Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

Why we have not gone into space, & why we will.

Summary: In the 1960s many bright people, from scientists to science fiction writers, predicted that we would have a large presence in space by now. They correctly predicted we would have the technology. Why do we have nothing but a few small robot explorers? What will eventually draw us into space? This is a follow-up to Men in space: an expensive trip to nowhere. {1st of 2 posts today.}

Robert Heinlein predicts the future.

Robert Heinlein wrote “Where To” in 1952, giving predictions about the year 2000. He was bullish about space.

By 2000 AD we could have O’Neil colonies, self-supporting and exporting power to Earth, at both Lagrange-4 and Lagrange-5, transfer stations in orbit about Earth and around Luna, a permanent base on Luna equipped with an electric catapult — and a geriatrics retirement home.

… If you’re willing to settle today for a constant-boost on the close order of magnitude of 1/1000 G we can start the project later this afternoon, as there are several known ways of building constant-boost jobs with that tiny acceleration  — even light-sail ships.

{Total time for a constant boost roundtrip to Mars and to Pluto at two low rates of acceleration:}

  • 1/100 G………………50 days………………50 weeks
  • 1/1000 G……………150 days……………150 weeks

I prefer to talk about light-sail ship (or rather ships that sail in the “Solar wind”) because the above table shows that we have the entire Solar System available to us right now; it is not necessary to wait for the year 2000 and new breakthroughs.

Ten weeks to Mars, a round trip to Pluto in 2 years and 9 months. Ten weeks — it took the Pilgrims in the Mayflower nine weeks and 3 days to cross the Atlantic. … England, Holland, Spain, and Portugal all created worldwide empires with ships that took as long to get anywhere and back as would a 1/1000 G spaceship. … Even the tiniest constant boost turns sailing the Solar System into a money-making commercial venture.

In 1980 he updated that article, writing “By the end of this century mankind will have explored this solar system and the first ship intended to reach the nearest star will be building.”

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The number of children killed by guns in America makes us exceptional, not better.

Summary:  We take pride in our exceptionalism, the ways we’re unique among the developed nations. We tend to assume that these represent advantages, as if different means superior. Our far higher rate of gun deaths, many of whom are children, show the falsity of that belief — and point to ways we can learn from our peers.  This is post #1 of 2 today.

Kelbie Ray Nelson

Kelbie Ray Nelson

Kelbie Ray Nelson, 13, died the day after Christmas in Blackfoot, Idaho, playing with a gun at his grandmother’s house.

Introductions

For your viewing pleasure on Pinterest: 33 Accidentally shot at WalMart, photos of 109 Children under 14 killed in 2013, 90 photos of Children under 15 killed in 2014, and the growing roster of photos of Children under 15 killed in 2015. You also might enjoy the generic category of GunFails in 2014 and GunFails in 2015.

For something different peruse a list of 69 mass killing events during the past 3 decades (mostly home-grown Americans, not jihadists — so it’s OK).

 Two articles from the endless stream

America gets hysterical from SARS in 2003 (774 deaths) and a few cases of Ebola in 2014. A few terrorist attacks prompt massive pants wetting, and a surrender of our rights. But we accept the annual carnage from deliberate and accidental gun use as a sign of our exceptionalism. And so it is; we’re exceptionally mad about guns — as these articles remind us.

(1) Are Gun Accidents ‘Very Rare’?“, David Frum, Daily Beast, 20 February 2013

In 2007, the United States suffered some 15,000-19,000 accidental shootings. More than 600 of these shootings proved fatal. … The total number of Americans killed and wounded by gun accidents exceeds the total number killed or injured in fires. The number killed in gun accidents is 20% higher than the total number killed in all U.S. civil aviation accidents.

In 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to ban drop-side baby cribs because these cribs have been blamed for “dozens” of infant deaths over the entire previous decade. The 600+ accidental gun deaths in any single year amount to 50 dozen.

… The Centers for Disease Control reserve the term “very rare” for accidental deaths from vaccines, the number of which is zero, or close to it. If more than 600 people a year were dying from vaccines, we’d have a national uproar, if not a revolution.

(2)  As usual, the little ones get to pay for our folly: “Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll“, New York Times, 28 September 2013 — The Times gives heart-rending tales of children’s deaths, amidst horrific data about the totals and terrifying news about the NRA’s work to obstruct efforts to keep us ignorant about the cost of guns in America. Excerpt:

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Good news for your Christmas reading

Summary: For Christmas we deliver our traditional post of good and inspirational news, a break from our usual gloomy but inspirational service. Regular service will resume tomorrow. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to you all!

Christmas peace

Contents

  1. A special post about Christmas
  2. A video about Christmas history of America’s military
  3. A holiday reminder about gifts to those who defend America
  4. A real Christmas story, for which we should be grateful
  5. Good news about the world
  6. Posts with good news about America

(1)   A special post about Christmas

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From 2011, well worth reading:  I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Marines in WWII.

(2)  A holiday reminder about gifts to those who defend America

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  1. An effective way to support our Troops: help the Blue Star Mothers of America, 8 June 2008 — There are ways to support our troops, actions more effective than a bumper sticker on your car.
  2. Support the USO – more effective than a bumper sticker, 5 July 2008 — Another way to support our troops, more effective than a bumper sticker.

(3)  A video about Christmas history of America’s military

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(4)  A real Christmas story, for which Americans should be grateful

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Here is a Christmas story known to few Americans, which should be read by all:  Washington’s Gift by Thomas Fleming, Wall Street Journal, 24 December 2007 — “Our revolution could have ended in despotism, like so many others.”  Subscription only; an open copy appears at the David Gold website):

There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington — his refusal to take absolute power — that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today’s world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America’s eight-year struggle for independence.

Click here to read the rest

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Shootings by police show their evolution into “security services”. It’s bad news for the Republic

Summary: Many things show the evolution in America of police into security services. Such as their frequent disconnect from the communities they patrol, and their increasing use of military equipment and methods. Perhaps we see this most clearly in their casual use of force, often disproportionate to the situation, with a near-total lack of accountability. Here we examine the grim numbers. We know little, but what we know should disturb us. But it doesn’t, which is an ugly symptom of the Republic’s weakness.

Lethal Weapons

Lethal Weapons“, The Economist, 23 August 2014

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The number of law enforcement officers killed as a result of criminal acts:

  1. 2004: 57
  2. 2009: 48
  3. 2012: 49
  4. 2013: 27

There are 885 thousand law enforcement officers in America, as of 2008 (120 thousand Federal, 765 thousand State/local). That’s a death rate from criminals of 3 per hundred thousand per year.

Number of civilians shot and killed by police:

  1. USA: 409 (in 2012, per FBI, plus one death by “other weapon”)
  2. Japan + Britain + Germany = 8
  3. The US population is 17% larger; US police killed 51x more civilians

British police fired their guns 3 times in 2012.

In 1994 Congress instructed the Department of Justice to “acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers” and “publish an annual summary”.  They’ve ignored this, unlike their lavishly detailed account of law enforcement causalities. The total of 409 comes from voluntary reporting by the 18 thousand US law enforcement agencies. This article at FiveThirtyEight by Reuben Fischer-Baum and Al Johri explains why that is certainly far too low (more details here), and points to more accurate numbers. But we don’t know if the total is rising, or how rapidly.

Given this vacuum, attention has recently turned to some excellent nongovernmental attempts to compile this data, including the Fatal Encounters database, the recently created Gun Violence Archive and a new database created by Deadspin.

But one recent effort stood out for its apparent comprehensiveness: The Killed By Police Facebook page, which aggregates links to news articles on police-related killings and keeps a running tally on the number of victims. The creator of the page does not seek to determine whether police killings are justifiable; each post “merely documents the occurrence of a death.” …

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See the trends shaping our future. Be forewarned, so you can prepare.

Summary: We cannot reliably see the future. Every decade begins with confident forecasts, usually proven wrong. Too many variables, too many complex dynamics interacting. But we can examine individual trends, the usual work of the FM website. Here we pull together the threads, a mixture of challenges and opportunities that loom over the next ten years. In the comments list the trends you see at work!

Key to bright future

Today we give you a keyhole through which to see the future

Contents

  1. Climate change
  2. Demographics: the age wave
  3. The Debt Supercycle
  4. The new world of work
  5. The great monetary experiment
  6. The results of a low-investment nation
  7. Will growth continue to slow?
  8. Oil prices and new technology
  9. The next industrial revolution
  10. Implications of a tech singularity
  11. There will be war

(1)  Climate change

To see what is coming, I recommend relying on the IPCC’s probability ranges instead of alarmists’ certainties. Remember the uncertainties: the uncertainties in climate science, in the models that make the predictions, in technology (see below), and in the unknowable future public policy responses to climate scientists’ warnings.

The pause in surface temperature warming of the past decade has astonished climate scientists. Now they analyze its causes and forecast its duration. The public policy response might depend on answers to these questions, as the activists’ current strategy of attributing every form of normal weather to increased CO2 — despite the pause in the atmosphere’s warming — might not work if continued through the next decade. And who can say if the next decade will hold equal surprises?

I recommend reading the important things to know about climate change. See all posts about climate change.

(2)  Demographics: the age wave

The coming crash of US consumer spending as Boomers retire with high levels of debt, low savings, and small pension incomes. Experts have warned about this for decades, yet it will catch us by surprise.

Also we’ll confront the consequences, after so many warnings, of underfunded pension plans. Both public plans (see articles by Bloomberg and by CNBC and private plans (see this by Fitch).

(3)  The Debt Supercycle

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Students, cheerleaders, & lawyers all exploited as they scramble for the few opportunities in New America

Summary: One astonishing aspect of the structural changes reshaping America is how fiercely we work to avoid seeing them. Such as the transformation of employment. Breaking unions was the first and essential step. Now comes the larger changes: shifting jobs from full time with benefits and job security into temporary, insecure, part-time, no-benefits — at lower wages.

Here we see four snapshots of this structural change in the power relationships of employers and workers — as people become increasingly desperate for opportunities. We close our eyes to these changes, since seeing the 1% build a New America on the ruins of the old would upset the even tenor of our lives.

Buffalo Jills

Buffalo Jills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on 9 August 2012. Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images

“To get the man’s soul and give nothing in return -– that is what really gladdens Satan’s heart.”
— C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)

Contents

  1. Cheerleaders mistreated for profit
  2. Internships: opportunities for the affluent
  3. Entry level positions for lawyers
  4. For More Information

(1)  Cheerleaders mistreated for profit

Cheerleaders for professional sports teams pay much of their own expenses, work long hours, and earn a pittance — all in the service of fabulously profitable sports businesses.

The Cheerleaders Rise Up: NFL cheerleaders are putting down their pom-poms and demanding a better deal“, Amanda Hess, Slate, 23 April 2014 — Excerpt:

In 2014, the cheerleaders revolted.

This January, rookie NFL cheerleader Lacy T. kicked things off when she filed a class action lawsuit against the Oakland Raiders, alleging that the team fails to pay its Raiderettes minimum wage, withholds their pay until the end of the season, imposes illegal fines for minor infractions (like gaining 5 pounds), and forces cheerleaders to pay their own business expenses (everything from false eyelashes to monthly salon visits).

Within a month, Cincinnati Bengals cheerleader Alexa Brenneman had filed a similar suit against her team, claiming that the Ben-Gals are paid just $2.85 an hour for their work on the sidelines.

And Tuesday, five former Buffalo Bills cheerleaders filed suit against their own team, alleging that the Buffalo Jills were required to perform unpaid work for the team for about 20 hours a week. Unpaid activities included: submitting to a weekly “jiggle test” (where cheer coaches “scrutinized the women’s stomach, arms, legs, hips, and butt while she does jumping jacks”); parading around casinos in bikinis “for the gratification of the predominantly male crowd”; and offering themselves up as prizes at a golf tournament, where they were required to sit on men’s laps on the golf carts, submerge themselves in a dunk tank, and perform backflips for tips (which they did not receive). The Buffalo Jills cheerleaders take home just $105 to $1,800 for an entire season on the job.

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Watch corporations strip-mine their future (and ours)

Summary: Al Qaeda (Bin Laden’s organization, if it still exists in meaningful form) is a threat to America. A greater threat are our CEO’s, some of whom who have discovered discovered a formula to vast personal wealth: leverage the company up (borrow), use those funds to buy back stock (boosting earnings per share), cut capital expenditures (capex) to boost short-term profits, pay most of the profits in dividends — all of which disguises massive payouts to senior managers (via salary, benefits, pensions, golden parachutes, grants of stock and stock options, etc). They’re strip-mining away America’s future. Slowly people begin to fit these pieces together. Today we help you to do so.

Executive Pay

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Contents

  1. An example of how it’s done
  2. Cutting capex: short-selling the future
  3. For More Information

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(1)  An example of how it’s done

List most stories about corporate finance, it’s complex. These articles clearly explain the game using IBM as an example (just one of many), but have to be read. The excepts are just teasers.

(a) Stockholders Got Plundered In IBM’s Hocus-Pocus Machine“, Wolf Richter, Testosterone Pit, 17 October 2013 — Opening:

I’m not picking on IBM. I’m almost sure they have some decent products. So they had a crummy quarter – the sixth quarter in a row of sales declines. And their hardware sales in China have collapsed since Snowden’s revelations about the NSA and its collaboration with American tech companies. But in one area, IBM excels: its hocus-pocus machine.

IBM isn’t alone in its excellence and isn’t even at the top of the heap in that respect. There are many corporations like IBM, mastodons that successfully pull a bag over investors’ heads, aided and abetted by Wall Street with its “analysts,” and by the Fed, to hide the stockholder plunder taking place behind a billowing smokescreen of verbiage.

(b) Big Blue: Stock Buyback Machine On Steroids“, David Stockman, at his website Contra Corner, 17 April 2014 — Opening:

The Fed’s financial repression policies destroy price discovery and honest capital markets. In the process these deformations turn financial markets into casinos and corporate executives into prevaricating gamblers. To be specific, most CEOs of the Fortune 500 are no longer running commercial businesses; they are in the stock-rigging game, harvesting a mother lode of stock option winnings as the go along.

Those munificently rising stock prices and options cash-outs owe much to the Fed’s campaign to suppress interest rates and fuel stock market based ”wealth effects”, but the CEOs are doing their part, too. They have become full-time financial engineers who use the Fed’s flood of liquidity, cheap debt and soaring stock prices to perform a giant strip-mining operation on their own companies. That is, through endless stock buybacks and M&A maneuvers they create the appearance of “growth” while actually liquidating the balance sheet equity and future asset base on which legitimate earnings growth depends.

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