To Infinity and Beyond

Having a monthly open thread was not effective at generating activity, so this is just a place to share things I see and want to pass along.   Comment sort order will be the most recent first.

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The end for Harold Camping

“They” say you are not really dead as long as someone remembers you.  Harold Camping may have died this week.

You might remember him as the head of Family Radio, the numerologist who predicted that the rapture was going to happen on May 21st, 2011.  He indebted his organization buying billboards since there was no reason to worry about May 22nd, 2011.  He backpeddled as this was the second time he had predicted the end times with certainty.  He had a stroke and his body died in 2013.

The organization he left behind has been rudderless.   They sold some licenses and finally pulled the reruns of Mr Camping’s rants and replaced him with a guy who insists the world is only 8,000 years old.

The organization is moving from Oakland California to Nashville, TN and plans to unload stations that are losing money.


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Following in the Footsteps of National Socialism

Both Elizabeth Warren and ailing presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are proposing the notion of a “wealth tax” on the “ultra rich”.   This is a fundamental change in how our government would pretend to be funded, and it has an ugly precedent going back to the 1930s.

Here is their idea:

Elizabeth Warren is particularly devious in that she describes it as “just two cents” for the ultra rich, rather than 2% of confiscation of total wealth per year.

In order to have such a tax, the government will need to set up a system for people to register all of their property in order to prove that they are not subject to the tax.  You can be certain that once the system is in place, the wealth tax will no longer be only for billionaires and will no longer be 2%.

After Germany seized control of Austria in 1938, they created a law requiring all Jewish people to register all of their property, as a prelude to confiscating their wealth and worse.

If you wanted to leave the country, you had to hand over 50% of your wealth in order to be allowed to leave. That is straight from the Engles principles of communism and a frequently recurring proposal from Democrats any time they are preparing to raise taxes.

Next time you hear a Democrat say we need to make “the rich” pay “their fair share”, replace “the rich” with “the Jews” and you will understand what they are really doing.


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Stock Trades were meant to be free?

E*trade has joined Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade in eliminating trading fees on retail stock trades  (and other financial products).   The dirty little secret is that $5 per trade fee was never the reason your online brokerage loves you.

The real profits are in earning a portion of the “spread”, the difference between the price to buy a stock and what you receive when you sell the stock back.  Retail brokers have long participated in “payment for order flow”, where a wholesale trading firm earns the spread and gives a portion of the income to the retail firm.   The business practice was an innovation created by Bernie Madoff, one time head of NASD, which decides the rules for trading in cooperation with the SEC


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Pumpkins and Beer

Now there is a recipe for disaster!

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While you were distracted

In another time, what I am about to tell you would have been huge national news. Since the news media seems to be obsessed only with finding a way to impeach Donald Trump, you have not heard about this.

Jack Cooper logistics, based in Kansas City filed chapter 11 bankruptcy about two weeks ago. It is the single largest car hauler company in the United States, transporting cars from the factory to dealerships, for the roughly 40% of cars that are not shipped by rail.

Jack Cooper is a unionized hauler with a contract with 2,000 members of the Teamsters.  There is no formal requirement that UAW built cars be transported on unionized car transport trucks, although it was kind of a tradition in the past.

The “new” GM and some of the other players are using non-union transport companies for their vehicle deliveries, and a failing Jack Cooper was unable to find any new revenue streams given the pay rates they have to pay for union drivers, and all the accompanying problems with having union workers showing up at your business.

It looks like the company will be taken over by Sorbus alternative capital based in New York City, which is hoping to buy new trucks that can carry more cars more efficiently. If they fail, the company could be liquidated.

As a sidenote, if the GM strike drags on, it is eventually going to hurt the Kansas City Southern RailRoad and  Schneider transport, who apparently do a big business in bringing up car parts from Mexico to the US assembly plants.  KCS bought one of the railroads in Mexico after NAFTA was approved.

The United States that Donald Trump lives in and the United States that actually exists are very different places

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Septa is not just about public transit

September, from the Latin Septum, meaning Seven.

Latin seems so non-inclusive.   Each special interest  group in the Democratic Party should be encouraged to rename days, months and planets.


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How Stupid is Joe Walsh?

He says he doesn’t know why Salem Radio fired him from his syndicated radio show the day he announced he is a candidate for President.

Setting aside the issue of running against Donald Trump in the Republican primary, you would think that a radio host and presidential candidate would know that continuing to have him on the air would obligate Salem radio to give an equivalent amount of air time to every other candidate for president.

Joe Walsh was carryied  very late in the evening, and I don’t have any memory of listening to him. Some Salem stations carried the show on a delayed basis or not at all.

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Podcasting explains why Amtrak is so bad

I came up with this comparison while engaged in a discussion about India railways on YouTube. India railways employees 1.4 million people, making it one of the largest non-military employers of the world. Because India railways is operated essentially to create public sector jobs, it is grossly inefficient. Only 5% of their routes use automatic block signals. The rest of the network uses manual block control with people on phones talking to each other at the end of each block. Outside of the main urban areas, crossing gates are opened and closed by a human and switches are thrown by hand, not even using pneumatic remote switches which the Pennsylvania railroad started using in 1920.

For those who think Amtrak should become a European like rail system, the Indian system is the ultimate expression of dependence on railroads for passenger transport. You can pretty much go from anywhere to anywhere in India by riding a train. You may not have air conditioning, the train may be packed with lots of smelly people, lots of people die – but they run 20,000 trains a day carrying 8.2 billion passengers a year, paying an average fare of around $1. Passenger service loses around $0.33 per passenger/km. There are 70 billion dollars worth of unfunded necessary projects, some of which have been on the drawing boards for 30 years.

So why is Amtrak a failure outside of the Northeast corridor? One of the most potentially viable routes used to be from New York City to Chicago. Now Amtrak can only muster one train a day, and it is shared with cars going to and from Boston. How did this happen? And why?

The 1939 world's Fair set things in motion. The recently-formed General Motors painted a vision for the future of America in which people owned automobiles and drove where they wanted when they wanted. Americans would have freedom, albeit with the price of a monthly car payment. People with decent incomes could move out of the dangerous smelly cities full of immigrants speaking strange languages. So we bought cars, built suburbs, created malls, and had the ability to go where we wanted, when we wanted, without requiring government oversight and permission. Increased air travel became another option, although not as free.

So podcasts are doing the same thing to radio that automobiles did to trains, and Netflix is doing to television. It is very compelling to be able to listen to or watch what you want, when you want. No government agency is telling Netflix what products it has to produce and forcing consumers to buy it.

Unfortunately, in the past few days, President Trump has crossed over a very dangerous line. He wants the FCC to be involved in content on the internet, regulating "unfair" actions by folks like Facebook and Twitter. With the exception of obscene material, the FCC has assiduously stayed out of content decisions. Unlike Canada, the FCC does not declare that a city has too many country music stations, so they force a station to change its programming.

It is not a long distance between regulating Facebook and telling The Washington Post what they are allowed to print. We are really starting to live in dangerous times. the irony is that it was the Democrats who wanted the FCC to treat the internet like a common carrier and start micromanaging in the name of fairness.

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What makes music popular?

Is it the quality of the music? The opinions of the people listening?

Probably not.

It adds a detail that might explain why there are so many country music stations in a genre which maybe isn’t that popular.

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