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In the arena of pop music, one songwriter stands above the rest, with 54 songs in the top 10. It isn't Madonna, it isn't Elvis. It isn't even the Beatles, combining the talents of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It is Max Martin. That's not a stage name for someone you've heard of.

Max Martin has the audacity to hail from Sweden, and while you may not know the man, you know his music whether you like it or not.

If you've heard the Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson or even Bon Jovi, you've heard Max Martin's work. 

Martin's pop wizardry obviously stands alone in the music world simply by the scale of his successes, but what is truly remarkable is his notable lack of failures. Rather than the shotgun approach of writing hundreds of songs and seeing what sticks, Martin might only step in for four songs on an album, and three of those songs end up being the hits. Martin writes the hits, other people write the duds. 

It is no lucky accident, apparently, that Martin seems to have had an uninterrupted stranglehold on the world of pop music. Max Martin writes a half dozen songs for one artist, who then experiences wild success until Martin stops writing for them. At that point, they appear fall off the map until he writes another song for them.

Discovered by the fabulously named Denniz Pop (likely not his birth name), the classically trained Max Martin continues to write #1 hit after impossibly catchy #1 hit, each successive artist as clay in his masterful hands.

I had assumed, wrongly, that all of the pop music coming over the top 40 stations over the past 20 years had been the product of many minds all following a sound-alike trend. However, it appears that the reason everything sounds the same is that it the top 40 is actually the brainchild of a single man astride the pop music world in a way that has never before been achieved.

And, remarkably, while he may be a household name in the production studios the world over, he has remained relatively unknown, and has never ventured into the songwriter-performer role.

Perhaps it would be too easy for him.

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As Donald Rumsfeld famously said to excuse the lack of appropriate armor on soldiers Humvees in Iraq:

...you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time...

During explanations for the United States' multi-hundred billion dollar military budget, you'll hear words like "combat ready" and "preparedness", describing how the United States could be invaded at any time, or (more likely) need to invade someone else at a moment's notice. Unfortunately, during this endless period of preparation for an unknown conflict, tremendous expense and effort is wasted in creating and maintaining systems for which there is and sometimes never will be any need.

First, the tank. Tanks, on the face of things, look like something a military should have. Tanks helped win World War II, and tanks look awesome. Legacy, not necessity, states that the US military must maintain a giant fleet of excellent tanks. However, modern warfare isn't fought on slow-moving fronts like World War I and II. Tanks are terrible in the 360 degree urban warfare of the 21st century. They are nothing more than slow-moving, high-value targets. Without a near-limitless budget, and with a war-by-war evaluation of needs, the Abrams tank never would have been considered or built, much less maintained in service for 30 years. 

But, considered, built and maintained it was. Mostly because there were armored divisions, and the Patton tank was getting old, not because we were fighting armies with better tanks. It was considered moot, apparently, that nuclear war would not be fought on any front, and any time we were actually facing the Soviet army we would be engaged in nuclear war. There would never be time for tanks, fighting, or deployment. World War III would be fought in an afternoon, and so considerably destroy both sides ability to wage war that there wouldn't be much further discussion.

Second, take a look at the strategic bomber. The B-52 was devised in the late 1940's, has been in service since the mid-1950's, and has never been truly needed. The B-2 stealth bomber was devised in the 1970's and has been used occasionally, but being nearly 40 year-old technology, it doesn't represent the best means of landing a bomb on a target. Putting men in planes and dropping bombs on targets dates back to World War I, and is so much riskier to air crews than launching cruise missiles that it is almost unbelievable we still maintain manned bombers. But, the B-29 was getting old, so the Air Force started looking for the B-52. 

Third, fighter jets. The last time a US Air Force pilot was outclassed by another aircraft was in the Vietnam war. Ever since, the airborne threats the USAF has faced have been surface-to-air missiles, or somewhat pathetically, the exact same aircraft they faced in Vietnam. Placing a man in an airplane to go shoot down another airplane has been out-of-date since the early 1970's when surface-to-air missiles really started getting good. Since then fighter pilots have depended on fighting spectacularly poor enemies with no anti-aircraft capabilities, and even then, typically using the fighter jets as light bombers.

What is going on here? There is no role, and there has been no role for fighter jets since the Nixon administration, but still, the F-35 next-next-next-next generation fighter is still being procured (at tremendous expense). Wouldn't it be better to focus on jam-up anti-aircraft missiles?

Finally, the aircraft carrier. The purpose of the aircraft carrier is to be a forward base for the US military anywhere in the world, and its main capability is to launch aircraft carrying ordinance into enemy territory. Consider, though, the ratio of money spent on the chain of systems used to land a warhead on a truck in Iraq and the size and cost of the warhead itself. It would appear that multiple billions of dollars were spent in landing $20 worth of explosives in the lap of the target. Considering that unmanned drones can fly around the world and land ordinance anywhere already, and that the US military has bases in just about every country in the world, what exactly is the boat for? The jets flying off of the boat? Wouldn't a remote control missile launched from a base in Turkey take out 99 of 100 middlemen in the world's most expensive weapons delivery platform?

There is almost self-evidently a better way to accomplish the tasks currently being performed with 1940's strategy, but worse than that, our weapons systems are enormously vulnerable to out-of-the-box thinking that uses modern technology.

In World War II, the Allies were startled by the effectiveness of the so-called Banzai attack. This was nothing more than a fearless, mass charge of Japanese soldiers, frequently after they'd run out of ammunition. Swords drawn, they would rush the British and American soldiers by the hundreds. And, with expert marksmanship and supreme cool, it was possible to repel most attacks for the most part, but between the large number of attackers and small amount of time the Allied soldiers had to shoot all of them before they made contact, the Japanese frequently scored some kills as well. Since World War II, the Banzai attack has reappeared a few times, but most all soldiers prefer to surrender to suicide, and so US military doctrine has not strongly considered massed suicide attack.

But robots don't care if they die.

In every case, between tanks, fighter jets, bombers and aircraft carriers, the concept of massed attacks by very low-value targets has not been considered, and there is no plausible defense planned against thousands of tiny, cheap unmanned attackers.

A jet costs the US taxpayer around $100 million dollars. I can purchase a quadcopter online for $500. That is a 200,000 to 1 ratio of cost. Let's imagine a mass-produced anti-aircraft drone with more serious performance would cost $5000. Now, the ratio is only 20,000 to 1. Imagine a cloud of 10,000 drones, hovering over Tehran. As US aircraft are spotted, each drone would begin to close in, significantly slower than the target jet, but in their masses, they would intercept the jet. They could arrange themselves in a 1 kilometer grid, with one occupying every 20 foot square. Targeting the jet intakes, each individual could move very slowly, and still land exactly where it needed to be at exactly the right time. Even with a 5000 to 1 kill ratio, which the jet fighter is not sufficiently equipped to do, victory belongs to the drones. Even moreso with bombers.

Similarly, rigid inflatable boats with outboard engines and a 600 pound warhead could be sent out by the tens of thousands against an aircraft carrier, for the cost of tens of millions of dollars, as opposed to billions and billions for the aircraft carrier. While the aircraft carrier might be faster, and the grid of destroyers defending it might take down hundreds of the boats, or even thousands, there is simply not enough ordinance on board, nor enough men to target each boat to take down every one of them.

Since no country has the wealth to fight toe-to-toe with the US and create rival aircraft carriers and stealth bombers, they will be forced to take the inexpensive Banzai route. Large, high-value targets will have no place in the battlefield of tomorrow, as thousands of men aboard will be forced to risk their lives to fight off unmanned, nearly zero-value attackers in nearly limitless supply. Even the smaller targets, the Humvees and individual soldiers, may have to consider pigeon-sized drones carrying single-shot .22s and hand grenades, hovering overhead in swarms.

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For anyone, almost anywhere on earth, the easiest way to do anything is to do it online. From buying to communicating, reading, researching or entertaining pretty much everything that has ever been conceived of is online, and will be delivered to your eyeballs or your doorstep without you having to even put on underwear.

And so, journalists, no more interested in putting on their underwear than the rest of us, appear to have looked to the internet to find the pulse of world culture. Rather than interview face-to-face and reach out into the real world, they have dragged in the cultural equivalent of roadkill for examination. That is, of course, internet comments.

And so, the internet journalists find racists, rapists and psychotic murderers so common as to be everywhere something isn't, and feel as though they have discovered a furiously growing trend. If 50 percent of internet comments below an article on any given black person are spectacularly racist, someone who doesn't instinctively understand the scope of the internet might feel that 50 percent of the population is spectacularly racist.

The trouble with this conclusion is that there are 13 year-old boys. Having been a 13 year-old boy at one time, I know that they love to torque up sanctimonious "authorities" and attract attention to themselves. I remember, specifically, many instances in which my friends and I would, under cover of internet anonymity, try to outdo one another with the most offensive things we could conceive of for the express purpose of winning that competition. This sport has a name. Trolling.

Trolling is so common that every successful internet forum has a moderator whose specific task is to boot out the trolls, and every seasoned internet user knows the adage, "don't feed the trolls" meaning that they shouldn't respond in outrage, to the delight of the trolls. 

Unfortunately, it appears that the cultural analysts of our day don't understand 13 year-old boys and the enormous quantity of free time that they almost always have. In their innocence, or perhaps because the idea of a millions-strong army of flaming racists make for a compelling article, the worst possible statements from the most twisted imaginations on the planet are mistaken for mainstream opinion. 

From the glowing screen of a journalists laptop, it might appear that a majority of the planet belongs to a viciously raping, murdering sect of the Aryan nations, and that the Dark Ages are back with a vengeance. Fortunately for humanity, this doomsday cult is actually a relatively small number of voice-cracking prepubescent boys in the suburbs giggling around their smartphones.

While Slate or Jezebel.com might have us believe that the Ku Klux Klan version of Genghis Khan's army is upon us, the reality is closer to a little league team that is too shy to talk to the girls in their grade.

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In the search for unvarnished truth, sometimes you have to look to unconventional sources. My personal favorite cutter of financial flim flam is the historical price of a Big Mac in the United States. Two all-beef patties on a sesame seed bun are a much more constant measure of value than the US dollar. Considering the USD has lost 98 percent of its purchasing power in the past 100 years, and the Big Mac is one of the most constant and unchanging products on earth, I'd say we have a winner, certainly between the two.

I've analyzed the stock market using cheeseburger prices before, as the market crossed the 14000 mark, breaking the 2007 record, and to disappointing results. Now that the market is reaching new highs in the 18000 region, I thought I'd try it again and see if the stock market had finally made a positive return.

So, since 1999, how has the stock market been doing in terms of largely inedible hamburgers? Well, on January 14, 2000, the purchasing power of the Dow reached its zenith at 4668 Big Macs. On March 9, 2009, the Dow only purchased 1833 of the famed double cheeseburgers. 

DJIA-Big-Mac.png

 

And today, as the Dow reaches fabulous numerical heights in terms of dollars, its hamburger purchasing power is still only at 3708 sandwiches, which is just under December 1998 valuations. Not the best return. 

This is why buying and holding, or diversifying across a broad swath of stocks isn't a formula for big returns. In fact, it might not be a formula for any real returns at all. Yes, numerically you will end up with more dollars buying and holding than if you had stuffed money in your mattress. However, in terms of actually building wealth, hoary old investment strategies don't stack up as so often advertised.

If you bought at the bottom in 2009, and sold today, you would have doubled your real purchasing power, which is obviously great. If you were in at any of the previous peaks in 2000 or 2007, you would have lost money or stayed even. 

This highlights the importance of buying assets specifically, with a plan and purpose. If you just buy everything all the time, and spread yourself out all over the market without rhyme or reason, history shows that the stock market at large stays pretty darn flat in terms of real purchasing power. If you look for deals, and don't just buy to buy, you have a shot at making real returns.

Furthermore, there is a world outside the stock market, and the returns out there are frequently better. For instance, Mosin-Nagant rifles are up 300 percent over the past 5 years, and they are surprisingly liquid. Renting out equipment can have a 100% annual return on investment. Even renting out sections of chain link fence can make a person very rich. 

There are an infinite number of investment strategies, but remember, since everyone can't get rich you can't do what everyone else is doing.

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Shades of Thomas Paine is about the unbiased search for truth, typically truth regarding the lies spread by the powerful for their own benefit, but occasionally truth regarding dogs or brownies. 

Pit bulls have become a flashpoint of debate, with supporters saying pit bulls are as gentle as a beagle and detractors saying any pit bull can and will snap at any time. As the author of SOTP, I wanted to know the truth. Not opinion, but fact.

b2ap3_thumbnail_Pitbull3.jpg

I found a treasure trove of information at dogsbite.org, in an exhaustive study of dog attack fatalities from 1982 to 2014. It separated the dog attack fatalities by breed, and in an enormously valuable decision, also noted what fraction of the total dog population each breed represented for many of the dogs. This data is admittedly incomplete, since not all dogs that had killed people had population data as well, the most notable of which was the wolf hybrid which would probably place very highly on the list below if it were actually a domestic dog.

Total deaths doesn't tell me enough to know how likely an individual dog is to attack based on its breed. So, I divided the total deaths by the popularity of the dog. To make the method clear, imagine beagles made up 50% of the dog population and the fictional Uzbek Death Hound made up .001% of the population. Also imagine that beagles killed two people in the study and the Uzbek Death Hound also killed two. 2 divided by 0.5 gives the beagle a Kill Factor of 4. The Uzbek Death Hound gets a Kill Factor of 200,000. This means if you were near an Uzbek Death Hound you would be 50,000 times more likely to be killed than if you were near a beagle, but at the same time, you are 50,000 times more likely to run across a beagle. Your likelihood of being killed by either dog at random is actually the same, since they ended up killing the same number of people, but the Kill Factor gives you helpful information as to how dangerous any individual dog is likely to be.

I did this operation for all the available data, and the results were somewhat surprising.

  1. Bullmastiff- Kill Factor 90,000
  2. Chow Chow- Kill Factor 80,000
  3. Akita - Kill Factor 11,428
  4. Airedale - Kill Factor 10,000
  5. Malamute - Kill Factor 7500
  6. Catahoula/Coonhound - Kill Factor 5000
  7. Pitbull - Kill Factor 4409
  8. Italian Mastiff - Kill Factor 4000
  9. Rottweiler - Kill Factor 3079
  10. Husky - Kill Factor 2500

The Coonhounds/Catahoula and the Airedale Terrier each killed only two individuals in the past 30 years but are also extremely rare, so they appear somewhat anomalously on this list. I decided to see who was the most dangerous with more than 2 fatalities since it was too easy to top the list simply by being rare and having a single instance of a fatal attack. This is the gently massaged data, removing breeds with one and two-off fatalities.

  1. Bullmastiff - Kill Factor 90,000
  2. Chow Chow - Kill Factor 80,000
  3. Akita - Kill Factor 11,428
  4. Malamute - Kill Factor 7500
  5. Pitbull - Kill Factor 4409
  6. Rottweiler - Kill Factor 3079
  7. Husky - Kill Factor 2500
  8. Boxer - Kill Factor 560
  9. Doberman - Kill Factor 470
  10. Mastiff - Kill Factor 434
  11. German Shepherd - Kill Factor 403
  12. Great Dane - Kill Factor 277
  13. Labrador - Kill Factor 121
  14. Golden Retriever - Kill Factor 97

I was very surprised to see the Bullmastiff at the #1 spot, over 20 times deadlier than the notorious pit bull. I was also surprised to see the Akitas, Malamutes and Huskies, all sled dogs, at the #3, 4 and 7 spots. The Chow was unsurprising, as they are very rare, and all of the Chows I have heard of have also attacked someone at some point. By the #6 spot, the Boxer only has a kill factor of 560, a little over one half of one percent of the kill factor of the Bullmastiff, and only five times deadlier than the Golden Retriever (a dog rarely purchased for its intimidation factor).

If I were to write my own list, it would look like this:

  1. Bullmastiff
  2. Chow
  3. Sled Dogs (Akitas, Malamutes, Huskies)
  4. Pit Bulls
  5. Rottweilers

Past Rottweilers, dog danger drops dramatically. 

In conclusion, Bullmastiffs and Chows are preposterously dangerous, and are far and away the most dangerous dogs commonly owned, with the Chow over seven times as dangerous as the next most dangerous dogs on the list.

 

 

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