Friday, July 29, 2016

MH370 was likely a mass murder-suicide by pilot

MH370 was likely a mass murder-suicide by pilot

Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was likely steered into the sea intentionally, by its own captain, in a pre-planned mass murder-suicide, a new report reveals.
In an exclusive story posted online Friday, New York magazine says that the plane’s captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, “conducted a simulated flight deep into the remote southern Indian ocean less than a month before the plane vanished under uncannily similar circumstances.”
The story cites as its source a confidential document from the Malaysian police investigation.
It took the FBI to discover the grim news of the captain’s apparent suicide test runs, the magazine said.
After the plane disappeared in march of 2014 — with 239 passengers and crew aboard — Malaysian investigators seized the hard drives that Zaharie used to record sessions on “an elaborate home-built flight simulator,” the magazine said.
But key data on the hard drives had been deleted. Malaysian investigators handed them over to the FBI, which was able to recover six deleted “data points” that had been stored by the Microsoft Flight Simulator X program in the weeks before the plane vanished, the magazine said.
Each data point records something about the simulated flight, including altitude, speed, location and direction. The deleted records showed that the captain’s simulated flight departed from Kuala Lumpur, veered over the Southern Indian Ocean, and then kept going to the point where fuel would be exhausted over an empty stretch of sea.
Search officials believe Flight 370 did exactly that, veering off course and then ceasing communications before plummeting into the water without a trace.
Malaysia has kept under wraps any news of the captain’s apparent suicide test run, but rumors of what the FBI had uncovered have long circulated, the magazine said.
Earlier Friday, officials announced that the more than two-year long hunt for any remains from the flight would soon be called off, an announcement that angered families of the passengers and crew.
So far, the futile search for remains has been the most expensive in aviation history, costing the equivalent of $135 million.

A Very Depressing Chart on Creeping Cronyism in the American Economy

Last year, I shared the most depressing PowerPoint slide in Danish history.
Back in 2011, I wrote about a depressing picture of tax complexity in America.
Let’s continue with the “depressing” theme today.
James Bessen, from Boston University Law School, has an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review about the source of corporate profits in the 21st century (h/t: James Pethokoukis).
He starts with an observation and a query.
Profits are up. …is it good news for society?
The default answer presumably is yes. Higher profits, after all, generally are a sign of wise investments.
And when labor and capital are allocated wisely, that’s good news for consumers and workers.
But Bessen correctly observes that profits can increase for bad reasons, and that’s the focus of his research.
…the rise in profits might represent a decline in…economic dynamism. …Firms engage in political “rent seeking”—lobbying for regulations that provide them sheltered markets—rather than competing on innovation. If so, then high profits portend diminished productivity growth. …In a new research paper, I tease apart the factors associated with the growth in corporate valuations.
Unfortunately, he finds that cronyist policies account for a depressingly large share of corporate profits.
I find that investments in conventional capital assets like machinery and spending on R&D together account for a substantial part of the rise in valuations and profits, especially during the 1990s. However, since 2000, political activity and regulation account for a surprisingly large share of the increase.
Here’s a very grim chart from his article. At the very least, I’ll call this the most depressing image of 2016.
Ugh, what a dismal observation on the state of our economy. Companies are almost making as much money from manipulating Washington as they earn from serving consumers. Heck, just consider the way politically connected financial institutions tilt the playing field for unearned goodies.
Bessen adds some analysis, including the very important insight that regulation and intervention tends to help big companies relative to small companies and new competitors.
Much of this result is driven by the role of regulation… Lobbying and political campaign spending can result in favorable regulatory changes, and several studies find the returns to these investments can be quite large. For example, one study finds that for each dollar spent lobbying for a tax break, firms received returns in excess of $220. …regulations that impose costs might raise profits indirectly, since costs to incumbents are also entry barriers for prospective entrants. For example, one study found that pollution regulations served to reduce entry of new firms into some manufacturing industries.
It’s also worth noting that he finds that this bad news really started back in 2000, which makes sense given that both Bush and Obama have pushed policies that have expanded the clumsy footprint of government.
This research supports the view that political rent seeking is responsible for a significant portion of the rise in profits. Firms influence the legislative and regulatory process and they engage in a wide range of activity to profit from regulatory changes, with significant success. …while political rent seeking is nothing new, the outsize effect of political rent seeking on profits and firm values is a recent development, largely occurring since 2000. Over the last 15 years, political campaign spending by firm PACs has increased more than thirtyfold and the Regdata index of regulation has increased by nearly 50% for public firms.
What an awful cycle. Government gets bigger and more powerful, which lures companies into viewing Washington as a profit center, which then leads to more policies that expand the size and power of the federal government, which leads tofurther opportunities for rent-seeking behavior. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Oh, and don’t forget this is one of the reasons why there’s a revolving door of insiders who shift back and forth between the private sector and government, buttheir real job is always to be working the system to obtain undeserved wealth.
Which is why I periodically explain that there’s a big difference between being pro-market and being pro-business.
P.S. Earlier this year, I shared some data, based on sources of billionaire wealth, that suggested that cronyism wasn’t a major factor in the United States. But Bessen’s new research nonetheless shows we do have a major problem, perhaps because people who get rich honestly then decide to maintain their wealth dishonestly.
P.P.S. If there’s any sort of silver lining to this bad news, it’s this amusing parody commercial about Kronies, which are toys for the children of Washington’s gilded class.

Obama's 'failed leadership' putting cops at risk

Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort blamed the Obama administration for encouraging the kind of "lawlessness" that led to another police shooting in San Diego on Thursday.
"As Mr. Trump has said, what's going on in America is the result of seven-and-a-half years of failed leadership that too often making the police and the law enforcement agencies into the bad guys," he said on Fox News Friday morning when asked about the San Diego shooting. "They're not the bad guys."
"Until there's strong leadership and leadership that gives direction to the country, you're going to continue to have this kind of lawlessness, unfortunately," he said.
Manafort also said the recent supportive comments made by the Obama administration about police are too little, too late.
"Over the course of the last couple of years, now everybody is saying all the right things, but the problem is the lawlessness has gotten to such a level now that unless there's a change, there's not going to be any effective difference," he said.
"There is an attitude embedded into the Democratic leadership. That is the problem," Manafort added. "The law enforcement agencies and first responders are not given the respect by the system."
He also said the Obama administration is showing by its own examples how it doesn't respect law enforcement, such as its failure to bring charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of personal email while she led the State Department.
"Plus, just a general lawlessness in the way that this administration has dealt with justice, from the Attorney General's office, the FBI ... going through and exonerating Mrs. Clinton ..." he said. "I mean, there's just this attitude that law enforcement is the bad guys, and justice is not equal for all."

4 Ways Donald Trump Is Living Rent-Free In The DNC’s Head

4 Ways Donald Trump Is Living Rent-Free In The DNC’s Head

Everything the Democratic National Convention is doing this week seems 
to be a knee-jerk response to Donald Trump.

In the 1980s, Dry Idea anti-perspirant had a series of commercials where celebrities gave advice, always culminating with “Never let them see you sweat.” Here’s one featuring fashion designer Donna Karan:
She ends with, “Feeling tense is understandable. Looking tense is unfashionable!”
Someone needs to share this advice with the Democratic National Committee, whose convention is sending a message that Donald Trump is making them sweat.
Here are a four examples.

(1) They Changed Hillary’s Tagline

In his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, Donald Trump said,

My opponent asks her supporters to recite a three-word loyalty pledge. It reads: ‘I’m With Her.’ I choose to recite a different pledge. My pledge reads: ‘I’m with you — the American people.’
He went on to describe the ways he would be with voters. It was a really smart line that made Clinton’s tagline seem cold and entitled, out for herself. It made Trump seem like he was for the common man. “I’m with her” was used to great effect during the campaign. But all of a sudden the line conjured up negative feelings.
The Clinton campaign responded by changing her slogan. Or not changing it so much as adding to it. Now, on the backside of signs that say, “I’m with her,” there’s an additional tagline: “She’s with us.”

New signs being passed out. One side says I'm with her, other side says she's with us
His criticism got to the campaign.

(2) Their Mockery of Trump Is Obsessive

There are advantages to being the second party to hold a convention.
You get to react to the first convention by presenting a more appealing message. You get to react to things you thought were negative.
But at no time should you build an entire joke or lengthy bit around something as narrow as the way your opponent … walked onstage.
Somehow that’s exactly what happened when Elizabeth Banks took the stage on Tuesday night.
Here’s another angle:

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

On the left, Donald Trump ... On the right, Elizabeth Banks
How many people watching this entrance even understood that it looked similar to Trump’s entrance last week? Are many Americans watching both conventions that carefully? Unlikely.
I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but this does nothing other than look like obsession with unimportant details. And that’s a sure sign someone is in your head.

(3) Policy Changes

Here’s yesterday’s lede from the Detroit Free Press:
PHILADELPHIA — UAW President Dennis Williams reiterated Tuesday that presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has promised him that she will try to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to better protect workers.
Promised him she’d rewrite one of her husband’s signature policy achievements.
Also, when Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said yesterday that Hillary Clinton actually supported the Trans Pacific Partnership, Hillary for America chair John Podesta shot back:

Love Gov. McAuliffe, but he got this one flat wrong. Hillary opposes TPP BEFORE and AFTER the election. Period. Full stop.
That could be seen as nothing more than an attempt to tamp down the Bernie Sanders troops, but Politico Pro reported that Clinton surrogate Ed Rendell is crediting Trump’s attacks on trade agreements. He says Trump’s trade message is resonating in the important swing state of Pennsylvania:
Trump’s attacks on trade agreements and promises to uphold ‘law and order’ are attractive to many Pennsylvania voters, putting the state’s 20 electoral votes in play in the upcoming presidential election, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (2003-2011) said today.

‘It resonates. There’s no question about it,’ Rendell, a Democrat, said during an interview with POLITICO Playbook hosts Mike Allen and Anna Palmer.

Rendell said the amazing thing to him is Trump’s practice of outsourcing jobs to manufacture his brand name products ‘doesn’t seem to matter’ to many older white voters drawn to his message.

‘The toughest task is to get those voters to listen,’ Rendell said, adding that even attempts to tie Trump to unpopular policies of the Republican Party have not been particularly effective in changing minds.

(4) The Change-Maker?

During his acceptance speech, Donald Trump sold a message of the need for radical and urgent change.
Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place.

They are throwing money at her because they have total control over everything she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings.

That is why Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change. My message is that things have to change — and they have to change right now.
So what was the big takeaway from last night’s keynote address by former President Bill Clinton? He said that his wife would be a “change-maker.” Over and over and over again, that’s what he said.

Pres. Clinton says "She's the best darn change-maker I've ever known" and out come the signs
Trump says, “Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change,” and Clinton’s response is “she’s a change-maker”?
This has the feel of George H.W. Bush in 1992, who responded to Bill Clinton’s call for change by saying he wanted change, too. As Twitter user David Held pointed out, he even put it into his TV advertisements:
Everything about the Democratic convention seems to be a response to Trump. They’re trying to position him as immoral, his positions as extreme, and his style as gauche. They’re listening to his criticisms and letting them get in their heads.