Business travel isn’t going to get any easier, guys

February 21st, 2018

Our first commercial airplane flight was around half a century ago. There was no screening, and boarding was pretty quick. Soon after that screening started, because crooks and idiots had started hijacking flights to Cuba, of all places, as well as to the charming middle east.

By contrast, when we left for Germany on Sunday of this week on a 3:15pm flight from LAX, it seems there had been a few more changes. Hey, driving to the airport and dealing with the bureaucracy took ONLY 2.5 hours! We left home shortly before 1pm, and arrive at the gate a full ten minutes before the tots and the wheelchair bound were interrogated and allowed to board. Random packages were screened at the gate, even though they had just been previously screened.

Further, by way of another stark contrast, it can sometimes be an absolute pleasure to take a Saturday midnight business-trip flight West from LAX to Guangzhou, since it’s not hard for a Californian to sleep at that hour, and miraculously you arrive just in time for your early morning meeting Monday in China. Well Rested. Nice work if you can get it. (Hey, what happened to Sunday, anyhow, since it vanished?)

But if you fly the 11 hours for a business trip on Sunday at 3:15 in the afternoon from LAX to Dortmund’s nearest big airport, Frankfurt, things aren’t so much fun. For starters, who can sleep for long in mid-afternoon? And second, for many people, the natural sleep cycle begins not far from the plane’s landing schedule. So there you are meeting a country go-go ready to do business at 11am Monday, while your body thinks that it’s midnight and time for zzzzzzz. Hint: don’t sign any critical deals at the arrival gate.

But wait, it gets worse! This truly massive airport covers 6000 acres and is a modern version of some Twilight Zone episode. It can take an hour or more just to find others arriving to go to the same meeting. Oh, and if you’re heading to Dortmund for a meeting, it can take 4 hours to rent a car and drive the 150 or so miles. And remember: your group is doing this at 3am body-time, while the folks you are visiting, are spending a nice comfortable Monday sipping tea. (Again: avoid signing contracts under such conditions!)

The good news is that things settle down after a while, and so Tuesday meetings, lunches, dinners, etc., can be productive, as indeed they were this time. But the best personal part of it is that if you go through the modest hell of staying up all night Tuesday/Wednesday and conclude some successful business, you’ll be pleased that the 18 hour return trip home from Germany, which starts at midnight, puts you right back on your original sleep cycle.

A boredom that will live in infamy?

February 20th, 2018

Zzzzzz. Snore.

For fun and often irony we recommend Maggie’s Farm.

Yes, a special habitat is needed

February 19th, 2018

For the writers of this.

Reality versus Bizarro World

February 18th, 2018

Clarice and Thomas Lifson make sense. On the other hand, this is just nuts. As we say, this is what happens when the left loses control of the narrative, which they’ve previously enjoyed for a long time.

Government downsizing candidate and other things

February 17th, 2018

Jeesh. Also, Joseph Lister’s fantastic accomplishments. Did he invent Listerine?

Heck of a thing, now and then

February 16th, 2018

It’s that Farrow fellow again. And here’s the lady. Must have been the Ruskies. Or maybe not. Better get the FBI on it: they’re always on top of things. Final little point: our favorite TV show of the last decade is Matthew Weiner‘s Mad Men, which we thought was great (in part because, decades ago, we read the NYT every Tuesday to see what was happening with BBD&O, Leo Burnett and others in the ad world). The writing, casting and acting were great. We also liked it because our office at 399 Park was occasionally visible in some of the episodes. If a Martian spacecraft had landed at the start of that series in 1960 and put hashtags on everything, the hysteria of recent months and years would have been played out a half century ago.

For your consideration

February 15th, 2018

I, pencil. It’s better than thinking about this. Or this. Or this — BTW, stop with the “liberal” nonsense. JFK was a liberal, and we can easily agree that a rising tide lifts all boats. These are leftists, not liberal in any sense.

Cambodia?

February 14th, 2018

CNBC:

The World Bank predicts Cambodia’s GDP will grow more than 6.9 percent in 2018, after its economic performance ranked it sixth best in the world over the previous 10 years and pushed it into the lower-middle-income country group. The two big drivers are tourism and garment manufacturing. Between 2012 and 2016, tourism to Cambodia increased to more than 5 million visits from 3.5 million, according to the government of Cambodia. Tourism contributed 12 percent, or $2.4 billion to Cambodia’s economy in 2016, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, a number that is expected to grow by 7 percent a year over the next 10 years. Those are huge numbers for a country with a little more than 15 million people.

On a Saturday this past fall, hundreds of people were waiting in an hourlong line to climb the staircases of Angkor Wat. Legend has it that if you ascend to the third level of the huge 12th-century Hindu temple, you’ll find the center of the universe. The news has reached China: Most of the tourists in the courtyard and at dozens of other ancient temples in the Cambodian jungle were Chinese.

Almost unnoticed, on the coattails of China’s rising economy, Cambodia has become one of the world’s economic success stories, a tiny tiger in Southeast Asia. China’s long economic growth is helping to boost Cambodia.

Tourists from China have helped push Angkor Wat to a perch as the world’s top tourism destination, according to TripAdvisor. China is helping to spur Cambodia’s economy in other ways, too. It is investing billions to develop the nation’s infrastructure, agriculture and health care. At the same time, as wages rise in China’s manufacturing sector, some of that business is shifting to Cambodia.

Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies.

$36 trillion is a lot of money

February 13th, 2018

Bloomberg:

China may be forced to soften efforts to curb risks in its financial sector in order to protect the economy, said an analyst who made her name warning about the dangers of the nation’s credit binge. Despite the crackdown on shadow banking and other areas of financial risk which got underway last year, China’s economic growth is still being underpinned by rising debt, said Charlene Chu, a senior partner at Autonomous Research in Hong Kong. The government’s harsh rhetoric masks a softly-softly approach to tackling financial risk amid fears that stronger action would endanger the economy or the balance sheets of Chinese banks, she added in a recent interview. “In the past, we had limited acknowledgment of problems and little action,” said Chu, who has been consistently bearish on the threats posed by a mountain of credit she estimates at 226 trillion yuan ($36 trillion) at the end of 2017. “Now we have clear recognition of problems, but what I call a ‘Chinese medicine’ prescription for addressing them — which emphasizes stability, taking it slowly, and eliminating the highest risk behavior.”

Meanwhile, this and this are just weird. And who is this guy? (Oh, yeah.)

Bonus fun or unfun, depending: there’s a TV channel that replays rock concerts and related things from the good old days. OK and fun. But it also features Dan Rather (you remember him from Rathergate) interviewing people like Roger Waters about his views on illegal immigration. Just weird.

Then and now

February 12th, 2018

Something we quoted a long time ago:

“Now, sirs, for the purpose of squaring things with this idea of ‘don’t care if slavery is voted up or voted down,’ for sustaining the Dred Scott decision [A voice—‘Hit him again’], for holding that the Declaration of Independence did not mean anything at all, we have Judge Douglas giving his exposition of what the Declaration of Independence means, and we have him saying that the people of America are equal to the people of England. According to his construction, you Germans are not connected with it. Now I ask you in all soberness, if all these things, if indulged in, if ratified, if confirmed and endorsed, if taught to our children, and repeated to them, do not tend to rub out the sentiment of liberty in the country, and to transform this Government into a government of some other form.

Those arguments that are made, that the inferior race are to be treated with as much allowance as they are capable of enjoying; that as much is to be done for them as their condition will allow. What are these arguments? They are the arguments that kings have made for enslaving the people in all ages of the world. You will find that all the arguments in favor of king-craft were of this class; they always bestrode the necks of the people, not that they wanted to do it, but because the people were better off for being ridden. That is their argument, and this argument of the Judge is the same old serpent that says you work and I eat, you toil and I will enjoy the fruits of it. Turn in whatever way you will—whether it come from the mouth of a King, an excuse for enslaving the people of his country, or from the mouth of men of one race as a reason for enslaving the men of another race, it is all the same old serpent, and I hold if that course of argumentation that is made for the purpose of convincing the public mind that we should not care about this, should be granted, it does not stop with the negro. I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop.

If one man says it does not mean a negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man? If that declaration is not the truth, let us get the Statute book, in which we find it and tear it out! Who is so bold as to do it! [Voices—‘me’ ‘no one,’ &c.] If it is not true let us tear it out! [cries of ‘no, no,’] let us stick to it then, [cheers] let us stand firmly by it then. [Applause.]”

Now:

I spent many months assuring people that nothing like this could ever happen — that the FBI and Justice Department would not countenance the provision to the FISA court of uncorroborated allegations of heinous misconduct. When Trump enthusiasts accused them of rigging the process, I countered that they probably had not even used the Steele dossier. If the Justice Department had used it in writing a FISA warrant application, I insisted that the FBI would independently verify any important facts presented to the court, make any disclosures that ought in fairness be made so the judge could evaluate the credibility of the sources, and compellingly demonstrate probable cause before alleging that an American was a foreign agent. I was wrong.

Sigh. Better to tune out today and watch old movies.

Numbers of the Big Four lead to Questions

February 11th, 2018

PJ:

Over the past decade, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google — or, as I call them, “the Four” — have aggregated more economic value and influence than nearly any other commercial entity in history. Together, they have a market capitalization of $2.8 trillion (the GDP of France), a staggering 24 percent share of the S&P 500 Top 50, close to the value of every stock traded on the Nasdaq in 2001.

How big are they? Consider that Amazon, with a market cap of $591 billion, is worth more to the stock market than Walmart, Costco, T. J. Maxx, Target, Ross, Best Buy, Ulta, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Saks/Lord & Taylor, Dillard’s, JCPenney, and Sears combined.

Meanwhile, Facebook and Google (now known as Alphabet) are together worth $1.3 trillion. You could merge the world’s top five advertising agencies (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, IPG, and Dentsu) with five major media companies (Disney, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, CBS, and Viacom) and still need to add five major communications companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, and Dish) to get only 90% of what Google and Facebook are worth together.

And what of Apple? With a market cap of nearly $900 billion, Apple is the most valuable public company. Even more remarkable is that the company registers profit margins of 32%, closer to luxury brands Hermès (35%) and Ferrari (29%) than peers in electronics. In 2016, Apple brought in $46 billion in profits, a haul larger than that of any other American company, including JPMorgan Chase, Johnson & Johnson, and Wells Fargo. What’s more, Apple’s profits were greater than the revenues of either Coca-Cola or Facebook. This quarter, it will clock nearly twice the profits that Amazon has produced in its history.

Walsh wants to break up the Big Four, as does Ralph Nader. We know that Google, for example, radically discriminates against very popular and mainstream conservative news sites. NR contributors by name too, which is creepy. We’d prefer a VC solution to regulation of the info sites as public utilities, but we’re not sure how to make that work.

Bill Priestap

February 11th, 2018

Bill Priestap. A name perhaps worth remembering.

The weather outside might be frightful

February 10th, 2018

NYP:

By 2050, our sun is expected to be unusually cool. It’s what scientists have termed a “grand minimum” — a particularly low point in what is otherwise a steady 11-year cycle.

One particularly cool period in the 17th century guided their research. An intense cold snap between 1645 and 1715 has been dubbed the “Maunder Minimum.” In England, the Thames River froze over. The Baltic Sea was covered in ice — so much so that the Swedish army was able to march across it to invade Denmark in 1658. But the cooling was not uniform: Distorted weather patterns warmed up Alaska and Greenland.

These records were combined with 20 years of data collected by the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite mission, as well as observations of nearby stars similar to the sun. Now physicist Dan Lubin at the University of California San Diego has calculated an estimate of how much dimmer the sun is likely to be when the next such grand minimum takes place. His team’s study has been published in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. It finds that the sun is likely to be 7% cooler than its usual minimum.

Hey, that’s not PC. Neither is this.

Our two cents

February 9th, 2018

Some knowledgeable observers see the US stock market like Japan in 1989 or the heady NASDAQ of 1999. We don’t. Yeah, the forward P/E is in the mid to high teens (probably too high) and yesterday sure was bad, but seeing high inflation in commodities and elsewhere seems way off the mark to us. As we first observed more than a dozen years ago, don’t underestimate technology as a bailout. To take just one tiny example, the iPhone, barely a decade old, now puts more computing power in young hands than the entirety of NASA had for Apollo 11. Maybe the markets are pricing in some big exogenous event, but if not, the current speed-of-light fluctuations seem overdone.

Dumb and Dumber

February 8th, 2018

Foreign Affairs:

Global carbon emissions rose again in 2017, disappointing hopes that the previous three years of near zero growth marked an inflection point in the fight against climate change. Advocates of renewable energy had attributed flat emissions to the falling cost of solar panels. Energy efficiency devotees had seen in the pause proof that economic activity had been decoupled from energy consumption. Advocates of fossil fuel divestment had posited that the carbon bubble had finally burst.

Analysts who had attributed the pause to slower economic growth in a number of parts of the world, especially China, were closer to the truth. The underlying fundamentals of the energy economy, after all, remained mostly unchanged—there had been no step change in either the energy efficiency of the global economy or the share of energy production that clean energy accounted for. And sure enough, as growth picked up, emissions started to tick back up again as well.

Even during the pause, it was clear that the world wasn’t making much progress toward avoiding significant future climate change. To significantly alter the trajectory of sea level changes or most other climate impacts in this century or the next, emissions would not just have to peak; they would have to fall precipitously. Yet what progress the world has made to cut global emissions has been, under even the most generous assumptions, incremental.

But at the latest climate talks in Bonn last fall, diplomats once again ratified a long-standing international target of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. This despite being unable to commit to much beyond what was already agreed at the Paris meeting two years ago, when negotiators reached a nominal agreement on nonbinding Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, which would result in temperatures surpassing three degrees above preindustrial levels before the end of this century.

Forty years after it was first proposed, the two-degree target continues to maintain a talismanic hold over global efforts to address climate change, despite the fact that virtually all sober analyses conclude that the target is now unobtainable. Some advocates still insist that with sufficient political will, the target can be met. Others recognize that although the goal is practically unachievable, it represents an aspiration that might motivate the world to reduce emissions further and faster than it would otherwise. For still others, the target remains within reach if everyone gets serious about removing carbon from the atmosphere or hacking the atmosphere in order to buy more time.

But it is worth considering the consequences of continuing to pursue a goal that is no longer obtainable. Some significant level of future climate impact is probably unavoidable. Sustaining the fiction that the two-degree target remains viable risks leaving the world ill prepared to mitigate or manage the consequences.

My uncle, the Yale University economist William Nordhaus, is widely credited with being the first person to propose that climate policy should strive to limit anthropogenic global warming to two degrees above preindustrial temperatures. He didn’t arrive at that conclusion through any sort of elaborate climate modeling or cost-benefit analysis. Rather, he considered the very limited evidence of long-term climate variance available at that time and concluded that a two-degree increase would take global temperatures outside the range experienced by human societies for the previous several thousand years and probably much longer. The standard was, by his own admission, arbitrary.

In the decades that followed, the international community formalized his target through a series of UN conferences, assessments, and negotiations. Climate researchers, meanwhile, have backfilled the target with science, some of it compelling. It does indeed appear that the earth is already hotter than it has been in the last several hundred thousand years, with temperatures likely to rise substantially more through this century and well beyond.

But limiting global temperatures below two degrees provides no guarantee that the world will avoid catastrophe, nor does exceeding that threshold assure it. No one knows with much precision what the relationship will be between global temperature and the impact of climate change at local and regional levels. Nor do we have a particularly good handle on the capability of human societies to adapt to those impacts.

Limiting global temperatures below two degrees provides no guarantee that the world will avoid catastrophe, nor does exceeding that threshold assure it.

In reality, most of the climate risks that we understand reasonably well are linear, meaning that lower emissions bring a lower global temperature increase, which in turn brings lower risk. That is the case for impacts such as sea level rise, agricultural yields, rainfall, and drought. Stabilizing emissions at 450 atmospheric parts per million brings less risk than stabilizing at 500, 500 brings less risk than 550, and so on. The world isn’t saved should we limit atmospheric concentrations to 450 parts per million, nor is it lost should concentrations surpass that threshold.

There are a range of potential nonlinear tipping points that could also bring catastrophic climate impacts. Many climate scientists and advocates argue that the risks associated with triggering these impacts are so great that it is better to take a strict precautionary approach to dramatically cut emissions. But there are enormous uncertainties about where those tipping points actually are. The precautionary principle holds equally well at one degree of warming, a threshold that we have already surpassed; one and a half degrees, which we will soon surpass; or, for that matter, three degrees.

Such calculations are further complicated by the substantial lag between when we emit carbon and when we experience the climate impacts of doing so: because of the time lag, and because of the substantial amount of carbon already emitted (atmospheric concentrations of carbon today stand at 407 parts per million, versus 275 prior to the start of the Industrial Revolution), even an extreme precautionary approach that ended all greenhouse gas emissions immediately would not much affect the trajectory of global temperatures or climate impacts until late in this century at the earliest.

Projections of sea level rise, for instance, don’t really diverge in high-emissions versus low-emissions scenarios until late in this century, and even then not by very much. It is not until modelers project into the twenty-second century that large differences begin to emerge. The same is true of most other climate impacts, at least as far as we understand them.

Many advocates for climate action suggest that we are already experiencing the impacts of anthropogenic climate change in the form of more extreme weather and natural disasters. Insofar as this is true—and the effect of climate change on present-day weather disasters is highly contested—there is not much we can do to mitigate it in the coming decades.

Over the last two decades, discussions of climate risk have been strongly influenced by concerns about moral hazard. The suggestion that human societies might successfully adapt to climate change, the argument goes, risks undermining commitments to cut emissions sufficiently to avoid those risks.

But moral hazard runs the other way as well. On a planet that is almost certainly going to be much hotter even if the world cuts emissions rapidly, the continuing insistence that human societies might cut emissions rapidly enough to avoid dangerous climate change risks undermining the urgency to adapt.

Adaptation brings difficult tradeoffs that many climate advocates would prefer to ignore. Individual and societal wealth, infrastructure, mobility, and economic integration are the primary determinants of how vulnerable human societies are to climate disasters. A natural disaster of the same magnitude will generally bring dramatically greater suffering in a poor country than in a rich one. For this reason, poor nations will bear the brunt of climate impacts. But by the same token, the faster those nations develop, the more resilient they will be to climate change. Development in most parts of the world, however, still entails burning more fossil fuels—in most cases, a lot more.

Most climate advocates have accepted that some form of adaptation will be a necessity for human societies over the course of this century. But many refuse to acknowledge that much of that adjustment will need to be powered by fossil fuels. Hard infrastructure—modern housing, transportation networks, and the like—is what makes people resilient to climate and other natural disasters. That sort of infrastructure requires steel and concrete. And there are presently few economically viable ways to produce steel or concrete without fossil fuels.

The two-degree threshold, and the various carbon budgets and emissions reduction targets that accompany it, has provided the justification for prohibitions at the World Bank and other international development institutions on finance for fossil fuel development. Given how much climate change is likely already built into our future owing to past emissions and how long it takes for emissions reductions to mitigate climate impacts, those sorts of policies will almost certainly increase exposure to climate hazards for many people in developing economies.

Religion is a wonderful thing. If you believe in the AGW religion, you know for sure that 1 bit of atmosphere out of 2500 makes the difference between glory and gloom. For a different perspective we offer professors Will Happer and Richard Lindzen.

What did you expect from a college professor?

February 8th, 2018

In early 2009, we defined Obama as the college professor president. At that time, we had little clue about how into leftism and away from truth this definition dictated. Now we see that he was fully supportive of the nasty (and often stupid) behavior of the Clinton campaign and its associates. There are a couple of remaining open questions: (a) how many people will be sent to prison, if any; and (b) will the media repent from their cover-up of all this, and what will happen if they don’t? Bonus from 2009: “It is considered an insult in the Arab world to show the sole of your shoe to someone.” Gross behavior toward an ally. Sad, unless you’re Iranian and could use billions of unmarked cash.

Question

February 7th, 2018

HMD:

Music critic Alex Ross triggered outrage against the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra last week when he tweeted that they had programmed no female composers in their 2018-2019 seasons.

Who’s your favorite? We like Joanie Bach, Lilly Beethoven, and that lovely composer of Le tombeau de Couperin, Mimi Ravel.

The 1950’s are illegal, or something

February 7th, 2018

Let’s agree to remember the name Amy Wax. Common sense has been outlawed at our universities. Abolishing tenure would be a good start to fixing this. People who have never had a real job in their lives feel free, no — entitled — to regulating speech and indeed thought. Fire them as well as the DOJ/FBI crooks with a similar entitled mentality. How has this country fallen so far so fast?

Elation at NYSE

February 6th, 2018

Here are some of the joyous traders reacting to an up day. Amazing stupidity, sigh. Related: oh, puh-leeze; we’re so tired of this nonsense.

Bonus: a little actual learning. And a piece by one of our classmates.

Panic at NYSE

February 5th, 2018

Here’s a photo of some of the panicked traders. And another. You get the point.

Also fun: the tweet war continues with one victor, and baby it’s cold outside (can you still say that?). Also, here’s a 1963 tune you won’t be hearing on your oldies station.