Monday, February 19, 2018

OUTSIDE AND INSIDE - Biographical

Where I live in North Carolina, there is a man who, well, has a scowl on his face, and didn't look friendly.  As a result, he almost always dined alone although he sat at a table of four.  One luncheon time, I said to my fiance, "Let's go have lunch with him." so we did.  It turned out he was a very engaging fellow and had interesting stories to tell.  In one he referred to a girlfriend he had many decades ago with a lady by the name of Maurice Delevaux.  Now, that is an unusual name, so I asked him if she lived in Washington, D.C., and he said yes.  So I asked him if her father owned a jewelry store and he said yes.  So I said, "She was my assistant for 20 years!"  Small world indeed.

Later he showed me a picture of Maurice and him at her high school senior prom.  She was in a formal, of course, and he in a sailor suit.

Now, whenever I see him he gives me a big smile, and we pass a few words.  He's proud to have turned 91, and I told him to keep on truckin'.  He said to me, "The same to you."

The moral of this story is that the outside of a package may not reflect what's inside.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

PROBABILITIES AND SCHOOL SHOOTINGS 2013-FEB. 2018

I'm afraid I have given up on any sort of gun control: (http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2017/10/when-did-i-give-up-on-gun-control.html)

Below is a figure on school shootings in the U.S. for 2013 through February 15, 2018.  To activate the hover action, see the reference.*

(Click on image to enlarge)

So there has been another mass murder school shooting* and there are again calls to do something.  But our President signed a bill soon after his inauguration to remove mentally ill people from prohibition to buy guns.  Also, there is a bill before Congress to permit someone with a gun carry permit to be valid in ALL states, no matter what the states think.

Curiously, one of the calls is to reestablish the bill for the mentally ill to be blocked from gun purchases.  To make a hover over a spot, see the original reference.

So nothing is going to happen that will attempt to even solve a part of the problem.  Even now, there are as many gun deaths as automobile collision deaths annually in America and Nothing is even being tried to reduce gun deaths whereas the self-driving car is being developed that will reduce automobile deaths and injuries.  I'm sure that even with the present state of development of self-driving cars that deaths and injuries would be reduced.

But parents and students can take some comfort in the probabilities of not being killed or injured by guns in school or movie theaters.  There are thousands of schools in America and the probability that your school will be hit is low.**  And even if your school is selected for mass murder, the probability that you will survive without death or injury is high.  For example, in the current Florida school shooting, 17 were killed and 14 injured (latest figures) in a school of 3,000 students where 2,969 survived.  The same sort of thing is also true of the Las Vagas shooting.***

There is no doubt that if you were a student at the school, you could be mentally injured and not only by having nightmares for a while after the shooting.  I suspect a year from now, students of that school will have PTSD and feel fear and depression and have trouble knowing why.  I know this from first-hand knowledge, not from gun violence but from being beaten up, an incident that I eventually remembered (I also had a second incident dealing with mining****). My PTSD lasted only one year.  Students experiencing a school or movie theater shooting may not be so lucky.

* https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/15/florida-school-shooting-just-the-latest-in-an-ongoing-series-of-tragedies.html
** Aurora, Colorado, seems to be an exception although the first incident was at a Chucky Cheese in 1993 and the second was in a movie theater in 2012.  Neither of these was in a high school; however, the famous Columbine High School, CO, shooting was in 1999.   There was also an Arapahoe High School shooting eight miles from Columbine High in 2013.  A list of shhotings in Colorado is given at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_shootings_in_Colorado and hints at the Colorado Springs shooting on January 1, 2018.
*** At least 59 people are dead and 527 injured after a shooting late Sunday at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip, where the Route 91 Harvest country music festival attended by 22,000. (http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/route-91-harvest-music-festival/story?https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7981929/las-vegas-shooting-mandalay-bay; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Las_Vegas_shooting)
**** http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2013/01/working-underground-my-rational-self.html

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

PUBLIC AND POLITICAL MORALITY

What is Public (And Political) Morality:
Public morality refers to moral and ethical standards enforced in a society, by law or police work or social pressure, and applied to public life, to the content of the media, and to conduct in public places.*
.........................................................................
It may also be applied to the morals of public lifePolitical corruption, or the telling of lies in public statements, tarnish not only individual politicians, but the entire conduct of political life, whether at local or national level. These are fairly universally regarded as blots on reputations, though in some cases there is a grey area between corruption and legitimate fund-raising. Whether the private lives of politicians are a public morals issue is not a matter of agreement, internationally speaking; the existence of an extramarital relationship of a Prime Minister would in some countries be considered a revelation well within the sphere of the public interest, while in other countries it would be considered quite irrelevant.*


John McCain is turning out to be a great influence on American culture as can be seen by the following quotation:

McCain seems to be the only member of Congress who insists on holding hearings and working toward compromise before passing major legislation. This would seem to be the very elemental prerequisite of good government — like a doctor seeking a diagnosis before performing surgery — but McCain appears to be the only member, or at least the only Republican, willing to risk unpopularity to insist upon a basic respect for our sacred institutions.
Second, McCain is one of very few Republicans willing to stand up for the American story. Human beings can be rallied around one of three things: religion, tribe or ideals.**
I would say, however, in the months following the quoted article, Senator John Flake is also turning out to have redeeming values.  For awhile Senator Bob Corker looked to be a third example; however, when his inconsistency was pointed out in the news that he had said he would not vote for a tax plan that had a penny of debt and then voted for the tax plan, he has shut up.   He told Pres. Trump that he now understands the unfairness of the press.  Unfairness?  They were just reporting the facts. Flake  is not running for reelection.  Corker wasn't going to run for rreelection, but news is that he is reconsidering that may account for his silence.

David Brooks, whom I feel is a great conservative moralist, discussed the Big Burn of 1910
When you look back at that era, you are struck by how many civic institutions were founded to address the nation’s problems. Not only the Forest Service, but also the Food and Drug Administration, the municipal reform movement, the suffrage movement, the Federal Reserve System, the Boy Scouts, the 4-H clubs, the settlement house movement, the compulsory schooling movement, and on and on. Four amendments to the Constitution were passed in those years.***

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_morality
** https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/opinion/the-essential-john-mccain.html
*** https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/opinion/america-civic-organizations.html

Sunday, February 11, 2018

NEW TAX PLAN AND CORPORATE TAXES

Back in 2010, I wrote a piece for my blog on the Effectiveness Of Taxes (http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2010/05/effectivene...).

All indicators are that reducing personal income tax is a very inefficient way of stimulating an economy, but here we are stimulating an economy on fire.  
http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2018/01/is-inflation-finally-coming.html

It is unclear what the effect will be of reducing corporate taxes as they form a relatively small part of the economy and company tax cuts don't happen very often, but the cut that was made from 35% to 21% is so huge it will have to have an effect, coupled with repatriation of foreign profits.

The wealthy will buy a lot of bonds (U.S., corporate , and foreign) and property outside the U.S. (e.g. chalets in Switzerland, islands in the Bahamas) or imported from outside the U.S. (e.g. personal jets from Canadian Bombardier)  We shouldn't ignore the middle class and even the poor paying off as much of their debt as possible with any increased income from increases in wages and reduction in income taxes. Household debt is at a record high as in credit card debt. A lot of the GDP has come from consumers piling up debt. So paying off debt is not stimulating.

How are the increased company earnings going to be spent? Many companies gave employees bonuses and increased their minimum wage.  Just how this money will be used is yet to be determined (see above paragraph).

For one thing, we are seeing a huge increase in dividends being paid. Just this last week, increases of 10% or greater in dividends were announced for 41 company stocks. This is dividend time, and, of course, there were many more increases of less than 10%. So dividends will be added to personal income and those will be spent like other income.

With the new tax plan, we (the U.S.) are piling money on an industry that does not know what to do with it.  But a lot of the reduction in taxes by corporations will go into buying back stock which they will do near record high values on the stock market (even after the current drop). This is largely wasted money (It means CEOs can't think of anything productive to do with the money.) and does not contribute to the economy.  And companies have said that their main goal for repatriated foreign profits will be buying back stock.   Clearly, much of the money will be wasted, including bad investments in mergers and acquisitions where companies eventually go back to their "core" business.  This has been demonstrated many times.

It does look as if companies will at least increase somewhat their purchase of new plant and equipment that should raise the GDP a bit as the lack of companies doing this was the main cause of the low GDP.  Certainly, this would be a good time to upgrade and modernize plant and equipment as both are now getting old and in need of replacement.

We are in rather uncharted waters.  We'll just have to see how this works out, but the new tax plan could push us into an economic bubble with disastrous results when the bubble bursts.  As I have said elsewhere, people may like a bi-polar  (boom and bust) economy rather than the steadily increasing economy such as we had for the previous 8+ years.
(http://stopcontinentaldrift.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-american-economy-great-recovery.html)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL

Or at least that is what we thought at the end of January,* but what a difference even a week makes as the stock market is gyrating wildly but in a downward path.  Well, a bad February often follows a good January so maybe what we are seeing is something rather normal.

Though oil is currently in a fall, Goldman Sachs on Thursday [February 1, 2018] raised its 2018 oil price forecasts, projecting that Brent crude will soon top $80, fueled by blockbuster oil demand, a deal among big producers to limit output and U.S. drillers' inability to meet the world's growing energy appetite.
The investment bank now sees Brent, the international benchmark for oil, averaging $75 a barrel over the next three months, up from its previous target of $62. Goldman also raised its six- and 12-month forecasts to $82.50 and $75, respectively.**
Sppeaking of oil, Wall Street's hopes are high for the energy sector this earnings season thanks to a recovery in oil so far this year. That hope should be validated Friday when industry leaders Chevron and Exxon Mobil are scheduled to report, says BK Asset Management's Boris Schlossberg.
"There's still a little bit of juice left in both plays because they've been such terrible laggards," Schlossberg, managing director of FX strategy, said Wednesday on CNBC's "Trading Nation."***
Energy names have languished alongside crude in recent years as lower prices forced rig closures and ate into oil companies' profit and sales growth. A global supply glut and weaker demand sent oil prices spiraling in late 2014, dropping to a low near $26 a barrel in February 2016.***
Currently, however, both Exxon and Chevron are in a correction.****

Over the rest of the year, volatility may be up, but I suspect the year will end with the markets up, even though the year of off-term elections (such as this year) are traditionally the least good but not always.***** 
The presidential cycle. The stock market has, for the most part, ebbed and flowed with the four-year election cycle for the past 182 years. Wars, bear markets and recessions tend to start in the first two years of a president’s term, says The Stock Trader’s Almanac; bull markets and prosperous times mark the latter half. Since 1833, the Dow Jones industrial average has gained an average of 10.4% in the year before a presidential election, and nearly 6%, on average, in the election year. By contrast, the first and second years of a president’s term see average gains of 2.5% and 4.2%, respectively. A notable recent exception to decent election-year returns: 2008, when the Dow sank nearly 34%. (Returns are based on price only and exclude dividends.*****)

Remember even in 1987 when the DJIA and the SandP 500 fell 22% in one day, the year ended up for both about 3%.  Not bad considering.


* https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/01/best-january-since-1997-bodes-well-for-the-rest-of-the-year.html
** https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/01/goldman-sachs-raises-oil-price-target-topping-street-consensus.html
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/01/a-little-bit-of-juice-left-for-chevron-and-exxon-ahead-of-earnings-says-market-watcher.html
**** https://www.cnbc.com/quotes/?symbol=xom
***** https://www.kiplinger.com/article/investing/T043-C008-S003-how-presidential-elections-affect-the-stock-market.html

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

GOODNIGHT MY SWEETHEART, PATRICIA (Poem)

(Dedicated to Patricia Clark
May 17, 1934 - September 5, 2016)

Why do you love me?
She said I can’t see;
I can’t  hear;
I can’t talk.
How can you love me?

I celebrate how much
You can see,
How much you can hear,
And particularly how much
You can speak

Yes I can love you.

What I see
Is a pretty woman,
Who dresses well,
Is so kind to others, and
Loves her family so much.

What I hear is
An infectious laugh, so
Alive and enjoying people,
Comfortable with strangers.
Who has a special something.

What I feel is
The brightest star in Heaven
Shining her gentle light on me
Giving me much happiness,,
Making my life better.

She was a fighter
Who learned to talk again
After her first stroke,
Who had her own business
Of two fabric stores.

We had an End Of Life
Romance that gave us
Both joy in living
And meaning to our lives
Already long lived.

Yes, I do love you.

I give gratitude to Bobby
For loaning you to me
For nearly two years
So we could grieve
Our spouses together.

Maybe we will meet in Heaven
You with Bobby
Me with Margie
Maybe we can have
Drinks and dinner together.

September 5, 2016

Monday, February 5, 2018

STRANGE TURN IN AMERICAN POLITICS

That there is a strange revolution going on in the Republican Party has been observed for some time.*  The split is what I will call  Republicans (i.e. conventional or "establishment"  Republicans) and another faction that I will call the Royalists.  With the Royalists, the President becomes more of a monarch of the old school who is not to be opposed.  The two parties agree on a number of things, of course on tax cuts.

The Royalists in the House of Representatives seems to be led by Devin Nunes.  I’m not sure how many members are in the group but it is quite a few and maybe growing  They are less strong in the Senate with the only member I know of as Sen Ron Johnson of Wisconsin   The main belief seems to be that there is a “Deep State” of people in the government, such as in the FBI, out to get the Monarch, Donald Trump.*  The royalists seem to out to destroy the fabric of the government.

Thus we have seen the Monarch fire the Republican head of the FBI, Republican James Comey, and threaten to fire the Republican Special Investigator Robert Mueller as well as the Republican Deputy Director of the Justice Department whom he appointed in the first place.  There have been attacks on others in the superstructure of the FBI, particularly the six members Comey told about his dinner with the Monarch.  One of those that seemed to have been disposed of has come back to the FBI in a new position:
   Dana Boente, the acting head of the Justice Department's national security division and the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, has been picked to become the new FBI general counsel, according to a source familiar with the move.**

   Boente was first thrust into the spotlight in January 2017 as the acting attorney general after President Donald Trump fired Sally Yates for her refusal to defend the first travel ban. He later moved to the No. 2 spot at the Justice Department as acting deputy attorney general, tasked with overseeing the Russia probe after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself and then delivering the news to a slew of US attorneys left over from the Obama administration that they had been fired.**

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has also been under attack by the Royalists.  The Tea Party Loyalists have even taken out a terrible TV advertisement against Rod J. Rosenstein.

Curiously, all these Republicans are being defended by Democrats, even though Comey is credited with a large part in getting the Monarch elected.  This means that Democrats are defending the FBI, a strange turn in events as it is usual Republicans that favor the FBI, CIA, and the military.

Most FBI agents are conservative and come from military backgrounds: 
The typical Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent is white, male, and middle-aged, often with a military background — in short, drawn from the segment of the U.S. population most likely to support GOP nominee Donald Trump.***

What Is The Deep State
Deep state was defined in 2014 by Mike Lofgren, a former Republican U.S. congressional aide, as "a hybrid association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States without reference to the consent of the governed as expressed through the formal political process." It has become a key concept of the "alt right" movement as expressed by Steve Bannon and Sean Hannity. [6][7]

In The Concealment of the State, professor Jason Royce Lindsey argues that even without a conspiratorial agenda, the term deep state is useful for understanding aspects of the national security establishment in developed countries, with emphasis on the United States. Lindsey writes that the deep state draws power from the national security and intelligence communities, a realm where secrecy is a source of power.[8] Alfred W. McCoy states that the increase in the power of the U.S. intelligence community since the September 11 attacks "has built a fourth branch of the U.S. government" that is "in many ways autonomous from the executive, and increasingly so."[9]

In the political journal Foreign Affairs, Jon D. Michaels discusses Trump and the deep state, and argues that the concept's relevance is quite limited in the United States. He is of the opinion that it is a more useful perspective in the study of developing countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Turkey, "where shadowy elites in the military and government ministries have been known to countermand or simply defy democratic directives," but that "it has little relevance to the United States, where governmental power structures are almost entirely transparent, egalitarian, and rule-bound."[10]

Recent popular usage of the term has led to its appropriation by Breitbart News and other conservative and right-wing news outlets, where supporters of the Trump Administration have used it to support a variety of conspiracy theories.[11] It has been dismissed by authors for The New York Times[5] and The Observer.[12] University of Miami Professor Joseph Uscinski says, "The concept has always been very popular among conspiracy theorists, whether they call it a deep state or something else." [13]
(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_state_in_the_United_States)

* You will hear that a revolution is going on in the Democratic Party also, but that is always the case.   Humorist Will Rogers said, "I'm not a member of any organized political party.... I'm a Democrat."   He also said, "Democrats never agree on anything, that's why they're Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans."
(https://www.willrogerstoday.com/will_rogers_quotes/quotes.cfm?qID=4)
** https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/23/politics/dana-boente-fbi/index.html
*** https://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/fbi-donald-trump-base-230755