America It Will Be Bad, By Peggy Noonan

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“You can’t see all the world’s weapons and all its madness and not know that eventually we will face a terrible day or days when everything will depend on our ability to hold together and hold on. Maybe it will involve nuclear weapons, maybe an extended, rolling attack on the grid, maybe bioterrorism. But it will be bad; there will be deep stress and violence. The great question in those days, under that acute pressure, will be:   Will we hold together? Will we suffer through and emerge, together, on the other side? Which is another way of saying:   Will we continue as a nation, a people?

“My belief is that whatever helps us hold together now, whatever brings us together and binds us close, is good, and must be encouraged with whatever it takes.

“If these are your predicates — America in cultural catastrophe, and hard history ahead — you spend your energies on a battle not to make government significantly smaller, but to make it significantly more helpful.”

— PEGGY NOONAN, speechwriter and special advisor to President Ronald Reagan

WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 4-5, 2019, p. A13

America’s Continuing Cultural Catastrophe, By Peggy Noonan

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“The old conservatism of smaller government, tax cuts and reduced spending . . .

“That old conservatism was deeply pertinent to its era and philosophically right, but it is not fully in line with the crises of our time or its reigning facts . . .

“The federal government will not become smaller or less expensive in our lifetimes . . .

“But beyond that fact is something bigger. America needs help right now and Americans know it. It has been enduring for many years a continuing cultural catastrophe — illegitimacy, the decline of faith, low family formation, child abuse and neglect, drugs, inadequate public education, etc. All this exists alongside an entertainment culture on which the poor and neglected are dependent, and which is devoted to violence, sex and nihilism . . .

“America to my mind is what Pope Francis said the church was: a field hospital after battle. We are a beautiful and great nation but a needy, torn-up one in need of repair.”

— PEGGY NOONAN, Speechwriter and special assistant to President Ronald Reagan

From the WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 4-5, 2019, p. A13

Gas Prices In Florida Continue Down

gray industrial machine during golden hour

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Gasoline selling as low as $1.93 and $1.91 in my part of Florida on Friday. It’s less than a week since gas prices broke the $2 barrier. Welcome to a strange New Year.

Most stations in my area, north of Tampa-St. Pete and near the southern edge of the Nature Coast, are attempting to hold the gas price line at about $1.94. The ground in Florida is sandy, so you can consider that a line in the sand. A line that’s already been crossed. If gas prices break below $1.90 a gallon next week, will it become a price rout? Probably not.

Today I also noticed that one gas station in my neighborhood has closed since Christmas. Closed for renovation or reconstruction? Or closed for good? Or would that be, more accurately, closed for bad?

With both Ford and General Motors going out of the car business, I wonder how many dealerships will close or consolidate this year and next? How many autoworkers will be laid off? For the record, the companies will continue making a few old-fashioned cars, such as the Ford Mustang. And Ford and Chevy will remain very much open for business. But not Buick. Not sure about Cadillac.

American automakers are simply giving up on sedans and focusing on SUVs and trucks, which remain popular and profitable. American automakers are surrendering to Japanese and Korean automakers. Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler can’t compete, or don’t have the will to compete.

Are falling gas prices and rising popularity of large SUVs and trucks mutually reinforcing trends?

With large parts of the U.S. government closed on purpose by U.S. “leaders” and many Federal workers no longer being paid, with automakers and gasoline industries closing facilities and laying off workers, and the stock market . . .

I can’t finish the above sentence. My mind is unable to grasp the implications.

Where is the bottom?

— John Hayden

Gas Prices In Florida Last Day Of 2018

The going rate for regular gasoline in my part of Florida was $1.96 a gallon yesterday, Dec. 30, the penultimate day of 2018. And the temperature today, New Year’s Eve, 80 degrees, bright sunshine, delightful. Cheap gas, sunshine, just another day in paradise. Lest you become too envious, New Year’s Day will be only about 76 degrees, followed by a week or more of moderate or falling temperatures.

Seven-Eleven, WaWa, branded stations, all $1.96. A few holdouts were trying for $1.97 or $1.98; probably didn’t have an employee available to change the price.

(Explanation: The average gas station is fully automated. One human cashier for the impoverished or simply backward customers who don’t have credit or debit cards. The convenience stores have two or three other workers, but they’re making coffee or fast food. They have nothing to do with the gasoline pumps. So what’s the  point? Automation and resulting human unemployment is one reason the price of gas is what it is.)

Then late yesterday evening, I saw a $1.94 !! sign at a Citgo station! And, I spotted a lone Sunoco station still stuck at $2.01. Maybe that station is closed? Maybe it’s been abandoned?

Let the record show that all gas prices have that nine-tenths of one cent tacked on at the end. It’s a strange and antiquated marketing custom of the gasoline business. Bamboozling the customer out of an extra nine-tenths of a penny? People have long internalized the ploy. The extra nine-tenths cent has been on gas station signs since at least my childhood, and that’s more than a half-century ago. So, for the unsuspecting reader from some faraway land, such as Antarctica or Pluto, let it be clear. Yesterday’s $1.96 gas was really a fraction of a penny less than $1.97. And who cares?

Who knows what the price is today, the final day of 2018? Not me. I haven’t been out yet, but I’ll update this post later. It’s probably lower. Since about Christmas, the price of gas has been falling about a penny a day. At this rate, we’ll have $1.50 gas by spring. That is, $1.50 gas, BUT ONLY IF prices go in a straight line. Few trends ever follow a straight line. But you knew that.

Will the stock market follow gas prices? Despite the ceremonial wailing and gnashing of teeth by the wealthy class, who tend to be more emotional about money than, say, poor people, there remains a whole lot of profit available for the taking in the stock market when it reopens on Jan. 2, 2019.

All the profit that was in the stock market on the first day of 2018 is STILL THERE.  Everything that happened in 2018 was fluctuation. Up-up-up, and, down-down-down. Turn around, and repeat. Other words, 2018 was a wash, a big NOTHING. The test is yet to come.

So stock market 2019? Can you say profit-taking? Maybe. Or maybe, more inflation of the bubble? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, who wants to bet that the price of gas will be lower on the first day of 2019 than the final day of 2018? I predict gas will hit $1.90, at least, before it goes back up. But my predictions are worth not even nine-tenths of one penny.

Happy New Year to all, whatever it may bring,

— John

 

Gas Prices In Florida

Gas 1.99

GAS PRICE $1.99 FOR REGULAR IN FLORIDA

Gasoline has broken through the $2 barrier in my part of Florida. The photo was taken late this afternoon, Dec. 27, 2018, a little bit north of Tampa-St. Pete, and not far from the southern edge of the Nature Coast. I doubt that such a low price can be found in any of Florida’s largest cities. And definitely not in the cities of the Northeast or California. Just my guess.

So what does it mean?

Is it a harbinger of general economic meltdown? Could be, but I doubt it.

Will prices remain so low? Probably not, but in this crazy time, who can say?

Will the stock market follow the gas price? Don’t know, don’t care. Don’t own any stocks. Or bonds. Let the buyer beware. I just made that up. You can write it down.

What to do?

Fill up now. Remain calm and enjoy driving while it lasts. Probably not a sign from heaven that you should rush out and buy an SUV with a V8 engine. Just saying.

Gas prices will undoubtedly rebound. Unless they crash.

As you may recall, one of the two reasons I moved to Florida was the lower cost of living. The other was warmer winters. It’s been more often cold than warm this Christmas season. But today, as I was transfixed by that $1.99 gas price, the temperature hit 77. Tomorrow, probably 78. Like the gas prices, I enjoy it while it lasts.

Tomorrow’s gas price?

Only one thing I know for sure. Nobody can predict the future.

— John Hayden

Artificial Intelligence Revolution

board game business challenge chess

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You say you want a revolution? Ready or not, a revolution is coming. It’s coming for you and me. It’s coming soon. You might want to try to hold onto your job. And your dignity. But good luck with that.

“The real battles that lie ahead will lack the apocalyptic drama of Hollywood blockbusters, but they will disrupt the structure of our economic and political systems all the same. Looming before us in the coming decades is an AI-driven crisis of jobs, inequality and meaning. The new technology will wipe out a huge portion of work as we’ve known it, dramatically widening the wealth gap and posing a challenge to the human dignity of us all.”

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. If you want to be cool and appear in the know, you can begin dropping the AI acronym into your conversation or writing whenever possible.

The above quote is from a long piece written by Kai-Fu Lee in the Sept. 15-16 weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal. (I’m not in the habit of reading the WSJ, because I own no stocks and no bonds. But I sometimes pick it up if Publix is sold out of the NYT. Maybe I should read the WSJ more often? But I digress.) The article is entitled “The Human Promise Of The AI Revolution.” (See, I didn’t make up the “revolution” part.) Here’s another chilling quote from the WSJ article:

“This unprecedented disruption requires no new scientific breakthrough in AI, just the application of existing technology to new problems. It will hit many white-collar professionals just as hard as it hits blue-collar factory workers.”

Gosh, I’ve been focusing my worry on global warming, climate change, and the rising sea level. (And Donald Trump, of course. But I promise not to digress in that direction.) Now I have to worry about artificial intelligence as well? No problem. I have a nearly unlimited capacity for Worry, with a capital “W.”

Global Warming and Artificial Intelligence

After reading the aforementioned article, I can see similarities between Global Warming and Artificial Intelligence. Both sound like science fiction with hints of apocalypse.

Both promise unprecedented change with astonishing but uncertain consequences. Many people hope and believe that humans will be able to exert some degree of control over both global warming and artificial intelligence. (This is the “It might not be too late” school of optimism.)

Most folks have heard about global warming, but hope its most dangerous consequences are way off in the future. Many folks have not heard about artificial intelligence. Yet. But  if they have, they assume it is way off in the future.

Many people are aware that global warming has probably been happening for some time. Many acknowledge that we are already experiencing the first effects of global warming and climate change, manifesting as annoying shifts in weather patterns and apparent increase in the size and frequency of catastrophic storms.

However, it hasn’t dawned on many folks that artificial intelligence, like global warming, is already happening. Both global warming and artificial intelligence are HERE, NOW.

A Glacier And A Locomotive

I think I can get away with one more quote from the Kai-Fu Lee article in the WSJ. After all, I’m going to give him free publicity for his forthcoming book.

“The AI revolution will be of the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution — but probably larger and definitely faster. Where the steam engine only took over physical labor, AI can perform both intellectual and physical labor. And where the Industrial Revolution took centuries to spread beyond Europe and the U.S., AI applications are already being adopted simultaneously all across the world.”

Larger and faster than the Industrial Revolution!!!

Here’s my interpretation: Global warming is moving — not as slowly as a glacier, perhaps — but slowly, in terms of human years.

Global warming can make big changes in the lifetime of one human.

Artificial Intelligence, meanwhile, is moving more like a speeding locomotive — more like dog years than human years.

Artificial intelligence can make big changes in the lifetime of one dog.

And what about that Kai-Fu Lee book? It is “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order.” There’s a title to strike fear into the heart. The book is scheduled to be published next week, Sept. 25, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. So says the WSJ.

And who is this guy Kai-Fu Lee? Never heard of him. He appears to have serious credentials in the brave new world of AI. You could Google him.

— John Hayden

WE NEED CHANGE.

I think the number of children living in poverty in the U.S. is about the same as in Britain. In the richest countries of the world, including the U.S. and Britain, it is immoral to have so many children living below the poverty line. In fact, I believe the child poverty stats indicate that rich countries like us are morally bankrupt! As the artist who created a nifty and instructive poster said, Zero children should be living in poverty. “We need change.”

Indeed. We as a society (and as an electorate) have both the means and the power to reduce child poverty nearly to zero. But do 51 percent of us want to really do that? Do 51 percent of us even care?

I’m afraid to say the answer.

(You can see the poster by clicking on the Abba1blog post below.)

— John Hayden

abba1blog

This started of as a little sketch of a table and chairs in a coffee shop, which evolved in to a mini poverty poster!

I have been reading so much lately about the hidden and unspoken inequality and hardship that goes on in Britain that no one speaks about, and most probably don’t even know about, for example these insane poverty statistics.I think when your’e eating a cinnamon swirl with a soy latte you realise how lucky you actually are? and that a cinnamon swirl probably isn’t a life necessity (no its definitely not). So all of us in that coffee shop that day who were spending too much money on cake, are lucky people to even be able to have that as a opportunity to us, and i completely recognize that.

The fact that 1 in 4 kids live in poverty I think is really really sad, as like…

View original post 181 more words

Jon Taplin On The Brave New Technology Revolution

If you have 45 minutes and you’d like to know what’s happening in the worldwide technological revolution, I recommend “Sleeping Through A Revolution,” a lecture by Jon Taplin of the Annenberg Innovation Lab. Watch and listen to the lecture here.

The Internet economy is destroying jobs. Taplin cites the ruins of the music, newspaper, book, film, and television industries. The Internet economy has transferred a wealth of income  from the “creative class” (the makers of content) to monopolistic Internet platforms, such as Google and Facebook, Taplin says. And Amazon.

But wait! Musicians, editors, printers, authors and workers in the TV and film industries are not the only losers in this Brave New World of technology monopoly. Taplin predicts:

“The technological revolution is about to come for everybody else’s job too.”

Do you doubt it? The number of robots in the world is doubling every 30 months, Taplin reports. The lecture covers a lot of ground. Past, present, future. I’m not going to report the whole lecture. I urge you to watch it for yourself. I plan to listen to the lecture at least one more time.

— John Hayden

The Future Of Air Transportation in Montgomery County

What can be done to meet the present and future needs of Montgomery County citizens and businesses for air transportation?  Continue reading

Political Apartheid In America

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IT’S NO SECRET.  America has devolved into Red State/Blue State political apartheid. It’s based on geography, lifestyle and issues, not on race or color.

The Northeast and Pacific coast are Democratic Blue. The South, Great Plaines and Rocky Mountains are Republican Red. The problem is abetted within states by gerrymandering.

Development of political apartheid in America was accompanied by the hollowing out of the American industrial base, the demise of labor unions, and growth of the financial sector. A deepening divide between rich and poor is salt in the wound.

Red/Blue apartheid is largely responsible for gridlocking the government in Washington. Some states and cities are also experiencing gridlock and financial trouble. If not for the Great Recession and continuing economic decline, perhaps political dysfunction by itself would not be serious.

Now, the sputtering engine of taxation and government finance is running out of gas, as many American corporations scurry to abandon the sinking  ship. The technical term for this particular form of treason is “corporate inversion.”

Bill Clinton, campaigning this week with Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, a Red state, made the following comment, as reported by The Washington Post.

“It would be wrong to try and build a future for America that leaves rural America and small-town America out.”

That’s an understatement. If we Americans allow the pathology of political apartheid/ government dysfunction/ economic decline to fester, we will be inviting collapse of democratic government.

Remember, In our hyper-complex world, the speed of change is balls to the wall. We’re constantly vulnerable to black swans. Or if you prefer, Murphy’s Law.

“Whatever can go wrong will go wrong.”

Exactly what would replace democratic government, I do not know. I don’t want to think about it, but the words “fascism” and “communism” come too readily to mind.

In the next post, I’ll consider Red/Blue political apartheid in my own home state, Maryland.

John Hayden

What do you think about political apartheid? Your comments are welcome below.