Quick Hits, and Merry Christmas

The French Banker who remarked that the 75% tax that French Socialist President Hollande punished with would turn France into “Cuba, without the sun” is now Hollande’s Finance Minister, and France has quietly abandoned the 75% tax. While it hurt France, many managers simply awaited the inevitable change, and everyone now is taking a huge breath. It will take a while for France to recover.

———————————————-

The biggest tech announcement of the year was generally overlooked — the e-Mailing of a wrench to the Space Station. Previously delivered 3-D printer was sent the instructions by e-Mail and the wrench was “printed.” 3-D printing is pretty routine in medicine and many other areas, and it is predicted to be “the” thing for consumers this next year. The next year will feature the advent of many 3-D printers into homes — even to “print” individualized meals for seniors. robotics in general will fill homes this year, from Smartphone -controlled thermostats and door locks, to soil sensor activated irrigation.

————————————————–

Another technology generally overlooked was the $30 million competition Google sponsored to have a private concern launch a “Rover” to the Moon which can land, move at least 500 yards and send High-Definition back to earth. There are several worthy competitors, one of which just won a $750,000 interim prize for their “Rover,” which attained the movement and video goals.

—————————————————-

Recent studies have shown that “prayer” is actually beneficial in the healing process.

Of course it’s not “prayer” (per se) — it is belief that your body can heal, or be healed, so the “prayer” can be to any one of many Deities…or none. Note that the study did not differentiate between “prayer” to any particular “God” (and there are more than a few) — people  who comment on-line just assume it is a Christian “God.”

————————————————-

There is a growing belief among technologists that perhaps the threat against Sony was not from North Korea, but another agency and affiliated with someone on the inside. Certainly North Korea had the capability and the incentive, but that may not have been the incentive and that may not have been the source. Hackers (I can remember when that was a prized term and I was one of those) have many sleight-of-hand tricks. That which is obvious in Hacking is not necessarily true.

————————————————————–

The quote from the Navy Coach after the Navy Football team beat San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl was classic. He said, “I don’t know how we won that game.”

Neither do I! Navy had held a much larger, faster SD State to three field goals, but with .20 seconds remaining on the clock, and Navy leading by a single point, San Diego State was poised to kick a fourth and game winning field goal from Navy’s 17 yard line — and they missed! Just plain missed!

A “W” is a “W” — but that was just an unexpected miss from a kicker who was 9 of his last 10, and from much further out than the 17 yard line. I’ll bet he doesn’t understand it either!

Advertisements

Quick Hits

The best thing about falling oil prices per barrel (today it is $54 a barrel), is not the price of gasoline — it is the devastation caused to the economies of Russia and Venezuela! Both are dependent upon $70 a barrel to prop up their economies, and both blame the United States for everything, including the price of oil. It is certainly correct that the world is now awash in oil since the US started fracking, and a Republican administration of the future is likely to open public lands to exploration, adding to the oil glut.

The Russian ruble fell again today. The Russian economy is in shambles as a result of tightening EU and US sanctions, combined with oil prices. The question is “How do we punish the Russians, without them reacting militarily” much like Japan did in striking Pearl Harbor…which they did partially because of US sanctions against Japan for their push into Southeast Asia?

The problems caused to Venezuela are just a bonus!

————————————————————-

 

Jeb Bush has virtually declared, and eventually the Republicans will have more than eight candidates — all fine candidates — while the Democrats have few. Dr. Ben Carson will be an attractive candidate for the Republicans, but he has too little executive experience  for my taste. (We have elected one bright attractive person with no experience, and look how THAT worked out!)

The massive federal election results of the past month were not the most important results, that would be the results in the states. There are now only seven states under complete Democratic control, while there are now 30 states under complete Republican control of the political apparatus, according to Rush this morning.

—————————————————————–

Jaguar has announced a new style of navigation system for its future cars. The new system projects a “ghost” car onto your windshield so that you simply follow the “ghost car” visually. This will negate the necessity to look at your nav system and its arrows.

—————————————————————-

 

The Army/Navy game is REALLY important to me, because that was my first REAL date with my wife of 57 years. Our relationship in marriage has been legendary — an unkind word has never passed between us.

And it is every important to the Army Corps of Cadets and the Navy Brigade of Midshipmen, all of whom are steeped in the 105 year old contest, and the Cadets and Midshipmen (who actually exchange places a few of a time for a week) bet their very distinctive bathrobes on the outcome. Bill Shankly is quoted as saying, “Football is not life or death, it is much more important than that. It certainly is at the Academies!

Navy won this year, narrowly, for the 13th consecutive time, something that must grate terribly on West Point.

A “W” is a W, but that was uninspiring to say the least!

The Point was in the game until the whistle blew.

From the time at the beginning of the season when I read that Navy could win 10 games, it was obviously downhill.

Now they face a decent, but certainly larger and stronger San Diego State — and I think that Navy has gained some respect for West Coast teams, but SD Sate has now faced six Academy teams, and never lost.

Reynolds, the outstanding Navy Quarterback is going to have to bring his “A” game, and open up the passing game. Reynolds obviously can pass, six for seven today, but he is going to have to use the short pass to keep the pass rush off his nose — Army gave him little time today, and State is stronger.

Reynolds is good…great in fact…but either the game plan was not, Reynolds still has nagging injuries, or Army is just getting a hell of a lot better.

Maybe all of the above.

Still, I’ll take 13 straight!

 

Remembering December 7 Lesson From a Personal Standpoint

As December 7 approaches it reminds me of my childhood experience.

I was about seven on December 7, 1941, and life changed for EVERYONE. War was much more cruel to those involved, but even back home nothing was the same — people left jobs to join the military, leaving a virtual female society, and many of them took the jobs men had left.

Everything was suddenly upside down! Food and gasoline were severely rationed, and everyone grew their own food gardens. It was the last war that impacted everyone!

Patriotism was the only thing in large supply — and by the age of nine, I was training on the streets of San Antonio, Texas, with a wooden rifle, in the Junior Yanks of America!

My education went from private boarding school to private MILITARY boarding schools — a Catholic Military Boarding School. (My family was dirt poor after I was orphaned by the age of five, but my mother had been the Executive Assistant to a Insurance Executive, and left money in Trust for my education. We lived in an apartment, my GrandMother and I, with no phone or car — but I lived relatively well in private schools.)

My life in Catholic Military School (I was a Protestant) for three years of war was completely isolated from what the civilian world was suffering. For reasons best known to the Sisters of Divine Providence, we had things civilians could not get…milk, butter, steak, etc. and our families never had to surrender our Ration Cards to eat.

Because I seldom left the confines of the school — my Grandmother knew I was better off under the Sisters and their discipline — I did not suffer nearly the deprivations of the rest of society, but few would think that I was exactly living well. Military schools are not exactly easy living!)

As the war was ending, I transferred to a Southern Baptist Military Boarding School (massive culture shock!), where my only relationship with the war was returning Vets, who were there to complete high school. I was then in the eighth and ninth grades, and I hope you can picture the cultural disruption of combat Veterans in a school competing for high school dates for the much younger, pretty girls against “wimpy” high school boys…

…and competing and playing on the football team with and against boys three and four years younger and far less physically fit and mature…

The disruption caused by the returning Vets only lasted a few years, but it was severe.

(The impact of staying in such military schools — a total of seven years — was that I was several academic years ahead, won First Congressional Nominations to West Point and Annapolis by age 15, and entered Trinity University as a Math Major at age 16, joined the U.S. Navy as an Enlisted Man at 17, and entered the U S Naval Academy at age 19.)

My favorite Cousin returned from the War with severe drinking problem, and soon committed suicide.

All wars have huge consequences.

Overlooked in the News

The disclosure that one of the nation’s premier universities, the University of North Carolina (UNC) which is so well entwined with my family, has cheated — yes the word is cheated — not just the NCAA, and the student- athletes, but colleges and universities in general, is difficult to swallow.

Yes, everyone has suspected for decades that some, perhaps many colleges have passed athletes who did not meet the standards. We only need to listen to some professional athletes speak on camera to know they didn’t meet university standards.

But the disclosure of a study that the UNC Department of African Studies, a questionable subject matter to begin with, had not just once in awhile, here and there nudged an athlete or two above the passing line, but had for decades had classes with no content for thousands of people. More than 3,100 “students” over 18 years got “A” and “B”grades for fraud.

Regrettably, the news did not get the wide distribution that it deserved because it had to compete with wall to wall Ebola coverage. The length and breadth of this academic fraud may not initially rise to the current crises of homegrown Jihadists or Ebola, but it might just open the Pandora’s box of not just athletes getting a pass academically, but the academic rigor required of African Studies, and even Women’s Studies.

Athletes get a full scholarship, a great opportunity for a good education, but we know just from observation that many are on campus simply for the ticket to play professional sports with a four year stopover for campus partying, but the UNC report gives us a look under the rock. We must not let still more important news events let this opportunity pass.

During the 18 year period investigated, the results determined by the Rawlings Panel have now been addressed by the University with the sort of washy-washy educational jargon one would expect — but that doesn’t mean that the University will not actually address the problem. They probably will, but you can bet that they will not place themselves in a non-competitive position.

Only a full overhaul of all college and university football and basketball team academic situations in Division 1 athletics can solve what is a societal problem, long unaddressed. The NCAA had previously investigated North Carolina but had apparently not uncovered the African Studies Department, and that was the elephant in the room.

The special treatment of “student athletes.”

It is past time for schools to divest themselves of many non-academic activities, but certainly the first is sports.

Sports can quickly and easily be “outsourced” to already existing Little League, Pop Warner, Youth Soccer, and the numerous Boys and Girls clubs and the YMCA and YWCA sports systems.

Bureaucrats worldwide try to grow their domains because larger domains mean larger staffs and larger paychecks, so school bureaucrats have embraced more and larger non-academic activities like busing, cafeteria and, largest of all, sports.

All of these non-academic activities may be desired, but there is no reason they should be managed by schools.

———————————————————–

Clinton admitted in an audio tape made years ago in Australia that (in effect) he traded 3,000 innocent Americans lives for 300 innocent Afghanistan lives.

He admitted that ha could have taken Osama out, but feared the missile would destroy an Afghan village.

Nice call, Mr. President. Not.

—————————————————————-
Local Analysis.; DataQuick says that the million and multimillion dollar market has been great for the first half of 2014, but it has passed over Rancho Santa Fe and is hot only in La Jolla, Del Mar and Coronado — coastal property.

In inland areas like mine, the days of lore are just that, and our rate of price increases, year to year are just a third of 2013, and are likely to remain that way. this is because the rising tide of overall economic advance is still anemic.

The real estate market can no longer lead the economic recovery, and it must rise along with the overall market. We are still 15% to 20% below the top of the market! but that was a bubble.

The recent rapid rise was investor driven, and that has ended. This could be considered a “historically normal” market, driven by wants and needs but not driven by outside forces.

After 37 sporadic years in this business — interrupted by entrepreneurial, corporate and academic forays — I have seen Tulip Craze rises and precipice-dropping falls. Normality lasts a bit longer than the crazy times, so perhaps we can deal with more rational and less hectic markets for a few years.

—————————————————————

Quick Hits (At Least Sort of Quick)

Kudos, in fact “Major League” Kudos to philanthropist David M. Rubenstein! He is one of the three founders of the Carlyle Group, and has a net worth of $3.1 billion!

You may have heard that he put up half the $15 million needed to repair the Washington Monument, damaged by an earthquake (you may remember seeing the scaffolding on TV), BUT “here is the rest of the story.”

Rubenstein is into American history in a major way. He paid $14.2 million to purchase the 1640 Bay Psalms Book, the first book published in America, which he will put on a revolving library loan; $10 million to create a Washington Library at Washington’s Mount Vernon home.

After the Washington Monument was completed, Rubenstein asked the head of the National Park Foundation head, “What else you got?”

The Park Foundation said that he could use $12.3 million to restore Robert E. Lee home that anchors the Arlington Cemetary — it is an imposing Greek Revival mansion in which Lee lived before what my people call, The War Between the States.

I had never seen the grandeur of the Lee residence pre- Civil War, but it is amazing and reminds me that both he, and Washington, rich beyond imagination for their times, left it and went into the fields with their troops to share deprivation for the causes in which they believed.

The other thing is that Rubinstein is an American hero for saving these historical items.

———————————————————————

Democrats are accusing Republicans of holding up many Ambassador nominations.

The fact is that President Obama is the Nomination King Of Bundlers!

Some 40+ bundlers of cash for President Obama’s election or reelection have been nominated, and while the practice is not unheard of, Obama has taken it to a new level.

The nominee to France, is a major league Bundler. The nominee to Argentina admitted he had never been to Argentina! (Oooooops!! ) The nominee to Norway admitted he did not know what form of government that Norway had! (Ooooops in spades!)

As of last October, 46% of all Obama nominated Ambassadors were Bundlers, not State Department professionals.

France, Norway, Argentina, Czechoslovakia, New Zealand, Australia, Luxembourg….the list goes on, but I don’t have time to go past the first two Google pages!

If the president is going to nominate dilettantes, ignorant of the countries to which they are to serve, and whose ONLY skill is raising money for the President, the nation is well-served with stopping this Chicago-like spoils system!

———————————————————

So, how bad are the San Diego Padres?

So bad that the New York Times has noticed: “At this point, their awful offense is about as bad as any in history, and there are still more than 60 games to be played.”

Ahhhh, yes. They are awful, at least at offense, but their excellent pitching staff has kept them in a few games. The Padres have fired their General Manager, but while he never picked up a bat, he did recruit or select this bunch that is looking to make history.

The best hitter is in the low .280 range, and we just spent weeks remembering the Hall of Fame career of the great Tony Gwynn, who had a .338 batting average for a 15 year career! His WORST season was a .308!

This years Padres have a .214 batting average, and have scored 80 fewer runs than the next worst team — in effect, they are not as good as a good AAA team.

There is no real reason for this — they are not as good as last years team with essentially the same lineup! As I write this, the Padres are behind 3-0 in the first inning with their best pitcher on the mound!

(Sigh!)