Friday, November 24, 2017

Bad Business

I am a long-time nonfan of NFL football and of televised college ball. Most years the only game I'll watch on TV is the Super Bowl.

I loved live college football when, as a graduate student in Oregon, I had free access to high quality Pac 10 games. During three years in Eugene I only missed one home game.

Given my lack of involvement, I haven't felt compelled to comment on the tempest concerning player protests during the national anthem. I deplore it but, as a nonviewer, it doesn't much affect me.

On the other hand, as a lifelong business school prof, I am finally moved to comment on the poor business sense of NFL owners. Don't those yahoos have even a primitive understanding of their customer base? Of who their modal viewer is?

Unlike the owners, I haven't seen the survey data to be certain. My horseback guess is the typical NFL viewer is a white male patriot, a gun owner, and likely to favor nachos and beer over brie and chablis. In short, he's a Trump voter.

Knowing this, how in blazes did NFL owners think allowing a watered-down Black Lives Matter protest to spread through the league wouldn't be disasterous for their attendance and viewership? I suppose they, and their players, believed the game was immune to market forces, a true cultural icon.

 Now the owners know better. They have to hope it's not too late to turn around.

The owners' dilemma is that roughly 70% of NFL players are young African-American men who discover having plenty of money and fame doesn't automatically gain them favorable treatment or high status. Player anger won't just go away; perhaps owners can insist players indulge their free speech rights on their own time, not during games or in uniform.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Travel Blogging XXIII

Afterthoughts: I enjoy displays of cleverness in design. In the otherwise quite ordinary Mercure airport hotel in Sydney, I saw an in room feature I hadn't seen before. A 14" square centered at eye level in the seamless wall-to-wall bathroom mirror that didn't steam up from the shower, while the rest of the mirror became coated with condensate.

Curious as to how this was achieved, I felt the mirror where it fogged, and where it did not. The foggy majority was cool to the touch, while the 14" square was quite warm to the touch and hence unclouded. Clearly this was a design feature when the hotel was built and one I've not seen elsewhere.

If they heat the mirror 24/7 using electrical resistance heating, that is a nontrivial cost item. I wonder if they'd figured a way to use the hot water flowing to the shower to heat the mirror, making it do double duty and heating the glass only when showering. That would be doubly clever.

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After two months of no cooking, no housekeeping, no bed-making, unlimited ice cream and sodas and no-charge live entertainment, returning to workaday reality is something of a shock. We will have to go grocery shopping tomorrow, get our mail, handle medical/dental stuff, and get our RV ready for winter camping in the warm south, all while getting over serious jet lag which I experience as a medium-strength hangover atop the remnants of bronchitis.

On the other hand, I won't miss the ship's limited, expensive WiFi, the occasional rough seas, and the petri dish contagion level. Pluses and minuses ... life is full of tradeoffs.

Giving Thanks

COTTonLINE asks our electronic friends to take a moment to contemplate all the ways in which our lives are better than we have any right to expect. Let's begin with how good it is to not be suffering through 4 years of a Hillary presidency, on top of the miserable 8 years we had with Obama.

In a closely related matter, the economy is booming, jobs are plentiful, the stock market is at all-time highs, the dollar is strong, and illegal immigration is down by what some estimate to be 80%. One of these days we may even start to earn some interest on our savings. Again, much to be grateful for.

It is ungenerous to mention the schadenfreude we experience watching "libprogs" do sackcloth and ashes as St. Barack's carefully constructed crippling of the American spirit is undone by his antithesis - POTUS Trump. Their grief is truly delicious, a gift that keeps on giving.

I write this in the airport in San Francisco having spent the last half day flying nonstop from Sydney. The DrsC travel because they enjoy it, but I gotta say it always feels good to hear the passport control guy at the airport say "welcome home." Australia is a place I could easily live and yet I know of no place I like as much as the good, old US of A.

Thanksgiving - our annual harvest festival - is a good time to contemplate our good fortune. Whether you thank God or merely the foresight of our clever ancestors, we Americans have been dealt a good hand of cards. And foreign travel makes those advantages so much clearer.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

MBA Study as (Former) Immigration Dodge

A website named Axios has an article about declining enrollments in US MBA programs, particularly the full-time programs that attract international students. It quite inadvertantly reveals the motive (having little to do with education) which drove international enrollments.
A big problem is declining international interest: The enrollment at some mid-tier MBA programs is more than half international students. But 51% of B schools report a decline in international enrollment in fall 2016, a 13% jump from 2015, according to the MBA Career Services survey.

This is across the board: International enrollment at some top 25 schools is down, per Poets & Quants. For example, 32% of Georgetown's B school applicant pool was international in the 2016-2017 academic year, compared with 43% the year before. The trend is even more pronounced in the lower-ranked schools.

According to a GMAC survey conducted in February, 67% of prospective international MBAers would rethink their eventual study destination if they thought they'd be unable to obtain a work visa following the completion of their degree.
Gotcha! The US MBA was a shortcut to a green card, prosperity and US citizenship for one's children. Maybe no longer, as a loophole closes.

Lacking the Will to Win

Writing at National Review, military historian Victor Davis Hanson takes a stab at answering the question of why some wars seem to go on indefinitely. He basically comes down to two reasons.

In some cases the two sides are so evenly matched that neither can decisively defeat the other.
In other cases of never-ending wars, the two sides were clearly asymmetrical. One side easily could and should have won decisively and ended the conflict with a lasting resolution. Yet the apparently stronger side chose not to win, or for a variety of circumstances was prevented from victory.
And often the stronger side is aided in making this decision by the weaker side which chooses to never pose an extential threat requiring it to win.
The American slog in Afghanistan is somewhat similar. Americans feel that the level of force and violence necessary to obliterate the Taliban and impose a lasting settlement is either too costly, or not worth any envisioned victory, or impossible in such absurd tribal landscapes, or would be deemed immoral and contrary to Western values. Therefore, as in most serial wars, the U.S. chooses to fight to prevent defeat rather than to achieve lasting victory.

The bizarre modern Western doctrine of “proportionality” (akin to the tit-for-tat blood feuds of the Icelandic sagas) tends to ensure stalemate. Leisured Western publics are uncomfortable with using their militaries’ full strength, given the collective guilt and bad publicity that accrue when their forces inflict far more losses than they have incurred.

Paradoxically, disproportionality was always central to resolving chronic wars: Having much more power makes the weaker aggressor suffer so much that it never again tries to undertake another attack.

Weird Ecological Science

The Daily Mail (U.K.) reports results of a study showing most oceanic plastic pollution comes from 10 rivers, eight of which are in Asia, the other two in Africa. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.
Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world's oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research. The top 10 rivers - eight of which are in Asia - accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste. About five trillion pounds is floating in the sea, and targeting the major sources - such as the Yangtze and the Ganges - could almost halve it, scientists claim.

The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88-95 per cent of the global load into the sea. 
We heard a lot about microplastic in the ocean on the cruise just ended. Those ten rivers are, in order of pollution dumped, are the Yangtze, Indus, Yellow, Hai He, Nile, Ganges, Pearl, Amur, Niger, and Mekong.

Given the squalor and poverty of the places in which these rivers arise, we have exactly zero chance of clearing them of plastic. Those concerned with the health of the oceans won't be best pleased with these research findings.

Poor Bolivia

We haven't heard a lot lately from Bolivia. I suppose assuming things were okay was a bridge too far.

Would-be President-for-life Evo Morales keeps trying to toss out constitutional bans on multiple consecutive terms in office. The New York Times reports on his latest effort:
In 2016, he called a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would have eased term limits in the country’s Constitution and allowed him to run for a fourth time.

After 51 percent of the voters rejected the amendment, President Morales came up with a new plan. In September, his supporters in Congress brought a lawsuit in the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal seeking to revoke the Constitution’s term limit.

Mr. Morales’s supporters claim that the term limit discriminates against the president and undermines his political rights under regional human rights standards. They rely on a provision in the American Convention on Human Rights, the main human rights treaty in the Americas, which says that political rights can “only” be limited under very specific circumstances.
Morales is another banana republic dictator with dreams of glory, whose role model is Fidel Castro.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Merkel Update

The Daily Express reports the head of the Green Party in Germany - Hans-Christian Ströbele - doesn't see a way forward for Angela Merkel as chancellor. He said:
The end of the chancellorship of Angela Merkel has already been announced by the outcome of the general election. Now Merkel's political end can indeed come very quickly. In my opinion, Mrs Merkel will not be able to stay at the top of the government for much longer.
It somewhat depends on the decision of Germany's (mostly) figurehead President who can either call a new election or ask her to form a minority government. Current betting is against that latter choice.

Later ... writing for the Carnegie Europe think tank, fellow Judy Dempsey concudes:
What happens over the next few hours or days is anyone’s guess. One thing is certain: Europe is weaker and Germany has become unpredictable.

Travel Blogging XXII

At sea off the east coast of New South Wales, approaching Sydney Harbor: Our 55 day cruise ends tomorrow morning with disembarkation. We'll collect our luggage, catch a cab, and head for our hotel which is supposedly "near the airport." Tomorrow we fly back to the States, arriving several hours before we take off after spending something like 13-14 hours in the air.

I've used up the last of the 1000 minutes of WiFi we purchased almost two months ago leaving San Diego, and they cost $0.25 each. The other DrC and I shared the roughly 20 minutes a day that provided, it's likely I used more of it than she did.

The coping mechanism is to write things offline in Notes and then, once online, copy them to the blogger, editing all the while. This is quite useful for travel blogging, less so for commenting on the day's news. Thus these last two months have seen many more of the former than of the latter. I will post this piece tomorrow at the hotel where, I anticipate, the WiFi will be unlimited and faster.

One thing I've missed is playing Word With Friends, which can only be done online. Another unscratched itch is the ability, to which one is accustomed, of looking up answers to questions, be they biographical, geographical or merely whimsical.

Later ashore ... the hotel is in fact near the airport as advertised, one of the Mercure chain and not bad. The WiFi is good, the room not tiny.

We're both still trying to get over the "ship cold" that made the rounds on the MS Maasdam after we came to Sydney the first time some 30 days ago. A 'generous' soul brought it aboard there and shared it widely. By contrast, the prior crossing from San Diego was a very healthy voyage, hardly a sniffle heard.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Merkel's Future in Doubt

The New York Times reports the four way talks aimed at building a ruling coalition for Germany have failed. This happened when the business-friendly Free Democrats pulled out of the negotiations, claiming accurately that the differences among the four parties are too great to be bridged by meaningful compromise on key issues.

At a time when the EU looks to its most successful member - Germany - for leadership in the Brexit talks, Merkel is shown to be playing a very weak hand. Her future as Germany's chancellor is very much in doubt. History will conclude that she shot herself in the foot with her widely unpopular open borders policy.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Both Sides Now

Matt Drudge has a headline suggesting Saudi Arabia might go to war with Iran, or lead an Arab war against the Persians. Talk about a war where you'd sincerely hope both sides clobbered each other into bloody rubble, that would take the prize.

A Values-Alignment Strategy

The New York Times has an article about various firms being boycotted by one side or the other in our highly polarized political atmosphere. They were perceived to have taken sides when that was not at all their intent.

Examples given include Jim Beam whiskey, Papa John's pizza, and Keurig coffee. And a key quote from an observer of this phenomenon:
"What I think is constantly surprising is how polarized and divisive, certainly, the U.S. has become,” said Ken Kraemer, the chief executive of the agency Deep Focus. Brands are shifting from a world where they avoided politics at all costs, he said, to one where younger consumers want to know that their “values are aligned.” 
I can imagine a future in which companies will have a Janus-like approach to the market with two seemingly different brands, logos, ad campaigns, and spokesfolk. One brand aligned to progressive values and the other brand to conservative beliefs. I'd judge they will try to disguise the blatant pandering inherent in such an approach, though I'm uncertain how they'd do that.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Unintended Consequences, cont.

We've on occasion made the point that affirmative action has done as much harm as good for people of color. I begin to suspect a similar unintended consequence arising from the wave of accusations of sexual harassment following the revelations about Harvey Weinstein.

I would expect more men, including those not in the public eye, will begin observing the Mike Pence rule of not being alone with a woman other than their wife or mother. It is a way of armoring oneself against accusations of harassment, avoiding "he said-she said" situations.

If this behavior change takes place, it will have the effect of reducing harassment as such behavior is less likely when witnesses are present. However, it will also reduce women's career opportunities if men avoid working with them.

Travel Blogging XXI

At sea en route to Tasmania: We've been "at sea" since late September and yesterday, for the first time, we "blew off" a port call. We were scheduled to put ashore in Burnie, Tasmania, today but couldn't do so as there was "too much wind." As the sea was relatively calm, that seemed hard to credit.

What makes this peculiar is that Burnie is a regular port, not a tender port. That is, a port where we would tie up to a dock instead of one where we drop anchor off shore and go ashore in the ship's boats (aka "tenders").

Deciding conditions are too rough for tendering isn't especially uncommon. In all the cruising we've done I can only remember one other instance of skipping a dockside mooring.

We've spent the day cruising aimlessly, killing time as our next scheduled port call is tomorrow in Hobart. A ship can't show up early as slips are reserved like hotel rooms and the ship pays "rent" on the mooring.

Both DrsC are trying to get over colds with coughs, our cabin sounds like a TB ward. Amazingly, codeine cough syrup isn't a prescription med in Oz; it is definitely the med of choice if restful sleep is sought.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

With More Education, Climate Views Diverge

The New York Times reports an analysis of opinion research done by Gallup looking at issues where having more education causes opinions of liberals and conservatives to either converge or diverge. In the case of climate change, the answer is "diverge."

The Times' explanation for this phenomenon seems, to this educated conservative observer, somewhat lame as it is a liberal's explanation. Let me attempt an educated conservative's explanation.

Being more educated includes knowing more about the earth's naturally variable climatic history (warming periods, ice ages) and the relative impacts of human endeavor vs. solar variation and vulcanism. Such knowledge leads educated conservatives to see human activity as a relatively puny force for climate change, unlikely to be determinative.

Liberal appeals to "scientific consensus" cause us to recall the decades when plate tectonics was universally considered geological crackpot lunacy. It is now received wisdom; clearly scientific consensus is no guarantee of accurate knowledge.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Travel Blogging XX

Random impressions, en route to Adelaide: Crossing the Pacific from San Diego and again across the top of Oz we had maybe 10 days which lasted 25 hours.

Sailing west these are days when we set our clocks back an hour before going to bed. Subjectively, these days felt lazy and unhurried.

Recently we "turned the southwest corner" of Oz and headed back east. So we've had a couple of 23 hour days, days when we put the clocks ahead before going to bed. As you might imagine, these are the reverse, somewhat hurried and sleep-deprived.

There will be more of these before we reach Sydney again, likely two more. Then we fly home across the dateline and arrive home the same day we leave - the magic of jet travel.

Once home there will be some serious jetlag to get over. Taking per the other DrC's dictum, up to a day for every time zone crossed.

Travel Blogging XIX

Fremantle, Western Australia: Fremantle is the oceanside port for the largest city in WA - Perth. We just headed over to the cruise terminal to use the free WiFi there, and I struck out.

The other DrC could get her iPad online just fine, I could not. After considerable fiddling, we determined that my problem was that we hadn't downloaded the 64 bit software to my pad, I'm still operating in the older 32 bit mode.

The terminal is sending out a 64 bit signal which my machine cannot read. Hers can, so she's over there surfing up a storm and I'm back on the ship bummed out.

The other DrC says we won't download the 64 bit software until we get home to a fast, secure connection. That makes sense but leaves me out in the cold, so to speak.

Snark City

Power Line's Steven Hayward characterizes the Hillary Rodham Clinton administration-that-could-have-been as:
Rodham and Gomorrah
'Nuff said ... bullet dodged.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Trump Reshaping Judiciary

The New York Times leads with a story about how President Trump is reshaping the ideological balance of the Federal courts. As we noted some months ago, this could well turn out to be his most important lasting impact on national culture and life. A key quote:
When Democrats regain power, if they follow the same playbook and systematically appoint outspoken liberal judges, the appeals courts will end up as ideologically split as Congress is today.
The Times observes Federal Appeals courts hear some 60,000 cases a year whereas only about 80 of those are subsequently accepted for final review by the Supreme Court. In other words, much of importance is finally decided at the appeals level.

The Times fails to add that some of these courts already are known for ideological bias. Especially the West Coast's Ninth Circuit which is both notably liberal and often overturned by the Supremes.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Travel Blogging XVIII

Exmouth, Western Australia: Whew! Exmouth is a very desolate place. We're told the locals say "ex-mouth" instead of the "ex-muth" we expected.

Think of Exmouth as the northwest corner of the Nullabor. There are no naturally occurring trees and the termite mounds are waist high. Wild emus wander around and we saw a large lizard, maybe the size of a dog.

Much of the reason Exmouth exists is courtesy of the U.S. Navy, which came here to install a low frequency long range radio station with which to communicate to submerged submarines in the Indian Ocean. The base and associated antenna farm are outside what passes for "town," one of the towers is 1000' tall.

We thought we heard the base was given to the RANavy, not certain about that. This would have been a barren, bleak place to be posted, lots of clean, uncrowded beach but not much else.

We did, however, see an RV park, with some minor occupancy - this isn't "the season." Southwestern Australians must come here in winter to warm up.

We did a glass-bottomed boat tour of a nice coral reef south of town, enjoyed it too. Turns out this reef isn't suffering from the problems plaguing the Great Barrier Reef. The so-called "crown of thorns" starfish is here but not a plague as at GBR, different conditions = different outcomes.

Now we head on south to Fremantle, the port of Perth where we'll overnight. I think we're there day after tomorrow.