Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit Reveals Donald Trump Is Real James Bond

Today in the United Kingdom it was Brexit for breakfast, Trump for lunch:
"The people of the United Kingdom have exercised the sacred right of all free peoples. They have declared their independence from the European Union and have voted to reassert control over their own politics, borders and economy. A Trump Administration pledges to strengthen our ties with a free and independent Britain, deepening our bonds in commerce, culture and mutual defense. The whole world is more peaceful and stable when our two countries – and our two peoples – are united together, as they will be under a Trump Administration.”
When I first heard Donald Trump had flown to Scotland just in advance of the Brexit vote, I assumed he had gone to renew his Scottish passport and cast his ballot. Now I am sure Trump is a secret sleeper agent of the Queen sent here to undo American independence.

His name is Trump, Donald Trump, Agent OO0 on her majesty’s secret service.

FU to EU: Britain has Brexit for Breakfast

The results are in overnight, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has voted to leave the European Union, 51.9% to 48.1%. I guess that answers the question everyone in Britain has been asking.

The vote was expected to be close, but the pro-EU elites expected to eke out a win. It didn't help that EU officials were threatening how hard they would make it on the UK to leave. Now financial markets are in full panic mode, with the Euro down 3.58% and the British Pound down 11%, as the everyone tries to get their money out of both the UK and the EU.

Now the United Kingdom faces the fact that Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU while England and Wales voted to leave. Does that mean Scotland and Northern Ireland will leave the United Kingdom? Does the European Union even want them? Will other countries want to leave the EU? Might some countries be kicked out?

I was in London in 1991 for about 10 days at the time when the European Union was first being hyped. I remember a young grad student from Germany going on and on a little too enthusiastically about how great it was going to be.

Update: The stock markets across the world were generally down Friday following the Brexit vote but took some curious bounces:

WorldGlobal DOW-5.41%
United KingdomFTSE 100-3.15%
United KingdomFTSE 250-7.19%
FranceCAC 40 -8.04%
SpainIBEX 35-12.35%
ItalyFTSE MIB-12.48%
SwitzerlandSwiss Market-3.44%
RussiaRTS Index-3.04%
United StatesDJIA-3.39%
CanadaS & P/TSX Comp-1.69%
MexicoIPC All-Share-2.73%
JapanNikkei 300-7.38%
ChinaDow Jones China 88 -1.34%
IndiaS & P BSE Sensex-2.24%

In the United Kingdom, the largest companies fared better than average but medium-sized companies were clobbered. Germany, France, and Netherlands got clobbered worse than the big companies in the United Kingdom (better to be the jilter than the jilted, I guess). Spain and Italy got hit even worse, suggesting people think they're next (probably to be kicked out of the EU). Switzerland and Russia, which are in Europe but not in the EU, fared better than average, as did the U.S., Canada and Mexico fared better than average. In Asia, Japan got clobbered but China and India got off light.

How much money was lost Friday? $2.08 trillion globally according to S&P. In real terms, zero. The stock markets reflect investor confidence about the future which is essentially a figment of the collective imagination. When rich people panic, they sell, and other rich people who aren't so panicked buy. When the rich people get over their panic, or events prove them wrong, stock prices go back up.

We'll see what happens Monday, but right now this looks at most like a six to twelve month setback, as compared to the ten year hole that was dug in 2008.

Update: Here in the U.S., at least, the stock market has recovered from the Brexit slump after just a week.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Cambridge Enters End of School Zone

To my small town Iowa upbringing, it seems barbaric to make kids attend school into June. But today in Cambridge is finally the last day of school, a little earlier than many years because of the lack of snow days this past winter. Be sure to watch out for the little miscreants.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Always Something a Little Off About Canada

The clean and inviting cab line at the well-designed and uncrowded airport:

The well-manicured public lawns and the flag you otherwise only see at hockey games:

The funny see-through plastic money:

The invasion of the jelly fish:

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Problem That Can Be Solved with Large Rock

The demolition crew that took down a friend's garage with a beach shower at the back cut the hot and cold water pipes a bit above ground level and at a perfect angle for impaling a foot.



Friday, June 17, 2016

The Boston Globe Goes Full Rambo on Orlando

I am one of those non-gun-owners who supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms but also common-sense gun regulations.

My one experience a couple of decades ago firing a few rounds from an AR-15 was shooting at a small tree on a river bank 20 yards away. I couldn't hit the tree, the gun's owner decided I was wasting ammunition, and suggested that if I wanted to protect myself I should get a shotgun. I didn't. The time I shot traps with a shotgun on Jimmy Carter's nickel as part of the Youth Conservation Corps, I was only 2 for 4. My one time shooting skeet, at a cousin's memorial event a few years back, I was hitting less than 50%.

You have to wonder what kind of well-regulated militia lets a guy who was fired from a prison guard job for an "administrative matter", removed from armed security guard duty at a courthouse after complaints he was unhinged and unstable, and subject to an FBI investigation regarding possible affiliation with terrorists walk into a gun store and walk out with the lives of forty-nine of our fellow Americans. But it's hard to find much common sense in The Boston Globe's editorial response to the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre:
"The United States has been pummeled by gun violence since the assault weapons ban expired in 2004. This year, mass shootings have already claimed 61 lives. One class of gun, semiautomatic rifles, is largely responsible. ... Since the assault weapons ban expired in 2004, there have been

47 mass shootings
411 people killed
0 successful attempts to reinstate the ban
Yes, 411 people killed in 12 years is a lot, but not all of those were killed by semiautomatic rifles and there have been somewhere in the neighborhood of 130,000 gun deaths by homicide in the same period.
"AMERICAN RETIREES ARE LIVING OFF OF GUN SALES. Some of the largest investors in gun companies are average Americans who own index funds in their workplace retirement plans. If you have a 401(k) plan with Vanguard Group, in all likelihood you own gun stocks — and you’ve done well off it."
This "fact" was immediately followed by this grapes to water melons comparison:
"The Boston Public School system’s 2015 budget was $975 million ... the 2015 revenue from manufacturing guns and ammunition was $15 billion; more than 15 times the BPS budget."
Let's at least talk apples to oranges: $15 billion in gun sales to $620 billion spent nationwide on public school education. Apples to apples: $15 billion in gun sales to $18.558 trillion in gross domestic product. No, American retirees are not living off gun sales, not even a tenth of a penny.

And picking on Vanguard Group out the blue? At least they didn't single out one of our Boston-based mutual fund employers (although I'll bet the first draft did). The Boston Globe has reached Donald Trump level of dumb.

The editorial does make a good case for universal background checks, which it doesn't mention we already have here in Massachusetts, but that also needs to be buttressed by reporting or screening for the types of things that should get someone like the Orlando shooter, the Fort Hood shooter, and a good many of the other mass and non-mass shooters on the no buy list. But the editorial doesn't ask for either of those things, only for a semiautomatic rifle ban.

The Globe has a lot of hand wringing about "legislative paralysis" but I have to ask whether the gun control advocates understand that they are their own worst enemy and perhaps a large part of the impediment to getting anything sensible done. My Congresswoman, Katherine Clark, boycotted the moment of silence for the Orlando shooting victims. In a curious coincidence, Congresswoman Clark got confronted by local police officers armed with long guns after someone called in a hoax about shots fired and an active shooter at her home address just this past winter. So, she may deserve a pass but I still wonder what legislative action her boycott will actually help get accomplished.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Sanders Berned Out Because Minorities Aren't Socialists

Bernie Sanders may take his candidacy to the Democratic National Convention in July but he has been beaten here in June with the last vote yesterday in 64% nonwhite Washington, DC vividly illustrating the reason why. Just compare the 2008 vote in in Washington, DC to 2016:

2008 Barack Obama75.3%
2008 Hillary Clinton23.8%
2016 Hillary Clinton78.7%
2016 Bernie Sanders21.1%

Bernie may have hoped to reignite the voter coalition that carried Barack Obama to victory over Hillary Clinton. He may even have made inroads against Hillary among young white women voters, but he got a cool reception from a key constituency. Minority voters did not Feel the Bern, or they felt it in a negative way. You can see it on the national map too. Bernie just couldn't attract the states with large percentages of black voters across the South.

2008 Map (Barack in purple, Hillary in yellow):

Democratic presidential primary, 2008.svg

2016 Map (Bernie in green, Hillary in yellow):

Democratic Party presidential primaries results, 2016.svg

Why? Bernie supporters certainly noticed, and had explanations - the most vacuous and perhaps insulting of which was that minorities were "unfamiliar with Bernie Sanders."

This lack of minority support came as a great surprise to the socialists supporting Bernie Sanders. A great many minority politicians and intellectual figures are socialists, why not the minority grassroots? It made some Bernie supporters downright angry that they weren't getting the minority vote.

My theory is simple: minorities aren't socialists. For African Americans particularly, slavery was the ultimate form of wealth redistribution, Jim Crow its inbred cousin. And why would you favor a system of government that propounds that the majority can tax and redistribute if you're are a minority? I ask this from my libertarian sensibility, the minority of one.