Thursday, March 31, 2016

Actor Chris New. He was in the gay film Weekend in 2011, although most of his work has been on stage. When he graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2006, he wanted to come out of the closet. When his agent advised him not to do so, he fired her. His straight Weekend co-star Tom Cullen saw his career skyrocket after the film. (He just left Downtown Abbey) But despite rave reviews for his theater work, New's career continues to float along on stage.

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that after 10 years and more than $225 million, a single two-mile long line of the DC Streetcar finally began running on February 27, 2016 -- without either a car barn or a connection to Metro?
That's damn funny!

Mowing season is upon us.

Sadly, no one like this works in my neighborhood.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

From Godzilla: Half Century War (2015).

Great Godzilla kaijo art from independent comic book publisher IDW.

Igor Kolomiyets is a half-Ukrainian and half-Russian fashion model. He was born in Ukraine in 1994, and speaks Russian. His family was not well-off when he was a child, because Ukraine's economy was suffering from a severe post-Soviet breakup economic depression. His brother was born when Igor was six. Because his brother has cerebral palsy, Igor's parents decided to emigrate to the United States to give their youngest son the care he needed.

Shy, quiet, and unexpressive, Igor grew up in Sacramento, California, where everyone called him Iggy. He got into modeling when he was in his late teens, and became a very well-known international menswear fashion model. When he was 19 years old, he decided to do a jack-off video for the Sean Cody gay porn site. That same year, he did a JO video for Davey Wavey as well. For both sites, he used the name "Allen". He's exceptionally well-endowed, with a legitimate 8 inches and foreskin. He has untrimmed pubes, and a sizeable cumshot that explodes across his throat, chest, and stomach and splatters his thighs.

He said in 2015 that he's heterosexual. He's also an Instagram, Twitter, and selfie whore -- taking several pictures of himself each day and posting them online for all to enjoy.

I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... Howard University's William H. Greene Stadium in Washington, D.C., is so small and has such substandard seating and amenities that one architect has compared it to a small-time high school football field?

Oh dear.........
$40 over on Amazon, if you think it's worth it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I hope I'm not coming down with something. But I feel exhausted, my back aches, I'm sniffly, and my eyes itch.
Something for everyone.

The guy at the top here reminds me of someone I went to graduate school with. He turned tricks in bathrooms on campus as a means of getting laid, because he hated bars and dance clubs.

They say one in ten people is gay or lesbian. On this high school wrestling team, it seems more like a one-to-eight ratio...

Eduardo Porter, a reporter for the New York Times, has a think-piece about why NAFTA saved the American car industry.

This article makes no logical sense.

The author admits that the American auto industry lost a third of its workers as Americans competed against Mexicans making one-fifth the wage.

He throws out a huge number of red herrings first:
  • Mexico has a tiny economy compared to the U.S. (so what? Mexico still destroyed a third of all auto jobs in the U.S.)
  • China was worse (so what? the damage to the U.S. auto industry was already done)
  • Devaluation of the peso made it worse (so what? those jobs never came back when the peso rose again)
  • The end of Mexican government subsidies drove down wages in Mexico (so what? it made a bad situation worse)
  • Immigration to the U.S. soared (what does this have to do with anything?)
  • Automakers moved jobs to non-union plants in the American South (so what? we're talking about the 835,000 jobs that left the United States, not shifted regionally)
  • Technological changes to the assembly plant in Korea and Japan killed U.S. jobs (so what? we're talking Mexico)
You have to get to the end of his article before he finally makes a claim that's relevant: The jobs that went to Mexico were the lower-paying assembly-line jobs, while higher-paying engineering jobs stayed in the U.S.

Notice that this is not an argument. His claim is that NAFTA saved the U.S. auto industry. How? In order to make his claim, he would need to say that some nation (Japan, Korea, or even Mexico) was going to take American automaker engineering jobs. But nowhere has that claim ever been made. Nor does he say how shifting low-wage workers in a continental (he uses the term "regional") economy saved those engineering jobs.

He does make the case that automobiles in North America remained cheap enough to compete against Japanese or Korean cars, because the drop in wages achieved by cutting the wages of basic assembly-line workers by 80 percent made American-designed/Mexican-built cars affordable. This, he argues, may have saved the American auto parts industry, whose jobs were not shifted to Mexico.

Interestingly, he provides no reason for why autoparts jobs didn't shift to Mexico. These are basic assembly-line jobs, too. They should have shifted across the border. Why didn't they?

In the end, Porter claims that "jobs were saved" by NAFTA.


His analysis shows that the American auto industry lost one-third of its lowest-paid workers. No jobs were gained. Fewer automobiles were sold, as fewer workers had the income to buy them. American-designed automobiles stayed cheap, but again fewer workers could afford them. Those workers in high-paying jobs were better off, as they had cheaper cars to buy. But as a whole, the nation was worse off.

So how did NAFTA make America as a whole better off? It didn't. And Porter's slip-shod reasoning and red herrings don't make it so.

A new study shows that fracking has made Oklahoma as quake-prone as California.

A little something called the New Madrid Fault is making this ugly... Oklahoma is on the far western side of the fault zone, but the fault lies so close to the surface that any fracking activates it. The United States Geological Survey said the chance of a destructive quake in the next year is as great in north-central Oklahoma and southern Kansas as it is in the shakiest parts of quake-prone California. About seven million people live in the areas.

Oklahoma now ranks behind only Alaska in earthquake frequency, followed by California.

Monday, March 28, 2016

I intended to take a week off from blogging because I got stuck on an article about Tom Mercer Girdler -- the former chairman and president of Republic Steel from 1930 to 1957. He was a short, balding, pugnacious, foul-mouth, nasty son-of-a-bitch, IMHO. He did everything he could to bust the unions at his steel plants: Espionage, threats, assault, shootings, intimidation.

But I hit a big stumbling block, and figured I should take a week off to resolve it. It didn't get resolved.

I had a couple photographs to take at Mayfield Cemetery, because I volunteered to do so for the Find-a-Grave Web site. I wrote a little article on the cemetery, and then tried to get some photos which I took in August online on my Flickr site. That got me caught up in revising the article on the Cleveland Justice Center, because I had to figure out which building was which. That got me locked into an article on Prindle, Patrick & Associates, who designed most of the Justice Center.

I'm still not done with that one, because I got sidetracked into improving an article on the Glenville shootout -- a disastrous gun battle between Cleveland police and black militants on July 23-24, 1968. I finished that one, and even took some photos of the key sites.

And suddenly it's March 28, and two weeks have gone by without blogging.

Not cool.
I refuse to post these to the front page of Wikipedia any more. But I will post them here. The article I wrote or assisted with is in bold.
Did You Know ... that even though the Commission to Study the Potential Creation of the National Museum of the American Latino was established in 2008 and it (unsurprisingly) reported in 2011 that there was an "urgent" need to establish a Latino Museum within the Smithsonian Institution, the effort is effectively out of money and indefinitely stalled?
He's astonishing.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

I wonder if he gushes like this in other ways... ?

I wish I had the funds to hire Naked Gardeners, Inc.

This week, Donald Trump proposed imposing massive tariffs on cheap overseas goods and services as a way of protecting the American economy from "cheap foreign labor". A lot of people, even many progressives, liked this plan.

It rejected 200 years of economic thinking, however.

Why is Trump's idea a bad one?

Producers are willing to supply lots of goods at a high price, and fewer goods at a low price. If we graph this, we create a "supply curve". Similarly, consumers will buy lots of goods at low prices, and few goods at high prices. Graphed out, this created a "demand curve". Where the two curves intersect is the market price -- the amount of goods an economy will produce, at the price consumers find reasonable. Anything below the supply curve is "producer surplus" (profit). Anything above the supply curve, and below the demand curve, is the satisfaction people get from consuming the good (whether it's nails for building a house, food, clothing, music, books, or gardening supplies).

What happens when we expand this model to an international one? Let's do so, assuming that foreign companies with "cheap labor" can produce the same-quality good but at a lower price. Some consumers are willing to pay a higher price for goods. But some are not. Imports occur when a foreign producer can supply the unmet need at the lower price. Society is better off.

We can represent the cost of goods produced by "overseas cheap labor" by a dotted line, which we'll call P-world. We can put it anywhere on our graph, so long as it's below the domestic market price. The amount of imports can be identified where the world price (P-world) line intersects the demand curve and the supply curve. Notice that a big chunk of Producer Surplus is now gone, turned into Consumer Surplus. That's because consumers were able to purchase the good at a lower price than domestic producers could supply it. But also notice that a certain amount of Producer Surplus now is above the supply curve. That's profit which the domestic economy cannot recapture.

Let's note some things here.

First: Over time, if domestic producers are not able to manufacture the good more cheaply, foreign producers will take over the domestic market.

Second, imports reduce domestic employment in domestic industries which are not able to manufacture the good more cheaply.

Third, imports put downward pressure on wages in domestic industries which are not able to manufacture the good more cheaply.

Are these bad things? We don't know. We need to measure the satisfaction consumers derive from the imports and weigh that against the lost wages in the domestic industry. For example: The microchip industry is highly automated. It employs few workers, albeit at a high wage. Foreign companies can produce microchips much more cheaply, at the same quality. But they do not pay the high wage. Is American consumer satisfaction from having high-quality, inexpensive microchips greater than the small number of high-wage workers who've lost their jobs? Definitely. But where the wage gap between American workers and foreign workers is not as clear, or where much larger number of workers are involved, the trade-off might not be favorable.

* * * * * * * * *

Tariffs are a form of corporate welfare. They protect domestic inefficiency, protect domestic employment, and protect domestic high wages. And they raise the cost of efficient foreign goods.

Let's graph it, and see what a tariff does. The tariff raises the price of imports from the world price (P-world) to the world-plus-tariff price (P-tariff). First, notice that the amount of imports shrinks. But notice, too, how much more Producer Surplus is lost overseas. The purple area represents Producer Surplus now captured by the tariff (tax revenue going to the federal government). But what about those red areas? That's Consumer Surplus which is lost because foreign manufacturers can no longer meet that need. This surplus is not captured by the tariff, so it represents the loss to society created by the tariff. This is also called the "deadweight loss".

Generally speaking, tariffs are considered economically inefficient. They protect domestic production inefficiency. They prevent consumers from being better off. They create deadweight losses. They shift producer surplus overseas. They do NOT increase domestic employment, unless the tariff raises the cost of foreign goods higher than the domestic price. They do NOT raise domestic wages, under any circumstances.

* * * * * * * * *

Are their conditions under which a tariff can be economically efficient? Yes, there are.

Tariffs can be efficient when intended to protect an infant industry or to protect a developing economy. Tariffs can also be effective when foreign governments engage in corporate welfare and the U.S. does not.

* * * * * * * * *

Historically, tariffs were rejected by almost all industrialized nations of the world in the 1920s. One of the things that exacerbated the Great Depression were high tariffs, which the United States and most of Europe adopted as a means of stemming the effect of the economic collapse of 1929. When these tariffs hit in 1930 and 1931, they worsened international trade and caused the Great Depression to worsen several-fold.

The General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) was established at Bretton Woods in 1945 to generally establish a system of tariffs to protect war-devastated and emerging post-colonial economies. One of the key aspects of GATT, however, was to also seek to reduce these tariffs over time. In addition to general reductions in tariffs, countries could also grant exemptions from tariffs by giving an ally Most-Favored-Nation status. Once worldwide tariffs reached an almost nonexistent level in 1986, GATT was succeeded by the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- which maintains that status quo. The WTO has also established some import caps for certain kinds of cheap foreign goods, provides a means of resolving disputes about tariffs, and is an impartial way for nations to impose penalty-tariffs if WTO finds another nation has abused the process. (For example, when China was found to be dumping steel in the U.S. at ultra-low prices in violation of import quotas, the U.S. was permitted to establish a punishment tariff of 30 percent.) Tariffs are also permitted under the WTO scheme when a country does not wish to engage in the same corporate welfare as a competitor nation. (For example, the U.S. does not offer universal healthcare like France does, so the U.S. gets to impose a tariff on French goods to make up for France's corporate welfare.)

Trump has suggested tariffs because he wants to protect American industry. American industry is at a competitive disadvantage because corporations -- not the U.S. federal government -- provide healthcare; corporations must provide old-age pensions (Social Security is only a partial scheme); the U.S. has a poor educational system; the U.S. permits racism and misogyny to affect the workplace; and the U.S. has no workforce labor protections.

Trump wants to overcome these disadvantages by imposing tariffs. Is that the solution? Hardly.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

What about the wage imbalance? American wages seem quite high compared to foreign wages. Would tariffs not help?

No, they don't.

First, international trade is a two-way street. Foreigners cannot consume U.S.-made goods unless they have U.S. dollars to purchase them with. The primary way they get these dollars is by selling goods in the United States. While tariffs may cause an immediate increase in domestic employment as foreign goods are shut out, this is swiftly followed by a loss of jobs in domestic export industries.

Second, tariffs are essentially a massive transfer of wealth from consumers to corporations. Under a low-tariff system, consumers benefit since they are able to obtain more and better goods at lower prices. High tariffs invert this system, providing only the producer (corporations) with the benefit. Workers have no means of capturing this benefit from the corporation.

Third, it's not wages per se that are the issue. It's wages PER UNIT. Nations like the U.S., which have high wages, are markedly more productive and efficient than nations where workers are paid a pittance. Thus, the wage cost per unit is much lower in the U.S. than in an overseas "cheap labor" market. Now, in some cases, such as grunt labor (twisting widgets onto gadgets), a foreign nation may have a work cost per unit advantage over domestic industry. What does a tariff do in this case? Imposing a tariff (a) transfers wealth from consumers to producers; (b) raises prices for domestic consumers (due to no more cheap foreign goods); and (c) creates inefficiency in the domestic economy. The tariff does not boost domestic employment, and the tariff does not boost domestic wages.

A better response would be to enhance domestic efficiency by enhancing productivity. We do this through better worker training, improved working conditions, investment in plant and equipment, improved assembly procedures, and/or automation. If domestic efficiency can't be enhanced, then the company would be better off going out of business and the workers employed in an efficient way. The role of government, therefore, would be better off NOT imposing a tariff but in providing worker retraining, high unemployment benefits, free education, free or subsidized child care, and adjustment services.

* * * * * *

Tariffs suck for another reason: They are horribly difficult to implement.

We haven't even begun to talk about retaliatory tariffs... That's what happened in the Great Depression, as high tariffs in one nation led another to retaliate with even higher tariffs. Suddenly, international trade has collapsed. Retaliatory tariffs are a major problem, and generally create immense misery in post-colonial, developing, and undeveloped nations. They worsen natural resource exploitation, and create hunger and poverty worldwide.

We should also note how complex tariff implementation is. Tariffs are not neutral or rationally applied; they are almost universally abused by governments (especially democracies), which respond to corporate political donations and interest group pressure to impose and the manipulate the size of tariffs in order to achieve greater amounts of corporate favoritism and corporate welfare. Consumers are never the beneficiacy: Corporations engage in what's called "rent seeking behavior" by seeking tariffs from willing politicians, who "protect" domestic industry from overseas competition without any commensurate improvement in consumer satisfaction, domestic employment, or domestic wages.

Tariffs are also hard to enforce. Here's a real-world example: Solar panels in the 1980s cost $50 per watt to manufacture. By 2010, this cost had fallen to $0.80 per watt. The fall in price came not just from rapid advances in technology and materials, but because the Chinese had a competitive wage differential vis-a-vis American manufacturers. The U.S. imposed a 37 percent tariff on Chinese solar panels. China then shifted assembly plants overseas (primarily to Taiwan, Japan, and Korea), and sent the solar panels to the U.S. The tariff caused solar panel prices in the U.S. to rise dramatically. The price then fell, as Chinese-made but Korean-assembled solar panels flooded the U.S. market again. But it didn't fall back as far as it could have, because the cost of solar panels was now higher than if they'd been made and assembled in China.

End result: No change in domestic worker hiring. Higher solar panel costs for American consumers, without any change in quality. Delayed implementation of solar energy, and continued reliance on fossil fuels.

The United States cannot prevent China from owning off-shore firms, and it's next to impossible to determine which these are in any way that would make the tariff enforceable. In the end, the tariff created very high short-term costs, moderately high long-term costs, no protection for the domestic solar panel industry, and indirect and high long-term costs due to pollution and worsened global warming.

The pernicious side-effects of tariffs are numerous, and often hard to quantify. No wonder that venal democracies love tariffs! Industry benefits (but not consumers), and the indirect costs are high but not paid for.


The "floating" torii (or gate) in the bay in front of the Itsukushima Shrine in Japan, at low tide.

A torii ("bird abode") is a traditional Japanese gate most commonly found at the entrance of or within a Shinto shrine, where it symbolically marks the transition from the profane to the sacred. The presence of a torii is the simplest way to identify Shinto shrines. They are also a common sight at Japanese Buddhist temples, where they stand at the entrance to the temple's shrine (the "chinjusha") and are usually very small.

Torii are traditionally made from wood or stone, but can also be made from reinforced concrete, copper, stainless steel, or other materials. They can be either unpainted or painted. If painted, the color is invariably vermilion with a black upper lintel. The simplest torii are just two posts (hashira) and a crosspiece of some sort (a rope or bar, known as a kasagi). On most torii, the kasagi is a double-lintel, with the lower portion somewhat smaller than the upper. Sometimes, a supporting lintel (shimaki) is placed beneath the kasagi. When the kasagi is curved upward slightly, the curve is known as the sorimashi. A second crossbeam (the nuki) may be added below the kasagi or shimaki. The nuki is usually held in place with large, visible wedges known as kusabi, although these may be purely ornamental today. A central strut (the gakuzuka) may be added between the upper lintel and the nuki. The gakuzuka may carry a tablet bearing the name of the shrine. The hashira rest on a white stone ring (the kamebara, or daiishi). A decorative black sleeve (the nemaki) may cover this base.

Torii with curved upper lintels are known as myōjin torii.

When a ring (daiwa) is added to the top of the hashira, the torri is known as a daiwa torii.

Daiwa torii are sometimes reinforced by adding two square columns perpendicular direction of the kasagi, and tied to the hashira by nuki. There are a number of names for this kind of torii: yotsuashi torii, gongen torii, chigobashira torii, and ryōbu torii. The last seems the most used.

The Itsukushima Shrine is a myōjin daiwa ryōbu torii.

One of the less shocking things you see at Wal-mart...

I love Bakelite.

Bakelite is one the first plastic ever to be invented. It was developed by Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland in New York in 1907.

Baekeland was an inventor who'd already become immensely wealthy from inventing Velox, the world's first commercially successful photographic paper which could accept artificial light.

Selling the patent required Baekeland to not engage in photographic research for 20 years. So Baekeland turned his attention to another area: synthetic resins. At the time, the only resin available was a natural one: Shellac. But shellac was made from the excretions of the lac beetles, and supplies were very low and costly. A synthetic resin was needed.

Baekeland first tried strengthening wood by impregnating it with a synthetic resin, rather than coating it. He actually invented a resin, Novolak, but it was inferior and did not sell well. He started out investigating phenol-formaldehyde products. Chemists had been investigating how phenol (a carbon-hydrogen molecule attached to an oxygen-hydrogen molecule) interacted with formaldehyde (two hydrogen atoms and an ionized oxygen molecule bonded to carbon). A bewildering array of materaisl had been generated by applying various temperatures, pressures, and heat to these chemicals, but nothing useful had been forthcoming.

Baekeland was attraced to an 1891 experiment in which German chemist Werner Kleeberg had created an exceptionally hard resin. But it released a lot of gas, which left it porous and brittle. Other chemists had attempted to add camphor, alcohol, or glycol to the process to prevent the outgassing. This worked, except that the additives had to be removed by evaporation -- which left the product cracked and warped. Baekeland and his assistant, Nathaniel Thurlow, first tried the same approach -- because Thurlow had invented a synthetic camphor. But this proved fruitless. Baekeland then abandoned the additive approach. Instead, he tried a new approach: Controlling the outgassing reaction itself. Research into phenol-formaldehyde products in the past had shown that the chemicals combined and differently depending on how much heat, temperature, and pressure was applied. Shellac was cured using heat and pressure, and Baekeland reasoned that this might be the solution instead of additives. In 1907, Baekeland began systematically altering these variables.

Within a few months, Baekeland had invented Bakelite. By heating phenol and formaldehyde to a temperature of 300F under a pressure of 100 pounds per square inch, the outgassing could be controlled. It could be applied as a varnish and then cured, or injected into a mold and cured.

Bakelite has a number of important properties. It is resistant to heat, scratching, solvents, and electricity, and it has a smooth, glossy finish that looks pleasing to the eye.

Art Deco, Futurism, and Streamline Moderne emphasized smooth curves and the general lack of sharp edges. Bakelite was therefore ideally suited to the forms of these art styles. Because Bakelite remained structurally sound and retained its shape even when very thin, and was translucent, Bakelite could be backlit and appear to glow in a way that was pleasing to artists working in these genres. And because Bakelite was nonconductive, it could be used extensively in electronics.

Although other plastics soon followed, Bakelite became the most widely used plastic of the Art Deco age. Bakelite items from this period are highly prized for their color, lack of scratching, and inventive use.