January 2017 Archives

California isn't going to secede. Even if the federal government were inclined to let California go without a fight (which it won't), here are two reasons it won't leave:

  • California imports 25% of its electricity.
  • Southern California imports 85% of its water from the Colorado River.

Rocking the boat would devastate California's economy. It would make a lot more sense for California to split.

Sony writes off $1 billion on its movie business, and Nick Bilton shows us why Hollywood is already over.

A few months ago, the vision of Hollywood's economic future came into terrifyingly full and rare clarity. I was standing on the set of a relatively small production, in Burbank, just north of Los Angeles, talking to a screenwriter about how inefficient the film-and-TV business appeared to have become. Before us, after all, stood some 200 members of the crew, who were milling about in various capacities, checking on lighting or setting up tents, but mainly futzing with their smartphones, passing time, or nibbling on snacks from the craft-service tents. When I commented to the screenwriter that such a scene might give a Silicon Valley venture capitalist a stroke on account of the apparent unused labor and excessive cost involved in staging such a production--which itself was statistically uncertain of success--he merely laughed and rolled his eyes. "You have no idea," he told me.

When I was in college I went to the theater 3-4 times per week. But now, the last time I went to the movies was to see "The Force Awakens", over a year ago. I intend to see "Rogue One", but haven't connected the dots yet.

Killer app for theaters? On-site babysitting.

I grew up in Los Angeles and lived near SpaceX headquarters, and yes, the traffic is terrible. Like Elon Musk, it drove me nuts. However, unlike Musk I simply decided to move away from the traffic....

One of the few people who is just rich, powerful and inventive enough to actually do something about the legendary traffic congestion in Los Angeles is finally fed up. And he has a plan.

Billionaire innovator Elon Musk declared early Wednesday that he's ready to move ahead with his recently formulated ambitions to bore holes, possibly under the city.

"Exciting progress on the tunnel front," Musk tweeted. "Plan to start digging in a month or so."

Good luck. Like Musk's hyperloop, his plan to dig tunnels under Los Angeles is doomed to failure. I know, I know: successful entrepreneurs like Musk thrive on challenges that nobodies like me think are "doomed". That's cool, and I hope he is successful on both projects. However, you should read about Boston's Big Dig before you invest in Musk's "Boring Company".

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the US, and was plagued by escalating costs, scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials, criminal arrests,[2][3] and one death.[4] The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 1998[5] at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006).[6] However, the project was completed only in December 2007, at a cost of over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars, meaning a cost overrun of about 190%)[6] as of 2006.[7] The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it would not be paid off until 2038.[8]

The last freeway built in Los Angeles was the I-105 which opened in 1994 (yes, 22 years ago!). It's 19 miles long, cost $127 million per mile, and took 26 years to build from design to completion. Oh, and it's above ground.

speed bus.jpg

The only way this makes sense is if Musk is after government infrastructure subsidies.

"Senate confirmation hearings are always more ritual than substance."

The party of the nominee asks penetrating questions such as "Isn't it true, Madam, that you once rescued an entire family of orphans from a burning building?", with frequent pauses to thank the nominee for being there, and perhaps compliment them on their taste in confirmation hearing attire (confident, but understated, you understand). The opposition ranges from feigning outrage about things they have done themselves, to petulant whines about how much time they are being given to probe the vital matter of the parking ticket the nominee received in 1984 for depositing their car in a snowplow zone.

I don't think Trump is losing much sleep over these guys.

If true, it's a dumb move by Trump. Vaccines have saved millions (billions?) of lives.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a proponent of a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump asked him to chair a new commission on vaccines.

Hours later, however, a spokeswoman for Trump's transition said that while Trump would like to create a commission on autism, no final decision had been made.

The Parliament of Clocks is a fantastic parable about the value of consensus. So many applications. I look forward to using this parable to sound smart many times in the future.

In the parable, a king wants to buy some clocks and travels to the Bavarian village were the ten best clockmakers in the world keep their shops all along one street.

As he enters the street all the clocks in all the shops strike 1 o'clock in one massive group chime. The king marvels at the great accuracy of the clockmakers of the village, but a few moments later he hears another group chime. After investigating he finds that all the clocks in 9 of the 10 shops show the same time but that all the clocks in the 10th shop show a different time by several minutes. Puzzled, the king calls all the clockmakers together and ask why the clocks in the 10th shop do not chime at the same time as all the clocks in all the other shops.

The owner of the odd shop out immediately steps forward and says that due to his unusual skill and innovation his clocks keep more accurate time than the clocks of the other shops. The other shop owners protest loudly. The king is at a loss. The town lacks a master town clock or sundial, so he has no means of determining which clocks keep the best time. Confused, he decides not to buy any clocks and leaves town. Angered, the owners of the 9 agreeing shops burn down the shop of the odd man out to prevent such confusion from arising again. Now when someone comes to town, all the clocks will chime at the same instant. Customers will not become confused and everyone will sell more clocks.

The clockmakers destroy the nonconforming clockmaker among them because they know that as a practical matter we judge the accuracy of clocks by consensus. Absolute time does not exist. Essentially, a parliament of clocks votes on the correct time. (Even scientifically, this is true.) By fiat, we say that the clocks that deviate from the consensus time are inaccurate, but logically that need not be so. Different technologies or different levels of care in setting, winding or servicing the clocks could lead to the minority clocks being more accurate. However, if all the clocks agree, then no lay person will have grounds for suspecting that the majority clocks don't keep accurate time.

I hadn't seen this essay before the election, but Michael Moore was right. The first reason that "Trump will win":

Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit. I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes - Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states - but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it's because he's said (correctly) that the Clintons' support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the governor next-door, John Kasich.

From Green Bay to Pittsburgh, this, my friends, is the middle of England - broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the countryside with the carcass of what we use to call the Middle Class. Angry, embittered working (and nonworking) people who were lied to by the trickle-down of Reagan and abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to rub one out with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who'll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here. Elmer Gantry shows up looking like Boris Johnson and just says whatever shit he can make up to convince the masses that this is their chance! To stick to ALL of them, all who wrecked their American Dream! And now The Outsider, Donald Trump, has arrived to clean house! You don't have to agree with him! You don't even have to like him! He is your personal Molotov cocktail to throw right into the center of the bastards who did this to you! SEND A MESSAGE! TRUMP IS YOUR MESSENGER!

And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It's 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he's expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that'll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn't need Florida. He doesn't need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.

(HT: Ann Althouse.)

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