Friday, September 19, 2014

Rejecting Canadians

For John, BLUFOur parking meters should be able to handle Canadian Quarters.

When I go to stores and get change there is a a likelihood that I will get a Canadian Quarter.  And I spend it like a quarter, sometimes.

Today I was downtown at 0800 and parking by the Lowell City Hall, along the island with the Ladd & Whitney Civil War monument and the Winged Victory statue.  Because I was driving my wife's car I didn't have my dollar coins and I used quarters.  After putting in four quarters I dropped in, without thinking about it, a Canadian quarter and the machine rejected it.  That wasn't so bad, but the machine also rejected all my previously deposited quarters and canceled my transaction.  That seemed a little weak.  Or, maybe a poor job of programming.

Regards  —  Cliff

Kudlow's Plan

For John, BLUFWe need to get the money flowing again and getting people hired.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

On the "Financial Exchange" on WRKO this morning Mr Larry Kudlow was on, espousing his solution to our economic doldrums.

Mr Kudlow's plan is to reduce corporate income tax and to allow corporations to repatriate the billions they have overseas with a minimal tax (he suggested 5%).  Mr Kudlow believes that such an action would get money moving again in the economy and thus stimulate employment and possibly give us a 4% growth rate.

I like it.  It might not work, but nothing else is working.  Right now the unemployment rate is going down not due to people getting jobs but due to people dropping out of the labor force.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates six different measures of unemployment, U1 through U6, measuring different aspects of unemployment:

U1:  Persons unemployed 15 weeks or longer, as a percent of the civilian labor force.

U2:  Job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs, as a percent of the civilian labor force.

U3:  Total unemployed, as a percent of the civilian labor force (official unemployment rate).

U4:  Total unemployed plus discouraged workers, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus discouraged workers.  (U3 + "discouraged workers")

U5:  Total unemployed, plus discouraged workers, plus all other persons marginally attached to the labor force, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.

U6:  Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.

NOTE:  Persons marginally attached to the labor force are those who currently are neither working nor looking for work but indicate that they want and are available for a job and have looked for work sometime in the past 12 months.  Discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached, have given a job-market related reason for not currently looking for work.  Persons employed part time for economic reasons are those who want and are available for full-time work but have had to settle for a part-time schedule.

We usually see an unemployment rate based on U3.  Thus we don't actually consider someone who is out of work and has stopped looking and is living in his or her parents' basement or is couch surfing amongst friends and relatives.

But, back to Mr Kudlow, the fact is that tax policy is social policy.  Taxes, intended or not, influence how people, including business people, operate.  If the tax burden becomes heavy enough people do things that circumvent the law.  That is why such a large percentage of cigs sold in the Boston area are from the gray market.  It is human nature.  If you do sometime to me that I believe is unfair, I will try to circumvent it.  If your tax on me seems unfair, I will try to work around it, sometimes even if it costs me to do that.

Having said I agree with Mr Kudlow, I don't wish someone to think I am "big business".  Notwithstanding the myths that are out there, a lot of Republicans are "small business".  It is the Democrats who are big business.  The relationship is that Democrats provide the things that make big business work.  For example, a lot of series of regulations has much less impact on a big business, which has lawyers and accountants to deal with such things, and which can absorb them into the overhead.  On the other hand, a small business finds such regulations to be much more of a burden, having a smaller financial based to support the needed lawyers, accountants and other administrative personnel.  It isn't the nth instance of the regulation that is expensive, it is the first instance.

Let us support Mr Kudlow's plan, but let us not think that big business is the savior of the nation.  We need to be protecting and supporting small business.  By protecting, I mean from Government.

Regards  —  Cliff

Here are a passel of definitions:

Labor force (Current Population Survey) The labor force includes all persons classified as employed or unemployed in accordance with the definitions contained in this glossary.

Labor force participation rate The labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population.

Marginally attached workers (Current Population Survey) Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached.

Marginally attached workers (Current Population Survey) Persons not in the labor force who want and are available for work, and who have looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months (or since the end of their last job if they held one within the past 12 months), but were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. Discouraged workers are a subset of the marginally attached.

Unemployed persons (Current Population Survey) Persons aged 16 years and older who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment sometime during the 4-week period ending with the reference week. Persons who were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been laid off need not have been looking for work to be classified as unemployed.

Unemployment rate The unemployment rate represents the number unemployed as a percent of the labor force.

Scotland Says No

For John, BLUFOur Federalized system seems pretty good and its inventors pretty smart.  We just need to not mess it up.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Scotland says No, but the British Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, says there will be more devolution to come, with legislation in January.

The vote seems to have broken 55% against and 45% in favor of separation.  If it was a US Presidential election we would call it a landslide, but with such a large percentage saying separation, there will need to be some fence mending.  Maybe even in Dracut.

The key point to draw from this quick analysis by The Wall Street Journal is that centralization of government, as with the European Union may have peaked and the wave of the future may be moving authority back closer to the People.  As populations increase the distance from Government for any one individual or any group seems to get greater.  One way to prevent disaffection is to make local control a reality.

From the article:

Mr. Cameron said work would begin to grant the devolved government of Scotland more control over tax, spending, and welfare, with a view to forming plans by November and draft legislation published by January.

"To those in Scotland skeptical of the constitutional promises that were made let me say this—we have delivered on devolution under this government and we will do so again in the next parliament," Mr. Cameron said following the result. "The three pro-union parties have made clear commitments on further powers for the Scottish parliament—we will ensure that those commitments are honored in full."

In a surprise proposal, Mr. Cameron also said England, Wales and Northern Ireland should have greater independence in how they govern their affairs.

Regards  —  Cliff

  The United Kingdom is Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  Great Britain is England, Scotland and Wales (and for the folks from Cornwall, Cornwall).  England is the bottom half of the island of Great Britain, minus Wales to the West and (and Cornwall to the Southwest).  Wales is that wonderful place with the very long town names located to the West of England.  Then there are some strange arrangements with some of the other islands of the British Isles.

Ballot Question One

For John, BLUFDishonest Presentation of Ballot Question 1.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

In yesterday's edition of The Boston Globe was a letter by Ms Katherine S. Fichter, of Somerville.  I have no quarrel with her points on Ballot Initiatives 2, 3 and 4, but I think she COMPLETELY MISSES THE POINT about Ballot Initiative 1.

Ms Fichter starts her second paragraph as follows:

Question 1 asks whether we are willing to pay our fair share for safe and modern transportation infrastructure.
This is a TOTAL MISUNDERSTANDING of the Ballot Question.  Here is the Massachusetts Secretary of State's presentation of the Ballot Question:
A YES VOTE would eliminate the requirement that the state’s gas tax be adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index.
There it is.  Not to roll back the tax increase but to prevent turning additional increases over to a bureaucracy to determine based upon the inflation rate.  Following is the straight forward statement of the YES vote.
IN FAVOR:  Voting yes simply stops the linkage of the gas tax to inflation.  This linkage causes the tax to increase every year without a vote of the Legislature.  That’s taxation without representation.  If the Legislature wants to increase taxes, they should have to vote for it.  No tax should automatically increase.
The opposed wording is disingenuous to say the least:
AGAINST:  Question One threatens the safety of you and your family when traveling on Massachusetts’ roads and bridges.  The problems are startling: according to the Federal Highway Administration, 53% of all bridges in the state are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.  Moreover, 27 bridges have been closed because they are unsafe.  Potholes and bad roads cost Massachusetts residents $2.3 billion a year in car repairs.
I am voting for this question, and I am not against fixing our highways.  In fact, I think we need to be investing billions in fixing our highway situation.  We don't need to just fix the bridges and potholes, but we also need to improve our existing highways.  For example, Route 38 in most other states would be two or more lanes in each direction, with sidewalks and left turn cutouts.  But, I believe the monies must be voted explicitly by the General Court and not handed over to bureaucrats to do, based upon this or that formula.

Further, it is time to stop making the excuse that our roads are the product of four hundred year old cow paths and thus can not be changed.

Regards  —  Cliff

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is This True?

For John, BLUFMassachusetts as seen from outside.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the comic strip Get Fuzzy.

By the way, from The Boston Globe this morning.

Regards  —  Cliff

Advice Regarding Fighting ISIL

For John, BLUFEveryone is a strategic expert.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From the on-line presence The Hill we have this short article on an OpEd piece in The [Manchester] Guardian about the current US fight against ISIL.  The headline is "Chelsea Manning:  US can’t defeat ISIS with ‘bombs and bullets’".

Remember when Chelsea was Bradley?  Remember when she was an Army Private First Class (PFC) and involved in leaking massive amounts of data to Wikileaks?  Remember when she was condemned to serve 35 years at The United States Disciplinary Barracks (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas).

Well, at any rate, here is her OpEd in The [Manchester] Guardian.  The Headline is "How to make Isis fall on its own sword" and the sub-headline is "Degrade and destroy? The west should try to disrupt the canny militants into self-destruction, because bombs will only backfire".  This falls along the line presented by David Kilcullen in his book, The Accidental Guerrilla—In fighting the insurgents the force tends to alienate even more people, creating more insurgents (or guerrillas).

Here is the conclusion presented by Ms Manning:

Eventually, if they are properly contained, I believe that Isis will not be able to sustain itself on rapid growth alone, and will begin to fracture internally.  The organization will begin to disintegrate into several smaller, uncoordinated entities – ultimately failing in their objective of creating a strong state.

But the world just needs to be disciplined enough to let the Isis fire die out on its own, intervening carefully and avoiding the cyclic trap of “mission creep”.  This is certainly a lot to ask for.  But Isis is wielding a sharp, heavy and very deadly double-edged sword.  Now just wait for them to fall on it.

Regards  —  Cliff

Protecting US Citizens Abroad

For John, BLUFGlobal Terrorism, with diverse motivations, is a serious problem.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

On City Life yesterday there was a discussion of the current ISIL practice of beheading Westerners who fall into their hands..  Both Guest Co-Host Linda Bown and Producer John McDonough want to "do something".

From The Huffington Post we have this article by Mr H A Goodman,"Of the 17,891 Deaths from Terrorism Last Year, 19 Were American. Let Iraqis Fight ISIS."  The author suggests that major military action might be disproportionate to the problem, at least from the US point of view.

Over 100,000 deaths are attributed to terrorism worldwide in other countries against other citizens in the past five years, while less than 60 of those deaths are American, so perhaps we're waging a war on terror to protect citizens of other countries?  Terrorism and the ideology that fuels it can't be destroyed by American military interventions and shouldn't be the reason we send our soldiers to counterinsurgency conflicts (with sectarian violence and ever changing political turmoil) that hurt our nation immeasurably.  We owe our soldiers and veterans better, especially since they do the fighting and there's still a VA crisis and an ongoing war in Afghanistan.  President Obama's strategy against ISIS is as short-sighted as Bush's was in getting us into Iraq in the first place.
The writer gives us a cost/benefit analysis.  Is it worth putting at risk tens of thousands of US Military personnel for what is a numerically small number of people?  Ms Linda Bown would have us commit US forces.  The problem with that approach is that it will result in American casualties, and also in the death and injury to a lot of non-ISIL people on the ground in the Middle East, resulting in a active recruiting for ISIL by US actions.

This is not an easy problem.  We have gone to war over this kind of thing in the past, and it has not been a free ride.

Regards  —  Cliff

  And are not ransomed, as some European nations engage in.
  I am not a Special Operator, but my sense of Special Operations actions is that they are well planned and well rehearsed and thus can not be conducted off the cuff.