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Sunday, August 13, 2017

How English conquered the world


So how did English get to be so important?  I’m no linguist but I take the following summary from The Mother Tongue by Bill Brigdon, and numerous conversations with our foreign exchange students and a couple of good linguists I’ve know.  English is advantaged because it has simple grammar.  For example, there is no gender or declination of nouns except pronouns.  (“Dog” doesn’t have 7 different endings depending on how it is used—or 40 in Finnish!)  Verb conjugations are simple compared with other languages.  Latin alphabet beats every other language from Egypt to Japan. 200,000 words in common usage, is twice most other languages.  That is because English welcomes new words from other languages.  Thus English is chock full of subtle meanings of words.  Few other languages even print a “thesaurus”.  Easy cases, flexible word ordering, allows a new user of English to break-in fast.  As Ta-Weit used to say, “You just give it a try and let ‘er rip.  Then smile a lot.  And somehow everyone catches on.” The perfect language for engineers with less verbal skills.  Concise meaning means less writing.  So how did English get that simple, that easy to add onto? 

Historical linguists say that it happened because of the quirks of history that relegated English to peasants in the middle ages while the nobles spoke Norman French, then Norman French became an object of derision by the rest of France, setting up the adoption of English in England as a simplified official tongue. 

Let’s start with the Anglo-Saxons.  Angles, Saxons, and Jutes emigrated to Britain beginning about 450 AD.  They didn’t really invade, just took advantage of the land where Celts were left defenseless by the Romans who had pulled out.  Celts were sophisticated and Roman, needing baths and police to survive.  The functionally illiterate Germans didn’t and they swamped the kingdom with a more or less common tongue.  Celtic Bretons retreated to Wales, Cornwall and Brittany.  A few Breton inclusions may have survived for centuries but the new talk was almost all in Anglo-Saxon “Old English”.  You can still find enclaves of Old English dialect in Angleland (German Danish border) and Frisian coast where they say you will be stunned by the dialect of German so close to English. Some local guy may come up to you and say in perfect Angle-Old English, “What the clock?”  Few of the early Anglo-Saxons could read or write—only a few priests and important people did.  But the spelling is radically different than our English.  On paper it looks utterly foreign.  But you understand the phonetic letters, the  words sound womewhat like English, but very archaic. This was the language of Bede and Alcuin in the 700s after the Anglo-Saxons had become Christianized, educated and writing became commoner.

Then came the invasions.  First the Danes conquered northern England on the east coast beginning about 850.  Then in 1066, 7000 Norman knights beat Saxon king Aethelred the Unready, and found themselves in possession of a nation of 1.5 million.  Old English was relegated to a second class language of peasants.  For over 300 years it remained so.  And with Danes in the North, some Celts in the South, the dialects arose all over the place.  In order to understand one another, they had to simplify into a kind of pidgin.  Thus the loss of cases, conjugations, etc.  Instead of remembering 11 different cases of an adjective, there arose just one. Gender was scrapped by the illiterate serfs.  And the nobles, of course could care less.  But that was critical.  Instead of a learned class who are the cause of complexity in language (to make stories more poetic, speak more precisely, and separate themselves from the masses by manner of talk) English grew common. 

Meanwhile Norman-French was held with some disdain by the Parisians and other French.  Norman French or “Frensh” as it was laughingly called was a dialect put out to disdain by the other French.  Worse, the English nobles started using some of the common English in daily life.  Consequently, by the 1400s, the English nobles began to abandon Frensh in favor of an English with about 10,000 Frensh terms included. Legal, government and church terms were borrowed from Frensh. Meanwhile about the era of Chaucer, English,evolved into its simplest form and spellings, were becoming modernized as the language became more and more written.  This was complete by Shakespeare and Elizabeth in the late 1500s. 

Then the Spanish Armada couldn’t win and Elizabeth did.  A few years later, Britain was building a national navy and conquering the world.  The language spread everywhere. By the 19th century English, French, German and Spanish were in a dead heat for the most international language.  France, the bounteous and populous country with all the science and engineering in the 19th century, was favored by 1900.  Then WW I killed the wide influence of Germans and French. But there were other ingredients to their linguistic demise.  French people hate changes to their tongue.  German was Europe-wide but not world-wide.  English was the easy-to-use.  And nobody was easier in usage than those Americans who became leaders after WW II.  Quite simply, the world adopted English.  Since 1945, English has gone from 3% of world usage to 14%.  Hence every foreign exchange kid lists as Goal #1 to learn English fluently.  Our Finnish exchange kid called me up to celebrate acing his university language exam. I guess he’d underlined my colloquialisms in my letters to him.  Used them in his exam and the profs were very impressed.  He laughed and said, “Dad Z, you have a colorful speech.”  So there it is.  Okies and other peasants conquer the language world. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reformation politics


As I watch today’s politics and read about the Reformation on its 500th anniversary, I am struck by the modern similarities.  The later day followers of Luther have sworn off politics. “Why did the Lutheran cross the road? To get to the middle.” --Garrison Keillor.  But Luther used politics to survive.  And he got lucky. 

Oct. 31, 1517 is the day he posted 95 Theses on Wittenberg’s church door for scholarly debate in Latin.  But students translated the list into German.  It lit the country afire.  And who were the students?  Luther often drew about 400 to his classes in Wittenberg.  Townspeople, travelers, visiting scholars, and students would come.  There was no required attendance, so students chose to hear a popular, dynamic lecturer. And they formed a huge following along with the faculty of Wittenberg College.  Theses attacked the sale of indulgences but it was a bigger issue.  The Medieval church was a money machine. Pope Leo was building St. Peters in Rome and needed funds. Not only did the church sell indulgences that promised time out of purgatory, but they owned half the land in Germany.  The Holy Roman Empire was Germany-Austria-Italy and lands left to the church became papal fiefs, baronies if you will, that Rome gave to newly named bishops—if the bishop could come up with the right price.  In fact some bishops never set foot in Germany, but once ordained, just collected taxes from their lands.  Then there were the priests, half of whom were married—but they couldn’t legally marry—so they paid a forgiveness price for their girlfriends.  And any kids born had to be redeemed out of bastard staus to be made legal. The priesthood was impoverished. It didn’t take a theologian to realize the Italy was raking it in and Germany was seeing the wealth of the nation depart.

Luther didn’t realize the hornet’s nest he had stirred.  He just thought he was making a point of true Christian belief.  But Dominicans, a rival order to the Augustinians which Luther belonged, published fake news, a forged document attributed to Luther with disgusting quotes. Dominicans were the chief beneficiaries of Indulgences.  And then the head papal theologian, Prierias, wrote a scathing attack. Luther had exposed their swamp of financial dealings.   Cardinal Cajetan, a traditionalist who advocated the papacy be considered infallible, demanded a questioning of Luther.  Luther agreed but played his politics carefully.  First, he was best friends with Spalatin, the most influencial advisor of Prince Frederick the Wise  whose territory Wittenberg was in. Spalatin, always with his ear to the ground, said don’t go until they guarantee safe passage.  The Wittenberg faculty wrote a lengthy letter supporting Luther.  Frederick realized the church needed reform and thought upon hearing Luther, he had the guy who could pull it off.  And then Johann von Staupinz, the leader of the Augustinian order, was a personal mentor for Luther. He proofread Luther’s reply to Cajetan expressing humility, offering to repent of his teaching if he could be proven wrong.  Cajetan was in over his head.  Luther was a brilliant mind and Cajetan could offer no response when Luther asked him for scripture passages as proof of the papal position. Worse, Cajetan said some questionable things that refuted salvation by grace, the prime tenet of Christianity, and expressed a disdain for faith.  Luther, stunned, knew hundreds of passages.  The Cardinal could only demand Luther recant, got frustrated and ordered him out of his presence. Luther left town, fortunately, because Catejan’s papal orders to arrest him were leaked. 

When Frederick got orders to hand over Luther, he formed an investigation, listened to Wittenberg’s faculty, local nobles, Staupinz and Spalatin, and then Miltitz, a nuncius (official speaker for the pope) sent from Rome.  Miltitz was a conniver and Frederick immediately saw his game.  The nuncius got nothing but a meeting with Luther and vague promises from Frederick.  Now understand that many officials of the Roman Curia weren’t very godly people.  Some bought their offices too.   Miltitz got quite drunk, started telling stories about Leo’s real motives (women, money) and advised Luther to just shut up for awhile.  In a modern sense, he was telling Luther to stop tweeting.  Luther’s friends agreed.  If ever a guy didn’t stop tweeting, it was Luther.  Realizing that he was as good as dead, he started claiming air time, that is, he began writing books.  In 36 months he wrote 30 books in two languages, eloquent Latin and German.  He simply outpublished the church. Prints and reprints spread like a mania.  In them he expounded on biblical humanism—as his Protestant ideas of the time were then called.  But he also wrote To the Christian Nobility Concerning the Reform of the Church.  In it, he recounted the abuses of the Roman Curia and said that just as they had sucked Italy dry, they had now come to Germany.  The fire in Germany grew to a forest fire from the North Sea to Bavaria.  Meanwhile the Emperor died.  Maxmillian had wanted his son Charles to inherit the throne, but 7 electors selected emperors.  One Elector was Frederick the Wise.  And the Pope didn’t want Charles.  So Frederick parlayed his alliance against Charles into a safe haven for Luther.

Instead of thinking about repeal and replace of their system, the Curia and especially the Dominicans, were seized with unreasonable hatred for Luther.  They arranged a debate and drew Luther into it in a sly way.  Eck, the Dominican debater, in some ways won the debate, but Luther won the crowd.  The Romanists wrote scandalous letters against Luther that were all too plain to the reader that their insane hatred was the motivator.  As a result, when Luther finally went to trial at the Diet that took place in Worms,  Frederick had made plans to kidnap or spirit Luther away when he was condemned.  Why didn’t the Emperor Charles seize Luther immediately and have him burned at the stake in Worms?  80,000 of Luther’s fans had invaded the small city and a rebellion would have resulted. 

In the end, the thing that the Roman hierarchy didn’t understand was that Luther spoke to his followers simply and they couldn’t be dissuaded—they had an agenda  Finally in 1530, with Turks ready to besiege Vienna, the Emperor  was in a fix.  He had ostracized half of Germany over religion, but needed help to fight the Turks.  To his disbelief, the Lutheran princes showed up, handed him The Augsburg Confession, a statement of what they believed, but swore allegiance to his cause against the Ottomans.  This good will delayed the Emperor’s vengeance for 17 years.  Then in 1547, after Luther, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France had died ( thus no international allies of the Lutheran princes remained) Charles began a successful campaign.  But killing the princes and occupying the land didn’t work.  The priests had all turned Lutheran and the people as well.  Rather than a triumph, the Peace of Augsburg ended in a whimper with each prince allowed to keep the religion of his choice throughout the land. Finally, in 1563 the Catholic Church had their own Reformation. 
 
You often see movements that won't die.  It is often because the perpetrators of an ugly system don't realize their own problem.         

Monday, July 3, 2017

They analyze Trump


So what are the opponents and Europeans alleging about Trump and the Republicans?  I sit here reading Economist, “A Divided Country” which is in full lament of Trump’s Presidency.  They’re worth studying.  Amid the cacophony of hyenas and apes from the MSM, Economist represents Europeans and learned elites.  Americans are riven by mutual  incomprehension. They’re talking R’s and D’s as well as city and rural, factory and universities. Donald Trump is not only a symptom of America’s division, but a cause of them, too.  Always the equivocation.  No, it didn’t start with Trump and he’s not the sole cause.  But then they never name anyone else nor detail other faults.  Thus, Trump is in effect the cause alone.  Mr. Trump has fueled the mistrustA political culture that is even more poisonous than when he took office…poor judgment, missed opportunities.  The federal government is already showing the strain. Gee, I didn’t know how he could have made it worse when the Dems wanted him impeached before he took office.

 I guess it must be my perspective.  I was rather hoping the federal government, which gave us Obamacare that only raised insurance rates, kicked people off policies, made docs quit, might show a bit of strain. And concerning the mistrust, that’s what happens when the left-leaning party adopted a platform of neo-fascism, a platform sans God. And, you see, some of rather like God, count our lives as lost without Him, and attribute all that is the experiment of Exception called America to Him. “Our Father’s God, to Thee/ Author of Liberty” and “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”  In myhumble perspective, there seems to have been an uprising of common people against the left.  Democrats lost 1200 seats over 6 years, the Congress, most governorships,Presidency, and now only control 4 state legislatures.  Quite a come-down for the majority party!  All this erosion came, not during Trump, but via Obama and friends. 

Disillusion only grows…because of his own incontinent ego. As harmful as what Mr. Trump does is the way he does it.   Now we get to the heart of the matter.  True, Trump has ego, but the true rarity among politicians is the one who doesn’t have a big ego.  The writer here is a journalist and makes a living with yap.  Trump has changed the rules of yap. He’s bombastic, rude and blunt, He punches back at a negative press.  Hence their conclusion is Trump Is Not One of Us by his manners and the way he talks. Secondly note the missing title.  It’s “Mr.” not “President”. Distaste for Trump has misled them to think he’s illegitimate as a President, even though elected by 30 states.  I learned a long time ago that in US politics we have to learn to live with the winner.  It doesn’t always suit me either, but I live under it.  And finally the parochialism of journalists is why they are in false-panic over Trump.  Republican Presidents are supposed to meekly sit silently as the press gets glee from running them down.  When someone does slam their analysis, they think it means government repression.  In other words, free speech is for them and their allies, but others must be mute.  They dish it out but they can’t take it. 

Political bias shows as well.  Reform plans show every sign of turning into a cut for the rich…Instead of reforming Obamacare, Repbulicans are in knots over a bill that would leave millions of Mr. Trumps’s own voters sicker and poorer. This is what I call the Thomas Frank effect.  His book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas” was a hit with New York libs but left Kansans baffled and angry.  In it, he argues that Kansans don’t know what’s good for themselves.  They should crave socialism and entitlements.  Instead, the silly little people opt for Liberty.  To back it up, he cites examples in Kansas that don’t exist—an Emporia fallen into near ghost town status and Kansas City suburbs become unlivable. Here, the writer for Economist avows that Obamacare should be saved because surely only that will help Trump voters.  And when all else fails, criticize with class warfare. Oh! The evil rich! 

Nor can the Economist seem to find much wrong with Obama’s tenure. Well, they concede Pres. O had competing agencies spun too much red tape. Yet its [Trump’s] attempt to reform this ‘administrative state’ is wrecking the machinery the government needs to function. Contrarily, most of America seemed tense over wrecks government had caused the previous 8 years—Middle East policy, Obamacare, National Debt, illegal immigration and crime/terrorism.  The bottom line is that the Europeans have a lot of political/cultural bias towards the ever-necessary welfare state.  America is biased in letting people live freely.

The miasma of scandal and leaks surrounding Russia’s role in the campaign have made chances of cross-party co-operation even more remote…undermined the courts…lack of respect for expertise, such as the attacks on the CBO…Mr. Trump’s disregard for the truth. Hmm, well the leaks were all designed to support leftist narratives.  We know in one case, spread by a Bernie fanatic.  Russian collusion was made up by the media.  CBO said Obamacare would decrease expenses (and dozens of other embarrassing predictions).  Did I mention most conservatives love Trump’s court picks?  And concerning the Truth, Trump seems to forever stun his former naysayers in the R-party by raw, visceral tweets that actually turn out true and shrewd.  He really was surveilled by the Obama admin.  CNN really did have an agenda to get rid of him.  He really wasn’t under investigation by Comey.  Cripes!

The bottom line is that the Europeans and the Left don’t get it.  Their intellectual giants were Marx and Hugo, and they scoffed at C.S. Lewis.  They hate Trump’s talk and his social media method. He’s unwelcome at their table. They fear for their ease in the US markets and cost-free NATO protection.  They can’t understand conservatism, refuse to acknowledge Trump’s win and agenda, or observance of leftist activists throwing pussy marches to try to disrupt the inauguration. Leaks leave no concern, nor surveillance by US Intel on US citizens. [Odd.  They went bonkers of Merkel getting bugged.] They think “Gov is Good”.  Meanwhile, Americans fret over a jobs-smothered economy full of restrictions and high taxes. I suppose we don’t understand their fawning and drooling over that socialist Macaroon guy who won in France, either. Vive le difference, tout le monde.

And they advance no solutions except bipartisanism.  So, I note he’s signed 39 bills, many of which slap down the bureaucracy.  There’s his budget for cuts in the worst bureaucracies.  Illegal immigration is down 70% and we have barely started building the wall. The foreigners now say they are scared to come illegally because Trump is serious about the borders.  Stocks are up and optimism is sky high.  Health care has to be reformed and we are working to get 51 egos to sign on to a compromise bill.  Ditto tax reform.  And the opposition, instead of being loyal opposition with well-considered alternatives, is batshit crazy. The MSM is dying. Wouldn't it be really crazy if Trump confounded them? 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Solar activity


OH, my!  Things are getting interesting concerning climate change and solar activity.  First a little primer.  There have been 26 ice ages in the last 3 million years that we can observe in deep ice core samples from Greenland.  The first 24 exactly match the earth’s nutations, every 100,000 years.  A nutation is when the earth’s axis wobbles between 22 and 24 degrees.  Like a spinning top which is not perfect, a little wobble has to occur every once in awhile for conservation of angular momentum.  It is thus thought that these wobbles cause climate disruption at the poles.  Since the poles are landlocked (Arctic) and sea-locked (Antarctic) we have ice caps on both ‘these days’ (speaking geologically).  And a climate disruption may dump large amounts of snow on these caps causing them to grow and the increased albedo (reflectance) of all that white causes further cooling, further snow, further buildup until a new ice age occurs. 

            The last two ice ages don’t correspond to nutation and were weaker.  Maybe earth is getting out of the ice ages as more exchange of waters is occurring in the Arctic as Eurasia and N. America grow wider apart via plate tectonics.  (Just conjecture.  Antarctica’s poles keep piling up more ice) But what of the other climate factors—ocean currents, albedo of atmosphere (cloud cover), solar radiation and the much discussed chemical make-up of the atmosphere?  Of these 4, solar activity seems most important.  A one percent decrease of solar radiation energy would cause a near ice age all by itself.  In 1309, lasting until about 1850, the sun went mysteriously depleted of sun spots.  Earth mean temp decreased 5-10 degrees F and the era is known as “the little ice age”.  It likely caused many phenoms like the decline of grain production in Europe, the uninhabitability of Greenland by Scandinavians, decline of fish production in Chinese rivers, and emergence of scavengers including rats that multiplied and carried bubonic plague across Eurasia. 

            Increasing CO2 no doubt changes the atmosphere, but our experience is increase of .8 degrees C (1 degree F) since 1880.  But the last 25 years of observation of solar activity is getting to be a bigger story.  The solar cycle of sun spot activity maxes every eleven years—1969, 1980, 1991, 2002, 2013.  The ’69 radiation measurements were lower than those of 1980, 1991, and 2002.  But the 2013 energy flux is lower than even 1969.  We don’t know if solar energy fluctuates every few cycles or few hundred years, as climate eras seem to indicate.  But whatever the case, sun activity swamps CO2.  The last 18 years have been cool.  Secondly, there is research that indicates that when solar activity minimizes, more neutrons are shed.  These enter our atmosphere and cause more cloud cover.  Other research indicates that increased CO2 makes the tropical atmosphere cloudier and thus more reflective.  Both are occurring now.  Sunspots declined from 1500 to 1000 from the max cycles of 1991 to the one in 2013.  Measure of solar magnetic field shows a similar decline.  But realize, we have sun spot recordings going back to about the year 1000 (Chinese monks) but solar magnetic fields for only a quarter century.

            What does this mean?  Cooler era or new ice age?  Best guess is just cooler temps.  But realize that the 100,000 year ice ages had roughly 12000 years of warm-up between, and that is about what we have used up now.  What it probably means is that Al Gore is going to eat crow.  He points out that Greenland is shedding ice rapidly.  True, but once a warming begins, Greenland is a huge ice cube—10,000 feet thick and 500,000 sq. miles.  If you put an ice cube under a heat lamp, how long does it last?  If you cool down or heat up a bit, it won’t have much effect on the melting.  So the Greenland ice and about half the declining glaciers may well have been on this course long before modern manmade CO2.  A cool spell would also be either a respite from the warming (allowing the private sector to come up with solutions to increased CO2 emissions like it has done by reducing USA’s output by 18% since 2000.)or it could be a long term trend like the Little Ice Age or Younger-Dryas of 10,000 years ago.  We will just have to find out.  

Monday, June 5, 2017

About that growth


  4% growth may be difficult because of what Obama’s Fed has done.  A little history. 

In the 1900 to WW I era, there were 3 very hard recessions.  JP Morgan had to be called upon to be the lender of last resort.  That would be equivalent to the President calling Warren Buffet and saying , “Hey get some of your friends together and we need all your money right now!”  Without such a lender of last resort a major credit collapse would plunge the country into a long, dire recession.  Why the need for LOLR?  Well, you and few of your drilling buddies couldn’t pay their oil patch notes to a local bank in OKC.  Because of this, the OKC bank couldn’t pay a larger note they owed to a big Chicago bank.  The Chicago bank in turn couldn’t pay other mega banks in NYC and the country’s entire credit structure and ability to loan was brought down.  I’m telling the story of the failure of Penn Square Bank of OKC in 1984 that led to the failure of Continental Illinois. But CI was seized by FDIC which gave rise to the expression, “Too big to fail”.  And the Fed, our LOLR gives patch-up loans to that bank you couldn’t pay which went into default itself.  Otherwise, default/bankruptcy brings distrust and no one lends for years--Peru, Poland, Argentina give recent examples.

In the Panic of 1907, Morgan was barely able to be the LOLR.  Panic of 07 still ranks as nearly equal to the Great Depression.  In the wake of this near collapse of our economy for years, Congress established a Federal Reserve as LOLR.  It not only has the power to lend but to manipulate interest rates so that the little guy doesn’t face astronomical “payday loans” rates after a crash.  Recently, Ron Paul and a few others have politicized the issue of the Fed saying we don’t need it.  Auggh! Are you going to call Buffet? However, Trump’s notion of an audit of the Fed is good transparency idea.

The politicians of the 1930s were in the era of Progressivism’s bloom and wanted to do big gov’t things.  John Maynard Keynes, 1936 came along with reasoning that justified their power grab.  Keynes said economically shocked people were too tight, wouldn’t spend and that is why the market wouldn’t restart.  So Government should be the stimulator with big spending that would save us all.  Deficits don’t count.  Gleeful advocates of big gov’t said, “Just stimulate continuously and utopia will occur.”  It did not.  When gov’t piles up debt, it can pay it only with turn-on-the-printing-press money, worthless money, and inflation occurs.  Happened in Weimar Germany, Argentina, Brazil and everywhere else it was tried.  But the dream of jiggering some monetary measures and insuring eternal bliss, lives on among central bankers. 

The Fed has 3 tools to control short term rates—overnight bank loans, discount rates, and Fed Funds rates.  They can make the short term interest rise or fall.  If they make it go way, way down, the economy temporarily blooms as businesses can borrow easily.  But long term rates, like 30 year loans remain high and this yields or reflects inflation.  Plot this.   Plot bonds on a graph of “years to maturity” versus rate, you see short term bonds as low rates and long term loans at the other end of the graph as higher. (Lenders want more return if they lend for a long time versus a short duration when they can get their money back.) If the Fed upsets this normal curve by forcing short term rates way down, the economy booms with inflation but the easy money may go into some asset mania, followed by recession.  On the other hand, if the Fed raises short term rates, so they actually exceed long term rates,( “inverted yield curve”) then money is tight, borrowers can’t borrow and we usually get a recession or slowdown.  So central banks like the Fed, have always been held back from extreme behavior by reality of what investors and businesses see and how they react.  Alas, for the Keynesians, there’s No free lunch.  Inflation occurred during the seventies when the Fed tried to stimulate around the oil shock but then Carter wanted to decrease the value of the dollar to help US trade. The Fed complied.  Then came a bad recession.  Millions of investors (Wall Street) react  when they perceive that a credit crunch is coming if the Fed raises interest. 

In the recession of 2007, housing/real estate was the commodity that collapsed.  Since this is most of the nation’s wealth, it was a bad credit collapse.  Obama and the Keynesians wanted to stimulate colossally.  So they tried something new.  The Fed would buy bonds in the open market, in particular, long-term gov’t bonds. Those who held the bonds would have sudden cash and would have to spend it somewhere else.  Many bought stocks and the stock market soared.  By buying long-term bonds the Fed could now lower long-term interest as well as short.  And the yield curve could be held ‘normal’ by lowering short-term interest as well. For the first time, Fed could control interest entirely, thus the lowest interest rates in history have occurred.

No free lunch--it didn’t stimulate much.   And government debt doubled.  Many held their breath that hyperinflation would occur but it didn’t.  To explain this consider: if government (the Fed) owns a bunch of gov’t (its own) bonds, is it really a debt?   The Fed could just say, “Debt is forgiven. That was just money we owed ourselves.” True, but if this debt has no inflationary effect it won’t stimulate either. Result was pitiful growth.  Thus the economy grew at 1.6% for 8 years.  Now comes Trump who might get tax reform, will surely get regulatory reform, will likely get health care reform.  This will help the economy.  But will it last?  With a huge $4.5T gov’t bonds in the Fed’s account, these have to be either forgiven or sold back into the market. Selling bonds means higher interest implies economic slowdown. That may or may not happen. We don’t have much experience with this.  Often raising rates when rates are under 5% works out without a credit crunch. But not always.  Getting 3% long term growth may be hard for Trump and Fed as they try to undo the damage. 

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  And central bankers the world over have the foolish prejudice that they can create nirvana by jiggering a few indicators.  In Europe the latest rage is bonds that pay negative interest. Why would you invest in something that takes your money rather than putting the cash in a sock? Like the mortgages in 2006 which were “zero down, interest only” (borrowers didn’t create any equity,) unsustainable things can’t go on for long. The mortgage people just abandoned the houses when they lost jobs.  It was in effect a rental owned by the sucker banker. We enter unknown territory.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

What intelligence research tells about social problems


I’ve been reading about intelligence, education and social behavior and some interesting things have been proven.  You probably suspected a lot of this.  All these stats are for white people only, no racial component.

Remember those plots that show if you have only a high school education you’ll likely make $30,000 a year, but if you have a bachelor’s you’ll make $50K and advanced degrees = $90K?  It turns out, while this is true, the distribution for each education level is extremely broad. There are Phds on welfare. There are CEOs who have 8th grade ed.   The correlation between education level and earnings is about .3 (1.0 or 100% correlation is perfect; zero is none whatsoever)  IQ correlates at about .6 so it is a better predictor of earnings. 

The people who study intelligence were highly persecuted in the 60s and 70s for their proofs that intelligence gives a lot of advantage and it is somewhat inherited.  That was the era when people believed that environment caused everything.  (Well, why try to breed smart sheepdogs? You could just make any old mutt a shepherd.) So the researchers went underground by the way they stopped talking about test scores and began talking about standard deviations away from the curve peaks.  Apparently it worked.  Media and many others couldn’t understand what they were talking about.  Then came the 90s demand for education accountability and testing.  Once again, intelligence measures became important.  A guy with 80 IQ doesn’t make a very good elementary particle physicist. 

The popular concept is that college education skyrocketed after WW II.  No, it actually began growing rapidly about 1920. 1920—2% of population had a bachelors; 1940—8%; 1960—16%;2016—35%.  That reflects the fact that in 1950 the traditional 55% of top quartile of SAT scorers went to college but by 1965 it was 80%.  And it was since about 1960 that the prestigious colleges began to compete for the top HS grads.  Why?  College costs quadrupled from 1950 to 1960, and a lot of middle class families could no longer afford it unless they had a smart kid who could get scholarships.

The result is that people of a certain intelligence and education often only associate with others of similar status, especially in urban areas where many technical people are employed.  The tech revolution has insulated many of the best and brightest from the rest of the people.  This explains why so many of our best politicians come, not from mega-metros but cities of 400,000 or smaller where everyone rubs elbows.  The tech skills are accountants, architects, engineers, professsors, dentists and physicians, mathematicians and scientists and the like.  These 8 jobs suck up 25% of the top 10% in IQ. And as the federal regulations have grown by a factor of six in the last 20 years, it takes a smart guy to start a successful business. Average Joe finds it hard.  Thus in 2014 for the first time in 400 years, America’s number of newly closed businesses exceeded the number of start-ups for the first time. 5-year running average) And interestingly the Supreme Court has forbidden employers from giving intelligence tests, yet these correlate better with successful job performance than anything else—reference checks, interviews, education, or age.  As kids are strongly encouraged to follow education as far as they can make it go, education is now strongly tied to intelligence.  The upper technical fields have seen a real salary increase of about 60% since 1963 while others are up only about 10% in constant dollars.  Hence the new success of Trump’s appeal to lower middle class.   And the nerds mate together just as they live close, thereby producing smart kids.  But it’s a loose correlation.  Ben Carson’s mom will surely object.

Let’s talk social difficulties.  Less intelligent women have most of the out-of-wedlock babies.  But of course there’s debate.  Some would say parent’s socioeconomic status (SES) is the cause.  It turns out that intelligence is more fundamental but SES plays a role too.  A graph of Americans below the poverty line is stunning.  Poverty decreased in a straight line from 1940 when 50% were “poor” to 1969 when the curve flat-lined in the 12-15% range it has had ever since.  The Great Society was supposed to reduce this!  Instead it halted the decline of poverty.  When a group goes from 50% to 15%, who is left behind?  Those who lack thrift, energy, determination and brains, it is likely. 

The statistics about unwed mothers are staggering.  Married women of lowest 2% of IQ are 18% likely to live in poverty.  Those in upper 2% are 1% likely.  But single moms of the lowest 2% IQ are 70% likely to live in poverty.  Upper 2% are still 15% likely. It is as if marriage makes you rich.   And the numbers cut across all reasons for single motherhood—widowed, divorced, and never-married.  This almost says, “If you want kids and means, get married and stay married.” Why are women so adversely affected?  I think it is because men are hard-pressed and measured by career while women who have children will often compromise a job if it adversely affects the children. Equal pay for equal work is the Law.

A HS education has become the norm. The dropout rate doesn’t correlate very well with SES but does correlate strongly with IQ.  It figures.  If you struggle with classes, you are more likely to drop out. The number of disabled and collecting Social Security has increased 50% during the Obama presidency, causing Bill O’Reilly to exclaim, “Has America gotten more hazardous?  That can’t be!”  No, but here’s what the stats tell us.  Low intelligence workers opportunistically claim far more disability.  There is a slightly better safety behavior among the intelligent workers, but the real story is that discouraged workers, finding it harder to keep and find a job, find it more socially acceptable to claim disability and get a sympathetic doc to approve it. And they won’t go crazy watching daytime TV and living leisurely.  Employment of teens who aren’t in school has gone from 85% in 1954 to 63% in 2009 to 51% today.  And when you study the SES of these workers, it suddenly gets interesting.  Unemployed teens drop in unemployment rate as they go to higher IQ.  But it’s the other way around for SES.  The ones who have wealthy parents are more long-term unemployed.  Living in the proverbial basement, I guess.    

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Why Dems are so elite


Why are Democrats so often elites in urban areas?  In 1920, people were separated in social classes more radically than today.  John D. Rockefeller died in 1920 with a wealth of about 5% of the country’s GDP.  Today, the entire Forbes 400 doesn’t add up to 5% of GDP.  And in 1920 2% of people got college degrees. ( Today, it’s 35%.)  The result was that only a thin veneer of people, often with higher IQs, had managed to get through colleges.  But beginning in the post WWI era, significantly more began to attend higher education.  By 1940, 8% of 23-yr-olds had a degree.  Since it takes an IQ of about 115 to be able to handle college material and only about 14% of population has 115 or higher, there are many who struggle and colleges have had to water down curricula. 

            In the 1950s, college costs began to soar.  Ivy League educations, a staple on the East coast, became too costly for many families.  And the colleges began to take more students from all across the USA, often based on high SAT scores and sometimes needing scholarship help. This ‘cognitive competition’ spread.  As the number of grads soared, they became a class of workers who held better jobs. To see how this classism works, ask yourself who your ten closest friends are.  Then ask what kind of education they achieved. If you are college-educated, you probably have a lot of college-educated friends. And vice versa. 

            Now some math.  If one out of three people get a degree, what is the  probability of having 6 out of ten friends with a degree too?  Well, from the general population, it is about one chance in 600 of selecting 10 people at random and having 6 with a college degree.  And it is about one in 6000 of having all ten degreed.  Yet 6 out of 10 is the likeliest answer to this question found among college-educated people who answer this question.  In 1920 this would be rare to the point of strange, because college grads were so few.  But today, the cognitive elite hang out together, far more than random probability predicts.  In the 20s you would have a good chance of meeting someone with a third-grade education who was incredibly smart but didn’t have a chance to go to school.  (This example--my grandfather.) But beginning in the 60s secondary education began to steer higher IQ individuals to seek college.

            And where did they land?  Accountants, engineers, architects, professors, dentists, physicians, mathematicians, and scientists are eight professions that account for most of it.  In 1940 only one in twenty people of the upper 10% of intelligence was one of these.  Today, these 8 occupations employ 25% of all the people in the upper 10% of IQ (>120).  We have become a technological world.  And urban areas employ most of these people.  (Well, I know you can find a CPA in a town of 5000, but we are talking worker distributions.)

            They live in the city but don’t rub elbows with the less-educated very much.  Well-paying jobs, prime neighborhoods, good schools.  They are an elite.  Over against this are the less-educated.  Some struggle in the middle class.  Others are in the ghettos.  As middle class working-class jobs disappear, the cities have become increasingly polarized economically.  The only way to do politics in this mélange is to have something for the rich and something for the poor.  Here’s how Dems solve it. The rich get favors from government (special contracts for large companies would be an example) and the poor get benefits. 

            The Democrat playbook stole a page from Europe’s nobilesse oblige.  These were aristocrats who feared for their safety after France’s Revolution.  The idea was to play a public image of being a benefactor, an egalitarian, a guy with the common touch.  In effect, “Don’t guillotine me!  I’m a Good noble.  Do that guy over there who exploits you.”  We call this a limousine liberal nowadays.  Their exaggerated narrative about caring for the poor is almost laughable (given that they don’t touch those people), but it is popular.  Why?  Because all you have to do to become a liberal is think yourself smarter than everyone else.  YOU should be in charge! Be one of the aristocrats! Be kingmaker! And this strokes the ego of many in the cognitive elite.  Indeed, you can be from the other end of the spectrum and still imagine yourself king of the world and be a liberal too.  Or just dream of an Obamaphone.  Thus the Democrats win a majority of not only the lowest income quintile (70-30%) but also the upper quintile (55-45%). Republicans are the party of the 3 middle class quintiles from $21K to $105K taxable. 

So what does this say Republicans should do? First keep stressing liberty as conservatives always have done.  Second, use education choice as a wedge issue in urban areas.  Third, capture the lower middle class vote like Trump has done.  Liberty has to be understood as being free to live your life as you see fit, without government’s heavy hand of Obamacare mandates, enterprise-killing regulations, quenched opportunity.  Education choice is a clever gambit, because of regression to the mean.  If you and your spouse are extremely high IQ, your kids tend to be much more average.  Likewise, mediocre folks sometimes have very gifted children. Think Ben Carson’s mom.  Social stratification in schools is a major problem in large cities and a “way out” is a good solve for the R’s.  Finally, some sort of retraining or incentive to change careers is good for middle America along with better trade deals and the border wall.

Meanwhile it needs to be recognized that the D’s don’t have a lock on the cognitive elites.  Many of the best and brightest want freedom to innovate and be entrepreneurs.  Bread and circuses social policy run by Dems is a loser economically and destroys lives that not just a few low income people notice.  Those D’s who are among the elites have little experience in dealing with the problems of lesser mortals as well.  This means a party of few new ideas, rather like Hillary and Obama.   

Friday, April 28, 2017

Smart things Trump does the media doesn't know


Trump, they say has a very high IQ.  I keep noticing that he does indeed figure things out that the media is stupid about.  When Martha McCallum observed he didn’t get any major legislation done in the first 100 days, he responded that he had signed 28 laws. ( the media can hardly quote any of them.)  Most have to do with changing regulations, something that is huge for businesses, but boring for the commentariat.  Then he said that the R’s (meaning congress) wasn’t ready to govern.  They were used to being loose canons and prima donnas because they were out of power and it didn’t matter what they proposed or how they voted. Obama would veto them.  This is absolutely, positively the truth.  Congressional factions continue to wrangle over Repeal/Replace.  237 egos don’t agree and have to learn to live with half a loaf and play like a team.  That, not the a Caucus, not Paul Ryan, not Trump is to blame—although the pundits seem to love the blame game.  And so we see the tragicomedy of conservative pundits lashing out in anger that nothing is done.  I have news.  Not only are most of the people impatient, so are the Congressmen, the White House and just about everyone in between.  Don’t blame anyone still alive.  The Founders purposely made law-making slow.  Better to have impatience than tyrannies that can run over us in a moment. 

Trump is also playing a game with China.  N. Korea has a dangerous player.   I don’t understand why, if China fears USA bringing in weapons to re-arm S. Korea and Japan, if they fear for free trade and broken commerce with the West, if they fear Kim’s collapse could bring millions of Korean refugees into China, don’t they just go grab that little fat guy by the neck and install a puppet of their choice in his place?  And from behaviors of China after the powwow with Trump, they seem to be jockeying in this direction. If he can get China to defuse Kim, that will be something no other Prez has ever done.  It would also cool down a hot spot and we could attend to Iran or Ukraine or some other problem.  Part of a good war or campaign waged is to deal with one thing at a time and get as far as you can go with diplomacy or threats.

Every Republican likes tax cuts, but if Trump had led his agenda with them, they would show a big negative loss of revenue.  Instead, first pass Obamacare replacement and save $100 B a year.  Then pass a budget with real cuts to discretionary spending and save another $100 B.  Result is that the tax cuts would be somewhat paid for.  And despite Trump’s proposal of tax reform, budget and repeal/replace do seem to be coming first.

Finally the media is hooting that Trump is giving up on his wall.  But ‘wall’ is a euphemism for a secure border which in places is a fence or in an almost impassible area or on some difficult situation involving private land or a tribal reservation, will be a surveillance tower and drones.  But the media thinks they have really caught Trump in a lie about the border.  It is as if Babe Ruth stepped up to the plate and pointed to where he was going to hit a home run.  But then he hit the home run, but to the opposite field.  Fans would be cheering.  The media would be saying cynically that Ruth can’t call it right at all. Guess I'm a fan.   

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

And entrepreneur looks at sports


Never ask an entrepreneur to truly love sports.  They always see ways to greatly improve the game or change the game.  And why in heck do the people in charge not do this? 

            Baseball has constant battles between umpires who call balls and strikes and the batters and pitchers.  We could easily eliminate this by using electronics to call balls and strikes the way the broadcasters show the strike zone and the ball when it came across the plate.  Wouldn’t this make calls much more indisputable?

            But the sports I really don’t understand are hockey and pro basketball concerning fouls.  Why, in hockey can you come up behind someone and grab both arms and hold him back.  This is called a “check” even though the guy might be say a Pole or a Swede. And it’s legal.  Yes, but totally debilitating for the guy being held. If he were an agile skater, he could  develop a really accurate jackass kick  to the checker’s groin region. “Whoops, sorry.  My foot slipped.” Doing this with a steel skate would really teach the defender never to try this hold-down stuff again.  And maybe he couldn’t have kids ever, just in remembrance.

            Worse yet is the National Butcherball Association’s rules on fouls.  It differs so radically from college, high school, AAU or any other cager venue that it’s almost unrecognizable.  I was watching Rondo get clobbered by the Celtics.  He was just dribbling. A guy jumped on his back, never touched the ball, No foul called but Rondo missed his shot by 4 feet.  The similar strange foul ruling occurred when Westbrook went up for a layup.  The Rocket’s defender tried to block the shot from behind, mostly missed the ball and nearly took Westbrook’s head off.  They showed it again and again on replay, the blithely unconcerned announcers saying it was just a common foul, not a flagrant.  Well, if that’s not a flagrant, what would keep some team from having a couple martial arts experts on the bench for purposes of ruining someone’s career and making it look accidental.  I predict that the dumb-jock NBA will persist in their butcherball, this street ball, until someone really famous gets a career ended.

 This happened in 1920 in major league baseball when Chapman got killed.  Pitchers used to juice balls and rub them with dirt to make the ball hard to see.  In a game at dusk, Chapman couldn’t see the ball in the sun coming at him, got beaned and died the next day of a skull fracture.  Thereafter, baseball suddenly recanted from their love of the rubbed ball used for an entire game.  After that, any slightly dirty ball was discarded, and that is why they use 60 balls per game.  The old balls with fraying seams, called dead balls, suddenly gave way to new, fresh, tightly-wound balls called lively balls. I don’t know what kind of ball you call the skate-kicked hockey guy.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Stuff they don't tell you


There are things they don’t tell you and I sometimes wonder why—but sometimes it is obvious.

1)News tonight is that the OKC jail has a mold problem in the kitchen. TV made it sound like all sorts of bad practice in the jail.  But the real reason is that inmates stay out of trouble if they fix their own food.  More food, fewer fights. But these aren’t clean guys—druggies, robbers, mentally ill.  So they leave a mess and often it is almost impossible to manage by the jail.  Hence the mold.

2) Why are ice cubes in the shape of a D?  In the 1950s when icemakers for home fridges were being tried, they made a lot of shapes.  But the D cube made by one company was far less troublesome for low capacity makers.  Everyone began to use these icemakers and nothing has changed in 60 years.

3) Frustrated gardeners everywhere.”I can’t raise tomatoes anymore where I used to.” “I tried to raise fruit trees but the borers killed them.” Simple solutions.  Tomatoes develop a wilt if raised in the same location every year.  Rotate your crop and only come back to the same place about every 3 years.  Borers are laid by a fly from June 1 to September on the bark.  Then the larva bores under the bark either near the soil line or up a couple feet on the trunk, doing great damage.  Treat with borer spray every 3 weeks over the summer. So why doesn’t everyone in a garden center know this?  Beats me.

4)Why do most renters rent?  They can’t hold a job.  I know this not only by their histories, but also what I see.  Holes in walls and doors abound.  They got mad and pounded a hole in something.  They fight at work too—no faster way to get fired than fighting with the boss. Peter Drucker predicted this in the 60s, noting that so many kids were without parental guidance and we would likely raise a nation of poor workers, self-centered, insecure, uncooperative, when kids were raised by day care.

      Now a little politics.

5) Why did Repeal/Replace fail?  No matter what you thought of the Ryan-Trump-Price bill, it failed, as Rush Limbaugh pointed out, because too many people were successful in labeling it to mean bad things.  VP Pence pleaded that Stage I repealed individual mandates, would save $1T over ten years and give Medicaid entirely to the states.  What’s not to love if you are a conservative, and that’s just stage 1?  But here’s the deal.  If you run for office it’s brutal.  You’ll be called names, lied about, and it takes a tireless campaigner.  Who can endure? Very egotistical people. And so the US Senate in particular is full of prima donnas who insisted that if the bill wasn’t done their way, they’d vote NO.  When a party is minority, it’s okay to rant irreponsibly, but when you are in the majority, you’d better learn to be a team player or you will pass nothing and the public will sour on you.  But I doubt you'll hear this in the media reports.

6) The whole Russiagate thing now looks like a preemptive smoke screen to hide the fact that Trump’s people were under surveillance talking to Russians.  But the media narrative of Hillary losing steam in polls as election day approached due to Russian hacks/disclosures can be disproven by simple statistics.  Real Clear Polics Avg. two weeks out was Hillary +5.2%.  Day before election, +4.8%.  Exit polls day of election, +5%. No poll showed her at +1.8% as the popular vote actually was. What happened? Many people voted intentionally not talking to pollsters. But why didn’t the media point this out immediately?  Because journalists avoid math.  I saw this years ago teaching in college.  They get chills even over addition. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Is "New Normal" bad economy permanent


In the 30s John Maynard Keynes, Brit economist, created a big following among the big government advocates.  In his attempt to explain the long recession, he suggested that people were too saving.  They needed to spend more.  Spending causes the economy to grow and all we had to do was to get governments to invigorate spending, not saving.  Gov could call for a lot of infrastructure spending, could soak the saving rich so that Gov had more to spend. And Central Banks could lower interest rates until savings made less sense and free-spending happened more.  This was music to the ears of FDR and other pols who loved the justification of their big Gov plans. And the theory ruled econ for 30 years.

            But Keynesianism wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.  Democrats argued that the economy should be kept in a constant state of stimulation with big Gov spending and low interest rates.  Yet we had just as many recessions as ever, not fewer.  And then in the 70s as Keynesianism grew popular worldwide, it resulted in a huge spasm of inflation.  What was needed, said the Monetarist school of thought, was a consistent money supply, not the erratic fluctuations brought about by booms and busts. Thatcher/Reagan proved that to grow an economy, you need to concentrate on freedoms needed by businessmen, and a stable lendable supply of money.   And so, for 30 years, Monetarism ruled.  The idea of central banking was to stabilize both the supply of money, and balance the savings (supply) and investment (demand) by lowering interest when too many people saved.

            Not all Keynesians are social liberals, but you can see the partnership. To a small biz guy like me, the Economic Freedom of Reagan made a lot more common sense.  Then in March 2000, there came a crash that led to recession in 2001.  When the economy gets stressed, all sorts of theories get promoted.  When times improve, we forget most of them. The Keynesians, out of hegemony, had to have an explanation that things were now permanently bad, Secular Stagnation.  Simply put, Secular Stagnation happens when there are too many savers and Central banks can’t lower interest rates enough to balance against the need for investment.  There is chronic economic weakness; low growth, low inflation, low interest rates and constant threat of recession.   Well maybe the population is getting old and all they want is to save, not invest (spend).  Government needs to start a massive spending plan on such things as infrastructure.  Or maybe there has come an era of income inequality when the rich have all the money and free-spending poor don’t.  Gov should start soaking the rich and redistributing the wealth.  See why this appeals to Obama? And why he had that weird way of talking about government spending as “investment”.  The most pessimistic aspect of secular stagnation is that just because times are good, doesn’t indicate economic health.  There may be booms--bubbles of financial excess from time to time--but the chronic weakness returns after a disastrous bust. 

            So, Trump gets a boom.  Will it end the calamitously as the 2007-2009 housing bust? We will soon see.  If the secular stagnation idea is correct, the Fed will soon (after a recession) be stymied with zero interest and  paltry growth (the “new normal”).  But the businessmen like me and Trump think, we can undo much of the regulations and poor policies of Obamacare and taxes.  Free the people and they will achieve. An economy consists of dozens of factors working on each business multiplied by millions of businesses.  Free the businesses and they will make growth.  So will Economic Freedom win the argument or Secular Stagnation?  It won’t be too many years and we’ll know.  My guess is that the conceit of central bankers thinking they control economies leads to stuff like secular stagnation.