America

Trump is right to cut NSF funding – here’s why

So the media unsurprisingly hurled abuse at Trump for his plans to cut National Science Foundation (NSF) funding by $1bn. Typical. Yet maybe it’s worth reminding ourselves how the NSF has misappropriated taxpayer funds with such reckless negligence. No doubt if Obama (who raised its budget $1.5bn which in office) had lopped $1bn off the NSF budget on discovery of the below the media would be in raptures.

The NSF is a US government agency responsible for allocating 24% of science funding. It was raked over the coals by the US Senate for gross mismanagement, fraud and waste. The “National Science Foundation: Under the Microscopepaper from 2011 documented some of the misappropriation of funds as follows,

An $80,000 study on why the same teams always dominate March Madness”, a “$315,000 study suggesting playing FarmVille on Facebook helps adults develop and maintain relationships”, a study costing “$1 million for an analysis of how quickly parents respond to trendy baby names”, a study costing “$50,000 to produce and publicize amateur songs about science, including a rap called “Money 4 Drugz,” and a misleading song titled “Biogas is a Gas, Gas, Gas”;” a study costing”$2 million to figure out that people who often post pictures on the internet from the same location at the same time are usually friends”; and “$581,000 on whether online dating site users are racist”.Ineffective management examples, cited in the report, included “ineffective contracting”, “$1.7 billion in unspent funds sitting in expired, undisbursed grant accounts”, “at least $3 million in excessive travel funds”, “a lack of accountability or program metrics to evaluate expenditures” and “inappropriate staff behavior including porn surfing and Jello wrestling and skinny-dipping at NSF-operated facilities in Antarctica”.

Sorry, which part of lopping $1bn would taxpayers be upset by?

ZeroHedge ban – nothing helps publicity like scarcity

ZeroHedge

ZeroHedge (ZH) has been banned from Facebook. ZH has the occasional spicy article but it is hardly a purveyor of information that could be remotely deemed hate speech or attacking ‘community standards’. It is punchy journalism. The good thing is that ZH already has quite a good following from readers who access the website directly. The irony of these arbitrary bans is that it only makes sites like ZH even more attractive. Nothing helps publicity like scarcity.

In the last few years, privacy and other issues have plagued the social media giant. By all accounts, users are moving away from the platform. ZH reported

More than 17 million young Americans have abandoned Facebook over the last two years after a series of data privacy scandals damaged public trust in the social media platform… to the longest-running survey of digital media consumer behavior in America conducted by Edison Research, Facebook users between 12-34 years-old are now flocking to Facebook sister site Instagram, reports the Daily Mail

…Older people over the age of 55, meanwhile, increased their Facebook usage – marginally offsetting the drop in younger users for a net loss of 15 million users over the last two years

The longer term problem for social media is that kowtowing to a wafer thin number of activists who complain (no matter how much Facebook might align ideologically), means that those who are sick of being told what is deemed acceptable for them will just grow tired and leave. The irony in all of this is listening to a minority will ultimately drive the majority to a place which provides a marketplace that offers personal choice on what is deemed acceptable.

Boeing 737 MAX-8 – FAA continues airworthiness directive

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a continued airworthiness directive (AD) notification for the Boeing 737 MAX-8 after the crash of flight ET302. Note there have been 15,342 ADs issued by the FAA. 46 have been issued in the last 60 days. While we probably don’t give it much thought when we board a flight, that’s how much scrutiny goes on behind the scenes.

As tragic as the preventable loss of life was, the FAA had issued training procedures on 7 November 2018 to overcome the angle of attack (AOA) problem post the Lion Air flight JT610 MAX-8 accident on 29 October 2018. Many airlines assured the FAA that their crews have been trained to handle the issue in case of malfunction.

Former NTSB member John Goglia noted that while many pilots have learned to fly aircraft with complex electronic aids, those in countries with less developed aviation industries have less experience flying without them.

The FAA views the MAX-8 as a safe aircraft provided the erroneous AOA data is dealt with correctly. Boeing will fix the problem to ensure the product’s reputation. To the FAA, if the AOA couldn’t be disabled then the aircraft would be grounded.

Note Boeing has 4,800 orders outstanding for the MAX type. Around 230 are in service. The aircraft is the most popular selling commercial jet plane worldwide.

It’s not the first time Boeing has had issues with the 737.

In 1991, the first of a series of rudder hard overs caused several crashes until one pilot managed to save his plane which suffered the same fault for investigators to understand the problem and rectify it.

As for air safety, US Census data points to an1 in 205,552 chance of dying in an aircraft vs. 1 in 4,050 dying as a cyclist, 1 in 1,086 risk of drowning and 1 in 102 in a car crash.

Lenny lectures on the ladies

There is no question there are/have been some disastrous male leaders in politics – in no particular order – The North Korean Kims, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Amin, Saddam, Juncker, Chamberlain, Rudd, Turnbull, Hoxha, Trudeau, Obama, Carter, Bush Jr, Yeltsin, Erdogan, Chavez, Maduro, Macron and so on. Many would be well within their rights to demand Trump be included too. It’s all subjective of course. The list above will undoubtedly trigger some complaint.

However does Lenny Kravitz honestly believe that genitalia is the key determinant for success in world leadership? Or is this a cynical virtue signaling hijack of a well publicized cause (International Women’s Day) which might help resurrect dwindling industry-wide revenue in a music streaming world? Then again Lenny has first hand experience in letting it all hang out to get media attention when his wardrobe failure exposed his Prince Albert in 2015.

Did Lenny forget Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was given a 12 year sentence for money laundering and corruption? Or former South Korean President Park Gyun-hye who was locked away for 24 years for her abuse of power, coercion and bribery? Former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko received a 7 years jail term for embezzlement. Elena Ceausescu was executed by the Romanian Armed Forces for heinous crimes against her people.

Let’s not go near the toxic trail of disaster left behind Hillary Clinton. Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s $93 trillion Green New Deal thought bubble the type of leadership the world is craving? Do we want the shoot from the hip without facts style of Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris or Maxine Waters? Or does Lenny think we should channel the moral high ground calibre of Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib to run international diplomacy?

This is not to cast aspersions on the huge number of successful and capable women that exist in world politics. Do we really think the following women want constituents to judge them on the basis of gender or hope they look to their track records first and foremost?

Exhibit A – former US Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley. Sign CM up. She is intelligent, strong, articulate and just happens to be a woman. CM sincerely hopes she runs for POTUS. She’d be fantastic.

Exhibit B – Australian Senator Linda Reynolds. She gave an incredibly powerful speech about lived experience with respect to people smuggling. Principled and earnest. Just happens to be female.

Exhibit C – Former Canadian Interim Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose regularly tore strips off Justin Trudeau through reasoned logic and sensible argument. Just happens to have XX chromosomes.

Exhibit D – Australian Labor Party Senator Kimberley Kitching appears another impressive politician. CM shares little in the way of political ideology with her but once again she appears intelligent, measured and confident in her own skin.

We could go on and on.

On the other hand CM wonders what is this obsession with gender and identity taking a premium to merit and ability?

In the upcoming federal election in Australia the parties are chest-beating about their relative diversity. Parties preselect candidates on their ability to win seats. No point putting up women (or men for that matter) on the ticket on the basis of their gender if the talents won’t garner a tick at the polling booth.

Social media is likely to lavish praise on Lenny Kravitz for being so ‘woke’. Best check his ranking on iTunes next week to see if his little stunt paid real dividends thanks to a bump of “Always on the run” downloads.

Maybe our Lenny needs to play the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin tune, “Sisters are doing it for themselves“, on a loop. They believed they could stand on their own two feet back in 1985. Far easier in 2019 to do so.

Gillette razor cuts ongoing

Gillette at Priceline is still on discount. Schick remains full price. Interested to see the next set of numbers from P&G. It is doubtful that it will derail the group by any stretch but the management commentary will be interesting to see how they deflect the campaign. Perhaps better to look at Schick’s parent Edgewell Personal Care to see if they got a free bump.

Twitter bias – who’d of thunk?

Judge for yourself on whether Twitter targets particular groups. Think Sarah Jeong faced no Twitter ban for calling to #CancelWhitePeople whereas black conservative Candace Owens got a suspension for changing Jeong’s words from “white” to “Jewish” and “black”.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg openly admitted in a congressional testimony that Silicon Valley was littered with people from the far left. Think of poor old #WalkAway activist Brendan Straka , the articulate, openly gay hairdresser who was suspended for 30 days for highlighting he’d appear on the then banned InfoWars. Not for posting a video.  Just that he’d appear.

The publishing of Google’s internal post-election debrief video shouldn’t have surprised anyone in the slightest. All the outer appeals to the group’s impartiality were smashed by this leaked video. In a sense Google was the victim of the half-life nature of the very digital media feeds it seeks to control. Even worse it was all the senior management talking about what really goes on behind closed doors.

Sunlight is truly the best disinfectant.

Tesla – Musk baits the regulator again?

Anton Wahlman on Seeking Alpha has reported that Tesla held a secret telephone conference call to a limited audience which apparently contradicted statements made earlier in the public domain. If true, from a pure compliance and governance perspective that would violate fair disclosure rules. It is surprising that given Elon Musk’s run ins with the SEC that shareholders would hope he’d look to avoid further investigation rather than taunt the regulator.

According to the call transcript, Tesla provided new profit/loss guidance to the select few on the call. Even more bizarre is that Deutsche Bank compliance apparently let its Tesla analyst publish a report on March 1 based on the contents of the call, including margin guidance on the $35,000 Model 3 which was not divulged to others.

CM has always held that Tesla is an amateur car maker. Luring owners to deposit a non refundable $2,500 for a $35,000 Model 3 smacks of a silent fund raising to keep the ship afloat.

The company recently admitted it would close much of its dealer network and move to mobile servicing. Cute in principal but unlikely to be sustainable. Mainstream makers know that dealer/service networks are vital to keeping customers connected. If large recalls need to be conducted, mobile units aren’t going to cut it.

None of the above really surprises. Owning Tesla is sort of like joining a cult. The preachings from the fearless leader are designed to keep the disciples fiercely loyal. However if the government gets enough evidence to gather the SWAT team it will swarm the compound. This company is not worth anything like $50bn. Grab your popcorn.