Sunday, February 28, 2010

Secondhand, the price is right

What can you buy second hand? Ans: Lots of stuff. Nice cars. Used Detroit up scale cars (Caddy, Buick, Lincoln, Ford) can be had for very good prices, far less than the cheapest new econobox. They are well built, parts are widely available, and gas mileage is very good. I'm getting 27 mpg highway out of a Caddy Deville. Used Japanese and German cars are not as good a deal as Detroit iron. The cars are fine but the price is higher.
Tools, hand and power. Old stationary power tools, the cast iron kind, are better than brand new Chiwanese sheet metal jobs. I've picked up hand saws, socket sets, chain saws, weed wackers, files, a Yankee screwdriver, a Fluke digital multimeter, and turning chisels. Exception, used battery powered tools most often have dead batteries and battery replacement is nearly as costly as buying a whole new tool.
Housewares, drinking glasses, decorative copper bowls, brass candle sticks, table lamps, electric pencil sharpeners, bowls and plates and mugs. All look as good as new after washing and polishing.
Clothes. A little looking on the racks at thrift stores turn up plenty of LL Bean, Arrow, Woolrich, and other top name shirts. Plus outerwear, children's clothing, chinos, and blue jeans.
Electronics, stereo receivers, speakers, VCR's, tape decks, computers.
Second hand stuff is a quarter of new pricing. If you are on a budget, and who isn't, you can stretch the dollars a long way. Plus, the stuff looks good and no one will know.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Greece, down the slippery slope

In case you haven't noticed, Greece is slowly going bankrupt. Greek government expenditures far exceed tax revenues. Greek politics will not allow spending cuts or tax hikes. The country is staying afloat by borrowing money.
Couple of questions. First off, who in their right mind would loan money to Greece, no matter how high the interest rate? The chances of Greek default, followed by social and political chaos are serious. The chances of getting your loan paid back are poor.
Well, the lenders are taking out bond insurance, "credit default swaps" is the Wall St code word. The insurers, in return for a juicy fee, guarantee to repay the Greek loans if the Greeks default. Question. Can the insurers pay off when the Greeks default? If not, are they expecting a bailout from Uncle Sam? Are the insurers of sound mind? The chances of default are high, the Wall St Journal financial page has talked of little else for weeks. The other Europeans have made it clear that they won't bail out Greece.
The Obama administration ought to make it perfectly clear to Wall St that any firm issuing, buying, or holding Greek "credit default swaps" will NOT get a bailout. It will be tough on Greece, but it is pretty clear that the Greeks won't clean up their act until they run out of money. It's a poor use of valuable capital to prop up a government that is living far beyond its means.

Friday, February 26, 2010

And the third winter storm warning fizzles

They forecast 8 to 12 inches for the White Mountains yesterday. We got zip for snow and a lot of rain. Then the wind picked up and howled around the house. The lights went out at 10PM and didn't come back on til 5 AM. House stayed warm enough with the furnace out. It didn't get cold enough to make me get up and start the fire.

The Health Care Circus

Fox, to its credit, carried most of Obama's circus live. Surprisingly, Cspan did not, or at least not on the two Cspan channels I can get. The pols put on a pretty good show. This was a public relations effort, both sides were talking to the TV audience, not to each other. No agreements on anything were reached, at least not in front of the TV cameras.
The PR effort was a Mexican standoff. The Republicans stuck with their position of malpractice reform, interstate sale of insurance, importation of drugs from Canada. The Democrats told endless tales of woe, and called for passage of Obamacare to relieve the woes, the spending and to save the Union.
Obama came out against interstate sale of insurance, saying that people would flock to cheaper insurance from states with fewer mandated coverages, and that was bad, we have to force everyone to buy expensive cover everything policies. He also implied that the democrats will try to jam Obamacare thru Congress using reconciliation.
Obama also came out against catastrophic only coverage, saying that full coverage was only a few pennies more that catastrophe only coverage. That's not true. I switched from a $12K full coverage policy to a $3K catastrophe only policy. The $9K in savings more than covered my office visits. Plus, since I was paying for it out of pocket, I bothered to get my prescription switched to low cost generic drugs.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tom Harkin (D) gets it wrong

Senator Tom Harkin is ranting on TV saying that malpractice reform doesn't work. He said NH had to repeal it's malpractice law.
Not true Tom. It was passed, it's worked so well the doctors insurance fund has a $100 million surplus that the governor tried to pinch to balance the state budget.
In NH, tort lawyers must present their case to a special medical malpractice court. If the lawyer doesn't like the verdict of the special court, he is at liberty to sue in regular state court. BUT, the verdict of the special medical malpractice court MUST by read aloud to the jury. The jury, not being fools, pays close attention to the verdict of the special court. Malpractice suits have been cut in half.
Trial lawyers attempt to repeal this reform every legislative session, so far with no success.
So Senator Tom Harkin, for somewhere-or-other in the heartland, malpractice reform is alive and well in NH. And it has reduced our cost of medical care.

Insurance pools?

The great Obamacare debate is on TV as I type. Obama is claiming that creation of "insurance pools" would offer health insurance for a lower rate than at current. Sounds too good to be true. The cost to insure a family is the same whether they are in a "pool" or on the beach.
A "pool" isn't the same as health insurance offered by employers. Companies get a better rate than individuals, mostly because workers are in good health. When their health fails they stop working. A "pool" composed of anyone who walks in off the street ain't gonna get the discount the big boys like Caterpillar and Microsoft get.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Nature of Horses Stephan Budiansky

Good read which I picked off the stacks at the Abby Greenleaf public library. Subtitle is Exploring Equine Evolution Intelligence and Behavior which is a good summary. Archaeology now places the domestication of the horse on the northern shores of the Black Sea. A grave of a "cult stallion", complete with grave goods and dated to 3000 BC was discovered. The teeth of the stallion showed wear marks characteristic of a bit, this some 500 years before the earliest wheel. Leading the the conclusion that the horse was domesticated for riding first, and for pulling chariots only later. Which makes a certain amount of sense, the urge among teen aged boys to show off by riding a half wild horse is understandable, and doesn't require fancy technology, like spoked wheels, yokes, axles and axle bearings. Whereas to ride bareback, you just jump on and hang on.

Second Winter Storm Warning fizzles out

Last week they canceled public school on account of forecasts of mega snow all over NH. Today we got a few flakes, maybe an inch, after a forecast of a foot or more. In fairness, the TV is reporting that western MA got clobbered good, but it didn't make it up here to Cannon. They say yet another storm is coming tomorrow. We need the snow...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't weep for me, Toyota Part II

Poor Toyota is really getting slammed in Congress today. I have mixed feelings about it. The accidents and deaths are terrible, but ruining a company and throwing it's people out of work is not very nice either.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Atlantic Monthly Columnist flunks high school chemistry

Megan McCardle wrote in her Atlantic column

"I've read a lot about prohibition, but I never read about the government's deliberate effort to make industrial alcohol undrinkably poisonous. Thousands of people seem to have died as a result."

Looks like Megan never took high school chemistry. Anyone who did knows that denatured alcohol is poisonous. Plus the containers are marked with skull and cross bones for those who don't read. Denatured alcohol is drinking alcohol rendered undrinkable so it can be sold for industrial uses without paying liquor taxes. Of course journalism students are not required to know anything about the real world. Which is why fewer and fewer people read the MSM. Why waste your time reading stuff written by the profoundly ignorant?

How to advertise cars on TV

Just a few pointers for the ad guys who know nothing about cars, car buyers, or TV.
First remember that you are selling a car, you are not selling pretty girls, hunky guys, exotic vacation spots, or open road. The video should concentrate on the car. And guys, we all have color TV's now. In fact we have all had color TV since the 1980's. Show us the car in color, not black and white. I know black and white is arty and cool, but the cars look better in color. Give us a good side view, front view, rear view and interior view. Show the car moving. For extra credit show us the engine.
Second. Give us the name of the car at the beginning of the commercial. The ad is worthless if us TV viewers don't know which car it is. Remember, it's the 21st century and cars all look alike now. Name the car, on the screen and in the voiceover at the beginning. The car logo isn't enough. Many of us can't keep Chevy bowties and Ford blue ovals straight in our heads, let alone the smaller brands.
Third. Tell us what makes this car desirable and worth laying out big bucks for. It might be performance, or luxury, or carrying capacity, or greenness, or off road handling, or something. No car can be all things to all customers, so figure out what this car is and let us know it.
Fourth. Show the price in the ad. Price is the most important single specification of cars, (or anything for that matter). If you don't show us the price, we TV viewers figure it's too expensive for us, and the ad is wasted.

F for NBC Olympic coverage

Watching the ski racing. At the end of the race, NBC is too brain dead to show the racer's time to us TV viewers. Ski racers are all good, all fast, and the difference between a gold and last place is a fraction of a second. After watching the skier hurtle down hill we want to know how well he did, namely his time.
NBC sometimes displayed a stopwatch on screen but it was broken, showing 2 minutes and some seconds as the skier leaves the start house, where it should read zero. It also would stop and start erratically during the run. They never displayed the skiers time and name, not at the start, not during the run, and not after the run. BOO.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Constituent Service, Scott Brown version

Newly elected Senator Scott Brown sent me nice thank-you letter, for my modest (very modest) campaign contribution last month. I'm suitably impressed. Clearly a man who understands ordinary politeness and makes sure it happens. I wish him well.

Cost Cutting, Health Care version

Doctors buy malpractice insurance to protect themselves against lawyers. The insurance can run as much as $100,000 a year. That's a helova lot of money. If the doctor works 50 weeks a year, 40 hours a week that's 2000 hours. $100,000 / 2000 hours equals $50/hr. The doctor has to charge $50 an hour for his time just to pay his malpractice insurance.
That's one of the reasons that medical care is so expensive. We could cut this down a lot.
1. Cap on awards. Surely $300,000 dollars is enough compensation for pain and suffering. In fact it's generous for individuals. But it's too low to feed a lawyer. Malpractice lawyers work on contingency fees, they take the lion's share of any court awards in lieu of fees. A couple of million dollar jackpots covers the expenses of the suits they loose. Lower the awards and a lot of lawyers will find more profitable lines of work.
2. Demand expert witnesses be real practicing doctors, not hired mouths. An expert witness should be required to show that he personally treated a round dozen cases like the case before the court. Right now any joker with a medical degree is an expert witness. Most of them do no medicine, they just testify in court, for pay. Real practicing doctors have real experience, and are reluctant to point fingers at colleagues. The hired mouths will say anything they are paid to say.
3. Adopt a "loser pays" rule. Losing side pays all the court costs. That will drive off the weaker suits.
4. Forbid lawyers to advertise for plaintiffs. Used to be it was unethical for lawyers to advertise at all. Now Fox TV runs hourly ads from lawyers looking for plaintiffs to give them some standing to sue.
5. Proscribing FDA approved drugs and medical equipment is NEVER malpractice. Even if the FDA later changes its mind and pulls the drug off the market. The FDA is so conservative in granting approval for the sale of drugs, that any reasonable person is justified in believing approved drugs are safe. Doctors, hospitals and drug companies should not get sued for proscribing, administering and manufacturing FDA approved drugs.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Snooping by laptop

You must have heard about the school district that issued laptops to the students and then remotely turned on the built in video cameras and sneaked photographs of the students at home?
1. That school district had more money than brains to issue student laptops. No way would my district be so profligate. Students learn by studying, not by computering. Plus the students all have computers already. Why spend public money to give 'em a backup computer?
2. If a computer illiterate public school can turn a laptop into a video snoop camera, so can anyone else. A piece of duct tape over the camera lens (and perhaps another piece over the built in microphone) is your only guarantee of privacy. Good thing my antique 3 Gigahz desktop lacks cameras and microphones.
3. That school board has to be stuck on stupid. They can look forward to getting voted out of office next election time.

America is ungovernable?

I hear the Democrats whining this whine now that Obamacare seems to be dead. Probably true. I don't like being governed (bossed around) any more than the next American. America doesn't need or want governance. We like leadership instead. We don't like Obamacare, and we were able to resist the Democratic attempt to stuff it down our throats. I like that kind of ungovernable.
By the way, Obamacare is kinda like a snake. You can't depend upon a snake being dead until it's cut up into six inch lengths. I don't see Obamacare as being that kind of dead, yet. It's lying on the floor and not moving much, but it might come back to life and bite.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Why the Love Gene in cats?

Cats, at least modern house cats, love their humans. Nothing else explains why cats demand petting, sleep on favored human's beds, sit in laps, and purr when picked up and stroked. They get terribly lonely when left alone. But what is the evolutionary origin of this gene? Cats are solitary hunters, not pack animals. Before hooking up with humans back in Egyptian times, what good would a gene to love humans do for a cat? I have read of small African wild cats that cannot be tamed even today. Presumably that breed of cat lacks the love gene.
After hooking up with humans, the love gene is obviously a good thing. Compare well fed and sleek house cats with skinny, dirty, and miserable looking alley cats. It interacts successfully with the love animals gene in humans.
Perhaps the cat love gene is a mutation or only occurs in small numbers of cats in the wild. The love animals gene in humans prompts them to adopt kittens. Perhaps the adoptions proceeded unsuccessfully until some human got lucky and adopted a kitten carrying the love gene. Once settled in with humans the cats with the love gene would flourish and the cats that lacked it would go back to the wild.
Does this account for a origin of the species of affectionate cats?

Words of the Weasel Part XIV

"The aircraft was on final approach to Heathrow from Beijing when an uncommanded power reduction occurred in both engines."
We used to call that engine failure.
The aircraft augered in 984 feet short of the runway. Gotta watch them uncommanded power reductions.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blame Shifting

On the radio (NHPR) this morning. The terrible Belgian train accident is blamed on lack of new technology automatic train brakes.
Brakes won't save you in a head on collision. Something went wrong and put two trains on the the same track going opposite directions. A signal failed, an engineer ran a red signal, a dispatcher gave the wrong orders, or a turnout was thrown the wrong way. Once that happens you have two trains barreling right at each other. It takes a mile or more to stop a train, automatic brakes or no automatic brakes. The engineers cannot see that far ahead ahead. Blam.
The radio story went on to quote various Europeans pointing fingers at each other. The Belgians blamed the EU for failure to standardize automatic brake requirements. The EU blamed the Belgians for not installing automatic brakes anyhow. Money was mentioned, like 200,000 Euros per train and 25,000 Euros per mile of track.
This story is a smoke screen behind which the true culprits are escaping.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Archival Quality (photographic)

My fiftieth high school reunion is coming up this year. Old classmates are agitating for photos. So I though I might look thru my pile of slide trays, looking for high school photos.
Step 1. Fix the slide projector. A beefy Basch & Lomb at least 50 years old itself. At least it is fixable, it all came apart, with ordinary hand tools, and with a liberal anointment of 3-in-1 oil it started to cycle the slides in and out. The slide advance electric switch was broken and no replacement available. But there is a plug for a remote control switch. I made a remote control switch from scratch, and had a working projector. Good thing I had a lathe, bandsaw, drill press and radial arm saw in the basement, I used them all for this little DIY project.
Step 2. Try to read the labels on the slide trays. That didn't work. What ever it was had faded over the years and was unreadable. Note to self. Use black India ink to label anything you care about. Damn felt tips fade in less than five years.
Step 3. Show the slides. Got some real oldies here. Recognized the old family house that we moved out of in 1957. Shots inside the ski chalet that I am currently retired too. Some shots of relatives, now deceased.
Step 4. Agonize over the generally low quality of the slides. Out of focus, under exposed, over exposed. My low end point&shoot digital makes much better pictures.
I wonder if the digital photos will be viewable fifty years from now>

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenburg

Cool story about software development at a silicon valley startup. Mitch Kapor, the man who created Lotus 1-2-3 years ago, decided to do another killer app. Rented office space, small team of experienced programmers, self financed by Mitch. The author, who is not a software guy, hung around the operation for it's first three years and wrote a book about it.
Software development hasn't changed much. Three years into the project and they had little to show for it, despite all the experience on the team, leadership by a silicon valley legend, and a booming economy.
Rosenburg gives a good layman's account of the various fads in software engineering, going back to the 1960's. Each new fad was supposed to create great software on time and on budget. Well, that hasn't happened yet.
The project was to create a super personal information manager that would hold contact information, to-do lists, appointments, photographs, and anything else, keep the home computer updated with the work computer, allow sharing with everyone and anyone, and perhaps travel faster than light as well.
Rosenburg, a non programmer, doesn't understand what specifications are for. He mentions that the project lacks specs. He doesn't understand that a spec is a trial run at the real program. If the programmer cannot explain what he is doing to other humans in his native tongue, he won't be able to explain it to a non sentient computer using a complex programming language. And, specs allow the others on the project to know what the program is going to do, and if it will fit into the rest of the project.
This project didn't understand "the minimum working set". Until code is running, you have nothing. To get the code running, you select the absolute minimum amount of code needed to make the program do something, even if something isn't very much. Get the minimum working set running and then add in the rest of the project, piece by piece. This project did "release" early versions, but it was a pro forma activity, the early releases crashed continuously and didn't do anything.
Anyhow, good to learn that software development hasn't changed since I retired.

NHPR spins the gambling focus group

NHPR did a piece on the gambling focus groups this morning. Their spin is pro gambling, and they implied that all the good citizens attending the focus group were pro gambling too. Or at least not anti gambling.
That's not the way it was at the Littleton focus group. The attendees were luke warm at best and mostly hostile to more gambling.
All the news that fits we print...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another Spending Cut

The Security and Exchange Commission was created after Great Depression 1.0 with a mission to regulate the stock market and prevent Great Depression 2.0. Remember that Great Depression 1.0 was triggered by the stock market crash of 1929. The Roosevelt administration wanted a watchdog agency to prevent practices like margin selling that had toppled the market in 1929.
Same agency is still in business, with a $1 billion dollar budget. They failed to prevent Great Depression 2.0. Clearly they are a waste of money. Let's shut them down and apply that $1 billion to deficit reduction.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Gaming Gambling focus group

At the invitation of a friend, I went out to the Littleton Area Learning Center, actually the old Littleton Coin Co building, out Union St past LaHoute's. There were maybe 25 people, including a number of political folk of my acquaintance. Under the guidance of facilitators, we discussed increasing legal gambling in NH. There is some legal betting at the racetrack, the discussion was about increasing it, opening Vegas style casinos, and allowing slot machines. After a whole day of gently facilitated discussion, the sense of the meeting was this. The downside of legal gambling, such as changing the tone of NH to a Las Vegas tone, facilitating compulsive gamblers into ruining themselves, the tacky nature of casinos, casino people and casino customers, far outweighed the possibility of increased public revenue from casino taxes. The projected revenue wasn't very big, and we assumed the projections were optimistic. Real world revenue will likely be less than projected.
Under the gentle facilitation, we never quite wrote all this down. Presumably the facilitators will write things up to suit themselves afterward. The whole thing was done by UNH people with state funding, maybe $30K of funding. They bought coffee and donuts and a sandwich lunch. It was an interesting day, but as a method of determining public policy it's kinda flaky. The UNH people have a free hand interpreting what was said, the people attending were by no means a representative group of citizens, we were all political people with various agenda's. Many of us started the session with a fairly neutral viewpoint and by the end of the session we had a much more negative viewpoint about legalizing more gambling.
Interesting euphemisms turned up. It's "gaming" not "gambling". It's "video gaming terminal" rather than slot machine. It's "racino" rather than race track.
For those more interested, Senate Bill 489 (SB498) is before the NH senate right now and can be seen online with a bit of googling.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What's the difference between Tea Party and Republican Party?

Simple. The Tea Party doesn't talk about "social" issues (aka wedge issues). I haven't heard a peep about gay rights, gay marriage, abortion, and drugs out of the Tea Party. Tea Party is about taxes, spending, and deficits.
The Republicans should take lessons.

Whither NASA?

The Space Shuttle is coming to end-of-life. NASA plans to stop operating it this year. This decision had two drivers,
1. The Shuttle is dangerous to fly.
2. The Shuttle is very expensive, even when it doesn't fly.

NASA originally planned to replace the shuttle with a step backwards, to expendable boosters and capsules that re entered by parachute. splashed down and got picked up by the Navy. To this end, NASA started development of a rocket, Ares I, and a big five man capsule (Orion). Ares I got as far as a test launch last October. Last week the money ran out, Obama decided to cut NASA funding.
NASA could have saved all the Ares I rocket development money by simply purchasing off-the-shelf Delta V rockets from Boeing. Delta V is in production, development and testing is complete and paid for, and it launches commercial satellites on a weekly basis. Delta is just as powerful as Aries I and can fly any mission Aries I could.
NASA argued that the Delta V wasn't "man rated". "Man-rated" means the builder has done a lot of extra paperwork showing how safe the rocket is. Then NASA argued that the Aries (never flown) would be safer than Delta V (been flying for years). This arguement is unconvincing to anyone with actual flightline experience, like me.
In actual fact, the satellites launched by Delta cost billions of dollars and a launch failure is a company wrecking catastrophe. Every thing that can be done to insure a successful launch has been done, Delta is as safe a rocket as can be built. It benefits from years of flight experience that allows the engineers to improve weak points. It's a mature design with all the bugs worked out. Ares was a dirty sheet of paper design (it reused Shuttle engines) with countless bugs yet to be discovered and fixed.
In real life, the NASA people wanted the challenge, the fun, and the funding, of a new hardware design. So they didn't do the economical and conservative thing, buy off the shelf, they started up a new rocket program and hoped the funding would appear. Well, the finding didn't appear and US astronauts will be riding Russian capsules to the International Space Station for years, perhaps forever.

A Russian ticket to the ISS costs $50 million dollars. I wonder what a Delta V launch, with a 5 man Orion capsule would cost.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Cut spending to avoid deficit disaster

The Obama budget with $2 trillion dollar deficits isn't going to work. Obama has jacked federal spending up to 25% of GNP. That's way way up from the historical average of 19% going back to WWII. And it's way way short of tax revenues which have sunk to 14% of GNP due to Great Depression 2.0. The deficit (difference between spending and tax revenues) come out to 11% of GNP.
The only way to survive is to cut the spending. Not freeze it, cut it back to 19% of GNP, or farther. This is hard, 'cause those receiving our tax money will fight like tigers to keep receiving it. The general taxpayers don't get as motivated as the feeders from the federal trough do. Perhaps the Tea Party can help out here.
What to cut? Answer, anything you can.
Start with farm subsidies. There aren't very many farmers in the country, we ought to be able to out vote them.
Turn off the federal highway program. We built the Interstate system in the '60's and 70's. It's finished, done. we have superb highways to every corner of the nation. Let the states do the maintainance and stop rebuilding them.
Close down EPA. They were created to clean up smog over the cities. That's done, air over Boston, NYC, DC and Philly is clear and blue, not the yellow muckiness we had in 1970.
Close down OSHA. The real work of safety inspection is done by the insurance companies. Every business carries insurance, and those insurance companies hate paying out for injured workers. So they inspect, and tell management to make safety improvements or loose their insurance. OSHA just gets in the way.
All of the above is to show that we are serious. The real budget busters are Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. They are taking up 75% of federal outlays, and to cut spending, we have to cut these sacred cows.
For Medicare/caid we have to reduce the costs. Start with malpractice reform. Allow interstate sale of health insurance, that's competition and competition always lowers costs. Allow duty free import of drugs from any first world country (Canada!) to bring the price of drugs down out of the stratosphere. Getting these three simple changes thru would make a big improvement. There is a lot more that can be done, but lets make a start.
Social Security is harder. We have paid in all our working life and planned our retirement on the basis of social security income. About all that can be done is raise the retirement age. When Social Security was started, the retirement age was set at 65, and the life expectancy was only 65. In 2010 the retirement age is still 65 but life expectancy has soared up into the 80's. Surely we could arrange to move increase the retirement age, slowly, up to 68 or 70.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The passing game

Super Bowl puts on one helova show. Both sides played a passing game. The quarterbacks were incredibly accurate, it seems like every pass connected, every receiver was covered, the quarterback was always protected. Each pass gained ten yards and first down. Possession of the ball was retained, the teams marched down the field and touchdown.
The passing didn't used to work so well. Used to be a running game, where fast and powerful ball carriers attempted to jam themselves and the ball right thru the defensive line. Not last night, it was all airborne work.
Halftime was spectacular as usual, the singers (the Who) kept their clothes on. The Who is one of my favorites, and were in fine voice last night. Although I did wonder why a band that old was the best pick for Superbowl halftime. Aren't there any newer bands that people like?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Financial regulation, need there fore

Great Depression 2.0 was caused in part by Wall St bank high stakes gambling. We ought to cool the market down by regulating the things that banks are allowed to invest/speculate in. Real banks take deposits and have taxpayer backed FDIC insurance. If the government guarantees the bank's deposits, then the government had the right to limit the kind of risks the bank can run. In my view banks should not invest/speculate in common stocks, secondary mortgages, mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps, and commodities, including gold. These things are very risky, and do nothing to finance real economic growth or jobs. The purpose of banks is to finance real estate and loan to business and individuals. We ought to write a bank regulation law to forbid bank speculation in risky and unproductive things.
There are a lot of other things out there that look like banks, talk like banks, but don't have deposits and FDIC insurance. They are fake banks. They can speculate to their heart's content, but the government should make absolutely clear that it will never bail them out.
In fact, we should require display of a fake bank sign on the offices of fake banks. Something like "Deposits are NOT insured"

Miracle Health Food, Chicken Soup

At least all Jewish mothers proclaim the value of chicken soup to cure nearly anything. Homemade is easy.
Take a soup pot with lid. Add about a pound of uncooked chicken. Fill pot with water, and bring to a boil. Back off the heat and add some Bell's Poultry Seasoning. Simmer just at the boiling point for a couple of hours. Add veggies. Celery, onion, and carrots are mandatory. Then anything else you like. Peas, mushrooms, parsnip, green beans, rice, just about anything. Cook another hour or so until the veggies and rice are tender. It's good.
Occasionally Mac's has a sale on chicken trimmings for $0.50 a pound, which makes a pot of chicken soup ridiculously cheap.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Don't weep for me, Toyota

Poor Toyota. Getting slammed by recalls, Transportation secretaries, lawsuits, and endless terrible publicity, shutting down production.
One big question.
What's wrong with turning off the ignition and taking the car out of gear if the engine runs away?
Is this "Sudden Acceleration" thing really all that bad?

AIG bonuses

The Federal salary master was on TV yesterday explaining that he couldn't do anything about AIG paying $100 million in bonuses. There was a contract to pay the AIG turkeys who ran the company into the ground he claimed and contracts are unbreakable.
Got news for him.
1. Contracts have to be enforced in court. AIG should refuse to pay and let the fat cats sue for their ill gotten gains.
2. Publish the names and contact information of all bonus recipients.
3. Find and prosecute the people who wrote such foolish contracts. Bonuses should never be paid if the company is losing money, and AIG has lost more money than God. Paying bonuses when the company is broke, and worse, paying them to the folk who caused the disaster, should NEVER be part of any employment contract, ever.
4. Tell AIG no more bailout money if they pay any bonus to anyone until ALL $150 billion taxpayer bailout is repaid.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Another $2 trillion in the hole

The US House just raised the federal debt limit by another $2 trillion. And it's all Bush's fault. We are heading for a crash. Pretty soon, the Treasury won't be able to borrow the extra money, plus borrow enough to roll over the T-bills that are expiring.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Obama Comes to NH

A friend called up the other day and talked me into going down to Nashua to see the show. So, yesterday morning we loaded Tea Party signs, American flags, heavy sweaters, gloves, hats, a picnic lunch, thermos of hot coffee, another one of hot tea, and a point&shoot camera into the Caddy and roared off down I93 for Nashua. Following email directions we found an easy parking spot, even though Nashua had plastered Broad St with temporary no parking signs.
It was below freezing, but SmartWool socks inside good lace up boots, good gloves and ski parka's kept us warm enough. The affair was held at the Nashua North High School even though school was in session. Long line of people with tickets formed up to wait for the doors to open. Five heavy duty TV trucks with satellite dishes raised. We got interviewed and photographed by the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Lawrence Eagle, The Boston Herald, CNN, and a couple of very nice young students.
About 1 PM the Nashua cops chivvied us back from the front door of the school and back out the the rotary on Broad St. By this time we had a modest crowd of a few hundred demonstrators with signs and such. The cops then amused themselves by herding the demonstrators around and around the rotary. By 2:15 the cops had all the streets blocked off and the Obama caravan swept thru. Long line of cop cars, vans, the White House black stretch SUV, and an ambulance swept thru the rotary and off the the school auditorium. Must have been 75 people or more in the whole shebang. Seems like a lotta pencil pushers for just another "support your local rep" campaign stop. We heard that the White House had overbooked the event and the ticker holders at the end of the line didn't get in, and got sore about that.
Then we went to a Republican town hall in the nearby by CourtYard Marriot. They threw three ball rooms together into one vast hall, which was packed. I saw Kelly Ayotte, Jack Kimball, Jennifer Horne, Karen Testerman, and Ovide Lamontaigne. After a number of warm up speakers we got down to the main event Stephan Moore of the Wall St Journal. Steve was good, he had the audience on their feet and cheering. Lotta good Republican spirit was raised.
We got home too late to catch anything on TV.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lets save some money

There are multi billions of dollars left in the $750 billion TARP bailout fund. We ought to apply all that money to deficit reduction. There is maybe $500 billion unspent in the $787 billion Porkulus appropriation. Since a. Porkulus didn't work, or b. Porkulus spending got GNP growth up to boom time 5.7%, (take your pick), lets cancel the rest of the Porkulus spending to reduce the deficit. If we did these two things, we could cut this year's budget deficit down from $1.8 trillion to a "mere" $1 trillion. Put $500 billion of unspent Porkulus together with $300 billion left in TARP and that's a significant bite out of this year's horrifying deficit.

Citizens Against Government Waste

This bit of political (junk?) mail showed up the other day. Since it bore John McCain's name on the envelope, I opened it. The letter was full of indignation about wasting money, but, when you read it thru, there wasn't all that much money involved. There was a list of six questionable programs, but all put together it only came to $42 million, which is peanuts out of a $500 billion defense budget. Less than the cost of single military aircraft. Nothing's perfect, and if we are only wasting .00084% of the defense budget, the republic is well served.
Then there was a rubarb about purchasing 262 more C-130 transport aircraft than the Pentagon had requested. Maybe, but the old C-130 is one helova useful aircraft, capable of getting tons of troops and material into short dirt runways anywhere in the world. C-130's are essential in any kind of war, guerrilla war, full scale first world war, insurgency, Haitian relief, inserting special forces behind enemy lines, you name it and C-130's will do. It's as general purpose as pickup truck or a jeep. So I don't get upset about buying another 262 C-130's, I see it as money well spent on a versatile and reliable workhorse.
I dare say there is a good deal of waste fraud and abuse in the defense budget. I don't think Citizens Against Government Waste has found enough of it to get excited about. They need to look harder.

Is Bipartisanship a sellout?

Bipartisanship, a word beloved of today's democrats. When uttered, it means they want Republicans to vote for Obamacare, Cap & Tax, union card check, Porkulus, earmarks, and plump budgets. Republican support for any of these odious bills would give the Democrats enough votes to pass them, and prevent Republicans for using the bills as campaign issues in the 2010 election. Said election is already gathering steam.
So far, the Republicans have been pretty good at holding the line. The total lack of Republican votes shows the bills as questionable public policy. When all the Republicans refuse to vote for a bill it sends a message to the voting public. I think the Congressional republicans have been showing some backbone in their united opposition to awful bills.