We are informed that inflation is at 3 percent. The various county and local governments here in Palm Beach County/Jupiter somehow did not get the memo. A “Notice of Proposed Property Taxes” that I recently received shows that the taxing authorities are increasing their budgets by about 9.5% on a per-resident basis. The notice shows the millage rates with and without the proposed budget increases.
(I don’t think that the budget increases can be explained by the lockdown-driven exodus from the Northeast. The county’s population grew by only 13,000 in 2022, less than 1 percent (Palm Beach Post).)
Note that the first $50,000 of value is exempt for full-time residents under the “homestead exemption” and the assessed value for a primary residence cannot go up by more than 3 percent annually (but there is no limit to increases for the millage rates?).
Readers: What’s happening to your property tax bills in our 3% economy?
One of our neighbors is an accomplished oil painter. Here’s a photo that I took of what I think is one of the nicer-looking houses in the neighborhood for her to use as the basis of a painting:
What I think is the same house, but in white:
(The truly custom houses in this area are reserved for the truly rich!)
While shopping for furniture that would help our senior golden retriever get up on the bed, I found this upsetting example of inflation:
According to the Scientists at Science, anyone who is not a Covidian is stupid and, worse, a denier of Science.
If Peter Hotez doesn’t want to get Covid, why won’t he stay home? That’s the one proven technique for avoiding a respiratory virus. He’s voluntarily entering packed rooms and holding indoor book signings (photo below), then telling others that he knows the secret for avoiding an aerosol contagion?
I included a photo from one of Professor Dr. Hotez, MD, PhD’s tweets:
He spends all day every day in crowded indoor environments talking about how stupid the average American is for not taking Covid-avoidance more seriously. If we translate this Scientific knowledge to another disease we find that anyone serious about avoiding Monkeypox should spend all night every night in a bathhouse.
… the fierce backlash against sensible public health measures … by uninformed citizens and bad actors on social media… Hotez calls for the US federal government to address anti-science aggression… a proposal for a new entity akin to the Southern Poverty Law Center that would both monitor hateful threats to scientists and offer legal advice and resources.
“Right-wing idealogues” are identified as prime targets who should be hit by those who are pro-Science and “Hotez’s warning about the broader implications of Covid denial must be heeded.”
Let’s consider Pat Studymuch, a U-M freshman. He/she/ze/they lives in a single room amidst other 18-year-olds whose risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 is minimal. Where should he/she/ze/they go?
Science says “Go back to the parents and elderly grandparents” (in the “permanent residence”). But if removing an infected 18-year-old from a group of 18-year-olds and pushing him/her/zir/them into a community of older people is good, wouldn’t it be even better for contagious students to be sent to quarantine in nursing homes?
At a Chevrolet dealer in Stuart, Florida on September 15, I learned that not-in-demand cars are selling at MSRP sticker price, leaving the dealer with $4000 more in profit than in the old days when the cars sold at invoice. In-demand cars continue to carry an additional markup. For example, an electric Chevy is $10,000 over sticker, as is a regular Corvette. A Z06 Corvette is $75,000 over sticker on those rare occasions when the dealer can get one.
Can you save some $$ by buying used? A three-year-old 2020 Corvette 3LT (the premium trim) is available for $95,800, which I’m sure is more than its original sticker price.
Let’s look at the Z06 Corvette. Here’s what Edmunds says about the simplest model:
According to the official prices, GM thought that the dealer would get about $7,000 in profit from selling this car. In the post-coronapanic world, however, the dealer will get $82,000 for taking an order (the difference between MRSP+$75,000 and invoice).
I’m wondering if this is why the car shortage has continued for so long. Ordinarily, if something goes up in price the producers get paid a lot more and begin working hard to increase production. If gasoline becomes more expensive, for example, gas stations don’t become insanely rich while oil producers keep getting the same old price. The gas station gets its usual small markup and the extra money for petroleum products goes to the oil company, precisely the signal that the market is supposed to give to producers in Econ 101. The legacy automakers, however, never got any financial signal that cars were in demand. Nearly all of extra money paid by consumers went to dealers, who responded by buying new beach houses, new business jets, new jet-powered helicopters for their kids, new yachts, European vacations, etc. The boost in auto prices, thus, spurred production of business jets more than production of cars.
I wrote about this back in 2022: Why aren’t cars (and pinball machines) auctioned as they come out of the factory?. The dealer agreement that I found did not prevent the manufacturer from abandoning a fixed retail/invoice price structure and instead simply auctioning cars to dealers or at least establishing a new market-based price every week. Nothing in the agreement required a manufacturer to keep the price to the dealer fixed for 6-12 months, as has been conventional for legacy automakers even during coronapanic.
Tesla, of course, has been a notable exception. The company has made frequent price adjustments throughout this period of lockdown-induced economic disruption. Thus, Tesla has had a financial incentive to maximize production, e.g., paying chip suppliers extra money if necessary to keep the lines going.
Let’s also consider the recent strike by the United Auto Workers, of whom roughly 146,000 work for the Detroit Three. They want a 40 percent pay increase to compensate for the inflation that the government says does not exist. Could the legacy car companies easily afford to pay this if they hadn’t been selling cars for far less than they were worth for nearly three years?
I think that the Detroit 3 have U.S. revenue of about $300 billion per year, combined. Let’s say that they could have gotten 10 percent more money by selling cars for what they were worth instead of selling them for whatever invoice price they’d established. That would have worked out to approximately $90 billion in additional revenue over three years. In other words, they could have given each UAW member a $600,000 coronapanic bonus and still had money left over to give to shareholders.
Should all of the executives at the Detroit 3 be fired? Every day they produced assets owned by shareholders, i.e., the cars coming off the assembly lines. Every day they sold those shareholder-owned assets for far less than they were worth. They enriched the dealers to whom they owed no fiduciary duty. They starved their own production facilities of the extra cash that could have been used to motivate suppliers, workers, etc. to maximize production and ease the supply shortage that has cost consumers so dearly (and helped to generate ugly inflation numbers). They failed to capture the cash that the UAW is now on strike to obtain.
One thing that keeps the Detroit 3 afloat is a 25 percent tariff on light truck imports imposed by Lyndon Johnson (Reason), though Wikipedia says that a Mexico-built truck wouldn’t be subject to the tariff
A broad coalition of civic, business and union leaders has come together to apply pressure on Washington to help with the migrant crisis in New York. … Washington has failed to adequately address the migrant crisis that has overwhelmed the city in recent months.
Of the 107,000 migrants who have arrived since last year, almost 60,000 are still in the city’s care. … The city has opened over 200 sites and humanitarian relief centers to house and process the migrants, which officials estimate will cost $5 billion this year, as much as the budgets for the parks, fire and sanitation departments combined.
Mr. Adams said the current flow of migrants could cost $12 billion over three years, exceeding the city’s current fiscal and physical capacity to deal with the crisis…
Let’s check some photos from my August 22-23, 2023 trip to Manhattan to see whether NYC is, in fact, being destroyed.
What if the migrants want to relax with some 2SLGBTQQIA+-friendly alcohol? Note the “Bud Light” at the top left of the “Open For All” rainbow neon sign.
Perhaps they prefer healing cannabis? New (“essential”) marijuana stores are opening in every neighborhood:
What about COVID? It does not make sense to move out of the crowded city when one can instead don a mask. At the Union Square Greenmarket:
What would you see if you were brave enough to enter the subway?
On any journey into the subway, we are reminded that Pfizer is taking care of us. From Grand Central Station:
Do you want to learn about the “beautiful complexities of the LGBTQIA+ experience”? A Manhattan sidewalk is the place to do it.
(It was a hater from out of town who wrote “all lie” on the sign about the three local queer artists?)
NYC still has plenty of garbage:
My friend who lives in Lower Manhattan attributes a spike in the rodent population to the “rat hotels” that restaurants have built in the street, each one raised up just enough to provide a cozy condo for multiple rat families. Good luck seeing whether a car is coming:
Note that the rat hotel’s floor is flush with the sidewalk:
I am in love with him/her/zir/them referring to these restrictions as “freedoms”.
Separately, I can’t figure out why the proposal is so weak. He/she/ze/they says these tweaks will “end our nation’s gun violence crisis”. But if the government continues to allow private citizens access to firearms, won’t there still be plenty of gun violence? Governor French Laundry promises to ban “civilian purchases of assault weapons”, but that still leaves approximately 6 percent of Americans in possession of an AR-15. If any one of those 6 percent wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, that’s high potential for gun violence!
Also, though Americans under 21 will be restricted by these freedoms from legally purchasing a gun, those 21+ will still be able to do so. Aren’t there enough Americans over 21 committing gun violence that we would still be suffering from a “gun violence crisis” even if nobody under 21 ever did any shooting?
It’s been 10 years. Let’s check in to see how much better today’s electric bikes are. Behold, the Trek Verve+ 2:
How much better is this than the 2013 bike?
51.5 lbs. for M frame size (i.e., heavier)
2,850 Bidies (BLS says that $2,100 in 2013 is equivalent to roughly 2,800 Bidies today, so this is about the same when adjusted for official inflation)
400 Wh battery
250 watt motor
The 2023 bike should be better balanced, due to the battery being in the middle, and it has hydraulic brakes. On the other hand, if the battery dies, the old bike’s 21-speed drivetrain will likely be superior to the new design’s 9-speed (presumably lacks the low gears you’d want to pedal yourself and a ponderous electric bike back to the garage).
I’m shocked at how little progress has been made. I would have guessed that, at the $2100 price, the weight would have come down to 40 lbs. and the battery capacity would have doubled to 500 Wh. Maybe if we’d put $20 trillion into electric bike engineering instead of coronapanic lockdowns, payouts, subsidies, etc.? Or are the bike engineers running up against the laws of physics and chemistry?
From my 2015 review:
What about the new stuff? It seems as though the 900-lb. gorilla of the bike world, Shimano, has entered the market with the Shimano Steps system, which is what Trek is using on their latest models. This may prove the point of Crossing the Chasm (that the innovators often don’t end up as market leaders because products that appeal to hobbyists and early adopters don’t necessarily appeal to the mainstream).
My bike is a regular Trek city bike to which they added some Bionx components, much as a consumer might have done in his/her/zir/their garage. What happened to Bionx when Shimano and Bosch moved in? A 2018 article:
Electric-assist and retrofit electric motor company Bionx has gone bankrupt and its assets are being sold off.
After cornering the North American electric-assist retrofit market, Bionx suddenly closed its doors and laid off all workers in February 2018, just at the start of the busy Spring season in the bicycle industry.
Apparently, the financial failure of the company is related to a deal with General Motors, in which Bionx was to produce electric bicycles for the auto-maker at a cost of $1000/ea. After finding that the bicycles would actually cost $1400/ea to build, Bionx defaulted on the contract and went into receivership shortly thereafter.
In the Department of Never Take Investment Advice from Philip, this is what I thought would happen to Tesla. They fiddled around with standard Li-ion batteries and electric motors. As soon as they’d proven that the market existed, the companies that were experts at making great cars would swoop in and take away all of Tesla’s customers because the cars around the batteries/motors would be so much better. The UK’s Car magazine, however, recently did a comparison test and BMW’s i4 M50 was ranked #3, Hyundai’s Ioniq 6 was #2, and the best electric sedan was the Tesla 3. In other words, Tesla figured out how to make a good car in less time than it took BMW to figure out how to mount some batteries and a motor into a car.
I decided to splurge on the top-of-the-line Trane/American Standard TAM9 air handler and a variable-speed condenser for one of the three systems in our house. Once installed, the humidity did go down from about 55-60 percent to 45-50 percent. Mission accomplished, as George W. Bush might say? No. The thermostat raised dire warnings about “Err 166.00”. This is something to do with the Electronic Expansion Valve (EEV) and “superheat”, two terms that I can’t understand. After the error was raised, power consumption for the air handler dropped to about 20 watts, i.e., less than a small window fan. How could this possibly work even if the compressor was running at only 50 percent? That would be 1.5 tons (out of 3) spread into 5 rooms with 20 watts of fan power? After a week in this state, the system failed completely.
The dealer said that he had no idea what was wrong, but was planning to swap components out until the problem went away. “Maybe it is a sensor. Maybe it is the fan motor,” he guessed. Why not call the manufacturer’s tech support line? “They’re useless.”
He was over at the house the other day (Visit #5?) and I had him call tech support on speaker just to humor me. After learning that the 166.00 errors typically happen between 4 and 8 am, American Standard’s tech support expert attributed the problem to the thermostat being set at 72 degrees. “There is no cooling load in the middle of the night and nothing for the system to do, so it shuts the EEV valve to protect the compressor,” he said. What was his recommended fix? “Set the thermostat to 75, which is what air conditioners are designed for.” If this kind of protection was necessary, how had the previous single-stage system managed to survive more than 6 years, at least 1.5 of those years with the thermostat set to 72? “They don’t have as many sensors as the latest equipment.”
(He is correct that the Manual J calculation for sizing air conditioning typically assumes an indoor setting of 75F and an outdoor temp that is supposed to be the 99th percentile of hotness. In Palm Beach County, that’s 91 degrees, though if sizing a variable-speed system maybe it should be bumped to 95 to allow for the possibility that Professor Dr. Greta Thunberg, Ph.D.is a true prophetess.)
In short, what had caused the problem with our $12,000+ air conditioner was that we had tried to use it as an air conditioner and it wasn’t smart enough simply to turn itself off when the room temperature reached the thermostat set temperature.
(Everyone likes Lennox better, but their fancy “communicating” gear requires 4 wires between air handler and condenser and our existing systems had either 3 wires or 2 wires run between indoor and outdoor units. Trane’s communicating gear requires only 2 wires, so we’re stuck with Trane unless we want to start opening up walls and ceilings to run new wires. Florida houses have no basements and no attics, which makes retrofitting problematic, but nobody seems to care because the standard practice is to gut-rehab or bulldoze after 20-30 years (or 6, if you’re an elite New York-based environmentalist and sustainability expert).)
Still with the cadavers… this week we focus on neck procedures. Budding neurosurgeon Bri will focus on the anterior approach to a cervical fusion (called an ACDF, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion), while the rest of us focus on the technique for a tracheostomy (“trach”) and thyroidectomy. Bri passes out expired tracheostomy kits including a percutaneous (“perc”) trach kit.
Our trauma surgeon professor describes the scene: “It is an eerie night on call. At 2:00 am, an airway alert is sent out. It’s only you there. You arrive in a crowded room with a blue patient and the anesthesiologist puts the laryngoscope in for the third time. He isn’t able to intubate. The patient’s heart rate is dropping.” She pauses. “The patient is about to code. He needs an airway. What do you do?” With blank stares, she gives us the answer: “Well first, you need God on your side so pray the patient is not obese. After that, all you need is an endotracheal tube and a scalpel.”
“Everyone palpate landmarks on each other. Feel the cricoid cartilage.” (The horizontal prominence below the Adam’s apple.) Our professor explains that there are multiple paths forward. “You have to choose one. Know what you are most comfortable with performing.” There are three main options: a cricothyroidotomy (tube inserted into the larynx through the cricothyroid membrane); an open tracheostomy (cut down on the trachea to insert a tube); a percutaneous tracheostomy (tube inserted into the trachea through a needle stick with serial dilations). “A cricothyroidotomy is a temporary procedure. It will need to be revised to a tracheostomy to prevent damage to the larynx over weeks, but in this scenario nothing matters if the patient can’t oxygenate.” She continues, “Old surgeons trained in an age of open trachs. Most trainees are more comfortable performing perc trachs.”
We head to the anatomy lab to practice performing a tracheostomy with the expired kits. “My advice when you arrive at your new hospital is grab a kit for each procedure and open it up. An experienced surgeon will struggle performing a procedure if there is a new kit.”
For the next three days, we focus on the technical aspects of a thyroidectomy. The general surgery residents join us for this. The fourth and fifth year residents help walk the interns and medical students through removing one lobe of the thyroid. “Stay as close as you can to the thyroid when you divide blood vessels.” A third year chimes in, “Thyroids scare me. One small misstep and you’ll hit the recurrent laryngeal nerve.”
We finish the rotation at a coffee shop that is a five-minute walk from the anatomy lab. The trauma surgeon recounts her experience on a civilian medical response team, which was deployed after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. “Contrary to popular belief, a vast majority of the patients we treat are not injured from the disaster. Instead, we care for typical medical emergencies, for example, heart attacks, wound infections, appendicitis, and preterm labor, in a suddenly austere environment,” she explains. “In Haiti, a single generator powered the makeshift intensive care unit and operating room. Of course this went down for about 24 hours. Our team bagged a preterm intubated baby when the ventilator backup power stopped. She survived!”
Bri comments that his sister is in the Army Reserves as a nurse. She was recently mobilized, but the entire unit is staying in a hotel waiting for orders. This does not surprise the trauma surgeon. “Yeah, my team was sent to Iowa for two weeks waiting for orders only to be sent home eventually without having done anything.”
Statistics for the week… Study: 0 hours. Sleep: 7 hours/night; Fun: 2 nights. Example fun: Burgers and beers with Lanky Luke and Sarcastic Samantha. Samantha deliberates on the pros and cons of switching jobs. She is exhausted from stringing along patients who need consults with specialists who hide in hopes that someone on the next shift will take the patient instead. “I looked at the academic hospital, but they pay $30,000 less.” Luke: “I strongly recommend against a pay cut.”
According to the economic logic used by enthusiasts for low-skill immigration, even the lowest skill migrant makes Americans richer because he/she/ze/they causes some sort of bump in economic activity, thus increasing the aggregate GDP.
I wonder if Danilo/Danelo Cavalcante should win Migrant of the Year 2023. By escaping from a Pennsylvania Prison, he is responsible for at least 500 police officers receiving two weeks of overtime pay (timeline). He’s 34 and has been sentenced to life in prison, so that will boost the U.S. economy by at least $50,000 per year for the next 50 years or so (see “Pa. spends over $40k a year per inmate.” but remember that the $42,727 per year number is in pre-Biden dollars).
The dramatic encounter with Cavalcante, involving a helicopter, a lightning storm, a police dog and more than 20 tactical officers, led to his capture around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, authorities said.
So the migrant can also take credit for some Jet A sales and the overhaul reserve for what was very likely a $3-6 million Eurocopter (helping the French and German economies too!).
Why is the U.S. criminal justice system so interested in this Migrant of the Year?
According to prosecutors, he stabbed Brandão 38 times in front of her two young children in Pennsylvania in April 2021. He was arrested several hours later in Virginia, and authorities said he was attempting to flee to Mexico and intended to later head to Brazil, his native country.
In addition, Cavalcante is also wanted in a 2017 homicide case in Brazil, a US Marshals Service official has said.