Politicians’ Conflicts of Interest

Do the media and the Democrats really think they have much of a chance attacking President-elect Donald Trump and his nominees on conflict of interest grounds? Trump made it very clear during his campaign that he was going to operate by his own rules. He also made it clear that he was going to act in his own best interests commercially even after he was president.

The voters did not seem to mind. Why should they? Most voters think all politicians are corrupt anyway. There was a brief period of the ‘altruistic politician’ in the 1970s, but that pretty much ended with Jimmy Carter’s presidency.

Trump is actually very smart about this. Instead of trying to hide the fact that he and his appointees are enriching themselves off of their new positions, he is just telling everyone from the get go that this is what they will do, defusing any potential scandal. The media and their opponents can sound the alarm, but really all the story will be about is that the administration is behaving the way it said it would.

The Self-Driving Future: Part 3

Did you save some money by not buying that self-driving car? Not so fast. You’re gonna pay that money and more in the long run.

First, your insurance premiums will eventually be higher because the insurance companies know that manual drivers are not as safe as computer drivers, and anyway, the only people  who want to drive manually are the Fast and Furious wannbees who are more likely to get into accidents.

Secondly, you’ll pay more in gas, because the computer will drive the car more efficiently than you ever can.

Thirdly, you’ll pay more tolls. Let’s say that a lane of highway has a capacity of 1,500 passengers cars per hour. But if all of those cars are in self driving mode they will be able to safely follow each other a little closer and do less rubbernecking, etc. The capacity might increase by 25% to 1,875 cars per hour. On a four lane highway, that adds a whole  lane of capacity.

Highways are very expensive to build. If more capacity is needed, it would be way cheaper to fit more cars on the road by encouraging  people to let their cars drive themselves. At the beginning there will be dedicated lanes for this. Then self driving will become the norm, and there will be dedicated lanes for manual drivers. Finally, on congested roads, they will start charging extra tolls to drive manually.

So all of the out of work body shop workers and auto mechanics that cannot afford the new self driving cars will have to pay a bit more money to commute to their new job at the recycling plant 100 km away.


Will The Media Ever Figure Trump Out?

Donald Trump has got the media’s number. Big time. They have no idea how to cover him effectively. They are still living in a world where every word uttered by a politician is presumed to be carefully chosen and should be scrutinized as indicating what the person is going to do.

But Trump is different. His words are not chosen to indicate policy, they are chosen to make sure he gets lots of press. What he says and what he does are dramatically different. He is not going to lock Hillary Clinton up, he is not going to build a wall that Mexico pays for, he is not draining the swamp (in fact, he’s just swapping out alligators for crocodiles), etc.

His supporters know this. They like the sentiments, but discount all of his ‘actionables’. The media have not figured it out yet. On the one hand, they have a duty to report everything that Trump says. On the other hand, they should be putting that into context, but the outrageousness of what he says overrides their ability to do this. Having spent 20 years in the entertainment industry, Trump understands how to manipulate the media.

It is possible that as Trump settles into the day to day of the presidency that the media will figure it out, but I would bet that Trump is able to keep them off balance. He is a different model of politician, and it will take a different model of media to report on him effectively.

The Self-Driving Future: Part 2

Self-driving cars are coming sooner than you think, and that is bad news for the auto repair industry.

For one thing, there won’t be as much body shop work needed because cars will be crashing less often. Most body shops are small, locally owned businesses employing skipped blue collar labor, so look for a lot of small business owners to go out business and a bunch of skilled people to become unemployed. Not a great outcome.

You would think that auto repair shops would be in a better position. After all, cars that are driven wear out and have to be fixed, right?

Not so fast. Cars driven on autopilot will be driven less hard and therefore wear out slower, meaning fewer repairs. And even worse, the liability legalities around self driving cars might mean that in order to get insurance, you have to have certain repairs done by the dealer. Like anything to do with the steering. If steering repairs are not done ‘in house’, the car manufacturer could refuse any responsibility for self-driving mode and make the car uninsurable.

So look for another bunch of folks to be out of jobs, and car dealers to get additional revenue. Isn’t technology great?

The Self-Driving Future: Part 1

Tesla recently started adding all of the hardware required for fully autonomous driving to their new cars. They have not delivered the software for this yet, but it will probably be available within a couple of years, regulations permitting. Other car makers won’t be far behind.

We’ve already noted what self driving cars will do to the Uber and Lyft drivers. Who else will be affected?

Insurance companies will clean up. Claims expenses will go down for property damage, medical costs and life insurance payouts but premiums won’t. In fact, the insurance companies will probably charge higher premiums for self driving cars because they are ‘risky’ and ‘unproven’. After a couple of years of record profits in the insurance industry, the state legislatures will get involved and maybe some of us will get a break on our rates. But don’t count on it.