Icons Receeding

As many of you know, I’ve worked all my life in the electrical/electronic industries, especially where they intersect. But my hobbies are also mostly in that area, especially radio communication. But much of that field is one of those that has been outsourced. One doesn’t really think of full-on engineers being amongst those who lose their jobs to immigrants, and in fact, they do, although somewhat rarely. What mostly happens is that their wages are suppressed unreasonably. The professional organization of those engineers is the Institute of if electrical and electronic engineers or IEEE. They say this,

IEEE USA says H-1B visas are a tool used to avoid paying U.S. wages. “For every visa used by Google to hire a talented non-American for $126,000, ten Americans are replaced by outsourcing companies paying their H-1B workers $65,000,” says the current IEEE USA president, writing with the past president and president-elect. The outsourcing companies, Infosys, Cognizant, Wipro, and Tata Consultancy in 2014 “used 21,695 visas, or more than 25 percent of all private-sector H-1B visas used that year. Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Uber, for comparison, used only 1,763 visas, or 2 percent,” they say.

There is a bit more at Slashdot, and some further links. This matters both because of the people, and the impact they have on the future, and because it is indicative of the damage that immigration can cause.


Speaking of the end of an era, International Crystal Manufacturing (ICM), a company that any of us who dealt with radio since 1950 has probably dealt with, have announced that they will go out of business around the end of May. The American Radio Relay League (ARRL, the association of American amateur radio operators) has the story. Sad, but I know from my experience that we have other (perhaps) better, and certainly cheaper ways of doing the things we used to do with crystals. Kind of the ‘buggy whip syndrome’, I’m afraid.


Our friend, the Unit, the other day in comments called this to our attention. It’s quite a story.

It was originally called “mistake out”, the invention of Bette Nesmith Graham, a Dallas secretary and a single mother raising a son* on her own. Graham used her own kitchen blender to mix up her first batch of liquid paper or white out, a substance used to cover up mistakes made on paper.

Background – Bette Nesmith Graham

Bette Nesmith Graham never intended to be an inventor; she wanted to be an artist. However, shortly after World War II ended, she found herself divorced with a small child to support. She learned shorthand and typing and found employment as an executive secretary. An efficient employee who took pride in her work, Graham sought a better way to correct typing errors. She remembered that artists painted over their mistakes on canvas, so why couldn’t typists paint over their mistakes?

Invention of Liquid Paper

Bette Nesmith Graham put some tempera waterbased paint, colored to match the stationery she used, in a bottle and took her watercolor brush to the office. She used this to correct her typing mistakes… her boss never noticed. Soon another secretary saw the new invention and asked for some of the correcting fluid. Graham found a green bottle at home, wrote “Mistake Out” on a label, and gave it to her friend. Soon all the secretaries in the building were asking for some, too.

Bette Nesmith Graham – The Mistake Out Company

In 1956, Bette Nesmith Graham started the Mistake Out Company (later renamed Liquid Paper) from her North Dallas home. She turned her kitchen into a laboratory, mixing up an improved product with her electric mixer. Graham’s son, Michael Nesmith (later of The Monkees fame), and his friends filled bottles for her customers. …

Keep reading at Thought Co. And as you do, if you’re like me, you’ll also wonder if people do things like that these days or simply go on welfare. Well, I’d bet Bette would do it all again. But, I suspect that Liquid Paper is another company that unless it diversified (I haven’t a clue) has suffered from progress, as well.


I like melons. I bet you do too!

Cardboard boxes did this sort of labeling in. Too bad.


And my vote for best video of the season.

And some companies just seem suicidal.

Swampcare v Obamacare

Well, Ryan’s healthcare plan is out. What is no surprise is that it is a statist, big government plan, not as bad as Obama’s but pretty bad all on its own.

Dan Mitchel wrote back in 2010

The only way to fix healthcare is to restore the free market. That means going back to a system where people pay out-of-pocket for most healthcare and use insurance to protect against genuine risk and catastrophic expenses. The time has come to reduce the size and scope of government. …Change Medicare into a system based on personal health accounts and shift all means-tested spending to the states. …the flat tax is ideal from a healthcare perspective since it gets rid of the healthcare exclusion in the tax code as part of a shift to a tax system with low rates and no double taxation.

This video, narrated by Julie Borowski for the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, looks at the Obamacare/third-party payer issue.

via Our Healthcare Policy Problem Is Much Bigger than Obamacare

Yep, and for that matter, back in 2013, I wrote this,

Understand this, 404Care isn’t healthcare, it’s a chance to buy insurance, executed properly, in some alternate universe it might even have been useful. But here, where the sky is blue, it’s not. Why? Because with the limited number of plans available and the narrowness of providers, you’re screwed. You’re screwed, even if your identity doesn’t get stolen, which is likely as well.

Why? Because healthcare is properly defined as having a doctor and/or hospital take care of you when you are sick or injured. Depending on your choices, insurance is a valid way of paying for that (which is required, since Obamacare, before that doctors and hospitals were required to provide minimal, lifesaving care, free, if necessary.) 80 years ago, chickens and/or eggs worked, cash nearly always works, nearly anywhere. The way this is written, since I’m from Nebraska, if I go see Mt. Rushmore, and get food poisoning (because I’m too stupid to refrigerate my potato salad, say) I’d better be tough, cause I ain’t going to see a doctor in South Dakota, unless I have cash, of course.

What all the noise then and now is about is how to pay for it. Medical care in this country is very expensive. Mostly that is so because of bureaucracy, of the government, of the insurance companies, and of the healthcare industry (although to be fair, much of the industry’s bureaucracy is driven by the other two).

In 2010, John Goodman wrote,

Almost everyone believes there is an enormous amount of waste and inefficiency in health care. But why is that? In a normal market, wherever there is waste, entrepreneurs are likely to be in hot pursuit – figuring out ways to profit from its elimination by cost-reducing, quality-enhancing innovations. Why isn’t this happening in health care?

As it turns out, there is a lot of innovation here. But all too often, it’s the wrong kind.

There has been an enormous amount of innovation in the medical marketplace regarding the organization and financing of care. And wherever health insurers are paying the bills (almost 90 percent of the market) it has been of two forms: (1) helping the supply side of the market maximize against third-party reimbursement formulas, or (2) helping the third-party payers minimize what they pay out. Of course, these developments have only a tangential relationship to the quality of care patients receive or its efficient delivery.

The tiny sliver of the market (less than 10 percent) where patients pay out of pocket has also been teeming with entrepreneurial activity.  In this area, however, the entrepreneurs have been lowering cost and raising quality – what most of us wish would happen everywhere else. For example:

  • There are more than 1,000 walk-in clinics spread across the country today – posting transparent prices and delivering high-quality, low-cost services;
  • Whole businesses have been created to provide people with telephone and e-mail consultations because third-party payers wouldn’t pay for them;
  • Mail-order pharmaceuticals are a huge and growing market – one which emerged to offer price competition to consumers who buy their drugs out-of-pocket;
  • Wal-Mart didn’t introduce the $4-a-month package price for generic drugs in order to do a favor for Blue Cross. It is catering to customers who pay their own way;
  • Concierge doctors are also providing patients with innovative services – services that health insurers don’t cover.

Nothing has changed. Except that the GOP has taken ownership of Obamacare, well it might accidently be a little better, but not much. David Harsanyi says this.

First of all, the preferred free-market plan for health care policy should be no plan whatsoever. The idea that we need a federal, top-down strategy to manage a huge chunk of the economy is at the very heart of the problem. We don’t need a federal “plan” for health care any more than we need a federal plan for food or clothing. Yet, Republicans have allowed liberals to frame the entire health insurance debate in these anti-market terms.

So the American Health Care Act is obviously weak tea, falling far short of a promised free-market solution, much less a full “repeal” of Obamacare. It’s a half-measure that endeavors to fix Obamacare with small doses of deregulation while failing to repeal its core. It’s almost as if Republicans were trying to mollify their constituents and save Obamacare at the same time.

Donald Trump tweeted out something about a three-phase rollout, but the specifics of the other two parts have yet to be confirmed as of this writing. Perhaps the full proposal will reflect better on Republicans, although considering the noise moderate senators have been making and Trump’s own views on entitlement programs, it’s unlikely to meet conservative expectations. So what can be done?

In a piece highly critical of the planThe Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein, who’s done some of the most insightful writing on Obamacare, states: “the GOP will either be passing legislation that rests on the same philosophical premise as Obamacare, or will pass nothing at all, and thus keep Obamacare itself in place.” What if this is the choice?

We know the Democratic Party’s plan for health care: constrain markets to create monopolies that can be controlled by a federal regulatory regime (this is why liberals oppose markets expanding across state lines); and rather than worrying about access, choice, or cost, continue to incentivize the growth of the welfare state. When this situation becomes untenable, pass single-payer. What Democrats understand, but Republicans often don’t, is that you can reach your goals incrementally.

He asks this: “is something better than nothing?”

Perhaps, at the margins, but the basic problem is that the government has been driving healthcare fiscal policy since World War II, and the market distortions are continually getting worse. Swampcare isn’t going to help much, if at all

Castel Gandolfo and Economics

giardino_degli_specchi_castel_gandolfo_ii_20141006Interesting story here. Note that I’m not picking this as either pro or con Catholic. For me, today, it is purely an economic story and an example of why equality of income is such a bad idea.

Speaking of Francis, I was told by a priest here that the Holy Father has visited a handful of times but has never spent the night or greeted the staff, only stopping to consult the Jesuits in residence. That’s rather bad manners, I should think. It takes only a little magnanimity to imagine what a papal visit means to the staff here. They keep the place in pristine readiness all year round, eagerly awaiting the pope’s arrival, as their fathers’ fathers have done proudly for generations, and His Holiness won’t deign to stop by for the evening! I mean, he has an image to keep up, but isn’t this a bit snobbish? The poor people there have had to open the gardens and palace to tourists just to find something to do with the place and replace lost revenue.

Father also mentioned that he felt a bit sorry for the townspeople, because with the papal court no longer summering at the palace, the local economy is taking a hard hit. Usually, the entire Vatican is run from the palace from June to October, and the restaurants do good business with the influx of papal staff. No longer. “I guess the papal gardener is in a very enviable position!” “That’s right – it’s actually a hereditary position. Like many of these jobs, they’ve been in the same family for generations.”

These revelations added a layer: the merciless enforcement of mercy under Francis’s pontificate has more concrete ramifications in Rome for those who faithfully serve the papacy. It turns scores of talented people out of their jobs. From the great artists who wove the papal vestments and write the papal masses to the humble village family who has kept his garden for generations, there is a great cadre of people who give their lives in noble service to the Church.

via What ‘Humility’ Means for the Papal Staff |

Interesting isn’t it, that the Pope’s refusal to use Castel Gandolfo costs the neighborhood a goodly chunk of change. Of course, it’s pretty obvious when one thinks through it, and indeed, at least some of that money is likely spent in Rome instead.

But his grandstanding (at least that is what it looks like to me), showing off his humility, which to my mind doesn’t really match his statements, hurts those around him. Who’d a thunk it? Just about everybody with any common sense, which pretty much leaves out anyone who thinks virtue signaling a good thing.

Doesn’t make him any better or worse than anybody else, really. We all do things that hurt others although not all of us believe that hurting other people shows virtue (except maybe as a soldier).

What this really shows is that not thinking deeply enough about your actions has consequences. That’s why we call it ‘the law of unintended consequences’, after all.

The non-SOTU

trump-sotu-terrorists-immigrants-900x450Paul over at PowerLine wrote this yesterday.

The slogan and organizing principle of President Trump’s administration is “America first.” As he explained last night: “My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.”

This is just common sense. Absent the Obama aberration, no president would think to say it.

However, even a message this obvious can use powerful, patriotic rhetoric and effective staging to support it. Trump’s presentation contained both, beginning with the second paragraph:

Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice — in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present.

That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart.

A new chapter of American Greatness is now beginning.

A new national pride is sweeping across our Nation.

And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp.

What we are witnessing today is the Renewal of the American Spirit.

Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.

All the nations of the world — friend or foe — will find that America is strong, America is proud, and America is free.

The address ended on the same note:

[W]hen we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American Greatness began.

The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us.

We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts.

The bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls.

And the confidence to turn those hopes and dreams to action.

From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears — inspired by the future, not bound by the failures of the past — and guided by our vision, not blinded by our doubts.

I am asking all citizens to embrace this Renewal of the American Spirit. I am asking all members of Congress to join me in dreaming big, and bold and daring things for our country. And I am asking everyone watching tonight to seize this moment and believe in yourselves.

Believe in your future.

And believe, once more, in America.

via A little patriotism goes a long way | Power Line

Those are paragraphs that could have been written by almost any president – before Barack Obama. It is the essence of American patriotism, not the blood and soil patriotism of Europe. Like most things in America, American patriotism is different. It is more about having optimism in the future, sharing the dream, if you will.

The huge recognition of CPO Ryan Williams (the longest applause, at about two minutes, of the speech) through his widow, he was killed in the January raid in Yemen, also speaks to that. And yes there is a story in who did not join in the standing ovation.

In fact, I completely agree that Mr. Trump became Mr. President during that speech. I don’t agree with every thing he wants to spend money on, which is fine. He’s the president and I’m not the all-knowing philosopher-king. It’ll work out. He’s by far the best of what was on offer.

The speech itself made me think of Roosevelt (both), Kennedy, and especially Reagan. It was that good. After an eight-year hiatus, it seems to me that America is in process of getting out of the ditch, and back underway.

You did notice that the Dow broke 21,000 yesterday?

Francis Browning wrote:

Light in the eastern horizon, it cometh, hail, all hail!

Bringing the joys of the New Year, and the tiding on the gale

Hyper Puissance, The American Way, and Donald Trump

United (States) Parcel Service.

United (States) Parcel Service. (Photo credit: matt.hintsa)

If you’ve been following along here, a few days ago, I posted on how Donald Trump was forcing American government (constitutionally, no less) to run at something like the speed of American business. That post is here.

But something was missing from that post, and it’s been bugging me, so I did a bit of digging in the archives the last few nights, and I found the article that spoke of it. It is one from the first month of NEO, and it was one that when Jess and I became friends she really liked, and asked me to rerun, and I think it deserves to run another time. Here it is.


Something I’ve been meaning to post about, given my interest in the military, freedom, and capitalism, is how they worked together to make the United States not only the most powerful nation in the history of the world but able to defeat the entire world, if necessary.

Pretty bold statement, isn’t it? Well, this isn’t going to be ironclad proof, but I think it is a given if America decided to.

Let’s start with a quote from Courtney Messerschmidt, Great Satan’s Girlfriend, herself:

Which may funnily enough hinge on a factor that is flat out tough to factor in:

Unbridled free inquiry.

“Courtney, free societies have, in general, a decided advantage when it comes to creativity and innovation, including in the military realm. However, it’s a bit more complicated than that”

All the cool kids know how Great Satan’s indispensable ally just to the east of Durand line sold access to that ditched sexed up chopper of Abottabad/Abottagood infamy. Theft of high tech and reverse engineering are the fortunes of unfree regimes and will directly impact the Diffusion of Military of Power.

Stuff that makes the West the BestWonderbra, BvB, individualism, scientific inquiry, rational critical thinking, democracy with it’s inherent capitalism, political freedom, dissidence and open free wheeling debate functions as kryptonite in Smallville in regards to autocrazies, despotries — and by extension — to their acquisition, development and deployment of military power.

What she is saying here is that free inquiry and looking for the best solution (and being able to afford it) is what make free armies so formidable.

The other thing is when fielded these same armies can react so fast that they may have 2 or three or even more decision cycles inside their opponents one.

Most of us, in business, don’t have a lot of use for an aircraft carrier, let alone a carrier battle group, that is why they are so expensive. There are less than 2 dozen in the world, ten of them American.

Each of the American ones is equal in power to most of the world’s air forces. They (some of them) are out there, all the time, 5-acre patches (plus their consorts) of the USA, representing all that we are. Freedom, Teamwork, Rock music, Movies, and all.

When the big steel battleships were coming into their own, it was a little different, the new developments were: Iron Ships, Steam Power, Radio Communications, Screw Propellers and such. This was also the time when America was industrializing. An example of these early dreadnaughts is the USS Texas. These developments had very obvious commercial uses and therefore were much less expensive for navies to deploy.

So let’s go back to the infantry for a bit, it’s not nearly as sexy, even being the Queen of Battle, you tend to get all muddy. But what does the American military do so well? React. Small unit leadership is what we are all about. Spring and ambush on American forces and what do you get. If they are still doing it like  they said they did when I was in college, this is what you get: Apaches, and Warthogs, and Abrams and p****d off grunts (Oh, my) coming your way  at a dead run all spitting fire, and if you are really unlucky even Spectre may show up to complete the ruin of your whole day. And that’s the first 30 seconds of your ambush, your day will probably still get worse. Try it at night and it will be worse.

OK, back to us civilians for a while, we compete, like our infantry, right down to the stubbornness to hold our positions. The other thing is, did you ever wonder why it is always the big companies running to Washington for help, while those of us in small business don’t? It really not the money, we could combine and find enough to at least rent some Congress-critters. It’s because, on anything remotely resembling a level playing field, we will outmaneuver the big companies so bad that we’ll run them all the way back home to mommy.

Why? Let’s think about it.

If I’m a supervisor at XYZ, Inc.that employs say 15,000 people (that would be a middle-sized company). I have probably something like 10 layers of management between me and the CEO, all of which have their bureaucracies to sustain, they aren’t all that interested in the company as a whole, they are interested in their little piece of it. So if I (a supervisor, remember) come up with a way to produce widgets at half the cost, how long is it going to take it to get out of the suggestion box and to a level where somebody says what a great idea. If XYZ is unionized, it’s going to be at least twice as bad. I don’t know either, but it will be a while, probably measured in years.

OK, now let’s say I’m a supervisor at Joe’s Widgets, LLC. where there are, say, 20 of us working. When Joe started the company he just copied what XYZ was doing and because his overhead was lower he made pretty good money. But now, I come up with the same idea and as before I sketch out how the process will work. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea, now what do I do? If Joe’s is like most companies this size when Joe comes to work, I ask him if he’s got a minute and he says yes. In some companies, this would be an after work beer with the boss, but no matter. So, I go to Joe’s office and lay it out and he likes it, so later that day I’m talking to his support people and within a month it’s implemented. It will probably take a bit of tweaking, say another month and Joe’s cost has been cut in half. THAT is how small and/or informal businesses always win.That is also how Lockheed’s famed Skunk Works worked.

The other thing you notice is that its more fun to work in a small company where your effort is appreciated, as it usually is.

The real point here is whether we are talking about war or business, free inquiry and minds that do not have to worry about being shot (or fired) for dissent are always able to run at high speed and outside the box. We’ve been doing this since at least when we decided the Redcoats needed to go home and it is what has fueled us all the way to where we are now.

The other thing that top-down management stifles is quality. If we remember the Soviet union designed really sexy widgets, their problem was that an 8th-grade shop class in America had better quality control. Courtney, again:

 

Cold War history continues the action for autocratic Commonwealth Russia. Long lol’d as more ‘evolutionary than revolutionary,” her defense industry is plagued with the horrible situation of being unable to redeem warranty claims by Pakistan, India, Iran and Algeria AND crank out new stuff at the same incredible instant. Since 1992, not a single state defense order has been fulfilled completely and on time.

If we allow ourselves to over to the European model, we will need to set our sights to European levels in all areas including the lower productivity, higher unemployment and the lack of what Courtney calls Hyper Puissance in both the military and commercial/cultural fields.

It amounts to a path to mediocrity, and I will never be ready for that.

Will you?


In talking with Jess after I reran this for her, I mentioned the aphorism that ended that other post, although in its more civilized form: “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way”. She commented that she had never heard it, and was stealing it. That night she went to a social function with another friend of mine and used it when they were dithering over the choice of the wine. 🙂 She said it raised some eyebrows, and that our friend (who is quite senior) commented that she was keeping company with Americans, which raised them even further. Well, Britain is perhaps the next best at this, but it is basically an American trait. That pandering to Europeans is another reason they got Trump (Brexit too, I think).

Immigration, and some from CPAC

ap_16326009989758-640x442So, on Tuesday, General Kelly gave an order to his people on immigration. In short, it said this:

Henceforth, the United States shall be governed by the laws of the United States.

As said on warsclerotic.com, that it had to be said:

[…] owes to the Obama administration abuses of three legal doctrines: prosecutorial discretion, preemption, and separation of powers (specifically, the executive usurpation of legislative power).


 

 

I’m not as thrilled as I used to be with CPAC, but it does bring together some very good people, so let’s watch a few.

I always thnk Scott Walker has an idea of what to do.

Sen Ted Cruz and Mark Levin; it just doesn’t get much better!

The Vice President Mike Pence.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Senator Jim DeMint, now at the Heritage Center

And Dana Loesch, of course! 🙂

I’d guess we’ll have some more of these, as we go along. Some really good stuff gets said, and out loud too.

 

 

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