Friday, July 3, 2015

Greek Debt vs American Debt

We have one thing going for us that the Greeks don't.  We can print as much US currency as we please.  We can always pay off our creditors, we just print enough currency and hand it to them.  The Greeks cannot print Euros.  They have to find the money the old fashioned way, from taxes.  I was in Europe some years ago, back when the Euro was being invented.  Chatting with European businessmen on the train, I learned that none of them understood the power of a central bank.  When they talked about the Euro, they all liked the ability to do business across national borders, without the risks and hassles of currency exchange rates.  In the time between striking the deal, and delivery of product and getting paid, a change in the exchange rates could turn a good deal into a loosing deal, zap, just that easy.  When the deals could be done in Euro's  the currency exchange rate risk is gone.  Everyone agreed that this was a good thing.  And they all agreed that getting the Germans to run the bank was a good thing too, every European thought the Germans were good hard money men who would avoid inflating the currency. 
   None of them seemed to understand the power to print your own money, should things be a little tight around payday is awesome.  And now the Greeks are finding out, they don't have enough money to meet payroll, or make their debt payments on time, and the rest of Europe is tired of bailing them out.
   We are seeing the hurt getting laid on the citizens of Greece.  We don't know how much hurt gets laid on the rest of the EU.  The Europeans fear a massive financial meltdown.  The Americans don't see a problem.  Greece is a small fraction of the EU's GNP,  and even if they default on all their loans, it's pretty much chickenfeed compared to the total EU GNP.  The TV newsies are talking up the crisis because that's what TV newsies do. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Smithsonian unfair to house cats

A Smithsonian website ran this article about presence/absence of house cats and coyotes.  The gist of it is, coyotes act as a predator of house cats, and in woodland with a coyote population you don't find house cats out catching birds.  The survey is based on placing numerous camera traps in DC area parks like Rock Creek.  A real wilderness situation that. They go one to mourn about the predation by cats upon birds, which they deem as terrible.  The site links to several more anti-cat pro-bird articles.  As a cat person I am appalled.   Far as I am concerned, any bird so slow and unwary as to be caught by a cat deserves to get eaten. 
    More interesting questions, totally un addressed by the article:  How do coyotes keep the cats out of Rock Creek Park?  Do they catch them and kill them?  Do cats sense the presence of coyotes (smell perhaps?) and stay away?   Does a house cat have a chance against a coyote, perhaps by climbing trees?  For that matter did their camera traps look up at likely spots in trees?  
    Anyhow, it is clear where the Smithsonian's sympathies lie.  Good objective scientific attitude there.  Probably took their science training from the global warmists. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Economist Cover Story: "The right to die"

Sub title:" Why assisted suicide should be legal"  Must be  a slow news week.  You would think that Grexit would make a better cover story this week.  Clearly The Economist is in favor of assisted suicide.  I remember debating this topic back in high school, and that was a LONG time ago.  The arguments, pro and con, haven't changed much over all that time.  No dramatic case has been in the news lately.  I wonder what brought this well worn topic to the top of the Economist's stack this week?
   The Economist reports that things are going well in the few places that do have legal assisted suicide.  Although "well" is a somewhat subjective term.  In actual fact, assisted suicide will become legal if and when the legislatures or activist judges make it legal. 

Department of Environmental Services

Lowering water quality for fun and profit.  They been at it for years.
Yesterday Marsha Graham, our volunteer water commissioner, was going house to house, on foot, in the hot sun, delivering a two page DES nastygram.  Apparently someone detected some amount of lead in the Mittersill water some time ago.  DES was too innumerate to mention the amount of lead detected, nor the permissible amount of lead.  Like most bureaucrats, DES is offended by numbers.  They also failed to mention the name of the laboratory that performed the test, and when their equipment was last calibrated against NIST national standards. 
    Mittersill water was quite good up until a couple of years ago when DES insisted that we replace our pumphouse.  The old pumphouse had been working well for 40 years, but that wasn't good enough for DES.  They forced us to build a new pumphouse, only a couple of hundred feet from the old one.  The contractor screwed up something in building the new pumphouse, and it throws enormous amounts of plain old mud into our water, so much so that the  water runs brown from the tap.  Two years later and the water still runs brown.  It wouldn't surprise me to find that amount of mud in the water makes the test for parts per million of lead read high. 
   Other indications of scientific ignorance at DES.  They think that pH and alkalinity are different things.  They aren't, pH is an objective measurement both acidity and alkalinity. 
   Thanks again DES for all your help and support over the years. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

F35 production trundles forward

Aviation Week reports that Lockheed claims it will get the price of F35s down to a mere $80 million apiece, by 2019.  They didn't say what the cost is today.  Lockheed thinks this is a good price.  "The $80 million price point will ensure we have a fifth generation aircraft for about the same  or even less than any fourth generation capability in the world," said Lorraine Martin, F35 General Manager.  "fourth generation capability" means F15 Eagle, A/F18 Super Hornet, or Saab Gripen. 
   Most of the cost improvement will come from getting better at making it.  The first F35 off the production line in 2011 took 152,000 manhours to put together.   Today that is down to 50,000 manhours.  Lockheed expects to get it down to 35,000 manhours by 2020. 
   They have been doing cost reductions, mostly in manufacturing techniques.  They changed the way they cooled the drills machining one part,  and went to die casting the rudder spar, as opposed to machining it out of a solid chunk of metal.
   They are starting production for overseas customers, Norway, Japan, and Israel.  Delivery to be much later this year and next year. 
   Pratt & Whitney announced they have a fix for the engine flexing problem.  They didn't say what it was.  This problem turned up last year, when the F35 pulls a lot of G, the engine flexes under the G load allowing the compressor blades to rub on the engine casing with disastrous results.  It caused an engine fire that heavily damaged one F35. 
   No word on the software upgrades.  Far as I know they are still waiting on the software upgrade that will allow the gun to fire.  Without it, the gun is merely ballast, it won't shoot.  Since the F35's internal missile bays only hold two air-to-air missiles, it would be nice to have the gun working for use after the missiles are gone. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is making Greeky noises about not being able to pay off a massive debt.  I think $72 billion was mentioned.  They ought to just default, stiff all their creditors, like Detroit did.  Those gullible creditors deserve to loose the money because lending to places like Puerto Rico, or Greece is just plain stupid.  Let's burn 'em good, maybe they will wise up.
   The purpose of the whole financial system is to raise money for economic development, factories, oil wells, power plants, railroads, startups, launching FedEx, stuff that will make enough money to pay off the loan.  Lending to governments of any sort is not economic development.  It's just a scam that allows governments to avoid tax hikes which their citizens hate.  It's not going to make money to pay off the loan.  I have no sympathy for those "investors".  Actually they aren't investors, they are gamblers.  Watching gamblers get burned doesn't bother me a bit. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beware of Greeks bearing Debts

The current EU-Greece deal expires on the 30th of June, this coming Tuesday.  The EU wants reforms in Greece leading to a balanced budget.  Which means laying off thousands of Greek government employees (apparently 25% of Greece draws government paychecks), cutting pensions to the more thousands of retired Greek government employees, and hiking taxes.  The Greeks call this "austerity" and the current Greek government was elected  on a "stop austerity" program.  After refusing the last EU offer on Friday, the Greek government is calling a referendum back in Greece about accepting the EU terms.  In short, the Greeks want to keep on spending more money than they take in and have the EU keep on giving them money to spend. 
   We don't know what is going to happen.  The Greeks have two more business days to cave in to the EU.  They might do it.  The EU may fear the turbulence that "Grexit" will cause and keep on subsidizing Greece to avoid trouble.  Or both sides may dig in their heels and the EU cuts off Greek subsidies. 
  In that case, things get really tough in Greece.  It will cause a bank run strong enough to break every Greek bank.  Right now the EU is loaning/giving Greek banks enough Euros to pay withdrawals and keep them afloat.  That may stop anytime now.  When it does, the Greek banks will have to close their doors, they don't have any Euros for depositors to withdraw.  Which means Greeks will loose whatever money they have on deposit.  The bank run is already started and the Greeks are talking about closing all their banks on Monday.
Greece will have to balance the budget, 'cause they cannot borrow money from normal financial sources.  Surely every banker and investor in the world knows how deep underwater Greece is.  In the real world there is zero chance that the Greeks can pay off their current loans, let alone any new loans.  They just don't have the money. 
Then the Greeks will have to do something to meet payroll.  Their choices are to just stop paying all or some of the people on the payroll, or to give them IOU's (aka Drachma) instead of Euros.  The IOUs aren't going to be worth nearly as much as Euros.  So everyone on the payroll takes a haircut, probably a 75% haircut. 
   Question 1:  Do the Greek voters know what they are headed for?
   Question 2:  What will happen to the rest of the Eurozone?  The Europeans (like the Economist)  foresee total disaster.  The Americans aren't paying much attention.