Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wall Street Futures Contracts

Gambling? Or shrewd investment?  The Wall St futures market is big enough for NPR to report on it.  Like Friday, when the Brexit vote was counted and announced, NPR said that Wall St futures had dropped a lot before the market opened.  At any rate, a good deal of money is invested in "futures".  Does this money do anything to encourage economic growth, employment, new product development, in short, good things for America as a whole, or just some profits to lucky gamblers?
   I have never dealt in futures, and a quick Google  didn't say just how stock market futures work.  Let's assume they work like commodity futures.  Two parties reach a deal, sign a contract, to deliver so much of something, or buy so much of something,  for such and such a price, on a date in the future.  If the market price of what-ever-it-is changes before the due date, one party makes money, and the other party does not.
   Does this kind of deal make sense for the larger economy?  Hard to tell.  Certainly the money spent on futures contracts does not go to a company in return for stock.  Companies print and sell their stock, for cash, to obtain money to run the company, grow the company, pay the workers, lots of things that create jobs.  And the stock market makes people willing to buy stock.  With an organized stock market, open for business five days a week, a stock holder knows he can sell his stock holdings when he needs some cash.  And the trade will go thru, and he gets a check, within a day or two.  This is a goodness, it gives companies a fine way to raise money.
   But I don't see how a stock futures contract does anything good for the economy.  It surely doesn't funnel money to companies.  I don't see it increasing market liquidity.  I think it's just plain gambling, of no benefit to anyone except lucky winners.
   I'm not an economist, I'm just a plain engineer.  I've never read anything about the economic effect of futures trading.  I wonder what the economics community thinks about them.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

NAFTA, pro and con

According to Wikipedia (a reasonably impartial source)  NAFTA dropped tariffs between the three countries to zip in nearly all cases by now.  It took President Bill Clinton's best efforts to get NAFTA ratified over the dead bodies of US unions. NAFTA did increase trade between Mexico, Canada and the US by a lot, perhaps 50% over the years since 1993 when NAFTA was ratified.    It also did contribute to US job losses of maybe 500,000 jobs.  These numbers can be controversial, but Wikipedia is the most balanced source I am aware of. 
   We had The Donald on TV yesterday trashing NAFTA up one side and down the other.  He promises to "renegotiate" the NAFTA treaty.  He claimed that NAFTA is a US job killer.  In this, he has, or ought to have, the warm support of US unions who have been anti NAFTA since the beginning. 
   We had the "three amigos) (Obama, Trudeau, and I can't remember the name of the Mexican president) on TV today.  All saying nice things about NAFTA, and the need to keep it going.   
   Nobody said anything about admitting the UK to NAFTA. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why we need President Trump

Best reason.  If elected, The Donald might actually do something in office rather than just going with the flow.  The polls have 70% of the population saying America is on the wrong track.  Trump might get us back on the right track.  Hillary won't.  She is totally owned by Wall St and special interests (who paid $40 odd million for her).  She thinks things are just fine, and is promising not to change anything.
    Of course, it would be nice to know just what Trump might do in office.  So far his campaign promises have been either vague, or improbable.  He needs to work on that.  At least he isn't owned by any one. 
   Trump is loyal to the United States and to its people.  Hillary is only loyal to Hillary.  I really do think The Donald will act in the best interests of the country.  He may not always get it right, but he will try.  Hillary is more interested in lining her own pockets.
   Trump does know something about business in the real world.  He has survived, and even prospered in the New York real estate business, a very tough business.  He knows how to read a balance sheet, he knows the difference between income and expenses, he knows what it means to meet payroll.  I doubt that Hillary even knows how to balance her checkbook.
  Trump might even fix the federal income tax.  Close every loophole, lower every rate.  Hillary won't do that.
  Trump won't try and take everyone's guns away.  Hillary will.
  Trump will sign an Obama care repeal.  Hillary won't.  Obamacare is such a drag on business that it has sucked our GNP growth down to less than 1%.
  Trump will nominate decent Supreme Court justices.  Hillary will pack the court with lefties. 

Benghazi, more stuff they won't talk about.

I posted about the firing of US general officers shortly after Benghazi.  Right here.

Benghazi, what they don't talk about

We have Trey Gowdy on TV right now, and as you might imagine, what he is saying isn't very complementary to Hillary.  He is urging everyone to read his 800 page report.  Whew. 
   Trey never talked about air support, or the lack of air support.  We should have had fighters over Benghasi within two hours.  We have plenty of fighter bases and aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean.  They should have had alert birds standing 5 minute alert.  That's what my old USAF fighter squadron did 50 years ago.  We kept two birds, fully armed and fueled, on five minute alert 24/7.  Pilots sitting in the ready room.  Occasional scrambles, just to make sure everything works. 
   I will grant that supersonic fighters are not my first choice for defending a consulate on the ground.  But having fighters overhead would be a tremendous morale boost for the defenders on the ground.  A low level pass, supersonic, is very discouraging to attackers.  Even more discouraging when you do a little strafing on the way.  And the fighters can get there faster than anything else.
  Along with the fighters, we should have dispatched armed troops by air.  Helicopters if  they are close enough, fixed wing if not.  For fixed wing, the troops parachute in, or the aircraft lands on the closest airport. Surely Benghasi has a city airport.  C-130's have been landed on aircraft carriers, which means they can get into any imaginable airfield, no matter how puny.  
  Finally, Trey Gowdy did not talk about the two US general officers who were relieved of duty that very night.  These two officers were canned for preparing to send relief forces to Benghazi.   

Monday, June 27, 2016

What's the difference between Brits and Scots?

An election map of the Brexit referendum shows everywhere in England except London, voting Leave, whereas every place in Scotland voted Remain.  The dividing line between Scottish Remain and British Leave is very sharp and follows the old border between England and Scotland.
   The TV newsies have been yacking about how the Leave voters were all working class blue collar people and the Remain voters were all London financial system operators.  Maybe.  But why does all of Scotland want to remain, whereas most of England wants to leave?  I haven't heard any TV newsies pontificating about that. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The McLaughlin Shouting Hour

There were on for their usual half hour this morning.  And not a word was said about Brexit.  I guess the show was taped sometime before Friday, when the British referendum results came out.  They did talk quite a bit about Venezuela's collapse.  The liberal members of the show (most of 'em) tried to explain the Venezuela problem as anything but socialism.  Yeah right.
   The also talked about NATO's plan to station ONE battalion (1000 men) in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland.   Total 4000 troops.  This is nothingness.   Four divisions, 40,000 men would be more like it.  Hitler launched a hundred divisions in 1941.  Then there was some yellow belly talk about how the Baltic states don't really matter and we should not be risking war with Russia over them .  I'll admit that war with Russia is a real downer, but letting the Russians take over free and independent countries sticks in my craw. 

Who is Tim Kaine?

I never heard of him.  Beat the Press was pushing him as Hillary's VP this morning.  They had him on the show.  He sounded like a perfectly ordinary middle aged pol from Virginia, nothing outstanding.  But he surely has a name recognition problem.  I'm a political junkie, and I never heard of him before. 
  Good luck Tim.  You will need more support than just NBC to make it.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Let's Drive ISIS/ISIL/IS off the internet

Radical Islamic Terrorists use the internet for propaganda, radicalizing, recruitment, fund raising, and communication.  ISIS/ISIL/IS is the worst of 'em right now, but there are plenty of others. Al Quada, Boko Haram, the Wahabis, and more.
  We (the US and it's allies) ought to make a serious effort to drive them off the Internet.  Their web sites ought to just disappear, their email should be intercepted, read, and discarded.  Like wise their text messages. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blogspot pages ought to self destruct.  Plus anything else we can detect.
   This is censorship, but I submit that censoring murderous terrorists is better than getting shot by them.  And more effective than trying to take guns away from law abiding citizens. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Brits did it.

The polls had it close, and it was.  The London bookies were wrong, they were quoting 84% to remain.  American investors didn't think Brexit would happen, and yesterday they were happily buying stocks on the assumption that Brexit would not happen.  Today, with the US market opening in a few minutes,  I, and the TV newsies, expect a wave of selling.  European markets, already open, have taken a nosedive. 
  The interesting question, after the first ripples settle out, it what happens to Britain in the long term.  Something like 50% to 60% of Britain's exports go to the EU.  Right now, or at least yesterday, those exports go duty free.  The EU may decide to force Britain to pay full EU tariffs, which will hurt a lot.  They may decide other things.  There are a couple of countries like Norway and Switzerland that are not EU members, but enjoy tariff free entry to the EU market.  I don't see why the EU would cut Britain any favors, but what do I know?  The Brits may seek entry to NAFTA, and I have no idea how that would work out. 
  The EU has it's own troubles, the Euro is shaky, they are still paying off the Greeks, and they have the humongous refugee problem.  Britain was the second strongest member (after Germany) and a lot of Europeans will miss the Brits.  They served as a counterweight to the Germans, who are the biggest and richest country.  With the Brits out, Germany will pretty much run the EU. 
   Brexit surely hands the whole European unity project a big setback  European unity got started right after WWII, with the object of welding Europe together into a single country to prevent another World War from breaking out.  It's been on a roll ever since.  All of Western Europe joined up, they started up the Euro, and all the Russian satellite countries joined right up as soon as the Russian's iron grip slacked off.  What happens next is hard to predict. 
   What the EU ought to do is tighten up their financial system, tell the dead beat countries like Greece no more handouts.  Create bank deposit insurance, and come up with a uniform set of banking regulations to prevent setting up banks in places with no regulations, that proceed to do all sorts of shady deals.  And  loosen up labor laws, permitting lay offs when business drops off, fewer holidays, less vacation, and a 40 hour work week. 
   Whether the EU will do this is anybody's guess. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Words of the Weasel Part 31

"Sexual Assault".  The proper, long established word is rape.  That's a felony in every state that I am aware of.  Rape is forced sexual intercourse.  And, it has been a felony for a couple of thousand years.  Law enforcement should be called in the event of rape.  There are standards of evidence that must be met to secure a rape conviction.
"Sexual Assault" is a new phrase which can mean anything from unwanted touching, to stealing a kiss, up thru rape.  College administrators are judging cases of "sexual assault" and universally finding the man guilty, and expelling him from the college, in kangaroo courts, where the accuser is not required to be present, and where the accused is denied a lawyer,  and denied a chance to confront his accuser.
   By my lights, the entire concept of "sexual assault" should be discarded.  In cases of rape, the accuser should go to law enforcement.  The college should offer transportation to and from the police station. College administrators are incompetent to deal with rape, and mostly too biased to give a fair hearing, even if they were competent.  Rape should always be handled by law enforcement. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Selling cars with pussy cats

Land Rover is running a TV ad for their Range Rover.  Said ad features a large white pussy cat as a sort of mascot/symbol/hood ornament/whatever.   Used to be, back in the day, cars that couldn't run strong, were called pussy cats. Guess the Range Rover ad team didn't know this. 

Words of the Weasel Part 30

"investigation" or "under investigation"   What cops say when they don't want to answer a reporter's questions.  Work too.  The reporters always back off and drop the subject. 

"Investment"  Hillary speak meaning "spending".

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Is it a two man (two person?) race now?

Not really for The Donald.  He has Hillary to trash, Sanders voters to woo, women voters to pacify, his base wanting more red meat speeches, some backstabbing inside his own campaign (Cory Lewandoski and the Republican establishment), and a number of way out campaign promises (get Mexico to pay for the wall, ban Muslim immigration, and others) that will be very hard to make good on.  That seems like a pretty full house of troubles needing dealing with.
   For real amazement, the newsies are reporting that Hillary has been spending millions on TV ads. The Donald is spending zip on TV. The last poll they showed on TV had The Donald pretty much even with Hillary despite the wide difference in TV ad spending.   
   Can The Donald pull it off? Or are we doomed to a Hillary presidency?  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Do you believe in Evil?

I do.  I believe there is evil in the world, and evil people out there doing evil.  Many people do not believe in the existence of evil..  Scratch a multi cultural liberal, and you will find someone who believes that all people are good, and evil doers are simply misinformed.  Or misunderstood. 
   Me, I believe that evil exists, and that it is good to oppose evil.  The most effective opposition comes from the use of firearms.  Certainly in the United States, the availability of firearms deters a lot of crime.  The would be robber has to worry about the storekeeper with a handgun in the cash drawer.  The would be house breaker has to worry about the homeowner with a shotgun.  The would be carjacker has to worry about a piece in the glove compartment.  And even the American police are usually quite polite, partly because they know the citizen they offend might be armed, and might do something about it. 
   And so, I believe in the private ownership of firearms.  And I want my firearms to be as deadly as possible, within certain limits. Once firearms are displayed, I want to win the ensuing gunfight.   The biggest limit is the prohibition on private ownership of machine guns.  This was made law back in Al Capone's time.  It seems reasonable, and the law is still on the books and still enforced. 
  The AR-15 (and lookalikes from SIG Saur and others) has been Army issue since the Viet Nam war.  Most  guys were trained on this rifle in the service.  After they leave the service and go out to buy a deer rifle, they often choose the AR-15 'cause they are familiar with it.  It's enough gun for deer, it doesn't kick much. Ammunition is cheap and widely available.  There are a LOT of them out there, and taking them away from that many owners would be VERY difficult indeed. 
   The current Democratic push for more gun control (more ways to take citizen's guns away) leaves me cold.  Ordinary citizens ought to have a gun around the house, just in case ISIS come calling, or the house breakers turn up. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

What did the founding fathers mean by the word "militia"?

Something different from what we moderns think it means.  In the eighteenth century there were two kinds of armed force.  Regulars,  well drilled, uniformed, paid, and used by the king to suppress his political enemies.  And militia, amateur, not uniformed, little training.  In a standup fight, regulars could beat militia every single time. But, in colonial America, it was the militia that stood to arms in the event of Indian raids, pirate attacks,  French attacks, Spanish attacks, and plain old banditry and cattle rustling.  The militia may not have been as effective as regulars, but in roadless heavily wooded America, the militia were there when they were needed.  Where as it might take a month for a regular force to march up from barracks and engage the enemy.  And, the militia were politically reliable.  You didn't have militia out enforcing the king's taxes, the king's press gangs, arresting smugglers and political enemies.  Being members of the community, the militia wasn't going to oppress their own community like the way regulars were happy to do.
   And so, the founding fathers, setting up a democratic government over a vast territory, decided the militia were the obvious solution to the defense problem.  Militia would not become a Praetorian Guard, making and unmaking presidents and Congresses.  Militia didn't get paid, a great savings on the public purse. And you could have a really big militia, essentially every able bodied man in the country.   Hence the second amendment, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state...."
  The militia principle was effective as late as 1940 when Japanese admiral Yamamoto said " To invade the United States is impossible.  There would be a rifleman behind every blade of grass."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Finding Neverland 2004

It has a great cast, Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman.  It's set in Edwardian London, sets and costumes are superb. Charming London horse drawn cabs, equally charming turn of the century automobiles. The story is that of J.M. Barrie creating Peter Pan as a stage play on the London stage.  Barrie is married, but for the duration of the movie, he neglects his wife, and hangs out with a charming widow and her four boys.  All that said, the movie doesn't click.
   First off, it suffers from the curse of the soundman, probably as bad as it gets.  I could not hear the dialog.  The actors whispered, spoke in thick dialect, and mumbled.  No names were ever mentioned.  I had to check IMDB this morning to learn the widow's stage name.
   And it is slow moving.  Takes forever to get to the point.  Plot is weak.  For instance, we never see how Barrie manages to bring such an unconventional play as Peter Pan to the stage.  Is he independently wealthy and financed it himself?  Is Barrie enormously effective in selling the concept to dubious theater owners and backers, kind of like Peter Jackson in our own time?  something else? We never know.  The nameless widow, comes down with something, and dies in the last reel.  For no good reason I could see.
Too bad.  It could have been cool. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Do you want to let the FBI cancel your 2nd Amendment rights?

The Democrats are pushing for it.  They are making a fuss in the Senate right now about a bill to prevent gun sales to anyone on the FBI's no-fly list.  Scary.  The FBI runs the no-fly list.  They can put anyone on it, no evidence required.  There is no way to get off it.  Once on, you are stuck on. 
  Right now, only conviction by a judge in a real court, with a jury, a defense lawyer, and an appeal process gets you on the cannot-buy-firearms list.  The Democrats want to hand that authority down to rank and file FBI agents.  I think that's a bad idea.  We ought to leave citizen's rights with the courts, not the cops. 
Democrats love the idea. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

More thoughts about Orlando

This horrible event has completely dominated the TV news since Sunday.  They don't talk about anything else. Here are some things that are true but the TV newsies don't talk about it much.
1.  Two senior American Muslim clerics denounced the killings, in strong terms.  That's the first time I have ever heard of that.  It is a good thing.
2.  The dead all bear Hispanic names, yet the newsies talk about the killer bearing a grudge against gays.  From the evidence, the killer might as well have born a grudge against Hispanics. 
3.  There are no objective differences between "assault rifles" and deer rifles.  Objective differences are things you can measure with a ruler.  The anti gun people are calling for an "assault rife" ban  hoping that  all rifles will be declared to be "assault rifles" and thus banned. 
4.  The FBI interviewed the shooter TWICE and decided that they didn't have enough evidence to charge him with a crime.  What should have happened, and did not.  The FBI agents should have evaluated the shooter as a violent nutcase, a homicidal maniac.  They should have been able to initiate proceedings to confine the shooter to a mental hospital, before he flipped completely out and killed 50 people. 
5.  The United States has 5000 miles of land border, much of it running thru roadless wildness. Anyone with a pair of decent hiking boots can just walk across the border.  Plus we have 4000 miles of seacoast, studded with marinas, boat launches, yacht clubs and docks.  Any small boat coming in from the sea is just another yachting or fishing party coming back to port at the end of the day. You can't keep 'em out, you have to find 'em and catch 'em after they get here. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pulse nightclub massacre, Orlando. Nobody shot back.

My deepest sympathies to the victims and their families.  Newsies are still not fully up to speed on this one.  Question nobody is asking:  Howcum in a crowded club, several hundred patrons, nobody was carrying?  Just one little pocket pistol might have stopped the bastard before he killed so many. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Teacher Training

Cover story in the Economist.  Their shtick is teacher training this week.  We can solve all our education problems with radically more effective teacher  training, so says the Economist.  Good teachers are not born, they are trained.  No discussion of phonics vs whole word method of teaching reading.  No discussion of Common Core.  No numbers anywhere.
  Me, I'm not so sure.  To teach public school in the US, you have to suffer thru the education major in college.  Four years of meaningless blather.  Those who survive and go on to teach, either were highly motivated, or totally dull, to put up with the total boredom of the ed major.
   I went thru nine years of public school, three years of a very good prep school and four years of a good college.  In this sixteen year educational odyssey I encountered quite a few teachers, most decent, some extra ordinary, and some worthless.  Then I went into the Air Force, and took a few classes from the Field Training Detachment (FTD in USAF speak).  The instructors in FTD were uniformly excellent, as good as any teacher I'd ever had.  These instructors were just ordinary enlisted men, pulled right off the flight line, no college, on their second hitch in the Air Force.  And they were good.  Their students were all teenage guys, of prime trouble causing age, but they never had any trouble.  And the students learned the stuff.  They paid attention, did the homework, passed the tests.
   What made the FTD instructors so good?  First of all, they knew their subject matter, backwards and forwards, standing on their heads and underwater.  Then the subject matter was interesting, jet engines, machine shop work, hydraulics, aircraft instruments, guided missiles, radar, autopilot, sheet metal work, avionics and more.  For young guys with a day job doing aircraft maintenance, all this stuff was interesting.  It really helps the instructor to be teaching something his students care about.
   And the instructors were motivated.  They knew that the teenagers they were instructing were the future of the Air Force, and they were all career Air Force men, who deeply cared about the Air Force.  They gave their best, and it worked.
  Bottom line, I don't think good teachers are born or trained.  Good teaching happens when the teacher knows his subject thoroughly, and cares about his students.  And it really helps to teach subjects that the students care about. .  

Friday, June 10, 2016

House passes Puerto Rico bill.

The Hill, usually a pretty good source, is fairly clueless on this one.  They give a good discussion of the back and forth tugging to pass it.  Nothing about what's in it.  They give one brief quote from Paul Ryan to the effect that there is no taxpayer money going to Puerto Rico, but that's it.  I hope that's true.   There was talk a few weeks ago, about setting up a special board/commission/bureau in Washington to supervise Puerto Rico's government and it's spending habits.  The Hill didn't say anything about that.
   Such a bill ought to offer Puerto Rico protection for law suits while a bankruptcy court sorts out the island's finances.  Without the customary protection from lawsuits, Puerto Rico and the courts would be swamped as every lender and every supplier, and every union, and every body else sues Puerto Rico for the money they think they are due.  You gotta shut all that off to get any where.
   Was I the bankruptcy judge, with full powers, I would tell the lenders to suck it up.  It's been obvious to anyone for the past 20 years that Puerto Rico had no way, and never would have a way. to repay the loans.  For making dumb loans, the lenders deserve to loose.  I'd  review all the island pensions, and chop them back to barely enough to live on.  I'd  review the government payroll, I understand that a third of the island's residents are on it, and lay off a lot of 'em.  I'd shake up the island's tax collection department and drive them to collect all the taxes owed, by everyone. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Does it matter if Republican apparatchniks dislike Trump?

TV news this morning is full of serious Republicans saying that they cannot support The Donald.  Well, it's understandable.  The Republican party establishment, elected officials, party workers, pundits, activists, people whose day job is politics, never liked Trump.  They did their best to stop Trump.  But the voters do like Trump, they voted for him, and there are a lot more voters than establishment types. 
   So, does it really matter if the establishment types still don't like Trump and refuse to support him?  Trump communicates with the voters thru TV and Twitter, not endorsements from prominent politicians.  In fact, Trump's voters are mad at the political establishment for the miserable state of the country, and they tune in to Trump's TV appearances.  They don't have any respect for the opinions of politicians, most of whom they call RINO's.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Election Results. Nada

Polls closed in California about 11 hours ago.  So I'm listening to NPR talking about the results on the clock radio this morning.  In an hour, they never mentioned the election results. They had a lot of happy interviews with Hillary people saying how wonderful Hillary's victory was, but never in an hour of NPR talk did I hear any real results, like how many votes cast, how much the winner won by, size of Republican and Democratic turnout.  Just an hour of happy talk.  So I got up, turned on the TV to Fox, and not much better.  I did learn that Hillary beat The Bern by 11% in California, which is solid,  but that's it.
  So I got in the net.  To bad, Fire fox was unable to connect to anything.  So, I trudged down to the basement, found my cable modem and my router.  Unplugged both for the count of ten.  Plugged back in, and voila, internet connectivity was back.  So I decided to post on my blog. Next I'll see if we have any election results on the net. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Day After D-Day

I know I am a day late.  Success of the D-day landings was crucial to the defeat of Hitler.  It was a humungus enterprise,  thousands of landing craft, all built just in time, a million soldiers, tanks, floating harbors, fuel pipelines laid across the channel, and a zillion other things cranked out by British and American industry.
   It was extremely dangerous.  It might have failed.  It was so chancy that Eisenhower, the supreme commander, and the man with the best information, penned a press release announcing defeat of the invasion.  Fortunately he never had to use it.  With a little more luck, and a better German command structure, Rommel might have been able to throw German armor into the battle on the day of the landings instead of a day later.
   Defeat would have been a disaster.  It took all of 1942  and 1943, and half of 1944 to build up for D-day.  After a defeat on the landing beaches, it would have taken at least another year to build up to a second try.  Hitler would have been able to move all the troops guarding France against invasion to the Russian front and that surely would have slowed the Red army down, perhaps even defeated it.  It would have given Hitler time to bring secret weapons, V1, V2, jet fighters, guppy submarines, even nuclear weapons into action. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Payday loans.

The Diane Reams show was whining about pay day lenders this morning.  Lender's are accused of making very high cost short term loans to borrowers who cannot actually pay off the loan off, they just keep rolling it over, at horrible rates of interest, and get skinned. 
  Elizabeth Warren's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau wants to increase paperwork, and make the lender learn the borrowers income , expenses, and calculate his chances of repaying the loan.  Does not sound very effective to me, although it will furnish work for bureaucrats. 
  They used to have laws against usury,  usually defined as loans at 35% per year or worse.  The payday lenders are charging more like 350% per year, which is really really bad.  Usury laws used to be a business of state law.  I understand that the payday lenders have managed to get usury laws repealed, or watered down in many states to allow them to operate.  The payday lenders claim that they cannot do business at 35% and allowing the really poverty stricken access to loans is a social good. 
   I'm thinking that an old fashioned usury law, criminalizing doing loans at more than 35% would clean up the payday lender situation.  It would deny credit to people on the bottom, no income, no assets, no job.  These people are not good credit risks, and mostly don't have the money to pay off a payday loan.  I think it's better for such people to do with out, rather than lend them money that they will be unable to repay. 

Fair Point phone book fail.

So I need to renew my drivers license.  I know there is or was (haven't checked lately) a DMV office on US 302 in Twin Mountain.  Decide to give them  a call, just to see if they are still there, and if there is any paperwork I might need to bring. 
  Open the Fairpoint phone book.  Check the Government Offices, State section.  No phone number there.  Call the Littleton State Police office thinking they might have the number.  They didn't, although the officer was very polite on the phone.  Check the town of Franconia website, looking for a phone number for Franconia police.  No phone numbers on the website.  Finally dial 911.  Convince the 911 person that it is not an emergeny, I just need a phone number.  She finally comes up with a number.  I call it. They give me another number, which finally works.
  Save your old Verizon phone books, the Fairpoint one is mostly useless.
  Or is it the death of phone numbers?

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Agencies shall make no law...

Right now federal agencies, IRS, FDA, EPA, FHA, FAA, FCC, FEC, NRC, BATFE, NSA, BLM. et cetera, ad nausium, issue regulations, lots of regulations, all of which have the force of law, and are binding upon us poor citizens.  Regulations that can favor one company over another, regulations that tear a man's house down, regulations that can shut a business down arbitrarily, and regulations that make every thing more expensive.
  I think we ought to take the power of regulations away from all agencies.  The only laws a citizen should have to respect are real laws, passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.  
  Should an agency want to bind the public to something, they can try and get Congress to pass a real law.  If perchance, Congress fails to pass the agency's little brain child, then it means it's a bad idea.
  And while we are at it, no agency should have it's own private police force, with badges, guns, and the power of arrest.  Should an agency want some law enforced, they can jolly well call the regular police, just like us citizens have to do.
  In a real democracy, laws are passed by the legislature, not written by bureaucrats in secret. 

Trump figures out the media

The Donald figures that the media are Democrats to a man, and out to get him, and elect Hillary.  So, rather than the usual shtick of trying to placate them, which is what the usual pol does, Trump is trashing them, figuring that it gets him air time, and the media is so hostile now, that good solid trashing won't make things any worse than they already are.  Plus the voters like watching the Donald trashing the media. 

I predict more solid anti-media words coming toward the media.  If Trump gets elected, he will have the bully pulpit and at least four years to let 'em have it. Fun fun fun. 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

SpaceX wants to go to Mars. Year after Next.

SpaceX is creating a manned vehicle to take astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).  Essentially they are adding life support equipment, an air plant, and retro rocket engines to the existing ISS resupply carrier.  And doing 50,000 pounds of NASA paperwork to "man rate" the vehicle.
   SpaceX wants to send one, unmanned, to Mars in 2018.  They have a signed agreement with NASA regardng intellectual property for SpaceX and NASA support for the mission.  The vehicle ("Red Dragon") would make a jet landing on Mars, under control of the autopilot.  SpaceX has been able to jet land the Falcon booster on a raft in the ocean which seems like a harder job than landing on Mars with it's lesser surface gravity. 
   "Red Dragon" has impressive engine power.  Eight engines, burning nitrogen tetraoxide and hydrazine, produce 33,000 pounds of thrust, call it 16 tons of thrust.  The vehicle only weights 15 tons on earth.  If the fuel holds out, it has plenty of thrust to slow down and even hover briefly before touchdown. 
   Takeoff will be atop a Falcon Heavy booster which is three Falcon Nine boosters, strapped together.  That will be 27 rocket engines, producing 5.1 million pounds of thrust.  Design goal is deliver 15 tons to Mars surface.  Straight thru, no earth orbit rendezvous.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Norks and their nukes

The Economist ran a cover story about the need to do something about North Korea's nuclear program. They went on about weakness and craziness in the Kim regime.  Like it might be so crazy as to not be deterreable. The Norks have a missile operational today with enough range to hit all of South Korea and all of Japan.  They have missiles under development with enough range to hit the western US.  They managed to launch a satellite which means they have a missile that can reach anywhere in the world.  Might not have the throw weight to loft a nuclear warhead, yet.
   The Economist claims that the Bill Clinton administration considered an air strike on the Nork's nuclear facilities, but Clinton backed off,. fearing that it would touch off a second Korean war.  I never heard that story before.  There has been some talk that the Norks have dug in so deep that even our 15 ton Massive Ordinance Penetrator bomb couldn't take 'em out.
   The Economist does acknowledge that non-military ways of pressuring the Norks pretty much don't exist, especially as the Chinese like having the Norks as a buffer state between them and the South Koreans.  The Chinese are sending enough food and fuel to North Korea to keep 'em alive.  The Chinese fear the Kim regime is shaky, and that any serious pressure might cause it to collapse.  The Chinese don't want that to happen, cause the likely result is the South Koreans take over from the Kim regime, giving the Chinese a pushy, industrialized competitor, who is hand in glove with the Americans, right on their border.
  Best the Economist can suggest is installing anti missiles, THAAD and Patriot.  They compute that such a two layer defense, each layer having a Probability of kill (Pk) of 70% would yield an overall effectiveness of 90%.  Not bad, but not very reassuring when you think about how bad just one nuke can be.
   Of course Aviation Week doesn't see things quite that way.  They have reported that each of the Nork nuclear tests had a yield of about one kiloton of TNT.  That's so weak that most people call it a fizzle.  So maybe the Nork's don't really have nukes, yet.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Snowflakes on NPR

The morning story is from an NPR chick.  She had a flat tire, and 5:30 in the morning.  Rather than opening her trunk and breaking out the jack and the spare, she started off by finger stroking her smart phone.  She found out she was not a member of AAA, and AAA memberships would not be effective for 48 hours.  But she did find some obscure web site that offered road service.  It took service better than an hour to get there, and only three minutes to change her tire.  She closed the piece by raving about clever new websites.
  She would have done better  just changing her own tire, all by her little snowflake self.
  I can remember insisting that my teen age daughter change a tire right in our driveway before I allowed her to drive herself to school.