Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halliburton did it?

Botched the cement job on BP's blowout well in the Gulf. Long article in the Wall St Journal. But some things are unclear. The Journal speaks of Halliburton whipping up a new cement recipe for the BP well.
That's a little weird. We have had decent cement since Julius Caesar's time. The Pantheon in Rome with an enormous concrete dome, was built by an army buddy of Julius Caesar and is still in service today. The Romans built the harbor at Ostia with hydraulic cement that could harden underwater. You would think that a good cement recipe for oil well work had been developed years ago. Had I been the BP manager on that rig, I would have demanded that Halliburton use a well tested standard cement mix and not fiddle around with custom stuff.
The Journal also mentions that cementing oil wells is a tricky business with a high failure rate. Something like a quarter of cement jobs leak. This means that proper engineering practice is to test each and every cement job. This testing was omitted on orders from the BP manager on the site. So, that makes it BP's fault in my book.

Where is the money coming from?

The perennial political question once the subject drifts onto budget. US governments, local, state, and federal are in trouble. They are spending a good deal more than they take in via taxes. Voters are getting restless about government debt. The opposition to anything (there is ALWAYS opposition to anything) can say "Well that's a nice idea, but where is the money coming from?"
Hmm. Right now the US spends 19% of GNP on healthcare. All other countries in the world spend half of that, and citizen's health in the first world nations is as good, maybe a bit better than it is in the US. If the US cut its health care expenditures down to the level of the rest of the world, that would free up nearly 10% of GNP for other purposes.
10% of GNP is a whacking great sum. The entire Federal budget is only 24% of GNP. 10% of GNP would cut the federal deficit to zero and leave money left over. If the rest of the world can keep healthcare spending below 10% of GNP why can't we? If we did, it would free up rivers of cash to put to better purposes.
We even know some of the reasons US health care is so expensive. Malpractice suits, high drug prices, lack of competition in the insurance business. None of which was addressed by Obamacare. Much of which is a matter of state law. Malpractice suits go to state courts. Changes in state law could make it harder to win a malpractice suit. Drug prices could be reduced by purchasing drugs overseas or from Canada. Competition could be increased by a state law allowing health insurance companies from every state in the Union to sell policies in New Hampshire.
If we work at it, we can find the money in reduced health care spending.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Terror comes by UPS

A couple of packages, containing bombs, sent from Yemen, to a pair of synagogues in Chicago, have consumed more airtime than the World Series gets. From the newsie's commotion you'd think a second 9/11 was in progress.
The explosive was hidden inside toner cartridges, which are not all that big. Not big enough to knock down a building. That's enough to do a door, or put one giant scorch mark on a carpet, but nothing more.
Could these have been a diversion? Get the Americans all excited and running around about nothing, while something more lethal is going on somewhere else? Or maybe just a Halloween trick?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

138 pages "Medicare and You"

"This is the official U.S. government Medicare handbook". Came in the mail yesterday. Am I going to read 138 pages of gobbledy-gook? Probably not. Is it worth filing away just in case I develop some strange malady and need to know if it's covered? Dunno, I think I filed last year's and never touched it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wikileaks and leakers Part II

Wikileaks is right out there, making the world safe for democracy by publishing 400,000 secret US Army field reports. The reports, filed by junior officers after action, some times describe intelligence sources, name Iraqi informers and describe Iraqi Army prisoner treatment that makes the Marquis de Sade look like a pussy cat.
A treacherous US Army enlisted man is responsible for sucking all this stuff off Army computers and passing it to Wikileaks.
In the old days, 400,000 reports would be on paper and kept in GI steel safes, the kind with the user hostile combination lock. Carrying that much classified out the door without being noticed was impossible. But now we got automation, the reports are all kept on disk and anyone with a password can sweep them onto a flashdrive and be gone. So number 1 mistake was putting this stuff on computers in the first place. Windows computers are so insecure, you might as well publish the classfied on the base bulletin board as put in on disk.
Second mistake is keeping it. Back when I was serving my country, we had a January ritual. Every January we cleaned out the classified from the safe and changed the safe combination. Junior commissioned officers (like me) were required to haul the out dated classified up to the base power plant and heave it into the furnace. This was Duluth Minnesota, and the base power plant ran a huge coal furnace to heat the whole base. Any classified more than a year old I burned. And signed each one off as destroyed on our classified documents inventory.
Finally, the Army seems to have forgotten about compartmentalization. This one enlisted traitor should never have had access to that much stuff. His pass word should have been limited to just stuff from his unit, not everything in every unit over all of time.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Laptops on Airliners

Atlantic magazine has an article about the difficulty of providing 120 volt AC power at each seat to charge passenger laptops. Clearly the Atlantic people are journalism majors who have trouble changing lightbulbs. (How many J school students does it take to change a light bulb? Five, one to hold the bulb and four to rotate the stepladder.)
Allow 100 watts per laptop charger on a 200 seat aircraft and you have 20,000 watts, about what five electric kitchen ranges take. It's a respectable amount of power but nothing that the jet engines cannot provide. The engine drives an AC alternator thru a power takeoff shaft. In fact airliners since the DC-6 (and maybe earlier) have 115 volt AC alternators, one on each engine. There is plenty of power available to drive the alternator. A 20 Kilowatt alternator only needs 26 horsepower to turn it and jet engines furnish thousands of horsepower.
In fact, it's only a matter of wiring up each seat. All jetliners currently generate 120 Volt AC power at 400 cycles per second (hertz). 60 cycle electrical equipment works just fine on 400 cycle power. We used to operate delicate electronic test equipment out on the flight line off 400 cycle power. Worked fine and lasts a long time.
So, all that is required to bring laptop charging outlets to all the passengers in coach is will on the part of the airlines. Doing it right would be to have Boeing and Airbus do an engineering change order (ECO) to fit a passenger charger alternator into a couple of engine nacelles and do a cabin wiring diagram. An ECO of this nature would have to be reviewed by FAA for safety and and that takes time, but it's doable. Installation would take the plane out of revenue service for three or four days. Not cheap.
Cheaper for a small outfit like Virgin Atlantic, would be to just wire the cabin, and either install an inverter to convert aircraft power to 60 cycle AC or just run 400 cycle aircraft power to the seats. Cabin wiring can be customized by each airline and changes, like laptop charger circuits, probably do not require FAA approval. That's the low cost way to go.
As soon as one airline decides that offering laptop charger plugs will bring in business, they will put 'em in. As long as the airlines think the passengers don't care all that much, they won't. It's a matter of economics, not technology.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

NPR does bait and switch

Listening to the clock radio this morning, NPR did a piece that started out wishing for scientist's who can make science clear to non-scientists. That's good. We used to have people like Willy Ley and Jerry Pournelle and Isaac Asimov who were superb science writers. They have not been replaced and I miss them.
Just as I was getting with the program, the interviewer changed the subject to global warming. And right off the top of his head, the interviewee said the Hadley Climate Research Unit (CRU) people should have counter attacked the great document leak, and called it theft, copyright infringment and mopery and dopery.
Wow. big switch from explaining how the science works, to tactics for winning a political argument.
Hadley CRU was a British center of global warming. Somehow a vast internal collection of emails, memos, computer programs, and data files from CRU appeared on the Internet last October. The emails and memos concerned discrediting other climate scientists, and the computer program code had places that fudged the data to create warming graphs no matter what the data was. Every technical person who read thru this stuff became convinced that Hadley CRU was all propaganda and no science.
NPR a year later is explaining how to wish the great document leak away. In my book that is NOT explaining the science to the laymen. That's selling a political point of view.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Picking your college major

University of Texas is the subject of this article on the cost-benefit ratio of various majors. The spreadsheet shows the tuition money brought in vs the salaries of the professors for a variety of majors. Chemistry comes out on top, with history and English running very respectable seconds. Three trendy hard science majors, oceanography, physics&astromony, and aerospace engineering actually loose money for UT, faculty salaries and expenses exceed tuition income.
Very interesting. How does chemistry, with twice the class room/laboratory time, expensive labs, lab assistants, glassware, plumbing and whatever, pull in more money than easier-to-teach history and English. Easier-to-teach means just an ordinary classroom with a blackboard is required, no pricey labs. Clearly the chemistry department is onto something that the other departments ought to copy.
And what of the money loosing departments? Is it just lack of students or too many faculty members, or expensive field trips and facilities? The tuition numbers seem reasonable for these departments which ought to mean decent enrollment.
This article gives hope that decent education can be done for less money.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams Part 2

I saw Juan on O'Reilly Factor last night. It was clear that the firing had upset him. Firing is like that, it's upsetting. O'Reilly made a serious effort to cheer Juan up, speaking of good things that will happen, books he will write, positive stuff intended to make him feel better.
Strong contrast to the lady reporter from the Washington Post who, just a few minutes earlier on Bret Baer's show, coldly said that if Juan had kept his mouth shut he would still be at NPR.
The conservative reporters are showing a lot more sympathy and support for a fellow reporter than the liberal ones are.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Heresy, penalty therefore

NPR just fired Juan Williams. Williams apparently sinned against the doctrine of NPR when he expressed reservations about flying on a plane with Muslim passengers in traditional garb. Plus probably a few other things, I didn't pay close attention to details of the heresy charges.
Wow. NPR is running a very tight ideological discipline these days. Juan was a good solid liberal/progressive. He used his airtime on Fox to good advantage for the liberal cause. I thought he was a nice guy, liberal but not misguided. I didn't agree with him all that often, but that's what freedom of the press is all about.
In the showdown between NPR and Juan, I'm on Juan's side.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Trouble brewing for banks

Remember all those "mortgage backed securities" that triggered off Great Depression 2.0? Well, now the suckers are lawyering up to get their money back. This might mean a $40 billion hit on the banks.
Theory is, say the suckers, the banks selling the mortgage backed securities didn't do their paperwork right. For proof they say, look at the foreclosure mess where the banks don't have the paperwork to prove that they own the mortgages that are defaulting.
Naturally, nothing will happen until lawsuits are filed and get to court, which will take years, but should the banks loose in court it will cost them.

How the mighty have fallen.

Apple posted a profit of $4.31 billion, acing out IBM's measly $3.59 billion. Time was IBM was the bluest of blue chips, the computer maker, so big that the US Justice department tried to break them up. And now, Apple, maker of Mackintoshes and nifty consumer gadgets, makes more money and has a higher market capitalization than mighty IBM.
Apple is run by a new products man, Steve Jobs, rather than a lawyer or a bean counter like GM. This might has something to do with their success.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Snow

We had flurries on the mountains. Summit of Cannon and Lafayette are white. Just the summits, the ski trails on Cannon turn green at the bottom of the summit chairlift and stay green down to the parking lots in the valley.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the press oughta mean the right to print anything, especially political thoughts. Then we got campaign finance laws. Now we have democrats crying unfair when Republican political groups run anti democrat/pro republican ads. It must mean something when the democrats complain about Republican political ads, rather than explaining to the electorate why it should vote democratic.
The democrats are crying that everyone who runs a political ad should make public their name, address, email and phone number. Democrats don't acknowledge that many people are reluctant to furnish their contact information for fear of avalanches of junk mail, spam, and telemarketing. To say nothing of the fear of retaliation. To me, freedom of the press means freedom to print whatever, nothing about having to make yourself vulnerable.
Kinda like secret ballot. We cherish secret ballot so that voters can vote their conscience without fear of retaliation. Same works for running ads, you oughta be able to print what you like, without fear of retaliation.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reviving Lincoln Part 3

Just noticed a Lincoln ad on TV the other day. It claims the new hybrid Lincoln will do 41 mpg. It was one of those arty ads, all in black and white. Showed a digital gauge indicating 41 mpg. Some voice over. No good picture of the car, no discussion of range or price or cushiness.
Question. Do people with the bread to buy a Lincoln really care about gas mileage? If you want to make a statement about how green you are, why not buy a Prius?
So this morning, a Lincoln ad popped up on one of my favorite blogs. Clicking on it got me a picture of the car, the typical rounded over melted down jelly bean sedan with a corny chrome grill. Best I could say about the styling was "inoffensive". Some clicking got a video Lincoln ad. A young couple sitting in the car, talking it up, as they drove it. No discussion of battery size and life. I don't think this is a plug in hybrid although the web ad was unclear on this. The car name is "Lincoln MKZ Hybrid" which is something of a mouthful. Apparently there is also a plain "Lincoln MKZ" without the hybrid drive.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Coothing up the Minivan

The Wall St Journal has a favorable review of the Honda Odyssey minivan. The reviewer waxes eloquent about the great family values in minivans. He trashes the styling, which is something of a stretch. The pictured minivan looks like all minivans look, abet with a more agressive grill and slanty headlights than most. Then he talks about avoiding "minivan embarrassment" and opines that chicks like guys who drive minivans 'cause it makes the guy look like he is into child raising. Especially if the minivan is full of kids.
The Odyssey must be a fine machine. Sticker price is $44030. Comes with a four valve per cylinder 248 hp V6 and a six speed auto trans.
Consider that a Caddy DTV has a sticker price of $43k and 275 hp V8. That's one pricey upscale minivan.
Back when my children were smaller, I had Dodge Voyageurs. The cost $12K new and came with a 100 hp 4 banger and a five speed manual. They would not win at the stop light grand prix, but as a married man with children on board I was supposed to be above such things. They had double the power of the classic VW microbus and would maintain highway speed all day, unlike the VW's which needed a foot flat to the floor to maintain 65 mph and tended to blow their engines after 45K miles of such driving.
The Voyageurs made fine family cars, each child got his/her very own seat which takes much of the curse off long car trips with small children. They were great for carpooling kids to school, ski trips, going to the lumber yard and bringing furniture home from the auction. We liked them well enough to buy and wear out three of them. Good thing they didn't cost $44K each.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chevy Voltage gets short circuited at NewsWeek

This "mechanical link" business on the Volt got mentioned in yesterday's Wall St Journal and on NewsWeek. Only trouble, the NewsWeek guy is fairly clueless and doesn't understand that "direct mechanical link" is a bulky, breakable and pricey transmission.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Denouncing Freedon of the Press

Freedom of the press really means the freedom to run ads to get your candidates elected. This morning NH PR was complaining about Republican ads running on newspapers and TV. It's terrible they say, the people running the ads are not filling out the federal election forms properly. Boxes on the forms are sometimes left blank. The republic will fall if the forms aren't completely filled out.
Then they claimed the donors of of money to run the ads should be required to release full contact information (name, address, phone, email). Jeez. I don't let that kind of stuff show on my personal Face book page, lest I be swamped with junk mail, telemarketers and spam.
But NHPR wants anyone who makes a political contribution be forced to reveal their contact information, and those who don't are enemies of the republic.

Rain on a parade, the NHPR way

Was listening to NH Public Radio this morning wailing about the Berlin wood fired ("biomass") power plant project. According to NHPR the entire project is suspect or even a boondoggle because the 200 plant jobs mentioned in the project proposal are not "certified". What ever that may mean.
The project was estimated at $100 million or so. That sounds like a God send to any place in Coos county, or Grafton County, be the jobs "certified" or merely estimated. NH PR did some additional wailing because the plant might ship wood in from a distance. They felt the plant should be contractually prohibited from buying wood from more that 20 miles away. Sounds like a call for interstate tariffs to me.
Dunno why NH PR has turned upon a wood fired project. It's renewable energy, and green to boot. It's a whole bunch cleaner than paper mills which use nasty chemicals in tank car lots. It offers a wood buyer to support all the loggers who used to serve the paper mills and who are now unemployed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

HIgh Voltage, Chevy Voltage that is.

The auto bloggers are all worked up over GM's announcement that the Volt will have a mechanical drive from engine to wheels to keep the car going after the battery runs down.
Initial GM announcements claimed the Volt would be built in the obvious way. Electric motors to run the wheels, battery to funish juice, and the engine would turn an electric generator to recharge the battery when needed. You get dual power sources (engine and battery) and you don't need a transmission.
Transmissions are big, heavy, pricey, and breakable. You need a tranny (or a clutch) to allow the engine to keep running at speed when the car is stopped at a light. The tranny also changes the gear ratio to keep the engine running at a safe and economical speed as the car speed goes from city traffic crawl to Interstate cruising speed. Trannies are expensive. Those automatic transmission shops will ask for a couple of Kbucks should you visit them with an ailing tranny. The tranny is the second must expensive part of a new car, after the engine. So the straight electric drive design has some real engineering advantages, plus a certain elegance that will appeal to any real engineer.
According to the autoblogs, Chevy has committed sacrilege against something by installing a mechanical "link" between the engine and the wheels. Me, I wouldn't know. I'm not in the market for an electric, but if I was, I'd be really interested in the battery range. Last I heard, Volt was supposed to be able to do 40 miles on battery alone. That means if I live within 20 miles of work (many of us do) then I can commute without using any gas. Charge the car at home, drive 20 miles to work, drive 20 miles home, and then plug her in again. As long as that works, I'm happy with the car. Unless the "mechanical link" prevents battery only operation, I don't have a problem with it.
But the autobloggers are up in arms about it. Not sure why.

Modern Phone Banking

We did a phone bank last night. We had a grocery bag full of cell phones, neatly printed lists of numbers to call, large coffees and donut holes from McD's, and some volunteers.
If answering machines could vote, we would win the election. We reached three answering machines for every live voter. Compared to two years ago, phone numbers have deteriorated. A lot more "This number is no longer in service". Could this represent a migration away from land lines toward cell phones? We are in Fairpoint Communications country up here. Fairpoint is in bankrupcy and service is going down hill.
And, the voters are dialed out. Two years ago, doing the same kind of phone banking, most voters were pleased to get a call from the party. Made them feel wanted. Not this year. Every voter I reached was fed up to here with phone calls. I could relate, I have answered a whole bunch of calls this year that I would just as soon not have answered. But, two years ago the voters were receptive to a phone call from the party. The year they are not. Could it be that the phone salesmen have worn out people's welcome?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Banks mess up again

You must have heard that the big banks are putting a moratorium on foreclosures. They didn't do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They are doing it because they fear their records are so shabby that they will loose in court.
Taking a man's house is a serious business, and a decent court will demand more evidence than just a bank computer ticket saying the mortgage is in arrears. For openers the court demands that a responsible bank official review the paperwork and sign to attest it's accuracy. That's an antifraud measure. The responsible officials know that the judge will hang them if the paperwork is false, forged, altered, or missing. Sounds like the responsible bank officials, fearing to put their names on the line, found some gullible junior employee and had him/her sign the forms, thousands of them.
Now that the judges are wised up, the banks know that the paperwork won't fly. Next, comes some other issues. The bank needs to produce the original paper mortgage with the borrowers notarized signature. Can they do this? Or did they microfilm the mortgage and discard the original to save space? Like they do with my canceled checks. Did they sell the mortgage to Fannie or Freddie or GMAC or Merrill Lynch to turn into mortgage backed securities? What happened to the original during the sale? Can the bank prove to the court that they still own the mortgage after so many were sold?
What brought the mortgage paperwork issue to light at this inconvenient time? Could it be that bank record keeping has been shabby for years and the courts were accepting the shabby paperwork. And now that foreclosures are peaking one scrappy homeowner cried out "The emperor has no clothes"? And sure enough, once someone points out the problem, it is a problem.
So, give the banks one black mark for sloppy record keeping. Give them a second black mark for not having the brains to cut a deal with the homeowners. Foreclosure sales only recover a half of the loan value. Guy defaults on a $200K mortage, the bank will be lucky to recover $100K selling the house. If the banks had any brains, they would have cut a deal with the homeowner, drop his mortgage 25% and let him keep the house. That way the bank only looses 25%. Go to foreclosure and the bank looses 50%. What would an intelligent bank do?
How smart does one have to be to become a banker?

The Nanny State marches on

On Fox TV news I learned that Congress is working on a federal law to ban texting while driving. I will agree that texting behind the wheel is dangerous and should not be done.
But do we need a law prohibiting a stupid practice? Surely some public information ads will do just as well. (This is your cell phone, this is your cell phone on drugs)
Proving the crime of texting while driving is gonna be next to impossible. The driver will simply deny it, and then it's his word against the cop's word. Traffic laws are enforced by state and local cops. Should they be enforcing a federal law? If the voters feel so strongly about this issue will they not pass state laws banning the practice? Massachusetts and New Hampshire have already done so.
Finally, why the concentration on texting? I've had a couple of hairy moments when youngest son tunes his Ipod while under way.

Then to add insult to injury, I hear the EPA is planning on raising efficiency standards for household appliances (water heaters , air conditioners, washing machines and the like). The "improved" appliances will be pricy, as much as $900 extra for a small reduction in power consumption. How to lower the standard of living, make stuff more expensive. Reducing power consumption means adding insulation, making the heat exchangers bigger, making wires thicker, all of which raises the cost. I think homeowners are better fitted to make cost benefit tradeoffs than EPA bureaucrats.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reviving Lincoln Part 2

Ford is still talking about it. They claim to have funding for seven new Lincoln models over the next few years. Now they are talking about culling the Lincoln dealerships. Ford has something like 1200 Lincoln-Mercury dealers, whereas Lexus and Ifiniti sell more cars from dealer bases of about 200.
Of course, this desire to cull out the dealerships says that excess dealers cost Ford money. Normally companies like a solid distribution network. More dealers is better because it insures that even customers in remote locations can find a dealer. So the extra dealers must cost Ford money to keep them in operation.
Dealers are supposed to be semi independent businesses, making money as middle men. Ford should not be subsidizing them. Rather than culling extra dealers, Ford ought to consider changing the dealer arrangement so that the dealers pay their own way. That way the hopeless dealers will just go out of business, leaving the efficient dealers to service customers.

Retraining is the solution to unemployment?

Some people think you can retrain anyone to anything. I heard a pundit on Fox claim that construction workers (currently highly unemployed due to the construction slump) could be retrained as programmers for Google.
Right. Guys that do construction do it cause they like working out of doors in the sunlight and fresh air. They like working with their hands and doing heavy lifting. They like seeing something real, that they can touch, take shape under their hands.
Put a guy like that in a cubical, facing a PC monitor, and ask him to debug some ugly C++ code and it just ain't gonna work. It will drive the construction guy crazy. This just isn't what he considers work. It isn't a matter of training or intelligence, it's a matter of liking the stuff. No way is a real construction guy going to be happy turned into a code geek.
There are plenty of things construction guys might consider other than working construction. Mining, logging, truck driving, railroading, airline work, heavy equipment operation, shipping, plumbing, HVAC, and lineman (power or telephone) come immediately to mind. But forget programming, selling, and jockeying paperwork.

Friday, October 8, 2010

No fingerprints says Aviation Week

Stuxnet is a large and powerful bit of malware that someone unleashed on the Iranians. The Iranian victims accuse Israel. Israel and everyone else denies having anything to do with it. Stuxnet may be slowing down/crippling/destroying the Iranian A-bomb program. The Iranians claim the harm is minor, nobody else is talking at all.
Stuxnet is designed to target Siemens built industrial control systems which the Iranians use in their A-bomb program. Mahmud Liai, an official if Iran's industries and mines ministry says 30,000 systems have been infected. Since Stuxnet hasn't appeared over here (yet) it may be programmed to favor Iran over other countries.
How destructive could Stuxnet be? Very destructive. It could destroy the infected computer by overwriting the boot PROM. Once overwritten the computer won't start until the prom is removed and replaced from the motherboard. The proms are surface mount parts and replacing them is a tough job for even the best of technicians. It could break the machinery under its control. In a US test called "Aurora" malware caused a $1 million electrical generator to shake itself to pieces by flipping circuit breakers rapidly on and off.
How to defend against malware like Stuxnet? Simple. Don't use Windows computers anywhere near an important system. Stuxnet spreads by USB port. When a flash drive is inserted in a Windows system USB port, Windows helpfully loads and executes code on the flash drive.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Thou shalt not speak ill of the dead

At funerals, it is appropriate to express condolences, grief, and to eulogize the dear departed. Anything else (political demonstrations) is unbearably painful to the bereaved family. All families are entitled to a dignified funeral for their loved ones. Especially so are the families of servicemen who died for my country.
The case of the Snyder family and the "Westboro Baptist Church" just went before the supreme court. The Snyders were conducting a funeral for their son, a marine killed in action in Iraq. The "Westboro Baptist Church" conducted a hateful political demonstration at the funeral.
Much of the Supreme court argument centered around the right (or lack of right) of the "Westboro Baptist Church" to express hateful opinions. This is wrong. The real issue is the right of the Snyders to conduct a funeral for their son free of hateful and improper political demonstrations. The "Westboro Baptist Church" is perfectly free to express their opinions, just so long as they don't do it at funerals. There are plenty of other times and places where they can speak as freely as they please.
America prides itself on being a land of law. American law must provide families the right to bury their dead in peace.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Reviving Lincoln

Once upon a time Lincoln had as much status as Caddy. Lincoln used to furnish presidential limo's, at least in Democratic administrations.
Used to be the proper noun "Lincoln" meant a luxury sedan sold by dedicated Lincoln dealers. Now "Lincoln" denotes a merely plusher level of interior trim on Ford cars.
Ford Motor company, hoping to make a bit more money, announced that it would "revive" the Lincoln brand. For car companies, luxury cars are profit sources. They can be sold for twice the price of ordinary cars but they cost little more to make than ordinary cars. Instant profit margin. The current Lincoln lineup is merely Fords with a Lincoln badge affixed to them, the public recognizes this, and hence Lincoln doesn't sell very well, or for very much, and the resale value sucks. Most people won't pay luxury car prices for a Ford with just a badge on the trunklid and a different grill.
Assuming Ford actually puts up the cash to design a new Lincoln, one wonders what they will make. They could stick with the 6 passenger American sedan. It may be a geezer mobile, but there are a lot of geezers out there and they tend to have money. If they did some design work to gain more trunk space for taking kids to camp and to college, they might really have something. Say arrange for the rear seat backs to fold down and extend the trunk right up to the front seatbacks.
Or they could switch to making Mercedes/BMW type Euro sedans. Caddy is working on this. They are having customer perception troubles. When the customer thinks of "Caddy" he thinks of a full sized sedan and has trouble seeing the compact Caddys as real Caddys, especially the six cylinder ones.
Or they could do a luxury SUV. For a while Hummer made money for GM, but the gas price spike killed it and GM sold it to the Chinese. But it might be possible to build a less thirsty SUV, say 25 mpg and sell it. The SUV is popular with married folks cause it holds all the children, will carry plywood home from the lumber yard and furniture home from the auction. On the down side, married with children families tend to be a little cash strapped and buy the low end brand to save money

Monday, October 4, 2010

NH 2nd District Democratic Platform (Kuster)

In the 2nd District we have Anne Kuster (d) going up against Charlie Bass (r). Here is Kuster's platform, take from her campaign website ( Here are a lot of reasons to vote for Charlie Bass.

Kuster wants to build a new Veteran’s hospital in NH.

Kuster wants to eliminate capital gains taxes on small businesses. This is a disguised tax hike. Income that doesn’t qualify as capital gains gets taxed at the higher ordinary income rate. Just what we need to get out of Great Depression 2.0

Kuster wants to spend more tax money on “clean energy”. She doesn’t define “clean” so let us guess she means wind and solar. That means she is in favor of electric power that fails when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing. When the power goes off my furnace goes off and my pipes freeze. How about yours?

Kuster wants to raise taxes on corporations. She calls this “closing tax loopholes”. Just what we need to get out of Great Depression 2.0

Kuster wants to raise tariffs on imports. She calls this “fair trade” or “proper currency valuation”.

She thinks Great Depression 2.0 was caused by the repeal of the 1930’s era Glass Steagell act. Actually it was caused by government sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac doing too many junk mortgages with taxpayer money.

Kuster wants to limit executive pay. Well, I would too, but do you want to grant the federal government the power to set wages? First they come for the bank executives, and then they come for the rest of us. Pretty soon everybody’s pay is set by Washington. They used set everyone’s pay in Moscow in the old Soviet Union.

She opposes the war in Iraq and Afghanistan

She supports Obamacare. She claims it will cut the deficit by $130 billion over 10 years. She wants to expand Obamacare by having the government offer its own insurance directly to consumers. And Obamacare should be expanded to cover abortion services.

Pro choice. Enthusiastically so. Has won awards from pro choice organizations

She is in favor of raising taxes on all incomes over $250,000. You and I might not be up there today, but inflation will push everyone into that tax bracket in a few years.

Kuster is a global warmer and will tax our furnace oil and gasoline in the belief that she is saving the world from warming. She wants to tax oil and gas companies harder.

Kuster is anti nuclear power.

Kuster favors a “path to citizenship” aka amnesty in immigration. And getting tougher on businesses about checking immigration status of their employees.

Kuster supports Affirmation Action, LGBT equality, gender equality. She opposes Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Kuster supports Net Neutrality. She isn’t too clear on what that is, but she is in favor of it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Druids draw level with the Church of England

In England of course. A whole lot of stiff upper lips must have quivered about this one.

Gubernatorial Debates

John Stephans (r) and John Lynch (D) debated on NH Public Radio Friday morning. When asked about the FRM scam, where apparently three different state agencies had some kind of jurisdiction, both candidates said "I will increase coordination between state agencies"
Wrong answer. Assign ONE state agency to handle FRM type scams and pillory them unmercifully if they fail to prevent scamming. For this scam, since three agencies were responsible, hang all three agencies.
The only way to keep regulators working hard is a good healthy fear of loss of job, loss of pension, and loss of cushy benefits package if they sluff off on the job.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Church goers are Republican?

Heard a man on NH PR just this morning claiming that church goers are all Republicans. Funny, the congregation at every church I ever belonged to was/is resoundingly liberal and votes Democratic.
I wonder where this guy goes to church.

NH State employment

Just a few numbers from Charlie Arlinghaus's talk last week. The state of New Hampshire has approx 12000 people on the payroll. That's one state worker for every 108 New Hampshire citizens. Not outrageous I suppose, but then I don't use many state services. I drive on state maintained roads and I buy liquor. Does it take one state worker to maintain the roads and sell the booze to 108 of us citizens?
State workers make an average of $48000 a year. That's just pay, benefits are $250 million more, or about $20,000 per worker. So each worker costs us citizens $68000 of tax money.
Overall the state payroll runs $900 million a year. So even with a ruthless purge of state workers, we won't be able to close the $800 million budget gap that will be upon us next year.