Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Replacement for Air Force 1. The Donald weighs in

The United States owns two (just two) operational Air Force 1s.  They are Boeing 747's with a fancy paint job, and every imaginable electronic device and defensive system.  Cost was no object back then.  The primary reason for Air Force 1 is to impress everybody in the world.  We are the only country rich enough to furnish a custom widebody jet liner to fly the president around.  All the other heads of state fly commercial. The current two  aircraft have been flying since the 1970's if memory serves, and you can make a case that it's time to replace them.
   On the other hand, aircraft last forever.  Every thing that wears out gets replaced.  Maintenance (I used to be a maintenance officer) has to fix everything, soon as it breaks.  If it ain't fixed, the crew won't accept the aircraft, causing all sorts of bad things, late departures, late arrivals, nasty phone calls, the works.  Engines and other machinery have to to replaced every so many hours.  So after 25 years of service, the current two Air Force 1s are as sound as when they left the factory, maybe better.
   Somehow during the Obama administration, the Air Force got funding to buy two replacements.  The new birds will be the same Boeing 747s with a sticker price of $352 million, each.   That would accomplish the primary mission of Air Force 1, namely to impress everybody.  Throw in some bucks for the fancy paint job.  Let the passengers communicate with their smart phones.  
   That's not gonna fly in the Air Force I remember.  I'm sure the Air Force contract calls for installing all the fancy electronics that the current models have, plus a bunch of new stuff that's been invented in the last 25 years.   And thousands of hours of flight testing, of a highly reliable airliner that has been flying for nearly 60 years.  Maybe the Air Force will pull the KC-46 tanker cost enhancement trick, demanding all the aircraft wiring be redesigned and rerouted "to meet Air Force standards".  Boeing knows as much or more than the Air Force about the right way to wire an aircraft.  What with one frill or another, the price tag is up to $4 billion for two aircraft.  Which is too damn much. 
   With a bit more pressure from The Donald, they might be able to reduce the fancy electronics load and cost.  I'm sure there is a bunch of stuff that the plane could jolly well do without.  Or, just cancel the whole project and keep on flying the current, very safe, very impressive aircraft.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Taiwan is a real country, no matter what Mainland China says

The NY Times, echoing the lace panty leftie peaceniks from the State Dept,  is bashing Trump for accepting a phone call from the President of Taiwan.  Let's be real about it, Taiwan is a real country that we, the United States, have promised to defend from invasion by the mainland.  That is a serious commitment, to go to war with a whacking big industrialized  country like China.  And Taiwan is a significant economy, well worth our time.  Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is one of the largest silicon foundries in the world.  If it disappeared, there would be a serious worldwide shortage of semiconductors.  Analog Devices, with its own foundry in Wilmington MA,  sent their digital designs to TSMC, half a world away.  The Wilmington foundry was at capacity, and it could make higher value analog parts, where as TSMC was a strictly digital house.  And they did good work.
   Anyhow, despite what the mainland Chinese say, Taiwan is a real country, with industry, armed forces, a sizable population, friendly to the United States.   For the NY Times to get its panties in a twist because Trump took a friendly phone call from the president of a friendly country, is outrageous.  

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Is the "Alt Right" just 50 internet trolls?

Been hearing a lotta talk about the evils of the "Alt Right".  I never heard of 'em before the last election when all of a sudden they were evil incarnate, snatching victory from the lips of Hillary Clinton.  I don't know the names of any alt-rightists, I don't know of any books they have published, any blogs, any websites, any magazine articles.  For a group that is credited with so much, they are pretty near invisible. 

Is the USA really divided??

Watched the Sunday pundits this morning.  One of 'em, Meet the Press, showed a post election Donald Trump speech.  Over laid upon The Donald's blonde hairdo were three lines, red for Republicans, yellow for independents, and blue for Democrats.  For most of the speech, the Republican line was at, or over, the top of the chart.  The independents weren't quite so enthusiastic but still a solid 80-90 percent.  The democrats stayed down at 20 percent. 
   I call that a serious split.  Let's call the two groups Republicans or Democrats.  There are other names we could use (conservative or liberal, progressive or stick-in-the-mud, etc) but  Republican and Democrat are the names we use in politics and elections. 
   So what is the difference between these two groups?  Some of it is just partisan ship, the same kind of thing that motivates fans of the Yankees and the Red Sox.  Some of it is distaste for this year's candidates.   But let's focus on things that  the incoming Trump administration could do something about.  That's issues.  Like the economy, tariffs, immigration, taxes, "the social issues", and other stuff that can be expressed in concrete terms, rather than the feelgood means nothing talk so beloved of politicians, especially when they are on TV.  The media didn't talk issues, probably because they are too ignorant to recognize an issue if they should trip over one.   It's so much easier to just read the polls over the air.
   Going from stuff I read in the Economist, the Wall St Journal, and the TV I see things this way.
   Republicans like tax cuts,  keeping immigrants out,  keeping foreign made goods from competing with American goods (tariffs),  repealing Obamacare.  Republicans see American corporations as job providers and want to encourage them. 
   Democrats want tax hikes.  They say they are OK with immigration, although I wonder if the rank and file Democrats agree with the leadership on this. They seem to  be OK on tariffs, they want to keep Obamacare.  Democrats see American corporations as robber barons in need of more good harsh regulation.

I93 widening finish in 2020???

I93, the stretch from Manchester down to the MA line, was built, back in the 70s as a four lane divided highway.  Over the years it has become the Number 1 commuter road to Boston.  With horrible traffic from Manchester to the MA line.  MA built their section of I93 six lanes and eight lanes.   Everyone noticed that the traffic jam broke up after crossing the MA border.  
   Better than five years ago NH started to widen I93 out to six lanes.  They still haven't finished it.  Channel 9 (WMUR) had the NH commissioner of transportation, Victoria Sheehan on TV this morning.  She opined that I93 might be finished by 2020.  FOUR YEARS from NOW.  Arghhh!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Tucker Carlson's 7PM news show

It's Fox, natch.  Tucker now has the hour after Brett Bair's news hour.  Tucker is pretty good.  First week or so he had a number of liberal guests on, who he proceeded to disembowel right in front of the cameras.  Fun to watch.  But the amount of blood spilled has scared off the game.  At this point, nobody who is even a little bit left of center, and has two brain cells still functioning, is going to be on Tucker's show.  Nobody wants to be red meat, eaten raw, on national TV. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Risk vs Regulation

The objective is (or ought to be) preventing banks (and their ilk like brokerage houses) from losing wads of money and kicking off Great Depression 3.0.  The way a bank looses money is to make bad loans that default and don't pay off. 
    Democrats think you prevent this by setting up federal bureaucrats to watch the banks, check their books, and meddle in their deal making.  Hence the Sarbanes Oxley law and the Dodd Frank law.   Many think the terrible economy during the Obama adminstration was caused by these two laws. 
   I think you prevent undue risk taking by banks by insuring that the bankers who lead their banks into disaster should be made to smart for it.  First we make very very clear that Uncle Sam will never ever bailout any failing bank.  If we have any bank "too big to fail"  it's time for anti trust action to break that bank up into smaller parts.   Bankers need to know that if they screw up, they are out of business, right then and there.  Bank officers loose their pensions, and deferred compensation, and their company health insurance. FDIC can pay off the depositors, but bank investors, officers, employees, and stock holders loose everything.  Which ought to produce some pressure on the suits to avoid stupid plays, like Greek loans.  Or mortgage backed securities, or credit default swaps.  And we encourage every blood sucking lawyer in the land to sue the management of failed banks for gross negligence.