Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Random road impressions

Drove down to Washington DC to visit new born grandson.  Weather was poor.  Ran into rain around White River Junction and drove thru on and off rain showers the rest of the way.  Spring is working on it.  Trees around my place are still bare.  By the time I got south to Brattleboro they were all leafing.  In DC they are in full leaf. 
    NJ turnpike seems to have misplace their toll booths.  Got off GW bridge, and onto the Jersey pike.  No toll booth, could not get a ticket.   Drove to the end of pike at Delaware Mem bridge and paid full toll.  Which is OK since I had driven the pike from end to end, but  beware if you are getting off early, say Philadelphia. 
    Coming thru Connecticut I took the old road, Merritt Parkway.  Conn had done some work on it, fresh black asphalt, brightly painted lines, no potholes.   New York, not so much.  Inside New York, the Cross Bronx expressway was it's usual shabby self.  I notice that most of the calls for "infrastructure" spending come from New Yorkers like Trump. Hoping the feds will bail their roads out of decades of neglect.  The other states keep their roads in fine shape, what's wrong with New York?
   Got on the infamous DC beltway by 3 PM.  Traffic was heavy heavy.  By 5 PM it was a lot lighter.  I guess the civil servants all quit work by 3 PM.  My tax money at work.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The NORKs are getting us hot and bothered.

Trump has invited all 100 senators to the White House for a classified briefing on the NORK situation.  That's some kind of a first.  I never heard of that happening before.
   The NORKs have threatened to sink the USS Carl Vincent. And to nuke the US mainland.  As for the carrier, they could get lucky with a diesel-electric sub, of which they have some.  They would have to be pretty lucky to avoid detection and destruction by the carrier's escort destroyers, and they would have to get several torpedo hits, but it might happen.  If they actually sank the carrier, as opposed to just launching on it, they could expect retaliation, probably air strikes.   If the NORKs have a working nuclear warhead for a missile, that they have never tested, they might be able to nuke the western US.  That ought to buy them wall to wall airstrikes, with nukes.
   Going up against the NORKs with ground forces amounts to starting up the Korean War all over again.  The NORKs have strengthened their army since the 1950s.  The South Koreans have a large army, probably more motivated, better trained, and better equipped, but probably not enough to bring a quick and easy victory.
   Our best bet is to convince the Chinese to cut off the NORKs imports of food and fuel.  The Chinese may or may not go along with this.  They want to keep the NORKs around for all the grief they can give the Americans and the South Koreans.  And to keep a unified Korean, which would be run by the South Koreans, off their border.
   If the Chinese option doesn't work (pretty likely) then the only other option I can see amounts to assassinating Kim Jong whats-his-face.  That would bring the regime down in a welter of back biting and attempts to seize power.  This might be our best option if we want to put the NORKs out of the nuclear business.  The current NORK regime is dead set on getting nukes and the missiles to launch them.  We will need to do regime change on North Korea to change that. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

That march for science.

I wonder how many of the marchers had a minimum of scientific education.  I strongly feel that all high school students should take chemistry, physics, and biology.  In the 21th century when so many policies and issues have science (or claim to have science) at their base, all citizens ought to have some science at the high school level in order to understand the arguments pro and con.  Simple concepts, conservation of energy, the difference between compounds and elements, conservation of mass-energy, the difference between acid and alkali, specific heat and the heat of fusion, invariance of the speed of light, and more, are essential to real understanding.  This isn't happening right now.  Kids can coast thru high school with no science what so ever.  A lot of 'em come out of high school unable to read an ordinary ruler. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tax Cuts bring prosperity? Heard on Fox News this morning.

They cited the prosperity that followed the Kennedy tax cuts (early 1960's) and the Reagan tax cuts (1980's)  However back in those days the Feds mostly paid their bills with tax receipts, rather than by selling T-bills.  Now a days taxes are not paying for the Feds, they are selling nearly $1 trillion worth of T-bills to keep those US treasury checks from bouncing.  That's a scary amount of money.  GNP is about $17 trillion, so the $1 trillion yearly deficit is about  6% of GNP.  That's a bunch more than the deficit back in the Kennedy or Reagan years.  It's one of the reasons GNP growth was 1% under Obama. 
   If we just cut taxes, we will have to run a bigger deficit.  Sooner or later, people will stop buying T-bills and then things get dicey.  Do we stop paying social security and medicare?  Do we stop paying the troops?  Do we just let the checks bounce?  I don't want to go there. 
   Plus, selling T-bills is very close to just printing fresh dollar bills to meet our expenses.  Look at it from the T-bill buyer's point of view.  He gives Uncle cash, Uncle gives him a nicely printed bond, green ink and everything, just like a dollar bill.  There is a market for T-bills, runs 5 days a week, 8 hours a day, and should our bondholder need cash, he picks up his phone, orders his broker to sell, and he will have cash in his account in a day or so.  Does our bondholder feel any poorer after buying that T-bill?  No, he figures the money is still his, he just put it into a T-bill which does pay a small amount of interest.  As opposed to bank accounts which pay no interest at all these days.  
   And we all know that just printing more money causes inflation, the price of goods goes up, and we all agree that is not good. 
   So before tax cuts can bring prosperity, we will have to cut some spending.  There are a lot of things that could be cut right down to zero.
   Start with farm subsidies.  There aren't that many farmers any more.  I worked in industry for fifty years and we never got a penny of federal subsidies.  Why should farmers get free money?
   Then we could eliminate block grants to the states.  If the states want to spend money they ought to have to raise it themselves.  When you have to raise the money you will be more frugal in spending it.  When you get free money from Uncle, it will be spent, every penny of it, whether the project is worthwhile or not. 
   Then we could shut down the federal dept of education.  Education is controlled and funded at the city, town, and state level.  We ought to leave it that way.  The federal funds the ed dept hands out are really bribes to get the staties to do things Washington's way.  We would be better off dropping the bribes and letting the locals do things their way. 
   And there are other things which will come to me as I think things other. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Dodd-Frank. Welfare for big banks

The Dodd-Frank bill, passed in the depths of Great Depression 2.0,  essentially promises US taxpayer support for big US bank, should they screw up and go broke.  It makes a list of "systemically important" banks, adds unwilling banks to the list now and then.  These favored banks are required to file a ton of paperwork, including a financial last will and testament,  supposedly to guide the Feds in a bailout, should they go over the cliff.
  Bad idea all around.  The bank managers are encouraged to make stupid loans, because they know the feds will bail them out should the stupid loans go bad.  The rest of the world is reassured that US banks will live up to their commitments,no matter how stupid, using money from us long suffering taxpayers.
  Better idea.  Use the ancient Sherman Anti Trust act to break up any bank so big as to pose a threat to the financial system should it go broke.  The justice department still has an entire office full of anti-trust lawyers, who haven't done squat in the last 20 years, other than draw their pay.  They ought to be out earning their pay by breaking up banks "too big to fail".   

Budget of only $609 Million.

That's the 2016 budget for the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  That's a lot of money.  Figure you can hire a bean counter for $100K, that budget will hire 6000 bean counters.  Erica Groshen, former BLS commissioner, writing an op-ed in today's Wall St Journal, thinks BLS needs more money to fulfill it's duties.
  These duties include publishing the monthly jobs report.  Crucial work that is, especially as ADP, the big payroll agency, publishes it's own jobs report, a week ahead of the BLS report, based on very credible data. Funding for BLS got so tight last year that they dropped the "International Labor Comparisons" program, and the "Mass Layoff Statistics" program.  Awful that is.  Of course I have never heard of either program before, and from the titles I gotta wonder if they were worth a plugged nickel. 
   The most important thing BLS can do, is compute the numbers the same way, every month, every year, so that changes in the number indicates changes in the real economy and not merely changes in book keeping.  Only if you forbid book keeping changes can you tell if things are actually getting better or worse.  Which is why we care about the numbers.
   Today, they ought to get the jobs report out by putting the numbers into an Excel spreadsheet.  Use the same spread sheet every year.  I don't see why we need a staff of 6000 bean counters to get this done.  I'd think 60 would be plenty.
  $609 million isn't "real money" in Everett Dirksen's phrase (A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money).  But it is getting close to a billion, when I think it ought to be $6 million.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Farewell Bill O'Reilly

Fox News announced Bill's "retirement" on air last night.   Too bad.  I'm not a super great O'Reilly fan, I watched him when there was nothing better on (often) and I had nothing better to do (not so often).  He had an attitude, and expressed it on the air, frequently.  Mostly his attitude was OK by me, sometimes I found him a bit simplistic and jingoistic, but never as bad as lefties like Rachel Maddow.  Most of the time Bill seemed to have his head screwed on, nose to the front. 
  Tucker Carlson gets O'Reilly's 8 o'clock time slot, "The Five" moves from 5 o'clock to 9 o'clock.  Tucker is pretty good, The Five is merely OK. 
  Message to everyone.  Keep it zipped.