Different Standards for Different Folks

If the first and most important role of government is to befuddle the governed, I’d have to give them a well done. The idea of serving constituents, being honest, and doing the right thing are, as near as I can tell, viewed as quaint, outdated ideas—like shoes that need button hooks and multiple petticoats.

For example, our Postmaster General, who claims to be all about saving money, has been running advertisements honoring the men and women who work for the US Postal Service. I’m always for supporting the folks who actually do the work, but if they’re understaffed and overworked, wouldn’t it make more sense to spend the money on people and equipment. My brother believes that the reason we can buy “Forever Stamps” is because the delivery takes so long.

Even more egregious is our Supreme Court. The authorities of the Supreme Court are enumerated in the Constitution, way down in Section III, with revision by the 11th Amendment (sort of, kind of, but not too much). The sweeping powers that the Supreme Court has now assumed are not distinctly described in the Constitution. Apparently, over the years, the attitude has been that “If nobody can convince the world that the Supreme Court can’t, then the Supreme Court can and will and don’t you forget it.”

Apparently, a candidate for the Supreme Court must first receive Mitch McConnell’s approval, regardless as to who is president or which party controls the House, the Senate, or the entire Congress. Next, the candidate must answer various questions according to what Mitch and his cronies want to hear, without any regard for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Case in point. Several Supreme Court Justices “have signaled” their predisposition regarding various sensitive issues such as abortion. Now, my thought has always been that the Supreme Court, as the highest court in the land, should set the example for the highest standards.

I was wrong.

If I were called for jury duty and “signaled” my predisposition to a certain issue, I would be dismissed for cause. It wouldn’t even require a pre-emptive challenge. I would be out of the courthouse and on my way home in a heartbeat.

However, the members of highest court in the land can “signal” with complete impunity their personal opinions even before a case on that issue is before the court.

It’s a weird system.

Critical Updates

The QAnon shaman has announced he has changed lawyers. That is as significant as me changing socks. Honest, I do so, pretty much on a daily basis, although if I go from casual to dress-up, I may change them twice in the same day.

In the meantime, Robert Plant (kids, he’s an awesome musician who was in a group called Led Zeppelin [[the spelling was supposedly suggested by Paul McCartney]) has a solution for the friction between Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones.

What friction?

Mick Jagger, years ago, said the there was no real competition between the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, because the Rolling Stones are a Rock’n’Roll band while the Beatles were a singing band–because on each album, each of the members sang a song.

Not to mention that McCartney gave a song or so to the Stones, because it wasn’t quite right for the Beatles; as well as Jagger appearing on (at least one) of the Beatles’ albums. Now, in fairness, perhaps Jagger was a more demonstrative fan of Monty Python than McCartney, but if that’s a big deal, my brother and I will have to meet with a brace of pistols at 20 paces.

People, we’ all face real issues and real conflicts. Mick Jagger recently strolled into a bar not too far from here and nobody noticed. Why? Because we all love the music. After all he’s given us, Mick’s entitled to a quiet beer in a bar while on tour.

Deep down inside, Most of us would like to share a pitcher of beer with either (or both) Jagger and/or McCartney and I’ll bet the conversation would be fascinating – not combative.

So, Paul, Mick and Robert Plant (sorry, Robert I don’t know if you ‘r comfortable with a diminutive). I’d be happy to sit across a table at a pub with you and just compare ideas. You talk. I’ll listen.

Well, I might add a thought or so–you never know.

Of course you can contact me at steve@sfnowak.com.

Dichotomies of Convenience

During intellectual discussions, I’ve heard people respond to an issue by saying that they’re of two minds. I can understand that some issues are so complicated that they do not have a single simple answer. On the other hand, some people, particularly politicians intentionally dichotomize many issues.

A traditional example concerns air pollution. We point an accusatory finger at third world countries for burning so much coal and filling the air with carbon. At the same time, Wyoming, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Kentucky mine megatons of coal, which are exported to India, Brazil, South Korea, Japan, and other emerging economies. Needless to say, there’s a tidy profit for the US coal producers—gross revenues average around 850-900 million dollars per month just for the coal that is exported.

I know it’s difficult to break away from “the way we’ve always done it,” but c’mon.

On the other hand, there are some dichotomies that totally boggle my mind—and my mind is so twisted that it takes a lot to boggle it even a little.

Let me lay it out as best I can:

  1. The Republican Party has for many years (including almost all of my life) professed to be the political party most supportive of business.
  2. The Republican Party, or at least large swaths of it have proclaimed that COVID-19 is no big deal; it will miraculously disappear by Easter 2000; it’s a hoax; don’t worry about it; Yada yada.
  3. Based on #2 (above) the Republican Party is not a promoter of vaccinations, social distancing, masks, or other preventative measures.
  4. Reiterating #2, COVID-19 is no big deal.
  5. However, when the omicron variation of the COVID-19 virus appeared in South Africa earlier this week, according to Kiplinger, “The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished Friday off 905 points (-2.5%), while the S&P 500 closed down by 2.3% and the Nasdaq Composite was lower by 2.2%.”

If it’s a hoax, why would the stock market be so nervous? If, on the other hand, it’s not a hoax, wouldn’t businesses prefer to safeguard their investments?

Conunundrums

As you know, I’m easily baffled.

Actually, that is not true, but as a philosopher without portfolio, I do point out the baffling things in life for the benefit of others, with my personal opinion of an explanation. For example:

  • Why do architects insist on planting shrubs around their properties so that if you want to make a right turn on red or after a stop sign, traffic barreling toward you at 45 mph (which really means 55-60 mph) is not visible?
    • Personal opinion: I believe all the landscape architects and traffic engineers have relatives who repair automobile bodies and/or orthopedic surgeons.
  • Why do the manufacturers of expensive electronic devices coat their products with a coating that is black and somewhat cushioned when you buy them, only to dissolve into a gooey mass that can neither be removed nor stabilized?
    • Personal opinion: Most electronic devices are designed to require replacement either by dissolving into goo or having a total functional failure to require replacement. The length of time depends on the business cycle of the particular industry that manufactured it. Cell phones, for example, have a two year to 30 month life cycle.
  • Social media is just a miniaturized version of television and movies. In TV and movies, we know there are really no space aliens, the actors don’t look that good in real life, and the threats and explosions are fake. So why do some people believe everything they read online?
    • Beats the hell out of me.

Schoolhouse Crock

A town in Northern South Dakota (not Southern North Dakota as some have reported) has reached a point of stability in determining their curriculum. Naturally, the school board, the librarians, and the teachers have input, but then the various syllabi are reviewed by the PTA, the School Resource (Police) Officers, and the Student Council. Input is then sought from the pastors of the larger churches representing every major faith as well as influential agnostics and atheists. Finally, the leaders of the major political parties provide their viewpoint. After such thorough vetting, no one has any objections.

The outcome is that during homeroom, attendance is taken and announcements made. The rest of the morning is taken up with recess (primary and middle school) or study hall (high school). There is a break for lunch, after which recess/study hall continues.

Given that this area is rural and primarily agricultural, only a few malcontents who want to go to college have complained, but they gather in underground “study cells.” Since these study cells are after school hours and outside of school property, nothing can be done to prevent it. Town leaders have promised to follow every possible lead to shut these down.

Good and Evil

There is an old story—probably apocryphal—in which a college professor and a student are arguing. They were not arguing in the abusive style to which we have become accustomed; they were having more of a scholarly debate.

“There is no such thing as cold.” The class broke into laughter.

“Have you looked outside?” a student replied. “It’s snowing and the temperature is below freezing. Of course there is cold!”

“I can understand your confusion,” replied the professor, “but let’s explore that thought. What is the opposite of cold? It’s heat, of course.  Can we agree that heat exists?” The class murmured their acquiescence. “If you’ve ever stood outside near an air conditioner that was running, what did you feel? Heat produced by the Bernoulli process or heat removed by a heat pump.

“Therefore, cold is the description we apply to the absence of heat.

“Similarly, dark is merely the absence of light. Light exists—we can see it, we can measure it, just like heat. Remove the light and we call it darkness.” The sea of faces indicated that they understood what he was saying, although they did not yet accept it as fact or thoroughly understand it.

“Can anyone give me a similar example?” the professor asked. One student—the shyest one in class—raised her hand. The professor had never even heard her speak before, so he pointed to her. She stood up and waited a second before she started to speak.

“By your logic, there is no such thing as evil. Evil is the absence of good.”

I find this a most interesting perspective. If true, then the only effective way to combat evil is by doing good.

Today’s Fake News!!

Ted Cruz demands the Justice Department pursue investigation into Big Birds use of drugs and advocating their use to children.

Meanwhile, Mr. Potato Head remains in hiding after Senator Cruz campaign against him. Rumors persist that Cruz had the popular children’s character “scrubbed, baked, and stuffed” before he disappeared at a Texas Democratic Party $1,000 per plate fundraiser.

Michael Flynn and His Temporary Oath

I ___, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Every military officer takes this oath. The oath does not expire. Retired officers are subject to recall to active duty, so their commission, and the contents of this oath are valid long after they leave active duty. This is especially true of generals and admirals who can be brought back for a variety of reasons. In 1937, Douglas MacArthur had retired as Chief of Staff of the Army and moved to the Philippines but he was recalled in 1941.

Michael Flynn took this oath, but apparently does not value his oath very much. He reached the grade of O-9 and wore 3 stars. I refuse to refer to him by rank.

Michael Flynn was Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor for 22 days until he resigned due to having had a little problem with lying to the FBI. Before that he had been in command of the Defense Intelligence Agency, but his chaotic management style and close relationship with a Russian woman limited him to two years in that post. He ended up retiring a year earlier than he planned.

According to the New York Times, Flynn exhibited a loose relationship with the truth, leading his subordinates to refer to Flynn’s repeated dubious assertions as “Flynn facts.”

Flynn reportedly has embraced Q-Anon.

According to CNN’s Dean Obeidallah, Flynn has recommended that America should have one singular religion. “One nation under God, and one religion under God,” he said. “I don’t care what your ecumenical service is or what you are.”

Given how that has worked out in Afghanistan and Iran, I’m not too sure that is a good idea. It sounds like another dose of hate tossed into the American body politic. Besides, that pesky oath to the Constitution means the entire Constitution, Including the Bill of Rights, which, were the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The First Amendment states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

A Different View of Christmas

Unless you work in retail sales, you may think it is too early to focus on Christmas, but is it?

A long time ago, God promised people that He would send a Messiah. People waited for years, centuries, and millennia before the Messiah arrived. When He arrived, very few were aware of it – just a few local shepherds and some astrologers from a distant land. When the Jewish King Herod found out, his response was to have every male child less than three years old murdered in an attempt to destroy the Messiah.

Jesus kept a low profile, working as a tekton—a day laborer, working in construction. Like many of us, He was in a routine, and may not have realized when it was time to begin his ministry. His mother nudged Him forward by asking Him to help out with the wine at the Marriage Feast at Cana. Somehow, mothers have an uncanny ability to sense what their children need.

So, after waiting for so long, many of the Chosen People living in the Promised Land did not embrace Him and his teaching. These were the priests, scribes, and Levites, who studied scripture and had all the clues of His coming right in front of them. Many of these followed the letter of every law, prayed frequently, and tithed. Perhaps they believed that they neither needed nor wanted a Messiah—things were just fine the way they were.

Instead, it was common people like fishermen who dropped what they were doing to follow Him. Then there were the outcasts—tax collectors, prostitutes, the deaf, blind, lame, and lepers; there were Gentiles, including the most despised Samaritans. They didn’t yet know that He was the Messiah, but the knew that he spoke wisdom and truth.

The leaders saw Him, not as the Messiah but as a threat and sought to ensure His ruin. They tried to make a fool of Him by asking tricky questions. They tried to push Him off a cliff. Eventually, they held a kangaroo court in the middle of the night, which was against their own laws. They convinced the Roman governor to have Jesus beaten and killed in the most horrific, painful, and humiliating way.

Many of you reading this are thinking, “Everybody knows this!”

Now, look around. How many of the same things are occurring today? How many leaders today are like the leaders in Jesus’ time? How many of us are? How often do we see His ideas cast aside or even ridiculed?

As Christmas approaches, I plan to try to focus on Jesus as a promise kept from God Himself.

If It Looks Like a War and Kills Like a War . . . .

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month began the Armistice for the first World War—the Great War—the War to End All Wars. November 11 began to be celebrated as Armistice Day.

An armistice is a cessation of fighting, more commonly referred to as a truce. Traditionally this is followed by a treaty, usually defining the terms of surrender for one side, with the intent being to return to a peaceful co-existence. This is not always the case, however. The Korean Armistice in 1953 never led to a treaty and South Korea never signed the armistice. A state of war still technically exists between North and South Korea.

The First World War led to the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which required Germany to accept the blame for the war, to disarm and to pay restitutions for damages. These conditions were so onerous to the Germans that many historians believe they directly led to Adolph Hitler’s rise and ultimately to his total control of the country. Like many despots, he needed a fall guy, so the Nazis placed the blame for Germany’s situation to the Jews.

The last declared war that included the United States was World Two. For a conflict to legally be a war, there must be a declaration of war by the Congress. Therefore, the Korean War was not a war, nor was Vietnam, Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, Belarus, Afghanistan, etc. They were called police actions, operations, etc.

However, to the Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman, these were all wars. Maybe to Congress they were something else, but to those in the Area of Operations, the conditions were warlike. Death in these places was just as real as death in a declared war.

Memorial Day is when we honor those who died while in uniform. We now call November 11 Veterans Day to honor every American who served. If you had the honor of serving, as a veteran myself, I salute you. All who have served are, and forever will remain, bonded together.

Leaders vs Managers

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e9/GEN_Colin_Powell.JPG/932px-GEN_Colin_Powell.JPG
General Colin Powell

There is a difference between leaders and managers.

When leaders are taking withering fire, they figure out their best move, then lead their troops accordingly.

Good leaders lead from the front. They are the first ones who face the threat. They inspire others by their actions. Managers, on the other hand, are more like the people in the circus parade who follow the elephants, broom, shovel, and receptacle at the ready.

The skills of a leader are visible and honest (bear with me here). They move forward and face what their people face, but they face it first.

Managers develop a variety of techniques that make it look like they’re hard-charging executive material without taking any risks. They know that if one makes any—ANY—decisions, one is in danger. Therefore, whenever they face a decision, they create the illusion of work without trying to accomplish anything. It’s the business version of Michael Jackson’s moonwalk.

Managers know it is easy to make it look like they are doing great work without accomplishing ANYTHING! Here’s what they do.

  1. Call a meeting.
  2. Form a committee (aka “Tiger Team”, “Quality Circle”, “Task Force”, or “Cub Scout Troop”.
  3. Have a committee meeting to define the challenge.
  4. Send all the committee members to Six-Sigma training (Look at how well it worked for General Electric!) or something similar.
  5. Wait for everyone to finish. (Since attendance will be staggered, this will take many months.)
  6. Have the committee meet to reacquaint themselves with one another. This may take several meetings over a period of weeks or, for an experienced manager, months.
  7. Have the committee prepare a PowerPoint slide presentation. (It does not matter if there is a specific audience it is to be presented to or not.)
  8. Review the presentation and ask for more data.
  9. Review the presentation again and ask for more data again.
  10. After a few weeks, the PowerPoint presentation will have been reviewed, revised, reversed, rewound, and re-presented.
  11. Review the PowerPoint slides and when you can no longer find anything to criticize.
  12. Schedule a meeting with the Big Boss. Although you have been removed from the entire process and have little or no idea as to what all your teams’ hard work means, make this a one-on-one meeting.
  13. Big Boss reviews the PowerPoints, asks a few questions and thanks you.
  14. The business continues doing things the way they always have
  15. You get a bonus for your hard work.
  16. Your people, who did all the work, may (or may not) get the basic cost-of-living raise.

Who would you rather be? The leader who goes before his people and faces risk, or the manager who stays safe, demands more data, and never has to make a real decision?

Which one has a better chance of retiring with a pension and an intact body, including all limbs?

It’s your choice.

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Be Very Afraid

Halloween is behind us, so you may believe the scariness is over. November 8 is a far scarier day. According to Wikipedia, on this day in:

1917 – The first Council of People’s Commissars is formed, including Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin.

1923Beer Hall Putsch: In Munich, Adolf Hitler leads the Nazis in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the German government.

If you are a Conservative:

1932Franklin D. Roosevelt is elected as the 32nd President of the United States, defeating incumbent president Herbert Hoover. 1933Great Depression: New Deal: US President Franklin D. Roosevelt unveils the Civil Works Administration, an organization designed to create jobs for more than four million unemployed.

If you are a Liberal:

2016 – Donald Trump is elected the 45th President of the United States, defeating Hillary Clinton, the first woman ever to receive a major party’s nomination.

Big Louie’s Business Model

Different industries have different business models. Hospitals overstate their prices, allowing the insurance companies to claim they are responsible for fantastic discounts and then pay what you’d expect it to cost.

Louis DeJoy, known to his contemporaries as either “Big Louie” or “Da Boss” has his own business model. Here are the basics:

  1. Provide less of the good or service
  2. Eliminate promptness
  3. Permit (or even encourage) defective products or services
  4. Eliminate or reduce customer service
  5. Raise prices

I have sent mail, correctly addressed with proper postage float around for a month or so, then be returned to me as “Undeliverable.”

The interesting part is that since competitors now have a lower target, they follow suit.

When you take a package to United Parcel Service, you may have the illusion that UPS will take your package from your hands all the way to the person or business to whom it is addressed. In many cases, at some point, UPS hands the package off to the post office. Right now, it seems that UPS does handle part of the journey, but it’s possible that your package you dropped of at the UPS office won’t be just taken to the post office down the street from that UPS office.

Amazon, with its fleet of aircraft, tractor-trailer rigs, delivery trucks, and thousands of employees, once took pride in rapid delivery. No longer! Less than half of my Amazon orders arrive on time, if at all.

If your delivery service has tracking, the first entry gives the impression that the package has started its journey. In actuality, it merely means that they printed the address label—it will be days (if not weeks) before the package is out the door. While the most direct route between two points is a straight line, I’ve never seen that happen. Instead, packages travel the scenic route, often stopping several days in interesting places like Toledo, Ohio; followed by Dubuque, Iowa; and Allentown, Pennsylvania on its journey from Chicago, Illinois to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Most of my packages have been more places than I have.

Thank You, Jesus

I always try to be grateful for all of the blessings that I and my family enjoy. A few months ago, a visiting priest took it to the next level. After his homily about the three scriptural readings, he told everybody to stand up.

“Okay everybody, say ‘Thank you, Jesus,'” he instructed. Which, of course, was followed by a mass muttering from the congregation.

“”Let’s try that again,” he challenged, “Thank you, Jesus!” This time, since people had a better idea as to what to expect, the response was louder and more in synch.

“You know,” he continued, “saying that only takes about a second and a half to two seconds. I know, because I timed it. I keep a stopwatch by my chair for timing commercials, and I decided to time that. One and a half to two seconds.”

Since then, I have found myself thanking Jesus on a fairly regular basis and it seems natural. I am thankful for all my blessings.

However, the other day I thought about a few more things. Blessings are the antithesis of sin, but there are some common traits. For example, with sin, we speak of sins of commission (I stole that candy bar) and sins of omission (I didn’t treat that homeless person with respect).

I believe the same is true of blessings. There are blessings of commission (Thank you God for letting me pass that Trigonometry test), but there are also blessings of omission. We won’t know about these in this life–if ever. There are disasters we never faced and never knew that we almost faced them. There are temptations we would have succumbed to, but we were kept from being aware of them. There are diseases and heartbreak that we never had to face. God shields us from many things and we don’t even realize it.

Thank you, Jesus.

The Good Old Days

When we speak about the good old days, many times we have a beautifully airbrushed (that was Photoshop’s precursor) view of things. Mom baked cookies and Dad was at work all day and read the newspaper in the evening. Life was wonderful, at least in our memories.

There might be a grain of truth to that memory. In my childhood, we got the newspaper in the evening. My parents watched the 6:00 PM news (15 minutes national and 15 minutes local, interrupted by commercials). Some of it was fairly shocking, such as the body counts of US Soldiers in Vietnam, right before the basketball scores. However, no matter how painful, it was over quickly.

Today, we have the news all day long–24/7/365. It’s no more horrible, but it’s in your face, all the time.

IN

YOUR

FACE

ALL

THE

TIME.

I know the song says that “these are the good old days,” but that was written before cable news came along.

I’m trying to ration myself to a modicum of news. And just to be a prick, I’m eliminating all the commercials.

Accouintinks, Worse Than Eckonomix

I know I’ve quoted this old saying before, but it bears repeating:

  • If marketing runs a company, it will go bankrupt, but emerge from Chapter 11 and become profitable.
  • If accounting runs a company, it will remain solvent until the last stick of furniture is sold and the doors locked.

We currently are reaping the benefits of accounting-driven management. Actually we’re not reaping the benefits, as much as we’re feeling the pain.

Since about 2010, American businesses have been cheaping out. I’d bet we’ve all seen at least one of the following:

  • Moving manufacturing from one third-world country to another to save five cents per hundred thousand products. (Trivia fact – Did you know that American companies once had manufacturing facilities in America and these employed American workers?)
  • Maintaining low wages since the workers don’t have other obvious choices.
  • Laying workers off when business slows down.
  • Keeping the minimum wage at the absolute minimum.
  • Fighting the formation of labor unions.
  • Coming up with bold new buzzwords to recycle the same old pap. For example, Kanban was a Japanese practice to offset lack of capital and limited space. In theory, the pieces-parts needed to build a practice arrive just as they are needed. Today we call this the Global Supply Chain.

So where are we today after saving all that money? American workers are finding better jobs or better paying jobs and not returning to their old employer. Whether the minimum wage has been changed by Congress, the economics law of “what the market will bear” has affected it. The offshore manufacturing is inexpensive for a reason. Perhaps the location is prone to devastating storms like typhoons. Perhaps it relies on dirt roads that turn to mud in certain seasons. In any case, the products have not made it here, and may not for a while.

And then there’s that wondrous Global Supply Chain. Ships get bottlenecked due to the Evergiven and the Maersk Emerald getting stuck in the Suez Canal. Many ships are anchored offshore waiting for a location to offload their cargo. Container ships are great, except that you cannot unload them except where the equipment is available–which means major ports.

And the accountants responsible for this? They took their bonus checks and put them in secret bank accounts in the Caymans or South Dakota. They don’t care that the one toy your child wants will be bobbing around until March.

And last, but by far not least, as President Biden pointed out today, the supply chain is now in private hands. The US Post Office, which was once a major player, is now Louis DeJoy’s private and personal Monopoly game. Guess what? We lost.

Eckonomix

I do not own a working crystal ball. As far as I can tell, no one else does either. This includes economists—maybe especially economists.

In the absence of crystal balls, the belief is that if someone puts enough complicated equations and graphs on a PowerPoint presentation, whatever they say must be correct.

Therefore, to declare my bona fides, here is a complicated equation:

Text

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

I’m more than a little skeptical of the science art craft trade of economics. When I was in college, economics was a required course for my bachelor’s degree. Later—about ten years later—when I was studying for my master’s degree it was also required. I found that what I had learned before was of no use because many of the theories from my undergraduate days had changed 180 degrees.

If you do a web search for statistics about the accuracy of economic forecasts, don’t expect too much. Most of the sources are not current, many dating back decades. However, no source comes out and claims that economists predict the future with great accuracy. Instead, the general gist among the experts is that economic forecasts are not very accurate.

Why?

First, let’s give the economists a break. Any prediction about the future is a guess. In the very best of cases, it is an educated guess. Even with computers, it’s a guess. However, people place great credence on such expert guesses. For example, in September 2021, jobs increased by 194,000. Apparently, this was only about 75 percent of the growth guessed, so news readers were wringing their hands in anguish.

[A moment for a brief aside. Newsreaders all wear makeup so they look good on television. There are very high intensity studio lights, so the newsreaders sweat. During commercials they use rolls of toilet paper as blotters. Are you putting too much trust in someone who blots their face with Charmin?]

From what I’ve heard, the 194,000 new jobs were 75 percent of the economists’ guesses.

Three thoughts:

  1. We added jobs to the economy. Adding jobs is good.
  2. As I wrote earlier, after every plague, pandemic, or other event that suddenly reduces the number of workers, the gap between the wealthy and the middle classes narrows just a bit. This has been the case, time after time, for centuries. Workers can be choosier as to which job to take—and historically, this has held true even without government unemployment benefits.
  3. IF, and I emphasize IF the number of jobs was ~75 percent of the experts guesses, that fits closely to the Pareto curve, which states that it takes 20 percent of the resources to accomplish 80 percent of the results. It then takes 80 percent of the resources to achieve the final 20 percent of the results.

All things considered, the current job growth indicates that we’re headed in the right direction, and based on history, we are most likely to see some adjustment in the pay of the middle class.

So, if you’re among the uber elite—you may have to wait an extra month or two to purchase your fourth 500-foot custom-built yacht.

Sorry about that.

Through Rain and Sleet, We Cheap Out

The Fiscal Times. com

It’s rare to see a politician of any type—from the local dogcatcher to the Grand Imperial Poobah of Lacksandistan—be honest about anything.

  • They claim to be a faithful spouse. Sure, except for the occasional one-night stands.
  • They claim to be religiously pure. Sure, except for the occasional one-night stands.
  • They claim to be – – – never mind, you get the picture.

But there is one political figure who has promised and delivered—US Postmaster General Louis Dejoy. Dejoy’s education is in accounting and he is a CPA. Naturally, with that background, his experience is in working for a logistics company. This is much like having a degree in music and being the head of solid organ transplants at a major teaching hospital.

[If you need a moment to think about that, go ahead.]

His first employer was bought out. Oddly, he ended up as chief executive officer for the buyer. It’s a common affliction with accountants.

His main skill, though, was raising money for the Republican party, which had NOTHING to do with his appointment to the post first occupied by Benjamin Franklin. NOTHING!

Good old Louis promised to slow down the mail service and increase prices. He’s halfway there. My mail used to arrive at about 1:00 PM. Now it arrives at about 7:30 PM and half of the mail I send with the correct address and correct postage is returned 30 days or more after I mail it.

The price increases come next. MY advice? Buy a ton of “Forever” stamps as quickly as you can.

A Place, A Long Time Ago

Once upon a time, on a continent in the Northern Hemisphere between Europe and Asia was a strange and wonderful country. It didn’t start out as a country, but instead had been colonized by many of the powerful nations of Europe—Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, and Great Britain. The ownership of these colonies changed hands. Sometimes this was by virtue of sale or trade, but frequently by war. The winners gradually forced everyone else to adopt their language and customs. This is far more effective than it sounds. Someone who doesn’t speak the preferred language will have a difficult time conducting business as simple as purchasing food or a place to live.

The continent was called “North America”—a name devoid of any imagination or interest.

The original occupants of the continent were deemed a nuisance.  Some were eliminated by biological warfare, being given blankets that carried diseases such as smallpox. Some were outright slaughtered while others were repeatedly forced off their land. Their children were not permitted to practice their traditional ceremonies or dress as their parents had.

Based on the infighting and removal of indigenous people, you might expect that this continent was very small but it was, in fact, large. It covers over 16 percent of Earth’s land mass and has four time zones. With one ocean to the east and another to the west, it enjoyed some degree of protection from invasion.

The continent was rich in resources and its people did well financially, although in the process they nearly destroyed the land. However, the opportunity for material success attracted peoples from all over the world. For a few years, the people on the continent claimed to be a melting pot of people from all cultures, but this was not universally practiced. At various times, Italians, Irish, Chinese, and Hispanics, were seen as undesirables and shunned. Africans (who were brought in as slaves) were marginalized longer than any other group.

Becoming accepted by the rest of the population was not easy. The people of a nearby island called Puerto Rico were viewed as outsiders, even though they were actually citizens of the largest nation on the North American continent.

Over time, there were various efforts to make the people more homogenous. Homogenization is the process used in the dairy industry to keep the cream from rising to the top. In the same way that it makes most of the milk similar (average) it often does the same with people.

One of the most effective methods was through social media. In fact, it may have been too successful. Via the internet, people were taught how they should look, how they should talk, and what they should think. Given that so much social media content was filtered or Photo Shopped, no real person could ever measure up to the images they saw. Internet influencers were able to take things a step further—now, everybody perceived themselves as below average, including those driven to suicide.

Various other practices ultimately homogenized the population until there were virtually no differences from one person to another. Conversations devolved until it died out since everybody thought the same. People from the other nations found the people so boring that no one wanted to have anything to do with them.

There may still be people in North America. Nobody knows, nobody cares, and nobody is interested in finding out.

Fly By?

Russian fighters, bombers intercepted off Alaska for 2nd ...

It used to be an occasional event, but now it’s more common.

Russian bomber escorted by US Fighters
Chinese aircraft fly within Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone.

No big deal, right?

Well yes and no.

The pilots involved tend to be very professional in dealing with each other, at least in most cases. Of course, there are always a few pilots–from any country–who watched Top Gun a few too many times and act flamboyantly (Hey, what pilot DOESN’T imagine themselves as Tom (or Theresa) Cruise?

In any case, their bosses may have different intentions.

If I’m a leader of your enemy country and I want to know how you’d react to an attack, here’s what I’d do. I’d fly a little too close, by accident (of course) to see which of your defenses lit up. Oops! Sorry! My pilots would be instructed to smile and wave before they flew off.

No harm, no foul, right?

What? Sorry, I need to finish dictating my notes before I land back home.

Dasvidaniya! or 再见, as the case may be.