Americans have borrowed over $1 trillion to finance our cars, and the used car market is worth something like $200 billion per year... will all that value evaporate when autonomous cars become available? Aftermarket autonomy kits might help car owners cling to some of that value, but if the future looks like Uber/Lyft fleets rather than personal vehicles then the kits won't help much.


It's not your imagination: many costs really are rising much faster than inflation. The post has a ton of great charts, but let me quote this summation of the evidence:

So, to summarize: in the past fifty years, education costs have doubled, college costs have dectupled, health insurance costs have dectupled, subway costs have at least dectupled, and housing costs have increased by about fifty percent. US health care costs about four times as much as equivalent health care in other First World countries; US subways cost about eight times as much as equivalent subways in other First World countries.

I worry that people don't appreciate how weird this is. I didn't appreciate it for a long time. I guess I just figured that Grandpa used to talk about how back in his day movie tickets only cost a nickel; that was just the way of the world. But all of the numbers above are inflation-adjusted. These things have dectupled in cost even after you adjust for movies costing a nickel in Grandpa's day. They have really, genuinely dectupled in cost, no economic trickery involved.

Read the whole thing -- that summary is only the half-way point.


An "atmospheric river" is headed for the beleaguered Oroville Dam.

atmos-river-oroville-dam.gif

Above: Computer forecast models indicate a powerful jet stream will continuously pound California over the next ten days and bring copious amounts of moisture from off of the Pacific Ocean into the state. This 10-day loop of predicted upper-level winds at 250 mb are in 6-hour increments from today until Thursday, February 23rd; maps courtesy tropicaltidbits.com, NOAA/EMC (GFS)


Poet Sara Holbrook describes how questions about her writing in a standardized test are completely nonsensical. When I was in school, I always suspected that the teachers were making up stuff about the "intent" of the various authors we studied.

Only guess what? The test prep materials neglected to insert the stanza break. I texted him an image of how the poem appeared in the original publication. Problem one solved. But guess what else? I just put that stanza break in there because when I read it aloud (I'm a performance poet), I pause there. Note: that is not an option among the answers because no one ever asked me why I did it.

These test questions were just made up, and tragically, incomprehensibly, kids' futures and the evaluations of their teachers will be based on their ability to guess the so-called correct answer to made up questions.

Then I went online and searched Holbrook/MIDNIGHT/Texas and the results were terrifying. Dozens of districts, all dissecting this poem based on poorly formatted test prep materials.


The riots at Berkeley were already humiliating enough for the school and the state of California, but I didn't even see until just now this video of a woman being ambushed with pepper spray while talking to a reporter. It's hard to even find words to describe the viciousness and cowardice of the attack. Reprehensible.


Ray Comfort asks people on the street: would you use a bulldozer to bury-alive hundreds of people to save your own life?

Over 50 million babies have been legally killed by abortion in America.


California isn't going to secede. Even if the federal government were inclined to let California go without a fight (which it won't), here are two reasons it won't leave:

  • California imports 25% of its electricity.
  • Southern California imports 85% of its water from the Colorado River.

Rocking the boat would devastate California's economy. It would make a lot more sense for California to split.


Sony writes off $1 billion on its movie business, and Nick Bilton shows us why Hollywood is already over.

A few months ago, the vision of Hollywood's economic future came into terrifyingly full and rare clarity. I was standing on the set of a relatively small production, in Burbank, just north of Los Angeles, talking to a screenwriter about how inefficient the film-and-TV business appeared to have become. Before us, after all, stood some 200 members of the crew, who were milling about in various capacities, checking on lighting or setting up tents, but mainly futzing with their smartphones, passing time, or nibbling on snacks from the craft-service tents. When I commented to the screenwriter that such a scene might give a Silicon Valley venture capitalist a stroke on account of the apparent unused labor and excessive cost involved in staging such a production--which itself was statistically uncertain of success--he merely laughed and rolled his eyes. "You have no idea," he told me.

When I was in college I went to the theater 3-4 times per week. But now, the last time I went to the movies was to see "The Force Awakens", over a year ago. I intend to see "Rogue One", but haven't connected the dots yet.

Killer app for theaters? On-site babysitting.


I grew up in Los Angeles and lived near SpaceX headquarters, and yes, the traffic is terrible. Like Elon Musk, it drove me nuts. However, unlike Musk I simply decided to move away from the traffic....

One of the few people who is just rich, powerful and inventive enough to actually do something about the legendary traffic congestion in Los Angeles is finally fed up. And he has a plan.

Billionaire innovator Elon Musk declared early Wednesday that he's ready to move ahead with his recently formulated ambitions to bore holes, possibly under the city.

"Exciting progress on the tunnel front," Musk tweeted. "Plan to start digging in a month or so."

Good luck. Like Musk's hyperloop, his plan to dig tunnels under Los Angeles is doomed to failure. I know, I know: successful entrepreneurs like Musk thrive on challenges that nobodies like me think are "doomed". That's cool, and I hope he is successful on both projects. However, you should read about Boston's Big Dig before you invest in Musk's "Boring Company".

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in the US, and was plagued by escalating costs, scheduling overruns, leaks, design flaws, charges of poor execution and use of substandard materials, criminal arrests,[2][3] and one death.[4] The project was originally scheduled to be completed in 1998[5] at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion (in 1982 dollars, US$6.0 billion adjusted for inflation as of 2006).[6] However, the project was completed only in December 2007, at a cost of over $14.6 billion ($8.08 billion in 1982 dollars, meaning a cost overrun of about 190%)[6] as of 2006.[7] The Boston Globe estimated that the project will ultimately cost $22 billion, including interest, and that it would not be paid off until 2038.[8]

The last freeway built in Los Angeles was the I-105 which opened in 1994 (yes, 22 years ago!). It's 19 miles long, cost $127 million per mile, and took 26 years to build from design to completion. Oh, and it's above ground.

speed bus.jpg

The only way this makes sense is if Musk is after government infrastructure subsidies.


"Senate confirmation hearings are always more ritual than substance."

The party of the nominee asks penetrating questions such as "Isn't it true, Madam, that you once rescued an entire family of orphans from a burning building?", with frequent pauses to thank the nominee for being there, and perhaps compliment them on their taste in confirmation hearing attire (confident, but understated, you understand). The opposition ranges from feigning outrage about things they have done themselves, to petulant whines about how much time they are being given to probe the vital matter of the parking ticket the nominee received in 1984 for depositing their car in a snowplow zone.


I don't think Trump is losing much sleep over these guys.


If true, it's a dumb move by Trump. Vaccines have saved millions (billions?) of lives.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a proponent of a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism, said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump asked him to chair a new commission on vaccines.

Hours later, however, a spokeswoman for Trump's transition said that while Trump would like to create a commission on autism, no final decision had been made.


The Parliament of Clocks is a fantastic parable about the value of consensus. So many applications. I look forward to using this parable to sound smart many times in the future.

In the parable, a king wants to buy some clocks and travels to the Bavarian village were the ten best clockmakers in the world keep their shops all along one street.

As he enters the street all the clocks in all the shops strike 1 o'clock in one massive group chime. The king marvels at the great accuracy of the clockmakers of the village, but a few moments later he hears another group chime. After investigating he finds that all the clocks in 9 of the 10 shops show the same time but that all the clocks in the 10th shop show a different time by several minutes. Puzzled, the king calls all the clockmakers together and ask why the clocks in the 10th shop do not chime at the same time as all the clocks in all the other shops.

The owner of the odd shop out immediately steps forward and says that due to his unusual skill and innovation his clocks keep more accurate time than the clocks of the other shops. The other shop owners protest loudly. The king is at a loss. The town lacks a master town clock or sundial, so he has no means of determining which clocks keep the best time. Confused, he decides not to buy any clocks and leaves town. Angered, the owners of the 9 agreeing shops burn down the shop of the odd man out to prevent such confusion from arising again. Now when someone comes to town, all the clocks will chime at the same instant. Customers will not become confused and everyone will sell more clocks.

The clockmakers destroy the nonconforming clockmaker among them because they know that as a practical matter we judge the accuracy of clocks by consensus. Absolute time does not exist. Essentially, a parliament of clocks votes on the correct time. (Even scientifically, this is true.) By fiat, we say that the clocks that deviate from the consensus time are inaccurate, but logically that need not be so. Different technologies or different levels of care in setting, winding or servicing the clocks could lead to the minority clocks being more accurate. However, if all the clocks agree, then no lay person will have grounds for suspecting that the majority clocks don't keep accurate time.


I hadn't seen this essay before the election, but Michael Moore was right. The first reason that "Trump will win":

Midwest Math, or Welcome to Our Rust Belt Brexit. I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes - Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states - but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it's because he's said (correctly) that the Clintons' support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the governor next-door, John Kasich.

From Green Bay to Pittsburgh, this, my friends, is the middle of England - broken, depressed, struggling, the smokestacks strewn across the countryside with the carcass of what we use to call the Middle Class. Angry, embittered working (and nonworking) people who were lied to by the trickle-down of Reagan and abandoned by Democrats who still try to talk a good line but are really just looking forward to rub one out with a lobbyist from Goldman Sachs who'll write them nice big check before leaving the room. What happened in the UK with Brexit is going to happen here. Elmer Gantry shows up looking like Boris Johnson and just says whatever shit he can make up to convince the masses that this is their chance! To stick to ALL of them, all who wrecked their American Dream! And now The Outsider, Donald Trump, has arrived to clean house! You don't have to agree with him! You don't even have to like him! He is your personal Molotov cocktail to throw right into the center of the bastards who did this to you! SEND A MESSAGE! TRUMP IS YOUR MESSENGER!

And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It's 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he's expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that'll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn't need Florida. He doesn't need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.

(HT: Ann Althouse.)


You may be as surprised as I was to learn that 7-Eleven is beating Amazon at the drone delivery game! (That is, delivering product by drone, not delivering drones.) Well, ok, it looks like most of the credit goes to their delivery supplier: Flirtey.

"We have now successfully completed the first month of routine commercial drone deliveries to customer homes in partnership with 7-Eleven," Flirtey chief executive Matthew Sweeny said in a release.

"This is a giant leap towards a future where everyone can experience the convenience of Flirtey's instant store-to-door drone delivery."

Flirtey said it made 77 drone deliveries to homes of select customers on weekends in November, filling orders placed using a special application.

Ordered items, including food and over-the-counter medicine, were packed into special containers and flow by drones that used GPS capabilities to find addresses, according to Flirtey.

Drones hovered in the air and lowered packages to the ground, on average getting items to customers within 10 minutes, the company reported.


You probably don't know who Lena Dunham is, which is why she's screeching for attention by glorifying abortion.

It's sad and pitiful that wealthy people like Dunham feel the need to aggrandize themselves at the expense of the weakest among us. Abortion kills a helpless, voiceless human being and causes severe, lasting damage to the mother and her family. Abortion should be mourned, not celebrated.

"I always thought that I myself didn't stigmatize abortion -- I'm an abortion rights activist, it's a huge part of who I am," Dunham said. But when a young girl asked her, as part of a project, to share the story of her abortion, Dunham "sort of jumped."

"I haven't had an abortion, I told her," the actress narrated. "I wanted to make it really clear to her that as much as I was going out and fighting for other women's options, I myself had never had an abortion. ... Even I felt it was important that people know that I was unblemished in this department."

Then Dunham said she was actually jealous of people who had had abortions. "So many people I love, my mother, my best friends, have had to have abortions for all kinds of reasons," she said. "I feel so proud of them for their bravery, for their self-knowledge, and it was a really important moment for me to realize that I had internalized some of what society was throwing at us."

"Now, I can say that I still haven't had an abortion, but I wish I had," Dunham concluded.


Emily Roden writes about her experience serving on a jury nine years ago with Secretary of State nominee and Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson. Few social settings are more private than jury rooms, and this account strikes me as authentic and valuable.

I didn't vote for Trump. This is not an endorsement of Mr. Tillerson for Secretary of State. I'm sure that the coming days and weeks will be filled with speculation and political discussion over this clearly controversial pick for Secretary of State. I certainly appreciate those concerns and the process that ensures significant scrutiny for this important position.

But during a news show tonight, I heard the term 'corrupt' applied to this man who I spent five days with back in 2007.

All I know is that this man holds one of the most powerful positions in the world and clearly has the means and ability to side step his jury responsibilities, served as a normal citizen without complaint or pretense. I know that a scared little girl who was finally convinced to come public with her account of abuse was inches away from a decision that would have sided with her abuser, yet this man put his negotiation skills to a very noble use and justice was served. All I know is that this man and his myriad of aides could have ignored an unsolicited email from a girl in her 20s suggesting that he donate to a local cause, but he took the time to respond and opened up his pocket book.


There's no such thing as the "popular vote" in American Presidential elections, and yet the term is used frequently to refer to the total aggregate accumulated by each candidate nationwide. Some people are calling for Electoral College electors to abandon Trump because Hillary "won the popular vote", but James Taranto points out the problem with the the argument.

The Electoral College is consistent with the U.S.'s constitutional character as a union of states. We suppose we can understand why one might prefer direct nationwide election by popular vote, but the way to achieve that would be through a constitutional amendment. Good luck with that: It's unlikely the requisite 38 states would agree to defer to California (where Mrs. Clinton's margin was more than four million, meaning that Trump "won the popular vote" in the other 49 states combined.)

If we're going to create arbitrary groupings of states to support our preferred candidate, why can't everyone play?

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