31 August 2010

I'm A Back Door Man

There's been a good deal of chattering, mostly puzzled, around the Intel buy of McAfee.  Some think that this is Intel's move to freeze McAfee Antivirus from other platforms.  That's the hand they want you to watch.  Putting "security" into hardware is the ultimate backdoor Man.

McAfee, and the rest, are already "proprietary" to windoze, which runs on x86.  If one mean's to stuff AMD, may be, but the larger spilt isn't Intel/AMD, but windoze/linux. 

And anyway, the purpose is to give the DoD, and the rest of the gummint the Right Wing allegedly hates, a hardwired backdoor to snoop on any machine with Intel Inside.  Soon enough, only Intel machines can be procured by the Feds, or any company or other gummint which gets Fed money.

By the time this all gets around to being implemented, the Right Wingnuts expect to be in power, and then they'll unleash their version of 1984 and that animal farm.  And then all those stupid poor white folk will really be able to blame that black guy who was president a few years back. 

Mark this post.

29 August 2010

The Name is Bond, James Bond

There's been a renewed cacophony about the market and home buying, both revolving around interest rates.  It is said that small time (retail) investors are abandoning stocks, and buying bonds.  It is also said that there's never been a better time to buy a house.

Phooey on both your houses.

Buying bonds when interest rates are near zero is silly, if you're interested in appreciation.  It's just OK if you're interested in perceived rate of return.  Bonds have a fixed coupon, and the implied interest rate results from bond price.  Bond price and perceived interest rate fluctuate with controlled interest rates, notably, of course, what our Fed does.  Greenspan started the current insanity years ago.  Once interest rates return to normal (whatever that is, and long term hasn't always been higher than short term in our country's history), bond prices will plummet.

As I have mentioned before, the folks who made out like bandits with housing were those who bought while interest rates were at 10%+.  Why, you may ask?  Because as interest rates returned to more normal levels, prices appreciated (that old inverse relationship, again).  With rates at "historic" lows, but median income still in the toilet, prices are about as high as they can get.  The only pressure to raise prices will have to come from rising median income, and with the Tea Baggers flummoxing the Obamanauts, that's not going to happen in the lifetime of anyone currently alive.  Interest rates can only go up, thus driving down prices.  Today is the time to rent.  Don't buy.

25 August 2010


"Baazeball hab been berry, berry goo to me."

Jeff Passan, of Yahoo! sports has a new article on corporate welfare, baseball division.

It's enough to make you hurl. But it does demonstrate the thesis of this endeavor: making rich folks richer doesn't make the rest of the economy and society any better off. Read it, you'll be fascinated. Some economists over the years have done peer-reviewd studies which demonstrate the same thing: subsidizing sports teams does nothing for the town, state, or country. I may do a study some day to determine whether the governments that approve such wealth transfers are largely Republican or Democrat. I have a strong suspicion.

22 August 2010

The Other Gecko

We have "Animal Farm" (not "Animal House", you sot) to thank for the observation that all pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others. It has been the driving thesis of this endeavor that until we move toward a more equitable distribution of the nation's income and wealth, the economy and society will be mired in mud. Once again, the NY Times comes to the rescue with a story dredging up data, and an unlikely ally, to support the thesis.

Mind, I view the proposition as axiomatic, not empirical. Any (honest) data will affirm the thesis, just as for all right triangles, a2 + b2 = c2. As I have mentioned, the two prior Great Depressions, of 1873 (called The Panic of) and 1929 were preceded by a period of massive transfer of wealth from the many to the few.

Today's Times brings us the story of a Harvard Business School professor. The B School is known not to be a hotbed of flower power liberalism. To the contrary, there's that large statue of Gordon Gecko in the main auditorium, which re-animates during graduations to intone "Greed, is Good". Yet one of The Chosen has looked at the numbers, and lo and behold, may be those rich folks and market geniuses aren't quite so smart.

21 August 2010

You Won't Have to Lift a Finger

One of my favorite database sites is simple-talk, where I've just posted a comment to an editorial. The subject is more about economics and society than databases, so here is a slightly edited version.

I'm rather an admirer (and more than a little jealous that he got published, which makes it more difficult for me) of Nick Carr. I recently stopped by his blog, and found this older post (I hadn't been aware of the news before seeing this post).

Which has led me to consider, not for the first time, the implications of automation generally and in systems building narrowly. Would we want some software that "empowered" managers and business analysts to create applications as easily as they brush their teeth? Would they not build systems that destroy economies ever more adroitly than the ones built by Quants (who really had been rocket scientists before going to Wall Street and The City)? Is the ultimate COBOL a goal we *should* pursue?

The whole notion that "machines" can take over all of our thinking, and thus make our lives easier and better, is right out of "2001", "Blade Runner", "Robo Cop", or "Soylent Green". For those who've seen clips of newsreels and tv spots from the 1950's (or are old enough to have seen them in real time), machines would take over all the drudge work, and *all of us* would have more *well paid* leisure time. And it hasn't turned out that way. The major problem with the notion is that, we have no theory of distribution in economics; none, at least, that satisfies the Right Wing elements.

What has happened with the efforts so far, is that the owners of these wondrous devices, be they hardware or software, accrue to themselves the monetization of the productivity gain, leaving the rest of us poorer in real terms. At some point, there will be no "skilled" work left with which to earn sufficient income to consume all the largess these machines (sans human intervention) produce. Well, except to explicitly take from the rich to give to the poor, who then buy the production so that the rich can continue to run the machines. I know, I'll call it Recursive Economics(tm). Japan is nearly to the point; no other solutions have worked.

Since the IBM PC and all of its successors have entered the workplace, income and wealth inequality have increased. Part of that is clearly (in the USofA, at least) due to Political machinations (whether these machinations are directly tied to the machines is a longer story), but also in large part to the concentration of computing resources in financial sectors of the economies, starving others. It is known and documented that people working in the hard sciences left for Wall Street and The City; it looked like the work paid better. May be so, but the macro effects of such accumulated micro decisions was a disaster.

If there were such an Oslo, the end result would likely be that, since it would no longer require much brainpower to build systems, those most adept at corporate hijinx would get to build those systems; the Ladder Climbers, Glad Handers, and Back Stabbers. Where 100 really smart engineers would toil for a year to make a system, 3 MBAs (and we now know how smart those guys are) would knock one out in a weekend's pub crawl. I'm not sure that's a measure of progress toward meritocracy.

19 August 2010

Crooks, Liars, and Hypocrites

The only useful purpose of a Free Press is to expose the crooks, liars, and hypocrites, whether they be public or private. Given our country's historical allowance of secrecy to corporations, news gatherers most often find these folks in the public sphere. It's much safer to leak about someone who can't take you to court for telling the truth. Mostly.

The New York Times is one of the few news organs that still does the job. Today's edition has this front page (dead trees version) story about all those fun loving haters of the Federal Gummint. I've written about the general tenor of the Hypocrites of the North on occasion, but this is just too much pass up.

The money quote (and this time, it's not just a metaphor):
Alaska's appetite for federal dollars has always been voracious and is not confined to the stimulus. A study by Prof. Scott Goldsmith of the University of Alaska, Anchorage, noted that an "extraordinary increase" in federal spending drove the state's pile-driver growth of the last 15 years.

In 1996, federal spending in Alaska was 38 percent above the national average. Thanks to the late Republican Senator Ted Stevens, who was Senate appropriations chief for several years, and to the military, which keeps expanding its bases here, Alaska's share now is 71 percent higher than the national average.

All those hardy, we don't need no stinkin' Gummint, morons. By the bye, the story also mentions, but not with sufficient emphasis, that each and every man, woman, and child in the state gets a cut of the oil profits. It's $1,300 this year. That's called socialism. Oh, no, I forgot, it's just free money. Hypocrites.

16 August 2010

Weaving a New Net

The kerfuffle over the Google/Verizon "deal" has moved me to leave my weekly lair to make one point. It follows.

But, the 600 lb. gorilla still sits in the room: how to apportion the highly disparate costs of 1) surfing pages to look at and buy stuff and 2) streaming audio/video content in real time. The argument has been going on for years. With iPhone and now iPad, the argument has to be joined. Should the vast majority who just surf subsidize those who stream? If so, then the network (physical stuff) has to be socialized, however that is done.

Isn't it odd that "net neutrality" amounts to demanding that all users must contribute a small per user fee, in order that a few wastrels can slurp up gobs of resources, yet we aren't allowed to make the equivalent demand of health care? People are funny.

13 August 2010

This Was the Week That Was: 13 August 2010

For the next little while, I'm going to just keep notes during the week, and post on Friday; since this is Friday the 13th, and the stock market has been playing Vomit Comet, there's been just too much going on to have enough time to deal with it all. I didn't keep written notes, of course, just having gotten the notion into my head, as a result, this missive is extemporaneous.

The two highlights of the week were the continuing braying from the Right Wingnuts about "Inflation is Coming, All Poor People Must Be Starved to Death", and Oracle's apparent unmasking as the Evil Monolith.

About Inflation. Regular readers have waded through three installments of Dee Feat, but it all bears repeating: inflation happens for any of three reasons; a commodity gets scarce and expensive (aka, the stagflation of the 1970's when the hated Arabs cut off the oil) which is Cost Push, when labor gets enough power to impose wage increases beyond productivity (alleged to have happened in the 1960's, but I don't buy it) which is Wage Push, and when there is excess money just floating around in the system chasing a stagnant output level which is Demand Pull (there are historical cases in other countries, but none here that I can recall here off the top of my head). It is alleged now, by the Right Wingnuts, that the stimulus and TARP before it, will cause inflation, but they're wrong so far, and will be wrong in the future. THE ONLY WAY YOU CAN GET CASH DRIVEN INFLATION IS IF THE MONEY IS IN THE HANDS OF CONSUMERS. Rinse, repeat until understood. That hasn't, and won't be, happening. The money, both TARP fur shur, and much of the stimulus, went to the Financial Services Industry; which caused the mess in the first place. Wages continue to decline, even for the employed, and the ranks of the 99ers grow each week.

There are, one may note, localized versions of Demand Pull; localized in place, time, or commodity. You see where this is going? The housing bubble is localized inflation. Prices in the Washington, DC metro is localized inflation. The Chinese and whoever, dumped cash into the mortgage market and rocketed prices up. But only by getting the money into hands of consumers.

The last few weeks have seen rising new unemployment counts, but steady or declining total unemployment and unemployment rate. And wonder of wonders, some Mainstream Media mention, in passing, that this is due to folks being tossed off the rolls. Real unemployment is getting worse. The stock market then gets scared because there's no demand for goods, and it goes into a tail spin. As this endeavor has preached from the beginning, you don't improve an economy by making more people poorer. Well, the fascist ones like the idea. But the USofA isn't fascist, is it?

And, since April, the stock market has been falling. Why? Money is being withdrawn by both retail (what few there are) and hedge funds; ergo, overall prices fall. There are occasional increases, but as money is taken out of the game, consumers (stock gamblers) have less to spend, so prices overall fall. It's that simple. It can't last for too long. The cash has been injected, and won't disappear. The cash won't be transferred to regular consumers, the riff raff on Main Street, so falls are temporary. Remember, buying stocks in companies is gambling, not investing in the companies. Roll the dice, Nathan. Even if the "new normal", as the condition is coming to be called, is 10% unemployment and little demand for goods, the Fed and EU continue to keep money interest rates near zero, so you might as well pump up stock prices and earn a lot more. It beats working for a living.

The other interesting note is Oracle suing Google over some aspect, not yet public, of Google's use of java. For the non-tech types, Oracle got into some hot water when it went to buy Sun over the way java would be manipulated by Oracle if the sale was approved. Eventually, Oracle flummoxed both our DoJ (not so difficult) and the EU (thought to be tougher) into approving. Right now, the Cassandra's look right.

09 August 2010

Beware the Slippery Slope

As the saying goes, "Pay back's a bitch". The thrust of this endeavor has been the inexorable truth that the distribution of income and wealth for a stable, democratic society must be more level than slanted. With slanted distributions, police states emerged as the necessary control of the disadvantaged population. Naturally, the slant is always toward having a few rich, rather than having a few poor.

Today, The Wall Street Journal gets it. Here is the story. May be now the Right Wingnuts will get a clue?? Nah, they'll blame it on the reporter marrying some black/hispanic/bi-sexual/child molesting predator.

06 August 2010

Mr. Optimist versus Mr. Pessimist

In today's NY Times is an article contrasting Mr. Optimist and Mr. Pessimist in the economists' dog fight.

Here's a quote from the beginning of the article:
Instead, the [monthly employment] numbers will be a clue as to which of the two economists is right about where the American economy is headed. Their sharp disagreement over that question adds yet another twist to the fierce rivalry between the firms, Wall Street's version of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

And from the end of the article:
As for Friday's numbers, Mr. Berner is calling for a private sector gain of 145,000 jobs versus Mr. Hatzius's prediction of 75,000 new jobs.

Now for the actual number:

Remember: It's the Distribution, Stupid. While profits continue to grow, with the rich getting richer, the poor get poorer, and the middle class disappears into the lower class. The Fatman in Famine is happy to see wages drop and deflation get a stronger foothold. But once the Golden Goose (aka, the middle class) is finally dead and gone, the Fatman will eventually perish, too. With no one left to buy up all that output from no workers, the Fatman's world collapses, much like a black hole.