Friday, July 19, 2019

50 Years of Progress?

Last year I wrote the blog post below on the 49th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. I wrote it then because I knew there would be a lot written about the lunar landing on the 50th anniversary and I wanted to be ahead of the curve.

I have not been disappointed. There have been a lot of great stories about the moon landing. Among the best have been profiles of some of the 400,000 people who worked behind the scenes to accomplish this magnificent feat.

I particularly enjoyed this article in The Wall Street Journal that recounts the great work done by the software engineers in MIT's Instrumentation Lab who did the programming of the computer used in the lunar landing.

Of course, in this day and age, it seems there is nothing that has been done in our history that the mainstream media does not try to politicize or denigrate.

Consider this tweet by the New York Times.




Apparently The New York Times is not aware of the contributions of Margaret Hamilton who was in charge of capsule and lunar landing software for the Apollo missions. Her role is written abut extensively in the Wall Street Journal article.

The New York Times must have also missed seeing the movie Hidden Figures which highlighted the significant contributions of African American women in the early days of the space program.




Here is Hamilton receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2016.


Credit; DailyMail


This is Hamilton with print outs of the source code she used in the programming for the Apollo missions in the late 1960's.




It makes me wonder how many women of any color were in the newsroom and in any editorial positions at The New York Times in the 1960's?  Considering the gender bias that undoubtedly was also in effect at the paper at that time it makes it very difficult for me to move past anything The Times writes these days.

It actually gets worse than that Times tweet. Consider this tweet that highlights a story by WTOP radio in Washington, DC about Wehrner von Braun who was the German American rocket scientist that was largely responsible for developing the rocket boosters that made space flight and the trip to the moon possible.





After getting complaints that they had not make it explicitly clear that von Braun had previously worked on rocket science for Nazi Germany during World War II, WTOP issued this correction 6 hours later.





That apparently wasn't good enough. 20 minutes later WTOP decided that the story about the man who was behind the rocket science which took men to the moon "did not meet WTOP's standards and should not have appeared on any of our platforms."




In many ways we have progressed so far in the 50 years since the moon landing. There are so many things we have today that were unimaginable a half century ago.

For example, consider the limitations that Margaret Hamilton and the other Apollo software engineers were dealing with at that time regarding computing power.

How far have we progressed in computing power?

Your iPhone has the computing power to handle 120 million moon missions at once!

That is why one of the major surprises of my life is the fact that it has been 50 years (actually 47 years since the last lunar mission in 1972 by Apollo 17) since we went to the moon.. If you would have asked almost anyone in the early 1970's if they thought it would be over 50 years before we were back on the moon you would have found no one who would have believed it. Most would have thought we would be to Mars by now.

It would also be nearly impossible for someone of that era to understand the way news is (and is not) reported today.

Some might say that the mainstream media has become more "progressive" in how they report the news. I do not see any evidence of much progress in the news reporting business. Look no further than the examples from The New York Times and WTOP.  How can you make something so political about something so phenomenal?

For a more positive perspective on the Apollo 11 landing read my blog post of one year ago.

Also ask yourself whether Neil Armstrong's words would have sounded any better or meant more (as the New York Times seems to believe) if he had instead said this upon stepping on the moon in order to show no gender bias.

"That is one small step for a person, one giant leap for humankind."

How long will it be before Armstrong's actual words will be removed from news stories and history books as not meeting journalistic and content standards?


Small Step, Giant Leap
(originally published July 20, 2018)


One year from today you will not be able to watch tv, listen to the radio or check out social media without it being a big part of the news.

49 years ago today, man first landed on the moon. The 50th anniversary next year is sure to make it a major news story.

I could write about it then but I prefer to be a year ahead of the crowd.

I remember exactly where I was on July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first landed on the moon. It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college. I was working for the United States Post Office in Clarendon Hills, Illinois for the summer and had been put on duty that day to do all the mailbox pickups in town, postmark and sort the outgoing mail and have the mail bagged to be picked up to go to the regional sorting center.

I was working alone in the post office late that afternoon with the radio on as Armstrong and Aldrin made the final approach to the moon in the Lunar Module. It was nothing less than amazing to hear those final minutes leading up to those famous words that were calmly uttered by Neil Armstrong "The Eagle has landed."





Armstrong had taken control of the Lunar Module when the onboard computer seemed to be guiding the module into a large crater and rock covered area on the moon's surface. Armstrong overrode the auto pilot and landed the lunar module in a safer, flat area. He had less than 20 seconds of fuel left when the Eagle finally touched down on the lunar surface.

That evening I watched the live tv coverage with my family as Armstrong descended the steps of the Eagle and jumped down from the last step onto the moon's surface with one of the most famous quotes of all time.


TV image of Neil Armstrong taking first step onto the Moon
July 20, 1969


"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".

At least, that is what I heard. And what almost everyone else heard as well.

For years, Armstrong claimed that he planned to say, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" and that is what he claims he said on the moon the night of July 20, 1969. However, that was not what people heard. Was it a simple mistake or bad audio?

The scientific conclusion of the tape is mixed. This is what WikiQuotes says about the quote.

 In the actual sound recordings he apparently fails to say "a" before "man" and says: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." This was generally considered by many to simply be an error of omission on his part. Armstrong long insisted he did say "a man" but that it was inaudible. Prior to new evidence supporting his claim, he stated a preference for the "a" to appear in parentheses when the quote is written. In September 2006 evidence based on new analysis of the recordings conducted by Peter Shann Ford, a computer programmer based in Sydney, Australia, whose company Control Bionics helps physically handicapped people to use their own nerve impulses to communicate through computers, indicated that Armstrong had said the missing "a". This information was presented to Armstrong and NASA on 28 September 2006 and reported in the Houston Chronicle (30 September 2006). The debate continues on the matter, as "Armstrong's 'poetic' slip on Moon" at BBC News (3 June 2009) reports that more recent analysis by linguist John Olsson and author Chris Riley with higher quality recordings indicates that he did not say "a".

The Los Angeles Times did a story on the quote in 2013 and cites additional research that suggests that the "a" might be there but was not heard because of the way people who grow up in Central Ohio blend their words. Armstrong was reared in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

The article also suggests, as did Armstrong himself, that the quote really needs the "a man" to mean something. However, most people are going to leave it out when they recall or cite it.

As Armstrong himself pointed out many times, the sentence is meaningful only if he says, "That's one small step for a man." He insisted that's what he said on July 20, 1969 – otherwise, there's no distinction between a single individual and all of humanity.
"I think that reasonable people will realize that I didn't intentionally make an inane statement and that certainly the 'a' was intended, because that's the only way the statement makes any sense," Armstrong told biographer James Hansen, according to "Moonshot," a terrific book about Apollo 11 by Brian Floca.

Putting all of this aside, what I think is most remarkable about Armstrong's words is the fact that he (with the help of his wife) came up with them by himself.

He didn't have a speech writer. There was no public relations firm. No focus groups were used to test out messaging.

It also wasn't as if Armstrong had been specifically selected to be "the first man on the moon" years in advance. Many at NASA believed that Apollo 11 would not be the mission that landed a man on the moon. They thought it more likely that something would prevent 11 from landing. They believed it was more likely that Apollo 12 or 13 would be the missions that would get the moon landing. If that had been the case we might be talking about Pete Conrad (Apollo 12 Commander) or Jim Lovell (Apollo 13) instead of Armstrong.

This is what Neil Armstrong remembered about the prospects of the mission, as he recalled it in 2012, shortly before his death.

"A month before the launch of Apollo 11, we decided we were confident enough we could try and attempt on a descent to the surface," said Armstrong. "I thought we had a 90% chance of getting back safely to Earth on that flight but only a 50-50 chance of making a landing on that first attempt. There are so many unknowns on that descent from lunar orbit down to the surface that had not been demonstrated yet by testing and there was a big chance that there was something in there we didn't understand properly and we had to abort and come back to Earth without landing."

Despite those doubts and with no counsel other than his wife, Armstrong put together 11 (or 12) words that were absolutely perfect for that moment in history. It was simply stated but it carried such a profound message at the same time.

As soon as I heard it 49 years ago tonight I thought it was a perfect choice of words. My opinion has not changed over the last half-century.

I sometimes ask myself whether, if faced with something so momentous, I could utter anything half as moving and memorable as Armstrong did. I doubt I could. What about you?

Keep in mind that Armstrong was an aeronautical engineer, fighter pilot and test pilot before becoming an astronaut. He was not known as a man of words. In fact, he was a man of few words according to most who knew him. He was about as far removed from being a poet or artist as you could be.

Truly remarkable.

Today is a day to remember a magnificent moment in history.

On this day a man from earth first set foot on something other than earth.

Neil Armstrong may now be gone but the words he spoke on taking that first step will live forever.

You are sure to hear a lot more about it on the 50th anniversary next year.

Reading BeeLine gets you there one year earlier.


Credit; NASA

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Out of Touch

"All the News That's Fit to Print."



Credit: www. ilpost.it


That slogan has accompanied the masthead of The New York Times since 1897.

It was instituted by Adolph S. Ochs shortly after he bought the newspaper in 1896. It was supposed to represent the paper's intention to report the news impartially and to differentiate the paper from the "yellow journalism" of some of its competitors.

I would suggest that the paper has veered pretty far from its original mission.

Although being a Midwesterner for most of my life I have lived in the New York City metro area twice. Although The Times always thinks of itself as a national publication I was always struck by how out of touch the paper was to the real world that exists west and south of New Jersey.

For example, when I first started reading the New York Times, as an 8th grader living in Connecticut, I usually went to the sports pages first. I always thought it was weird that if I wanted to see if Ohio State won or what happened in the Miami (Ohio)-Bowling Green game you had to look for scores played in the "West". There were no Midwest scores. Anything west of Pennsylvania was considered the "West" by The New York Times. California, Oregon and Washington were Far West.

It was a small thing but it said something to an 8th grader who had come from the Midwest. Don't they understand there is a difference between the West and Midwest? Are they so consumed in their little world around New York City that they are that out of touch?

Of course, nothing showed how far out of touch the New York Times is than the 2016 election. Trump's election was unfathomable to the The Times and most of its readership. To say they have never recovered is an understatement.

Since Trump was elected the paper has ceased any semblance of impartiality. Today its sole existence seems to be to denigrate, diminish and defame Trump in every way it can. It has become exactly the opposite of what it said it stood for when it adopted that "All the News That's Fit to Print" slogan.

In fact, earlier this year I referenced this chart that shows the percentage of all articles in the New York Times that mentioned the name of the President of the United States from 1981-2019.




It is almost as if the New York Times can find nothing else to report on. Of course, we know that coverage is also overwhelmingly negative.

In defense of The Times, the reason it is so anti-Trump all the time is that is what their readers want to read. They don't want to read good news about Trump. They want to read that he has been colluding with Russia. They want to read how he stole the election. They want to read that he is going to be impeached next week. They want to read about how the Trump economy is failing so many people.

You can see a great example on how out of touch The New York Times is with this article from July 5 that was based on a question they asked their readers about how they are dealing with the struggles in everyday life in America today.

Look at the point of view of The Times in the quote below. Americans are living today with "an inescapable sense of dread" and "struggle to acquire the markers of a middle-class life."



Being middle class in America used to come with a certain amount of leisure and economic security. Today it involves an endless series of trade-offs and creative workarounds, career reinventions and an inescapable sense of dread.
We asked readers to tell us what it’s like, and more than 500 people, with widely varied incomes, submitted responses. They described not just their financial worries but also the texture of daily life. Even those with very good incomes expressed fears of instability. They have seen their wages and bargaining power stagnate and wealth spiral to the top, while they struggle to acquire the markers of middle-class life — a college education, health care, the deed to a home.

Who are middle-class families that the Times identified that are struggling today and what are their concerns?

Six households were profiled. Only one had household income of less than $120,000. He was listed as earning between $75K-$100K. Two were in the $200-$400K range. All the rest were making at least $120K.









Let's put this in context. The median household income in the United States in 2017 (the most recent data available) was $61,372.

Perhaps these are middle class New York Times readers but they certainly don't look like middle class American voters.

Predictably, this article received a good deal of push back on Twitter since it seemed so out of touch.

What I found most interesting is the substantial disconnect in what each of the profiled families talked about in their struggles and worries.

They talked about the high cost of child care. One said they spent $92,000 last year on child care.

They talked about the struggle to buy organic foods at a discount.

They also talked about the struggle to save for retirement while also putting money away for their children's education. At the same time, they are very concerned about climate change, which if you believe what you read in The New York Times, is going to mean the end of the world in 10 years.

Fletcher Gustafson, who was profiled in the article, writes a blog  (aptly named The Rational Pessimist) which he used to defend his participation in the article after it came under attack for being so out of touch. If you don't believe how seriously these people have bought into climate change fear mongering, Gustafson mentions it 3 times in his blog post as a priority he wants politicians to address.

He even bold-faced it the last time he mentioned it in his blog post.
"Climate change is going to literally kill everything. Do your f*cking job."

This is the biggest priority for a middle class family in America?

You believe that climate change is literally going to kill everything within a decade but you are worried about being able to buy organic foods, saving for retirement and your child's college education? Do you see a slight disconnect in thinking here?

Ironically, if we do what many Democrats want to do to combat climate change through the Green New Deal, everything these households say they are struggling with is going to be 100 times worse. They also seem to be oblivious to the fact that, if carbon emissions are responsible for climate change, they better be prepared to go to war with China and India to stop it.  I guess The New York Times never pointed out that is where almost all the increase in carbon emissions is coming from.

This just goes to show you how dangerous it is to read The New York Times and not think things through on your own.

If you read something that is out of touch, you will be out of touch.

That is something you never have to worry about if you read BeeLine.

BeeLine----the shortest route to being In Touch.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Difficult to Understand

We live in a world that gets more difficult to understand every day.

Consider Greece.

You may remember all the news headlines about Greece a few years back.

Greece underwent the world's largest government bankruptcy in 2012. It still has one of the world's largest debt burdens--about 180 percent of GDP. The latest reported unemployment rate is 17.6%. The fertility rate is 1.38 raising questions as to where the growth is going to come from in that economy to service all that debt.

Despite all of that, last week saw 10-year government yields in Greece reach lower levels than United States Treasuries.

How does that happen in a sane world?





Why is anyone willing to loan money to Greece for 10 years and be willing to only be compensated 2.01% per year for taking that level of risk?

The US 10-year T-bill rate was 2.12% on 7/12/19.

Part of it is explained by looking at 10-year yields in other European countries. Each of these countries has also been in the headlines in the past about significant debt concerns.

Italy                 1.68%
Portugal           0.57%
Spain                0.48%

How about the yields of 10-years in a few of the bigger economies in Europe?

Denmark          -0.16%
France               0.08%
Germany          -0.27%
Sweden              0.12%
Switzerland      -0.51%

An "investment" in a 10-year government bond in Denmark, Germany and Switzerland will actually result in you being charged interest rather than earning it!

Yields only turn positive in France at 10 years and Sweden at 9 years. All maturities before that are also producing negative yields.

Even Euro-denominated bonds in some emerging market countries in Europe such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland are now trading at negative yields.

This chart shows the share of government debt that is earning negative yields by country as of June 18, 2019. It is undoubtedly higher today.





In the United States we have recently set the record for the longest economic expansion in history. The expansion has now continued for 121 months.




This raises the question as to why the Fed is easing monetary policy and on the verge of cutting rates?

A big part of the reason appears to be the fact that almost everyone else in the world is doing the same. How can the United States be tightening or maintaing the status quo when everyone else is easing?





Of course, would any of this be possible if inflation were not so benign throughout most of the world?





Against this backdrop the S&P 500, the Dow and the NASDAQ 100 hit all-time highs last week.





Low interest rates. Low unemployment. Low inflation. A surging stock market. Millions of people wanting to come to the United States.

It is hard to imagine it gets much better than this.

Yet we still hear every day from so many how terrible it is too live in the United States?

That is undoubtedly the most difficult thing to understand of all.

One of these days I predict there will be many who will long for the good old days of the Trump administration between 2017-2019.

My biggest fear is that too many people will realize that fact way too late.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Spectacular and Shameful

The United States women's national soccer team put on a spectacular performance in winning their second straight World Cup.

They have clearly shown that they have the best women's team in the world.

American Megan Rapinoe was also awarded the Golden Ball as the top player for her spectacular play in the World Cup.

Hats off to the team and Rapinoe for their accomplishments on the field.

However, the antics of Rapinoe when not on the field of play has been nothing short of shameful.

She has consistently made a point about honoring the National Anthem for several years.


Megan Rapinoe refusing to stand for the National Anthem before a World Cup game 

Or this quote from Rapinoe before the US team had even played in the final game?

"I'm not going to the f***ing White House."

I get it that Rapinoe and some other members of the team may not like Donald Trump. So what? What does that have to do with anything? They are representing the United States of America. Thousands of athletes have gone before them in other competitions and left politics at home when they put on the uniform of the United States of America.

Think for a moment whether you can remember any other national team in a world competition showing the disrespect for their country that we saw exhibited by this Megan Rapinoe led United States team?


Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long drop the flag and do a celebratory dance by it


I cannot think of any save for the infamous pair of John Carlos and Tommie Smith who I wrote about previously in these pages in a post titled "Dissent is Fine But Don't Diss the Flag".

Interestingly, I wrote that post in September, 2016 when Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe were first making headlines for not standing for the National Anthem. Notice that was before Donald Trump was elected President. What was Rapinoe's excuse for her actions when Barack Obama was President?

I am old enough to remember the 1968 Olympics when USA track stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos took the podium to receive their gold and bronze medals in the 200m race and raised a gloved black hand and looked down during the playing of the National Anthem. The reason? To protest African-American poverty, to show solidarity within the Black community and to protest global social injustice.



In contrast with Smith and Carlos there was another African-American Olympian by the name of George Foreman who took a totally different approach at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games regarding the American flag.
Foreman won the Heavyweight Boxing Gold Medal at those Olympic Games. After he won the championship bout, in contrast to Smith and Carlos, he walked around the ring waving a small American flag.



Things did not work out real well for Smith and Carlos over the remainder of their lives. This seems to happen more often than not to those who harbor bitterness and resentment in their lives.
On the other hand, George Foreman went on to become the Heavyweight Champion of the world and a popular corporate speaker. However, his biggest claim to fame is probably the fact that his name is on the famous George Foreman Grill for which it is estimated he has received in excess of $200 million for the use of his name.



Foreman understood something that Smith, Carlos, Kaepernick and Rapinoe did not. Dissent is fine. Dissing the flag is not. 

Why don't you see athletes of other countries doing this kind of stuff?

I think it is pretty clear.

They simply do not have the freedom and independence to do it.

That is what is so ironic about all of this. We have the most privileged of the privileged telling us how bad it is in the United States of America.

Megan Rapinoe and others make a big show of saying how oppressive and horrible the United States is at the same time that it would be unthinkable for athletes of other countries, which really are oppressive and horrible, to ever consider making a political statement at an athletic competition.

Their livelihood (not to mention their very life) could well end with even a hint of political dissent.

What more do you need to know about how shameful the conduct of Megan Rapinoe and any other players on the USA team who follow her example is?

Rapinoe says that she will not visit The White House if invited and claims that every teammate that she has talked to about it specifically will not attend either.




I sincerely hope that Rapinoe reconsiders and decides to visit the The White House. I also hope that the list of teammates who might follow her lead is very short.

The final irony in all of this is that Rapinoe and her teammates have been vocal in stating that they believe they are underpaid by US Soccer.  They undoubtedly would have a strong argument if it was somehow true that other national women's soccer teams are making more than they do. I have not seen anything to suggest that.

The fact is that the men's game is much more popular globally than is the women's game. That translates into more gate revenues, bigger tv revenues and large sponsor packages.

In sports, you need to sell tickets. Or tv rights. Or get revenue from corporate sponsors. Someone has to want to pay to see the athletes perform. Compensation of an athlete is almost always a function of revenue. Ticket price, tv rights and sponsor packages have to support the pay the athletes receive.

Let's look at World Cup revenues between men and women.
The last men's World Cup in soccer brought in $6 billion in revenue.
This year's women's World Cup in soccer is expected to generate $131 million.
Let me do the math for you. The men are bringing in almost 60 times the revenue the women are in their World Cup competition.

The women of the United States team are in a great position  n this country to capitalize on their success compared to the US men's team by gaining large sponsor packages and endorsements. Now would be the perfect time to do that.

However, how many corporate sponsors or endorsers are going to pay big bucks to someone like Megan Rapinoe who wants to trash America?

Nike probably will but the list beyond that has to be pretty small.

Ask Tommie Smith and John Carlos how dissing America worked out for them.

Then ask George Foreman.

Spectacular always sells. Shameful doesn't.

Dissent all you want. Don't diss the flag. Don't disrespect the office of President of the United States.

Megan Rapinoe just doesn't get it. As a result, she will never get what she thinks she deserves. 

A very sad tale for someone so spectacular on the field.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Rise of the Metrosexual

I first heard the term "metrosexual" when my daughters were living in Arlington, Virginia. about 15 years ago.

If you are not familiar with the term, here is a New York Times description of a metrosexual and the rise of that genre on the cultural landscape.

Picture this: a young, professional male who loves tailored shirts, $40 face cream, wine bars and shopping with friends — and he’s not gay! I know, stop the presses. But 15 years ago, metrosexuals were news, and a gold mine for marketers.


Here are a couple of images that came up on Google when I typed in "metrosexual man".


Credit:
Wikipedia


Credit: SpringAir-Textile.net




How did I get interested in writing about "metrosexuals"?

I happened across a tweet by a woman on Twitter who was questioning why she saw so many women around her who were dating men they could share jeans with.

It seems she found her answer in credible research that indicates that women on birth control over long periods of time are more likely to choose less masculine men.




Being a curious guy, I checked out the research and it seems there is something to what she says.

This is an excerpt from a Scientific American article on the subject written in 2008.

This year 2.25 million Americans will get married—and a million will get divorced. Could birth control be to blame for some of these breakups? Recent research suggests that the contraceptive pill—which prevents women from ovulating by fooling their body into believing it is pregnant—could affect which types of men women desire. Going on or off the pill during a relationship, therefore, may tempt a woman away from her man.
It’s all about scent. Hidden in a man’s smell are clues about his major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes, which play an important role in immune system surveillance. Studies suggest that females prefer the scent of males whose MHC genes differ from their own, a preference that has probably evolved because it helps offspring survive: couples with different MHC genes are less likely to be related to each other than couples with similar genes are, and their children are born with more varied MHC profiles and thus more robust immune systems.

In other words, a woman who is not on the pill is generally going to be more attracted to a mate.  that complements her and satisfies her more on a physical level.

A woman on the pill (which mimics the hormonal changes in the body associated with pregnancy) seems to be attracted more to people with similar genetic makeup--nurturing relatives for example.

Therefore, a woman who selects a man while on the pill may be making the wrong selection for the long term. It may eventually feel like she married her brother ( or someone resembling her sister) rather than a soul mate.

The Atlantic also did an article on this subject in 2013 citing research from Scotland that found that women on birth control pills prefer less masculine men.

This is how the article describes the results of the research that gave women the ability to digitally alter images to make them more attractive to themselves.

After beginning a regimen of hormonal birth control, the women's ideal of attractiveness in a potential romantic partner skewed significantly less masculine. They were more likely, for example, to prefer narrower jawbones and rounder faces. These preferences appear to translate to real life decisions: the men whose partners had been on the pill when they first started dating were found, as a whole, to be less masculine-looking.

The article concluded that it might actually be advisable for young masculine men on dating sites to digitally alter their face and features to make themselves more attractive to the many young women who may well be on the pill.

It all goes to show you that there are unseen effects every time we try to mess with Mother Nature.

It is also pretty clear to me that there would have been no rise in metrosexuals if there was no market for what these guys are selling. There would be few metrosexual men and guys sharing jeans with their girlfriends if they could not get a date on Saturday night.

Make no mistake. When it comes to basic biology there is a lot of marketing going on with both genders. There always has been and it will always be. It is all about attraction. And it appears that women on the pill are more likely to be attracted to what metrosexuals are selling. They are dating men who then can share their jeans because the birth control pill has fooled their genes.

Who knew what caused the rise of the metrosexual?

Now you do.

Friday, July 5, 2019

I Hope You Enjoyed The 4th of July

I hope you enjoyed the 4th of July.

Based on what is transpiring in this country it may not be too much longer before we don't celebrate the holiday any longer.

There seems to be a determined minority who want to denigrate, diminish and deny America's greatness.

They don't want to celebrate America. They only want to criticize and condemn  it.

To be sure, some of this has to do with the fact that they do not like the current President of the United States.

However, I did not care for the manner in which Barack Obama governed the country but I never doubted America or demeaned it.

What I find most interesting is the selective manner they use to exhibit their outrage.

For example, take the recent decision by Nike to recall new patriotic shoes that were adorned with the so-called Betsy Ross flag. This was the first American flag used during the Revolutionary War.

Nike spokesman Colin Kaepernick reportedly urged Nike to recall the shoes because "he and others consider it an offensive symbol due to its connection to a time when slavery was legal".


Credit: The Wall Street Journal


If that is the case where was Kaepernick when Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2013 and the Betsy Ross flag was right behind the podium in which he took the oath of office for a second term?


Credit: @DavidMartosko


Similarly, there have been many who have criticized the 4th of July parade and festivities that President Trump presided over in Washington, D.C. this year. It seems that they were upset with the military presence, the aircraft flyovers and the tanks on display as evidence of a totalitarian country. I guess it never occurred to them that it might have something to do with simply honoring our freedom and the veterans and military that have made it possible. That sounds like something that should be done on Independence Day.

Does anyone really think we would have our independence and freedom without that military presence and might?

Again, why are these people also not upset with Democrat legends Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy?


FDR Inaugural Parade





JFK Inaugural Parade



Underlying all of this is a troubling narrative that is being promoted by prominent players on the liberal left that calls into question whether it is appropriate to honor and celebrate the United States of America.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “America was never that great.” Former Attorney General Eric Holder told us the “notion of greatness” hearkens back to “an American past that never existed.” Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is running to lead a nation that he said “was never as great as advertised.”

Of course, who can forget this famous statement by Michelle Obama when her husband gained the Democrat nomination for President in 2008.

"For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country..."

That sentiment seems to be shared by many liberals. The only time they were half-way proud of the country was during the eight years of Obama's presidency. Everything before and after is something that Americans needs to be ashamed of.

The New York Times celebrated Independence Day this year by producing a video that proclaims that it is a myth that America is, or ever was, the greatest nation on earth. The United States is nothing better than merely OK.




This leads me to ask why then are people literally dying to come here, and why is that those that make these types of statements never leave, if everything about the greatness of America is a myth?

Most troubling is that this negative attitude about the United States is seeping down into the masses. During my lifetime, with the exception of a few years in the Vietnam War era, it would be hard to find many who would say they were not extremely proud to be an American.

That is no longer the case.

Gallup released a survey this week that shows that just 70% of all Americans say they are proud of their country. Only 45% state that they are extremely proud.

Compare the percentages that are  "extremely proud" between Democrats and Republicans.

Just 22% of Democrats are extremely proud versus 76% of Republicans. That GOP number also has little to do with who is President. It averaged in the mid-70's during the Obama administration. Even with Obama as President, barely 50% of Democrats were extremely proud of their country.

Here is a breakdown of the answers to that Gallup polling question by different groups.

How proud are you to be an American?

Liberals            21%

Democrats       22% 
   
Ages 18-29      24%

Ages  65+        63%

Conservatives  70%

Republican       76%



Credit: Gallup Survey, 2019


I hope you enjoyed the 4th of July.

Those numbers suggest that this holiday may one day be considered as offensive and odious as those Nike sneakers.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Checking All The Boxes

There are 25 candidates now seeking the Democrat nomination for President.

Former Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) is the latest to announce.

If this was major league baseball the Democrats would have reached the roster limit. If someone else announces does that mean that someone has to be sent down to the minors or released?

I don't know who is going to win the Democrat nomination for President but I believe I know who the Establishment Democrats and Mainstream Media are backing.

You can expect that candidate to receive the most glowing reviews and the candidate who will get the most protection from the media.

Her name is Kamala Harris.


Credit: Politico.com


Why do I say that?

For Democrats, she is the candidate that checks the most boxes. When I refer to Democrats in this instance I am talking about the Democrat establishment and the media that amplifies their message. I am not talking about voters.

Not too old or too young.
Harris is 52. It is hard to imagine that the Democrats want to nominate someone like Biden, Sanders or Warren who are all over age 70. The Democrats have traditionally fielded the younger candidates for President. It is also hard to believe that the Democrats would be comfortable nominating one of the under-40 group of Buttigieg, Gabbard or Swalwell. Harris is right in the sweet spot on age.

She is a woman.
Democrats are heavily dependent on the women's vote. They particularly need to turn out the vote for young women and single women. The defeat of Hillary Clinton and the opportunity to have the first woman President was a tremendous disappointment for many women. The Democrats clearly want to have a woman leading the ticket in 2020. Harris checks that box.

  She is a minority.
Harris is the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father. Harris identifies as an African-American which has caused some to question how valid that characterization is. Her background gets more complicated when it is considered that her father's grandmother was reportedly the product of a man who was a slave owner in Jamaica and Harris spent a great deal of her childhood in Canada. In a Democrat primary race against two old white guys, and a white woman who for 35 years claimed she was an American Indian, you can't underestimate how attractive that makes Harris as a candidate. She may be hard to classify but she clearly is a minority candidate.

She is the child of two immigrants
As I mentioned above, Harris the child of a mother who immigrated from India who was a research scientist and a father who immigrated from Jamaica who was an economist. Her parents were both pursuing graduate degrees at UC-Berkeley and met while participating in protests and demonstrations on campus during the 1960's. A child of two immigrants and liberal activists to boot? It does not get any better than that for a Democrat primary candidate in 2019/2020. It also makes for a compelling counter-narrative to President Trump's immigration views.

She is a California liberal.
In the primary it helps to be from California because that state will have the most delegate votes at the Democrat convention. California has 495 delegate votes. That is nearly twice as many as the next state. California has also moved its primary date up to March 3 which is much earlier in the process than it has been in the past. Harris should be at an advantage if she can survive the early primaries. She also probably has the best chance to benefit from the large amount of California donors that make up the core of Democrat fundraising.

Harris is not just a liberal, she is a California liberal. That means she is generally much further left than most other Democrats. In a year in which it seems that being far left is important, Harris is unquestionably much further left than most other candidates . For example, the left wing website ProgressivePunch.org ranks Harris as the third most liberal U.S. Senator, trailing only Ed Markey (D-MA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Credit: ProgressivePunch.org

 


GovTrack.US ranked Harris as the fourth most liberal U.S. Senator in 2018. This chart graphically shows just how far left Harris is compared to her Senate colleagues.


Credit: www.govtrack.us

 

Kamala Harris checks all the boxes the Democrat operatives and the media want.

She is sure to get a lot of favorable press and favorable endorsements as we move forward. 


However, will Democrat primary voters buy what she is selling?

More importantly, does Kamala Harris have the ability to get blue collar Democrats and Independents to support her progressive, far left agenda against Donald Trump in the general election?

Kamala Harris checks a lot of the boxes that we hear are important for Democrats.

There is only one box that matters in the end.

Can she get voters to check the most important box?

It does not matter what the consultants, power brokers, office holders, donors, pundits and mainstream media want. Donald Trump proved that. 

The voters control the only check mark that counts.




Kamala Harris promises to have a lot of wind at her back. Can it push her over the finish line in the end?

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Don't Trust Those Who Can't See What Should Be Seen

I have always believed that a fundamental difference between a Democrat and Republican is how they view the world. Democrats see the world in much more theoretical and idealistic terms. Republicans tend to be more practical and pragmatic in their outlook.

Democrats want policy solutions based on how they think the world should work in theory. Republicans favor policies based on how the world really works in practice.

Democrats generally confine themselves solely to visible effects.  They seem to consider only first-level effects and ignore everything else that might flow from that. All of their focus is on what they see in front on them. They ignore the unseen issues. Republicans, on the other hand, are considering both the immediate effects and second-level effects. The seen and the unseen.  Especially the unseen effects which should be foreseen.

A few examples that I have written about previously.

Welfare-  Democrats can't do enough to help the people in need that they see.  Food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, long-term unemployment assistance.  It is natural to want to help people who need the help.  However, what about the unseen problem that in all of this we may also be creating a cycle of dependency?  In the end our compassion may end up feeding the problem rather than solving it.

Abortion- A woman who is pregnant is seen and known. An unborn baby is unseen and unknown for most Democrats. We see the life affected today with that pregnancy. The life of that baby's future and their potential is unseen.

Gun control-  A person with a gun who uses it in a horrific crime is seen.  Democrats see that. However, unseen are the millions of guns in the hands of law-abiding Americans as well as the thousands of crimes that may have been deterred by that fact .

We can see this playing out right now in the immigration chaos on the southern border.

We historically had very few children arriving at our southern border either alone or with adults. Most illegal immigrants were single adults. Many were men looking for work.

That all changed right after Barack Obama implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order  (DACA) in June, 2012. (I am sure that it was just a coincidence this was done right before the 2012 election.)

This chart by Pew shows that after Obama put DACA in place the number of children apprehended at our southern border started trending upwards. The number of single adults dropped and the number of family units and unaccompanied children rose. People clearly saw the policy and believed that they had a chance to get taken care of as well.

Obama may not have seen it at the time he did DACA but we surely see it now.




Of course, as I also pointed out in my recent post on "The Indefatigable Donald Trump", this trend turned into an explosion once people also started to believe that President Trump was serious about building a wall and closing the border.

How can anyone look at this chart and not admit that we are in the midst of a full-fledged invasion on that southern border right now?




This all ought to be a lesson to anyone proposing any major changes in policy that they should be carefully considering the seen, but the unseen effects, as well.

Where do I see real risk in unseen effects with some of the popular Democrat policy proposals?

Let's take Medicare for All.

All of the Democrats seem to assume the underlying health care system will continue just as it is today if they were to move to a Medicare for All system.

However, what if doctors decide that they don't want to continue working in that system? You might not realize it but Medicare only pays doctors and hospitals about 60% of what private insurance pays.

I have talked to several doctors recently who told me that they would likely retire if Medicare for All is implemented. They are close to, or already at retirement age, but they still enjoy making a contribution as well as getting paid for it. The same calculus would not apply for them under Medicare for All.

The average U.S. doctor makes about 5 times the average wage in the United States.

Compare that to what general practitioner physicians earn in other countries that some Democrats say should be models for our healthcare system.

Australia   1.7x
Canada      1.8x
France       2.1x
Norway     1.8x
UK             3.6x

Make no mistake, doctor and nursing pay would be significantly squeezed in a Medicare for All world. In some Democrat proposals, doctors and nurses would actually become government salaried employees. It is likely many hospitals would have to close.

Consider as well the age distribution of physicians in the United States. Nearly half are 55 years of age or older.



Do you see an unseen problem?

What would the Democrats do if tens of thousands physicians decided to retire rather than keep working under a Medicare for All model? Pass a law requiring them to work? Wait times to get medical care would clearly increase substantially as doctor shortages quickly became evident. Bear in mind that, even without any "unseen" effects from Medicare for All, it is projected there will be a 120,000 doctor shortage by 2030 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Let's also look at the proposal to forgive student loan debt or provide free college to everyone.

As I have written before, it is not hard to predict that those who sacrificed and paid for college would be unhappy about seeing others have their debts cancelled while they got nothing for their hard work and effort. I can foresee problems galore with that.

To begin with, only about 1 in 3 adults in the United States went to college and they generally are making less money than those that went to college. How is it fair to tax them in order to forgive college debts.

Of course, Bernie Sanders will tell people he is taxing Wall Street. However, who will really pay that tab? The tax is actually on financial transactions. Wall Street is just a middle man. The cost burden will fall on those who own 401k's, mutual funds, IRA's and use bonds to finance capital investment. In other words, Mr. and Mrs. America. What happens if that tax on transactions means that a lot less transactions take place? You might very well destroy the capital markets and have little revenue to show for it.

Every effect has other effects. Nothing stays the same when you introduce different incentives and penalties to the system.

What else could be wrong about free college?

Have you ever thought how much GI benefits mean to recruiting enlisted personnel for our armed forces? We have a voluntary military and one of the real benefits recruiters have at their disposal is offering recruits GI Bill benefits that can provide as much as $50,000 in tuition assistance for as little as two years of service.

I could not find a reliable number on what percentage of enlisted personnel are motivated to join the military based on the promise of these benefits.

However, the Congressional Budget Office reported recently that $65 billion was spent on GI college benefits between 2010-2016 for 1.6 million beneficiaries.

In that there are about 1.3 million active duty personnel right now you can see that a substantial number of veterans must have been motivated to enlist, in part, due to the GI benefits.

What happens to the all-voluntary military if college is free and those who are now enlisting to pay for college don't have to do that anymore?

Do you see an unseen problem?

Could we soon have to bring back the military draft to maintain force readiness?

Have the Democrats thought of this?

Everything is always going to be wonderful in the theoretical mind of a liberal Democrat.

They see a problem and they have a ready solution to solve the problem they think they see.

However, every problem that is seen has a series of untold effects that are unseen.

It is these effects that the Democrats never seem to see... or even consider.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Trump +4

The focus is on the Democrat debates this week as I wrote about in my last post. I thought I would also provide some thoughts on where I believe Donald Trump stands now that he has officially announced he is running for re-election.

There have been a lot of polls out recently that are telling us that Donald Trump will be a one term President.

Fox News had a poll last week with Trump down 10 to Biden and down 9 to Sanders

Quinnipiac had similar numbers for Trump against Biden and Sanders and showed him down 8 to Kamala Harris and 7 to Elizabeth Warren.

What do I make of all this?

Not much. We are still almost a year and a half from the election.

In the last cycle most pollsters did not have it even close the day before the election.

I am much more interested in analyzing fundamentals right now than looking at polls.

What do I mean?

At this point four years ago Donald Trump had just announced his candidacy ( June 16, 2015).

Four years ago this week Trump was favored by only 3.2% of GOP in the Real Politics polling average.

Let's look at the fundamentals. All of these suggest that Trump is in a much better place right now than he was four years ago when it was generally assumed he had no chance.

Incumbency
Trump is President and history suggests that incumbents have a built-in advantage.

The Economy 
Incumbents are particularly difficult to beat if the economy is good. As I pointed out in an earlier post, an incumbent President has not lost one time in the last 100 years when there was no recession in the two previous years before the election.




Money
Four years ago Trump was self financing his campaign and had to defeat 16 other GOP rivals for the nomination. He never was able to tap into traditional Republican money sources for the general election. He ended spending half the money that Hillary Clinton did in the general election campaign.

This time is altogether different. Trump will have access to those GOP money sources. His campaign has also demonstrated it is very good at raising money from small donors.

For example, Trump raised $30 million in the first quarter, 2019. The average donation was just $34.26. 98.79% of the donations were from people who gave less than $200! That is better than Bernie Sanders has ever done with small donors.

Trump raised a staggering $24.8 million in the 24 hours immediately after he officially announced his re-election campaign. No Democrat candidate raised $20 million in the entire first quarter.

It should be remembered as well that this is all before the Trump campaign starts going after large donors.

Trump looks like he will have an enormous financial war chest

He will also likely only have token opposition in the primaries so he will not have to spend as much as his Democrat rivals do either.

Solid Base
It is very difficult for any candidate to win if they do not have a solid base of support from within their own party. Being an outsider, Trump had a challenge in getting the base behind him four years ago. Ultimately, he got the votes he needed but he took office in a vulnerable position as many GOP officeholders held him at a distance as did many traditional conservatives.

Most of that opposition has faded. Trump has won over most of his detractors. Trump's approval rating with Republican voters has consistently been around 90%.

There were many traditional Republicans who were very unsure about voting for Trump in 2016. I personally talked to a half dozen friends who did not know if they could vote for Trump in the days leading up to the election. I asked them what the alternative was? In the end, most told me they held their nose and voted for him.

Where are they today? I have not talked to one of them who is disappointed in Trump's performance. Yes, they still complain about his antics, and his use of Twitter, but every one of them says he has vastly exceeded their expectations.

I think that has to be true of almost all of his voters. Where are the people who voted for him who would not do it again? Again, there may be voters who do not his behavior or the way he acts as President. However, they knew that when they voted the last time. There is nothing new here. At the same time, the things he said he would do, he has done. There has been no bait and switch.

Trump got 63 million votes the last time. If he is going to lose, you have to find people who voted for him and think  it was a mistake. I am not sure how many people there are like that out there.

Energy
It is hard to win elections if your supporters are not energized about your candidacy. It is also hard to win if the candidate lacks energy.

Trump still has both and I have yet to see a Democrat candidate who can match that energy on either dimension.

I continue to be amazed that Trump can fill arenas like he does. I am also amazed at the energy and stamina that he brings to the job. I don't know how anyone can say that Trump does not work hard at what he does.

Out From The Shadows
Four years ago you had very few people who would admit in polite company that they were Trump supporters. Yes, he filled arenas and you saw a lot of yard signs in rural areas but you did not generally see these things in typical Republican suburban locales.

I see that changing from four years ago. The "silent" voters from four years ago may be much more visible this time in telling people they support Trump.

Inroads With Minorities
I said above that I don't necessarily trust polls at this point. However, it is hard to ignore some of the polls that show Trump has made significant improvement in his approval rating with African American and Hispanic voters. For example, in a recent Quinnipiac poll 30% of Black voters and 55% of Hispanic voters said they were better off under Trump than they were before he was elected.
Those are huge numbers coming from voters that Trump and other Republicans have had a hard time in attracting support from in the past.

We are a long way from November 3, 2020. However, when you analyze the fundamentals, Donald Trump is in a much better and stronger position than four years ago.

Biden +9? Sanders +8?

Those are hard to believe when you analyze the facts.

Trump +4 looks awfully good.

The polls might not show that number but Donald Trump is in an infinitely better position than he was four years ago when you look at the fundamentals.