Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Down with Toll Roads

After 60 years of a no-toll-road federal policy, the Obama administration is backsliding.  They have been making noises that would allow states to put up toll booths on the interstate highways.  Obviously the attraction of squeezing more money out of the people overcame the very sensible principle of freeways rather than toll roads. 
   Travel means business, sales, and money.  It's good public policy to encourage travel and shipping.  Tourists bring money, and spend it, all along the way and at their destination.  Trucks bring every sort of good, which gets sold, for money.  The more goods shipped the more money everyone makes.  It was federal policy that freeways paid for themselves thru the increased business and economic activity.  Discouraging travel and shipping thru road tolls costs us more in lost business than it returns in tolls.
  Despite crying and wailing from the road contractors, US roads are in good shape, much better shape than say Canada.  I drove around the Gaspe peninsula in Quebec once.  It was a major road, a two lane provincial highway along the St Lawrence River.  Only it had washed away to the point that only one lane was left.  You don't see that in the US.  Except for some really beat up roads around New York City,  American roads are better than anywhere in Europe.  We do not have an "infrastructure crisis" except in the minds of state highway departments and road contractors.  Which has been used as an excuse to call for more money for "infrastructure".  Road tolls might provide this extra revenue.  So says the highway lobby.
  I say we ought to stick to the freeways rather than toll roads policy.           

B17 fighter plane?

That's what Fox News called it this morning.  They were covering a decoration ceremony for some WWII Army Air Corps survivors.  On missions over Germany their B17's got shot up and had to crash land in Switzerland.  The Swiss "interned" them in conditions as harsh as a German POW camp.  But since it was Switzerland, not Germany, the airmen were denied prisoner of war medals when WWII was over.  Relatives worked long and hard to reverse this, and this morning the few airmen still alive were presented with their medals. 
   Aside from the Fox voiceover calling the B17 a fighter, all went well.  How anyone could mistake the most famous American warplane, hero of movies such as Twelve o'Clock High, The War Lover, and Memphis Belle, as a fighter plane, reveals much about the shallowness of TV newsies.  And this was on Fox, the best of 'em.  Saints preserve us from what the bottom feeders like MSNBC are polluting the airwaves with.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Get the Feds out of the Mortgage Business

The housing industry, realtors, builders, mortgage lenders, appliance makers, and others, back in Great Depression 1.0 persuaded Congress to give them a handout.  They claimed a shortage of mortgage money was crimping the industry's wings, and housing  was needed to provide jobs and "home ownership".  And so our tax money was channeled into mortgages thru Fannie Mae.  Actually, Fannie Mae made good money for many years.  It borrowed at the low Federal T-bill rate because everyone believed that the US government would back up Fannie's bonds, and it loaned at the commercial mortgage rate, leaving a comfy profit margin.  Fannie Mae even sold stock to private investors, with dividends paid out of the juicy profits.  Fannie Mae (and its younger brother Freddie Mac) offered cushy jobs for retired politicians, and nice profits to investors. 
  In the 1980's Fannie got into, or started up, the "secondary mortgage market".  In this deal, they would buy existing mortgages from the "primary" lenders, mostly banks.  For a while this made money, but the side effects gave us Great Depression 2.0.  The primary lenders found that they could make money on anything, do the mortgage, sock the buyer with hefty paperwork fees to do the deal, then sell the mortgage to Fannie. If the mortgage went bad, borrower skipped town,  property wasn't worth the money in the mortgage, the primary lender didn't care.  He made his money the minute Fannie bought the mortgage off him.  And so the quality of the mortgages went down hill.  Suddenly investors stopped loaning money to Fannie, and shortly after Great Depression 2.0 stalked the land, Fannie got taken over by the US treasury.  $188 billion of your tax money was poured into Fannie to meet it's obligations.
   With this sorry history, we ought to get the Federal government out of the mortgage business.  There is plenty of private money to finance home buying.  Remember, a mortgage is a VERY desirable deal for the lender.  His loan is secured by real property, something tangible and salable.  If the borrower defaults the bank gets the house.  And, the borrower is highly motivated to make his payments.  No spouse wants to explain to his partner why they and their children are getting pitched out into the street.  
   If private investors will buy US T-bills that only pay 3%, they will be happy to make an equally safe mortgage loan at 4.5%.  They will be plenty of mortgage money if we give the mortgage business back to private banks.  And we ought to forbid the selling of mortgages.  When you make a mortgage you will own it til it's paid off.  This will discourage doing mortgages that are bound to fail. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

Just one more thing for Republicans

Stop the NSA snooping of cell phones, all phones for that matter. 
   "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Article IV.  The "oath or affirmation" was language acceptable to the Quakers, who refused to take oaths as a matter of religious principle.  Quakers would "affirm" their testimony, but would not testify under oath. 
  NSA is violating every clause of Article IV.  They have no Warrant.  They have no probably cause. Snooping every cell phone in the country is not "particularly describing the place to be searched".
  It's creepy to know that government can check every person I ever telephoned, and probably where I was when I placed the call.  Your (or my) political enemies could troll thru this record looking for dirt.  Just accepting a phone call from some scum bag could do your rep, and your chances of winning an election, a lot of harm.  How often have you picked up your phone and found some slimey robocaller on the line?

But they won't vote Republican

The Washington Examiner has a story about the Laborers International union, which naturally favors Keystone XL.  The Examiner cites union outrage over the Obama administrations latest stall on the pipeline.  But, despite outrage, the 557,000 member union never says to its membership "Vote a straight Republican ticket, that will get us Keystone XL and keep us off unemployment."   Here is a clear cut case where Republicans can help the union but the union people cannot drop their lifelong loyalty to the democrats.  These are clearly instinct voters, not thinking voters. 
  The Examiner goes on to explain the role of hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, who gave $50 million to Obama, and promised to raise another $50 million.  Obama clearly values the $100 million more than he values 557,000 live and voting union members.  I guess he figures they are all dumb enough to vote democratic no matter what. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Big Enchilada, jobs, jobs, and more jobs.

And everyone likes this one.  Turn the economy around, get hiring people, have jobs for everyone, enough jobs that workers can quit companies they don't like and be able to find another job.  That will bring wages up. 
   But to win the election, the GOP has to spell out HOW it is going to achieve this nirvana.  Voters want specifics.  Such as:
1.  Start the Keystone XL pipeline.  It will get crude oil shipments off the rails and into a pipe.  It brings oil in from one of our closest allies.  It will lower the price of gasoline and furnace oil.  It will allow US export of fuels to our friends around the world.
2. Repeal Sarbanes Oxley.  This 1000 page law is welfare for lawyers, an intolerable burden on companies, and has driven merger and acquisition business out of New York.  Getting rid of Sarbanes Oxley will make it easier to run a business, and business is what employs people. 
3.  Repeal Dodd Frank.  Another 1000 page law, welfare for lawyers.  Dodd Frank sets up ways for taxpayers to bail out firms "too big to fail".  Replace Dodd Frank with some anti trust action, any company too big to fail is clearly a trust, and needs to be busted.  Dodd Frank tells Wall St speculators that they can take any sort of risk, when things go bad Uncle will bail you out. 
4.  Reform corporate income tax.  For instance, money earned overseas should not be subject to US income tax.  Companies that make money overseas should be free to bring the money back to the US and spend it.  Right now Uncle takes 35% of every dollar brought home from overseas.  At this rate, it makes sense to leave the money in overseas banks earning a couple a percent rather than investing it back here at home.  And, that 35% corporate tax rate is the highest in the industrial world.  No wonder companies are sending jobs overseas, the taxes are lower. 
 5.  Reform the US patent system.  Right now no one can bring any new product to market without some patent troll suing for patent infringement as soon as the product makes a little money.  Look are the $600 million award against Blackberry some years ago.  Blackberry is filing for bankruptcy today.  Patents are granted for ridiculous things, like whether it takes one click or two clicks to place something in an internet shopping basket.  This constant threat of mickey mouse lawsuits makes getting a start up company off the ground harder.  It's the start ups  that employ people. 
6.  Remind every one that a $10 minimum wage doesn't put more money in worker's pockets, instead  it throws them out of work.
7.  Repeal the "Corporate Average Fuel Economy" (CAFE) requirements.  Four dollar a gallon gasoline is all the incentive anyone needs to build fuel efficient vehicles.  The current CAFE requirement of nearly 50 mpg makes new cars ridiculously expensive, leading to lower car sales and people refurbishing old cars to keep them running longer. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

And, the GOP needs a platform for young people

The young voters are heavy internet users.  They all believe that everything should be free.  They want to download music, movies, ebooks, you name it, for free.   There are some things we could do to make interneting  more harmonious.
   First, rewrite copy right law.  Current copyright runs for the life of the author plus seventy years.  We ought to cut that back to fourteen or seventeen years, like it used to be.  That would take all the good pop music off copyright and allow downloading legally.  My children's ipads are stocked with the great songs I remember fondly from my college years.  That was more than seventeen years ago.  The kids would love this.  The labels hate the idea.  Labels don't vote.
  Then repeal the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which permits all sorts of legal bullying by Hollywood and the labels. The kids would love this.  Hollywood and the labels hate it.  They don't vote.
  Then repeal the age 21 drinking law that MADD rod rodded thru Congress twenty years ago.  Make drinking age a matter of state law.  The kids would love this.  And, it would increase safety.  Colleges ought to operate on-campus pubs.  Students would prefer sipping a few, at a place where their friends might be.  After having a few, they can walk back to dorm.  Much safer than driving back to campus after a party.   Not sure just who is against this idea, but someone is.
   Social security and medicare reform.  Most young people figure these programs will be gone long before they get eligible for them.  They would be fine with some modest trim backs of benefits.  They see FICA taking a big whack out of their paychecks, and they don't see any payback for themselves.  They see it as a tax on them to support the elderly. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Republicans need a platform to win this year

Despite all the pundits claiming this is a Republican year due to misteps by the Obama Adminstration, I am worried.  In 2012 Obama carried the women's vote by 10%.  That was enough to win the election coast to coast.  Women are half the voters.   Republicans do poorly with young voters, and that can be fatal.  As the seniors die off, the young voters take their places and if they are all democrats, we can kiss the GOP goodby.
   Let's talk about women voters first.  The Republicans need to get off the pro-life thing.  For every pro-life voter we gain, we lose a young woman who fears getting pregnant and not being able to stop it.  The party needs to stop backing all those little laws that chip away at abortion.  The party doesn't need to switch over to a pro-choice stance, it just needs to stop talking about it.  The ardent pro-life people will whine and cry, but in the end they will vote Republican.  And a lot of younger women will too.
   Health Care is a top issue with women, they are the caregivers who take the children to the pediatrician.  Unlike men, women are more likely to go to the doctor when something hurts.  Men are more apt to just tough it out, not wanting to loose pay or appear soft.  So healthcare counts, big time with women.  Obamacare is disliked by the majority of voters.  But the Republicans have not offered an Obamacare replacement, probably because they cannot agree on what it ought to be.  And Republican leadership has failed to get the party together on a plan, probably fearing that whatever they propose the media will savage them on it. 
   We ought to propose freedom for insurance companies.  Any insurance company licensed to do business by any state in the union, is free to sell insurance in all fifty states.  Right now, to sell insurance you have to get a license from the state you are selling in.  To jump thru fifty sets of paperwork hoops  to get licensed in fifty different states is beyond any company.  So a lot of states, like New Hampshire, only have ONE insurance company doing business in the state.   And, monopoly leads to price gouging.   Voters would love the idea.  Insurance companies hate it.  Insurance companies don't vote. 
   We ought to propose freedom to import drugs.  Any drug approved by the health authorities of decent first world countries (Canada, England, France, Germany, and some others) may be imported duty free and sold by drug stores.  This would drop the price of prescription drugs a lot.  Voters would love the idea.  Drug companies hate the idea.  Drug companies don't vote. 
   We need to clamp down on malpractice suits.  Right now every doctor has to pay $100,000 a year for malpractice insurance, unless he wants to be sued into poverty.  This is largely a matter of state law.  Up here in New Hampshire we did something about malpractice which cut the rate in half.  Other states could do likewise.  Voters are OK with this idea.  Lawyers hate it.  Although lawyers can vote, there aren't all that many of them. 
   We need to scrap the regulations that force gold plating of medical facilities.  For instance at  Dartmouth Hitchkok the main building is topped by a gigantic row of air conditioners.  Turns out, regulations require the hospital to hold temperature to 72 degrees plus or minus ONE degree. which is ridiculous, in addition to ridiculously expensive.   

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Pitch ball? Spit ball? This is news?

All over the TV news.  A Yankee's pitcher had pine pitch on his neck.  Strictly verbotten in baseball. Making the ball sticky is all kinds of against the rules.  It's like pitching a spitball.  News coverage is INTENSE.  Must be a slow news day.

Long Island town has massive SWAT team

Been watching this on TV.  A prank call brought out a 60-70 man SWAT team, all in black uniforms and black helmets, toting machine guns, equipped with armored Humvees.  All this to a suburban home in Nassau county NY?  Who/what did they expect to oppose them?  Al Quada in New York?  The Symbionese Liberation Army?  The Suprano's?  Sure looks like over kill to me.  Lucky nobody got shot.
   Could it be that once the town cops got funding for a SWAT team they wanted to use it for something?  
   For that matter, did the BLM send all those armed men to the Bundy ranch because they were on the payroll and had nothing better to do?  Should federal bureaus (except the FBI) have armed agents at all?  The proper procedure for a bureaucracy to apply force to citizens is to obtain a court order, and have local law enforcement carry it out.  Not to dispatch their own private pug uglies to bust heads. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Time to ante up. 600 US soldiers vs 40,000 Russians

It's on the TV news.  Despite the superior combat skills of US forces, somehow I don't think 600 guys have a chance against 40,000.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Do you believe in powdered alcohol?

Fox news has been running short pieces on this new product every hour or so during the day.  This concept first appeared in a Harry Harrison science fiction story, one of the Stainless Steel Rat stories, many years ago.  I'm not the world's greatest chemist, but I do know that alcohol is a liquid, and it will freeze, it will boil, but it won't turn into a powder.  Could it be that gullible newsies, who never studied even high school chemistry, have fallen for an April Fools story? 

Space-X lands a rocket booster, on land

The video is fascinating, a big rocket hovering on engine power and carefully backing down to the ground.  Landing upright, all in one piece.  Space-X hopes to lower the cost of spaceflight by soft landing and reusing the booster.   Amusingly, the Fox News commentator keep referring to the rocket engines as "afterburners".  Sorry Fox, an afterburner is a power boosting device applied to jet engines, not rockets.  Afterburners can double your thrust, at the cost of horrible fuel consumption.  Only military fighter planes are equipped with afterburners due to their ability to suck down fuel like a sewer pipe.  To call the rocket engines of a booster afterburners reveals the depth of ignorance of the newsies. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Majoring in the Liberal Arts.

Major hand wringing article, The Liberal Arts are in Trouble.  Enrollment is down, students are opting for majors that will get them a job after graduation.  A lotta talk about the politicization of  the liberal arts leading to self destruction.  Departments where all the art and literature of the past is examined for sexism, racism, political uncorrectness and condemned for it.  It doesn't take much of this kinda talk for students to get the point, and change majors.  Who wants to major in something politically incorrect?
   All is probably not lost.  A liberal arts major is still appealing to vast numbers of students who cannot hack the math required for a STEM major.  Not everyone can learn integral calculus, and with out calculus you aren't going anywhere in science or engineering.  So if you are one of those mathematics "challenged" college students what are you gonna do?
  First,  understand that the liberal arts are English, foreign languages, history, art, philosophy, and music  Know that gender studies, minority studies, physical education, theater arts, and journalism are not liberal arts, and have little to no prospect of landing any kind of job better than waiting tables after graduation. 
  Second, figure out what kind of job you can turn a liberal arts degree to.  The college faculty see the mission of their department as training more college faculty.  Which is a dead end jobwise.  Typical college teaching jobs are "adjunct" professors, part timers, paid by the course taught, no health insurance, miserable pay, no chance of tenure.  As a single guy or girl you can just barely get by on adjunct's pay. You will never pay off your college loans, afford a down payment, or marriage.  Don't go there.
   Think about an English major for careers in writing, sales, acting, computer programming, business.  Foreign language can get you a job in any company that does business overseas.  A company would rather rely upon  American agents staffing their overseas offices than local nationals of questionable loyalty.  History can lead into a teaching position, or  the writing of history books.  Check out a book store.  You will find the history books given as much shelf space as anything else.  Art or music majors are good for artists or musicians.  Note, it takes some natural born talent to be a successful artist or musician.  If you don't have any talent, best look elsewhere.  Positions as art experts or music critics, like Pru Hallowell on the old Charmed TV show are few and far between.
    Think over carefully before signing for those humungous college loans.  

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Greatest Religious Movie of all Time

I saw a list of 'em on the Web the other day.  Naturally, at the top was Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments.  It came out in the 50's.  It's still going strong, they ran it on Channel 9 (WMUR) just last night.  Then there was Ben Hur, Samson and Delilah, the Robe, and the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
   Oh really?  I know everyone talks about what a cool Christian C.S. Lewis was, but I never thought of the Narnia stories as particularly religious.  They were kid's books, and as kid's books used to do, they advocated good and disparaged evil.  But evil in Narnia was vanquished by force of arms, and the Lion takes on the the Witch directly in the last chapter.  I'm not sure if this is quite in accordance with Christian doctrine. 

Easter Skiing

It's Easter, it's warm and sunny. Cannon is open for skiing.  Parking lot is full, chairlifts and tramway are running.  New England skiing is best in March they used to say.  It's April in case you hadn't noticed.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Amunoosuc Valley Railway Assn does the Spring Show

So we engaged the Haverill Middle School gym.  We invited 30 vendors, sold them tables.  Trailered the club modular layout up and unloaded it.  We gotta recruit some younger members for this club.  We had a good turnout for setup, but the bulk of the membership is getting too old and infirm to jackass the heavy modules out of the trailer and set them up.  Let alone grovel around on the floor adjusting leveling jacks and hooking up electrical connections.  In fact the entire model railroading hobby is suffering from a lack of new blood.  When the doors opened on Saturday, the bulk of the attendees were elderly.  A few grandchildren who loved every minute of the show.  Very few young guys (or girls).
   So I  checked out the vendors and bought the makings of three new fun projects.  I found a heavy freight steamer to pull my freight trains, a baggage car for my baggage and mail train, and a tank care for my tank train.  For not much meney, I have the makings of hours of pleasant shop time. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Looking for a Republican Presidential Candidate for 16

Unless we want four more years of Hillary, the Republicans need to win the presidency in two years.  To get the country moving again, the economy growing again, people back to work again, we need to pass some legislation that Democrat presidents would never sign.  We need to repeal most, perhaps all of Obamacare.  We need to build the Keystone XL pipeline.  We need to explore for oil and gas offshore and on federal land.  We need to curb the EPA.  We need to stop wasting money on pork and crony capitalism, the Highway bills, the farm bills, the green energy boondoggles.  We need to start rolling back endless job killing regulations.  We need to fire the endless federal SWAT teams. 
   To do any of this Republicans need to win the presidency.  Hillary would veto ever one of this projects.  To win, Republicans need a candidate.  So far, the guys who make the evening news don't look very electable.
   Start with Rand Paul.  Nice guy, would enjoy having him over for drinks.  But, he is an isolationist.  Believes that American should withdraw to the continental US,  and  incur no expense, bear no burdens, and let the rest of the world take care of itself.  Nice ideas, but the last time isolationism gave us WWII.  If the US had joined the League of Nations, and exerted itself, Hitler could have been stopped, anytime up to 1938.  We could have laid down the law to the Germans, even removed Hitler from office.  The French and the British would have backed us up.  But we didn't, and Hitler went on to set the entire world on fire.  Look what Putin is doing to Ukraine right today.  We ought to stop him.  Rand Paul won't.
   And, Rand Paul probably shares his father's fetish for a gold standard currency.  I heard the elder Paul, ight up here in the Littleton Opera House, explaining how he would go back to a gold back currency.  And throw the economy into a worse tailspin than it is now.  To be fair, I haven't heard the younger Paul making goldbug talk, but I haven't heard him reject it either. 
   Chris Christy took a solid hit over the George Washington bridge lane closings.  Too bad, but that's American politics, a blood sport.  He's gotta do a whole bunch of recovery to be in the running.
   Ted Cruz might be a possibility.  He has a pretty good record.  But I don't know enough about him and I suspect a lot of people outside of Texas feel the same way.  He has two years to make himself better known.
   Condi Rice anyone?  I like her, but I suspect she will not run.
   Jeb Bush?  Nice guy, good family, but his father and his brother have held the presidency and giving it to a third member of the same family seems awfully like a hereditary monarchy. 
   We need someone....


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Federal HIghway Trust Fund going dry

This comes from Neil Cavuto on Fox.  He had a couple of guests, one who called to close it down for good and one who called for pumping it up with more of my tax money. 
   Me, I think we ought to shut it down, cancel the federal gasoline tax that goes into the fund, and let the states take care of roads and bridges.  The states do most of this already.  The Federal Highway Trust Fund was started up under the Eisenhower administration.  It earmarked all the federal gasoline tax money to building the interstate highway system.  Well, the interstates are all built, have been for 30 years.  So Congress critters dole out trust fund money to their districts whether it's needed or not.  Congress critters love that part. And, surprise, the districts always find a way to spend it, all of it.  When good old Tip O'Neill retired, his numerous friends in Congress decided do something nice for good old Tip.  They funded the Big Dig in Boston, a $14 billion dollar tunnel under the center of town.  The Big Dig was still being dug years after good old Tip died.  It didn't do much to improve Boston traffic, but it did open up a lot of prime real estate in the center of town.  Contractors all over Massachusetts loved the Big Dig. 
   The states have the resources to keep the country's roads and bridges in repair.  Thrifty New Hampshire, with out either a state income tax or a state sales tax, keeps it's roads in better shape  than bigger richer New York does.  And, when the state government has to raise the money for road work, it tends to stick to necessary work and skip the frills.  You can save a lot of money that way.  And, state funded projects don't have to pay the inflated Davis-Bacon wage rates that federal projects do. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Old Winter Driving Trick

Broom the snow off your car in the morning.  Shining on bare car metal and glass, the sun will make the whole car warm to the touch, even when it's below freezing.  The warmth will melt all the frost off the windows, make the car interior warm and cozy, and make the motor warm and happy to start.  Much easier than chipping ice off the wind shield.  If your battery is getting old and weak or your motor needs new plugs, the extra warm might just be the difference between getting started, and calling for a jump start.

Captain America, Winter Soldier

So I saw it at the Jax last night.  It's a Marvel comic book movie.  If you liked your Marvel comic books you will like this one.  There are a few plot holes, but not too bad.  It's right in tune with the times.  Everything, Shield, the World Security Council, the DC cops, you name it, is secretly infiltrated by bad guys, (Hydra?) and turns on Nick Fury  and Steve Rogers.  Shades of NSA, CIA, and BLM.
   Technically superb.  Lighting and color first rate.  No under lit dark interior shots. Non of that irritating fade-to-black-and-white post processing.  Good camera work, they use tripods, they skip the "shake-the-camera" shots.  Decent sound man, I could hear and understand all the dialogue.  Special effects utterly convincing.  Even Shield's vast flying aircraft carriers look real.  The textures of the huge machines is right, like painted metal, flat paint, no gloss, a touch of weathering.    The carrier's huge lift engines really look powerful enough to boost the massive thing into the air. 
   Incredible amount of hand to hand fighting.  Gymnastics, back flips, leaps up and over things.  Any of these fights would have taken gold at Olympic gymnastic competition.  Capt America's shield gets a fine workout.  Mixed martial arts, or is that mixed movie martial?  It goes fast and furious right up to the last reel.  The girl friend, Natasha, is as fast and deadly a fighter as Capt America.  Car chases and car crashes better than I have seen before.  The scene where the DC cops, driving Ford  Crown Vic's, try to take Nick Fury, driving a black Chevy Suburban, in DC traffic, is good, lotta seriously bent Fords. Every car chase involves fender-to-fender contact, and visibly mangled body and fender work.  And lots of bullet holes. If this is CGI work, it's very well done.
  A few goofs.  Nick Fury, reminiscing about his childhood, mentions his old man's "22 Magnum".  Not cool.  Back then, .22 anything was a kid's gun.  Everyone carried at least a .32.  Cops and serious guys carried .38 Special or .45. 
    Actors were run of the mill, except for Robert Redford, who played a treacherous senior bureaucrat.  Chris Evans and Scarlett Johanssen are competent leads playing comic book hero and heroine parts.  They both have the looks and the figures the parts call for.  Scarlett flaunted real cool shoulder length red hair, I still wonder if it was her own, or a wig.  Although they are together for most of the scenes, they don't real seem to be girlfriend and boyfriend. Scarlett (Natasha) gives off some vibs that she likes Steve Rogers, Steve doesn't seem all that interested.
   Anyhow, a fun flick, worth the price of admission.  Fine for older (say age six and up) children.  No bad language, no nudity, lots of slam bang violence, little to no blood, the good guys win in the end.      

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

It's Snowing, Again

On the 15th of April, it's snowing.  What ever happened to that worthless groundhog? 

Update, next morning.  We got four inches, I just measured it.  It's 20 F.  I see flocks of unhappy birds looking for food, shelter, warm, anything.  

Who's in charge here?

This morning the TV news announced that the IRS would be publishing new rules for non profit organizations, such as Tea Parties. 
   Where does a bunch of pure democratic civil servants get the right to set that kind of policy?  By rights, Congress should pass a law.  In real life, Congress is so split, and so partisan that it is incapable of passing anything.
   Especially on something like this.  First Amendment freedom of speech and press, means organizations can say and publish anything they like.  IRS  and FEC want to change that rule, into "You cannot say anything political, any time.  This led to the famous Heller decision, the Supreme court ruled that corporations and labor unions could politick as much as they like. 
  Anyhow the IRS wants to make a rule, defining just about everything as political activity and therefore forbidden to nearly every organization in the country.  We are talking about Tea Parties, Sierra Club, Boy Scouts, Red Cross, NRA, NMRA, Elks, Chamber of Commerce,  Shriners, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Consumers Union, Campfire Girls, Masons, VFW, churches, AMA, ABA, SAE, Salvation Army, USO and on and on.
   These "non governmental organizations" do immense amounts of charitable work  They bring Americans together, they set up civic events, and they form the civic glue that holds the country together.  And, they lobby for their political interests.  Wise Congressmen listen to them, laws they support get passed, laws they oppose don't pass.  Much of the work of democracy is guided by these non governmental organizations. 
  And now the IRS is trying to take them all over. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why we cannot simplify federal income tax

What makes federal income tax such a bear to fill out?  It's all the special interest benefits built in thru out the law.   Mortgage interest deduction, the darling of realtors, home builders, and mortgage banksters.  Special deduction for school teachers who buy their kids pencils.  Capital gains to benefit stock holders.  Medical expenses deductions, favorite of the ill, and the medical industry.  A 12% tax break for manufacturing inside the United States.  And the liberal's favorite ploy, the variable tax loophole,  the wealthy have to pay more.  For instance social security benefits used to be non taxable.  Then some slippery democrats  added stuff making them taxable to the wealthy.  The incomprehensible Earned Income Tax Credit.  And on and on and on.
  And we are doomed.  Each special interest will fight to the death to keep their special tax benefit.  Us ordinary tax payers have to wade thru the special little worksheets, the gobble-de-gook instructions, and the never ending new tax forms.  We never get up on our hind feet and demand "Drop all this malarkey, give me one straight percentage to pay and be done with it".
 We should not have to purchase $80 software packages to do our taxes.   It didn't used to be this bad.  I can remember a time BC (before computers) when I did my own taxes with a ball point pen.  I couldn't do that now.
  Those special interests ought to to be hunted down and tarred and feathered. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Inventions of the Dark Age

History books, at least those that cover the period, shed lots of tears about the fall of Rome, and call the next 1000 years the Dark Ages.  Starting with Gibbon (Decline and Fall)  most historians treat the medieval period as a huge setback to civilization with no redeeming features.  Perhaps.
   Dark they might have been, but the medievals were inventive.  In the thousand years we call medieval, they invented a lotta good stuff.  What they didn't invent they imported from elsewhere and placed it into service.

1.  Trebuchet.  Weight driven catapult, powerful enough to break a masonry wall, something which the spring driven catapults of the Greeks and Romans could not do.
2.  Wooden barrels.  Shipping container that completely replaced the heavy and fragile pottery amphora used in antiquity.  Stronger and lighter than pottery
3.  Magnetic Compass.  The odds of your ship returning safely are much better if she carries a compass.
4.  Stern rudder.   Much stronger and less likely to break in heavy weather than the steering oar.  Moderns who have sailed replica vessels of antiquity (Thor Heyerdahl and Hodding Carter) always write about their steering oar breaking at sea.
5.  Spectacles (eye glasses)
6. Stirrups.  Without stirrups, it's like riding bareback.  You can do it, but you have to pay all your attention to staying on the horse.  With stirrups the horseman's seat is firm enough to fight effectively.  With stirrups the mounted knight, who dominated European warfare, becomes possible.
7. Heavy plow.  A big strong plow, often wheeled, with an eight ox team, which could turn the heavy bottomland soil, which the lighter "ard" used in antiquity could not.
8.  Three field rotation.  Let only one third of the land lie fallow, as opposed to the two field rotation practiced in antiquity.  Increases cropland by one sixth (17%)
9. Water mills.  Although a Roman invention, the Romans never built very many of them.  Whereas the Domesday book records 5 to 6 thousand water mills in England by 1087
10.  Blast furnace.  Water wheel powered bellows made a fire hot enough to actually melt iron, so that it could be poured and cast in molds.
11. Printing.  Gutenburg and all that.
12. Gunpowder. and firearms.
13. The University.
14. Crossbow.  Although known to the Romans (there is an engraving of one on a Roman tomb) it wasn't used much.  Major advantage of the crossbow; it is as simple to shoot as a modern rifle.  Any recruit could be trained to shoot well enough to be useful in a few weeks.  The long bow took a lifetime of practice to make an archer. 
15. Spinning Wheel
16.  Mechanical clock.
17.  Gothic  cathedral
18.  Horse collar.  Before the horse collar, law limited the load horses could pull to 500 pounds.  With horse collars medieval wagoneers could move 2500 pound loads of building stone.
19. Windmill
20. Arabic numerals
21. Double entry book keeping.
22. Scientific method  (Roger Bacon)
23. Wheel barrow.  Simple, but highly useful.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Washing Windows, Taking out the Trash

Doing a little housecleaning on Antique Laptop the other day.  Ran WinDirStat, a cute program that shows you where all your hard disk space has gone.  Lists all the directories in order of size and draws a neat little map of the disk, with each directory in a different color.  WinDirStat is on the web, Google can find it. 
   Anyhow, WinDirStat showed this big plump directory Windows/SoftwareDistribution.  It was plump, nearly 500 Mb.  Question, can I zap it and have my XP system survive the event?  Google drew a lot of hits on this one, ranging from don't touch it, your system will melt, to blow it away, it's worthless.  Sorting thru the answers it turns out that Windows Update is busily finding and downloading patches behind your back.  The patches come over the net in a compressed form.  Windows update decompresses the patch, applies it, and leaves the compressed version and some stuff needed if you ever want to back the patch out, in Software Distribution.  Lets be real here, nobody ever backs out a patch, unless it is killing their system.  Assuming your system is working well, you don't need the stuff in SoftwareDistribution. 
   So how do you get rid of it?  It's a little more complicated than just deleting it from Explorer.  Windows Update is a "service" a privileged piece of code that is always in RAM, and gets control of your machine when ever it likes, for as long as it likes.   Windows Update puts some kind of unbreakable protection on SoftwareDistribution so you cannot zap it in the ordinary way. How to cope?
Open a DOS window.  You do this from the start menu, hit the run box and type in "cmd".  For those of you who never had the pleasure of running DOS, it can be a little awkward.  The mouse doesn't work in DOS. Your first job is to navigate to the c:/windows directory using the CHDIR (CD for short) command. 
Do CD .. until you reach the c: root directory. 
Do CD windows and you should be there.
Do NET STOP wuauserv   to turn off windows update and unprotect the SoftwareDistribution directory.
Do RENAME (Ren for short) softwaredistribution  anynameyoulike (I used softtrash) .
Do NET START wuauserv to turn windows update back on. 

Exit DOS and check your system to make sure it still works.  Run a program or two.  Visit a website.  Then reboot to be sure that still works.   When you are satisfied, go back and zap the old softwaredistribution and recover quite a chuck of disk. You will notice that Windows Update has created a new, and smaller SoftwareDistribution  all by itself. The RENAME trick is a way to let you back out.  If something should go wrong, you can put things pack the way they were. 
   Not only does this trick recover a lotta disk, it speeds things up.  Antique Laptop boots faster, fast enogh to notice.  I think Windows Update had been wasting time riffling thru 500 Mb of patches going back to the year 2000.
   I did this trick on XP, but a lot of the net rumor I read tells me Vista, 7, and 8  has the same problem only worse.  There is a tool, DISM, in the newer Windows to deal with the ever growing Windows trash directories.  I'm still on XP so I cannot tell you much about that.

Friday, April 11, 2014

SEC bigwig blasts the agency at his retirement party

This was on NHPR this morning, although a quickly Google did not confirm it.  I missed the guy's name (NHPR is bad on names, they only  use them once and go with pronouns for the rest of the piece). 
Anyhow they had him in the studio and he used some fairly tough language to condemn the SEC for not prosecuting the biggies on Wall Street, and going after the small fry.  Which is true enough.  Nobody of consequence has been prosecuted over the 2007 crash that kicked off Great Depression 2.0.
   This guy totally didn't understand what te SEC is supposed to be doing.  He thinks the agency's mission is to prosecute Wall Streeters.  Not so.  The SEC was created after the 1929 crash with a mission to prevent another crash.  The 1929 crash caused 10 years of misery (the Great Depression) and was a major factor in kicking off WWII.  The Great Depression traveled to Germany and had a lot to do with bringing Hitler to power in 1933.  The 2007 crash was as bad as the 1929 one.  The SEC failed to prevent it.  That's total mission failure.  We ought to disband the SEC, fire all the employees, burn all their files.  And start up something new.
   Prevention, means regulations forbidding risky practices such as mortgage backed securities, credit default swaps, derivatives, high speed trading,  excessive leverage, and banks playing the stock market with FDIC insured money.  Wall Street is supposed to be a place where companies go to raise money for expansion.  It is not supposed to be a casino. 
   Any how, all this retiring SEC big wig can find to complain about is a lack of high profile scalps.  This is a man who doesn't understand his job.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Obama says nice things about LBJ

He is on Fox News, making a speech about how great the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was. And how great LBJ was for pushing it thru the Congress, over the dead bodies of the Southern Democrats.  And I agree, it was a good thing.
   On the other hand I remember  LBJ was the man who took the country to war and worse, to defeat, in Viet Nam.  That was a bad thing. 

Greeks selling new bonds

This was on NHPR this morning.  For the first time in five years, the Greek government is offering bonds.  And people are buying them.  I'd like to interview some of those buyers, just to see if they are as stupid as they look.  Greece is still an economic disaster, 25% unemployment, a vast civil service drawing their pay to impede economic growth, with a neo Nazi party (Golden Dawn) gathering strength, and a mountain of debt equivalent to many years of GNP.  And these "investors" think they will get paid back?  And are willing to accept this kind of risk for a mere 5% interest?  When they can buy the soundest investment on the planet (US T bills) for 3%?  They are willing to take all the risks in Greek bonds for a measely 5%?
  Lots a Luck. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Boston Marathon goes off this month

Which sparked a few rehashes of the Tsaernov (the bomber) case.  In actual fact, the Russians tipped us off the the Tsaernov's were mixed up with Chechen terrorists, in fact had visited Chechnia and attended a terrorist training camp.  US authorities botched the tip.  Tsaernov was never investigated.  The feds didn't bother to talk to the Cambridge police (Tsaernov lived in Cambridge).  Fox News has been complaining that the Boston police were never notified.  Forget that.  Boston is another town.  I doubt a Boston cop would even know where Webster Avenue is, let alone know anyone to talk too in the neighborhood.  Whereas the Cambridge cops, local boys all, probably have a couple of guys on the force who went to high school with the Tsaernov brothers, or who lived on their street. 
  Anyhow, we blew a solid tip from the Russians. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Words of the Weasel Part 39

We have been hearing "investment" as a replacement for "spending" from Democrats.  This morning I heard a new one from Steney Hoyer, House Minority leader.  He talked about "disinvestment" where real people would have said "spending cut".   Does "disinvestment" sound better than "spending cut"?   Depends I suppose, on whether you believe in more spending  or less spending. 

What's the matter with Common Core?

Beats me.  I took the trouble to find Common Core in the Internet.  It's wordy.  Written by Ed majors ignorant of  Strunk and White.  Since it was so wordy and so tedious, I just read the mathematics section.  I didn't see anything terribly wrong there.  It covered most of what I had in high school.  It was a little watered down from what I remembered, but then I was lucky to attend a truly top flight high school and I was happy with math. It's probably not the end of the world to set the bar a tad lower for a national standard.
   I've seen a lot of talk about who created Common Core.  Some say it's a state effort, some say it's a federal government effort.  This "origins" argument seems petty to me.  Doesn't matter where it comes from, is it any good?  Does anyone know?   Has anyone contrasted Common Core with what New Hampshire does now? 
  I've heard a fair amount of opposition to Common Core coming from teachers.  I tend to discount this, as many teachers dislike anyone setting any sort of standards to which they might be held.
   I've also heard talk that Common Core is a conspiracy among the publishing industry to sell books and test materials.  The sales pitch would be, "You need to supply your students with this up-to-date Common Core text book."  "You need to buy these Common Core compliant tests."  I suppose.  I still remember beginning school years with teachers handing out well worn textbooks from previous years.  I always felt lucky to get a copy that still had both covers attached to it. 
   Common Core seems to heating up.  Someone on Fox News commented the Jeb Bush might be hurt politically by his support for Common Core. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Why the Roman Empire Fell.

 This chart by Dr. A.J. Parker shows the number of Mediterranean shipwrecks by date of sinking.  The number of wrecks is proportional to the number of sailings.  And the number of ship sailings is a measure of economic activity, especially so in an age when everything moved by water. 
  Most interesting is the dating.  Notice the steady, almost exponential grow that starts 500-600 BC and keeps growing strongly until the first century BC.  About then, the Roman Republic came unglued and the Roman emperors, Julius, Augustus and company take over.  Notice also the decline in shipping that sets in at about the same time.  By the time we get to Constantine, commerce is down by two thirds from its peak.  In short, Constantine, who starts the retrenchment of the Empire, had only a third of the wealth to pay his armies and support his government that Augustus had at his disposal. 
   With this chart one can make a good argument that the freer and more democratic institutions of the Republic encouraged commerce and industry, whereas the policies of the emperors was hostile. It is generally agreed that the Empire fell when it was no longer able to pay the professional Roman Army that had kept the barbarians out for hundreds of years.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fifty nervous heads, fifty loaded machine guns

Way back during the Viet Nam war,  I was assigned to a jet fighter wing in Thailand.  We were bombing North Viet Nam twice a day.  We had a poorly defended air base, lacking even a perimeter fence and about 5000 young airmen on base.  Some young troop wrote a letter to his Congressman saying "Here I am in a combat zone, and the Air Force won't let me have a gun."   In those days, Congressman spoke loudly AND carried a big stick, and so orders came down from AF HQ requiring every unit on the base to draw enough M16's out of base supply to arm every man in the unit.  More orders from the base commander, requiring each unit to build an arms room and keep the M16's locked up therein.  I remember taking the squadron pickup truck up to Base Supply and loading 400 brand new M16's, still in cartons, and 1200 new magazines, all full of ammo, and driving back to squadron headquarters,  feeling VERY well armed.  Meanwhile the men had built gun racks out of Dexion, and a gun room out of 3/4 inch plywood, and all the guns were safely locked inside. 
   And they stayed locked up for the rest of my tour at Korat Royal Thai Air Base.  And a good thing too.  I can still visualize the scene if we had been attacked and issued all those guns.  It would happen after dark, of course.  The troops would take shelter in the numerous sand bag bunkers we had in case of attack.  In each bunker you have fifty nervous troops, fifty nervous heads sticking up and looking all around, and fifty loaded machine guns.  These were the old style fully automatic M16s, pull the trigger and BRAP, 20 rounds are gone.  Sooner or later, someone's gun would go off, he forgets to put the safety on, he drops it, he's fiddling with it.  BRAP.  Over in the next bunker,  they hear the firing.  Someone shouts "They're over there, let 'em have it."  BRAP.  Someone else shouts, "They're shooting at us from over there."  BRAP.  I figure firing would continue until the last round was expended.  Should I have survived that night, the next morning would have been bad.  Bullet holes everywhere.  All the aircraft shot up.  All the hootchs full of holes.
  Fortunately it never happened, but it could have.
  So, when I hear that the military forbids the troops from carrying guns on base, I can understand where they are coming from. 

Silence gives assent

Something any candidate should understand.  If the opposition slimes you, you MUST reply.  The voters, most of whom have real lives to live, don't pay close attention to the political fray.  Many of them still make up their minds while standing in the voting booth.  When they hear an attack on a candidate, they assume it's just campaign skirmishing and don't pay much attention.
  BUT.  If the victim never responds to the slime, people begin to think "Gee maybe there is something in that slime.  If it wasn't true, he would have denied it.".
  Way back when, Mike Dukakis, governor of Massachusetts was running for the presidency against George Bush.  Willie Horton, an ugly convict, was out of prison, on some kind of parole, and he committed another atrocious crime.  Bush ran a bunch of TV ads claiming that the Duke was soft on crime.  Dukakis never said anything.  There were a bunch of things he could have said, but he decided to just say nothing. The mud stuck.
  Just last time, Obama accused Mitt Romney of being a blood sucking vulture capitalist, who bought of companies, laid everyone off, canceled their health insurance, and stole the office furniture.  Romney never said anything.  Romney should have said "At Bain capital we financed the start up of this company and that company and these other companies.  They are all still in business,  They are employing umpteen thousand workers, with health insurance, and a combined payroll of a many zillion dollars."  Romney didn't say a thing, and Obama's slime stuck. 
  And we are stuck with Obama for three more years. 
  Motto of the story, when they slime you, you gotta fight back.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


I hate doing my taxes.  Boring. And, the amount of money taken by Uncle Sam is always a downer.  And the mountains of paperwork, 1099, W-2, 140, Schedule A,B,D,E... X,Y,Z.  Aargh!
  For years I have been doing them with an Excel spreadsheet. But this year I gave up, I bought Turbotax, and got on with it.  I have to say, Turbotax reduces the pain enough to justify the program's cost.  It comes in four levels. Lowest and cheapest level only does fairly simple returns.  I had to buy level 3 ($90) before the program would handle the capital gains you get when you sell some stock.  The interface is pretty user friendly, like 100% better than anything you find in those IRS instruction sheets.  The program offers to download your 1099 forms from your stock broker, but for this feature to work you have to have "opened" a web window, complete with username and password into your stock account.  I never did that, fearing  hackers would get in and steal everything I own.  So I had to type in all the numbers from the 1099s.  But that's not too bad, I touch type, once it's down, you are golden.
  Turbotax urges your strongly to efile.  I don't, 'cause when you efile, your return can go right into the IRS computers, and if you screwed up, those computers will be on your case for more money quicktime. If IRS has to hand key your return into their computers, or even just run it thru an optical scanner, they may not bother if your return looks reasonable.
   Don't ask Turbotax to "print" your return.  When I did so, it printed out 44 pages of return and then fell into a loop printing page after page of pure gibberish.  Instead ask Turbotax to make a pdf file of your return.  Then print it out using Adobe.
   Turbotax understands all the obscure extra forms that you can file to get little tax breaks here and there.  It did a couple of forms I'd never seen before and saved me bits and pieces of money.

Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu & James Robinson

The title is intriguing.  Does this book reveal the secrets of national economic success?  Point out things that lead to national poverty?  Read on.
  It is an infuriating read.  Glittering generalities, vague language.  Few real examples.  Some of the few examples given are plain wrong.  Other examples are taken from obscure times and places unfamiliar to all but a few specialists.  The authors settle down to condemning "extractive policies" and praising "inclusive policies" without either defining these ideas or giving many examples.  They do tell us how the Spanish Conquistadors stuck it to the conquered Indians, but that is about it for examples.  They speak disparagingly about Jared Diamond's theory but it is clear that they don't understand what Diamond was saying.  They claim the English Civil War was a turning point that set England upon the course to the industrial revolution.  But they don't discuss the sides, the issues, the winners, the losers, the connection with the industrial revolution, or the outcome.  
   The thesis of the book is that national wealth or poverty is determined by government policy, but things break down there.  "Inclusive policies" adopted by governments lead to wealth, extractive policies lead to poverty.  Which sounds like  " The gostalk distims the doshes" to me.  The best examples given are the two Korea's, and an obscure town on the US-Mexican border.  With the same history, geography, natural resources, ethnicity, North Korea lives in poverty whereas South Korea is one of the richest nations on earth. The only difference between North and South is the government.  The border splits Nogales in two, the town on the US side is healthier, wealthier, and better served than the town on the Mexican side.  All of which is well known and obvious, but no details are given.  What specifically makes the successful ones successful.
   One of the authors, Robinson, is a Harvard professor, the other ,Acemoglu, is an MIT professor.  I don't expect much of Harvard professors, but I am disappointed that an MIT faculty member would put his name to such an unsatisfactory piece of writing.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ivan Lopez?

How does a man get a Russian Christian name and a Spanish surname?  The newsies haven't looked into this at all.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Jeanne Shaheen casts 96 votes so far this year

That's about one vote a day.   Actually the Senate has this quaint custom of requiring two votes on every issue.  First they vote to take a vote, and then they vote on the issue.  So less business than you might think got transacted.  So what did our democratic senator vote for?

Top vote getter, with 55 voters, was nominations.  Judges mostly but some administration appointees like Janet Yellen for the Federal Reserve chairman.   The rest of 'em were just middle weight judges for all over the country.  The constitution does require the "advise and consent" of the Senate for judicial appointments, but I never expected anything like that number of judges.

Next , there are the 9 votes cast to extend unemployment benefits beyond two years.  Used to be, un employment only lasted a few weeks to tide you over til you found a new job.  Now it runs for two years, and Jeanne voted 9 times to make it even longer.

Then there a 8 votes for the "doc fix".  Some years ago, Congress voted a sizable cut in medicaid/medicare rates.  The doctors all screamed.  Rather than repeal the cuts for good, Congress votes a postponement of them, every year.  Nothing is ever really final in Washington.

Then we come to 8 votes for mystery bills.  The website said "No short title submitted for this bill".  So it could be anything.  The Senate should never pass a mystery bill.  If we don't even have a title, it could be anything, and is probably harmful.  Jeanne voted for these concealed time bombs 8 times.

And now we get to flood insurance.  Private companies refuse to write flood insurance because it's a loser.  Everyone knows which land will get flooded and which won't.  Homeowners liable to getting flooded buy flood insurance. Homeowners on higher ground don't.  All flood insurance policies have to pay off after the flood happens.  In response to the cries of owners of waterfront property, and realtors, and mortgage lenders, Congess passed a federal flood insurance plan years ago.  You can buy flood insurance from the feds, the premiums aren't cheap, but the coverage is first rate. And Uncle Sam looses barrels of money after every flood.  It got so bad, that the Biggert-Waters reform act was passed in 2012 to try and limit taxpayer losses.Since nothing is ever final in Washington,  the flood insurance lobby keeps bringing up bills to repeal Biggert-Waters.  Jeanne Shaheen voted for Biggert- Water repeal 4 times.

And we have 4 votes in favor of assorted waivers to Obamacare. Three votes in favor of reforms that are supposed to do something about sexual assault in the armed forces. 2 votes in favor of the farm bill, and a single vote each for Ukraine aid, raise the federal debt limit, and to kill parts of the Budget Control Act.

So.  We have 55 votes for democratic judge nominees, 27 votes that give taxpayer money away, 8 mystery votes, 6 miscellaneous votes.

Scott Brown is looking better and better,

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

CIA pleads its Behghazi case

They are on TV as I write this.  They had a CIA guy name of Morell (a good name in mushrooms) in front of a Congressional committee.  Morell was acting CIA director at the time.  He had a group of (unnamed) DC based CIA pundits (analysts he called them)  gin up a report on Bengasi, day after it happened.  He says the analysts never talked to the White House,  no pressure was ever placed on them, and they came up with the "It was a protest that got out of hand" story.  Some hour later, a report from the CIA station chief on the ground in Benghasi came in, the station chief  called it a terrorist attack.  Morell claims he passed the station chief's report on the the analyists, and the analysts stuck with their story.  So Morrell  decided to go with the DC based chairborne warriors rather than the field officer on the scene.  And that's how Susan Rice went on the talk shows that Sunday and peddled the "demonstration that got out of hand" story to the country. 
   Good work Morell.  Anyone knows that first hand reports from a responsible man on the scene are more dependable than vaporings from DC pundits. 

What's wrong with making political contributions?

I dunno.  But Harry Reid thinks it is unAmerican for the Koch brothers to contribute money in support of their political beliefs.  Far as I am concerned, putting money behind your political beliefs is a commendable act of good citizenship..  Especially when I agree with some of those beliefs.  There are plenty of left wing rich guys giving money to Democrats  (the name George Soros comes to mind ). 
  America is a two party country.  Supporting either party is a public good.   

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

It's acceptable even if it doesn't meet spec.

This from Mary Barra, new GM CEO to a Congressional committee investigating the GM ignition switch failures.
  In all my career in engineering, I never heard anyone ever say anything like that.  The rule anywhere I ever worked was simple, if it doesn't meet spec, back it goes and we don't pay for it.  That's what incoming inspection is about.
  To hear the CEO of GM, a long time engineer there, say that GM would accept parts that don't meet spec means that GM doesn't believe in written quality standards.  Apparently GM will ship anything, whether it is any good or not.
   Talk about a dysfunctional corporate culture.
   Mulally at Ford would never say anything like that. 
   My next car won't be from GM.  


An amusing veggie to eat.  Actually a thistle.  You pluck off the leaves one by one and nibble the tender part off the bottom of the leaf.  With mayonnaise.  You discard the tough and fibrous upper part of the leaf.  They are in season, not too expensive, and tasty.  One artichoke can make a nice light meal, and many of us find a light meal plenty filling.  The impressive size of the artichoke, and the amount of plucking and nibbling makes them seem like more of a meal than they really are.  Note.  DO NOT put the used leaves down the disposal.  They are tough and stringy and will clog your drain, but good, every time.
   Cooking is simple.  Boil or steam them until tender.  About 45 minutes.  The Barefoot Gourmet has an entire chapter explaining how to prepare them.  Barefoot is into garlic, and recommends slicing up a whole fresh garlic clove and placing slivers of garlic in between the artichoke leaves.  Me, I'm not a real garlic fan so I skip that part.  But do slice off the stem and the top 1/2 inch or so, leaving a round spot about the size of a silver dollar.  Put them in a pot, sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the cut off tops, dribble some olive oil on top of the salt.  Add cold water and go for it. 
   Virtuous.  And tasty.