“Beware The Greeks….”

The newly elected Greek president, Alexis Tsipras, has said the he intends to end austerity, and renegotiate the debt. Brussels and Berlin are not amused.

(Alexis Tsipras was elected from a political party called “The Party Of The Radical Left.)

Margaret Thatcher’s brilliant observation that, ” The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other peoples’ money” is that, in the case of Greece, there is no one else’s money.

And, without the EU lending them more money, they will not in the future.

Apparently, Alexis Tsipras has not heard of Christina Kirchner, the president of Argentina. Her nation has delayed and delayed billions owed to hedge funds in New York, but.a Federal Judge hearing the elongated case has ordered them to pay up!

Their refusal has caused Standard and Poor to call Argentina in “Sovereign Default,” and the day of reckoning is nigh.

The European Union was wondering if the Euro would survive Greece leaving the EU, but more recently the Brussels/Berlin axis has decided the EU would be better off without Greece.

The problem that Alexis Tsipras has is exactly what happened to President Obama –indeed EVERY president of every country discovers on the first morning of his presidency, best described by the term, “Holy Crap! I had no idea it was that bad!”

There follows a dance to hide, dissemble, delay the problems, trying to keep the balls in the air — hoping the problems will either solve themselves, get solved by other nations, magically disappear, or can be nuanced sufficiently to be passed on to the new president.

Greece has its problems, but the reflected problems impact the EU and, since the EU is our main trading partner, to a minor extent, the US.

The Fear of AI

The advances since I wrote one of the Navy’s first Artificial Intelligence programs — probably the very first such program — have been exponential.

Today, my program would only qualify as “weighted values” program, because it had no Feedback Loop or an AI Engine (Inference Engine). It was designed to take all of the usual data — training, armament, fuel load, overhaul schedule, etc. and tell a Destroyer Squadron Commander which ship to deploy on short notice if one of his ships had a problem in Vietnam. (As if he didn’t already know, intuitively!)

By the time I was a Core Adjunct Professor of Computer Science teaching Artificial Intelligence, the craft had vaulted into something special, like a program at La Guardian Airport the told Controllers which runways to close or open as storms rolled across that huge airport, I real time.

Modern AI is so much better still, and people like Bill Gates, Stephen Hawkins, and Elon Musk are expressing concern about the future of AI. They have a much better view of the situation, and they would say problem, and I have no opinion on their opinion but I just think it is inevitable.

If it is inevitable — and it is like nuclear proliferation and cloning, in fact all technology. Once identified and developed it will proliferate. My concern is much less technology, which is the concern of the above mention scions of technology, than the social impact which is much more immediate — the rapid loss of jobs and the potential for social unrest the could result.

A hotel in Japan has announced that upon opening, 90 % of employees will be Robots. Said Robots will check in the guests, take bags to the room, clean the rooms, deliver the Room Service meals…the hotel hopes to exceed the reported 90%. Here at home, hospitals are using food and medicine by Robots.

As this replacement of workers increases in an effort to get labor costs under control, a modern approximation of the Luddites will appear, in the form of Labor Unions trying to protect wages and benefits. At some point in each industry, the increasing manual labor cost curve crosses the decreasing Robot cost curve.

Workers usually equate their wages with their labor cost, but, depending on the business, total labor costs can be 140% of the wages. Medical benefits, retirement, replacements for sick leave and vacations, Workman’s Comp….the list of costs in addition to the wages just keep adding up.

Before we get to the fear about AI taking over the world, we may have awful social unrest as governments wrestle with fewer workers supporting growing unemployed.as I have remarked before, the Greeks had their own Robots — called “slaves” and few people actually worked, so they gathered at the Forum to discuss whatever Greeks discussed. (They then repaired to some neighbors home, where they lay on couches and drank wine mixed with water and were entertained by women of suspect repute. Actually they were more like Geisha. Who were more conversationalists than prostitutes…though some may have been both.)

Sounds like a winner to me!

Scott Walker Scores!

The general consensus is that Scott Walker stole the Iowa beauty contest, and that is good news to me because he is my early favorite. Scott won three elections in a Blue State, against a phalanx of union members, many of whom were bused in from other states to occupy the State House.

One of my early favorites was Bobby Jindal, but he fell heavily this past weekend by leading what I consider a religious revival in Louisiana, and, a potential candidate I had previously downgraded because he was a preacher, Mike Huckabee, rose somewhat in my opinion because  he said he was not running as a preacher, but as a former Governor.

I certainly do not ask a candidate to give up his faith, but my concern is that it should not be his major driving interest. While not all Founders were Christians, many were, but none were preachers. Reading their letters and speeches, they did believe either in God or a higher power, but their faith was mentioned in passing without being a revival event.

We live in a world where Muslim extremists — and even if it is a small percentage, a small percentage if 1.2 billion is a lot of people — still live in the 12th century, and are sensitive to anything that reminds them of the Crusades of that 12th century because they live in the 12th century, remembering their glory day when Islam controlled Greece, Turkey, Spain, Sicily, Southern Italy…

When President Bush said, in September, 2001, “”this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take awhile,” that was more than an unfortunate slip, that was a rallying cry for extremists.

Now much of the glory days of Islam geography was under Muslim freebooters, admittedly — Muslim pirates and local potentates not under any international political  leadership or any real religious leadership either.

But the Islamic geographic map was large. That large geographic map mitigated against a real Caliphate because the extent of the communications was not there. That made the Muslim world more susceptible to a semi-coherent “Army” of Crusaders picking off one portion at a time.

(I say the Crusaders were semi-coherent because they were not an “Army” in the standard sense…sort of a gaggle of peasants, merchants, Knights with 30 men retinues, and Kings/Princes with thousand-man retinues: All involved in a “Holy War” and promised eternal salvation by the Pope should they die in battle. We have heard echoes of that, recently.)

What we DONT need is any political leadership that reinforces the United States is a “Christian Nation” or that we are on a “Crusade” in the Middle East. Within the past few years the secular country of Turkey elected a Muslim president, and moved away from the Western orb. We don’t need our secular country to move into a Christian nation, reinforcing in the minds(sic) of the radicals that we are on another “Crusade.” That will just draw more to their cause.

Please Keep Up!

I read many newspapers and magazines for information, and a few just for the pleasure of the writing as well — like the Weekly Standard. The erudite use of the English language is often missing from publications, which tend to “write down” to what is their presumed readership, but he Weekly Standard assumes adult readership.

Many years ago, I wrote for a small computer weekly in San Diego, which still exists but under another name, but the weekly Editor’s instructions to writers were: “Write as if you were explaining to your elderly Aunt, who is quite bright but completely non-technical.”

Subsequently, I began my columns for a North County Daily, whose Editor gave these instructions: “Write to the Ninth Grade level.”

To his credit, my current Editor, and my previous two Editors, gave me no instructions at all — they had seen my columns in previous publications, and understood that I write what I write, and attract readers to whatever level that is.

The Weekly Standard writes to a high level, and says, unabashedly, “Please Keep Up!”

That is a phrase that might be applied as well to the freeways of California, which have recently been running at 82 or 83 MPH. Not everyone has the word. Our main problems are recent emigrants to the state from parts of the country, or world, where these speeds are unknown except for fleeing felons!

 

Markets Are a National Health Thermometer

There were five million home sales in 2014, of which one million were new-home sales.

Interest rates are at historic low rates, and might even slide further, but there is also a drag on the market — low inventory.

You might logically think that low inventory and low interest rates would equate to higher prices, but, alas, that is not necessarily so. The missing ingredient is Buyers.

There aren’t enough to drive the market higher.

Why? Well, we fished out the pool over the previous several years and it takes some time to replenish the pool.

I have been a Real Estate Broker for 32 years, although I am now a “Boutique” Broker — I only handle the real estate of my friends. Real Estate is a market just like any other market, although it is one where normal people participate…without knowing they are participating in a financial market.

I hope that people do not know they are participating in a market. I hope they buy their homes because they love the looks, price and location. I hope they buy their home because it will keep them warm and dry.

That is because I am a Real Estate Broker. I am NOT an Investment Broker. I don’t know, or care if the market is going up or down for any particular client — I only look at the market overall because I care about markets in general as an American.

Markets are the thermometer for the health of the economy, and of America.

 

 

Hillary Knows, But Is Playing To The Crowd

Hillary wants us to understand our adversaries, but my concern is that if she she understands our adversaries herself, she is playing politician to those who do not understand our adversaries.

They are, unfortunately, the majority..

In short, Muslims and Christendom have been in conflict for more than a millennia, and Jews and non-believers are lumped into the term “Infidel” although they are more than willing to be spectators to the Christian Muslim kerfuffle. The Muslim will not permit this, but we must remember that Muslims have ruled many nations (think Spain), where Muslims permitted Infidels to live in peace — so long as they paid tribute.

Into this peace came the Crusades, eight in number although only the first few could be called armies, and the final Crusades were just more armed processions to Jerusalem.

(The first Crusade was substantial (100,000 Knights and Nobles) in 1095. Now THAT was a Crusade!)

While this was a “European” endeavor, it was mostly FRENCH (strangely enough). Now you may not consider the French particularly warlike, but the Crusades were anchored primarily in the Normandy area of France, which was an area populated by farmers whose previous lives were spent in an endeavor you may have heard of.

(They were Vikings!)

Now the Crusaders were a rough bunch, easily approximating the excesses of ISIS, and they raped and murdered across the continent, through the Byzantine Empire, and into Muslim territory. They savaged Jewish communities as well as Christians and Muslims.

Anyway, it is a long and murderous, history including the Barbary Pirates trouble — it was here that the newly formed United States built its first REAL Navy, a Navy designed to subdue the (Muslim) Barbary Pirates.

(It was NOT here, as commonly believed, that we decided that famous, “Millions for Defense, but not one penny for tribute!” That was actually said by  Robert Goodloe Harper, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, regarding FRANCE in the famous “XYZ Affair”)

(It was, however, there that we signed a Treaty of Tripoli, approved by the Senate unanimously and signed by a Signer of the Constitution, President John Adams) declaring that, “the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”

I only mention this because I read comments on-line that “This is a Christian Nation” and it is in some ways THAT grates against other religions. We ARE a nation founded on Western, which is to say Judea Christian CONCEPTS — but we are NOT a Christian nation!

As I say, our problems — not with Muslims, per se, but with sects of the Muslim religion, have a long, long history, and one unlikely to be solved by “understanding” them. We must first try to understand who “them” are, and they are the many branches of the Muslim religion, some very violent, and morphing as they go.

Hillary is an educated woman. She knows this, but she is also a politician and knows that many do not know the history or the problems entailed with the various sects of the Muslim religion.

 

Quick Hits

The Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is over, and among the sparkling new TVs, Home Automation, and Gee-Gaws that will never go into production, the most important innovation occurred before the show– an Audi A7 with a Journalist at the wheel(sic), and it was a driver less car.

Now, to be certain, the Journalist had to take control after the Audi hit an off-ramp because it was really only designed for freeway work, but Google has the city driving down pat, and Mercedes has prototype driver less cars and trucks.

It’s close. Very close.

I have told the story before of being dragged out of 5-Way heart by-pass recovery at home by my friendly neighborhood MD/Ph. D (Engineering) who carted me off to Victorville, California, to witness a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (one of the few government agencies that actually work) challenge for “Autonomous Automobiles. This was four years ago. No apparatus filled autonomous cars finished the 50 mile city model, but Stanford University did well enough to win the million dollar prize. (Stanford had won the previous “Freeway” Challenge in the desert years before — and another million dollar prize.)

The driver less cars in California will require a special license and a carbon life-form behind the wheel, as did the Audi driven to the Las Vegas convention.

Still 565 freeway miles without a scare is not to be sneezed at.

——————–

 

We have an entirely analogous situation developing between the good Muslims of the world, Blacks in Detroit and the overwhelming number of good teachers in California.

And there is a lesson to be learned here.

The president and his administration appear to be counting on the Muslim nations and communities to grab hold of their, by any count, small number of atrocity-bound Muslims.

Ain’t gonna’ happen.

By any measure the vast majority of teachers are good or even great teachers, and California has waited for decades for the good teachers to rein in their union and get control of the awful teachers who give them all a bad name…it has not, will not happen.

Similarly, the vast majority of Blacks, even in crime-ridden communities like Detroit and Chicago, are law abiding citizens. They know who the drug dealers, pimps and gang-bangers are — but they draw their blinds and double-lock their doors without calling the police.

Waiting for a modern population to rise up just isn’t going to happen. In the early days of America, certainly — can you imagine the western Settlers sitting in their traffic-jammed cars without heating tar and plucking feathers while marching on the halls of the San Diego Association of Governments who fund freeways too little and mass transit too much?

Neither can I.

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The Islamic Empire had a Caliph called “The Bloodthirsty” who invited opponents to dinner, clubbed them to death, threw a rug over them and dined on the rug as their opponents bled to death.

But being the reason he was called the Bloodthirsty.

But Islam was not the only group where the norm in being bloodthirsty. In the early Middle Ages, Basil II of the Byzantine Empire was rumored to have defeated an army of Bulgarians and put out the eyes of 14,000 soldiers, leaving one out of 100 with one eye to lead the defeated troops back home. That is possibly apocryphal, but that it was even believed at the time served its purpose.

The ISIS group can be accurately termed “Fundamentalists” in that they adhere to Middle Ages norms.

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In my Little Known And Completely Useless Information File: Perhaps you remember the “Ice Man” an ancient Stone Age man discovered a few years ago, who had been frozen as he fell some 5,200 years ago in the Alps. As you may know, newly discovered methods of obtaining DNA even from ancient bone, (Ice Man was not even much of a challenge) but the interesting thing to me is that 16 descendants of Ice Man have been discovered in Austria…..

In a related ice age data, Archeologists now have a new specialty — studying items being released by melting glaciers. It seems that there was a warming spell about 7,000 years ago and a treasure trove of lost items is being released by the current warming spell in Norway. They have recovered mittens, snowshoes and many farming items. (Bet you didn’t know that autos caused CO2 warming 7,000 years ago! We learn every day.)

The study of DNA is very useful in determining the flow of humans, and when they arrived in certain places…

One more note: Not all ancient Egyptians who were mummified were kings — commoners were also mummified. Millions of them!

In fact, in the early 1900s, there were so many Mummies, that Indian trains burned them for fuel.

Well, the Death Masks for Kings and Queens may have been made of gold, but commoners often had death masks made from used Papyrus and glue. Recently, technology has been able to melt the glue and recover the used  Papyrus, and we can read it…and a portion of an unknown Book of the Bible has been recovered. The actual announcement was leaked in 2012, and has just been officially acknowledged, but the contents have not been released.

 

 

 

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