Sunday assorted links


#1: call me a conservative, but I suspect that the best dollars spent on infrastructure are almost always spent on repair and maintenance. That is especially true if they are taxpayers' dollars.

Yep, so the number one permit is the permit to spend money in a competitive bid. Every town, every State has hundreds of projects each the would like to get permission to write bid requests, many requiring hiring civil engineering consultants to survey the assets to determine deficiencies and recommend options for bid requests.

Resurfacing a road with poor drainage is cheap, and needed, unless the pavement is ground up and replaced with sand and gravel, but longer term, installing drainage, widening, after upgrading and install water, sewer, gas, then paving, is the wiser investment. The latter becomes four or five projects in sequence. But each of those steps require permission to spend money at least twice, pre bid, and the to seek bids, from multiple entities, some private or quasi public.

The water works is most likely a public corporation funded by rates which needs to balance it's books, often by letting it's infrastructure decay. Fixing infrastructure requires first rising rates. But taxpayers/voters refuse permission to do so.

Thus permits are denied. By voters.

Even privatized infrastructure ends up being denied permits to hike tolls, rates, etc. Wall Street knows this and never creates US funding for privatizing infrastructure, instead depending on ignorant Asians and Europeans to bilk.

Since Reagan, free lunch economics has killed building infrastructure in a rational way. Conservatives will support building infrastructure only if all workers are slaves being fed bread and water, replaced with more slaves when dead. They refuse permission to pay workers because workers cost too much.

As you well know, paying people not to work, or otherwise buying their vote individually, is squeezing out all the legitimate functions of government including infrastructure, schooling, etc.

I hired a plumber who got out of the water department after about 12 years or so. He said he had never put in an 8 hour day there, ever. He got out before they ruined him. Got to give him credit for recognizing that.

#2. ICK.

#5. No.

#6. Next.

#2 you clearly meant #3, the frying chicken story, not the Noah Smith macro story

Indeed I did, thank you for the alert.

Temin says the brits did a good job of breaking up the estates. Yay. Like all thieves he praises professional excellence when he sees it.

I wish thieving confiscatory socialists would just use the old labels like honest looters.

Like we should care about this looters five favorite books.

Typical idiot intellectual that believes liberal bull shit.

Except for one or two decades, the infallibly ignorant have had their way since 1913. Now, they think they should be allowed to continue to ruin things.

Make the Nobility Great Again!

Cow Shit.

He's a statist.

"In the current political climate, it’s liable to get worse because the government is not supporting public education." Why should it be the goal of the public be to support education? If business needs educated or trained employees don't they have responsibility to provide that education and training, just as they're responsible for their physical plant? In fact, to some extent they already do. The cursory education is simply an admissions test to employment.

"The point is that if you want to reduce wealth you have to have a tax." So the state gets the wealth, to do with as it wishes.

Temin is into the White Privilege theme and also he believes, probably correctly, that the middle class is important in the USA. On this last point, see the book (poorly written, very dull) "Economic Development in the Americas since 1500" by Engerman & Sokoloff (2012). It shows that between North America (Canada & the USA) and the rest of the Americas (Latin and South America), one variable that explained divergent outcomes was the presence of a middle class in the USA/CAN. Parts of Latin and South America started at the same per capita income for free men, but did not end up the same, because they did not have a middle class. When there's no middle class lack of progress becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, since nobody wants to be taxed for mass education (so only the elites get education), nobody wants mass suffrage (so only the elites get to vote, which causes political problems), and mass public infrastructure is not so easy, since taxation is very light (typically taxation only through tariffs, land transfers, and such, not income or a property tax like in the USA/CAN). So the country without a middle class falls farther and farther behind. Further, a country with a prosperous middle class has more inventors (the true drivers of change) than a country that is stratified with an elite, that has no incentive (complacent!) to change.

Full disclosure: I'm talking against my book since my family is in the 1% (minimum net worth: $9M, DC real estate--the classic rent seeking--in our case).

Bonus trivia: despite France being the first to grant men suffrage due to the principles behind the French Revolution, French women only gained the right to vote in 1945--well past Germany's 1919--and only about 60% of men by the crucial year of 1848 had the right to vote.

The difference between the US/Canada and Latin America is that the Protestant capitalists of the US realized that they could become wealthy by confiscating the native's lands, selling them to immigrants, and then incorporating these same immigrants into their system. The invaders of the Latin countries were Catholics from Spain and Portugal who were given massive land grants by European monarchs and then simply kept them in the hacendado system, many of which exist to this day, a paradigm that's been around since before the Romans. While these patrons are wealthy by some standards, especially in land and cattle, their wealth in monetary terms doesn't approach that of North American nabobs. Just the same, the owner of thousands of acres in Mexico is probably in a more secure position than a Wall Street investment banker with a cottage in the Hamptons and his net worth stored on servers somewhere.

@chuck martel - I guess a few people owning a huge hacendado is consistent with 'no middle class', so we agree.

Bonus, bonus trivia: some women had a right to vote in some parliamentary constituencies in England until the Great Reform Bill of 1832 took the right away.

Guess who said this: “If you want to try to change things now, taxing income has very little effect. Taxing capital has more effect”.

Nope, not Karl Marx or Lenin.

and then he states "the Republicans . . . are the party of the wealthy."

Is he no longer paying attention, or is he just in denial?

6. Rather than defend Trump as the champion of the white working class, Mark Judge attacks Springstein as a false prophet of the white working class while whitewashing Reagan's effect on the white working class - Reagan's "strong" dollar and deficits did more to shift manufacturing to China than anything the rapacious bankers may have done. Indeed, the white working class longs for Reagan's America, clueless that Reagan and his administration triggered the descent of the white working class. Judge prefers to attack a poet, Springstein, who admires Flannery O'Connor. Judge is as vacuous as Springstein is talented. [I don't know Judge's age, but my impression is that he is young, too young to know much of anything about the Vietnam War and how it affected the nation and my generation. It was the children of the white working class and poor blacks who were sent to Vietnam as cannon fodder, the sacrificial lambs for the draft evaders who would later rise to the pinnacle of American politics, VP Cheney the poster child for the chicken hawks.].

I'm not sure I understand his point. Was Springsteen "transformed" by suffering depression and reading "noir" novels?

Artists evolve. Ideally they don't keep making the same record over and over. They reflect the times. Billy Joel's Allentown? Springsteen and Joel were big in the Rust Belt. As you say, wrenching change and dislocation. I left the Rust Belt in 1982 and never looked back. "Darkness" was the last Springsteen album I ever bought.

I'm pleased you read Judge's essay. I did not know Springstein suffered from depression (until I read the essay), but it's an odd thing to use to make a political point (as does Judge). Depression is a medical condition, not a political preference. I suppose that's what prompted me to write such a critical comment.

Sometimes--and I'm not saying Bruce Springstein is doing this--I notice celebrities seem to have a contrived story involving personal challenges. Typically it's weight loss, mental health issues, and other health maladies; just today I saw that J. Lawrence the actress supposedly had her jet plane lose both engines last year when flying (sounds implausible). Anything to stay in the public eye, get sympathy. No such thing as bad publicity.

"I left the Rust Belt in 1982 and never looked back. “Darkness” was the last Springsteen album I ever bought."

That's too bad (about Springsteen's albums). Born in the USA was a pretty good album. I think "My Hometown" may have the best lyrics of any song he's written...and I think that's saying a lot. I particularly like:

"Now Main Street's whitewashed windows and vacant stores
Seems like there ain't nobody wants to come down here no more
They're closing down the textile mill across the railroad tracks
Foreman says these jobs are going boys and they ain't coming back."

I left the Rust Belt in 1981, other than the decade I spent in Detroit, one year. (Lesson learned: even a great job doesn't make up for working downtown in a big northern city.)

Chicken hawks you say rayward? There are three (3) common hawks with the common name "chicken hawks" (see: ) of the order Accipitriformes. From the excellent book I'm reading by Pete Dunne, "Birds of Prey" (2016).

Bonus trivia: a falcon is not in the same order as a hawk (Accipitriformes), it's from the same order that parrots are in: Falconiformes. You can tell from looking at their feet (falcons have 'parrot' feet). Likewise a vulture is from order Cathartidae; owls from Strigiformes. Most common birds, including the fascinating 'butcher bird', which I've never seen live, have you?, are from the order Passeriformes.

I always keep my field guide for birds of the low country handy because, well, there are so many birds, large ones (cranes), small ones (humming birds), and medium sized ones (ducks). My friend takes the guide with us when we ride up and down the creek in my jon boat (the derivation of "jon boat" is interesting and not what I expected) so she can identify the birds. She works for an outfitter, so I suppose she must be able to identify the birds when asked. Seasonal birds and bugs interest me. I look forward to the arrival of the hooded mergansers in the Fall. I don't look forward to the deer fly hatch in late Spring.

Bruce Springsteen "...a deeply spiritual poet and artist who saw America as both a place offering transformative freedom, and as a “suicide trap” that captured people in failed jobs and lost dreams."

Really! And this is someone who we should pay attention to. Can you imagine anyone with intelligence and a knowledge of history agreeing with this sentiment? Stupid simply doesn't adequately describe Bruce Springsteen.

"Really! And this is someone who we should pay attention to. Can you imagine anyone with intelligence and a knowledge of history agreeing with this sentiment? "

Yes. But perhaps we should listen to your music instead?

Listen to your common sense. I thank the good lord that I was born in the 20th century in the U.S. How much better could life be. I am 73 years old worked my full life from a mid teen to 65 and was unemployed exactly one week in my entire life. According to Bruce that was all failed jobs and lost dreams. Four kids, Eleven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. Own my home, travel about half the year and life is good. I grew up poor and it only made me want to work harder. What better place to have spent my 73 years than America. Bruce should be ashamed of himself. America is the land of opportunity. Other countries to but Bruce felt the need to denigrate America and he couldn't be more wrong.

I can't play a musical instrument and my wife won't let me sing in her presence so if it's music you want feel free to listen to the Bruce but if it's common sense look elsewhere.

"I thank the good lord that I was born in the 20th century in the U.S. How much better could life be."

"Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man..."

"I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They're still there, he's all gone.

"He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now."

Now, you can say, "How many people did that happen to? How many people fought in Vietnam and how many lost a brother there?" (And the answer to how many people lost a brother there would probably be about 100,000.)

You've been lucky. A lot of people have been. (I have been.) So you may listen to Bruce Springsteen and get nothing. But considering my age, if I'd been 5-10 years older and unlucky, those lyrics could literally have happened to me. So I listen to Bruce Springsteen and thank my lucky stars.

Mark, if your focus is the Vietnam war then you can justify damning the entire country forever I guess. I was in the military for 20 years. I enlisted before the Vietnam war began and left long after it ended. I knew many people who went their and knew some who died there. I won't for a second deny the pain and loss for friends and family. However it is worth noting that during that time we lost more people on our highways every year than we did in the entire Vietnam war. Those people are just as dead and their family and brothers are just as sad over their loss. Would a song by Bruce about highway deaths make a difference? Would it mean that America was a place of broken dreams and dead end jobs? No! It wouldn't and it wouldn't be as effective either. That is why activists and singers choose intentionally provocative statements to further their unrelated agenda.

What saddens me about Vietnam was what happened after the "peace" accord was signed and our military left. The North came in and killed between 2 and 5 million mostly civilians and most killed by bashing their head in with a shovel as they knelt with their hands tied. If you want to weep, weep for them. IMHO We made a mistake to go to war in Vietnam. We had a too youn too naive president who wanted to do good. We should have simply allowed North Vietnam to take over and kill all those who didn't embrace their version of communism and washed our hands of it. But that's just my opinion.

Springsteen has suffered the fate of so many successful rock stars - he has become a believer in his own myth and thinks that he has Something Important To Say. That's the death knell for relevance and being interesting.

BS is from Jersey - I don't know what exit.

He's a poseur.

Probably. he was so poor he had to drive a used car to high school.

Likely, he never worked a day in his life and never met a man that served in the Army.

Heorogar, why are you so angry at everything?

Do you read your stuff before you hit "submit?"

Is this what happens when one surrenders one's intellect to Moron.Org?

The 1980's strong dollar should be laid at Tall Paul Voulcker's apolitical Fed doorstep. You must seriously hate Obama if you think budget deficits are seriously destructive.

If you never served, you didn't earn the right to call anybody a "chicken hawk" or "draft evader." If had you served, you would not do it.

Senator Gillabrand never earned the right to use the word, "fuck."

Idiot Kathy whatshername, who had a photo shoot with President Trump mock-up severed head, likely never cut anything more dangerous than roasted chicken breast.

NYC Theater in the Park (boycott the corporate sponsors) is producing "Julius Caesar" with blacks, browns, and women stabbing a Trump-look-alike Caesar.

It's enough.

"If you never served, you didn’t earn the right to call anybody a “chicken hawk” or “draft evader.” If had you served, you would not do it."
Under Brazilian law, Native Brazilians ("Indians") can not respond for their acts. Apparently, draft dodgers are an equally protect froup in America (if they are fromt he right party, of course).

On the matter of infrastructure, maybe Trump will ease permitting of it, which I mostly think would be a good thing with some exceptions. But the most dramatic thing he is doing that was reported in the back pages in the last few days is that it seems he is canceling CIG funding for a bunch of infrastructure projects that are far along, way down the permitting pathway and nearly ready to go, but now look likely not to at all. These are mostly in states that went for him, including a light rail line in Pittsburgh, similar projects in Texas and Phoenix and some other places. Now maybe he only likes infrastructure that involves cars and privatization, but really, so far his big infrastructure push looks more like an infrastructure cutback.

BTW, I also think there should be more emphasis on repairs than on building new stuff, but I do not see any movement in that direction. Federal money is rarefy available for that, much more for construction of new stuff, when even that.

For national highways, Federal funding is almost always 50%, once you get the permit from the Treasury to commit to paying private contractors the 50% from local taxes plus 50% from the US Treasury. The permit to commit Federal money is restricted by the amount of money in the highway trust plus the formula that allocates those funds by State plus some bonus grant awards picked by the executive. Unless Congress awards funding, AND directs Treasury to pay for it, tho these awards are often at 90% of cost.

Basically, "highway" maintenance is 50% funded by the Federal government, up to a maximum amount of maintenance.

Local roads are paid for locally with State matching the local tax money, out of "gas taxes" going into dedicated trust funds, often restricted by the state constitution to roads and highways.

It is understood that roads and highways that do not connect to individual lots are virtually worthless, but these local roads will never be able to pay for themselves by any funding method, except for the wealthiest lot owners. Providing paved roads to 50% of the population while requiring the rest to continue using horses and oxen and other foot powered transportation will cut the incomes of the wealthy 50%.

New construction for the changing geography of housing and business in the 50s and 60s into the 70s evolved to 90% Federal or State funding. Interstates to connect new suburbs to suburban workplaces became 90% Federal. Building water and especially sewer became 90% Federal, in either grants or cheap debt. Utility services were Federally funded with grants and really cheap Federal debt. Limited by the size of the funds collected from excise taxes. Today those funds are limited, so new customers must pay a lot of the cost, but Federal loans allow those costs be spread over 20 years, with the promise that other customers on the line will contribute so within 20 years you cost will fall substantially and you may get money back. The public takes the risk, while the private reaps the profit if development happens as Congress intends with these programs.

The limit on all infrastructure is the willingness of Congress or legislatures to hike taxes and fees.

Privatizing infrastructure comes with the cost of voters/taxpayers being prohibited from doing anything that even remotely competes, including granting a charter to another private corporation. The cable companies have sued to block Google, a for profit, from getting a permit to install fiber and offer service, based on cable companies having an exclusive right to the market. Ditto when taxpayer want to build their own fiber network even when the cable company refuses to provide cable and Internet to the entire town.

The Indiana toll way privatization has been a disaster with tools not allowed to be hiked, causing bankruptcy, but also new infrastructure prohibited to enable new industrial development because that was in competition. In the end, not even the State legislature was able to approve and fund projects without getting permits from the private operators and owners of the toll way.

Please, please, please the plug on California's high-speed rail project. Merced to Bakersfield? Guaranteed to fail and piss away tons of money in the process.

#2 - The Noah Smith "what's wrong with Macro" slide presentation was very good.

It's thorough, for sure. On the "puzzles", I've been taken with the neo-Fisherian puzzle (low interest rates are disinflationary). I say taken because it's likely correct, but not for the reasons being propounded. First, what is "inflation"? It's a "general increase" in prices and fall in the purchasing value of money. The "puzzle" arises because a sustained period of low interest rates have not led to inflation. Sure, it's led to a rise in asset prices but not a "general increase" in prices. My observation is that (absent a shock) there can't be a "general increase" in prices unless wages are rising faster than increases in productivity; and there most definitely hasn't been an increase in wages. The recovery from the great recession has been built on increases in asset prices, not wages. That's not so much a complaint as a real-world observation. Of course, the problem with a recovery built on increases in asset prices is what?

Slide #30 is pretty much my conclusion about macro:

"A pessimistic sociologist might view the macro field as a self-perpetuating system for extracting rents (mostly, status/respect [rather than actual money or power])."
"Macro research = signalling for entry into a cushy exclusive club?"

Whereas other social sciences have generally been moving towards verifiable models and quantifiable results, macro-economics has remained stuck in its old habits.

6. See Springsteen's former manager's take on just this issue

"Let’s go back to the question about how and why his music evolved in the way it did. You said: because he wanted to be a star. So…"

Good link. And I forgot Born in the USA was his all time smash hit. I thought the apex was New Years Eve 1978 at Richfield Coliseum.

I read #6 -- it was garbage, taking something that could have been interesting and wrapping it up in a lot of right wing talking points.

#3 Is it Wimpy's fault?

#3 - Wimpy is an interesting character. Whilst his creator tried to 'comically' (as in 'comic sans serif', not as in 'Falstaffian' level comedy) define him by his wants and needs - "may I have a quarter for which I will gladly repay you on Tuesday," he would often say within range of the charybdean scent of a hamburger on the grill - he was actually a measuring pole of morality, looking sadly out of his pre-diabetic eyes as Poor Popeye once again failed to give his beloved Olive the advice she needed to avoid the later frames with their wiles of Bluto, who eventually always went over the line and always required poor Popeye to break out the can of spinach, with all the concomitant unpleasantness. Yet had they all been real friends, instead of basically little more than acquaintances thrown together without showing an incentive to understand each other heart to heart - I speak here of Popeye, Olive, and good old Wimpy - there would have been no need at all for Olive to make any mistakes! She would have understood! As Eve once would have hoped for them, a couple of days after being rejected from the Garden of Eden, they could have had, as friends, a life marked by mutual respect and deep hopes for a better future! (Today the weather is beautiful where I live, and I wondered, getting out of the car after driving into the parking lot near where I live after returning from church - did Eve know there would be such beautiful days again? Blue sky, pure cotton clouds, juncoes dancing around singing their little junco songs, and lots and lots of humidity, which I love). Anyway, what they (our pals Olive, Popeye, and Wimpy, in ascending order of age) got out of life - and the character of Wimpy is the key to understanding why they did not have to get only this out of life - was just life in the Popeye Comic Strip, a life which, while worth living, could have been so much better for everyone, except maybe that little baby whose name I forget and the dog Jeep, who seemed to have a good time in every episode.

O dia tem vinte e quatro horas .... não fazemos nada de mas se reservamos alguns momentos para nos encontrarmos con Deus ... Santa Lucia! (Lucia with the first syllable accented) Even easier if we were cartoon characters; which someone reading this might be. Facile : omnino abest onus, omnino abest iugum.

5. My initial impression is no, but if hotels are going to continue down the path of totally impenetrable lighting and shower controls it might end up being a second-best outcome.

I would not have expected a Las Vegas hotel to be an early adopter.

What happens in Vegas stays in silicon valley servers...

Last time I stayed in Vegas, I had to call the front desk to find out how to switch the water from the tub to the shower. It was kinda obvious after I'd figured it out (which even with instructions from the front, took a minute or two). Simple, but not intuitive. As for #5, I would definitely be polluting the high-brow character of this blog if my reply was "Only if she's got a deep throat." but the whole thing is silly anyway. Might as well ask if guests want both sound and video recording of everything they do in their rooms. I'm thinking we're not there yet.

#6 Springsteen: The real miracle happened much earlier than the transition identified in this article. It happened when Springsteen abandoned the amateurish, rhyme-heavy, lyric-centered approach of his first album, Greetings from Asbury Park, and the busy, unfocused energy of The Wild The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, and somehow managed to carve out that perfect piece of classic, marble statuary that is Thunder Road. That's was his big breakthrough. The song Born to Run aside (it harkens back to his busy, overdone period), the songs on that third album and so many that followed seem to be by a different artist altogether. (As regards the influence of literature, it's interesting to compare his book call-outs with Bob Dylan's book summaries in the latter's Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Even these two superstars covet the cultural status of the "great novel", if only by association.)

#6 I'm always disappointed that Springsteen is a typical establishment lefty celebrity. For some reason I always expect an extraordinary talent like him to be different in other ways too. Not that I expect him to be a right winger, but at least something not so predictable and conventional. Stupidly, I want him to be extra-ordinary in areas outside of his on-stage talent.

My disappointment with Springsteen's outlook is similar to the disappointment I get when I read of some of Bill Gates' causes: Common Core. Really, man?

#5 - Would you like all devices in your hotel room to be hackable, and also connected to a data collection network that may profile your every instruction, which necessitates monitoring your every sound?

a) The final degeneration of the "sweet and salty" food culture trend?
b) I thought Popeye's was a fish place.
c) How can we work more simple carbs into our diets? We don't have enough diabetes yet.

Do you want a smart voice assistant in your hotel rooms? Since the thing is always-on (and no way to be sure it's ever really, really off) it seems an obvious privacy concern.

Aside from that, I doubt that hotel managements would be able to resist the urge to use the thing to market/upsell goods and services to/at their guest-customers.

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