some on the shoulder and pointing to the plate, sign language for "Did you forget something?" It took a minute to corral him.

    As we frantically whispered our explanation, he grew mortified. Switching gears and kneeling at eye level, I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. He brightened. Church can produce indelible memories, and this incident shouldn't be a negative one. Besides, when he grows up we are always looking for people to run the pledge campaign....

    A Regular Feature of Announcement Time
    During announcement time someone got up to denounce the President of the United States, a seemingly weekly occurrence in the modern Episcopal Church. The source of the ire this time was the Administration claim that the media either under-publicize or don't even identify some incidents as terror attacks. This can't be so, the speaker declared, because terrorists always claim responsibility for their deeds.

    Well, I mentally objected, why do we have such a cartoonishly simple understanding of the behavior of Jihadists? Have we forgotten about how the investigation into the 1999 Egyptair crash was diverted for years because no one believed that the Islamic pilot (probably not a terrorist) would commit suicide? Or that terrorists would use women and children to kill innocents? Or that they would attack "soft" targets? Haven't the terrorists evolved, too? No, I don't wholly buy into the President's assertion either, but why are we talking about a media dispute in church?

    The speaker sat down to a smattering of applause. The Presidency of Donald Trump---whom I didn't vote for---has been remarkably enlightening about the good people whom I work with, care for, and see every day. During the previous Administration they have viewed themselves as morally superior to the people who were upset by President Obama. Now that the worm has turned, their own reaction has been far angrier and more intrusive than anything I saw in the past eight years. I hope that, after the anger passes, they have time to reflect on what their reactions tell them about themselves.

    Saturday, February 11, 2017

    Protecting the Golden Years

    Not uncommon, unfortunately (Mirror)
    Scam artists find the elderly to be inviting targets: paraphrasing Willie Sutton, they're where the money is, and can't protect their finances because of cognitive decline. [bold added]
    Studies suggest financial decision-making ability tends to reach its peak in a person’s mid-50s, after when deterioration sets in....But even “normal” ageing can cause cognitive change. Financial-management skills are often early casualties, because they demand both knowledge and judgment.

    Older people are more likely to struggle with day-to-day banking and are more susceptible to poor investment decisions. They are also more vulnerable to fraud or to financial exploitation, often by relatives. In 2010 the over-65s in America made up 13% of the population but had over a third of the wealth.
    After I turned 60, memory and alertness declined so much that even I could notice. The consequence is that I might well purchase investments, such as annuities, that I would not have previously considered---annuities lock up one's cash and are difficult to steal.

    But the best defense is to have children who are financially secure (so they won't be conflicted when handling your money) and who have your interests at heart. No matter what else may have happened to you, if you have such children your life has been a success.

    Friday, February 10, 2017

    One Thing is Certain: Climate Change Will Take the Blame

    Venice? No, Sacramento in 1862 (SFGate)
    An unexpectedly wet winter has not only alleviated the drought, it has revived interest in---and fears of--- disastrous floods: [bold added]
    the USGS lays out a case for a hypothetical "megastorm," one that could cause up to $725 billion in damage and impact a quarter of California's homes.

    The ARkStorm [Atmospheric River 1000] would bring with it catastrophic rains, hurricane-force winds and hundreds of landslides. Central Valley flooding alone is projected to span 300 miles.

    If that sounds far-fetched, there's historic precedent: Geological evidence indicates that California endures massive flooding caused by atmospheric rivers every 100-200 years. And settlers who moved to California after the Gold Rush soon found what the native population had known for centuries: Northern California is prime flooding territory.

    The most prominent example is the Great Flood of 1862, a natural disaster that still ranks as the largest flood in the history of the American West. Between Dec. 1861 and Jan. 1862, the West Coast received a near-constant deluge of rain. Sacramento received a stunning 23 inches in that period, turning the city into a watery ghost town.
    Information like this puts the kibosh on dreams to purchase a get-away-from-earthquakes home in Sacramento. An underwater haven will do us no good. Something a bit higher might still be suitable, though driving there would be a problem.

    The real takeaway is that scientists have a sense of humor. ARkstorm? Indeed.

    Thursday, February 09, 2017

    Enhanced by the Surprise

    Friends of ours sent us a box of oranges on January 28th, the Lunar New Year.

    Giving red envelopes to the kids or eating tsai is usually the most we do to celebrate; hardly anyone we know in the second, third, or later generations honor other Lunar New Year traditions.

    The oranges are nearly gone, their sweetness enhanced by the surprise of receiving them.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2017

    The Trend is Not Our Friend

    U.S. companies are coming "back home", but many aren't bringing back jobs. Here's a new buzzword---no-shoring: [bold added]
    digitizing back-office tasks brings them back to the country in which a company operates, but without bringing back any jobs.
    From the Labor Day post:
    we just may be in one of those historical inflection points where automation, robots, and artificial intelligence finally destroy more jobs than they create.
    We are living longer, but the trend is toward fewer jobs that give life meaning. I hope I'm wrong.

    [Note: the fact that the elite of the elite talked about the issue at Davos doesn't give much hope. How often does a top-down solution, for example job retraining, help more than a few people?]

    Tuesday, February 07, 2017

    Rising Above It

    Like the stages of grief, I've gone through several stages of irritation over the use of Facebook by some of my friends to trumpet their political views. Of course, I was initially irritated with friends whose politics differed from mine. But then I became irritated with other friends "on my side of the aisle" who wouldn't let up, either.

    Facebook is a great way to communicate instantaneously with a large number of people; it also is a great way to inflame. From Politics Have Turned Facebook Into a Steaming Cauldron of Hate
    Nearly everybody reported that they’d blocked, muted, or unfollowed people with extreme — and extremely different — political views.
    I refuse to go down the rathole of argumentation and believe the worst about people with different views. Not everyone on one side is a gun-toting, racist homophobe, and not everyone on the other side is an elitist snob with zero real-world experience. In fact, I read a variety of publications, such as the Huffington Post, Slate, the National Review, and the Weekly Standard, along with mainstream big media, and I find that there's reasoning behind the thinking that I disagree with. Occasionally, I change my mind.

    Politics is very important to a few--most in my circle post about their families--but that's what friendship is, listening to what's important to others. Nothing that they post about is worth breaking the bond.

    Below are Facebook posts from a friend on the left and a friend on the right, both women. And I love them both (the final stage of irritation?).

    Monday, February 06, 2017

    Take the Money, Please

    RMD table. Example: a 71-year-old with a $200,000 IRA must withdraw
    at least $200,000/26.5 = $7,547.17 in the current year.
    Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from IRA and 401(k) accounts have basic rules that are simple to understand---when taxpayers turns 70½ they must start withdrawing a minimum amount based on their remaining actuarial life--but there are traps to avoid. For example:
    But be sure to avoid another common mistake in this area, which is when one spouse takes the entire required payout for both spouses if each has IRAs. Instead, each partner must take such payouts from his or her own accounts.
    On the plus side there are some ways to defer withdrawals after 70½:
    There’s also a useful exception for employees who participate in workplace plans such as 401(k)s and are still working after age 70½. If these workers don’t own more than 5% of the company and their plan doesn’t mandate payouts at 70½, then they needn’t take required withdrawals from the plan until they retire.

    IRA owners can also exclude up to $125,000 of assets from the base for computing required payouts if they use the assets to buy “qualifying longevity annuity contracts,” or QLACs. These are IRS-approved deferred annuities that don’t pay out until the owner reaches age 85, and they help make sure savers won’t outlive their assets.
    I began taking distributions from my 401(k) and IRA accounts when I turned 59½, the age at which withdrawals are no longer penalized. During low-income years I take cash from retirement accounts, during high-income years from regular savings and brokerage accounts. Don't be greedy; if you're an oldster with significant retirement savings and you're paying zero taxes, you're not minimizing your long-term tax burden.

    Age is only a state of mind, and life choices are one's own, but not according to tax law: 59 is too early to be retired, but by 70 everyone should be.

    Sunday, February 05, 2017


    The people of the world can be divided into two groups: those who find this video funny and those who don't. (Guess which one I'm a part of.)

    I wonder what brand of softener he used?

    (Hat tip KSFO)

    Saturday, February 04, 2017

    Please Stop Helping Us

    Donald Trump's election has spawned a California secession movement ("Calexit") by progressives who are disenchanted with the rest of the country.

    There's a snowball's chance of Calexit succeeding (by the way, there was snow in the Middle East in 2015 and in the Sahara desert in 2016), if, for no other reason that secession would require a Constitutional amendment. Now it turns out that some elements in Russia have given financial support to Calexit: [bold added]
    The man behind a campaign to make California its own country is receiving support in Russia from a far-right nationalist group that wants to break up the United States.

    Yes California President Louis Marinelli, who is living and teaching in Russia, has partnered and received financial support from the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, a Kremlin-supported political group that opposes a handful of countries, such as the United States, having a majority of the world’s political clout.
    There's no question that a United States without California would be substantially weaker. Also, standalone California would confront a raft of problems that it is not remotely equipped to handle. It's obvious why Calexit would attract Russian support; now that the support has been revealed, passage is even more unlikely.

    Progressives say that Russian support of Donald Trump helped him win. Ironically, Russian support of a progressive initiative will help it lose.

    Friday, February 03, 2017

    Beyond His Ability

    These aren't the modems you are looking for (atomic toasters)
    A friend moved into her six-year-old house and asked for help in setting up the WiFi. The homeowners' association provided "free Internet", and a call to the provider confirmed that the line was active. But my friend had to buy her own WiFi router to plug into the provider's modem. The task didn't sound difficult.

    After running to Best Buy to pick up a router, I searched for the modem. I opened every drawer, cabinet, and closet, but a gizmo with flashing lights was nowhere to be found. Finally, I emailed the seller of the house and asked if he had taken the modem.

    No, he replied the next day, the modem was built into the house. It was behind an upstairs metal panel labelled "Communications". The Ethernet port was downstairs next to the fireplace. I plugged in the router and within a few minutes the router was transmitting a signal throughout the house.

    In addition to prewired Internet, the house in this middle-class suburb has built-in sprinkler, security, cable TV, telephone, and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning) systems. Many of the systems require annual checkups by a professional; it's too risky for the average homeowner to maintain them herself.

    Backyard mechanics and home handymen are a dying breed. The technology that empowers John Q. Public is beyond his ability to understand...and to fix.

    Thursday, February 02, 2017

    Donald Trump Will Make The Opposition Great, Too

    Having spent my entire working life in the private sector, I’ve found the political developments over the past 11 days to be stimulating, upsetting, encouraging, and amusing, but above all highly entertaining.

    Every business person I know has worked under tremendous pressure at points in his or her career. The source of the stress can be positive, for example, laboring on an acquisition, or negative, i.e., trying to keep one’s company out of bankruptcy; sometimes it’s both. Staying alive is a 24/7 proposition for many businesses.

    Very few sections of the government work under such tough conditions---the military does so, of course, as do police, fire, and emergency services.

    But the regulatory agencies? Here’s how I imagine how a regulator thinks: I’m writing rules that you have to follow---and I’m sure you have questions but it’s after four and Monday is Indigenous People’s Day (what, you don’t get that day off?)---and by the way I need more money next year to do the same job. You've got a timetable, I've got mine, and mine trumps yours. (Your humble blogger would be happy to be proved wrong.)

    I’m sure you have heard non-government people wish “If only government operated like a business.” Yes, generally Republicans say that, but it’s really independent of policy. The bureaucracy needs to move faster---even if the answer is no, tell the petitioners now so that they can move on. And needing months to deliberate does not necessarily make the decision better; sometimes it’s terribly flawed (Obamacare, I’m looking at you) even with a lot of time to analyze and discuss.

    Every day President Trump has issued three or four directives that each would have constituted the media headline of the day in Administrations past. That’s how it’s done in real-world organizations when there’s a change in management.

    The media, Hollywood, and academia and other centers of opposition are no strangers themselves to rapid change and should not feign shock at the pace of pronouncements because their organizations have likely experienced this pace themselves. The opposition will soon come to realize that trying to drum up outrage on crowd size, fake news, a fake "Muslim ban" and Russian election hacking is a losing strategy while the Trump train has loaded the cars and left the station.

    Now that the President has nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the opposition does have an issue on which to focus its fire for several weeks. However, it won't be able to give full attention to what the President's doing on tax law, regulatory procedures, Cabinet appointments, Iran, China, public education, the "wall", sanctuary cities, and a host of other topics.

    The media defenders of statism have grown fat and lazy carrying water for a government that was their friend only if they agreed with it. They don’t see this yet, but Donald Trump will force them to hone their message and pick their fights. He will make them great, too.

    Wednesday, February 01, 2017

    Father Time Says It's No Longer Mother Time

    What do female homo sapiens have in common with female whales (this is a serious question)? They both undergo menopause, i.e., they "stop reproducing decades before they die." This characteristic, unique among mammals, is there for a reason:
    menopause not only frees a female to help raise the grandoffspring, but also reduces competition between her and her gravid and nursing daughters.
    Studies of killer and pilot whales showed that the offspring of young mothers have a better chance of survival than those of older mothers; therefore, it is better for the species if older women help daughters raise their own children rather than to create more children of their own.

    One can make too much of these animal studies, however; your humble blogger doesn't see any connection between women and whales.

    (Image from southernairboat.com)