19 October 2017

For So Long?

While watching the baseball games yesterday, I noted (for the first time, I suppose) that the home plate umpire wore glasses!!! The country has gone to hell in a handbasket. The only reason I could see this abomination was because the ump caught a foul off the mask, which he took off for a bit, on camera.

So, off to the innterTubes to find out how long this degradation of America's Game has been going on. I expected a few years, at most. Well, not so much.
On April 25, 1956, newspapers across trumpeted the news that Frank Umont had on the previous day become the first big league umpire to wear eyeglasses in a regularly scheduled game.

Damn! And to top it off, that's my sister's birthday, although not year. Instant karma.

Why the iPhone X?

The first decade of my life was spent in a 1,000 sq.ft. house-on-slab, built on an abandon wood lot. Thanks to that, the termites swarmed in the spring. Bad as it was, the parents managed to get foreclosed, so it was off to veteran's housing. This was 1960, and then at least one parent had to be a real veteran; during our years there the projects devolved into open welfare apartments.

The parents were a bit above average smarts, but below average ambition. Oh well. The point of the experience was this: by the time I was eleven or twelve I noticed that there were a lot of late model Buicks and Cadillacs in the parking area. Why, thought young Robert? Weren't there more useful and important things to own?

The answer from the point of view of those Caddy Daddies, as I eventually figured out, was: of course not. A fancy, even if old-ish, car was the most conspicuous object poor folk could still buy. Even if it meant lousy living space and lousy food and lousy clothes and lousy everything else. But that Caddy was parked outside the apartment.

The iPhone X is quite the same: a conspicuous object that doesn't do much more than far cheaper alternatives, but worth it as a measure of self esteem. Behavioral economists' fodder, for sure.

18 October 2017

New Gold, Part the Fourth

Yet another installment in the continuing saga of what it means for the US Buck to be New Gold. Today's contestant is Eduardo Porter, a many time returner. His jumping off point is the current account trade deficit. What he doesn't do is connect the dots from domestic bucks to international trade dependent on sufficient US Bucks in the system to support non-deflationary growth. That last bit is an oxymoron, naturally.

Here's where Porter finally gets closer to the point
But slashing the trade deficit for good will be very tough. That would require weakening the American dollar, the reserve currency of the world. That would be no easy task.

The dollar is the main currency used in global trade, as well as international capital market transactions. People and governments the world over store their wealth in American stocks and bonds. What's more, the dollar is the go-to currency in the time of financial crises, even if the crises at hand are centered in the United States. Against these forces it is hard to keep the dollar down.

QED

Another Oh Shit! Moment

From AnandTech we get the louder drumbeat of the Brave New World; run by Corps rather than the Damn Gummint, of course.
From the beginning, the NNP and its Nervana Engine predecessor have aimed at displacing GPUs in the machine learning and AI space, where applications can range from weather prediction and autonomous vehicles to targeted advertising on social media.
[my emphasis]

I wonder. Will they take payment in rubles?

17 October 2017

The Gull Flies True

Once again, the editors of the NYT have shown their sense of humor. Two articles which illustrate an issue, just not on the same page this time.

The easy one is this Kimmel piece. Kimmel, after all, is an obvious totem these days. And he knows it.
Of course, you want as many people to watch your show as possible. But some things are more important than bringing in a big audience. I hope that we, as a nation, get back to a time where I can have a normal, well-rounded show, that's more focused on Beyoncé and Jay-Z than Donald and Ivanka. But for the time being, this is what's at the forefront of people's minds.

Paired with this piece on the Trumpcare situation.
So for residents of the nearly all-white county, who overwhelmingly voted for President Trump, the fight over the Affordable Care Act is about both lives and livelihoods, access to care and to jobs. And the cloud that remains over the law's future is unsettling.

May be, just may be, these shitkickers will figure out that the Billionaire Boys Club founder cares not a whit about them. He gulled them right good.

12 October 2017

Balance the Scale

Here's some of a comment on a Seeking Alpha piece on Apple's new iPhones
Perhaps you aren't familiar with a manufacturing concept called economies of scale. Apple produces hundreds of millions of iPhones a year, while most analysts believe Google built no more than 1 million units of the Pixel and Pixel XL in the past 12 months. Something tells me Apple spends a whole lot less on each iPhone than Google does on each Pixel phone.
-- Bradmeister

A rookie mistake, naturally. Non-quants generally view EoS as, at least, infinitely linear to 0 average cost. That's stupid, naturally. EoS is determined by sector/company specific factors. And there's no evidence that EoS follows a linear trend, rather that it reaches minimum at some asymptotic value. (oooooh!! that notion again!!)

To put it another way, there are four generalist parts of production: capital equipment, input materials/assemblies, power, and labor. EoS is a result of technological advances, not just higher production, it's not some magical side effect of simply making more widgets. Imagine a semi-conductor production cell. It takes in sand at one end and spits out finished chips at the other; that's fanciful, to some extent, but close enough. Now how are there EoS for such a closed world production method? There aren't, naturally. With such a fixed capital stock, there's no average cost advantage to make more chips than 24/7/365 use of such a cell. You have to buy/build another cell. If you can't run it 24/7/365, i.e. sell its full output, your average cost/chip overall goes up, not down. Since this cell demands little to no labor, there's nothing much to be gained through labor saving. Supply of input materials/assemblies may or may not in total decline based upon outside factors.

So, in sum, it's unlikely that Apple or Samsung has much production cost advantage, especially given that the vast majority of iPhone is built by others than Apple. To the extent that EoS exists, Apple benefits just as much as Samsung et al since they all buy from the same underlying vendors who build to satisfy all comers. A falling tide lowers all boats. The notion that Apple will in-house production is foolish; they'll slide down the EoS to higher cost. There's a reason Apple has never made much of what it sells.

11 October 2017

Ashes to Ashes

Ever since, at least, the "totally destroy" North Korea nonsense from Donald J. Quisling, I've had a bothersome homo economicus nag. We know that NK has thousands of artillery along the DMZ (remember, the Korean War is not over, only an armistice) aimed at Seoul and environs. SK manufacturing is scattered over the country, but the administrative centers of these companies are in Seoul. Cut off the head, kill the dragon.

So, kill a million or two South Koreans, and put an end to the American consumer economy. Such a deal. Lose, lose. America first; all those jobs will come back to the USofA. Dontcha think??