Thursday, September 30, 2010

Atlantic thinks airports have no competition

Megan McCardle, of the Atlantic, who oughta know better, was blaming the sometimes shabby service at airports on the lack of competition.
She is clearly out of touch. Airports compete with other airports. For instance, Boston's Logan airport competes with Manchester NH, Worcester MA, and Providence RI. Although Logan may be closer to center city, the regional airports offer cheap and plentiful parking, a shorter walk from parking to the gate, and less traffic congestion. From the north of Boston suburbs it's quicker and easier to pick up a passenger from Manchester than from Logan.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

So what happened in DC?

Washington DC suffers from the worst public school system in the nation, high rents, unemployment and gang activity. This despite the river of US taxpayer money flowing into the national capital. DC's one and only industry is government and government is booming.
Fenty, a black reform mayor was doing what he could to improve things. He hired Michelle Rhee, a tough superintendent of schools. Rhee set right in, fired a couple of hundred dead wood teachers and received super favorable press coverage from the Wall St Journal and Time magazine. Test scores were rising, dropout rates were falling. There is still a long long way to go, but the DC system was moving and moving in the right direction.
Then came the election. Fenty lost, beaten by a black city counsel member name Gray. Rhee is looking for a job, she has publicly stated that she cannot work for Gray.
So what went wrong for Fenty and the reformers? So far, the press and my DC sources cannot point to anything substantive they did wrong. They talk about Fenty favoring the white voters over black voters, but this is a smoke screen. Any mayor anywhere is going to attempt to remain on speaking terms with all the voters. No one has offered any specific examples of Fenty or Rhee saying or doing anything outrageous, or even a little bit insensitive.
Far as I can see, the only thing done wrong was firing a load of deadwood. The deadwood has friends, and a union and lawyers. Which says that school reform is going to be hard and getting harder. If reformers cannot fire teachers for cause in the worse system in the country, they won't be able to fire them anywhere.
Anyhow, next time someone gets all worked up about the miserable state of DC public schools, I will say, "They voted for them".

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Is India part of the Anglosphere?

Hard to say for real. Interesting discussion here.
The MSM doesn't talk much about the Anglosphere these days, but it is the same alliance that won WWII and has called the shots world wide ever since. It is able to formulate policy and get the members to accept said policy without the baring of teeth.
India has become enormously more powerful than it was in the 1940's. Will the Indians join the Anglosphere or not? In the early days the Indians were "non aligned" which meant they could express some independence from Britain without falling under Soviet control. Now that the Soviets aren't the players they used to be, "non aligned" doesn't mean so much.
Joining the Anglosphere has two parts, the members of the club have to like and respect the potential member, and the potential member has to be sympathetic to the ideals and culture of the Anglosphere.
Never having been to India, my mental picture of the place comes from Kipling, Kim, and the Jungle Books. Kipling painted a colorful, romantic, likable country. I'd be happy to have India join the Anglosphere because of Kipling's inspiring stories of the place. Most Americans feel the same way for the same reasons.
Let us hope the Indians want to join.

Charlie, I never knew ye.

Charlie Bass may not be everyone's favorite candidate for Congress. But he does have some useful friends. Yesterday I received a pro-Bass letter from the NRA. Nice one page letter explaining how Charlie had been on the right side of a number of gun control votes over the years and a Bass for Congress bumper sticker.
Damn. I gotta confess the NRA endorsement means something to me. I'm a member myself, and I feel better about Charlie after reading the NRA endorsement.
We certainly do not want to elect the democrat, Kuster. Kuster is as far left as Obama and is full of new federal programs and the new federal taxes to pay for them. She doesn't talk about the tax part much, but you gotta figure she will vote for them.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cost effective

A green was enthusing on NPR about a wonderful new thermal solar electric plant in the Mohave desert. They have the permits and the environmental impact statement out of the way. All they have to do is raise the money.
Plant is supposed to generate 1 gigawatt and cost $6 billion dollars.
For $6 billion I could buy a nuclear plant that size and have my lights stay on after dark.
Good luck with the funding. And good luck finding customers in the middle of the Mohave desert.

Time Warner Cable Broadband going Narrowband

My cable modem service has been going down hill. More and more websites fail to connect. Is it Time Warner? Is it growing Internet traffic overloading the web sites? Is it Firefox? Is it malware?
Might have to try dial up again.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

NH Republican State Convention

As a genuine Republican candidate for state office, I rate as a delegate. Easily flattered as I am, I hopped in the car and zoomed down to Concord to strut upon the floor of the convention with real credentials hanging around my neck. That early on Saturday morning we had a bit of fog, actually clouds flying close to the ground. It was pretty hard to see as I zipped down I93 at 80 MPH.
The affair was in the Arts Center on Main St Concord. Lobby of the theatre was packed with pols. all sipping coffee and eating donuts. The morning was given over to stemwinding speeches by the major Republican candidates and special guest Mitt Romney. I guess Mitt is thinking about 2012. He has a good store of one-liners and was the most entertaining of the speakers.
Since the invention of primary elections, political conventions have little to do. The only substantive business was to approve the rewritten Republican platform. The platform rewrite is an improvement, the platform is now readable and you can show it to voters and it will mean something. The old platform was a jumble of special interest group gobbledegook.
A motion from the floor to favor state run gambling was defeated. As was a motion from the floor to deny Republican party support from any candidate who failed to take a pro life pledge and an anti gay marriage pledge. That motion was actually kinda dangerous in a procedural way. It wanted to boot out of the Republican party any candidate that isn't anti abortion and anti gay. That's undemocratic. Any winner of the Republican primary is a legitimate Republican. I don't want other people disqualifying candidates for insufficient ideological purity.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Words of the Weasel Pt 15

"Company ships jobs over seas." Right. What actually happens is rising wages, rising health care costs, rising taxes, rising energy costs, and rising regulation raises a company's costs to the point that it ceases American production. No point in making stuff if you are loosing money on it.
To fill the market need for product, foreign competitors step in.
First make the US uncompetitive and then blame it on the American companies driven out of business. That's the Democratic way.

NH state budget according to Josiah Bartlett

Josiah Bartlett Institute is a free market think tank based in Concord. They gave a "how the NH Budget works" talk last night which I attended. The speaker was Charlie Arlinghaus and the hall was well filled.
The State budget is complex, possibly deliberately so. Much, but not all, spending comes from the "General Fund" But there are a lot of special dedicated funds like Highways and Turnpikes and Fish and Game. There is an "Education Trust Fund" which is sort of, partly, but not completely, separate from the General Fund. In actual fact the legislature can and does move money between the General Fund and the Education Trust Fund pretty much at will. And Education Trust Fund money can be used for purposes other than educational. The General Fund accounts for only 44% of state spending, the other funds kick in to supply the remaining 66%.
Then the budget is supposed to be for two years. But the funds allocated are allocated by year, so the two year budget looks a lot like two one year budgets packed into the same yellow manila envelope. Whether the legislature gets to revise the two year budget every year was not made clear.
Between the "44% budget" and the "100% budget" and the one and two year budgets there lie enormous possibilities for confusion. From now on, I will be skeptical of claims that the budget has been cut, raised, saved, spindled, stapled or mutilated. I will suspect that the advocate is comparing the two year budget with the one year budget, or the 44% budget with the 100% budget.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Obama NASA policy

Read scathing critique here. The problem is simple, after the last shuttle flight, the US has no way to get astronauts into orbit. Current fix is to pay the Russians to haul our astronauts up to the International Space Station. This is distasteful, especially as it converts the ISS into a Russian space station. So long as the Russians control access to the station, they control the station.
Technical solution is straight forward. Build a spaceship to replace the shuttle.
NASA decided to start from scratch and design a brand new rocket booster and a brand new capsule. This is the high risk expensive way to do it, but doing new designs is fun. All the NASA people, who have been pushing paper for years, jumped on the chance to do actual hardware development. Actual hardware development is much more fun than pushing paper.
Instead we should purchase the rocket boosters that have been launching commercial satellites for years and build a capsule to go on top of it. Capsules, compared to Shuttle Orbiters, are simple and reliable. A simple one piece heat shield, an air tight hull, a hatch, attitude thrusters, a parachute, and a solid fuel retro rocket.
All simple off the shelf components that could be assembled and flight tested in side a year. This is cheap and dependable, unlike the Shuttle which is expensive and dangerous. In fact Shuttle retirement is happening because NASA has finally learned how dangerous and fears the PR disaster of another Shuttle crash.
The current Obama plan is to continue the "build a new launch from scratch" plan but only give it enough money to do paper studies. This avoids having to announce the end of manned US spaceflight and having to put any money into it.

Bugs in Blogspot?

When replying to comments on this here blog, my replies get posted twice for some reason or other. Dunno how to fix it. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Open vs closed primarys

You must have read about unhappiness in Delaware by now. The Party's senatorial candidate, Mike Castle, got beat by the Tea Party candidate, Christine O'Donnell. Party people, Karl Rove, the loser himself, and other pundits have been wailing and gnashing their teeth claiming O'Donnell is unelectable and the dastardly Tea Party has thrown to Delaware Senate seat to the democrats.
I moved out of Delaware 40 years ago and haven't been back much since. So I have no clue as the the electability of anyone down there any more. But, if O'Donnell can win the primary she must be doing something right. The nay sayers respond that only Republicans can vote in the Delaware primary and O'Donnell is too something or other and the independents won't vote for her.
Up here in NH we have an open primary. Independents can vote in the primaries and we allow voters to switch party allegiance on election day and then switch it back on the way out the door of the polls.
Independents are important. They hold the balance of power. Most places have 40% registered democrats, 40% registered republicans and the rest independents. Who ever the independents go for, wins the election. With an open primary, the independents get a say in how conservative or how liberal the party candidates are. As a rule, independents are more middle of the road than party members. So allowing independents to vote in the primary has the effect of nominating more electable candidates.
With an open primary, NH republicans have nominated a field of good solid conservatives, people with name recognition amount the voters and honorable records of public service.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Primary Day

I got up yesterday at 0630. Made breakfast, fed the cat, loaded the car (signs, coffee thermos, camera) and set off for the polls. Got there as the polls opened. For poll watchers we had Russ Cumbee, holding signs for Kelly Ayotte (Republican senatorial candidate) , Kathy Taylor's husband holding a sign for Kathy (my opponent in the general election) and Marsha Graham holding signs for Anne Kuster (democratic US rep) and me holding a sign for myself (republican state Rep). All poll watchers in place and on duty long before the first voters appeared. Voting was heavy for an off year primary. Franconia had about 250 ballots cast out of 1000 registered voters. Bethlehem had about the same. The republicans had serious competition for nearly every office, so more Republicans than democrats voted.
Weather was variable, sun and showers. The showers were heavy, and cold. Holding an umbrella and two signs in a high wind takes some skill, especially if you want the umbrella to survive the experience. All concerned were thankful when the polls closed at 7PM.
Results are mixed. Republicans selected Charlie Bass for US Rep, John Stephan for governor, and the senate spot is contested between Kelly Ayotte and Ovide Lamontagne. Ovide came from absolutely nowheresville to striking distance of victory in just the last couple of weeks. Talk of recount is in the air, but nothing official, yet.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Basil boosts bank reserves

Since Great Depression 2.0 kicked off in '08 there has been a lot of talk about doing something about the banks. Looks like the international banking community is finally taking some action.
The subject is reserves, how much money must a bank hold in its vault to pay out withdrawals and cover losses. If a million dollar bank loan goes bad (borrower stops making payments) the bank ought to have a million dollars in reserves so it can stay in business, pay out withdrawals and even have a little money to do new loans with.
Notice that the Basil people cannot bring them selves to just post a level of reserves. That's too easy and people might understand what's going down. Instead they announce a complex mix of reserve levels which add up to 7% or maybe 10% depending upon the phase of the moon.
The issue is that banks hate holding money in the vault. They want to loan it all out to make more money. US banks have been holding about 4% reserves which is almost enough. All the real banks (except Citi) rode out the financial storms. The failures were all "near banks", brokerage houses (Lehman, Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch), insurance companies (AIG) and mortgage makers (Countrywide), or little banks that FDIC could pay off.
The other issue is the quality of reserves. Ideally banks would hold real cash, bundles of dollar bills, neatly wrapped, in their vault. The Basil paper seems to give some leeway here. For instance, US banks can deposit their reserves with the Federal Reserve Bank and draw a bit of interest. They can buy T-bills 'cause they are as good as cash. Things get flakey from there. European banks used hold mortgage backed securities as reserves. This killed a flock of European banks when the mortgage backed securities suddenly became worthless in 07.
The Basil document is important, 'cause banking is a mobile business. Money is light and easy to ship. Banks can easily set up to do business in the country with the most lenient banking laws. Pass a Sarbanes Oxley bill and watch all the merger and acquisition business move out of New York and over to London. So we need a world wide agreement to actually do anything effective. As opposed to national regulation that merely drives banking business of of the country.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

NHPR and the Infrastructure

There was a somewhat confused young lady on NHPR this morning emoting over the terrible state of American "infrastructure". She never defined this somewhat nebulous term, but from context I believe she was talking about roads, railroads, and airways. She was convinced that the "infrastructure" was in terrible shape and needed massive amounts of work. Well paid work naturally.
Do I believe this? I drove to DC in May and Brooklyn in August. The interstates were all open, smoothly paved, and except where construction was occurring, in great shape.
Then she moved on to rail. The country desperately needs "high speed rail", and trains are so green because they are electrically powered. Two whoppers for the price of one. We already have high speed rail running from Boston to Washington. That's the only US route where high speed rail is competitive with flying. The East coast cities are close together and the train can match airline time. Most other US city pairs are so far apart that everybody flies. The second whopper concerns the electric power bit. Actually, nearly all trains are pulled by diesel locomotives. Only on the most heavily traveled routes does it pay to install the costly overhead wire needed for electric locomotives.
For closers, she must have been exposed to the sales pitch from the "NextGen" air traffic control system vendors. She claimed that "Nextgen" would save much jet fuel from better routing of airliners.
Not so. Nextgen would enrich a number of equipment suppliers but would have little effect on air traffic. Nextgen would replace the current ground radar system with GPS. Aircraft would all carry GPS equipment and the onboard GPS would radio the plane's position to air traffic control. GPS is accurate to tens of feet where as ground radar is only accurate to a couple of miles. However the couple of mile accuracy of radar is plenty good enough to avoid mid air collisions. The greater accuracy of GPS doesn't really do anything that needs doing. It takes the same amount of fuel to cover the distance no matter how accurately air traffic control knows the position of the plane in the air.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chevrolet Caprice returns from the dead

Looks like Chevy wants to reclaim its share of the taxi/cop car market from Ford Crown Victoria. They may not be quite ready for prime time, but Chevy has a web site up to sell Caprices to cops.

Sic Transit Morning Gloria

Way back in spring, I fell for the flower seed display down at Mac's. I have a porch supported by a couple of rusty pipe columns. I bought a pack of morning glory seeds, thinking the climbing plant would cover up the rust. I planted them, watered them and nothing happened all summer. Not a morning glory to be seen.
Finally, yesterday, a pair of perfect morning glory blossoms appeared. Better late than never. This morning I took the camera down to photograph them. Arrg. They weren't blooming anymore. The two blossoms were all shriveled up and looked totally spent. Either morning glory only blooms for 24 hours, or the overnight chill (it got down to 40, but no frost) did them in.
Take home. Don't plant morning glory in Mittersill.


Basically I'm agin 'em. The word is used for two somewhat different political maneuvers. Type A earmarks are special goodies written into (or slipped into) appropriations bills at the behest of your friendly local pol. The pols think bringing home the bacon makes their constituents love them and vote for their reelection. Most pols partake of type A earmarks with the exception of crusty conservatives like John McCain.
Type B earmarks dedicate the revenue from a tax to a specific purpose. For instance gasoline tax revenue is earmarked for highway construction. The supporters of NH gambling were going to earmark the revenue from the gambling tax to the department of health & human services. The revenue from RGGI energy taxes was earmarked for energy conservation projects. The green community was outraged when the legislature diverted RGGI money to the general fund.
I believe that the legislature ought to have the freedom to spend the state's limited revenues on the most urgent requirements. The earmarked revenue gets spent on the earmarked program regardless of need.
Of course, very occasionally, a good Type A earmark comes along. Good ole Judd Gregg slipped thru an earmark that brought some federal dollars to rebuild the Litteton Opera House. The restored Opera House is a beautiful building standing upon a commanding site and Littleton just wouldn't be the same without it. So let us enjoy our good earmark while making a New Year's resolution to sin no more.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Harrisburg, PA goes broke

The city of Harrisburg failed to make a $3.29 million bond payment yesterday according to the Wall St Journal. The straw that broke the camel's back is apparently a municipal incinerator. Built in the 1970's and "retrofitted to meet code" in the uh-oh's the incinerator carries $288 million in debt. The city of Harrisburg's population is only 47,000, so each man woman and child is responsible for $6127.66 worth of incinerator debt.
They will never pay that off, so they might as well declare bankruptcy and teach investors not to fund unaffordable projects.
Let's hope our NH state and town legislators are wise enough to avoid buying white elephants like this one.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

We are getting testy

Today's mail brought TWO 8 by 10 inch postcards. One from Bill Binnie saying bad things about Kelley Ayotte and one from Kelly Ayotte saying bad things about Bill Binnie. Primary is almost here. Gotta get the slams in before the polls close...

Programming the car

New (new to me anyway) Mercury came with a couple of built in annoyances. An aggressive seat belt warning buzzer, and the automatic door locker. Although I do wear seat belts on the road, it's nice to be able to just move the car into the garage or over to the next driveway without listening to the buzzer nagging at me.
I googled for "Mercury seat belt buzzer" and sure enough, an answer came up. There is a disable procedure, it's printed in the owner's manual. The owner's manual is only 200 pages or so thick, and I need Google assistance to find anything in it. Wait til I need to lookup proper tire pressure...
Any how, the seat belt buzzer defeat only requires you to buckle and unbuckle the seat belt 9 times inside of 30 seconds. And the nasty noise goes away.
After this bit of wisdom from the owner's manual, I decided to press my luck and see what it said about disabling the auto door locker. Yes, it can be done. Press the power door unlock button three times in a row with the ignition on, and three more with the ignition off and it's gone.
Just a little programming and I have a nice polite car that doesn't bug me any more.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Repli Cars. We NEED a repli MG

Given that the worldwide car industry is clueless, they have been reviving great cars from the past. Call them replicars. We have a replica Beetle from VW, a replica '39 Plymouth from Chrysler, a replica T-bird from Ford, a replica Morris Mini from BMW, a replica Mustang from Ford, a replica Camaro from Chevy and a replica '49 Carryall from Chevy.
What the world really needs is a replica MG. MG was the car that introduced Americans to European sports cars. It was a cool little two seater, wire wheels, convertible top, four speed on the floor, in red or British Racing Green, decent gas mileage on a four banger engine.

The grass roots are rooting for candidates

North Grafton has been a hotbed of political activity this last week. There was a tea party by the Irving station in Littleton, a meet Ovide Lamontagne event in Franconia, a meet all the candidates event at the Littleton Opera House, and an all candidate lunch at the Gold House. Each event was put on by a different group of volunteers. The amount of political spirit is impressive. Attendance by busy candidates was outstanding.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Using Global Warming to raise taxes

Back a few years ago, New Hampshire joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI for short) along with the rest of New England, Quebec, Ontario, New York and Pennsylvania. RGGI put in a carbon cap and started "selling" licenses to emit CO2 to the utilities. The proceeds from the "sale" would be spent on energy efficiency improvements. I put "sale" in quotes because the utilities had no say in the matter, it was "buy 'em or we shut you down".
Back in January this year, NH budgeted $50 million dollars to "Greenhouse Gas Initiative".
Somewhere between the budget and the legislature, the $50 million from the RGGI fund was diverted to more pressing needs, namely closing the state budget gap. The legislature plead poverty.
Bottom line, the environmentalists used the global warming scare to slip in a new state tax. It was carefully camouflaged, the money comes from your electric bill, so the ill will gets directed to the electric company, rather than the politicians who slipped one over on us.
NPR did a program on this , here. If you listen to the discussion, you will note that the outrage about the diversion of RGGI funds from energy efficiency programs. None of the commenters on the program notes the job killing effects of the RGGI tax. Businesses planning a new plant ALWAYS check the local electric rates. RGGI jacks up NH electric rates and makes the state less attractive to new industry.
Perhaps a Republican state government could repeal the RGGI tax next year.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Federal deficit

Just finished watching a union economist on TV spreading dis information about deficit spending. Just to set the record straight, here is what deficit spending really does. To keep the US government checks from bouncing, the treasury sells bonds to Wall St. The buyers give Uncle dollar bills, cash, and Uncle gives the investor a treasury bill, a piece of paper promising to pay back the money in the future. To the buyer, the T-bill he receives is nearly as good as cash. He can keep it, sell it, use it to back loans. Samuelson, (my college economics text) called T-bills "near money". You can use a T-bill for nearly all the things you use money for, and so the buyer of the T-bill feels as wealthy holding the T-bill as he did when holding cash. In short, selling T-bills is just about the same as printing new dollar bills.
We don't like to print too many dollar bills because that causes inflation. For the same reason, we should not be printing so many T-bills, it causes inflation for the same reasons as printing too many dollar bills does.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The joy of driving to Brooklyn

School is starting. Youngest son is ready for his senior year. He had the car packed and ready a day in advance. Trip down was a white knuckle affair. Youngest son speeds, tailgates, and changes lanes so roughly as to set heavily loaded Subaru into scary fishtails. We were ahead of schedule until we hit the bridges of Long Island. The are working on both Throgs Neck and Whitestone bridge at the same time, so no matter which way you go you get stuck in traffic. Then Long Island is the usually traffic snarl, it took an hour to get from the bridges to Brooklyn. The State of New York is competing for the "World's worst traffic signage" award and looks like a sure winner. Sign reads "Eastern Long Island Midtown Tunnel". So which one is it? One is east the other is west, which way does this off ramp go? And they don't bother to post the toll on the bridges, you have to ask the toll taker how much, and then fumble for it. Best part of the trip, we found a parking space right in front of the apartment.
The "micro mile post" madness is taking hold in MA. They have shiny new expensive little signs calling out each 0.1 mile of progress, just like we did on I93. The sign making companies love it, but it doesn't do a thing for us motorists.