Monday, July 2, 2018

July 2nd Links

  • One of our neighbors is departing the Land of the Deplorables (TM) for Canada (folks protest Trump's election and the country's newfound hostility to non-whites by moving to our yet-whiter northern neighbor rather than to, e.g., Mexico?). She has been upset for more than a year by Donald Trump's collusion with Russia, his lack of respect for women who were paid to have sex, and his stated passion for enforcing U.S. immigration laws. The tipping point for her was an attractive job offer from a Canadian employer. She'll still be a U.S. citizen, but she doesn't want to be a Massachusetts citizen any longer. Write-in votes here won't help advance her passion for higher taxes and an expanded government. "I want to choose a state where my vote matters," she noted. I suggested Michigan or New Hampshire, the states that were closest in the 2016 Presidential Election. "No," she replied. "It has to be a state that is tax-free." [Phil G]
  • Once again, Powell cited financial risks as a potential trigger for monetary tightening. And once again, his phrasing (namely, the conjunction "or") suggested he could raise rates quickly even without an inflation threat. Whereas Yellen never once listed both inflation and financial instability as threats that could require aggressive tightening, Powell can't seem to describe it any other way. To state the obvious, his two tightening criteria are two times as many as the single tightening criterion (inflation) used by Yellen and her two predecessors - a neat math fact that explains why I called this the most hawkish turn in over thirty years. Later in the press conference, a questioner asked about the neutral interest rate but included an add-on question about the inflation rate. Powell concluded his answer like this: "It's worth noting that the last two business cycles didn't end with high inflation. They ended with financial instability, so that's something we need to also keep our eye on." [link]
  • Martin recalled a painting once referred to him, around 3.5 sq metres in size and dated to 1932. In a first round of study, he discovered nothing amiss. But the work's provenance – its documented history of ownership – was shaky, so he ran a second pass under a microscope. For most of a day, he scanned the painting in dime-sized increments, until his eyes dried up. Was anything embedded in the paint: dust, or hair, or an insect wing? Did the dirt look as if it had been smeared on deliberately? Finally, embedded in a speckle of blue, he found a slim fibre; with a scalpel, he snipped it off and subjected it to infrared spectroscopy. The fibre turned out to be polypropylene. Perhaps someone had worn a polar fleece while painting the forgery? [link]
  • The house, aside from being a beautiful blend of traditional and modern elements, is hyper energy efficient even in Montana's brutal winters. The lot is clearly large enough to accommodate two generously proportioned high quality homes – and the historic pattern in the neighborhood supports this form of infill development. But the present set back requirements and codes only permit one house on the lot. So he pushed the building as far to one side as possible and installed a bocce ball court in the space where a future home might go if officials ever change the rules. [Granola Shotgun]
  • Although the TV show Silicon Valley has a lot of accurate-sounding dialog regarding various software tools, it depicts young childless workers living in a group house. This is a little different than Pakistanis working in Dubai, for example, where a middle-aged man would export himself to labor and leave the wife and kids behind. [Phil G]
  • For many years, anthropologists have doubted traditional accounts of human sacrifice, cannibalism, torture, and general irritability among MesoAmerican Indians – mainly the Aztecs and Maya. Progress in archaeology and the translation of the Mayan script have greatly weakened this trend. When you find towers of skulls, racks of skulls, skull masks, you start to think that something about the Aztec empire wasn't exactly kosher. [West Hunter]
  • The big booze companies were desperate for a piece of the wine cooler action. "[Ernest & Julio] Gallo was hovering their company helicopter over our plant," Bewley recalls. "They had guys in our parking lot with binoculars, photographing how many trucks were coming in and out, trying to figure out what the hell we were doing. We'd bring them coffee" [link]
  • In addition to its conventional navigational capabilities, it has autonomous systems that operate independently from any ground- or space-based transmitters. The primary one is an inertial unit that slowly drifts, as inertial units do, but can be recalibrated in flight by using a stellar navigation system that observes stars day and night, or alternatively by using the airplane’s synthetic-aperture radar to pick out ground features at thousands of locations worldwide, which are known to an airborne database. [Atlantic]
  • Whoever President Trump chooses to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy will undoubtedly be a ghoul of the most nightmarish quality. But nobody should shed any tears for the loss of Kennedy himself. He was a fierce partisan for the destruction of what's left of the New Deal who happened to have a soft spot in his heart for gay people. He has a long list of greatest hits — Kennedy gave us President George Bush, of course. But more recently, in his retirement year, Kennedy did not even once join the liberal side of the 5-4 decisions for which this court will be infamous. [Jacobin]
  • Even Detroit products from the era of planned obsolescence, if rigorously cared for, could hit six figures. But double that and head for a quarter-million miles, and suddenly even well-built cars are succumbing to attrition. [link]
  • Comedienne Ali Wong offers a useful distinction between what she calls Fancy Asians (Japanese, Korean, Chinese) with "Jungle Asians" like herself, who are from Vietnam, Philippines, Laos, etc. (I don't know where Bangladeshis would fit in for her, if at all. She probably doesn't consider them Asian.) [Sailer]
  • A former Goldman Sachs banker who hung out a shingle in 2014, Mr. Culas helped Twitter negotiate with its banks and ultimately sell a type of hybrid bond for a 1% fee, one of the cheapest offerings in recent memory. Mr. Culas is among a handful of upstart advisers who are challenging investment banks on turf once thought impenetrable: the $7 billion-a-year business of handling complex stock-related transactions. [WSJ]
  • The most probable outcome of this is the court eventually sides with Harvard, by fashioning some ludicrous exception to the laws that govern everyone else. After all, the current Supreme Court is made up of six Harvard grads and three Yale grads. Look down the roster of the Federal bench and you won’t see many guys name Wong who graduated from Cal State Fullerton. The whole point of seizing power is to use it to reward your friends and punish your enemies. The people in charge have always known this. [Zman]
  • Advice to substitute polyunsaturated fats for saturated fats is a key component of worldwide dietary guidelines for coronary heart disease risk reduction. However, clinical benefits of the most abundant polyunsaturated fatty acid, omega 6 linoleic acid, have not been established. In this cohort, substituting dietary linoleic acid in place of saturated fats increased the rates of death from all causes, coronary heart disease, and cardiovascular disease. [BMJ]
  • By some measures, delivering packages is one of the few "good" jobs left in America for people without college degrees. The Teamsters represent roughly 260,000 UPS workers, who make around $36 an hour. The American Postal Workers Union represents around 156,000 clerks and support workers, who make, on average, $75,500 annually, according to the union. The National Association of Letter Carriers, which did not respond to requests for comment, represents the actual Postal Service delivery workers. [Atlantic]
  • I try to avoid lobbing clich├ęs like "holy grail" and "ultimate barn find" around too often, but we've got a freaking 1983 Toyota four-wheel drive manual transmission single cab pickup truck with less than 8,000 miles on our hands here, people. It's time to freak out. A reader sent this auction listing to me the other day with a note "figured you would enjoy that." Yes. Yes I do. Any red-blooded individual who holds pickup trucks sacred would be liable to lose their shit at the sight of this thing. Which is probably why it's already commanding an asking price of over $10,000. [Jalopnik]

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