November 25, 2018 in 2,270 words

Debt, Not Trade War, Is China’s Biggest Problem


The US-China trade war has created a great deal of anxiety in financial markets. But it will come to an end sooner or later. Washington will end it, the way it did with Mexico and Canada.

But Washington cannot end China’s debt problem, which could be a big problem for the country’s economy and the world economy.

Which is to say that China’s biggest problem isn’t the trade war. It’s the growing debt problem, which finances bubbles at home and abroad.

To be fair, America has a debt problem, too. So does Japan. America’s debt to GDP ratio is 105.40%, according to Tradingeconomic.com. Japan’s debt to GDP ratio is 250%.

These are large numbers. But they are fairly accurate and well-known. So the debt prices and yields of the two countries fully reflect the risk premiums investors must receive in holding them in their portfolio.

That isn’t the situation with China’s debt.

Officially, it is a small number: 47.60%. Unofficially, it’s hard to figure it out. For a good reason: the government is both the lender and the borrower. One branch of the government lends money to another branch of government.


3 big takeaways from the major new US climate report

Climate change is here, it’s expensive, and it’s deadly, according to a dire new report.


Workers search for human remains in Paradise California after the Camp Fire burned most of the town down earlier this moth. After years of drought and high temperatures, the Camp Fire quickly became California’s deadliest and most destructive fie on record. Scientists warn that climate change is making these fires more dangerous.

Federal scientists have once again contradicted the White House in major new climate change assessment that was inauspiciously rushed to release the Friday after Thanksgiving. Their findings, however, should give even the Trump administration pause: Global warming could cause more harm to the US economy by 2100 than even the Great Recession did.

And the risks aren’t just down the road. The 1,600-page report directly connects climate change to ongoing issues like declining water levels in the Colorado River Basin and the spread of ticks carrying Lyme disease, phenomena that are currently costing Americans resources and lives.

“The impacts and costs of climate change are already being felt in the United States, and changes in the likelihood or severity of some recent extreme weather events can now be attributed with increasingly higher confidence to human-caused warming,” according to the new the report, the second volume of the fourth National Climate Assessment.

The assessment comes from the US Global Change Research Program, a consortium of 13 federal agencies including the Department of Defense, the Environmental Protection Agency, and NASA. It’s required by law and is released in installments over four years.

That’s why a White House that is in denial about climate change has to continue publishing reports that say otherwise. Even when confronted with California’s deadliest wildfire on record, a disaster fueled in part by rising average temperatures, members of President Donald Trump’s administration — including Trump himself — have chosen instead to blame environmentalists rather than acknowledge climate change.


Kavanaugh’s impact on the Supreme Court and the country may not be as profound as predicted

Supreme Court rulings are often not the last word on a matter.


Brett Kavanaugh – “I like beer.

Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court has been widely predicted to plunge the court — and American law with it — into a new conservative era.

The main areas of concern include reproductive rights, LGBT rights, affirmative action, environmental regulations, criminal punishments, gun rights and voting rights.

But these prognoses fail to heed some fundamental distinctions among the decisions of the Supreme Court, and may create a mistaken impression of the court’s power and the inevitable trajectory of American law.

Simply put, Supreme Court rulings are often not the last word on a matter.

What the court does

The U.S. Supreme Court performs two primary tasks: interpretation of federal laws and interpretation of the federal Constitution.

The Supreme Court has the final authority to determine what laws enacted by Congress require. But its determinations can always be reversed by Congress, which has the power to amend or repeal the laws it has passed.

For example: In 1964 Congress gave employees the right to sue their employers for discrimination based on gender. In 2007, a 5-4 conservative majority read that law in a way that limited the available compensation for women suing for equal pay. Within two years Congress responded by increasing the available compensation.

The Supreme Court also has final authority to determine what the U.S. Constitution requires. It does so by deciding cases that challenge the constitutionality of federal and state laws. Generally speaking, the court either declares the law in question to be constitutional or unconstitutional.


The Horrific Story Of The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Eating

The story of 18th-century French glutton Tarrare is so insane and horrific that it really does sound like bullshit. Then again, it’s as well-documented as anything that happened at the time (he was examined by multiple medical experts who recorded their findings), and let’s be honest, lots of the history we’re living right now will also sound like bullshit in the future. And so, let’s explore the story of a man so famous for his eating — and reported cannibalism — that we’re still talking about it more than 200 years later …

The First Course

Tarrare was born in the French countryside sometime in the 1770s. And right from the jump, something seemed off. The boy could fucking eat. So much so that his parents simply couldn’t keep up. Young Tarrare was said to be able to put back a quarter of a cow — that is to say, his entire body weight— on the regular. Today you could probably feed him with a 500-pack of hot dogs from Costco, but in the 18th century French countryside, one has to imagine that food still had to, like, come from the ground and shit. So his parents did what any parents would do in this situation: They kicked his skinny ass straight to the curb.

Unbelievable, isn’t it? But it’s true. Tarrare really was skinny. Reports at the time painted a picture of a slender boy who looked like any other teenager. Oh, except for his mouth. Stretching freakishly beyond the width of a regular person with a regular face, his mouth may have been one of the keys to his success. However, success, as we’ll come to see it in Tarrare’s world, was defined by filling his insides with mounds of servings from nature’s dumpster.

Also nobody knows what his real name was before “Tarrare.” The word is said to have come from a French saying, bom-bom-tarrare, which was used to describe particularly violent explosions. Run the quick numbers on that nickname and you’ll figure out that this was likely given to him because the dude’s farts and shits were mental. So sure, he was hungry all of the time, his parents disowned him, and his face was super weird, but at least he’s going to forever be known for the force with which stuff came out of his butt. So score one for Tarrare.


It takes very little editing to turn Amazon’s “cheerful” new holiday ad into a horrifying techno-dystopia

GREAT JOB INTERNET

At this point, our various speculations about our collective future have inevitably dropped a few rungs on the optimism scale, dipping from “Which utopia shall our children frolic in, carefree and pure?” to “Which corporate logo do you think we’ll have tattooed onto the inside of our eyelids before we’re sent to toil eternally in the Bitcoin mines?” If we were betting drones, Amazon would probably be a pretty good pick for that ocular honor, especially since their latest holiday ad—with just a slight tinkering to its soundtrack—suggests that the company is already planning a world in which their distinctive arrow-marked boxes are watching, and can never be escaped.

Said eye-opening edit comes courtesy of the genius of writer and director Omar Najam, who re-set the ad to the tense, paranoia-heavy theme song to 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, a film which is also, not-coincidentally, about a digital panopticon aiming for global domination. Although we’d argue that nothing on Hydra’s planning board is as terrifying as this shot of a nurse smiling ominously at the all-consuming hellbox she’s left next to a sick and sleeping child.


Announcer sings ‘Mr. Plow’ song from ‘The Simpsons’ during Apple Cup blizzard


A snowy good time at the Apple Cup in Pullman, Washington.

There’s a Simpson’s reference for any occasion.

Friday night’s annual Apple Cup was no exception. The matchup between number 16 Washington and their rival Washington State (number 8), wasn’t just a big deal because of its impact on the Pac-12 conference championship game. There was also heavy snow throughout and it looked really awesome.

In fact, there was so much snow that Fox announcer Robert Smith broke out into song and not just any song. Smith busted out the classic “Mr. Plow” song from a famous episode of The Simpsons (via Uproxx).

Beautiful. The rest of Twitter thought so, too, including Simpsons writer Al Jean who, alongside Mike Reiss, was show-runner of The Simpsons when this episode was written and aired.


Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Chinese tech giant Alibaba has accomplished what most other online retailers can only dream of: it’s integrated online shopping with brick-and-mortar stores.

Shoppers at the behemoth’s Hema Supermarkets still find all the goods you’d expect in a regular grocery store — only they have to download the app to shop there, and they can’t pay in cash.

Like Hema, many of the various ventures owned by Alibaba — founded by China’s richest man, Jack Ma — are already a part of daily life in the country, and almost indispensably so. The company owns some of the world’s largest online marketplaces, all while running one of the two mobile payment systems that have all but replaced cash.

All of this means that Alibaba has amassed a trove of personal data on millions of consumers, and so far, the customers don’t seem to mind, even as Alibaba’s reach grows. The conglomerate plans on rolling out 100 of these supermarkets by the end of the year.

VICE News headed to Shanghai to check out whether these much-hyped supermarkets are as high-tech — or innocuous — as they seem.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.


CAUTION: Some language may not be appropriate for work or children.

Here’s me commentary on parenting.


明日の夜プレミア公開にしようと思ったら間違って普通にアップロードされてしまいました。やる気に満ち満ちたしっぽによる演奏をお楽しみください。Please enjoy the performance of Maru’s tail.


FINALLY . . .

Consciousness and Mathematical Realis

Mathematical realism (also called mathematical platonism) is the view that mathematical structures exist independent of the mind. Other positions view mathematics and its objects as, in one sense or another, human creations or interpretations. Nominalists deny the existence of mathematical objects, and provide reformulations of mathematical statements in other terms. Intuitionists regard mathematical objects as mental constructions. Mathematical realism is not monolithic. For example, finitists take a realistic view of finite mathematical objects such as trillion digit numbers or the monster group, but not of completed infinities. Note that even the realism of finitists is wild in a way, in that it posits the existence of unbounded numbers of mathematical structures that are bigger and more complex than the physical universe.

Although I am a mathematical realist myself, I will not argue the case here, but discuss a consequence of realism : it provides a way of thinking about the substance of which consciousness consists.

A mathematical realist can visualize a sort of cloud of mathematics around physical things. This cloud consists of the mathematical objects that exhibit systematic correlations to the things in question. This supports the following way of talking about the mathematical structure of physical reality. One interprets “physical thing X exhibits mathematical structure Y”, as meaning “there exists the mathematical structure Y that exhibits such and such correlation to the physical object X”. This way of putting matters takes the realistic view towards the mathematical object: it is an existent in its own right which correlates to the physical. For example, for each elementary particle there is the corresponding Lie group. Actually, physicists almost always use the formulations of mathematical realism. This may seem like a distinction without a difference, but please read on.

Part of the cloud arises from mathematical formulations of basic physical laws, as exemplified just now. But there are many mathematical regularities exhibited by particular physical things at a more specific level. For example, a computer exhibits many mathematical regularities other than the general physical laws that apply to its particles. There are, for example, regularities to do with the inputs and outputs of the arithmetic unit. There are also the regularities to do with the software that the computer is executing. Anyone who programs computers knows a lot about these regularities, and talks about them constantly without noticing where the computer ends and the mathematics begins.


Ed. More tomorrow? Possibly. Maybe. Probably Not?