July 12th, 2016

#5267: Don't let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.

"Buzzy" Ginsburg says that people should move to New Zealand if Trump wins. You are entirely welcome to do so. Go right ahead.

* * *

People do not buy Harley-Davidson motorcycles to be environmentally friendly.

* * *

Quoth Chris Rock.

And if black lives matter so much, why are so many black people killing other black people? No, wait a moment, that post is clearly written by a self-hating black man. He probably voted for Bush.

* * *

The Ghostbusters reboot is not going to do very well. Not when the toys are on clearance before the movie even releases. Wow.

* * *

Warm, muggy night. Guess I should go to bed.

#5268: Since everyone else is doing it....

Try it yourself, if you like.

I scored as high as Vox Day did. I think that means we both got one wrong; there was one word I'd never even seen before. But my vocabulary is huge, mainly because I have always read whatever I could get my hands on regardless of what it was. I fully expected to score at that end of the scale. (The test does not look like it's timed, so I'd assume it's possible to get a perfect score by using a dictionary. I did not.)

I suppose that if, like me, you have an occasional penchant for excessively bombastic circumloqution, the aquisition of a brogdignagian vocabulary is inevitable.

* * *

Linkaround and not much commentary because today is errand day and it's already after noon.

Apparently the state of shipping volume is not good. This continues a trend we've noticed here for some time: several years ago some 15% of ships were idle at anchor, and for some routes the fuel costs more than the company can charge for carrying cargo because demand is so poor and capacity is so high. Stratospheric, in fact.

...which is why he says, "It looks like the guys on the beaches are going to be getting a lot of steel in the near future." Because when he talks about "the guys on the beaches" he means the guys who scrap ships after they've been run aground.

Here's the thing: if stuff isn't moving the economy is bad. Rail traffic is down. Shipping is in the toilet (though part of this is due to an oversupply of capacity).

Probably the best remedy is to scrap a whole bunch of ships, and stop building more for a while, because this will bring shipping prices back to a point where shipping companies can make money. Problem is, this bankrupts the companies which build ships.

There really isn't a good answer, here.

It's similar to the Midas World conundrum. Who is going to buy the stuff pouring from robotic factories? Will we instead--as Fred Pohl suggested in Midas World--be required to consume as much as possible? Will the poor have an abundance of stuff while the rich have the luxury of not using anything?

We have not had this problem before in history. Even slaves need to be fed and housed and given time to rest, and periodically have to be replaced due to death or age; robots need none of that. A good industrial robot will do its job continuously for decades and still have some resale value when you decide to replace it. Its new owner may have to replace a few parts but will get more years of use out of it. So you can pay three guys $15 an hour (and give them rest and meal breaks) to tighten nuts on flange assemblies on your production line, or you can fit an industrial robot with a torque-limited air ratchet and program it to tighten those nuts to the exact same torque every time continuously, and over time you end up spending less (a lot less) on that than you do in wages, benefits, and other compensation for those three guys.

Robots are very, very good at doing repetitive tasks. Once their task is programmed, they do it the same way every time, they do not take breaks or sick days, they do not have children who get in trouble at school, they do not struggle with alcoholism.

As Vox Day says, "No conventional model can survive the near-complete replacement of labor with capital."

We're looking at an undiscovered country where the price of goods will come down to four factors: the cost of the physical plant required to make the product, the cost of the labor required to develop the product, the cost of the materials, and the cost to deliver that product to consumers.

In the case of something simple like an incandescent light bulb? Suspending a tungsten filament inside a glass globe (from which the air has been removed and replaced with argon) with electrical connections on the outside is a technically demanding process--try building one yourself!--yet because the process is almost entirely automated, we're able make them so cheaply that a profit can be made (albeit not a large one) on selling them in packs of four for $1. (How It's Made, light bulbs. If you watch that video, count the number of people you see. Are any of them doing anything to the light bulbs being made?) The cost of manufacturing light bulbs has been reduced to its bare minimum, not just through complete automation of the manufacturing process but also through amortization of the costs for the machinery required to make the bulbs, including maintenance.

But the incandescent light bulb is a mature technology; there are no further gains to be had by improving them. At least, none which are economically viable, or necessary.

When it comes to something like an iPhone or a television, it's a different story...or is it? The design of a conventional LCD television is pretty standardized now, and as is the case with all other electronic products it's now a race to the bottom for prices as more actors get into the market. It's the merging of the television with the Internet which is keeping prices higher; smart TVs cost more than a basic LCD display but that price premium is based almost entirely on perception of the value of the premium feature. The cost of implementing it is not nearly as much as the price difference would suggest.

A basic 32" LCD TV can be had for $100. This is a product which did not exist fifteen years ago. The 47" TV hanging on the wall in my old bedroom cost $500 on sale in 2010; now you can get a similar-sized TV for well under $400 at regular price. (Best Buy house brand, MSRP of $319 today. My TV is also Best Buy house brand. Apples to apples comparison, here.)

Eventually all products reach a stage where further improvements make them less efficient at their tasks. Some products on sale now are past that stage, because their manufacturers cannot compete on price and they must add features to stay in business. A relative handful of buyers use those features.

So what happens when products mature and cost almost nothing to manufacture? Well, there will always be new products (the iPhone was introduced nine years ago and is barely adolescent as a product) which will command a premium as long as they are new. The problem is, the number of people required to develop and produce a product, in the age of automation, is miniscule. You need a cadre of engineers and designers to design the thing, but once that's done--what? Push the big green button to start the factory, and the robots take care of the rest. You might need a couple of software guys to fix bugs in the software; you'll need some people to maintain the machines and recover from errors. But what you don't need is an army of low-educated workers soldering the chips and tightening the screws.

That light bulb assembly line shows you what machines can do. None of the processes require human involvement, and given the materials and energy, that assembly line will happily churn out light bulbs for pennies apiece until doomsday or something breaks, whichever comes first.

God willing, that's where manufacturing is heading. We're going to move to a different kind of economy, one we can't really imagine just yet.

#5269: Oh...well, then.

Decided to leave that last post to stand on its own and do the linkaround here.

...but it got that way because my errands are done. I was able to accomplish everything that needed doing right here at my desk, with the telephone. I did not, as I had feared, have to drive to Joliet (an hour each way, about) to make a partial payment of the property taxes; and once that task was done I was able to get everything else attended to quickly. Tomorrow I get to spend a few hours at a Toyota dealership while the recalls get done on Mrs. Fungus' car, something we've been putting off for so long that one recall notice has her old name and address on it, from before she was Mrs. Fungus.

But that's okay! I have been reading the anthology of Barsoom novels I got lo these many months ago, and have made it to The Chessmen of Mars; having just started that story I will sit in the noisy and uncomfortable waiting room at the dealership and read. It'll be fine.

* * *

This woman needs not to be in public office, that's for sure. A California councilwoman is saying that the cops in Dallas who got shot by black racists deserved what they got.

* * *

This was part of the game plan all along. Obamacare wasn't meant to bring affordable health insurance to the masses; it was meant to be an unholy mess, a dumpster fire of epic proportions, specifically so that Democrats could say that we needed to fully socialize the medical system.

Obama also needs to be de-elected soonest.

* * *

After pulling US troops out of Iraq, suddenly:
The United States will send 560 more troops to Iraq to help establish a newly retaken air base as a staging hub for the long-awaited battle to recapture Mosul from Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday on an unannounced visit to the country.
560 more troops. How many are there now? Why are they there? What will the new troops do? What "bridging" technology do we have that is so arcane that a reasonably intelligent man can not be trained to use it in an afternoon?

* * *

Okay, the Dallas shooter was dangerous to police. Does that mean they were justified in sending a proto-Dalek in to exterminate him? Somehow I doubt it. They probably, with patience, could have captured the man alive, without blowing him up. But police don't do that any longer; if anyone resists arrest, they simply kill him. It's easier, and it's not like anyone goes to jail for it.

Chicago Boyz compares America in 2016 to Weimar Germany. Violence is a tool of the left. In fact, it's their favorite tool. Violence gets them what they want, very quickly, without all that pesky voting and stuff. It's even better if the violence is caused by people not connected with them except idiologically, so that way they can deplore it publicly while rubbing their hands with glee and not letting a good crisis go to waste.

These two links may be related.

* * *

I have found that if I make spinach dip using a Knorr vegetable dip packet, sour cream, chopped spinach, and mayo, I like it quite a bit. If I buy the spinach dip pre-made, I do not like it at all.

The nice thing about this stuff is that it's actually fairly low-carb but for the crackers or chips used to convey it from bowl to mouth. Sour cream, mayo, spinach--all this stuff is good for you, better than a bowl of popcorn or pasta.

...all those years of "common sense" that I'm having to unlearn. I still cringe reflexively when contemplating fettucini alfredo, until I realize that sauce is the best thing for you! The noodles are the bad part!

* * *

It's stinkinously hot outside today. We woke up at 10 AM and I stuck my nose outside around 11, and promptly pulled it back inside. I have other things that want doing, but I don't have to do them right now; I'm going to relax a bit and do something fun.

#5270: Losing their grip on the reins?

Hillary Clinton is a symptom of a larger problem.
There's another way to look at it. That is, the ruling class has lost control of the reigns and they can no longer police themselves. Hillary Clinton has no business being president. It's absurd even without the massive corruption and criminality. Hillary's crowning achievement was marrying Bill Clinton 50 years ago. Even a deeply corrupt and incompetent ruling class should be able to filter out the likes of Hillary Clinton. The fact that they cannot bring themselves to flush her from the system when they have an iron clad criminal case against her is ominous.

There's another angle here. The whole "Arkanside" thing is a fun gag, but it does appear that the ruling class is playing much tougher with one another. Judge Roberts was either blackmailed or threatened into reversing his opinion on ObamaCare. That’s incandescently obvious. FBI Director Comey's erratic performance yesterday suggests there's more here than just a man suddenly changing his mind about law enforcement. He has prosecuted many others for these exact same crimes.
If the ruling class has indeed lost their grip on the reins, it means bad things for the little people.

In Game of Thrones, by and large, it is not the nobility who suffers when the nobility wars against itself. Occasionally this or that noble is killed, but by and large the vast armies of smallfolk are the ones who do all the bleeding and dying.

This AoSHQ headline says it all:
Let a Thousand Treasons Bloom: Our Nation's Attorney General Refuses to Say If The Law Means What It Says When It Says That Giving Secret Information to a Non-Cleared Person is Illegal
...because it only applies to people who are not Democrat Presidential nominees. If Hillary Clinton were a Republican, she would have been arrested and jailed when this story first broke--last year--and the primaries would have excluded her entirely.

People who have committed lesser crimes than Hillary--violations of the same law--have been sent to prison for a long time. Because they're not powerful Democrats.

* * *

What, indeed, if whites start hitting back? It will not take much more to spark genuine race wars in the United States. If blacks begin killing whites solely because they're white--if this idiocy becomes widespread--do not expect whites to take it laying down. Do expect a return of Jim Crow and Judge Lynch.

It would be bad. It would be very bad. The attitude would be, "Well, we tried treating you as equals, and this is what you do? Go to the back of the bus. In fact, get off the bus entirely and walk. We're done with you." Segregation would return with a vengeance.

Remember Francis Porretto's story? This one? That's what would happen.

It's not just America. What more proof do you need of a hate crime than someone yelling, "I HATE WHITE PEOPLE!" and punching a white person? If a white person yelled "I HATE BLACK PEOPLE!" and punched a black person, that'd be a hate crime, and they'd talk about it on the nightly news for two months. This double standard has existed for a very long time, and it has not gone unnoticed...and it rankles.

Meanwhile, elsewhere--where it is not so racially charged as it is in the US--the segregation bandwagon is picking up steam.

* * *

Cheating enabled and encouraged by faculty in order to make the school look better than it is. Why not? The faculty makes out fairly well in the deal. Sure, the kids get screwed when they try to do other things and find out they're not all that well-educated after all, but that's someone else's problem, right?

One of the things that bothers me considerably about my job is that it forces me to work that way: focus on resolving the issue well enough that the caller rings off and gives me a good survey, and don't care about the long-term complications. Can I get this guy to decide to keep his extraneous phone line until the end of this conversation so I don't get the disconnect on my metrics? Will giving this woman a $20 credit, even though she's not entitled to it, keep her from down-checking me? Can that other person be transferred to another department so I don't have to spend an hour trying to figure out how to get e-mails on his phone, thus jacking my number of calls handled for the day?

It's bad for me. It's stressful. I want to work in an environment where I'm allowed to fix the problem without having to resort to tricks or chicanery, without having to fob an issue off on someone else. The requirements of the job are just contradictory enough, though, that I must, because to do otherwise is to risk censure and firing. That's what I hate most about it; if I had the power to fix things without doing that kind of shit it wouldn't be nearly as bad.

That's why I want to go work a job where I sit at a workbench and do whatever-it-is they pay me to do, without having to talk to too many people. Something technically demanding where I am empowered to do what is needed to fix the problem in front of me. Where I come home from work tired because I achieved--because I fixed things and made them work!--not because I'm beaten down by stress and the strain of trying to tap-dance as fast as I possibly can to avoid bad surveys and metrics.

That's what I want. I don't mind hard work but it has to be useful, it has to matter to me...and saving someone $10 a month on their cell phone bill just doesn't mean anything to me. (And it doesn't happen very often. Especially now that they have the $New_Major_Telecom_Plan.)

Well, I've got a feeling that things will be changing soon, that another job is on the horizon. I just need to keep punching until it gets here.