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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Secret

It's because in the late 1900s, Americans gradually adopted the Australian system of secret ballots, much to the chagrin of the party bosses and political machines that used to be able to bribe or threaten their way to victory. - The Week
    I presume that by "the late 1900s", Peter means before 1910 and not before 2000. I mean, as far as I know, we have always been using secret ballots and I go back to the 1950s.
    So all through the last part of the 1700s and all through the 1800s, we weren't using secret ballots? I'm shocked. Who'd a thunk it?

Via Comrade Misfit

Olympics

Reading about some highlights from the games.

Kristin Armstrong, who won gold in cycling, "is often confused with the ex-wife of fellow cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose name is also Kristin. Kristin Armstrong the cyclist and Lance Armstrong are not related."

Carmelo Anthony, the basketball player. I've seen him in enough games on TV to recognize the name. I'm not sure whether he is a hero or villain. Anyway, ". . . on an off-day, he visited one of Rio's favelas." "What most people call creepy, scary and spooky, I call comfy, cozy and home." - WSJ

As for Ryan Lochte . . . At first I thought some Rio bureaucrat saw an opportunity to make a name for himself by harassing these guys. Then we got some reports that maybe the athletes were telling tales, and I got to wondering 'can these guys really be that stupid?' And now that the media has trampled all over the story, I doubt we will ever know what really happened, which pisses me off, because I invested minutes, minutes of my time, I tell you, reading and thinking about this fiasco, and I shouldn't have bothered, because all of the data related to this story is tainted.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Westland Wasp

SA Navy Westland Wasps
Looking over yesterday's post about Bouvet Island, I realized that since the Oryx helicopter hadn't been invented yet, it couldn't have made the landing. A little more reading reveals that they probably were using Westland Wasps, and that's when I found this very cool picture. South Africa bought a few, but then the anti-apartheid embargo kicked in and that was the end of that.

Westland's Scout and Wasp helicopters differ only in their landing gear. The Scout is intended for land based operations and has skids, the Wasp has 4 wheel landing gear for use aboard ships. Via Flugzeug.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Bouvet Eiland

One wheel landing of a SA Air force Oryx
Photo by Tom van der Meulen, taken while "Lying on my stomach, hanging upside down out the door".
This photo showed up in the Flight Aware newsletter. At first I thought someone had overshot the runway and ended up hanging over the creek. Then I read the caption and realized this was a helicopter, and it's not really a landing, he's just touching down on this rock.

Oryx Helicopter off Cape Town, South Africa
I found this picture of the Oryx Helicopter on the South African Air Force 22 Squadron's website, where I also found this bit:
  • First helicopter landing on Bouvet Eiland in 1966.
What is a 'Bouvet Eiland'? Is this some kind of ship? No, it's an island, way off in the middle of the south, south Atlantic.

Bouvet Island
As you might expect, it's not much of a place, small and covered with ice.

Bouvet Island, southeast side, as seen at sunrise, eight miles distant. Black and white photograph coloured by hand. Photo taken on the German Valdivia expedition. 1898.
It's really remote:
  • 54.43 degrees South, 3.38 degrees West
  • 1,100 miles from the coast of Antarctica
  • 1,700 miles from Cape Town, South Africa
  • 2,600 miles from the southern tip of South America
  • 3,200 miles from Buenos Aires
Since the most helicopters have only a short range, I think the helicopter that made the landing probably made of most of the journey from South Africa carried on board a ship. The helicopter landing on Bouvet Eiland wasn't made with an Oryx. The landing occurred in 1966, the Oryx didn't fly until 20 years later.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Houses and Money

House
It occurred to me the other day that it doesn't take any more money to live in a big house than it does to rent a small apartment, providing that the house is paid for. Take someone who has lived in the same house for 30 years and diligently paid their mortgage every month, or someone who inherited a house, or won the lottery and bought it outright. Doesn't matter how they got it, once the mortgage is paid off, the expenses don't go away, but they are considerably reduced. Going by my own experience, annual property taxes on a house are going to about 1% of the market value. Utilities and insurance are about the same. A mortgage or rent for a house or apartment is about 1% of the market value per month.
    Twenty years ago when I built my house, construction costs were about $100 per square foot of interior floor space. These days I think it is more like $200. A small apartment with 500 square feet is going to cost $100,000 to build and is going to rent for $1,000 a month. A 2500 square foot house will cost about a half million dollars to buy and about a $1,000 a month to maintain (taxes and utilities).
    $200 for a square foot of floor space sounds like a lot money for a little bit of plywood, drywall, shingles, tarpaper,  carpet, pad, insulation, paint, wires, pipes, nails and glue, but that's the problem with houses: there is just an endless list of stuff that goes into them. And then you start looking at upgrades like thicker insulation and double glazed windows and upgraded appliances and fancier trim levels and you can easily spend all the money in the world on your shelter/cave.
    If you own a house, moving is expensive. With realtor's fees and title insurance fees and miscellaneous fees it can easily be 10% of the price of the house, and that doesn't include moving expenses. Some people don't like paying realtors, but I find them well worth while for the amount of headache they save. They might also get you more money. If you price your house 10% under its market value you are losing more than a realtor would cost. Pricing your house is a black art, something realtors understand.

John LeFevre

Airplane
What we have here is some tales of high class people behaving badly. Some of it is very entertaining.

I started with Good riddance, Gawker! by John LeFevre because Gawker has been in the news. But who is this John LeFevre? He wrote The Roadshow (aka The Worst Private Plane Trip Of All-Time), which led to this book Straight to Hell by John LeFevre (Amazon link).
Elevator to the Bottom by Philip Delves Broughton is a review of the book,

Heroin, or a Businessman's Perspective on the Drug Trade


Excerpt from EL CHAPO AND THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE HEROIN CRISIS by Don Winslow, writing in Esquire, quoted in The Wall Street Journal

Okay, I'm going to say it: The heroin epidemic was caused by the legalization of marijuana.

We wanted legal weed, and for the most part, we got it. Four states have legalized it outright, others have decriminalized it, and in many jurisdictions police refuse to enforce the laws that are on the books, creating a de facto street legalization.

Good news, right?

Not for the Sinaloa Cartel, which by the time Colorado passed Amendment 64 in 2012 had become the dominant cartel in Mexico. Weed was a major profit center for them, but suddenly they couldn't compete against a superior American product that also had drastically lower transportation and security costs.

In a single year, the cartel suffered a 40 percent drop in marijuana sales, representing billions of dollars. Mexican marijuana became an almost worthless product. They've basically stopped growing the shit: Once-vast fields in Durango now lie fallow.

More good news, right?

Yeah, no. Guzmán and his boys are businessmen. They're not going to take a forty-point hit and not do something about it. They had to make up those profits somewhere.

Looking at the American drug market as it existed, Guzmán and his partners saw an opportunity. An increasing number of Americans were addicted to prescription opioids such as Oxycontin.

And their addiction was expensive. One capsule of Oxy might sell on the street for thirty dollars, and an addict might need ten hits a day.

Well, shit, they thought. We have some of the best poppy fields in the world. Opium, morphine, Oxy, heroin—they're basically the same drug, so …

The Sinaloa Cartel decided to undercut the pharmaceutical companies. They increased the production of Mexican heroin by almost 70 percent, and also raised the purity level, bringing in Colombian cooks to create "cinnamon" heroin as strong as the East Asian product. They had been selling a product that was about 46 percent pure, now they improved it to 90 percent.

Their third move was classic market economics—they dropped the price. A kilo of heroin went for as much as $200,000 in New York City a few years ago, cost $80,000 in 2013, and now has dropped to around $50,000. More of a better product for less money: You can't beat it.

At the same time, American drug and law-enforcement officials, concerned about the dramatic surge in overdose deaths from pharmaceutical opioids (165,000 from 1999 to 2014), cracked down on both legal and illegal distribution, opening the door for Mexican heroin, which sold for five to ten bucks a dose.

But pill users were not accustomed to the potency of this new heroin. Even heroin addicts were taken by surprise.

As a result, overdose deaths have skyrocketed, more than doubling from 2000 to 2014. More people—47,055—died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any other year in American history. (Perhaps the most famous of these, Philip Seymour Hoffman, died on February 2, 2014, right at the height of the epidemic.) That's 125 people a day, more than five lives every hour, a fatality level that matched the AIDS epidemic's peak in 1995.



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Don has a great deal to say about the Mexican drug cartels, but he doesn't have much to say about the American Drug Distribution Cartels, where according to my back-of-the-envelope calculations 90% of the profits are made.