Monday, April 30, 2012

Newsies love the Veepstakes

Endless TV time talking about who will be Romney's VP.   It's a simple topic, easily understood by journalism school grads.  It doesn't mean much, this election is a showdown on Obama and Obamacare, doesn't much matter who Romney picks for VP.  Romney won't say anything until the right time, because there is no gain in announcing his pick early.  This story doesn't need any research, all you have to do is get one or more talking heads on camera to pontificate. 
   But the newsies think people will watch stories on the Veepstakes, the stories are easy and cheap to do, and so we get a lot of them.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

If Obama had balls, he woulda taken Bin Ladin alive

They could have done it.  Jumped Bin Ladin and loaded him into a chopper.  Alive, he surely had intelligence that we needed. Nobody would whine about waterboarding Bin Ladin.   A patriotic judiciary (any of those left around?) would have put Bin Ladin on trial, on TV, in an orange jumpsuit and shiny handcuffs.  We could have done some good work convincing the rest of the world that Bin Ladin is a no-good-nick who deserved what we were gonna give him. 
  But Obama didn't want to take a chance on bat brained US judges turning Bin Ladin loose on a technicality, so he told the SEALS to whack him.  Courageous that is.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

Watched Meet the Press this morning.  New Democratic line.  " Romney would not have OK'ed the Bin Ladin raid."   Really.  And how do you all know that? 
   Then there as a lot of stuff about how fearless and brave Obama was for OK'ing the raid.  I don't buy much of that either.  What really happened is some operational types (shooters) decided that  they knew where OBL was and they thought they could hit him.  They went up thru the chain of command to get approval.  They obviously made a good enough case to convince  the chain of command to let them go ahead. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

How Europe is dealing?

The weak Euro countries found that no one would buy their bonds, not at an affordable rate anyhow.  All these countries had to sell bonds 'cause they were spending more money than tax revenues were bringing in.  They all started wailing and crying, 'cause not paying wages and pensions really upsets people.  Some of the small ones got bailed out (Iceland, Ireland, Greece)  The bigger ones are so big that nobody, not even Germany, has that kind of money.  
   So the European Common Bank gave everyone a Christmas present last Christmas.  The ECB is like the US Fed, in that it can print Euro's.  As many Euro's as it likes.  So ECB offered European banks the opportunity to borrow (at low rates) some trillion or more Euros.  The Euro banks lapped it up, and borrowed all the Euro's offered.  This made the banks happy, they had cash in the till.  It made ECB sorta happy in that every bank in Europe owed them money, and less happy 'cause putting a trillion Euros into the economy makes prices of everything go up. 
    So, with freshly printed Euros clogging their cash drawers what do the European banks do with the money?  Well, they didn't make loans to industry to expand production.  No, they bought up Euro government bonds, 'cause the governments were offering really fat returns, AND under Euro accounting rules, government bonds, (sovereign debt) are "risk free" (governments always pay their debts 'cause they can always raise taxes to get the money).   Banks don't have to hold cash in reserve for risk free deals.  They can loan it all out, and get higher returns.
    Apparently a trillion Euros doesn't go far these days.  In the 90 days since the great Euro loan, all of it was spent.  And now it's gone, and the weak Euro governments are still in a jam.  They are still spending more than they take in, so they HAVE to sell bonds lest their checks bounce.  Other than Euro banks, nobody else wants to buy shaky looking Euro bonds.  The Euro banks are out of money again, and the Euro economy is not growing at all.
   Good luck, you're gonna need it over there.

Winter hangs tough in the North Country

It's snowing up here, again.  And I was going to do some more lawn work.  Guess I'll wait til the snow stops.

"Revered institution"

Used by an NPR radio commentator about the Secret Service.  I wonder what planet that reporter comes from.  The Secret Service used to be thought of as competent and brave, but not revered.  The US Marine Corps is a revered institution,  the Secret Service is merely OK.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

NASA. Lost in Space

Or somewhere.  Having phased out the Space Shuttle and flown surviving orbiters off to museums, NASA finds that we have no way to get astronauts up to the International Space Station.   NASA is buying tickets to the ISS from the Russians, at $20 million a seat. 
   Sometime we ought to have our own transportation into space.  We have two good booster rockets, the SpaceX Falcon 9 and  the United Launch Association's Atlas 5.  Both rockets are real,  have flown many missions, and have plenty of power to boost a minivan load of astronauts up to the ISS.  But NASA and Congress (Senators Kay Bailey Hutchenson and Richard Shelby)  are "investing" in yet a third rocket booster, the "Space Launch Vehicle" (SLS).
   This is a black hole money sink.  The SLS offers nothing that the existing Falcon and Atlas boosters don't already have.  But a new rocket will require dozens of test flights and years of fiddling around.  A rocket is made up of a zillion parts, all of which get really stressed hard during flight.  Despite the best efforts of the engineers,  a few of those zillion parts will break and the rocket will be destroyed.  Only after figuring out what broke after each rocket failure, and beefing it up,  for the next flight, can we then find the next part that will break under load.  By experience, we know that it takes 20-40 disasters, before a good flight is achieved. 
   Falcon and Atlas have aready gone thru all this pain, the weak spots have been found and fixed, and both of them fly dependably now.  That cost a lot of money.  Now that we have two working boosters, NASA should use them. 
   Instead, NASA pushed by a pork loving Congress, and full of the good old Not-Invented-Here syndrome is pouring taxpayer money into an unneeded third booster.  The same money would move more cargo  using existing boosters.
  Then we have the same trick going on with crew capsules.  SpaceX has already flown their Dragon capsule and NASA wanted to fund private development of a second capsule.  Instead, Congress wants NASA to develop inhouse the "Orion" capsule.   Again NASA ought to use the existing flight tested Dragon capsule just because it's ready and it works. 
  Granted, capsule development ain't as hard as booster development.  Boosters have to handle tons of explosive cyrogenic fuels, withstand  fierce thrust, and provide perfect autopilot performance.  If anything goes wrong the explosion is in the kilotons of yield range.  Capsules just have to hold air, and hang onto their heat shield.  Much easier engineering proposition. 
   Want to bet some gutsy contractor would be able to fly astronauts to the ISS right now, using an existing booster and the existing capsule?  And do it for less than the Russki's are charging for a SINGLE astronaut flown to the ISS?  All it would take is some funding. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


It started out as a best seller historical novel by Sir Walter Scott, written in the early 19th century.  I encountered the tale as a Hollywood movie starring Taylor and Taylor as a small child.  Robert Taylor, tall dark and handsome, played Ivanhoe and the much more famous Elizabeth Taylor played Rebecca of York, the "other" love interest in the story, completely eclipsing who ever it was who played Rowena, the Saxon heiress.  The movie had jousting, fighting, siege of a castle by Robin Hood, and a climatic final trial by arms on horseback between Ivanhoe and Bois Gilbert, to save Rebecca from a capital charge of witchcraft.  The movie made a vivid impression, and although I didn't see it again until the dawn of the VCR age, I remembered every scene, and most of the dialog.
   Many years later the BBC did their own Ivanhoe.  It was longer, (two DVDs instead of one) and much more sophisticated than the Hollywood costume drama from long ago.  Naturally as a died in the wool fan I rented it from Netflix and watched it.  Interesting.  First thing I noticed is that the BBC version demanded very close attention to follow the story at all.  All the characters dressed about the same, in gray and brown, and the men all hid behind  flowing full beards making it hard for the viewer to tell one character from another. The women wore no makeup, and were nowhere near as pretty as the Hollywood actresses.  Technicolor it was not, the film was processed by one of those arty labs that specializes in turning color into black and white.  At least the camera man used a tripod to steady the camera, and the sound man made the dialog audible over the score.
   I think Hollywood did a better movie than the BBC.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mistresses now a Federal Offense

The trial of John Edwards starts today.  Edwards is accused of having a mistress and paying serious money to keep her comfortable and discrete.   Don't get me wrong, Edwards is a sleaseball, taking up a mistress while his wife is dying of cancer, and doing all this while running for President of the US.
  But, used to be, sleaseballs merely got bad press and shunned by society.  Now it's a federal offense with serious jail time.  I'm so glad we had all that campaign finance reform to allow the feds to prosecute politicians for keeping mistresses.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

NPR dislikes Amazon

Still listening to the car radio. Long piece on NPR about how Amazon is destroying the publishing business.  Some discussion of the Justice Dept suit against Apple and the big publishers alleging price fixing.   The NPR speaker claimed that Justice was handing the book business over to Amazon.  More unclarity followed.
    NPR claimed that the average literary fiction book only sold 200 copies a YEAR.  Wow.  Even at $30 a copy, that's only $6000 in sales, not enough to pay for setting type.  Apparently genre fiction, romances, science fiction, westerns, and adventure novels are doing much better than "literary fiction".  Could it be that  "literary fiction" is boring stories about loser protagonists?  I haven't bothered to read "literary fiction" since Hemingway died, and that was a long time ago. 
   Could it be that the old line publishing houses, all bought up and merged by a bunch of suits, simply can no longer find and print worthwhile new authors?  I'm thinking of  Tom Clancy, writer of a dozen best sellers, who had to go to the Naval Institute Press to get his "Hunt for Red October" published.  None of the regular publishers had the brains to snap up this promising new author and publish his book.  Could it be that Amazon can undercut all the old line publishing houses, which don't seem to be able to do anything except print books from their old line of established authors? 

Does the FDA have to approve EVERYTHING?

Listening to NPR on the car radio today.  A medical guy was describing an off the wall procedure which had worked well in some cases.  It did not involve the use of commercially marketed drugs at all.  But, the voice over commentator at the end of the piece said something like "This innovative procedure won't go anywhere until the FDA approves it."  
   Excuse me.  I thought a license to practice medicine granted to the right to treat patients.  In this case the treatment worked.  I fail to see where the FDA has any authority to approve , disapprove, or demand more paperwork on a procedure that does not involve prescribing any sort of drug. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Exemptions, Deductions, Credits, aka Loopholes

Doing your own personal income tax is a zoo. Took me a couple of days, with computer assistance. It's all the damn loopholes, exemptions, deductions, and tax credits that make it a mess. If we got rid of ALL the loopholes, doing your taxes would be simple, just use a calculator to figure a straight percent of your income. Get rid of all the picky definitions of who's a child, single, married, married filing separate returns, head of household. Pay the same whether you are married, single, divorced, what ever. Get rid of deductions for mortgages, medical, state and local taxes, the works. Get rid of credits for electric cars, energy saving furnaces, foreign taxes paid. children raised, tuition paid, houses bought, and money earned if you have children.
Just tax the income, don't try to give tax breaks depending upon how you spent it. If we dropped all the loopholes, we could drop the rates down to 15% for the average taxpayer. Charge the wealthy a little more, charge the poor a little less.
Put H&R Block out of business.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Enlisting Robots

The Army is experimenting with a four legged walking robot. Looks pretty much like a mechanical mule. Can pack 340 pounds and has a range of 12 miles, and a speed of 4 mph. It's autonomous, able to find it's own way, does not need a driver.
Looking at the picture, I keep wondering if it is any better than a real mule. It certainly won't be as quiet, what with an engine racketing away.

I remember Dick Clark

Fondly too. Way back when American Bandstand was in it's second season, it was THE TV program. I was attending a boarding school near Philly. The lounge at Boy's End had one black&white 21 inch TV set, a table model mounted on a shelf high on the wall. Channel selection was a majority rule thing and late afternoons the channel was ALWAYS channel 6 WFIL American Bandstand. For 10th 11th and 12th grades. I'm sorry Dick Clark died, a little part of America died with him.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Speculators! Evil, evil evil

Obama is blaming gasoline prices on "speculators" and wants to "invest" $52 million of our tax money in fighting them. Wow.
It used to be, in the United States of America, that buying stuff and selling stuff was legal. We have commodity exchanges to facilitate buying and selling of pork bellies, wheat, gold, oil, and a bunch of other stuff. Anyone can see that oil is getting scarce, and Obama is working to make it even scarcer. If you took a course in real economics in college, you know that when things get scarce, the price goes up. This ain't rocket science.
So plenty of people are buying oil , expecting the price to rise, and they to make money. That used to be legal. Still is legal far as I know. Ought to legal even if Obama doesn't like it. Freedom we call it, freedom to buy and sell as we please. Should not need a government OK to buy and sell anything, anytime.
This is also called speculation (boo hiss).
Druther have a few speculators make some money than not be able to buy any gasoline at all.

"End Cheap Oil" says a Kennedy

The Daily Caller quotes an email from Joe Kennedy III saying “The cycle that allows cheap oil to trump tough choices has to stop.”
Wow. Talk about a brain made from solid reinforced concrete. Does Kennedy think that oil is cheap, or has been cheap anytime since 1973? When is the last time young Joe paid for a tank of gas? And expensive oil is good? For anybody?
Kennedy is running for Barney Frank's old congressional seat down in Massachusetts. Maybe he can lose to a Republican?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Bondholders get special bankruptcy deal

Jefferson County Alabama declared bankruptcy last year. Wall Street was left holding $3.14 billion of country bonds to finance the sewer system. And now Wall St is whining (and suing) because the bankrupt county wants to stop paying the bondholders.
Why do Wall St banks think they are entitled to payment when others go unpaid? What makes bondholders more important than anyone else? Why should not bondholders take a haircut after lending ridiculous amounts of money to a borrower that clearly cannot repay it. The bond sales amount to about $5000 for each resident, man, woman and child, in the county. No way they are ever going to pay that off. Should not the banks take a haircut for stupid lending?

Monday, April 16, 2012

How can you tell when a politician is lying?

Simple. Whenever they make ten year forecasts of anything, but especially tax revenues and government spending. Nobody knows what things will look like ten years from now. But they stick with the 10 year forecasts because ten years from now, nobody will remember how ridiculous their forecasts were. Make a one year forecast, and even the newsies will remember what it was, and dump on you if the forecast was wrong.

Nobody knows what medical care costs.

So I'm doing the bills. Arrgh. I open an envelope from Humana health insurance. Recent doctor's visit, just routine, blood pressure, some stethoscopy, some lab work. According to the insurance company the doctor billed $399 and insurance only paid $135. The insurance company didn't say that I owned a further $264.
Then further down the stack of bills I get to the doctor's bill. It agrees with the insurance company about the $399 billed. but the doctor shows the insurance paying more and I only own $26. Which is all right with me, $26 is a whole lot better than $264.
But somehow after all the insurance claims forms unwind, and the paper pushers are finished mucking around, $238 has just gone away. Bank error your favor. OK by me.
Only thing is, it makes forecasting things like Obamacare costs kinda worthless.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

To set the record straight, I'm with Ann Romney

Raising children is very important work. The future of everything rests upon the next generation, and nuture is a least as important as nature. Good child raising creates good future adults. When Ann Romney says she raised five boys, I have a lot of respect for that. That's harder to do, and more important than doing paper work in some one's office building.
The Obama people's recent slam on child raising by mothers is a not-so-subtle slam at the importance and dignity that out to be attached to child rearing. Support motherhood, it's truly important.

I did my Civic Duty, all day yesterday.

I was a delegate to the NH Republican yearly meeting (not the convention, this just elects party officers, not candidates. I set the alarm clock for 6 AM, and got the Mercury on the road heading south by 7:30. The meeting was in Meredith, scenic little town in the Squam Lakes (On Golden Pond) country. Mid April is before the season, so no boats, tourists, or summer people. The leaves are just beginning to open down south of the Notch, so it was a pretty drive.
The event was held in a school auditorium, a small one. According to the signs the place was only good for 420 people. It was pretty full, and into this small room we had the political leadership of the entire state. State Reps, State Senators, three of our four Congresspeople, town and area chairmen, it was the leadership of the dominant state party.
It's the north country so it was a kinda shaggy bunch. The older guys, yours truly included, wore dark suits and ties. Lot of guys did the coat bit but omitted the tie. Then we had guys show up in jeans, T-shirts, shooting vests, full beards, pony tails, blue blazers with khaki slacks. Colorful but not very fashion conscious. As usual the girls dressed better than the boys.
The program opened with good old fashioned get-out-the-vote stemwinders from our Congressmen, our legislative leaders, and our candidates for guv'nor. Bill O'Brian, speaker of the house, got the most applause. This took us up to noon, and a break for pizza.
After lunch we settled down to some serious wrangling over bylaw revisions. After the revolt against Jack Kimball last year, they wanted to tighten up procedures for succession and removal of officers. Apparently the Kimball affair got pretty messy, all though the mess was fairly well contained, and all the survivors wanted some new tight bylaws to back them up should anything like that ever happen again.
Then we proceeded to the only contested election of party officers. The office was national committeeperson, a person to go to the national committee and lobby to retain our first-in-the-nation primary. For candidates we had Juliana Bergeron, and Pam Tucker. Both had declared weeks before and snowed me under with emails urging their election. Pam even bothered to call me on the phone. Juliana has been around for a while and has a lot of support from party people. Pam is a newer face, newly elected state rep, who is close to Bill O'Brian. Bill made her nomination speech, which carried a good deal of weight with everyone. Then we had two last minute nominations from the floor, Joe Dupre (sp?) and Skip somebody-or-other, the quy who does the GraniteGrok website. So we voted, on printed ballots, and it then being 3 PM on a lovely day, I left, before the votes were counted, figuring that I could find out who won from the papers. Stupid Beast was overjoyed to have her human return to pet her.
Not so much luck on papers. Nothing on the Union Leader website, nothing on Granite Grok, yet.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Manhatten to go with Pork Ribs

Manhatten, a simple to mix American cocktail. Two jiggers of bourbon whiskey, a jigger of sweet red vermouth, a couple of Marachino cherries, four dashes of Angostura bitters. Use a short glass, mix the booze in the glass, and add all the ice that will fit. Very smooth, and you don't want to mix a second one of these.
Goes good with pork ribs.

Pork Ribs, My recipe

Very yummy. Real pork ribs, as opposed to nice tender pork chops, need a bit more cooking than chops do. You want to braise ribs in liquid for an hour or two, and then brown them on the grill or in the fry pan if it isn't grilling weather.
Ribs can be cheap, I picked them up for $1.71 a pound for 1.75 pounds, enough for four. I made up my secret sauce, equal portions of brown sugar, soy sauce, whiskey, and mustard. I ran short of soy sauce, so I added some Worcestershire sauce. Equal parts, say like a quarter cup. Mix the secret sauce in a large mixing bowl, and then add the ribs to marinate for an hour or so.
After a good long marinade, put them in the oven at 375F for an hour and a half. Pour the marinade into the roasting pan so that the ribs are deeply immersed in the secret sauce. After and hour and a half the ribs will be tender.
To develop the flavor, brown them, either on the grill or in an iron fry pan on stove top. I did 5 minutes a side in he fry pan.
Very yummy, and I have left overs for tomorrow.

Upcountry Republican Shindig

The Grafton County Republicans threw their annual Lincoln Reagan Day dinner at the Indian Head "resort" last night. Indian Head is right up into Franconia Notch. It got started in the old days, even before skiing, when people just came up from the summer. It tried to compete with the Old Man of the Mountains with a observation tower and gave a view of a mountain ridge that looked like a humungous Indian staring up at the sky. It still has a nice banquet room with a fine view of the White Mountains.
Everyone was there. We had NH Republican state chairman Wayne McDonald. We had Grafton County Commissioner Omer Ahearn. We had Executive Councilor Ray Burton. We had two candidates for governor, Kevin Smith and Ovide Lamontagne. For the windup speaker we had Senator Kelly Ayotte. Kelly spoke at some length and spoke very well, much better than the politicians speak on TV.
Things got rolling when the bar opened at 5:30. Lots of meetings and greetings. By 7 PM everyone was sufficiently lubricated to sit down to eat dinner. Lots of good political talk. By 9:30 the speeches were all done and people started home. Fortunately it was a warm dry evening, better than other such affairs where we had to drive home in snow and sleet.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Norks in Orbit

The North Koreans have been milking the TV news for coverage of their upcoming rocket launch. If they launch and put a satellite into orbit, they will gain enormous amounts of respect. A rocket good enough to throw a satellite up is good enough to throw a nuke anywhere on earth. Say like into Washington DC.
Fox TV has been calling the North Koreans a nuclear state. That is an exaggeration. The Norks have run two tests, both of them fizzled. Yield was so small that observers waited to detect airborne radioactivity before announcing that a nuclear test had occured. Clearly the Norks haven't figured out how to make a fission bomb that really explodes. They have undoubtedly made some engineering changes to their bomb, but until they can run off a test with the same yield as leveled Hiroshima 65 years ago, they ain't a real nuclear power.
The Japanese and the South Koreans are seriously worried about a North Korea with missiles, and have threatened to shoot it down. This is a gutsy move. If they shoot and miss (fairly likely) they just look foolish and loose more face than if they just send nastygrams to the North Korean foreign ministry.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Does Obama have an Energy Policy?

T. Boone Pickens says "No".
Sorry Mr. Pickens, Obama does have an energy policy. I even know what it is. No drilling, no pipelines, no coal burners, electric cars, high priced gasoline.
In the same article Mr. Pickens admits that he lost his ass in wind power.

Buffeted by the Buffet Rule

Obama is talking up "the Buffet Rule" as his tax policy. Other than it hikes taxes for someone, little is known about it. NPR this morning made it sound like a hike in capitol gains tax. But no specifics. Democrats are talking it up as a "soak the rich" tax, but since there are no details, it is likely to wind up soaking everybody. "Pass it in order to see what's in it."
Far as I am concerned, we need to do some budget cuts BEFORE we do tax hikes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Survival of the Furriest. Feline Darwinism

Somehow each house cat has its very own human to feed it, pet it, supply a warm dry home, let it in, and let it out. In return the cat occasionally deigns to purr. This is a better schtick than other domesticated animals get, the others have to work for a living or get served at table as food. Cats don't have to put up with any of that.
The other weird thing about cats. Flash photography of humans often leads to "red eye", where the camera sees the eye as bright red. In cats we get "green eye" instead. My digital camera has a red eye correction feature built in, but nothing for green eye.
The first thing (close association with humans) clearly has survival value. The second, green-eye, is not so obvious.

It's all Bush's fault

Obama's General Services Administration (GSA) blew $800K on a junket to Vegas. It's making the TV news and citizens are steamed over it. Obama is trying to say it's all Bush's fault.
That's a hard sell with me. GSA is part of the administration, takes its orders from the White House. There are a few layers of bureaucrats in between the White House and GSA, but the principle is the same. Anything GSA does is either on White House orders, or with White House sufferance. The buck stops at the same place it has since Harry Truman's time. Obama has been in office for better than three years now, plenty of time to remove chuckleheads over at GSA. Since he didn't, he owns it now.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Guilt Trip to the max

TV news is talking up a new study claiming that obese mothers give birth to autistic children. Wow. How to make a woman feel guilty with out even trying. Sometimes it pays to be a guy. Or at least until they do another study showing that obese fathers cause autism. I have no idea as to how valid this new study is, but it's getting plenty of news coverage.
There has been a lot of talk about the growth of autism. One cause the newsies don't cover is soft hearted doctors. Many a child needs some speech therapy or extra reading tuition or any number of special and costly treatments to overcome some weakness. If the doctor diagnoses the child with autism, insurance will pay for the needed treatment. Otherwise parent's have to pay for it. They been talking about an autism rate of 1:83. I don't know if I can believe that one child in 83 is autistic, but I can believe that 1 child in 83 would benefit from some kind of special therapy or training or something.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Facebook broke the photo uploader, again

This is about the third time that the software weenie's at Facebook managed to break the photo uploader. The new and broken one first demands you upload an new version of Flash player. When I refused to do that, I was able to upload with great difficulty selecting photo's one by one. You can no longer highlight all the photo's and have them upload.
And, you gotta watch Facebook. I find my Facebook portrait is now showing up on all sorts of websites all over the internet. It took 5 minutes of clicking to navigate to Facebook's account page and then the privacy settings. Privacy settings has grown, there are now about 100 different setting that you have to make one by one. A whole herd of "apps", nosy little craplets, none of which I had ever heard of before, had some sort of privileges on my account . I zapped them all.
And Facebook now has "timelines" what ever those might be, and Facebook is gonna make 'em public on Income Tax Day, which is coming right up.
If you have anything embarrassing on Facebook, now is a good time to zap it.

It snowed for Easter

Not much, way less than an inch, but it turned the ground white.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Two silly ideas heard on Fox

Silly idea #1. Since gasoline tax revenues are flat or down, 'cause of less driving (when you're out of work you don't drive to work) and masses of electric cars (when did I last see an electric car on the highway?) let's start a "mileage tax" on all cars. Bad idea. if you just have to have more money, raise the gasoline tax. But, the public is agin that idea, and if the public is on the alert, they will be agin a mileage tax too. They didn't say, but I assume a mileage tax would work by reading your odometer when you get your inspection sticker. Actually they do that now, and I don't know what they do with the information.
Silly idea #2, This from Ben Stein. "I don't know what I would have done differently from Obama about the economy."
Well Ben, I can think of a few things. Use the $800 billion porkulus bill to buy real things that would have stimulated the real economy. Instead all the money went to helping state governments meet payroll. Approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Put GM and Chrysler thru real bankruptcy, divvy up their assets in accordance with the law instead of handing them all over to the UAW. Reform the patent office, which has stopped technical innovation in its tracks. Don't waste taxpayers money on black holes like solar, electric cars, Solyndra, and wind energy. These are never going to work, they are just money sinks. Don't do Obamacare, which has raised labor costs by a huge and unknown amount, stalling hiring all over the country 'cause no employer dares hire anyone, 'cause they can't afford the healthcare costs, or they can't figure out what those costs will be. Drop the ethanol for motor fuel boondoggle. Let oil drilling leases in the Gulf, off the east coast and off the west coast, off the Alaska coast and on oil sands in the west. Use Antitrust law to break up the biggest and stupidest banks, AIG, Citibank, BofA for starters. Shut down Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac before they wreck the world economy again. And prosecute their officers. Fund some science fiction projects like hydrogen fusion. Repeal Sarbanes Oxley and Dodd Frank. Shut down the EPA. Stop farm subsidies. Get the Feds out of the highway construction business. Let the states build the roads with their own money. Reform the corporate tax code and regulation to encourage business to operate in the United States. Shut down the SEC, repeal all their regulations, burn their files and prosecute their officers. SEC was started after Great Depression I to prevent Great Depression II. They have failed in that mission, so let's get rid of 'em to save money and free up industry.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Words of the Weasel Part 29

Transparent. Originally a property of glass, like you can see thru it. Now its an all purpose feel good property of various policitical wheeling and dealing. "The negotiations were transparent" is supposed to be a good thing. In fact just about any deal is OK so long as it is "transparent".
Armed robbery is transparent. Give me some money or I put a bullet into you. Can't get much more transparent than that. But I don't have to like it.

The nanny state comes to Havard.

According to this, Harvard students are required to get permission from the dean to throw a party.
Damn. I attended two different colleges back in the day, and we never had to get permission from anybody to throw a party.
Good luck Harvard students.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

USAF to go for $550 million bomber

They haven't figured out what the mission is, or what the thing will look like, or what they are gonna call it, but they have decided on the price. They have decided that it will be sub sonic (good call). Well at least it's less than the $2 billion for the B-2. This price declaration means that it will cost at least $550 million. Once you say how much you are willing to pay, count on the bids coming in right at that number.
The Aviation Week article is full of skeptical observations about USAF's terrible track record on contract costs, starting with the F-35 which was estimated at $35million back when the program started 20 years ago, and is $80 million now. And the tanker disaster, and the lightweight fighter fiasco. Certainly my old service has done more major bungles than successes over the last 20 years.
And there was a lot of wailing from subcontractors about how the cost target would be achieved by leaving off all their gold plated "systems". Unfair they say, leaving all this stuff off the bomber will mean other aircraft have to carry out those missions. Me, I don't have a problem with that. If the "low cost" bomber can destroy its targets, and live to tell the tale, it's done good. It doesn't need to do reconnaissance mapping, or serve as an airborne Internet relay station, or as VIP transport, or do electronic eavesdropping. It just needs to penetrate enemy defenses and hit the target. For extra credit it can get its crew back to base alive.
It's sort of too bad that the greatest penetration aid of all is unusable in the post cold war environment. The nuclear tipped Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM) could reach out 100 miles and vaporize those pesky fighter bases, radars and SAM sites. The B-52's carried lots of them in rotary launchers. Unfortunately we don't use nukes in the 21st century, and plain old TNT doesn't pack enough punch to do much of a job.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Strong Majority

That's what Obama said on TV. He was saying that the Supremes should not overturn Obamacare "because it passed the Congress with a strong majority".
Yeah Right. Every one knows that Obamacare just squeaked by with a bare handful of votes. When Obama calls that a "strong majority" I, and a lot of other people, think he is telling a falsehood. Very uncool to have a president that tells falsehoods.
Plus, unconstitutional is unconstitutional, doesn't matter how many Congresscritters liked it. The Supremes have overturned plenty of laws since Marbury vs Madison, all of which passed Congress with a much greater majority than Obamacare had.
Which ever way the Supremes go, I hope they can do better than 5 to 4. When the nine top lawyers in the country cannot agree on what the law really is, and the four losers write opinions calling the five winners idiots, it doesn't breed respect for the law or for the Supremes among the citizenry. And that's a bad thing.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Every age rewrites history to its own liking

I'm reading "The Isles, a History" by Norman Davis. He is something of a fruitcake, and spends a lot of words discussing how the mean old English oppressed the noble "Celtic" races, Welsh, Scots, and Irish, going right back to the beginnings of history. But he has some modern myths to propagate as well as serving as a scourge of the Sassenach.
Davis is discussing the Vikings and their impact on England. Which was considerable, at its high point the "Danelaw" covered half the country. There is the interesting question of why the Viking appeared so suddenly out of nowhere. They first struck the monastery of Lindisfarne in 793. Prior to 793 nobody in England had heard of them. Davis says,
"The central puzzle... is to know why, after an age of passive isolation...The answer obviously has something to do with a serious ecological imbalance....Historians refer to changes in climate..."
How PC of Davis, it's all due to global warming, Viking cook fires added to the CO2 level in the atmosphere. Yeah, Right.
More likely, the Viking shipwrights didn't learn how to build a ship seaworthy enough to cross the North Sea until 793. Heh, there is a first time for everything. There is a lot of art in building a sailing vessel that can reach across the wind and beat up into the wind. You need enough keel to keep the ship from sliding sideways under the press of sail. You need a sail that can be trimmed in to fore and aft, and you need the mast placed just right. Too far forward and the force of the wind pushes the ship's bow down wind overpowering the rudder. The far aft, and the opposite happens. The Vikings built the hull from long planks (strakes) and they overlapped the planks and riveted them together. This sophisticated construction ( we call it monocoque today) gave an immensely strong and light hull, but required a lot of hand made iron rivets and a set of really big clamps to force the planks tightly together so they could be riveted.
We have a few ship finds from before the Viking age, (Sutton Hoo for instance) and it is clear that these vessels were pure rowboats, no keel, no mast or mast step. They might have been good enough to cross the English Channel in nice summer weather, but crossing the North Sea is much harder.
As late as 1066, Duke William's invasion fleet had to wait months for a south wind to carry them to England. Translation, the Duke's hastily built ships (we can see them abuilding in the Bayeux Tapistry) were only fit to run before the wind. Tubs like that would never hack it in a North Sea storm.

We got two inches. Most since October's 8 inches

Heavy, very heavy. It looked so wintery last night that I lit the fireplace. And it's April. We ain't supposed to get snow in April.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Let's hear it for CD burners

A videographer backed up all his stuff on the net, using MegaUpload as his backer upper site. A day or two before the Feds shut down MegaUpload at the behest of MPAA for streaming copyrighted movies, this guy had his hard disk crash, wiping out all his videos. He is suing to get his backups back off MegaUpload and onto his new hard drive so he can use them. For this "service" he paid $107.
He would have done better to back up to CD's on his own computer. For real security, he should have stashed the backup CD's "off site", say at his folks place, just in case he suffered a house fire.

It's Snowing for April Fools Day

No fooling. It was 50 degrees and sunny this morning. Now it's snowing hard and down into the 30's.

Suppose the Supremes kill Obamacare?

Suppose that intelligence breaks out over the Supremes and they rule Obamacare totally unconstitutional and null and void? What happens next?
There will be a great hue and cry for Congress to "do something". OK, so what should Congress do?
We ought to address the real health care crisis, wild and crazy spending that's bankrupting the country. The US spends 19% of GNP on healthcare, which is TWICE what any other country in the world spends. For this torrent of money, the country does not get better health than the rest of the world. Real numbers, like life expectancy and infant mortality don't show any benefits from all the money poured down the drain. A good dozen countries have better numbers than the US and spend way way less. If we could bring the price down out of the stratosphere, it would be easier to pay our doctor bills. Let's try the following
1. Interstate competition in health insurance. We ought to allow any licensed insurance company based in any state to sell policies in every other state. Up here we only have TWO insurance companies to choose from, and both of them are expensive. If we had more choices we would get better prices. The insurance companies hate this idea, but we ought to do it anyhow. The commerce clause was intended to give Congress the power to do exactly this sort of thing.
2. Allow and encourage purchase of drugs from any first world country, say Canada. Also England, France, Germany, Scandinavia, Holland. US made drugs are sold overseas for a fraction of the price that US citizens have to pay in this country. If we could legally import any foreign drugs it would cut the price of pills a lot. The drug companies hate this, but we ought to do it.
3. Reform the FDA's approval process. Right now the FDA bureaucrats can jerk drug and device makers around, demand ever more expensive clinical trials, and make the cost of getting a drug or device approved for use prohibitive. The FDA should only test for safety, NOT effectiveness. Doctors and insurance companies will weed out ineffective things far faster than FDA bureaucrats. No ethical doctor will proscribe things that don't work, and no insurance company will pay for such treatment.
4. Protect doctors from the lawyers. No lawyer should be able to sue a doctor who proscribed FDA approved medicine, EVEN IF the FDA later revokes that approval (Vioxx). Lawyers should not be allowed to advertise for plaintiffs on TV (or anywhere else) . Malpractice is a creation of state law, so the states need to do the heavy lifting here. Lawyers hate this idea, and most politicians are lawyers.