No checkpoints for rabid democracy?

 

To abstain from calling it good and to use, instead, such predicates as ‘necessary’ or ‘progressive’ or ‘efficient’ would be a subterfuge. They could be forced by argument to answer the questions ‘necessary for what?’, ‘progressing towards what?’, ‘effecting what?’; in the last resort they would have to admit that some state of affairs was in their opinion good for its own sake.

The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis chapter 2

gun to head silhouetteAnd was he not kidding about the subterfuge!? For all of the passionate rhetoric, condescended moralizing, talking points and bullying the political progressives ironically avoid paying themselves the highest compliment by declaring their agenda everything but “good”. Why? The closest they usually get is some twaddle about fairness. Carefully, they go little further lest they careen into a gorge of reason where they must account for their ideas against a standard of fairness.

And are not the media channels thus bloated with what necessary, efficient and progressive policy must be implemented yet scarcely is that which ought to be done considered?

For example:

  • Higher minimum wage – the progressive consensus is clear on this. The force of our federal government must be used to raise our minimum wage to some standard of fairness. A conservative usually argues that it is arbitrary and the progressive shouts down the opposition with something about a “living wage”, indexing to inflation etc. Both miss the point.
  • Student loan forgiveness – Bernie Sanders has worked his base into a lather with the flair of South American populist dictator demanding that students should not have to repay tuition debt presumably because, again, doing so will have transgressed his esoteric concept of “fairness”.

Whose “fairness” do we use?

Political progressives seem to see the world as some kind of battleground whereupon an infinite supply of adversity besets certain pet categories of people who are exploited by a class of people whose liberty is the cause of all the problems for the exploited. Apparently to the progressive this situation is permanent and requires their constant intervention hence the phrase:

“Progressives don’t accept progress.” -Andrew Wilkow.

For all the smug intellectual superiority of progressives there seems to be no accounting for the consequences of a progressive agenda. For example:

  1. minimum wage:  There seems to be no serious interest in accounting for it.  What happens when the cost of services and products which use this category of labor for their production goes up? Aren’t these minimum wage earners consuming these services? Why the assumption that the only people who pay for the higher cost of this labor are those earning more than the minimum wage? What happens to these jobs when the cost of technological automation becomes cheaper than the cost of paying the worker?
  2. student loans; free college etc.: What happens when the money that was loaned doesn’t get paid back? What happens when classroom seats become scarce due to enrollment spikes thanks to debt forgiveness? Do faculty take pay cuts?

Of course the hubris of progressivism demands that these issues be ignored. The title of this post is inspired by the lack of basic cost accounting that I know some progressives must be doing for a living. I may be naive but I am honestly surprised that at least a modicum internal debate among progressives never occurs over the means by which their agenda is accomplished. But fairness, the progressive kind of fairness, it seems has no price and is above criticism.

How did your cornucopia get so full?

200_sJoseph Whitworth did not invent the nut and bolt in 1841. He invented the useful nut and bolt. He realized that the industrialization of our world lay beneath layers of haste and improvisation. The benefit of the threaded fastener would not be unleashed until Mr. Whitworth advocated standard sizes of nuts to fit standard sizes of bolts. It was then that a nut made in Glasgow could be combined with a bolt made in England.

Standards breed collaborative leverage that transforms the world

It may be a myth that the width of US railroad gauge was inspired by the track width of a Roman chariot. But what is not myth is that like the nut and bolt making that was going on in Europe the standard amount of distance placed between the rails of what became the backbone of modern transportation in the United States made economic abundance possible. The original transcontinental or Pacific Railroad was built by three different companies at the same time. And because they were all building their separate systems with rails placed 56.5 inches apart, it was available for use by 1869 and the modern age could begin. Some suggest that the Confederacy lost the Civil War for having incompatible rail systems that severely hampered logistical support for their soldiers.

Standardization begets commercialization

Rockefeller made lighting safe with his Standard Oil. Tesla gave us our power grid through not just an alternating current but one at a common voltage and frequency. Our communications, agriculture, medicine have zero effect at a meaningful scale until standardization is achieved. But before standardization can be achieved its benefits must be desired. It may have been easy enough to share the vision of universal bounty offered by a shared infrastructure which could transport to Portland rice grown in Arkansas. But taking for granted what was so richly produced by the industrial standardization of the 19th and 20th centuries it may not be so obvious why it would be important to pursue this in they way we manage IT systems.

If you have an IT staff, even a good one who goes to conferences and certifies their knowledge, you may still drift into a bespoke world of one-offs and improvisation that will always result in a higher cost of technology support/management compared to the benefits you receive from it. Standardization is your solution rather than retaining talent or procuring a particular technology stack.

China grads getting the shaft?

china flad photo

In response to a recent article I saw by Gordon Orr on LinkedIn:

Many people are saying this is not a problem particular to China.

I agree. So if most of the developed nations around the world are experiencing the fallout of an oversupply of educated people expecting to enter the labor market at a certain place then perhaps the expectations are the issue.

Education is a means to an end, that end being to solve problems.

This is lost on more than a generation or two who have been bred to believe that having been exposed to a body of knowledge for a particular period of time directly correlates to gainful remuneration in an economy. The whole world is now treating [a particular kind] education as an end in itself around which the market is morally obligated to conform itself. This is the problem.

Where is the discipline of failure in this?

I believe today’s (and yesterday’s for that matter) educrats could take cues from trade schools who are better acquainted with the discipline of failure and who churn out qualified welders, truck drivers, health care workers etc. in a fairly precise measure in accordance with demand in the marketplace. If the demand dries up for a particular trade so does their enrollment in that area – but I don’t hear anyone decrying this injustice. But that’s probably because, for now, the demand is huge for trades and paying as much as middle management stuffed-shirt work currently being automated away. Like other commenters have said young people need to be prepared to do what needs doing; whether they are overeducated in China, Europe or here in the US.

Crime [traditional] is the new Intel Pentium 75mhz

L_Intel Inside Pentium Processor (small die) (front)Remember the beige box? Maybe this reference is lost on millennials or those who don’t know or care about geek history. But the game changing 75mhz Intel processor released in October 1994 was the king of the hill for all of nine months before being replaced by a successor with twice the power and speed.

This led to the universal attitude that personal computers were a terrible investment given how fast they became “obsolete” within months of purchase. The Pentium 75 would quickly be replace with the 133. Then a few months later the 233mhz replaced the 166mhz processor, the Pentium II by the Pentium III and so on.

But around the turn of the millennium this meteoric innovation curve finally fell flat. In November 2000 Intel broke the two gigahertz barrier with the Willamette processor. There have been other innovations but we haven’t seen a huge increase in clock speed since then and determining whether or not your PC is “obsolete” is now a much more personal question. Until Microsoft pulls support for Windows 7 in January 2020, there is nothing forcing us to go to Windows 10 and possibly buying new hardware to run it any time soon. So the hysterical idea of replacing your computer every couple of years is gone forever. Now we’re doing that with our cell phones instead.

But what does this have to do with “cybersecurity”?

Now we have a new hysteria in the tech world. Thanks to what was once a a dorm room prank turned global marketplace, cybercrime has made physical crime obsolete. The Zeus trojan horse malware netted double the take of all of the traditional bank robberies combined: in 2009! That’s right. As of the time of this writing we are more than six years hence the day when, unlike sixty percent of traditional robbers who are quickly caught, criminals can sit safely across an ocean and rob banks and other institutions from some non-extradition country with incredible efficiency.

So how bad is it now?

We now find ourselves in a world where the term “organized crime” has taken on a whole new meaning. Save for the sinister outcome, modern crime is perpetrated using similar distribution and marketing strategies indistinguishable from legitimate business. There are channels, agents, resellers and sales management platforms that look like a cross between a stock investment dashboard and Salesforce.com. As for having honor among thieves they have been using escrow services on the dark net to broker crime for years. Botnets can be rented and infected computers can be resold as commodities to directly ransom user data or as universal launch points for indirect attacks on other systems in large scale heists. It is very mature.

So if it is this organized is it easier to take down?

The many barriers to prosecution of cybercrime make a good subject for another post but the sophistication which generally makes cars, for example, more prone to failure seems to have the opposite effect here. The Ebay-like experience of buying tools and services then selling the product on similar platforms makes for fast, simple and efficient getaways. The crime has taken on an identity of no one in particular. It is a crowd of actors with no one in charge of all aspects of even a small heist. The role of “criminal mastermind” has been automated and aggregated such that we are being attacked by a hive of cooperating interests genuinely separated by layers of profitable businesslike infrastructure. Crime as we know it is now obsolete.

 

 

 

Hardcastle’s twin: The National Nurse

jackboot-2(My letter to Senator John Boozman)

I didn’t know this but apparently we need a nurse to preside over the country’s health as called for in house and senate bills HR379 and S.1205 respectively. What about the Surgeon General? This would be a supporting role to the SG within that office, of course.

I have taught my daughter with regard to identifying tyranny to always keep your eye on the number two in charge. They are the ones through whom the blows come. Hitler had Heimler and Xerxes had Haman. Mr. Wither had Ms. Fairy Hardcastle as his enforcer who ran the private police force for the National Institute for Coordinated Experiments or N.I.C.E. in C.S. Lewis’s allegory: That Hideous Strength.

One of the key objectives for the National Nurse would be to:

  • Bolster efforts to focus the public on healthy living.

Now this sounds like a universally good idea doesn’t it? The trouble is that the qualifying adjective “healthy” as well as the verb “focus” enjoy here a vagueness allowing for many innovations.

As found in the HR379 house bill summary the number one responsibility is:

(1) participate in identification of national health priorities

So apparently some medical conditions requiring treatment should be prioritized over others. I wonder what this will look like? If the “health priority” currently receiving the attention of the Chief Nursing Officer of the US Public Health Service is any indication, then I have some questions:

  1. If the reason for this appointment is to prevent “chronic and preventable” diseases like type II Diabetes on the basis that treatment is consuming an intolerable proportion of health care spending, does this mean that programs like the $2.3B HIV/AIDS bureau (HAB) currently run by the Rear Admiral will get overhauled er.. “bolstered to focus” its beneficiaries on “healthy living” instead? Will cold economic argument suddenly strip from the AIDS patient his/her special status and replace compassion with prevention for their disease?
  2. By what means and to what lengths will government force be applied to “focus the public on healthy living”? History has so far shown that force is the only instrument available to a government. How will it be used in this case?
  3. This bill is justified by the so called “general welfare” clause. This is not a clause unto itself but a qualifier for the congressional power to collect taxes so as to set the agenda for any money collected to carry out under the enumerated powers. The progressive interpretation allows for nearly any act of legislation to be defensible as being for the “general welfare” forgetting entirely what the tenth amendment says. Why as clearly, uncalled for in the Constitution, is this authority not reserved for the states and their counties who already have public departments of health?
  4. What sort of carrot and stick plan would this new power have that would not be similar to Common Core, the ACA and HITECH legislation?

I am sure that this bill is no where near receiving serious consideration without a CBO estimate having such a frugal government as we do. But as a physician I just thought you might have an interesting view on this.

The sky is falling! The sky is… wait… it’s floating away!

The market hysteria of the 90’s is back! And it’s about time. It’s been far too long since hearing about the roofless demand of the future proof IT job market. Techcrunch released this article last week announcing the latest crisis caused by a shortage of cybersecurity experts. According to this article there are millions of jobs that will go unfilled over the next three years. Lest any of this be questioned, some facts and figures:

  • Cybercrime is a very real and serious problem and absolutely demands decisive action and education. 1.5 million victims in 2015 can’t all be making it up.
  • Cybercrime may in fact be replacing some violent crime.
  • The fact that the cyberheist outperforms the traditional bank robbery by more than two to one is also old news.
  • 47% of adults had their personal information stolen in 2014

The permutations of cybercrime and its far reaching costs and consequences is genuinely staggering. Combined with the vastness of criminal opportunity the depth of damage to the individual the demand for a solution is white hot indeed. And unlike the days of Web 1.0 when a barely competent mouse jockey could command a kings ransom for a generalist’s chops serious cybersecurity expertise starts at the veteran level. A boon for headhunters the world over the good old days of signing bonuses for geeks are back. Or are they? And for how long?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there are just over 600,000 lawyers and judges in the United States. Assuming that only one third of the 1.5 million cybersecurity jobs that will supposedly be unfilled [globally] in 2019 are U.S. jobs we are dealing with a shortage of cybersecurity experts that nearly matches the number of lawyers and judges in this country.  The numbers are similar when comparing to the number of auto mechanics. The numbers may be exaggerated but my point is not to cast doubt on them so much as the assumptions about future demand of solutions to current problems. My position is that there are many moving parts to the problem and the solutions of cybercrime that could make years ahead predictions sort of.. well meaningless.

By looking back at a few lessons from the industrial age  we might notice that trajectories that follow the allocation of  manpower to problems of production can be peculiar, crooked, and sometimes unrelated things. For example:

  • Almost immediately after the completion of the transcontinental railroad the cost of traveling to the western states dropped by more than 80%.
  • The cotton gin improved efficiency of cotton processing by 50 to 1; very quickly. Tractors had a similar effect.
  • Before Gutenberg’s little thing known as the printing press, surely it was thought that given the world’s appetite for knowledge that until the 1430’s the demand for scribes would have provided endless days of gainful employment manually copying and binding books for wealthy aristocrats and the church.
  • Pasteurization suddenly allowed for mass production and distribution of milk said to have sparked the industrial revolution.

The irresistible charm of past innovation saying nothing of its benefits is the rescuing device of history. It inspires us to recall the miraculous and intoxicating effects of the game changer and challenges us to create once again a new machine, process or technique that will at once cancel future orders of copious human labor returning them to the stockpile to be reinvested in something else. The solution to cybercrime may not have a perfect analogue from the last century but whatever it turns out to be will obliterate certain assumptions we now have and in that way it will be exactly the same.

 

“Ok, face.. the nose is gonna get it.” 3 Reasons to forget about lost tax revenue from expat corporations

 

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Allan Sloan Allen Sloanwrote the cover story for the July 21, 2014 Fortune magazine entitled: POSITIVELY UN-AMERICAN Big time companies are moving their “headquarters” overseas to dodge billions in taxes…that means the rest of us pay their share.

This is stupid.  Here is why:

1. Corporate income tax is stupid.

Taxes are a cost of doing business for any company large or small.  And like all costs it is rolled into the price of the product(s) paid for by the consumer.  Think about it.  Why do businesses use a federal tax ID number to avoid paying sales tax on goods resold to end users?  Because the consumer pays the tax on the product and it is silly to pay a tax only to have to add it to the price of the product.  But this is what happens with corporate income tax. Continue reading

Fleeting freedom

It is time to shed historical illiteracy and Che Guevara lunacy.

Exodus Chapter six verse nine:

Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

Scottish historian Alexander Fraser Tytler developed this model to describe his cynical view of democracy: “a pure democracy is a chimera” and that the nature of all government is that of a monarchy that inevitably turns into a despot.

tytler1

The Israelites had little capacity for the dream of freedom.  Limited by their “broken spirit” caused by the constant pain of their conditions as slaves they rejected Moses’ message of freedom endowed to them by their Creator.  It suggests that the transition from Bondage to Faith in Tytler’s cycle is a tough one; faith, when preexisted by bondage must emerge in a vacuum.

How did they get into this mess?  Hard times had caused them to run into the arms of a benevolent government.  There is verse about this too:

Isaiah 31:1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the LORD!

The famine only lasted seven years yet the Israelites spent the next 400 in Egypt.  The supposed “benevolence” of any government is always malevolent in reality.  The handouts they received were a barbed hook designed to maintain the Israelites as a permanent underclass to serve the elite class of Egyptians.

Now we have the popular idea in the USSA that freedom is an overrated experience and that we should embrace our benevolent government and become Venezuela.  No thank you.

Many states are having critical primary elections tomorrow with the general November elections not far behind.  It is time to shed historical illiteracy and Che Guevara lunacy.  Freedom isn’t even cheap let alone free.  Want to spend a lifetime learning to appreciate it the hard way?  Just keep pretending that what’s happening isn’t happening.  I’m sure the Israelites rationalized aplenty too.

In these United States the public sector is consuming the private sector.  The only thing that can follow is collapse.  And we voted for it.  Thank you Saul Alinsky and John Dewey.  What a team.