“the catastrophe of existence”

May 14th, 2018

At 6:25 of this video. We heard this fellow being interviewed a few times and were not impressed, but he’s pretty good when he gets going.

Another funny bit

May 13th, 2018

Happy Sunday!

Humorous silly moment

May 13th, 2018

This and this.

Something different

May 13th, 2018

One of our friends from Harvard Business School is our Section B section mate Roy Schoeman, raised Jewish and now a devout Catholic. (He taught at HBS for some time.) Speaking personally, your correspondent goes back a long way in the Catholic religious practices, having pretty much memorized the Latin Mass as an altar boy at ages 7-10 or so in the 1950’s.

For high school, we went to the Portsmouth Priory (now Abbey) School, and had some serious discussions about choosing the monastic life, which a number of the monks recommended to us. (We’re pretty happy things went in another direction, since our son just got married to his loving and beautiful wife on 4/22/18.)

Anyhow, we emailed Roy the other day about some terrible problems: Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and so forth have killed hundreds of millions of people — why is that consistent with a fair and loving God? For that matter, what goes on in the billions of other galaxies and planets with somethings like humanoids? Lord Acton says that most great men are bad men — is that not itself evidence that the Creator screwed up in the universe’s design?

As a faithful Catholic, Roy’s response was, in part, to cite the thousands of miracles performed at Lourdes and elsewhere, as well as in the New Testament itself, underlining the truth and charity of Christianity. Fair enough, even if you think only some of these miracles are true. To be fair, Roy has an extensive bibliography of research showing the miracles to be miracles, which we can make available to any reader.

We pause to point out that we listen to Dennis Prager a lot, a devout Jew who says many of these horrible questions will be addressed the day you show up for the afterlife, which is a fair enough response. Afterlife would cure a billion things, but why is it pretty secret? — billboards advertising the benefits of “afterlife” would be cool and popular.

The point of this piece is the following: at present we do not believe, or more precisely feel, that the beauty of the many miracles (assuming that they are all 100% true) outweigh the horrors inflicted by the Stalins, Pol Pots, etc. of the world. To say that such things will be cured in an afterlife, as Dennis says, gives almost no comfort, since there are very few billboards on the highway of life advertising this afterlife.

This is of course way off usual Dinocrat blah-blah, but with billions of galaxies with their millions of planets with humanoids or some such, there ought to be some things to connect us better if there is a God, and certainly something better and much more billboard-like than changing water into wine at a marriage at Cana.

New weirdness every day

May 12th, 2018

NYT:

The administration’s challenge — the American ambassador to Germany has already said that German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations now — might prompt Europe to go further. The European Union could, for instance, announce the withdrawal of member-states’ ambassadors from the United States. Isn’t this what states do when diplomatic partners breach solemn agreements, expose them to security risks and threaten to wreak havoc on their economies? That is, after all, what the administration is threatening to do by courting the risk of a Middle Eastern war and applying secondary sanctions to European companies. Depending on the American response, European capitals might even follow up with expulsion of American ambassadors. It would be hard to fault these moves as irresponsible

Expelling US ambassadors in Western Europe irresponsible? Heaven forfend! HT: PL. BTW, the news that Kim’s nuke test facility exploded is breaking through.

School daze

May 11th, 2018

Commentary:

in the 20-year period from 1985 to 2005, the number of administrators increased at universities by 85% while the number of students and faculty increased by only 50%. In that same period, the number of administrative staff ballooned by a staggering 240%. Between 1985 and 2011, the cost of a four-year degree increased by 498% while consumer inflation rose by just over 100%.

Surprised by any of this? And just look at how rigorous the US edumacation system is compared to China.

Calling Rod Serling

May 10th, 2018

Today we note that Murder She Wrote met The Fantasticks in Beauty and the Beast, since the Disney film was on recently. What a great thing, Angela Lansbury and Jerry Orbach. Entertainment is sometimes interesting, politics is boring to death. So here’s the next thing we’re thinking about: we’d really like to title the next 50 or more entries here at Dino with things from the Twilight Zone. “Room for more one more, honey,” or Frank-lin, etc. We’ll see.

Not 2 brite, part deux

May 10th, 2018

SPLC and monopolist, Chomsky, and some guy with real problems. The one great lesson of the Comey affair is that the closer your self image is to sainthood, the closer you are to Circles 8 and 9.

Bonus good fun: VDH.

Brevity is, uh, something

May 9th, 2018

(1) “It’s always struck me as strange whenever someone continually denies something.” Yes, that’s very odd. (2) Very funny guy. (3) Nearly 100% gross margin. (4) Not 2 brite.

More fun facts

May 9th, 2018

Spengler:

China is a phenomenon unlike anything in economic history. The average Chinese consumes 17 times more today than in 1987. This is like the difference between driving a car and riding a bicycle or between indoor plumbing and an outhouse. In an incredibly short period of time, this formerly backward country has lifted itself into the very first rank of world economies.

Over the same period, China has moved approximately 600 million people from the countryside to the cities—the equivalent of moving the entire population of Europe from the Ural Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. To accommodate those people, it built the equivalent of a new London, plus a new Berlin, Rome, Glasgow, Helsinki, Naples, and Lyons.

It has a written system of several thousand characters that takes seven years of elementary education to learn, working four hours a day with an ink brush, ink pot, and paper. Learning these characters well enough to read a school textbook or a newspaper is how the Chinese are socialized. The current generation is the first where the majority of Chinese understand the common language, due to the centralization of the state and the mass media. But the Chinese still speak very different languages. Cantonese and Mandarin are as different as Finnish and French. In Hong Kong, you’ll see two Chinese screaming at each other in broken English because one speaks Mandarin and the other speaks Cantonese and they don’t have a word in common.

China’s Communist Party government is a merciless meritocracy, which is one reason the Chinese have difficulty understanding American politics. If you’re in the Chinese leadership, you made it there by scoring high on a long series of exams, starting at age twelve—which means you haven’t met a stupid person since you were in junior high school. The fact that democracies can frequently advance stupid people—we are entitled to do that if we wish—doesn’t make sense to the Chinese. The one thing President Xi Jinping cannot do is get his child into Peking University unless that child scores high on his exams. Here in America, you can buy your way into Harvard. You can’t do that in China. So while the Chinese Communist Party is not a particularly efficient organization, and is certainly not a moral one, it has a lot of incredibly smart people in it.

Very interesting. Also, as predicted here: “Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the China-Japan-South Korea trilateral summit in Tokyo on Wednesday to discuss economic cooperation among the three regional powerhouses. The annual summit, which was first held in 2008 but has been repeatedly postponed in recent years due to historical and territorial disputes between the three nations, comes amid an apparent detente on the Korean Peninsula.”

Ominously

May 8th, 2018

AP: U.S. allies in Europe had tried to keep him in and lamented his move to abandon it. Iran’s leader ominously warned his country might “start enriching uranium more than before.” Shiver!

Growth elements: urbanization, debt, industrialization, privatizations

May 6th, 2018

From that NYT piece referred to below:

As some of the optimists note, China’s debt is public, not private, which means that the risks are largely borne by the state, which has deeper pockets. The borrowing is largely domestic, rather than external. And despite a surge in mortgages, Chinese households have a low overall debt burden compared to their counterparts elsewhere. For all its heady growth, China’s financial system also remains relatively simple, without the exotic securitization that nearly brought down the American economy a decade ago.

China’s banks are no longer just serving state actors; now they also serve the private sector, notably after the privatization of state-owned housing in the late 1990s and early 2000s created a broad-based commercial property market. As much as two-thirds of credit expansion between 2005 and 2013 — including via unofficial or so-called shadow banking — went into property-related assets, helping establish a market price for land.

Corruption is said to impede growth by inhibiting investment. Not so in China, where the state controls major resources, such as land and energy, yet generates lower returns on assets than the private sector does. Privatizing those resources was a nonstarter under communism, and so corruption has served as a makeshift alternative, by allowing more private actors to use state-owned resources after striking arrangements with officials. Because those actors’ practices are more profitable, the economy has benefited overall.

Some China observers also are concerned that China’s speedy growth cannot be sustained unless consumption replaces investment as the economy’s main driver. (The Chinese government appears to agree, or claims to at least.) They point out that while investment accounts for an unusually high share of gross domestic product, consumption accounts for an unusually low share.

Over the past four decades China’s urbanization ratio has increased from less than 20 percent to nearly 60 percent. In the process, workers from labor-intensive rural activities have moved to more capital-intensive industrial jobs in cities. And so, yes, an ever-greater share of national income has gone into investment as a result. But corporate profits have also risen, leading to higher wages, which have spurred consumption. In fact, even as the consumption share of G.D.P. has fallen, personal consumption has grown multiples faster in China than in any other major economy.

There’s also the crazy industrialization: when we loaned money to coal and steel companies 40 years ago, US steelmaking capacity was 100MM tpy, and it still is. Contrast this with China, when went from 70MM tpy in the early 1990’s to over 800 million tons per year recently.

Hey, let’s not forget cement, which China used in 3 years the same amount that the US did in the entire 20th century. Stay tuned.

Thinking outside the box

May 6th, 2018

20 years ago China’s GDP was $1 trillion, and the 2018 estimate is $13 trillion. By comparison US GDP 20 years ago was $9 trillion, and the 2018 estimate is $20 trillion. So the US GDP more than doubled in 20 years, but China’s has increased 13x. Amazing. Here’s a NYT piece that looks at some of the factors. Looking at countries like the USSR or Venezuela would never get you to anything but stagnant or negative growth, but China really has thought outside the box, with incredible results.

In another story, we’re advising a group that wants to do mature aircraft leasing, and it is quite difficult to get the proper equity financing. Almost all lessors focus on new equipment. The Venture Capital and Private Equity worlds don’t overlap much. So even though we can point to two examples of such companies that have achieved over 100% ROI to equity, the gap between the VC and PE worlds makes such a thing a long slog. One of the challenges facing the US and Western Europe is to incentivize thinking outside the box when it comes to mature and often sedentary economies. China’s example serves as a reminder that incredible results can be achieved by such thinking.

Ancient history

May 5th, 2018

Scott Johnson and others take us through the current Kerry saga. For our part, we’ll revisit ancient history, some 14 years ago.

A question

May 4th, 2018

Strassel on DOJ:

it is being asked to comply with very specific — potentially very revealing — demands. Two House sources confirm for me that the Justice Department was recently delivered first a classified House Intelligence Committee letter and then a subpoena (which arrived Monday) demanding documents related to a new line of inquiry about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Trump investigation. The deadline for complying with the subpoena was Thursday afternoon, and the Justice Department flouted it.

Republicans say Mr. Comey told them his own agents did not believe Mr. Flynn lied to them. On his book tour, Mr. Comey has said that isn’t true. Someone isn’t being honest. Is the FBI more interested in protecting the reputations of two former directors (the other being Mr. Mueller, who dragged Mr. Flynn into court on lying grounds) than in telling the public the truth?

RTWT, very good. Here’s our question from the first paragraph: if sub poena means under penalty if you don’t comply, what’s the penalty going to be in this case? No ice cream for dessert? What’s the over-under on any penalty at all?

Finally from the Department of hard work Department, we’re scheduled to speak at the Horasis Global Meeting next week in Cascais Portugal, in case anyone reading this might be in attendance. Thanks!

PC bye-bye?

May 4th, 2018

Perhaps it’s time to put away the term Political Correctness. The people who can’t be disagreed with or joked about aren’t just frivolous, as the guy in the elevator said about the complainant, they are unhappy idiots and leftist thugs. Klavan has an excellent piece on this. We also note with approval that judge who called out the Mueller liars as liars. Maybe, just maybe, something is beginning to change.

Update: again we can be wrong and this could be a passing thing, but we see a sea change taking place. You have former Secretary of State Kerry trying personal diplomacy to undermine current administration policies. And then there’s the Trump NRA speech. CNN is freaking out of course. But Trump’s aside on Kerry’s judgment, that 73 year olds shouldn’t enter bicycle races and break their legs, was jovial while making Kerry look like a fool. Maybe it’s Korea, maybe Kanye, maybe the judge above, but something appears to be happening. We’ll see.

Big win for Xi and everyone else

May 3rd, 2018

SCMP:

Beijing will support North Korea’s efforts to rebuild its economy, China’s foreign minister has said as the North pledged to suspend nuclear testing and prioritise economic growth. Wang Yi said in his meeting with North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho that the two allies would strengthen strategic communications and China would “continue to play a due and positive role in the political process for political settlement of the peninsula issues”, a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry said.

On the first day of his two-day visit to Pyongyang on Wednesday, Wang reaffirmed the pledge to deepen traditional relations between the neighbours, made by President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during Kim’s visit to Beijing in March. “Traditional friendship between China and North Korea is the mutual good fortune of the two sides, and it is a strategic choice to inherit and develop the traditional friendly relations,” Wang was quoted as saying.

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have quickly eased since the beginning of the year, when Kim proposed immediate dialogue with South Korea, and later a meeting with US President Donald Trump. Days before his historic summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in last Friday, Kim announced he would suspend North Korea’s nuclear programme and focus its resources on rebuilding its economy

Oddly enough, we have yet to see any stories about North Korea’s change of attitude coming from the meltdown of its principal nuclear test facility. (Hmmm, could China have had a role in causing that?) In any event, whether this was luck or something else, it is strongly in China’s interest to have a low tension Korean peninsula as China strives toward universally acknowledged regional dominance. Also, it may be a new dawn for the short and starving North Koreans themselves.

In other news, we have a question for the lady clowns criticizing a prom dress: what do you wear at the beach? Any cultural appropriation? Words and music here.

Bonus: draining the swamp is a life or death struggle. Never again!!! This is sick, man, sick: they hope and will do anything to make sure the swamp rules forever.

The downward spiral continues

May 2nd, 2018

AP:

For 108 years, the Boy Scouts of America’s flagship program has been known simply as the Boy Scouts. With girls soon entering the ranks, the group says that iconic name will change. The organization on Wednesday announced a new name for its Boy Scouts program: Scouts BSA. The change will take effect next February. Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh said many possibilities were considered during lengthy and “incredibly fun” deliberations before the new name was chosen. “We wanted to land on something that evokes the past but also conveys the inclusive nature of the program going forward,” he said. “We’re trying to find the right way to say we’re here for both young men and young women.” The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America, and the Cub Scouts — its program for 7- to 10-year-olds — will keep its title as well. But the Boy Scouts — the program for 11- to 17-year-olds — will now be Scouts BSA.

Question: will these people be admitted? Was that discussed in the “incredibly fun” deliberations.

FWIW, we attended the 1964 Boy Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge. Some pictures here. We don’t recall too much about it, but we remember that everyone had to wear cotton in their ears at night to prevent bugs from finding a new home. Lady Baden-Powell spoke, and all we recall of that was some very loud noises she made at the beginning of her remarks as she tried to get the boys to be quiet. LBJ’s remarks are here. Someone said that Kanye West also spoke, but we’re not sure about that; he’s a very effective speaker in any event, and quotes Thomas Sowell.

Bonus unfun: the only part of BSA that we understand is the BS part, but we didn’t know that the DNC booed these guys carrying the flag almost 20 years ago. Live and unlearn.

Blasts from the past: Civil War, Cold War, and so forth

May 1st, 2018

On our hour-long daily jog, we listen to 640, 790, 870, 1070, 1150, 89.9, 90.7, 91.5, 93.1, 95.5, 101.1, 103.5, 104.3, 102.7, 105.9 and maybe some others. Though 101.1 is a self-defined oldies station, it is 90.7, Pacifica radio, that really sounds like oldies, but not music oldies.

On one show it sounded like the 1857 Dred Scott decision was just issued last week (shockingly, no exaggeration FYI). Didn’t 700,000 or more Americans get killed or crippled a few years after that, to render that Supreme Court decision meaningless? On another show, you listen to some version of this disinformation about Iranian nukes, and it sometimes sounds a lot like the speakers are rooting for a movie of long past generation (Yee Haa) where the US loses. Jeeesh, maybe we should quit jogging!

Interesting correlation if true

April 30th, 2018

College sounds awful these days, and the majority of snowflakes aren’t he-men. 60% are gals of one sort or another. So anyway, between the young guys who don’t go to college and the young guys who are told how bad they are in college, some allegiances appear to be changing. Interesting if it continues. And continue it may since TV is so entertaining.

PS: all the lousy behavior isn’t confined to one side.