August 2nd, 2017

#5770: Concensus!

"As economists continue to overwhelmingly agree, international trade provides a net benefit to both countries that engage in it." Sure. Climatologists "overwhelmingly agree" that Earth is warming. Physicists once "overwhelmingly agreed" that there was a luminiferous aether. Doctors "overwhelmingly agree" that fat is bad for you. Plenty of people once "overwhelmingly agreed" that heavier-than-air flight was impossible.

Do I need to go on?

The problem with unrestricted trade is that countries with lower costs come to dominate markets. Instead of there being a choice--buy cheap foreign goods or more expensive domestic goods--the domestic goods are forced out of the market entirely. This leads to a loss of domestic industry and domestic unemployment.

But hey! Aren't those foreign goods cheap? Once all you unemployed people get burger-flipper jobs you'll be able to buy those things!

The product in question here is Canadian lumber. Canada apparently isn't saddled with the stupid environmentalist horseshit laws that America is, so they're able to harvest wood less expensively. The writer contends that making Canadian lumber cost the same as American lumber is bad for everyone because (besides the fact that "economists...overwhelmingly agree") it makes houses more expensive.
This price spike is occurring as the housing market is suffering. Materials needed to build new homes are becoming more expensive, and as a result, the production costs for homebuilders are increasing. This is resulting in a mismatch between sellers and buyers of homes: there is plenty of demand for new, inexpensive homes, but homebuilders cannot make a profit off homes at the prices that buyers can afford. Buyers want cheap homes, and, thanks in part to high lumber tariffs, homebuilders are less able to provide them.
But that trend started long before Trump enacted the lumber tariff. The trend has been away from cheap homes for rather a long while, because there's simply more profit to be had in building a "McMansion" than there is in building a starter home.

In the 1980s various Japanese companies were dumping memory chips (DRAM) on the American market. It was an attempt to drive American manufacturers out of business. Reagan slapped a tariff on DRAM, and the entire computer industry recoiled in horror because it was going to ruin everything and the computer industry would go bankrupt and "I thought Reagan was for free trade!" and-and-and.

And what happened is that the supply of DRAM at market prices continued uninterrupted, and Japan didn't drive America out of the semoconductor business. Yes, memory became more expensive, but that was only because the price had been artificially depressed by dumping.

Dumping is done solely to force suppliers of a commodity out. Once the competition is eliminated, the company doing the dumping can set prices as it sees fit. How much would a 64-kilobit DRAM chip have cost if the Japanese companies had had their way? How long would it have taken for memory sizes to increase if American companies (then the focus of innovation in memory density) were no longer supplying DRAM chips?

We see a similar situation today with Chinese goods. Chinese companies can manufacture things like solar cells and circuit boards at incredibly low cost, and they can do it for two reasons: their labor costs are vastly cheaper, and their environmental compliance costs are miniscule. There is no EPA in China, nor is there an OSHA. That 2,000 gallon tank of used ferric chloride you have, that's full of copper salts from etching circuit boards? Open the valve and dump it in that field! No one's going to fine you for it. No one's going to complain about it, either, because they know you can fire them for any reason you like and you're the only employer for miles around. And since you have a monopsony in the local labor market, guess who's setting labor costs?

Unrestricted international trade is not good; neither, however, is pure protectionism. And all these people who are quick to tell us about "grey areas" in morality never seem to get that other issues also lack the certitude of binary answers. The thing is, tariffs are necessary to level the playing field. Trump did the right thing.

* * *

If a private company had done this, there wouldn't be any secrets at all. The Gold King Mine disaster was two years ago, already. To refresh your memory, the EPA was investigating something-or-other, when they breached a containment wall that spilled a godawful amount of contaminated water into a river, causing an environmental catastrophe.

But it's okay because it was an EPA employee who did it:
The EPA’s Inspector General (IG) provided the Department of Justice evidence that an employee involved in the August 2015 Gold King Mine disaster violated the Clean Water Act and made false statements. The Justice Department declined to prosecute him, the IG announced in October 2016.
Do you know how much trouble that anonymous EPA employee would have been in, had he been working for a private company and "violated the Clean Water Act and made false statements"? They'd lock him up for life!

But government did it, so no foul! I mean, they only contaminated the source for drinking water for three states, but they weren't any of the important states--way out in flyover country--so who gives a rat? Right?

* * *

Today's Maki update:

I've been up since 8:20. In that time, I have been forced to confine Maki to his kennel twice. No pain medication at all since last night's dose, which was given to him only because I wanted him to calm down and be pliant for PT.

He is running, trying to jump, trying to climb--all of which is bad for his leg--and so when he gets too rambunctious, I put him in the kennel. It's the only thing I can do for him, because obviously his leg doesn't hurt him at all any longer.

Yesterday I watched him cross the family room at full sprint, both rear legs doing their thing exactly as if he didn't have a broken leg. And he doesn't mind at all even when I holler "Maki!" at him in an attempt to halt his flight. That tone at least gives animals pause, but not him. *sigh*

So, all I can do is put him in the kennel, and try to ignore the heartrending cries of a kitten lamenting the unjustness of the universe.

But it's better than having to take him in for further procedures. And that therefore makes ignoring the cries etc a lot easier.

* * *

I sit here awaiting the delivery of the dumpster. Such a stimulating life I lead.

#5771: i don't have words

Dumpster arrived about 10:45 and was set in the driveway by 11 AM. I took the recycling to the scrapyard.

...sitting by the "this is worth more than scrap" pile was some kind of Honda motorcycle, sans tank. I didn't get too close to it lest I decide to make an offer on it. I stayed far enough from it that I couldn't even see if it was a single cylinder or a twin.

Got $22 for the recycling--not too shabby.

Went for a pub burger from Culver's, got home and ate; did Maki's PT and then got to work. First up, moving all the shit from the Bagster to the dumpster. Bigger container and neater stacking made for a nice minimalist pile against the dumpster's forward bulkhead--but that was only the beginning!

I moved all the garbage out of the garage and into the dumpster, including stuff I've wanted to throw away for a very long time but haven't had a big enough garbage can for. Wood that has been laying around the garage for forty frigging years and has lain under cars, so it's oil-soaked, and where that hasn't happened it's so dry it's split. I had to get the circular saw out to cut the stuff to fit in the dumpster; and when I did, I smelled the unmistakable scent of pine.

We've been saving shitty pine boards all this time? WTF!!!

Worked my ass off, taking frequent breaks because of the heat and humidity. It's not really that hot out today but the sun is brutal and that dumpster's not in the shade. And of course it's something like 120° in the attic.

Still: I pulled the rest of the junk down from the attic. There is one item remaining: the porch swing from my paternal grandfather's house. It's big and heavy and I'm totally out of steam; I'll pull it down later. Otherwise, the attic over the north end of the house and garage is totally empty. Finally.

The result is that the dumpster is a bit past half-full. More boxes of old clothes, most of which have been up there since the 1960s, boxes crumbling from age when I try to move them--broken junk, hinged assemblies of wood the purpose of which I cannot discern. The crumbling boxes, folded and jammed into each other. Bags and bags of old clothes from prior cleanout sessions.

Friday, then, I get to work on the section over the south end of the house.

The house has two access points for the attic. It used to be one; the attic is continuous over the entire house and there's no partitions, so that was, theoretically, enough. Still, Dad, had a handyman install a second opening in the hallway leading to the bedrooms, with a drop-in plate closure. The one in the garage used to be a simple square opening, but the same handyman installed a set of pull-down stairs.


I say "badly" because today I noticed that the bolts holding the hinges on lack washers, so the nuts have simply pulled into the wood--and loosened. I need about sixteen flat washers, and then either some nylock nuts or lock washers, because this shit ain't gonna fly.

But that's later. I'm done with that part of the attic, for now.

The part of the attic over the south end of the house is also cluttered with junk, but a lot of it is small stuff, easily disposed of or stored elsewhere. I'm certain to be tossing about 90% of that shit, too, because no one has needed it for decades, but of course I can't just indiscriminately pull it down and throw it in the dumpster; like hte crap over the garage it will have to be sorted.


Still: it's a job that needed doing, and I'm pleased to say I've reached about the halfway point or so.

...and now I'm going to take a quick shower to wash off the grime, and then hurl myself into the pool to cool off. Heh.