Friday, February 23, 2018

Passing the Smell Test

This whole “Russia meddled in the election” thing just makes no sense to me. The test that it fails for me is a sensible answer to the question of, “What’s in it for them?” The indictment of 13 Russians by Mueller reduces that issue to absolute absurdity.

According to Mueller’s indictment the purpose of all of this was to “sow dissent” within the United States and to “cause Americans to lose faith in democracy.” And how does that benefit Russia or the Russian government? Even if they are doing what the indictment claims they are doing, what do they gain by it?

Actually, far from gain, it actually endangers Russia and the Russian government. In fact, it endangers the entire world, because the American government does what any government does when faced with unrest at home. It increases foreign adventurism in order to distract it’s citizenry from domestic issues. It threatens war with North Korea, for instance, and it wages war throughout the entire Middle East in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

Keeping this whole “Russia is our enemy” issue active, whether Russia meddled in our election or not, whether Russia is active in our social media or not, is a useful method of distracting the public from the failure of our government to do virtually anything that works to the real and lasting benefit of the American people.

It also serves to distract the public from the influence of American money, not only in our elections, but in every aspect of governance in this nation.

We are horrified that the Russians may have spent a few hundred thousand dollars on social media to influence votes, and allow that to distract us from the fact that for many decades corporations and the wealthy have been spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to influence not only our elections, but to directly affect the passage or failure of legislation on a routine basis.

It seems likely to me that these 13 Russians were doing what they were doing, not for the purposes assumed and stated by Mueller, but rather for the same reason that thousands of Americans do the same things – generating “click bait” in order to create a multitude of “followers” which they can use to sell themselves for the purpose of a form online marketing consisting of “reviews” of products and services.

“I have 50,000 followers,” they will tell a business, “pay me $15,000 and I will write a favorable review of your product which those 50,000 people will read online.” Not very savory certainly, and possibly illegal, but the use of an election to create the followers was entirely incidental to a money making scheme.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Oh Really?

From Time Magazine we get an article which tells us that,

A study published Monday in the journal Trauma Surgery & Acute Care says that medical dramas — Grey’s Anatomy, specifically — “may cultivate false expectations among patients and their families” when it comes to the realities of medical care, treatment and recovery.

Get out your coloring book, turn to page four and color me shocked.

I'm not sure which magazine is discredited more by that, Time Magazine for passing this nonsense on or Trauma Surgery & Acute Care for authorizing a "study" to determine something that a eighth grader would regard as obvious simply by watching a couple episodes of the show.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wrong Conclusion Again

A bunch of "heads of intelligence agencies" were in front of Congress yesterday to warn of all the dangers facing the nation, chief among them being that Russia interfered with the 2016 election and is now actively meddling with the 2018 midterm election. "We do not want Russians to tell us who to vote for," one of these clowns intoned, warning us of Russia's activity on Facebook.

Think about that for a moment. If people are basing their vote on Russian Facebook posts, then the problem is not that Russia is posting on Facebook, the problem is that people are basing their votes on Facebook posts.

We are a nation governed by morons who are elected by idiots.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hypocrisy Rules

Dean Baker is fond of castigating media persons for “mind reading” when they tell readers what various parties believe or think, even when the parties in question are on record as saying that they believe or think whatever belief it is that the writer ascribed to them.

“Republicans think that in a robust economy the social safety net could be dealt with by non-governmental charity organizations,” for instance, will instantly draw a charge of mind reading from Dean Baker, even though dozens of Republicans have stated that belief publicly over the last fifty years.

I would have no issue with Dean Baker for asserting that the belief is idiotic, but stating that Republicans believe it is certainly not mind reading.

Then on Monday he himself stated that, “Republicans in Congress are explicitly using the federal tax code to target states controlled by Democrats,” with the most recent income tax law. I wrote to him in the comments, noting his use of the word “explicitly,” and politely asked him to tell me the name of the Republican(s) who told him they were doing that or, I asked, “are you doing some mind reading here?” He deleted the comment.

Then yesterday he accuses the Washington Post of mind reading, saying,
“It's good we have the Post to tell us what the White House really believes.”

The entirety of his piece was not to challenge the theory advanced by the White House, but merely to castigate the Post for mind reading after he started the piece by saying that, "I thought it was just a way to give a middle finger to low-income people for getting government aid," which is, of course, clearly not mind reading.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

What Passes For Logic

Dean Baker tells us today that in the late 1990’s, “many new startups actually were financing investment by issuing stock,” and that, “This is generally rare, since the vast majority of investment is financed by retained earnings and borrowing on credit markets or from banks.”

The stock market, according to Investopedia, “provides companies with access to capital in exchange for giving investors a slice of ownership.”

So startups in the 1990’s were doing precisely what the stock market exists to do; they were selling part ownership in their companies to investors in order to obtain capital to build their companies into major operations. And Dean Baker tells us this is rare.

In the same article he tells us that, “In principle the stock market is the value of future corporate profits,” which actually has become accepted thought generally and is factually nuts, being completely contrary to what the stock market actually is, in which a share of stock is a “slice of ownership.”

That “principle” assumes that purchasing stock entitles you to be paid a share of corporate profits, but it does nothing of the sort. Other than for “Subchapter S” corporations, which most large corporations are not, it entitles you to receive a dividend, which is declared by the board of directors and may be greater than or less than the profits achieved by the corporation.

Dividends are usually less than corporate profits, as the corporation maintains some cash in the form of “retained earnings” against future operations and investment. If dividends were larger than profits, which is sometimes the case in order to (falsely) maintain stock value, the corporation has to borrow the money to pay them.

So at best, this definition should read, “In principle the stock market is the value of future corporate declared dividends,” and would still be bogus, since it misdefines what the stock market is, in which (to repeat) a share of stock is “a slice of ownership.”

Investopedia goes on to describe the “primary market” in which initial offerings of stock are sold to investors to raise capital, and the “secondary market” in which stocks are bought and sold between traders. It is in the latter that the prices of stocks rise and fall based on their perceived value.

The real value of a stock is determined by the corporation’s net worth, reflected by the bottom line on its financial balance sheet, divided by the number of shares outstanding. The perceived value is, quite simply, whatever someone is willing to pay for it, and is often totally irrational. Witness tulips going for thousands of dollars per bulb in the 1800’s and Amazon at $1,458 today.

To claim that perceived value as being “the value of future corporate profits” is sort of putting invisible new clothes on the emperor and hoping that no little kid comes along. You buy a stock based on what you think you can sell it for in the future. It’s called gambling, and investors do it with the same logic that visitors to Las Vegas use at the craps table.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Play Of The Game

Many are talking about the fourth and goal play near the end of the first half, when the ball was snapped to the running back, who tossed it to a flanker, who threw a touchdown pass to the quarterback. It was certainly an exciting play.
But for me the play of the game was this tackle, with the Patriots third and two at the Eagles’ nine yard line. The New England runner went airborne, intending to leap over the Philadelphia tackler. The tackler foiled that plan by keeping his head up and his eyes open, a practice that defensive players are taught but which they all too seldom actually do, and met the runner in mid air. He not only made the tackle, he stopped the runner dead in his tracks, preventing the first down and leading to a missed field goal.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Hyperbole Extends Now to Golf

I was watching the Waste Management Open in Phoenix yesterday... Well, I was watching it in San Diego; the tournament is being held in Phoenix. Anyway, NBC was carrying on about the tournament drawing the biggest crowds of any golf tournament in the world, which it does, and then they got carried away and started putting up graphics to claim that the event draws by far the biggest crowds of any sporting event ever, of any kind, anywhere in the nation.

They put up a graphic showing attendance for this year's event at 689,000 and pointing out that the largest crowd ever to watch the Indianapolis 500 was a paltry 350,000, but they failed to mention that the golf event is four days while the auto race crowd is cited for a single day event.

Not everyone who attends a golf tournament goes all four days, so it would be incorrect to assume that the daily attendance in Phoenix is 172,250, but the highest single day crowd is not much bigger than that, being about 204,000.

It's certainly far smaller than the crowd of 350,000 which showed up in one day to watch the Indianapolis 500.

They also failed to point out that, since the event is always held on NFL Super Bowl weekend, their biggest daily crowd of 200,000+ is on Saturday. That crowd almost entirely evaporates on Sunday, dropping to 50,000 or so, when 75% of those who attended on Saturday stay home on Sunday to watch the Super Bowl.

They made quite a point of saying that their attendance of 689,000 is more than twice the population of Scottsdale, which hosts the tournament and is home to 246,000 people. That little bit of hyperbole suffers when one realizes that the tournament actually draws about 200,000 people, many of whom attend the tournament multiple times, and that means there are actually more than 40,000 fewer people coming to the tournament than the population of Scottsdale.

The narrative really bites the dust when it is pointed out that Scottsdale is a contiguous suburb of Phoenix, and that the Phoenix metropolitan area has a population of over 4 million.

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Busy, busy, busy...

I watched CBS News do a piece on the Super Bowl venue last night, telling us that cold weather was not any kind of deterrent to having fun when there is a Super Bowl in town. Temps of nine degrees, they were telling us, do not prevent crowds of people from enjoying the zip line over the Mississippi River, and the ice sculptures, and sledding down...

They tried their best to show us those "crowds of people enjoying the run up to the Super Bowl," but somehow never managed to widen the field of view on their camera to take in more than about eight people at a time. The gender and age ranges of those people could not be determined due to parkas and snow pants, so they interviewed a few folks so that we could know that both men and women were attending the game in Minneapolis.