Saturday, April 30, 2016

Again, Just Too Much To Post -- I'm Taking A Break -- April 30, 2016

Updates

May 1, 2016: I wasn't the only one who noticed game 1 of round 2, the San Antonio Spurs vs the Oklahoma City Thunder. Yahoo!Sports suggests a San Antonio Spur blowout could have a huge impact on the Thunder. 
What happened in this 124-92 Spurs victory on Saturday night in the AT&T Center was downright jarring to the Thunder, promising to test the foundation, the fabric, of this franchise. Oklahoma City had come to these Western Conference semifinals finally healthy and strong and believing the partnership of Durant and Westbrook could sustain itself in a long series against the Spurs.
Only the Thunder were an embarrassment. They let the Spurs take one open shot after another and lost them in transition and sometimes didn’t even run back on defense. They let the Spurs humiliate them and made more real the fear that the possibility of San Antonio taking them apart in this series could be the push that Durant needs to walk away for good, to believe everything has run its course here.
Later, 10:29 p.m. Central Time: the Spurs win by 32; up as much as 43 points. Final 124 - 92. 

Later, 8:48 p.m. Central Time: wow! making it look easy. Some NBA teams are still playing the 7th game in Round 1. San Antonio swept the first round, winning four games, losing none. Tonight they are playing Oklahoma City Thunder. It look like the Thunder is phoning it in. San Antonio leads 70 - 43 at the half. Are you kidding? 70 at the half?  SA is the #2 team; OKC is ranked #3. 70 - 43. Hmmm. For OKC, Kevin Durant 4 of 13 field goals; Russell Westbrook, 3 of 13; and those two are the super-stars for OKC. SA's Tim Duncan? 2 for 2; and Tony Parker, 1 for 3. For SA, it's all LeMarcus Aldridge, 13 for 18. LeMarcus: two years at UT; nine seasons with the Portland Blazers, and signed with the Spurs in 2015. Wow. And Kahwi Leonard, 9 for 12. Two years with San Diego State. Selected by Indiana Pacers in 2011 but traded to the Spurs that night. Won the NBA championship with the Spurs in 2014. And SA still has the "old guard': Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili.
 
Original Post
"Fast and furious."

There is some incredible news yet to be posted today but I have to take a break. I will be back to blogging later.

There may be some big things in the works if one believes what the tea leaves are telling us.

But last night I noted that our local grocer has lamb chops for sale. My wife just sent me the list of herbs and spices we need to marinade lamb.

Several years ago we came across the best marinade for lamb in Weber's Big Book of Grilling. I truly believe that one needs only two "cookbooks": 1) Webers for grilling; and, 2) Betty Crocker's (the 1950 edition) for everything else. I'm not joking. I prefer the older Betty Crocker handed down from previous generations; I do not like the new one.

I use all fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme, for example) for the marinade, and we've found that 12 hours is the minimum amount of time necessary to properly marinade lamb. We prefer 24 hours and generally go with 18 hours simply because we get a late start -- which will happen if I don't get moving.

Have a great day. Back later.

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Lamb Marinade Preparation


Thyme

Rosemary

Rosemary and Thyme


Minced Garlic

All Ingredients

Trimmed Lamb Chops

To Begin Marinading For 24 Hours

Is Baghdad About Ready To Implode? -- And Why Did I Only Find This Over At Drudge? -- Enquiring Minds Want To Know -- April 30, 2016

Updates

May 1, 2016: "Breaking news": Iran cancels all flights into Baghdad airport. [I was unable to verify this; Travelocity does not list flights into/out of Baghdad/Tehran.]

Later, 8:37 p.m. Central Time: this story is starting to gain some traction. Washington Post headline -- Protests in Baghdad throw administration’s Iraq plan into doubt," LOL -- the "plan" was to "run out the clock" and that is exactly correct. If Baghdad "blows"/implodes, it will be interesting to see Barack watching from the bench.
President Obama’s plan for fighting the Islamic State is predicated on having a credible and effective Iraqi ally on the ground in Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
And in recent days, the administration had been optimistic, despite the growing political unrest in Baghdad, about that critical partnership.
But that optimism — along with the administration’s strategy for battling the Islamic State in Iraq — was thrown into severe doubt after protesters stormed Iraq’s parliament on Saturday and a state of emergency was declared in Baghdad.
The big question for White House officials is what happens if Abadi — a critical linchpin in the fight against the Islamic State — does not survive the turmoil that has swept over the Iraqi capital.
My suggestion: "run out the clock." It's been a good strategy. Why change now. Let Hillary deal with it. 

And then go golfing.
Original Post
 
Perhaps this is a non-story, but it sounds like things are a bit tense in Iraq, #2 in crude oil production in the Mideast, I believe. This story did not make it on David Muir's ABC Nigthly News last night so it might be a non-story. But here we go, for the archives, if nothing else.

The Mirror is reporting that protestors have stormed the Green Zone and the Iraqi parliament; Baghdad declares a state of emergency. 

The AP is reporting the same story.

The Washington Post is posting the same story, but in "breaking news," Baghdad Bob says it's all over, that it was simply a misunderstanding. Anti-terror forces have stepped down, and local authorities are calling it simply a demonstration.

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Texas Wild Flowers -- 2016
 Set #4





Russian April Oil Output Flat -- April 30, 2016

Reuters/Rigzone is reporting:
Russian oil production edged lower in April: to 10.86 million barrels per day (bpd) from a record 10.91 million in March.
The preliminary statistics show Russia is determined to keep oil output high after the world's leading crude producers failed to clinch a deal to freeze output to support weak crude prices.
The sources said seasonal maintenance at oilfields and refineries brought production down.
Production still running above the 2015 average of 10.73 million bpd, however, which was the highest yearly output for nearly three decades.
Russian oil output has repeatedly surprised on the upside over the past decade, rising from as low as 6 million bpd at the turn of the millennium. Oil experts have repeatedly predicted a decline but it has yet to happen.
So many story lines here. Most remarkable is the "exactness" of the figures. 10.91 million - 10.86 million = 50,000 bbls or 0.4% and "we" know it's due to "seasonal maintenance at oilfields and refineries. Call me cynical, but 0.4% is a rounding error. I wish I could account for my own monthly spending that closely.

I still think the graph at this post (and reposted below) is the best I've seen for putting things in perspective. [Within each bar, the lower, darker segment is crude oil; the upper, lighter segment is natural gas.]

We Now Know Where $6 Billion In Saudi Reserve Assets Went -- LOL -- April 30, 2016

The other day I mentioned that Saudi Arabia lost "only" $6 billion in reserve assets in March. Hold that thought while "taking in" the screenshot below:



It certainly puts things into perspective when commiserating about the state of American entrepreneurism, innovation, and technology.

By the way, with regard to that long, long post on America's productivity decline, it may or may not mean all that much to "the individual." It may not even mean that much in "the aggregate."

The embedded graphs below come from this site.

From 2013 to 2016, under the Obama administration:


source: tradingeconomics.com

For the past ten years:
source: tradingeconomics.com

Since 1950:
source: tradingeconomics.com

The Scariest Chart On The US Economy? -- American Enterprise Institute -- April 30

Updates

Later, 10:06 a.m. Central Time: the graph(s) on this page are "five-year rolling averages" for annual productivity growth. Annual productivity growth charts can be seen here
 
Original Post
US productivity at this link. The first graph below is as it appears at the link. The second graph with some notes added so that I could put the first graph in historical context.


At the link, the author suggests three interpretations:
  • US innovation has come to an end; low-productivity workers first to lose jobs in recession; workers now returning to the work force are the lower-productivity workers
  • we are mismeasuring productivity; current productivity formulas/statistics were based on "steel-and-wheat" economy; those algorithms/assumptions/formulae don't work for an IT economy
  • current "lull" is to be expected; innovation off the radar scope drags productivity down; "seed corn" being planted for another cycle of productivity gains
I assume "productivity growth" is unrelated to global economy. That assumption may be terribly wrong. And it's important to differentiate between "global economy" and "globalization." This might be a good place to start when sorting that out

Let's say US innovation and entrepreneurism have not changed. Let's say IT has matured (it's been around since at least 1984).

If one takes out US innovation, entrepreneurism, and IT maturation, then is one left with policy? I don't know. But one wonders.


Legend:
  • RR: exact years of President Reagan's administration
  • Bill: exact years of President Clinton's administration
  • 1: first term for George W Bush (an overhang from Bill's presidency)
  • 2: second term for George W Bush and first term for Barack Obama (reflects the ship of state as it started turning in the first term of George W Bush)
  • BHO: the second term of President Obama and the overhang that Hillary will inherit
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National Productivity

As defined/discussed at wiki, about halfway down that webpage, under the subsection called "National Productivity."
There are different measures of productivity and the choice among them depends either on the purpose of the productivity measurement and/or data availability. One of the most widely used measures of productivity is Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per hour worked. 
This, of course, is fairly simplistic compared to an alternate method called or multi factor productivity or total factor productivity.
Based on the nature of the discussion at the AEI link at the very top of this post suggests that productivity in this case is being defined as GDP/hours worked.

*************************************
The Arguments

The first argument had two parts:
  • innovation has come to an end in the US
  • in a recession the less productive were "made redundant" first, and now with unemployment rate back to 5%, employers are hiring the less productive workers
Obviously, the argument that innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurism in the US has come to and end, is hogwash.  I won't even address that one. If accurate -- that innovation is dead in the US, Obama has done more to "destroy" the US than even I could imagine.

The second part of that argument: the less productive are now being re-hired. Not even worth discussing. One can come up with a dozen counter arguments, but the military has some of the most sophisticated technology in the universe, and the all-volunteer force, many of them high school graduates with no prior training do just fine with that state-of-the-art technology. It would be hard to argue that the best and brightest are volunteering in droves for the US military.

The second argument: we are mismeasuring productivity. We probably are, but that doesn't explain what has happened in the last four years. What surprises me is that the Obama administration did not re-define productivity to make things look a lot better.

The third argument: it's simply a "technology" lull. Of course that's just as crazy, but let's take a minute and explore that for a few minutes. I would opine that the folks who came up with this one might be on to something, but they are just a "off" a bit. Let's say the incredible drop in productivity is due to "technology." It's not a "technology lull." It's "technology misplaced." Countless billions of dollars have been spent on companies like Solyndra and SunEdison. Countless billions of dollars have likewise been spent on EVs with little to show for all that investment.

Having said that, I think those arguments are all a stretch.

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Can The Slump In Productivity Be Explained?

It comes down to this: the sharp drop in productivity in the graph above appears to be "cyclic." The question is whether the remarkable decline in US productivity is simply to be expected / inexplicable (sort of like the business cycle) or is the result of something specific? For purposes of this post, I will assume the severe slump in productivity is manmade.

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The Obama Legacy: Decreased Productivity

1. Tens of thousands of new pages of compliance rules and regulations across the entire federal bureaucracy. Without question, this is the #1 reason for decreased productivity. Simply google Obama legacy compliance regulations. This may be as good as any essay on bureaucracy run amok.

2. Idealism at any cost. "Fixing" health care was a noble effort, but in the end, the president let lobbyists write the bill. The result was a trainwreck, their word, not mine. ObamaCare is the 800-lb gorilla in every corporate boardroom. 

3. Bad science. Climate change is a given; assuming US taxpayers can make a difference is perhaps the best example of presidential hubris. This has led to multiple bad policy decisions, mostly in the area of energy: the war on coal; intermittent, undependable energy; redundant energy; energy shortages; expensive energy.

4. Balkanization / polarization of America. This is an interesting one. No less than McClatchy DC has identified politics of anger, fights, and division as Obama's defining legacy. Tens of thousands of new pages of compliance regulations might have happened under any president but it's hard to imagine any president more polarizing than President Obama. The polarization has simply put America in gridlock. Nothing gets done, but a lot of dollars and manpower are spent on either side fighting for their side. At its extreme, Balkanization has led to the growth of CAVE dwellers. Historians will begin the chapter on the Obama presidency with these words: No other presidency, since Abraham Lincoln, was marked by such divisiveness.

5. Legalized money laundering. Perhaps the best example of spending money that adds absolutely nothing to the economy is "cap and trade." It's not that the beneficiaries don't break even, they go spectacularly broke spending US taxpayer money. Solyndra is Exhibit A; SunEdison is Exhibit B.

6. Crime. I don't know how economists factor in law enforcement when it comes to determining productivity. But releasing tens of thousands of felons over a short period of time certainly seems like it would be a drag on the economy. Permitting open borders does little for American productivity.

7. Inability to make a decision. President Obama's inability to make a decision may be best exemplified by his lack of a "Syrian strategy" for years. With regard to US productivity it was best reflected by his inability to make a decision on the Keystone for six years.

8. Anti-business. "Keeping the boot on the neck of BP" was excessive, inflammatory, overkill, but demonstrated well President Obama's attitude toward business in general. By 2012, Obama's anti-business, anti-job bias was already evident. [It might be of interest to see that ObamaCare let that list of "Top 10."]

Bottom line: Regulations, ObamaCare, and bad science account for 99% of the US decline in productivity. Many more causes exist but compared to the Big Three, the rest are simply ankle-biters.

Note: the first half of this post was posted yesterday but completion was purposely delayed to allow myself to think about the graph. I am leaving up the initial post because some readers have left comments at that post and I don't want to lose the comments.