Monday, July 30, 2018

Baseball by the Numbers

There is no sport that has been driven by statistics longer than baseball.

When I grew up I poured over the batting averages and ERA's of every major leaguer when they were published in the Sunday paper.

Of course, the basic statistics used in the 1960's like batting average, RBI's, ERA and strikeouts have been supplemented with a range of more sophisticated stats. OBP, OPS, WAR, RF, dWAR, WHIP, SV, BLSV.

If you know what these are, you are a real baseball fan. You also probably read Moneyball by Michael Lewis where Lewis paid homage to the new era of statistics and the baseball men who were managing their team with them.

Despite all of the statistic scrutiny today, baseball still simply remains as it has been since professional baseball first began in 1869 in Cincinnati. The batter has to hit the ball where it cannot be caught. The pitcher has to throw the ball over the plate so it can't be hit. The team with the most runs after nine innings wins.

That is why I found the following seven baseball charts that date back to 1871 to be quite interesting in documenting the evolution of the game.

Let's look at offense first. The blue line represents the overall average of all players. The black dots represent each individual player. Stand out performances are shown with the player's name.

The overall batting average in MLB has not fluctuated much in 150 years.

However, a lot more home runs are hit.

Stolen bases were much more prevalent in the late 1800's than they are today.

A few charts on pitching.

ERA's have been heading down since 2000 but are still higher than in most of MLB history.

Strike outs are way up.

Complete games are way down. In fact, they are almost non-existent anymore.

The one thing that is really up is the size of the players. You don't often see major league players that are not at least 6 feet tall anymore. Average weight is about 210 pounds. Look at how pronounced the upward trend in weight has been just since 1980. This has to be to due to increased use of strength and weight training programs for athletes.

I will conclude with one more baseball statistic that I did not know is being tracked. It is the number of pop-outs that a batter has. A pop-out is considered a pop fly that is caught by the other team within 140 feet of home plate.

I recently came across the fact that Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds had popped out just 7 times since 2010. To put that in context, the average major league batter would have popped out 127 times over that period.

Credit: @MLBRandomStats
Stats as of July 19, 2018

To put that in additional perspective, Votto's pop-out percentage is one-sixth that of the next closest MLB batter over the last three years!

It is a remarkable baseball stat. It is also helps to explain why Votto has the highest OBP (on-base percentage) of any active major leaguer today. In fact, Votto's career OBP is the 10th best in the history of baseball. Better than Mantle, Musial, Mize, Ott, Greenberg, DiMaggio and almost every other Hall of Famer (save 10) that you can think of.

If you want to see a rare baseball moment, here is Votto popping out for the only time he did during 2017. (if your browser does not bring up the video)

If we could only track that statistic back to 1871. I would like to see where Votto stacks up.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Trump and Trade

Franklin D. Roosevelt had to deal with a two front war in World War II---Europe and Asia.

Donald J. Trump is faced with a three front trade war right now. China, the EU and our North American neighbors, Mexico and Canada, have all been waging a unilateral trade attack on American business and jobs for years.

More power to these countries for taking advantage of our foolishness. Our elected representatives literally gave away substantial portions of our domestic economy by thinking short-term rather than long-term. They had the leverage of having the most attractive market in the world and yet they gave it away to China, Mexico and other countries for nothing.

No one called it a war when it was one-sided and the United States took it all lying down. Now that Trump is fighting back everyone wants to call it a war.

Let's review how badly we have been losing the war before Trump starting fighting back.

China---$375 billion trade deficit

European Union---$151 billion trade deficit ($65 billion with Germany alone)

Mexico and Canada---$89 billion trade deficit

In total, our trade deficit on goods was -$807 billion offset by a trade surplus in services of $255 billion for a net trade deficit of -$552 billion in 2017.

Fighting multi-front wars are never easy.

It is even more difficult in trade wars where there are multiple internal parties involved.

For example, much is being made right now of the negative effects to farmers as China, Mexico and the EU threaten retaliation on our agricultural exports in response to Trump's tariffs on steel, aluminum, autos and other products. Those effects are seen and felt. However, what of the hundreds of thousands of unseen businesses and jobs that have already been lost in the one-sided war? What about the hundreds of thousands of unseen jobs that might be created if we truly had an even playing field with our "trading partners?" They are not as easily seen and felt but they are much, much bigger in size and scope.

Trump understands the big picture. He also understands the long game. Trump understands that to win you also have to take calculated risks. Of course, it is easier to do that if you have less to lose than the other guy.

Trump has been derided in the past for stating that "trade wars are good, and easy to win."

I don't know that is always true but it is a lot easier to win a trade war when your country is importing a lot more than it is exporting. And that is the case with the United States today---by a wide margin.

Beyond thinking about the long term, rather than the short term, Trump also understands that in order to do deals and reach agreements you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your adversaries. You also have to be able to apply leverage when you have it. Most everyone on the planet is driven by enlightened self-interest. There are not many who have something that they are going to give up willingly.

Do you think any of our trading "partners" wants to give up the great advantage they have today? No way.

The media and the establishment want you to believe that Trump does not know what he is doing. They want you to believe that he is isolating the United States and we are alone in a three front trade war.

I have to believe that Trump is thinking much bigger than anyone can imagine. I have no doubt he is also thinking two steps ahead.

Notice his comment on Twitter that was directed at the EU yesterday.

Word then came out later that some type of understanding had been made with the EU moving towards no tariffs, barriers and subsidies.

What if Trump's pitch to the EU had sounded something like this?

"Look, we have to get together to create a free trade zone between ourselves. We need to position ourselves to compete with China. Think about it. China trade is similar to what Amazon is in the e-commerce space. We are like WalMart and Macy's going up against them. We need to collaborate to help each other and also put some pressure on China to open their markets. We each can't do it alone. However, if we commit to do this together, China probably doesn't have any choice but to join us. How YUGE would it be to have free and fair trade between the three biggest global trading partners?" 

If you are wondering about the Amazon analogy, consider the market share of Amazon in e-commerce compared to its competitors.

Source: eMarketer, July, 2018 vis Tech Crunch

By the way, the EU had a $175 billion trade deficit with China last year. They also have the same problem as the United States in trade discussions with China. Most of the Chinese market is just not open to EU businesses.

Don't think that the Chinese are not worried about a USA-EU trade alliance. Consider this headline from Reuters earlier in July where it appears that China was trying to preempt such a plan. China wanted to do their own deal with the EU and cut out the United States.

Consider as well the extent that China has leveraged itself and you might begin to understand what Donald Trump already understands. When you are this leveraged you desperately need revenue to service the debt. Trust me, Trump has been there and knows something about it.


Trump has more leverage in the trade war than is being reported. A deal with the EU gives him even more leverage in dealing with China. And with NAFTA as well.

Three front wars are difficult to manage and win. However, if an adversary becomes a true ally, it is a game changer. Don't think that Donald J. Trump does not understand it all.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Break Them Up?

Standard Oil was broken up by the federal government in 1911 on anti-trust grounds. At that time it had a 64% market share of the oil refining business.

Standard Oil was eventually cut up into 34 separate entities. This graphic from the Virtual Capitalist gives you some sense of what came out of Standard Oil.

American Telephone & Telegraph had a market share of over 80% when it was broken up in 1984. This graphic show the evolution that has occurred involving AT&T and its Bell company subsidiaries as they were split up and how they eventually reconsolidated among the new AT&T, Verizon, Century Link and Sprint.

All of this kind of makes one wonder what will happen to Google in the future which has a 91% market search of all online web searches.

Of course, digital advertising is driven by online searches as well as personal interests that are shared as people interact on the internet. See what this translates into in U.S. digital ad revenues for Google and Facebook who are capturing largest share of digital ad revenues for the simple reason they are capturing the eyeballs of more people on the internet.

Google and Facebook alone are garnering about 2/3 of all digital ad revenues.

That is just two companies!

It is the same in Canada where Google and Facebook have 72% of the digital advertising market.

Looking at total global digital ad revenues, Google and Facebook have 61% of the total. Google has an incredible 44% of total global digital ad revenue by itself.

Even more astounding is the fact that Google and Facebook now have 25% of total global media advertising revenues. As recently as 2012 that number was only 9%.

You see similar concentration when looking at Amazon's domination of online retail sales.

How long will it be before we will begin hearing calls to break-up Google or Amazon?

Not long.

A recent Reuters headline.

A recent tweet by President Trump about Amazon and The Washington Post (both headed by Jeff Bezos).

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Immigration and Innovation

One of the arguments for increased immigration is the fact that our workforce is aging and we need younger workers.

A host of industries want to allow more people into the United States. Agriculture. Construction. Hospitality. Healthcare. Manufacturing. Technology.

You do not have to drive far these days to see the "Help Wanted" signs up to understand the problem.

This chart says a lot of where we are at right now. Initial jobless claims are at 50-year lows. reports that the labor shortage is reaching a critical stage.

Truck drivers are in perilously low supply, Silicon Valley continues to struggle to fill vacancies, and employers across the grid are coping with a skills mismatch as the economy edges ever closer to full employment.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that April closed with 6.7 million job openings. May ended with just over 6 million people the BLS classifies as unemployed, continuing a trend this year that has seen openings eclipse the labor pool for the first time.

There is a good argument to be made for allowing more immigrants to fill these jobs.

However, we also need to be very careful about who gets into the country for these jobs. We need to make sure they have the education, language, technical and social skills to be able to integrate and assimilate into this country and its economy.

Note that the biggest problem cited in the CNBC story is not a lack of available workers but a mismatch of skills.

In this respect, our immigration system is generally at odds with this approach. To make matters worse, the laws that are on the books have been loosely enforced or ignored altogether.

Rather than having a considered approach to bringing in those that can add the most value to our society we have made immigration into our country a veritable free for all.

Millions have crossed our border illegally with almost no education or skills. Millions more have come to our country through a lottery or because they were the second cousin twice removed of someone who was already here.

A successful immigration policy for the future needs to be able to match our workforce needs with those that have the requisite education and skills to fill our job openings.

We just can't hope it will work out. We can't continue to allow people to stay merely because they somehow found a way to sneak into the country whether through dark of night or overstaying a visa.

We also have to recognize that many of the jobs we may need to fill today will most likely not be there in another decade or so. More about that below.

Therefore, we should not be allowing anyone into the country for permanent work status with limited skills. This is a recipe for future fiscal and societal disaster.

McDonald's may need a grill cook today. However, a robot may be flipping those burgers in ten years. What happens to that Honduran immigrant with a 6th grade education then if she has permanent work status or citizenship?

A trucking company may need a truck driver today. However, we may have many self-driving trucks on the road in ten years. What happens to that Mexican immigrant who has no other skills?

A senior living community may need health aide today. However, what if we have robots doing a lot of those tasks in another decade? What happens to that woman from Ireland with limited skills?

We need to think about what innovation is going to mean to the workforce over the next couple of decades. We also need to think very carefully about overreacting to what looks to be short-term labor constraints with our immigration policy today.

If you doubt where we are heading I suggest you read a blog post that I wrote in 2015 that foretells what is coming regarding future employment dislocations. That post referenced an article in The Economist as well as comments from The Huffington Post on what it all means for the future.

Almost half of all jobs could be automated by computers within two decades and "no government is prepared" for the tsunami of social change that will follow, according to The Economist.
The magazine's 2014 analysis of the impact of technology paints a pretty bleak picture of the future.
It says that while innovation (aka "the elixir of progress") has always resulted in job losses, usually economies have eventually been able to develop new roles for those workers to compensate, such as in the industrial revolution of the 19th century, or the food production revolution of the 20th century.
But the pace of change this time around appears to be unprecedented, its leader column claims. And the result is a huge amount of uncertainty for both developed and under-developed economies about where the next 'lost generation' is going to find work.

Bain & Company's Macro Trends Group has issued a recent report that puts all of this into current context entitled "Labor 2030: The Collision of Demographics, Automation and Inequality" that John Mauldin wrote about in his Thoughts from the Frontline.

Expect to see some very, very big changes in our future on the jobs front due to technology and automation.
Bain thinks automation will eliminate up to 25% of US jobs by 2030, with the lower-wage tiers getting hit the hardest and soonest. That will be devastating, and it’s not that far away. Remember 2006? Right now, you are halfway between then and 2030. 
In theory, automation will enable lower prices, which will raise demand and create more jobs. Bain does not think it will happen that way. They foresee up to 40 million permanent job losses in the US, even accounting for higher demand. 

Let that sink in. We could very well see a net loss of 40 million jobs in a little over a decade due to automation.

Those job losses will not just be in blue collar occupations either. As I pointed out in my blog post three years ago, all of these occupation classes have a 99% of better chance of being affected.

.99  New Accounts Clerks
.99  Photographic Process Workers/Processing Machine Operators
.99  Tax Preparers
.99  Cargo and Freight Agents
.99  Watch Repairers
.99  Insurance Underwriters
.99  Mathematical Technicians
.99  Sewers, Hand
.99  Title Examiners, Abstractors, and Searchers
.99  Telemarketers

Or consider all of these occupations that have a greater than 50% chance of being displaced by automation over the next decade or so.

.98  Umpires, referees and other sports officials
.98  Models 
.96  Cooks, restaurants
.94  Waiters and waitresses
.92  Retail salespersons
.90  Roofers
.89  Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
.89  School bus drivers
.87  Parking lot attendants
.80  Barbers
.77  Carpenters
.58  Personal Financial Advisors
.55  Commercial Pilots

Can you see the obvious problem of permitting millions of immigrants into the country and granting them permanent residence status or a path to citizenship?

This all goes to show how critical it is to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.

It also argues that any immigration reform bill should tilt toward increased use of guest workers but it should be very cautious in increasing in the number of legal immigrants or in granting permanent residence status or citizenship to those here illegally.

It should also make sure that any legal immigrants have the education and skills to be able to assimilate and adjust to what is sure to be a dynamic U.S. economy in the years ahead.

The reality is that innovation and automation is going to have an tremendous impact on our economy over the next couple of decades. It will result in enormous economic and societal challenges.

The last thing we should be doing right now is exacerbating the situation with ill-considered immigration policies.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Small Step, Giant Leap

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 a 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 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 17, 2018

Two Steps Ahead

It seems that a lot of people did not like President Donald Trump's comments during his press conference yesterday with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

They are unhappy that he seemed to play accusations, that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election, down the middle. He did not fully accept the US intelligence agency conclusions of Russian interference nor fully blame Russian President Putin for what went on.

For Democrats, Trump's words were "treasonous", "shameful" and were equivalent to a "modern day Pearl Harbor". Statements like this make it hard to believe anything the Democrats say any more. Everything that Trump does is "the worst thing that has ever happened in the history or mankind."

A month ago it was his meeting with Kim Jung Un. Two weeks ago it was the separation of the children of illegal immigrants from their parents at the border. It is now Putin and Russia.

However, many Republicans have also expressed concern about the President refusing to call out Putin while he was standing right next to him in Helsinki.

For example, Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter from early on, called it Trump's "worst mistake of his Presidency." The conservative Wall Street Journal called it "a personal and national embarrassment" for the President.

What do I make of all of it?

First, I think it is interesting that Trump is always criticized for his lack of diplomacy but when he exhibits diplomacy on stage he is castigated for it. We saw it with his meeting with Kim Jung Un and we saw it again with the presser with Putin.

When you are trying to get some things accomplished with competitors or enemies what good does it do to stick it to them in public?  Who thinks that is the diplomatic way to accomplish something?

Trump is thinking two steps ahead in his relationship with Putin and Russia. What good does it do to poke Putin in the eye in front of the world's press? Who knows what may have been discussed in private? Trump is playing a long game--- with Russia and North Korea. You can add China, the EU and the trade deals to the list as well.

Second, Trump also knows that the media would like nothing better than to get him on the record stating that Russia meddled in the election. If they can do that they then can run with that forever and use it to try to continue to delegitimize his election.

Meddling in an election is nothing new for the Russians. It is clear they have been trying to do this for years. Collusion is something different. It suggests something more sinister.  However, as I have written before, there is technically nothing illegal about it. Collusion is not a crime under any federal statutes. If it was, the Clinton campaign would already be under indictment for funding the Russian dossier on Trump which they did through a former foreign British intelligence officer (Christopher Steele).

Of course, the average American voter does not understand the finer points between meddling, collusion and all the rest. And the mainstream American media is not doing anything to try to clarify anything. It is all wrapped together with Russia. Russia is bad. It meddled in our election. If they had not meddled, Trump would not be President.

Trump understands this and he is simply not going to let the media try to walk him into a trap.

Trump knew that if he agreed that Russia meddled in the election that the Fake News media would immediately use it to delegitimize Trump. That is why when Trump walked back and clarified his remarks today that he agreed with the conclusion that Russia had meddled he also added that it "could be other people also --there's a lot of people out there".

Let's assume that Trump had accused Russia of meddling in the election with Putin at his side in Helsinki.  Does anyone doubt that we would have seen this headline in The New York Times?

Trump Admits Russia Meddled In 2012 Election
Casts doubt on the future of Trump Presidency

Trump is thinking two steps ahead here as well.

It is not easy being Donald Trump. Just think about the long list of people who wake up every day dreaming of how they can undermine or smear him. A lot of those people also control most of the established media and communication channels in the country (if not the world).

The only way Trump survives and wins in the long term is to stay...two steps ahead.

Keep this in mind as you survey the daily headlines and cable new alerts.

Did he misstep in Helsinki while trying to stay two steps ahead?

My guess is that this episode will soon pass over to be replaced by another "worst thing that has ever happened in the history of mankind" moment that Trump is responsible for.

Be prepared for more. Desperate Democrats and desperate deep staters are sure to do more desperate things.

All Trump can do is try to stay two steps ahead.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

The End of Democrats...or the USA?

I have been watching what is happening with the Democrat party and I can't figure out where all of it is heading.

We are starting to get so-called mainstream Democrats calling for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) to be abolished. In fact, Democrats in Congress have actually introduced a bill to abolish ICE.

How can this be serious?

Do Democrats really believe that we can abolish a law enforcement agency with 20,000 employees which is charged with enforcing immigration law and border security as well as customs enforcement?

Do we just allow every person in the world who wants to come to the United States the unfettered ability to do so?

Do we just allow every foreign producer of goods the unfettered ability to flood the United States with imported goods that we know absolutely nothing about and have no one to track the sources and uses of those goods?

We have high profile Democrats like Maxine Waters openly encouraging the harassment of members of the President's cabinet and other Republicans.

We have House Democrat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi saying that Trump's jobs agenda is "reckless"in the wake of the report that a better than expected 213,000 jobs were added in June and 3.7 million since Trump was elected.

We have Senate Democrats acting as if the nomination of a respected federal judge to the Supreme Court is the end of the world as we know it.

For example, Hillary Clinton stated that she worried that the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh could return the United States to what it was in the 1850's.

"You know, I used to worry that they wanted to turn the clock back to the 1950s," she added. "Now I worry they want to turn it back to the 1850s. These will be urgent fights. The stakes could not be higher."

Kavanaugh is going to take us back to the days of Pre-Slavery? Really?

It is interesting to note that liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg never hired an African American law clerk in her 13 years on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and has only hired one African American clerk since she became a Supreme Court justice in 1993. Therefore, in 38 years on the bench she has hired just one African American.

Kavanaugh hired 5 African American clerks in his 15 years on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in addition to 25 women, 6 Asian Americans and 2 Hispanic Americans out of 48 hires.

Diane Feinstein, who was rated the 15th most liberal Senator based on her voting record in 2017 by, is apparently not liberal enough for the California Democrat party. Yesterday it endorsed Kevin DeLeon over Feinstein for the November general election. Feinstein received only 7% of the vote of party leaders in California.

We also have the Democratic Socialist Party of America (the party of 28-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who had a stunning Democrat primary defeat over establishment Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York City congressional district three weeks ago) claiming that it is the future of the Democrat party.

Does all of this really represent the future of the Democrat party?

If it is, I only see two options for where this leads.

1) The Democrat Party will cease to exist in their current form. It will become a fringe party appealing only to pockets of voters on the coasts and in big urban areas.


2) The United States of America will cease to exist in its current form.

It is hard to see any other alternatives.

I hope I am wrong.

However, the Democrats seem to be embarking on a most dangerous path.

Are they on a road to destruction of their making?

Or does all of this lead to the destruction of the United States of America as we know it?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Rising Tide Raises All Boats

Income inequality is a favorite topic of liberals and socialists.

They claim that capitalism is unfair.

They argue that government must step in to redistribute income. Or guarantee a job. Or provide a basic income for all.

The New York City Democratic Socialists take it so far that they believe that profits should be abolished. They want to abolish prisons and borders while we are at.

The face of the New York Democratic Socialists is 28-year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who had a stunning Democrat primary defeat over establishment Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York City congressional district two weeks ago.

Therefore, Ocasio-Cortez is now the darling of the mainstream media and has been elevated to oracle status in her supposed knowledge of how the world is supposed to work.

Of course, her view is that socialism is the answer for everything.

Ocasio-Cortez was on Twitter last week highlighting her Economics degree and referencing the "Gini Coefficient" in an attempt to showcase her academic qualifications.

Two observations about her tweet.

  • She only asked how many other Democrats had Economics degrees. Why did she not ask the question of Republicans as well?
  • It is pretty scary that 42,000 people "liked" this tweet.

Perhaps they should read this blog post for further context.

Keep in mind that this 28-year graduate of Boston University was working as a bartender a year ago. Based on her prior employment history, it does not appear that employers put much value in what she learned with that economics degree.

For those that are not familiar with the "Gini Coefficient, it is an index developed by economists to measure the distribution of income in a country. A score of "0" means there is complete equality whereas a score of "100" means there is total inequality.

Socialists like to point at the Gini Index to show how "unfair' capitalism is.

For example, here is the "chart of the week" from the American Economic Association that seems to suggest that the rising income equality that has occurred in China and Russia since they introduced "market-oriented" economies has been bad.

The chart seems to suggest that the rich got richer and the poor got poorer when these countries turned toward capitalism.

However, let's look at the facts in context. After all, context is everything when assessing anything.

Here is a chart showing the average monthly wage in Russia.

Monthly wages have increased dramatically for the average Russian since those socialist theories were replaced with proven market-based capitalist models.

The increases in average wages have been even more dramatic in China.

Is income inequality greater today in China and Russia than it was under strict socialist economic principles? Yes. There is no doubt about it.

Under the prior system the only ones who prospered were the political party leaders. Everyone else was equally poor.

Do you think that average people in China and Russia want to return to the prior economic system because a few people at the top have made outsized incomes and profits?

President John F. Kennedy once said that "a rising tide raises all boats".

There has been no better example of that in human history than the United States of America.

Many became enormously wealthy due to capitalism and freedom in the United States. John D. Rockefeller. Andrew Carnegie. Cornelius Vanderbilt. Henry Ford. Sam Walton. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Larry Page. Sergey Brin. Jeff Bezos.

However, they also raised the incomes and standard of living for everyone else. Their personal reward in profits and income was a mere fraction of the value they provided in return.

There is no question that income inequality has increased in the United States over the last 30 years. However, this has been largely due to the loss of manufacturing jobs and the transition to an information economy that has placed a higher value on education. I have written about this previously here and here.

Illegal immigration has also had a major impact by depressing wages at the lower end of the income scale. The other factor has been the low interest rate environment over the last 15 years that has disproportionately favored those who hold assets---those are those who were wealthy to begin with.

The one person who seems to understand these two factors better than anyone is President Donald J. Trump. Why do you think so much of his focus is on illegal immigration, removing foreign trade barriers and focusing on reinvigorating the American manufacturing base?

My advice to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, and others who think socialism is the answer, is to open their eyes and broaden their vision. Really think about what Trump is doing. In addition, measure the United States on a global scale of how "unfair" it is. After all, "fairness" is a subjective term. It is also relative to what you are measuring against.

Measured on a global scale, 56% of Americans are considered "high income" and 32% are considered "upper middle income" according to Pew Research. That is 88% of all Americans. Only 7% are considered "middle income", 3% "low income" and 2% "poor" when measured across the entire world.

On a global scale, of all the people in the world, 56% are considered low income and 15% are considered poor. Only 7% meet the high income definition.

In other words, 56% of Americans are considered high income as measured against a global standard in which only 7% are. On the other hand, 71% of the people in the world are considered "low income" or "poor" while only 5% of Americans are in that group.

I also wrote about this subject in 2011 comparing the concentration of wealth of the top 10% in the United States compared to other countries. At that time the United States ranked well down the list (77th out of 139 countries on concentration of wealth. The numbers may have changed some but if things changed for the worse on this measure since 2011 it occurred while Barack Obama was President.

Were those facts left out of the economics curriculum at Boston University?

By the way, it is interesting to note that China actually has a Gini Index that is worse than the United States based on the latest data from the World Bank. Yes, that Communist China.  Will that be part of the economics lessons that the new Congresswoman from New York City will teach her fellow Democrats?

Here's one more suggestion for Ms. Ocasio- Cortez and her fellow socialists.

Perhaps they missed reading this in 1st or 2nd grade.

It is a very simple lesson. Don't kill the goose that laid the golden egg.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Kavanaugh on the Court

Some random observations on President Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the United States Supreme Court.

Credit: Mandel Ngan, Getty Images

  • You can't have a much better resume for the Supreme Court than Kavanaugh. Yale Law School. Law Clerk to Justice Kennedy. 12 years as a Judge on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 53 years of age.

  • Kavanaugh also worked in the Solicitor General's office, as a member of Ken Starr's Independent Counsel's team in the investigation of President Clinton and served as both Associate Counsel and Staff Secretary to President Bush. In fact, Kavanaugh's wife was the former Personal Secretary to George W. Bush having worked for him both as Governor of Texas and as President. There is no doubt that Kavanaugh is deeply connected within the Washington establishment. 

  • If Trump wants to drain the swamp and poke the Washington establishment in the eye, Kavanaugh was not the pick to do it with. However, I think this shows the practical side of Trump's management side. Democrats like to portray Trump as an unhinged individual  who refuses to listen to counsel from anyone. He is anything but when it comes to making decisions. He consults with a lot of people and he considers every angle. I believe he chose Kavanaugh because it is hard to argue with his credentials and he should be the most confirmable from Trump's list of 25 candidates.

  • That being said, you can expect the Democrats to come at Kavanaugh with everything they have. I felt sorry for Kavanaugh's wife and daughters standing beside him last night. Everything Kavanaugh has said or done in his life is going to be scrutinized. They will look at every book he ever borrowed from the library and every movie that he watched on Netflix. They will try to talk to every girl he ever dated and every guy he ever had a beer with after playing basketball. They are going to look at every email he wrote in The White House and examine every comma in his 300 judicial opinions. It will be brazen and brutal. It is what Democrats do with Supreme Court nominees. It did not matter who Trump nominated. They would be the devil incarnate as soon as they were nominated. Brett Kavanaugh is that person right now.

  • It is not something that Republicans have historically done. The GOP has generally focused on qualifications and not rejected Supreme Court nominees based on ideology. Take Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was a far left ideologue when she was nominated for the Court in 1993. She had been the ACLU's General Counsel. However, like Kavanaugh, you could not fault her judicial qualifications. She was confirmed 96-3. The same was also true of Justices Kagan and Sotamayor who were Obama selections. Kagan was confirmed by a vote of 63-37 and Sotamayor by a vote of 68-31. Compare those to the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch even though Gorsuch had a superior legal resume to both---Gorsuch was confirmed 54-45. Only three Democrats voted for Gorsuch.

For Democrats, it is all about ideology. Nothing else matters when it comes to the Supreme Court. The Democrats  know that without the Supreme Court "making law" they have little hope in realizing their progressive ideals. They have generally failed in establishing any of their big ideals through Constitutional means. Most everything they care about did not come from legislation or constitutional amendment but by the opinions of five Supreme Court justices. Look no further than abortion and gay marriage as prime examples. Or the affirmation of the constitutionality of Obamacare.

The Gorsuch appointment did not really do anything to affect the balance of the Supreme Court. He was replacing the most reliable conservative justice on the Court. However, that did not stop the Democrats from going after Gorsuch.

The stakes are much higher with Kennedy's replacement. That is why you can expect the attacks to be much stronger on Kavanaugh.

Of course, all of this will be mere child's play should a vacancy open up on the Supreme Court for one of the "liberal" seats. I shudder to think of how that will play out.

I guess the lesson for the Democrats is...

"You live by the Court, you die by the Court."

This was never how it was designed by our Founding Fathers.

Consider what Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Papers #78 on the judiciary where he made it very clear that the courts under the Constitution were "weakest of the three departments of power", would have the "least in capacity to annoy or injure" and "have neither force nor will".

Do you think that Alexander Hamilton would be shocked by what he would see today? (that includes the play about him as well)

Whoever attentively considers the different departments of power must perceive, that, in a government in which they are separated from each other, the judiciary, from the nature of its functions, will always be the least dangerous to the political rights of the Constitution; because it will be least in a capacity to annoy or injure them. The Executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community.
The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever. It may truly be said to have neither FORCE nor WILL, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.

What really scares Democrats about the Trump appointments to the Supreme Court and his other judicial appointments?

I think they are realizing that they may need to start relying on the "democratic" process to advance their agenda rather than a few judges.

The genius in our constitutional republic is that all power ultimately comes from the people. If the American people want a federal government with expansive power they can have it. They can allow gay marriage. Or ban it in all 50 states. The same with abortion. They can ban the use of alcohol or repeal the ban and allow it again. They can require everyone to buy health insurance or anything else.

It is simply not within the power of a handful of judges to suddenly discover fundamental rights that have somehow been hidden in the Constitution for over 200 years and start applying them to 325 million citizens by fiat.

If Democrats want to change America they need to win the heart and minds of voters. Not just in the Queens, San Francisco or inner city Detroit. They need to win elections across the 50 states to advance their socialist and progressive agenda The problem is that this agenda has been pretty soundly rejected over the last eight years by the voters.

It is time for Democrats to be democrats. That is not easy. It is a lot easier to demagogue, demean and denigrate a Supreme Court nominee.

Let's hope that this will change. However, it will not change soon enough to spare what Brett Kavanaugh will have to endure over the next couple of months.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Pooped Out In San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

It is blessed with awe-inspiring vistas, a wonderful climate and impressive architecture.


If you plan to visit San Francisco in the future this is a map that you might want to keep in mind

Is it a weather map? No.

This is a heat map showing the human waste laying on the sidewalks of San Francisco. If you drilled down on the site ((Human) Wasteland, you could actually see where every pile of poop was in the city.

The "Poop Map" came about from a web developer taking data from calls and reports to San Francisco's 311 help line, where citizens report the need for public services, and creating the map for Zillow's SF office Fall 2014 Hack Week contest.

Web developer Jennifer Wong (a.k.a. mochimachine) updated the map on a monthly basis through 2015 but has since disbanded the updates. Wong discovered the map was being used by those who were trying to highlight the lunacy of the city's response to the homeless and its sanctuary city status.

This apparently upset Wong's liberal leanings because she said the map was created solely to point the city to where they should be building more public restrooms-- not to point any fingers at the homeless problem.

You have to wonder if the poop problem was this bad 3-4 years ago what the "Poop Map" would look like today?

The poop problem has become so bad that San Francisco recently logged over 16,000 feces complaints in one seven day period on its 311 help line.

16,000! That averages nearly 2,300 complaints per day. 96 per hour. Almost 2 per minute.

A website and related app that allows local residents to request maintenance or non-emergency services from the city has received 16,015 complaints with the keyword ‘feces’ in the last week at the time of this writing, and many pertain to human waste in public places.
Additionally, words and phrases synonymous with ‘feces’ are found in thousands more grievances.
Many of the complaints also connect the fecal matter to vagrants and homeless encampments - a sight all too common now across California.
Users can geotag the location in question, and also provide photos to support their claim.

Here are a few examples of citizen reports to the 311 line.

“Homeless encampment is blocking sidewalk and creates a health hazard w trash and feces,” writes one user. “Please move them, and send a cleaning crew. Sidewalk is impassable, forcing pedestrians into the street.”
“Homeless individuals sleeping along Funston between Clement and Geary,” writes another user. 
“Observed homeless people shooting up at 5pm on Monday, July 2nd. Lots of feces and garbage in the area. Please clean up area and see if homeless individuals need services.”
"Strong smell of feces on post on block between cedar and post," wrote one denizen. "There must be a ton of it somewhere nearby."

Let's put those 16,000 reports on that 311 help line in context.

San Francisco averaged less than 14,000 calls per week on its 911 line during 2017.

How is it that a city in the United States of America is getting more calls reporting human waste on its sidewalks than 911 calls?

Bear in mind that this is also a city with a population of 884,000 according to recent estimates.

That means that, on average, with 16,000 feces reports per week, that nearly every one of the city's residents is reporting a poop sighting once during the year.

All of this might explain why a large medical convention that annually meets in San Francisco with 15,000 attendees and pumps $40 million into the city has cancelled plans to meet in the city in the future due to its "dirty streets" and "homeless".

You have to wonder when cities like San Francisco, that are governed by far-left Democrats, are going to start running their cities for the benefit of law-abiding, hardworking taxpayers instead of vagrants, drug addicts and illegal immigrants?

When is public safety and public health going to take precedence over "progressive" politics?

San Francisco liberals like to claim that they are "progressives". What is progressive about what is going on in San Francisco and other sanctuary cities? It looks to me that this world class city is regressing into a third world cesspool.

How do you explain it?

Perhaps syndicated radio talk show host Michael Savage, who is a long-time San Francisco resident, has it right. He says there is only one explanation.

"Liberalism is a mental disorder."

It used to be that a visitor to San Francisco got pooped out by walking hills like this one.

Credit: Wikipedia

No more.

San Francisco has progressed so far that it has regressed back to the 17th Century.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Born in the USA

I came across a story this week about a hospital in Fort Worth, Texas that had a literal baby boom.

48 babies were born at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center in just 41 hours. That's an average of more than one baby born per hour in just under two days.

It makes you wonder what was going on in Fort Worth nine months ago?

It also made me wonder about the underlying story concerning those births?

How many of the babies were born to unwed mothers?

If the numbers reflect the national average, 40% of the babies born were out of wedlock. If the babies were Black that number is 77%. If Hispanic, 49%.

How many of the babies that were delivered were paid for by Medicaid?  In other words, how many of those babies were paid for by YOU, the taxpayer?

The national average is 43%. For blacks it is 66%. For Hispanics it is 60%. In Texas, 54% of all births are paid for by Medicaid!

How many of the babies were born to illegal immigrants?

Just as we don't seem to have good number on how many illegal immigrants are in the country I could not find any reliable numbers on how many babies are being born to illegals in the United States each year. The best estimate I could find is that approximately 8% of all babies born are to illegals.

However, there are actual statistics on the number of births to foreign born mothers (legal and illegal). In the most recent year, 23% of all births in the United States were to foreign born mothers. However, only 14% of the entire population is foreign born.

You can expect that in Texas a high proportion of the babies born in that Fort Worth hospital were to foreign-born mothers and a significant number were illegal aliens.

For example, in 2006 Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas (the hospital JFK was taken to after he was shot) reported that 70% of its 16,000 births that year were to illegal immigrants.

If that was the number in 2006 I wonder what the number is in 2018?  It is clear that Parkland Hospital and others have decided that it is not politically correct to report these numbers any longer. You can only guess what they might reveal.

All births are a cause for celebration.

All of the mothers who underwent labor in Fort Worth and anywher else should also be celebrated.

However, being born in the USA means something a lot different today than it did 66 years ago..

Shown below is a hospital bill for the birth of a baby and a four-day stay in the hospital for mother and baby on this exact day 66 years ago.

The total bill----$82.56!

Notice the cost per day in the hospital? $11 per day.

Hospital costs for a vaginal birth today are estimated to be approximately $10,000 and that would generally only involve a day or two in the hospital.

A lot has happened involving born in the USA since 1952.

In 1952, only 3.9% of births were out of wedlock. Today they are 40%. Black births out of wedlock were not separately tracked until the late 1960's. However, non-white illegitimate births were tracked. It was 19% in 1952. Today it is 77% for Blacks and 49% for Hispanics.

In 1952, 0% of births were paid by Medicaid. The program wasn't enacted until 1965. Today 43% of all births are paid by the taxpayers. It makes you wonder how those births got paid in 1952?

In 1952, the United States did not even bother to track the births in the United States to foreign-born mothers. It was insignificant. It appears that this data was first collected in 1990 when births to foreign-born mothers was 16%. Today it is 23%.

Suffice it to say, being born in the USA is a lot of different today than it was 66 years ago.

A lot has happened, indeed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

No Profit, No Prisons, No Borders

It is now cool to be a Democratic Socialist.

Is this the future of the Democrat party?

There is lot of talk about this in the wake of 28 year old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's stunning primary defeat of establishment Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley in a New York City congressional district last week.

DNC Chairman Tom Perez recently said that the socialist Ocasio-Cortez was the "future of our party."


For a little perspective on where the Democratic Socialists of America stand on the issues, consider this tweet from the New York Democratic Socialists listing some of their major policy priorities.

Let's take a look at these in a little more detail.

Abolish profit. I am interested in knowing who would be willing to open a business and hire people if there is no reward in doing so? Why would anyone risk their money and capital to start or run a business if there was no expectation of a profit? Who is going to hire someone and guarantee a wage to someone when there is no expectation to make a profit?

Abolish prisons. Do I even need to discuss the lunacy of this position?

Abolish cash bail. Why do you need to abolish cash bail if you are going to abolish prisons?

Abolish borders. I am sure this would work really well. Alternatively, the DSA wants to abolish ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Why don't they just abolish all the law enforcement in the country while they are at it if they also want to abolish prisons?

You have to ask yourself who would want to live in a country that abolishes profit, prisons, cash bail and borders?

It is certainly not a country that I would want to live in.

Democratic Socialists also want Medicare for all, free college tuition and child care.

Left unsaid is how all of this would be paid for.

Those on Medicare have been paying payroll taxes for 40 years before they are eligible for Medicare. The program is still heading for insolvency. Making it available for everyone is going to make it better for the seniors who have paid into the system their entire lives as well another 250 million more?

There is already $1.5 trillion in outstanding student debt. Who pays the this tab as well as providing free college in the future?

What good is provided child care if there are no jobs?

How do you generate tax revenues if there is no profit to tax?

That leads to what liberals have always derided as inherently unfair regressive taxation. Higher sales taxes. Payroll taxes. Gross receipt taxes. Value-added taxes.

There is no free lunch. In socialist countries, much more of the tax burden is borne by the middle and lower income groups than is the case in the United States.

For example, as this graph indicates, the average worker in France, Austria, Italy and Germany are paying about 50% of their income in taxes. In the United States, it is about 30%. And this was before 
the Trump tax lowered taxes for the middle class.

I have written before that most liberal and socialist ideas are hard to disagree with at first blush. They appeal to our human sense of fairness and justice.

In a theoretical laboratory these ideas make a lot of sense.  I think that is why so many academics are liberal. The ideas make such great sense in the classroom or a textbook. Unfortunately, in the real world these ideas must face reality.  A reality where human beings make decisions based on incentives or disincentives relative to their own self-interest.  A reality where unintended consequences often have much greater effects than the intended consequences.

There is a reason that the people in Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea are struggling every day.

For example, in Cuba there are 4.5 million people who have jobs. However, 3 million are employed by the government. Despite this, private workers produce 90% of the food in Cuba. However, 57% of the food that is produced is squandered by the communist system before it gets to the consumer.

There is a reason that the people of Russia and China have enjoyed more economic prosperity as their economic freedom has increased.

There is a reason that the people of South Korea have prospered and those in North Korea struggle to survive. These are the same people separated only by economic and political philosophy. In fact, North Korea has much more abundant natural resources than the South.

There is a reason that the average American worker's tax burden is nearly 20% less than their European counterparts.

There is a reason that the United States has created more wealth and prosperity than any country in history. There is also a reason that our poorest would be considered rich in most of the rest of the world.

Of course, all of this seems to be lost on a number of those in the Millennial generation.

A poll last year showed that 51% of Millennials would rather live in a socialist (44%) or communist country (7%) compared to a capitalist country like the United States.

By comparison, only about 1/4 of Baby Boomers share this view.

Therefore, the Millennials are not generally getting these views from their parents. It undoubtedly is coming as a result of their education.

What kind of economics and history education are they getting in the liberal academic echo chamber?

What kind of country does the Millennial generation want to live in?

Do they really believe that a country with no profit, no prisons and no borders is going to provide them a better life than what they have had in the United States?

If so, God help them.

I think Ben Shapiro has it right with this observation about this recent trend about how cool it is to be a socialist.

"Socialism is growing in America because everyone in America is rich because of capitalism."


On this Independence Day, send this on to a Millennial you love. Do they really understand that socialism and freedom are incompatible?