Friday, April 29, 2011

Leadership of the Anglosphere does a marriage

Weather in London was fine, William and Kate got married with all the pomp and ceremony that the British could arrange, and that's a lot of pomp and ceremony. A helova good show, enjoyed by multitudes. Why do we care?
The British monarchy is the ceremonial leadership of the entire Anglosphere, England, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, even India. This is the alliance that won WWII, and has called the shots world wide ever since. The British royals are widely respected, loved, and serve as a focus for loyalty and patriotism thruout the Anglosphere. They have been particularly effective in North America, cementing the loyalty and support of the obstreperous Americans to the larger missions of the Anglosphere.
The Brits may gripe about the cost of running the monarchy, but that's short sighted of them. For less than the cost of operating a single aircraft carrier or army division, they receive unparalleled support. Ask the Argentinians about that.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Right to Work in NH

House Speaker Bill O'Brien on the Neil Cavuto show, here. O'Brien is saying the right to work law passed House and Senate with veto proof margins. The guv'nor has promised to veto it, but O'Brien thinks the legislature can over ride his veto.
Funny, the Speaker never mentions the real reason to pass right to work. We need right to work because most corporations won't open new plants in states that don't have right to work. New Hampshire needs new plants to provide jobs for our out-of-work citizens. Too much of the New Hampshire economy is tourism, which doesn't pay much even if it is scenic and green. Just one good factory would do a lot of good things in a place like up country New Hampshire.

Dodd-Frank Financial Regulation Law

It doesn't regulate Wall St, it regulates anything that Dodd or Frank wanted to regulate. Buried in the 2000 pages is a requirement for US companies to report to the SEC yearly if they use tantalum, tin, tungsten, or gold from the Congo or nine neighboring countries.
Tantalum is needed to make high performance capacitors. Used to be only military electronics could afford tantalum oxide capacitors, while civilian electronics had to make do with aluminum oxide capacitors, but now tantalum is cheap enough for civilian use. Tungsten makes lamp filaments and tungsten carbide teeth to tip saw blades. Tin and gold have been valuable since Phoenician times.
Apparently Dodd or Frank slipped this goody into the financial regulation bill in order to cut off sales by Congo rebels. In actual fact it's cutting off sales from all of Africa. It also requires every company in the supply chain to do mountains of extra paper work, raising costs for all of us.
First I ever heard of it was yesterday's Wall St Journal. Apparently Dodd and Frank knew that a straight "apply-economic-sanctions-to-the-Congo" bill would never pass Congress, so they hid it deep inside their pet financial regulation bill.
Another good reason to never pass any bill too long to read.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spring at last.

I opened the windows, sat on the deck, and put up the deck umbrella. First time this year.

Tax break for the oil industry?

Obama was on TV complaining about tax breaks for the oil industry. He wants to stop them, and spend the money (some $4 billion Obama says) on alternate energy. I have a question for Mr. Obama. Just what are these oil industry tax breaks? According to the web, the famous oil depletion allowance was eliminated for large corporations in 1975. So just what is this tax break, and why is it only $4 billion dollars. Seems like chump change for a trillion dollar industry.
And lastly, if such a tax break exists, and we end it, we don't want to spend the savings on boondoggles, in fact we don't want to spend it at all, we want to use it to reduce federal borrowing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Do you like austerity as an idea?

The TV newsies (even the Fox ones) have been bloviating that Americans don't want austerity measures to balance the federal budget. This article suggests that the pollsters are asking the wrong questions and the newsies are repeating the wrong answers.
Balancing the budget is selecting the best of several unpleasant alternatives. Nobody likes tax hikes or spending cuts. When the pollster asks "Do you approve of this unpleasant alternative" the answer is always NO. Of course, nobody approves of unpleasant choices. I don't, and you don't.
The correct question to ask is "Do you prefer this unpleasant choice over that unpleasant choice." When presented with these kinds of questions, a goodly sample of Americans choose to reduce Medicare and Medicaid spending, raise the eligibility age for social security and bump up the limits of the FICA tax. Taken together the measures produce (on paper at least) a balanced budget. In one year.
This article suggests the Federal budget problem in Washington is the product of small bore politicians who aren't trying to get the budget balanced. Instead they are all trying to win the 2012 election, by bashing their opponents over the budget.

Sharpe , Richard.

Sharpe, played by Sean Bean, is a British officer leading riflemen in the Napoleonic Wars. Sharpe is dashing, handsome, an effective combat leader, the man Wellington selects for especially difficult missions. He has a beautiful mistress, later his wife, who is also a leader of Spanish guerrillas. She is shot in action, and dies in Sharpe's arms in the fourth episode. The villains are villainous, and get their just deserts. The costumes are great, the redcoats are bright red, the riflemen wear dark green with lots of buttons, the ladies dresses are wide and floor sweeping. Sean Bean has a much better role here than he did as Boromir in Peter Jackson's Fellowship of the Ring.
Some British company did 14 episodes of Sharpe as a TV miniseries and Netflix has them all. The series is based upon a series of historical novels by Bernard Cornwall, and in my humble opinion the TV series does the books full justice. If you liked the Captain Hornblower mini series you will like this one. Good fun and good theatre.

Monday, April 25, 2011

NH State pension "reform". SB3

This bill isn't going to help us taxpayers much. First off it allows spiking. Pension is determined NOT by base pay, but by base pay PLUS overtime, sick pay, vacation and holiday pay, cost of living bonus, non-cash payments such as room and board, and some other stuff. That's right at the beginning, RSA 100-A:1, XVII. Employees work a lot of over time, and cash in all their accrued pay right before retirement to boost their pensions. Pensions ought to be on base pay ONLY.

It permits pension benefits of 100% of base pay. (RSA 100-A:6 a). That is twice what it ought to be. Pensions ought to half pay. If the pension pays as much as base pay, why not retire now?

It permits pensions be paid to employees with as little as three years of service!! (RAS 100-A:XVIII 1).

The pension department says this bill isn't going to save any money. This is a "note" toward the end.

The whole bill is too long, and has too much opaque verbiage in it. There has gotta be some expensive benefits hidden in the lawyerese. We shouldn't pass bills that cannot be understood.

Resaw, or why you need a bandsaw

Should you need wood thinner than the standard 3/4 inch (softwood) or 1 inch (hardwood) you are pretty much up the creek without a paddle. Thinner stock either isn't available at all, or it's special order.
Plenty of projects call for thinner stock. In my case I needed 1/4 inch pine for the model railroad and 3/8 inch walnut for a set of DVD holding boxes.

Click on the image to see the whole thing. I can't seem to make blogger size the picture to the page.

A bandsaw will resaw thick stock into thinner stock. You can cut a 3/4 inch thick board into three 1/4 inch thick slices, or two 3/8 inch slices. A low end 12 inch Craftsman bandsaw is big enough to do a lot of resawing. You don't need a big fancy DoAll saw (like a friend of mine has), a plain jane low end bandsaw off Craigslist will do the job.
I resaw with a home made fence to keep the board vertical. The fence is nothing more than a couple of pieces of plywood, fastened together in a right angle, and secured to the band saw table with C-clamps.

I use a square to make sure the fence is at right angles to the table and the table is at right angles to the blade. I use the widest blade the saw will accept (1/2 Inch in my case, with coarse teeth and big gullets between teeth with room to hold the sawdust created on a deep cut.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Obama can too bring gasoline prices down

All Obama need do is issue 50 or 100 permits for deep water drilling in the Gulf. Do it on TV, show stacks of paperwork, big "Approved" stamps all over them. Hand the paperwork over to some oil drillers, who then stagger out the door under the load of hundreds of pounds of paperwork.
Then expedite permits to drill in the Arctic ocean.
Then declare "Alaska National Wildlife Refuge" (ANWR, darling of the greenies) open for drilling. Explain that oil wells on frozen tundra don't harm caribou. Then open up the Atlantic and Pacific coasts for offshore oil exploration. Auction off leases to exploit shale oil in Colorado.
Do all of these things before the 2012 election. Watch the price of crude drop back to $50 a barrel. Price of crude will start going down within a week. Doesn't matter that it will be years before any of this comes on line. The crude market is a futures market, the price today is set by what the market thinks the price tomorrow will be.
When the MSM or the Administration says nothing can be done about gasoline prices, they are not telling the truth.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Economist knows all about California

The Economist is a weekly news magazine from England. Unlike Time and Newsweek, the Economist still does real news mixed with a bit of liberal editorializing. This week they focus on the woes of California. Initiative, referendum, and recall, 19th century reforms, are 21st century disasters according to the Economist. "Too much democracy is bad." They go on to explain that initiative laws cannot be changed by the legislature and once passed, they live forever. Initiative proposition 13, the Howard Jarvis tax cap from the '70's is dissected in detail. Prop 13 put a 2% per year limit on real estate tax increases. This so impoverished municipal governments that Jerry Brown (governor back then) stepped in and offered state funds to the municipal governments to keep their payrolls intact. This had the effect of centralizing all budget decisions in Sacramento.
And that, in a British nutshell, is how California became a basket case. It's all because of initiative petitions.
That's a turn around from the American history they taught back when I went to school. In those days, initiative, referendum and recall were presented as true reforms of corrupt state governments and saviors of democracy.
There has to be more too it than that. Clearly the forces in favor of spending overwhelmed the forces of low taxes in California. The Economist says little about who the forces were (are), how numerous each side is, and what the crucial battles were, and how the forces of tax restraint lost them, or perhaps never even came out to fight. Despite being journalists themselves, the Economist says nothing about the role of the California media in informing the voters. They don't talk about the Gray Davis recall and the Governator. And why Arnold was unable to get the legislature to cut spending, or even pass a budget. Nor do they talk about the great California electric price controls and electric deregulation, which so reduced capacity as to cause rolling blackouts. Nor the greenies who obtained a law that makes virtually everything "known to cause cancer by the government of California." They never mention the name of Victor Davis Hanson, noted CA resident, author and blogger.
Bottom line. The Economist bloviates just as much as the rest of the MSM.

Predators over Libya

My question is, why drones? Why not manned aircraft? Unmanned drones are expensive and are intended for missions too dangerous to risk pilots on. Is Libyan airspace that dangerous? It's a no-fly zone, which means anything the radar sees taking off gets a fighter vectored onto it, and it's dead. That leaves SAM. Is the SAM problem that bad in Libya?
The drone pilot's vision is restricted to a TV set. I maintain a pilot in the cockpit, with binoculars, has a better chance of spotting targets, and aiming weapons accurately than a drone operator half a world away, sitting in an air conditioned trailer in Nevada.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tax Reform, Federal Income Tax that is. Pt II

I used to think a flat tax, no deductions, no exemptions, no credits, no nothing, with a rate cut, would bring in enough revenue to run the country. Now I'm not so sure.
Federal expenditures were 17% of GNP from the end of WWII to Obama. So, it would seem reasonable to make a tax rate of 17% and that would pay the bills. No tax hike.
I looked at the federal rates from 2010. They start at 10% and work up to 33% at $370,000 per year. They don't hit 17% until you hit $50,000 (single) and $100,000 (married). That's after deductions, exemptions, credits and what have you ("stuff"). We need 17% to maintain the government at the pre Obama level. It looks to me like we need more than the current rates to furnish 17% of GNP to keep the government in money. If we drop all the "stuff" we probably cannot cut the rates much and still furnish government revenue of 17% of GNP.
Even with really solid spending cuts, the Feds are gonna be short of revenue.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

BP is going to sue over the Gulf oil spill

That's right, BP is going to sue the maker of the blowout preventer that failed to prevent, and the owner of the drill rig.
Actually, the BP man on the drill rig bears great responsibility for the blowout. He ordered skipping three leak tests of the cement job, any one of which would have showed the cement job had failed and was leaking high pressure natural gas up the well. Then they pumped out the heavy drilling mud and the well blew. This individual has never testified and in fact, left the US to avoid being put on the witness stand.
The blow out preventer, a 500 ton valve on the well top, was supposed to close and shut off the oil. It failed. It was salvaged last summer and inspected on a Lousiana dock last month. Apparently the drill pipe was a little off center and the "shear rams" won't work unless the pipe is right on center.
This is described as "a design failure". They got that right. In action the blow out preventer sits on the bottom, with 5000 feet, (one mile) of pipe reaching up to the drill rig floating on the surface. It doesn't take much to allow the drill rig to drift off position by a few hundred feet, pulling the pipe off center. Any blowout preventer that can't close no matter where the pipe is located is useless.
Apparently this blowout preventer met industry standards and they haven't done anything to stiffen those standards since the blowout. And, industry rumor has it that blowout preventers often are not strong enough to seal the very heavy and strong pipe used in deep water drilling. So in real life, the maker of the blowout preventer was doing what they had always been doing, making blowout preventers to industry standards. That shouldn't make them liable, although BP has plenty of expensive lawyers and you never know what a US court will do.
Was it me, I would require all blowout preventers pass a real test, right on the deck of the drill rig before lowering them into the sea. The preventer should seal a piece of the strongest pipe used in the well. In fact it ought to pass that test with a single failure, one dead battery, one broken wire, one leaking pipe, one empty air tank, etc. And pass that test with the pipe off center.
The drill rig owner is the same case, they were operating in accordance with industry and Coast Guard standards. In actual fact, when the rig caught fire it knocked out electric power, putting out the lights (the accident happened after dark), and killing the fire pumps. The rig is floating in the ocean, there is no lack of water to fight the fire, but when the fire hoses and the sprinklers go dead, the fire wins. They should have had about four engine driven fire pumps in four separate locations. The should have had sprinkler protection on the drilling deck, in the power room, and at the life boats. They should have had emergency lighting. But, none of these things are required and so that were not done. They are still not required. And so, should justice be done, the drill rig owner isn't liable, but again, expensive BP lawyers and US courts might give BP a courtroom victory.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Words of the Weasel Pt 18

"A clean bill to raise the debt ceiling". That's what Obama wants. "Clean" sounds so virtuous, all bills ought to be "clean". What "clean" really means is a bill to raise the debt ceiling without any troublesome requirements to cut federal spending attached to it.

Hand or power tools?

I was just prepping some wood for a home project. Ran it thru the jointer, and it looked pretty good, all clean and smooth, but.. It wasn't square. One edge was definitely thicker than the other. In fact I could see by eye that the board was tapered from side to side, like a clapboard.
Jointer can't fix this. Jointer will make board faces flat, but it does nothing about making 'em parallel. Proper power tool for that job is a thickness planer, which I don't own.
So, break out a hand plane. Clearly a job for the big 24 inch long try plane. It's a beautiful Record I inherited from my mother. It probably costs more than my jointer did. The iron was sharp, and with a little adjustment of depth-of-cut and blade angle, it was making paper thin curly shavings running the length of the board. I'm not a real hand plane pro, what little I know was taught to me in middle school shop class and that was a long time ago. But, it only took a couple of minutes to square up a four foot plank.

The DMV in the 21st Century

NH is right up to date. I was able to renew my driver's license on line. Beats standing in line at the DMV. Pretty soon all citizens are going to have internet access, a computer and a printer, AND a credit card just to get thru the day's business. God help those lacking all this hi tech stuff.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Standard & Poor's cuts Uncle Sam's credit rating

This is certainly a wakeup call, gets everyone's attention.
It is ironical that this bad news is coming from a firm that used to give AAA ratings to mortgage backed securities. Standard & Poor's bears great responsibility for causing Great Depression 2.0.

How much blood can be squeezed from a stone?

Answer: About 7.8% This from a Wall St Journal Op Ed. The Journal notes that revenue from the personal income tax has been 7.8% of GNP since WWII. Back in the 50's the top incomes paid 90% and the everyone's rates were 20%. Today the rates are considerably lower, but the revenue from personal income tax is still 7.8% of GNP.
Apparently higher tax rates cause people to find more tax dodges, or work less, or take compensation in the form of perks (travel, fancy company dining room, stock options, you name it)
Conclusion, Obama won't be able to tax his way out of his $1.6 trillion deficit. But he's gonna try.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Confusion in the North Country

Confusion started this morning with a light fall of snow. Stupid Beast insisted on going out, so she did. She left little cat paw prints in the fresh snow while the snow cold bit into her paws. Only took her 38 seconds to decide to come back inside.
Then we have a load of trees getting ready for leaf day. Lots of buds. Fortunately no tree had actually committed to leafing yet, so the buds remain unopened as the snow swirled thru the treebranches.
Then we have a lotta pine needles on I93 on the way to Littleton turning brown. I gotta get some pix. Does not look good for those poor trees.

Good reason to go off shore.

US corporate income tax is the highest in the world according to TaxProf.

Will the last industry leaving the US please turn out the lights.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Front Runner who ain't far out in front.

Mitt Romney. All the Sunday pundits agree that he is the front runner, but he sure ain't far out in front. Not with the Donald, speaking birther non sense, right on his tail.
Mitt's a nice guy, and he would made a decent president, but he's got a long way to go to get elected.


The head of the NH dept of Health and Human Services was on WMUR-TV (essentially the NH state TV channel) talking about state budget cuts and his department. The media (democrats to a man) have been wailing about cuts in the HHS budget. Now the department head is on state wide TV and he ought to be making his department's case for more money.
Well, he wasn't very good at it. He didn't say what his last year's budget was, what his this year's budget looks like. He didn't say how many New Hampshire citizens were accepting HHS services. He didn't say what those services were, how much they cost, how many they helped. He didn't say what would happen, would people be cut off completely, have their benefits reduced, shipped out of state, or what?
In short, he (never did catch his name) failed to connect with me. I was prepared to feel sorry for, and perhaps even support a little more money for, deserving citizens being thrown out in the cold. He didn't tell me how bad things are, how deserving the recipients of HHS services are, and how necessary those services are.
So, Bill O'Brian, go for it. Balance that budget.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Buying a gun at auction

That was this morning's exercise. Ammonoosuc Valley Auction Center (Mike and Jan Carver)auctioned off a big lot of guns this morning. There were handguns and rifles and shotguns, and a room full of men looking at the arms and then bidding on them. The top dollar ($600-$700) went for three US military 30 caliber rifles, two M1 Garands and a 1903 Springfield. Handguns fetched as much as rifles. There were a fair number of black powder arms, mostly shootable replicas rather than real antiques. I managed to snag a Marlin 30-30 deer rifle in beautiful condition. Living where I do, with black bears walking up and down my driveway, it seems reasonable to have a real rifle in the house.
Then we had to do Federal Firearms paperwork. Fill out a four page yellow form, check off 10 times "no" you are not a felon, not a fugitive from justice, not a drug user, not an illegal alien, and not a few other things. Then a very patient guy from Corey's Sport Shop telephoned somewhere and after a delay OK'ed us to pick up our purchases. No gun show loopholes in Littleton NH, except you didn't have to do the federal paperwork for black powder guns. Last time I bought a gun (45 years ago) it was simpler, you just gave them money and they gave you the gun.
So, brought my new rifle home and wiped it down with a little WD-40 on a rag to maintain the lustrous dark blueing against the corrosive effects of fingerprints. Need to join the local shooting club to use their range and buy some ammunition and a cleaning kit. That ought to keep me busy for a while.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The American Incline

Op ed in the Wall St Journal for Wednesday. I was gonna post a link to it but I couldn't find it on the Journal's website.
If you look at numbers, say population, GNP, and military spending, over the last decade (2000-2010) we have solid growth. Population is up 10%, to 310 million. GNP is up 21% over the decade, despite the dot com bust of 2001 and Great Depression 2.0, still on going. Military spending is up 55%
Compared to other countries, we are doing better than the EU, Russia, and Japan. India and China have been doing humongous growth over the last decade, so they pulled up closer to us, although we are still ahead by maybe 3X in the GNP department. Ten years ago we were ahead by 10X. Both India and China have 3X our population, so we can expect them to remain competitive for the forseeable future.
But, all and all, the numbers say the US is doing OK. There are a horde of lefty greenie pundits who have been crying gloom and doom, but they are just saying it, the numbers disagree.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Have the 18 wheelers burn natural gas

That's T. Boone Pickens plan, as reported in Forbes.
It makes a certain amount of sense. Natural gas tanks are huge compared to gas tanks. The big 18 wheeler tractors have plenty of space for the bulky tankage. Much easier than fitting a natural gas tank into a Corolla.
The writer estimates that converting the truck's diesel engine to natural gas would cost $60,000 a truck. That's damn high. I bought an entire new V8 engine for $3000 a few years ago. Then he thinks the government should pay for the conversion.
Apparently the conversion to natural gas amounts to converting the diesel to a spark ignition engine, and reducing the compression ratio from 18:1 down to 10:1. That's gonna cost you fuel economy, big time. I'd want to see some test results showing fuel consumption on the natural gas converted engine. Would the converted mill be more economical than stock diesel? At what prices for natural gas and for diesel fuel?
And, the chicken and the egg problem. Truck stops don't supply natural gas right now. They won't until there are some customers for the stuff. Truckers won't convert until there is a refueling infrastructure to keep 'em running.

Expenditures Rise to meet Income (Parkensen)

Medical care is like that. If the funds are there, they will be spent. Make more funds available, and they get spent too. You can always do another CAT scan (just to be sure), do more blood work (something might develop), make another office appointment (see how the patient is doing), prescribe another medicine (just in case). Then you can add more costly safety requirements. Such as requiring the air conditioning in hospitals hold the temperature to plus or minus one degree, no matter what the temperature is outside. Or requiring that even doctor's offices have backup electrical generators.
Medicare has no limit on payouts. Medics submit bills and Medicare pays them. With a deep pocket paying, a lot of medical stuff gets done, and billed, and paid for.
Congressman Paul Ryan has proposed a way to cut medicare costs. Seniors would be given money or vouchers to purchase health insurance. Where do the savings come from? Healthy seniors would tend to purchase "hospitalization only" plans and pay routine costs out of pocket. "Hospitalization only" plans are only $3000 a year, where as the "cover everything" plans are $14,000 a year (last year's prices, tomorrow's will be higher). Patients tend to refuse costly treatments when they have to pay for them. That's where the savings come from.
Medics hate this. They have to put on their best bedside manner and convince needy patients to dig into their own pockets to pay for pills or scans or blood work. Medics like to prescribe and not have the patient worrying about the expense. Improves the doctor-patient relationship no end.
So, is the Ryan plan a good deal for seniors and the country as a whole?
Depends. Ryan's plan puts a hard cap on the government's liabilities. Uncle chips in so much and no more. Patient pays the rest. This is good for the country as a whole. This country spends twice as much on health care as any other country in the world and we don't get anything for it. We would be better off directing that money into economic development, research and development, infrastructure, education, or other worthy causes.
Would it be a good deal for seniors? Depends upon how costly insurance gets, and how much Uncle chips in. This is unclear. Ryan's plan suggests/hints/handwaves that Uncle will chip in $10000 which is about what today's Medicare costs the government. Future contributions would rise at the rate of inflation. Would that be enough? Who knows?
Also, can the senior keep the savings that come from electing a "hospitalization only" insurance plan?
At a guess, it will work out OK for seniors whose health is fair-to-good, and visit hardship on those with poor health and no money.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Minor IRS improvement

This is the year the IRS gave up on mailing tax packages (instructions and forms) to us poor taxpayers. Up here you gotta download 'em. I don't know what people without internet access, a computer and a printer do.
However, all is not dark. The down loadable forms are trick PDF files that allow you to enter numbers in the blanks and them print out the completed form.
Neat. Up til now I had been doing my taxes on a Excel spreadsheet and then entering the spreadsheet results on a paper form 1040 using pen and ink. In my atrocious handwriting. This year I can type the stuff in and print it out, all neat.
I never got into TurboTax. I tried it once, and it was all web based and stored all my stuff somewhere out there on the web, not on my private and secure hard drive. I went back to Excel.

Ten year deficit projections

Would you believe totally wishful thinking? How can anyone project ten days into the future, let alone the years? The current budget discussion would be more honest if the debaters stuck to one year projections.

Words of the Weasel, Part XVI

"Tax expenditures" which really means tax deductions and exemptions. "Reduction in tax expenditures" which means a tax hike. Obama used both of these gems in his speech this after noon. After a lot of typical Obamaspeak, it seems that his plan to balance the federal budget will rely upon "tax expenditure reductions".

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

$6 billion of the $38 billion in cuts is smoke&mirrors

Apparently sharp eyed budget cutters found $6 billion unspent in an account for the census bureau. They reclaimed that and called it a "cut".

So, where do the Republicans go from here?

Next big challenge is the debt ceiling. Current law limits the government's borrowing authority to $14.something trillion. When we hit that ceiling, sometime in a few weeks, we have a problem. No more borrowing, which means the government revenue takes a 40% hit. Note, it doesn't mean we default, it means a 40% reduction in the money Uncle has to spend. That's a lot. In theory such a spending reduction could be done, but the pain would be intense.
The house republicans have enough votes to prevent raising the debt ceiling. If John Boehner were to call out his troops, he has the votes to stop it.
Question, what should the Republicans demand as a quid pro quo for raising the debt ceiling?
They could go for a federal balanced budget constitutional amendment. That would make a lot of conservatives happy, but I doubt it would do much good. Too many lawyers to invent ways of spending money but calling something else. Plus there would have to be an escape clause for real emergencies. And pretty soon everything would be a real emergency.
They could demand legislation to end farm subsidies, road building subsidies, ethanol subsidies, every kind of subsidy under the sun.
They could demand a resumption of oil exploration, and permits to drill in the "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge" (ANWR for short).
They could demand curbing EPA.
They could try and pass Ryan's plan for Medicare, replacing the current cost-plus and cost-no-object system with a system of private insurance plus subsidies for the sicker and more needy elderly.
They could demand interstate sale of health insurance, and the right to import medicine from any reasonable first world country.
They could demand repeal of Obamacare, but that probably won't fly, Obama would rather take a 40% revenue hit than give up his baby.
We shall see what happens next.

Monday, April 11, 2011

$38 billion is all fake cuts according to Fox News

This evening's Fox news with Judge Nepolitano says that the $38 million in cuts are all fake cuts, reductions from Obama's proposals. In actual fact, the continuing resolution for this fiscal year will spend more money that was spent last fiscal year. Which is unfortunate, but better than nothing. And the democrats cannot cry "extreme" when federal spending is still going up.

Am I getting too old to do train shows?

Arrgh. Drove down to a train show in West Lebanon. Going up thru Sugar hill I had one deer dash in front of the car. Ten miles further on, nearly to Lebanon another one. I had the camera in the car, but both deer were too fast for me. Didn't get a pix of either.
Part of me wondered why deer always run in front of cars, seems anti survival, you'd think the traffic would have culled out the "run-in-front-of-cars" gene by now. The other part of me sneered that you don't see the deer that run behind the car.
Got to the show just as it opened. They held this one in the Fireside Inn and Suites, in the ballroom. Dark as a cave, even with all the lights on. So there I am trying to look at teeny tiny models, read faded labels on old boxes, and decide what is worth spending money on. Arrgh. Couldn't see a damn thing by the dim artistic lighting.
What with the death of hobby shops up here, the train show is the only place left to get stuff, short of internet ordering with a $10 shipping charge on each order. The hobby is changing, prices are rising. The low end junker cars used to be a buck, now they are five. The new ready-to-run cars used to be $5, now it's $15. Low end maker Athearn was nowhere to be seen, High end maker Atlas was all over the place. Fortunately this is all discretionary spending.
Did some exploring on Airport Road, it's a junk strip loaded with retailers. Found Encore, a used&remainders book store which was good for a hour's browsing.
All and all, a successful Sunday.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The govt is un shut down. So what happened?

We are all glad the US govt didn't shut down last night. A deal was struck at the 11th hour (maybe the 12th hour).
I'd like to know just what the deal was. The deal makers are claiming $38.5 billion in "cuts". I'd like to know just what got cut, by how much, and what kind of cut we are talking about. Real cuts mean the agency gets less money than it got last year. Fake cuts, popular in DC, mean the agency got less than it asked for, or less money than Obama proposed. Does the $38.5 billion include the cuts tacked onto the last two continuing resolutions? The $38.5 billion is a whole lot better than nothing, but a whole lot less than the $100 billion the Republicans were asking for.
Apparently the riders to defund Planned Parenthood and Obamacare were dropped.
What else was on the table that didn't make it?
Anyhow it's good that Congresscritters are talking about cuts. Even fake cuts.

Friday, April 8, 2011

So WHY are we going to shut the govt down?

Who knows. At least no one on TV news has explained the issues dividing the republicans and the democrats on passing the continuing resolution to keep the government open for business. Is it the amount of money to be cut? Is it what is on the chopping block? Is it riders? If so,which riders and what do they say?
If the government shuts down, then the finger pointing starts. So far we don't know which side was holding out for what. Maybe that's the plan? Have the government shut down and not be able to blame either side?
The Republican cuts are just a token amount. It isn't enough money to come anywhere close to balancing the budget. But if we cannot pass token chickenfeed cuts how are we ever going to pass cuts big enough to do any good?
If we don't cut spending, then the bond market will do it for us. Investors will stop buying T-bills, and the government runs out of real money. And starts just printing dollar bills to meet payroll.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cross Country skiing in April

The cross country skiing has been really good this week. It's close the house, and more fun than going to the gym. The Notchway trail runs up from rt 141 to Echo lake. I start at the down hill end, makes it easier on the way back to the car. I go in for a half an hour and then turn around. Going downhill takes only 20 minutes so I get 50 minutes of good exercise. My usual gym routine lasts about that long and isn't as much work. Skiing takes more wind than working the elliptical machine.

CAFE and flex fuel vehicles

Would you believe a full sized V8 pickup truck gets 30 mpg? Not in the real world, or on the highway, but in the the US government Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) calculations.
How does this happen? Well the CAFE people wanted to promote ethanol burning cars. So, any car or truck that will run on ethanol gets its real MPG doubled for the CAFE number. Which is how Detroit is planning to meet the 40 mpg CAFE requirement that is coming at them.
Vehicles that can run on ethanol are referred to as "flex fuel" vehicles. They will run on pure alcohol, pure gasoline, or any mixture of the two fuels. Actually, they aren't hard to make. You have to pay attention to the materials used for gaskets, hoses and seals in the fuel system. Alcohol attacks some commonly used elastomers, but materials that can stand up to both alcohol and gasoline are available. And the fuel injectors (nobody uses carburetors anymore) have to automatically richen the mixture as the alcohol content rises. This isn't hard for microprocessors to do. In short, it is easy to make any production vehicle into a flex fuel vehicle. Cheap too.
Right now, all the vehicles sold in Brazil are flex fuel, and somewhere around 20% of Detroit production is flex fuel.
Of course, you have to believe in ethanol for all this to make sense. Farmers love ethanol for obvious reasons, but it is not clear that ethanol production saves on oil consumption, the tractor fuel, the synthetic fertilizer, the transportation fuel, and the fuel to heat the still makes ethanol a questionable product. Energy gain from ethanol is low, perhaps less than one. Nobody claims more than 1.3 for best energy gain. Plus ethanol amounts to burning food to drive our cars. Have you noticed the prices at the grocery store lately? Burn enough food and the price goes up.
Without hefty subsidies from us taxpayers, ethanol would go out of business. Could this be one small way to balance the federal budget?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Airplanes last forever.

It must be whine day on NHPR. We have people whining about flying older jetliners on the Diane Rhams (sp?) show. One lady guest advocated a "sunset law" for airliners, scrap 'em after 5 years in the air.
After that frightening accident on Southwest, where a portion of the cabin roof blew out, some of this is perhaps natural. But unnecessary.
Speaking as an old flight line maintenance type, I can assure you that airplanes last forever. Unless the plane is in perfect shape, the crew won't take off in it. Everything gets replaced or rebuilt upon reaching its service life. Everything about the plane can be removed and replaced. A seventy year old DC-3 is a good as the day it rolled out of the Douglas factory. Probably better.
The Southwest accident was a surprise. Small cracks developed in the fuselage skin, in a place you cannot see on the ground without going up in cherry picker. And hard to see unless you know just where to look and what to look for. And unexpected, so the area had not been carefully inspected in the past. Now that we know where to look, we found a couple of more airplanes needing repair.
The Southwest accident will result in more inspections, and replacement of sheet metal where cracks are found. Boeing will make some changes to the maintenance manual, and the plane will continue flying as before.

Numbers, Nobody knows any numbers

NHPR is running a morning special decrying the republican NH budget. They go on and on praising this program and that program. Decrying "cuts" and "significant cuts" as heartless and counter productive.
Not once does anyone mention a real number, like how much money was appropriated last year and how much will be appropriated this year. Their cup runneth over with woe, but none of 'em talk about how much money is involved. Maybe they don't know? Surely they don't think the listeners don't care? Everybody cares about money.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

WMUR-TV vs Right-to-Work

The NH Right to work bill came up before the Senate today. Big demonstrations, lots of union guys there to express disapproval. WMUR did the usual man-on-the-street interviews, taking care to only air the anti right to work man-on-the-street interviews. They didn't mention the real reason to pass right to work, which is to attact new industry. Industry likes right to work states and locates new plants, and all the jobs that come with new plants, in right to work states. NH could become a right to work state and reap the benefits. The union people are dead set against that.

Packaging, Arrgh

Stopped in at Staples to buy a USB wireless modem for elderly laptop. It takes a while to find the networking section and even longer to find the needed device on the shelf. Three shelves of boxes marked "Netgear". Teeny tiny little letters, much smaller that "Netgear", said "N150 Wireless USB Adapter". Gotta get down on hand and knees to read it. Same shelf is piled high with Netgear routers, octopus cables, PCI modems, power supplies, and other stuff, all in the same colored boxes, all with vague names. How is a customer, even a savvy customer, supposed to find the device he needs?
The same trend toward vague labels continued on the blank DVD shelf. Square packs marked "DVD-R" full of jewel cases. Are these packs of DVDs with jewel cases or just empty jewel cases? Who knows? Certainly not the Staples staff. Packs of DVD's labeled "printable", what ever that means. The packaging didn't say.
Looks like we have a bunch of clueless marketing droids on the loose.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gonna try 'em at Guantanamo

The TV news is full of talk about the administration's decision to try 'em at Guantanamo, by military commission. Lots of talk from Atty Gen. Eric Holder about how this is wrong, they oughta be tried in Federal court in NYC, and it's all Congress's fault for cutting off funding for a new clink, and various commentators gloating over the administration's about face on the issue. In short a lot of political point scoring. Nothing said about the real problem.
9-11 happened ten years ago. We should have tried 'em ten years ago when the crime was fresh and tempers were hot. The purpose of a public trial is to convince the public that these are really bad guys and they deserve every bit of what we are gonna give 'em. Plus deter anyone contemplating doing the same. Now its ten years too late, everyone's mind is made up, and the trial won't change anything. We aren't gonna deter anyone either, we have shown the world that you can kill 3000 Americans and get away with it.
Justice delayed is justice denied. Even terrorist scum deserve a speedy trial. Which they didn't get.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Obscure Nut burns a Koran. MSM covers it

And, the MSM coverage goes world wide and sparks riots in Afghanistan. Thanks, MSM, for your balanced and patriotic coverage. Couldn't do it without you.
Last time it was Newsweek's story about a Guantanamo guard flushing a Koran. Wasn't even a true story and Newsweek retracted it later. It still caused riots in the Middle East.
Just what was it that made the actions of a lone screwball so newsworthy?

Walnut makes the grade.

I'm upgrading my DVD storage. I use an ordinary bookcase to store my VHS tapes. Still have a lot of 'em, and I even play them now and again. So up until now, I just stuffed the DVD's on the same bookcase in between the VHS tapes.
Trouble is, DVD's in jewel box cases are too thin to carry a label on the spine, so when looking for a DVD I gotta pull each one out to see what it is.
Here is the DVD solution.

This home made box fits onto the shelves of the tape book case but holds the DVD's face outward so you can riffle thru them easily. It's walnut. I had a piece, purchased for I cannot remember what, in the lumber rack. Good looking wood, harder than hell. I had to sharpen the blades on the jointer before they would cut it. My well worn carbide saw blade would not rip it with out leaving black burn marks on the cut.
I need to make three or four more to hold all my DVDs.

"We need high priced oil" Meet the Press

One of the pundits seated around the table said that, just a few minutes ago. On NBC TV no less. Where does David Gregory find idiots like this?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Some thoughts on improved pills

I have reached that state in life where I am faced with a battery of seven prescription drugs, to be taken daily.
They ought to find an ink for the labels that will last as long as the pills in the bottle do. About halfway thru the life of a bottle, the ink has rubbed off the label so badly that I can't read it. This could be a real safety hazard.
Then the damn pills all look alike, round, and pink. Drop one and then try and figure out which one it was. Surely they could make different shapes (square, oval, triangular) and more colors than just pink. It would be nice to look in my hand and be sure that I had seven different pills in it rather than two pills of the same kind.

April Fools. Six inches of snow on my deck.

I think they must have repealed spring. The April Fool's day snow storm laid down as much snow as we get from a January storm.

Note shiny new town plow truck. We voted for this truck at town meeting last year. It missed hitting my mailbox yet again. Be thankful for small favors.

Friday, April 1, 2011

So what does Obama do now?

Libya doesn't look good. Even with US air support, Quaddafi's army is pushing the rebels back. Which is not to be wondered at, regular armies can usually beat civilian militias. Unless some of Quaddafi's army defects to the rebels, or the US Army steps in, or something bad happens to Quaddafi, the rebellion looks to be in trouble.
What will Obama do to pull his chestnuts (prestige) out of the fire? He will look mighty foolish if Quaddafi whips the rebels and retains power in Tripoli.

Recipe, chicken soup from scratch

You start with a chicken carcass, you know the bony ribcage left after all the white meat has been carved off and eaten. Fill a soup kettle with water and break the carcass up into pieces small enough to submerge in the water. Add some chopped veggies for flavor, an onion, a celery stalk, a mushroom cap, a carrot. Some spices, I use Bell's poultry seasoning, but a bay leave, and sage works too. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered for some hours, until the chicken meat comes loose from the bones.
Now comes the sticky part. Take the pot off the stove and when it's cool enough fish the chicken bones out. I use a slotted spoon and put all the chicken in a strainer. Pick thru the strainer with fingers, separating the bones and discarding them. Return the deboned chicken to the kettle and step 1 is done. You have a kettle of chicken broth, fresh and homemade. The veggies will have cooked down to almost nothing, but they contribute flavor.
Step 2 needs to start about an hour before serving time. Put the kettle back on the stove and then add things to cook in the chicken broth. Veggies, onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, what every seems good. Some rice, or some peeled and cubed potato. Bring to a boil and then back off the heat so the broth is just on the verge of a boil and cook until the veggies are tender and the rice is cooked. Taste the broth and decide if it needs salt. I wound up adding a whole teaspoon of salt to a large kettle last night. Don't overdo the salt, its bad for the flavor.