The German Film Iron Sky

Yesterday I got an incredible nice surprise on Netflix. I found a German Science Fiction film called Iron Sky. It was made in 2012 and an independent film without big studio backing. Those of us who love science fiction are familiar with the theory that some Nazis fled at the end of World War II and set up a colony of the dark side of the moon. This movie begins in 2018 when two American astronauts land on the moon. A few minutes after leaving the lunar module, they run right into some evil looking men who are obviously in Nazi space suits. One astronaut is shot dead and the lunar module is destroyed. The other astronaut is captured alive and hauled back to the colony that is obviously a major Nazi outpost. When the astronaut’s helmet is removed, the Nazis are shocked to see that he is an African American. Of course he is tortured and imprisoned. He does manage to escape and somehow makes his way back to earth. In the future world of 2018 America has a female president and she is the twin of Sarah Palin including the glasses. One thing leads to another and the moon Nazis send an invasion fleet to conquer the world. An American space cruiser is sent to engage the Nazis. Its name is “The USS George W. Bush.” It is made clear that it’s nuclear armed. The Sarah Palin look alike is warned that if nuclear weapons are used, innocent women and children could be killed. Her response in the film is: “I don’t give a damn, nuke ’em!” Of course the American stop the Nazi invasion.
This film is full of great special effects, humor and satire. It was great fun to watch. But it also had a deeper message that Europeans often see we Americans as “trigger happy cowboys who shoot first and ask questions later.” The website for the film is ironsky.net. This is a great film and I had a lot of fun watching it.

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Two Beautiful Days In Pacifica

It is the middle of winter here in Pcifica. But magic has happened. We have had two beautiful days with lots of sun and not a cloud in the sky. I have done some work on taxes but I have also spent time enjoying the beauty of this magic moment and to reflect on life. I am lucky to be in this beautiful place. It’s not Rio de Janeiro or Patagonia, but it’s not bad either. Elena is in Argentina with friends and family. She needed this tme off on her own and I needed this time too get in touch with myself. I will enjoy it while it lasts. Some 14 years ago I had a beautiful experience one Friday afternoon in the town of Tequila, Mexico. (Yes such a town exists!!) I ended the poem with these words: “If I had to die now, at least I would die very happy.”

Beware Internet Scammers Are Getting Very Good!!!!

Yesterday I got a very official-looking email telling me that my American Express card had been frozen due to a security issue. I was told to go to a website and give information. On one hand, I thought the email might be legitimate as I had just used the card to buy a couple of books at a book seller in South Africa who I have done business with for decades. On the other hand I as very suspicious and felt uncomfortable about the whole thing. I took the time to call American Express. There was no security hold on my account. The whole email had been a trick to try to get me to give up all the information on my American Express card so that thieves could drain it of money. My friends be alert at all time.

The Television Show Dragnet Circa 1950

Yesterday I got to call Elena at her friend’s house in Buenos Aires and wish her a happy birthday. She was in good spirits. Later in the afternoon I got to watch episodes of Dragnet screened on television between 1950 and 1953. I was alive then but we did not have a television all of those years ago. I guess that you can say that I am “catching up on things.” These episodes show that over 60 years ago police had to deal with things like serial killers, teenagers dying from heroin overdoses, street gangs, etc. The police are shown as being decent and over worked. What is not shown there is police beating suspects, etc.

The Robots Are Coming And Your Job May Not Be Safe

Mike “Mish” Shedlock is a conservative financial blogger. We do not always agree on ideology. He is, without doubt, a damned smart man and I learn a lot from him. He posted a fascinating article about a robot that is taking jobs away from humans. I am sharing the article below.

The bottom line is that it is super important for yung people to have incredible skills to survive in a work and economic world that is going to be more and more competitive.

 

 

Meet “Baxter” the Robot Out to Get Your Minimum-Wage, No Benefits, Part-Time Job, Because He’s Still Much Cheaper; Fed Cannot Win a Fight Against Robots

 

The federal Minimum wage in the US is $7.25 per hour. Ten states have higher minimum wages with Rhode Island clocking in 50 cents higher at $7.75.

Costs to the employer are higher of course, even if the employer ducks benefits by using part-time workers.

For starters, employer contributions to Social Security are 6.2% of hourly wages which adds another 45 cents to employer costs. That brings employer costs up to $7.95 per hour minimum, not counting training costs, vacation (if any), sick-time disruptions, and other such costs.

Of course, employers must also factor in the cost of Obamacare.

Small businesses do not have to provide health-care, but under employer responsibility provisions of the affordable care act, businesses that employ more than 50 workers will pay a steep penalty in 2014 if they don’t.

Click on the preceding link to see a nice flow chart of the penalty process.

What IF?

What if companies, small or large, did not have to worry about Obamacare? What if they did not have to worry, about training, sick-leave disruptions and weather-related disruptions? What if companies only had to pay $3.00 per hour, rivaling wages in China?

Meet Baxter

Baxter – The Automation Robot

MIT Technology Review discusses Baxter in Small Factories Give Baxter the Robot a Cautious Once-Over.

Chris Budnick, head of Vanguard Plastics, a small injection-molding operation in Southington, Connecticut is considering the use of Baxter for one process that is not yet automated: stacking and packing textured, plastic cups, which Vanguard sells for 2 cents apiece to a medical company.

It currently costs Budnick $9.00 an hour to have a staffer from a temporary agency to do the job.

Budnick is now considering Baxter to replace that agency job.

Let’s tune in to the MIT story for additional details about Baxter and the job Baxter will replace.

Baxter was conceived by Rodney Brooks, the Australian roboticist and artificial-intelligence expert who left MIT to build a $22,000 humanoid robot that can easily be programmed to do simple jobs that have never been automated before.

Brooks’s company, Rethink Robotics, says the robot will spark a “renaissance” in American manufacturing by helping small companies compete against low-wage offshore labor. Baxter will do that by accelerating a trend of factory efficiency that’s eliminated more jobs in the U.S. than overseas competition has. Of the approximately 5.8 million manufacturing jobs the U.S. lost between 2000 and 2010, according to McKinsey Global Institute, two-thirds were lost because of higher productivity and only 20 percent moved to places like China, Mexico, or Thailand.

The ultimate goal is for robots like Baxter to take over more complex tasks, such as fitting together parts on an electronics assembly line. “A couple more ticks of Moore’s Law and you’ve got automation that works more cheaply than Chinese labor does,” Andrew McAfee, an MIT researcher, predicted last year at a conference in Tucson, Arizona, where Baxter was discussed.

Baxter comes with two arms, a vision system, and 360° sonar (which it uses to detect people nearby), but for the cup-stacking job it will also need a specially designed gripper, which Rethink is now developing. Rethink is also developing software so that the robot can communicate with other machines, such as a conveyor belt, telling it to move forward or stop.

So how important will Baxter really be to Vanguard? Budnick couches his answer in baseball terminology. “Baxter is a potential double,” he says. “Maybe a home run if it can use both its arms.”

60 Minutes Discusses Baxter

Inquiring minds are listening to a 13 minute video on 60 Minutes that discusses “The Age of Robots”, and Baxter.

Link if video does not play: 60 Minutes on Robots

Please play the video. It’s well worth your time.

60 Minutes Quotes and Idea

  • Percentage of Americans with jobs is at a 20-year low
  • Routine middle-skill jobs are being eliminated fastest
  • Software robots and physical robots replace wanted jobs
  • There are heavily automated warehouses where there are no human workers, right now
  • “You’d think the robots would run into each other but it never happens”
  • One robot saves 1.5 people
  • New Categories of jobs are in the sights of automation
  • eDiscovery replaces legal jobs
  • US manufacturing is making a comeback, but without the jobs
  • Investment in robots has increased 30% since the recession ended
  • Baxter costs $22,000 and can be trained in a matter of minutes
  • Baxter costs $22,000 and lasts 6,500 hours, about $3.40 per hour
  • Buying a robot is like hiring a Chinese worker
  • “Workers in China and India are more in the bulls-eye of the automation tidal-wave than the American worker”
  • Even if manufacturing returns to the US most of the jobs will go to robots
  • “Work as we currently think of it will be largely done by machines”
  • What people will do is the $64,000 question

Email Exchange With Friends

Here is an interesting Email exchange I had with a few friends, one of which sent me the MIT article.

“Bob” writes “Buy American is a big theme with the robotics guys. My future son-in-law won’t even buy his tux from a Hong Kong tailor. He refuses to buy anything from China. They view themselves as abolishing Chinese slave labor by making it uneconomic.”

“John” responded “What do those people then do to feed themselves?”

“Bob” replied “The easy answer is that it isn’t our duty or problem to keep a slave state prospering and fed. You are not going to wipe out China’s slave labor overnight. If China’s elite sees that its low wage slave labor will no longer reap profits, they will do what other slave masters have done: educate its people so that they can compete in an economy where there are no slave conditions.”

In Praise of Cheap Labor

“Mish” says, I fail to see where the above line of thinking goes.

We have come to a point where the minimum wage is 200% too much. How does hiring Baxter at $3.40 per hour prevent slave labor in China? Is no job better than some job?

Baxter is a hugely deflationary force. Increasing the minimum wage only exacerbates the problem.

Oddly enough, Paul Krugman agrees, or at least he once did before he became the “Conscience of a Liberal“.

Want proof? Please consider In Praise of Cheap Labor; Are Bad Jobs at Bad Wages Better than No Jobs at All?

Taxing Robots Cannot Work

Economist Paul Krugman and others are now pondering heavy taxes on robots. Is that the answer?

How can it be? Paying more people to do nothing (or to do jobs robots can do cheaper) cannot possibly solve anything. Such practices encourage the birth of more people when there are fewer jobs to be had.

Two Realities

Either technology creates jobs long-term or it doesn’t. I believe it does, and on that score I am an optimist (I just cannot say when it will happen).

Let’s assume I am wrong. Then taxing robots to meet some artificial living-wage standard can hardly be the answer. Encouraging the birth of more unneeded, unproductive people is a sure-fire way to start a major war.

In either reality, Krugman is wrong.

Fed Cannot Win a Fight Against Robots

The problem is not that wages are too low. Rather, the problem is expenses are two high.

The remedy then is certainly not higher minimum wages (which previously encouraged more outsourcing and now encourages more robots), but rather making the dollar go further.

In that regard, it’s a mad world in which the central bankers and the Keynesian clowns are both hell-bent on forcing wages and prices up, when every attempt to do so accelerates the use of more robots.

There is nothing wrong with falling wages provided costs fall as well. Who (other than Keynesian clowns and misguided union activists) does not want lower prices?

Moreover, falling prices as a result of increasing productivity over time is the natural state of affairs. For example, one farmer today produces as much goods as 100 farmers a few decades ago.

Certainly the price of agricultural goods is up over that time frame, but far less than the corresponding increase in money supply and credit (the true measure of inflation).

Robots an Invincible Force

Central banks are powerless to stop the advance of technology. Robots in particular are an invincible force.

Resistance is futile.

The Fed, central banks, and governments around the globe need to embrace technology and its deflationary forces. Otherwise, the result will be a sad combination of fewer jobs, rising population, higher prices, and a ultimately a major war.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

A Beautiful Monday In Pacifica And A Historical Day

Yesterday was a beautiful day and it was really great to see the president and vice-president sworn in. I was fascinated at some of the body language things I detected. When President Obama and former President Clinton met they were polite but distant. I think Clinton still has grievances over the 2008 election when Hillary lost to Obama. Most fascinating was Michelle Obama’s body language and reactions. She loves Joe Biden. She likes Harry Reid somewhat. She despises John Boehner. Elena got to watch the event also. I had to go to Kaiser to get my blood drawn to see how my cholesterol is doing. (I got the results later and they are good; thanks to cholesterol medicine.) I took her to the airport after 12 and she flew to Houston and then to Buenos Aires. I went to Loew’s and got 15 more blocks to fix the entrance to our driveway. I installed them and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon with the dogs. Now I am alone until Luah returns on 3 February.

Another Hard Day At The Dentist

My dear friends it was back to my dentist, Dr. Choi’s office for more dental work yesterday afternoon. I got a filling at my root canal site made permanent. I also got fitter for a crown on my right rear lower wisdom tooth. That one was painful. My teeth have worn out. Dr. Choi has done a wonderful job of saving them but I have suffered pain and discomfort. The positive side to all of this is that I have survived long enough for my teeth to wear out. That is truly a miracle! When my dear mother was alive, I would come to see her. She would smile at me and then bury her face in her hands. When she looked up again she would say to me: “Son it’s a miracle that you’re still alive.”

I Just Want To Celebrate Another Day Of Life!

I took the dogs out this morning and it’s freezing cold. It looks like we’ll have a sunny day! As the old saying goes: “I just want to celebrate another day of life!” I always remember the physical education coach John Webb as he began work out classes in LA 24 years ago with these words: “I had a good night last night. Think about all the people who did not wake up this morning.”

Our Dog Copernicus Is Eleven Years Old Tonight

Copernicus as the old saying goes: “I was born at night but not last night.” Eleven years ago tonight your mother Eloisa went into labor in the area near the dining room in our old townhouse in San Jose. You were the first to be born. You came into the world blind and with no fur. You were so tiny that I could hold you in my hand. Your father was a sweet little white dog named Virgilio. Your mother arrived from Argentina pregnant with you. It was fortunate that you were born with us. Had you been born in Argentina, Patricia’s husband would have taken you out and killed you because they could not afford puppies. As a puppy you were sweet. You loved to sit out on the patio and look up at the heavens. We gave you the name Copernicus after the Polish astronomer Copernicus because you were fascinated with the heavens. We thought that you would grow up to be sweet like your father. Instead you grew up to be strong and aggressive. You have escaped many times and survived in dangerous places full of coyotes, mountain lions, and very unpleasant humans. You have had “run ins” with animal control in two California counties and a couple of law enforcement agencies. The lawyer Krisana Hodges once had to defend you from a civil claim after you bit a UPS driver. You are a little man with incredible resourcefulness and street sense. We love you and thank you for eleven years of love, loyalty and devotion.