The John Batchelor Show

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Air Date: 
August 13, 2013


Picture, above: ET3, or Evacuated Tube Transport Technology.  Last year at an event in Los Angeles, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed he'd come up with the idea for an entirely new form of transportation. He called it the Hyperloop, and here's how he described it:

. . . How would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, goes 3 or 4 times faster than the bullet train... it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do. You would go from downtown LA to downtown San Francisco in under 30 minutes. It would cost you much less than an air ticket than any other mode of transport. I think we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you generate more power than you would consume in the system. There's a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries. Yes, this is possible, absolutely.

Naturally this got people's curiosity up, and at this week's AllThingsD conference he was asked about it again. Not wanting to divert attention from Tesla, he briefly allowed that the Hyperloop would be a "cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table."  This sounds a lot like the futuristic ET3, or Evacuated Tube Transport Technology.


Co-hosts: Liz Peek, columnist, TheFiscalTimes; Patrick Chovanec, chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management.

Hour One

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 1, Block A: Jeff Mason, Reuters, travelling with the president, who's on holiday in Martha's Vineyard,  in re: Obama taking economic message on bus tour next week. . . . Every day is a new day; every day is a new issue.

New Jersey's Booker expected to dominate Senate primary election

U.S. retail sales data points to improving economy

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 1, Block B: Liz Peek, columnist, TheFiscalTimes; Patrick Chovanec, chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management, in re: This president has never pushed for private industry to solve an economic problem. The ACA has been derided by every business owner, but that doesn't phase him. He thinks the government is the engine of growth. That hasn't worked since the Thirties. Also , Europe is a problem.  Does Pres Obama see that the collapse of Detroit is a collapse of govt?  It’s a fable of our time, where on top of everything else the demands of labor come to $18 billion, which cannot be met. Demands of pubic employee unions in tandem with corruption have created this – not the auto industry. In New York, we’ve lost tens of thousands of financial jobs, but because we’ve [ramped up] fashion, films [et al.], we're all right.  Pres Obama is not a private-sector sort of guy.  Offload pension obligations on to Obamacare?  Rube Goldberg.  A big number. Tomorrow: a piece on investor rights. If a judge doesn’t overturn what Kevin Orr is trying to do in Detroit - treat bondholders as _____ - then . . . 

Sometimes it takes a Big Bang – a startling event -- to wake up voters. The collapse of the auto industry was just such a shocker, revealing how our high labor costs had crushed U.S. manufacturers competing on the global stage. Americans were appalled to find that General Motors was paying workers a whopping $73.26 per hour, including wages and benefits. Similarly, the flap over the so-called Cadillac tax may alert voters to the excessive benefits that have been handed out to our public employees -- benefits our cities can no longer afford. 

      The Affordable Care Act was meant to slow the rise of healthcare costs. One of its critical weapons in that fight was the so-called Cadillac tax on high-end insurance plans. Generally, the tax will amount to 40 percent on the excess cost of plans valued above $10,200 for individuals or $27,500 for families. The tax was aimed at employers--faced with a hefty levy on benefits packages, managers were expected to pay more attention to their workers’ healthcare costs and to give employees greater responsibility for their medical expenses. That appears to be working; many companies are revising their programs to raise deductibles, put caps on spending or in other ways lower their bills.  The tax does not go into effect until 2018, but companies in many cases jumped the gun, worried about fast-rising insurance expenses. While the Cadillac tax makes a mockery of President Obama’s claim that if you like your plan you can keep it – he failed to mention that your plan was about to be eviscerated – there’s a lot to be said for demanding that healthcare consumers get some “skin in the game.”  While private sector workers are making do with their skimpier plans, city and state workers – and their union heads -- are resisting. Consequently, the tax for union workers will be paid by the employer – or, actually, you and me. In a recent article on the subject, . . .  [more]

China bans extravagant official galas to curb graft China will ban officials from holding extravagant galas linked to official meetings that have hurt the image of the government, the latest move by President Xi Jinping to fight corruption, state media said on Tuesday.

Retail Sales increased 0.2% in July   On a monthly basis, retail sales increased 0.2% from June to July (seasonally adjusted), and sales were up 5.4% from July 2012. From the Census Bureau report:  The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for July, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $424.5 billion, an increase of 0.2 percent from the previous month, and 5.4 percent above July 2012. ... The May to June 2013 percent change was revised from +0.4 percent to +0.6 percent.

The earnings tax and Detroit. “From 2000-2010, the metro areas with the largest declines in population (excluding New Orleans, post Hurricane Katrina) were Detroit (-25%), Cleveland (-17%), Cincinnati (-10%), Pittsburgh (-8%), and St. Louis (-8%). Each of these aforementioned cities have an earnings tax… Detroit’s city income tax rate of 2.5 percent for residents and 1.5% for non-residents was the highest… Recent analysis by Howard J. Wall for the Missouri-based think tank the Show-Me Institute looked at a total of 176 cities, 21 of which levy an earnings tax, over the time period between 1990 and 2000. His findings show that “an earnings-tax rate that is higher by one percentage point is associated with a population growth rate that is lower by 3.04 percentage points, and an employment growth rate that is lower by 2.32 percentage points” and “that those municipalities within the same metro area that did not levy an earnings tax, enjoyed faster population growth.”  [more]

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 1, Block C: Avik Roy, Manhattan Institute (The Apothecary), in re: Delay of out-of-pocket caps in Affordable Care Act.  [Out-of-pocket expenditures: whatever isn’t covered by your policy.] When I speak to conservatives about health care policy, I’m often asked the question: “Do you think that Obamacare is secretly a step toward single-payer health care?” I always explain that, while progressives may want single-payer, I don’t think that Obamacare is deliberately designed to bring about that outcome. Well, yesterday on PBS’s Nevada Week in Review, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) was asked if his goal was to move Obamacare to a single-payer system. His answer? “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”

Sceptics thing the law is raveling; its not.  The overall architecture  of the law is easier with these delays – income verification [delayed for one year; is an open invitation to fraudsters; will have many more sign up for subsidies] and others. The most important delay is the subsidies: once they start to flow through the insurance exchanges to poor people, that's the most difficult to unwind.

They're blaming the computers/the robot systems that handle drugs, hospital procedures. Like blaming the lamp for falling over. Massive restructuring of one-sixth f the economy – "a lot of broken eggs," as Lenin said. Who makes money off the delays?  The insurance companies – they’ve already raised their premiums, and now won't have to pay out-of-pocket premiums. Cash cushion.  States that won’t play ball: as the law was designed, states had very small roles; the insurance exchanges have designs so prescribed by Washington. The states that didn’t implement were wise: avoided massive logistical hassles. State & fed govts not communicating.  Also,  . . .    College med costs soaring; some schools have dropped health coverage; others have raised fees. Since student loans are covered by the govt, that's another way the taxpayer pays. Maybe less than 5% of the population pays high health0care costs directly; only those will benefit from this.   Te's an ideological component to defining what health-care is: Sibelius calls any out-of-pocket a necessary evil, we shd follow the Brit system. Others think that health ins shd be just like any other insurance: pay for a car crash not wiper fluid or gasoline.  Stay tuned for multiple more delays.

HHS Inspector General: Obamacare Privacy Protections Way behind Schedule; Rampant Violations of Law Possible  It hasn’t been a dull summer for Obamacare news. But there’s been one important issue that has been burbling under the surface, one that hasn’t garnered as much attention as rate shock, subsidy fraud, and the like. It’s this: In order for Obamacare to work, the government will need to know a lot about your financial, medical, and employment situation. Has the Obama administration set up adequate safeguards to protect Americans’ privacy under the law? According to the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the answer is no. Based on OIG's analysis, Obamacare’s exchanges may end up illegally exposing Americans’ private records to hackers and criminals.

Labor Unions’ Latest Problem: Obamacare’s ‘Cadillac Tax’ Harms Their Gold-Plated Health Insurance Plans  Last month, we discussed the stunning turnabout from leaders of prominent labor unions, who stated that “unintended consequences” from Obamacare were “causing nightmare scenarios” that would “shatter not only our hard-earned health benefits, but destroy the foundation of the 40 hour work week that is the backbone of the American middle class.” But those were the complaints from private-sector unions. Now, we learn that public-sector unions, representing government employees, are hopping mad about a different aspect of our health law: its steep excise tax on costly health insurance plans, also known as the “Cadillac tax.

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 1, Block D: Liz Peek, columnist, TheFiscalTimes; Patrick Chovanec, chief strategist at Silvercrest Asset Management, in re: What to expect in August - Internal Revenue Service documents - A Lois Lerner deal If the past is any indication, House lawmakers will release findings as they are discovered so we'll still have plenty of IRS news. A Lois Lerner ...

Timing Is Key for a Coveted IRS Witness House hearing that the IRS has offered Wilkins to testify. But so far the chairmen of the Ways and Means and the Oversight and Government ..

Sixth Senior IRS Official Departs in Wake of Targeting Scandal ...  Sixth Senior IRS Official Departs in Wake of Targeting Scandal –

IRS official who oversaw Cincinnati exempt operations office during ... The IRS official in charge of the exempt organizations office in the Cincinnati branch at the time conservative groups applying for tax-exempt . .  .

The Fed; Janet Yellin or Larry Summers?  White House wants Summers; blowback.   Yellin is next in line, supports QE more than Summers does.  Third., mystery door?  Had Pres Obama been able to choose, he would have picked Geithner.  Yellin is well-liked & consensus-driven; not clear that Summers is.

Hour Two

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 2, Block A:  Charles Pellegrino, author and explorer, in re: Hyperloop Update: Elon Musk Will Start Developing It Himself. The design at present looks highly promising. Musk wants it solar-powered as much as possible, so new technologies are starting to emerge for that. Tolerances in the sealed tunnel will be 1/32 of an inch or less. If the machine touches the tunnel at all at 300mph, problems ensue.   Will be in a steel tube that's 1/6 the air pressure on Mars or 1/1000 of Earth's sea-level pressure.  The bit of air will be used to levitate the train. Think of Forbidden Planet, 1950s film – idea used to be sci-fi, now more practical. A high-speed track in Japan currently will go 350 mph from Tokyo to Osaka.   Compare to maglev: maglev operate in the open air, max cruising speed of 350mph, best at 250 to save energy.   Can be elevated; powered by electricity, draws on magnets.  Musk's version, Hyperloop, could go 800 mph or more; the key technology will be more forgiving than 1/32 inch. Magnets drive in a low-friction envt. Going 800 mph and slow down? Can decelerate at 1G.  Cheaper than maglev, but the steel tubes are expensive. Elon Musk recommending this to the governor of California.

Hyperloop: Elon Musk's Crazy Idea for High-Speed Travel Just Might Be the Future  When a guy has already made billions, launched rockets into space, and created a profitable electric-vehicle manufacturer, even the wackiest thing he has to say is likely to get a lot of attention. Today, Tesla Motors TSLA -1.29% CEO Elon Musk unveiled his plans for the Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system that could whisk passengers at up to 800 miles per hour at a cost Musk says is about 10% of California’s proposed high speed rail plan. While Musk admits he won’t be the one to build it — he’s too busy with Tesla and SpaceX — it seems likely his white paper is going to touch off a great deal of debate in California and elsewhere about the feasibility of the Hyperloop. California is set to break ground on its train imminently, but questions about funding and political uncertainty have given that project a murky future. Is the Hyperloop really an alternative? [more]

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 2, Block B:  Kathleen Howley, Bloomberg, in re: Home sales from Los Angeles to Charleston, South Carolina, that are priced at more than $1 million are gaining at triple the pace of the broader market, according to real estate research firm DataQuick Inc. “The real estate recovery has been built on purchases by middle-class families, even though they haven’t been the ones to flourish during the recovery,” said Wachter. “Now, the economy is getting a vote of confidence from wealthy homebuyers.” 

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 2, Block C: Fouad Ajami, Hoover, Advancing a Free Society, in re: The Caravan: The Great Schism Egypt could end up like Algeria – where 200,000 citizens were killed, may God forbid this.   The secularists may deny a parliamentary election where the MB and Salafists got 270%; upper Egypt, the poor alleyways, have tremendous strength for MB.  Normal people are arrayed against the MB, want to worship God in their own way and don’t need ht intercession of the MB.  Ami Moussa, and intellectual hooligan . . .  dispute between those calling it a military coup d'etat and those who say it was a popular uprising.  Secularists had to be rescued by the army . Mohammed Naguib, front man. Then Jamal Abdel Nasser pulverized the MB, was so cruel. Then Sadat, then Mubarak with three decades in power, the norm is the failure of civilian power.  No urgency to Sisi's coup d'etat. Morsi didn’t control army, police judiciary or the economy.  Egypt gave Mubarak three decades but Morsi one year. Millions of Egyptians didn’t want to be ruled by the Supreme Guide, the political bureau. Everywhere you go in the Arab world, you have an implausible conspiracy theory thrown at you.  Model: Zia ul Haq, who imposed Islamism and tyranny in Pakistan.

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 2, Block D:  Robert Zimmerman,, in re: motors for company’s proposed second stage air-launched rocket. Stratolaunch’s first stage will take off from a runway, and will be the largest airplane ever built. The second stage, which Orbital Sciences is building and which ATK is now be a partner, will be released from this airplane and then ignite.  A detailed look at the questions and rumors that continue to swirl around the engineering status of SpaceShipTwo.  If you want to get an idea why Virgin Galactic has not done any powered flights of SpaceShipTwo so far this summer you must read this article.

Hour Three

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 3, Block A:   Stephen F Cohen, NYU, in re: Kerry and Hagel's essential relationship with Russia   Sec. of State John Kerry and Defense Sec. Chuck Hagel met with Russian counterparts on Friday in Washington. The much-needed talk comes after President Obama's cold shoulder to Putin. Associate editor and senior reporter Stephanie Gaskell reports:   "The Snowden case is among a growing number of issues that the White House and the Kremlin disagree on. Before the four-hour closed-door meetings with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu, Kerry told reporters, 'it's no secret that we have experienced some challenging moments and obviously not just over the Snowden case.'" read more

McCain: Obama's 'slouch' comment dismissive of Putin
McCain, appearing on Fox News Sunday, suggested Obama was too dismissive of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's true intentions - Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose work with President Obama has gained attention in recent days and weeks, had harsh words Sunday for Obama in relation to Russia.

McCain, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” suggested Obama was too dismissive of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s true intentions during a Friday news conference. Obama stressed during the news conference that he and Putin have productive talks and dismissed speculation about tension between them — particularly a photo which showed the two of them looking uncomfortable sitting next to one another. Obama said Friday that the body language in that photo has been over-sold, saying Putin was slouching like a kid in the back of a classroom.


“The president comparing him to a kid in the back of a classroom, I think, is very indicative of the president’s lack of appreciation of who Vladimir Putin is,” McCain said. “He’s an old KGB colonel that has no illusions about our relationship, does not care about a relationship with the United States, continues to oppress his people, continues to act in an autocratic fashion.”

Obama, of course, isn’t the only president to have a decent relationship with Putin. George W. Bush once said that he looked Putin in the eye and got a glimpse of his soul.

McCain later said he looked into Putin’s eyes and “saw three letters: a K, a G and a B.” . . .   Obama cancels meeting with Putin over Snowden asylum tensions
Obama acknowledges decline in US-Russia relations under Putin

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 3, Block B: Stephen F Cohen, NYU, in re: 

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 3, Block C:   Eric Schmitt, NYT, in re: Arms Shipments Seen From Sudan to Syria Rebels  Syrian rebels have found an unlikely source for arms in Sudan, whose government sold the weapons to Qatar, which arranged delivery through Turkey, Western officials and the rebels said.

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 3, Block D: David E Sanger, NYT, in re: N.S.A. Leaks Make Plan for Cyberdefense Unlikely The National Security Agency has lobbied to deploy a “Star Wars” defense for America’s computer networks, but officials said the plan had little chance of moving forward.

Hour Four

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 4, Block A: Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre (1 of 4)

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 4, Block B: Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre (2 of 4)

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 4, Block C: Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre (3 of 4)

Tuesday 13 August 2013   / Hour 4, Block D: Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre (4 of 4)

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