Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Cruising the Web

Donald Trump is now saying that tariffs will come off if there is a new NAFTA deal. Wait a minute.
“We have large trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. NAFTA, which is under renegotiation right now, has been a bad deal for U.S.A. Massive relocation of companies & jobs. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum will only come off if new & fair NAFTA agreement is signed. Also, Canada must…treat our farmers much better. Highly restrictive. Mexico must do much more on stopping drugs from pouring into the U.S. They have not done what needs to be done. Millions of people addicted and dying,”
I thought he was installing tariffs because it was about national security.

And then there is this little fact.
According to the U.S. Trade Representative, the United States ran a $12.5 billion trade surplus with Canada as of 2016.

But who knows what Trump will do. This is what his Commerce secretary says about Trump's decision-making.
“What he has said, he has said. If he says something different, it’ll be something different. I have no reason to think he’s going to change. … If he for some reason should change his mind, then it will change.”

Veronique de Rugy explains
how Trump's tariffs will cost Americans jobs.
Mr. Trump and other protectionists justify tariffs by proclaiming that they will protect American workers from highly subsidized Chinese companies that sell their steel and aluminum at low prices in the United States market.

Continue reading the main story
Never mind that we import more steel from 10 other nations than from China, or that domestic steel’s market share represents an impressive 70 percent. Nor is it a national security issue: Only 3 percent of that production goes toward the military.

Never mind that domestic steel profits and production have steadily risen since 2010, or that we already have more than 160 special duties on steel imports in place. These moguls demanded more protection and obtained satisfaction.
So the tariffs won't address whatever problem Trump claims they're addressing. But their impact will be felt throughout the country.
According to an estimate from the nonpartisan Trade Partnership Worldwide, a staggering 200,000 people lost their jobs in downstream industries by the following year. That’s more workers than the entire steel industry had at the time.

According to the United States International Trade Commission, other serious consequences of the tariffs included difficulties obtaining steel in the quality and quantity desired, a shift to sourcing finished parts from overseas, and relocating domestic steel-consuming facilities abroad.

Does that sound like what’s best for American workers and consumers? Instead of bringing jobs back to America and fighting off imports, the tariffs led to more jobs shipped abroad and more imports of final, rather than raw, goods. In other words, if your company uses steel to make pipes or refrigerators, you may decide to simply produce your own products abroad rather than paying artificially inflated prices on steel in order to make them in the U.S.A.
De Rugy is sick of so much winning. She links to a story about how Sweden's Electrolux has delayed its plans to expand a plant on Tennessee due to Trump's tariffs and another story about how an American solar company had to lay off between 150 and 250 workers after Trump's new tariffs on solar materials.
If this is winning, I would rather we didn’t win as much, thank you very much.

KEvin Roose of the NYT reports on a trip accompanying venture capitalists
through the Midwest to give them a chance to meet up with local officials in places like Youngstown, Akron, Detroit, Flint, and South Bend as well as check out some promising start-up companies.
By the end of the tour, the coastal elites had caught the heartland bug. Several used Zillow, the real estate app, to gawk at the availability of cheap homes in cities like Detroit and South Bend and fantasize about relocating there. They marveled at how even old-line manufacturing cities now offer a convincing simulacrum of coastal life, complete with artisanal soap stores and farm-to-table restaurants....

These investors aren’t alone. In recent months, a growing number of tech leaders have been flirting with the idea of leaving Silicon Valley. Some cite the exorbitant cost of living in San Francisco and its suburbs, where even a million-dollar salary can feel middle class. Others complain about local criticism of the tech industry and a left-wing echo chamber that stifles opposing views. And yet others feel that better innovation is happening elsewhere.

“I’m a little over San Francisco,” said Patrick McKenna, the founder of High Ridge Venture Partners who was also on the bus tour. “It’s so expensive, it’s so congested, and frankly, you also see opportunities in other places.”
Why not leave a place of high taxes and exorbitant housing costs? Tech companies should be the very companies that don't need to be tethered to one locale.
This isn’t a full-blown exodus yet. But in the last three months of 2017, San Francisco lost more residents to outward migration than any other city in the country, according to data from Redfin, the real estate website. A recent survey by Edelman, the public relations firm, found that 49 percent of Bay Area residents, and 58 percent of Bay Area millennials, were considering moving away. And a sharp increase in people moving out of the Bay Area has led to a shortage of moving vans. (According to local news reports, renting a U-Haul for a one-way trip from San Jose to Las Vegas now costs roughly $2,000, compared with just $100 for a truck going the other direction.)

For both investors and rank-and-file workers, one appeal of noncoastal cities is the obvious cost savings. It’s increasingly difficult to justify doling out steep salaries and lavish perks demanded by engineers in the Bay Area, when programmers in other cities can be had for as little as $50,000 a year. (An entry-level engineer at Facebook or Google might command triple or quadruple that amount.)
The venture capitalists interviewed in this story just sound tired of Silicon Valley. They don't like the costs and attitudes of being in the area. And the feeling seems to be mutual.
But it’s not just about making money. It’s about social comfort, too. Tech companies are more popular in noncoastal states than in their own backyards, where the industry’s effect on housing prices and traffic congestion is more acutely felt. Most large tech companies still rate highly in national opinion surveys, but only 62 percent of Californians say they trust the tech industry, and just 37 percent trust social media companies, according to the Edelman survey. So you can start to understand the appeal of a friendlier environment.

During the Akron stop of the bus trip, while the Silicon Valley investors mingled with local officials over a dinner spread of vegan polenta pizza and barbecue sliders, Mr. McKenna, the San Francisco venture capitalist, told me that he felt a difference in people’s attitudes in cities like these, where the tech industry’s success is still seen as something to celebrate.

“People want to be in places where they’re the hero,” he said.
But if they move out of San Francisco, what need will they have for the poop app mapping out human waste?

Roger Clegg points out that Florence McDormand's pet idea of "inclusion riders," provisions that actors and actresses could require in their contracts to require "diversity" in hiring other employers, could very well be unconstitutional.
The devil is in the details, but just to give you the idea: Suppose that a top salesman for a company said that he’ll continue to work there only if no African Americans are hired. The employer agreeing to such condition would clearly be in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans employment discrimination by private employers.

And suppose that an actress says that she’ll do a picture only if the company making it agrees to hire according to racial, ethnic, and gender quotas. Well, if such quotas are illegal — and they are — then such an inclusion rider would be illegal, too.

THis might be why public infrastructure projects, at least in New York, cost so very much.
An accountant discovered the discrepancy while reviewing the budget for new train platforms under Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan.

The budget showed that 900 workers were being paid to dig caverns for the platforms as part of a 3.5-mile tunnel connecting the historic station to the Long Island Rail Road. But the accountant could only identify about 700 jobs that needed to be done, according to three project supervisors. Officials could not find any reason for the other 200 people to be there.

“Nobody knew what those people were doing, if they were doing anything,” said Michael Horodniceanu, who was then the head of construction at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs transit in New York. The workers were laid off, Mr. Horodniceanu said, but no one figured out how long they had been employed. “All we knew is they were each being paid about $1,000 every day.”

The discovery, which occurred in 2010 and was not disclosed to the public, illustrates one of the main issues that has helped lead to the increasing delays now tormenting millions of subway riders every day: The leaders entrusted to expand New York’s regional transit network have paid the highest construction costs in the world, spending billions of dollars that could have been used to fix existing subway tunnels, tracks, trains and signals.

The estimated cost of the Long Island Rail Road project, known as “East Side Access,” has ballooned to $12 billion, or nearly $3.5 billion for each new mile of track — seven times the average elsewhere in the world. The recently completed Second Avenue subway on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and the 2015 extension of the No. 7 line to Hudson Yards also cost far above average, at $2.5 billion and $1.5 billion per mile, respectively.

The spending has taken place even as the M.T.A. has cut back on core subway maintenance because, as The New York Times has documented, generations of politicians have diverted money from the transit authority and saddled it with debt.

The Times found that a host of factors have contributed to the transit authority’s exorbitant capital costs.

For years, The Times found, public officials have stood by as a small group of politically connected labor unions, construction companies and consulting firms have amassed large profits.

Trade unions, which have closely aligned themselves with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other politicians, have secured deals requiring underground construction work to be staffed by as many as four times more laborers than elsewhere in the world, documents show.

Construction companies, which have given millions of dollars in campaign donations in recent years, have increased their projected costs by up to 50 percent when bidding for work from the M.T.A., contractors say.

Consulting firms, which have hired away scores of M.T.A. employees, have persuaded the authority to spend an unusual amount on design and management, statistics indicate.

Public officials, mired in bureaucracy, have not acted to curb the costs. The M.T.A. has not adopted best practices nor worked to increase competition in contracting, and it almost never punishes vendors for spending too much or taking too long, according to inspector general reports.
Remember, government is the money we waste together.

It appears that conservative singles in D.C. are having trouble dating because too many people base their dating decisions on politics and just don't want to date a conservative, much less anyone associated with Trump. Steven Hayward notes how the Washingtonian has changed the story. The version that is up there now includes this anecdote:
He once brought a woman back to his place, and while checking out his bookshelf, she noticed some books by conservative thinkers, he says. “She was like, ‘Oh no. First question: Did you vote for Trump?’,” the reporter says. He told her no, but that he was conservative. “She was like ‘I have to get out of here. I can’t see you,’ and left.”
But Hayward points out that the original version had this line:
He once brought a woman back to his place, and while checking out his bookshelf, she noticed some books by Thomas Locke and other conservative thinkers, he says.
After ridicule about "Thomas Locke," I guess the Washingtonian decided to just quietly excise that part of the story out. I don't know what was more ridiculous - that the writer or the guy being interviewed didn't know that it is "John Locke" or that anyone would consider Locke an inherently conservative writer. Don't liberals care about natural rights any more?

Hmmm. Does this sound familiar?
A man who is critically ill after being exposed to an unknown substance in Wiltshire is a Russian national convicted of spying for Britain, the BBC understands.

Sergei Skripal, 66, was granted refuge in the UK following a "spy swap" between the US and Russia in 2010.

He and a woman, 33, were found unconscious on a bench at a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday.

Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury has been closed by police "as a precaution".

The substance has not been identified....

Col Skripal, who is a retired Russian military intelligence officer, was jailed for 13 years by Russia in 2006 for spying for Britain.

He was convicted of passing the identities of Russian intelligence agents working undercover in Europe to the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

Russia said Col Skripal had been paid $100,000 for the information, which he had been supplying from the 1990s.

He was one of four prisoners released by Moscow in exchange for 10 US spies in 2010, as part of a swap. Col Skripal was later flown to the UK.

The BBC's security correspondent Gordon Corera said government officials were not commenting about events in Salisbury, but that the possibility of an unexplained substance being involved will draw comparisons with the 2006 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.

Mr Litvinenko was a former intelligence officer who, an inquiry later found, was probably killed on the orders of Vladimir Putin.
Check for a poison umbrella.

Just what everyone is looking for in a physics class.
Last fall semester, students in Pomona College’s Foundations of Modern Physics (PHYS101 PO) class were required to complete a “Decolonizing Physics” project as a part of their physics coursework. Taught by Professor Janice Hudgings, Foundations of Modern Physics is mandatory course for all students majoring in physics or astronomy. The Pomona College course catalog describes the class as an “introduction to wave mechanics, spectra and structure of atoms, molecules and solids, nuclear physics and particle physics.”

According to an email obtained by the Independent sent from a student asking for assistance on the project, students in Foundations of Modern Physics must “learn and discuss implicit bias, microaggressions and other similar topics.” The email revealed that students are expected to “bring to light some of these issues to both the physics department and Pomona in general,” and cited a student movement at Harvard University, which highlighted microaggressions against students of color, as an example of the work expected from the students enrolled in the physics class. (H/T College Fix)

Ah, this is lovely: a list of "40 things to admire about 40-year-old Manu Ginobili." He's my favorite NBA player these days. I voted for the first reason on the list and my husband voted for #26. Your mileage may differ. Perhaps, you'll choose #6. I just enjoy watching him every minute he's on the court.