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Irrational Panic

“Irrational Panic” is actually an older article.  I have been wrestling with my website for a few days.

How do you create irrational panic? Simple. You employ irrational propaganda.

I’ll begin with a statement that will be most ignored. I know COVID-19 is a real illness and that for some people it can be deadly. This is not to be taken lightly. In response to this article, the groupthink dingbats will pretend I never said that so they can continue to quote the non-scientific, sky-is-falling pronouncements we have been bombarded with for months now.

The one thing you can say about the “scientific” approach to the present pandemic is that the response to it has been anything but scientific. I will give you just a couple of examples.

Modeling

Modeling is a science only in that it is an exercise in statistics. The science of it ends there. And as a tool, modeling is rarely used in a scientific fashion. Of all the mathematical disciplines out there, modeling is the one most abused to achieve the ends of the modeler.

Take the hurricane prognostications we get every year before hurricane season. In an effort to get the group thinking along a line of preparation and (perhaps) a healthy fear, NOAA almost always announces a season that will be more active than other seasons. How do they do this? Modeling. They put an arbitrary or subjective set of parameters into a program and then start to add even more arbitrary, sometimes ridiculous assumptions to run against the parameters. When they get what looks like a desired result they announce their “findings”. And they are ALMOST ALWAYS WRONG.

The predictions are released, the expected numbers of storms are announced and then they are ratcheted up or down mid-season to reflect what is actually happening. The argument for this approach is that if we don’t do worst-case predictions the people won’t be smart enough to prepare for hurricanes. To address that I would say you need to check in with Chicken Little.

It is all as scientific as the sports caster who calls winners and losers on Thursday and spends Monday explaining how he would have been right except for a series of extraneous circumstances.


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And so goes the non-scientific battle with the Red Death. Nakedly motivated with producing a result that will keep you shaking in your Danskins, the “modelers” create assumptions that have proven time and again to be inaccurate, often to the point of being completely useless. So far, the higher the predicted cases and deaths a model has produced, the more inaccurate they have proven to be.

But they sure have the people buffaloed. I hear constantly remarks to the tune of…it doesn’t matter. At least, if people listen (one of my friends even employed the term obedience) then they won’t get sick and possibly die.

For those folks I have the saddest news: both the obedient and disobedient will all die, not at all likely from COVID.

Social Distancing

Ah, yes, the new verb. Folks are proudly joining the group, as I said in a past article, and declaring that they too, are social distancing. They post pictures on social media, clad in masks standing a prescribed distance from friends and loved ones. That’s great.

But there are a few problems here. One, there is no science behind it; quite the opposite. And two, they may be doing as much harm as good.

Early on, Drs. Fauci, and Brix along with the Surgeon General and the TV medicos ALL said that wearing masks as a response to COVID is counter productive. One reason is because people fidget with them. The result is that if you are not conditioned for years to wear a mask professionally you touch your face an average of 28 times per hour, usually to fuss with the mask.

I have witnessed this myself at a number of critical locations like Lowe’s and Walmart. Especially among the young, I notice people who take their masks on and off while chatting to each other. I have seen more than one being spun on a finger like a lifeguard’s whistle. If any of them have actually been exposed to COVID or any other pathogen…that’s right. They are inhaling it now and spreading it actively.

More on the mask.

A surgical mask has VERY limited use. Doctors are only supposed to use their mask to see a patient and then get a new one of they are to see another patient. Wearing one mask over several visits will protect the doctor, so long as he doesn’t fuss with it or swing it around like a whistle. But he doesn’t protect his patients.

(Update: 5/20/20.  Studies say the effectiveness of masks run between 25% and 80% against COVID. I am going out on a limb and saying the difference in the results stem from the difference on the tests. Herre is a anecdotal reference.  When working in the woodshop, if not wearing a mask, the results are easy to see.  When I blow my nose, the results are brown and black from saw dust.  BUT when I use a mask, this includes N90, …the results are the same.  That’s because I wear the mask for a long time and they are not very efficient.  The only truly efficient masks are the hard shell masks with replaceable filters and an airtight fit.)

While you breath, your mask becomes warm and moist. Over an hour or so it become a Petri dish on your face. If you have seen one patient and get to close to another you shed, from the mask, whatever you inhaled into it from the previous patient.

Then there are the unforgivably stupid people (this includes a dentist I once visited) who wear a mask with their nose sticking out over the top. Really? Jackasses! With a little luck these morons will get sick and get off the streets for a couple weeks.

The Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, is the only professional who has stuck to his guns on this issue. The others know the mask, after the first hour or less, is pure placebo. But they figure if it makes the public more comfortable and protects them for the first 20 minutes or so during a given day, well that’s alright. It also helps foster an atmosphere that we have tried to create when we have millions of people running around masked.

And that is why I mentioned propaganda. That is what the government approach to “fighting” COVID has been. It certainly isn’t science. Even the distancing is pure propaganda. Are the intentions good? Sure. Is the 6-foot rule effective? Sometimes? It depends. But the rule is literally the result of the following science.

Bureaucrat 1: So what do we tell them? Stand back from each other? How far?

Bureaucrat 2: That’s a good idea. How about 3 feet?

Bureaucrat 1: No. That probably wouldn’t hammer home the safety thing. 10?

Bureaucrat 2: No way! Too far. Most places wouldn’t have the room.

Bureaucrat 1: 6?

Bureaucrat 2: Yeah, I suppose. That sounds reasonable.

That’s it. There is no science associated with 6 feet. And if two people are moving in the same direction, there is absolutely no value to the rule since person number 1 passes point A followed by person number 2 within one second. If number 1 sneezes, coughs or even exhales number 2 gets it right in the kisser.

So, yeah. The distancing, the masks, they are all the result of successful propaganda. Not good, not bad. At best, the effectiveness is nearly random. The damage isn’t the propaganda. It is the ensuing group think. Every politician, looking to capitalize on the event has jumped on the band wagon. More and more restrictions were placed on the population “out an abundance of caution”, of course.

But no golf? No walking on a  20-foot wide, miles-long promenades? No kayaking ALONE?!?! Keeping schools closed after we have long-since learned that COVID is almost non-existant in children and not as dangerous for them as adults? This is what happens when you don’t use real thinking and real science in response to an event like COVID.

Now, after vapid rhetoric like ”If one life it lost it is too many” has taken hold in the collective psyche, the politicians that brought us to this point don’t know how to unwind the screw-ups. They know the media will find the one kid out of millions that will, for some reason, die of this illness and go ballistic on the town, county or state that says we need to face the risks.

Now that we are opening up in some places…

…we should be encouraged, right?

I want to say yes. But in almost every case we hear the underlying cowardice. Governors warn that “if the disease spikes”, we will have to shut down again.

This stay at home crap has done untold damage to the economy. If you think my priorities are screwed up consider how hospitals can stay open just treating COVID and not treating routine patients. There will come a tipping point, especially if we all hide under our beds again where there won’t be enough economic activity to sustain hospitals, police or most other critical activity.

I have a news flash for you. This thing WILL spike again. We can’t wait it out. We have to face the risk of getting sick and at the same time do what we can for the more vulnerable.

But IT WILL COME BACK! Get that through your head. It will still be here, chugging away when flu season starts. We cannot afford to retreat to the barracks again. And we won’t do ourselves a bit of good if we do. You need to have more fortitude than your politicians. So long as you buy into emotional sentiments like “I’ll die if I go to work” you are part of the wider problem that is COVID-19. You’re great grandmom might die if she went to work with you, so don’t invite her along. But you do her, your kids or yourself NO GOOD if you don’t get back in the game and stay in it.

Keep the ventilators and PPE coming! Get USNS COMFORT back to NY. You’re gonna need them. But please, no more shut downs and no more “stimulus”.

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HOUSTON ROCKETS – POLITICAL PIGGIES.

Houston Rockets GM Apologizes for Being Right!

Just When You Think You’ve Seen It All…

Have you read Animal Farm yet? You should. If it’s been a while, reread it and think of today. But while saying that, I will throw out a spoiler at the same time. The pigs in the story are socialist elite who get rich off the workers and live shamelessly well. The humans are the free-market West. But by the end of the story, the observer seeing the pigs and humans together, realizes the two are becoming more and more alike until you can barely tell them apart.

Well…OINK, OINK Houston Rockets! What a pant load they are today! From owner to player, they are a pathetic, hypocritical joke.

Let’s start with James Hardin. He had the nerve to apologize for his BOSS because his BOSS had a political opinion born of clear reason being played out before our eyes every day. Heardin APOLOGIZED to China saying, “we love everything there about it…” People are getting arrested and gassed, in some case shot, for standing up for their rights in Hong Kong.

This is the same James Hardin who decided his dumb-ass beard should be as popular and Colin Kaepernik’s ‘fro. I say that because it was Kaepernik who started the misguided protest. People like Hardin were just imitating him to get the camera time. But anyone who spoke against it, at all, was a racist or a hater! If the teams stood by THEIR OWN GUIDELINES and insisted the players protest elsewhere and not in uniform, that was censorship.

Of course neither of the sentiments above are correct but it was the silly meme of the time.

In the meantime, the Rockets’ owner, Leslie Alexander said, “I want them to respect the flag. I’m an American and this country has been so great to me. I couldn’t have done this [own an NBA team] in any country in the world. There is a tremendous prejudice against black people, I know that and it’s awful and with what’s going on with the police is awful. At the same time, not respecting the flag doesn’t do anything to help that.”

The lunatic groupthink on display here is palpable. There is no “tremendous prejudice against black people” in this country. There are Billy Bobs who have no say in our lives who are prejudice. There always will be. There are people in every group, of every imaginable ethnic background who harbor some kind of racial bias.   There always will be. But it is not the dominant thinking in this culture. It hasn’t been for generations. The only place prejudice against Black Americans remains “tremendous” is in the minds of race baiters.

But hey, if you think you are a victim you certainly have the right to protest. In professional sports the teams will even endorse your thinking out of market fears (not sincere conviction) and let you protest in uniform.

Now flash forward to this last weekend. On Friday, the General Manager of the Rockets spoke out in support of Hong Kong protestors in a tweet. (That was something dear leader, Mao Tse Trump failed to do when the crackdown on the protestors really turned ugly on 1 October. He’s too busy being played by Xi and the other pigs in Peking, waiting to make the “beautiful, beautiful” deal.)

Suddenly the respect of Rockets’ players and the owner for an individual’s opinion is nowhere to be seen. The tweet is torn down and the GM is brow beaten into saying things he DOES NOT believe to satisfy…right…the pigs in Peking.

I know the modern term is Beijing. I still say Saigon too. So shut up.

The Chinese government is close to completely controlling the lives of the people through electronic means, they still have their own miserable“gulag” and are shamelessly oppressive. They don’t even hide it.

The Pigs of Peking are also nakedly militaristic. They have, without more than an embarrassing whimper from the West, taken islands from their neighbors and took strategic control of the South China Sea.

And this is who the Rockets are afraid of offending? Again, they don’t care about principal. They whored themselves like hundreds of other companies, engaging in the requisite corruption to do business in China. No, the NBA is concerned with merchandising and the entertainment dollar there. There is no “love” or sincerity here. There are no ethics and personal accountability.  The NBA doesn’t give a shit about Chinese oppression.  In the same way, Hardin didn’t really give a shit about how many people were actually being shot by cops. It’s all about the Benjamins…and cool camera time

You might argue that they are free to do this, and you would be right. They can be whores for the Chinese if they wish. But they and their dopey imitators should spare us the lectures when they would happily offend what is left of a real free market and representative republic back home. It was pure bullshit back in the Kappy days and it is still so today.

 

 

 

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Rocky VIII: An Economic Metaphor Part 2


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Update: 11/7/19  The tariff circus drags on.  China continues to play the US like a fiddle.  With every “deadline” China simply makes obviously empty promises and gets the date to slide further right.  Today we hear we have a the framework on terms to be negotiated and a venue.  And we are told that we won’t get the “big” deal this time around.  (big shock, right?)  Instead we will get a promise from China to buy more stuff – AGAIN!  And that will be called a deal.  (Pass the fig leafs) As I have said in many places:  When all this is over, we will ALL end up very much where we were when it started.  TARIFFS DON’T WORK. AND THEY CERTAINLY DON’T WORK AGAINST TOTALITARIAN STATES!!!  Only real free trade works across the board.  But there isn’t one politician with the sack to actually discuss real free trade.

At the moment, that doesn’t even exist in this country!

8/14/19  4:27

The markets have closed down 800+. And no, it still isn’t the Hong Kong riots that caused the drop. That is just another symptom.

In Hong Kong, as with all drawn-out protests by youth, a Lord of the Flies mentality has set in. Agitators in their little corners of the conflict are fighting for the conch by attacking police and trying to be the toughest boy scout. This will cause them to lose public support and has doomed their fight. China wins. Of course they were always going to. They won’t let ANYTHING change because of this protest. The government is not civilized and they don’t preside over a democracy.

One cop showed incredible restraint when cornered by several attackers using sticks to beat him, quite badly. He drew his weapon but didn’t fire it. If it had been me, there would be dead kids at the Hong Kong airport. That’s one GOOD cop.

But back to the real problem at hand.

Who are tariffs good for? Certainly not consumers. And they don’t help suppliers of goods not protected. As I stated in my January article, they only help the specific industries being protected, allowing them to RAISE prices with less competition, but only for a short time. Then everyone looses.


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Thanks to this ridiculous tariff scheme we STILL have silly scenarios like this one: There are tariffs on materials used to make bicycles but no tariffs on bicycles. So U.S. manufacturers of bicycles, already hampered by higher labor costs here, now must pay more for materials and parts. The result? Foreign bike manufacturers, including Chinese companies have an even greater advantage in our market. Come Christmas all the “buy American” slogans in the world will not put an American-made bike under the tree in this country. And the tariff scheme is riddled with this stupidity, as if just launching this campaign wasn’t stupid enough.

So who pulled Trump’s chain?

I don’t know who in the administration stroked Trump’s ego well enough to put him on this idiotic tariff bender, but I’d like to strangle them. We had just emerged from an abysmal 8 years of little of no growth and had just a bit of traction under out feet (even Europe was growing for the first time in a decade) when it was all wiped out with this one impetuous and utterly ill-conceived act.

Yes, many players on the world stage are corrupt and still charge tariffs to please their cronies. Hell, Europe has been enjoying tariffs we allowed since after WWII to give them a shot at recovery. And we completely dominated the world’s economy for 75 years. Europe didn’t become a dominant power. Still, tariffs are an insult to free trade and should have been done away with. But how? With US tariffs? Hardly.

In our last episode a victorious Rocky (the US economy), still injured from his rematch with Creed, is being forced to fight Clubber Lang, Tommy Gunn and Ivan Drago (trading partners) at the same time. Mickey (Trump) said it was for Rocky’s own good (national security).

At the outset, Rocky seemed to be standing his ground. Gunn (Mexico and Canada) didn’t have the stomach for a fight and knew it wasn’t in his best interest. He immediately threw in the towel because Mickey was willing to renegotiate NAFTA. It was a smart move. He leaves the ring, not a hair out of place.

But problems remain.

Lang (Europe) puts up more of a fight. He throws lots of punches at the US economy and calls Mickey a bully but then slips in a few concessions, some of them really good (like zero tariffs on cars – our biggest obstacle). Where Lang might be inclined to turn on Drago (China) in the overall fight and stand with Rocky, he can’t. Every time he tries to step in, Mickey tells Rocky to punch him on the face. Mickey says he doesn’t want parody with Lang, he wants a complete advantage. Instead of taking 80% and turning Lang against Drago, Mickey chooses to post childish and insulting tweets about Lang, pissing him off and reinvigorating him.

Despite a groin injury (zero, and even negative economic growth) Lang persists in the fight. While he isn’t as much of a threat, his continued presence in the ring makes Rocky’s real challenge more difficult. And with each punch he gets weaker, so even if Lang (Europe) does eventually try to turn on Drago, he will be too weak to help.

Drago (China’s economy) is huge, everyone says his economy is weak and he can’t stand up to a trade fight with the US. But he has something the Rocky doesn’t have. His corner is a totalitarian police state. The corner will not suffer if Drago takes hits, even severe ones. Drago’s fans will. But they will endure what they are told to endure and they will like it.

It won’t end well.

You see, ultimately, that is where controlled economies must end up. You can’t control economics like you are planning a birthday party, although idiots who call themselves economists and politicians try every day. But you can oppress people. The more control exerted over the economy, the greater the oppression must be. I give you Free College for All, The Green New Deal and Tax the Hell Out of the Rich as examples.

Where will this end? It remains to be seen. But it won’t end well. Serious and unnecessary damage has been done and it will take a while to unwind.

Leaving the ring for the real world, we have two options to fix this and move on:

  1. Real free trade

OR

  1. Demanding tariff-free trade among all our trading partners

I’ll address number 2 first.

U.S. Dominated Trade

We can start by country or by region or with all our trading partners at once. Congress passes a law that states by a date certain there will be no tariffs anywhere in trading with the United States. We send you our Spaghetti-o’s, you send us your kumquats. They are sold to our respective consumers unencumbered by tariffs. If you keep or create tariffs, you have sold your last kumquat in the US. Subsidies would have be eliminated at the same time as they are just the B side of the same 45, created to thwart competition.1

This is preferable to the existing fight and the pre-existing status quo. However, it isn’t really free trade. If trade takes place under the auspices of the US government, like it as we may, it isn’t free. Making a product and gaining market share at home or abroad is up to the companies who wish to trade, not the government!

And, oh, by the way, try to wrestle sugar or corn subsidies from the political whores on Capitol Hill or the cronies they protect. They’ll tell you the economy is too complex and you just don’t understand why we have to take the bribes we take to help market sectors. Poor, ignorant you.

Market-Dominated Trade

Number 1, above, is actually the real answer. Free trade. Really free.

Sadly for the dupes who think the government is obligated to get your rubber dogshit into novelty stores in Poland, this scenario pretty much resembles the situation we have right now, based on how ignorant other trading partners remain.

If you, unlike most politicians and career government workers, have brains and vision, you understand that having rich trading partners is better than having poor ones. So rule number one for healthy trade is don’t impoverish your customers. You are not obliged to prop them up, but you don’t kick the stool out from under them either.

Further, if Heinz wants to sell ketchup in Germany and pay a hefty tariff to do so, that is none of the U.S. Government’s business. That is 100% up to Heinz and the board of directors. It is up to that company if they wish to move into a market where they are made artificially less competitive based on price. If they didn’t think they could use the popularity of their brand and quality of their product to make money in that market, they wouldn’t send their stuff there to begin with. And if Berliners wish to pay more for ketchup or pay tax money to their own ketchup companies in the form of subsidies, that is their concern ONLY.

Naturally, if Heinz finds a political whore who will go and fight and threaten the Germans or initiate tariffs here, I suspect Heinz would make huge campaign contributions and pay tens of thousands of dollars for speeches to be made by the whore in return. But that doesn’t make it right.

The lesser of two evils? Meh, Maybe.

I support choice number 2 over the status quo. But I know choice number 1 is the best long-term answer to all of this. I hold out absolutely no hope that ANY of our politicians have the guts to start the process by winding down our existing market protections to undeserving cronies. And I also despair at Trump’s lack of intellectual curiosity on the matter.

How bloody it gets depends on how long people insist on being stupid. But when it all finally shakes out we will all be financially weaker and pretty much the same place we were relative to the rest of the world when this all started.

So, Rocky is screwed on this one. We all are. But don’t worry. You’re screwed on lots of other ways as well. Maybe next time we’ll revisit how Facebook, Google (and politicians that are supposedly “taking on the tech giants”) are playing all of you for total suckers

 


Don’t be a political pansy! Read Street Politics, the book that predicted it all!

1. But we’ll deal with subsidies in another article.  I did deal with them in my book.  See the link above.