Musk Wants Into Your Home!

Tesla Motors, that electric car company that produces superb electric cars, wants into your home!

Right on the heels of producing a “D” model car that goes to 60 MPH in 3.2 seconds, and a successful Space X launch to the Space Station, Elon Musk wants to put a battery in your home.

Just six weeks ago I had Solar electric installed, not because of any environmental concerns but because it finally made economic sense. I don’t know what having Tesla battery backup in my garage will help me, but I will certainly look into it when my bills settle down and I know how my household is doing on Solar during the day, and the electric company at night. Do I bank” enough watts during the day to offset my evening hours? I don’t know.

I have a really big Koi Pond pump that has to pump 24 hours a day against a 20 foot head to power the waterfall into the Koi pond. It is going to take a year to find out what I still owe the utility company, considering my usage, the solar panels production at different times of the year, and what different LED lighting might do for me.

Living in San Diego makes solar electric a no-brainer — we have lots of sun, and very high utility rates for electric — add to that my community has zero natural gas.

Musk’s proposed battery will have about a one-week endurance assuming full need…day and night. Obviously Musk’s idea is to let some homes drop off the electric grid altogether, recharged by solar and still have full electric service, but that would work well where there are power failures.

We don’t have that here. What we have is real sun, and high electric rates. But Musk is a lot smarter than I am, so I’ll hear him out. Anyone who can invent an electric car with Porsche performance, send cargo to dock with the Space Station — all, developed with private money, deserves to be taken seriously.

Very seriously.

 

 

 

 

Waiting for Leadership

Yemen is a mess, but it is Saudi Arabia’s problem — the Saudi’s oil fields are vulnerable and the Saudis and the ISIL oriented fighters in Yemen know it. The Saudis have a decent fence between the two nations, but that was only sufficient if Yemen had a relatively friendly government, and today it decidedly does not. The Yemeni rebels simply don’t have the muscle to take on the Saudis.

Now that the UAE is back in the fray through Jordanian airfields (token, to be sure), and the U.S. is still in the sky, SOMEONE has to field that famous “boots on the ground” — and while that should be Iraq, we have already seen how quickly they can run. It is reported that Delta Force is active on the ground.

ISIL was reputed to have 30,000 fighters when they rolled down that two lane “highway” from Syria, and the number appears to be 50,000 today. The Kurds have held ISIL at bay, and neither the promised German or US guns have arrived, but the armies that exist in the area. The well trained 80,000 man Jordanian Army could do it, and we don’t know if they have either decided or brought up reserves to do it, but they could.

Turkey could, but they won’t. They have a Muslim nation, politically secular but under a Muslim leader who appears to be more in league with ISIL. To be perfectly honest, there is no one until the “”new” Iraqi Army — which is more likely to be similar to the “Old” Iraqi Army — is ready…about 18 months.

We theoretically have a coalition, but it is AWOL. I understand that the president hates to “project American power” — and that is a deeply held American feeling as well, but once in awhile it needs to be done. FDR recognized that before our forced entry into WWII. Of course his interest was European, Washington D. C. being on the East Coast virtually guarantees that we have been and will continue to be Eurocentric, so he was delivering war goods to Britain long before there was a declared war.

But FDR was prepared to take leadership.

Obama is not.

We Have Learned Nothing!

Whatever happened to “Declarations of War?”

We didn’t do it in Korea, or Vietnam, or Iraq, or Afghanistan…and look what happened in each case.

When we don’t declare war, there is never “Victory.” And there hasn’t been. There won’t be, because we have found ways to nuance everything, including “Victory.”

I was alive, though not too knowledgeable during WWII, but one thing I recall vividly was the emphasis on “Unconditional Surrender.”

That is a goal that has specificity — it cannot be nuanced. The German High Command tried to discuss “terms” but the West replied, “Unconditional Surrender.”

The president has, once again presented this nation with puffery. Words, and undefined and undefinable words at that. How long is “enduring?” That is just the most obvious.

Every time I hear the president speak about the military, I measure his words his words against Winston Churchill’s famous, “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few” when describing the few RAF pilots who turned back the Luftwaffe at the Battle for Britain.

And when I see this puny piece of paper asking for something more, but not different from the 2001 Declaration on the Use of Force, my mind runs straight to Churchill again,

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

Whatever happened to “Unconditional Surrender?”

The Wussification of the West happened!

It isn’t pretty. We have learned nothing, both from our successes and our failures!

 

American Sniper

I watched American Sniper, and found it gripping. Let’s just say that at the end I was glad the credit roll lasted long enough for the tears in my eyes to dry. As we left the theatr, the audience clapped…a muted clap because, of course, the hero died. Moist hands do not clap well.

A tragic end, for certain. Kyle had a rare combination of skill and judgement. He was a true American Hero and one of the few about whom we know, because of the movie.

This was the first movie I attended in an actual theatr for decades, and I found the new sound systems to be the most impressive thing — and the cost of popcorn!

My first takeaway from the film is that the nation continues to breed patriots, particularly from Texas and the Southern states. I was born in Alabama and raised in Texas, and I can attest that in that axis, men — and it is men in particular, men talk of America with tears in their eyes, and it breeds in them a drive to serve. I joined the Junior Yanks of America and drilled with wooden rifles before I was 10 years old, spent more than six years in military school, then two years as an Enlisted Man in the Navy, went to and graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, and spent 20 years as an officer — primarily in submarines.

Going into the military was preordained by the culture in which I was raised. The Star Spangled Banner still brings tears to my eyes. Texans from small towns are indeed patriotic.

The second takeaway was the price that families pay for our service. It is often unrecognized by those in the services because the intensity of our work, and our interest in doing it well — because always other depend upon our actions ( in Submarines, one mistake can easily cost the lives of all, because Submarines do not fail in just one compartment), and we live in our own bubble. Our wives tell us that the hot water heater failed the day after we deployed, or of children’s sickness, but it does not register as much as when we are home.

So I got two messages from the film — and neither was any glorification of war. War is not glorious — victory is indeed glorious., but war is endless and victories are followed by long periods of more war.

I am certain that the American Sniper movies’ success galls many liberals. With Obama in the White House for six years and counting, conservatives must appreciate small victories when they can.

Why I Support the Concept of Common Core

Let me tell you why I support at least the concept of Common Core. I want national standards, because I lived the problem on no standards.

Now I admit that the implementation of those standards has left a lot to be desire.

I graduated from a tiny school in Texas, and I was fairy smart. I went to Trinity University as a Math Major. I went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis and found out that I was among men (and they were all men at that time) whose slide rule (if you are old enough to remember those) I was not qualified to carry!

The only way that the academies get geographical representation, is to let Congress Critters appoint four nominations in each academy at any one time — or else every Cadet or Midshipman would come from Massachusetts. No one from MISSISSIPPI, Louisiana, California or Hawaii could ever enter an Academy!

There are certain common pieces of knowledge that all educated people need to know. As a Professor of Computer Science, I was dismayed by the lack of knowledge of my students, so I devised my own “Common Knowledge” test 88 questions) on which my wife and Editor each scored 77 correct.

The test was administered only to those who wished to take it, and one would think that would be those who thought they could do well. The AVERAGE was SEVEN! The HIGHEST, was TWELVE!

I support, not cookie cutters, but everyone knowing the basics. How we get there can be under local control, but Common Core was devised by STATES, not the federal government as some would infer. Yes, the Feds have tried to co-opt those standards, but they did not write them!

“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.