Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Demo Slams

   US representative race up here.  We have Anne Kuster (D) TV ads slammng Charlie Bass (R) for voting against the minimum wage act.  Hell, that might be the best vote Charlie has cast.  Minimum wage doesn't boost wages, it kills entry level jobs.  A whole lot of entry level jobs (life guard, pizza delivery, retail work, fast food) are just barely profitable to the employer.  Raise the pay and the jobs go away 'cause the employer starts to loose money on them.  These are the summer jobs for high schoolers, first jobs out of welfare, the no experience needed jobs. 
  Passing a law to raise the pay on these jobs just makes the jobs disappear. 
  So Charlie, I'll vote for you if you keep voting against minimum wage.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Christmas Catalogs

They ain't what they used to be.  Used to be, the Christmas season kickoff was the arrival in the mail of the Sears Roebuck Christmas Catalog.  Full color illustrations.  Full of toys, clothes, tools, Christmas decorations and fruitcakes.  As kids we used to go thru it page by page.   When we wrote letters to Santa Claus, my father demanded Sears Roebuck stock numbers.  Well, Sears dropped out of the catalog business 20 years ago.
   Today the Walthers catalog (model trains) arrived.  It's the Christmas issue, we have a picture of Santa in his shop, painting a train model.  Inside we have lots of train sets.  Train sets are strictly gift-for-kid items, the grownup hobbyists buy stuff car by car and locomotive by locomotive.  About half the train sets are steam engines, the other half diesel.  Times are changing.  Used to be, every kid knew that a decent road steam engine had pilot wheels and trailing wheels.  Steamers with just drivers were humble yard switchers, never seen on the mainline. 
   That's gone now.  Half the steam sets had just all all-drivers switch engine.  Probably 21st century parents and kids don't know the difference.  And the prices.  A G gauge (really big) set with just two passenger cars $500.  O- gauge (Lionel) $300 a set.  HO gauge $129 a set. 

Bye Bye Sandy

It's nice being far off the storm track.  My deepest sympathy for the Mid Atlantic states suffering power outages, flooded everythings, downed trees and 2 foot of snow. 
  Yesterday the wind picked up around mid afternoon and it started to rain, lightly.  That kept up all night.  Our power stayed on, phone works, internet works, no trees down.  We've done much worse in the past. 
    There was that mini tornado thru here five years ago that dropped a tree on the house, blew off a neighbor's roof, and put the lights out for a week.  Those were the days.  Sandy was nothing like that up here.

Monday, October 29, 2012

So far, so good

We are pretty far off the hurricane track, so we have no rain, no wind, about 50 degrees and overcast skies.  We are ready, the grill is secured for winter, grass mowed for the last time, sun brolly stowed away, deck clear of deck chairs, and stuff.  I'd put the car inside the garage, except there is still too much stuff left over from the bathroom remodeling project for the car to fit. 
  TV is on, yakking away about Sandy.  We finally have a story other than the election. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Democracy, if you can keep it.

Actually Ben Franklin really said, "A Republic" but I will ignore that.  I was listening to one of those NPR pieces about bipartisanship and polarization, and how the federal government worked better back in the old days when all the congressmen lived in Washington and went out to dinner with each other and socialized and became friends.   Sounded wonderful.
   Then someone said when they assembled focus groups of ordinary voters and  "acquainted them with the true facts, they came to the right decision every time."
   And there lies the rub in this election.  Constant blatant lying by politicians, media, and advocacy groups.  How is a plain ordinary voter to know what is true when the air is so full of lies?  Just this morning Rachel Maddow said Obama has reduced the federal deficit every year.   Yeah, Right.  "Obama has created 5 million new jobs." Yeah Right.  "Our consulate was burned and sacked because of an internet video."  Yeah Right.  "Republicans reduced the state cigarette tax to aid Big Tobacco."  Yeah Right.  "Green jobs will reduce unemployment".  
   It just goes on and on.  One lie after another.  It's hard, and takes a lot of time and energy, but we voters ought to keep track of who is lying to us and vote against them just 'cause they lie.  In the case of media lying, change the channel. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Leon Panetta. Worthless SecDef

I watched Leon Panetta on TV tonight.  He said that he didn't have enough intelligence to send troops in harm's way, to the Benghazi consulate.  "If you don't know what you are going up against, you cannot commit forces." he said.  On TV.
   Sorry Leon.  You had all the information you needed. You knew an American outpost was under attack in a foreign land.  America always  reinforces its men under attack.  You didn't. You don't deserve to be an American Secretary of Defense.  In fact, you don't deserve to be an American citizen.
   We had Predator drones sending real time TV back to the White House.  We have AC-130 gunships nearby.  We didn't do squat, we let our men on the ground die.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Republican Get Together

Charlie Bass, our Republican incumbent US rep, standing for re-election, held a spaghetti dinner at the Littleton VFW hall the other night.  I went, along with a whole bunch of  other Republicans.  I've been around long enough that I knew nearly everyone in the room by name.  And I'm bad on names.  To the left, we have Charlie, saying a few appropriate words, from the podium.  Too bad the airconditioner shows up bigger than the candidate.

 Here we have Ovide Lamontagne, Republican candidate for governor of NH.  Very nice guy, also being upstaged by that air conditioner.  I estimate his chances of election as decent, not a sure thing, but decent.  His democratic opponent talks too much about tax hikes. 
Ovide shaking hands with youngest son, Jonathan.  I didn't get a photo of Ovide and a very cute little girl.

Anyhow, that's what the NH Republican establishment looks like in their native habitat.  We had nearly every important Republican in the state at this remote upcountry shindig.  We only  missed Kelly Ayotte (US Senator) and Bill O'Brien (Speaker of NH house) but we had just about everyone else.

In the old days this place would be referred to as a "smoke filled room". Nobody in this country smokes anymore, and they don't allow smoking indoors most places, so that colorful description is going out of date.  
   Anyhow a good time was had by all.

My color is Mud

Finished another round of car shopping.  Stopped at a dozen dealers over in St Johnsbury.  Each lot filled with very average looking cars, mostly painted mud color.  Mud has taken over from gray as the most popular car color.  Each one of these cars was new once, and each new car buyer opted for a mud paint job.  Taste they had, lots of taste. 
   Why is it that I see multiple stories about the end of stainless steel as America's favorite kitchen appliance finish, but I don't remember a single one on the rise of mud as America's favorite car color?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Getting things done WITHOUT using the military

   Both candidates spoke at length about the need for America to influence events overseas and in the Middle East, but without "putting boots on the ground".  Get foreign governments to do things our way but without using force.  Nice work if you can get it.  The voters approve, Americans have never supported agreements made at gunpoint.  We don't like to act the bully, we don't like getting our sons and husbands killed, and we don't like spending the necessary money.  America is not a war like country.  We don't see war as moral.
  So how do we influence events overseas?  We find individuals or groups,  politicians, newsmen, religious leaders, authors, unions, churches and political parties who support liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free market capitalism, and oppose terrorism, communism, and religious radicalism.  We offer these people and groups our support.  Money, web access, smart phones, color printers, favorable publicity in our press, intelligence, passports and visas, laptops, Xerox machines, and the myriad of useful devices that our economy produces in such abundance.  For a democratic resistance movement struggling to liberalize a repressive government, such assistance can be the vital edge that pushes them over the top.  It's generally accepted that this sort of encouragement and support to Lech Walensa's Solidarity movement  was very important in the overthrow of the  Polish communist regime.
  Of course, for this to work, it MUST remain secret.  Imagine what would happen to any American politician should it becomes known that he accepts help from the Russians, or the Chinese, or even the Saudis.  Likewise it would be the kiss of death to many overseas should it become known that they were working with the Americans.  
  Trouble is, no one overseas is willing to trust that the Americans will keep secrets secret.  They all fear that anything they share with the Americans will appear on the front pages of the New York Times in a few days.  Until we can tighten up our security and keep secret things secret, not even the best our our representatives be able to do much coordination with players overseas.  Those players fear that American leaks will cost them their lives.
   CIA is disgracefully leaky.  State isn't much better.  Until we tighten things up, we won't be able to do much influencing of anyone. 

No Knockout blows.

I watched the last Romney-Obama debate.  And watched the after debate spinners attempting to spin it their way.  Neither man made a fatal gaffe or landed a knockout blow.  Watching these things is like watching a bullfight.  You are waiting for someone to get gored. 
  Well, that didn't happen.  Romney came on as presidential, well informed, and reasonable.  He ain't gonna take us to war anywhere.  Obama did OK, defending the weak record of his administration.  He made the best of a bad situation.  The moderator, some old white haired coot from CBS news, was a lot better than the last one, Candy Crowley.  He had better questions and he didn't jump into the debate himself the way Candy did last time.  We TV viewers want to hear what the candidates have to say, we don't care what the moderator wants to say.  We don't like the moderator taking air time away from the candidates.
   I'll score this one as even-stephen.  Each man's  "base" will say (and think) their man did well.  I don't think there are many undecided voters left, so it's hard say what the effect on undecided or independents might be.  We will know in a couple of weeks. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Car shopping

Youngest son took me car shopping today.  In the space of an afternoon we visited all four car dealers in Littleton.  Wow.  Most of ;'em started at $10k for high mileage mini cars.  We didn't find anything to fall in love with.  The best of the batch was a Kia with 93K miles on the clock.  It had a manual trans, which is a plus, but the road noise on the highway was a bit daunting. 
   Clearly more hunting is in order.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What should they talk about tomorrow night?

Tomorrow is the last Romney-Obama debate.  It's supposed to be about "foreign policy".  For a superpower with world wide interests, this is a fairly important subject.   So what should they talk about? Here is my list.
1.  Iranian nuclear program.  How bad would a nuclear Iran be?  What should we do to stop the Iranians from getting the bomb?  We have managed to crash their centrifuge computers and  their currency.  Can we go farther and destabilize the mullahs, bringing on a third Iranian revolution?  If worse comes to worse do we have the stones to do a regime change on them?
2.  China and the South China Sea.  China is claiming ownership of  some worthless rocks in the South China Sea as a way of pushing out the Philippines, the Viet Namese, the Japanese and the Koreans from oil exploration in the region.  Should we let the Chinese push our friends around? Should we tell China where to get off? 
3. How much military strength do we need to maintain the Pax Americana?  Let's talk real numbers here, numbers of Army and Marine divisions, Air Force squadrons, Navy ships. 
4.  Can we sign the outstanding free trade agreements which objections by US union have stalled?
5.  How hard do we want to bash China on currency manipulation and trade?  It wouldn't be hard to start a trade war here.  Who would get hurt worse, us or them?
6.  Do we just let the Arab Spring stew in its own juice, or do we try to restore some kind of order over there?

Wanna bet they waste the evening talking about Benghazi and who knew what and when did they know it?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What to regulate?

In the news have been fatal cases of fungal meningitis traced to drugs mixed or packaged at a Framingham MA "compounding pharmacy".  Nineteen people have died, more are ill.  Predictably there have been calls for more "regulation" of "compounding pharmacies". 
   More regulation means more tests, more paperwork, more QC inspectors watching production, more worker training and a big dose of Mickey Mouse.
   But, despite all the hooting and hollering, nobody has yet  figured out what went wrong, and how.  They had been making this stuff for some time and all of a sudden it goes bad.  What really happened?  Did they skip or botch some test for infectious matter?  Fail to sterilize something?  Buy some material from China?  Leave out some important preservative?  Change the formula somehow?  Or what?  I can imagine a lot of ways to let fungus infect your product. 
   Should some investigators figure out the problem and publish a paper explaining how to prevent this dreadful infection, I am 100% positive that every "compounding pharmacy" in the land would immediately make the needed changes to their production lines. 
  We don't need more "regulation".  We need to find out how the fungus got into the product and how to stop it from happening again.

What to cut? Fannie and Freddy

Back during the New Deal, builders, real estate agents, bankers, insurance agents, and civic boosters of various stripes convinced the Roosevelt Administration that Great Depression 1.0 was caused because people weren't building enough new houses, and they were not building houses because there was a shortage of mortgage money.  And the federal government, with the power to print as much money as desired, ought to print up a bunch and put it into mortgages. 
  And so it happened.  Federal National Mortgage Something-or-Other, commonly known as Fannie Mae, was created.  Being an agency of the US government, the best credit rating on the planet, they could sell bonds for nearly as good a rate as Federal Treasury Bills.  They used this fountain of cheap money to purchase mortgages from savings and loans (remember them?) and ordinary banks.  The sellers could then use the cash to write more mortgages. 
   And what did Fannie Mae do with all those mortgages?  For many years they just cashed the mortgage checks and life went on.  Something in the '90s they invented a financial weapon of mass destruction, the mortgage backed security.  They proceeded to blow the global financial system to hell and back, and we are still living in the wreckage.  Great Depression 2.0 was caused by Fannie Mae, more than  anyone else.
  The destruction included Fannie itself, as Great Depression 2.0 threw everyone out of work, they stopped making their mortgage payments, and that cut off Fannie's air supply.  The US treasury had to step in and guarantee   Fannie's obligations.  This cost $140 billion of our tax money.  As bad as AIG.
  We ought to close down Fannie.  It isn't needed, and it has the power to do humungous damage.  It's still loosing money.  The financial world will be a better, safer, and cheaper place after we drive a stake thru Fannie's heart.  Revoke their charter, put 'em out of business.
   Obama hasn't said one word about Fannie.   But its a good bet that he would keep it going.
   Romney hasn't said much about Fannie either.  But I bet he would be OK with closing it down.                                         

Friday, October 19, 2012

Microsoft whines about America's Talent deficit

Today on the Wall St. Journal Op-Ed we have Brad Smith, executive VP and general counsel at Microsoft wailing about 6000 Microsoft job openings that they cannot fill.  Of these, 3400 are for "engineers, software developers, and researchers".  Brad Smith then goes on to cry about the US education system.  
   Tough cookies Microsoft.  If you need software people, you can train them yourself.  Run an ad. "Learn Programming.  Good pay.  No prior experience necessary."   That will get you all the applicants anyone could ever need.  Enroll the better half of them in a Microsoft run software training program.  In three months I can teach any decent college graduate how to program anything.  And so can Microsoft. 
   It is crazy for Microsoft to expect colleges to graduate students with five years experience in Windows internals, C sharp, Visual Basic.Net and Excel Macros..  The Microsoft HR droids want to hire people off the street with years of experience in very narrow specialties.  Got news for you HR droids, the world doesn't work that way. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

So where was the air support in Benghazi?

After a month of chattering about the Libyan outrage, who knew what and when did they know it, who was responsible for lack or security men, we have NOT talked about real issues.

1. Why no air support?.  The jets can move out at 600 mph.  We could have had fighters over the besieged consulate within an hour. 
2. Why no Marine reinforcements?  The V22 Osprey VTOL transports are slower than jet fighters, only 300 mph or so.  But they could have landed a company of Marines in the consulate courtyard within two hours. 

These are more important questions than why US ambassadors were pushing the "Video drove them crazy" story on the Sunday pundit shows a week after the attack.

357 Magnum in an automatic pistol?

That's what we get from Coonan Inc according to my latest American Rifleman.  It looks like a regulation .45 automatic but it takes 357 Magnum revolver cartridges.  Interesting and all that, but why?
   357, being a revolver cartridge, has a rim on the brass to seat on the back of the cylinder.  Without the rim, the hammer strike would merely push the entire cartridge up the cylinder instead of igniting the primer.  Revolver cartridges need that rim.  There have been several attempts to make revolvers that could fire rimless .45 auto cartridges, using clever metal clips that grab the extractor groove in the rimless automatic round.  They worked, mostly, but nobody was ever very fond of them.  Convenienal wisdom is that revolvers need rimmed cartridges.
   On the other side, rimmed cartridges don't stack neatly into a magazine  the way rimless will.  The rims have a tendency to catch each other and jam the gun.  Instead of stacking up straight, they stack in a curve, calling for a curved magazine.  Straight magazines, with a spring on the bottom are more likely to feed than curvy ones.  The moment of truth for an automatic pistol is when the slide jerks open, the empty brass is tossed out, the springs ram the slide home, stripping a new round off the top of the magazine and jamming it into the chamber.  As any automatic pistol owner can tell you, there are a thousand ways this can go wrong, jamming the gun.  I certainly don't want to give Murphy's Law something extra to work with like a rimmed cartridge.  I want rimless ammunition for my automatic pistol. 
   Plus, nobody has ever complained about the regulation .45 round lacking in power or accuracy.  357 is a fine round, but it doesn't hit any harder. 
   It's a nice looking gun, but I'd druther have a regulation .45 automatic. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama does better at debating

Naturally I stayed up to watch the Romney-Obama rematch.  Not bad.  Obama looked better and did better than last time.  Romney was as good as last time.  Obama made up a few "facts" on the fly. He said he had called the Lybian outrage terrorism the day after it happened.  I certainly don't remember that, and ever diligent Fox News found the tape, and although Obama had used the word terrorism, it wasn't in connection with the Lybian outrage.  He was just trashing terrorism in general.  Romney got on Obama's case about the pipeline and drilling permits and Obama didn't have much in the way of answers.
  The moderator was a tubby women with an attitude and bad hair (Candy Crowley).  She interrupted, argued, sucked up valuable time, and was totally in the tank for Obama.  I'd never heard of her before.  The audience questions were bad.  I mean does anyone care about the "assault weapons ban" any more?  That question did give Obama a chance to declare himself in favor of the right to bear arms. 
   Nothing new in the way of ideas, issues, or policies came up.  Everything that was said the two candidates have said before and said many times.  What's fun in watching it to see them going at each other face-to-face and seeing how good they are at thinking on their feet.  Both candidates managed to avoid fatal gaffes, and nobody was ever at a loss for something to say.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Nobody can vote for HIM because..

I hear this a lot.  But when I ask " What has he said or done that is so awful?"  they cannot think of anything.  But they KNOW that HE is awful and they could never vote for him, they just don't know WHY they feel that way. 
    And the MSM aggravate the situation, 'cause everybody knows they don't tell the truth.  So nobody listens to THEM. 
   Which might be why the debate was so effective, everybody got so see their guy, on national TV, all by himself. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Libya is for Losers

The TV newsies have been talking about the Libya disaster for a couple of weeks now.  Coupla things they haven't talked about.
1.  Marines.  I watched the whole congressional hearing, where they had four State Dept guys getting grilled by 20 Congresscritters for hours.  During all that time the word "Marines" never passed anyone's lips.  The back and forth was all about additional State Dept security guys.  Now as for me, when I got Al Quada climbing over the consulate wall, I want a company of Marines.  They know how to handle this sort of thing.  Once over the wall, Al Quada is on American soil, and the Marines can shoot them all.  Nobody talked about this.
2.  Coverup story.  Just what is the White House trying to sell to the voters.  And why?  Apparently the real story is Al Quada planned to attack and burn the consulate, and they suceeded.  To which an intelligent White House would say "We are gonna track 'em down and kill 'em."  A lot of voters are OK with that.
Instead they said "We Americans are to blame for stirring up the natives with provocative Internet video".  Few voters like that story much.

Winter is coming

Mt Lafayette from the Mittersill Inn driveway.  Took this picture two days ago.  It snowed on the deck that night and it stuck up on the mountain.  Notice that leaves have not all fallen yet.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Drive away bill payments

Paying the bills on a rainy Sunday.  I open the bill from Time Warner Cable.  (cable TV & broadband). Inclosed is a nice form letter explaining that they changed my account number, for the convenience of their computer wienies. 
   And would you be so kind as to redo all the paper work for your credit card payments 'cause when the new account numbers go into effect, credit card payments to the old account number will no longer be accepted.  Likewise if you are paying by electronic funds transfer.
   Right.  I'll drop everything and go thru all that again.  Real Soon Now
   Fortunately I still pay with old fashioned paper checks so I don't have  to bother.
   I wonder how many payments Time Warner will never see because their computer wienies were too lazy to program the new bean counting system to use the old customer account numbers.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Scam. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT)

A legal US tax scam.  All a company has to do is convince the IRS that they are in the real estate business, at least that a lot of their business is real estate, and presto, chango, NO US CORPORATE INCOME TAX.
Nice deal if you can get it.  Right now a cellphone operator, American Tower is trying to become a tax exempt REIT on the basis that its cellphone towers are real estate.  In line behind American Tower are data center operator Equinox (they own a fair number of big buildings full of computers) and bill board company Lamar Advertising (billboard are real estate).
   This tax scam is essentially unfair.  Business is business and all businesses ought to be taxed alike.  No special deals for special business.  The REIT scam sucks money out of everything else and pours it into real estate.  Which might be why a real estate bubble caused Great Depression 2.0.  We would be better off to have investors decide where to put their money.  They will pick things that will make money (and employ workers).  The REIT scam is  picking winners and losers via the tax code.
   Romney and Ryan might be willing to repeal this ugly bit of tax favoritism.   

Friday, October 12, 2012

Ryan vs Biden last night

A slug fest.  Biden was a lot feistier than Obama and I scored the event as more even than last week's showdown.  Biden was rude, smirking, laughing and interrupting.  Color him obnoxious.  Ryan was cool, polite, knowledgeable, a nice civilized and polite man I'd happily invite  home for dinner.  Biden can go eat at McDonald's.
  The moderator asked stupid questions and interrupted too much.  Give me Jim Lehrer anytime.
  Both guys presented arguments for their sides, but they kept quoting "facts" that I had never heard of  to bolster their arguments.  Being something of a political junkie who follows this stuff, I figure any fact I never heard of before is likely made up on the spur of the moment.  Bogus.   

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Four Careers are Toast

I watched the Darrel Issa hearings yesterday.  He had four State Dept people on the dock, two field guys who were on the ground in Libya and asked for re enforcements well BEFORE the legation was attacked and burned.  The other two were Washington desk wienies who had denied the requests for reinforcements.
The field guys reluctantly admitted under direct questioning that Washington had not given them anything. The desk wienies claimed that they had given the field guys "full support".
   Figure the State Dept bureaucracy will deal with these poor guys.  The two field guys will be dumped on for confessing to embarrassing facts.  The two desk wienies will be dumped on for not being more evasive under questioning.  All four of them can kiss off any thought of promotion in the next 100 years.
   The atmosphere was tense to the point of Chairman Issa offering his committee's protection to the two field guys against State Dept retaliation.   

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What to Cut? Item 5 BATFE

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,Firearms and Explosives.  These are the guys that brought us Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Fast and Furious.  They are federal police, with arrest powers, badges, and guns and little discretion.  When they cause a major mess (Ruby Ridge and Waco) they have to call in the FBI to bail them out.  They have a history of harassing  and entrapment of firearms dealers, gun show customers, and ordinary gun owners. 
   We would be better off without these feeders at the public trough.  State and local police make the great majority of all criminal arrests.  We don't need armed federal policemen to collect liquor and tobacco taxes from legitimate manufacturers.  Smuggling and bootlegging untaxed cigarettes or liquor is a violation of state law and evasion of state taxes which state police forces are well motivated to pursue. 
  BATFE has a budget of $1.12 billion a year.  Small compared to farm bills and transportation bills.  But you know what they say, "A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you are talking about real money."
   More competent and better balanced agencies like the FBI and the IRS could handle the few legitimate duties now handled by BATFE. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What to cut? Item 4. CIA

The trouble with CIA is that it is all too often wrong. They told Eisenhower that Fidel Castro was an agrarian reformer. They failed to predict the breakup of the Soviet Union, even after the fall of the wall.  They told George Bush and Colin Powell that Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons were a slam-dunk.  In actual fact, Saddam didn't have a nuclear program, which we found out AFTER invading the country.  They didn't  have even a single agent on the ground inside Saddam's Iraq.  CIA attempted to destabilize the Bush Administration by creating the Valerie Plame affair.  CIA agents still work out of embassies, which is like hanging a "kick me" sign on the back of your trench coat.  CIA announced  the Iranians did NOT have a nuclear program, just in time to scuttle some proposed sanctions.  CIA leaked the story about NSA listening into Osama bin Laden's satellite phone to the New York Times.  It took CIA ten years to finger Osama bin Laden. 
   With a track record like this, who in their right mind would believe anything CIA reported?
   Besides, America's best intelligence comes from NSA (who intercepts enemy communications) and the Air Force (who flies recon satellites). 
   CIA's budget is famously secret.  CIA appropriations are disguised somewhere deep inside the federal budget, so we don't know just how much money they spend each year.  But what ever they spend, it really ain't worth it, 'cause what ever CIA produces is suspect, 'cause it comes from an outfit with a long and well documented history of brain death.

Monday, October 8, 2012

What to cut? Item 3. Ground the FBI's Air Force

This came to light in a Wall St Journal piece last month complaining about Dept of Justice officials taking joy rides in FBI aircraft.  Apparently the FBI operates a fleet of executive jets for unspecified purposes. 
   Far as I am concerned, FBI agents ought to fly commercial, just like the rest of us.  And put up with taking off their shoes, nudity scanners, and groping by TSA agents.  If we citizens have to put up with this crap, so should they.   After all, they work for us.  
   You can fly anywhere in the country for a few hundred bucks.  Whereas a 10 seat executive jet costs $25 million to buy, and hundreds of dollars an hour to operate.  We could fly the agents first class for less than that. 
   This is small change compared with farm bills and tranportation bills.  I don't have real numbers, but if the FBI had a fleet of 10 aircraft, and flew each one 40 hours a week, at $200 an hour, we have $4.16 million a year for operating costs.  Small change, but every little bit hurts. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

What to cut. Item 2 Federal Transportation Bill

Used to be, streets and roads were built and maintained by cities and states.  They did alright.  They built the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the New Jersey Turnpike, the Merritt Parkway, the New York Thruway, the Connecticut Turnpike, and the Mass Pike, to name a few that I drive frequently.
  Then back in Eisenhower's time we got the Interstate Highway Program.  The Federal government put up 90% of the money, picked the routes and set the standards.  That was a half century ago.  And we got a magnificent highway system.  Best highways on the planet.  If you don't believe me, take a drive in Canada. 
   Anyhow, after 50 years of building, the Interstate system is complete.  We have superb roads going everywhere in the country.  Even way up here in the wilderness of northern NH, I have an interstate exit within walking distance of my front door. But, we keep spending federal highway money, whether we need it or not. 
  Back in June, Congress managed to pass a $227 billion-over-two-years highway bill.  That's $100 plus billion a year, about as pricey as the farm bill they haven't passed yet.  Put the saving from killing the transportation bill together with the savings from killing the farm bill, and we have better than $200 billion in savings to put against a $1 trillion federal deficit.  Not too shabby, and we haven't touched Social Security or Medicare.
    And this is politically do able.  Granted all the contractor's in the country are in favor of federal highway spending (the Feds will spend on anything, the staties are thriftier).  But there are more voters than contractors, and those voters ought to be worried about federal money printing turning their college savings, their retirement savings, and the value of their houses in to waste paper. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

What to Cut? Item 1. Farm Subsidies

This election features Democrats calling for tax hikes and Republicans calling for spending cuts.  Neither side has been specific about how bad the tax hike might be, or what might be cut.  Both sides fear that specific proposals will just mobilize opposition, so they stick to vague generalities that mean nothing.  So lets take a look at what we could cut. 
   Easy target Number 1 is farm subsidies.   There is a $1 trillion over 10 years farm bill wandering around capitol hill right now. It hasn't passed yet but they are trying hard.  Only farmers (less than 5% of the population) benefit. Most of us get taxed just to pass money to farmers.  Most of whom are corporations like Archer Daniels Midland, not family farmers.  Farming is just another business, like manufacturing or mining or trucking, or fast food.  Why should farmers get a $100 billion a year government subsidy that no other industry gets?
  We are talking about a lot of money here.  The yearly US deficit is $1 trillion, so the farm bill is 10% of the entire deficit.  Kill the farm bill and we have made a serious step toward balancing the US budget.  While we are at it, we could close down the Agriculture Department and save even more. 

7.8% unemployment, Hurrah

The Democrats and the newsies are talking this up like happy days are here again.  Right.  Does anyone really feel that Great Depression 2.0 is over?  I don't think a few tenths of a percent change in "unemployment" makes much difference to the voters.  Voters know that times are bad and jobs are hard to come by.  Talk it up as much as you like, it doesn't really mean all that much.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Peak of Peak Leaf Season.

The leaves are working hard on coloring up.  Sun came out today after days of rain so I got the camera out.
This is about as good as they are gonna look, they are already beginning to fall.
This is my front lawn. That;s a poplar tree.  The big maple behind the house has already turned and shed so no picture of him this year.
 Standing in front of the Mittersill Inn, looking up the access road.  That's Mt. Lafayette in the background. 
A maple tree on Ridge Cut road.  He ain't gonna get much redder than this. This is Columbus Day weekend, so the tourists will get a fine show of up country color.  .

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thin Red Line, Dreadful WWII movie

It was made fairly recently.  It's allegedly about Guadalcanal.  A green Army (Army not Marine) unit is landed on Guadalcanal.  They move up to the line, get ordered to assault an enemy held hill, and most of 'em get killed.  All the officers come across as nut cases.  We have conversations between one star generals and bird colonels, bird colonels and captains that would provoke court martials for all hands in the real world.  Nobody wears insignia of rank, making it hard for us viewers to figure out who is giving orders and who is taking orders.  The hill is covered with fantastic shoulder high grass, thicker than any grass I ever saw in Viet Nam.  It's so thick and lush that they could have taken the enemy position by belly crawling thru the grass.  They would have been totally invisible.  Instead they all stand up, start running forward into enemy fire, and all get shot for their pains.  
   Another down check, we never learn the names of any of the characters.  They probably give names once or twice, but not often enough or clear enough for this couch potato to catch 'em.  The movie shows Guadalcanal as a tropical South Pacific paradise with brown skinned native girls, colorful parrots, dugout canoes and grass huts.  No one who fought on Guadalcanal had anything good to say for the place.  All the letters home and memoirs talk about is heat, mud, bugs, enemies, snakes, booby traps, and artillery barrages, a genuine hell hole, not Bali Hai from the musical South Pacific.
The purpose of a war movie is to show a protagonist thrown into a dreadful situation, have him master the situation somehow, and learn from it and grow a bit.  Nothing like that happens.  We don't even have the satisfaction of seeing the more obnoxious characters take a bullet.
Bad flick.  We turned it off three quarters of the way thru to watch the Great Debate. 

So I stayed up for the Great Debate

Well, it went off.  Nobody imploded on stage.  Romney looked and sounded good.  Jim Lehrer moderated and just asked the questions and then let the candidates speak to them, which is good.  No new ideas were presented.  But they did speak to the issue, the economy, and kept the discussion on an adult level, and didn't wander off into trivialities. 
Good show.
We will see if it influences the polls.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Air Strikes won't work says Aviation Week

Long illustrated article discusses the Iranian situation in depth.  The writers conclude that the Iranian nuclear facilities are too deeply buried to be damaged by bombing.  Even by USAF, let alone the Israeli Air Force. Unless nukes were used.  USAF won't use nukes and we are pretty sure the Israelis won't either.  The article did say that the Stuxnet computer virus slowed the Iranians down by five years, but that won't work again the article says.  The Iranians are constructing a secure network and taking their computers off the public Internet. 
  Of course, Stuxnet wasn't spread via the Internet.  Stuxnet was put on flash drives, and they scattered a few infected flash drives around the parking lots outside Iranian nuclear facilities.  Sharp eyed workers would spot the flashdrives lying on the asphalt, pick them up and take them in to their cubicles.  When they plugged them into their computers, Stuxnet would load itself into RAM and go to work.  No Internet access required for infection.

Frank and Robot, Depressing movie

Youngest son dragged me over to the Colonial to see this flick last night.  Frank, retired old codger, has grown children who worry about his health.  Frank has been letting things go, like the dishes, hair cuts, picking up, housework in general.  It's unattractive. 
  So the children buy Frank a household robot.  It cleans and cooks and sweeps and urges Frank to eat healthy and go on low sodium diets and yadda yadda.  Somehow Frank, wily old codger who used to be a cat burglar, talks the gullible robot into becoming his assistant on a few burglary jobs around the town.  "Just to keep his hand in". 
  It's cute, and there are some good lines, but speaking as a guy approaching old codgerhood, I found it depressing.  Frank is at end of life, alone, with nothing to do.  His children are unattractive, deeply into trendy unproductivenesses, and no grandchildren.  It's so bad that Frank develops a father-son relationship with the robot. 
   Depressing movie. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What is it with Democrats and Tax Hikes?

Democrats want tax hikes.  It's their holy grail.  Obama keeps talking about the need for more taxes.  ("a balanced approach") So do Anne Kuster, Maggie Hassan, NHPR, and Carol Shea Porter.  David Gregory offered a 10 for one deal, "For each dollar of tax hike you Republicans give us, we will give you 9 dollars of spending cuts."  Real bipartisan that is.
   As far as Democrats are concerned, original sin is refusal to hike taxes.  They beat on Republicans about this all the time.
   And the electorate must have some kinda death wish, they keep on electing democrats. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Refrigerator patents

According to the Wall St Journal, Whirlpool and LG settled their patent suits over household refrigerators yesterday.  Wow.  The household refrigerator was invented a hundred years ago.  You would think the patents had expired by now.  Ingenious lawyers, aided and abetted by the ever helpful US Patent Office, have managed to bill yet more hours over trivia. 
  The last go round was over "the concept of a refrigerator dispenser with an extendable tray and water spigot".  And that idea really really deserved a patent because it was not obvious to any housewife, let alone someone "skilled in the art".
   We could get the economy moving again except every time someone puts a product on the market they get sued by patent trolls.  There is nothing new about refrigerators.