Monday, August 22, 2016

Tim Worstall : Master of Delusive Prattle tries to Redefine Wealth


I may be mistaken with this first assumption:  I assume Tim Worstall is, at least moderately, intelligent.  Whether he is or not, Tim Worstall epitomizes the practice of using one's intelligence as a tool for developing and deploying subterfuge, to justify any and all nonsense one can come up with.

His latest article on Forbes, from 2016-Aug-19, is entitled: "CBO's Very Bad Report - It's Complete Nonsense That The Top 10% Hold 76% Of All US Wealth", and the title itself characteristically reflects Mr. Worstall's desire to employ his intelligence for the purpose of misleading readers.  His aim is quite clear: create uncertainty about any statistics that lend validity to positions that run contrary to his own personal socio-economic and political ideals.

I typically try to ignore Worstall's garbage, but I found myself so annoyed by the ridiculous assertions in his current article that I had to respond — though unlike Worstall, I don't have the advantage of the asymmetric media exposure which confers columnists like him an incredible advantage when it comes to readership / reach.  But, I have to try...

Worstall's Insane Assertion: Wealth is Not Counted Properly

Worstall states:
"It is true that they [the top 10% of people] have 76% of the wealth as it is being counted. But that’s the very problem, the manner in which the wealth is being counted." 
Why does Worstall assert that wealth is measured wrong? In summary, he contends that this 76% of wealth held by the few is not defined accurately because it is financial wealth and it does not include a couple things: the value of human capital and, to a lesser degree, the (assumed future) value of pensions and retiree benefit plans.

When most people are asked to define wealth, they typically arrive at a definition that sure sounds like financial wealth, and this will almost invariably include the assets an individual currently holds and, when enumerated, this wealth will include things like: cash, cash equivalents (instantly accessible holdings at a bank, etc), physical property (the unencumbered portion of cars, homes, etc), stocks and bonds, and most anything they feel can be reasonably quickly converted into cash.  These are core components of material prosperity, or, that is, being "rich" by way of having accumulated assets that can readily be converted to cash, traded for other items of value, or pledged as collateral against loans.

Redefining Wealth

Now, according to Worstall's view of reality, financial wealth doesn't properly reflect true wealth and its distribution throughout society.  In order to market his absurd concepts and realize his agenda, he needs to convince people that "wealth" is not what most people consider it to be (i.e., financial wealth), but rather that it should additionally include unrealized-potential, of which, per his conjecture, there is a meaningful and measurable net-present-value (NPV) that will somehow dramatically alter the data and thus the statistical view of wealth distribution — and of course, he wants his proposed definition of wealth to somehow show that the "top" doesn't hold such a large proportion of all wealth.

There are so many holes in his proposed redefinition of wealth that I hardly know where to begin my analysis. Mr. Worstall apparently has an incredible ability to suddenly forget basic accounting and now confuse income-statement items with balance-sheet items. That is, within the foundation of his ideal new wealth-accounting mathematics there will be a ridiculous new condition where income is intentionally contorted into an asset.  Income and wealth (assets) are two completely different things, Tim.  I learned this very, very early on in life, as I am sure you did.

Even if you have a very high income, you may not be at all wealthy, depending on your spending habits.  Wealth is what remains of your accumulate income, as assets, after you have made your expenditures and offset your liabilities.  Assuming that you have started life with a zero balance, wealth is accumulated by retaining, repeatedly, a portion of your disposable income, and having overcome a propensity to consume, instead opting to fortify your personal balance sheet (i.e., your assets / wealth).

Unemployment Insurance = A Component of Wealth? Yeah, sure!

In making his pitch for a new definition of wealth, Tim even hurls this incredibly weak profession:
"Unemployment insurance has a value – all insurance policies have a value. That if I get fired I have an income is a source of wealth to me. But that’s not counted."
Well, duh, Tim... unemployment insurance is not counted as wealth because it is income, when actually collected, and this income is realized only upon becoming unemployed. This is further from being any part of wealth than the number of discarded aluminum cans laying beside a street when you walk or drive by: at least those cans can be collected and recycled for cash, without the need to be unemployed as a precondition to realizing that gain. Seriously, who falls for your baloney, Tim? If you are unemployed, and even if you are collecting unemployment insurance, it is not very likely that you are accumulating wealth; just ask all the long-term unemployed during the recent great recession that were lucky just to be able to keep their house!

Going further, Tim even mentions food stamps as a source of wealth, stating that if he had no other income, perhaps he'd collect some $300 a month in food stamps or such, and that looked at over a long time (he seems to ponder 20-years or so) the accumulated capital-value would be some $60-70K, of which some portion of this potential future income should be somehow considered "wealth" now.  But, if that's the case Tim, per this imbecilic logic, we would all accrue the exact same potential amount if we each have the same 20 years in which to potentially collect it!  

This logic is so transparently flawed and clearly designed to evoke a response from those who are against the concept of food stamps, welfare, etc.  That emotional response aside, just think his nonsense through a bit.  In Tim's world, even a newborn has a considerable chunk of "wealth" to be counted in the wealth-distribution curve statistics, as that baby is potentially entitled to an entire long life of future benefits — be it Social Security in the USA, food stamps, or whatever — and, there is certainly human capital lying there in a newborn's crib, which we need to also assign a NPV to according to Tim. This is simply a fantasy view of reality and certainly not remotely coupled to any financial reality.

Let's look at Tim's next major alleged uncounted "wealth" item as while further deconstructing his absurdity...

Human Capital = Wealth?

At a corporate or business level, human capital definitely contributes something to intangible assets, though most often it is the resultant IP (Intellectual Property) and proprietary methods and processes derived or implemented by the employees that is the true asset.  This is out of scope here anyways, since Tim is talking about personal wealth. So, what is the true value of human capital when calculating personal wealth? 

Mr. Worstall cites a British Office for National Statistics (ONS) report that dared to mention the term "human capital" along with some proposed value of that capital, in such a way that it could apparently be bent to his liking:
"The ONS also produced figures for “human capital”, putting a monetary value on a person’s qualifications, age, health, personality and skills.
The value of the UK’s human capital increased by £890billion to £19.2 trillion last year"
Seeing that giant number (£19.2 trillion) must have immediately worked Tim into a frenzy... as he then deduces that "human capital is vastly more important as an economic number [compared to household financial wealth]", but the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) study —  which shows 76% of family wealth being held by the top 10% — didn't somehow allocate this giant human capital figure within their analysis of wealth distribution.  

Temporarily ignoring the fact that you cannot simply quickly exchange your lifetime human capital potential for financial wealth, let's contemplate its place in Tim's new definition of wealth.  Presumably, you are to arrive at an affirmative response to this question: if this human capital figure were somehow apportioned to every citizen correctly, would it change the financial wealth distribution curve? 

Valuing Human Capital

Make no mistake, there are noteworthy correlations between various aspects of individual humans and their human capital and their likely income production and their eventual wealth accumulation.  As mentioned in his article, via citation, differences in education lead to a differing degrees of financial wealth, not that it should be any real news that families headed by college educated individuals end up with nearly four times the wealth of families headed by individuals with only a high-school education.  We should have all heard the well known statistics by now, that, e.g., acquiring a college degree leads to better pay. And, with a higher income, you have a much better chance of accumulating and retaining some of that income, beyond your propensity to spend, in assets, in your wealth.

But, having a college degree does not make you wealthy. I know plenty of people with college degrees that have near-zero wealth for the simple fact they do not earn a high wage and/or they may spend whatever income they receive, no matter how much they receive.  Income and wealth are two completely different things, and trying to somehow state that human capital, assessed by way of applying some net present value calculation based on attributes like your education (which imply potential earnings) to capture your true "wealth" is again just an incredible misconception.

If you believe that your wealth is higher just because you have a college degree, due to the statistics of income potential associated with that degree, you might as well consider other less-equitable income correlation statistics, and the implications.  It has been shown that your physical appearance will affect your earnings potential (just search google for various studies / results).  Furthermore, your gender will dictate to some degree your potential earnings (the stats are clear: women earn less for the same role), and your race will predict your earnings potential too here's a link to a 2016 Washington Post article that should help you get started with the underlying data behind these varied statements.  These types of study results are typical, and such data can be found everywhere. 

Apparently, human capital "wealth", calculated as some proposed net-present-value amount, is going to depend on all sorts of truly sad statistics. Never mind this whole human-capital current "wealth" misconstruction is absurd.  But, if the idea were to be taken seriously, we'd all have to really get into the gutters and extract all the relevant actuarial filth... we'd even have to look at each persons genetics to see who has the longest or shortest life expectancy, contemplate all social behavior and pay attention to personal health. Why?  Because when calculating an NPV, we need to know over what period our income assumptions apply, and how much risk there is in those assumptions changing, etc.  This is all just nuts!  And, the end result will be a statistical caste system of sorts. 

Then again,... while computing earnings potential, perhaps we should consider that America has become a country with very low economic mobility (CNN report) whereby if you are born poor you are likely to stay poor, and if born into wealth you are much more likely to remain in wealth. I.e., in the United States the economic class you are born into is likely the one in which you will stay... worse than many other developed countries. The stats are unreal (NYTimes, 2012 article), so much so that they even bear quoting here:


"... 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.
Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes.

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 6percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths."

No matter how any sane person looks at it, income and wealth are two completely different things, and any argument for how < future-earnings-potential = wealth(today) > is simply asinine, aside from perhaps assuming that real financial-wealth-disparity will only increase over time, as borne out by existing statistics and socio-economic trends.  As such, I posit that if we assigned a "wealth" value to human capital, when constructing wealth-distribution-statistics, that the end breakdown of this "wealth" would still be essentially identical as financial-wealth, or perhaps even more concentrated (to the top few). The data to justify this hypothesis is clear, as demonstrated above.

Proof of Human-Capital Value in the Present (or lack of it)

Sure, human capital is considered when applying for a loan, but make no mistake, it is not being accepted, at a personal level, as any type of "wealth" against which a loan is being granted. The fact you have a college degree may make a bit of a difference as to whether you get a loan, but what is really going to matter most to any banker/lender is your current financial wealth, current cash-flow, your income, and the demonstrated stability or trends in that income and your financial wealth.  The bankers may accept as collateral some of your other financial assets, but they are not going to simply let you get by on the fact you have future potential for income, outside of specialized discrete products like student loans.  

Perhaps the unsecured credit market, Credit card companies and similar firms, care about your human capital?  This is highly unlikely, and I'd argue that they actually demonstrate the fallacy of any current "wealth" attributable to human capital.  These firms grant credit based on current income, and they will instantly raise your rates if you lose your job and that income... you are now a credit risk.  This is not for some giant shift in your "human capital" wealth, it is because they are not in the least bit concerned with that... they only care about your instantaneous cash-flow, and whether you have any real financial wealth (i.e., assets that can provide you the cash you need to right now pay your bills).  

And, nowadays, even insurance companies (like car insurance) will raise your rates if you lose your income: your human capital didn't change, just your instantaneous income-production abilities, and thus your credit rating, and somehow your perceived "risk" as a driver.  To argue that your human capital "wealth" truly changed upon unemployment, would one first have to admit that there exists a true stigma, or bias, against the unemployed, in such a way as to have a huge affect on your future income production prospects, and thus your supposed "wealth" when bringing forward a net-present-value of that income? 

And, I can almost guarantee that your landlord, if you rent, couldn't care less about any supposed future-production-potential-valued-in-present-"wealth", but only about whether you can pay your rent right now in that universally accepted bit of wealth that truly matters: cash on hand.

Human Capital and Taxes

Next, if human capital is so important, why does the USA federal tax-code punish income resulting from the application of your human capital (i.e., you working) so much more than it punishes income resulting from putting existing financial wealth into play (i.e., investments)?  Regular income  —  wages earned from working at a typical job  —  is taxed at a much higher rate than income, within the same total earnings bracket, produced from dividends or capital gains. Well, aside from the most egregious example of a tax that exempts a select few, via the "carried interest" tax treatment, that is.

If Worstall can somehow distort income and the possibility of future income into a form of current wealth, then shouldn't that wage income also be treated just like the financial wealth income when it is employed in investments? Wealth is wealth, according to Tim.  So, why not lower the ordinary income tax rates for a married couple filing jointly, and making under $75K/year, from their current 15% down to where they match the zero percent tax that would accompany the same income if it were all produced from long-term capital gains [see table here]?

The simple fact is that there is a huge tax-code preference (favor; i.e., lower tax rate) for financial wealth derived from existing financial wealth as compared to income produced from human capital. Clearly the US tax code considers income from human capital to be something totally different from income produced from existing financial wealth.  The tax code is clearly telling us all that it is better, more advantageous by far, to have financial wealth upon which income can be derived than to produce income from wages.  That entire mess is a topic for another day, because it is almost certainly to blame for a large part of the real financial wealth-distribution issue, whereby most wealth is incredibly concentrated among the top few percent.

Pensions

Tim did mention one interesting bit regarding the measurement of wealth: how the funds held in a 401K are counted towards wealth, but how a defined pension future annual payout is not counted... again, my initial reaction is to simply say "duh, Tim"... as a 401K, in theory, can be reasonably quickly converted into cash in the present (less a huge tax-penalty) whereas the defined pension cannot (generally, to my knowledge).  Again, Tim confuses (intentionally) future income with what can be attributed to current wealth.

I would argue that, when counting 401K values in financial wealth, that to be counted fairly in the present towards financial wealth, one would have to reduce the value of the 401K balance by the amount of any applicable taxes and penalties. Aside from that, the 401K can be a current cash-equivalent asset whereas the defined pension plan cannot, unless some corporation wants to buy the rights to your pension (if even assignable) and cut you a check right now.  I am not sure about the logistics or legality of that... I will look into it more.

Conclusion

Perhaps in an upcoming blog or two I will dive deeper into thoughts on some of these topics. Worstall has clearly manipulated and distorted reality by way of his latest absurd assertions, surely in hopes of countering the widespread discussion surrounding the unfairness of the current tax and financial system, a system that has led to this massive redistribution of wealth from the masses to the top few.  Things will only get worse if people allow such nonsense to gain credibility.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Joe Kernen (CNBC) and his Private Sector Dreamland

This morning I was watching one of CNBC’s Squawk Box episodes where Joe Kernen (a co-host, nicknamed "The Kahuna" or such) was trying to debate with Mohamed El-Erian the merits of private sector vs. public sector when it came to capital investment effectivenessThis particular episode has to do with Mohamed El-Erian's view that the US had better take 3 actions soon to avoid recession, of which one such action includes embarking on large-scale infrastructure fixes to the nation's roads, bridges and transportation systems, especially since the government borrowing cost for any required capital is near zero now. El-Erian's other ideas include tax-reform and over-indebtedness (especially in things like student loans now), but that's another issue.

I want to focus on the infrastructure investment topic and some of what Joe Kernan said during this episode that I take some issue with, specifically his statements about how wonderful and efficient the private sector is at deploying capital, as opposed to the government (aka, public) sector.  Readers remember: don't confuse public-sector with publicly-traded private companies in this upcoming discussion.

Joe said [as closely as I could type it while watching the video] the following:
If you have a [private sector] business, ... whether you exist depends on you watching your P's and Q's and watching every penny, and not overpaying for things, ... you go out of business if you don't do that.... [a private sector business] treats capital frugally like it should be treated.  
Joe was telling Mr. El-Erian something along the lines of "... I'm just talking about a theoretical argument about whether government is as effective at deploying capital as much a the private sector.", and the fact that Joe clearly believes that the private sector is fantastically effective at deploying capital.

Private-Sector Capital Deployment Efficiency and Effectiveness? Sure...

Joe, you must be joking!
What world are you living in?  Surely you are not referring to the private businesses whose stocks adorn the Dow Jones, S&P or Nasdaq indices.  You need only look to any of your guests, El-Erian included, to quickly see how insane your bit about "treating capital frugally" is in this modern private-sector world, especially among the publicly-traded private sector businesses.   You are simply living in a dream land.

For starters, IF private sector firms were at all concerned about the effective or efficient deployment of capital, you wouldn't see them issuing pay packages worth tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars to senior executives (like, e.g., Mr. El-Erian reportedly received at Pimco, a subsidiary of Allianz).  And, I am waiting for someone to tell me how it is effective deployment of capital to secure such awesome talent that can only be had for these enormous sums, and how their superhuman management abilities deserve such pay — you know, their super-human ability to pay the average person in the organization one-three-hundredth of what they make, while laying off masses of those average persons because employees are just a terrible waste of capital when that money can go to their pay instead.  But, this insane executive-pay is just the starting point in a long list of inefficient deployment of capital in private firms.

How about all the cash parked overseas now by major companies?  Trillions!  And, even if it is sitting in negative-yielding government bonds, or otherwise near-zero-yield instruments, somehow that is effective or efficient use of all that capital?  Go ahead... make the obvious arguments over how it is more effective to park such massive sums overseas than to pay taxes on it in the USA, yada, yada...  well, the tax-code is certainly partially to blame, but then again, it ended up this way because these same corporations lobbied elected officials in order to write the tax law as it stands.  This needs to end.  Total ineffective deployment of capital on a grand scale.

Then come all the share buybacks that are being done to further enrich top insiders that have incredible pay deals tied to stock price.  Share buybacks are truly saying that a company has nothing better to do with excess funds than buy back their own shares, if you believe they really have nothing better to do with it.

But, therein lies the problem, the stats clearly show that corporations DO have better things to do with their capital and they are obviously not treating it frugally, as they should per Joe K's commentary. Stock prices are soaring, yet they do stock buybacks while their stocks are already at very high values (hmmm.... that sounds a bit like "overpaying" to me), but the internal core business capital investment is now at an astonishing low — things like investments in machinery and equipment  — the lack of which is contributing to overall productivity slowdowns in the USA economy.  As this article on SeekingAlpha pointed out, courtesy of the National Bank of Canada's Economics and Strategy economist:
"Borrowing by corporations for the purposes of stock buybacks instead of investment in machinery and equipment does little to enhance an economy's capacity for growth. We're getting more evidence of that in the US where the average age of fixed assets is the highest in half a century and productivity growth is the weakest on records."
Gee, that sure sounds like truly effective use of capital, Joe!  I think otherwise. Surely we can do better.

Corporations are sitting on mounds of cash, but yet instead of investing in core business assets (CAPEX), they waste their cash on stock buybacks, over-inflated executive compensation packages, and other unconscionably conspicuous deployment of their capital in ways aimed at self-enrichment and short-term stock price over long-term productivity and sustainable long-term returns to the average shareholder.

Somewhere along the line it has even become an accepted norm, apparently, that a full 10% (or more) of all corporate profits will go to just the few top C-level employees.  Seriously. Just pull up Google Finance and look at a few companies' total net profit values and compare it with what the top insiders are taking in compensation.  It is truly appalling.  Need some examples?  You can choose nearly any company... they all look similar (thus, I am not saying any of these companies are worse than any others... most all are terrible these days in this sense):

  • Try Lifeway Foods on Google Finance, which shows 16.16 million shares outstanding, EPS of 12 cents per share (thus making total earnings of just under $2 million USD).  Now, go to Reuters and look at some of the top player's pay packages and share sales... a mere 3 individuals took home $3.3 million in basic compensation according to Reuters.  Wow!  Great use of capital guys!  Ever heard of the average shareholder?  If you directed two thirds of your inflated executive pay towards the corporate bottom line, your entire business would be in the black! And, presumably the share-price would go up quickly if a profit was attributed to shareholders and not just the entitled few insiders. And, you all own shares, which makes it even more crazy that you are unwilling to risk your cash pay for just share appreciation. What makes you all worth such great pay when your average shareholder has lost 50% in the past year?  If you have so much capital that paying such salaries is the only efficient thing to do, perhaps you should consider the average shareholder first, or maybe some capital improvements for expansion or productivity improvements?
  • Gee, let's look at Capstone Turbine on Google Finance,... wow... Reuters shows 4 guys pulling $2.2 million in basic compensation from a firm that loses money in a big way (net income: -$25 million annual).  Unreal.  Again, don't any of you overpaid self-rewarding insiders see anything even slightly wrong with this situation?  Don't worry: Joe K. thinks you private sector guys are doing wonderful with your precious capital, if he truly includes you in his statement today.
  • And, as to not leave out some big players, how about the likes of Chevron (G-finance site),... Google shows them losing 40 cents/share over past 4 quarters, or roughly $760 million dollars.  But, as you might now expect, the top insiders are doing wonders with that precious capital: there is a nice $50 million dollars in otherwise useless capital that just had to be handed out to the five people that Reuters lists Chevron executive compensation for.  Couldn't $50 million do anything at all to otherwise improve efficiency, even if it were R&D looking into efficiency gains?

There are so many examples of poor use of capital in private organizations, and their "overpaying for things" (something Joe claimed they can't do and survive), that I could go on for weeks (and not only regarding excessive pay packages).  But, clearly Joe Kernen's appreciation of the private sector, and it's alleged ability to so effectively deploy capital, is due to some fantasy view he holds of modern corporate America versus a completely different reality.  Is the public sector really so terrible at capital deployment compared to all this? Maybe. But the bar set by the private sector doesn't really seem terribly high.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Install Delphi 2010 on Windows 10 (Borland / CodeGear / Embarcadero RAD IDE)

Installing Delphi 2010 on Windows 10 Works!

Installing Embarcadero Delphi 2010 on Windows 10 surprisingly worked.

I was actually a bit surprised, when it finally came time to migrate an old, and rather dated,  Embarcadero (nee Borland, nee CodeGear) Delphi 2010 Enterprise software development virtual machine from an old Windows 7 (x64) install to a new Windows 10 (x64) install... the installation into my new Windows 10 VM was successful on the first attempt.

Although I do not use the Delphi 2010 RAD IDE very often these days, I still have some "legacy" Win32 executable compiled applications that depend on Delphi 2010. I must note that even though I have the "Enterprise" edition, I really don't use many of those supposed enterprise features — in fact, the only real reason I had ever bought the enterprise edition was for the native Microsoft SQL Server database connectivity features (i.e., not ODBC).

I cannot attest to whether every single component of Delphi 2010 will function under Windows 10 properly.  I used a rather stripped-down Delphi installation, selecting only the bits I need or use with any frequency:

  • My D2010 installation included: the core stuff, plus dbGo and dbExpress database stuff;
  • My D2010 install omitted: all the old BDE stuff, the visual database designer, the ribbon controls, DDE stuff, Office controls, samples, XML Mapper, Interbase, WebSnap and Help files, and probably some other junk I don't use and completely forget about (e.g., FireBase and Blackfish SQL and the like, I presume)

After installing Delphi 2010 Enterprise from its original media, I then applied the various "updates" that were published, including delphicbuilder_2010_3513Upd1_win.exe, followed by: Update4, Update5_Database_Pack, and such (these used to be available on the Embarcadero website for registered users, and I presume they still are).

Compiling Delphi projects on Windows 10 (x64)

After getting the core Delphi 2010 setup installed on my development virtual machine, of course I next had to install some of my homegrown custom Delphi VCL components and controls, and even a packaged set of controls (Raize VCL Components) — this all went smoothly, and was the first sign that things would be fine under the Win10x64 operating system.  I did full "builds" on my various custom packages code and installed those and the commercial packages just fine.

Then came the most important step: I next confirmed that all my homegrown legacy Delphi-based software applications still compiled successfully on Windows 10, and subsequently confirmed that the resulting EXE (executables) all ran properly and behaved properly on Windows 10 as well as on my older Windows 7 VM's (which, are now going away as I migrate to Windows 10) — again, I was delighted, as this all went smoothly and everything worked just fine.

I was expecting more problems and potential issues, but in the end, everything went just fine.  Maybe some of those other "Enterprise" features that I do not use would have posed a problem, but I have no idea, nor do I care now. I can compile and build the software I need to.  Also, I have a feeling that I was lucky to only be reliant upon the one commercial Delphi VCL controls pack: Raize Components (which worked just fine).  

And, as for using Windows 10 (Pro) for a development platform: fantastic!  Actually, Windows 10 has been remarkably, if not utterly stable and quite responsive.  I now use it for nearly everything, including hosting my local SQL-Server 2016 Developer Edition against which I test my web and client-server applications, and it is performing quite nicely.  I even managed to consolidate some development machines / VMs (Vmware Workstation or Player; they both work fine) — where I used to have a dedicated Microsoft Windows Server 2008r2 VM for SQL-Server, I am now just running SQL-Server Developer in the same Windows 10 Virtual Machine as my Delphi platform, along with the latest Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 and a few other things... all working wonderfully together.  I must note: I had to strip a LOT of shit out of Windows 10's default installation, since, my god was there a ton of useless stuff installed by default that I would never use in a development environment (e.g., all their damn promotional software, games, apps, and varied "social platforms" related garbage. ughh!)

Bottom line: very pleased with Delphi 2010 on Windows 10!



Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming, software development, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, Delphi, VMware, TypeScript, SVG, other technology tips and how-to's, and my varied political and economic opinions.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Leaked: Donald Trump’s 2016 Cleveland RNC Nomination Acceptance Speech


Donald Trump is about to deliver his Republican National Convention acceptance speech to the world. How about a preview by way of a sneak-peak leak of that speech?

As a long-time computer programmer and software developer here in Cleveland, Ohio, I am not going to say how I came by this information, but I will simply post it here for your reading pleasure… at least the better parts...

The introductory stuff, chopped off for brevity, begins rather predictably... 
Thank you [to family, supporters,.... etc. etc…]. 
Thank you for making me your Republican nominee and I enthusiastically accept this nomination so I can now begin to Make America Great Again and Make America Safe Again, with your help. 
[...some more basic predictable intro stuff..., blah blah...]
Then the speech starts to get good!
My behavior throughout this election cycle has been truly appalling. Truly awful. Do I care? No. Not really.  Why should I?  I have intentionally said and done everything possible to demonstrate how completely broken American politics is. I needed to get America to wake up and vote for change. Melania even went as far as to appear to plagiarize portions of a speech originally written by Michelle Obama, just to gauge voter reaction and stir things up a bit. It was all planned. I am a brilliant businessman and an even more incredible politician because I know how this game works, and now I am going to use my natural gifts and business acumen to fix everything that is wrong with Washington politics.
Is he serious?!
Seems so...
I ran the calculations and have done exactly what was necessary for an “outsider” to be heard and to have a chance to lead this great country. This is how you win at business and at politics these days. Learn how the system works and use it to your advantage. This is what American politics has been reduced to. And this is because Washington insiders have taken over your democracy. American politics has been hijacked by the wealthy elite and corporate interests for decades now, and the only way to take on that establishment is to use their own tactics against them, without them knowing it. I have done it! Now you know! Time to tell all these insiders that their time is over and your time is here instead. Vote for me this fall and use this opportunity to take back your government and your political system. And, if you have even the slight doubts in voting for me, at least consider the fact that I am man enough admit that I have lied and distorted facts in order to be seen and heard and have a chance to represent you. Crooked Hillary will never admit her lies and misrepresentation and the fact that she is deeply entrenched in the Washington establishment political machine, will she?
OK, I see where this is going, I think.
So, how are we going to Make America Great Again and Make America Safe Again? Just like how I made my businesses and family successful. We are going to look at the numbers and the facts and do what it takes to get this country back on track. We do not have time to mess around with politics as usual any longer. It is time to get serious about fixing what is wrong in this country.
Trump, getting serious?  Could this be for real?
Let’s start with the government budget mess. I am a businessman. This country is essentially an enormous business. It is a giant business that we partake in, and a portion of our paychecks go to pay for protecting our freedom and our position of being the most powerful country in the world. But, a business must manage its revenue and its expenses. America spends more than it takes in, in a HUGE way… huge… it would be considered essentially bankrupt were it not for its ability to print money. We need to get our financial house in order. And no, we are not filing for bankruptcy, but rather we are going to address both our spending and our taxation. 
Guys like me are so wealthy due in large part to the favorable tax system here in the USA. And yet you constantly hear this political rhetoric about the need to cut taxes, when taxes are the revenue side of our government’s accounting system. We have an enormous federal deficit and debt, but yet for some reason we are supposed to ignore the revenue side of the equation and not charge taxes. Then again, we ignore the expense side of the equation too and spend crazy amounts on all sorts of insane stuff, but I will get back to that topic in a bit.
Could Donald Trump really treat America's budget like that of a business and be serious about both increasing revenue and cutting expenses?  I'll believe that when I see it. But, maybe. If I were to believe him.
For now, let me talk taxes, revenue. I hardly pay any taxes relative to my earnings. And, I’m not alone. Warren Buffett has pointed out repeatedly how he pays a lower tax-rate than his secretary. That’s great for us guys at the top, but not so good for the country’s coffers. Voters need to understand the math here. I have billions. Not just one billion, a few billion dollars. Warren Buffett makes me look rather poor though — that guy has like 20 times as much as me, something like 60 or 65 billion dollars. Do american voters even realize how much money a billion dollars is? 
Each billion I have is one thousand million. From what I read recently, 25% of american citizens do not even have a net worth of ten dollars to their name. So, if one of those 25-percent of people walks down the street and loses a dollar out through a hole in their pocket, they have just lost one tenth of their net worth. Ouch! A ten percent loss in one day makes for a bad day, but it can happen. For me to lose one tenth of my net worth, if I was ONLY worth one billion (which I am not, I have a few billion, I am quite wealthy,... very wealthy… but not quite like Buffett or Gates, those guys are crazy wealthy)... I would have to be walking down the street and lose a briefcase containing 100 million of my dollars! One hundred million dollars is mathematically no more significant to me than a dollar is to a quarter of the american population
Voters in this country need to grasp this disparity before they can understand why the only winners in this trickle-down ultra low tax-rate system, that is full of loopholes for the wealthy to exploit and tax-breaks which only benefits the top, are the top guys like me. If we want to make america great, we need to help everyone have a fighting chance to become great. So, stop voting against yourselves and start listening to me, a very successful businessman who understands numbers very well. Very well. 
Increasing taxes on the top, not to mention forcing US corporations to repatriate the TRILLIONS of dollars they are holding overseas and pay taxes, and pay taxes now or else be hit with fines, is how we are going to begin making america great again for the average american worker and small business owner. Forget this misdirection and smokescreen talk of job-killing-regulation,... the only thing killing jobs is the lack of tax incentive to keep people employed rather than simply piling up corporate profits in overseas bank accounts. Give tax breaks for employing people, not for hoarding cash and not putting it to work building up america.
Wow!  Trump, I'm with you on this stuff... I may just vote for you. And it continues to improve:
We have a system that is further rigged to deliver pay packages to CEOs of the big companies that are on average 300 times what a typical worker makes every year. So, right now, you can work your entire 30 year career with a company, and after all that time, you will be lucky to have made one tenth of what the top guy at your company makes in a single year. This needs to change. 
For america to be great, it must recognize that every american contributes to the success of guys like me and CEOs and everyone else at the top, and give them a better share of things. With our current tax system and income inequality, this is impossible. Or, if not impossible, there surely is no incentive to do so. 
The current tax system is telling me: take as much as possible for myself because there is no reason not to. So, ask yourself, if I can lose a suitcase containing $100 million dollars and lose the same one-tenth of my wealth as the person who only has 10 dollars to their name, why can’t I be expected to pay that into the tax system? Heck, I will still have $900 million dollars out of each billion left over to enjoy, and I tell you, I am still in a lot better shape that the average american with their nine dollars left in their pocket! I can buy whatever I want, whenever I want. Shouldn’t you, the american people, have a bit more in your pocket too?
And on and on... but, now to infrastructure and the spending-side of things...
And, we spend so much money, it is just insane. Where do I start… we spend it on things that do not deliver any return on investment. It’s like we are trying to be stupid with our cash. If you build a business, you invest where the money will generate more money… that’s why they call it investing. You build your infrastructure so that you can expand and move more products and services. You modernize to improve efficiency. 
But our government cannot even consistently invest in its roads and bridges, and wow, don’t even think about investing in anything like high-speed rail or any serious modernization. And what little we do spend on our infrastructure, especially relative to military spending, isn’t even spent in a way that ensures that the infrastructure lasts. I have seen old cast-iron or brick railroad bridges from the 1800s still standing, with little maintenance, throughout the world, but yet I have seen bridges here in the USA that are falling apart and having their concrete replaced after a mere few years. Can we really not build better bridges now that over one hundred years ago, so that we don’t keep wasting money on the re-building same thing over and over?

And, how about investing in education in a serious way? I’ll come back to this too in a bit.

A bit rambling, but sounds reasonable.
Ah, let's skip forward to immigration:
But first, I want to talk about Immigrants and immigration. My wife is an immigrant. Many great people I know are immigrants. And America’s growth and prosperity has outpaced the bulk of the rest of the world for the past eight years thanks in large part to its ability to attract foreign workers to join its fantastic pool of American talent when we need them. Why? Because everyone knows America is awesome, truly awesome, and they all want to come here to enjoy our American Dream. Who can blame them? And, we all benefit. The numbers don’t lie. 
We want the best educated and skilled people from around the world; who wouldn’t? You always want the best talent on your team. And, if we educated our own people better, our talent pool would be that much deeper. Let's do that to: let's invest in educating our young people.  But, even when we educate our own people well, and recruit the brightest from everywhere, we may find that we still need some additional workers or laborers to fill in the gaps in our employment pool that exist from time to time in our system, like when we build all our better bridges and roads and high-speed train systems and other times of increased labor needs. There will be plenty of work for everyone once I start things moving after I am in office. You watch.
Sounds like a lot to deliver.  But, OK.  Bring it on.  How about those controversial topics of gun control and such?
And, if you are worried about terrorism with any immigration, I have one question: why are you worried? How can anyone say we are not safe? We are the strongest country in the world, and will continue to be so. We spend more on our military than the next 7 highest spending countries combined. We have a million people spying on our own citizens to watch out for bad guys. 
How many people have died from terrorism on US soil in the past year? Any number is terrible. Truly awful. It is under 100 people even over this last year by my count, which includes the horrible Orlando night club attack of complete cowardice. And, my condolences go out to everyone and their families that were touched by terrorism. 
But, being a businessman and a numbers-guy, I really think the average american should be more concerned with how many people die from gun violence in America, prescription medicine deaths, and even automobile accidents. 100 people every single day, on average, are dying from gun violence in america, and that is not due to terrorism. We have nearly 40 people per day dying from prescription opioid overdoses in america (and that is just opioids… double that figure if you want to count ALL prescription-drug overdoses), and that number is rising. Last year 105 people also died in road traffic fatalities every single day of the year on average. The numbers do not lie: this campaign-of-fear being waged on america, the fear of terrorism in america, just seems crazy when we consider the fact that there are 100,000+ Americans dying every year from gun violence, prescription drug overdoses, and traffic deaths. But, we don’t spend 100’s of billions per year trying to prevent THOSE deaths.
Indeed.  Terrorism is seriously bad news, but when you look at the numbers inside the USA, how can you ignore that fact that for every death-by-terrorist there are one thousand other highly-preventable deaths by these other means?  Don't those lives matter too?

I surely agree with the next statement quite a bit:
The fact is, Washington and US politics are broken.
And, finally, after some rambling for a bit, comes the best part:
And, as for Mike Pence as my VP pick: sorry dude, you have to go. You were just a placeholder and another typical mainstream politician that represents more of the status quo… the only other true outsider in this race right now beside me is Bernie Sanders, so, guess what Mike Pence? You’re gone… outta here… from here on, it is Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders who together are going to usher in a wave of real change in America as we share the 2016 Republican ticket for President and Vice-President of the USA!
Hmmm....  that last part sounds a bit suspicious. I'm beginning to question the authenticity of this alleged Trump speech data leak. lol.

I want to thank my source of inspiration for this… the comic genius Lee Camp of RT America’s Redacted Tonight, and how Lee uses his extremely witty and intelligent comedy to point out the insanity in our political, financial, and social systems — topics including the 2016 election fraud incidents, civil rights violations, corporate control of our government, and so forth.  This was a long-form attempt at something like his "Headlines from the Future" segment.  I cannot compete with Lee Camp's brilliant comedy, but hopefully a few people find this "news" entertaining.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Brexit : Remain vs. Leave? Consider Iceland Volcanos

BREXIT: Remain or Leave in the EU? Consider the Icelandic Volcano Threat when Voting!


If you do not know what the "Brexit" (British Exit, from the EU / European Union) vote is by now, you probably do not live in the UK — the United Kingdon; i.e., in whole or part also known as: Great Britain, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland — or anywhere in Europe. Furthermore, you probably do not do business (import or export or purely financial transactions) within this region, because if you did and you do not know what the Brexit is, you would be utterly out of touch. The implied consequences (of a Brexit) upon trade and free movement of goods, services and people, are quite extraordinary.

Iceland Volcanoes : What does this have to do with Brexit?

Simply put: if the English, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish citizens are no longer an integral part of the EU and its free-movement benefits, when the volcanoes of Iceland cover the UK in ash to the point their country is no longer inhabitable, or otherwise not able to effectively operate or accommodate their 65 million people for lack of breathable air, arable land, passable streets, and sufficient water supply (to name a few), they will quite likely encounter some heavy resistance to their desires to move, en masse or in majority, into mainland Europe as a place of refuge for what could be years.

It is not "if", it is "when"!

Unless people in the United Kingdom want to bear an increasing behavioral resemblance to Americans — you know, those "belief" driven types that choose to deny the scientific fact of Global Warming since it does not suit them, personally — you cannot choose to ignore the scientifically-backed threat that some or all of Great Britain will become buried under a substantial layer of volcanic ash from Iceland.  It will happen. And, quite probably, even without our current lifetimes.

And, when it does, the economic fallout will be incalculably large, and the human suffering may make the economic damages look like a silliness by comparison.  I am talking about an event that will make the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallaj√∂kull look like nothing.  And, that "little" 2010 eruption caused tremendous disruption to air travel across large swaths of northwestern Europe for about a week, back in April 2010, as well as other side effects.  

Where are you quickly going to move 65 million people, let alone quickly, if things get really bad in the UK? Mainland Europe is your only hope.  And, if you Brexit — i.e., if the "leave campaign" is successful in leaving the EU — you quite probably have rescinded your current inherent beneficial rights to free migration and movement throughout the EU.  Therefore, when the volcanic mess arrives, and persists for any length of time, all the "Brexiters" will find it not so simple to migrate elsewhere until the problem remits.

I have watched various science shows over the years about this topic of Icelandic volcano eruptions and the potential damage, especially to the UK, of a prolonged and sustained high-output ash-producing event.  All forecasts, based on standard climactic and prevailing wind pattern behaviours, foretell a truly awful catastrophe for Britain, more so than most anywhere else.

The bottom line: this is one crystal-clear reason that the UK should remain in the EU!  There is no argument to the contrary (i.e., a pro "leave" argument) on this matter, aside from a fool's potential propaganda. Clearly, all UK citizens would be better served by remaining in the UK so that in the event of this, or any other equally serious catastrophe within the UK, they could still have the legally-binding right to migrate, for as long as necessary, into unaffected EU countries and regions.

And, sadly, it is not like volcanoes are the only potential threat — in this day and age, one must consider the menace of terror and how certain attack vectors, however unlikely, could leave portions of a country severely damaged (potentially uninhabitable) for sustained periods of time.  And, if such horrendous things were ever to occur, it might be nice knowing, as UK citizens and EU members, that you maintain the freedom of mobility (physical, work location, etc) to at least contemplate options that may otherwise not exist for you.  Would it not be better to know, with certainty, that your options will exist rather than counting on some anticipated mass "good will" of the continental Europe or other foreign countries to accept you into their lands if you absolutely needed somewhere to flee to in an emergency? ... rather than later face the foreign cynics that may fear the repercussions of millions of people fleeing the UK into the EU?

Then again, isn't it that same fear that in reverse that has many British contemplating voting for a "Brexit"?  Reciprocity could truly suck!

** note: I have no idea what becomes of British overseas territories and such like Gibraltar, which without free movement between itself and mainland Spain is pretty much screwed by a "Brexit" regardless of volcanos, etc.  This discussion contemplates the primary UK regions only. And, I am not diving into discussion about various players in all this like: David Cameron, Nigel Farage, Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, and the long list of others.


Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming, software development, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, TypeScript, VMware, JavaScript, SVG, and more. And, occasionally, I simply post my opinion on current world events.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Delphi XE8 / RAD Studio XE8 New Features

Another 6 months, another (expensive) Delphi Release


Embarcadero keeps pushing out new Delphi versions

Yes, there is already another Version of Delphi / RAD Studio available — the XE8 Version!  If it seems like Delphi XE7 was "just released", that is because Embarcadero is pushing new versions of the Delphi programming and development platform out at the rate of approximately one new version every six months or thereabouts!  That is absurd!  Clearly these "new versions" are what should be released, in my opinion, as a free point-release to existing license holders of XE7 (or perhaps earlier versions still).

How is any small developer supposed to afford keeping up with this??  I suppose "software assurance" or some such perpetual-payment (to this Borland / CodeGear successor) model is recommended?   Rather than adopt such a money-sucking strategy, I stopped using Delphi for the simple reason that the software would bankrupt me if I bought ever darn version they release.

I would have highly considered adopting the Delphi XE  release series when the new FireMonkey stuff emerged, and I would have called it a "major release" at that point IF it was truly finished when it first came out.  I really like the idea of scalable vector-graphics controls and all the extra customization these controls may offer.  But, every time I look at it, FireMonkey still appears to be lacking commonly-used features the original VCL offered.

A full FIVE Delphi XE versions have now had this FireMonkey technology in it, and I am still not convinced it is on feature parity with the pre-Firemonkey VCL controls.  Case in point (quoted from the Delphi What's New web page):
  • New in XE8! ImageList component for FireMonkey
Seriously!?  An ImageList control is just now some new feature for FireMonkey after five versions of Delphi XE?  OK, fine... but do not charge me for all these incremental updates to the technology!  If I could have purchased Delphi XE4 and known for sure that all these future upgrades — upgrades that are still bringing FireMonkey features up to parity with the VCL — would have been available to me as free updates, I would have bought it.  But, there is no way I am paying for half-finished control sets over and over and over.

Furthermore, what is with the fact there are now so many Delphi features that are not even available on WINDOWS anymore?  Cross-platform may be great and all, but Embarcadero has gone a bit iOS crazy with what used to be a Windows-only product, and a lot of the newest features are not even implement for the Windows platform now/yet (oh, I guess that will be yet another paid-upgrade "version" of Delphi XE9, XE10, etc).   And, in what seems commonplace in most releases over the past few years, is seems that many new "features" are just tools and add-ons that Embarcadero has purchased from other companies to add into the Delphi environment and call them "features" —  that does not strike me much as REAL innovation that each paid version is including.

To be fair, there are some rather intriguing new features in Delphi XE8 (refer to that what's new page for details), but then again, along comes the next concern...

... Delphi XE8 Price!

You have to love this quote from an article The Register had regarding this XE8 release:
"RAD Studio XE8 has become somewhat expensive. It comes in four editions: Professional at $1,954, Enterprise at $3,244, Ultimate at $4,325 and Architect at $4,866."   
To that I say: "somewhat expensive"... OUCH, that is more than "somewhat"!  
Unless some (near magic) circumstance occurs where a paying-client wants to use Delphi so badly that they are not only willing to have me write Delphi code for them, but also are willing to pay for the latest and greatest XE8 license(s) for the privilege of using a language hardly any job openings exist for, I doubt I will ever get a chance to code in Delphi anymore.  Embarcadero has priced me out of the market and their push toward iOS and such has only further convinced me that I have better options available elsewhere.

Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming, software development, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, Nvidia CUDA, VMware, JavaScript, SVG, and more. Also, my Free Software and Source Code Library (SQL-Server, Delphi, Dart, SVG, ...) provides a categorized library of source-code I have posted here — though, updates may lag behind this blog.

Friday, April 17, 2015

EE Free Power Bar may NOT be so "free"...

"FREE" EE Power Bar Offer Warning


EE recently launched an offer for a free power bar (external battery) to its customers in the United Kingdom (UK).  Everywhere this offer from EE is displayed (online, email campaigns, texts, etc), the word FREE is very prominent and there is no obvious mention of additional hidden costs you may incur if you choose to take them up on this "free" exclusive offer.

Get Ready to Pay if...

I figured there must be a catch — it is essentially a given in this world of liars, cheats, and thieves that push the boundaries of the law by using small print and legal terms and conditions to hide the true cost of things.  One could certainly describe such advertising as opportunistically misleading (a nice term for skirting the edge of legality and blatantly hiding details that may encourage a customer to NOT take them up on such a "Free" offer).

I am so sick of seeing products and services, whether on the television or in print or whatever, that boldly state "FREE" everywhere with perhaps an asterisk or such that leads you to the small print that might as well state "NOT FREE" — and yet such advertising is commonplace and apparently no regulators are willing to step in and tell a company that it is unacceptable to state "free (* not free)" in such shady ways.

Well, EE is the latest to do the FREE BUT NOT REALLY FREE marketing campaign (while only, of course, featuring the first word — FREE — everywhere while never making clear what the true cost of taking them up on that "free" offer is.   EE does mention the fact it will cost you £20 if you lose the power bar (battery gizmo) in the general text on that page I linked to, but beware of the fact that you also must RETURN THE POWER BAR at the end of 18 months (or such) or face a penalty charge of £5.

OK, so how is this "free" if I must PAY to keep the thing past a certain duration? That is a good question!  This is typical bullshit marketing at its best where you, as a major company, can essentially state "FREE (but not free, via the small/hidden print!)".  I say "hidden" because you must dive into the full legal terms and conditions (EE's PDF) to find the following:

"2.7 When this agreement expires or terminates (for mobile or broadband customer this will happen automatically if you chose to cancel your agreement with us for mobile or broadband services), you must return the Power Bar to an EE store within 60 days. If you don’t you’ll have to pay a charge to compensate us for replacing the Power Bar. Currently this is £5. For mobile and broadband customers, this will be applied to your bill. If you’re not an existing customer, we’ll contact you using the information supplied to us when you joined EE Power and we’ll issue a bill for the cost of replacing the Power Bar that has not been returned. "

Am I the only one that is sick of the fact such misleading advertising is allowed? Gee, how about at least putting this fact in the "FAQ"  for the offer? (surely it has to be a FREQUENT question when it was the first one I asked when I went into the local EE store — and no worker knew if there was a charge or not either!)

The external supplemental battery (aka, power bar) was interesting to me, but not if I have to be concerned about what it will cost me if I forget to return it, lose it, or otherwise have issues with it.  You will have to decide yourself it the "free" (with potential costs) is still free enough for you.

Continue to read this Software Development and Technology Blog for computer programming, software development, and technology Techniques, How-To's, Fixes, Reviews, and News — focused on Dart Language, SQL Server, Nvidia CUDA, VMware, JavaScript, SVG, and more. Also, my Free Software and Source Code Library (SQL-Server, Delphi, Dart, SVG, ...) provides a categorized library of source-code I have posted here — though, updates may lag behind this blog.