21 February 2017

Light One Candle

It isn't likely a surprise that someone who follows RDBMS and quants generally might also keep track of other science vectors. Fact is, my favourite TeeVee show is "How the Universe Works". These endeavors have made a bit of noise recently about the asymptote of progress, particularly the normal macro-world of science and engineering. There was a report (I didn't save a link, sniff) complaining that the younger generation hasn't been starting businesses as vigorously as previous ones. Of course; there's fewer actually new stuff out there on which to base a new venture. Hewlett and Packard started a business to do that which hadn't before existed. They could do that because science and engineering were digging out new discoveries. When new knowledge becomes scarce, so too do new ventures.

The nano-world and supermacro-world remain more unknown, however. But, however, the knowledge and discoveries in those worlds, the latter specifically, aren't likely to have immediate impact on our daily life in the macro-world. I made up supermacro-world. The standard term is cosmology, the study of the greater universe.

One of the main concerns of cosmology is the fate of the universe. The debate has been going on forever, but in earnest since Einstein. There are three possibilities: the universe is space, commonly conceived as a sphere, which is fixed or static; the universe is expanding at a fixed velocity; the universe is expanding with acceleration. The static universe was the accepted norm until Hubble calculated the red shift of distant objects. Then, the expanding universe was accepted. It wasn't until 1980 (yes, not that long ago) that accelerated expansion was proposed.

With any kind of expansion, the question becomes: what happens in the end? Does the universe expand to the point that matter exists in infinitely small density, with inevitable dispersion of energy to zero density? Or does the expansion eventually slow enough for gravity to halt expansion, and generate another big bang? The former is generally agreed to.

But, being just a semi-talented amateur, I've always wondered whether the cosmologists have been correct. The whole ball of wax rests on a single assumption: that physicists can actually measure the speed at which galaxies and such move. You can't just take out your standard issue police radar gun and point it at the Andromeda galaxy and read off the speed. How is it done? The answer is the standard candle.
Almost all astronomical objects used as physical distance indicators belong to a class that has a known brightness. By comparing this known luminosity to an object's observed brightness, the distance to the object can be computed using the inverse square law. These objects of known brightness are termed standard candles.

Of course, that assumes that we know how bright, in absolute terms, an object is; and that we know, by some other means, exactly how far that object is from us. If we know those two values, then we can compare it to measurements of other objects, do some arithmetic, and get distance, velocity, and acceleration. I've always been skeptical that physicists could actually do that.

Well, turns out, even the professionals have worried about that. We may not know quite as much about the supermacro-world as we thought. In particular, if the universe isn't actually accelerating, then we don't have to posit dark matter and dark energy and the like to balance the equations. Balancing the equations requires, just as it did in Newton's day, a source of power to drive the acceleration. In other words, cosmology may have invented a phenomenon in search of a requirement.
But measuring it requires divining the distances of lights in the sky -- stars and even whole galaxies that we can never visit or recreate in the lab. The strategy since Hubble's day has been to find so-called standard candles, stars or whole galaxies whose distances can be calculated by how bright they look from Earth.

We need a cosmic radar gun. Note that the article doesn't question the current view of acceleration. That's all mine. And, of course, there's no immediate effect on our macro-world. Even with accelerated expansion, the end is trillions of years away. Don't change your vacation plans.

20 February 2017

Rednecks and Robots

Kim Jong-Don got elected because enough of the uneducated and unskilled who used to have high wage jobs in high value industries voted against their own self interest. Some of that wage escalating leverage was driven by oligopoly (autos) and some by inherent demand (energy). The Great Recession put an end to much of that. Kim Jong-Don promised such folk that, by making 'America Great Again', he'd get them their high wage, low skill jobs back. Now. That's just a really, really Big Lie and always has been. The former Rust Belt of the blue collar middle class was built on market control by industry, and countervailing power of industrial unions. Industry sucked monopoly rents from consumers, and unions sucked some of the vigorish from industry for workers. Redistribution by any other name, thy result is sweet.

Reagan set out to fully destroy the blue collar middle class, aided in large part by those very folks. Stupid is as stupid does. And the lunatic Right has only gotten more bold since. So, now we have a billionaire and his billlionaire buddies claiming to be the champions of the lost blue collar middle class, working hard every day to restore them to wealth and happiness. Sure they will.

The Left, and some of the Right, cling to the farm-to-factory history of job destruction/creation from the early 20th century as the panacea. No problem; we've been through this before and it turned out all right, and so again. That's some powerful intoxicant.

Well, today's reporting will be declared fake news by Kim Jong-Don and his mouthpieces. Texas, land of the free, and home of the robot. The stupid who voted for him may well continue to believe that their ship has come in, captained by Kim Jong-Don. But the captains of industry tell a different story. And they're not blaming Mexico, China, or Obama. Imagine such honesty!! As stated before in these endeavors, the early 20th century migration was possible just because the skill/brains needed for the created jobs was no worse, even lower, than those destroyed. And the volume of jobs created was commensurate with those destroyed. Successful employment migrations only work simply if labor is homogeneous or, less simply, if labor can be re-trained at a cost sufficiently smaller than the net income increase over the person's remaining worklife to make it worth the effort. For those who lost out on their high wage, low skill jobs over the last decade or so, the only realistic options:
1 - let 'em starve; they wouldn't keep up their skills so it's their ownself's fault
2 - welfare; they were blue collar middle class, so they deserve to be blue collar middle class forever

Some might posit re-training, but as stated in earlier missives, we really don't need more 55 year old London Whales from 50 year old coal miners. Now, do we?

First, the basic issue:
Oil and gas workers have traditionally had some of the highest-paying blue-collar jobs -- just the type that President Trump has vowed to preserve and bring back. But the West Texas oil fields, where activity is gearing back up as prices rebound, illustrate how difficult it will be to meet that goal.

Then, the slap upside the head:
"People have left the industry, and they are not coming back," said Michael Dynan, vice president for portfolio and strategic development at Schramm, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of drilling rigs. "If it's a repetitive task, it can be automated, and I don't need someone to do that. I can get a computer to do that."

And that's exactly what's been going on. Yes, new jobs are happening in the oil patches. No, these jobs are a fraction of the number lost, and demand skills that the oil rig roughneck hasn't a chance of owning.

Recall what's been pointed out more than once here in the past; labor is a variable cost, so it is easily (in Red states, anyway) expanded and contracted as production waxes and wanes. Automation, capitalized production generally, transforms each replaced worker into fixed cost capital. No matter the level of production, those robots and machines have to be amortized. The nut gets bigger. So:
S.O.C. Industries, a small local pump truck operator and chemical services provider, is forced to invest $100,000 a year to keep up with the computer programs and monitoring equipment its clients request. The added expenses are one reason the company has let go 15 of the 60 field workers employed three years ago. Another is that well operators that once hired five or six people on a drill site to mix chemicals and drilling fluids as well as clean up spills are now hiring only three as mechanization has sliced their drilling time in half.

More fixed capital expense of production. The only way the arithmetic works, of course, is for production demand to at least continue at the level when the switch from rednecks to robots happened. Any falloff in demand means Chapter 7. Arithmetic is a bitch.

19 February 2017

Our Comic Book President

It's said that Kim Jong-Don doesn't want to read, i.e. text, the documents he gets. He likes pictures and maps. Sorta the "Classics Illustrated" approach. Just only pictures.

Well, here's a picture that explains why the right wing, trickle down, approach to macro-economic policy just never does anything more than making the rich yet richer.
(By Waliapreeti (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

You don't need to be a mathlete to see that the marginal propensity to consume decreases with income. IOW, if you're already rich, giving you more moolah means you'll just sit on it and not increase aggregate demand in the macro-economy. That asymptote problem, yet again. Most likely, as your rich cabal does, you'll just chase Treasuries. The result of that will reduce yet more the received interest rate. And, of course, you and the rest of the cabal will demand that the damn gummint raise the rate on Treasuries to something you can live on, say, 10%. The problem, of course, is that even if Treasury did sell instruments at a nominal rate of 10% (they can do that now if they wanted to, by the way), rather than at auction, the secondary market would immediately drive down the rate to meet the demand reflected by The Giant Pool of Money, which grows ever larger. So, we'd get a transparent re-distribution of moolah from taxpayers to fat cats. Fat cats would rather their transgression be less obvious.

May be we can rename Kim Jong-Don yet again, to Robin Hoodlum? Take from the poor and give to the rich!

17 February 2017

Thought For The Day - 17 February 2017

Reporting today that Kim Jong-Don intends to remove 11.5 million illegals. Whether anyone knows that the total of illegals is that number, or even one near it is an open question. But here's the thing. For each illegal one could reasonably expect that s/he has some number of kids/spouse tagging along. The kids, if born here, are citizens. Well, until Kim Jong-Don can get the 14th amendment of Constitution repealed.

What might be a side-effect of such a mass expulsion? How about the plunging share price of WalMart? The loss of, say, 40 million poor people will certainly put a crimp in their revenue and profit. Ya think they might just bitch to the little whiney bitch? They'd better get at it. The nasty arithmetic just won't go away.

Babbling Brooks

For some years, David Brooks has self-identified as the coherent conservative, as opposed to the lunatic fringe. Since the ascendancy of Kim Jong-Don, he's become a tad more adamant in that regard. It, therefore, should come as no surprise that his column today carries on in such a manner.

What is refreshing is that he's offering up wisdom that sounds rather like he's been pinching ideas from Your Humble Servant of late. He he. While he doesn't reach the level that I do: Kim Jong-Don's point is to destroy governance, so the conclusion espoused by many, that he's flailing and incompetent is just plain wrong. By the bye: yes, I'm referring to the newly added subhead seen in some versions of these endeavors; I regret the bold font, but that's not me, but the platform's decision. If I ever find a way to get normal display, I will. On to Mr. Brooks.
I still have trouble seeing how the Trump administration survives a full term. Judging by his Thursday press conference, President Trump's mental state is like a train that long ago left freewheeling and iconoclastic, has raced through indulgent, chaotic and unnerving, and is now careening past unhinged, unmoored and unglued.

So, is he crazy? Yes and no. Yes, he's clearly demented, but by his own hand. I'm among those who assert that 99.44% of neurotics are so just because they choose to be, it comforts them. Organic mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, are another issue. So no, Kim Jong-Don's problems, as viewed from the outside, are his assets, so far as he is concerned. The bully in the bully pulpit, so to speak.

Which brings us to the other major point of Kim Jong-Don, which I've expressed more than once in the past (and offer up a self-quote from elsewhere), but bears repeating, since Mr. Brooks gets near it:
Puzder, as well as DeVos and Carson and ..., is that governance is to be destroyed. after all, anarchy favors the rich. and the rich is Kim Jong-Don's only priority. the uneducated and unskilled who voted [for] him were hoodwinked by their own racism. if they were the only ones to be punished.

Mr. Brooks says this
Bannon has a coherent worldview, which is a huge advantage when all is chaos. It's interesting how many of Bannon's rivals have woken up with knives in their backs. Michael Flynn is gone. Reince Priebus has been unmanned by a thousand White House leaks. Rex Tillerson had the potential to be an effective secretary of state, but Bannon neutered him last week by denying him the ability to even select his own deputy.

Yet another self-quote, from an unrelated posting (not mine, that is):
what was that movie (mostly true, I hear) about that mad English king? a recent one, not 14th century or whatever. the moderate Republicans (are there really any left?) don't matter. the lunatic fringe controls the party in Congress and they only care that The Donald won't veto their gifts to the rich, punish the poor, legislation.

Mr. Brooks, today:
Everything about Trump that appalls 65 percent of America strengthens him with the other 35 percent, and he can ride that group for a while. Even after these horrible four weeks, Republicans on Capitol Hill are not close to abandoning their man.

So, a useful Fool. Both to Putin and the lunatic Right.

15 February 2017

Obambi or Godzilla?

The shit storm battering Mar-a-Lago approaches Cat 5, and one must wonder: why now? Why did Obama hold back? He's already on record that he held back the petty stuff in order to avoid the appearance of influencing the election. Why didn't he go for the kill last September? Or another October Surprise? The shit storm isn't intel from yesterday, but from 2015 and 2016. Why?

What we may have is the recognition of strategy versus tactics. If Obama had blown a strong whistle during the election (a tactical move), Hill probably would have won, but the Congress would likely have stayed Right Wing, and so the Supremes. What to do? What to do? And the meme from the Right would have continued for four years: it was all a Liberal plot.

The strategic move, it appears, was to force the Right Wing to implode. Obama knows DC, and in particular the history of Nixon and Iran Contra and such. The rank and file intelligence community is somewhat right of center, but they're not in Putin's pocket; they really are Patriots (I met a few when I was with Jack Anderson for a little while in the 1908s). The WMD fiasco was the fault of the political top of the community, not the professionals. They knew that when Kim Jong-Don accused them during the campaign of having "no idea".

So, now the Republicans have to impeach Kim Jong-Don, at least, may be even Pence, or risk never controlling anything more than the Supremes for decades.

Strategy. Tactic. Perhaps Obama is, ya know, really smart.

14 February 2017

Thought For The Day - 14 February 2017

It's deja vu, all over again. A St. Valentine Day's Massacre.

Back in the 1970s, for those old enough to remember (and enough memory cells left to realize those memories!), Nixon was taken down by his own narcissistic need to hear his own voice for the rest of his life. Let's go to the audio tape!

This time, Kim Jong-Don is being taken down by the very spy agencies he so disparaged while he ran for president. They have all of his, and his minions, skullduggery on tape. These endeavors predicted that his bravado would be his undoing. And so it has come to pass.